The History of England, Volume I
David Hume

Part 7 out of 12

that with much greater advantages on the side of the vassal; and when
England was added to so many provinces, the French king had reason to
apprehend, from this conjuncture, some great disaster to himself and
to his family: but in reality, it was this circumstance, which
appeared so formidable, that saved the Capetian race, and, by its
consequences, exalted them to that pitch of grandeur which they at
present enjoy.

The limited authority of the prince in the feudal constitutions
prevented the King of England from employing with advantage the force
of so many states, which were subjected to his government; and these
different members, disjoined in situation, and disagreeing in laws,
language, and manners, were never thoroughly cemented into one
monarchy. He soon became, both from his distant place of residence,
and from the incompatibility of interests, a kind of foreigner to his
French dominions; and his subjects on the continent considered their
allegiance as more naturally due to their superior lord, who lived in
their neighbourhood, and who was acknowledged to be the supreme head
of their nation. He was always at hand to invade them; their
immediate lord was often at too great a distance to protect them; and
any disorder in any part of his dispersed dominions gave advantages
against him. The other powerful vassals of the French crown were
rather pleased to see the expulsion of the English, and were not
affected with that jealousy, which would have arisen from the
oppression of a co-vassal, who was of the same rank with themselves.
By this means, the King of France found it more easy to conquer those
numerous provinces from England, than to subdue a Duke of Normandy or
Guienne, a Count of Anjou, Maine, or Poictou. And after reducing such
extensive territories, which immediately incorporated with the body of
the monarchy, he found greater facility in uniting to the crown the
other great fiefs which still remained separate and independent.

But as these important consequences could not be foreseen by human
wisdom, the King of France remarked with terror the rising grandeur of
the house of Anjou, or Plantagenet; and, in order to retard its
progress, he had ever maintained a strict union with Stephen, and had
endeavoured to support the tottering fortunes of that bold usurper.
But after this prince's death it was too late to think of opposing the
succession of Henry, or preventing the performance of those
stipulations which, with the unanimous consent of the nation, he had
made with his predecessor. The English, harassed with civil wars, and
disgusted with the bloodshed and depredations which, during the course
of so many years, had attended them, were little disposed to violate
their oaths, by excluding the lawful heir from the succession of their
monarchy [a]. Many of the most considerable fortresses were in the
hands of his partisans; the whole nation had had occasion to see the
noble qualities with which he was endowed [b], and to compare them
with the mean talents of William the son of Stephen; and as they were
acquainted with his great power, and were rather pleased to see the
accession of so many foreign dominions to the crown of England, they
never entertained the least thoughts of resisting them. Henry
himself, sensible of the advantages attending his present situation,
was in no hurry to arrive in England; and being engaged in the siege
of a castle on the frontiers of Normandy, when he received
intelligence of Stephen's death, [MN Dec.] he made it a point of
honour not to depart from his enterprise till he had brought it to an
issue. He then set out on his journey and was received in England
with the acclamations of all orders of men, who swore with pleasure
the oath of fealty and allegiance to him.
[FN [a] Matt. Paris, p. 65. [b] Gul. Neubr. p. 381.]

[MN 1155. First acts of Henry's government.]
The first acts of Henry's government corresponded to the high idea
entertained of his abilities, and prognosticated the re-establishment
of justice and tranquillity, of which the kingdom had so long been
bereaved. He immediately dismissed all those mercenary soldiers who
had committed great disorders in the nation; and he sent them abroad,
together with William of Ypres, their leader, the friend and confidant
of Stephen [c]. He revoked all the grants made by his predecessor
[d], even those which necessity had extorted from the Empress Matilda;
and that princess, who had resigned her rights in favour of Henry,
made no opposition to a measure so necessary for supporting the
dignity of the crown. He repaired the coin, which had been extremely
debased during the reign of his predecessor; and he took proper
measures against the return of a like abuse [e]. He was vigorous in
the execution of justice, and in the suppression of robbery and
violence; and that he might restore authority to the laws, he caused
all the new erected castles to be demolished, which had proved so many
sanctuaries to freebooters and rebels [f]. The Earl of Albemarle,
Hugh Mortimer, and Roger the son of Milo of Gloucester, were inclined
to make some resistance to this salutary measure; but the approach of
the king with his forces soon obliged them to submit.
[FN [c] Fitz-Steph. p. 13. M. Paris, p. 65. Neubr. p. 381. Chron.
T. Wykes, p. 30. [d] Neub. p. 382. [e] Hoveden, p. 491. [f]
Hoveden, p. 491. Fitz-Steph. p. 13. M. Paris, p. 65. Neubr. p. 381.
Brompton, p. 1043.]

[MN 1156.] Every thing being restored to full tranquillity in
England, Henry went abroad in order to oppose the attempts of his
brother Geoffrey, who, during his absence, had made an incursion into
Anjou and Maine, had advanced some pretensions to those provinces, and
had got possession of a considerable part of them [g]. On the king's
appearance, the people returned to their allegiance; and Geoffrey,
resigning his claim for an annual pension of a thousand pounds,
departed and took possession of the county of Nantz, which the
inhabitants, who had expelled Count Hoel, their prince, had put into
his hands. [MN 1157.] Henry returned to England the following year:
the incursions of the Welsh then provoked him to make an invasion upon
them; where the natural fastnesses of the country occasioned him great
difficulties, and even brought him into danger. His vanguard, being
engaged in a narrow pass, was put to rout. Henry de Essex, the
hereditary standard-bearer, seized with a panic, threw down the
standard, took to flight and exclaimed, that the king. was slain: and
had not the prince immediately appeared in person, and led on his
troops with great gallantry, the consequences might have proved fatal
to the whole army [h]. For this misbehaviour, Essex was afterwards
accused of felony by Robert de Montfort; was vanquished in single
combat; his estate was confiscated; and he himself was thrust into a
convent [i]. The submissions of the Welsh procured them an
accommodation with England.
[FN [g] See note [O], at the end of the volume. [h] Neubr. p. 383.
Chron. W. Heming. p. 492. [i] M. Paris, p. 70 Neubr. p. 383.]

[MN 1158.] The martial disposition of the princes in that age engaged
them to head their own armies in every enterprise, even the most
frivolous; and their feeble authority made it commonly impracticable
for them to delegate, on occasion, the command to their generals.
Geoffrey, the king's brother, died soon after he had acquired
possession of Nantz: though he had no other title to that county than
the voluntary submission or election of the inhabitants two years
before, Henry laid claim to the territory as devolved to him by
hereditary right, and he went over to support his pretensions by force
of arms. Conan, Duke or Earl of Britany, (for these titles are given
indifferently by historians to those princes,) pretended that Nantz
had been lately separated by rebellion from his principality, to which
of right it belonged; and immediately on Geoffrey's death he took
possession of the disputed territory. Lest Lewis, the French king,
should interpose in the controversy, Henry paid him a visit; and so
allured him by caresses and civilities, that an alliance was
contracted between them; and they agreed that young Henry, heir to the
English monarchy, should be affianced to Margaret of France though the
former was only five years of age, and the latter was still in her
cradle. Henry, now secure of meeting with no interruption on this
side, advanced with his army into Britany; and Conan, in despair of
being able to make resistance, delivered up the county of Nantz to
him. The able conduct of the king procured him farther and more
important advantages from this incident. Conan, harassed with the
turbulent disposition of his subjects, was desirous of procuring to
himself the support of so great a monarch; and he betrothed his
daughter and only child, yet an infant, to Geoffrey, the king's third
son, who was of the same tender years. The Duke of Britany died about
seven years after; and Henry being MESNE lord, and also natural
guardian to his son and daughter-in-law, put himself in possession of
that principality, and annexed it for the present to his other great

[MN 1159.] The king had a prospect of making still farther
acquisitions; and the activity of his temper suffered no opportunity
of that kind to escape him. Philippa, Duchess of Guienne, mother of
Queen Eleanor, was the only issue of William IV., Count of Toulouse;
and would have inherited his dominions, had not that prince, desirous
of preserving the succession in the male line, conveyed the
principality to his brother, Raymond de St. Gilles, by a contract of
sale which was in that age regarded as fictitious and illusory. By
this means the title to the county of Toulouse came to be disputed
between the male and female heirs; and the one or the other, as
opportunities favoured them, had obtained possession. Raymond,
grandson of Raymond de St. Gilles, was the reigning sovereign; and on
Henry's reviving his wife's claim, this prince had recourse for
protection to the King of France, who was so much concerned in policy
to prevent the farther aggrandizement of the English monarch. Lewis
himself, when married to Eleanor, had asserted the justice of her
claim, and had demanded possession of Toulouse [k]; but his sentiments
changing with his interest, he now determined to defend, by his power
and authority, the title of Raymond. Henry found that it would be
requisite to support his pretensions against potent antagonists; and
that nothing but a formidable army could maintain a claim which he had
in vain asserted by arguments and manifestoes.
[FN [k] Neubr. p. 387. Chron. W. Heming. p. 494.]

An army, composed of feudal vassals, was commonly very intractable and
undisciplined, both because of the independent spirit of the persons
who served in it, and because the commands were not given, either by
the choice of the sovereign, or from the military capacity and
experience of the officers. Each baron conducted his own vassals: his
rank was greater or less, proportioned to the extent of his property:
even the supreme command under the prince was often attached to birth;
and as the military vassals were obliged to serve only forty days at
their own charge; though if the expedition were distant, they were put
to great expense; the prince reaped little benefit from their
attendance. Henry, sensible of these inconveniences, levied upon his
vassals in Normandy, and other provinces which were remote from
Toulouse, a sum of money in lieu of their service; and this
commutation, by reason of the great distance, was still more
advantageous to his English vassals. He imposed, therefore, a scutage
of one hundred and eighty thousand pounds on the knight's fees, a
commutation to which, though it was unusual, and the first perhaps to
be met with in history [l], the military tenants willingly submitted;
and with this money he levied an army which was more under his
command, and whose service was more durable and constant. Assisted by
Berenger, Count of Barcelona, and Trincaval, Count of Nismes, whom he
had gained to his party, he invaded the county of Toulouse; and after
taking Verdun, Castlenau, and other places, he besieged the capital of
the province, and was likely to prevail in the enterprise: when Lewis,
advancing before the arrival of his main body, threw himself into the
place with a small reinforcement. [MN 1160.] Henry was urged by some
of his ministers to prosecute the siege, to take Lewis prisoner, and
to impose his own terms in the pacification; but he either thought it
so much his interest to maintain the feudal principles, by which his
foreign dominions were secured, or bore so much respect to his
superior lord, that he declared he would not attack a place defended
by him in person; and he immediately raised the siege [m]. He marched
into Normandy, to protect that province against an incursion which the
Count of Dreux, instigated by King Lewis, his brother, had made upon
it. War was now openly carried on between the two monarchs, but
produced no memorable event: it soon ended in a cessation of arms, and
that followed by a peace, which was not, however, attended with any
confidence or good correspondence between those rival princes. The
fortress of Gisors, being part of the dowry stipulated to Margaret of
France, had been consigned by agreement to the Knights Templars, on
condition that it should be delivered into Henry's hands after the
celebration of the nuptials. The king, that he might have a pretence
for immediately demanding the place, ordered the marriage to be
solemnized between the prince and princess, though both infants [n];
and he engaged the Grand Master of the Templars, by large presents, as
was generally suspected, to put him in possession of Gisors [o]. [MN
1161.] Lewis, resenting this fraudulent conduct, banished the
Templars, and would have made war upon the King of England, had it not
been for the mediation and authority of Pope Alexander III., who had
been chased from Rome by the anti-pope, Victor IV., and resided at
that time in France. That we may form an idea of the authority
possessed by the Roman pontiff during those ages, it may be proper to
observe, that the two kings had, the year before, met the pope at the
castle of Torci, on the Loire; and they gave him such marks of
respect, that both dismounted to receive him, and holding each of them
one of the reins of his bridle, walked on foot by his side, and
conducted him in that submissive manner into the castle [p]. A
SPECTACLE, cries Baronius in an ecstasy, TO GOD, ANGELS AND MEN; AND
[FN [l] Madox, p. 435. Gervase, p. 1381. See Note [P], at the end of
the volume. [m] Fitz-Steph. p. 22. Diceto, p. 531. [n] Hoveden, p.
492. Neubr. p. 400. Diceto, p. 532. Brompton, p. 1450. [o] Since
the first publication of this history, Lord Lyttelton has published a
copy of the treaty between Henry and Lewis, by which it appears, if
there was no secret article, that Henry was not guilty of any fraud in
this transaction. [p] Trivet, p. 48.]

