William de Malveisin

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Guillaume or William de Malveisin (also, modern forms Malvoisin or Mauvoisin) was Chancellor of Scotland, Bishop of Glasgow (1199/1200–1202) and then Bishop of St. Andrews (1202–1238).

William de Malveisin
Bishop of St Andrews
William de Malveisin.JPG
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
SeeDiocese of St Andrews
In office1202–1238
PredecessorRoger de Beaumont
SuccessorDavid de Bernham
Ordinationx 1199
Consecration1202For Glasgow
Personal details
DiedInis Muiredaich, 9 July 1238
Previous post(s)Glasgow
Bishop of Glasgow

William Malveisin was probably born in France. It is possible that he was the son of the nephew of the Count of Brittany,[1] however it is much more likely that he came from a family of the name based on the lower Seine valley.[2] William was likely the nephew of Samson de Malveisin, Archbishop of Rheims[3] from 1140 to 1161. In this context, William's career can come as no surprise.

William appears in Scottish records for the first time in the 1180s, appearing as a royal clerk.[4] In 1193, the royal patronage he had earned brought him his first known ecclesiastical post, as Archdeacon of Lothian.[5] He was made the king's Chancellor probably on 8 September 1199, and was elected to the Bishopric of Glasgow in October the same year.[6] He was consecrated at Lyon by Reginald de Forez, Archbishop of Lyon, in September 1200.[2] However, two years later in the same month, he was translated to the higher ranking Bishopric of St. Andrews.[7] William got into a little trouble for exercising his episcopal powers before his episcopate had been confirmed by the Pope, then Innocent III; a charge was brought against him by one of his canons, a man named Eustace. The charge was heard by the Papal legate, John of Salerno, who held a council at Perth in December 1201, before leaving for business in Ireland. Legate John once again visited Scotland on his way back from Ireland, staying for more than fifty days at Melrose. However, nothing came of the charge.[8]

Walter Bower relates that William received the permission of King William to visit his relatives in France. This was perhaps between May 1212 and Spring 1213, when Bishop William disappears from the records.[9] When not visiting home, Bishop William, like most other Bishops of St. Andrews, was keen to expand the power of the bishopric. In one instance, when Gille Ísu, the hereditary priest of Wedale (Peebleshire) died, he took the opportunity to absorb the church into his diocese.[10] Bishop William enjoyed good relations with the native Scottish clerical order of his diocese, the people "qui Keledei vulgariter appellantur" (commonly called Céli Dé, Gaelic for "Vassals of God").[11] At some point between 1206 and 1216, and again in 1220, he managed to obtain absolution from the sentence of excommunication bestowed on the Céli Dé by the Pope; it may be that Bishop William's patronage ensured the opening priesthoods of its church, the Church of St Mary on the Rock at St. Andrews, to non-native clergy, to men such as Henry de Weles,[12] and encouraged the order to consolidate its position vis-à-vis the papacy.[13]

According to the arguments of D.D.R. Owen, William was not only a bishop, but an author of Arthurian romance. The author of the romance known to us as the Roman de Fergus identifies himself as Guillaume le Clerc, or William the Clerk.[14] In the words of Owen, "it is most reasonable to keep our eyes open for any French clerk by the name of William (Guillaume)" in the period concerned,[15] and Owen uses textual and contextual evidence to show that William de Malveisin is one of the most likely known candidates.[16]

Bishop William died at a place called "Inchemordauch" (Inis Muiredaich), one of the Bishopric's manors, in 1238, probably on 9 July.[17] The next consecrated Bishop of St. Andrews was David de Bernham.


  1. ^ D.D.R. Owen, The Reign of William the Lion: Kingship and Culture, 1143–1214, (East Linton, 1997), p. 66.
  2. ^ a b loc. cit.
  3. ^ D.D.R. Owen (tr.), Fergus of Galloway, (London, 1991), p. 163
  4. ^ Owen, William the Lion,p. 66.
  5. ^ Owen, William the Lion, p. 86.
  6. ^ John Dowden, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912), p. 300.
  7. ^ ibid, pp. 12, 300.
  8. ^ ibid., pp. 12–13.
  9. ^ Owen, William the Lion, pp. 109–110; Walter Bower, Scotichronicon, VIII. 78, in Corner, Scott, Scott, & Watt (eds.), Scotichronicon by Walter Bower in Latin and English, Vol. 4, (Aberdeen, 1994), pp. 472–3.
  10. ^ G.W.S. Barrow, "The Anglo-Scottish Border", in The Kingdom of the Scots, (Edinburgh, 2003), p. 123, n. 37.
  11. ^ G.W.S. Barrow, "The Clergy at St Andrews", in The Kingdom of the Scots, (Edinburgh, 2003), p. 190, n. 17.
  12. ^ ibid., p. 190, n. 19, & p. 200.
  13. ^ ibid., pp. 191, 195.
  14. ^ See Roman de Fergus, line 7004, in D.D.R. Owen (tr.), Fergus of Galloway, p. 113.
  15. ^ ibid., p. 163.
  16. ^ ibid, pp. 162–9, (i.e. "AppendixB, Guillaume le Clerc: William Malveisin"); Owen, William the Lion, pp. 116, 118, 125, 130, 132–5, 141, 143–7, 150, 153–4.
  17. ^ Dowden, Bishops, p. 13.


  • Barrow, G.W.S., "The Anglo-Scottish Border", in Barrow (ed.) The Kingdom of the Scots, (Edinburgh, 1973), 2nd Ed. (Edinburgh, 2003)
  • Barrow, G.W.S., "The Clergy at St Andrews", in Barrow (ed.) The Kingdom of the Scots, (Edinburgh, 1973), 2nd Ed. (Edinburgh, 2003)
  • Corner, David J., Scott, A.B., Scott, William W. & Watt, D.E.R. (eds.), Scotichronicon by Walter Bower in Latin and English, Vol. 4, (Aberdeen, 1994)
  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
  • Owen, D.D.R. (tr.), Fergus of Galloway, (London, 1991)
  • Owen, D.D.R., The Reign of William the Lion: Kingship and Culture, 1143–1214, (East Linton, 1997)
Political offices
Preceded by
Hugh de Roxburgh
Chancellor of Scotland
Succeeded by
Florence of Holland
Religious titles
Preceded by
Hugh de Roxburgh (unconsecrated)
Bishop of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Florence of Holland (elect only)
Walter the Chaplain
Preceded by
Roger de Beaumont
Bishop of St Andrews
Succeeded by
David de Bernham