Henry the Second
Mrs. J. R. Green

Part 2 out of 3

reason, and with the advice of my archbishops, bishops, and barons,
should be liable to the censure of you and such as you!" He broke short
discussion by declaring that the question belonged to him alone to settle.
The chancellor, in a long argument, crushed the already humbled bishop,
and raised the king's anger to its utmost pitch by drawing attention to
the fact that Hilary had appealed to Rome to the contempt of the royal
dignity. The king, his countenance changed with fury, turned passionately
to the bishop, who tremblingly swore, while Archbishop Theobald crossed
himself in amazement at the audacious perjury, that it was the abbot who
had got the bull of which Thomas complained. Theobald entreated that the
matter might be settled according to Canon law, but this the king promptly
refused. Finally Hilary was forced to complete submission, and the
archbishop prayed that he might be pardoned for any imprudent words he had
used against the king's majesty. Henry was ever ready to yield everything
in form when once he had got his own way. "Not only," he answered, "do I
now give him the kiss of peace, but if his sins were a hundredfold, I
would forgive them all for your prayers and for the love I bear him;" and
bishop and abbot and justiciar, all by the king's orders, joined in the
kiss of peace.

But no kiss of peace given at Henry's orders could turn away the rising
wrath of the Church. A general feeling of danger was in the air, and both
sides, in preparing for the inevitable future, chose the same man to
fight their battle,--Thomas, the disciple and secretary of Theobald,
Thomas, the minister of the king's reforms. The young king had turned
with passionate affection to his brilliant chancellor. In hall, in
church, in council-chamber, on horseback, he was never separated from his
friend. Thomas, like his master, was always ready for hunting, or for
hawking, or for a game of chess. He was willing, too, to save the king
the cost and burden of entertainment and display. He was careful to
magnify his office. He held a splendid court, where Henry's son and a
train of young nobles were brought up to knightly accomplishments. He was
dressed in scarlet and furs, and his clothes were woven with gold. His
table was covered with gold and silver plate, and his servants had orders
to buy the most costly provisions in the shops for cooked meat, which
were then the glory of the city. His household was the talk of London.
The king himself, curious to see how things went on, would sometimes come
on horseback to watch the chancellor sitting at meat, or, bow in hand,
would turn in on his way from hunting, and, vaulting over the table,
would sit down and eat with him. Henry lavished gifts on him, so that
according to one of his chroniclers, "when he might have had all
the churches and castles of the kingdom if he chose since there was none
to deny him, yet the greatness of his soul conquered his ambition; he
magnanimously disdained to take the poorer benefices, and required only
the great things--the provostship of Beverley, the deanery at Hastings,
the Tower of London with the service of the soldiers belonging to it, the
castle of Eye with 140 soldiers, and that of Berkhampstead." or was the
king's favour misplaced, for Thomas was an excellent servant. Business
was rapidly despatched by him; and Henry found himself relieved of the
most irksome part of his work. The chancellor surrounded himself by
able men, looking even as far as Gaul for poor Englishmen who were
distinguished for their talent; fifty-two clerks were employed under him
in the Chancery. As he grew more and more important to his master,
unlimited powers were put in his hand. There are even entries in the Pipe
Roll of pardons issued by him, the first instance of such a right ever
used by any save king or queen. It was said that those who had the king's
favour might count it as a vain thing, unless they had also the friendship
of the chancellor. "The king's dominions, which reach from the Arctic
Ocean to the Pyrenees, he put into your power, and in this alone was any
man thought happy, that he should find favour in your eyes," runs a letter
written afterwards to Thomas.

To complete the king's schemes, however, one dignity yet remained
to be conferred on Thomas. He was eager, in view of his proposed
reconstruction of Church and State, to adopt the Imperial system of a
chancellor-archbishop. The difficulties in the way were great, for ancient
custom limited the technical supremacy of the king's will in the choice
of the Primate. No archbishop since the Conquest had been chosen for other
reasons than those of piety and learning; no secular primate had been
appointed since Stigand, and before Stigand there had never been one at
all; no deacon had ever been chosen for this high office; and never had a
king's officer been made archbishop, however common it may have been to
put chancellor or treasurer in less important sees. Amid the anxiety and
questioning which followed the death of Theobald in 1161, Thomas himself
clearly saw the parting of the ways: "Whoever is made archbishop," he
said, "must quickly give offence to God or to the king." Henry alone knew
no hesitation. Fresh from his triumphs abroad, master of his great empire,
clear and decided in his projects for the ordering of his dominions, eager
with the force and determination of twenty-eight years, recognizing no
check to his imperious will and the dictates of his friendship, he chose
Thomas as archbishop, "Matilda dissuading, the kingdom protesting, the
whole Church sighing and groaning." The king, who was then in France, sent
his envoy, Richard de Lucy, to Canterbury to press the essential problem
home in plain words: "If," he said, "the king and the archbishop are
joined together in affection, the state of the Church will still be quiet
and happy; but if the thing should fall out otherwise, what strife may
come from it, what difficulties and tumults, what loss and peril to souls,
I cannot hide from you." The argument prevailed, and in London, in the
presence of the king's little son Henry, then seven years old, Thomas
was chosen archbishop, "the multitude acclaiming with the voice of God
and not of man." The deacon-chancellor was ordained priest on the 2d of
June 1162, and the next day consecrated archbishop by Henry of Winchester.
Two months later John of Salisbury brought him the pall from Pope
Alexander at Montpellier, and for the first time since the Norman
Conquest, a man born on English soil was set at the head of the
English Church.



In the January of 1163 Henry once more landed in England. His absence off
our and a half years had given time for dangers and alarms to spring up
in the half-settled realm. Mysterious prophecies passed from mouth to
mouth that the king would never be seen in the island again, and even
Theobald, before his death in 1161, had sent urgent entreaties for his
return. The king had, in fact, during the first eight years of his rule
been mainly occupied in building up his empire, and providing for its
defence against external dangers. He had only twice visited the kingdom,
each time for little more than a year. He was now, however, prepared to
take the work of administration seriously in hand. In the next eighteen
years, from 1163 to 1180, he landed on its shores seven times, and spent
altogether eight years in the country. Once he was busied with the
conquest of Ireland; one visit of a month was spent in crushing a
dangerous rebellion; but with these two exceptions every coming of the
king was marked by the carrying out of some great administrative reform.
In his half-compacted empire order was still only maintained by his
actual presence and the sheer force of his personal authority, as he
hurried from country to country to quell a rising in Gascony or a revolt
in Galloway, to wage war in Wales, to finish the conquest of Britanny or
of Ireland, to order the administration of Poitou or Normandy. But in the
swift and terrible progresses of a king who visited the shires to north
and south and west in the intervals of foreign war, a long series of
experiments as to the best forms of internal government was ceaselessly
carried out, and the new administration securely established.

Henry, however, was at once met by a difficulty unknown to earlier days.
The system which the Conqueror had established of separate courts for
secular and ecclesiastical business had utterly broken down for purposes
of justice. Until the reign of Stephen much of the business of the
bishops was done in the courts of the hundred and the shire. The Church
courts also had at first been guided by the customary law and traditions
of the early English Church, which had grown up along with the secular
laws and had a distinctly national character. So long, indeed, as the
canon law remained somewhat vague, and the Church courts incomplete, they
could work peaceably side by side with the lay courts; but with the
development of ecclesiastical law in the middle of the twelfth century,
it was inevitable that difficulties should spring up. The boundaries of
civil and ecclesiastical law were wholly uncertain, the scientific study
of law had hardly begun, and there was much debatable ground which might
be won by the most arrogant or the most skilful of the combatants. Every
brawl of a few noisy lads in the Oxford streets or at the gates of some
cathedral or monastic school was enough to kindle the strife as to the
jurisdiction of Church or State which shook medieval society to its

The Church courts not only had jurisdiction over the whole clerical order,
but exercised wide powers even over the laity. To them alone belonged the
right to enforce spiritual penalties, to deal with cases of oaths,
promises, anything in which a man's faith was pledged; to decide as to the
property of intestates, to pronounce in every case of inheritance whether
the heir was legitimate, to declare the law as to wills and marriage.
Administering as they did an enlightened system of law, they profited by
the new prosperity of the country, and the judicial and pecuniary disputes
which came to them had never been so abundant as now. Henry was keenly
alive to the fact that the archdeacons' courts now levied every year by
their fines more money than the whole revenue of the crown. Young
archdeacons were sent abroad to be taught the Roman law, and returned to
preside over the newly-established archdeacons' courts; clergy who sought
high office were bound to study before all things, even before theology,
the civil and canon law. The new rules, however, were as yet incomplete
and imperfectly understood in England; the Church courts were without the
power to put them in force; the procedure was hurried and irregular; the
judges were often ill-trained, and unfit to deal with the mass of legal
business which was suddenly thrown on them; the ecclesiastical authorities
themselves shrank from defiling the priesthood by contact with all this
legal and secular business, and kept the archdeacons in deacons' orders;
the more religious clergy questioned whether for an archdeacon salvation
were possible. In the eight years of Henry's rule one hundred murders had
been committed by clerks who had escaped all punishment save the light
sentences of fine and imprisonment inflicted by their own courts, and
Henry bitterly complained that a reader or an acolyte might slay a man,
however illustrious, and suffer nothing save the loss of his orders.

Since the beginning of Henry's reign, too, there had been an enormous
increase of appeals to Rome. Questions quite apart from faith or morals,
and that mostly concerned property, were referred for decision to a
foreign court. The great monasteries were exempted from episcopal control
and placed directly under the Pope; they adopted the customs and laws
which found favour at Rome; they upheld the system of appeals, in which
their wealth and influence gave them formidable advantages. The English
Church was no longer as in earlier times distinct from the rest of
Christendom, but was brought directly under Roman influence. The clergy
were more and more separated from their lay fellow citizens; their rights
and duties were determined on different principles; they were governed by
their own officers and judged by their own laws, and tried in their own
courts; they looked for their supreme tribunal of appeal not to the King's
Court, but to Rome; they became, in fact, practically freed from the
common law.

No king, and Henry least of all, could watch unmoved the first great
body which threatened to stand wholly outside the law of the land; and
the ecclesiastical pretensions of the time were perhaps well matched by
the pretensions of the State. The king had prepared for the coming
conflict by a characteristic act of high-handed imperiousness in the
election of the chancellor-archbishop to carry out his policy. But all
such schemes of imperative despotism were vain. No sooner was Thomas
consecrated than it became plain that his ecclesiastical training would
carry the day against the influence of Henry. As rapidly as he had "thrown
off the deacon" to become the chancellor, so he now went through the
sharper change of throwing off the chancellor to become the archbishop.
With keen political sagacity he at once sought the moral support of the
religious party who had so vehemently condemned his appointment. The
gorgeous ostentation of his old life gave way to an equally elaborate
scheme of saintliness. He threw away with tears his splendid dress to put
on sackcloth and the black cloak of the monk. His table was still covered
with gold and silver dishes and with costly meats, but the hall was now
crowded with the poor and needy, and at his own side sat only the most
learned and holy among the monks and clergy. Forty clerks "most learned
in the law" formed his household. He visited the sick in the infirmary,
and washed the feet of thirteen poor men daily. He sat in the cloister
like one of the monks, studying the canon law and the Holy Scriptures. He
joined their prayers in the Church and took part in their secret councils.
The monks who had suffered under the heavy hand of Theobald, when their
dainty foods were curtailed and their cherished privileges sharply denied
them, hailed joyfully the unexpected attitude of their new master. "This
is the finger of God," men said, "this, indeed, is the work of the right
hand of the Most High." "As he had been accustomed to the pre-eminence
over others in worldly glory," commented another observer, "so now he
determined to be the foremost in holy living."

Rumours spread that there were to be other changes besides that of "holy
living." The see of Canterbury under the new primate was to win back all
lands and privileges lost during the civil wars, at whatever cost to the
interests of the whole court party, of barons who found their rights to
Church appointments and Church lands questioned, and of clerks of the
royal household who trembled for their posts and benefices. There was
soon no lack of enemies at court, old and new, ready to carry to Henry
whispers that would appeal most subtly to his fears,--whispers that the
royal dignity itself was in danger; that he must look to himself and his
heirs, or the story of Stephen's time would be told over again, and that
man alone would in future be king, whom the clergy should elect and the
archbishop approve. Henry's bitter anger was aroused when Thomas
resigned the chancellorship, "not now wishing to be in the royal court,
but desiring to have leisure for prayers, and to superintend the
business of the Church." The king retorted by forcing Thomas to resign
his archdeaconry with its rich fees; and at his landing in January 1163
he received the archbishop, who came to meet him, "with averted face."
Thomas, on his part, added another grievance by refusing on ecclesiastical
grounds to allow Henry to marry his brother to Stephen's daughter-in-law,
the Countess of Warenne; and on the general question of the relations of
Church and State, he hastened to define his views with sharp precision in
an eloquent sermon preached before the king. "Henry observing it word by
word, and understanding from it how greatly Thomas put the ecclesiastical
before the civil right, did not receive this doctrine with an equal mind,
for he perceived that the archbishop was far from his own view, that the
Church had neither rights nor possessions save by his favour." The
attitude of Thomas was yet further strengthened and defined when, in May
1163, he went to attend a great Council held at Tours, where he was
brought more immediately under the influence of the ecclesiastical
movement of the day. There he sought, with a meaning that Henry must
clearly have understood, to procure the canonization of Anselm from Pope
Alexander, who, however, was far too politic amid his own difficulties,
and in his need for Henry's help, to commit himself either by consent or
by refusal.