[MN 1162.] Henry, soon after he had accommodated his differences with
Lewis, by the pope's mediation, returned to England; where he
commenced an enterprise which, though required by sound policy, and
even conducted in the main with prudence, bred him great disquietude,
involved him in danger, and was not concluded without some loss and

[MN Disputes between the civil and ecclesiastical powers.]
The usurpations of the clergy, which had at first been gradual, were
now become so rapid, and had mounted to such a height, that the
contest between the regale and pontificale was really arrived at a
crisis in England, and it became necessary to determine whether the
king or the priests, particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury, should
be sovereign of the kingdom [q]. The aspiring spirit of Henry, which
gave inquietude to all his neighbours, was not likely long to pay a
tame submission to the encroachments of subjects; and as nothing
opened the eyes of men so readily as their interests, he was in no
danger of falling, in this respect, into that abject superstition
which retained his people in subjection. From the commencement of his
reign, in the government of his foreign dominions, as well as of
England, he had shown a fixed purpose to repress clerical usurpations,
and to maintain those prerogatives which had been transmitted to him
by his predecessors. During the schism of the papacy between
Alexander and Victor, he had determined, for some time, to remain
neuter: and when informed that the Archbishop of Rouen and the Bishop
of Mans had, from their own authority, acknowledged Alexander as
legitimate pope, he was so enraged, that, though he spared the
archbishop on account of his great age, he immediately issued orders
for overthrowing the houses of the Bishop of Mans and Archdeacon of
Rouen [r]; and it was not till he had deliberately examined the
matter, by those views which usually enter into the councils of
princes, that he allowed that pontiff to exercise authority over any
of his dominions. In England, the mild character and advanced years
of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, together with his merits in
refusing to put the crown on the head of Eustace, son of Stephen,
prevented Henry, during the lifetime of that primate, from taking any
measures against the multiplied encroachments of the clergy; but after
his death, the king resolved to exert himself with more activity, and
that he might be secure against any opposition, he advanced to that
dignity Becket, his chancellor, on whose compliance he thought he
could entirely depend.
[FN [q] Fitz-Stephen, p. 27. [r] See note [Q], at the end of the

[MN June 3. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.]
Thomas a Becket, the first man of English descent who, since the
Norman conquest, had, during the course of a whole century, risen to
any considerable station, was born of reputable parents in the city of
London; and being endowed both with industry and capacity, he early
insinuated himself into the favour of Archbishop Theobald, and
obtained from that prelate some preferments and offices. By their
means he was enabled to travel for improvement to Italy, where he
studied the civil and canon law at Bologna; and on his return, he
appeared to have made such proficiency in knowledge, that he was
prompted by his patron to the Archdeaconry of Canterbury, an office of
considerable trust and profit. He was afterwards employed with
success by Theobald, in transacting business at Rome; and, on Henry's
accession, he was recommended to that monarch as worthy of farther
preferment. Henry. who knew that Becket had been instrumental in
supporting that resolution of the archbishop, which had tended so much
to facilitate his own advancement to the throne, was already pre-
possessed in his favour; and finding, on farther acquaintance, that
his spirit and abilities entitled him to any trust, he soon promoted
him to the dignity of chancellor, one of the first civil offices in
the kingdom. The chancellor, in that age, besides the custody of the
great seal, had possession of all vacant prelacies and abbeys; he was
the guardian of all such minors and pupils as were the king's tenants;
all baronies which escheated to the crown were under his
administration; he was entitled to a place in council, even though he
were not particularly summoned; and as he exercised also the office of
secretary of state, and it belonged to him to countersign all
commissions, writs, and letters patent, he was a kind of prime
minister, and was concerned in the despatch of every business of
importance [s]. Besides exercising this high office, Becket, by the
favour of the king or archbishop, was made Provost of Beverley, Dean
of Hastings, and Constable of the Tower: he was put in possession of
the honours of Eye and Berkham, large baronies that had escheated to
the crown: and, to complete his grandeur, he was intrusted with the
education of Prince Henry, the king's eldest son, and heir of the
monarchy [t]. The pomp of his retinue, the sumptuousness of his
furniture, the luxury of his table, the munificence of his presents,
corresponded to these great preferments; or rather exceeded any thing
that England had ever before seen in any subject. His historian and
secretary, Fitz-Stephens [u], mentions, among other particulars, that
his apartments were every day in winter covered with clean straw or
hay, and in summer with green rushes or boughs; lest the gentlemen who
paid court to him, and who could not, by reason of their great number,
find a place at table, should soil their fine clothes by sitting on a
dirty floor [w]. A great number of knights were retained in his
service; the greatest barons were proud of being received at his
table; his house was a place of education for the sons of the chief
nobility; and the king himself frequently vouchsafed to partake of his
entertainments. As his way of life was splendid and opulent, his
amusements and occupations were gay, and partook of the cavalier
spirit, which, as he had only taken deacon's orders, he did not think
unbefitting his character. He employed himself at leisure hours in
hunting, hawking, gaming, and horsemanship; he exposed his person in
several military actions [x]; he carried over, at his own charge,
seven hundred knights to attend the king in his wars at Toulouse; in
the subsequent wars on the frontiers of Normandy he maintained, during
forty days, twelve hundred knights, and four thousand of their train
[y]; and in an embassy to France, with which he was intrusted, he
astonished that court with the number and magnificence of his retinue.
[FN [s] Fitz-Steph. p. 13. [t] Fitz-Steph. p. 15. Hist. Quad. p. 9,
14. [u] P. 15. [w] John Baldwin held the manor of Oterarsfee, in
Aylesbury, of the king by soccage, by the service of finding litter
for the king's bed, viz. in summer, grass or herbs, and two grey
geese; and in winter, straw, and three eels, thrice in the year if the
king should come thrice in the year to Aylesbury. Madox, Bar.
Anglica, p. 247. [x] Fitz-Steph. p. 23. Hist. Quad. p. 9. [y] Fitz-
Steph. p. 19, 20, 22, 23.]

Henry, besides committing all his more important business to Becket's
management, honoured him with his friendship and intimacy; and
whenever he was disposed to relax himself by sports of any kind, he
admitted his chancellor to the party [z] An instance of their
familiarity is mentioned by Fitz-Stephens, which, as it shows the
manners of the age, it may not be improper to relate. One day, as the
king and the chancellor were riding together in the streets of London,
they observed a beggar, who was shivering with cold. Would it not be
very praiseworthy, said the king, to give that poor man a warm coat in
this severe season? It would, surely, replied the chancellor; and you
do well, sir, in thinking of such good actions. Then he shall have
one presently, cried the king; and seizing the skirt of the
chancellor's coat, which was scarlet, and lined with ermine, began to
pull it violently. The chancellor defended himself for some time; and
they had both of them liked to have tumbled off their horses in the
street, when Becket, after a vehement struggle, let go his coat; which
the king bestowed on the beggar, who, being ignorant of the quality of
the persons, was not a little surprised at the present [a].
[FN [z] Fitz-Steph. p. 16. Hist. Quad. p. 8. [a] Fitz-Steph. p. 16.]

Becket, who, by his complaisance and good humour, had rendered himself
agreeable, and by his industry and abilities useful, to his master,
appeared to him the fittest person for supplying the vacancy made by
the death of Theobald. As he was well acquainted with the king's
intentions [b] of retrenching, or rather confining within the ancient
bounds, all ecclesiastical privileges, and always showed a ready
disposition to comply with them [c], Henry, who never expected any
resistance from that quarter, immediately issued orders for electing
him Archbishop of Canterbury. But this resolution, which was taken
contrary to the opinion of Matilda, and many of the ministers [d],
drew after it very unhappy consequences; and never prince of so great
penetration appeared, in the issue, to have so little understood the
genius and character of his minister.
[FN [b] Ibid. p. 17. [c] Ibid p. 23. Epist. St. Thom. p. 232. [d]
Epist. St. Thom. p. 167.]

No sooner was Becket installed in this high dignity, which rendered
him for life the second person in the kingdom, with some pretensions
of aspiring to be the first, than he totally altered his demeanour and
conduct, and endeavoured to acquire the character of sanctity, of
which his former busy and ostentatious course of life might, in the
eyes of the people, have naturally bereaved him. Without consulting
the king, he immediately returned into his hands the commission of
chancellor; pretending that he must thenceforth detach himself from
secular affairs, and be solely employed in the exercise of his
spiritual function; but in reality, that he might break off all
connexions with Henry, and apprize him, that Becket, as Primate of
England, was now become entirely a new personage. He maintained in
his retinue and attendants alone his ancient pomp and lustre, which
was useful to strike the vulgar: in his own person he affected the
greatest austerity and most rigid mortification, which, he was
sensible, would have an equal or a greater tendency to the same end.
He wore sackcloth next his skin, which, by his affected care to
conceal it, was necessarily the more remarked by all the world: he
changed it so seldom, that it was filled with dirt and vermin: his
usual diet was bread; his drink water, which he even rendered farther
unpalatable by the mixture of unsavoury herbs: he tore his back with
the frequent discipline which he inflicted on it: he daily on his
knees washed, in imitation of Christ, the feet of thirteen beggars,
whom he afterwards dismissed with presents [e]: he gained the
affections of the monks by his frequent charities to the convents and
hospitals: every one who made profession of sanctity was admitted to
his conversation, and returned full of panegyrics on the humility as
well as on the piety and mortification of the holy primate: he seemed
to be perpetually employed in reciting prayers and pious lectures, or
in perusing religious discourses: his aspect wore the appearance of
seriousness and mental recollection, and secret devotion: and all men
of penetration plainly saw that he was meditating some great design
and that the ambition and ostentation of his character had turned
itself towards a new and more dangerous object.
[FN [e] Fitz-Steph. p. 25. Hist. Quad. p. 19.]

[MN 1163. Quarrel between the king and Becket.]
Becket waited not till Henry should commence those projects against
the ecclesiastical power, which, he knew, had been formed by that
prince: he was himself the aggressor; and endeavoured to overawe the
king by the intrepidity and boldness of his enterprises. He summoned
the Earl of Clare to surrender the barony of Tunbridge, which, ever
since the Conquest, had remained in the family of that nobleman, but
which, as it had formerly belonged to the see of Canterbury, Becket
pretended his predecessors were prohibited by the canons to alienate.
The Earl of Clare, besides the lustre which he derived from the
greatness of his own birth, and the extent of his possessions, was
allied to all the principal families in the kingdom; his sister, who
was a celebrated beauty, had farther extended his credit among the
nobility, and was even supposed to have gained the king's affections;
and Becket could not better discover, than by attacking so powerful an
interest, his resolution of maintaining with vigour the rights, real
or pretended, of his see [f].
[FN [f] Fitz-Steph. p. 28 Gervase, p. 1384.]

William de Eynsford, a military tenant of the crown, was patron of a
living which belonged to a manor that held of the Archbishop of
Canterbury: but Becket, without regard to William's right, presented,
on a new and illegal pretext, one Laurence to that living, who was
violently expelled by Eynsford. The primate, making himself, as was
usual in spiritual courts, both judge and party, issued, in a summary
manner, the sentence of excommunication against Eynsford, who
complained to the king, that he who held IN CAPITE of the crown
should, contrary to the practice established by the Conqueror, and
maintained ever since by his successors, be subjected to that terrible
sentence, without the previous consent of the sovereign [g]. Henry,
who had now broken off all personal intercourse with Becket, sent him,
by a messenger, his orders to absolve Eynsford; but received for
answer, that it belonged not to the king to inform him whom he should
absolve and whom excommunicate [h]: and it was not till after many
remonstrances and menaces, that Becket, though with the worst grace
imaginable, was induced to comply with the royal mandate.
[FN [g] M. Paris, p. 7. Diceto, p. 536. [h] Fitz-Steph. p. 28.]

Henry, though he found himself thus grievously mistaken in the
character of the person whom he had promoted to the primacy,
determined not to desist from his former intention of retrenching
clerical usurpations. He was entirely master of his extensive
dominions: the prudence and vigour of his administration, attended
with perpetual success, had raised his character above that of any of
his predecessors [i]: the papacy seemed to be weakened by a schism
which divided all Europe: and he rightly judged, that if the present
favourable opportunity were neglected, the crown must, from the
prevalent superstition of the people, be in danger of falling into an
entire subordination under the mitre.
[FN [i] Epist. St. Thom. p. 130.]

The union of the civil and ecclesiastic power serves extremely, in
every civilized government, to the maintenance of peace and order; and
prevents those mutual encroachments which, as there can be no ultimate
judge between them, are often attended with the most dangerous
consequences. Whether the supreme magistrate, who unites these
powers, receives the appellation of prince or prelate, is not
material: the superior weight which temporal interests commonly bear
in the apprehensions of men above spiritual, renders the civil part of
his character most prevalent; and in time prevents those gross
impostures and bigoted persecutions, which, in all false religions,
are the chief foundation of clerical authority. But during the
progress of ecclesiastical usurpations, the state, by the resistance
of the civil magistrate, is naturally thrown into convulsions; and it
behoves the prince, both for his own interest and for that of the
public, to provide, in time, sufficient barriers against so dangerous
and insidious a rival. This precaution had hitherto been much
neglected in England, as well as in other Catholic countries; and
affairs at last seemed to have come to a dangerous crisis: a sovereign
of the greatest abilities was now on the throne: a prelate of the most
inflexible and intrepid character was possessed of the primacy: the
contending powers appeared to be armed with their full force, and it
was natural to expect some extraordinary event to result from their

Among their other inventions to obtain money, the clergy had
inculcated the necessity of penance as an atonement for sin; and
having again introduced the practice of paying them large sums as a
commutation, or species of atonement, for the remission of those
penances, the sins of the people, by these means, had become a revenue
to the priests; and the king computed that, by this invention alone,
they levied more money upon his subjects than flowed, by all the funds
and taxes, into the royal exchequer [k] That he might ease the people
of so heavy and arbitrary an imposition, Henry required that a civil
officer of his appointment should be present in all ecclesiastical
courts, and should, for the future, give his consent to every
composition which was made with sinners for their spiritual offences.
[FN [k] Fitz-Steph. p. 32.]

