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Help and advice for Bishops of Great Britain

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Bishops of Great Britain

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux

and Earl of Kent, was born in Normandy about 1032. He was brother by the mother's side of William, Duke of Normandy (the Conqueror), and was named by him Bishop of Bayeux in 1049. He took a very active part in the preparations for the expedition to England in 1066, blessed the troops on the morning of the battle of Hastings, and took part in the battle. He was rewarded with a grant of the town of Dover, and on William's return to Normandy was charged with the government of England, William Fitz-Osborn being associated with him. They exercised their power with the most pitiless rigour, and quenched in blood the revolts provoked by their tyranny.

Odo amassed immense riches, and had a large share of power during the greater part of William's reign. In 1080 he was sent to Durham to lay waste and slay with fire and sword for the frequent revolts of the wretched people. Not at all satisfied with his almost royal power and wealth, and irritated by the appointment of Lanfranc to the see of Canterbury, Odo cherished the hope of getting by craft, money, or power the papal chair. He had a palace built at Rome, sent his agents there with rich presents for bribes, and resolved to go himself, attended by Hugh, Earl of Chester, and other powerful barons. The king, however, heard of the project, and ordered the arrest of Odo, who had reached the Isle of Wight; and as none of the officers would lay hands on a bishop, the king seized him, not, he said, as bishop, but as Earl of Kent.

Odo was deprived of his dignities and estates, and prisoner at Rouen till William's death, in 1087. Restored to liberty and reinstated in his earldom of Kent, he joined in a conspiracy to dethrone William Rufus, but was besieged in Rochester Castle, and compelled to surrender, obtaining leave to retire to Bayeux. He retained great influence over Robert, Duke of Normandy; advised the seizure of Prince Henry of England in 1091, and was charged with the custody of the prisoner. Odo assisted at several councils, and, in 1096, set out for the Holy Land, but died at Palermo early in the following year. The famous Bayeux Tapestry was given to the cathedral by Odo.

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The above information was gleaned from various sources and then put together by Colin Hinson ©1996.

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