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sent some of the prelates to remonstrate with him on account of such audacious behaviour. These prelates complained to Becket, that, by subscribing himself to the constitutions of Clarendon, he had seduced them to imitate his example; and that now, when it was too late, he pretended to shake off all subordination to the civil power, and appeared desirous of involving them in the guilt which must attend any violation of those laws, established by their consent and ratified by their subscriptions 3. Becket replied, that he had indeed subscribed the constitutions of Clarendon, "legally, with good faith, and without fraud or reserve;" but in these words was virtually implied a salvo for the rights of their order, which, being connected with the cause of God and his church, could never be relinquished by their oaths and engagements: that if he and they had erred in resigning the ecclesiastical privileges, the best atonement they could now make was to retract their consent, which in such a case could never be obligatory, and to follow the pope's authority, who had solemnly annulled the constitutions of Clarendon, and had absolved them from all oaths which they had taken to observe them: that a determined resolution was evidently embraced to oppress the church; the storm had first broken upon him; for a slight offence, and which too was falsely imputed to him, he had been tyrannically condemned to a grievous penalty; a new and unheard-of claim was since started, in which he could expect no justice; and he plainly saw that he was the destined victim, who, by his ruin, must prepare the way for the abrogation of all spiritual immunities: that he strictly inhibited them who were his suffragans from assisting at any such trial, or giving their sanction to any sentence against him; he put himself and his see under the protection of the supreme pontiff; and appealed to him against any penalty which his iniquitous judges might think proper to inflict upon him: and that, however terrible the indignation of so great a monarch as Henry, his sword could only kill the body; while that of the church,
Fitz-Steph. p. 35.
intrusted into the hands of the primate, could kill the 1164. soul, and throw the disobedient into infinite and eternal perdition'.
Appeals to the pope, even in ecclesiastical causes, had been abolished by the constitutions of Clarendon, and were become criminal by law; but an appeal in a civil cause, such as the king's demand upon Becket, was a practice altogether new and unprecedented; it tended directly to the subversion of the government; and could receive no colour of excuse, except from the determined resolution, which was but too apparent in Henry and the great council, to effectuate, without justice, but under colour of law, the total ruin of the inflexible primate. The king, having now obtained a pretext so much more plausible for his violence, would probably have pushed the affair to the utmost extremity against him; but Becket gave him no leisure to conduct the prosecution. He refused so much as to hear the sentence which the barons, sitting apart from the bishops, and joined to some sheriffs and barons of the second rank ", had given upon the king's claim he departed from the palace; asked Henry's imme- Banishment diate permission to leave Northampton; and upon meeting with a refusal, he withdrew secretly, wandered about in disguise for some time, and at last took shipping and arrived safely at Gravelines.
The violent and unjust prosecution of Becket had a natural tendency to turn the public favour on his side, and to make men overlook his former ingratitude towards the king, and his departure from all oaths and engagements, as well as the enormity of those ecclesiastical privileges, of which he affected to be the champion. There were many other reasons which procured him countenance and protection in foreign countries. Philip, earl of Flanders *, and Lewis, king of France, jealous of the
Fitz-Steph. p. 42. 44, 45, 46. Hist. Quad. p. 57. Hoveden, p. 495. M. Paris, p. 72. Epist. St. Thom. p. 45. 195. Fitz-Steph. p. 46. This historian is supposed to mean the more considerable vassals of the chief barons: these had no title to sit in the great council, and the giving them a place there was a palpable irregularity; which, however, is not insisted on in any of Becket's a farther proof how little fixed the constitution was at that * Epist. St. Thom. P. 35. y Ibid. p. 36, 37.
1164. rising greatness of Henry, were well pleased to give him disturbance in his government; and forgetting that this was the common cause of princes, they affected to pity extremely the condition of the exiled primate; and the latter even honoured him with a visit at Soissons, in which city he had invited him to fix his residence. The pope, whose interests were more immediately concerned in supporting him, gave a cold reception to a magnificent embassy which Henry sent to accuse him; while Becket himself, who had come to Sens, in order to justify his cause before the sovereign pontiff, was received with the greatest marks of distinction. The king, in revenge, sequestered the revenues of Canterbury; and by a conduct which might be esteemed arbitrary, had there been at that time any regular check on royal authority, he banished all the primate's relations and domestics, to the number of four hundred, whom he obliged to swear, before their departure, that they would instantly join their patron. But this policy, by which Henry endeavoured to reduce Becket sooner to necessity, lost its effect: the pope, when they arrived beyond sea, absolved them from their oath, and distributed them among the convents in France and Flanders: a residence was assigned to Becket himself in the convent of Pontigny, where he lived for some years in great magnificence, partly from a pension granted him on the revenues of that abbey, partly from remittances made him by the French monarch.
