« TrướcTiếp tục »
to observe the constitutions; and he took an oath to that purpose. The king, thinking that he had now finally prevailed in this great enterprise, sent the constitutions to pope Alexander, who then resided in France; and he required that pontiff's ratification of them: but Alexander, who, though he had owed the most important obligations to the king, plainly saw that these laws were calculated to establish the independency of England on the papacy, and of the royal power on the clergy, condemned them in the strongest terms; abrogated, annulled, and rejected them. There were only six articles, the least important, which, for the sake of peace, he was willing to ratify.
Becket, when he observed that he might hope for support in an opposition, expressed the deepest sorrow for his compliance; and endeavoured to engage all the other bishops in a confederacy to adhere to their common rights, and to the ecclesiastical privileges, in which he represented the interest and honour of God to be so deeply concerned. He redoubled his austerities in order to punish himself for his criminal assent to the constitutions of Clarendon he proportioned his discipline to the enormity of his supposed offence: and he refused to exercise any part of his archiepiscopal function, till he should receive absolution from the pope, which was readily granted him. Henry, informed of his present dispositions, resolved to take vengeance for this refractory behaviour; and he attempted to crush him by means of that very power which Becket made such merit in supporting. He applied to the pope that he should grant the commission of legate in his dominions to the archbishop of York; but Alexander, as politic as he, though he granted the commission, annexed a clause, that it should not impower the legate to execute any act in prejudice of the archbishop of Canterbury: and the king, finding how fruitless such an authority would prove, sent back the commission by the same messenger that brought it".
The primate, however, who found himself still exposed y Epist.
* Fitz-Steph. p. 45. Hist. Quad. p. 39. Gervase, p. 1386. St. Thom. p. 13, 14.
z Hoveden, p. 493. Gervase, p. 1388.
to the king's indignation, endeavoured twice to escape secretly from the kingdom; but was as often detained by contrary winds: and Henry hastened to make him feel the effects of an obstinacy which he deemed so criminal. He instigated John, mareschal of the exchequer, to sue Becket in the archiepiscopal court for some lands, part of the manor of Pageham; and to appeal thence to the king's court for justice". On the day appointed for trying the cause, the primate sent four knights to represent certain irregularities in John's appeal; and at the same time to excuse himself, on account of sickness, for not appearing personally that day in the court. This slight offence (if it even deserve the name) was represented as a grievous contempt; the four knights were menaced, and with difficulty escaped being sent to prison, as offering falsehoods to the court; and Henry, being determined to prosecute Becket to the utmost, summoned at Northampton a great council, which he purposed to make the instrument of his vengeance against the inflexible prelate.
The king had raised Becket from a low station to the highest offices, had honoured him with his countenance and friendship, had trusted to his assistance in forwarding his favourite project against the clergy; and when he found him become of a sudden his most rigid opponent, while every one beside complied with his will, rage at the disappointment, and indignation against such signal ingratitude, transported him beyond all bounds of moderation; and there seems to have entered more of passion than of justice, or even of policy, in this violent prosecution. The barons, notwithstanding, in the great council voted whatever sentence he was pleased to dictate to them; and the bishops themselves, who undoubtedly bore a secret favour to Becket, and regarded him as the champion of their privileges, concurred with the rest in the design of oppressing their primate. In vain did Becket urge that his court was proceeding with the utmost regularity and justice in trying the mareschal's cause; which, however, he
b See note R,
a Hoveden, p. 494. M. Paris, p. 72. Diceto, p. 537. at the end of the volume. c Neubr. p. 394.
said, would appear, from the sheriff's testimony, to be entirely unjust and iniquitous: that he himself had discovered no contempt of the king's court; but, on the contrary, by sending four knights to excuse his absence, had virtually acknowledged its authority: that he also, in consequence of the king's summons, personally appeared at present in the great council, ready to justify his cause against the mareschal, and to submit his conduct to their inquiry and jurisdiction: that even should it be found that he had been guilty of non-appearance, the laws had affixed a very slight penalty to that offence: and that, as he was an inhabitant of Kent, where his archiepiscopal palace was seated, he was by law entitled to some greater indulgence than usual in the rate of his fine. Notwithstanding these pleas, he was condemned as guilty of a contempt of the king's court, and as wanting in the fealty which he had sworn to his sovereign; all his goods and chattels were confiscated; and that this triumph over the church might be carried to the utmost, Henry, bishop of Winchester, the prelate who had been so powerful in the former reign, was, in spite of his remonstrances, obliged, by order of the court, to pronounce the sentence against him. The primate submitted to the decree; and all the prelates, except Folliot, bishop of London, who paid court to the king by this singularity, became șureties for him. It is remarkable, that several Norman barons voted in this council; and we may conclude, with some probability, that a like practice had prevailed in many of the great councils summoned since the conquest. For the contemporary historian, who has given us a full account of these transactions, does not mention this circumstance as anywise singular1; and Becket, in all his subsequent remonstrances with regard to the severe treatment which he had met with, never founds any objection on an irregularity, which to us appears very palpable and flagrant. So little precision was there at that time in the government and constitution!