The inevitable controversy declared itself soon after the return of
Thomas from Tours. Throughout July and August one question after another
was hurried forward for settlement between king and primate. On July 1
the king proposed a change in the collection of the land tax, which
would have increased the royal revenues at the expense of the revenues
of the shire. Since the Conquest there had never been a single instance
of an attempt to resist the royal will in matters of finance, but Thomas
showed no hesitation. He flatly refused consent to an arbitrary act of
this kind. He made no objection to the payment of the tax, but he was
determined to prevent the local revenues being seized in this way by the
king. His action seems to have been wise and patriotic, and his triumph
was complete. Henry was forced to abandon the scheme. Having awakened
the anger of the king, Thomas next alienated the whole party of the
barons by pressing his demands for the recovery of lands belonging to
his see. Tunbridge, Rochester, now in the custody of the crown itself,
Hythe, Saltwood, and a number of other manors became the subjects of
sharp contention. The archbishop urged a doubtful claim, which he had
inherited from Theobald, to appoint the priest to a church on the land
of William of Eynesford, a tenant of the king. William resisted, and
Thomas made his first false move by excommunicating him. Henry at once
appealed to the "customs" of the kingdom, which forbade such sentence on
the king's barons without the royal consent, and Thomas had to withdraw
his excommunication. "I owe him no thanks for it!" cried the angry king.

A more serious strife was raised when Thomas came into direct collision
with Henry on the inevitable question of the punishment of clerks for
crime against the common law. If the king was determined to bring about
a fundamental reform in the administration of justice, the Primate was
equally resolute that as archbishop he would have nothing to do with
reforms which he might have countenanced as chancellor. He prudently
sought at first to divert attention from the real issue by increasing
the severity of judgments in the ecclesiastical courts. A clerk had
stolen a chalice; he insisted on his trial in the Church Court, but to
appease the king ordered him to be branded,--a punishment condemned by
ecclesiastical law which considered all injury to the person as defiling
the image of God. Such devices, however, were thrown away on Henry. When
another clerk, Philip de Broc, who had been accused of manslaughter, was
set free by the Church courts, the king's justiciar ordered him to be
brought to a second trial before a lay judge. Philip refused to submit.
The justiciar then charged him with contempt of court for his vehement
and abusive language to the officer who summoned him, but the archbishop
demanded that for this charge, too, he should be tried by ecclesiastical
law. Henry was forced to content himself with sending a detachment of
bishops and clergy to watch the trial. They returned with the news that
the court had refused to reconsider the charge of manslaughter, and had
merely condemned Philip for insolence; he was ordered to make personal
satisfaction to the sheriff, standing (clerk as he was) naked before
him, and submitting to a heavy fine; his prebend was to be forfeited to
the king for two years; for those two years he was to be exiled and his
movable goods were confiscated.

The punishment might seem severe enough, but Henry would accept no
compromise. With a burst of fury he declared that just judgment for
murder was refused because the offender was in orders. Resolute that the
question should once for all be settled, he summoned a council at
Westminster on October 1. There he demanded, "for love of him and for
safety of the kingdom," that accused clerks should be tried by the
common law, and that if proved guilty, they should be degraded by the
bishops, and given up to the executioner for punishment. He complained
of the exactions of the ecclesiastical courts, and urged that in all
matters concerning these courts or the rights of the clergy, the bishops
should return to the customs of Henry the First. Such a course would
have left them at the king's mercy, and the prelates wavered in their
sore distress. The king's friends contended that a guilty clerk deserved
punishment double that of a layman, and urged the need of submission at
this moment when the Church was torn asunder by schism; and the bishops
frankly admitted a yet more pressing consideration: "For if we do not
what the king wishes," they said, "flight will be cut off from us, and
no man will seek after our souls; but if we consent to the king, we
shall own the sanctuary of God in heredity, and shall sleep safely in
the possession of our churches." On the other hand, the archbishop had
no mind to resign without a contest all the results of the great tide of
feeling which had swept the Church onward far past its old landmarks.
For him there was no going back to a traditional past from which the
Church had shaken itself free, and in which, though king and barons
might see the freedom of the State, he saw the enslaving and degradation
of the clergy. He vehemently asserted that the "customs" of the Church
were of greater authority than any "customs" of the kingdom, that its
canon law claimed obedience as against all traditional national law
whatever; and with keen political insight he insisted on the dangers that
would follow if once they allowed the charm of prescription to be broken,
or the ecclesiastical liberties to be touched. He boldly led the way in
his answer to the king: "We will obey in all things saving our order;" and
as the bishops were asked one by one, they took courage to follow, and
"one voice was in the mouth of all of them." Such a phrase had never been
heard in England before, and Henry, with ready indignation, at once
demanded the withdrawal of the words. When Thomas refused, he broke up the
council in a burst of anger, and suddenly rode away from London, instantly
followed by the whole body of trembling bishops, who hurried after him in
abject terror, "lest before they should be able to catch him up, they
should already have lost their sees." Thomas was left alone--"there was
not one who would know him,"--while the prelates, coming up in time with
their terrible lord, agreed henceforth to guide their words by his good

From this moment all the elements of strife were prepared, and there was
but outer show of harmony when king and archbishop, a few days later,
joined at Westminster to celebrate with solemn pomp the translation of
the remains of the sainted Confessor. In declaring war upon local
jurisdictions, whether of clergy, or nobles, or burghers, or independent
shire courts, Henry was defying all the traditions and convictions of
his age,--an age when local feeling was a force which we are now quite
unable to measure. The nobles, the guilds, and the rising towns had
already won long before, or were now seeking to win as their most
cherished privilege, the right to their own justice without interference
from any higher power. They naturally looked with sympathy on the rights
exercised by the clergy within their own body; they felt that whatever
had been won by one class might later be won by another, and that
liberties which were enjoyed by so enormous a body as the clerical order
were a benefit in which the whole people had a share. If the king was
determined to wage war on "privilege," clergy and people were equally
resolute to defend "liberty." Moreover, in attacking the special
jurisdiction of the Church, Henry had to encounter a force to which there
is no parallel in our own time. An English king had doubtless less to fear
from the Church than had any continental ruler. Abroad the bishop-stool,
the abbey, the Church, were oases in the midst of perpetual war,--the only
spots where peace and law and justice spoke in protest against the chaos
of the world. But England was, in comparison with the rest of the western
world, a country of peace and law. There the Church was less powerful
against the State because the State had never handed over its duty of
maintaining justice and law and right to the exclusive guardianship of the
Church. None the less it was a formidable matter to rouse the hostility of
a body which included not only all the religious world, but all the
educated classes, and penetrated even to the despised villeinage and the
poor freemen whose sons pressed into its lower ranks. The Church with
which Henry had to deal was no longer the same that the Conqueror had
easily bent to his will. It had received its training and felt its
strength in political action; it had developed a close corporate spirit;
it had an admirable organization; it possessed the most advanced as well
as the most merciful legal system of the age. Its courts had strong claims
to popular regard. Their punishments were more merciful than the savage
sentences of the lay courts; and they held out great advantages to the
rich, since the penances they inflicted could be commuted for money.
Their system of law, moreover, was far in advance of the barbarous rules
of customary law; and they were backed by all the authority of the Roman
Curia and of the religious feeling of the day.

Henry had, however, peculiar advantages in the contest. He was master of
a disciplined body of ministers and servants, in whom he could confidently
trust. He was sure, in this matter at least, of the support of the lay
baronage, who had long arrears of jealousy to make up against their
hereditary opponents the clergy, and who were not likely now to forget
that no party in the Church had ever made common cause with the feudal
lords. He could count on the obedience of the secular clergy. In France
or Germany the bishops were members of the great houses, and as powerful
local rulers wielded a vast feudal authority. In England their position
was very different. They were drawn from the staff of the king's chapel,
and had their whole training in the administration of the court; and they
formed an official nobility who were charged, in common with the secular
nobility, with the conduct of the general business of the realm. They were
appointed to their places by the king for services done to him, and as
instruments of his policy. Neither Pope nor people had any share in their
election. Their estates were granted them by the same titles, and with the
same obligations as those of feudal barons; the king could withhold their
temporalities, sequestrate their lands, confiscate their personal goods,
and burden them with heavy fines; they lay absolutely at his mercy without
appeal. Every tie of feudal duty, of official training, of prudent
self-interest, forced them into subjection to the Crown. Their Roman
sympathies were quenched as they watched the growing independence of the
monasteries, and saw Church endowments taken to enrich the new religious
houses of every kind which were springing up all over England. They feared
the new authority claimed by legates, which threatened to withdraw the
clergy, if they chose to assert their claims, from regular episcopal
jurisdiction. They were thrown on the side of the king in ecclesiastical
questions, drawn together by a common cause, both alike found their
interest in the defence of national tradition as opposed to foreign

Their leaders too looked coldly on the cause of the Primate. The
Archbishop of York, Roger of Pont l'Eveque, once the companion of Thomas
in Theobald's household, was now his personal enemy and rival. The two
prelates inherited the secular strife as to which see should have the
precedence. Moreover, while Canterbury represented the papal policy and
always looked to Rome, York preserved some faint traditional leanings
towards the liberties of the Irish and Scotch churches from whence the
Christianity of the north had sprung. The Bishop of London, Gilbert
Foliot, who, with the approval of Thomas, had been translated from
Hereford only five months before, was, by his mere position, marked out
as the chief antagonist of the archbishop, for St Pauls was at the head
of the whole body of secular clergy throughout southern England, and to
its bishop inevitably fell the leadership of this party against
Canterbury, which was in the hands of a monastic chapter. The Bishop of
Winchester, Henry of Blois, could well remember the struggle between
Church and Crown under a far weaker king twenty six years before, when
the bishops had wisely withdrawn from a contest where they had "seen
swords unsheathed and knew it was no longer a joking matter, but a
struggle of life and death," and with the prudence born of long political
experience he was for moderate counsels. The Bishop of Chichester, Hilary,
doubtless remembered the inconvenient part which Thomas as chancellor had
played in his own trial a few years before, and might gladly recognize a
poetic justice in seeing Thomas's old doctrines of the supremacy of the
State now applied to himself. "Every plant," he once said with taunting
reference to the king's part in Thomas's election, "which my heavenly
Father has not planted shall be rooted up." Thomas bitterly added another
verse as he heard of the saying, "This man had among the brethren the
place of Judas the traitor." There seems to have been a general impression
that the position of the Primate was extremely critical, and he was
besieged by advisers who urged submission, by messengers from pope and
cardinals, by panic-stricken churchmen. Beset on all sides the Primate
wavered, and at last promised to swear obedience to the "customs of the
kingdom." Immediately the king summoned prelates and barons to witness
his submission, and the famous Council of Clarendon met for this purpose
in 1164.

At Clarendon, however, after three days' conference, the archbishop
hesitated and hung back, he had grievously sinned in yielding, and he
now refused the promised oath. The bishops, finding courage in his
firmness, declared themselves ready to follow him in his refusal. At the
news the fury of the king burst forth, and "he was as a madman in the
eyes of those who stood by." The court broke into wild disorder, the
servants of the king, "with faces more truculent than usual," burst into
the assembly of the prelates, and flinging aside their long cloaks,
flourished their axes aloft, and threatened to strike them into the
heads of the bishops. Two nobles were sent to warn Thomas that orders
for his death were already given unless he would submit. The weeping
bishops with lamentable voices besought him to save them; knights of the
Hospital and the Temple from the king's household knelt before him,
sighing and pouring forth tears. "In fear of death," says one chronicler,
he yielded. "I am ready," he said, "to keep the customs of the kingdom."
Hardly were the words out of his mouth, when Henry commanded him to order
the bishops to give the same promise, and again the Primate obeyed. But
the king was still unsatisfied. His temper had risen in the discussions
of the last few months; his determination was fixed that the matter should
be settled once for all. With the sharp decision of a keen and practical
administrator, he ordered that the "customs of the kingdom" should be
written down, so that no question might ever arise as to the laws which
Thomas had sworn to observe; and "wise men" passed into the next room to
write according to the king's will. They returned with a draft of sixteen
articles, the famous "Constitutions of Clarendon." To these the king
commanded that the Primate should set his seal; but Thomas, agitated by
fear and anxiety, was no longer of the same mind. "By the omnipotent God,"
he cried, "while I live, I will never set my seal to it!" Whether he
finally submitted it is impossible now to say. But he left the court with
a last protest. A copy of the writing was torn down the middle, and one
half, after the fashion of the "tallies" of the day, was given to Thomas
in token of his promise, while the other was laid up in the royal
treasury. "I take this," said the archbishop, "not consenting nor
approving," and turning to the clergy: "By this we may know the malice
of the king, and those things which we must beware of." He left the
council and retired to Winchester, where in sackcloth and penance, shut
out from the services of the Church, he condemned himself to wait in
deepest humiliation till he should receive the Pope's absolution for his
momentary betrayal of duty. For years to come a furious battle was to rage
round the sixteen articles drawn up at Clarendon. According to Thomas, the
Constitutions were a mere act of arbitrary violence, a cunning device of
tyranny. He asserted that they were the sole deed of the justiciar
De Lucy, and of Jocelyn de Bailleul, a French lawyer. In any case he
frankly denied the authority of "custom," that tyrannous law of medieval
times. "God never said," writes one of his defenders, "I am Custom, but I
am Truth." Thomas rested his case not on the customary law of the land,
but on the code of Rome; to English tradition he opposed the Italian
lawyers. Henry, on his part, declared that the Constitutions were drawn
up by the common witness of bishops, earls, barons, and wise men; that
they were, in fact, part of a system actually in operation, and which had
been administered by Thomas himself when he was chancellor. It was
certainly a startling novelty to have the customs of the realm drawn up in
a written code to which men were required to swear obedience; but still
the "Constitutions" professed to be no new legislation, but to be simply a
statement of recognized national tradition. The changes that had followed
on the Conquest had modified older customs profoundly. The conditions, not
only of England but of Europe, had changed with confusing rapidity, and it
was no longer easy to say exactly what was "custom" and what was not. To
Henry the Constitutions did fairly represent the system which had grown up
with general consent under the Norman kings. Thomas, on the other hand,
might argue with equal conviction that he was asked to sign as "customs"
what was practically a new code; and he had neither the wisdom nor the
temper to reconcile the dispute by a reasonable compromise.

