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Title: Life of Thomas à Becket
Author: Milman, Henry Hart, 1791-1868
Language: English
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  Life of


  Dean of St. Paul's.



  Editor's Preface                   iii
  Life of Thomas à Becket              9
  Footnotes                following 246


Perhaps the chapter of English history fullest of romantic interest, is
that containing the life of Thomas à Becket. In fact, the great struggle
between Becket and Henry II.,--between individual genius and sovereign
power, between a subject and his king, between religion and the sword,
between the Church and the State, is scarcely equaled in the annals of
the world. And nowhere do we find a parallel to the strange story of
Becket's life, beginning in Oriental legend, ending in heroic tragedy.
By an accident of position, he questioned with the terrible power of
genius the divine right of kings, and the grateful people of England, a
hundred thousand at a time, flocked as pilgrims to his tomb.

The biography here presented has been taken from Dean Milman's great
history of Latin Christianity. The style is at once dignified, terse,
and eloquent. The learning of Milman is abundant and accurate, his
judgment singularly sound and free from prejudice. One of the gems of
his history is this life of Becket. A biography of the biographer is
part of our plan, and we gladly transfer to our pages, from the English
Cyclopedia, a sketch of Milman's life.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Rev. HENRY HART MILMAN, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, was
born February 10th, 1791, in London. He is the youngest son of Sir
Francis Milman, first baronet, who was physician to George III., and is
brother to Sir William George Milman. He was educated at Dr. Burney's
academy at Greenwich, at Eton College, and at Brazenose College, Oxford,
where he took his degrees of B. A. and M. A., and of which he was
elected a Fellow. In 1812 he received the Newdegate prize for his
English poem on the Apollo Belvidere. In 1815 he published "Fazio, a
Tragedy," which was performed with success at Covent Garden Theatre, at
a period when theatrical managers seized upon a published play, and
produced it without an author's consent. Mr. Milman could not even
enforce the proper pronunciation of the name of "Fazio." He took holy
orders in 1817, and was appointed vicar of St. Mary's, Reading. In the
early part of 1818 he published "Samor, Lord of the Bright City, an
Heroic Poem," of which a second edition was called for in the course of
the same year. The hero of this poem is a personage of the legendary
history of Britain in the early part of the Saxon invasions of England.
The fullest account of his exploits is given in Dugdale's "Baronage,"
under his title of Earl of Gloucester. Harrison, in the "Description of
Britain," prefixed to Holinshed's "Chronicle," calls him Eldulph de
Samor. The Bright City is Gloucester, (Caer Gloew in British.) In 1820
Mr Milman published "The Fall of Jerusalem," a dramatic poem founded on
Josephus's narrative of the siege of the sacred city. This, in some
respects his most beautiful poem, established his reputation. In 1821,
he was elected Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford, and
published three other dramatic poems, "The Martyr of Antioch,"
"Balshazzar," and "Anne Boleyn." In 1827 he published sermons at the
"Bampton Lecture," 8vo., and in 1829, without his name, "The History of
the Jews," 3 vols. 18vo. A collected edition of his "Poetical Works,"
was published in 1840, which, besides the works above mentioned, and his
smaller poems, contains the "Nala and Damayanti," translated from the
Sanskrit. In the same year he published his "History of Christianity
from the Birth of Christ, to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman
Empire," 3 vols. 8vo., in which he professes to view Christianity as a
historian, in its moral, social, and political influences, referring
to its doctrines no further than is necessary for explaining the
general effect of the system. It is the work of an accomplished and
liberal-minded scholar. At the commencement of 1849 appeared "The Works
of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, illustrated chiefly from the Remains of
Ancient Art, with a Life by the Rev. H. H. Milman," 8vo., a beautiful
and luxurious edition. Mr. Milman's Life of Horace, and critical remarks
on the merits of the Roman poet, are written with much elegance of
style, and are very interesting.

In November 1849, Mr. Milman, who had for some years been Rector of St.
Margaret's, Westminster, and a Canon of Westminster, was made Dean of
St. Paul's. Dean Milman's latest publication is a "History of Latin
Christianity, including that of the Popes to the Pontificate of Nicholas
V.," 3 vols. 8vo. 1854. This work is a continuation of the author's
"History of Christianity," and yet is in itself a complete work. To
give it that completeness he has gone over the history of Christianity
in Rome during the first four centuries. The author states that he is
occupied with the continuation of the history down to the close of the
pontificate of Nicholas V., that is, to 1455.[1] Besides the works
before mentioned, Dean Milman is understood to have contributed numerous
articles to the "Quarterly Review;" and his edition of Gibbon's "Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire," presented the great historian with more
ample illustrations than he had before received. This edition has been
republished, with additional notes and verifications, by Dr. W. Smith.

Dean Milman is destined to become a household word in historical
literature, and we are glad to present the many with this favorable
specimen of his work.

  May, 1859.
      O. W. WIGHT.


[SN: Legend.]

Popular poetry, after the sanctification of Becket, delighted in
throwing the rich colors of marvel over his birth and parentage. It
invented, or rather interwove with the pedigree of the martyr, one of
those romantic traditions which grew out of the wild adventures of the
crusades, and which occur in various forms in the ballads of all
nations. That so great a saint should be the son of a gallant champion
of the cross, and of a Saracen princess, was a fiction too attractive
not to win general acceptance. The father of Becket, so runs the legend,
a gallant soldier, was a captive in the Holy Land, and inspired the
daughter of his master with an ardent attachment. Through her means he
made his escape; but the enamored princess could not endure life without
him. She too fled and made her way to Europe. She had learned but two
words of the Christian language, London and Gilbert. With these two
magic sounds upon her lips she reached London; and as she wandered
through the streets, constantly repeating the name of Gilbert, she was
met by Becket's faithful servant. Becket, as a good Christian, seems to
have entertained religious scruples as to the propriety of wedding the
faithful, but misbelieving, or, it might be, not sincerely believing
maiden. The case was submitted to the highest authority, and argued
before the Bishop of London. The issue was the baptism of the princess,
by the name of Matilda (that of the empress queen,) and their marriage
in St. Paul's, with the utmost publicity and splendor.

But of this wondrous tale, not one word had reached the ears of any of
the seven or eight contemporary biographers of Becket, most of them his
most intimate friends or his most faithful attendants.[2] It was neither
known to John of Salisbury, his confidential adviser and correspondent,
nor to Fitz-Stephen, an officer of his court in chancery, and dean of
his chapel when archbishop, who was with him at Northampton, and at his
death; nor to Herbert de Bosham, likewise one of his officers when
chancellor, and his faithful attendant throughout his exile; nor to the
monk of Pontigny, who waited upon him and enjoyed his most intimate
confidence during his retreat in that convent; nor to Edward Grim, his
standard-bearer, who on his way from Clarendon, reproached him with his
weakness, and having been constantly attached to his person, finally
interposed his arm between his master and the first blow of the
assassin. Nor were these ardent admirers of Becket silent from any
severe aversion to the marvelous; they relate, with unsuspecting faith,
dreams and prognostics which revealed to the mother the future greatness
of her son, even his elevation to the see of Canterbury.[3]

To the Saxon descent of Becket, a theory in which, on the authority of
an eloquent French writer,[4] modern history has seemed disposed to
acquiesce, these biographers not merely give no support, but furnish
direct contradiction. The lower people no doubt admired during his life,
and worshiped after death, the blessed Thomas of Canterbury, and the
people were mostly Saxon. But it was not as a Saxon, but as a Saint,
that Becket was the object of unbounded popularity during his life, of
idolatry after his death.

[SN: Parentage and education.]

The father of Becket, according to the distinct words of one
contemporary biographer, was a native of Rouen, his mother of Caen.[5]
Gilbert was no knight-errant, but a sober merchant, tempted by
commercial advantages to settle in London: his mother neither boasted of
royal Saracenic blood, nor bore the royal name of Matilda: she was the
daughter of an honest burgher of Caen. His Norman descent is still
further confirmed by his claim of relationship, or connexion at least,
as of common Norman descent, with Archbishop Theobald.[6] The parents of
Becket, he asserts himself, were merchants of unimpeached character, not
of the lowest class. Gilbert Becket is said to have served the
honorable office of sheriff, but his fortune was injured by fires and
other casualties.[7] [SN: Born A. D. 1118.] The young Becket received
his earliest education among the monks of Merton in Surrey, towards whom
he cherished a fond attachment, and delighted to visit them in the days
of his splendor. The dwelling of a respectable London merchant seems to
have been a place where strangers of very different pursuits, who
resorted to the metropolis of England, took up their lodging: and to
Gilbert Becket's house came persons both disposed and qualified to
cultivate in various ways the extraordinary talents displayed by the
youth, who was singularly handsome, and of engaging manners.[8] A
knight, whose name, Richard de Aquila, occurs with distinction in the
annals of the time, one of his father's guests, delighted in initiating
the gay and spirited boy in chivalrous exercises, and in the chase with
hawk and hound. On a hawking adventure the young Becket narrowly escaped
being drowned in the Thames. At the same time, or soon after, he was
inured to business by acting as clerk to a wealthy relative, Osborn
Octuomini, and in the office of the Sheriff of London.[9] His
accomplishments were completed by a short residence in Paris, the best
school for the language spoken by the Norman nobility. To his father's
house came likewise two learned civilians from Bologna, no doubt on some
mission to the Archbishop of Canterbury. They were so captivated by
young Becket, that they strongly recommended him to Archbishop
Theobald, whom the father of Becket reminded of their common honorable
descent from a knightly family near the town of Thiersy.[10] Becket was
at once on the high road of advancement. [SN: In the household of the
Archbishop.] His extraordinary abilities were cultivated by the wise
patronage, and employed in the service of the primate. Once he
accompanied that prelate to Rome;[11] and on more than one other
occasion visited that great centre of Christian affairs. He was
permitted to reside for a certain time at each of the great schools for
the study of the canon law, Bologna and Auxerre.[12] He was not,
however, without enemies. Even in the court of Theobald began the
jealous rivalry with Roger, afterwards Archbishop of York, then
Archdeacon of Canterbury.[13] Twice the superior influence of the
archdeacon obtained his dismissal from the service of Theobald; twice he
was reinstated by the good offices of Walter, Bishop of Rochester. At
length the elevation of Roger to the see of York left the field open to
Becket. He was appointed to the vacant archdeaconry, the richest
benefice, after the bishoprics, in England. From that time he ruled
without rival in the favor of the aged Theobald. Preferments were heaped
upon him by the lavish bounty of his patron.[14] During his exile he
was reproached with his ingratitude to the king, who had raised him from
poverty. "Poverty!" he rejoined; "even then I held the archdeaconry of
Canterbury, the provostship of Beverley, a great many churches, and
several prebends."[15] The trial and the triumph of Becket's precocious
abilities was a negotiation of the utmost difficulty with the court of
Rome. The first object was to obtain the legatine power for Archbishop
Theobald; the second tended, more than almost all measures, to secure
the throne of England to the house of Plantagenet. Archbishop Theobald,
with his clergy, had inclined to the cause of Matilda and her son; they
had refused to officiate at the coronation of Eustace, son of King
Stephen. Becket not merely obtained from Eugenius III. the full papal
approbation of this refusal, but a condemnation of Stephen (whose title
had before been sanctioned by Eugenius himself,) as a perjured

[SN: Accession of Henry II. Dec. 19, 1154.]

But on the accession of Henry II., the aged Archbishop began to tremble
at his own work; serious apprehensions arose as to the disposition of
the young king towards the Church. His connexion was but remote with the
imperial family (though his mother had worn the imperial crown, and some
imperial blood might flow in his veins); but the Empire was still the
implacable adversary of the papal power. Even from his father he might
have received an hereditary taint of hatred to the Church, for the Count
of Anjou had on many occasions shown the utmost hostility to the
Hierarchy, and had not scrupled to treat churchmen of the highest rank
with unexampled cruelty. In proportion as it was important to retain a
young sovereign of such vast dominions in allegiance to the Church, so
was it alarming to look forward to his disobedience. The Archbishop was
anxious to place near his person some one who might counteract this
suspected perversity, and to prevent his young mind from being alienated
from the clergy by fierce and lawless counselors. He had discerned not
merely unrivaled abilities, but with prophetic sagacity, his
Archdeacon's lofty and devoted churchmanship. Through the recommendation
of the primate, Becket was raised to the dignity of chancellor,[17] an
office which made him the second civil power in the realm, inasmuch as
his seal was necessary to countersign all royal mandates. Nor was it
without great ecclesiastical influence, as in the chancellor was the
appointment of all the royal chaplains, and the custody of vacant
bishoprics, abbacies, and benefices.[18]

[SN: Becket Chancellor.]

But the Chancellor, who was yet, with all his great preferments, only in
deacon's orders, might seem disdainfully to throw aside the habits,
feelings, restraints of the churchman, and to aspire as to the plenitude
of secular power, so to unprecedented secular magnificence.[19] Becket
shone out in all the graces of an accomplished courtier, in the bearing
and valor of a gallant knight; though at the same time he displayed the
most consummate abilities for business, the promptitude, diligence, and
prudence of a practiced statesman. The beauty of his person, the
affability of his manners, the extraordinary acuteness of his
senses,[20] his activity in all chivalrous exercises, made him the
chosen companion of the king in his constant diversions, in the chase
and in the mimic war, in all but his debaucheries. The king would
willingly have lured the Chancellor into this companionship likewise;
but the silence of his bitterest enemies, in confirmation of his own
solemn protestations, may be admitted as conclusive testimonies to his
unimpeached morals.[21] The power of Becket throughout the king's
dominions equaled that of the king himself--he was king in all but name:
the world, it was said, had never seen two friends so entirely of one
mind.[22] The well-known anecdote best illustrates their intimate
familiarity. As they rode through the streets of London on a bleak
Winter day they met a beggar in rags. "Would it not be charity," said
the king, "to give that fellow a cloak, and cover him from the cold?"
Becket assented; on which the king plucked the rich furred mantle from
the shoulders of the struggling Chancellor and threw it, to the
amazement and admiration of the bystanders, no doubt to the secret envy
of the courtiers at this proof of Becket's favor, to the shivering

But it was in the graver affairs of the realm that Henry derived still
greater advantage from the wisdom and the conduct of the Chancellor.[24]
To Becket's counsels his admiring biographers attribute the pacification
of the kingdom, the expulsion of the foreign mercenaries who during the
civil wars of Stephen's reign had devastated the land and had settled
down as conquerors, especially in Kent, the humiliation of the
refractory barons and the demolition of their castles. The peace was so
profound that merchants could travel everywhere in safety, and even the
Jews collect their debts.[25] The magnificence of Becket redounded to
the glory of his sovereign. In his ordinary life he was sumptuous beyond
precedent; he kept an open table, where those who were not so fortunate
as to secure a seat at the board had clean rushes strewn on the floor,
on which they might repose, eat, and carouse at the Chancellor's
expense. His household was on a scale vast even for that age of
unbounded retainership, and the haughtiest Norman nobles were proud to
see their sons brought up in the family of the merchant's son. [SN:
Ambassador to Paris A. D. 1160.] In his embassy to Paris to demand the
hand of the Princess Margaret for the king's infant son, described with
such minute accuracy by Fitz-Stephen,[26] he outshone himself, yet might
seem to have a loyal rather than a personal aim in this unrivaled pomp.
The French crowded from all quarters to see the splendid procession
pass, and exclaimed, "What must be the king, whose Chancellor can
indulge in such enormous expenditure?"

[SN: War in Toulouse.]

Even in war the Chancellor had displayed not only the abilities of a
general, but a personal prowess, which, though it found many precedents
in those times, might appear somewhat incongruous in an ecclesiastic,
who yet held all his clerical benefices. In the expedition made by King
Henry to assert his right to the dominions of the Counts of Toulouse,
Becket appeared at the head of seven hundred knights who did him
service, and foremost in every adventurous exploit was the valiant
Chancellor. Becket's bold counsel urged the immediate storming of the
city, which would have been followed by the captivity of the King of
France. Henry, in whose character impetuosity was strangely molded up
with irresolution, dared not risk this violation of feudal allegiance,
the captivity of his suzerain. The event of the war showed the policy as
well as the superior military judgment of the warlike Chancellor. At a
period somewhat later, Becket, who was left to reduce certain castles
which held out against his master, unhorsed in single combat and took
prisoner a knight of great distinction, Engelran de Trie. He returned to
Henry in Normandy at the head of 1200 knights and 4000 stipendiary
horsemen, raised and maintained at his own charge. If indeed there were
grave churchmen even in those days who were revolted by these
achievements in an ecclesiastic (he was still only in deacon's orders),
the sentiment was by no means universal, nor even dominant. With some
his valor and military skill only excited more ardent admiration. One of
his biographers bursts out into this extraordinary panegyric on the
Archdeacon of Canterbury: "Who can recount the carnage, the desolation,
which he made at the head of a strong body of soldiers? He attacked
castles, razed towns and cities to the ground, burned down houses and
farms without a touch of pity, and never showed the slightest mercy to
any one who rose in insurrection against his master's authority."[27]

[SN: Wealth of Becket.]

The services of Becket were not unrewarded; the love and gratitude of
his sovereign showered honors and emoluments upon him. Among his grants
were the wardenship of the Tower of London, the lordship of the castle
of Berkhampstead and the honor of Eye, with the service of a hundred and
forty knights. Yet there must have been other and more prolific sources
of his wealth, so lavishly displayed. Through his hands as Chancellor
passed almost all grants and royal favors. He was the guardian of all
escheated baronies and of all vacant benefices. It is said in his
praise that he did not permit the king, as was common, to prolong those
vacancies for his own advantage, that they were filled up with as much
speed as possible; but it should seem, by subsequent occurrences, that
no very strict account was kept of the king's monies spent by the
Chancellor in the king's service and those expended by the Chancellor
himself. This seems intimated by the care which he took to secure a
general quittance from the chief justiciary of the realm before his
elevation to the archbishopric.

But if in his personal habits and occupations Becket lost in some degree
the churchman in the secular dignitary, was he mindful of the solemn
trust imposed upon him by his patron the archbishop, and true to the
interests of his order? Did he connive at, or at least did he not
resist, any invasion on ecclesiastical immunities, or, as they were
called, the liberties of the clergy? did he hold their property
absolutely sacred? It is clear that he consented to levy the scutage,
raised on the whole realm, on ecclesiastical as well as secular
property. All that his friend John of Salisbury can allege in his
defence is, that he bitterly repented of having been the minister of
this iniquity.[28] "If with Saul he persecuted the Church, with Paul he
is prepared to die for the Church." But probably the worst effect of
this conduct as regards King Henry was the encouragement of his fatal
delusion that, as archbishop, Becket would be as submissive to his
wishes in the affairs of the Church as had been the pliant Chancellor.
It was the last and crowning mark of the royal confidence that Becket
was intrusted with the education of the young Prince Henry, the heir to
all the dominions of the king.

[SN: April, 1161.]

Six years after the accession of Henry II. died Theobald Archbishop of
Canterbury. On the character of his successor depended the peace of the
realm, especially if Henry, as no doubt he did, already entertained
designs of limiting the exorbitant power of the Church. Becket, ever at
his right hand, could not but occur to the mind of the king. Nothing in
his habits of life or conduct could impair the hope that in him the
loyal, the devoted, it might seem unscrupulous subject, would
predominate over the rigid churchman. With such a prime minister,
attached by former benefits, it might seem by the warmest personal love,
still more by this last proof of boundless confidence, to his person,
and as holding the united offices of Chancellor and Primate, ruling
supreme both in Church and State, the king could dread no resistance, or
if there were resistance, could subdue it without difficulty.

Rumor had already designated Becket as the future primate. A churchman,
the Prior of Leicester, on a visit to Becket, who was ill at Rouen,
pointing to his apparel, said, "Is this a dress for an Archbishop of
Canterbury?" Becket himself had not disguised his hopes and fears.
"There are three poor priests in England, any one of whose elevation to
the see of Canterbury I should wish rather than my own. I know the very
heart of the king; if I should be promoted, I must forfeit his favor or
that of God."[29]

The king did not suddenly declare his intentions. The see was vacant for
above a year,[30] and the administration of the revenues must have been
in the department of the Chancellor. At length as Becket, who had
received a commission to return to England on other affairs of moment,
took leave of his sovereign at Falaise, Henry hastily informed him that
those affairs were not the main object of his mission to England--it was
for his election to the vacant archbishopric. Becket remonstrated, but
in vain; he openly warned, it is said, his royal master that as Primate
he must choose between the favor of God and that of the king--he must
prefer that of God.[31] In those days the interests of the clergy and of
God were held inseparable. Henry no doubt thought this but the decent
resistance of an ambitious prelate. The advice of Henry of Pisa, the
Papal Legate, overcame the faint and lingering scruples of Becket: he
passed to England with the king's recommendation, mandate it might be
called, for his election.

All which to the king would designate Becket as the future Primate could
not but excite the apprehensions of the more rigorous churchmen. The
monks of Canterbury, with whom rested the formal election, alleged as an
insuperable difficulty that Becket had never worn the monastic habit, as
almost all his predecessors had done.[32] The suffragan bishops would no
doubt secretly resist the advancement, over all their heads, of a man
who, latterly at least, had been more of a soldier, a courtier, and a
lay statesman. Nor could the prophetic sagacity of any but the wisest
discern the latent churchmanship in the ambitious and inflexible heart
of Becket. It is recorded on authority, which I do not believe doubtful
as to its authenticity, but which is the impassioned statement of a
declared enemy, that nothing but the arrival of the great justiciary,
Richard de Luci, with the king's peremptory commands, and with personal
menaces of proscription and exile against the more forward opponents,
awed the refractory monks and prelates to submission.

[SN: Gilbert Foliot.]

At Whitsuntide Thomas Becket received priest's orders, and was then
consecrated Primate of England with great magnificence in the Abbey of
Westminster. The see of London being vacant, the ceremony was performed
by the once turbulent, now aged and peaceful, Henry of Winchester, the
brother of King Stephen. One voice alone, that of Gilbert Foliot, Bishop
of Hereford,[33] broke the apparent harmony by a bitter sarcasm--"The
king has wrought a miracle; he has turned a soldier and a layman into an
archbishop." Gilbert Foliot, from first to last the firm and unawed
antagonist of Becket, is too important a personage to be passed lightly
by.[34] This sally was attributed no doubt by some at the time, as it
was the subject afterwards of many fierce taunts from Becket himself,
and of lofty vindication by Foliot, to disappointed ambition, as though
he himself aspired to the primacy. Nor was there an ecclesiastic in
England who might entertain more just hopes of advancement. He was
admitted to be a man of unimpeachable life, of austere habits, and great
learning. He had been Abbot of Gloucester and then Bishop of Hereford.
He was in correspondence with four successive Popes, Coelestine II.,
Lucius II., Eugenius III., Alexander, and with a familiarity which
implies a high estimation for ability and experience. He is interfering
in matters remote from his diocese, and commending other bishops,
Lincoln and Salisbury, to the favorable consideration of the Pontiff.
All his letters reveal as imperious and conscientious a churchman as
Becket himself, and in Becket's position Foliot might have resisted the
king as inflexibly.[35] He was, in short, a bold and stirring
ecclesiastic, who did not scruple to wield, as he had done in several
instances, that last terrible weapon of the clergy which burst on his
own head, excommunication.[36] It may be added that, notwithstanding his
sarcasm, there was no open breach between him and Becket. The primate
acquiesced in, if he did not promote, the advancement of Foliot to the
see of London;[37] and during that period letters of courtesy which
borders on adulation were interchanged at least with apparent

The king had indeed wrought a greater miracle than himself intended, or
than Foliot thought possible. Becket became at once not merely a decent
prelate, but an austere and mortified monk: he seemed determined to make
up for his want of ascetic qualifications; to crowd a whole life of
monkhood into a few years.[39] Under his canonical dress he wore a
monk's frock, haircloth next his skin; his studies, his devotions, were
long, regular, rigid. At the mass he was frequently melted into
passionate tears. In his outward demeanor, indeed, though he submitted
to private flagellation, and the most severe macerations, Becket was
still the stately prelate: his food, though scanty to abstemiousness,
was, as his constitution required, more delicate; his charities were
boundless. Archbishop Theobald had doubled the usual amount of the
primate's alms, Becket again doubled that; and every night in privacy,
no doubt more ostentatious than the most public exhibition, with his
own hands he washed the feet of thirteen beggars. His table was still
hospitable and sumptuous, but instead of knights and nobles, he admitted
only learned clerks, and especially the regulars, whom he courted with
the most obsequious deference. For the sprightly conversation of former
times were read grave books in the Latin of the Church.

