A warlike, militant and harsh cleric, the Bishop of Durham, Anthony Bek, was King Edward’s envoy in Scotland and a very active campaigner in the wars against the Scots.
Noted for his savagery, even in such savage times, he acted more like an independent prince than a prelate, consistently abusing the clerical and political powers he exercised.
In 1270 he left university and joined Prince Edward, later Edward I, on crusade. This was a crucial period in his career as it forged a strong bond between those who participated, Edward later bestowing his patronage on those who had had gone on crusade with him.
Taking part in Edward's campaigns in Scotland, Bek received the surrender of King John I of Scotland at Brechin in 1296. Bek commanded a division on the right wing of the English army at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, which saw the heavy defeat of William Wallace. During the Falkirk campaign, but before the battle itself, a section of the army under Bek captured Dirleton Castle.
Bek was known for his chastity and bravery. Despite his calling and piety, his extravagance was legendary and his retinue was large, consisting of 140 knights. Bek's title of Patriarch made him the senior ecclesiastic in England, and he went on to be the main investigator of the Templars in 1308. Although he died before Bannockburn, Bek’s political influence during the time of both kings - and its impact on Scotland - earn him his place in this chess set.