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and Berkham, large baronies that had escheated to the crown: and to complete his grandeur, he was intrusted with the education of prince Henry, the king's eldest son, and heir of the monarchy. The pomp of his retinue, the sumptuousness of his furniture, the luxury of his table, the munificence of his presents, corresponded to these great preferments; or rather exceeded any thing that England had ever before seen in any subject. His historian and secretary, Fitz-Stephens ", mentions, among other particulars, that his apartments were every day in winter covered with clean straw or hay, and in summer with green rushes or boughs, lest the gentlemen who paid court to him, and who could not, by reason of their great number, find a place at table, should soil their fine clothes by sitting on a dirty floor*. A great number of knights were retained in his service; the greatest barons were proud of being received at his table; his house was a place of education for the sons of the chief nobility; and the king himself frequently vouchsafed to partake of his entertainments. As his way of life was splendid and opulent, his amusements and occupations were gay, and partook of the cavalier spirit, which, as he had only taken deacon's orders, he did not think unbefitting his character. He employed himself at leisure hours in hunting, hawking, gaming, and horsemanship; he exposed his person in several military actions'; he carried over, at his own charge, seven hundred knights to attend the king in his wars at Toulouse; in the subsequent wars on the frontiers of Normandy, he maintained, during forty days, twelve hundred knights, and four thousand of their train; and in an embassy to France, with which he was intrusted, he astonished that court by the number and magnificence of his retinue.
Henry, besides committing all his more important busi
u P. 15. * John Baldwin
Fitz-Steph. p. 15. Hist. Quad, p. 9. 14. held the manor of Oterarsfee in Aylesbury of the king in soccage, by the service of finding litter for the king's bed, viz. in summer, grass or herbs, and two grey geese, and in winter, straw, and three eels, thrice in the year, if the king should come thrice in the year to Aylesbury. Madox, Bar. Anglica, p. 247. y Fitz-Steph. p. 23. Hist. Quad. p. 9. Fitz-Steph. p. 19, 20. 22, 23.
ness to Becket's management, honoured him with his
Becket, who, by his complaisance and good humour, had rendered himself agreeable, and by his industry and abilities useful, to his master, appeared to him the fittest person for supplying the vacancy made by the death of Theobald. As he was well acquainted with the king's intentions of retrenching, or rather confining within the ancient bounds, all ecclesiastical privileges, and always showed a ready disposition to comply with them, Henry, who never expected any resistance from that quarter, immediately issued orders for electing him archbishop of Canterbury. But this resolution, which was taken contrary to the opinion of Matilda, and many of the ministers, drew after it very unhappy consequences; and never prince of so great penetration appeared, in the issue, to have so little understood the genius and character of his minister.
a Fitz-Steph. p. 16.
Fitz-Steph. p. 16.
Hist. Quad. p. 8.
No sooner was Becket installed in this high dignity, which rendered him for life the second person in the kingdom, with some pretensions of aspiring to be the first, than he totally altered his demeanour and conduct, and endeavoured to acquire the character of sanctity, of which his former busy and ostentatious course of life might, in the eyes of the people, have naturally bereaved him. Without consulting the king, he immediately returned into his hands the commission of chancellor; pretending, that he must thenceforth detach himself from secular affairs, and be solely employed in the exercise of his spiritual function; but in reality, that he might break off all connexions with Henry, and apprise him, that Becket, as primate of England, was now become entirely a new personage. He maintained, in his retinue and attendants alone, his ancient pomp and lustre, which was useful to strike the vulgar: in his own person he affected the greatest austerity and most rigid mortification, which he was sensible would have an equal or a greater tendency to the same end. He wore sackcloth next his skin, which, by his affected care to conceal it, was necessarily the more remarked by all the world: he changed it so seldom, that it was filled with dirt and vermin: his usual diet was bread; his drink water, which he even rendered farther unpalatable by the mixture of unsavoury herbs: he tore his back with the frequent discipline which he inflicted on it: he daily on his knees washed, in imitation of Christ, the feet of thirteen beggars, whom he afterwards dismissed with presents: he gained the affections of the monks by his frequent charities to the convents and hospitals: every one who made profession of sanctity, was admitted to his conversation, and returned full of panegyrics on the humility, as well as on the piety and mortification of the holy primate: he seemed to be perpetually employed in reciting prayers and pious lectures, or in perusing religious discourses: his aspect wore the appearance of seriousness and mental recollection, and secret devotion: and all men of penetration plainly saw that he f Fitz-Steph. p. 25. Hist. Quad. p. 19.