No question seems to have been raised as to some of the statutes which
were certainly of recent growth, though they touched Church interests.
One of these repeated unreservedly the assertion that bishops held a
feudal position in all points the same as that of barons or direct
vassals of the king, being bound by all their obligations, and entitled
to sit with them in judgment in the Curia Regis till it came to a
question of blood. Others dealt with disorders which had grown up from
the mutual jealousy of Church and lay courts, and the difficulties thus
thrown in the way of administering laws which were not disputed; rules
were made for the securities to be taken from excommunicated persons;
for the giving up to the king of forfeited goods of felons deposited in
churches or churchyards; and forbidding the ordination of villeins
without their lord's consent,--a provision which possibly was intended
to prevent the withdrawal of an unlimited number of people from secular
jurisdiction. Two other clauses touched upon the new legal remedies, the
use of the jury in the accusation of criminals, and in the decision of
questions of property; it was decreed that laymen should not be accused
in Church courts save by lawful witness, or by the twelve legal
men of the hundred--in other words, by the newly-developed jury of
"presentation"; while the jury of "recognition" was ordered to be used
in disputed titles to ecclesiastical estates.

The real strife was about the seven remaining statutes, which declared
that an accused clerk must first appear before the king's court, and that
the justiciar should then send a royal officer with him to watch the trial
at the ecclesiastical court, and if he were found guilty the Church should
no longer protect him; that the chief clergy might not leave the realm
without the king's permission; that appeals might not be carried to the
Papal Court without the king's consent; that no tenant-in-chief of the
king might be excommunicated without the leave of the king; that the
revenues of vacant sees should fall to the king, until a new appointment
had been made in his court; that questions of advowsons or presentations
to livings questions which at that time represented comparatively a vast
amount of property--should be tried in the king's court; and that the
king's judges should decide in matters of debt, even where the case
included a question of perjury or broken faith, which was claimed as a
matter for ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Such laws as these were no doubt
in Henry's mind simply part of his scheme for establishing a general order
and one undivided authority in the realm. But they opened very much wider
grounds of dispute between Church and State than the mere question of how
criminal clerks were to be dealt with. They boldly attacked the whole of
the pretensions of the Church; they threatened to rob it of a mass of
financial business, to wrest from its control an enormous amount of
property, to deprive it of jurisdiction in the great majority of criminal
suits, to limit its power of irresponsible self-government, and to prevent
its absorption into the vast organization of the Church of Western
Christendom. They defined the relations of the English Church to the see
of Rome. They established its position as a national Church, and declared
that its clergy should be brought under the rule of national law.

The eight months which followed the Council of Clarendon were spent in a
vain attempt to solve an insoluble problem. Messengers from king and
archbishop hastened again and again to the Pope, with no result. Henry
set his face like a flint. "_Verba sunt_," he said to a mediating
bishop; "you may talk to me all the days that we both shall live, but
there shall be no peace till the archbishop wins the Pope's consent to
the customs." Fresh cases arose of clerks accused of theft and murder,
but as the personal quarrel between Henry and Thomas increased in
bitterness, questions of reform fell into the background. "I will humble
thee," the king declared, "and will restore thee to the place from
whence I took thee." Thomas, on his part, knew how to awaken all Henry's
secret fears. All Europe was concerned in the dispute of king and
archbishop. The Pope at Sens, the French king, the "eldest son of the
Church," the princes of the House of Blois, as steadfast in their
orthodoxy as in their hatred of the Angevin, the Emperor, ready to use
any quarrel for his own purposes, were all eagerly watching every turn
of the strife. In August Henry was startled by the news that Thomas
himself had fled to seek the protection of the Pope at Sens. He was,
however, recognized by sailors, and carried back to English shores.
Henry immediately dealt his counter-blow. The archbishop was summoned in
September to London to answer in a case which John, the marshal, an
officer of the Exchequer, had withdrawn from the Archbishop's to the
King's Court. Thomas pleaded illness, and protested that the marshal had
been guilty of perjury. The king retorted by calling a council for the
trial of the archbishop on a charge of contempt of the royal summons.
With the insolence of power and the bitter anger of outraged confidence,
Henry heaped humiliations on his enemy. The Primate had a right, by
ancient custom, to be summoned first among the great lords called to the
king's council; he was now merely served with an ordinary notice from
the sheriff of Kent to attend his trial. When he arrived at Northampton
there was no lodging left free for himself and his attendants. The king
had gone out hunting amid the marshes and streams, and only the next
morning met the Primate roughly after mass, and refused him the kiss of

In the council which opened in Northampton Castle on Wednesday, 7th
October, we see the Curia Regis in the developed form which it had taken
under Henry and his justiciar, De Lucy, carrying out an exact legal
system, and observing the forms of a very elaborate procedure. The king
and his inner council of the great lords, the prelates, and the officers
of the household, withdrew to an upper chamber of the castle; the whole
company of sheriffs and lesser barons waited in the great hall below
till they were specially summoned to the king's presence, crowding round
the fire that burned in the centre of the hall under the opening in the
roof through which the smoke escaped, or lounging in the straw and
rushes that covered the floor. For seven days the trial dragged on, as
lawyers and bishops and barons anxiously groped their way through
baffling legal problems which had grown out of legislation new and old.
Even the king himself, fiery, imperious, dictatorial, clung with a kind
of superstition to the forms of legal process. The archbishop asked
leave to appeal to the Pope. "You shall first answer in my court for the
injury done to John the marshal," said Henry. The next day, Thursday,
this matter was decided. Bishops and barons alike, lacking somewhat of
the king's daring, shrank at first from the responsibility of pronouncing
judgment. "We are laymen," said the barons; "you are his fellow-priests
and fellow-bishops, and it is for you to declare sentence." "Nay,"
answered the bishops, "this is not an ecclesiastical but a secular
judgment, and we sit here not as bishops but as barons; if you heed our
orders you should also take heed of his." The dispute was a critical one,
leading as it did directly to questions about the jurisdiction of the
Curia Regis over ecclesiastical persons, and the obligation asserted in
the Constitutions of Clarendon, that bishops should sit with barons in the
King's Court till it came to a question of blood. The king was seized with
one of his fierce fits of anger, and the discussion "immediately ended."
The unwilling Bishop of Winchester was sent to pronounce sentence of fine
for neglect of the king's summons. Matters then moved quickly. A demand
was made for L300 which Thomas had received from Eye and Berkhampstead
when he was chancellor; and in spite of his defence that it had been spent
in building the palace in London and repairing the castles, judgment went
against him. The next day a further demand was made for money spent in the
war of Toulouse, and this, too, Thomas agreed to pay, though it was now
hard to find sureties. Then the king dealt his last blow. Thomas was
required to account for the sums he had received as chancellor from vacant
sees and abbeys. "By God's eyes," the king swore, when the Primate and the
bishops threw themselves in despair at his feet, he would have the
accounts in full. He would only grant a day's delay for Thomas to take
counsel with his friends.

By this time there was no doubt of the king's purpose to force upon
Thomas the resignation of his archbishopric. The courtiers and lay
barons no longer thought it expedient to visit him, and the prelates
gave counsel with divided hearts. "Remembering whence the king took
you," said Foliot, "and what he has bestowed on you, and the ruin which
you prepare for the Church and for us all, not only the archbishopric
but ten times as much, if it were possible, you should yield to him. It
may be that seeing in you this humility he may yet restore all." To this
argument Thomas had curt answer. "Enough--it is well enough known how
you, being consulted, would answer!" "You know the king better than we,"
urged Hilary of Chichester; "in the chancery, in peace and war, you
served him faithfully, but not without envy. Those who then envied now
excite the king against you. Who dare answer for you? The king has said
that you can no longer both be at one time in England--he as king, you
as archbishop." Henry of Winchester took his stand on the side of
Thomas. "If the authority of the king was to prevail," he argued, "what
remains but that nothing shall henceforth be done according to law, but
all things shall be disturbed for his pleasure--and the priesthood shall
be as the people," he concluded, with a stirring of the churchman's
temper. The Bishop of Exeter added another plea to induce Thomas to
stand firm: "Surely it is better to put one head in peril than to set
the whole Church in danger." Not so, thought the Bishop of Lincoln, "a
simple man and of little discretion;" "for it is plain," he said, "that
this man must yield up either the archbishopric or his life; but what
should be the fruit of his archbishopric to him if his life should
cease, I see not." The Bishop of Worcester, son of the famous Robert of
Gloucester, and Henry's own cousin and playmate in old days took an
eminently prudent course. "I will give no counsel," he said, "for if I
say our charge of souls is to be given up at the king's threats, I
should speak against my conscience, and to my own condemnation; and if I
should advise to resist the king, there are those here who will bring
him word of it, and I shall be cast out of the synagogue, and my lot
shall be with outlaws and public enemies." At last, by the advice of the
politic Henry of Winchester, Thomas offered to pay the king 2000 marks,
but this compromise was refused. He urged that he had been freed at
his consecration from all secular obligations, but the plea was
rejected on the ground that it was done without the king's orders. An
adjournment over Sunday was again granted; but on Monday Thomas was ill,
and unable to attend the Council. Three days had now passed in fruitless
negotiations, and the rising wrath of the king made itself felt. Rumours
of danger grew on all sides, and the archbishop prostrated himself
before the altar in an agony of prayer, "trembling in his whole body,"
as he afterwards confessed, less from fear of death than from the more
terrible fear of the savage blinding and cruel punishments of those days.

But he showed no signs of yielding when on Tuesday morning, the last day
of the Council, the bishops again gathered round him beseeching him
to yield to the king's will. With a fierce outbreak of passionate
reproaches he solemnly forbade them to take part in any further
proceedings against him, and gave formal notice of an appeal to Rome.
Then kneeling before the altar of St. Stephen he celebrated mass, using
the service for St. Stephen's Day with its psalm, "Princes sat and spake
against me,"--"a magical rite," said Foliot, "and an act done in contempt
of the king"-and commended himself to the care of the first Christian
martyr, and of the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury, Aelfheah. Still
arrayed in his pontifical robes, he set out for his last ride to the
castle. Of the forty clerks "most learned in the law," who formed his
household, only two ventured to follow him; but "an innumerable
multitude" of people thronged round him as he passed bearing his cross
in his right hand, and followed him to the castle doors with cries of
lamentation, weeping and kneeling for his benediction, for it was spread
abroad that he should that day be slain. The gates were quickly closed in
the face of the tumultuous crowd, and Thomas passed up the great hall,
while the king, hearing of his coming in such dress and fashion, hastily
withdrew to the upper chamber to take counsel with his officers. "A fool
he was, and a fool he always will be," commented Foliot as Thomas entered
with his uplifted cross. "Lord archbishop, thou art ill-advised to enter
thus to the king with sword unsheathed--if now the king should take his
sword, we shall have a well-armed king and a well-armed archbishop!"
--"That we will commit to God," said Thomas. Thus he passed to his seat,
the troubled and perplexed bishops "sitting opposite to him both in place
and in heart."

Meanwhile the king and his inner council, to which the bishops were
now summoned, were busy discussing what must be done. Henry's position
was one of extreme difficulty, suddenly called on as he was to deal
with a legacy of difficulties which had been left from the unsettled
controversies of a hundred years. By coming to the court in his pontifical
dress Thomas had raised a claim that a bishop could only be tried dressed
in full pontificals by his fellow-bishops also in full dress. He had
thrown aside the king's jurisdiction by his appeal to Rome; and by his
orders to the bishops to judge no further with the barons in this suit
he had further violated the "customs" of the realm to which he had himself
commanded the bishops to swear obedience at Clarendon. None of the
questions raised by Thomas indeed were raised for the first time. William
of St. Carileph, when charged by Rufus with treason, had asserted the
privilege of a bishop to be tried in pontifical dress, and to be judged
only by the canon law in an ecclesiastical court, and had claimed the
right of appeal to Rome. But such doctrines were in those days new and
somewhat doubtful, not supported in any degree by the Church and quite
outside the sympathy of nobles and people, and Lanfranc had easily
eluded the Bishop of Durham's claims. Anselm himself had accepted
a number of points disputed now by Thomas. He frankly admitted the king's
authority in appointing him to the see of Canterbury; he submitted to the
jurisdiction of the King's Court; he made no claims to clerical privileges
or special forms of trial. He had indeed given the first example of a
saving clause in his oath to keep the customs of the kingdom; but the
clause he used, "according to God," was radically different from that of
Thomas, and asserted no different law of obedience for clerk and
for layman. In the reign of Stephen the question of ecclesiastical
jurisdiction ad been raised at the trial of Bishop Roger of Salisbury; but
in this case too the difficulty had been evaded by a temporary expedient,
and the real principle at issue was left untouched. Thomas had in fact
taken up a position which had never been claimed by any great churchman
of the past. The rising tide of ecclesiastical feeling had swept him on
far beyond any of his predecessors. Not even in Anselm's time had the
people in an ecstasy of religious fervour pressed to the gate of the
judgment hall and knelt for the blessing of the saint with a passion of
sympathy and devotion. No problem of such proportions in the relations of
Church and State had ever before presented itself to a king of England.

