Peter des Roches
Bishop of Winchester
Head of the effigy on Roches' tomb in Winchester Cathedral
Term ended9 June 1238
PredecessorRichard Poore
SuccessorRalph Neville
Other post(s)Precentor of Lincoln
Archdeacon of Poitiers
Consecration24 March 1206
by Pope Innocent III
Personal details
Died9 June 1238
Chief Justiciar of England
In office
1213–c. 1215
Henry III
Preceded byGeoffrey Fitz Peter
Succeeded byHubert de Burgh

Peter des Roches (died 9 June 1238) (Latinised as Peter de Rupibus ("Peter from the rocks")) was bishop of Winchester in the reigns of King John of England and his son Henry III. He was not an Englishman, but rather a native of the Touraine, in north-central France.[1][2]


Towards the end of Richard I's reign, Peter became Lord Chamberlain and an influential counsellor. He held the ecclesiastical offices of Archdeacon of Poitiers, treasurer of Poitiers, and was a precentor of the diocese of Lincoln in 1204.[3]

In early 1205, through John's influence, Peter was elected to the see of Winchester.[4] His election was disputed but, on appeal, confirmed on 25 September 1205 by Pope Innocent III.[5] Peter was consecrated on 24 March 1206.[4] Nonetheless, the new bishop stood by John's side during the whole period of the papal interdict set upon him due to John's refusal to accept Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury despite Papal warning.[6]

In 1213 Peter was made Chief Justiciar in succession to Geoffrey Fitz Peter.[7] This promotion was justified by the fidelity with which Peter supported the king through the First Barons' War. However, by 1215, Hubert de Burgh was Chief Justiciar.[7] In 1216, Peter was named Sheriff of Hampshire.[8]

At the battle of Lincoln in 1217 Peter led a division of the royal army and earned some distinction by his valour; but he played a secondary part in the government so long as William Marshal held the regency. After Marshal's death in 1219 Peter led the baronial opposition to Hubert de Burgh, with varying success. At first the justiciar was successful.

Peter was responsible for founding several monasteries in England and France,[9] including Titchfield Abbey[10] and Netley Abbey,[9] both in Hampshire, England, and La Clarté-Dieu[9] in Poitou, France. He gave his protection to the first group of Dominican friars to come to England in 1221.[11]

In 1225 a plot to ship Eleanor of Brittany, who as cousin to Henry III always posed a potential threat to the crown and was thus viewed as a state prisoner and then confined at Bristol Castle, away to France, was reported. The plot might have been false and only fabricated to discredit Peter, and he eventually fell out of royal favor in spring 1234.[12]

Crusading bishop

Peter participated in the Sixth Crusade alongside William Briwere, who was Bishop of Exeter.[13] An army of other crusaders accompanied them to the East, although whether they were English or mercenaries recruited on the Continent is unclear. The contingent left from Brindisi in August 1227.[14] Both bishops were influential advisors to Frederick II the Holy Roman Emperor[13] even though Pope Gregory IX had ordered that no one collaborate with Frederick, who was at the time excommunicated. Both bishops ignored the papal orders and worked closely with Frederick's agents and Frederick himself. The financial resources both bishops brought were especially appreciated by the crusaders.[13] Both bishops witnessed the treaty of 18 February 1229 with the Sultan of Cairo that restored Jerusalem to the Christians,[13] the Treaty of Jaffa.[14] After the crusade, he spent time in Italy.[8]

Peter died on 9 June 1238.[4]


The Lanercost Chronicle relates that Peter, out hunting one day, encountered King Arthur, dined with him, and asked for a token of their meeting. Arthur told him to close his hand, then open it, whereupon a butterfly flew out. For the rest of his life Roches was able to repeat this miracle, so that he became known as the Butterfly Bishop.[15][16]


  1. ^ Walter Eustace Rhodes (1896). "Peter des Roches". In Dictionary of National Biography. 45. London. pp. 52–56.
  2. ^ Vincent Peter des Roches p. 18
  3. ^ British History Online Precentors of Lincoln Archived 14 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine accessed on 2 November 2007
  4. ^ a b c Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 276
  5. ^ British History Online Bishops of Winchester Archived 14 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine accessed on 2 November 2007
  6. ^ Rhodes, Walter Eustace. "Peter des Roches". Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  7. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 72
  8. ^ a b Vincent "Roches, Peter des (d. 1238)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  9. ^ a b c Thompson, A. Hamilton (1953). Netley Abbey. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 3. ISBN 0-11-670020-3.
  10. ^ Burton Monastic and Religious Orders in Britain p. 229
  11. ^ Burton Monastic and Religious Orders in Britain p. 112
  12. ^ G. Seabourne. "Eleanor of Brittany and her Treatment by King John and Henry III", Nottingham Medieval Studies, Vol. LI (2007), pp. 73-110.
  13. ^ a b c d Tyerman England and the Crusades pp. 99–101
  14. ^ a b Tyerman God's War pp. 744–745
  15. ^ Vincent Peter des Roches p. 480
  16. ^ Stevenson, Joseph (ed.). Chronicon de Lanercost (in Latin). p. 23 (fol.176).


Political offices Preceded byGeoffrey Fitz Peter Chief Justiciar 1213 – c. 1215 Succeeded byHubert de Burgh Catholic Church titles Preceded byRichard Poore Bishop of Winchester 1205–1238 Succeeded byRalph Neville