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nowhere so much trade, that no city in the world sent out its merchandise to so great a distance; that the London citizens were distinguished above all others in England for the elegance of their manners and dress, and the magnificence of their tables. There were already thirteen large conventual churches and one hundred and thirty-six parochial churches within the city and suburbs. It was in fact during this reign that London first became decidedly what Fitz-Stephen calls it, the capital of the kingdom of England. But other trading cities were rapidly rising in importance, as Bristol, Gloucester, Winchester, Chester, Dunwich, Norwich, Lynn, Lincoln, and Whitby. Great attention was paid to the commercial navy, which was entirely manned by men of the Saxon or mixed race; and the frequent use Henry was obliged to make of this shipping in conveying his troops and stores to the Continent, and in attacking maritime towns, taught him to consider the naval force of England as an important arm of its strength. The commerce of England had never been so great since the departure of the Romans as it became during the reign of Henry II. And perhaps it had not so flourished even in the best time of the Roman dominion. The enriched citizens of London lived like barons and were frequently called so; and already some of the noblest of the aristocracy contracted matrimonial alliances with them. The two races were now entirely forgetting their old animosities, were coalescing into one undivided and indivisible nation, and under the common name of Englishman they had all English feelings, and were already beginning to show a spirit of resistance to all arbitrary power, and a knowledge and love of free institutions.
64.—THE FALL OF THOMAS A BECKET THIERRY.
In the year 1164, the royal justiciaries, revoking de facto the ancient law of the conqueror, summoned before their assizes a priest who was accused of rape and of murder; but the Archbishop of Canterbury, as ecclesiastical superior of all England, declared the summons to be null, in virtue of the privileges of the clergy, which were as ancient in the country as those of the Norman kings. He sent some agents of his own to seize the culprit, who was brought before an ecclesiastical tribunal, publicly beaten with rods, and suspended from all office for several years. This affair, in which justice was respected up to a certain point, but in which the authority of the royal judges was entirely disregarded, gave great offence. Those of Norman descent were divided into two parties, of which the one approved, and the other severely censured the conduct of the primate. The bishops were for him, and the military men, the court, and the king were against him. The king, naturally obstinate, suddenly converted this individual difference into a question of general legislation ; and, convoking a great assembly of all the nobles and prelates, he solemnly exposed to them the numerous offences committed every day by the priests, and added that he had discovered the means of repressing these disorders by following the ancient customs of his predecessors, especially those of his grandfather Henry I. ; he asked, according to the usual form, all the members of the assembly if they did not think it right that he should revive the customs of his grandfather. The laymen replied that such was their desire ; but all the clerks, with Thomas at their head, answered: “As far as is consistent with the honour of God, and of the holy church.” “There is venom in those words,” replied the king in anger; he immediately left the bishops without saluting them, and the affair remained undecided.
A few days after Henry II, called separately to his presence Roger, archbishop of York, Robert de Melun, bishop of Hereford, and some other English prelates, whose names by their French nature sufficiently indicate their origin. By promises, long explanations, and, perhaps, insinuations about the Englishman Becket's supposed designs against the nobles of England, in short, by several arguments which historians do not particularize, the Anglo-Norman bishops were nearly all won overto the king's side ; they promised to favour the re-establishment of the alleged customs of Henry I, who, to say the truth, had never practised any except those of William the Conqueror, the founder of the ecclesiastical privileges, and of the papal supremacy in England. The king further applied to the pope, for the second time since his dispute with the Archbishop ; and the pope, compliant to excess, at once sided with him, without examining into the rights of the affair; he even deputed a special messenger, with apostolical letters, enjoining all the prelates, and especially him of Canterbury, to accept and observe all the laws of the king of England, whatever they might be. Standing alone in his opposition, and deprived of all hope of support, Becket was forced to yield. He went to the king at his residence at Woodstock, and promised, like the other bishops, to observe with good faith, and without any restrictions, all the laws that should be made. In order that this promise might be renewed in an authentic manner, in the midst of a solemn assembly, king Henry convoked, in the village of Clarendon, three miles from Salisbury a great council of the Anglo-Normans, archbishops, bishops, abbots, oriors, eails, barons, and knights.