But the change was not alone in his habits and mode of life. The King
could not have reproved, he might have admired, the most punctilious
regard for the decency and the dignity of the highest ecclesiastic in
the realm. But the inflexible churchman began to betray himself in more
unexpected acts. While still in France Henry was startled at receiving a
peremptory resignation of the chancellorship, as inconsistent with the
religious functions of the primate. This act was as it were a bill of
divorce from all personal intimacy with the king, a dissolution of their
old familiar and friendly intercourse. It was not merely that the holy
and austere prelate withdrew from the unbecoming pleasures of the court,
the chase, the banquet, the tournament, even the war; they were no more
to meet at the council board, and the seat of judicature. It had been
said that Becket was co-sovereign with the king, he now appeared (and
there were not wanting secret and invidious enemies to suggest, and to
inflame the suspicion) a rival sovereign.[40] The king, when Becket met
him on his landing at Southampton, did not attempt to conceal his
dissatisfaction; his reception of his old friend was cold.

It were unjust to human nature, to suppose that it did not cost Becket a
violent struggle, a painful sacrifice, thus as it were to rend himself
from the familiarity and friendship of his munificent benefactor. It was
no doubt a severe sense of duty which crushed his natural affections,
especially as vulgar ambition must have pointed out a more sure and safe
way to power and fame. Such ambition would hardly have hesitated between
the ruling all orders through the king, and the solitary and dangerous
position of opposing so powerful a monarch to maintain the interests and
secure the favor of one order alone.

[SN: Becket at Tours. May 19, 1163.]

Henry was now fully occupied with the affairs of Wales. Becket, with the
royal sanction, obeyed the summons of Pope Alexander to the Council of
Tours. Becket had passed through part of France at the head of an army
of his own raising, and under his command; he had passed a second time
as representing the king; he was yet to pass as an exile. At Tours,
where Pope Alexander now held his court, and presided over his council,
Becket appeared at the head of all the Bishops of England, except those
excused on account of age or infirmity. So great was his reputation,
that the Pope sent out all the cardinals except those in attendance on
his own person to escort the primate of England into the city. In the
council at Tours not merely was the title of Alexander to the popedom
avouched with perfect unanimity, but the rights and privileges of the
clergy asserted with more than usual rigor and distinctness. Some
canons, one especially which severely condemned all encroachments on
the property of the Church, might seem framed almost with a view to the
impending strife with England.

[SN: Beginning of strife.]

That strife, so impetuous might seem the combatants to join issue, broke
out, during the next year, in all its violence. Both parties, if they
did not commence, were prepared for aggression. The first occasion of
public collision was a dispute concerning the customary payment of the
ancient Danegelt, of two shillings on every hide of land, to the
sheriffs of the several counties. The king determined to transfer this
payment to his own exchequer: he summoned an assembly at Woodstock, and
declared his intentions. All were mute but Becket; the archbishop
opposed the enrolment of the decree, on the ground that the tax was
voluntary, not of right. "By the eyes of God," said Henry, his usual
oath, "it shall be enrolled!" "By the same eyes, by which you swear,"
replied the prelate, "it shall never be levied on my lands while I
live!"[41] On Becket's part, almost the first act of his primacy was to
vindicate all the rights, and to resume all the property which had been
usurped, or which he asserted to have been usurped, from his see.[42] It
was not likely that, in the turbulent times just gone by, there would
have been rigid respect for the inviolability of sacred property. The
title of the Church was held to be indefeasible. Whatever had once
belonged to the Church might be recovered at any time; and the
ecclesiastical courts claimed the sole right of adjudication in such
causes. The primate was thus at once plaintiff, judge, and carried into
execution his own judgments. The lord of the manor of Eynsford in Kent,
who held of the king, claimed the right of presentation to that
benefice. Becket asserted the prerogative of the see of Canterbury. On
the forcible ejectment of his nominee by the lord, William of Eynsford,
Becket proceeded at once to a sentence of excommunication, without
regard to Eynsford's feudal superior the king. [SN: Claims of Becket.]
The primate next demanded the castle of Tunbridge from the head of the
powerful family of De Clare; though it had been held by De Clare, and it
was asserted, received in exchange for a Norman Castle, since the time
of William the Conqueror. The attack on De Clare might seem a defiance
of the whole feudal nobility: a determination to despoil them of their
conquests, or grants from the sovereign.

[SN: Immunities of the clergy.]

The king, on his side, wisely chose the strongest and more popular
ground of the immunities of the clergy from all temporal jurisdiction.
He appeared as guardian of the public morals, as administrator of equal
justice to all his subjects, as protector of the peace of the realm.
Crimes of great atrocity, it is said, of great frequency, crimes such as
robbery and homicide, crimes for which secular persons were hanged by
scores and without mercy, were committed almost with impunity, or with
punishment altogether inadequate to the offence by the clergy; and the
sacred name of clerk, exempted not only bishops, abbots, and priests,
but those of the lowest ecclesiastical rank from the civil power. It was
the inalienable right of the clerk to be tried only in the court of his
bishop; and as that court could not award capital punishment, the utmost
penalties were flagellation, imprisonment, and degradation. It was only
after degradation, and for a second offence (for the clergy strenuously
insisted on the injustice of a second trial for the same act,)[43] that
the meanest of the clerical body could be brought to the level of the
most highborn layman. But to cede one tittle of these immunities, to
surrender the sacred person of a clergyman, whatever his guilt, to the
secular power, was treason to the sacerdotal order: it was giving up
Christ (for the Redeemer was supposed actually to dwell in the clerk,
though his hands might be stained with innocent blood) to be crucified
by the heathen.[44] To mutilate the person of one in holy orders was
directly contrary to the Scripture (for with convenient logic, while the
clergy rejected the example of the Old Testament as to the equal
liability of priest and Levite with the ordinary Jew to the sentence of
the law, they alleged it on their own part as unanswerable.) It was
inconceivable, that hands which had but now made God should be tied
behind the back, like those of a common malefactor, or that his neck
should be wrung on a gibbet, before whom kings had but now bowed in
reverential homage.[45]

The enormity of the evil is acknowledged by Becket's most ardent
partisans.[46] The king had credible information laid before him that
some of the clergy were absolute devils in guilt, that their wickedness
could not be repressed by the ordinary means of justice, and were daily
growing worse.

Becket himself had protected some notorious and heinous offenders. A
clerk of the diocese of Worcester had debauched a maiden and murdered
her father. Becket ordered the man to be kept in prison, and refused to
surrender him to the king's justice.[47] Another in London, guilty of
stealing a silver goblet, was claimed as only amenable to the
ecclesiastical court. Philip de Brois, a canon of Bedford, had been
guilty of homicide. The cause was tried in the bishop's court; he was
condemned to pay a fine to the kindred of the slain man. Some time
after, Fitz-Peter, the king's justiciary, whether from private enmity or
offence, or dissatisfied with the ecclesiastical verdict, in the open
court at Dunstable, called De Brois a murderer. De Brois broke out into
angry and contumelious language against the judge. The insult to the
justiciary was held to be insult to the king, who sought justice, where
alone he could obtain it, in the bishop's court. Philip de Brois this
time incurred a sentence, to our notions almost as disproportionate as
that for his former offence. He was condemned to be publicly whipped,
and degraded for two years from the honors and emoluments of his
canonry. But to the king the verdict appeared far too lenient; the
spiritual jurisdiction was accused as shielding the criminal from his
due penalty.

[SN: Character of the King.]

Such were the questions on which Becket was prepared to confront and to
wage war to the death with the king; and all this with a deliberate
knowledge both of the power and the character of Henry, his power as
undisputed sovereign of England and of continental territories more
extensive and flourishing than those of the king of France. These
dominions included those of the Conqueror and his descendants, of the
Counts of Anjou, and the great inheritance of his wife, Queen Eleanor,
the old kingdom of Aquitaine; they reached from the borders of Flanders
round to the foot of the Pyrenees. This almost unrivaled power could not
but have worked with the strong natural passions of Henry to form the
character drawn by a churchman of great ability, who would warn Becket
as to the formidable adversary whom he had undertaken to oppose,--"You
have to deal with one on whose policy the most distant sovereigns of
Europe, on whose power his neighbors, on whose severity his subjects
look with awe; whom constant successes and prosperous fortune have
rendered so sensitive, that every act of disobedience is a personal
outrage; whom it is as easy to provoke as difficult to appease; who
encourages no rash offence by impunity, but whose vengeance is instant
and summary. He will sometimes be softened by humility and patience, but
will never submit to compulsion; everything must seem to be conceded by
his own free will, nothing wrested from his weakness. He is more
covetous of glory than of gain, a commendable quality in a prince, if
virtue and truth, not the vanity and soft flattery of courtiers, awarded
that glory. He is a great, indeed the greatest of kings, for he has no
superior of whom he may stand in dread, no subject who dares to resist
him. His natural ferocity has been subdued by no calamity from without;
all who have been involved in any contest with him, have preferred the
most precarious treaty to a trial of strength with one so pre-eminent
in wealth, in the number of his forces, and the greatness of his

A king of this character would eagerly listen to suggestions of
interested or flattering courtiers, that unless the Primate's power were
limited, the authority of the king would be reduced to nothing. The
succession to the throne would depend entirely on the clergy, and he
himself would reign only so long as might seem good to the Archbishop.
Nor were they the baser courtiers alone who feared and hated Becket.
The nobles might tremble from the example of De Clare, with whose
powerful house almost all the Norman baronage was allied, lest every
royal grant should be called in question.[49] Even among the clergy
Becket had bitter enemies; and though at first they appeared almost as
jealous as the Primate for the privileges of their order, the most able
soon espoused the cause of the King; those who secretly favored him were
obliged to submit in silence.

[SN: Parliament of Westminster.]

The King, determined to bring these great questions to issue summoned a
Parliament at Westminster. He commenced the proceedings by enlarging on
the abuses of the archidiaconal courts. The archdeacons kept the most
watchful and inquisitorial superintendence over the laity, but every
offence was easily commuted for a pecuniary fine, which fell to them.
The King complained that they levied a revenue from the sins of the
people equal to his own, yet that the public morals were only more
deeply and irretrievably depraved. He then demanded that all clerks
accused of heinous crimes should be immediately degraded and handed over
to the officers of his justice, to be dealt with according to law; for
their guilt, instead of deserving a lighter punishment, was doubly
guilty: he demanded this in the name of equal justice and the peace of
the realm. Becket insisted on delay till the next morning, in order that
he might consult his suffragan bishops. This the King refused: the
bishops withdrew to confer upon their answer. The bishops were disposed
to yield, some doubtless impressed with the justice of the demand, some
from fear of the King, some from a prudent conviction of the danger of
provoking so powerful a monarch, and of involving the Church in a
quarrel with Henry at the perilous time of a contest for the Papacy
which distracted Europe. Becket inflexibly maintained the inviolability
of the holy persons of the clergy.[50] The King then demanded whether
they would observe the "customs of the realm." "Saving my order,"
replied the Archbishop. That order was still to be exempt from all
jurisdiction but its own. So answered all the bishops except Hilary of
Chichester, who made the declaration without reserve.[51] The King
hastily broke up the assembly, and left London in a state of
consternation, the people and the clergy agitated by conflicting
anxieties. He immediately deprived Becket of the custody of the Royal
Castles, which he still retained, and of the momentous charge, the
education of his son. The bishops entreated Becket either to withdraw or
to change the offensive word. At first he declared that if an angel from
Heaven should counsel such weakness, he would hold him accursed. At
length, however, he yielded, as Herbert de Bosham asserts out of love
for the King,[52] by another account at the persuasion of the Pope's
Almoner, said to have been bribed by English gold.[53] He went to Oxford
and made the concession.

[SN: Jan. 1164.]

[SN: Council of Clarendon.]

The King, in order to ratify with the utmost solemnity the concession
extorted from the bishops, and even from Becket himself, summoned a
great council of the realm to Clarendon, a royal palace between three
and four miles from Salisbury. The two archbishops and eleven bishops,
between thirty and forty of the highest nobles, with numbers of inferior
barons, were present. It was the King's object to settle beyond dispute
the main points in contest between the Crown and the Church; to
establish thus, with the consent of the whole nation, an English
Constitution in Church and State. Becket, it is said, had been assured
by some about the King that a mere assent would be demanded to vague and
ambiguous, and therefore on occasion disputable customs. But when these
customs, which had been collected and put in writing by the King's
order, appeared in the form of precise and binding laws, drawn up with
legal technicality by the Chief Justiciary, he saw his error, wavered,
and endeavored to recede.[54] The King broke out into one of his
ungovernable fits of passion. One or two of the bishops who were out of
favor with the King and two knights Templars on their knees implored
Becket to abandon his dangerous, fruitless, and ill-timed resistance.
The Archbishop took the oath, which had been already sworn to by all the
lay barons. He was followed by the rest of the bishops, reluctantly
according to one account, and compelled on one side by their dread of
the lay barons, on the other by the example and authority of the
Primate, according to Becket's biographers, eagerly and of their own

[SN: Constitutions of Clarendon.]

These famous constitutions were of course feudal in their form and
spirit. But they aimed at the subjection of all the great prelates of
the realm to the Crown to the same extent as the great barons. The new
constitution of England made the bishops' fiefs to be granted according
to the royal will, and subjected the whole of the clergy equally with
the laity to the common laws of the land.[56] I. On the vacancy of every
archbishopric, bishopric, abbey, or priory, the revenues came into the
King's hands. He was to summon those who had the right of election,
which was to take place in the King's Chapel, with his consent, and the
counsel of nobles chosen by the King for this office. The prelate elect
was immediately to do homage to the King as his liege lord, for life,
limb, and worldly honors, excepting his order. The archbishops, bishops,
and all beneficiaries, held their estates on the tenure of baronies,
amenable to the King's justice, and bound to sit with the other barons
in all pleas of the Crown, except in capital cases. No archbishop,
bishop, or any other person could quit the realm without royal
permission, or without taking an oath at the King's requisition, not to
do any damage either going, staying, or returning, to the King or the

II. All clerks accused of any crime were to be summoned before the
King's Courts. The King's justiciaries were to decide whether it was a
case for civil or ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Those which belonged to
the latter were to be removed to the Bishops' Court. If the clerk was
found guilty or confessed his guilt, the Church could protect him no

III. All disputes concerning advowsons and presentations to benefices
were to be decided in the King's Courts; and the King's consent was
necessary for the appointment to any benefice within the King's

IV. No tenant in chief of the King, none of the officers of the King's
household, could be excommunicated, nor his lands placed under
interdict, until due information had been laid before the King; or, in
his absence from the realm, before the great Justiciary, in order that
he might determine in each case the respective rights of the civil and
ecclesiastical courts.[59]

V. Appeals lay from the archdeacon to the bishop, from the bishop to the
Archbishop. On failure of justice by the Archbishop, in the last resort
to the King, who was to take care that justice was done in the
Archbishop's Court; and no further appeal was to be made without the
King's consent. This was manifestly and avowedly intended to limit
appeals to Rome.

All these statutes, in number sixteen, were restrictions on the
distinctive immunities of the clergy; one, and that unnoticed, was
really an invasion of popular freedom; no son of a villein could be
ordained without the consent of his lord.

Some of these customs were of doubtful authenticity. On the main
question, the exorbitant powers of the ecclesiastical courts and the
immunity of the clergy from all other jurisdiction, there was an
unrepealed statute of William the Conqueror. Before the Conquest the
bishop sate with the alderman in the same court. The statute of William
created a separate jurisdiction of great extent in the spiritual court.
This was not done to aggrandize the Church, of which in some respects
the Conqueror was jealous, but to elevate the importance of the great
Norman prelates whom he had thrust into the English sees. It raised
another class of powerful feudatories to support the foreign throne,
bound to it by common interest as well as by the attachment of race. But
at this time neither party took any notice of the ancient statute. The
King's advisers of course avoided the dangerous question; Becket and the
Churchmen (Becket himself declared that he was unlearned in the
customs), standing on the divine and indefeasible right of the clergy,
could hardly rest on a recent statute granted by the royal will, and
therefore liable to be annulled by the same authority. The Customs, they
averred, were of themselves illegal, as clashing with higher
irrepealable laws.

To these Customs Becket had now sworn without reserve. Three copies were
ordered to be made--one for the Archbishop of Canterbury, one for York,
one to be laid up in the royal archives. To these the King demanded the
further guarantee of the seal of the different parties. The Primate,
whether already repenting of his assent, or under the vague impression
that this was committing himself still further (for oaths might be
absolved, seals could not be torn from public documents), now
obstinately refused to make any further concession. The refusal threw
suspicion on the sincerity of his former act. The King, the other
prelates, the nobles, all but Becket,[60] subscribed and sealed the
Constitutions of Clarendon as the laws of England.

[SN: April 1.]

As the Primate rode from Winchester in profound silence, meditating on
the acts of the council and on his own conduct, one of his attendants,
who has himself related the conversation, endeavored to raise his
spirits. "It is a fit punishment," said Becket, "for one who, not
trained in the school of the Saviour, but in the King's court, a man of
pride and vanity, from a follower of hawks and hounds, a patron of
players, has dared to assume the care of so many souls."[61] De Bosham
significantly reminded his master of St. Peter, his denial of the Lord,
his subsequent repentance. On his return to Canterbury Becket imposed
upon himself the severest mortification, and suspended himself from his
function of offering the sacrifice on the altar. He wrote almost
immediately to the Pope to seek counsel and absolution from his oath. He
received both. The absolution restored all his vivacity.

But the King had likewise his emissaries with the Pope at Sens. He
endeavored to obtain a legatine commission over the whole realm
of England for Becket's enemy, Roger Archbishop of York, and a
recommendation from the Pope to Becket to observe the "customs" of the
realm. Two embassies were sent by the King for this end: first the
Bishops of Lisieux and Poitiers; then Geoffrey Ridel, Archdeacon of
Canterbury (who afterwards appears so hostile to the Primate as to be
called by him that archdevil, not archdeacon), and the subtle John of
Oxford. The embarrassed Pope (throughout it must be remembered that
there was a formidable Antipope), afraid at once of estranging Henry,
and unwilling to abandon Becket, granted the legation to the Archbishop
of York. To the Primate's great indignation, Roger had his cross
borne before him in the province of Canterbury. On Becket's angry
remonstrance, the Pope, while on the one hand he enjoined on Becket the
greatest caution and forbearance in the inevitable contest, assured him
that he would never permit the see of Canterbury to be subject to any
authority but his own.[62]

Becket secretly went down to his estate at Romney, near the sea-coast,
in the hope of crossing the straits, and so finding refuge and
maintaining his cause by his personal presence with the Pope. Stormy
weather forced him to abandon his design. He then betook himself to the
King at Woodstock. He was coldly received. The King at first dissembled
his knowledge of the Primate's attempt to cross the sea, a direct
violation of one of the constitutions; but on his departure he asked
with bitter jocularity whether Becket had sought to leave the realm
because England could not contain himself and the King.[63]

The tergiversation of Becket, and his attempt thus to violate one of the
Constitutions of Clarendon, to which he had sworn, showed that he was
not to be bound by oaths. No treaty could be made where one party
claimed the power of retracting, and might at any time be released from
his covenant. In the mind of Henry, whose will had never yet met
resistance, the determination was confirmed, if he could not subdue the
Prelate, to crush the refractory subject. Becket's enemies possessed
the King's ear. Some of those enemies no doubt hated him for his former
favor with the King, some dreaded lest the severity of so inflexible a
prelate should curb their license, some held property belonging to or
claimed by the Church, some to flatter the King, some in honest
indignation at the duplicity of Becket and in love of peace, but all
concurred to inflame the resentment of Henry, and to attribute to Becket
words and designs insulting to the King and disparaging to the royal
authority. Becket, holding such notions as he did of Church power, would
not be cautious in asserting it; and whatever he might utter in his
pride would be embittered rather than softened when repeated to the

Since the Council of Clarendon Becket stood alone. All the higher
clergy, the great prelates of the kingdom, were now either his open
adversaries or were compelled to dissemble their favor towards him.
Whether alienated, as some declared, by his pusillanimity at Clarendon,
bribed by the gifts or overawed by the power of the King, whether
conscientiously convinced that in such times of schism and division it
might be fatal to the interests of the Church to advance her loftiest
pretensions, all, especially the Archbishop of York, the Bishops of
London, Salisbury and Chichester, were arrayed on the King's side.
Becket himself attributed the chief guilt of his persecution to the
bishops. "The King would have been quiet if they had not been so tamely
subservient to his wishes."[64]

[SN: Parliament at Northampton. Oct. 6, 1164.]

Before the close of the year Becket was cited to appear before a great
council of the realm at Northampton. All England crowded to witness
this final strife, it might be between the royal and the ecclesiastical
power. The Primate entered Northampton with only his own retinue; the
King had passed the afternoon amusing himself with hawking in the
pleasant meadows around. The Archbishop, on the following morning after
mass, appeared in the King's chamber with a cheerful countenance. The
King gave not, according to English custom, the kiss of peace.

The citation of the Primate before the King in council at Northampton
was to answer a charge of withholding justice from John the Marshall
employed in the king's exchequer, who claimed the estate of Pagaham from
the see of Canterbury. Twice had Becket been summoned to appear in the
king's court to answer for this denial of justice: once he had refused
to appear, the second time he did not appear in person. Becket in vain
alleged an informality in the original proceedings of John the
Marshall.[65] The court, the bishops, as well as the barons, declared
him guilty of contumacy; all his goods and chattels became, according to
the legal phrase, at the king's mercy.[66] The fine was assessed at 500
pounds. Becket submitted, not without bitter irony: "This, then, is one
of the new customs of Clarendon." But he protested against the
unheard-of audacity that the bishops should presume to sit in judgment
on their spiritual parent; it was a greater crime than to uncover their
father's nakedness.[67] Sarcasms and protests passed alike without
notice. But the bishops, all except Foliot, consented to become sureties
for this exorbitant fine. [SN: Demands on Becket.] Demands rising one
above another seemed framed for the purpose of reducing the Archbishop
to the humiliating condition of a debtor to the King, entirely at his
disposal. First 300 pounds were demanded as due from the castles of Eye
and Berkhampstead. Becket pleaded that he had expended a much larger sum
on the repairs of the castles: he found sureties likewise for this
payment, the Earl of Gloucester, William of Eynsford, and another of
"his men." The next day the demand was for 500 pounds lent by the King
during the siege of Toulouse, Becket declared that this was a gift, not
a loan;[68] but the King denying the plea, judgment was again entered
against Becket. At last came the overwhelming charge, an account of all
the monies received during his chancellorship from the vacant
archbishopric and from other bishoprics and abbeys. The debt was
calculated at the enormous sum of 44,000 marks. Becket was astounded at
this unexpected claim. As chancellor, in all likelihood, he had kept no
very strict account of what was expended in his own and in the royal
service; and the King seemed blind to this abuse of the royal right, by
which so large a sum had accumulated by keeping open those benefices
which ought to have been instantly filled. Becket, recovered from his
first amazement, replied that he had not been cited to answer on such
charge; at another time he should be prepared to answer all just demands
of the Crown. He now requested delay, in order to advise with his
suffragans and the clergy. He withdrew; but from that time no single
baron visited the object of the royal disfavor. Becket assembled all the
poor, even the beggars, who could be found, to fill his vacant board.

