The Info List - Odo, Bishop Of Bayeux

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Odo of Bayeux
Odo of Bayeux
(died 1097), Earl of Kent
and Bishop of Bayeux, was the half-brother of William the Conqueror, and was, for a time, second in power after the King of England.


1 Early life 2 Norman Conquest and after 3 Trial, imprisonment and rebellion 4 Commentary on Odo 5 Portrayals on screen 6 Notes 7 References 8 Further reading

Early life[edit] Odo was the son of William the Conqueror's mother Herleva
and Herluin de Conteville. Count Robert of Mortain was his younger brother. There is uncertainty about his birth date. Some historians have suggested he was born around 1035. Duke William made him bishop of Bayeux in 1049. It has been suggested that his birth was as early as 1030, making him about nineteen rather than fourteen at the time. Norman Conquest and after[edit] Although Odo was an ordained Christian cleric, he is best known as a warrior and statesman, participating in the Council of Lillebonne. He found ships for the Norman invasion of England and is one of the very few proven companions of William the Conqueror, known to have fought at the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
in 1066. The Bayeux Tapestry, probably commissioned by him to adorn his own cathedral, appears to labour the point that he did not actually fight, that is to say shed blood, at Hastings, but rather encouraged the troops from the rear. The Latin annotation embroidered onto the Tapestry above his image reads: "Hic Odo Eps (Episcopus) Baculu(m) Tenens Confortat Pueros", in English "Here Odo the Bishop holding a club strengthens the boys". It has been suggested that his clerical status forbade him from using a sword,[1] though this is doubtful: the club was a common weapon and used often by leadership[2] including by Duke William himself, as also depicted in the same part of the Tapestry. Odo was accompanied by William the carrier of his crozier and a retinue of servants and members of his household. In 1067, Odo became Earl of Kent, and for some years he was a trusted royal minister. On some occasions when William was absent (back in Normandy), he served as de facto regent of England,[3] and at times he led the royal forces against rebellions (e.g. the Revolt of the Earls): the precise sphere of his powers is not certain. There are also other occasions when he accompanied William back to Normandy. During this time Odo acquired vast estates in England, larger in extent than anyone except the king: he had land in twenty-three counties, primarily in the south east and in East Anglia. Trial, imprisonment and rebellion[edit] In 1076 at the Trial of Penenden Heath Odo was tried in front of a large and senior assembly over the course of three days at Penenden Heath in Kent
for defrauding the Crown and the Diocese of Canterbury. At the conclusion of the trial he was forced to return a number of properties and his assets were re-apportioned.[4] In 1082, Odo was suddenly disgraced and imprisoned for having planned a military expedition to Italy. His motives are not certain. Chroniclers writing a generation later said Odo desired to make himself Pope
during the Investiture Controversy
Investiture Controversy
while Pope
Gregory VII was in severe difficulty in his conflict with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor and the position of Pope
was in contention; but the contemporary evidence is ambiguous.[citation needed] Whatever the reason, Odo spent the next five years in prison, and his English estates were taken back by the king, as was his office as Earl of Kent. Odo was not deposed as Bishop of Bayeux. On his deathbed in 1087, King William I was reluctantly persuaded by his half-brother, Robert, Count of Mortain, to release Odo. After the king's death, Odo returned to England. William's eldest son, Robert Curthose, had been made duke of Normandy, while Robert's brother William Rufus had received the throne of England.[5]:433–436 The bishop supported Robert Curthose's claim to England. The Rebellion of 1088 failed and William Rufus permitted Odo to leave the kingdom. Afterwards, Odo remained in the service of Robert in Normandy.[5]:450–452 Odo joined the First Crusade, and started in the duke's company for Palestine, but died on the way at Palermo
in January or February 1097. He was buried in Palermo
Cathedral.[6] Commentary on Odo[edit] William Stearns Davis
William Stearns Davis
writes in Life on a Medieval Barony:

Bishop Odo of Bayeux
Odo of Bayeux
fought at Hastings (1066) before any such authorized champions of the church existed. ...That bishops shall restrain from warfare is really a pious wish not easily in this sinful world to be granted.[7]

Portrayals on screen[edit] On screen, Odo has been portrayed by John Nettleton in the two-part BBC
TV play Conquest (1966), part of the series Theatre 625, and by Denis Lill in the TV drama Blood Royal: William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror
(1990). Notes[edit]

^ This reason for his use of a club was proposed by David C. Douglas & George W. Greenaway, (Eds.) in: English Historical Documents 1042-1189, London, 1959, p.238, The Bayeux Tapestry. As Duke William himself is shown further on also holding a club, the theory seems to lose force ^ Ewart Oakeshott is of the opinion and thinks the club has significance as a symbol of leadership in "European Weapons and Armour" Ewart Oakeshott, 1980 P62-63 ^ Bates 2004. ^ Ireland 1829, p. 653. ^ a b Ordericus Vitalis (1854). The ecclesiastical history of England and Normandy, Volume 2. Guizot, François, M.; Delisle, Léopold. H.G. Bohn. Retrieved 16 July 2011.  ^ ODNB ^ William Stearns Davis, Life on a Medieval Barony p. 382.


Bates, David (September 2004). "Odo, earl of Kent
(d. 1097)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/20543. Retrieved 23 August 2010.  Ireland, William Henry (1829). England's Topographer: or A New and Complete History of the County of Kent. London: G. Virtue. 


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Odo of Bayeux". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Further reading[edit]

Bates, David, 'The Character and Career of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (1049/50–1097)', in: Speculum, vol. 50, pp. 1–20 (1975). LePatourel, John (September 1946). "The Date of the Trial on Penenden Heath". The English Historical Review. 61 (241): 378–388. doi:10.1093/ehr/LXI.CCXLI.378.  " Odo of Bayeux
Odo of Bayeux
(Norman noble)". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 12 August 2010.  Rowley, Trevor, The Man Behind the Bayeux Tapestry: Odo, William the Conqueror's Half-Brother (2013) ISBN 978-0-7524-6025-3 Nakashian, Craig M, Warrior Churchmen of Medieval England, 1000-1250 (Boydell & Brewer, 2016) ISBN 978-1-7832-7162-7

Peerage of England

Vacant Norman conquest Title last held by Leofwine Godwinson As Anglo-Saxon earl Earl of Kent 1067–1088 Vacant Title forfeit Title next held by William of Ypres

v t e

Norman conquest of England


William the Conqueror Harold Godwinson Harald Hardrada Sweyn II of Denmark


Battle of Fulford Battle of Stamford Bridge Battle of Hastings


Gyrth Godwinson Odo of Bayeux Leofwine Godwinson Hereward the Wake Edwin Morcar Tostig Waltheof Eustace of Boulogne Eadric the Wild Robert of Mortain Ralph de Gael Roger de Breteuil Companions of William the Conqueror

Associated people

Edward the Confessor Stigand Edith the Fair Edgar Ætheling Ealdred Malcolm III of Scotland Matilda of Flanders


Battle Abbey Battle, East Sussex Pevensey Tower of London


Harrying of the North Revolt of the Earls Council of London Trial of Penenden Heath


Bayeux Tapestry Domesday Book Carmen de Hastingae Proelio William of Poitiers


Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 69286