The political career and personal life of Robert Burnell, chancellor of Edward I
This thesis is a biography of Robert Burnell (d.1292), chancellor of Edward I and bishop of
Bath and Wells. Burnell was perhaps the most important administrator and politician of latethirteenth
century England, but his life has never been studied i!", significant depth. My
research has been designed to fill this gap, and to provide a detailed assessment of Burnell's
achievements and an insight into the workings and priorities of Edwardian government. The
thesis is divided into eight separate chapters, and the six major ones examine in turn:
• Burnell's early life and career up to 1210. This deals with his origins, his entry into royal
service and his progress through its ranks.
• Burnell's role in the government of England during Edward's crusade of 1270-74. This
describes the development in his status and importance from, in 1270, being one of those
left in England by Edward to supervise the latter's personal affairs to, by 1274, being the
person in overall charge of royal government.
• The chronological course of Burnell's career between 1274, when he became chancellor,
and 1292, when he died. This examines the evidence for his participation in English
politics, war and diplomacy generally during the first half of Edward I's reign.
• Burnell's career as royal chancellor. This assesses the basis of his authority as chancellor,
the structure of the office under him, his approach to the job and an analysis of how far the
chancery had 'gone out of court' by 1292.
• Burnell's personal affairs. This deals primarily with the vast body of estates he accumulated
in England during his lifetime, and his relations with his family.
• Burnell's career as bishop of Bath and Wells. This discusses Burnell's attitude to his 'other'
career, and how he carried out his diocesan duties.