The ecclesiastics, in that age, had renounced all immediate
subordination to the magistrate: they openly pretended to an
exemption, in criminal accusations, from a trial before courts of
justice; and were gradually introducing a like exemption in civil
causes: spiritual penalties alone could be inflicted on their
offences; and as the clergy had extremely multiplied in England, and
many of them were consequently of very low characters, crimes of the
deepest dye, murders, robberies, adulteries, rapes, were daily
committed with impunity by the ecclesiastics. It had been found, for
instance, on inquiry, that no less than a hundred murders had, since
the king's accession, been perpetrated by men of that profession, who
had never been called to account for these offences [l]; and holy
orders were become a full protection for all enormities. A clerk in
Worcestershire, having debauched a gentleman's daughter, had, at this
time, proceeded to murder the father: and the general indignation
against this crime moved the king to attempt the remedy of an abuse
which was become so palpable, and to require that the clerk should be
delivered up, and receive condign punishment from the magistrate [m].
Becket insisted on the privileges of the church; confined the criminal
in the bishop's prison, lest he should be seized by the king's
officers; maintained that no greater punishment could be inflicted on
him than degradation; and when the king demanded, that, immediately
after he was degraded, he should be tried by the civil power, the
primate asserted, that it was iniquitous to try a man twice upon the
same accusation, and for the same offence [n].
[FN [l] Neubr. p. 394. [m] Fitz-Steph. p. 33. Hist. Quad. p. 32.
[n] Fitz-Steph. p. 29. Hist. Quad. p. 33, 45. Hoveden, p. 492. M.
Paris, p. 72. Diceto, p. 536, 537. Brompton, p. 1058. Gervase, p.
1384. Epist. St. Thom. p. 208, 209.]

Henry, laying hold of so plausible a pretence, resolved to push the
clergy with regard to all their privileges, which they had raised to
an enormous height, and to determine at once those controversies,
which daily multiplied between the civil and the ecclesiastical
jurisdictions. He summoned an assembly of all the prelates of
England; and he put to them this concise and decisive question,
Whether or not they were willing to submit to the ancient laws and
customs of the kingdom? The bishops unanimously replied, that they
were willing, SAVING THEIR OWN ORDER [o]: a device by which they
thought to elude the present urgency of the king's demand, yet reserve
to themselves, on a favourable opportunity, the power of resuming all
their pretensions. The king was sensible of the artifice, and was
provoked to the highest indignation. He left the assembly, with
visible marks of his displeasure: he required the primate instantly to
surrender the honours and castles of Eye and Berkham: the bishops were
terrified, and expected still farther effects of his resentment.
Becket alone was inflexible; and nothing but the interposition of the
pope's legate and almoner, Philip, who dreaded a breach with so
powerful a prince at so unseasonable a juncture, could have prevailed
on him to retract the saving clause, and give a general and absolute
promise of observing the ancient customs [p].
[FN [o] Fitz-Steph. p. 31. Hist. Quad. p. 34. Hoveden, p. 492. [p]
Hist. Quad. p. 37. Hoveden, p. 493. Gervase, p. 1385.]

But Henry was not content with a declaration in these general terms:
he resolved, ere it was too late, to define expressly those customs
with which he required compliance, and to put a stop to clerical
usurpations before they were fully consolidated, and could plead
antiquity, as they already did a sacred authority, in their favour.
The claims of the church were open and visible. After a gradual and
insensible progress during many centuries, the mask had at last been
taken off; and several ecclesiastical councils, by their canons which
were pretended to be irrevocable and infallible, had positively
defined those privileges and immunities which gave such general
offence, and appeared so dangerous to the civil magistrate. Henry,
therefore, deemed it necessary to define with the same precision the
limits of the civil power; to oppose his legal customs to their divine
ordinances; to determine the exact boundaries of the rival
jurisdictions; and for this purpose he summoned a general council of
the nobility and prelates at Clarendon, to whom he submitted this
great and important question.

[MN 1164. 15th Jan. Constitutions of Clarendon.]
The barons were all gained to the king's party, either by the reasons
which he urged, or by his superior authority: the bishops were
overawed by the general combination against them: and the following
laws, commonly called the CONSTITUTIONS OF CLARENDON, were voted
without opposition by this assembly [q]. It was enacted, that all
suits concerning the advowson and presentation of churches should be
determined in the civil courts: that the churches belonging to the
king's see should not be granted in perpetuity without his consent:
that clerks, accused of any crime, should be tried in the civil
courts: that no person, particularly no clergyman of any rank, should
depart the kingdom without the king's licence: that excommunicated
persons should not be bound to give security for continuing in their
present place of abode: that laics should not be accused in spiritual
courts, except by legal and reputable promoters and witnesses: that no
chief tenant of the crown should be excommunicated, nor his lands be
put under an interdict, except with the king's consent: that all
appeals in spiritual causes should be carried from the archdeacon to
the bishop, from the bishop to the primate, from him to the king; and
should be carried no farther without the king's consent: that if any
lawsuit arose between a layman and a clergyman concerning a tenant,
and it be disputed whether the land be a lay or an ecclesiastical fee,
it should first be determined by the verdict of twelve lawful men to
what class it belonged; and if it be found to be a lay-fee, the cause
should finally be determined in the civil courts: that no inhabitant
in demesne should be excommunicated for non-appearance in a spiritual
court, till the chief officer of the place where he resides be
consulted, that he may compel him by the civil authority to give
satisfaction to the church: that the archbishops, bishops, and other
spiritual dignitaries, should be regarded as barons of the realm;
should possess the privileges and be subjected to the burdens
belonging to that rank; and should be bound to attend the king in his
great councils, and assist at all trials, till the sentence, either of
death or loss of members, be given against the criminal: that the
revenue of vacant sees should belong to the king; the chapter, or such
of them as he pleases to summon, should sit in the king's chapel till
they made the new election with his consent, and that the bishop-elect
should do homage to the crown: that if any baron or tenant IN CAPITE
should refuse to submit to the spiritual courts, the king should
employ his authority in obliging him to make such submissions; if any
of them throw off his allegiance to the king, the prelates should
assist the king with their censures in reducing him: that goods
forfeited to the king should not be protected in churches or
churchyards: that the clergy should no longer pretend to the right of
enforcing payment of debts contracted by oath or promise; but should
leave these lawsuits, equally with others, to the determination of the
civil courts: and that the sons of villains should not be ordained
clerks, without the consent of their lord [r].
[FN [q] Fitz-Steph. p. 33. [r] Hist. Quad. p. 163. M. Paris, p. 70,
71. Spellm. Conc. vol. ii. p. 63. Gervase, p. 1386, 1387. Wilkins,
p. 321.]

These articles, to the number of sixteen, were calculated to prevent
the chief abuses which had prevailed in ecclesiastical affairs, and to
put an effectual stop to the usurpations of the church, which,
gradually stealing on, had threatened the total destruction of the
civil power. Henry, therefore, by reducing those ancient customs of
the realm to writing, and by collecting them in a body, endeavoured to
prevent all future dispute with regard to them; and by passing so many
ecclesiastical ordinances in a national and civil assembly, he fully
established the superiority of the legislature above all papal decrees
or spiritual canons, and gained a signal victory over the
ecclesiastics. But as he knew that the bishops, though overawed by
the present combination of the crown and the barons, would take the
first favourable opportunity of denying the authority which had
enacted these constitutions, he resolved that they should all set
their seal to them, and give a promise to observe them. None of the
prelates dared to oppose his will, except Becket, who, though urged by
the Earls of Cornwall and Leicester, the barons of principal authority
in the kingdom, obstinately withheld his assent. At last, Richard de
Hastings, Grand Prior of the Templars in England, threw himself on his
knees before him; and with many tears entreated him, if he paid any
regard, either to his own safety or that of the church, not to
provoke, by a fruitless opposition, the indignation of a great
monarch, who was resolutely bent on his purpose, and who was
determined to take full revenge on every one that should dare to
oppose him [s]. Becket, finding himself deserted by all the world,
even by his own brethren, was at last obliged to comply; and he
to observe the constitutions; and he took an oath to that purpose [u].
The king, thinking that he had now finally prevailed in this great
enterprise, sent the constitutions to Pope Alexander, who then resided
in France; and he required that pontiff's ratification of them: but
Alexander, who, though he had owed the most important obligations to
the king, plainly saw that these laws were calculated to establish the
independency of England on the papacy, and of the royal power on the
clergy, condemned them in the strongest terms; abrogated, annulled,
and rejected them. There were only six articles, the least important,
which, for the sake of peace, he was willing to ratify.
[FN [s] Hist. Quad. p. 38. Hoveden, p. 493. [t] Fitz-Steph. p. 35.
Epist. St. Thom. p. 25. [u] Fitz-Steph. p. 45. Hist. Quad. p. 39.
Gervase, p. 1386.]

Becket, when he observed that he might hope for support in an
opposition, expressed the deepest sorrow for his compliance; and
endeavoured to engage all the other bishops in a confederacy to adhere
to their common rights, and to the ecclesiastical privileges, in which
he represented the interest and honour of God to be so deeply
concerned. He redoubled his austerities, in order to punish himself
for his criminal assent to the constitutions of Clarendon: he
proportioned his discipline to the enormity of his supposed offence;
and he refused to exercise any part of his archiepiscopal function,
till he should receive absolution from the pope; which was readily
granted him. Henry, informed of his present dispositions, resolved to
take vengeance for this refractory behaviour; and he attempted to
crush him, by means of that very power which Becket made such merit in
supporting. He applied to the pope, that he should grant the
commission of legate in his dominions to the Archbishop of York; but
Alexander, as politic as he, though he granted the commission, annexed
a clause, that it should not empower the legate to execute any act of
prejudice of the Archbishop of Canterbury [w]; and the king, finding
how fruitless such an authority would prove, sent back the commission
by the same messenger that brought it [x].
[FN [w] Epist. St. Thom. p. 13, 14. [x] Hoveden, p.493. Gervase, p.

The primate, however, who found himself still exposed to the king's
indignation, endeavoured twice to escape secretly from the kingdom,
but was as often detained by contrary winds; and Henry hastened to
make him feel the effects of an obstinacy which he deemed so criminal.
He instigated John, mareschal of the exchequer, to sue Becket in the
archiepiscopal court for some lands, part of the manor of Pageham; and
to appeal thence to the king's court for justice [y]. On the day
appointed for trying the cause, the primate sent four knights to
represent certain irregularities in John's appeal; and at the same
time to excuse himself, on account of sickness, for not appearing
personally that day in the court. This slight offence (if it even
deserve the name) was represented as a grievous contempt; the four
knights were menaced and with difficulty escaped being sent to prison,
as offering falsehoods to the court [z]. And Henry, being determined
to prosecute Becket to the utmost, summoned, at Northampton, a great
council, which he purposed to make the instrument of his vengeance
against the inflexible prelate.
[FN [y] Hoveden, p. 494. M. Paris, p. 72. Diceto, p. 537. [z] See
note [R], at the end of the volume.]

The king had raised Becket from a low station to the highest offices,
had honoured him with his countenance and friendship, had trusted to
his assistance in forwarding his favourite project against the clergy;
and when he found him become of a sudden his most rigid opponent,
while every one beside complied with his will, rage at the
disappointment, and indignation against such signal ingratitude,
transported him beyond all bounds of moderation; and there seems to
have entered more of passion than of justice, or even of policy, in
this violent prosecution [a]. The barons, notwithstanding, in the
great council, voted whatever sentence he was pleased to dictate to
them; and the bishops themselves, who undoubtedly bore a secret favour
to Becket, and regarded him as the champion of their privileges,
concurred with the rest in the design of oppressing their primate. In
vain did Becket urge that his court was proceeding with the utmost
regularity and justice in trying the maresehal's cause; which,
however, he said, would appear, from the sheriff's testimony, to be
entirely unjust and iniquitous: that he himself had discovered no
contempt of the king's court; but, on the contrary, by sending four
knights to excuse his absence, had virtually acknowledged its
authority: that he also, in consequence of the king's summons,
personally appeared at present in the great council, ready to justify
his cause against the mareschal, and to submit his conduct to their
inquiry and jurisdiction: that even should it be found that he had
been guilty of non-appearance, the laws had affixed a very slight
penalty to that offence: and that, as he was an inhabitant of Kent,
where his archiepiscopal palace was seated, he was by law entitled to
some greater indulgence than usual in the rate of his fine [b].
Notwithstanding these pleas, he was condemned as guilty of a contempt
of the king's court, and as wanting in the fealty which he had sworn
to his sovereign; all his goods and chattels were confiscated [c]; and
that this triumph over the church might be carried to the utmost,
Henry, Bishop of Winchester, the prelate who had been so powerful in
the former reign, was, in spite of his remonstrances, obliged, by
order of the court, to pronounce the sentence against him [d]. The
primate submitted to the decree; and all the prelates, except Folliot,
Bishop of London, who paid court to the king by this singularity,
became sureties for him [e]. It is remarkable that seven Norman
barons voted in this council; and we may conclude, with some
probability, that a like practice had prevailed in many of the great
councils summoned since the Conquest. For the contemporary historian,
who has given us a full account of these transactions, does not
mention this circumstance as anywise singular [f]; and Becket, in all
his subsequent remonstrances with regard to the severe treatment which
he had met with, never founds any objection on an irregularity which
to us appears very palpable and flagrant. So little precision was
there at that time in the government and constitution!
[FN [a] Neubr. p. 394. [b] Fitz-Steph. p. 37, 42. [c] Hist. Quad. p.
47 Hoveden, p. 494. Gervase, p. 1389. [d] Fitz-Steph. p. 37. [e]
Ibid. [f] Ibid. p. 36.]