[SN: Takes counsel with the bishops.]

In his extreme exigency the Primate consulted separately first the
bishops, then the abbots. Their advice was different according to their
characters and their sentiments towards him. He had what might seem an
unanswerable plea, a formal acquittance from the Chief Justiciary De
Luci, the King's representative, for all obligations incurred in his
civil capacity before his consecration as archbishop.[69] The King,
however, it was known, declared that he had given no such authority.
Becket had the further excuse that all which he now possessed was
the property of the Church, and could not be made liable for
responsibilities incurred in a secular capacity. The bishops, however,
were either convinced of the insufficiency or the inadmissibility of
that plea. Henry of Winchester recommended an endeavor to purchase the
King's pardon; he offered 2000 marks as his contribution. Others urged
Becket to stand on his dignity, to defy the worst, under the shelter of
his priesthood; no one would venture to lay hands on a holy prelate.
Foliot and his party betrayed their object.[70] They exhorted him as the
only way of averting the implacable wrath of the King at once to resign
his see. "Would," said Hilary of Chichester, "you were no longer
archbishop, but plain Thomas. Thou knowest the King better than we do;
he has declared that thou and he cannot remain together in England, he
as King, thou as Primate. Who will be bound for such an amount? Throw
thyself on the King's mercy, or to the eternal disgrace of the Church
thou wilt be arrested and imprisoned as a debtor to the Crown." The next
day was Sunday; the Archbishop did not leave his lodgings. On Monday the
agitation of his spirits had brought on an attack of a disorder to which
he was subject: he was permitted to repose. On the morrow he had
determined on his conduct. At one time he had seriously meditated on a
more humiliating course: he proposed to seek the royal presence
barefooted with the cross in his hands, to throw himself at the King's
feet, appealing to his old affection, and imploring him to restore peace
to the Church. What had been the effect of such a step on the violent
but not ungenerous heart of Henry? But Becket yielded to the haughtier
counsels more congenial to his own intrepid character. He began by the
significant act of celebrating, out of its due order, the service of
St. Stephen, the first martyr. It contained passages of holy writ (as no
doubt Henry was instantly informed) concerning "kings taking counsel
against the godly." The mass concluded; in all the majesty of his holy
character, in his full pontifical habits, himself bearing the
archiepiscopal cross, the Primate rode to the King's residence, and
dismounting entered the royal hall. [SN: Becket in the King's hall.] The
cross seemed, as it were, an uplifting of the banner of the Church, in
defiance of that of the King, in the royal presence;[71] or it might be
in that awful imitation of the Saviour, at which no scruple was ever
made by the bolder churchmen--it was the servant of Christ who himself
bore his own cross. "What means this new fashion of the Archbishop
bearing his own cross?" said the Archdeacon Lisieux. "A fool," said
Foliot, "he always was and always will be." They made room for him; he
took his accustomed seat in the centre of the bishops. Foliot endeavored
to persuade him to lay down the cross. "If the sword of the King and the
cross of the Archbishop were to come in conflict, which were the more
fearful weapon?" Becket held the cross firmly, which Foliot and the
Bishop of Hereford strove, but in vain, to wrest from his grasp.

The bishops were summoned into the King's presence: Becket sat alone in
the outer hall. The Archbishop of York, who, as Becket's partisans
asserted, designedly came later that he might appear to be of the
King's intimate council, swept through the hall with his cross borne
before him. Like hostile spears cross confronted cross.[72]

During this interval De Bosham, the archbishop's reader, who had
reminded his master that he had been standard-bearer of the King of
England, and was now the standard-bearer of the King of the Angels, put
this question, "If they should lay their impious hands upon thee, art
thou prepared to fulminate excommunication against them?" Fitz-Stephen,
who sat at his feet, said in a loud clear voice, "That be far from thee;
so did not the Apostles and Martyrs of God: they prayed for their
persecutors and forgave them." Some of his more attached followers
burst into tears. "A little later," says the faithful Fitz-Stephen of
himself, "when one of the King's ushers would not allow me to speak to
the Archbishop, I made a sign to him and drew his attention to the
Saviour on the cross."

[SN: Condemnation of Becket.]

The bishops admitted to the King's presence announced the appeal of the
Archbishop to the Pope, and his inhibition to his suffragans to sit in
judgment in a secular council on their metropolitan.[73] These were
again direct infringements on two of the constitutions of Clarendon,
sworn to by Becket in an oath still held valid by the King and his
barons. The King appealed to the council. Some seized the occasion of
boldly declaring to the King that he had brought this difficulty on
himself by advancing a low-born man to such favor and dignity. All
agreed that Becket was guilty of perjury and treason.[74] A kind of low
acclamation followed which was heard in the outer room and made Becket's
followers tremble. The King sent certain counts and barons to demand of
Becket whether he, a liegeman of the King, and sworn to observe the
constitutions of Clarendon, had lodged this appeal and pronounced this
inhibition? The Archbishop replied with quiet intrepidity. In his long
speech he did not hesitate for a word; he pleaded that he had not been
cited to answer these charges; he alleged again the Justiciary's
acquittance; he ended by solemnly renewing his inhibition and his
appeal: "My person and my Church I place under the protection of the
sovereign Pontiff."

The barons of Normandy and England heard with wonder this defiance of
the King. Some seemed awe-struck and were mute; the more fierce and
lawless could not restrain their indignation. "The Conqueror knew best
how to deal with these turbulent churchmen. He seized his own brother,
Odo Bishop of Bayeux, and chastised him for his rebellion; he threw
Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, into a fetid dungeon. The Count of
Anjou, the King's father, treated still worse the bishop elect of Seez
and many of his clergy: he ordered them to be shamefully mutilated and
derided their sufferings."

The King summoned the bishops, on their allegiance as barons, to join in
sentence against Becket. But the inhibition of their metropolitan had
thrown them into embarrassment, and perhaps they felt that the offence
of Becket, if not capital treason, bordered upon it. It might be a
sentence of blood, in which no churchman might concur by his
suffrage--they dreaded the breach of canonical obedience. They entered
the hall where Becket sat alone. The gentler prelates, Robert of Lincoln
and others, were moved to tears; even Henry of Winchester advised the
archbishop to make an unconditional surrender of his see. The more
vehement Hilary of Chichester addressed him thus: "Lord Primate, we have
just cause of complaint against you. Your inhibition has placed us
between the hammer and the anvil: if we disobey it, we violate our
canonical obedience; if we obey, we infringe the constitutions of the
realm and offend the King's majesty. Yourself were the first to
subscribe the customs at Clarendon, you now compel us to break them. We
appeal, by the King's grace, to our lord the Pope." Becket answered "I

They returned to the King, and with difficulty obtained an exemption
from concurrence in the sentence; they promised to join in a
supplication to the Pope to depose Becket. The King permitted their
appeal. Robert Earl of Leicester, a grave and aged nobleman, was
commissioned to pronounce the sentence. Leicester had hardly begun when
Becket sternly interrupted him. "Thy sentence! son and Earl, hear me
first! The King was pleased to promote me against my will to the
archbishopric of Canterbury. I was then declared free from all secular
obligations. Ye are my children; presume ye against law and reason to
sit in judgment on your spiritual father? I am to be judged only, under
God, by the Pope. To him I appeal, before him I cite you, barons and my
suffragans, to appear. Under the protection of the Catholic Church and
the Apostolic See I depart!"[75] He rose and walked slowly down the
hall. A deep murmur ran through the crowd. Some took up straws and threw
them at him. One uttered the word "Traitor!" The old chivalrous spirit
woke in the soul of Becket. "Were it not for my order, you should rue
that word." But by other accounts he restrained not his language to this
pardonable impropriety--he met scorn with scorn. One officer of the
King's household he upbraided for having had a kinsman hanged. Anselm,
the King's brother, he called "bastard and catamite." The door was
locked, but fortunately the key was found. He passed out into the
street, where he was received by the populace, to whom he had endeared
himself by his charities, his austerities, perhaps by his courageous
opposition to the king and the nobles, amid loud acclamations. They
pressed so closely around him for his blessing that he could scarcely
guide his horse. He returned to the church of St. Andrew, placed his
cross by the altar of the Virgin. "This was a fearful day," said
Fitz-Stephen. "The day of judgment," he replied, "will be more fearful."
After supper he sent the Bishops of Hereford, Worcester, and Rochester
to the King to request permission to leave the kingdom: the King coldly
deferred his answer till the morrow.

[SN: Flight of Becket. Oct. 13.]

Becket and his friends no doubt thought his life in danger: he is said
to have received some alarming warnings.[76] It is reported, on the
other hand, that the King, apprehensive of the fierce zeal of his
followers, issued a proclamation that no one should do harm to the
archbishop or his people. It is more likely that the King, who must have
known the peril of attempting the life of an archbishop, would have
apprehended and committed him to prison. Becket expressed his intention
to pass the night in the church: his bed was strewn before the altar. At
midnight he rose, and with only two monks and a servant stole out of the
northern gate, the only one which was not guarded. He carried with him
only his archiepiscopal pall and his seal. The weather was wet and
stormy, but the next morning they reached Lincoln, and lodged with a
pious citizen--piety and admiration of Becket were the same thing. At
Lincoln he took the disguise of a monk, dropped down the Witham to a
hermitage in the fens belonging to the Cistercians of Sempringham;
thence by crossroads, and chiefly by night, he found his way to Estrey,
about five miles from Deal, a manor belonging to Christ Church in
Canterbury. He remained there a week. On All Souls Day he went on board
a boat, just before morning, and by the evening reached the coast of
Flanders. To avoid observation he landed on the open shore near
Gravelines. His large, loose shoes made it difficult to wade through the
sand without falling. He sat down in despair. After some delay was
obtained for a prelate, accustomed to the prancing war-horse or stately
cavalcade, a sorry nag without a saddle, and with a wisp of hay for a
bridle. But he soon got weary and was fain to walk. He had many
adventures by the way. He was once nearly betrayed by gazing with
delight on a falcon upon a young squire's wrist: his fright punished him
for his relapse into his secular vanities. The host of a small inn
recognized him by his lofty look and the whiteness of his hands. At
length he arrived at the monastery of Clair Marais, near St. Omer: he
was there joined by Herbert de Bosham, who had been left behind to
collect what money he could at Canterbury; he brought but 100 marks and
some plate. While he was in this part of Flanders the Justiciary,
Richard de Luci, passed through the town on his way to England. He tried
in vain to persuade the archbishop to return with him: Becket suspected
his friendly overtures, or had resolutely determined not to put himself
again in the King's power.

In the first access of indignation at Becket's flight the King had sent
orders for strict watch to be kept in the ports of the kingdom,
especially Dover. The next measure was to pre-occupy the minds of the
Count of Flanders, the King of France, and the Pope against his fugitive
subject. Henry could not but foresee how formidable an ally the exile
might become to his rivals and enemies, how dangerous to his extensive
but ill-consolidated foreign dominions. He might know that Becket would
act and be received as an independent potentate. The rank of his
ambassadors implied the importance of their mission to France. They were
the Archbishop of York, the Bishops of London, Exeter, Chichester, and
Worcester, the Earl of Arundel, and three other distinguished nobles.
The same day that Becket passed to Gravelines, they crossed from Dover
to Calais.[77]

[SN: Becket in exile.]

The Earl of Flanders, though with some cause of hostility to Becket, had
offered him a refuge; yet perhaps was not distinctly informed or would
not know that the exile was in his dominions.[78] He received the King's
envoys with civility. The King of France was at Compiègne. The strongest
passions in the feeble mind of Louis VII. were jealousy of Henry of
England, and a servile bigotry to the Church, to which he seemed
determined to compensate for the hostility and disobedience of his
youth. Against Henry, personally, there were old causes of hatred
rankling in his heart, not the less deep because they could not be
avowed. [SN: From 1152 to 1164.] Henry of England was now the husband of
Eleanor, who, after some years of marriage, had contemptuously divorced
the King of France as a monk rather than as a husband, had thrown
herself into the arms of Henry and carried with her a dowry as large as
half the kingdom of France. There had since been years either of fierce
war, treacherous negotiations, or jealous and armed peace, between the
rival sovereigns.

[SN: Louis of France.]

Louis had watched, and received regular accounts of the proceedings in
England; his admiration of Becket for his lofty churchmanship and
daring opposition to Henry was at its height, scarcely disguised. He
had already in secret offered to receive Becket, not as a fugitive, but
as the sharer in his kingdom. The ambassadors appeared before Louis and
presented a letter urging the King of France not to admit within his
dominions the traitor Thomas, late Archbishop of Canterbury. "Late
Archbishop! and who has presumed to depose him? I am a king, like my
brother of England; I should not dare to depose the meanest of my
clergy. Is this the King's gratitude for the services of his Chancellor,
to banish him from France, as he has done from England?"[79] Louis wrote
a strong letter to the Pope, recommending to his favor the cause of
Becket as his own.

[SN: Ambassadors at Sens.]

The ambassadors passed onwards to Sens, where resided the Pope
Alexander III., himself an exile, and opposing his spiritual power to
the highest temporal authority, that of the Emperor and his subservient
Antipope. Alexander was in a position of extraordinary difficulty: on
the one side were gratitude to King Henry for his firm support, and the
fear of estranging so powerful a sovereign, on whose unrivaled wealth he
reckoned as the main strength of his cause; on the other, the dread of
offending the King of France, also his faithful partisan, in whose
dominions he was a refugee, and the duty, the interest, the strong
inclination to maintain every privilege of the hierarchy. To Henry
Alexander almost owed his pontificate. His first and most faithful
adherents had been Theobald the primate, the English Church, and Henry
King of England; and when the weak Louis had entered into dangerous
negotiations at Lannes with the Emperor; when at Dijon he had almost
placed himself in the power of Frederick, and his voluntary or enforced
defection had filled Alexander with dread, the advance of Henry of
England with a powerful force to the neighborhood rescued the French
king from his perilous position. And now, though Victor the Antipope was
dead, a successor, Guido of Crema, had been set up by the imperial
party, and Frederick would lose no opportunity of gaining, if any
serious quarrel should alienate him from Alexander, a monarch of such
surpassing power. An envoy from England, John Cummin, was even now at
the imperial court.[80]

Becket's messengers, before the reception of Henry's ambassadors by Pope
Alexander, had been admitted to a private interview. The account of
Becket's "fight with beasts" at Northampton, and a skillful parallel
with St. Paul, had melted the heart of the Pontiff, as he no doubt
thought himself suffering like persecutions, to a flood of tears. How in
truth could a Pope venture to abandon such a champion of what were
called the liberties of the Church? He had, in fact, throughout been in
secret correspondence with Becket. Whenever letters could escape the
jealous watchfulness of the King, they had passed between England and

[SN: The King's ambassadors at Sens.]

The ambassadors of Henry were received in state in the open consistory.
Foliot of London began with his usual ability; his warmth at length
betrayed him into the Scriptural citation,--"The wicked fleeth when no
man pursueth." "Forbear," said the Pope. "I will forbear him," answered
Foliot. "It is for thine own sake, not for his, that I bid thee
forbear." The Pope's severe manner silenced the Bishop of London.
Hilary, Bishop of Chichester, who had overweening confidence in his
eloquence, began a long harangue; but at a fatal blunder in his Latin,
the whole Italian court burst into laughter.[82] The discomfited orator
tried in vain to proceed. The Archbishop of York spoke with prudent
brevity. The Count of Arundel, more cautious or less learned, used his
native Norman. His speech was mild, grave, and conciliatory, and
therefore the most embarrassing to the Pontiff. Alexander consented to
send his cardinal legates to England; but neither the arguments of
Foliot, nor those of Arundel, who now rose to something like a menace of
recourse to the Antipope, would induce him to invest them with full
power. The Pope would entrust to none but to himself the prerogative of
final judgment. Alexander mistrusted the venality of his cardinals, and
Henry's subsequent dealing with some of them justified his mistrust.[83]
He was himself inflexible to tempting offers. The envoys privately
proposed to extend the payment of Peter's Pence to almost all classes,
and to secure the tax in perpetuity to the see of Rome. The ambassadors
retreated in haste; their commission had been limited to a few days. The
bishops, so strong was the popular feeling in France for Becket, had
entered Sens as retainers for the Earl of Arundel: they received
intimation that certain lawless knights in the neighborhood had
determined to waylay and plunder these enemies of the Church, and of the
saintly Becket.

[SN: Becket at Sens.]

Far different was the progress of the exiled primate. From St. Bertin he
was escorted by the Abbot, and by the Bishop of Terouenne. He entered
France; he was met, as he approached Soissons, by the King's brothers,
the Archbishop of Rheims, and a long train of bishops, abbots, and
dignitaries of the church; he entered Soissons at the head of three
hundred horsemen. The interview of Louis with Becket raised his
admiration into passion. As the envoys of Henry passed on one side of
the river, they saw the pomp in which the ally of the King of France,
rather than the exile from England, was approaching Sens. The cardinals,
whether from prudence, jealousy, or other motives, were cool in their
reception of Becket. The Pope at once granted the honor of a public
audience; he placed Becket on his right hand, and would not allow him to
rise to speak. Becket, after a skillful account of his hard usage,
spread out the parchment which contained the Constitutions of Clarendon.
They were read; the whole Consistory exclaimed against the violation of
ecclesiastical privileges. On further examination the Pope acknowledged
that six of them were less evil than the rest; on the remaining ten he
pronounced his unqualified condemnation. He rebuked the weakness of
Becket in swearing to these articles, it is said, with the severity of a
father, the tenderness of a mother.[84] He consoled him with the
assurance that he had atoned by his sufferings and his patience for his
brief infirmity. Becket pursued his advantage. The next day, by what
might seem to some trustful magnanimity, to others, a skillful mode of
getting rid of certain objections which had been raised concerning his
election, he tendered the resignation of his archiepiscopate to the
Pope. Some of the more politic, it was said, more venal cardinals,
entreated the Pontiff to put an end at once to this dangerous quarrel by
accepting the surrender.[85] But the Pontiff (his own judgment being
supported among others by the Cardinal Hyacinth) restored to him the
archiepiscopal ring, thus ratifying his primacy. He assured Becket of
his protection, and committed him to the hospitable care of the Abbot of
Pontigny, a monastery about twelve leagues from Sens. "So long have you
lived in ease and opulence, now learn the lessons of poverty from the
poor."[86] Yet Alexander thought it prudent to inhibit any proceedings
of Becket against the King till the following Easter.

[SN: Effect on King Henry.]

Becket's emissaries had been present during the interview of
Henry's ambassadors with the Pope. Henry, no doubt, received speedy
intelligence of these proceedings with Becket. He was at Marlborough
after a disastrous campaign in Wales.[87] [SN: Wrath of Henry.] He
issued immediate orders to seize the revenues of the Archbishop, and
promulgated a mandate to the bishops to sequester the estates of all the
clergy who had followed him to France. He forbade public prayers for the
Primate. In the exasperated state, especially of the monkish mind,
prayers for Becket would easily slide into anathemas against the king.
The payment of Peter's Pence[88] to the Pope was suspended. All
correspondence with Becket was forbidden. But the resentment of Henry
was not satisfied. He passed a sentence of banishment, and ordered at
once to be driven from the kingdom all the primate's kinsmen,
dependents, and friends. Four hundred persons, it is said, of both
sexes, of every age, even infants at the breast were included (and it
was the depth of winter) in this relentless edict. Every adult was to
take an oath to proceed immediately to Becket, in order that his eyes
might be shocked, and his heart wrung by the miseries which he had
brought on his family and his friends. This order was as inhumanly
executed, as inhumanly enacted.[89] It was intrusted to Randulph de
Broc, a fierce soldier, the bitterest of Becket's personal enemies. It
was as impolitic as cruel. The monasteries and convents of Flanders and
of France were thrown open to the exiles with generous hospitality.
Throughout both these countries was spread a multitude of persons
appealing to the pity, to the indignation of all orders of the people,
and so deepening the universal hatred of Henry. The enemy of the Church
was self-convicted of equal enmity to all Christianity of heart.

[SN: Becket at Pontigny.]

In his seclusion at Pontigny Becket seemed determined to compensate by
the sternest monastic discipline for that deficiency which had been
alleged on his election to the archbishopric. He put on the coarse
Cistercian dress. He lived on the hard and scanty Cistercian diet.
Outwardly he still maintained something of his old magnificence and the
splendor of his station. His establishment of horses and retainers was
so costly, that his sober friend, John of Salisbury, remonstrated
against the profuse expenditure. Richer viands were indeed served on a
table apart, ostensibly for Becket; but while he himself was content
with the pulse and gruel of the monks, those meats and game were given
away to the beggars. His devotions were long and secret, broken with
perpetual groans. At night he rose from the bed strewn with rich
coverings, as beseeming an archbishop, and summoned his chaplain to the
work of flagellation. Not satisfied with this, he tore his flesh with
his nails, and lay on the cold floor, with a stone for his pillow. His
health suffered; wild dreams, so reports one of his attendants, haunted
his broken slumbers, of cardinals plucking out his eyes, fierce
assassins cleaving his tonsured crown.[90] His studies were neither
suited to calm his mind, nor to abase his hierarchical haughtiness. He
devoted his time to the canon law, of which the False Decretals now
formed an integral part; sacerdotal fraud justifying the loftiest
sacerdotal presumption. John of Salisbury again interposed with friendly
remonstrance. He urged him to withdraw from these undevotional
inquiries; he recommended to him the works of a Pope of a different
character, the Morals of Gregory the Great. He exhorted him to confer
with holy men on books of spiritual improvement.

[SN: Negotiations with the Emperor.]

King Henry in the meantime took a loftier and more menacing tone towards
the Pope. "It is an unheard of thing that the court of Rome should
support traitors against my sovereign authority; I have not deserved
such treatment.[91] I am still more indignant that the justice is denied
to me which is granted to the meanest clerk." In his wrath he made
overtures to Reginald, Archbishop of Cologne, the maker, he might be
called, of two Antipopes, and the minister of the Emperor, declaring
that he had long sought an opportunity of falling off from Alexander,
and his perfidious cardinals, who presumed to support against him the
traitor Thomas, late Archbishop of Canterbury.

[SN: Diet at Wurtzburg, A. D. 1165, Whitsuntide.]

The Emperor met the advances of Henry with promptitude, which showed the
importance he attached to the alliance. Reginald of Cologne was sent to
England to propose a double alliance with the house of Swabia, of
Frederick's son, and of Henry the Lion, with the two daughters of Henry
Plantagenet. The Pope trembled at this threatened union between the
houses of Swabia and England. At the great diet held at Wurtzburg,
Frederick, asserted the canonical election of Paschal III., the new
Antipope, and declared in the face of the empire and of all Christendom,
that the powerful kingdom of England had now embraced his cause, and
that the King of France stood alone in his support of Alexander.[92] In
his public edict he declared to all Christendom that the oath of
fidelity to Paschal, of denial of all future allegiance to Alexander,
administered to all the great princes and prelates of the empire, had
been taken by the ambassadors of King Henry, Richard of Ilchester, and
John of Oxford.[93] Nor was this all. A solemn oath of abjuration of
Pope Alexander was enacted, and to some extent enforced; it was to be
taken by every male under twelve years old throughout the realm.[94] The
King's officers compelled this act of obedience to the King, in
villages, in castles, in cities.