The assembly of Clarendon was held in the month of March, in the year 1164, John, bishop of Oxford, presiding. The king's orators made a statement of the reforms, and entirely new arrangements which he was pleased to entitle the ancient customs and liberties of his grandfather, Henry I. The bishops gave their solemn approbation to all they had heard; but Becket refused his, accusing himself, on the contrary, of folly and weakness in having promised to observe without reservation the laws of the king, whatever they might be. The whole Norman council was in an uproar. The bishops supplicated Thomas, and the barons menaced him. Two knights of the Temple implored him, with tears, not to dishonour the king; and whilst this scene was taking place in the great hall, there might be seen in the adjoining apartment men buckling on their coats of mail, and girding themselves with their swords. The archbishop was alarmed, and gave his word to observe without reservation the customs of the king's grandfather, declaring, however, that, not being so quick as his colleagues, he had need of time to examine these customs before he could verify them. The assembly appointed commissioners to draw them up into articles; and admitting the archbishop's pretext of ignorance, adjourned the final decision of this affair to the following day.
The next day, the ancient customs, or constitutions, of Henry I. were produced in writing, divided into sixteen articles, containing an entire system of dispositions, which were quite contrary to the earliest made by the Anglo-Norman kings, that is to say, the ordinances of William the Conqueror. There were besides, some special regulations, one of which forbade the ordination as priests, without the consent of their lord, of those who in the Norman language were called natifs or naos, that is to say the serfs, who were all of the indigenous race. The bishops were required to affix their seals in wax at the foot of the parchment which contained these sixteen articles; they all did so, with the exception of Thomas, who demanded a greater delay, and a copy of the new laws to examine. But the want of the archbishop's consent did not prevent the new constitutions from being promulgated. Letters were dispatched from the royal chancery addressed to all the Norman judges or justiciaries in England, and on the continent. These letters ordered them in the
name of Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, duke of Normandy, duke of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priests, earls, barons, citizens, burgesses, and peasants to execute and observe the ordinances decreed at the great council of Clarendon. A letter from the bishop of Poitiers, who received like dispatches, carried into his diocese by Simon de Tournebu, and Richard de Lacy, justiciaries, makes known in detail the instructions that they contained. It is curious to compare these instructions with the laws published twenty-four years before, in the name of William I., and his council; for in both cases we find the same threats and the same penalties attached to laws entirely opposed to each other. “They have forbidden me,” says the bishop of Poitiers, “to summon before a court of justice any one whomsoever in my diocese, on the suit of a widow, an orphan, or a priest, unless the king's officers, or the lords of the fief, on whom the litigated cause depended, should have refused to render justice; they have declared that if any one obeys my summons, all his goods shall be immediately confiscated, and himself imprisoned; finally, they have signified to me, that if I excommunicate those that refuse to appear before my episcopal court, the excommunicated might without any displeasure to the king, attach my person, or the persons of my clerks, my own property, or that of my church.” From the moment when these laws, made by the Normans in a village of England, were decreed as obligatory on the inhabitants of nearly all the west of Gaul, Angevins, Manseaux, Bretons, Poitevins, and Acquitainians, and all this varied population was agitated by the quarrel of Henry II. and the archbishop, Thomas a Becket, the court of Rome began to regard with more attention an affair which, in so short a time, had atquired so much importance. This court, profoundly politic, from henceforth applied itself to gather the greatest possible advantage, either from war, or peace. The archbishop of Rouen, Rotron, who was less interested than the Anglo-Normans in the conflict between the English king and primate, came with a mission from the pope, to observe things on the spot, and at all events to propose an accommodation under pontifical mediation. But king Henry, elated by his triumph, replied that he should not accept this mediation unless the pope would previously confirm, by an apostolic bull, the