Henry's first step was to send orders to the archbishop to withdraw his
appeal to Rome and his prohibition to the bishops to proceed in the
trial, and to submit to the King's Court in the matter of the chancery
accounts. Secret friends in the Council sent the archbishop strange
warnings. Henry, some said, was planning his death; according to others
the royal officers were laying plots for it secretly, "the king knowing
nothing." A new access of panic seized the bishops. "If he should be
captured or slain what remains to us but to be cast out of our offices
and honours to everlasting shame!" With faces of abject terror they
surrounded Thomas, and the Bishop of Winchester implored him to resign
his see. "The same day and the same hour," he answered, "shall end my
bishopric and my life." "Would to God," cried Hilary, "that thou wert
and shouldst remain only Thomas without any other dignity whatever!"
But Thomas refused all compromise; he had not been summoned to answer
in this cause; he had already suffered against law for men of Kent and
of the sea-border charged with the defence of the coast might be fined
only one-third as much as the inland men; at his consecration, too, he
had been freed from any responsibility incurred as chancellor; he asserted
his right of appeal; and he had meanwhile forbidden the bishops to judge
him in any charge that referred to the time before he was Primate.
Silently the king's messenger returned with his answer. "Behold, we have
heard the blasphemy of prohibition out of his mouth!" cried the barons
and officers, and courtiers turning their heads and throwing sidelong
glances at him, whispered loudly that William who had conquered England,
and even Geoffrey of Anjou, had known how to subdue clerks.

On hearing the message the king at once ordered bishops and barons to
proceed to the trial of the Primate for this new act of contempt of the
King's Court. "In a strait place you have put us," Hilary broke out
bitterly to Thomas, "by your prohibition you have set us between the
hammer and the anvil!" In vain they again entreated Thomas to yield; in
vain they begged the king's leave to sit apart from the barons. Even the
Archbishop of York and Foliot sought anxiously for some escape from
obeying Henry's orders, and at the head of the bishops prayed that they
might themselves appeal to Rome, and thus deal with their own special
grievances against Thomas, who had ordered them to swear and then to
forswear themselves. To this Henry agreed, and from this time the
prelates sat apart, no longer forced to join in the proceedings of the
lay lords; while Henry added to the Council certain sheriffs and lesser
barons "ancient in days." The assembly thus remodelled formally condemned
the archbishop as a traitor, and the earls of Leicester and of Cornwall
were sent to pronounce judgment. But the sentence was never spoken. Thomas
sprang up, cross in hand, and passionately forbade Leicester to speak.
"How can you refuse to obey," said Leicester, "seeing you are the king's
man, and hold your possessions as a fief from him?" "God forbid!" said
Thomas; "I hold nothing whatever of him in fief, for whatever the Church
holds it holds in perpetual liberty, not in subjection to any earthly
sovereignty whatever.... I am your father, you princes of the palace,
lay powers, secular persons; as gold is better than lead, so is the
spiritual better than the lay power.... By my authority I forbid you to
pronounce the sentence." As the nobles retired the archbishop raised his
cross: "I also withdraw," he said, "for the hour is past." Cries of
"Traitor!" followed him down the hall. Knights and barons rushed after him
with bundles of straw and sticks snatched up from the floor, and a clamour
rose "as if the four parts of the city had been given to flames and the
assault of enemies." He made his way slowly through the weeping crowd
outside to the monastery of St. Andrews. That night he fled from
Northampton. The darkness was "as a covering" to him, and a terrible storm
and pelting rain hid the sound of his horse's feet as he passed at
midnight through the town, and out by an unguarded gate to the north. At
dawn of day the anxious Henry of Winchester came to ask for news. "He is
doing well," Thomas's servant whispered in his ear, "for last night he
went away from us, and we do not know whither he has gone." "By the
blessing of God!" cried the bishop, weeping and sighing. When the news was
brought to the king he stood speechless for some moments, choked by his
fury, till at last catching his breath, "We have not done with him yet!"
he exclaimed.

It seemed, indeed, as though the Council of Northampton had brought
nothing but failure and disaster. The king's whole scheme of reform
depended on the ruin or the submission of the Primate, who was its open
and formidable opponent. But Thomas was free and was now more dangerous
than ever. The Church was alarmed, suspicious, perplexed. It was not ten
years since Henry had made his first journey round the kingdom with
Archbishop Theobald at his side, as the king chosen and appointed by the
spiritual power to put down violence and repress a lawless baronage. But
now he could no longer look for the aid of the Church; all dream of
orderly legislation seemed over. Amid all his violence, however, the
king's sincere attempt to maintain the outward authority of law made of
the Council of Northampton a great event in our constitutional history.
It showed that the rule of pure despotism was over. A new step was taken
too in the political education of the nation. Thrown back on the support
of his own officials and of the baronage, Henry used the nobles as he
had once used the Church. Greater and lesser barons sat together in the
King's Council for the first time when Henry summoned sheriffs and
knights from the hall of Northampton Castle to the inner council
chamber. He taught the nobles their strength when he called the whole
assembly of his barons to discuss questions of spiritual jurisdiction.
It was at Northampton that he gave them their first training in political
action--a training whose full results were seen half a century later in
the winning of Magna Charta.



The flight of the archbishop marked the opening of a new phase in the
struggle. Thomas sought refuge at the Papal Court at Sens. There
kneeling at Alexander's feet, and surrounded by weeping cardinals, he
delivered into the Pope's hands the written "customs" which had been
forced upon him at Clarendon, and resigned the see of Canterbury to
receive it back again with all honour. Alexander had indeed but limited
sympathy with the fiery zealot, but he had practically no choice of
action in face of the resistance with which the clergy would have met
any sacrifice of ecclesiastical to secular authority. For two years at a
monastery in Pontigny then for four at Sens, the archbishop lived the
life of an austere Cistercian monk, edifying the community with his
fastings, scourgings, and prayers. The canon law again became his
constant study, and throughout the churches of Gaul he sought for books
which might be copied for the library at Canterbury. He was soon
fortified with visions of martyrdom, and prepared himself fitly to
fulfil this glorious destiny. Nor did he forget the uses of political
intrigue; it was easy to enlist on his side the orthodoxy of the French
king and of the house of Blois; and the intimate knowledge which he had
of his master's continental policy was henceforth at the disposal of the
hereditary enemies of Henry. A tumult of political alarms filled the
air. Ambassadors from both sides hurried to every court, to the Emperor,
the Pope, the King of France, the Count of Flanders, the Empress Matilda
at Rouen. It was the beginning of six years of incessant diplomatic
intrigue, and of almost ceaseless war. The conflict, transferred from
England to France, rapidly widened into a strife, not now for the
maintenance of the king's authority in England, but for his actual
supremacy over the whole empire. Instead of the great questions of
principle which had given dignity to the earlier stages of the dispute,
the quarrel sank into a bitter personal wrangle, an ignoble strife which
left to later generations no great example, no fruitful precedent, no
victory won for liberty or order, for Church or State.

The Constitutions of Clarendon two years before had lain down the
principles which were to regulate the relations in England of Church and
State. The Assize of Clarendon laid down the principles on which the
administration of justice was to be carried out. Just as Henry had
undertaken to bring Church courts and Church law under the king's
control, so now he aimed at bringing all local and rival jurisdictions
whatever into the same obedience. In form the new law was simple enough.
It consisted of twenty-two articles which were drawn up for the use of
the judges who were about to make their circuits of the provinces. The
first articles described the manner in which criminals were to be
"presented" before the justices or sheriff. The accusation was to be
made by "juries," composed of twelve men of the hundred and four men of
the township; the "presentment" of a criminal by a jury such as this
practically implied that the man was held guilty by the public report of
his own neighbourhood, and he was therefore forbidden such chance of
escape as compurgation or the less dangerous forms of ordeal might have
afforded, and was sent to the almost certain condemnation of the ordeal
by water; if by some rare fortune he should escape from this alive he
was banished from the kingdom as a man of evil reputation. All freemen
were ordered to attend the courts held by the justices. The judges were
given power to enter on all estates of the nobles, to see that the men
of the manor were duly enrolled under the system of "frank-pledge," in
groups of ten men bound to answer for one another as "pledges" for all
purposes of police. Strict rules were made to prevent the possible
escape of criminals. The sheriffs were ordered to aid one another in
carrying the hue and cry after them from one country to another; no
"liberty" or "honour" might harbour a malefactor against the king's
officers; sheriffs were to give to the justices in writing the names of
all fugitives, so that they might be sought through all England;
everywhere jails, in which doubtful strangers or suspected rogues might
be shut up for safe keeping in case the "hue and cry" should be raised
after them, were to be made or repaired with wood from the king's or the
nearest landowner's domains; no man might entertain a stranger for whom
he would not be answerable before the justices; the old English law was
again repeated in the very words of ancient times, that none might take
into his house a waif or wanderer for more than one night unless he or
his horse were sick; and if he tarried longer he must be kept until he
were redeemed by his lord or could give safe pledges; no religious house
might receive any of the mean people into their body without good
testimony as to character unless he were sick unto death; and heretics
were to be treated as outlaws. These last indeed were not very plentiful
in England, and the over-anxious legislators seem only to have had in
view a little band of German preachers, who had converted one woman, and
who had themselves at a late council at Oxford been branded, flogged,
and driven out half-naked, so that there was by this time probably not
one who had not perished in the cold.

Such was the series of regulations that opened the long course of
reforms by which English law has been built up. Two judges were sent
during the next spring and summer through the whole of England. The
following year there was a survey of the forests, and in 1168 another
circuit of the shires was made by the barons of the Exchequer. Year by
year with unbroken regularity the terrible visitation of the country by
the justices went on. The wealth of the luckless people poured into the
king's treasury; the busy secretaries recorded in the Rolls a mass of
profits unknown to the accounts of earlier days. The great barons who
presided over the Shire courts found themselves practically robbed of
power and influence. The ordinary courts fell into insignificance beside
those summoned by the king's judges, thronged as they were with the
crowd of rich and poor, trembling at the penalty of a ruinous fine for
non-attendance or full of a newly-kindled hope of justice. Important
cases were more and more withdrawn from the sheriffs and given to the
justices. They entered the estates of the nobles, even the franchises,
liberties, and manors which had been freed from the old courts of the
shire or hundred; they reviewed their decisions and interfered with their
judgments. It is true that the system established in principle was but
gradually carried into effect, and the people long suffered the tyranny
of lords who maintained their own prisons. Half a century later we find
sturdy barons setting up their tumbrils and gallows. In the reign of
Edward I. there were still thirty-five private gallows in Berkshire
alone, and when one of them was by chance or age broken down, and the
people refused to set it up again, the baron could still make shift with
the nearest oak. But as a system of government, feudalism was doomed from
the day of Henry's Assize, and only dragged out a lingering existence
till the legislation of Edward I. dealt it a final blow.

The duties of police were at that time performed by the whole population,
and the judges' circuits brought home sharply to every man the part he
was expected to play in the suppression of crime. Juries were fined if
they had not "presented" a due amount of criminals; townships were fined
if they had not properly pursued malefactors; villages were fined if a hut
was burned down and the hue and cry was not raised, or if a criminal who
had fled for refuge to their church escaped from it. A robber or murderer
must be paid for by his "pledge," or if he had no pledge, a fine fell on
his village or township; if a dead body were found and the slayer not
produced, the hundred must pay for him, unless a legal form, called
"proving his Englishry," could be gone through--a condition which was
constantly impossible; the township was fined if the body had been buried
before the coming of the coroner; abbot or knight or householder was
heavily taxed for every crime of serf or hired servant under him, or even
for the offences of any starving and worn-out pilgrim or traveller to
whom he had given a three days' shelter.. In the remotest regions of the
country barons and knights and freeholders were called to aid in carrying
out the law. The "jurors" must be ready at the judges' summons wherever
and whenever they were wanted. They must be prepared to answer fully for
their district; they must expect to be called on all sorts of excuses to
Westminster itself, and no hardships of the journey from the farthest
corner of the land might keep them back. The "knights of the shire" were
summoned as "recognitors" to give their testimony in all questions of
property, public privilege, rights of trade, local liberties, exemption
from taxes; if the king demanded an "aid" for the marriage of his daughter
or the coming of age of his son, they assessed the amount to be paid; if
he wanted to count an estate among the royal Forests, it was they who
decided whether the land was his by ancient right. They were employed
too in all kinds of business for the Court; they might be sent to
examine a criminal who had fled to the refuge of a church, or to see
whether a sick man had appointed an attorney, or whether a litigant who
pleaded illness was really in bed without his breeches. If in any case
the verdict of the Shire Court was disputed, they were summoned to
Westminster to repeat the record of the county. No people probably ever
went through so severe a discipline or received so efficient a training
in the practical work of carrying out the law, as was given to the
English people in the hundred years that lay between the Assize of
Clarendon in 1166 and the Parliament summoned by De Montfort in 1265,
where knights from every shire elected in the county court were called
to sit with the bishops and great barons in the common Parliament of the

