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ment or peculation on his part, unless we so consider the charges afterwards brought against him by the king. Of vain and wasteful profusion he cannot be acquitted. A true Christian would have despised the treasures which must have been wrung, first or last, from the temporal or spiritual sufferings of the poor. But Becket, thus far, was a very imperfect pattern of a good Christian. He was emphatically a worldly and ambitious man; and it may fairly be doubted, if any mortal in Europe, when he returned from his French campaign, could have dreamed that the name of Thomas à Becket would so soon be added to the Roman calendar.*

Before he retired from that stage on which he had played so leading a part, he received another mark of his master's confidence. Henry, while absent on the Continent, employed him to procure from the English barons an oath of allegiance to his son, Prince Henry. Becket, as governor and guardian of the prince, an office with which he had recently been honored, was a very proper person to undertake this commission; and he executed it with his usual dexterity and success.


We have now reached the close of the second period of Becket's life. We have dwelt at such length on the earlier part of his career, because this is the least known. remaining period, though by far the most eventful, we must despatch in a more cursory manner. This is the more easily done, as this portion occupies a prominent place in every history of the twelfth century. While the master and his servant were of one accord, the former, as representative of his realm, absorbed the latter. But when a change of circumstances had set them at odds, each began to play his own part; and the greater man claims the greater share of history. Though we are now on ground often trodden, it may not be uninteresting to take a hasty review of the peri

* It will not do, of course, to try a character of the twelfth century by the standards of the nineteenth. Hawking and hunting archdeacons were no prodigy, if we may judge by a bull of Alexander the Third, issued in 1182, the object of which was to exempt the clergy of Berkshire from furnishing their archdeacon with a present of hawks and hounds. But the scandal of these indulgences was not altogether overlooked. Peter of Blois, in two of his letters, berates a bishop and an archdeacon for their love of hunting. Military clergymen and prelates, though in much worse odor, were not without precedent. Becket himself, however, at a later period, looked back on his gay chancellorship with shame and contrition.

od which remains, paying less regard to the absolute and intrinsic importance of events than to the illustration they afford of individual character.

In April, 1161, the life of the venerable Archbishop Theobald was brought to a close. In anticipation of his expected death, public conjecture had doubtless fixed on his successor. The passage from the chancellorship to prelacy was a beaten road. But if we are to believe one or two anecdotes which have been preserved, Becket himself, foreseeing an unavoidable collision with the king, was not ambitious of the distinction. So easily forged tributes to his sagacity and moderation are a little suspicious. Be that as it may, King Henry had fixed upon his worldly courtier to be the head of the Anglican church. After the lapse of a year, he sent Becket from Normandy into England to prepare the way for his own election. But difficulties intervened. The bishops and monks were, it is supposed, as on other occasions, at issue upon their respective rights. Some opposition, too, was made to the king's wishes, led, probably, by Gilbert Foliot, then Bishop of Hereford. Royal influence, and perhaps menaces, finally prevailed; Foliot withdrew his objections, and Becket was solemnly chosen. Prince Henry, now nine years old, who had recently been acknowledged as the future successor of the king, was present at the ceremony, and, in connection with the great justiciary of the realm, at the request of Henry of Winchester, delivered over the primate elect to the church, free from all suit and accusation on any past matter whatsoever. On Whitsunday of the year 1162, Archdeacon Thomas à Becket received priest's orders; and on the following Sunday, he was consecrated archbishop by Henry of Winchester, amid a brilliant concourse of nobles and prelates, and with the acclamations of an immense multitude of the common people. Messengers, among whom was the archbishop's intimate friend, John of Salisbury, were despatched to Pope Alexander, then in France, to demand of him the pallium, or pall, which was regarded as the "mystic badge" of the office. The Papal court very readily granted the request; the pall was deposited on the high altar of the church of Canterbury, where it was assumed by Becket, who took at the same time the solemn oath usual on such occasions. He was now in

the forty-fourth year of his age; his royal master had not yet reached the age of thirty.