was meditating some great design, and that the ambition and ostentation of his character had turned itself towards a new and more dangerous object.
Becket waited not till Henry should commence those Quarrel be- projects against the ecclesiastical power, which he knew had been formed by that prince: he was himself the aggressor; and endeavoured to overawe the king by the intrepidity and boldness of his enterprises. He summoned the earl of Clare to surrender the barony of Tunbridge, which, ever since the conquest, had remained in the family of that nobleman, but which, as it had formerly belonged to the see of Canterbury, Becket pretended his predecessors were prohibited by the canons to alienate. The earl of Clare, besides the lustre which he derived from the greatness of his own birth and the extent of his possessions, was allied to all the principal families in the kingdom; his sister, who was a celebrated beauty, had farther extended his credit among the nobility, and was even supposed to have gained the king's affections; and Becket could not better discover, than by attacking so powerful an interest, his resolution of maintaining with vigour the rights, real or pretended, of his see.
William de Eynsford, a military tenant of the crown, was patron of a living which belonged to a manor that held of the archbishop of Canterbury; but Becket, without regard to William's right, presented, on a new and illegal pretext, one Laurence to that living, who was violently expelled by Eynsford. The primate, making himself, as was usual in spiritual courts, both judge and party, issued in a summary manner the sentence of excommunication against Eynsford, who complained to the king, that he, who held in capite' of the crown, should, contrary to the practice established by the Conqueror, and maintained ever since by his successors, be subjected to that terrible sentence without the previous consent of the sovereign1. Henry, who had now broken off all personal intercourse with Becket, sent him, by a mesh M. Paris, p. 7.
king and Becket.
Fitz-Steph. p. 28. Gervase, p. 1384.
senger, his orders to absolve Eynsford; but received for answer, that it belonged not to the king to inform him whom he should absolve and whom excommunicate1: and it was not till after many remonstrances and menaces that Becket, though with the worst grace imaginable, was induced to comply with the royal mandate.
Henry, though he found himself thus grievously mistaken in the character of the person whom he had promoted to the primacy, determined not to desist from his former intention of retrenching clerical usurpations. He was entirely master of his extensive dominions: the prudence and vigour of his administration, attended with perpetual success, had raised his character above that of any of his predecessors: the papacy seemed to be weakened by a schism which divided all Europe: and he rightly judged that, if the present favourable opportunity were neglected, the crown must, from the prevalent superstition of the people, be in danger of falling into an entire subordination under the mitre.
The union of the civil and ecclesiastical power serves extremely, in every civilized government, to the maintenance of peace and order; and prevents those mutual encroachments which, as there can be no ultimate judge between them, are often attended with the most dangerous consequences. Whether the supreme magistrate who unites these powers receives the appellation of prince or prelate, is not material: the superior weight which temporal interests commonly bear in the apprehensions of men above spiritual, renders the civil part of his character most prevalent; and in time prevents those gross impostures and bigoted persecutions which, in all false religions, are the chief foundation of clerical authority. But during the progress of ecclesiastical usurpations, the state, by the resistance of the civil magistrate, is naturally thrown into convulsions; and it behoves the prince, both for his own interest and for that of the public, to provide in time sufficient barriers against so dangerous and insidious a rival. This precaution had hitherto been much i Fitz-Steph. p. 28. Epist. St. Thom. p. 130.