Odo of Bayeux

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Odo, Earl of Kent (early 1030s – 1097) and bishop of Bayeux, was the half-brother of William the Conqueror, and was for a time second in power to the king of England.[1]


Early life

He was the son of William the Conqueror's mother Herleva, and Herluin de Conteville. Count Robert of Mortain was his younger brother. There is some uncertainty about his birth date. Some historians have suggested he was born as early as 1030, so that he would be about 19 instead of 14 when William made him bishop of Bayeux in 1049.

Norman Conquest and after

Although he was an ordained Christian cleric, he is best known as a warrior and statesman. He found ships for the 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 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 seems that his clerical status forbade him from using a sword. [2]He 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, 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, however. 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 any one except the king: he had land in 23 counties, primarily in the south east and in East Anglia.

Trial, imprisonment and rebellion

In 1076 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.[3]

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