Boniface of Savoy (archbishop)

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Boniface of Savoy (c. 1217 – 18 July 1270) was a medieval Bishop of Belley in France and Archbishop of Canterbury in England. He was the son of the Count of Savoy, and owed his initial ecclesiastical posts to his father. Other members of his family were also clergymen, and a brother succeeded his father as count. One niece was married to King Henry III of England and another was married to King Louis IX of France. It was Henry who secured Boniface's election as Archbishop, and throughout his tenure of that office he spent much time on the continent. He clashed with his bishops, with his nephew-by-marriage, and with the papacy, but managed to eliminate the archiepiscopal debt which he had inherited on taking office. During Simon de Montfort's struggle with King Henry, Boniface initially helped Montfort's cause, but later supported the king. After his death in Savoy, his tomb became the object of a cult, and he was eventually beatified in 1839.


Early life

Boniface and his elder brother Amadeus IV, Count of Savoy, were sons of Thomas I, Count of Savoy, and Margaret of Geneva (also called Margaret of Faucigny). He is thus not to be confused with his nephew, and fellow member of the House of Savoy, Count Boniface of Savoy, the son of Amadeus IV. The elder Boniface was born about 1207 in Savoy.[1] He was the eleventh child of his parents.[2] Some sources state that at a young age he joined the Carthusian Order.[3] However, there is no evidence of this, and it would have been very unusual for a nobleman to enter that order with its very strict discipline.[4] He also had a brother Peter of Savoy who was named Earl of Richmond in 1240 and yet another brother William of Savoy, who was Bishop of Valence and a candidate to be Bishop of Winchester in England.[1][5]

Ecclesiastical career

Boniface was the Prior of Nantua in 1232 along with the bishopric of Belley in Burgundy. When his father died, he received the castle of Ugine as his inheritance, and he surrendered any entitlement to any other inheritance in 1238. After the marriage of his niece, Eleanor of Provence to King Henry III of England,[1] Henry attempted to have Boniface elected Bishop of Winchester, but was unable to get the cathedral chapter to elect Boniface.[1] On 1 February 1241 he was nominated to the see of Canterbury.[6] Pope Innocent IV confirmed the appointment on 16 September 1243, as an attempt to placate Henry.[1] Boniface did not, however, come to England until 1244 and was present, in the following year 1245, at the First Council of Lyon. There, he was consecrated by Innocent IV on 15 January[6] at Lyons, but it was only in 1249 that he returned to England and was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 1 November 1249.[7] Before he returned in 1249, he helped arrange the marriage another of his nieces, Beatrice of Provence, the sister of Queen Eleanor, to Charles of Anjou, the brother of King Louis IX of France.[1]

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