In the pitiless routine of their work, however, the barons of the
Exchequer were at this early time scarcely regarded as judges administering
justice so much as tax-gatherers for a needy treasury. Baron and churchman
and burgher alike saw every question turn to a demand of money to swell
the royal Hoard; jurors were fined for any trifling flaw in legal
procedure; widows were fined for leave to marry, guardians for leave to
receive their wards; if a peasant were kicked by his horse, if in fishing
he fell from the side of his boat, or if in carrying home his eels or
herrings he stumbled and was crushed by the cart-wheel, his wretched
children saw horse or boat or cart with its load of fish which in older
days had been forfeited as "deodand" to the service of God, now carried
off to the king's Hoard; if a miller was caught in the wheel of his mill
the sheriff must see the price of it paid to the royal treasury. In the
country districts where coin was perhaps scarcely ever seen, where
wages were unknown, and such little traffic as went on was wholly a
matter of barter, the peasants must often have been put to the greatest
straits to find money for the fines. Year after year baron as well as
peasant and farmer saw his waggons and horses, or his store of honey,
eggs, loaves, beer, the fish from his pond or the fowls from his yard,
claimed by the purveyors who provided for the judges and their followers,
and paid for by such measures and such prices as seemed good to the greedy
contractors. The people at large groaned under the heavy burden of fines
and penalties and charges for the maintenance of an unaccustomed justice.
When in the visitations of 1168 the judges had to collect, besides the
ordinary dues, an "aid" for the marriage of the king's eldest daughter,
the unhappy tax-payers, recognizing in their misery no distinctions,
attributed all their sufferings to the new reform, and saw in their king
not a ruler who desired righteous judgment, but one who only thirsted
after gain. The one privilege which seemed worth fighting for or worth
buying was the privilege of assessing their own fines and managing their
own courts. Half a century later we see the prevailing terror at a visit
of the judges to Cornwall, when all the people fled for refuge to the
woods, and could hardly be compelled or persuaded to come back again.
Yet later the people won a concession that in time of war no circuits
should be held, so that the poor should not be utterly ruined.

Oppression and extortion had doubtless been well known before, when the
sheriff carried on the administration of the law side by side with the
lucrative business of "farming the shires;" but it was at least an
irregular and uncertain oppression. The sheriff might himself at any
moment share the fate of one of his own victims and a more merciful man
stand in his place; in any case bribes were not unavailing, and there
was still an appeal to the king's justice. But against the new system
there was no appeal; it was orderly, methodical, unrelenting; it was
backed by the whole force of the kingdom; it overlooked nothing; it
forgot nothing; it was comparatively incorruptible. The lesser courts,
with their old clumsy procedure, were at a hopeless disadvantage before
the professional judges, who could use all the new legal methods. If a
man suffered under these there was none to plead his cause, for in all
the country there was not a single trained lawyer save those in the
king's service. However we who look back from the safe distance of seven
hundred years may see with clearer vision the great work which was done
by Henry's Assize, in its own day it was far from being a welcome
institution to our unhappy forefathers. There was scarcely a class in
the country which did not find itself aggrieved as the king waged war
with the claims of "privilege" to stand above right and justice and truth.
But all resistance of turbulent and discontented factions was vain.
The great justiciars at the head of the legal administration, De
Lucy and Glanville, steadily carried out the new code, and a body of
lawyers was trained under them which formed a class wholly unknown
elsewhere in Europe. Instead of arbitrary and inflicting decisions,
varying in every hundred and every franchise according to the fashion of
the district, the judges of the Exchequer or Curia Regis declared
judgments which were governed by certain general principles. The
traditions of the great administrators of Henry's Court were handed down
through the troubled reigns of his sons; and the whole of the later
Common law is practically based on the decisions of two judges whose
work was finished within fifty years of Henry's death, and whose labours
formed the materials from which in 1260 Bracton drew up the greatest
work ever written on English law.

There was, in fact, in all Christendom no such system of government or
of justice as that which Henry's reforms built up. The king became the
fountain of law in a way till then unknown. The later jealousy of the
royal power which grew up with the advance of industrial activity, with
the growth of public opinion and of its means of expressing itself, with
the development of national experience and national self-dependence, had
no place in Henry's days, and had indeed no reason for existence. The
strife for the abolition of privileges which in the nineteenth century
was waged by the people was in the twelfth century waged by the Crown.
In that time, if in no other, the assertion of the supreme authority of
the king meant the assertion of the supreme authority of a common law;
and there was, in fact, no country in Europe where the whole body of the
baronage and of the clergy was so early and so completely brought into
bondage to the law of the land. Since all courts were royal courts,
since all law was royal law, since no justice was known but his, and its
conduct lay wholly in the hands of his trained servants, there was no
reason for the king to look with jealousy on the authority exercised by
the law over any of his officers or servants. It may possibly be due to
this fact that in England alone, of all countries in the world, the
police, the civil servants, the soldiers, are tried in the same courts
and by the same code as any private citizen; and that in England and
lands settled by English peoples alone the Common law still remains the
ultimate and only appeal for every subject of the realm.

But the power which was taken from certain privileged classes and put in
the hands of the king was in effect by Henry's Assize given back to the
people at large. Foreigner as he was, Henry preserved to Englishmen an
inheritance which had been handed down from an immemorial past, and
which had elsewhere vanished away or was slipping fast into forgetfulness.
According to the Roman system, which in the next century spread over
Europe, all law and government proceeded directly from the king, and the
subject had no right save that of implicit obedience; the system of
representation and the idea of the jury had no place in it. Teutonic
tradition, on the other hand, looked upon the nation as a commonwealth,
and placed the ultimate authority in the will of the whole people; the
law was the people's law--it was to be declared and carried out in the
people's courts. At a very critical moment, when everything was shifting,
uncertain, transitional, Henry's legislation established this tradition
for England. By his Assize Englishmen were still to be tried in their
ancient courts. Justice was to be administered by the ancient machinery
of shire-moot and hundred-moot, by the legal men of hundred and township,
by the lord and his steward. The shire-moot became the king's court in
so far as its president was a king's judge and its procedure regulated
by the king's decree; but it still remained the court of the people, to
which the freemen gathered as their fathers had done to the folk-moot,
and where judgment could only be pronounced by the verdict of the
freeholders who sat in the court. The king's action indeed was determined
by a curious medley of chance circumstances and rooted prejudices. The
canon law was fast spreading over his foreign states, and wherever the
canon law came in the civil law followed in its train. But in England
local liberties were strong, the feudal system had never been completely
established, insular prejudice against the foreigner and foreign ways was
alert, the Church generally still held to national tradition, the king
was at deadly feud with the Primate, and was quite resolved to have no
customs favoured by him brought into the land; his own absolute power
made it no humiliation to accept the maxim of English lawyers that "the
king is under God and the law." So it happened that while all the other
civilized nations quietly passed under the rule of the Roman code England
alone stood outside it. From the twelfth century to the present day the
groundwork of our law has been English, in spite of the ceaseless
filtering in of the conceptions and rules of the civil law of Rome.
"Throughout the world at this moment there is no body of ten thousand
Englishmen governed by a system of law which was not fashioned by



The Assize of Clarendon was drawn up in February 1166, and in March
Henry sailed for France. Trouble awaited him there on every hand,
and during the next two years he had to meet no less than thirteen
revolts or wars. Aquitaine declared against the imperial system; loud
complaints were raised of Henry's contempt of old franchises and
liberties, and of the "officers of a strange race" who violated the
customs of the country by orders drawn up in a foreign tongue--the
_langue d'oil_, the speech of Norman and Angevin. Maine, Touraine,
and Britanny were in chronic revolt. The Welsh rose and conquered
Flint. The King of Scotland was in treaty with France. Warring parties
in Ireland claimed Henry's interference. England was uneasy and
discontented. Louis of France was allied with all Henry's enemies
--Gascons, Bretons, Welsh and Scotch; he aided the Count of Flanders and
the Count of Boulogne in preparing a fleet of six hundred ships to attack
the southern coast of England. The Pope's attitude was cautious and
uncertain. When Barbarossa's armies were triumphant in Italy, when
Henry's Italian alliances were strong and his bribes were big, Alexander
leaned to the king; when success again returned to Rome he looked with
more effectual favour on the demands of the archbishop. The rising tide
of disaffection tried the king sorely. It was in vain that he sought to
win over the leaders of the ecclesiastical party, the canon lawyers,
such as John of Salisbury, or Master Herbert of Bosham, with whom he
argued the point at his Easter Court at Angers. John of Salisbury flatly
rejected the Constitutions, declaring that his first obedience was due
to the Pope and the archbishop. Herbert was yet more defiant. "Look how
this proud fellow comes!" said Henry, as the stately Herbert entered in
his splendid dress of green cloth of Auxerre, with a richly trimmed
cloak hanging after the German fashion to his heels. He was no true
servant to the king, declared Herbert when he had seated himself, who
would allow him to go astray. As for the customs, there were bad enough
customs in other countries against the Church of God, but at least they
were not written down either in the lands of the King of France or of
the King of the Germans. "Why do you diminish his dignity?" hastily
demanded the king, "by not calling him the Emperor of the Germans?"
"The King of the Germans he is," retorted Herbert, "though when he writes,
he signs Imperator Romanorum semper Augustus_.'" "Shame!" cried the king,
"here is an outrage! Why should this son of a priest disturb my kingdom
and disquiet my peace?" "Nay," said Herbert, "I am not the son of a
priest, for it was after my birth my father became a priest; neither
is he the son of a king save one whom his father begat being king."
"Whosesoever son he may be," cried a baron who sat by, "I would give the
half of my land that he were mine!" Henry heard the words bitterly, and
held his peace; and in a few moments ordered the intractable Herbert
to depart.

The strife between Church and State was, in fact, taking every day a new
harshness. Gregory VII. a century earlier had suggested that kingly
power was of diabolic origin. "Who is ignorant that kings and princes
have their beginning in this, that knowing not God, they by rapine,
perfidy, and slaughter, the devil moving them, affect rule over their
equals-that is, over men, with blind greed and intolerable presumption."
But the papal theory of a vast Christian republic of all peoples, under
the leadership of Rome, found little favour with the kings of the rising
states which were beginning to shape themselves into the great powers of
modern Europe. Henry, steeped in the new temper, proposed a rival theory
of the origin of government. "Thou," he wrote to the Pope, "by the papal
authority granted thee by men, thinkest to prevail over the authority of
the royal dignity committed to me by God." The wisest of the churchmen of
England used more sober language than all this. "Ecclesiastical
dignity," wrote Ralph of Diceto, later the Dean of St. Paul's, "rather
advances than abolishes royal dignity, and the royal dignity is wont
rather to preserve than to destroy ecclesiastical liberty, for kings
have no salvation without the Church, nor can the Church obtain peace
without the protection of the king." To the fiery zeal of the archbishop,
on the other hand, the secular power was as "lead" compared to the fine
"gold" of the spiritual dignity. Henry, he cried loudly, was a "tyrant"-a
word which to medieval ears meant not an arbitrary or capricious ruler,
since that was the admitted right of every ruler, but a king who governed
without heeding the eternal maxims of the "law of nature," an idea which
theologians had borrowed from the theories of the ancient law of Rome,
and modified to mean the law of Scripture or of the Church. But in the
arguments of Thomas this law took the narrowest proportions, with no wider
interpretation than that given by the pedantic temper of a fanatical
ecclesiastical politician. He fought his battles too often by violent
and vulgar methods, and Henry reaped the profit of his errors. How far
our national solution of the problem raised between Church and State might
have been altered or delayed if the claims of the Church had at this
moment been represented by a leader of supreme moral and spiritual
authority, it is hard to say. But Thomas was far from being at the highest
level of his own day in religious thought. When some years later the holy
Hugh of Lincoln forbade his archdeacons and their officers to receive
fines instead of inflicting penance for crimes, he was met by the
objection that the blessed archbishop and martyr Thomas himself had taken
fines. "Believe me," said Hugh, "not for that was he a saint; he showed
other marks of holiness, by another title he won the martyr's palm."

In the spring of 1166 Thomas was appointed Papal Legate for England, and
he at once used his new authority to excommunicate in June all the
king's chief agents--Richard of Ilchester, John of Oxford, Richard de
Lucy, Jocelyn of Bailleul--while the king himself was only spared for
the moment that he might have a little space for repentance. Rumour
asserted too that the Primate acted as counsellor to the foreign enemies
of England, declaring that he would either restore himself to his see or
take away Henry's crown. He saw with delight the growing irritation of
England under its sufferings after the Assize of Clarendon; ancient
prophecies of Merlin's which foretold disaster were on his lips, and he
grew yet more defiant in his sense of the king's impending ruin. The
pride and temper of Henry kept pace with those of Thomas. He became more
and more fierce and uncompromising. In answer to the excommunications he
forced the Cistercians in 1166, by threats of vengeance in England, to
expel Thomas from Pontigny. When papal legates arrived in 1167 with
proposals for mediation, he bluntly expressed his hope that he might
never see any more cardinals. His political activity was unceasing. He
completed the conquest of Britanny, and concluded a treaty of marriage
between his son Geoffrey and its heiress Constance. The Count of Blois
was won at a cost of L500 a year. Mortain was bought from the Count of
Boulogne. "Broad and deep ditches were made between France and Normandy."
A frontier castle was raised at Beauvoir. His second son Richard, then
twelve years old, was betrothed to Louis's daughter Adela; and his
daughter Eleanor to the King of Castile. He secured the friendship of
Flanders. He was busy building up a plan of Italian alliances and securing
the passes over the Alps. Milan, Parma, Bologna, Cremona, the Marquis of
Montferrat, the barons of Rome, all were won by his lavish pay. The
alliance of Sicily was established by the betrothal of his daughter with
its king. The states of the Pope were being gradually hemmed in between
Henry's allies to north and south. The threat of an imperial alliance was
added to hold his enemies in awe. In the spring of 1168 his eldest
daughter was married to the Emperor's cousin, Henry the Lion, the national
hero of Germany, second only to Barbarossa in power, Duke of Bavaria, Duke
of Saxony, Lord of Brunswick, and of vast estates in Northern Germany,
with claims to the inheritance of Tuscany and of the Lombard possessions
of the House of Este. For the purpose of a judicious threat, he even
entertained an imperial embassy which promised him armed help and urged
him to recognize the anti-Pope, whose first act, as both Henry and Thomas
well understood, would have been the deposition of the archbishop.