If the ambassadors of Henry at Wurtzburg had full powers to transfer the
allegiance of the King to the Antipope; if they took the oath
unconditionally, and with no reserve in case Alexander should abandon
the cause of Becket; if this oath of abjuration in England was generally
administered; it is clear that Henry soon changed, or wavered at least
in his policy. The alliance between the two houses came to nothing. Yet
even after this he addressed another letter to Reginald, Archbishop of
Cologne, declaring again his long cherished determination to abandon the
cause of Alexander, the supporter of his enemy, the Archbishop of
Canterbury. He demanded safe-conduct for an embassy to Rome, the
Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London, John of Oxford, De Luci, the
Justiciary, peremptorily to require the Pope to annul all the acts of
Thomas, and to command the observance of the Customs.[95] The success of
Alexander in Italy, aversion in England to the abjuration of Alexander,
some unaccounted jealousy with the Emperor, irresolution in Henry, which
was part of his impetuous character, may have wrought this change.

The monk and severe student of Pontigny found rest neither in his
austerities nor his studies.[96] The causes of this enforced repose are
manifest--the negotiations between Henry and the Emperor, the
uncertainty of the success of the Pope on his return to Italy. It would
have been perilous policy, either for him to risk, or for the Pope not
to inhibit any rash measure.

[SN: Becket cites the King.]

In the second year of his seclusion, when he found that the King's heart
was still hardened, the fire, not, we are assured by his followers, of
resentment, but of parental love, not zeal for vengeance but for
justice, burned within his soul. Henry was at this time in France. Three
times the exile cited his sovereign with the tone of a superior to
submit to his censure. Becket had communicated his design to his
followers:--"Let us act as the Lord commanded his steward:[97] 'See, I
have set thee over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out and
to pull down, and to destroy, and to hew down, to build and to
plant.'"[98] All his hearers applauded his righteous resolution. In the
first message the haughty meaning was veiled in the blandest words,[99]
and sent by a Cistercian of gentle demeanor, named Urban.[100] The King
returned a short and bitter answer. The second time Becket wrote in
severer language, but yet in the spirit, 'tis said, of compassion and
leniency.[101] The King deigned no reply. His third messenger was a
tattered, barefoot friar. To him Becket, it might seem, with studied
insult, not only intrusted his letter to the King, but authorized the
friar to speak in his name. With such a messenger the message was not
likely to lose in asperity. The King returned an answer even more
contemptuous than the address.[102]

[SN: Nov. 11, 1165.]

But this secret arraignment of the King did not content the unquiet
prelate. He could now dare more, unrestrained, unrebuked. Pope Alexander
had been received at Rome with open arms: at the commencement of the
present year all seemed to favor his cause. The Emperor, detained by
wars in Germany, was not prepared to cross the Alps. In the free cities
of Italy, the anti-imperialist feeling, and the growing republicanism,
gladly entered into close confederacy with a Pope at war with the
Emperor. The Pontiff (secretly it should seem, it might be in defiance
or in revenge for Henry's threatened revolt and for the acts of his
ambassadors at Wurtzburg[103]) ventured to grant to Becket a legatine
power over the King's English dominions, except the province of York.
Though it was not in the power of Becket to enter those dominions, it
armed him, as it was thought, with unquestionable authority over Henry
and his subjects. At all events it annulled whatever restraint the Pope,
by counsel or by mandate, had placed on the proceedings of Becket.[104]
The Archbishop took his determination alone.[105] As though to throw an
awful mystery about his plan, he called his wise friends together, and
consulted them on the propriety of resigning his see. With one voice
they rejected the timid counsel. Yet though his most intimate followers
were in ignorance of his designs, some intelligence of a meditated blow
was betrayed to Henry. The King summoned an assembly of prelates at
Chinon. The Bishops of Lisieux and Seez, whom the Archbishop of Rouen,
Rotran, consented to accompany as a mediator, were dispatched to
Pontigny, to anticipate by an appeal to the Pope, any sentence which
might be pronounced by Becket. They did not find him there: he had
already gone to Soissons, on the pretext of a pilgrimage to the shrine
of St. Drausus, a saint whose intercession rendered the warrior
invincible in battle. Did Becket hope thus to secure victory in the
great spiritual combat? One whole night he passed before the shrine of
St. Drausus: another before that of Gregory the Great, the founder of
the English Church, and of the see of Canterbury; and a third before
that of the Virgin, his especial patroness.

[SN: Becket at Vezelay.]

From thence he proceeded to the ancient and famous monastery of
Vezelay.[106] The church of Vezelay, if the dismal decorations of the
architecture are (which is doubtful) of that period, might seem
designated for that fearful ceremony.[107] There, on the feast of the
Ascension,[108] when the church was crowded with worshipers from all
quarters, he ascended the pulpit, and with the utmost solemnity,
condemned and annulled the Constitutions of Clarendon, declared
excommunicate all who observed or enforced their observance, all who had
counseled, and all who had defended them; absolved all the bishops from
the oaths which they had taken to maintain them. This sweeping anathema
involved the whole kingdom. But he proceeded to excommunicate by name
the most active and powerful adversaries: John of Oxford, for his
dealings with the schismatic partisans of the Emperor and of the
Antipope, and for his usurpation of the deanery of Salisbury; Richard of
Ilchester Archdeacon of Poitiers, the colleague of John in his
negotiations at Wurtzburg (thus the cause of Becket and Pope Alexander
were indissolubly welded together); the great Justiciary, Richard de
Luci, and John of Baliol, the authors of the Constitutions of Clarendon;
Randulph de Broc, Hugo de Clare, and others, for their forcible
usurpation of the estates of the see of Canterbury. He yet in his mercy
spared the King (he had received intelligence that Henry was dangerously
ill), and in a lower tone, his voice, as it seemed, half choked with
tears, he uttered his Commination. The whole congregation, even his own
intimate followers, were silent with amazement.

This sentence of excommunication Becket announced to the Pope, and to
all the clergy of England. To the latter he said, "Who presumes to doubt
that the priests of God are the fathers and masters of kings, princes,
and all the faithful?" He commanded Gilbert, Bishop of London, and his
other suffragans, to publish this edict throughout their dioceses. He
did not confine himself to the bishops of England; the Norman prelates,
the Archbishop of Rouen, were expressly warned to withdraw from all
communion with the excommunicate.[109]

[SN: Anger of the King.]

The wrath of Henry drove him almost to madness. No one dared to name
Becket in his presence.[110] Soon after, on the occasion of some
discussion about the King of Scotland, he burst into a fit of passion,
threw away his cap, ungirt his belt, stripped off his clothes, tore the
silken coverlid from his bed, and crouched down on the straw, gnawing
bits of it with his teeth.[111] Proclamation was issued to guard the
ports of England against the threatened interdict. Any one who should be
apprehended as the bearer of such an instrument, if a regular, was to
lose his feet; if a clerk, his eyes, and suffer more shameful
mutilation; a layman was to be hanged; a leper to be burned. A bishop
who left the kingdom, for fear of the interdict, was to carry nothing
with him but his staff. All exiles were to return on pain of losing
their benefices. Priests who refused to chant the service were to be
mutilated, and all rebels to forfeit their lands. An oath was to be
administered by the sheriffs to all adults, that they would respect no
ecclesiastical censure from the Archbishop.

[SN: Becket driven from Pontigny.]

A second time Henry's ungovernable passion betrayed him into a step
which, instead of lowering, only placed his antagonist in a more
formidable position. He determined to drive him from his retreat at
Pontigny. He sent word to the general of the Cistercian order that it
was at their peril, if they harbored a traitor to his throne. The
Cistercians possessed many rich abbeys in England; they dared not defy
at once the King's resentment and rapacity. It was intimated to the
Abbot of Pontigny, that he must dismiss his guest. The Abbot
courteously communicated to Becket the danger incurred by the Order. He
could not but withdraw; but instead now of lurking in a remote
monastery, in some degree secluded from the public gaze, he was received
in the archiepiscopal city of Sens; his honorable residence was prepared
in a monastery close to the city; he lived in ostentatious communication
with the Archbishop William, one of his most zealous partisans.[112]

[SN: Controversy with English clergy.]

But the fury of haughtiness in Becket equaled the fury of resentment in
the King: yet it was not without subtlety. Just before the scene at
Vezelay, it has been said, the King had sent the Archbishop of Rouen and
the Bishop of Lisieux to Pontigny, to lodge his appeal to the Pope.
Becket, duly informed by his emissaries at the court, had taken care to
be absent. He eluded likewise the personal service of the appeal of the
English clergy. An active and violent correspondence ensued. The
remonstrance, purporting to be from the Primate's suffragans and the
whole clergy of England, was not without dignified calmness. With covert
irony, indeed, they said that they had derived great consolation from
the hope that, when abroad, he would cease to rebel against the King and
the peace of the realm; that he would devote his days to study and
prayer, and redeem his lost time by fasting, watching, and weeping; they
reproached him with the former favors of the King, with the design of
estranging the King from Pope Alexander; they asserted the readiness of
the King to do full justice, and concluded by lodging an appeal until
the Ascension-day of the following year.[113] Foliot was no doubt the
author of this remonstrance, and between the Primate and the Bishop
of London broke out a fierce warfare of letters. With Foliot Becket
kept no terms. "You complain that the Bishop of Salisbury has been
excommunicated, without citation, without hearing, without judgment.
Remember the fate of Ucalegon. He trembled when his neighbor's house was
on fire." To Foliot he asserted the pre-eminence, the supremacy, the
divinity of the spiritual power without reserve. "Let not your liege
lord be ashamed to defer to those to whom God himself defers, and calls
them 'Gods.'"[114] Foliot replied with what may be received as the
manifesto of his party, and as the manifesto of a party to be received
with some mistrust, yet singularly curious, as showing the tone of
defence taken by the opponents of the Primate among the English

The address of the English prelates to Pope Alexander was more moderate,
and drawn with great ability. It asserted the justice, the obedience to
the Church, the great virtue and (a bold assertion!) the conjugal
fidelity of the King. The King had at once obeyed the citation of the
Bishops of London and Salisbury, concerning some encroachments on the
Church condemned by the Pope. The sole design of Henry had been to
promote good morals, and to maintain the peace of the realm. That peace
had been restored. All resentments had died away, when Becket fiercely
recommenced the strife; in sad and terrible letters had threatened the
King with excommunication, the realm with interdict. He had suspended
the Bishop of Salisbury without trial. "This was the whole of the
cruelty, perversity, malignity of the King against the Church, declaimed
on and bruited abroad throughout the world."[116]

[SN: John of Oxford at Rome.]

The indefatigable John of Oxford was in Rome, perhaps the bearer of this
address. Becket wrote to the Pope, insisting on all the cruelties of the
King; he calls him a malignant tyrant, one full of all malice. He dwelt
especially on the imprisonment of one of his chaplains, for which
violation of the sacred person of a clerk, the King was _ipso facto_
excommunicate. "Christ was crucified anew in Becket."[117] He complained
of the presumption of Foliot, who had usurped the power of primate;[118]
warned the Pope against the wiles of John of Oxford; deprecated the
legatine mission, of which he had already heard a rumor, of William of
Pavia. And all these letters, so unsparing to the King, or copies of
them, probably bought out of the Roman chancery, were regularly
transmitted to the King.

John of Oxford began his mission at Rome by swearing undauntedly, that
nothing had been done at Wurtzburg against the power of the Church or
the interests of Pope Alexander.[119] He surrendered his deanery of
Salisbury into the hands of the Pope, and received it back again.[120]
John of Oxford was armed with more powerful weapons than perjury or
submission, and the times now favored the use of these more irresistible
arms. The Emperor Frederick was levying, if he had not already set in
motion, that mighty army which swept, during the next year, through
Italy, made him master of Rome, and witnessed his coronation and the
enthronement of the Antipope.[121] Henry had now, notwithstanding his
suspicious--more than suspicious--dealings with the Emperor, returned to
his allegiance to Alexander. Vast sums of English money were from this
time expended in strengthening the cause of the Pope. The Guelfic cities
of Italy received them with greedy hands. By the gold of the King of
England, and of the King of Sicily, the Frangipani and the family of
Peter Leonis were retained in their fidelity to the Pope. Becket, on the
other hand, had powerful friends in Rome, especially the Cardinal
Hyacinth, to whom he writes, that Henry had boasted that in Rome
everything was venal. [SN: Dec. 1166.] It was, however, not till a
second embassy arrived, consisting of John Cummin and Ralph of Tamworth,
that Alexander made his great concession, the sign that he was not yet
extricated from his distress. He appointed William of Pavia, and Otho,
Cardinal of St. Nicholas, his legates in France, to decide the
cause.[122] Meantime all Becket's acts were suspended by the papal
authority. At the same time the Pope wrote to Becket, entreating him at
this perilous time of the Church to make all possible concessions, and
to dissemble, if necessary, for the present.[123]

If John of Oxford boasted prematurely of his triumph (on his return
to England he took ostentatious possession of his deanery of
Salisbury[124]), and predicted the utter ruin of Becket, his friends,
especially the King of France,[125] were in utter dismay at this change
in the papal policy. John, as Becket had heard (and his emissaries were
everywhere), on his landing in England, had met the Bishop of Hereford
(one of the wavering bishops), prepared to cross the sea in obedience to
Becket's citation. To him, after some delay, John had exhibited letters
of the Pope, which sent him back to his diocese. On the sight of these
same letters, the Bishop of London had exclaimed in the fullness of his
joy, "Then our Thomas is no longer archbishop!" "If this be true," adds
Becket, "the Pope has given a death-blow to the Church."[126] To the
Archbishop of Mentz, for in the empire he had his ardent admirers, he
poured forth all the bitterness of his soul.[127] Of the two cardinals
he writes, "The one is weak and versatile, the other treacherous and
crafty." He looked to their arrival with indignant apprehension. They
are open to bribes, and may be perverted to any injustice.[128]

John of Oxford had proclaimed that the cardinals, William of Pavia, and
Otho, were invested in full powers to pass judgment between the King and
the Primate.[129] But whether John of Oxford had mistaken or exaggerated
their powers, or the Pope (no improbable case, considering the change of
affairs in Italy) had thought fit afterwards to modify or retract them,
they came rather as mediators than judges, with orders to reconcile the
contending parties, rather than to decide on their cause. The cardinals
did not arrive in France till the autumn of the year.[130] Even before
their arrival, first rumors, then more certain intelligence had been
propagated throughout Christendom of the terrible disaster which had
befallen the Emperor. Barbarossa's career of vengeance and conquest had
been cut short. [SN: A. D. 1167. Flight of Frederick.] The Pope a
prisoner, a fugitive, was unexpectedly released, restored to power, if
not to the possession of Rome.[131] The climate of Rome, as usual, but
in a far more fearful manner, had resented the invasion of the city by
the German army. A pestilence had broken out, which in less than a month
made such havoc among the soldiers, that they could scarcely find room
to bury the dead. The fever seemed to choose its victims among the
higher clergy, the partisans of the Antipope; of the princes and nobles,
the chief victims were the younger Duke Guelf, Duke Frederick of Swabia,
and some others; of the bishops, those of Prague, Ratisbon, Augsburg,
Spires, Verdun, Liege, Zeitz; and the arch-rebel himself, the
antipope-maker, Reginald of Cologne.[132] Throughout Europe the clergy
on the side of Alexander raised a cry of awful exultation; it was God
manifestly avenging himself on the enemies of the Church; the new
Sennacherib (so he is called by Becket) had been smitten in his pride;
and the example of this chastisement of Frederick was a command to the
Church to resist to the last all rebels against her power, to put forth
her spiritual arms, which God would as assuredly support by the same or
more signal wonders. The defeat of Frederick was an admonition to the
Pope to lay bare the sword of Peter, and smite on all sides.[133]

[SN: Becket against the legates.]

There can be no doubt that Becket so interpreted what he deemed a sign
from heaven. But even before the disaster was certainly known he had
determined to show no submission to a judge so partial and so corrupt as
William of Pavia.[134] That cardinal had urged the Pope at Sens to
accept Becket's resignation of his see. Becket would not deign to
disguise his contempt. He wrote a letter so full of violence that John
of Salisbury,[135] to whom it was submitted, persuaded him to destroy
it. A second was little milder; at length he was persuaded to take a
more moderate tone. Yet even then he speaks of the "insolence of princes
lifting up their horn." To Cardinal Otho, on the other hand, his
language borders on adulation.

[SN: Meeting near Gisors.]

The cardinal Legates traveled in slow state. They visited first Becket
at Sens, afterwards King Henry at Rouen. At length a meeting was agreed
on to be held on the borders of the French and English territory,
between Gisors and Trie. The proud Becket was disturbed at being hastily
summoned, when he was unable to muster a sufficient retinue of horsemen
to meet the Italian cardinals. The two kings were there. Of Henry's
prelates the Archbishop of Rouen alone was present at the first
interview. Becket was charged with urging the King of France to war
against his master. [SN: Octave of St. Martin. Nov. 23.] On the
following day the King of France said in the presence of the cardinals,
that this impeachment on Becket's loyalty was false. To all the
persuasions, menaces, entreaties of the cardinals[136] Becket declared
that he would submit, "saving the honor of God, and of the Apostolic
See, the liberty of the Church, the dignity of his person, and the
property of the churches. As to the Customs he declared that he would
rather bow his neck to the executioner than swear to observe them. He
peremptorily demanded his own restoration at once to all the honors and
possessions of his see." The third question was on the appeal of the
bishops. Becket inveighed with bitterness on their treachery towards
him, their servility to the King. "When the shepherds fled all Egypt
returned to idolatry." Becket interpreted these "shepherds" as the
clergy.[137] He compares them to the slaves in the old comedy; he
declared that he would submit to no judgment on that point but that of
the Pope himself.

[SN: The Cardinals before the King.]

The Cardinals proceeded to the King. They were received but coldly at
Argences, not far from Caen, at a great meeting with the Norman and
English prelates. The Bishop of London entered at length into the King's
grievances and his own; Becket's debt to the King,[138] his usurpations
on the see of London. At the close Henry, in tears, entreated the
cardinals to rid him of the troublesome churchman. William of Pavia
wept, or seemed to weep from sympathy. Otho, writes Becket's emissary,
could hardly suppress his laughter. The English prelates afterwards at
Le Mans solemnly renewed their appeal. Their appeal was accompanied
with a letter, in which they complain that Becket would leave them
exposed to the wrath of the King, from which wrath he himself had
fled;[139] of false representations of the Customs, and disregard of all
justice and of the sacred canons in suspending and anathematizing the
clergy without hearing and without trial. William of Pavia gave notice
of the appeal for the next St. Martin's Day (so a year was to elapse),
with command to abstain from all excommunication and interdict of the
kingdom till that day.[140] Both cardinals wrote strongly to the Pope in
favor of the Bishop of London.[141]

[SN: Dec. 29.]

At this suspension Becket wrote to the Pope in a tone of mingled grief
and indignation.[142] He described himself as the most wretched of men;
applied the prophetic description of the Saviour's unequaled sorrow to
himself. He inveighed against William of Pavia:[143] he threw himself on
the justice and compassion of the Pope. But this inhibition was
confirmed by the Pope himself, in answer to another embassage of Henry,
consisting of Clarembold, Prior elect of St. Augustine's, the
Archdeacon of Salisbury, and others.[144] This important favor was
obtained through the interest of Cardinal John of Naples, who expresses
his hope that the insolent Archbishop must at length see that he had no
resource but in submission.

[SN: May 19. Becket to the Pope.]

Becket wrote again and again to the Pope, bitterly complaining that the
successive ambassadors of the King, John of Oxford, John Cummin, the
Prior of St. Augustine's, returned from Rome each with larger
concessions.[145] The Pope acknowledged that the concessions had been
extorted from him. The ambassadors of Henry had threatened to leave the
Papal Court, if their demands were not complied with, in open hostility.
The Pope was still an exile in Benevento,[146] and did not dare to
reoccupy Rome. The Emperor, even after his discomfiture, was still
formidable; he might collect another overwhelming Transalpine force. The
subsidies of Henry to the Italian cities and to the Roman partisans of
the Pope could not be spared. The Pontiff therefore wrote soothing
letters to the King of France and to Becket. He insinuated that these
concessions were but for a time. "For a time!" replied Becket in an
answer full of fire and passion: "and in that time the Church of England
falls utterly to ruin; the property of the Church and the poor is
wrested from her. In that time prelacies and abbacies are confiscated to
the King's use: in that time who will guard the flock when the wolf is
in the fold? This fatal dispensation will be a precedent for all ages.
But for me and my fellow exiles all authority of Rome had ceased
forever in England. There had been no one who had maintained the Pope
against kings and princes." His significant language involves the Pope
himself in the general and unsparing charge of rapacity and venality
with which he brands the court of Rome. "I shall have to give an account
at the last day, where gold and silver are of no avail, nor gifts which
blind the eyes even of the wise."[147] [SN: To the Cardinals.] The same
contemptuous allusions to that notorious venality transpire in a
vehement letter addressed to the College of Cardinals, in which he urges
that his cause is their own; that they are sanctioning a fatal and
irretrievable example to temporal princes; that they are abrogating all
obedience to the Church. "Your gold and silver will not deliver you in
the day of the wrath of the Lord."[148] On the other hand, the King and
the Queen of France wrote in a tone of indignant remonstrance that the
Pope had abandoned the cause of the enemy of their enemy. More than one
of the French prelates who wrote in the same strain declared that their
King, in his resentment, had seriously thought of defection to the
Antipope, and of a close connexion with the Imperial family.[149]
Alexander determined to make another attempt at reconciliation; at least
he should gain time, that precious source of hope to the embarrassed and
irresolute. His mediators were the Prior of Montdieu and Bernard de
Corilo, a monk of Grammont.[150] It was a fortunate time, for just at
this juncture, peace and even amity seemed to be established between the
Kings of France and England. Many of the great Norman and French
prelates and nobles offered themselves as joint mediators with the
commissioners of the Pope.

[SN: Meeting at Montmirail.]

A vast assembly was convened on the day of the Epiphany in the plains
near Montmirail, where in the presence of the two kings and the barons
of each realm the reconciliation was to take place. Becket held a long
conference with the mediators. He proposed, instead of the obnoxious
phrase "saving my order," to substitute "saving the honor of God;"[151]
the mediators of the treaty insisted on his throwing himself on the
King's mercy absolutely and without reservation. With great reluctance
Becket appeared at least to yield: his counselors acquiesced in silence.
With this distinct understanding the Kings of France and England met at
Montmirail, and everything seemed prepared for the final settlement of
this long and obstinate quarrel. [SN: Jan. 6, 1169.] The Kings awaited
the approach of the Primate. But as he was on his way, De Bosham (who
always assumes to himself the credit of suggesting Becket's most haughty
proceedings) whispered in his ear (De Bosham himself asserts this) a
solemn caution, lest he should act over again the fatal scene of
weakness at Clarendon. Becket had not time to answer De Bosham: he
advanced to the King and threw himself at his feet. Henry raised him
instantly from the ground. Becket, standing upright, began to solicit
the clemency of the King. He declared his readiness to submit his whole
cause to the judgment of the two Kings and of the assembled prelates and
nobles. After a pause he added, "Saving the honor of God."[152]

[SN: Treaty broken off.]

At this unexpected breach of his agreement the mediators, even the most
ardent admirers of Becket, stood aghast. Henry, thinking himself duped,
as well he might, broke out into one of his ungovernable fits of anger.
He reproached the Archbishop with arrogance, obstinacy, and ingratitude.
He so far forgot himself as to declare that Becket had displayed all his
magnificence and prodigality as chancellor only to court popularity and
to supplant his king in the affections of his people. Becket listened
with patience, and appealed to the King of France as witness to his
loyalty. Henry fiercely interrupted him. "Mark, Sire (he addressed the
King of France), the infatuation and pride of the man: he pretends to
have been banished, though he fled from his see. He would persuade you
that he is maintaining the cause of the Church, and suffering for the
sake of justice. I have always been willing, and am still willing, to
grant that he should rule his Church with the same liberty as his
predecessors, men not less holy than himself." Even the King of France
seemed shocked at the conduct of Becket. The prelates and nobles, having
in vain labored to bend the inflexible spirit of the Primate, retired in
sullen dissatisfaction. He stood alone. Even John of Poitiers, his most
ardent admirer, followed him to Etampes, and entreated him to yield.
"And you, too," returned Becket, "will you strangle us, and give triumph
to the malignity of our enemies?"[153]

The King of England retired, followed by the Papal Legates, who, though
they held letters of Commination from the Pope,[154] delayed to serve
them on the King. Becket followed the King of France to Montmirail. He
was received by Louis; and Becket put on so cheerful a countenance as to
surprise all present. On his return to Sens, he explained to his
followers that his cause was not only that of the Church, but of
God.[155] He passed among the acclamations of the populace, ignorant of
his duplicity. "Behold the prelate who stood up even before two kings
for the honor of God."