articles of Clarendon, and the pope, who was more likely to gain, than to lose, by delay, refused to give his sanction until he was better informed about the case. Then Henry II, soliciting for the third time the support of the pontifical court against his antagonist Becket, sent a solemn embassy to Alexander III, asking him to confer upon Roger, archbishop of York, the title of apostolic legate in England, with authority to make and to unmake, to appoint and to discharge. Alexander did not grant this request, but he conferred on the king himself, by a formal commission, the title and the rights of legate, with full powers to act on every point but one, which was the deposition of the primate. The king, seeing that the pope's intention was to determine nothing, received this new kind of commission with marks of vexation, and returned it immediately. “We shall employ our own authority,” he said, “and we believe that it will be sufficient to cause those to return to their duty who have evil designs upon our honour.” The primate, abandoned by the Anglo-Norman barons and bishops, and having on his side only poor monks, citizens, and serfs, felt that he should be too weak to stand against his antagonist if he remained in England, and resolved to seek support and refuge elsewhere. He went to the port of Romney, and twice went on board a ship ready to start, but both times the crew, fearing the anger of the nobles and the king, refused to set sail. Some months after the assembly of Clarendon, Henry II. convoked another at Northampton, and Thomas with the other bishops, received his letter of convocation; he arrived on the day appointed, and took a lodging in the town; but he had scarcely engaged it, when the king ordered it to be occupied by his servants and horses. Enraged at this insult, the archbishop sent word that he should not appear at the parliament, unless his house was evacuated by the king's horses and men. It was consequently given up to him ; but the uncertainty which he felt as to the issue of this unequal contest, made him fear to get more deeply involved in it, and, humiliating as it was to him to ask any thing of the man who had just so grossly insulted him, he repaired to the king's hotel and demanded an audience: he waited in vain the whole day, whilst Henry II. was amusing himself with his falcons and dogs. The next day he went again, and stationed himself in the king's chapel during mass, and approaching the king with a respectful air as he went out, he asked his permission to go into France, “Very well,” replied the king; “but, first, you must render me satisfaction for several things, and especially for the wrong that you have done in your court to my marshal, John.” The fact was this: the Norman John, surnamed the Marshal on account of his military office, had appeared before the episcopal court of justice at Canterbury, to reclaim some land from the bishopric, which he pretended to have a right to as an hereditary possession. The primate's judges had rejected his claim as ill-founded, and the complainant had then falsified the court, that is to say, protested on oath, that it had denied him justice. “I admit,” replied Thomas to the king, “that John the marshal presented himself before my court; but far from receiving any injury from me, it is I who have received one from him; for he brought a songbook, and it was on this that he swore that my court was false, and had denied justice; whereas, according to the law of the kingdom, whoever wishes to falsify the court of another, must swear on the holy gospels.” The king affected to take no account of this excuse. The accusation of a denial of justice brought against the archbishop was prosecuted before the great Norman council, which condemned him, and, by its sentence, adjudged him to the mercy of the king, that is to say, adjudged to the king all that he pleased to take of the goods of the condemned. Becket was at first tempted to protest against this sentence, and to falsify judgment, as it was then termed ; but the consciousness of his weakness determined him to compound with his judges, and he compromised the matter by paying a fine of five hundred pounds. Becket returned home with a heart saddened by the mortifications which he had met with, and vexation caused him to fall ill. As soon as the king learnt this, he hastened to send him a summons to re-appear without a day's delay before the assembly of Northampton, to render an account of all the sums of money and all the public revenues of which he had had the management during his chancellor. ship. “I am weak and suffering,” replied Thomas to the royal officers, “and besides, the king knows as well as I do, that on the day that I was consecrated arch. bishop, the barons of his exchequer and Richard de Lacy, justiciary of England, declared