« ZurückWeiter »
Papal court was then held. The king's messengers had but a cold audience of the Pope and cardinals. Foliot, of London, was thrown into confusion by a sharp rebuke from the pontiff. Hilary, of Chichester, broke down in his Latin, and was laughed at. The plain English of the Earl of Arundel did not help their cause. The Pope refused to act till the archbishop had been heard in his own behalf.
Louis, being informed of Becket's arrival at Soissons, went thither to welcome him, and proceeded immediately to his hotel. The interview between these illustrious personages was an extremely cordial one. The king, having heard Becket's narrative of the recent events, gave orders that he should be liberally supplied with funds from the royal treasury ; an offer which for the present he declined. He accepted more readily a noble escort of three hundred horsemen, at whose head he set out for Sens, and had the satisfaction of affording the English envoys, who passed them on the opposite bank of a river on their way home, an opportunity to witness the state, with which that "i traitor and fugitive, the late Archbishop of Canterbury,” travelled to the Papal court. Becket was received at Sens with great honor, and seated at the Pope's right hand. At his first audience, he presented a roll containing the Clarendon Constitutions, that the court might see what laws the church was called upon to receive. This was a dexterous stroke, and took effect. The Pope, indeed, rebuked the archbishop for his too easy compliance, but was willing to take his sufferings as an ample atonement. On the next day, Becket, after an affecting speech which moved his hearers to tears, took off his ring and placed it in the Pope's hand, in token of his resignation of an office to which he had been uncanonically elected by the influence of the crown. Certain of the cardinals were willing, for the sake of peace, to take him at his word. But the Pope would hear of no such thing, and immediately reappointed him. Becket knew his man, or he would never have ventured on a step for which Henry would have fallen down and worship
Becket's long exile of six years had now commenced. At the suggestion of the Pope, he established himself at the Cistercian monastery of Pontigny, where he at first endeavoured to conform to the strict rules of that severe order. But the mantle of Saint Bernard was too narrow for the shoul
ders of the splendid metropolitan. The violent attempts of the novice to mortify the flesh brought on a serious malady, which drove him back to a more rational and comfortable regimen.
A temper so irascible as Henry's did not brook patiently the utter failure of the embassy to the Papal court. His measures were prompt and thorough. Not content with confiscating the archbishop's property, and placing the church of Canterbury in the custody of Randolf de Broc, Becket's ferocious enemy, he banished from his dominions the relations, clerks, and domestics of the primate, adding the barbarous exaction of an oath, that they would immediately show themselves to their exiled lord. By this brutal edict, four hundred helpless and unoffending beings, men, women, and children, were thrown, with every aggravation of misery, on an unknown coast. Those who survived the perils of want, weariness, infancy, and age were hospitably received after their hard journey by the French king and the Empress Matilda, who did not approve of the extreme measures of her arbitrary son. But these indirect attacks, though they might annoy and grieve “the traitor,” as Henry called him, did not unhouse him.
At length, after Becket had passed two years in his secluded abode, the vigilant malice of his enemy devised a means of effecting his removal. In September, 1166, the general chapter of the Cistercians received a significant hint, that, if they cared for the houses or lands which they held in the territories of the king of England, they would find it well to speed the departure of their guest. A second significant hint apprised Becket of the fact that he had worn out his welcome. “ The Lord,” said he, “ who feeds the birds of the air, and clothes the lilies, will provide for me and my fellowexiles.” One of his clerks was despatched to the king of France to acquaint him with the news. Louis immediately offered the archbishop the choice of any place in his dominions for his residence, and a liberal pension from the royal treasury. He selected the monastery of St. Columba, within a short distance of the city of Sens, and there continued to reside until his departure for England.
We need not enter into a detailed account of the events which occurred during Becket's exile. It would only be a monotonous chronicle of plots and counterplots, menaces and
excuses, persecutions and negotiations. Becket bad to do with three courts, — that of King Henry, of King Louis, and of Pope Alexander. Several of his suffragans, led by the Bishop of London, and backed by the Archbishop of York, abetted the king and his measures. Not daring, however, to engage in open hostility with the apostolic see, they were forced, whenever the entreaties of Becket extorted the Pope's permission to proceed against them, either to succumb for a while, or to neutralize the archbishop's acts by a counter appeal to the court of Rome. Henry himself was afraid to come to a formal rupture with the Pope, who might, by a welltimed sentence of excommunication, unchain upon him at once the enemies from whom he had most to fear. But he kept a sharp eye on the signs of the times ; and by judiciously playing upon the Pope's dread of a pretender to his chair, and occasionally palsying the spiritual arm by an operation on the temporal palm, succeeded in holding his enemy at bay, though he could not prevail upon the pontiff to depose or desert him. King Louis continued to the last, with but one brief exception, the fast friend and generous protector of the fugitive. His generosity, it must be confessed, cost him liule, followed at the heels, as it ever was, by that faithful monitor, policy. During the entire period of Becket's exile, it was almost invariably the interest of Louis to soment a quarrel which weakened the hands of his great rival. equally his interest to preserve the reputation which he had acquired of being the devoted servant of the church.