The king was not content with this sentence, however violent and
oppressive. Next day, he demanded of Becket the sum of three hundred
pounds, which the primate had levied upon the honours of Eye and
Berkham, while in his possession. Becket, after premising that he was
not obliged to answer to this suit, because it was not contained in
his summons; after remarking that he had expended more than that sum
in the repair of those castles, and of the royal palace at London;
expressed however his resolution, that money should not be any ground
of quarrel between him and his sovereign; he agreed to pay the sum;
and immediately gave surety for it [g]. In the subsequent meeting,
the king demanded five hundred marks, which, he affirmed, he had lent
Becket during the war at Toulouse [h]; and another sum in the same
amount for which that prince had been surety for him to a Jew.
Immediately after these two claims, he preferred a third of still
greater importance: he required him to give in the accounts of his
administration while chancellor, and to pay the balance due from the
revenues of all the prelacies, abbeys, and baronies, which had, during
that time, been subjected to his management [i]. Becket observed,
that, as this demand was totally unexpected, he had not come prepared
to answer it; but he required a delay, and promised in that case to
give satisfaction. The king insisted upon sureties; and Becket
desired leave to consult his suffragans in a case of such importance
[FN [g] Ibid. p. 38. [h] Hist. Quad. p. 47. [i] Hoveden, p. 494.
Diceto, p. 537. [k] Fitz-Steph. p. 38.]

It is apparent, from the known character of Henry, and from the usual
vigilance of his government, that, when he promoted Becket to the see
of Canterbury, he was on good grounds, well pleased with his
administration in the former high office with which he had entrusted
him; and that, even if that prelate had dissipated money beyond the
income of his place, the king was satisfied that his expenses were not
blameable, and had in the main been calculated for his service [l].
Two years had since elapsed; no demand had, during that time, been
made upon him; it was not till the quarrel arose concerning
ecclesiastical privileges that the claim was started, and the primate
was, of a sudden, required to produce accounts of such intricacy and
extent before a tribunal which had showed a determined resolution to
ruin and oppress him. To find sureties that he should answer so
boundless and uncertain a claim, which in the king's estimation
amounted to forty-four thousand marks [m], was impracticable; and
Becket's suffragans were extremely at a loss what counsel to give him
in such a critical emergency. By the advice of the Bishop of
Winchester, he offered two thousand marks as a general satisfaction
for all demands: but this offer was rejected by the king [n]. Some
prelates exhorted him to resign his see, on condition of receiving an
acquittal: others were of opinion that he ought to submit himself
entirely to the king's mercy [o]: but the primate, thus pushed to the
utmost, had too much courage to sink under oppression: he determined
to brave all his enemies, to trust to the sacredness of his character
for protection, to involve his cause with that of God and religion,
and to stand the utmost efforts of royal indignation.
[FN [l] Hoveden, p. 495. [m] Epist. St. Thom. p. 315.
[n] Fitz-Steph. p. 38. [o] Ibid. p. 39. Gervase, p. 1390.]

After a few days spent in deliberation, Becket went to church and said
mass, where he had previously ordered that the introit to the
communion service should begin with these words, PRINCES SAT, AND
SPAKE AGAINST ME; the passage appointed for the martyrdom of St.
Stephen, whom the primate thereby tacitly pretended to resemble, in
his sufferings for the sake of righteousness. He went thence to
court, arrayed in his sacred vestments: as soon as he arrived within
the palace gate, he took the cross into his own hands, bore it aloft
as his protection, and marched, in that posture, into the royal
apartments [p]. The king, who was in an inner room, was astonished at
this parade, by which the primate seemed to menace him and his court
with the sentence of excommunication; and he sent some of the prelates
to remonstrate with him on account of such audacious behaviour. These
prelates complained to Becket, that, by subscribing himself to the
constitutions of Clarendon, he had seduced them to imitate his
example; and that now, when it was too late, he pretended to shake off
all subordination to the civil power, and appeared desirous of
involving them in the guilt which must attend any violation of those
laws, established by their consent, and ratified by their
subscriptions [q]. Becket replied, that he had indeed subscribed the
constitutions of Clarendon, LEGALLY, WITH GOOD FAITH, AND WITHOUT
FRAUD OR RESERVE; but in these words was virtually implied a salvo for
the rights of their order, which, being connected with the cause of
God and his church, could never be relinquished by their oaths and
engagements: that if he and they had erred in resigning the
ecclesiastical privileges, the best atonement they could now make was
to retract their consent, which, in such a case, could never be
obligatory, and to follow the pope's authority, who had solemnly
annulled the constitutions of Clarendon, and had absolved them from
all oaths which they had taken to observe them: that a determined
resolution was evidently embraced to oppress the church; the storm had
first broken upon him; for a slight offence, and which too was falsely
imputed to him, he had been tyrannically condemned to a grievous
penalty; a new and unheard-of claim was since started, in which he
could expect no justice; and he plainly saw, that he was the destined
victim, who, by his ruin, must prepare the way for the abrogation of
all spiritual immunities; that he strictly inhibited them who were his
suffragans from assisting at any such trial, or giving their sanction
to any sentence against him; he put himself and his see under the
protection of the supreme pontiff; and appealed to him against any
penalty which his iniquitous judges might think proper to inflict upon
him: and that, however terrible the indignation of so great a monarch
as Henry, his sword could only kill the body; while that of the
church, intrusted into the hands of the primate, could kill the soul,
and throw the disobedient into infinite and eternal perdition [r].
[FN [p] Fitz-Steph. p. 40. Hist. Quad. p. 53. Hoveden, p. 404.
Neubr. p. 394. Epist. St. Thom. p. 43. [q] Fitz-Steph. p. 35. [r]
Fitz-Steph. p. 42, 44, 45, 46. Hist. Quad. p. 57. Hoveden, p. 495.
M. Paris, p. 72. Epist. St. Thom. p. 45, 195.]

Appeals to the pope, even in ecclesiastical causes, had been abolished
by the constitutions of Clarendon, and were become criminal by law;
but an appeal in a civil cause, such as the king's demand upon Becket,
was a practice altogether new and unprecedented; it tended directly to
the subversion of the government, and could receive no colour of
excuse, except from the determined resolution, which was but too
apparent, in Henry and the great council, to effectuate, without
justice, but under colour of law, the total ruin of the inflexible
primate. The king, having now obtained a pretext so much more
plausible for his violence, would probably have pushed the affair to
the utmost extremity against him; but Becket gave him no leisure to
conduct the prosecution. He refused so much as to hear the sentence,
which the barons, sitting apart from the bishops, and joined to some
sheriffs and barons of the second rank [s], had given upon the king's
claim: he departed from the palace; [MN Banishment of Becket.] asked
Henry's immediate permission to leave Northampton, and upon meeting
with a refusal, he withdrew secretly, wandered about in disguise for
some time; and at last took shipping, and arrived safely at
[FN [s] Fitz-Steph. p. 46. This historian is supposed to mean the
more considerable vassals of the chief barons: these had no title to
sit in the great council, and the giving them a place there was a
palpable irregularity; which, however, is not insisted on in any of
Becket's remonstrances. A farther proof how little fixed the
constitution was at that time.]

The violent and unjust prosecution of Becket had a natural tendency to
turn the public favour on his side and to make men overlook his former
ingratitude toward the king, and his departure from all oaths and
engagements, as well as the enormity of those ecclesiastical
privileges, of which he affected to be the champion. There were many
other reasons which procured his countenance and protection in foreign
countries. Philip, Earl of Flanders [t], and Lewis, King of France
[u], jealous of the rising greatness of Henry, were well pleased to
give him disturbance in his government; and, forgetting that this was
the common cause of princes, they affected to pity extremely the
condition of the exiled primate; and the latter even honoured him with
a visit at Soissons, in which city he had invited him to fix his
residence [w]. The pope, whose interests were more immediately
concerned in supporting him, gave a cold reception to a magnificent
embassy which Henry sent to accuse him; while Becket himself, who had
come to Sens in order to justify his cause before the sovereign
pontiff, was received with the greatest marks of distinction. The
king, in revenge, sequestered the revenues of Canterbury; and, by a
conduct which might be esteemed arbitrary, had there been at that time
any regular check on royal authority, he banished all the primate's
relations and domestics, to the number of four hundred, whom he
obliged to swear, before their departure, that they would instantly
join their patron. But this policy, by which Henry endeavoured to
reduce Becket sooner to necessity, lost its effect: the pope, when
they arrived beyond sea, absolved them from their oath, and
distributed them among the convents in France and Flanders: a
residence was assigned to Becket himself in the convent of Pontigny,
where he lived for some years in great magnificence, partly from a
pension granted him on the revenues of the abbey, partly from
remittances made him by the French monarch.
[FN [t] Epist. St. Thom. p. 35. [u] Ibid. p. 36, 37. [w] Hist. Quad.
p. 76.]

[MN 1165.] The more to ingratiate himself with the pope, Becket
resigned into his hands the see of Canterbury, to which, he affirmed,
he had been uncanonically elected by the authority of the royal
mandate; and Alexander, in his turn, besides investing him anew with
that dignity, pretended to abrogate, by a bull, the sentence which the
great council of England had passed against him. Henry, after
attempting in vain to procure a conference with the pope, who departed
soon after for Rome, whither the prosperous state of his affairs now
invited him, made provisions against the consequences of that breach
which impended between his kingdom and the apostolic see. He issued
orders to his justiciaries, inhibiting, under severe penalties, all
appeals to the pope or archbishop; forbidding any one to receive any
mandates from them, or apply in any case to their authority; declaring
it treasonable to bring from either of them an interdict upon the
kingdom, and punishable in secular clergymen by the loss of their eyes
and by castration, in regulars by amputation of their feet, and in
laics with death; and menacing, with sequestration and banishment, the
persons themselves, as well as their kindred, who should pay obedience
to any such interdict: and he farther obliged all his subjects to
swear to the observance of those orders [x]. These were edicts of the
utmost importance, affected the lives and properties of all the
subjects, and even changed, for the time, the national religion, by
breaking off all communication with Rome: yet were they enacted by the
sole authority of the king, and were derived entirely from his will
and pleasure.
[FN [x] Hist. Quad. p. 88, 167. Hoveden, p. 496. M. Paris, p. 73.]

The spiritual powers, which, in the primitive church, were, in a great
measure, dependent on the civil, had, by a gradual progress, reached
an equality and independence; and though the limits of the two
jurisdictions were difficult to ascertain or define, it was not
impossible, but, by moderation on both sides, government might still
have been conducted in that imperfect and irregular manner which
attends all human institutions. But as the ignorance of the age
encouraged the ecclesiastics daily to extend their privileges, and
even to advance maxims totally incompatible with civil government [y],
Henry had thought it high time to put an end to their pretensions, and
formally, in a public council, to fix those powers which belonged to
the magistrate, and which he was for the future determined to
maintain. In this attempt, he was led to re-establish customs, which,
though ancient, were beginning to be abolished by a contrary practice,
and which were still more strongly opposed by the prevailing opinions
and sentiments of the age. Principle, therefore, stood on the one
side; power on the other; and if the English had been actuated by
conscience more than by present interest, the controversy must soon,
by the general defection of Henry's subjects, have been decided
against him. Becket, in order to forward this event, filled all
places with exclamations against the violence which he had suffered.
He compared himself to Christ, who had been condemned by a lay
tribunal [z], and who was crucified anew in the present oppressions
under which his church laboured: he took it for granted, as a point
incontestable, that his cause was the cause of God [a]: he assumed the
character of champion for the patrimony of the Divinity: he pretended
to be the spiritual father of the king and all the people of England
[b]: he even told Henry that kings reigned solely by the authority of
the church [c]: and though he had thus torn off the veil more openly
on the one side than that prince had on the other, he seemed still,
from the general favour borne him by the ecclesiastics, to have all
the advantage in the argument. The king, that he might employ the
weapons of temporal power remaining in his hands, suspended the
payment of Peter's pence; he made advances towards an alliance with
the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, who was at that time engaged in
violent wars with Pope Alexander; he discovered some intentions of
acknowledging Pascal III., the present anti-pope, who was protected by
that emperor; and by these expedients he endeavoured to terrify the
enterprising though prudent pontiff from proceeding to extremities
against him.
[FN [y] QUIS DUBITET, says Becket to the king, SACERDOTES CHRISTI
Epist St. Thom. p. 97, 148. [z] Epist. St. Thom. p. 63, 105, 194.
[a] Ibid. p. 29, 30, 31, 226. [b] Fitz-Steph. p. 46. Epist. St Thom.
p. 52, 148. [c] Brady's Append. No. 36. Epist. St. Thom. p. 94, 95,
97, 99, 197. Hoveden, p. 497.]