[SN: War of France and England.]

Becket may have had foresight, or even secret information of the
hollowness of the peace between the two kings. Before many days, some
acts of barbarous cruelty by Henry against his rebellious subjects
plunged the two nations again in hostility. The King of France and his
prelates, feeling how nearly they had lost their powerful ally, began
to admire what they called Becket's magnanimity as loudly as they had
censured his obstinacy. The King visited him at Sens: one of the Papal
commissioners, the Monk of Grammont, said privately to Herbert de
Bosham, that he had rather his foot had been cut off than that Becket
should have listened to his advice.[156]

[SN: Excommunication.]

Becket now at once drew the sword and cast away the scabbard. "Cursed is
he that refraineth his sword from blood." This Becket applied to the
spiritual weapon. On Ascension Day he again solemnly excommunicated
Gilbert Foliot Bishop of London, Joscelin of Salisbury, the Archdeacon
of Salisbury, Richard de Luci, Randulph de Broc, and many other of
Henry's most faithful counselors. He announced this excommunication to
the Archbishop of Rouen,[157] and reminded him that whosoever presumed
to communicate with any one of these outlaws of the Church by word, in
meat or drink, or even by salutation, subjected himself thereby to the
same excommunication. The appeal to the Pope he treated with sovereign
contempt. He sternly inhibited Roger of Worcester, who had entreated
permission to communicate with his brethren.[158] "What fellowship is
there between Christ and Belial?" He announced this act to the Pope,
entreating, but with the tone of command, his approbation of the
proceeding. An emissary of Becket had the boldness to enter St. Paul's
Cathedral in London, to thrust the sentence into the hands of the
officiating priest, and then to proclaim with a loud voice, "Know all
men, that Gilbert Bishop of London is excommunicate by Thomas
Archbishop of Canterbury and Legate of the Pope." He escaped with some
difficulty from ill-usage by the people. Foliot immediately summoned
his clergy; explained the illegality, injustice, nullity of an
excommunication without citation, hearing, or trial, and renewed his
appeal to the Pope. The Dean of St. Paul's and all the clergy, excepting
the priests of certain monasteries, joined in the appeal. The Bishop of
Exeter declined, nevertheless he gave to Foliot the kiss of peace.[159]

[SN: Henry's intrigues in Italy.]

King Henry was not without fear at this last desperate blow. He had not
a single chaplain who had not been excommunicated, or was not
virtually under ban for holding intercourse with persons under
excommunication.[160] He continued his active intrigues, his subsidies
in Italy. He bought the support of Milan, Pavia, Cremona, Parma,
Bologna. The Frangipani, the family of Leo, the people of Rome,
were still kept in allegiance to the Pope chiefly by his lavish
payments.[161] He made overtures to the King of Sicily, the Pope's ally,
for a matrimonial alliance with his family: and finally, he urged the
tempting offer to mediate a peace between the Emperor and the Pope.
Reginald of Salisbury boasted that, if the Pope should die, Henry had
the whole College of Cardinals in his pay, and could name his

[SN: New Legatine Commission. Mar. 10, 1169.]

But no longer dependent on Henry's largesses to his partisans,
Alexander's affairs wore a more prosperous aspect. He began, yet
cautiously, to show his real bias. He determined to appoint a new
legatine commission, not now rapacious cardinals and avowed partisans of
Henry. The Nuncios were Gratian, a hard and severe canon lawyer, not
likely to swerve from the loftiest claims of the Decretals; and Vivian,
a man of more pliant character, but as far as he was firm in any
principle, disposed to high ecclesiastical views. At the same time he
urged Becket to issue no sentences against the King or the King's
followers; or if, as he hardly believed, he had already done so, to
suspend their powers.

[SN: English prelates waver.]

The terrors of the excommunication were not without their effect in
England. Some of the Bishops began gradually to recede from the King's
party, and to incline to that of the Primate. Hereford had already
attempted to cross the sea. Henry of Winchester was in private
correspondence with Becket: he had throughout secretly supplied him with
money.[163] Becket skillfully labored to awaken his old spirit of
opposition to the Crown. He reminded Winchester of his royal descent,
that he was secure in his powerful connexions; "the impious one would
not dare to strike him, for fear lest his kindred should avenge his
cause."[164] Norwich, Worcester, Chester, even Chichester, more than
wavered. This movement was strengthened by a false step of Foliot, which
exposed all his former proceedings to the charge of irregular ambition.
He began to declare publicly not only that he never swore canonical
obedience to Becket, but to assert the independence of the see of London
and the right of the see of London to the primacy of England. Becket
speaks of this as an act of spiritual parricide: Foliot was another
Absalom.[165] He appealed to the pride and the fears of the Chapter of
Canterbury: he exposed, and called on them to resist, these machinations
of Foliot to degrade the archiepiscopal see. At the same time he warned
all persons to abstain from communion with those who were under his ban;
"for he had accurate information as to all who were guilty of that
offence." Even in France this proceeding strengthened the sympathy with
Becket. The Archbishop of Sens, the Bishops of Troyes, Paris, Noyon,
Auxerre, Boulogne, wrote to the Pope to denounce this audacious impiety
of the Bishop of London.

[SN: Interview of the new Legates with the King. Aug. 23.]

The first interview of the new Papal legates, Gratian and Vivian, with
the King, is described with singular minuteness by a friend of
Becket.[166] On the eve of St. Bartholomew's Day they arrived at
Damport. On their approach, Geoffrey Ridel and Nigel Sackville stole out
of the town. The King, as he came in from hunting, courteously stopped
at the lodging of the Legates: as they were conversing the Prince rode
up with a great blowing of horns from the chase, and presented a whole
stag to the Legates. The next morning the King visited them, accompanied
by the Bishops of Seez and of Rennes. Presently John of Oxford, Reginald
of Salisbury, and the Archdeacon of Llandaff were admitted. The
conference lasted the whole day, sometimes in amity, sometimes in
strife. Just before sunset the King rushed out in wrath, swearing by the
eyes of God that he would not submit to their terms. Gratian firmly
replied, "Think not to threaten us; we come from a court which is
accustomed to command Emperors and Kings." The King then summoned his
barons to witness, together with his chaplains, what fair offers he had
made. He departed somewhat pacified. The eighth day was appointed for
the convention, at which the King and the Archbishop were again to meet
in the presence of the Legates.

[SN: Aug. 31.]

It was held at Bayeux. With the King appeared the Archbishops of Rouen
and Bordeaux, the Bishop of Le Mans, and all the Norman prelates. The
second day arrived one English bishop--Worcester. John of Poitiers kept
prudently away. The Legates presented the Pope's preceding letters in
favor of Becket. The King, after stating his grievances,[167] said, "If
for this man I do anything, on account of the Pope's entreaties, he
ought to be very grateful." The next day at a place called Le Bar, the
King requested the Legates to absolve his chaplains without any oath: on
their refusal, the King mounted his horse, and swore that he would never
listen to the Pope or any one else concerning the restoration of Becket.
The prelates interceded; the Legates partially gave way. The King
dismounted and renewed the conference. At length he consented to the
return of Becket and all the exiles. He seemed delighted at this, and
treated of other affairs. He returned again to the Legates, and demanded
that they, or one of them, or at least some one commissioned by them,
should cross over to England to absolve all who had been excommunicated
by the Primate. Gratian refused this with inflexible obstinacy.
The King was again furious: "I care not an egg for you and your
excommunications." He again mounted his horse, but at the earnest
supplication of the prelates he returned once more. He demanded that
they should write to the Pope to announce his pacific offers. The
Bishops explained to the King that the Legates had at last produced a
positive mandate of the Pope, enjoining their absolute obedience to his
Legates. The King replied, "I know that they will lay my realm under an
interdict, but cannot I, who can take the strongest castle in a day,
seize any ecclesiastic who shall presume to utter such an interdict?"
Some concessions allayed his wrath, and he returned to his offers of
reconciliation. Geoffry Ridel and Nigel Sackville were absolved on the
condition of declaring, with their hands on the Gospels, that they would
obey the commands of the Legates. The King still pressing the visit of
one of the Legates to England, Vivian consented to take the journey. The
bishops were ordered to draw up the treaty; but the King insisted on a
clause "Saving the honor of his Crown." They adjourned to a future day
at Caen. The Bishop of Lisieux, adds the writer, flattered the King; the
Archbishop of Rouen was for God and the Pope.

Two conferences at Caen and at Rouen were equally inconclusive; the King
insisted on the words, "saving the dignity of my Crown." Becket
inquired if he might add "saving the liberty of the Church."[168]

The King threw all the blame of the final rupture on the Legates, who
had agreed, he said, to this clause,[169] but through Becket's influence
withdrew from their word.[170] He reminded the Pope that he had in his
possession letters of his Holiness exempting him and his realm from all
authority of the Primate till he should be received into the royal
favor.[171] "If," he adds, "the Pope refuses my demands, he must
henceforth despair of my good will, and look to other quarters to
protect his realm and his honor." Both parties renewed their appeals,
their intrigues in Rome; Becket's complaints of Rome's venality became

Becket began again to fulminate his excommunications. Before his
departure Gratian signified to Geoffry Ridel and Nigel Sackville that
their absolution was conditional; if peace was not ratified by
Michaelmas, they were still under the ban. Becket menaced some old, some
new victims, the Dean of Salisbury, John Cummin, the Archdeacon of
Llandaff, and others.[173] But he now took a more decisive and terrible
step. [SN: Nov. 2, 1170.] He wrote to the bishops of England,[174]
commanding them to lay the whole kingdom under interdict; all divine
offices were to cease except baptism, penance, and the viaticum, unless
before the Feast of the Purification the King should have given full
satisfaction for his contumacy to the Church. This was to be done with
closed doors, the laity expelled from the ceremony, with no bell
tolling, no dirge wailing; all church music was to cease. The act was
specially announced to the chapters of Chichester, Lincoln, and Bath. Of
the Pope he demanded that he would treat the King's ambassadors,
Reginald of Salisbury and Richard Barre, one as actually excommunicate,
the other as contaminated by intercourse with the excommunicate.[175]

The menace of the Interdict, with the fear that the Bishops of England,
all but London and Salisbury, might be overawed into publishing it in
their dioceses, threw Henry back into his usual irresolution. There
were other alarming signs. Gratian had returned to Rome, accompanied
by William, Archbishop of Sens, Becket's most faithful admirer.
Rumors spread that William was to return invested in full legatine
powers--William, not only Becket's friend, but the head of the French
hierarchy. If the Interdict should be extended to his French dominions,
and the Excommunication launched against his person, could he depend on
the precarious fidelity of the Norman prelates? Differences had again
arisen with the King of France.[176] Henry was seized with an access of
devotion. [SN: Henry at Paris.] He asked permission to offer his prayers
at the shrines and at the Martyrs' Mount (Montmartre) at Paris. The
pilgrimage would lead to an interview with the King of France, and offer
an occasion of renewing the negotiations with Becket. [SN: Nov. 1169.]
Vivan was hastily summoned to turn back. His vanity was flattered by
the hope of achieving that reconciliation which had failed with Gratian.
He wrote to Becket requesting his presence. Becket, though he suspected
Vivian, yet out of respect to the King of France, consented to approach
as near as Château Corbeil. After the conference with the King of
France, two petitions from Becket, in his usual tone of imperious
humility, were presented to the King of England. The Primate
condescended to entreat the favor of Henry, and the restoration of the
Church of Canterbury, in as ample a form as it was held before his
exile. The second was more brief, but raised a new question of
compensation for loss and damage during the archbishop's absence from
his see.[177] [SN: Negotiations renewed.] Both parties mistrusted each
other; each watched the other's words with captious jealousy. Vivian,
weary of those verbal chicaneries of the King, declared that he had
never met with so mendacious a man in his life.[178] Vivian might have
remembered his own retractations, still more those of Becket on former
occasions. He withdrew from the negotiation; and this conduct, with the
refusal of a gift from Henry (a rare act of virtue), won him the
approbation of Becket. But Becket himself was not yet without mistrust;
he had doubts whether Vivian's report to the Pope would be in the same
spirit. "If it be not, he deserves the doom of the traitor Judas."

Henry at length, agreed that on the question of compensation he would
abide by the sentence of the court of the French King, the judgment of
the Gallican Church, and of the University of Paris.[179] This made so
favorable an impression that Becket could only evade it by declaring
that he had rather come to an amicable agreement with the King than
involve the affair in litigation.

[SN: Kiss of peace.]

At length all difficulties seemed yielding away, when Becket demanded
the customary kiss of peace, as the pledge of reconciliation. Henry
peremptorily refused; he had sworn in his wrath never to grant this
favor to Becket. He was inexorable; and without this guarantee Becket
would not trust the faith of the King. He was reminded, he said, by the
case of the Count of Flanders, that even the kiss of peace did not
secure a revolted subject, Robert de Silian, who, even after this sign
of amity, had been seized and cast into a dungeon. Henry's conduct, if
not the effect of sudden passion or ungovernable aversion, is
inexplicable. Why did he seek this interview, which, if he was insincere
in his desire for reconciliation, could afford but short delay? and from
such oaths he would hardly have refused, for any great purpose of his
own, to receive absolution.[180] On the other hand, it is quite clear
that Becket reckoned on the legatine power of William of Sens and the
terror of the English prelates, who had refused to attend a council in
London to reject the Interdict. He had now full confidence that he could
exact his own terms and humble the King under his feet.[181]

[SN: King's proclamation.]

But the King was resolved to wage war to the utmost. Geoffry Ridel,
Archdeacon of Canterbury, was sent to England with a royal proclamation
containing the following articles:--I. Whosoever shall bring into the
realm any letter from the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury is guilty
of high treason. II. Whosoever, whether bishop, clerk, or layman, shall
observe the Interdict, shall be ejected from all his chattels, which are
confiscate to the Crown. III. All clerks absent from England shall
return before the feast of St. Hilary, on pain of forfeiture of all
their revenues. IV. No appeal is to be made to the Pope or Archbishop of
Canterbury under pain of imprisonment and forfeiture of all chattels.
V. All laymen from beyond seas are to be searched, and if anything be
found upon them contrary to the King's honor, they are to be imprisoned;
the same with those who cross to the Continent. VI. If any clerk or monk
shall land in England without passport from the King, or with anything
contrary to his honor, he shall be thrown into prison. VII. No clerk or
monk may cross the seas without the King's passport. The same rule
applied to the clergy of Wales, who were to be expelled from all schools
in England. Lastly, VIII. The sheriffs were to administer an oath to all
freemen throughout England, in open court, that they would obey these
royal mandates, thus abjuring, it is said, all obedience to Thomas,
Archbishop of Canterbury.[182] The bishops, however, declined the oath;
some concealed themselves in their dioceses. Becket addressed a
triumphant or gratulatory letter to his suffragans on their firmness.
"We are now one, except that most hapless Judas, that rotten limb
(Foliot of London), which is severed from us."[183] Another letter is
addressed to the people of England, remonstrating on their impious
abjuration of their pastor, and offering absolution to all who had sworn
through compulsion and repented of their oath.[184] The King and the
Primate thus contested the realm of England.

[SN: The Pope still dubious.]

But the Pope was not yet to be inflamed by Becket's passions, nor quite
disposed to depart from his temporizing policy. John of Oxford was at
the court in Benevento with the Archdeacons of Rouen and Seez. From that
court returned the Archdeacon of Llandaff and Robert de Barre with a
commission to the Archbishop of Rouen and the Bishop of Nevers to make
one more effort for the termination of the difficulties. On the one hand
they were armed with powers, if the King did not accede to his own terms
within forty days after his citation (he had offered a thousand marks as
compensation for all losses), to pronounce an interdict against his
continental dominions; on the other, Becket was exhorted to humble
himself before the King; if Henry was inflexible and declined the
Pope's offered absolution from his oath, to accept the kiss of peace
from the King's son. The King was urged to abolish in due time the
impious and obnoxious Customs. And to these prelates was likewise
intrusted authority to absolve the refractory Bishops of London and
Salisbury.[185] This, however, was not the only object of Henry's new
embassy to the Pope. He had long determined on the coronation of his
eldest son; it had been delayed for various reasons. He seized this
opportunity of reviving a design which would be as well humiliating to
Becket as also of great moment in case the person of the King should be
struck by the thunder of excommunication. The coronation of the King of
England was the undoubted prerogative of the Archbishops of Canterbury,
which had never been invaded without sufficient cause, and Becket was
the last man tamely to surrender so important a right of his see. John
of Oxford was to exert every means (what those means were may be
conjectured rather than proved) to obtain the papal permission for the
Archbishop of York to officiate at that august ceremony.

The absolution of the Bishops of London and Salisbury was an astounding
blow to Becket. He tried to impede it by calling in question the power
of the archbishop to pronounce it without the presence of his colleague.
The archbishop disregarded his remonstrance, and Becket's sentence was
thus annulled by the authority of the Pope. Rumors at the same time
began to spread that the Pope had granted to the Archbishop of York
power to proceed to the coronation. Becket's fury burst all bounds. He
wrote to the Cardinal Albert and to Gratian: "In the court of Rome, now
as ever, Christ is crucified and Barabbas released. The miserable and
blameless exiles are condemned, the sacrilegious, the homicides, the
impenitent thieves are absolved, those whom Peter himself declares that
in his own chair (the world protesting against it) he would have no
power to absolve.[186] Henceforth I commit my cause to God--God alone
can find a remedy. Let those appeal to Rome who triumph over the
innocent and the godly, and return glorying in the ruin of the Church.
For me I am ready to die." Becket's fellow exiles addressed the Cardinal
Albert, denouncing in vehement language the avarice of the court of
Rome, by which they were brought to support the robbers of the Church.
It is no longer King Henry alone who is guilty of this six years'
persecution, but the Church of Rome.[187]

The coronation of the Prince by the Archbishop of York took place in the
Abbey of Westminster on the 15th of June.[188] The assent of the clergy
was given with that of the laity. The Archbishop of York produced a
papal brief, authorising him to perform the ceremony.[189] An inhibitory
letter, if it reached England, only came into the King's hand, and was
suppressed; no one, in fact (as the production of such papal letter, as
well as Becket's protest to the archbishop and to the bishops
collectively and severally, was by the royal proclamation high treason
or at least a misdemeanor) would dare to produce them.

The estrangement seemed now complete, the reconciliation more remote
than ever. The Archbishop of Rouen and the Bishop of Nevers, though
urged to immediate action by Becket and even by the Pope, admitted delay
after delay, first for the voyage of the King to England, and secondly
for his return to Normandy. Becket seemed more and more desperate, the
King more and more resolute. Even after the coronation, it should seem,
Becket wrote to Roger of York,[190] to Henry of Worcester, and even to
Foliot of London, to publish the Interdict in their dioceses. The latter
was a virtual acknowledgment of the legality of his absolution, which in
a long letter to the Bishop of Nevers he had contested:[191] but the
Interdict still hung over the King and the realm; the fidelity of the
clergy was precarious.

[SN: Treaty of Fretteville.]

The reconciliation at last was so sudden as to take the world by
surprise. The clue to this is found in Fitz-Stephen. Some one had
suggested by word or by writing to the King that the Primate would be
less dangerous within than without the realm.[192] The hint flashed
conviction on the King's mind. The two Kings had appointed an interview
at Fretteville, between Chartres and Tours. The Archbishop of Sens
prevailed on Becket to be, unsummoned, in the neighborhood. Some days
after the King seemed persuaded by the Archbishops of Sens and Rouen
and the Bishop of Nevers to hold a conference with Becket.[193] As soon
as they drew near the King rode up, uncovered his head, and saluted the
Prelate with frank courtesy, and after a short conversation between the
two and the Archbishop of Sens, the King withdrew apart with Becket.
Their conference was so long as to try the patience of the spectators,
so familiar that it might seem there had never been discord between
them. Becket took a moderate tone; by his own account he laid the faults
of the King entirely on his evil counselors. After a gentle admonition
to the King on his sins, he urged him to make restitution to the see of
Canterbury. He dwelt strongly on the late usurpation on the rights of
the primacy, on the coronation of the King's son. Henry alleged the
state of the kingdom and the necessity of the measure; he promised that
as his son's queen, the daughter of the King of France, was also to be
crowned, that ceremony should be performed by Becket, and that his son
should again receive his crown from the hands of the Primate.

At the close of the interview Becket sprung from his horse and threw
himself at the King's feet. The King leaped down, and holding his
stirrup compelled the Primate to mount his horse again. In the most
friendly terms he expressed his full reconciliation not only to Becket
himself, but to the wondering and delighted multitude. There seemed an
understanding on both sides to suppress all points which might lead to
disagreement. The King did not dare (so Becket writes triumphantly to
the Pope) to mutter one word about the Customs.[194] Becket was equally
prudent, though he took care that his submission should be so vaguely
worded as to be drawn into no dangerous concession on his part. [SN:
July.] He abstained, too, from all other perilous topics; he left
undecided the amount of satisfaction to the church of Canterbury; and on
these general terms he and the partners of his exile were formally
received into the King's grace. If the King was humiliated by this quiet
and sudden reconcilement with the imperious prelate, to outward
appearance at least he concealed his humiliation by his noble and kingly
manner. If he submitted to the spiritual reproof of the prelate, he
condescended to receive into his favor his refractory subject. Each
maintained prudent silence on all points in dispute. Henry received, but
he also granted pardon. If his concession was really extorted by fear,
not from policy, compassion for Becket's six years' exile might seem not
without influence. If Henry did not allude to the Customs, he did not
annul them; they were still the law of the land. The kiss of peace was
eluded by a vague promise. Becket made a merit of not driving the King
to perjury, but he skillfully avoided this trying test of the King's

[SN: Becket's schemes of vengeance.]

But Becket's revenge must be satisfied with other victims. If the
worldly King could forget the rancor of this long animosity, it was not
so easily appeased in the breast of the Christian Prelate. No doubt
vengeance disguised itself to Becket's mind as the lofty and rightful
assertion of spiritual authority. The opposing prelates must be at his
feet, even under his feet. The first thought of his partisans was not
his return to England with a generous amnesty of all wrongs, or a gentle
reconciliation of the whole clergy, but the condign punishment of those
who had so long been the counselors of the King, and had so recently
officiated in the coronation of his son.

The court of Rome did not refuse to enter into these views, to visit the
offence of those disloyal bishops who had betrayed the interests and
compromised the high principles of churchmen.[195] It was presumed that
the King would not risk a peace so hardly gained for his obsequious
prelates. [SN: Dated Sept. 10.] The lay adherents of the King, even the
plunderers of Church property were spared, some ecclesiastics about his
person, John of Oxford himself escaped censure: but Pope Alexander sent
the decree of suspension against the Archbishop of York, and renewed the
excommunication of London and Salisbury, with whom were joined the
Archdeacon of Canterbury and the Bishop of Rochester, as guilty of
special violation of their allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury,
the Bishop of St. Asaph, and some others. Becket himself saw the policy
of altogether separating the cause of the bishops from that of the King.
He requested that some expressions relating to the King's excesses, and
condemnatory of the bishops for swearing to the Customs, should be
suppressed; and the excommunication grounded entirely on their
usurpation of the right of crowning the King.[196]

[SN: Interview at Tours.]