Fitz-Steph. p. 37. 42. e Hist. Quad. p. 47. vase, p. 1389. Fitz-Steph. p. 37.
Hoveden, p. 494. Ger
h Ibid. p. 36.
The king was not content with this sentence, however violent and oppressive. Next day he demanded of Becket the sum of three hundred pounds, which the primate had levied upon the honours of Eye and Berkham, while in his possession. Becket, after premising that he was not obliged to answer to this suit, because it was not contained in his summons; after remarking that he had expended more than that sum in the repairs of those castles, and of the royal palace at London, expressed, however, his resolution, that money should not be any ground of quarrel between him and his sovereign: he agreed to pay the sum; and immediately gave sureties for it. In the subsequent meeting, the king demanded five hundred marks, which, he affirmed, he had lent Becket during the war at Toulouse *; and another sum to the same amount, for which that prince had been surety for him to a jew. Immediately after these two claims, he preferred a third of still greater importance: he required him to give in the accounts of his administration while chancellor, and to pay the balance due from the revenues of all the prelacies, abbeys, and baronies, which had, during that time, been subjected to his management'. Becket observed that, as this demand was totally unexpected, he had not come prepared to answer it; but he required a delay, and promised in that case to give satisfaction. The king insisted upon sureties; and Becket desired leave to consult his suffragans in a case of such importance".
It is apparent, from the known character of Henry, and from the usual vigilance of his government, that, when he promoted Becket to the see of Canterbury, he was, on good grounds, well pleased with his administration in the former high office with which he had intrusted him; and that, even if that prelate had dissipated money beyond the income of his place, the king was satisfied that his expenses were not blameable, and had in the main been calculated for his service". Two years had since elapsed;
i Fitz-Steph. p. 38. Diceto, p. 537.
k Hist. Quad. p. 47. Fitz-Steph. p. 38.
1 Hoveden, p. 494.
n Hoveden, p. 495.
no demand had during that time been made upon him; it was not till the quarrel arose concerning ecclesiastical privileges, that the claim was started, and the primate was, of a sudden, required to produce accounts of such intricacy and extent before a tribunal which had shown a determined resolution to ruin and oppress him. To find sureties that he should answer so boundless and uncertain a claim, which in the king's estimation amounted to forty-four thousand marks, was impracticable; and Becket's suffragans were extremely at a loss what counsel to give him in such a critical emergency. By the advice of the bishop of Winchester he offered two thousand marks as a general satisfaction for all demands: but this offer was rejected by the king. Some prelates exhorted him to resign his see, on condition of receiving an acquittal: others were of opinion, that he ought to submit himself entirely to the king's mercy: but the primate, thus pushed to the utmost, had too much courage to sink under oppression: he determined to brave all his enemies, to trust to the sacredness of his character for protection, to involve his cause with that of God and religion, and to stand the utmost efforts of royal indignation.
After a few days, spent in deliberation, Becket went to church, and said mass, where he had previously ordered, that the introit to the communion service should begin with these words, "Princes sat and spake against me;" the passage appointed for the martyrdom of St. Stephen, whom the primate thereby tacitly pretended to resemble in his sufferings for the sake of righteousness. He went thence to court arrayed in his sacred vestments: as soon as he arrived within the palace gate, he took the cross into his own hands, bore it aloft as his protection, and marched in that posture into the royal apartments'. The king, who was in an inner room, was astonished at this parade, by which the primate seemed to menace him and his court with the sentence of excommunication; and he
• Epist. St. Thom. p. 315. Gervase, p. 1390. p. 404. Gul. Neubr. p. 394.
P Fitz-Steph. p. 38.