Much has been said of the sudden and total revolution that took place in the archbishop's way of life. Thierry tells us, that he cast off his rich garments, unfurnished his sumptuous mansion, broke with his noble guests, and made friendship with the poor, with beggars, and with the Saxons. It was for these only that his feasting-hall was open and his money lavished." But there seems to be more of fancy than fact in this description. We are told, indeed, that he wore sackcloth, and even put on a garment covered with vermin; that in his cell he washed the feet of thirteen beggars daily; that his diet was most abstemious, and the like. But we find little proof that he cast off his noble guests, or courted the Saxon race. Indeed, Dr. Giles, who quotes Mr. Froude at length on this point, takes great pains to show that the splendor of the archiepiscopal palace did not suffer in his hands; that his too great devotion to legal rather than spiritual studies drew on him the censure of John of Salisbury; and that the change in his life was not greater than the transition from civil to ecclesiastical eminence required. In the anxiety of some persons to acquit the prelate of hypocrisy, they are obliged to question his sanctity. And, in fact, it is difficult to believe that a man who afterwards fought so stoutly for the rights of the church would have shorn her highest office of that splendid hospitality which, in the eyes even of the Saxon multitude, was not without its effect. That he at once cast off the levities of a courtier, and the gayeties of the boon companion of a young and merry king, is not unlikely; and history is full of instances to show that the violence of the plunge into asceticism is in proportion to the previous worldliness of the character. A man begins to see the error of his ways; but his heart, long steeped in irreligion and ungodliness, cannot keep pace with his desire to amend. Impatient of the slow process of conversion, he rushes into external acts of penance and mortification, hoping to impose on his uneasy conscience by the exhibition of the fruits of that righteousness to which he has not yet attained. But nemo repente venit sanctissimus," any more than "turpissimus," as Becket's history is sufficient to show. Almost the first act of the new archbishop was to resign the great seal, — a proceeding which evidently surprised and of

fended the king. Henry, as it seems, had intended that Becket should hold both offices. Are we to suppose that the king had been deceived by him? The see of Canterbury had been vacant for a year. It is difficult to suppose, that the succession was not a frequent subject of conference and discussion between the king and his chancellor. And when it appeared that Becket was the monarch's candidate, we must suspect that he had been guilty of falsehood or disingenuous silence, if the king remained ignorant of his purpose to resign his civil dignity. Henry, who well knew the conflicting claims of church and state, and knew equally well that Becket as a foe would be most formidable, would hardly have raised him to an almost regal elevation without some assurance of his own safety. This king was not a blind adorer of favorites. He did not, we may be sure, insist on Becket's appointment, till he had satisfied himself of his future course. We cannot help thinking it more likely that Becket deceived the king, than that the king, in the most important act of his reign, took no heed to his steps. It does not help the case to say, that the resignation was an afterthought; if so, the new dignity was the proper one to be relinquished.

Henry was determined to have a Roland for an Oliver, and demanded of Becket the resignation of his archdeaconry. After a long delay, the archbishop made this concession, which would have come with a better grace at an earlier period. The new position of Becket, almost an independent one, was well fitted to bring out in high relief the bold and imperious features of his character. From this time, he seems to have discarded the prudence which he must have possessed as a statesman and diplomatist. One of his first measures was an attempt to resume certain grants of church lands made by his predecessors, on the ground that these were in violation of the essential inalienability of church property. On this plea, he required the powerful Earl of Clare to do him homage for a certain domain. The legality of the claim we need not consider; its imprudence was unquestionable. Knights and barons could ill brook the interference of an upstart priest; and the affronted earl had an avenue to the king's ear in a beautiful sister, whose charms had touched his susceptible heart. But the cloud as yet was no bigger than a man's hand. The sun shone bright over head; and when the archbishop met the king at Southampton, on his return to

his English dominions, the two friends, forgetful of every cause of doubt or coldness, rushed into each other's arms. During the several days which they passed together, the concord between them was so great, that the archbishop's enemies did not dare to wag a tongue against him.

Alexander, who was recognized as Pope by the kings of England and France, about this time called a general council at Tours. Becket, of course, as primate of England, would not fail to attend. Before his departure, he resigned his young charge, Prince Henry, into his father's hands. After spending a few days with the king, at Rumnel, in Kent, he passed over into Flanders. Not only in the dominions of Henry, but in those of foreign powers, he was received with unbounded demonstrations of courtesy and respect. Princes, nobles, and peasants flocked to meet him, and his journey resembled a triumphal progress. On his approach to Tours, the Pope's court was nearly deserted; the cardinals left the city to welcome him; and when he was presented, the audiencechamber was so thronged, that the pontiff was obliged to retire to another apartment. The archbishop was regarded as the chief member of the council, and procured the ratification of many privileges belonging to his church.

The storm was now gathering, which was soon to burst on the primate's head. If the king and the archbishop were to come into collision with each other, it was clear enough that their intractable temper and almost equally independent position would lead to irreconcilable enmity. The history of the decline and fall of friendship is always a miserable, too often a pitiful, one. In this case, the occasions of the rupture were petty enough at the outset. The first blow which the king received was in a tender part. Becket resisted an attempt to divert certain perquisites from the sheriffs to the royal treasury. The violence of both parties augured ill for the continuance of peace between them. The king swore, as usual, "by God's eyes," and the head of the English church stooped to echo the oath. Henry consented to waive the point. Becket's next offence was the excommunication of a tenant-in-chief of the crown, without previous notice to the king. The latter demanded the absolution of his vassal; Becket delayed, the king grew angry, and the archbishop at length yielded, but with so ill a grace that he got no thanks for it. The primate had the further boldness to press the

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