[MN 1166.] But the violence of Becket, still more than the nature of
the controversy, kept affairs from remaining long in suspense between
the parties. That prelate, instigated by revenge, and animated by the
present glory attending his situation, pushed matters to a decision,
and issued a censure, excommunicating the king's chief ministers by
name, and comprehending in general all those who favoured or obeyed
the constitutions of Clarendon: these constitutions he abrogated and
annulled; he absolved all men from the oaths which they had taken to
observe them; and he suspended the spiritual thunder over Henry
himself, only that the prince might avoid the blow by a timely
repentance [d].
[FN [d] Fitz-Steph. p. 56. Hist. Quad. p. 93. M. Paris, p. 74.
Beaulieu, Vie de St. Thom. p. 213. Epist. St. Thom. p 149, 229.
Hoveden, p. 499.]

The situation of Henry was so unhappy, that he could employ no
expedient for saving his ministers from this terrible censure, but by
appealing to the pope himself, and having recourse to a tribunal whose
authority he had himself attempted to abridge in this very article of
appeals, and which, he knew, was so deeply engaged on the side of his
adversary. But even this expedient was not likely to be long
effectual. Becket had obtained from the pope a legatine commission
over England; and in virtue of that authority, which admitted of no
appeal, he summoned the Bishops of London, Salisbury, and others, to
attend him, and ordered, under pain of excommunication, the
ecclesiastics, sequestered on his account, to be restored in two
months to all their benefices. But John of Oxford, the king's agent
with the pope, had the address to procure orders for suspending this
sentence: and he gave the pontiff such hopes of a speedy reconcilement
between the king and Becket, that two legates, William of Pavia and
Otho, were sent to Normandy, where the king then resided, and they
endeavoured to find expedients for that purpose. But the pretensions
of the parties were, as yet, too opposite to admit of an
accommodation: the king required, that all the constitutions of
Clarendon should be ratified: Becket, that previously to any
agreement, he and his adherents should be restored to their
possessions: and as the legates had no power to pronounce a definitive
sentence on either side, the negotiation soon after came to nothing.
The Cardinal of Pavia also, being much attached to Henry, took care to
protract the negotiation; to mitigate the pope, by the accounts which
he sent of that prince's conduct; and to procure him every possible
indulgence from the see of Rome. About this time, the king had also
the address to obtain a dispensation for the marriage of his third
son, Geoffrey, with the heiress of Britany; a concession which,
considering Henry's demerits towards the church, gave great scandal
both to Becket, and to his zealous patron, the King of France.

[MN 1167.] The intricacies of the feudal law had, in that age,
rendered the boundaries of power between the prince and his vassals,
and between one prince and another, as uncertain as those between the
crown and the mitre; and all wars took their origin from disputes,
which, had there been any tribunal possessed of power to enforce their
decrees, ought to have been decided only before a court of judicature.
Henry, in prosecution of some controversies, in which he was involved
with the Count of Auvergne, a vassal of the duchy of Guienne, had
invaded the territories of that nobleman, who had recourse to the King
of France, his superior lord, for protection, and thereby kindled a
war between the two monarchs. But this war was, as usual, no less
feeble in its operations than it was frivolous in its cause and
object; and after occasioning some mutual depredations [e], and some
insurrections among the barons of Poictou and Guienne, was terminated
by a peace. The terms of this peace were rather disadvantageous to
Henry, and prove that that prince had, by reason of his contest with
the church, lost the superiority which he had hitherto maintained
over the crown of France: an additional motive to him for
accommodating those differences.
[FN [e] Hoveden, p. 517. M. Paris, p. 75. Diceto, p. 547. Gervase,
p. 1402, 1403. Robert de Monte.]

The pope and the king began at last to perceive, that, in the present
situation of affairs, neither of them could expect a final and
decisive victory over the other, and that they had more to fear than
to hope from the duration of the controversy. Though the vigour of
Henry's government had confirmed his authority in all his dominions,
his throne might be shaken by a sentence of excommunication; and if
England itself could, by its situation, be more easily guarded against
the contagion of superstitious prejudices, his French provinces at
least, whose communication was open with the neighbouring states,
would be much exposed, on that account, to some great revolution or
convulsion [f]. He could not, therefore, reasonably imagine that the
pope, while he retained such a check upon him, would formally
recognize the constitutions of Clarendon, which both put an end to
papal pretensions in England, and would give an example to other
states of asserting a like independency [g]. [MN 1168.] Pope
Alexander, on the other hand, being still engaged in dangerous wars
with the Emperor Frederic, might justly apprehend that Henry, rather
than relinquish claims of such importance, would join the party of his
enemy; and as the trials hitherto made of the spiritual weapons by
Becket had not succeeded to his expectation, and every thing had
remained quiet in all the king's dominions, nothing seemed impossible
to the capacity and vigilance of so great a monarch. The disposition
of minds on both sides, resulting from these circumstances, produced
frequent attempts towards an accommodation; but as both parties knew
that the essential articles of the dispute could not then be
terminated, they entertained a perpetual jealousy of each other, and
were anxious not to lose the least advantage in the negotiation. The
nuncios, Gratian and Vivian, having received a commission to endeavour
a reconciliation, met with the king in Normandy; and after all
differences seemed to be adjusted, Henry offered to sign the treaty,
with a salvo to his royal dignity; which gave such umbrage to Becket,
that the negotiation, in the end, became fruitless, and the
excommuications were renewed against the king's ministers. Another
negotiation was conducted at Montmirail, in presence of the King of
France, and the French prelates; where Becket also offered to make his
submissions, with a salvo to the honour of God and the liberties of
the church; which, for the like reason, was extremely offensive to the
king, and rendered the treaty abortive. [MN 1169.] A third
conference, under the same mediation, was broken off, by Becket's
insisting on a like reserve in his submissions; and even in a fourth
treaty, when all the terms were adjusted, and when the primate
expected to be introduced to the king, and to receive the kiss of
peace, which it was usual for princes to grant in those times, and
which was regarded as a sure pledge of forgiveness, Henry refused him
that honour; under pretence that, during his anger, he had made a rash
vow to that purpose. This formality served, among such jealous
spirits, to prevent the conclusion of the treaty; and though the
difficulty was attempted to be overcome by a dispensation which the
pope granted to Henry from his vow, that prince could not be prevailed
on to depart from the resolution which he had taken.
[FN [f] Epist. St. Thom. p. 230. [g] Ibid. p. 276.]

In one of these conferences, at which the French king was present,
Henry said to that monarch: "There have been many kings of England,
some of greater, some of less authority than myself; there have also
been many Archbishops of Canterbury, holy and good men, and entitled
to every kind of respect: let Becket but act towards me with the same
submission which the greatest of his predecessors have paid to the
least of mine, and there shall be no controversy between us." Lewis
was so struck with this state of the case, and with an offer which
Henry made to submit his cause to the French clergy, that he could not
forbear condemning the primate, and withdrawing his friendship from
him during some time: but the bigotry of that prince, and their common
animosity against Henry, soon produced a renewal of their former good

[MN 1170. 22d July.] All difficulties were at last adjusted between
the parties; and the king allowed Becket to return, on conditions
which may be esteemed both honourable and advantageous to that
prelate. [MN Compromise with Becket.] He was not required to give up
any rights of the church, or resign any of those pretensions which had
been the original ground of the controversy. It was agreed that all
these questions should be buried in oblivion; but that Becket and his
adherents should, without making farther submission, be restored to
all their livings, and that even the possessors of such benefices as
depended on the see of Canterbury, and had been filled during the
primate's absence, should be expelled, and Becket have liberty to
supply the vacancies [h]. In return for concessions which intrenched
so deeply on the honour and dignity of the crown, Henry reaped only
the advantage of seeing his ministers absolved from the sentence of
excommunication pronounced against them, and of preventing the
interdict, which, if these hard conditions had not been complied with,
was ready to be laid on all his dominions [i]. It was easy to see how
much he dreaded that event, when a prince of so high a spirit could
submit to terms so dishonourable in order to prevent it. So anxious
was Henry to accommodate all differences, and to reconcile himself
fully with Becket, that he took the most extraordinary steps to
flatter his vanity, and even, on one occasion, humiliated himself so
far as to hold the stirrup of that haughty prelate while he mounted
[FN [h] Fitz-Steph. p. 68, 69. Hoveden, p. 520. [i] Hist. Quad. p.
104. Brompton, p. 1062. Gervase, p. 1408. Epist. St. Thom. p. 704,
705, 706, 707, 792, 793, 794. Benedict. Abbas, p. 70. [k] Epist. 45.
lib. 5.]

But the king attained not even that temporary tranquillity which he
had hoped to reap from these expedients. During the heat of his
quarrel with Becket, while he was every day expecting an interdict to
be laid on his kingdom, and a sentence of excommunication to be
fulminated against his person, he had thought it prudent to have his
son, Prince Henry, associated with him in the royalty, and to make him
be crowned king by the hands of Roger, Archbishop of York. By this
precaution he both insured the succession of that prince, which,
considering the many past irregularities in that point, could not but
be esteemed somewhat precarious; and he preserved at least his family
on the throne, if the sentence of excommunication should have the
effect which he dreaded, and should make his subjects renounce their
allegiance to him. Though this design was conducted with expedition
and secrecy, Becket, before it was carried into execution, had got
intelligence of it; and being desirous of obstructing all Henry's
measures, as well as anxious to prevent this affront to himself, who
pretended to the sole right, as Archbishop of Canterbury, to officiate
in the coronation, he had inhibited all the prelates of England from
assisting at this ceremony, had procured from the pope a mandate to
the same purpose [l], and had incited the King of France to protest
against the coronation of young Henry, unless the princess, daughter
of that monarch, should at the same time receive the royal unction.
There prevailed in that age an opinion, which was akin to its other
superstitions, that the royal unction was essential to the exercise of
royal power [m]: it was therefore natural both for the King of France,
careful of his daughter's establishment, and for Becket, jealous of
his own dignity, to demand, in the treaty with Henry, some
satisfaction in this essential point. Henry, after apologizing to
Lewis for the omission with regard to Margaret, and excusing it on
account of the secrecy and despatch requisite for conducting that
measure, promised that the ceremony should be renewed in the persons
both of the prince and princess: and he assured Becket that, besides
receiving the acknowledgments of Roger and the other bishops for the
seeming affront put on the see of Canterbury, the primate should, as a
farther satisfaction, recover his rights by officiating in this
coronation. But the violent spirit of Becket, elated by the power of
the church, and by the victory which he had already obtained over his
sovereign, was not content with this voluntary compensation, but
resolved to make the injury which he pretended to have suffered a
handle for taking revenge on all his enemies. [MN Becket's return
from banishment.] On his arrival in England, he met the Archbishop of
York, and the Bishops of London and Salisbury, who were on their
journey to the king in Normandy: he notified to the archbishop the
sentence of suspension, and to the two bishops that of
excommunication, which, at his solicitation, the pope had pronounced
against them. Reginald de Warenne, and Gervase de Cornhill, two of
the king's ministers who were employed on their duty in Kent, asked
him, on hearing of this bold attempt, whether he meant to bring fire
and sword into the kingdom? But the primate, heedless of the reproof,
proceeded, in the most ostentatious manner, to take possession of his
diocese. In Rochester, and all the towns through which he passed, he
was received with the shouts and acclamations of the populace. As he
approached Southwark, the clergy, the laity, men of all ranks and
ages, came forth to meet him, and celebrated with hymns of joy his
triumphant entrance. And though he was obliged, by order of the young
prince, who resided at Woodstoke, to return to his diocese, he found
that he was not mistaken when he reckoned upon the highest veneration
of the public towards his person and his dignity. He proceeded,
therefore, with the more courage, to dart his spiritual thunders: he
issued the sentence of excommunication against Robert de Brock, and
Nigel de Sackville, with many others, who either had assisted at the
coronation of the prince, or been active in the late persecution of
the exiled clergy. This violent measure, by which he in effect
denounced war against the king himself, is commonly ascribed to the
vindictive disposition and imperious character of Becket; but as this
prelate was also a man of acknowledged abilities, we are not, in his
passions alone, to look for the cause of his conduct, when he
proceeded to these extremities against his enemies. His sagacity had
led him to discover all Henry's intentions; and he proposed, by this
bold and unexpected assault, to prevent the execution of them.
[FN [l] Hist. Quad. p. 103. Epist. St. Thom. p. 682. Gervase, p.
1412. [m] Epist. St. Thom. p. 708.]

