- Archbishop Anselm 1093–1109: Bec Missionary, Canterbury Primate, Patriarch of Another World by Sally N. Vaughn
Sally Vaughn’s latest work on Anselm, theologian and primate of England from 1093 to 1109, is among the first of a new series [also including Jean Truax’s book on Anselm’s successors; see review above] intending to provide authoritative studies of the men who have filled the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. One aim of the book and the series is to draw on the archives of Lambeth Palace Library. A result of this is the inclusion of a substantial selection of primary sources (in Latin and English) covering the last third of the publication. These form a valuable addition to the main text and will, one imagines, provide an excellent model for anticipated future volumes in the series. Many of the major narrative sources, including the biographical account and the contemporary history by Anselm’s devoted secretary Eadmer, are already available in modern translations so the selection here is taken mostly from the archbishop’s letters. The chosen sources give a strong sense of Anselm’s gentle yet forceful manner and his absolute insistence on standing up for the rights of Canterbury and the English church.
Like his great Anglo-Norman predecessor Lanfranc, Anselm was an Italian who came to the see of Canterbury after a period as abbot of the influential Norman monastery at Bec. Vaughn has been publishing on the cultural and intellectual influence of Bec for nearly four decades. Her first article on Anselm appeared in 1974 and her major monograph on the topic, [End Page 286] Anselm of Bec and Robert of Meulan: The Innocence of the Dove and the Wisdom of the Serpent, followed in 1987. In a way, the new book forms the last word in a long-running scholarly discussion between Vaughn and another great authority on Anselm, the late Sir Richard Southern. It is fair to say that this conversation achieved a certain prickliness at times (as in their 1988 exchange in Albion) as Southern preferred to see Anselm as an inward-turning, contemplative figure while Vaughn gave more weight to the archbishop’s political skills and his engagement with the world. Now, looking back on these exchanges with the mollifying effect of the passing years, Vaughn finds a place for both interpretations and attempts to offer a new reading of Anselm’s career. She emphasizes the missionary ambitions of Bec and of Anselm himself towards Normandy and England, and argues strongly that the intellectual influence of his Bec years is evident in the way that Anselm conducted himself in later disputes and discussions with two kings (William Rufus and Henry I) and two popes (Urban II and Paschal II). The phrase ‘patriarch of another world’ is taken from Urban’s description of Anselm. It refers to the latter’s quest to ensure that the holder of the see of Canterbury was recognized as the supreme ecclesiastical figure throughout the British Isles and to his desire to keep interference from Rome to a minimum. Equally, Anselm pressed his ‘two oxen’ theory to argue consistently, especially through the height of the Investiture Controversy, that he should act as a sort of spiritual co-ruler of England along with the reigning monarch, in a joint and equal partnership. Thus Vaughn places her subject’s major contemplative and theological works firmly within the context of his thinking about the proper public role of the Canterbury primate.
The author also takes the opportunity to air new conclusions on related aspects of Anglo-Norman affairs, notably the ever-mysterious death of William Rufus, killed by an arrow in the New Forest in 1100. As with famous assassinations of our own day, there are those who continue to dispute the ‘lone gunman’ (or archer) theory and who cannot entertain the thought that the event may simply have been an unfortunate hunting accident, as the chronicles would have it. The usual...