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the overgrown dominion of the Plantagenet ; nor had the French king forgotten with what indecent haste his former queen had posted to his rival's bed, and taken with her the sunny realm of southern France. He was a faithful servant of the church, and came, it is said, very near being canonized. His high-spirited wife used to call bim a monk. His sympathies, then, by a double tie, would be with Becket.
Henry, baffled in his first efforts, resolved to plant a thorn in Becket's side. The newly elected abbot of St. Augustine's proved refractory ; the king supported him, and the archbishop could not prevail on the Pope to interfere. This, however, was a mere flourish to what was to come. Having assembled a council of prelates and barons at Westminster, in October, 1163, the king made a formal demand, that convicted clerks should be degraded and delivered to the king's officers to receive such further punishment as the case might require. The bishops were at first disposed to yield ; but were at length shamed into resistance by the archbishop's remonstrances. Being asked by the king, if they would observe his royal customs, or, as another account has it, the customs of his ancestors, they replied, Becket taking the lead, "We will, in all things, saving always our own order.” The king broke out into a furious passion, and left the council. The bishops, frightened at what they had done, kept aloof from the primate, and would give him no comfort. But he remained firin, saying, " If an angel come from heaven and counsel me to this act, let him be anathema." The next morning, the king sent to him to demand the surrender of the castle and honors which he had held while chancellor, and had not yet given up. In this strait, he wrote to the Pope a plaintive letter, to beseech his interposition. It arrived at an unfortunate moment. Alexander had just heard bad news from Italy and Germany, and dared not list a finger in Becket's behalf. He was very liberal, however, of barren praise, and had daily prayers offered up for him at three monasteries.
From another quarter Becket received more encouraging assurances. The rupture between him and the king had been watched with great interest in France ; and King Louis pledged himself, if ever Becket should visit his dominions, to receive him as a brother-sovereign. Count Philip of Flanders also offered to furnish ships to transport him to
the Continent. Meanwhile, an ominous movement had been made at home. Arnulf of Lisieux had given the king the insidious advice to detach some of the bishops from Becket's party. The counsel was followed, and three bishops, two of whom were already engaged in a controversy with the primate about their respective rights, came into the king's measures. The archbishop was now beset on all sides, not only by the king's emissaries, but by letters from the Pope, who sent a special agent to persuade him to compliance. At length he gave way, after receiving repeated assurances of the honest intentions of the king. He had an audience of his sovereign at Windsor, and promised to assent to his royal constitutions and dignities, without the objectionable reservation. The king took it kindly, but required a public renewal of this promise.
A council was accordingly held at Clarendon castle, in January, 1164, and continued three days. Henry had de
. termined to make clean work. Nearly two days were devoted to “ an examination and revision of part of the customs, liberties, and dignities of the ancestors of King Henry the Second.” An instrument was drawn up containing the sixteen articles known in history as the “Constitutions of Clarendon.” It was a direct attack on the privileges, dignities, and rights of the church. Being declaratory in its character, it could only recite and ratify old usages, which are in fact the substance of the common law. The church, too, had its old usages, which had been practised with more uniformity and steadiness than those for which the king contended. When, therefore, on the third day, the archbishop was desired by the king to set his seal to these articles, he declared, by God Almighty, that no seal of his should ever be set to such constitutions as those. A scene of great confusion seems to have followed. The barons stormed, and Becket's friends expostulated ; at length he yielded. Whether he signed the articles is doubtful. That he swore to obey them is probable ; that he assented to them is certain. Foliot accuses him of saying aloud to the bishops, that it was God's will that he should perjure himself. At all events, the constitutions were passed, and became the law of the land.*
* We agree with Jeremy Collier (Eccles. Hist., I., 374) in his opinion. Dr. Giles (Vol. I., 230) takes a different view. He says,
“ The consent to these ordinances, which had been extracted from the archbishop, was ex. VOL. LXIV. —No. 134.
The archbishop rode off from Clarendon with his clerks, in a state of extreme dejection, deploring with sighs and tears his own hard fate and that of the church.