It will readily be conceived that Becket, with all these parties to manage, was not idle. The Pope was to be spurred, the bishops to be badgered, the king to be lectured. The voluminous correspondence, of which so large a portion is extracted in the work before us, affords full proof of his indefatigable activity. Though these letters turn for the most part upon the great controversy which had already engaged the attention of Europe, they are full of anecdotes and characteristic traits which are highly interesting. We cannot help extracting the following testimony, seven centuries old, to the attractions and perils of the capital of France.
THE ABBOT OF ST. REMY TO JOHN OF SALISBURY. “ Truly, my dear fellow, you have fixed upon a most agreca. ble place of exile: all kinds of pleasures, however vain, abound
in Paris ; rich entertainments and choice wines, such as you can. not get at home, and the most charming society. But all this is nothing new : did you ever know a man who did not like Paris ? it is a most delightful place, a perfect garden of pleasure. How. ever, many a true word is spoken in jest. O Paris, what a place art thou to beguile and fascinate ! what snares hast thou to catch people with! what enticements dost thou hold out to draw men into temptation ! what shafts dost thou launch forth to pierce the hearts of the foolish! And my own John thinks so, too, and so he has made Paris the place of his exile! I hope he may find it insufferable in good earnest, and get back home again, as soon as possible, to his own country! Vol. 1., p. 202.
We must also quote another passage, on account of its striking eloquence. The refractory bishops, in 1169, were getting up an appeal to Rome as a counterblast to some of Becket's measures.
When Henry of Winchester was cited to Northampton to join in the deliberations of his colleagues, he replied:
“The law of God prescribes, that, when a man is summoned before a superior judge, he cannot appeal to an inferior. For this reason it is, that I, who am sinking under disease and old age, and have received a summons from the Almighty, am incapacitated from preferring an appeal to an earthly tribunal.” — Vol. 11., p. 190.
It is impossible to follow Becket through his years of exile, without admiring his inflexible constancy. It must be allowed that it sometimes degenerated into obstinacy; and it is difficult to excuse the pertinacity with which, after all material obstacles had been removed, he broke off a negotiation for peace, because the king would not give him the kiss of friendship. The fluctuating policy of the court of Rome was a sore trial to such a spirit. The Pope and his legates must have wondered at some of his salutations : “ Health, and firmness of mind to resist the cruelty of princes.” “Health, and courage to resist the insolence of princes.” Though bis hopes sometimes gave way, his resolution was not shaken. In the same letter which bears the gloomy superscription, “To the half of my soul, health, as to myself ; yea, more ; for to myself there is no health,”? — he speaks thus of the compromising legates :-“ They may strain till they burst themselves, but they shall never, by Christ's grace, make me deviate from the path of justice, or from the great cause of
liberating the church." And when, at last, he had grown
” utterly weary of the time-serving delays which had frittered away the best years of his life, he did not sink under the sickness of hope deferred, but gathered up his broken fortunes, and went honie to die, Archbishop of Canterbury once more. There was, indeed, an inborn and essential dignity about this man, which, though it was sometimes crossed and marred by the outbreaks of an impetuous temper, nothing could destroy. Hear how he answers the taunts of Foliot :
“You say that the king raised me to honor from a mean estate. I am, indeed, not sprung from royal ancestors ; but I would rather be the man to whom nobility of mind gives the advantages of birth, than one in whom a noble ancestry degenerates.”
He was often forced to expostulate, but his expostulations were manly; and when he gave vent to his grief, the woes of the church lent a majesty to his own. It cannot be denied that his stern and even violent purposes sometimes required the curbing band of the Pope, and drew forth the warnings of his best friends. His warmest advocate must regret his frequent want of gentleness and humility. But it must be remembered, that the provocation he had received was great, that he had been unused to contradiction, and that he had identified the cause of the church with his own. The cause of Christ would undoubtedly have lost nothing by a more Christlike way of defending it ; but an ardent man is especially apt, in a religious controversy, to take his own temper for granted, and deem himself authorized to fight with such weapons as nature has given him. The sense of injury, the study of revenge, the love of victory, the emulation of his predecessors, had undoubtedly leavened his zeal for the church ; but that he felt himself to be the champion of her liberties must, we think, be conceded. We cannot subject such characters to a chemical analysis, and assign to each element its specific proportion. The ingredients of the compound are perpetually varying in their proportions, and what is hypocrisy to-day may be fanaticism to-morrow. One thing, however, is certain ; - natures of the highest order never perplex the mind in this way ; the transparent simplicity of virtue will always justify itself.' In a word, Becket's character was marked by many of the traits of that of Gregory the Seventh, and must be judged by similar rules.