The king, from his experience of the dispositions of the people, was
become sensible that his enterprise had been too bold in establishing
the constitutions of Clarendon, in defining all the branches of royal
power, and in endeavouring to extort from the Church of England, as
well as from the pope, an express avowal of these disputed
prerogatives. Conscious also of his own violence in attempting to
break or subdue the inflexible primate, he was not displeased to undo
that measure which had given his enemies such advantage against him;
and he was contented that the controversy should terminate in that
ambiguous manner, which was the utmost that princes, in those ages,
could hope to attain in their disputes with the see of Rome. Though
he dropped, for the present, the prosecution of Becket, he still
reserved to himself the right of maintaining that the constitutions of
Clarendon, the original ground of the quarrel, were both the ancient
customs and the present law of the realm: and though he knew that the
papal clergy asserted them to be impious in themselves, as well as
abrogated by the sentence of the sovereign pontiff, he intended, in
spite of their clamours, steadily to put those laws in execution [n],
and to trust to his own abilities, and to the course of events, for
success in that perilous enterprise. He hoped that Becket's
experience of a six years' exile would, after his pride was fully
gratified by his restoration, be sufficient to teach him more reserve
in his opposition; or, if any controversy arose, he expected
thenceforth to engage in a more favourable cause, and to maintain with
advantage, while the primate was now in his power [o], the ancient and
undoubted customs of the kingdom against the usurpations of the
clergy. But Becket determined not to betray the ecclesiastical
privileges by his connivance [p], and apprehensive lest a prince of
such profound policy, if allowed to proceed in his own way, might
probably in the end prevail, he resolved to take all the advantage
which his present victory gave him, and to disconcert the cautious
measures of the king, by the vehemence and vigour of his own conduct
[q]. Assured of support from Rome, he was little intimidated by
dangers which his courage taught him to despise, and which, even if
attended with the most fatal consequences, would serve only to gratify
his ambition and thirst of glory [r].
[FN [n] Epist. St. Thom. p. 837, 839. [o] Fitz-Steph. p. 65. [p]
Epist. St. Thom. p. 345. [q] Fitz-Steph. p. 74. [r] Epist. St. Thom.
p. 818, 848.]

When the suspended and excommunicated prelates arrived at Baieux,
where the king then resided, and complained to him of the violent
proceedings of Becket, he instantly perceived the consequences; was
sensible that his whole plan of operations was overthrown; foresaw
that the dangerous contest between the civil and spiritual powers, a
contest which he himself had first aroused, but which he had
endeavoured, by all his late negotiations and concessions, to appease,
must come to an immediate and decisive issue; and he was thence thrown
into the most violent commotion. The Archbishop of York remarked to
him, that, so long as Becket lived, he could never expect to enjoy
peace or tranquillity: the king himself being vehemently agitated,
burst forth into an exclamation against his servants, whose want of
zeal, he said, had so long left him exposed to the enterprises of that
ungrateful and imperious prelate [s]. Four gentlemen of his
household, Reginald Fitz-Urse, William de Traci, Hugh de Moreville,
and Richard Brito, taking these passionate expressions to be a hint
for Becket's death, immediately communicated their thoughts to each
other; and swearing to revenge their prince's quarrel, secretly
withdrew from court [t]. Some menacing expressions which they had
dropped gave a suspicion of their design; and the king despatched a
messenger after them, charging them to attempt nothing against the
person of the primate [u]: but these orders arrived too late to
prevent their fatal purpose. The four assassins, though they took
different roads to England, arrived nearly about the same time at
Saltwoode, near Canterbury; and being there joined by some assistants,
they proceeded in great haste to the archiepiscopal palace. They
found the primate, who trusted entirely to the sacredness of his
character, very slenderly attended; and though they threw out many
menaces and reproaches against him, he was so incapable of fear, that,
without using any precautions against their violence, he immediately
went to St. Benedict's church to hear vespers. They followed him
thither, attacked him before the altar, and having cloven his head
with many blows, retired without meeting any opposition. [MN 1170.
Dec. 29. Murder of Thomas a Becket.] This was the tragical end of
Thomas a Becket, a prelate of the most lofty, intrepid, and inflexible
spirit, who was able to cover to the world, and probably to himself,
the enterprises of pride and ambition under the disguise of sanctity
and of zeal for the interests of religion: an extraordinary personage,
surely had he been allowed to remain in his first station, and had
directed the vehemence of his character to the support of law and
justice; instead of being engaged, by the prejudices of the times, to
sacrifice all private duties and public connexions to ties which he
imagined or represented as superior to every civil and political
consideration. But no man who enters into the genius of that age can
reasonably doubt of this prelate's sincerity. The spirit of
superstition was so prevalent, that it infallibly caught every
careless reasoner, much more every one whose interest, and honour, and
ambition were engaged to support it. All the wretched literature of
the times was enlisted on that side: some faint glimmerings of common
sense might sometimes pierce through the thick cloud of ignorance, or
what was worse, the illusions of perverted science, which had blotted
out the sun, and enveloped the face of nature: but those who preserved
themselves untainted by the general contagion proceeded on no
principles which they could pretend to justify: they were more
indebted to their total want of instruction than to their knowledge,
if they still retained some share of understanding: folly was
possessed of all the schools as well as all the churches; and her
votaries assumed the garb of philosophers, together with the ensigns
of spiritual dignities. Throughout that large collection of letters,
which bears the name of St. Thomas, we find, in all the retainers of
the aspiring prelate, no less than in himself, a most entire and
absolute conviction of the reason and piety of their own party, and a
disdain of their antagonists: nor is there less cant and grimace in
their style, when they address each other, than when they compose
manifestos for the perusal of the public. The spirit of revenge,
violence, and ambition, which accompanied their conduct, instead of
forming a presumption of hypocrisy, are the surest pledges of their
sincere attachment to a cause, which so much flattered these
domineering passions.
[FN [s] Gervase, p. 1414. Parker, p. 207. [t] M. Paris, p. 86.
Brompton, p. 1065. Benedict. Abbas, p. 10. [u] Hist. Quad. p. 144.
Trivet, p. 55.]

[MN Grief,] Henry, on the first report of Becket's violent measures,
had purposed to have him arrested, and had already taken some steps
towards the execution of that design: but the intelligence of his
murder threw the prince into great consternation; and he was
immediately sensible of the dangerous consequences which he had reason
to apprehend from so unexpected an event. An archbishop of reputed
sanctity, assassinated before the altar, in the exercise of his
functions, and on account of his zeal in maintaining ecclesiastical
privileges, must attain the highest honours of martyrdom; while his
murderer would be ranked among the most bloody tyrants that ever were
exposed to the hatred and detestation of mankind. Interdicts and
excommunications, weapons in themselves so terrible, would, he
foresaw, be armed with double force when employed in a cause so much
calculated to work on the human passions, and so peculiarly adapted to
the eloquence of popular preachers and declaimers. In vain would he
plead his own innocence, and even his total ignorance of the fact: he
was sufficiently guilty, if the church thought proper to esteem him
such; and his concurrence in Becket's martyrdom, becoming a religious
opinion, would be received with all the implicit credit which belonged
to the most established articles of faith. These considerations gave
the king the most unaffected concern; and as it was extremely his
interest to clear himself from all suspicion, he took no care to
conceal the depth of his affliction [w]. He shut himself up from the
light of day, and from all commerce with his servants: he even
refused, during three days, all food and sustenance [x]: the
courtiers, apprehending dangerous effects from his despair, were at
last obliged to break in upon his solitude; and they employed every
topic of consolation, induced him to accept of nourishment, and
occupied his leisure in taking precautions against the consequences
which he so justly apprehended from the murder of the primate.
[FN [w] Ypod. Neust. p. 447. M. Paris, p. 87. Diceto, p. 556.
Gervase, p. 1419. [x] Hist. Quad. p. 143.]

[MN 1171. and submission of the king.] The point of chief importance
to Henry was to convince the pope of his innocence; or rather, to
persuade him that he would reap greater advantages from the
submissions of England, than from proceeding to extremities against
that kingdom. The Archbishop of Rouen, the Bishops of Worcester and
Evreux, with five persons of inferior quality, were immediately
despatched to Rome [y], and orders were given them to perform their
journey with the utmost expedition. Though the name and authority of
the court of Rome were so terrible in the remote countries of Europe,
which were sunk in profound ignorance, and were entirely unacquainted
with its character and conduct; the pope was so little revered at
home, that his inveterate enemies surrounded the gates of Rome itself,
and even controlled his government in that city; and the ambassadors,
who, from a distant extremity of Europe, carried to him the humble or
rather abject submissions of the greatest potentate of the age, found
the utmost difficulty to make their way to him, and to throw
themselves at his feet. It was at length agreed, that Richard Barre,
one of their number, should leave the rest behind, and run all the
hazards of the passage [z]; in order to prevent the fatal consequences
which might ensue from any delay in giving satisfaction to his
holiness. He found, on his arrival, that Alexander was already
wrought up to the greatest rage against the king; that Becket's
partisans were daily stimulating him to revenge; that the king of
France had exhorted him to fulminate the most dreadful sentence
against England; and that the very mention of Henry's name before the
sacred college was received with every expression of horror and
execration. The Thursday before Easter was now approaching, when it
is customary for the pope to denounce annual curses against all his
enemies; and it was expected that Henry should, with all the
preparations peculiar to the discharge of that sacred artillery, be
solemnly comprehended in the number. But Barre found means to appease
the pontiff, and to deter him from a measure, which, if it failed of
success, could not afterwards be easily recalled: the anathemas were
only levelled in general against all the actors, accomplices, and
abettors of Becket's murder. The Abbot of Valasse, and the
Archdeacons of Salisbury and Lisieux, with others of Henry's
ministers, who soon after arrived, besides asserting their prince's
innocence, made oath before the whole consistory that he would stand
to the pope's judgment in the affair, and make every submission that
should be required of him. The terrible blow was thus artfully
eluded; the Cardinals Albert and Theodin were appointed legates to
examine the cause, and were ordered to proceed to Normandy for that
purpose; and though Henry's foreign dominions were already laid under
an interdict by the Archbishop of Sens, Becket's great partisan, and
the pope's legate in France, the general expectation that the monarch
would easily exculpate himself from any concurrence in the guilt, kept
every one in suspense, and prevented all the bad consequences which
might be dreaded from that sentence.
[FN [y] Hoveden, p. 526. M. Paris, p. 87. [z] Hoveden, p. 26.
Epist. St. Thom. p. 863.]

The clergy, meanwhile, though their rage was happily diverted from
falling on the king, were not idle in magnifying the sanctity of
Becket; in extolling the merits of his martyrdom; and in exalting him
above all that devoted tribe, who in several ages had, by their blood,
cemented the fabric of the temple. Other saints had only borne
testimony by their sufferings to the general doctrines of
Christianity; but Becket had sacrificed his life to the power and
privileges of the clergy; and this peculiar merit challenged, and not
in vain, a suitable acknowledgment to his memory. Endless were the
panegyrics on his virtues; and the miracles wrought by his relics were
more numerous, more nonsensical, and more impudently attested, than
those which ever filled the legend of any confessor or martyr. Two
years after his death he was canonized by Pope Alexander; a solemn
jubilee was established for celebrating his merits; his body was
removed to a magnificent shrine, enriched with presents from all parts
of Christendom; pilgrimages were performed to obtain his intercession
with Heaven; and it was computed, that in one year above a hundred
thousand pilgrims arrived in Canterbury, and paid their devotions at
his tomb. It is indeed a mortifying reflection to those who are
actuated by the love of fame, so justly denominated the last infirmity
of noble minds, that the wisest legislator, and most exalted genius
that ever reformed or enlightened the world, can never expect such
tributes of praise as are lavished on the memory of pretended saints,
whose whole conduct was probably to the last degree odious or
contemptible, and whose industry was entirely directed to the pursuit
of objects pernicious to mankind. It is only a conqueror, a personage
no less entitled to our hatred, who can pretend to the attainment of
equal renown and glory.

It may not be amiss to remark, before we conclude the subject of
Thomas a Becket, that the king, during his controversy with that
prelate, was on every occasion more anxious than usual to express his
zeal for religion, and to avoid all appearance of a profane negligence
on that head. He gave his consent to the imposing of a tax on all his
dominions for the delivery of the Holy Land, now threatened by the
famous Saladine: this tax amounted to two-pence a pound for one year,
and a penny a pound for the four subsequent [a]. Almost all the
princes of Europe laid a like imposition on their subjects, which
received the name of Saladine's tax. During this period, there came
over from Germany about thirty heretics of both sexes, under the
direction of one Gerard; simple ignorant people, who could give no
account of their faith, but declared themselves ready to suffer for
the tenets of their master. They made only one convert in England, a
woman as ignorant as themselves; yet they gave such umbrage to the
clergy, that they were delivered over to the secular arm, and were
punished by being burned on the forehead, and then whipped through the
streets. They seemed to exult in their sufferings, and, as they went
along, sung the beatitude, BLESSED ARE YE, WHEN MEN HATE YOU AND
PERSECUTE YOU [b]. After they were whipped, they were thrust out
almost naked in the midst of winter and perished through cold and
hunger; no one daring or being willing, to give them the least relief.
We are ignorant of the particular tenets of these people; for it would
be imprudent to rely on the representations left of them by the
clergy, who affirmed that they denied the efficacy of the sacraments,
and the unity of the church. It is probable that their departure from
the standard of orthodoxy was still more subtle and minute. They seem
to have been the first that ever suffered for heresy in England.
[FN [a] Chron. Gervase, p. 1399. M. Paris, p. 74. [b] Neubr. p. 391.
M. Paris, p. 74. Heming. p. 494.]

