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The Secular Clergy in England, 1066–1216$
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Hugh M. Thomas

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198702566

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198702566.001.0001

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The Aristocratic Cleric

The Aristocratic Cleric

(p.37) 3 The Aristocratic Cleric
The Secular Clergy in England, 1066–1216

Hugh M. Thomas

Oxford University Press

Contemporary writers often paired elite clerics with knights as distinct but equally high status social groups. Though modern historians rarely consider clerics as part of the aristocracy, powerful clerics in fact formed an important part of the English elites. Some came from an aristocratic background, but others rose into the aristocracy through success within the church. Not only did many clerics have great wealth and power, but clerics sometimes participated in such aristocratic pastimes as hunting and the pursuit of love. Naturally, the presence of clerics in the elites created both religious and social tensions. In a religion that stressed asceticism and poverty, aristocratic clerics presented a theoretical anomaly. There was also a limited amount of rivalry between knights and clerics. More disturbing to some was the possibility of social mobility through the clerical ranks.

Keywords:   secular clergy, aristocracy, social mobility, courtly love, aristocratic culture, class conflict

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