The more to ingratiate himself with the pope, Becket resigned into his hands the see of Canterbury, to which, he affirmed, he had been uncanonically elected, by the authority of the royal mandate; and Alexander in his turn, besides investing him anew with that dignity, pretended to abrogate, by a bull, the sentence which the great council of England had passed against him. Henry, after attempting in vain to procure a conference with the pope, who departed soon after for Rome, whither the prosperous state of his affairs now invited him, made provisions against the consequences of that breach which 7 Hist. Quad. p. 76.
impended between his kingdom and the apostolic see. issued orders to his justiciaries, inhibiting, under severe penalties, all appeals to the pope or archbishop; forbidding any one to receive any mandates from them, or apply in any case to their authority; declaring it treasonable to bring from either of them an interdict upon the kingdom, and punishable in secular clergymen, by the loss of their eyes and by castration, in regulars by amputation of their feet, and in laics with death; and menacing with sequestration and banishment the persons themselves, as well as their kindred, who should pay obedience to any such interdict: and he farther obliged all his subjects to swear to the observance of those orders. These were edicts of the utmost importance, affected the lives and properties of all the subjects, and even changed, for the time, the national religion, by breaking off all communication with Rome : yet were they enacted by the sole authority of the king, and were derived entirely from his will and pleasure.
The spiritual powers, which, in the primitive church, were, in a great measure, dependent on the civil, had, by a gradual progress, reached an equality and independence; and though the limits of the two jurisdictions were difficult to ascertain or define, it was not impossible but, by moderation on both sides, government might still have been conducted in that imperfect and irregular manner which attends all human institutions. But as the ignorance of the age encouraged the ecclesiastics daily to extend their privileges, and even to advance maxims totally incompatible with civil government; Henry had thought it high time to put an end to their pretensions, and formally, in a public council, to fix those powers which belonged to the magistrate, and which he was for the future determined to maintain. In this attempt he was led to re-establish customs which, though ancient, were beginning to be abolished by a contrary practice, and which were still more strongly opposed by the prevailing opi
a Hist. Quad. p. 88. 167. Hoveden, p. 496. M. Paris, p. 73.
Quis dubitet," says Becket to the king, "sacerdotes Christi regum et principum omniumque fidelium patres et magistros censeri." Epist. St. Thom. p. 97. 148.
nions and sentiments of the age. Principle, therefore, stood on the one side, power on the other; and if the English had been actuated by conscience more than by present interest, the controversy must soon, by the general defection of Henry's subjects, have been decided against him. Becket, in order to forward this event, filled all places with exclamations against the violence which he had suffered. He compared himself to Christ, who had been condemned by a lay tribunal, and who was crucified anew in the present oppressions under which his church laboured: he took it for granted, as a point incontestable, that his cause was the cause of Godd: he assumed the character of champion for the patrimony of the Divinity: he pretended to be the spiritual father of the king and all the people of England: he even told Henry, that kings reign solely by the authority of the church: and though he had thus torn off the veil more openly on the one side than that prince had on the other, he seemed still, from the general favour borne him by the ecclesiastics, to have all the advantage in the argument. The king, that he might employ the weapons of temporal power remaining in his hands, suspended the payment of Peter's pence; he made advances towards an alliance with the emperor Frederic Barbarossa, who was at that time engaged in violent wars with pope Alexander; he discovered some intentions of acknowledging Pascal the third, the present antipope, who was protected by that emperor; and by these expedients he endeavoured to terrify the enterprising though prudent pontiff from proceeding to extremities against him.
But the violence of Becket, still more than the nature of the controversy, kept affairs from remaining long in suspense between the parties. That prelate, instigated by revenge, and animated by the present glory attending his situation, pushed matters to a decision, and issued a censure, excommunicating the king's chief ministers by
Epist. St. Thom. p. 63. 105. 194.
d Ibid. p. 29, 30, 31. 226.
Fitz-Steph. p. 46. Epist. St. Thom. p. 52. 148. f Brady's Append. No. 56. Epist. St. Thom. p. 94, 95. 97. 99. 197. Hoveden, p. 497.