At last the moment seemed come, not only to win a peace with France, but
to carry out a long-cherished scheme for the ordering of the Angevin
Empire. He met the King of France at Montmirail on the feast of the
Epiphany, January 6, 1169, and the mighty Angevin ruler bowed himself
before his feebler suzerain lord to renew his homage. "On this day, my
lord king, on which the three kings offered gifts to the King of kings,
myself, my sons, and my land, I commend to your keeping." His continental
estates were divided among his sons, to be held under his supreme
authority. The eldest, Henry, who had in 1160 done homage to Louis for
Normandy, now did homage for Anjou, Maine, and Britanny. Richard received
Aquitaine, and Geoffrey was set over Britanny under his elder brother as
overlord. This division of Henry's dominions by no means implied any
intention on the king's part of giving up the administration of the
provinces. It was but the first step towards the realization of his
imperial system, by which he was to reign as supreme lord, surrounded by
the sub-rulers of his various provinces. Harassed as he had been with
ceaseless wars, from the Welsh mountains to the Pyrenees, he might well
believe that such a system would best provide for the defence of his
unwieldy states; "When he alone had the rule of his kingdom," as he said
later, "he had let nothing go of his rights; and now, when many were
joined in the government of his lands, it would be a shame that any part
of them were lost." In the difficulties of internal administration the
system might prove no less useful. That any serious difference of interest
could arise between himself and the sons whom he loved "more than a
father," Henry could never, then or afterwards, believe. He rather
trusted that a wise division of authority between them might secure
the administrative power in the royal house, and prevent the growth of
excessive influence among his ministers. But for all his hopes, the
treaty of Montmirail was in fact a crowning triumph for France; it was
virtually the first breaking up of the Empire, and had in it the seeds
of Henry's later ruin.

There was another side to the treaty. Henry and Thomas met at Montmirail
for the first time since the council of Northampton over four years
before, to renew a quarrel in which no terms of peace were possible. The
old hopeless dispute raged afresh, the king demanding a vow to obey the
"customs of the kingdom," Thomas insisting on his clause "saving my
order," "saving the honour of God." The former weary negotiations began
again; new envoys hurried backwards and forwards; interminable letters
argued the limits of the temporal and spiritual powers in phrases which
lost nothing of their arrogance from the fact that neither side
had the power to enforce their claims. The Primate would have no
counsels. "Believe me," Thomas wrote of Henry, "who know the manners
of the man, he is of such a disposition that nothing but punishment can
mend." He excommunicated the bishops of London and Salisbury and a number
of clerks and laymen, till in the chapel of the king there was scarcely
one who was able to give him the kiss of peace. Henry "shook with fear,"
according to the boast of Thomas, at the excommunications. In vain the
Pope sought to moderate his zeal. In the summer of 1169 two legates were
sent to settle the dispute, of whom one was pledged to the king and the
other to the archbishop. Henry, like every one else, saw the futility of
their mission, and "led them for a week," as one of them complained,
"through many windings both of road and speech." With a scornful taunt
that "he did not care an egg for them and their excommunications," he
finally mounted his horse to ride off from the conference. "I see,
I see!" he said to the frightened bishops who hurried after him to call
him back; "they will interdict my land, but surely I who can take the
strongest of castles in any single day, shall I not avail to scotch a
single clerk if he should interdict my land!" When a compromise seemed
possible, he suddenly added to the form of peace he had proposed
the words, "saving the dignity of my kingdom." This broke off all
negotiations. "The dignity of the kingdom," said Thomas, "was only a
softer name for the Constitutions of Clarendon." "If the king," said John
of Salisbury, "had obtained the insertion of this clause, he had
carried the royal customs, only changing the name." A new attempt at
reconciliation was made in November at Montmartre, but Henry refused to
give the Primate the "kiss of peace," which in feudal custom was the
binding sign of perfect friendship; and when the Pope thought to compel
his submission, first by threats and promises, then by a formal threat of
interdict, he answered by despatching very decided orders to England.
Anyone who carried an interdict to England was to suffer as a traitor; all
clerks were summoned home from abroad; none might leave the kingdom
without an order from the king; if any man should observe an interdict he
was to be banished with all his kindred. All appeal to Pope or archbishop
was forbidden; no mandate might be carried to Pope or archbishop; if any
man favoured Pope or archbishop his goods and those of his kindred should
be confiscated. All subjects of the realm, from boys to old men, must
swear obedience to these articles.

But if Henry had long been used to see his mere will turn into absolute
law, he had now reached a point where the submission of his subjects
broke down. The laity indeed obeyed, but the clergy, with the Archbishop
of York at their head, absolutely refused to abjure obedience to Pope
and Primate. Throughout the strife the leading clergy had sought to
avoid taking sides, but as the king's attitude became more and more
arbitrary, a steady undercurrent of resistance made itself felt. As
early as 1166 the king's officer, Richard of Ilchester, sought counsel
of Ralph of Diceto as to the duty of observing his excommunication by
Thomas. The answer shows the nobler influence of the Church in maintaining
the rigid rule of law as opposed to arbitrary government, and its large
sense that general order was to be preferred to private good. He laid down
that an archbishop's spiritual rights are indestructible; that in all
cases submission to law was the highest duty; and that it was better
humbly to accept even a harsh sentence than to set an evil example of
disobedience by which others might be led to their ruin. In 1167 the
clergy had been called to London to swear fealty to the anti-Pope; but
"as the bishops refused to take so detestable an oath against God and the
Pope, this unlawful and wicked business came to an end." The bishops had
obeyed the excommunication of Foliot by the Primate; they had refused to
join in his appeal to Rome or to hold communion with him. It now seemed as
though in this last decree of 1169 Henry had reached the limits of his
authority over the Church, and it may be that some sense of peril
induced him at the Pope's orders to summon Thomas to Normandy to renew
negotiations for the peace of Montmartre. But the meeting never took
place. Before Thomas could reach Caen he was stopped by news that Henry
had suddenly left for England. In the midst of a terrible storm the king
crossed the Channel on the 3rd of March 1170, and barely escaping with his
life, landed at Portsmouth after four years' absence.

So sudden was his journey that a rumour spread that he had fled over sea
to avoid the interdict proclaimed by Thomas. But during his absence
trouble had been steadily growing in England. In his sore straits for
money during these last years, Henry could not always be particular as
to means. Jews were robbed and banished; the bishopric of Lincoln was
added to the half-dozen sees already vacant, and its treasure swept into
the royal Hoard; an "aid" was raised for the marriage of his daughter,
and a terrible list of fines levied under the Assize of Clarendon. The
sums raised told, in fact, of the general increase of wealth. The
national income, which at the beginning of Henry's reign had been but
L22,000, was raised in the last year to L48,000, and an enormous
treasure had been accumulated said to be equal to 100,000 marks, or, by
another account, to be worth L900,000. The increase of trade was shown
by the growing numbers of Jews, the bankers and usurers of the time. At
the beginning of Henry's reign they were still so few that it was
possible to maintain a law which forbade their burial anywhere save in
one cemetery near London. Before its close their settlements were so
numerous that Jewish burial-grounds had to be established near every
great town. Their banking profits were enormous, and Christians who saw
the wages of sin heaped up before their eyes, looked wistfully at a
business forbidden by the ecclesiastical standard of morals of that day.

The towns were stirred with a new activity. London naturally led the
way. The very look of the city told of its growing wealth. Till now the
poor folk in towns found shelter in hovels of such a kind that Henry II.
could order that the houses of heretics should be carried outside the
town and burned. But the new wealth of merchant and Jew and trader was
seen in the "stone houses," some indeed like "royal palaces," which
sprang up on every hand, and offered a new temptation to house-breakers
and plunderers of the thickly-peopled alleys. The new cathedral of St.
Paul's had just been built. The tower and the palace at Westminster had
been repaired by the splendid extravagance of Chancellor Thomas, and the
citizens, impatient of the wooden bridge that spanned the river, were on
the point of beginning the "London Bridge" of stone. In the next quarter
of a century merchants of Kiln had their guild-hall in the city, while
merchants of the Empire were settled by the river-side in the hall later
known as the Steel Yard. Already charters confirmed to London its own
laws and privileges, and only three or four years after Henry's death
its limited freedom was exchanged for a really municipal life under a
mayor elected by the citizens themselves. Oxford too, at the close of
Henry's reign, was busy replacing its old wooden hovels with new "houses
of stone"; and could buy from Richard a charter which set its citizens
as free from toll or due as those of London, and gave them, instead of
the king's bailiff, a mayor of their own election, under whom they could
manage their own judicial and political affairs in their own Parliament.
Winchester, Northampton, Norwich, Ipswich, Doncaster, Carlisle, Lincoln,
Scarborough, York, won their charters at the same time--bought by the
wealth which had been stored up in the busy years while Henry reigned. A
chance notice of Gloucester shows us its two gaols--the city gaol
which the citizens were bound to watch, and the castle prison of the
king. The royal officers marked by their exactions the growth of the
town's prosperity, and no longer limited themselves to time-honoured
privileges of extortion. Bristol could claim its own coroners; it could
assert its right to be free of frank-pledge; its burghers were in 1164
taken under the king's special patronage and protection; in 1172 he
granted them the right of colonizing Dublin and holding it with all the
liberties with which they held Bristol itself, to the wrath of the men of
Chester who had long been rivals of the Bristol men, and who hastened to
secure a royal writ ordering that they should be as free to trade with
Dublin as they had ever been, for all the privileges of Bristol. Its
merchants were fast lining the banks of the Severn with quays, and a
later attempt to hinder them by law was successfully resisted. The new
commercial spirit soon quickened alike the wits of royal officers and
burghers. The weavers did not keep to the legal measure for the width of
cloth. The woad-sellers no longer heaped up their measures, as of old,
above the brim. The constables on their side began to demand outrageous
dues on the sale of herrings, and what was more, whereas of old heavy
goods, such as wood, hides, iron, woad, were sold outside the fair and
escaped dues, now the constable of the castle insisted on tolls for every
sale even without the bounds--a pound of pepper, or even more, had to go
into his hand. The citizens of Lincoln had analized the Witham, and built
up an illustration of the rapid development of the trading towns. As early
as the beginning of the century its owner, the Bishop of Norwich, had seen
its advantages, lying as it did at the mouth of the Ouse, and forming the
only outlet for the trade of seven shires. It was not long before the
prudent bishops had made of it the Liverpool of medieval times. The Lynn
of older days, later known as "King's Lynn," with its little crowded
market shut in between Guildhall and Church, the booths then as now
leaning against the church walls, and a tangle of narrow lanes leading to
the river-side, was in no way fit for the great demands of an awakened
commerce; its life went on as of old, but the sea was driven back by a
vast embankment, and the "Bishop's Lynn" rose on the newly-won land along
the river-bank, with its great market-place, its church, its jewry, its
merchant-houses, and its guild-houses; and soon, in the thick of the
busiest quarter, by the wharves, rose the "stone house" of the bishop
himself, looking closely out on the "strangers' ships" that made their
way along the Ouse laden with provisions and with merchandise.

But this growing wealth was still mainly confined to the towns. The
great bulk of the country was purely agricultural, and had no concern in
any questions of trade. There is a record of over five hundred pleas of
the Gloucestershire fifty years later, and among all these there is
outside the _town_ of Gloucester but one case which deals with the lawful
width for weaving cloth, and one or two as to the sale of bread, ale, or
wine. The agricultural peasants seem, from the glimpses which we catch
here and there, to have for the most part lived on the very verge
of starvation. Every few years with dreary regularity we note the
chronicler's brief record of cattle-plague, famine, pestilence. Half
a century later we read in legal records the tale of a hard winter and
its consequences--the dead bodies of the famine-stricken serfs lying in
the fields on every side, and the judges of the King's Court claiming from
the starving survivors the "murder-fine" ordained by law to be paid for
every dead body found when the murderer was not produced. The system of
cultivation was ignorant and primitive. Rendered timid by the repeated
failure of crops, the poor people would set aside a part of their land to
sow together oats, barley, and wheat, in the hope that whatever were the
season something would come up which might serve for the rough black bread
which was their main food. The low wet grounds were still undrained, and
the number of cases of eye-disease which we find in the legends of
miraculous cures point to the prevalence of ophthalmia brought on by damp
and low living, as the army of lepers points to the filth and misery of
the poor .The "common fields" and pastures of the villages must have lain
on the higher grounds which were not mere swamps during half the year. But
to these a dry season brought ruin. In time of drought the cattle had to
be driven five or six miles to find water in the well or pool which served
for the whole district. If by any chance disease broke out, the wearied
beasts that met at the watering or drank of the tainted pool carried it
far and wide, and plague soon raged from end to end of the country. Even
in the days of Henry VIII. shrewd observers noted that the new grazing
farms, where the cattle were better fed and kept separate, alone escaped
these ravages, and that it was these farms whence came the only meat to be
found in the country through the long winter months or in time of murrain.
This purpose was doubtless served earlier by the great monastic estates,
but means of transport scarcely existed; each district had to live on its
own resources, and vast tracts of country were with every unfavourable
season stricken by hunger and by the plague and famine fever that
followed it.