As soon as Henry found that he was in no immediate danger from the
thunders of the Vatican, he undertook an expedition against Ireland; a
design which he had long projected, and by which he hoped to recover
his credit, somewhat impaired by his late transactions with the



[MN 1172. State of Ireland.]
As Britain was first peopled from Gaul, so was Ireland probably from
Britain; and the inhabitants of all these countries seem to have been
so many tribes of the Celtae, who derive their origin from an
antiquity that lies far beyond the records of any history or
tradition. The Irish, from the beginning of time, had been buried in
the most profound barbarism and ignorance; and as they were never
conquered, or even invaded by the Romans, from whom all the western
world derived its civility, they continued still in the most rude
state of society, and were distinguished by those vices alone, to
which human nature, not tamed by education, or restrained by laws, is
for ever subject. The small principalities into which they were
divided exercised perpetual rapine and violence against each other;
the uncertain succession of their princes was a continual source of
domestic convulsions; the usual title of each petty sovereign was the
murder of his predecessor; courage and force, though exercised in the
commission of crimes, were more honoured than any pacific virtues; and
the most simple arts of life, even tillage and agriculture, were
almost wholly unknown among them. They had felt the invasions of the
Danes and the other northern tribes; but these inroads, which had
spread barbarism in other parts of Europe, tended rather to improve
the Irish; and the only towns which were to be found in the island had
been planted along the coast by the freebooters of Norway and Denmark.
The other inhabitants exercised pasturage in the open country; sought
protection from any danger in their forests and morasses; and being
divided by the fiercest animosities against each other, were still
more intent on the means of mutual injury, than on the expedients for
common or even for private interest.

Besides many small tribes, there were in the age of Henry II. five
principal sovereignties in the island, Munster, Leinster, Meath,
Ulster, and Connaught; and as it had been usual for the one or the
other of these to take the lead in their wars, there was commonly some
prince, who seemed, for the time, to act as monarch of Ireland.
Roderic O'Connor, King of Connaught, was then advanced to this dignity
[a]; but his government, ill obeyed even within his own territory,
could not unite the people in any measures either for the
establishment of order, or for defence against foreigners. The
ambition of Henry had, very early in his reign, been moved by the
prospect of these advantages to attempt the subjecting of Ireland; and
a pretence was only wanting to invade a people who, being always
confined to their own island, had never given any reason of complaint
to any of their neighbours. For this purpose, he had recourse to
Rome, which assumed a right to dispose of kingdoms and empires; and,
not foreseeing the dangerous disputes which he was one day to maintain
with that see, he helped, for present, or rather for an imaginary,
convenience, to give sanction to claims which were now become
dangerous to all sovereigns. Adrian III., who then filled the papal
chair, was by birth an Englishman; and being, on that account, the
more disposed to oblige Henry, he was easily persuaded to act as
master of the world, and to make, without any hazard or expense, the
acquisition of a great island to his spiritual jurisdiction. The Irish
had, by precedent missions from the Britons, been imperfectly
converted to Christianity; and, what the pope regarded as the surest
mark of their imperfect conversion, they followed the doctrines of
their first teachers, and had never acknowledged any subjection to the
see of Rome. Adrian, therefore, in the year 1156, issued a bull in
favour of Henry; in which, after premising that this prince had ever
shown an anxious care to enlarge the church of God on earth, and to
increase the number of his saints and elect in heaven; he represents
his design of subduing Ireland as derived from the same pious motives:
he considers his care of previously applying for the apostolic
sanction as a sure earnest of success and victory; and having
established it as a point incontestable, that all Christian kingdoms
belong to the patrimony of St. Peter, he acknowledges it to be his own
duty to sow among them the seeds of the gospel, which might in the
last day fructify to their eternal salvation: he exhorts the king to
invade Ireland, in order to extirpate the vice and wickedness of the
natives, and oblige them to pay yearly, from every house, a penny to
the see of Rome: he gives him entire right and authority over the
island, commands all the inhabitants to obey him as their sovereign,
and invests with full power all such godly instruments as he should
think proper to employ in an enterprise thus calculated for the glory
of God and the salvation of the souls of men [b]. Henry, though armed
with this authority, did not immediately put his design in execution;
but being detained by more interesting business on the continent,
waited for a favourable opportunity of invading Ireland.
[FN [a] Hoveden, p. 527. [b] M. Paris, p. 67. Girald. Cambr. Spellm.
Concil. vol. ii. p. 51. Rymer, vol. i. p. 15.]

Dermot Macmorrogh, King of Leinster, had, by his licentious tyranny,
rendered himself odious to his subjects, who seized with alacrity the
first occasion that offered of throwing off the yoke, which was become
grievous and oppressive to them. This prince had formed a design on
Dovergilda, wife of Ororic, Prince of Breffny; and taking advantage of
her husband's absence, who, being obliged to visit a distant part of
his territory, had left his wife secure, as he thought, in an island
surrounded by a bog, he suddenly invaded the place and carried off the
princess [c]. This exploit, though usual among the Irish, and rather
deemed a proof of gallantry and spirit [d], provoked the resentment of
the husband; who, having collected forces, and being strengthened by
the alliance of Roderic, King of Connaught, invaded the dominions of
Dermot, and expelled him his kingdom. The exiled prince had recourse
to Henry, who was at this time in Guienne, craved his assistance in
restoring him to his sovereignty, and offered, on that event, to hold
his kingdom in vassalage under the crown of England. Henry, whose
views were already turned towards making acquisitions in Ireland,
readily accepted the offer; but being at that time embarrassed by the
rebellions of his French subjects, as well as by his disputes with the
see of Rome, he declined for the present embarking in the enterprise,
and gave Dermot no farther assistance than letters patent, by which he
empowered all his subjects to aid the Irish prince in the recovery of
his dominions [e]. Dermot, supported by this authority, came to
Bristol; and after endeavouring, though for some time in vain, to
engage adventurers in the enterprise, he at last formed a treaty with
Richard, surnamed Strongbow, Earl of Strigul. This nobleman, who was
of the illustrious house of Clare, had impaired his fortune by
expensive pleasures; and being ready for any desperate undertaking, he
promised assistance to Dermot, on condition that he should espouse
Eva, daughter of that prince, and be declared heir to all his
dominions [f]. While Richard was assembling his succours, Dermot went
into Wales; and meeting with Robert Fitz-Stephens, Constable of
Abertivi, and Maurice Fitz-Gerald, he also engaged them in his
service, and obtained their promise of invading Ireland. Being now
assured of succour, he returned privately to his own state; and
lurking in the monastery of Fernes, which he had founded, (for this
ruffian was also a founder of monasteries,) he prepared every thing
for the reception of his English allies [g].
[FN [c] Girald. Cambr. p. 760. [d] Spencer, vol. vi. [e] Girald.
Cambr. p. 760. [f] Ibid. p. 761. [g] Ibid.]

[MN Conquest of that island.]
The troops of Fitz-Stephens were first ready. That gentleman landed
in Ireland with thirty knights, sixty esquires, and three hundred
archers; but this small body, being brave men, not unacquainted with
discipline, and completely armed, a thing almost unknown in Ireland,
struck a great terror into the barbarous inhabitants, and seemed to
menace them with some signal revolution. The conjunction of Maurice
de Pendergast, who, about the same time, brought over ten knights and
sixty archers, enabled Fitz-Stephens to attempt the siege of Wexford,
a town inhabited by the Danes; and after gaining an advantage, he made
himself master of the place [h]. Soon after, Fitz-Gerald arrived with
ten knights, thirty esquires, and a hundred archers [i]; and being
joined by the former adventurers, composed a force which nothing in
Ireland was able to withstand. Roderic, the chief monarch of the
island, was foiled in different actions; the Prince of Ossory was
obliged to submit, and give hostages for his peaceable behaviour; and
Dermot, not content with being restored to his kingdom of Leinster,
projected the dethroning of Roderic, and aspired to the sole dominion
over the Irish.
[FN [h] Girald. Cambr. p. 761, 762. [i] Ibid. p. 766.]

In prosecution of these views, he sent over a messenger to the Earl of
Strigul, challenging the performance of his promise, and displaying
the mighty advantages which might now be reaped by a reinforcement of
warlike troops from England. Richard, not satisfied with the general
allowance given by Henry to all his subjects, went to that prince,
then in Normandy; and having obtained a cold or ambiguous permission,
prepared himself for the execution of his designs. He first sent over
Raymond, one of his retinue, with ten knights and seventy archers,
who, landing near Waterford, defeated a body of three thousand Irish,
that had ventured to attack him [k]; and as Richard himself, who
brought over two hundred horse, and a body of archers, joined, a few
days after, the victorious English, they made themselves masters of
Waterford, and proceeded to Dublin, which was taken by assault.
Roderic, in revenge, cut off the head of Dermot's natural son, who had
been left as a hostage in his hands; and Richard, marrying Eva, became
soon after, by the death of Dermot, master of the kingdom of Leinster,
and prepared to extend his authority over all Ireland. Roderic, and
the other Irish princes, were alarmed at the danger; and, combining
together, besieged Dublin with an army of thirty thousand men; but
Earl Richard making a sudden sally at the head of ninety knights, with
their followers, put this numerous army to rout, chased them off the
field, and pursued them with great slaughter. None in Ireland now
dared to oppose themselves to the English [l].
[FN [k] Ibid. p. 767. [l] Girald. Cambr. p. 773.]

Henry, jealous of the progress made by his own subjects, sent orders
to recall all the English, and he made preparations to attack Ireland
in person [m]: but Richard, and the other adventurers, found means to
appease him by making him the most humble submissions, and offering to
hold all their acquisitions in vassalage to his crown [n]. That
monarch landed in Ireland at the head of five hundred knights, besides
other soldiers: he found the Irish so dispirited by their late
misfortunes, that, in a progress which he made through the island, he
had no other occupation than to receive the homage of his new
subjects. He left most of the Irish chieftains or princes in
possession of their ancient territories; bestowed some lands on the
English adventurers; gave Earl Richard the commission of Seneschal of
Ireland; and after a stay of a few months, returned in triumph to
England. By these trivial exploits, scarcely worth relating, except
for the importance of the consequences, was Ireland subdued, and
annexed to the English crown.
[FN [m] Ibid. p. 770. [n] Ibid. p. 775.]

The low state of commerce and industry, during those ages, made it
impracticable for princes to support regular armies, which might
retain a conquered country in subjection; and the extreme barbarism
and poverty of Ireland could still less afford means of bearing the
expense. The only expedient, by which a durable conquest could then
be made or maintained, was by pouring in a multitude of new
inhabitants, dividing among them the lands of the vanquished,
establishing them in all offices of trust and authority, and thereby
transforming the ancient inhabitants into a new people. By this
policy, the northern invaders of old, and of late the Duke of
Normandy, had been able to fix their dominions, and to erect kingdoms,
which remained stable on their foundations, and were transmitted to
the posterity of the first conquerors. But the state of Ireland
rendered that island so little inviting to the English, that only a
few of desperate fortunes could be persuaded, from time to time, to
transport themselves thither [o]; and instead of reclaiming the
natives from their uncultivated manners, they were gradually
assimilated to the ancient inhabitants, and degenerated from the
customs of their own nation. It was also found requisite to bestow
great military and arbitrary powers on the leaders, who commanded a
handful of men amidst such hostile multitudes; and law and equity, in
a little time, became as much unknown in the English settlements as
they had ever been among the Irish tribes. Palatinates were erected
in favour of the new adventurers; independent authority conferred; the
natives, never fully subdued, still retained their animosity against
the conquerors; their hatred was retaliated by like injuries; and from
these causes, the Irish, during the course of four centuries, remained
still savage and untractable: it was not till the latter end of
Elizabeth's reign that the island was fully subdued; nor till that of
her successor that it gave hopes of becoming a useful conquest to the
English nation.
[FN [o] Brompton, p. 1069. Neubrig. p. 403.]

