Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Peter des Roches

Bishop of the Butterfly
Peter de Rupbius, Peter of the Rocks
Born in 1150, France
Died in 1238, England

A historical bishop of Winchester, whose episcopate lasted 1204-1238. He was born in Poitou, France, around the year 1150.

Peter was known for his political savvy and his close ties to King John of England and King Henry III. He served as the king’s chief advisor and regent during his absences from England, and he played a significant role in the political and military affairs of the kingdom. He was involved in various political and ecclesiastical affairs, including serving as a royal judge and participating in the Fifth Lateran Council in Rome.

One of the notable events his tenure as Bishop of Winchester was his involvement in the Magna Carta, which was signed by King John in 1215. Peter of the Rocks was among the bishops who urged the king to sign the document, which established limits on the power of the monarch and protected the rights of the church and the nobility.

Peter’s legacy is a complex one. While he was known for his administrative and diplomatic skills, he was also criticized for his heavy-handedness and his willingness to use force to achieve his goals. His ties with King John also made him unpopular with many of the barons and nobles of England, who saw him as a foreigner and a threat to their power.

Peter died in 1238 and was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

Peter’s emblem was that of a butterfly, which he used on his seal. Peter’s nickname, “the Bishop of the Butterfly,” is said to have originated from a story in which he was given a pet butterfly by a young girl. The story goes that Peter was so delighted with the butterfly that he kept it with him at all times, even carrying it into important meetings and negotiations.

According to the Lanercost Chronicle (Cronicon de Lanercost), he came upon a house in which Arthur was still alive and banqueted with him in 1216. In order that people would know he told the truth when he spoke of this, Arthur gave the bishop the power of closing his hand and, upon opening it, producing a butterfly. This power led to his being called the Bishop of the Butterfly.

Chronicon de Lanercost | 14th century