About four months elapsed between the treaty of Fretteville and the
return of Becket to England. They were occupied by these negotiations at
Rome, Veroli, and Ferentino; by discussions with the King, who was
attacked during this period with a dangerous illness; and by the mission
of some of Becket's officers to resume the estates of the see. Becket
had two personal interviews with the King: the first was at Tours,
where, as he was now in the King's dominions, he endeavored to obtain
the kiss of peace. The Archbishop hoped to betray Henry into this favor
during the celebration of the mass, in which it might seem only a part
of the service.[197] Henry was on his guard, and ordered the mass for
the dead, in which the benediction is not pronounced. The King had
received Becket fairly; they parted not without ill-concealed
estrangement. At the second meeting the King seemed more friendly; he
went so far as to say, "Why resist my wishes? I would place everything
in your hands." Becket, in his own words, bethought him of the tempter,
"All these things will I give unto thee, if thou wilt fall down and
worship me."

The King had written to his son in England that the see of Canterbury
should be restored to Becket, as it was three months before his exile.
But there were two strong parties hostile to Becket: the King's officers
who held in sequestration the estates of the see, and seem to have
especially coveted the receipt of the Michaelmas rents; and with these
some of the fierce warrior nobles, who held lands or castles which were
claimed as possessions of the Church of Canterbury. Randulph De Broc,
his old inveterate enemy, was determined not to surrender his castle of
Saltwood. It was reported to Becket, by Becket represented to the King,
that De Broc had sworn that he would have Becket's life before he had
eaten a loaf of bread in England. The castle of Rochester was held on
the same doubtful title by one of his enemies. The second party was that
of the bishops, which was powerful, with a considerable body of the
clergy and laity. They had sufficient influence to urge the King's
officers to take the strongest measures, lest the Papal letters of
excommunication should be introduced into the kingdom.

It is perhaps vain to conjecture, how far, if Becket had returned to
England in the spirit of meekness, forgiveness, and forbearance, not
wielding the thunders of excommunication, nor determined to trample on
his adversaries, and to exact the utmost even of his doubtful rights,
he might have resumed his see, and gradually won back the favor of the
King, the respect and love of the whole hierarchy, and all the
legitimate possessions of his church. But he came not in peace, nor was
he received in peace.[198] [SN: Becket prepares for his return.] It was
not the Archbishop of Rouen, as he had hoped, but his old enemy John of
Oxford, who was commanded by the King to accompany him, and reinstate
him in his see. The King might allege that one so much in the royal
confidence was the best protector of the Archbishop. The money which had
been promised for his voyage was not paid; he was forced to borrow £300
of the Archbishop of Rouen. He went, as he felt, or affected to feel,
with death before his eyes, yet nothing should now separate him from his
long-divided flock. Before his embarkation at Whitsand in Flanders,
he received intelligence that the shores were watched by his enemies,
it was said with designs on his life,[199] but assuredly with
the determination of making a rigid search for the letters of
excommunication.[200] [SN: Letters of excommunication sent before him.]
To secure the safe carriage of one of these perilous documents, the
suspension of the Archbishop of York, it was intrusted to a nun named
Idonea, whom he exhorts, like another Judith, to this holy act, and
promises her as her reward the remission of her sins.[201] Other
contraband letters were conveyed across the Channel by unknown hands,
and were delivered to the bishops before Becket's landing.

The prelates of York and London were at Canterbury when they received
these Papal letters. When the fulminating instruments were read before
them, in which was this passage, "we will fill your faces with
ignominy," their countenances fell. They sent messengers to complain to
Becket, that he came not in peace, but in fire and flame, trampling his
brother bishops under his feet, and making their necks his footstool;
that he had condemned them uncited, unheard, unjudged. "There is no
peace," Becket sternly replied, "but to men of good will."[202] It was
said that London was disposed to humble himself before Becket; but
York,[203] trusting in his wealth, boasted that he had in his power the
Pope, the King, and all their courts.

[SN: Lands at Sandwich. Dec. 1.]

Instead of the port of Dover, where he was expected, Becket's vessel,
with the archiepiscopal banner displayed, cast anchor at Sandwich. Soon
after his landing, appeared in arms the Sheriff of Kent, Randulph de
Broc, and others of his enemies. They searched his baggage, fiercely
demanded that he should absolve the bishops, and endeavored to force the
Archdeacon of Sens, a foreign ecclesiastic, to take an oath to keep the
peace of the realm. John of Oxford was shocked, and repressed their
violence. On his way to Canterbury the country clergy came forth with
their flocks to meet him; they strewed their garments in his way,
chanting, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." [SN: At
Canterbury.] Arrived at Canterbury, he rode at once to the church with a
vast procession of clergy, amid the ringing of the bells, and the
chanting of music. He took his archiepiscopal throne, and afterwards
preached on the text, "Here we have no abiding city." The next morning
came again the Sheriff of Kent, with Randulph de Broc, and the
messengers of the bishops, demanding their absolution.[204] Becket
evaded the question by asserting that the Excommunication was not
pronounced by him, but by his superior the Pope; that he had no power to
abrogate the sentence. This declaration was directly at issue with the
bull of excommunication: if the bishops gave satisfaction to the
Archbishop, he had power to act on behalf of the Pope.[205] But to the
satisfaction which, according to one account, he did demand, that they
should stand a public trial, in other words place themselves at his
mercy, they would not, and hardly could submit. They set out immediately
to the King in Normandy.

The restless Primate was determined to keep alive the popular fervor,
enthusiastically, almost fanatically, on his side. [SN: Goes to
London.] On a pretext of a visit to the young King at Woodstock, to
offer him the present of three beautiful horses, he set forth on a
stately progress. Wherever he went he was received with acclamations and
prayers for his blessings by the clergy and the people. In Rochester
he was entertained by the Bishop with great ceremony. In London
there was the same excitement: he was received in the palace by
the Bishop of Winchester in Southwark. Even there he scattered some
excommunications.[206] The Court took alarm, and sent orders to the
prelate to return to his diocese. Becket obeyed, but alleged as the
cause of his obedience, not the royal command, but his own desire to
celebrate the festival of Christmas in his metropolitan church. The
week passed in holding sittings in his court, where he acted with his
usual promptitude, vigor, and resolution against the intruders into
livings, and upon the encroachments on his estates; and in devotions
most fervent, mortifications most austere.[207]

His rude enemies committed in the mean time all kinds of petty
annoyances, which he had not the loftiness to disdain. Randulph de Broc
seized a vessel laden with rich wine for his use, and imprisoned the
sailors in Pevensey Castle. An order from the court compelled him to
release ship and crew. They robbed the people who carried his
provisions, broke into his park, hunted his deer, beat his retainers;
and, at the instigation of Randulph's brother, Robert de Broc, a
ruffian, a renegade monk, cut off the tail of one of his state horses.

On Christmas day Becket preached on the appropriate text, "Peace on
earth, good will towards men." The sermon agreed ill with the text. He
spoke of one of his predecessors, St. Alphege, who had suffered
martyrdom. "There may soon be a second." He then burst out into a
fierce, impetuous, terrible tone, arraigned the courtiers, and closed
with a fulminating excommunication against Nigel de Sackville, who had
refused to give up a benefice into which, in Becket's judgment, he had
intruded, and against Randulph and Robert de Broc. The maimed horse was
not forgotten. He renewed in the most vehement language the censure on
the bishops, dashed the candle on the pavement in token of their utter
extinction, and then proceeded to the mass at the altar.[208]

[SN: The bishops with the King.]

In the mean time the excommunicated prelates had sought the King in the
neighborhood of Bayeux; they implored his protection for themselves and
the clergy of the realm. "If all are to be visited by spiritual
censures," said the King, "who officiated at the coronation of my son,
by the eyes of God, I am equally guilty." The whole conduct of Becket
since his return was detailed, and no doubt deeply darkened by the
hostility of his adversaries. All had been done with an insolent and
seditious design of alienating the affections of the people from the
King. Henry demanded counsel of the prelates; they declared themselves
unable to give it. But one incautiously said, "So long as Thomas lives,
you will never be at peace." The King broke out into one of his terrible
constitutional fits of passion; and at length let fall the fatal words,
"Have I none of my thankless and cowardly courtiers who will relieve me
from the insults of one low-born and turbulent priest?"

[SN: The King's fatal words.]

These words were not likely to fall unheard on the ears of fierce, and
warlike men, reckless of bloodshed, possessed with a strong sense of
their feudal allegiance, and eager to secure to themselves the reward of
desperate service. Four knights, chamberlains of the King, Reginald
Fitz-Urse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Moreville, and Reginald Brito,
disappeared from the court.[209] On the morrow, when a grave council was
held, some barons are said, even there, to have advised the death of
Becket. Milder measures were adopted: the Earl of Mandeville was sent
off with orders to arrest the Primate; and as the disappearance of these
four knights could not be unmarked, to stop them in the course of any
unauthorized enterprise.

But murder travels faster than justice or mercy. They were almost
already on the shores of England. It is said that they met in Saltwood
Castle. On the 28th of December, having, by the aid of Randulph de Broc,
collected some troops in the streets of Canterbury, they took up their
quarters with Clarembold, Abbot of St. Augustine's.

The assassination of Becket has something appalling, with all its
terrible circumstances seen in the remote past. What was it in its own
age? The most distinguished churchman in Christendom, the champion of
the great sacerdotal order, almost in the hour of his triumph over the
most powerful king in Europe; a man, besides the awful sanctity inherent
in the person of every ecclesiastic, of most saintly holiness; soon
after the most solemn festival of the Church, in his own cathedral, not
only sacrilegiously, but cruelly murdered, with every mark of hatred and
insult. Becket had all the dauntlessness, none of the meekness of the
martyr; but while his dauntlessness would command boundless admiration,
few, if any, would seek the more genuine sign of Christian martyrdom.

[SN: The knights before Becket.]

The four knights do not seem to have deliberately determined on their
proceedings, or to have resolved, except in extremity, on the murder.
They entered, but unarmed, the outer chamber.[210] The Archbishop had
just dined, and withdrawn from the hall. They were offered food, as was
the usage; they declined, thirsting, says one of the biographers, for
blood. The Archbishop obeyed the summons to hear a message from the
King; they were admitted to his presence. As they entered, there was no
salutation on either side, till the Primate having surveyed, perhaps
recognized them, moved to them with cold courtesy. Fitz-Urse was the
spokesman in the fierce altercation which ensued. Becket replied with
haughty firmness. Fitz-Urse began by reproaching him with his
ingratitude and seditious disloyalty in opposing the coronation of the
King's son, and commanded him, in instant obedience to the King, to
absolve the prelates. Becket protested that so far from wishing to
diminish the power of the King's son, he would have given him three
crowns and the most splendid realm. For the excommunicated bishops he
persisted in his usual evasion that they had been suspended by the Pope,
by the Pope alone could they be absolved; nor had they yet offered
proper satisfaction. "It is the King's command," spake Fitz-Urse, "that
you and the rest of your disloyal followers leave the kingdom."[211] "It
becomes not the King to utter such command: henceforth no power on earth
shall separate me from my flock." "You have presumed to excommunicate,
without consulting the King, the King's servant's and officers." "Nor
will I ever spare the man who violates the canons of Rome, or the rights
of the Church." "From whom do you hold your archbishopric?" "My
spirituals from God and the Pope, my temporals from the King." "Do you
not hold all from the King?" "Render unto Cæsar the things that are
Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's." "You speak in peril of
your life!" "Come ye to murder me? I defy you, and will meet you front
to front in the battle of the Lord." He added, that some among them had
sworn fealty to him. At this, it is said, they grew furious, and gnashed
with their teeth. The prudent John of Salisbury heard with regret this
intemperate language: "Would it may end well!" Fitz-Urse shouted aloud,
"In the King's name I enjoin you all, clerks and monks, to arrest this
man, till the King shall have done justice on his body." They rushed
out, calling for their arms.

His friends had more fear for Becket than Becket for himself. The gates
were closed and barred, but presently sounds were heard of those
without, striving to break in. The lawless Randulph de Broc was hewing
at the door with an axe. All around Becket was the confusion of terror:
he only was calm. Again spoke John of Salisbury with his cold
prudence--"Thou wilt never take counsel: they seek thy life." "I am
prepared to die." "We who are sinners are not so weary of life." "God's
will be done." The sounds without grew wilder. All around him entreated
Becket to seek sanctuary in the church. He refused, whether from
religious reluctance that the holy place should be stained with his
blood, or from the nobler motive of sparing his assassins this deep
aggravation of their crime. They urged that the bell was already tolling
for vespers. He seemed to give a reluctant consent; but he would not
move without the dignity of his crosier carried before him. [SN: Becket
in the Church.] With gentle compulsion they half drew, half carried him
through a private chamber, they in all the hasty agony of terror, he
striving to maintain his solemn state, into the church. The din of the
armed men was ringing in the cloister. The affrighted monks broke off
the service; some hastened to close the doors; Becket commanded them to
desist--"No one should be debarred from entering the house of God." John
of Salisbury and the rest fled and hid themselves behind the altars and
in other dark places. The Archbishop might have escaped into the dark
and intricate crypt, or into a chapel in the roof. There remained only
the Canon Robert (of Merton), Fitz-Stephen, and the faithful Edward
Grim. Becket stood between the altar of St. Benedict and that of the
Virgin.[212] It was thought that Becket contemplated taking his seat on
his archiepiscopal throne near the high altar.

[SN: The murder.]

Through the open door of the cloister came rushing in the four, fully
armed, some with axes in their hands, with two or three wild followers,
through the dim and bewildering twilight. The knights shouted aloud,
"Where is the traitor?"--No answer came back.--"Where is the
Archbishop?" "Behold me, no traitor, but a priest of God!" Another
fierce and rapid altercation followed: they demanded the absolution of
the bishops, his own surrender to the King's justice. They strove to
seize him and to drag him forth from the church (even they had awe of
the holy place), either to kill him without, or to carry him in bonds to
the King. He clung to the pillar. In the struggle he grappled with De
Tracy, and with desperate strength dashed him on the pavement. His
passion rose; he called Fitz-Urse by a foul name, a pander. These were
almost his last words (how unlike those of Stephen and the greater than
Stephen!) He taunted Fitz-Urse with his fealty sworn to himself. "I owe
no fealty but to my King!" returned the maddened soldier, and struck the
first blow. Edward Grim interposed his arm, which was almost severed
off. The sword struck Becket, but slightly, on the head. Becket received
it in an attitude of prayer--"Lord, receive my spirit," with an
ejaculation to the Saints of the Church. Blow followed blow (Tracy seems
to have dealt the first mortal wound), till all, unless perhaps De
Moreville, had wreaked their vengeance. The last, that of Richard de
Brito, smote off a piece of his skull. Hugh of Horsea, their follower, a
renegade priest surnamed Mauclerk, set his heel upon his neck, and
crushed out the blood and brains. "Away!" said the brutal ruffian,
"it is time that we were gone." They rushed out to plunder the
archiepiscopal palace.

[SN: The Body.]

The mangled body was left on the pavement; and when his affrighted
followers ventured to approach to perform their last offices, an
incident occurred which, however incongruous, is too characteristic to
be suppressed. Amid their adoring awe at his courage and constancy,
their profound sorrow for his loss, they broke out into a rapture of
wonder and delight on discovering not merely that his whole body was
swathed in the coarsest sackcloth, but that his lower garments were
swarming with vermin. From that moment miracles began. Even the populace
had before been divided; voices had been heard among the crowd denying
him to be a martyr; he was but the victim of his own obstinacy.[213] The
Archbishop of York even after this dared to preach that it was a
judgment of God against Becket--that "he perished, like Pharaoh, in his
pride."[214] But the torrent swept away at once all this resistance. The
Government inhibited the miracles, but faith in miracles scorns
obedience to human laws. The Passion of the Martyr Thomas was saddened
and glorified every day with new incidents of its atrocity, of his holy
firmness, of wonders wrought by his remains.

[SN: Effects of the murder.]

The horror of Becket's murder ran throughout Christendom. At first, of
course, it was attributed to Henry's direct orders. Universal hatred
branded the King of England with a kind of outlawry, a spontaneous
excommunication. William of Sens, though the attached friend of Becket,
probably does not exaggerate the public sentiment when he describes
this deed as surpassing the cruelty of Herod, the perfidy of Julian,
the sacrilege of the traitor Judas.[215]

It were injustice to King Henry not to suppose that with the dread as to
the consequences of this act must have mingled some reminiscences of the
gallant friend and companion of his youth and of the faithful minister,
as well as religious horror at a cruel murder, so savagely and impiously
executed.[216] He shut himself for three days in his chamber,
obstinately refused all food and comfort, till his attendants began to
fear for his life. He issued orders for the apprehension of the
murderers,[217] and dispatched envoys to the Pope to exculpate himself
from all participation or cognizance of the crime. His ambassadors found
the Pope at Tusculum: they were at first sternly refused an audience.
The afflicted and indignant Pope was hardly prevailed on to permit the
execrated name of the King of England to be uttered before him. The
cardinals still friendly to the King with difficulty obtained knowledge
of Alexander's determination. It was, on a fixed day, to pronounce with
the utmost solemnity, excommunication against the King by name, and an
interdict on all his dominions, on the Continent as well as in England.
The ambassadors hardly obtained the abandonment of this fearful purpose,
by swearing that the King would submit in all things to the judgment of
his Holiness. With difficulty the terms of reconciliation were arranged.

[SN: Reconciliation at Avranches.]

In the Cathedral of Avranches in Normandy, in the presence of the
Cardinals Theodin of Porto, and Albert the Chancellor, Legates for that
especial purpose, Henry swore on the Gospels that he had neither
commanded nor desired the death of Becket; that it had caused him
sorrow, not joy; he had not grieved so deeply for the death of his
father or his mother.[218] He stipulated--I. To maintain two hundred
knights at his own cost in the Holy Land. II. To abrogate the Statutes
of Clarendon, and all bad customs introduced during his reign.[219] III.
That he would reinvest the Church of Canterbury in all its rights and
possessions, and pardon and restore to their estates all who had
incurred his wrath in the cause of the Primate. IV. If the Pope should
require it, he would himself make a crusade against the Saracens in
Spain. [SN: Ascension Day, May 22, 1172.] In the porch of the church he
was reconciled, but with no ignominous ceremony.

Throughout the later and the darker part of Henry's reign the clergy
took care to inculcate, and the people were prone enough to believe,
that all his disasters and calamities, the rebellion of his wife and of
his sons, were judgments of God for the persecution if not the murder
of the Martyr Thomas. The strong mind of Henry himself, depressed by
misfortune and by the estrangement of his children, acknowledged with
superstitious awe the justice of their conclusions. Heaven, the Martyr
in Heaven, must be appeased by a public humiliating penance. The deeper
the degradation the more valuable the atonement. In less than three
years after his death the King visited the tomb of Becket, by this time
a canonized saint, renowned not only throughout England for his
wonder-working powers, but to the limits of Christendom. [SN: Penance at
Canterbury. Friday, July 12, 1174.] As soon as he came near enough to
see the towers of Canterbury, the King dismounted from his horse, and
for three miles walked with bare and bleeding feet along the flinty
road. The tomb of the Saint was then in the crypt beneath the church.
The King threw himself prostrate before it. The Bishop of London
(Foliot) preached; he declared to the wondering multitude that on his
solemn oath the King was entirely guiltless of the murder of the Saint:
but as his hasty words had been the innocent cause of the crime, he
submitted in lowly obedience to the penance of the Church. The haughty
monarch then prayed to be scourged by the willing monks. From the one
end of the church to the other each ecclesiastic present gratified his
pride, and thought that he performed his duty, by giving a few
stripes.[220] The King passed calmly through this rude discipline, and
then spent a night and a day in prayers and tears, imploring the
intercession in Heaven of him whom, he thought not now on how just
grounds, he had pursued with relentless animosity on earth.[221]

Thus Becket obtained by his death that triumph for which he would
perhaps have struggled in vain through a long life. He was now a Saint,
and for some centuries the most popular Saint in England: among the
people, from a generous indignation at his barbarous murder, from the
fame of his austerities and his charities, no doubt from admiration of
his bold resistance to the kingly power; among the clergy as the
champion, the martyr of their order. Even if the clergy had had no
interest in the miracles at the tomb of Becket, the high-strung faith of
the people would have wrought them almost without suggestion or
assistance. Cures would have been made or imagined; the latent powers of
diseased or paralyzed bodies would have been quickened into action.
Belief, and the fear of disbelieving, would have multiplied one
extraordinary event into a hundred; fraud would be outbid by zeal; the
invention of the crafty, even if what may seem invention was not more
often ignorance and credulity, would be outrun by the demands of
superstition. There is no calculating the extent and effects of these
epidemic outbursts of passionate religion.[222]

[SN: Becket martyr of the clergy.]

Becket was indeed the martyr of the clergy, not of the Church; of
sacerdotal power, not of Christianity; of a caste, not of mankind.[223]
From beginning to end it was a strife for the authority, the immunities,
the possessions of the clergy.[224] The liberty of the Church was the
exemption of the clergy from law; the vindication of their separate,
exclusive, distinctive existence from the rest of mankind. It was a
sacrifice to the deified self; not the individual self, but self as the
centre and representative of a great corporation. Here and there in the
long full correspondence there is some slight allusion to the miseries
of the people in being deprived of the services of the exiled bishops
and clergy:[225] "there is no one to ordain clergy, to consecrate
virgins:" the confiscated property is said to be a robbery of the poor:
yet in general the sole object in dispute was the absolute immunity of
the clergy from civil jurisdiction,[226] the right of appeal from the
temporal sovereign to Rome, and the asserted superiority of the
spiritual rulers in every respect over the temporal power. There might,
indeed, be latent advantages to mankind, social, moral, and religious,
in this secluded sanctity of one class of men; it might be well that
there should be a barrier against the fierce and ruffian violence of
kings and barons; that somewhere freedom should find a voice, and some
protest be made against the despotism of arms, especially in a
newly-conquered country like England, where the kingly and aristocratic
power was still foreign: above all, that there should be a caste, not an
hereditary one, into which ability might force its way up, from the most
low-born, even from the servile rank; but the liberties of the Church,
as they were called, were but the establishment of one tyranny--a
milder, perhaps, but not less rapacious tyranny--instead of another; a
tyranny which aspired to uncontrolled, irresponsible rule, nor was above
the inevitable evil produced on rulers as well as on subjects, from the
consciousness of arbitrary and autocratic power.

[SN: Verdict of posterity.]

Reflective posterity may perhaps consider as not the least remarkable
point in this lofty and tragic strife that it was but a strife for
power. Henry II. was a sovereign who, with many noble and kingly
qualities, lived, more than even most monarchs of his age, in direct
violation of every Christian precept of justice, humanity, conjugal
fidelity. He was lustful, cruel, treacherous, arbitrary. But throughout
this contest there is no remonstrance whatever from Primate or Pope
against his disobedience to the laws of God, only to those of the
Church. Becket _might_, indeed, if he had retained his full and
acknowledged religious power, have rebuked the vices, protected the
subjects, interceded for the victims of the King's unbridled passions.
It must be acknowledged by all that he did not take the wisest course to
secure this which might have been beneficent influence. But as to what
appears, if the King would have consented to allow the churchmen to
despise all law--if he had not insisted on hanging priests guilty of
homicide as freely as laymen--he might have gone on unreproved in his
career of ambition; he might unrebuked have seduced or ravished the
wives and daughters of his nobles; extorted, without remonstrance of the
Clergy any revenue from his subjects, if he had kept his hands from the
treasures of the Church. Henry's real tyranny was not (would it in any
case have been?) the object of the churchman's censure, oppugnancy, or
resistance. The cruel and ambitious and rapacious King would doubtless
have lived unexcommunicated and died with plenary absolution.