One source of later misery was indeed unknown. The war of classes had not
yet begun. The lawyers had not been at work hardening and defining vague
traditions, and legally the position of the serf was far better than it
was a hundred years later. The feudal system still preserved relations
between the lord and his dependents, which were more easy and familiar
than anything we know. The lord of the manor had not begun to encroach on
the privileges or the "common" rights of the tenant, nor had the merchant
guilds of the towns attacked the liberties of the craftsmen and lesser
folk. For a century to come the battle for lands or rights was mainly
waged between the lord or the men of one township or manor with the men
of a neighbouring township or manor; and it was not till these had fairly
ended their quarrel that lords and burghers turned to fight against the
liberties and privileges of serfs and craftsmen. There are indications,
on the other hand, that one effect of the new administration of justice,
as it told on the poor, began early to show itself in the growth of an
"outlaw" class. Crimes of violence were surprisingly common. Dead bodies
were found in the wood, in the field, in the fold, in the barn. In an
extraordinary number of cases the judges' records of a little later time
tell of houses broken into by night and robbed, and every living thing
within them slain, and no clue was ever found to the plunderers. There
were stories in Henry's days of a new crime-of men wearing religious
dress who joined themselves to wayfarers, and in such a case the traveller
was never seen again alive. Tales of Robin Hood began to take shape. The
by-ways and thickets were peopled with men, innocent or guilty, but all
alike desperate. One Richard, we read, whose fellow at the plough fell
dead in an epileptic fit, fled in terror of the judges to the woods, and
so did many a worse man than Richard. We find constantly the same tale of
the sudden quarrel, the blow with a stick or a stone, the thrust with the
knife which every man carried, the stroke with a hatchet. Then the slayer
in his panic flies to a nun's garden, to a monastery, or to the shelter of
a church, where the men of the village keep guard over him till knights
of the shire are sent from the Court, to whom he confesses his crime,
and who allow him so many days to fly to the nearest port and forsake
the kingdom. Perhaps he never reaches the coast, but takes to the woods,
already haunted by "abjurors" like himself, or by outlaws flying from
justice. In the social conditions of the England of that day the
administration of justice was, in more ways than one, a very critical
matter, and the efforts of over-zealous judges and sheriffs might easily
end in driving the people to desperation before the severity of the law,
or in crushing out under a heedless taxation a prosperity which was
still new and still rare.

Henry perhaps already saw the deep current of discontent which only a
year later was to break out in the most terrible rebellion of his reign.
In any case the severity of the measures which he took shows how serious
he thought the crisis. After his landing in March 1170 one month was
given to inquiry as to the state of the country. In the beginning of
April he held a council to consider the reform of justice. A commission
was appointed to examine, during the next two months, every freeholder
throughout the kingdom as to the conduct of judges and sheriffs and
every other officer charged with the duty of collecting or accounting
for the public money. Its members were chosen from among the most
zealous opponents of the Court officials-the great barons, the priors,
the important abbots of the shires--and they were all men who had no
connection with the Exchequer or the Curia Regis. Their work was done,
and their report presented within the time allowed; but the king,
practical, businesslike, impatient of abuses, like every vigorous
autocratic ruler, had no mind to wait two months to redress the grievances
of his people. The barons who had been appointed as sheriffs at the
opening of his reign had governed after the old corrupt traditions, or
perhaps themselves suffering under the ruthless pressure of the barons of
the Exchequer, had been driven to a like severity of extortion. By an
edict of the king every sheriff throughout the country was struck from
his post; of the twenty-seven only seven were restored to their places,
and new sheriffs were appointed, all of whom save four were officers of
the King's Court. The great local noble who had lorded it as he chose over
the suitors of the Court for fifteen years, and fined and taxed and
forfeited as seemed good to him, suddenly, without a moment's warning,
saw his place filled by a stranger, a mere clerk trained in the Court
among the royal servants, a simple nominee of the king; he could no
longer doubt that the royal supremacy was now without rival, without
limit, irresistible, complete. Such an act of absolute authority had
indeed, as Dr. Stubbs says, "no example in the history of Europe since
the time of the Roman Empire, except possibly in the power wielded by
Charles the Great."

Nor was this Henry's only act of high-handed government. On the 10th of
April he called a council to London to consult about the coronation of
his son. It was a dangerous innovation, against all custom and tradition,
for no such coronation of the heir in his father's lifetime had ever taken
place in England. But Henry was no mere king of England, nor did he
greatly heed barbaric or insular prejudice when he had even before his
eyes the example not only of the French Court, but of the Holy Roman
Empire. The coronation was a necessary step in the completion of the plan
unfolded at Montmirail for the ordering of the second empire of the West.
Moreover, the settlement probably seemed to him more imperative than ever
from the restlessness and discontent of the land. No king of England since
the Conquest had succeeded peaceably to his father. The reign of Stephen
had abundantly proved how vain were oaths of homage to secure the
succession; and the sacred anointing, which in those days carried with it
an inalienable consecration, was perhaps the only certain way of securing
his son's right. It may well be, too, that, threatened as he was with
interdict, he saw the advantage of providing for the peace and security of
England by crowning as her king an innocent boy with whom the Church had
no quarrel. The actual ceremony of consecration raised, indeed, an
immediate and formidable difficulty. A king of England could be legally
consecrated only by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Three years before Henry
had forced the Pope, then in extreme peril, to grant special powers to the
Archbishop of York to perform the rite, but he had not yet ventured to
make use of the brief. Now, however, whether the case seemed to him more
urgent, or whether his temper had grown more imperious, he cast aside his
former prudence. On the 14th of June the lords and prelates were gathered
together "in fear, none knowing what the king was about to decree." The
younger Henry, a boy of fifteen, was brought before them; he was anointed
and crowned by Roger of York. From this moment a new era opened in Henry's
reign. The young king was now lord of England, in the view of the whole
medieval world, by a right as absolute and sacred as that of his father.
All who were discontented and restless had henceforth a leader ordained by
law, consecrated by the Church, round whom they might rally. Delicate
questions had to be solved as to the claims and powers of the new king,
which never in fact found their answer so long as he lived. Meanwhile
Henry had raised up for himself a host of new difficulties. The archbishop
had a fresh grievance in the king's reckless contempt of the rights of
Canterbury. The Church party both in England and in Europe was outraged
at the wrong done to him. Many who had before wavered, like Henry of
Blois, now threw themselves passionately on the side of Thomas. In the
fierce contention that soon raged round the right of the archbishop to
crown the king, and to deal as he chose with any prelate who might
infringe his privileges, all other questions were forgotten. Not only
the zealots for religious tradition, but all who clung loyally to
established law and custom, were thrown into opposition. The French
king was bitterly angry that his daughter had not been crowned with her
husband. All Henry's enemies banded themselves together in a frenzy of
rage. So immediate and formidable was the outburst of indignation that
ten days after the coronation the king no longer ventured to remain in
England; and on the 24th of June he hastily crossed the Channel. Near
Falaise he was met by the bishop of Worcester, who had supported him at
Northampton. The king turned upon him passionately, and broke out in angry
words, "Now it is plain that thou art a traitor! I ordered thee to attend
the coronation of my son, and since thou didst not choose to be
there, thou hast shown that thou hast no love for me nor for my son's
advancement. It is plain that thou favourest my enemy and hatest me. I
will tear the revenues of the see from thy hands, who hast proved unworthy
of the bishopric or any benefice. In truth thou wert never the son of my
uncle, the good Count Robert, who reared me and thee in his castle, and
had us there taught the first lessons of morals and of learning." Earl
Robert's son, however, was swift in retort. He vehemently declared he
would have no part in the guilt of such a consecration. "What grateful
act of yours," he cried, "has shown that Count Robert was your uncle, and
brought you up, and battled with Stephen for sixteen years for your
sake, and for you was at last made captive? Had you called to mind his
services you would not have driven my brothers to penury and ruin. My
eldest brother's tenure, given him by your grandfather, you have
curtailed. My youngest brother, a stout soldier, you have driven by stress
of want to quit a soldier's life and give himself to the perpetual service
of the hospital at Jerusalem, and don the monk's habit. Thus you know how
to bless those of your own household! Thus you are wont to reward those
who have deserved well of you! Why threaten me with the loss of my
benefice? Be it yours if it suffice you not to have already seized an
archbishopric, six vacant sees, and many abbeys, to the peril of your
soul, and turned to secular uses the alms of your fathers, of pious kings,
the patrimony of Jesus Christ!" All this abuse, and much more besides, the
angry bishop poured out in the hearing of the knights who were riding on
either side of the king. "He fares well with the king since he is a
priest," commented a Gascon; "had he been a knight he would leave behind
him two hides of land!" Some one else, thinking to please the king, abused
the bishop roundly. Henry, however, turned on him with an outburst of
rage. "Do you think, scoundrel, if I say what I choose to my kinsman and
my bishop, that you or anyone else are at liberty to dishonour him with
words and persecute him with threats? Scarce can I keep my hands from
thy eyes!"

The king well understood, indeed, in what a critical position matters
stood. He swiftly agreed to every conceivable concession on every hand.
He met the papal messengers and bent to their terms of reconciliation.
On the 20th of July he had a conference with Louis near Freteval in
Touraine, and next day the kings parted amicably. On the 22d an interview
between the king and the archbishop followed. The royal customs were not
mentioned; no oath was exacted from the Primate; he was promised safe
return and full possession of his see, and the "kiss of peace"; he was
to crown once more the young king and his wife. At the close of the
conference Thomas lighted from his horse to kiss the king's foot, but
Henry, rivalling him in courtesy, dismounted to hold the Primate's
stirrup, with the words, "It is fit the less should serve the greater!"
But if there was a show of peace "the whole substance of it consisted only
in hope," as Thomas wrote. Each side was full of distrust. Thomas demanded
immediate restitution of his see, and liberty to excommunicate the bishops
who had shared in the coronation. Henry wanted first to see "how Thomas
would behave in the affairs of the kingdom." The king and Primate met for
the last time in October 1170 at Chaumont with seeming friendliness, but
any real peace was as far off as ever. "My lord," said Thomas, as he bade
farewell, "my heart tells me that I part from you as one whom you shall
see no more in this life." "Do you hold me as a traitor?" asked the king.
"That be far from thee, my lord!" answered Thomas. But to the Primate the
king's fair promises were but the tempting words of the devil--"all these
things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me." He begged
from the Pope unlimited powers of excommunication. "The more potent and
fierce the prince is," he said, "the stronger stick and harder chain is
needed to bind him and keep him in order." He had warning visions. He
spoke of returning to his church "perhaps to perish for her." "I go to
England," he said; "whether to peace or to destruction I know not; but God
has decreed what fate awaits me."

The king's conduct indeed gave ground for fear. He had summoned clergy
abroad against law and custom to elect bishops who, in contempt of the
Primate's rights, were to be sent to Rome for consecration. In the
general doubt as to the king's attitude, no one dared to speak to envoys
sent by Thomas to England. Ranulf de Broc was still wasting the lands of
Canterbury; the palace was half in ruins, the barns destroyed, the lands
uncultivated, the woods cut down. The Primate's friends urged him to
keep out of England for fear of treachery. Thomas, however, was determined
to return, and to return with uncompromising defiance. He sent before him
letters excommunicating the bishops of London and Salisbury, and
suspending the Bishop of Durham and the Archbishop of York, for having
joined in the coronation; and on the following day, under the protection
of John of Oxford as the king's officer, he landed at Sandwich. The
excommunications had set the whole quarrel aflame again, and John of
Oxford with difficulty prevented open fighting. The royal officers
demanded absolution for the bishops. Thomas flatly refused unless they
would swear to appear at his court for justice, an oath which the bishops
in their terror of the king dared not take. They fled to Henry's court in
Normandy; while on the 1st of December Thomas passed on to Canterbury. The
men of Kent were stout defenders of their customary rights; they clung
tenaciously to their special privileges; they had their own views of
inheritance, their fixed standard of fines, their belief that the Crown
had no right to the property of thief or murderer, who had been
hanged--"the father to the bough, the son to the plough," said they, in
Kent at least. They were a very mixed population, constantly recruited
from the neighbouring coasts. They held the outposts of the country as the
advanced guard formally charged with the defence of its shores from
foreign invasion, which was a very present terror in those days. Lying
near the Continent they caught every rumour of the liberties won by the
Flemish towns or French communes; commerce and manufacture were doing
their work in the ports and among the iron mines of the forests; and it
seems as though the shire very early took up the part it was to play
again and again in medieval history, and even later, as the asserter and
defender of popular privileges. From such a temper Thomas was certain to
find sympathy as he passed through the country in triumph. At Canterbury
the monks received him as an angel of God, crying, "Blessed be he that
cometh in the name of the Lord." "I am come to die among you," said
Thomas in his sermon. "In this church there are martyrs," he said again,
"and God will soon increase their number." A few days later he made a
triumphant progress through London on his way to visit the young king;
his fellow-citizens crowded round him with loud blessings, while a
procession of three hundred poor scholars and London clerks raised a
loud Te Deumas Thomas rode along with bowed head scattering alms on
every side. His old pupil Henry refused, however, to receive him, and
Thomas returned to Canterbury.