This is one of the dark passages in Becket's life. He is not to be blamed for refusing at first to agree to the new ordinances, for there is every reason to suppose that the king exacted more than the archbishop could have anticipated. The odious articles went far beyond the mere question of criminal jurisdiction. They stripped the ecclesiastical court of its control over other matters of moment. They forbade the clergy to appeal to the Pope, or to leave the realm without the king's consent. Becket could not be expected to concede tamely what the stiff old Anselm, and even the mild Theobald, had vehemently denounced and resisted. But it is difficult to excuse his final hypocritical assent to the constitutions. He meant to break his word. His subsequent proceedings betray no regret for the breach of faith, but only for the previous assent. He lost no time in apprising the Pope of what had been done, put himself under penance, and for forty days suspended his ministrations at the altar. At length, having received absolution from the pontiff, he demanded an audience of the king, which was refused. He next made two attempts to cross
over into France, which were defeated by contrary winds. This violation of the new constitutions of course exasperated the king. Nevertheless, an interview took place between them
torted, was verbal, and consequently incomplete. As the head of the English church, he represented the English people, the third estate in the constitution. The king and nobles were agreed, but the consent of the church, which was superior to both, was wanting, or was gained by threats, and, as we have seen, had not been ratified either by the seal of the arch: bishop, or by the confirmation of the sovereign pontiff.” We wish that Dr. Giles had informed us where he learned that the English church represented the English people or the third estate. What did it represent after the people had a house of commons, and the spiritual magnates sat in the bouse of lords ? Some of those bishops of Norman blood, who were so proud of their race, would have deemed it a jest, and a sorry one, to call them the representatives of the third estate. If the head of the English church was, as Dr. Giles seems to think, a coördinate sovereign of the realm, it was high time to dethrone him. The distinction between a verbal and a written assent is mere quibbling. We own that the menaces addressed to the bishops formed a strong point; but whether they were strin. gent enough to invalidate their oaths is very doubtful. Foliot, in one of his letters, censures Becket for giving way.' Becket himself justified his course by the unlawfulness of the promise; not, we believe, on the plea of compulsion.
at Woodstock. Henry remarked to Becket," So, my lord, you wish to leave my kingdom. I suppose it is not large enough to hold both you and me." They parted without anger, and without compromise.
Meanwhile, the king had petitioned the Pope to enjoin the obedience of the English prelates to the constitutions. He refused; but, not to break with the king, granted a legatine commission to the Archbishop of York, one of Becket's enemies. In the spring of 1164, the death of the Antipope Octavian took place; an event not likely to further Henry's plans. The summer was passed in negotiation between the king, the Pope, and the archbishop. But Henry, weary of this long-drawn delay, and bent on crushing the refractory primate, assembled a council at Northampton, in October. At this council Becket was arraigned on a most contemptible charge of treason, and condemned to suffer confiscation of all his goods. Old Henry of Winchester, sorely against his will, was forced to pronounce this harsh sentence. His persecutor, not content with this, next called him to answer for the proceeds of the church offices which had been vacant while he was chancellor. In vain did he plead the solemn release which he had received on the day of his consecration. The tide had set strongly against him. The barons, regarding him as a fallen man, withdrew their wonted courtesies. Not a few of the bishops had grown lukewarm, and some pressed him to resign his office. For four days, without flinching, he faced the malice of false friends and cruel foes. A violent disorder, brought on probably by anxiety and fatigue, confined him for a day to his bed. The next morning, having somewhat recovered his strength, and taking with him a portion of the consecrated wafer as a talisman, he entered the castle-hall, bearing his official cross, and with the words, "My cross is the sign of peace; the king's sword is an instrument of war," took his seat. The king's justiciary came to pass judgment upon him. But the archbishop, rising hastily, refused to hear the judgment, and having placed himself and his church under the protection of the apostolic see, and summoned the bishops before that tribunal, turned, amidst the scoffs of the crowd, to leave the hall. We hardly know a finer scene for the painter or dramatist, than when he turned upon the king's natural brother, who had called him traitor, with the exclamation, "If it were not for
my sacred office, my sword should answer that foul speech.” Leaving the town, he passed to the monastery where he lodged, attended by a “glorious procession,” as he styled it, of the poor, whom he invited to sup with him. per, he conferred with the few knights and clerks who had not abandoned him, on his future measures. One of them was despatched to Canterbury, to collect as much money as possible. In company with three others, Becket took horse, in the midst of a dark and rainy night, and rode fifty miles before dawn. Passing in disguise from place to place, after eight days, he reached the coast of Kent; and at length, on the 2d of November, the twentieth day after his departure from Northampton, he crossed over in an open boat, in tempestuous weather, to the coast of Flanders.
He was not yet out of danger. The lord of the district in which he had landed had an old grudge against him, and would gladly have arrested him. Becket, also, had nearly betrayed himself to a party of young men, by a too sportsman-like interest in a falcon which one of them bore on his wrist. He was saved by the ready tact of one of his companions. At Gravelines, again, his “great stature, high forehead, fine hands, and noble bearing, and the easy liberality with which he gave the most delicate bits of his supper to the children,” excited the suspicions of his landlord.
But the publican, though he had taken counsel of his better half, kept the secret like a good Christian, and contented himself with thanking the saints for the honor of entertaining such a man. Becket lost no time in pushing on towards the French king's dominions, where he had reason to expect a favorable reception.
In the mean time, the king had sent envoys to the king of France and the Pope. When Henry's letter was produced, in which he stigmatized “the late Archbishop of Canterbury” as a traitor and a fugitive, King Louis declared, with some warmth, that, if he knew where he was to be found, he and his whole court would go out to meet him. Becket, on his part, having arrived at Soissons, in France, sent forward two of his company to watch the movements of Henry's emissaries. They were received by Louis with great cordiality. On the next morning, he solemnly granted protection to the archbishop, proclaiming at the same time, that it was one of the royal dignities of France to protect fugitives. The agents of both parties soon reached Sens, in Champagne, where the