[1] The "History of Latin Christianity," is now completed in six

[2] There are no less than seven full contemporary, or nearly
contemporary, Lives of Becket, besides fragments, legends, and
"Passions." Dr. Giles has reprinted, and in some respects enlarged,
those works from the authority of MSS. I give them in the order of his
volumes. I. Vita Sancti Thomæ. Auctore Edward Grim. II. Auctore Roger de
Pontiniaco. III. Auctore Willelmo Filio Stephani. IV. Auctoribus Joanne
Decano Salisburiensi, et Alano Abbate Teuksburiensi. V. Auctore Willelmo
Canterburiensi. VI. Auctore Anonymo Lambethiensi. VII. Auctore Herberto
de Bosham. Of these, Grim, Fitz-Stephen, and Herbert de Bosham were
throughout his life in more or less close attendance on Becket. The
learned John of Salisbury was his bosom friend and counsellor. Roger of
Pontigny was his intimate associate and friend in that monastery.
William was probably prior of Canterbury at the time of Becket's death.
The sixth professes also to have been witness to the death of Becket.
(He is called Lambethiensis by Dr. Giles, merely because the MS. is in
the Lambeth Library.) Add to these the curious French poem, written five
years after the murder of Becket, by Garnier of Pont S. Maxence, partly
published in the Berlin Transactions, by the learned Immanuel Bekker.
All these, it must be remembered, write of the man; the later monkish
writers (though near the time, Hoveden, Gervase, Diceto, Brompton) of
the Saint.

[3] Brompton is not the earliest writer who recorded this tale; he took
it from the Quadrilogus I., but of this the date is quite uncertain. The
exact date of Brompton is unknown. See preface in Twysden. He goes down
to the end of Richard II.

[4] Mons. Thierry, Hist. des Normands. Lord Lyttelton (Life of Henry
II.) had before asserted the Saxon descent of Becket: perhaps he misled
M. Thierry.

[5] The anonymous Lambethiensis, after stating that many Norman
merchants were allured to London by the greater mercantile prosperity,
proceeds: "Ex horum numero fuit Gilbertus quidam cognomento Becket,
patriâ Rotomagensis .... habuit autem uxorem, nomine Roseam natione
Cadomensem, genere burgensium quoque non disparem."--Apud Giles, ii. p.

[6] See below.

[7] "Quod si ad generis mei radicem et progenitores meos intenderis,
cives quidem fuerunt Londonienses, in medio concivium suorum habitantes
sine querelâ, nec omnino infimi."--Epist. 130.

[8] Grim, p. 9. Pontiniac, p. 96.

[9] Grim, p. 8.

[10] "Eo familiarius, quod præfatus Gilbertus cum domino archipræsule de
propinquitate et genere loquebatur: ut ille _ortu Normannus_ et circa
Thierici villam de equestri ordine natu vicinus."--Fitz-Stephen, p. 184.
Thiersy or Thierchville.

[11] Roger de Pontigny, p. 100.

[12] Fitz-Stephen, p. 185.

[13] According to Fitz-Stephen, Thomas was less learned (minus
literatus) than his rival, but of loftier character and morals.--P. 184.

[14] "Plurimæ ecclesiæ, præbendæ nonnullæ." Among the livings were one
in Kent, and St. Mary le Strand; among the prebends, two at London and
Lincoln. The archdeaconry of Canterbury was worth 100 pounds of silver

[15] Epist. 130.

[16] Lord Lyttelton gives a full account of this transaction.--Book i.
p. 213.

[17] This remarkable fact in Becket's history rests on the authority of
his friend, John of Salisbury: "Erat enim in suspectu adolescentia regis
et juvenum et pravorum hominum, quorum conciliis agi videbatur ...
insipientiam et malitiam formidabat ... cancellarium procurabat in curiâ
ordinari, cujus ope et operâ novi regis ne sæviret in ecclesiam, impetum
cohiberet et consilii sui temperaret malitiam."--Apud Giles, p. 321.
This is repeated in almost the same words by William of Canterbury, vol.
ii. p. 2. Compare what may be read almost as the dying admonitions of
Theobald to the king: "Suggerunt vobis filii sæculi hujus, ut ecclesiæ
minuatis auctoritatem, ut vobis regni dignitas augeatur." He had
before said, "Cui deest gratia Ecclesiæ, tota creatrix Trinitas
adversatur."--Apud Boquet, xvi. p. 504. Also Roger de Pontigny, p. 101.

[18] Fitz-Stephen, p. 186. Compare on the office of chancellor Lord
Campbell's Life of Becket.

[19] De Bosham, p. 17.

[20] See a curious passage on the singular sensitiveness of his hearing,
and even of his smell.--Roger de Pontigny, p. 96.

[21] Roger de Pontigny, p. 104. His character by John of Salisbury is
remarkable: "Erat supra modum captator auræ popularis ... etsi superbus
esset et vanus et interdum faciem prætendebat insipienter amantium et
verba proferret, admirandus tamen et imitandus erat in corporis
castitate."--P. 320. See an adventure related by William of Canterbury,
p. 3.

[22] Grim, p. 12. Roger de Pontigny, p. 102. Fitz-Stephen, p. 192.

[23] Fitz-Stephen, p. 191. Fitz-Stephen is most full and particular on
the chancellorship of Becket.

[24] It is not quite clear how soon after the accession of Henry the
appointment of the chancellor took place. I should incline to the
earlier date, A. D. 1155.

[25] Fitz-Stephen, p. 187.

[26] P. 196.

[27] Edward Grim, p. 12.

[28] John of Salisbury denies that he sanctioned the rapacity of the
king, and urges that he only yielded to necessity. Yet his exile was the
just punishment of his guilt. "Tamen quia eum ministrum fuisse
iniquitatis non ambigo, jure optimo taliter arbitror puniendum ut eo
potissimum puniatur auctore, quem in talibus Deo bonorum omnium auctori
præferebat.... Sed esto; nunc poenitentiam agit, agnoscit et confitetur
culpam pro ea, et si cum Saulo quandoque ecclesiam impugnavit, nunc, cum
Paulo ponere paratus est animam suam."--Bouquet, p. 518.

[29] Fitz-Stephen, p. 193.

[30] Theobald died April 18, 1161. Becket was ordained priest and
consecrated on Whitsunday, 1162.

[31] Yet Theobald, according to John of Salisbury, designed Becket for
his successor,--

  "hunc (_i. e._ Becket Cancellarium) successurum sibi sperat et orat,
    Hic est carnificum qui jus cancellat iniquum,
      Quos habuit reges Anglia capta diu,
    Esse putans reges, quos est perpessa, tyrannos
      Plus veneratur eos, qui nocuere magis."

          _Entheticus_, l. 1295.

Did Becket decide against the Norman laws by the Anglo-Saxon? Has any
one guessed the meaning of the rest of John's verses on the Chancellor
and his Court? I confess myself baffled.

[32] Roger de Pontigny, p. 100.

[33] In the memorable letter of Gilbert Foliot, Dr. Lingard observes
that Mr. Berington has proved this letter to be spurious. I cannot see
any force in Mr. Berington's arguments, and should certainly have paid
more deference to Dr. Lingard himself if he had examined the question.
It seems, moreover (if I rightly understand Dr. Giles, and I am not
certain that I do), that it exists in more than one MS. of Foliot's
letters. He has printed it as unquestioned; no very satisfactory
proceeding in an editor. The conclusive argument for its authenticity
with me is this: Who, after Becket's death and canonization, would have
ventured or thought it worth while to forge such a letter? To whom was
Foliot's memory so dear, or Becket's so hateful, as to reopen the whole
strife about his election and his conduct? Besides, it seems clear that
it is either a rejoinder to the long letter addressed by Becket to the
clergy of England (Giles, iii. 170), or that letter is a rejoinder to
Foliot's. Each is a violent party pamphlet against the other, and of
great ability and labor.

[34] Foliot's nearest relatives, if not himself, were Scotch; one
of them had forfeited his estate for fidelity to the King of
Scotland.--Epis. ii. cclxxviii.

[35] Read his letters before his elevation to the see of London.

[36] See, _e.g._, Epis. cxxxi., in which he informs Archbishop Theobald
that the Earl of Hereford held intercourse with William Beauchamp,
excommunicated by the Primate. "Vilescit anathematis authoritas, nisi et
communicantes excommunicatis corripiat digna severitas." The Earl of
Hereford must be placed under anathema.

[37] Lambeth, p. 91. The election of the Bishop of Hereford to London is
confirmed by the Pope's permission to elect him (March 19) rogatu H.
regis et Archep. Cantuarensis. A letter from Pope Alexander on his
promotion rebukes him for _fasting too severely_.--Epist. ccclix.

[38] Foliot, in a letter to Pope Alexander, maintains the superiority of
Canterbury over York.--cxlix.

[39] See on the change in his habits, Lambeth, p. 48; also the strange
story, in Grim, of a monk who declared himself commissioned by a
preterhuman person of terrible countenance to warn the Chancellor not to
dare to appear in the choir, as he had done, in a secular dress.--p. 16.

[40] Compare the letter of the politic Arnulf, Bishop of Lisieux: "Si
enim favori divino favorem præferritis humanum, poteratis non solum cum
summâ tranquillitate degere, sed ipso etiam magis quam olim, Principe
conregnare."--Apud Bouquet, xvi. p. 229.

[41] This strange scene is recorded by Roger de Pontigny, who received
his information on all those circumstances from Becket himself, or from
his followers. See also Grim, p. 22.

[42] Becket had been compelled to give up the rich archdeaconry of
Canterbury, which he seemed disposed to hold with the archbishopric.
Geoffrey Ridel, who became archdeacon, was afterwards one of his most
active enemies.

[43] The king was willing that the clerk guilty of murder or robbery
should be degraded before he was hanged, but hanged he should be. The
archbishop insisted that he should be safe "a læsione membrorum."
Degradation was in itself so dreadful a punishment, that to hang also
for the same crime was a double penalty. "If he returned to his vomit,"
after degradation, "he might be hanged."--Compare Grim, p. 30.

[44] "De novo judicatur Christus ante Pilatum præsidem."--De Bosham, p.

[45] De Bosham, p. 100.

[46] The fairness with which the question is stated by Herbert de
Bosham, the follower, almost the worshiper of Becket, is remarkable.
"Arctabatur itaque rex, arctabatur et pontifex. Rex etenim populi sui
pacem, sicut archipræsul cleri sui zelans libertatem, audiens
sic et videns et ad multorum relationes et querimonias accipiens,
per hujuscemodi castigationes, talium clericorum immo verius
caracterizatorum, dæmonum flagitia non reprimi vel potius indies per
regnum deterius fieri." He proceeds to state at length the argument on
both sides. Another biographer of Becket makes strong admissions of the
crimes of the clergy: "Sed et ordinatorum inordinati mores, inter regem
et archepiscopum auxere malitiam, qui _solito abundantius_ per idem
tempus apparebant publicis irretiti criminibus."--Edw. Grim. It was said
that no less than 100 of the clergy were charged with homicide.

[47] This, according to Fitz-Stephen, was the first cause of quarrel
with the king. p. 215.

[48] See throughout this epistle of Arnulf of Lisieux, Bouquet, p. 230.
This same Arnulf was a crafty and double-dealing prelate. Grim and Roger
de Pontigny say that he suggested to Henry the policy of making a party
against Becket among the English bishops, while to Becket he plays the
part of confidential counsellor.--Grim, p. 29. R. P., p. 119. Will.
Canterb., p. 6. Compare on Arnulf, Epist. 346, v. 11, p. 189.

[49] These are the words which Fitz-Stephen places in the mouths of the
king's courtiers.

[50] Herbert de Bosham, p. 109. Fitz-Stephen, p. 209, _et seq._

[51] "Dicens se observaturos regias consuetudines bonâ fide."

[52] Compare W. Canterb., p. 6.

[53] Grim, p. 29.

[54] Dr. Lingard supposes that Becket demanded that the customs should
be reduced to writing. This seems quite contrary to his policy; and
Edward Grim writes thus: "Nam domestici regis, dato consentiente
consilio, securem fecerant archepiscopum, quod _nunquam scriberentur_
leges, nunquam illarum fieret recordatio, si eum verbo tantum in
audientiâ procerum honorâsset," &c.--P. 31.

[55] See the letter of Gilbert Foliot, of which I do not doubt the

[56] According to the Cottonian copy, published by Lord Lyttelton,
Constitutions xii. xv. iv.

[57] Constitution iii.

[58] Constitutions i. and ii.

[59] Constitution vii., somewhat limited and explained by x.

[60] Herbert de Bosham. "Caute quidam non de plano negat, sed
differendum dicebat adhuc."

[61] "Superbus et vanus, de pastore avium factus sum pastor ovium; dudum
fautor histrionum et eorum sectator tot animarum pastor."--De Bosham, p.

[62] Read the Epistles, apud Giles, v. iv. 1, 3, Bouquet, xvi. 210, to
judge of the skillful steering and difficulties of the Pope. There is a
very curious letter of an emissary of Becket, describing the death of
the Antipope (he died at Lucca, April 21). The canons of San Frediano,
in Lucca, refused to bury him, because he was already "buried in hell."
The writer announces that the Emperor also was ill, that the Empress had
miscarried, and that therefore all France adhered with greater devotion
to Alexander; _and the Legatine commission to the Archbishop of York had
expired without hope of recovery_. The writer ventures, however, to
suggest to Becket to conduct himself with modesty; to seek rather than
avoid intercourse with the king.--Apud Giles, iv. 240; Bouquet, p. 210.
See also the letter of John, Bishop of Poitiers, who says of the Pope,
"Gravi redimit poenitentiâ, illam qualem qualem quam Eboracensi
(fecerit), concessionem."--Bouquet, p. 214.

[63] I follow De Bosham. Fitz-Stephen says that he was repelled from the
gates of the king's palace at Woodstock; and that he _afterwards_ went
to Romney to attempt to cross the sea.

[64] "Quievisset ille, si non acquievissent illi."--Becket, Epist. ii.
p. 5. Compare the whole letter.

[65] He had been sworn not on the Gospels, but on a troplogium, a book
of church music.

[66] Goods and chattels at the king's mercy were redeemable at a
customary fine: this fine, according to the customs of Kent, would have
been larger than according to those of London.--Fitz-Stephen.

[67] "Minus fore malum verenda patris detecta deridere, quam patris
ipsius personam judicare."--De Bosham, p. 135.

[68] Fitz-Stephen states this demand at 500 marks, and a second 500 for
which a bond had been given to a Jew.

[69] Neither party denied this acquittance given in the King's name by
the justiciary Richard de Luci. This, it should seem, unusual
precaution, or at least this precaution taken with such unusual care,
seems to imply some suspicion that without it, the archbishop was liable
to be called to account; an account which probably, from the splendid
prodigality with which Becket had lavished the King's money and his own,
it might be difficult or inconvenient to produce.

[70] In an account of this affair, written later, Becket accuses Foliot
of aspiring to the primacy--"et qui adspirabant ad fastigium ecclesiæ
Cantuarensis, ut vulgo dicitur et creditur, in nostram perniciem, utinam
minus ambitiosè, quam avidè." This could be none but Foliot.--Epist.
lxxv. p. 154.

[71] "Tanquam in proelio Domini, signifer Domini, vexillum Domini
erigens; illud etiam Domini non solum spiritualiter, sed et figuraliter
implens. 'Si quis,' inquit, 'vult meus esse discipulus, abneget semet
ipsum, tollat crucem suam et sequatur me.'"--De Bosham, p. 143. Compare
the letter of the Bishops to the Pope.--Giles, iv. 256; Bouquet, 224.

[72] "Quasi pila minantia pilis," quotes Fitz-Stephen; "Memento,"
said De Bosham, "quondam te extitisse regis Anglorum signiferum
inexpugnabilem, nunc vero si signifer regis Angelorum expugnaris,
turpissimum."--p. 146.

[73] "Dicebant enim episcopi, quod adhuc, ipsâ die, intra decem dies
datæ sententiæ, eos ad dominum Papam appellaverat, et ne de cetero eum
judicarent pro seculari querelâ, quæ de tempore ante archipræsulatum ei
moveretur, auctoritate domini Papæ prohibuit."--Fitz-Stephen, p. 230.

[74] Herbert de Bosham, p. 146.

[75] De Bosham's account is, that notwithstanding the first
interruption, Leicester reluctantly proceeded till he came to the word
"perjured," on which Becket rose and spoke.

[76] De Bosham, p. 150.

[77] Foliot and the King's envoys crossed the same day. It is rather
amusing that, though Becket crossed the same day in an open boat, and,
as is incautiously betrayed by his friends, suffered much from the rough
sea, the weather is described as in his case almost miraculously
favorable, in the other as miraculously tempestuous. So that while
Becket calmly glided over, Foliot in despair of his life threw off his
cowl and cope.

[78] Compare, however, Roger of Pontigny. By his account, the Count of
Flanders, a relative and partisan of Henry ("consanguineus et qui partes
ejus fovebat") would have arrested him. He escaped over the border by a
trick.--Roger de Pontigny, p. 148.

[79] Giles, iv. 253; Bouquet, p. 217.

[80] Epist. Nuntii; Giles, iv. 254; Bouquet, p. 217.

[81] Becket writes from England to the Pope: "Quod petimus, summo
silentio petimus occultari. Nihil enim nobis tutum est, quum omnia ferè
referuntur ad regem, quæ nobis in conclavi vel in aurem dicuntur." There
is a significant clause at the end of this letter, which implies that
the emissaries of the Church did not confine themselves to Church
affairs: "De Wallensibus et Oweno, qui se principem nominat,
_provideatis_, quia Dominus Rex super hoc maximè motus est et
indignatus." The Welsh were in arms against the King: this borders on
high treason.--Apud Giles, iii. 1. Bouquet, 221.

[82] The word "oportuebat" was too bad for monkish, or rather for Roman,

[83] According to Roger of Pontigny, there were some of them "qui
acceptâ a rege pecuniâ partes ejus fovebant," particularly William of
Pavia.--p. 153.

[84] Herbert de Bosham.

[85] Alani Vita (p. 362); and Alan's Life rests mainly on the authority
of John of Salisbury. Herbert de Bosham suppresses this.

[86] The Abbot of Pontigny was an ardent admirer of Becket. See letter
of the Bishop of Poitiers, Bouquet, p. 214. Prayers were offered up
throughout the struggle with Henry for Becket's success at Pontigny,
Citeaux, and Clairvaux.--Giles, iv. 255.

[87] Compare Lingard. Becket on this news exclaimed, as is said, "His
wise men are become fools; the Lord hath sent among them a spirit of
giddiness; they have made England to reel to and fro like a drunken
man."--Vol. iii. p. 227. No doubt, he would have it supposed God's
vengeance for his own wrongs.

[88] There are in Foliot's letters many curious circumstances about the
collection and transmission of Peter's Pence. In Alexander's present
state, notwithstanding the amity of the King of France, this source of
revenue was no doubt important.--Epist. 149, 172, &c. Alexander wrote
from Clermont to Foliot (June 8, 1165) to collect the tax, to do all in
his power for the recall of Becket: to Henry, reprobating the
Constitutions; to Becket, urging prudence and circumspection. This was
later. The Pope was then on his way to Italy, where he might need
Henry's gold.

[89] Becket, Epist. 4, p. 7.

[90] Edw. Grim.

[91] Bouquet, xvi. 256.

[92] The letters of John of Salisbury are full of allusions to the
proceedings at Wurtzburg.--Bouquet, p. 524. John of Oxford is said to
have denied the oath (p. 533); also Giles, iv. 264. He is from that time
branded by John of Salisbury as an arch liar.

[93] John of Oxford was rewarded for this service by the deanery of
Salisbury, vacant by the promotion of the dean to the bishopric of
Bayeux. Joscelin, Bishop of Salisbury, notwithstanding the papal
prohibition that no election should take place in the absence of some of
the canons, chose the safer course of obedience to the King's mandate.
This act of Joscelin was deeply resented by Becket. John of Oxford's
usurpation of the deanery was one of the causes assigned for his
excommunication at Vezelay. See also, on the loyal but somewhat
unscrupulous proceedings of John of Oxford, the letter (hereafter
referred to) of Nicholas de Monte Rotomagensi. It describes the attempt
of John of Oxford to prepossess the Empress Matilda against Becket. It
likewise betrays again the double-dealing of the Bishop of Lisieux,
outwardly for the King, secretly a partisan and adviser of Becket. On
the whole, it shows the moderation and good sense of the empress, who
disapproved of some of the Constitutions, and especially of their being
written, but speaks strongly of the abuses in the Church. Nicholas
admires her skillfulness in defending her son.--Giles, iv. 187. Bouquet,

[94] "Præcepit enim publicè et _compulit_ per vicos, per castella, per
civitates ab homine sene usque ab puerum duodenum beati Petri
successorem Alexandrum abjurare." William of Canterbury alone of
Becket's biographers (Giles, ii. p. 19) asserts this, but it is
unanswerably confirmed by Becket's Letter 78, iii. p. 192.

[95] The letter in Giles (vi. 279) is rather perplexing. It is placed by
Bouquet, agreeing with Baronius, in 1166; by Von Raumer (Geschichte der
Hohenstauffen, ii. p. 192) in 1165, before the Diet of Wurtzburg. This
cannot be right, as the letter implies that Alexander was in Rome, where
he arrived not before Nov. 1165. The embassy, though it seems that the
Emperor granted the safe-conduct, did not take place, at least as
regards some of the ambassadors.

[96] "Itaque per biennium ferme stetit." So writes Roger of Pontigny. It
is difficult to make out so long a time.--p. 154.

[97] Herbert de Bosham.--p. 226.

[98] Jer. i. 10.

[99] "Suavissimas literas, supplicationem solam, correptionem vero
nullam vel _modicam_ continentes."--De Bosham.

[100] Urbane by disposition as by name.--Ibid.

[101] Giles, iii. 365. Bouquet, p. 243.

[102] "Quin potius dura propinantes, dura pro duris, immo multo plus
duriora prioribus, reportaverunt."--De Bosham.

[103] The Pope had written (Jan. 28) to the bishops of England not to
presume to act without the consent of Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury.
April 5, he forbade Roger of York and the other prelates to crown the
King's son. May 3, he writes to Foliot and the bishops who had received
benefices of the King to surrender them under pain of anathema; to
Becket in favor of Joscelin, Bishop of Salisbury: he had annulled the
grant of the deanery of Salisbury to John of Oxford. May 10, to the
Archbishop of Rouen, denouncing the dealings of Henry with the Emperor
and the Antipope.--Giles, iv. 10 _a_ 80. Bouquet, 246.

[104] The inhibition given at Sens to proceed against the King, before
the Easter of the following year (A. D. 1166), had now expired. Moreover
he had a direct commission to proceed by Commination against those who
forcibly withheld the property of the see of Canterbury.--Apud Giles,
iv. 8. Bouquet, xvi. 844. At the same time the Pope urged great
discretion as to the King's person. Giles, iv. 12. Bouquet, 244.

[105] At the same time Becket wrote to Foliot of London, commanding him
under penalty of excommunication to transmit to him the sequestered
revenues of Canterbury in his hands.--Foliot appealed to the
Pope.--Foliot's Letter. Giles, vi. 5. Bouquet, 215.

[106] The curious History of the Monastery of Vezelay, by Hugh of
Poitiers (translated in Guizot, Collection des Mémoires), though it
twice mentions Becket, stops just short of this excommunication, 1166.
Vezelay boasted to be subject only to the See of Rome, to have been made
by its founder part of the patrimony of St. Peter. This was one great
distinction: the other was the unquestioned possession of the body of
St. Mary Magdalene, "l'amie de Dieu." Vezelay had been in constant
strife with the Bishop of Autun for its ecclesiastical, with the Count
of Nevers for its territorial, independence; with the monastery of
Clugny, as its rival. This is a document very instructive as to the life
of the age.