me to be free from all charge and claim.” The legal citation was not withdrawn; but Thomas neglected to obey it, alleging his illness as a pretext. Several times agents of justice came to ascertain how far it was impossible for him to perform a journey; and they signified to him the amount of the king's claims, which was forty-four thousand marks. The archbishop offered to pay two thousand marks to free himself from this vexatious action, commenced with such evil intentions; but Hénry II. refused every sort of accommodation, for in this affair, it was not the money which tempted him. “Either I will cease to be king,” he cried, “or this man shall cease to be archbishop.” The delay accorded by law had expired, it was necessary that Becket should pre
sent himself, and on the other hand he had been warned, that if he appeared at court it would not be without endangering his life. In this extremity, summoning all his strength of soul, he resolved to go there and to be firm. On the morning of the decisive day, he celebrated the mass of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the office of which commences with these words: “The princes have sat in council to deliberate against me.” . . After the mass he clothed himself in his pontifical robes, and, having taken his silver cross from the hands of him who usually bore it, he set out, carrying the cross in his right hand, and with the left holding the reins of his horse. Alone, and still holding his cross, he arrived in the great hall of the assembly, passed through the crowd, and seated himself. Henry II. was then in a more private apartment with his particular friends, engaged in discussing the means of getting rid of the archbishop with the least possible disturbance. The news of the unexpected manner in which he had just made his entrance, disturbed the king and his advisers. One of them, Gilbert Foliet, bishop of London, hastily left the lesser apartment, and approaching the spot where Thomas was seated, said to him, “Why dost thou come thus armed with thy cross " And he seized the cross to take it from him, but the primate held it firmly. The archbishop of York then joined the bishop of London, and addressed himself to Becket, saying, “It is a defiance to the king, our lord, to come armed to his court; but the king has a sword, the point of which is sharper than that of a pastoral staff.” The other bishops, showing less violence, contented themselves with advising Thomas, for the sake of his own interest, to place his archiepiscopal dignity at the mercy of the king; but he did not listen to them. Whilst this scene was taking place in the great hal, Henry II. experienced great mortification in seeing his adversary under the safe-guard of his pontifical vestments, the bishops, who, at the first moment, had all given their approbation to the projects of violence formed against their colleague, were now silent, and avoided encouraging the courtiers to lay hands on the stole and cross. The king's advisers were uncertain what to resolve, when one of them began to speak, in these words: “Why should we not suspend him from all his rights and privileges by an appeal to St. Peter; that is the means to disarm him.” This advice, received like a ray of light, pleased the king exceedingly, and by his orders, the bishop of Chichester, advancing towards Thomas à Becket, at the head of all the others, addressed him in the following words:— “Formerly, thou wert our archbishop, but now we disown thee, for, after having promised fidelity to the king, our common lord, and sworn to maintain his ordinances, thou hast striven to destroy them. We then declare thee a traitor and a perjurer, and profess openly that we are no longer bound to obey one who has perjured himself, placing our cause under the approbation of our lord the pope, before whom we cite thee to appear.” To this declaration, made with all the pomp of legal forms, and all the emphasis of confidence, Becket replied with these few words:–“I hear what you say.” The great assembly of the nobles was then opened, and William Foliet appeared before it to accuse the ci devant archbishop of having celebrated a mass in contempt of the king, under the invocation of the evil spirit; then came the demand for the rendering of the accounts of the chancellorship, and the claim of fourty-four thousand marks. Becket refused to plead, attesting the solemn declaration which had formerly discharged him from all ulterior responsibility. Then the king, rising, said to the barons and prelates:—“By the faith that you owe me, do me prompt justice upon him who is my liege-man, and who, after having been duly summoned, refuses to answer in my court.” The Normans gave their votes, and pronounced sentence of imprisonment against Thomas à Becket. When Robert, earl of Leicester Q