News of all these things travelled fast to the king in Normandy. The
excommunicated bishops, falling at his feet, told him of the evil done
against his peace; rumour, growing as it crossed the sea, said that the
archbishop had travelled through the country with a mighty army of paid
soldiers, and had sought to enter into the king's fortresses, and that
he was ready to "tear the crown from the young king's head." Henry,
"more angry than was fitting to the royal majesty," was swept beyond
himself by one of his mad storms of passion. "What a pack of fools and
cowards," he shouted aloud in his wrath, "I have nourished in my house,
that not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart clerk!" A
council was at once summoned. Thomas, the king said, had entered as a
tyrant into his land, had excommunicated the bishops for obedience to
the king, had troubled the whole realm, had purposed to take away the
royal crown from his son, had begged for a legation against Henry, and
had obtained from the Pope grants of presentations to churches, which
deprived knights and barons as well as the king himself of their
property. The council fell in with the king's mood. Thomas was worthy of
death. The king would have neither quiet days nor a peaceful kingdom
while he lived. "On my way to Jerusalem," said one sage adviser, "I
passed through Rome, and asking questions of my host, I learned that a
pope had once been slain for his intolerable pride!"

But while the king was still busied in devising schemes for the punishment
or ruin of Thomas, came news that he was rid of his enemy, and that the
archbishop had won the long looked-for crown of martyrdom. Four knights
who had heard the king's first outburst of rage had secretly left the
Court, and travelling day and night, had reached Canterbury on the 29th,
and had there in the cathedral slain the archbishop. Henry was at Argentan
when the news of the murder was brought to him. So overwhelming was his
despair that those about him feared for his reason. For three days he
neither ate nor spoke with any one, and for five weeks his door was closed
to all comers. The whole flood of difficulties against which he had so
long fought desperately was at once let loose upon him. In England the
feeling was indescribable. All the religious fervour of the people was
passionately thrown on the side of the martyr. The church of Canterbury
closed for a year. The ornaments were taken from the altar, the walls were
stripped, the sound of the bells ceased. Excitement was raised to its
utmost pitch as it became known that miracles were wrought at the tomb.
The clergy were forced into hostility; they dared no longer take Henry's
side. The barons saw the opportunity for which they had waited fifteen
years. Henry had himself provided them with a ready instrument to execute
their vengeance, and the boy-king, consecrated scarcely six months ago,
and already urged to revolt by his mother and the king of France, was
only too willing to hear the tale of their accumulated wrongs and
discontents. All Christendom had been watching the strife; all Christendom
was outraged at its close. The Pope shut himself up for eight days, and
refused to speak to his own servants. The king of France,--who had now a
cause more powerful than any he had ever dreamt of,--Theobald of Blois,
and William of Champagne, the Archbishop of Sens, wrote bitterly to Rome
that it was Henry himself who had given orders for the murder. The king's
messengers sent to plead with the Pope found matters almost desperate.
Alexander had determined to excommunicate him at Easter, and to lay an
interdiction on all his lands. In their despair, and not venturing to tell
their master what they had done, they swore on Henry's part an unreserved
submission to the Pope, and the excommunication was barely averted for a
few months, while a legation was sent to pronounce an interdiction on his
lands, and receive his submission. Henry, however, was quite determined
that he would neither hear the sentence nor repeat the oath taken by his
envoys at Rome. Orders were given to allow no traveller, who might intend
evil against the king, to cross into England; and before the legates could
arrive in Normandy Henry himself was safe beyond the sea. On the 6th of
August, as he passed through Winchester, he visited the dying Henry of
Blois, and heard the bishop's last words of bitter reproach as he
foretold the great adversities which the Divine vengeance held in store
for the true murderer of the archbishop. But England itself was no safe
refuge for the king in this great extremity. Hurrying on to Wales, he
rapidly settled the last details of a plan for the conquest of Ireland,
and hastened to set another sea between himself and the bearers of the
papal curse. As he landed on Irish shores on the 16th of October, a
white hare started from the bushes at his feet, and was brought to him
as a token of victory and peace. Here at last he was in safety, beyond
the reach of all dispute, in a secure banishment where he could more
easily avoid the interdict or more secretly bow to it. The wild storms
of winter, which his terrified followers counted as a sign of the wrath
of God, served as an effectual barrier between him and his enemies; and
for twenty weeks no ship touched Irish shores, nor did any news reach
him from any part of his dominions.



Nearly a hundred years before William Rufus once stood on the cliffs of
Wales, and cried, as he looked across the waters towards Ireland, "For
the conquest of that land I will gather together all the ships of my
kingdom, and will make of them a bridge to cross over." The story was
carried to a king of Leinster, who listened thoughtfully. "After so
tremendous a threat as that," he asked, "did the king add, if the Lord
will?" Being told that Rufus used no such phrase, "Since he trusts to do
this by human power, not divine," said the shrewd Irishman, "I need not
greatly dread his coming." Prophecies which passed from mouth to mouth
in Ireland declared that the island should not be conquered till very
shortly before the great Day of Judgment. Even in England men commented
on the fact that while the Romans had reached as far as the Orkneys,
while Saxons and Normans and Danes had overrun England, Ireland had
never bowed to foreign rule. The Northmen alone had made any attempt at
invasion; but within the fringe of foreign settlements which they
planted along the coast from Dublin to Limerick, the various Irish
kingdoms maintained themselves according to their ancient customs, and,
as English tribes had done before in Britain, waged frequent war for the
honour of a shifting and dubious supremacy. The island enjoyed a fair
fame for its climate, its healthfulness, its pasturage, its fisheries;
English chroniclers dwelt on "the far-famed harbour of Dublin, the rival
of our London in commerce," and told of ships of merchandise that sailed
from Britanny to Irish ports, and of the busy wine trade with Poitou.
Ireland alone broke the symmetry of an empire that bordered the Atlantic
from the Hebrides to Spain, and the fame of empire had its attractions
for the heirs of the Norman conquerors. Patriotic and courtly historians
remembered that their king was representative of Gerguntius, the first
king of Britain who had gone to Ireland; the heir of Arthur, to whom
Irish kings had been tributary; the ruler over the Basque provinces,
from whence undoubtedly the Irish race had sprung. To fill up what was
lacking in these titles, he was proclaimed lord and ruler by a yet
clearer divine right, when in 1155 John of Salisbury brought to him from
Rome a bull, by which the English Pope, Hadrian IV., as supreme lord of
all islands, granted Ireland to the English king, that he might bring
the people under law, and enlarge the borders of the Church.

From the beginning, indeed, there rested on the unhappy country a curse
which has remained to the present moment. The invasion of the Ostmen was
the first of a series of half-conquests which brought all the evils of
foreign invasion with none of its benefits. In England the great rivers
and the Roman roads had been so many highways by which the Scandinavians
had penetrated into the heart of the country. But in Ireland no road and
no great river had guided the invader onwards past morass and bog and
forest. While the great host of the Danish invaders swooped down over
England and Gaul, the pirates that sailed to Ireland had only force to
dash themselves on the coast, and there cling cautiously to guarded
settlements. They settled as a race apart, as unable to mix with the
Irish people as they were powerless to conquer them. No memory as in
England of a common origin united them, no ties of a common language, no
sense of common law or custom, or of a common political tradition. The
strangers built the first cities, coined the first money, and introduced
trade. But they were powerless to affect Irish civilization. The tribal
system survived in its full strength, and Ireland remained divided
between two races, two languages, two civilizations in different stages
of progress, two separate communities ruled by their own laws, and two
half-completed ecclesiastical systems, for the Danish Church long looked,
as the Irish had never done, to the Archbishop of Canterbury as their
head. Earnest attempts had already been made by Hadrian's predecessor to
bring the Irish into closer connection with the see of Rome. In 1152 a
papal legate had carried out a great reform by which four archbishops,
wholly independent of Canterbury and receiving their palls from Rome, were
set over four provinces. But still no Peter's Pence were paid to Rome;
Roman canon law, Roman ritual, the Roman rules of marriage, had no
authority; the Roman form of baptism was replaced by a tradition which
made the father dip his new-born child three times in water, or, if he
were a rich man, in milk; there was no payment of tithes; clerks were
taxed like laymen when a homicide occurred; Irish nobles still demanded
hospitality from religious houses, and claimed, according to ancient
custom, provisions from towns on Church domains. Hadrian himself had long
been interested in Irish affairs. The religious houses which the Irish
maintained in Germany kept up communication with Pope and Emperor; an
Irish abbot at Nuremberg was chaplain to the Emperor Frederick; one of
Hadrian's masters at Paris had been a monk from the Irish settlement in
Ratisbon, and as Pope he still remembered the Irish monk with warm
affection. When he was raised to the Papacy in the very year of Henry's
coronation, one of his first cares was to complete the organization of
Christendom in the West by bringing the Irish Church under Catholic

Henry, on his part, was only too eager to accept his new responsibility,
and less than a year after his coronation he called a council to discuss
the conquest of Ireland. The scheme was abandoned on account of its
difficulties, but the question was later raised again in another form.
Diarmait Mac Murchadha (in modern form Jeremiah Murphy), King of
Leinster, had carried off in 1152 the wife of the chief of Breifne
(Cavan and Leitrim). A confederation was formed against him under
Ruaidhri (or Rory), King of Connaught, and he was driven from the island
in 1166. "Following a flying fortune and hoping much from the turning of
the wheel," he fled to Henry in Aquitaine, did homage to the English
king for his lands, and received in return letters granting permission
to such of Henry's servants as were willing to aid him in their recovery.
Diarmait easily found allies in the nobles of the Welsh border, in whose
veins ran the blood of two warlike races. It was by just such an
enterprise as this that their Norman fathers and grandfathers had won
their Welsh domains. From childhood they had been brought up in the tumult
of perpetual forays, and trained in a warfare where agility and dash and
endurance of hunger and hardship were the first qualifications of a
soldier. Richard de Clare, Earl of Striguil, in later days nicknamed
Strongbow--a descendant of one of the Conqueror's greatest warriors,
but now a needy adventurer sorely harassed by his creditors--was easily
won by the promise of Diarmait's daughter and heiress, Aeifi, as his wife.
Rhys, the Prince of South Wales, looked favourably on the expedition.
His aunt, Nesta, had been the mistress of Henry I. of England; and
had afterwards married first Gerald of Windsor, and then a certain
Stephen; her sons and grandsons, whether Fitz-Henrys, Fitz-Geralds, or
Fitz-Stephens, were famous men of war; nor were the children of her
daughter, who had married William de Barri, behind them in valour. No less
than eighteen knights of this extraordinary family took part in the
conquest, where in feats of war they renewed the glories of their
ancestors both Norse and Welsh; a son of Nesta's, David, the Bishop of
St. David's, gave his sympathy and help; while her grandson, Gerald
de Barri, became the famous historian of the conquest.

In 1167 Diarmait returned to Ireland with a little band of allies, the
pioneers of the English conquest. Others followed the next year, among
them Strongbow's uncle, Hervey of Mount Moriss, a famous soldier in the
French army, distinguished for his beautifully proportioned figure, his
delicate long hands, his winning face, and graceful speech. With him
went Nesta's son Robert Fitz-Stephen, a powerful man of the Norman
type, handsome, freehanded, sumptuous in his way of living, liberal and
jovial, given to wine and dissipation. His nephew, Meiler Fitz-Henry,
showed stronger traces of Welsh blood in his swarthy complexion, fierce
black eyes, and passionate face. The knights carried on the war with the
virtues and vices of a feudal chivalry, with a frank loyalty to their
allies, a good comradeship which recognized no head but left each knight
supreme over his own forces, a magnificent daring in the face of
overwhelming forces, and a joyful acceptance of the savage privileges of
slaughter and rapine which fell to their lot. "By their aid Diarmait began
first to take breath, then to gain strength, and at last to triumph over
his enemies." The Irish, however, rallied under the king of Connaught
against the traitor who had brought the English into their land; and
Diarmait was forced to conclude a peace and promise to receive no more
English soldiers.

Meanwhile other knights were preparing for the Irish expedition. Maurice
Fitz-Gerald encamped on a rock near Wexford. Another Fitz-Gerald,
Raymond the Fat, fortified his camp near Waterford. In August 1170 came
Earl Richard himself, who had crossed to France in search of Henry, and
with persistent importunity implored for leave to join the Irish war.
Henry, at that moment busy in his last negotiations with Thomas, gave a
doubtful half-consent, and Richard sailed with an army of nearly fifteen
hundred men. We see in the pages of Gerald of Wales, the hero with whose
name the conquest of Ireland was to be for ever associated, red-haired,
gray-eyed, freckled, with delicate features like a woman's, and thin,
feeble voice; wearing a plain citizen's dress without arms, "that he
might seem more ready to obey than to command;" suave, gracious, politic,
patient, deferential, with his fine aristocratic air, and an undaunted
courage that blazed out in battle, when "he never moved from his post, but
remained a beacon of refuge to his followers." At his coming Waterford was
taken, as Wexford and Ossory had been before. Before the prudent Norman
went farther the marriage contract was carried out, and the beginning of a


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