[107] A modern traveller thus writes of the church of Vezelay: "On voit
par le choix des sujets qui ont un sens, quel était l'esprit du temps et
la manière d'interpréter la religion. Ce n'était pas par la douceur ou
la persuasion qu'on voulait convertir, mais bien par la terreur. Les
discours des prêtres pourraient se résumer en ce peu de mots: 'Croyez,
ou sinon vous périssez misérablement, et vous serez éternellement
tourmentés dans l'autre monde!' De leur côté les artistes, gens
religieux, ecclésiastiques même pour la plupart, donnaient une forme
réelle aux sombres images que leur inspirait un zèle farouche. Je ne
trouve à Vezelay aucun de ces sujets que les ames tendres aimeraient à
retracer, tels que le pardon accordé au repentir, la récompense du
juste, &c.; mais au contraire, je vois Samuel égorgeant Agag; des
diables écartelant des damnés, ou les entraînant dans l'abîme; puis des
animaux horribles, des monstres hideux, des têtes grimaçantes exprimant
ou les souffrances des reprouvés, ou la joie des habitans de l'enfer.
Qu'on se représente la dévotion des hommes élevés au milieu de ces
images, et l'on s'étonnera moins des massacres des Albigeois."--Notes
d'un Voyage dans le Midi de la France, par Prosper Merimée, p. 43.

[108] Diceto gives the date Ascension Day, Herbert de Bosham St. Mary
Magdalene's Day (July 22d). It should seem that De Bosham's memory
failed him. See the letter of Nicolas de M. Rotomagensi, who speaks of
the excommunication as past, and that Becket was expected to
excommunicate _the King_ on St. Mary Magdalene's Day. This, if done at
Vezelay (as it were, over the body of the Saint, on her sacred day), had
been tenfold more awful.

[109] See the curious letter of Nicolas de Monte Rotomagensi, Giles iv.,
Bouquet, 250. This measure of Becket was imputed by the Archbishop of
Rheims to pride or anger ("extollentiæ aut iræ"): it made an unfavorable
impression on the Empress Matilda.--Ibid.

[110] Epist. Giles, iv. 185; Bouquet, 258.

[111] Epist. Giles, iv. 260; Bouquet, 256.

[112] Herbert de Bosham, p. 232.

[113] Epist. Giles, vi. 158; Bouquet, 259.

[114] "Non indignetur itaque Dominus noster deferre illis, quibus summus
omnium deferre non dedignatur, Deos appellans eos sæpius in sacris
literis. Sic enim dixit, 'Ego dixit, Dii estis,' et 'Constituti te Deum
Pharaonis,' et 'Deis non detrahere.'"--Epist. Giles, iii. p. 287;
Bouquet, 261.

[115] Foliot took the precaution of paying into the exchequer all
that he had received from the sequestered property of the see of
Canterbury.--Giles, v. p. 265. Lyttelton in Appendice.

[116] "Hæc est Domini regis toto orbe declamata crudelitas, hæc ab eo
persecutio, hæc operum ejus perversorum rumusculis undique divulgata
malignitas."--Giles, vi. 190; Bouquet, 265.

[117] Giles, iii. 6; Bouquet, 266. Compare letter of Bishop Elect of
Chartres.--Giles, vi. 211; Bouquet, 269.

[118] Foliot obtained letters either at this time or somewhat later from
his own Chapter of St. Paul, from many of the greatest dignitaries of
the English Church, the abbots of Westminster and Reading, and from some
distinguished foreign ecclesiastics, in favor of himself, his piety,
churchmanship, and impartiality.

[119] The German accounts are unanimous about the proceedings at
Wurtzburg and the oath of the English ambassadors. See the account in
Von Raumer (_loc. cit._), especially of the conduct of Reginald of
Cologne, and the authorities. John of Oxford is henceforth called, in
John of Salisbury's letters, jurator. Becket repeatedly charges him with
perjury.--Giles, iii. p. 129 and 351; Bouquet, 280. Becket there says
that John of Oxford had given up part of the "customs." He begs John of
Poitiers to let the King know this. See the very curious answer of John
of Poitiers.--Giles, vi. 251; Bouquet, 280. It appears that as all
Becket's letters to the Pope were copied and transmitted from Rome to
Henry, so John of Poitiers, outwardly the King's loyal subject, is the
secret spy of Becket. He speaks of those in England who thirst after
Becket's blood.

[120] The Pope acknowledges that this was extorted from him by fear of
Henry, and makes an awkward apology to Becket.--Giles, iv. 18; Bouquet,

[121] He was crowned in Rome August 1. Compare next chapter--Sismondi,
Républiques Italiennes, ii. ch. x.; Von Raumer, ii. p. 209, &c.

[122] Giles, iii. 128; Bouquet, 272. Compare Letters to Cardinals Boso
and Henry.--Giles, iii. 103, 113; Bouquet, 174. Letter to Henry
announcing the appointment, December 20.

[123] "Si non omnia secundum beneplacitum succedant, ad præsens
dissimulet."--Giles, vi. 15; Bouquet, 277.

[124] See the curious letter of Master Lombard, Becket's instructor in
the canon law, who boldly remonstrates with the Pope. He asserts that
Henry was so frightened at the menace of excommunication, his subjects,
even the bishops, at that of his interdict, that they were in despair.
Their only hope was in the death or some great disaster of the
Pope.--Giles, iv. 208; Bouquet, 282.

[125] See Letters of Louis; Giles, iv. 308; Bouquet, 287.

[126] "Strangulavit," a favorite word.--Giles, iii. 214; Bouquet, 284.

[127] Giles, iii. 235; Bouquet, 285.

[128] Compare John of Salisbury, p. 539. "Scripsit autem rex Domino
_Coloniensis_, Henricum Pisanum et Willelmum Papiensem in Franciam
venturos ad novas exactiones faciendas, ut undique conradant et
contrahant, unde Papa Alexander in urbe sustentetur; alter, ut nostis,
levis est et mutabilis, alter dolosus et fraudulentus, uterque cupidus
et avarus: et ideo de facili munera coenabunt eos et ad omnem
injustitiam incurvabunt. Audito eorum detestando adventu formidare cæpi
præsentiam eorum causæ vestræ multum nocituram; et ne vestro et
vestrorum sanguine gratiam Regis Angliæ redimere non erubescant." He
refers with great joy to the insurrection of the Saxons against the
Emperor. He says elsewhere of Henry of Pisa, "Vir bonæ opinionis est,
sed Romanus et Cardinalis."--Epist. cc. ii.

[129] The English bishops declare to the Pope himself that they had
received this concession, _scripto formatum_, from the Pope, and that
the King was furious at what he thought a deception.--Giles, vi. 194;
Bouquet, 304.

[130] The Pope wrote to the legates to soothe Becket and the King of
France; he accuses John of Oxford of spreading false reports about the
extent of their commission; John Cummin of betraying his letters to the
Antipope.--Giles, vi. 54.

[131] So completely does Becket's fortune follow that of the Pope, that
on June 17 Alexander writes to permit Roger of York to crown the King's
son; no sooner is he safe in Benevento, August 22 (perhaps the fever had
begun), than he writes to his legates to confirm the excommunications of
Becket, which he had suspended.

[132] Muratori, sub ann. 1167; Von Raumer, ii. 210. On the 1st of August
Frederick was crowned; September 4, he is at the Pass of Pontremoli, in
full retreat, or rather flight.

[133] In a curious passage in a letter written by Herbert de Bosham in
the name of Becket, Frederick's defeat is compared to Henry's
disgraceful campaign in Wales. "My enemy," says Becket, "in the
abundance of his valor, could not prevail against a breechless and
ragged people ('exbraccatum et pannosum')."--Giles, viii. p. 268.

[134] "Credimus non esse juri consentaneum, nos ejus subire judicium vel
examen qui quærit sibi facere commercium de sanguine nostro, de pretio
utinam non iniquitatis, quærit sibi nomen et gloriam."--D. Thom. Epist.
Giles, iii. p. 15. The two legates are described as "plus avaritiæ quam
justitiæ studiosi."--W. Cant. p. 21.

[135] Giles, iii. 157, and John of Salisbury's remarkable expostulatory
letter upon Becket's violence.--Bouquet, p. 566.

[136] Herbert de Bosham, p. 248; Epist. Giles, iii. 16; Bouquet, 296.

[137] Giles, iii. p. 21. Compare the whole letter.

[138] Foliot rather profanely said, the primate seems to think that as
sin is washed away in baptism, so debts are cancelled by promotion.

[139] "Ad mortem nos invitat et sanguinis effusionem, cum ipse mortem,
quam nemo sibi dignabatur aut minabatur inferre, summo studio
declinaverit et suum sanguinem illibatum conservando, ejus nec guttam
effundi voluerit."--Giles vi. 196. Bouquet, 304.

[140] Giles, vi. 148. Bouquet, 304.

[141] Giles, vi. 135, 141. Bouquet, 306. William of Pavia recommended
the translation of Becket to some other see.

[142] Giles, iii. 28. Bouquet, 306.

[143] One of his letters to William of Pavia begins with this fierce
denunciation: "Non credebam me tibi venalem proponendum emptoribus, ut
de sanguine meo compareres tibi compendium de pretio iniquitatis,
faciens tibi nomen et gloriam."--Giles, iii. 153. Becket always
represents his enemies as thirsting after his blood.

[144] Giles, iv. 128; vi. 133. Bouquet, 312, 313.

[145] Epist. Giles, ii. 24.

[146] He was at Benevento, though with different degrees of power, from
August 22, 1167, to Feb. 24, 1170.

[147] Giles, iii. p. 55. Bouquet, 317. Read the whole letter beginning
"Anima mea."

[148] Bouquet, 324.

[149] Epist. Giles, iv. Bouquet, 320.

[150] Their instructions are dated May 25, 1168. See also the wavering
letters to Becket and the King of France.--Giles, iv. p. 25, p. 111.

[151] "Sed quid? Nobis ita consilium suspendentibus et hæsitantibus quid
agendum a pacis mediatoribus, multis et magnis viris, et præsertim qui
inter ipsos a viris religiosis et aliis archipræsuli amicissimis et
familiarissimis, adeo sicut et supra diximus, suasus, tractus et
impulsus est, ut haberetur persuasus."--De Bosham, p. 268.

[152] "Sed mox adjecit, quod nec rex nec pacis mediatores, vel alii, vel
etiam sui propriè æstimaverunt, ut adjiceret videlicet 'Salvo honore
Dei.'"--De Bosham, p. 262. In his account to the Pope of this meeting,
Becket suppresses his own tergiversation on this point.--Epist. Giles,
iii. p. 43. Compare John of Salisbury (who was not present). Bouquet,

[153] "Ut quid nos et vos strangulatis?"--Epist. Giles, iii. 312.

[154] Throughout the Pope kept up his false game. He privately assured
the King of France that he need not be alarmed if himself (Alexander)
seemed to take part against the archbishop. The cause was safe in his
bosom. See the curious letter of Matthew of Sens.--Epist. Giles, iv. p.

[155] "Nunc præter ecclesiæ causam, expressam ipsius etiam Dei causam
agebamus."--De Bosham, 272.

[156] De Bosham, 278.

[157] Giles, iii. 290; vi. 293. Bouquet, 346.

[158] Giles, iii. 322. Bouquet, 348.

[159] Epist. Giles, iv. 225.

[160] Fragm. Vit. Giles, i. p. 371.

[161] "Et quod omnes Romanos datâ pecuniâ inducant ut faciant
fidelitatem domino Papæ, dummodo in nostrâ dejectione regis Angliæ
satisfaciat voluntati."--Epist. ad Humbold. Card. Giles, iii. 123.
Bouquet, 350. Compare Lambeth, on the effect of Italian affairs on the
conduct of the Pope.--p. 106.

[162] Epist. 188, p. 266.

[163] Fitz-Stephen, p. 271.

[164] "Domo vestra flagellum suspendit impius, ne quod promereret,
propinquorum vestrorum ministerio veniat super eum."--Giles, iii. 338.
Bouquet, 358.

[165] Giles, iii. 201. Bouquet, 361.

[166] "Amici ad Thomam."--Giles, iv. 277. Bouquet, 370.

[167] Henry, it should be observed, waived all the demands which he had
hitherto urged against Becket, for debts incurred during his

[168] Epist. Giles, iv. 216. Bouquet, 373.

[169] "Revocato consensu," writes the Bishop of Nevers, a moderate
prelate, who regrets the obstinacy of the nuncios. Giles, vi. 266.
Bouquet, 377. Compare the letter of the clergy of Normandy to the
Pope.--Giles, vi. 177. Bouquet, 377.

[170] Becket thought, or pretended to think, that under the
"dignitatibus" lurked the "consuetudinibus."--Giles, iii. 299. Bouquet,

[171] "Ceteras vestras recepimus, et ipsas adhuc penes nos habemus, in
quibus terram nostram et personas regni a præfata Cantuarensis potestate
eximebatis, donec ipse in gratiam nostram rediisset."--Epist. Giles, vi.
291. Bouquet, 374.

[172] "Nam quod mundus sentit, dolet, ingemiscit, nullus adeo iniquam
causam ad ecclesiam Romanam defert, quin ibi spe lucri concepta ne
dixerim odore sordium, adjutorem inveniat et patronum."--Epist. iii.
133; Bouquet, 382.

[173] Giles, iii. 250; Bouquet, 387.

[174] Giles, iii. 334; Bouquet, 388.

[175] Giles, iii. 42; Bouquet, 390. Reginald of Salisbury was an
especial object of Becket's hate. He calls him one born in fornication
("fornicarium"), son of a priest. Reginald hated Becket with equal
cordiality. Becket had betrayed him by a false promise of not injuring
his father. "Quod utique ipsi non plus quam cani faceremus."--This
letter contains Reginald's speech about Henry having the College of
Cardinals in his pay.--Giles, iii. 225; Bouquet, 391.

[176] Becket writes to the Pope, January 1170. "Nec vos oportet de
cætero vereri, ne transeat ad schismaticos, quod sic eum Christus in
manu famuli sui, regis Francorum subegit, ut ab obsequio ejus non possit
amplius separari."--p. 48.

[177] Many difficult points arose. Did Becket demand not merely the
actual possessions of the see, but all to which he laid claim? There
were three estates held by William de Ros, Henry of Essex, and John the
Marshall (the original object of dispute at Northampton?), which Becket
specifically required and declared that he would not give up if exiled
for ever.--Epist. Giles, iii. 220; Bouquet, 400.

[178] Epist. Giles, iii. 262; Bouquet, 199.

[179] Epist. ibid.; Radulph de Diceto.

[180] According to Pope Alexander, Henry offered that his son should
give the kiss of peace in his stead.--Giles, iv. 55.

[181] See his letter to his emissaries at Rome.--Giles, iii. 219;
Bouquet, 401.

[182] Ricardus Dorubernensis apud Twysden. Lord Lyttelton has another
copy, in his appendix; in that a ninth article forbade the payment of
Peter's Pence to Rome; it was to be collected and brought into the

[183] Epist. Giles, iii. 195; Bouquet, 404.

[184] Giles, iii. 192; Bouquet, 405.

[185] Dated February 12, 1170.

[186] Epist. Giles, iii. 96; Bouquet, 416; Giles, iii. 108; Bouquet,
419. "Sed pro eâ mori parati sumus." He adds: "Insurgant qui voluerint
cardinales, arment non modo regem Angliæ, sed totum, si possent orbem in
perniciem nostram.... Utinam via Romana non gratis peremisset tot
miseros innocentes. Quis de cetero audebit illi regi registere quem
ecclesia Romana tot triumphis animavit, et armavit exemplo pernitioso
manante ad posteros."

[187] "Nec persuadebitur mundo, quod suasores isti Deum saperent;
sed potius pecuniam, quam immoderato avaritiæ ardore sitiunt,
olfecerunt."--Giles, iv. 291; Bouquet, 417.

[188] Becket's depression at this event is dwelt upon in a letter of
Peter of Blois to John of Salisbury. Peter traveled from Rome to Bologna
with the Papal legates. From them he gathered that either Becket
would soon be reconciled to the King or be removed to another
patriarchate.--Epist. xxii. apud Giles, i. p. 84.

[189] Dr. Lingard holds this letter, printed by Lord Lyttelton, and
which he admits was produced, to have been a forgery. If it was, it was
a most audacious one; and a most flagrant insult to the Pope, whom Henry
was even now endeavoring to propitiate through the Lombard Republics and
the Emperor of the East (see Giles, iv. 10). It is remarkable, too, that
though the Pope declares that this coronation, contrary to his
prohibition (Giles, iv. 30), is not to be taken as a precedent, he has
no word of the forgery. Nor do I find any contemporary assertion of its
spuriousness. Becket, indeed, in his account of the last interview with
the King, only mentions the general permission granted by the Pope at an
early period of the reign; and argues as if this were the only
permission. Is it possible that a special permission to York to act was
craftily interpolated into the general permission? But the trick may
have been on the side of the Pope, now granting, now nullifying his own
grants by inhibition. Bouquet is strong against Baronius (as on other
points) upon Alexander's duplicity.--p. 434.

[190] Giles, iii. 229.

[191] Giles, iii. 302.

[192] "Dictum fuit aliquem dixisse vel scripsisse regi Anglorum de
Archepiscopo ut quid tenetur exclusus? melius tenebitur inclusus quam
exclusus. Satisque dictum fuit intelligenti."--p. 272.

[193] Giles, iv. 30; Bouquet, 436.

[194] "Nam de consuetudinibus quas tanta pervicaciâ vindicare
consueverat nec mutire præsumpsit." Becket was as mute. The issue of the
quarrel seems entirely changed. The Constitutions of Clarendon recede,
the right of coronation occupies the chief place.--See the long letter,
Giles, 65.

[195] Humbold Bishop of Ostia advised the confining the triumph to the
depression of the Archbishop of York and the excommunication of the
Bishops.--Giles, vi. 129; Bouquet, 443.

[196] "Licet ei (regi sc.) peperceritis, dissimulare non audetis
excessus et crimina sacerdotum." This letter is a curious revelation of
the arrogance and subtlety of Becket.--Giles, iii. 77.

[197] It is called the Pax.

[198] Becket disclaims vengeance: "Neque hoc dicimus, Deo teste,
vindictam expetentes, quum scriptum esse noverimus, non quæres ultionem
... sed ut ecclesia correctionis exemplo possit per Dei gratiam in
posterum roborare, et poena paucorum multos ædificare."--Giles, iii. 76.

[199] See Becket's account.--Giles, iii. p. 81.

[200] Lambeth says: "Visum est autem nonnullis, quod incircumspectè
literarum vindictâ post pacem usus est, que _tantum pacis desperatione
fuerint datæ_"--p. 116. Compare pp. 119 and 152.

[201] Lord Lyttelton has drawn an inference from these words unfavorable
to the purity of Idonea's former life; and certainly the examples of the
Magdalene and the woman of Egypt, if this be not the case, were
unhappily chosen.

[202] Fitz-Stephen, pp. 281, 284.

[203] Becket calls York his ancient enemy: "Lucifer ponens sedem suum in

[204] Becket accuses the bishops of thirsting for his blood! "Let them
drink it." But this was a phrase which he uses on all occasions, even to
William of Pavia.

[205] "Si vero ita eidem Archiepiscopo et Cantuarensi Ecclesiæ
satisfacere inveniretis, ut poenam istam ipse videat relaxandam, vice
nostrâ per illum volumus adimpleri."--Apud Bouquet, p. 461.

[206] "Ipse tamen Londonias adiens, et ibi missarum solenniis
celebratis, quosdam excommunicavit."--Passio, iii. p. 154.

[207] Since this passage was written an excellent and elaborate paper
has appeared in the Quarterly Review, full of local knowledge. I
recognize the hand of a friend from whom great things may be expected. I
find, I think, nothing in which we disagree, though that account, having
more ample space, is more particular than mine. (Reprinted in Memorials
of Canterbury, by Rev. A. P. Stanley.)

[208] Fitz-Stephen, De Bosham, Grim, _in loc._

[209] See, on the former history of these knights, Quarterly Review,
vol. xciii. p. 355. The writer has industriously traced out all that can
be known, much which was rumored about these men.

[210] Tuesday, Dec. 29. See, on the fatality of Tuesday in Becket's
life, Q. R. p. 357.

[211] Grim, p. 71. Fitz-Stephen.

[212] For the accurate local description, see Quarterly Review, p. 367.

[213] Grim, 70.

[214] John of Salisbury. Bouquet, 619, 620.

[215] Giles, iv. 162; Bouquet, 467. It was fitting that the day after
that of the Holy Innocents should be that on which should rise up this
new Herod.

[216] See the letter of Arnulf of Lisieux.--Bouquet, 469.

[217] The Quarterly reviewer has the merit of tracing out the
extraordinary fate of the murderers. "By a singular reciprocity, the
principle for which Becket had contended, that priests should not be
subjected to the secular courts, prevented the trial of a layman for the
murder of a priest by any other than a clerical tribunal." Legend
imposes upon them dark and romantic acts of penance; history finds them
in high places of trust and honor.--pp. 377, _et seqq._ I may add that
John of Oxford five years after was Bishop of Norwich. Ridel too became
of Ely.

[218] Diceto, p. 557.

[219] This stipulation, in Henry's view, canceled hardly any; as few,
and these but trifling customs, had been admitted during his reign.

[220] The scene is related by all the monkish chroniclers.--Gervaise,
Diceto, Brompton, Hoveden.

[221] Peter of Blois was assured by the two cardinal legates of Henry's
innocence of Becket's death. See this letter, which contains a most
high-flown eulogy on the transcendent virtues of Henry.--Epist. 66.

[222] On the effect of the death, and the immediate concourse of the
people to Canterbury, Lambeth, p. 133.

[223] Herbert de Bosham, writing fourteen years after Becket's death,
declares him among the most undisputed martyrs. "Quod alicujus martyrum
causa justior fuit aut apertior ego nec audivi, nec legi." So completely
were clerical immunities part and parcel of Christianity.

[224] The enemies of Becket assigned base reasons for his opposition to
the King. "Ecclesiasticam etiam libertatem, quam defensatis, non ad
animarum lucrum sed ad augmentum pecuniarum, episcopos vestros
intorquere." See the charges urged by John of Oxford.--Giles, iv. p.

[225] Especially in Epist. 19. "Interim."

[226] It is not just to judge the clergy by the crimes of individual
men, but there is one case, mentioned by no less an authority than John
of Salisbury, too flagrant to pass over: it was in Becket's own
cathedral city. Immediately after Becket's death the Bishops of Exeter
and Worcester were commissioned by Pope Alexander to visit St.
Augustine's, Canterbury. They report the total dilapidation of the
buildings and estates. The prior elect "Jugi, quod hereticus damnat,
fluit libidine, et hinnit in foeminas, adeo impudens ut libidinem, nisi
quam publicaverit, voluptuosam esse non reputat." He debauched mothers
and daughters: "Fornicationis abusum comparat necessitati." In one
village he had seventeen bastards.--Epist. 310.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

The original book is an excerpt of the author's "History of Latin
Christianity, Vol. IV.," chapter VIII, pages 309-424. A copy of that
volume at http://archive.org/details/historylatinchri04milm was used to
help correct typographical errors in this eBook.

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book or its source; otherwise they were not

Sidenotes are identified as: [SN: text of sidenote]

Sidenotes originally appearing near the start of a paragraph are
positioned at the beginning of the paragraph; sidenotes in the middle
of long paragraphs usually are positioned just before the nearest

Footnotes have been renumbered in a single sequence for the entire book.

Table of Contents added by Transcriber; the original book did not have a
Table of Contents, an Index, or any illustrations.

Page vi: "18vo." changed from "18mo."

Footnote 107: changed "écartelent" to "écartelant," as spelled in
"History of Latin Christianity" and in the cited book, "Notes d'un
Voyage dans le Midi de la France." The name of the author of
"Notes" appears as "Merimée" in this book and in "History of Latin
Christianity," but is spelled "Mérimée" in that author's own book,

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