Besides that the easy and peaceable submission of the Irish left Henry
no farther occupation in that island, he was recalled from it by
another incident, which was of the last importance to his interest and
safety. The two legates, Albert and Theodin, to whom was committed
the trial of his conduct in the murder of Archbishop Becket, were
arrived in Normandy; and being impatient of delay, sent him frequent
letters, full of menaces, if he protracted any longer making his
appearance before them [p]. He hastened therefore to Normandy, and
had a conference with them at Savigny, where their demands were so
exorbitant, that he broke off the negotiation, threatened to return to
Ireland, and bade them do their worst against him. They perceived
that the season was now past for taking advantage of that tragical
incident; which, had it been hotly pursued by interdicts and
excommunications, was capable of throwing the whole kingdom into
combustion. But the time which Henry had happily gained had
contributed to appease the minds of men: the event could not now have
the same influence as when it was recent; and as the clergy every day
looked for an accommodation with the king, they had not opposed the
pretensions of his partisans, who had been very industrious in
representing to the people his entire innocence in the murder of the
primate, and his ignorance of the designs formed by the assassins.
The legates, therefore, found themselves obliged to lower their terms;
and Henry was so fortunate as to conclude an accommodation with them.
He declared upon oath, before the relics of the saints, that, so far
from commanding or desiring the death of the archbishop, he was
extremely grieved when he received intelligence of it: but as the
passion which he had expressed on account of that prelate's conduct
had probably been the occasion of his murder, he stipulated the
following conditions, as an atonement for the offence. [MN The king's
accommodation with the court of Rome.] He promised, that he should
pardon all such as had been banished for adhering to Becket, and
should restore them to their livings; that the see of Canterbury
should be reinstated in all its ancient possessions; that he should
pay the Templars a sum of money for the subsistence of two hundred
knights during a year in the Holy Land; that he should himself take
the cross at the Christmas following, and, if the pope required it,
serve three years against the infidels either in Spain or Palestine;
that he should not insist on the observance of such customs,
derogatory to ecclesiastical privileges, as had been introduced in his
own time; and that he should not obstruct appeals to the pope in
ecclesiastical causes, but should content himself with exacting
sufficient security from such clergymen as left his dominions to
prosecute an appeal, that they should attempt nothing against the
rights of his crown [q]. Upon signing these concessions, Henry
received absolution from the legates, and was confirmed in the grant
of Ireland made by Pope Adrian [r]; and nothing proves more strongly
the great abilities of this monarch, than his extricating himself on
such easy terms from so difficult a situation. He had always insisted
that the laws established at Clarendon contained not any new claims,
but the ancient customs of the kingdom; and he was still at liberty,
notwithstanding the articles of this agreement, to maintain his
pretensions. Appeals to the pope were indeed permitted by that
treaty; but as the king was also permitted to exact reasonable
securities from the parties, and might stretch his demands on this
head as far as he pleased, he had it virtually in his power to prevent
the pope from reaping any advantage by this seeming concession. And
on the whole, the constitutions of Clarendon remained still the law of
the realm; though the pope and his legates seem so little to have
conceived the king's power to lie under any legal limitations, that
they were satisfied with his departing, by treaty, from one of the
most momentous articles of these constitutions, without requiring any
repeal by the states of the kingdom.
[FN [p] Girald. Cambr. p. 778. [q] M. Paris, p. 88. Benedict. Abb.
p. 34. Hoveden, p. 529. Diceto, p 560. Chron. Gerv. p. 1422. [r]
Brompton, p. 1071 Liber Nig. Scac. p. 47.]

Henry, freed from this dangerous controversy with the ecclesiastics
and with the see of Rome, seemed now to have reached the pinnacle of
human grandeur and felicity, and to be equally happy in his domestic
situation and in his political government. A numerous progeny of sons
and daughters gave both lustre and authority to his crown, prevented
the dangers of a disputed succession, and repressed all pretensions of
the ambitious barons. The king's precaution, also, in establishing
the several branches of his family, seemed well calculated to prevent
all jealousy among the brothers, and to perpetuate the greatness of
his family. He had appointed Henry, his eldest son, to be his
successor in the kingdom of England, the duchy of Normandy, and the
counties of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine; territories which lay
contiguous, and which, by that means, might easily lend to each other
mutual assistance, both against intestine commotions and foreign
invasions. Richard, his second son, was invested in the duchy of
Guienne and county of Poictou; Geoffrey, his third son, inherited, in
right of his wife, the duchy of Britany; and the new conquest of
Ireland was destined for the appanage of John, his fourth son. He had
also negotiated, in favour of this last prince, a marriage with
Adelais, the only daughter of Humbert, Count of Savoy and Maurienne;
and was to receive as her dowry considerable demesnes in Piedmont,
Savoy, Bresse, and Dauphiny [s]. But this exaltation of his family
excited the jealousy of all his neighbours, who made those very sons,
whose fortunes he had so anxiously established, the means of
embittering his future life, and disturbing his government.
[FN [s] Ypod. Neust. p. 448. Bened. Abb. p. 38. Hoveden, p. 532.
Diceto, p. 562. Brompton, p. 1081. Rymer, vol. i. p. 33.]

Young Henry, who was rising to man's estate, began to display his
character, and aspire to independence: brave, ambitious, liberal,
munificent, affable; he discovered qualities which give great lustre
to youth; prognosticate a shining fortune; but unless tempered in
mature age with discretion, are the forerunners of the greatest
calamities [t]. It is said, that at the time when this prince
received the royal unction, his father, in order to give greater
dignity to the ceremony, officiated at table as one of the retinue;
and observed to his son, that never king was more royally served. IT
IS NOTHING EXTRAORDINARY, said young Henry to one of his courtiers, IF
might pass only for an innocent pleasantry, or even for an oblique
compliment to his father, was however regarded as a symptom of his
aspiring temper; and his conduct soon after justified the conjecture.
[FN [t] Chron. Gerv. p. 1463.]

Henry, agreeably to the promise which he had given both to the pope
and French king, permitted his son to be crowned anew by the hands of
the Archbishop of Rouen, and associated the Princess Margaret, spouse
to young Henry, in the ceremony [u] [MN 1173.] He afterwards allowed
him to pay a visit to his father-in-law at Paris, who took the
opportunity of instilling into the young prince those ambitious
sentiments, to which he was naturally but too much inclined [w]. [MN
Revolt of young Henry and his brothers.] Though it had been the
constant practice of France, ever since the accession of the Capetian
line, to crown the son during the lifetime of the father, without
conferring on him any present participation of royalty, Lewis
persuaded his son-in-law, that, by this ceremony, which in those ages
was deemed so important, he had acquired a title to sovereignty, and
that the king could not, without injustice, exclude him from immediate
possession of the whole or at least a part of his dominions. In
consequence of these extravagant ideas, young Henry, on his return,
desired the king to resign to him either the crown of England, or the
duchy of Normandy; discovered great discontent on the refusal; spake
in the most undutiful terms of his father; and soon after, in concert
with Lewis, made his escape to Paris, where he was protected and
supported by that monarch.
[FN [u] Hoveden, p. 529. Diceto, p. 560. Brompton, p. 1080. Chron.
Gerv. p. 1421. Trivet, p. 58. It appears from Madox's History of the
Exchequer, that silk garments were then known in England, and that the
coronation robes of the young king and queen cost eighty-seven pounds
ten shillings and four pence, money of that age. [w] Girald. Camb. p.

While Henry was alarmed at this incident, and had the prospect of
dangerous intrigues, or even of a war, which, whether successful or
not, must be extremely calamitous and disagreeable to him, he received
intelligence of new misfortunes, which must have affected him in the
most sensible manner. Queen Eleanor, who had disgusted her first
husband by her gallantries, was no less offensive to her second by her
jealousy; and after this manner carried to extremity, in the different
periods of her life, every circumstance of female weakness. She
communicated her discontents against Henry to her two younger sons,
Geoffrey and Richard; persuaded them that they were also entitled to
present possession of the territories assigned to them; engaged them
to fly secretly to the court of France; and was meditating, herself,
an escape to the same court, and had even put on man's apparel for
that purpose; when she was seized by orders from her husband, and
thrown into confinement. Thus, Europe saw with astonishment the best
and most indulgent of parents at war with his whole family; three
boys, scarcely arrived at the age of puberty, required a great
monarch, in the full vigour of his age and height of his reputation,
to dethrone himself in their favour; and several princes not ashamed
to support them in these unnatural and absurd pretensions.

Henry, reduced to this perilous and disagreeable situation, had
recourse to the court of Rome: though sensible of the danger attending
the interposition of ecclesiastical authority in temporal disputes, he
applied to the pope, as his superior lord, to excommunicate his
enemies, and by these censures to reduce to obedience his undutiful
children, whom he found such reluctance to punish by the sword of the
magistrate [x]. Alexander, well pleased to exert his power in so
justifiable a cause, issued the bulls required of him; but it was soon
found that these spiritual weapons had not the same force as when
employed in a spiritual controversy; and that the clergy were very
negligent in supporting a sentence which was nowise calculated to
promote the immediate interests of their order. The king, after
taking in vain this humiliating step, was obliged to have recourse to
arms, and to enlist such auxiliaries as are the usual resource of
tyrants, and have seldom been employed by so wise and just a monarch.
[FN [x] Epist. Petri Bles. epist. 136. in Biblioth. Patr. tom. xxiv.
TENEOR. The same strange paper is in Rymer, vol. i. p. 35, and
Trivet, vol. i. p. 62.]

The loose government which prevailed in all the states of Europe, the
many private wars carried on among the neighbouring nobles, and the
impossibility of enforcing any general execution of the laws, had
encouraged a tribe of banditti to disturb every where the public
peace, to infest the highways, to pillage the open country, and to
brave all the efforts of the civil magistrate, and even the
excommunications of the church, which were fulminated against them
[y]. Troops of them were sometimes enlisted in the service of one
prince or baron, sometimes in that of another: they often acted in an
independent manner, under leaders of their own: the peaceable and
industrious inhabitants, reduced to poverty by their ravages, were
frequently obliged, for subsistence, to betake themselves to a like
disorderly course of life; and a continual intestine war, pernicious
to industry, as well as to the execution of justice, was thus carried
on in the bowels of every kingdom [z]. Those desperate ruffians
received the name sometimes of Brabancons, sometimes of Routiers or
Cottereaux; but for what reason is not agreed by historians; and they
formed a kind of society or government among themselves, which set at
defiance the rest of mankind. The greatest monarchs were not ashamed,
on occasion, to have recourse to their assistance; and as their habits
of war and depredation had given them experience, hardiness, and
courage, they generally composed the most formidable part of those
armies which decided the political quarrels of princes. Several of
them were enlisted among the forces levied by Henry's enemies [a]; but
the great treasures amassed by that prince enabled him to engage more
numerous troops of them in his service; and the situation of his
affairs rendered even such banditti the only forces on whose fidelity
he could repose any confidence. His licentious barons, disgusted with
a vigilant government, were more desirous of being ruled by young
princes, ignorant of public affairs, remiss in their conduct, and
profuse in their grants [b]; and as the king had ensured to his sons
the succession to every particular province of his dominions, the
nobles dreaded no danger in adhering to those who, they knew, must
some time become their sovereigns. Prompted by these motives, many of
the Norman nobility had deserted to his son Henry; the Breton and
Gascon barons seemed equally disposed to embrace the quarrel of
Geoffrey and Richard. Disaffection had crept in among the English;
and the Earls of Leicester and Chester in particular had openly
declared against the king. Twenty thousand Brabancons, therefore,
joined to some troops which he brought over from Ireland, and a few
barons of approved fidelity, formed the sole force with which he
intended to resist his enemies.
[FN [y] Neubrig. p 413. [z] Chron. Gerv. p. 1461. [a] Petr. Bles.
epist. 47. [b] Diceto, p. 570.]

Lewis, in order to bind the confederates in a close union, summoned at
Paris an assembly of the chief vassals of the crown, received their
approbation of his measures, and engaged them by oath to adhere to the
cause of young Henry. This prince, in return, bound himself by a like
tie never to desert his French allies; and having made a new great
seal, he lavishly distributed among them many considerable parts of
those territories which he purposed to conquer from his father. The
Counts of Flanders, Boulogne, Blois, and Eu, partly moved by the
general jealousy arising from Henry's power and ambition, partly
allured by the prospect of reaping advantage from the inconsiderate
temper and the necessities of the young prince, declared openly in
favour of the latter. William, King of Scotland, had also entered
into this great confederacy; and a plan was concerted for a general
invasion on different parts of the king's extensive and factious

Hostilities were first commenced by the Counts of Flanders and
Boulogne on the frontiers of Normandy. Those princes laid siege to
Aumale, which was delivered into their hands by the treachery of the
count of that name: this nobleman surrendered himself prisoner; and,
on pretence of thereby paying his ransom, opened the gates of all his
other fortresses. The two counts next besieged and made themselves
masters of Drincourt; but the Count of Boulogne was here mortally
wounded in the assault; and this incident put some stop to the
progress of the Flemish arms.

[MN Wars and insurrections.]
In another quarter, the King of France, being strongly assisted by his
vassals, assembled a great army of seven thousand knights and their
followers on horseback, and a proportionable number of infantry:
carrying young Henry along with him, he laid siege to Verneuil, which
was vigorously defended by Hugh de Lacy and Hugh de Beauchamp, the
governors. After he had lain a month before the place, the garrison,
being straitened for provisions, were obliged to capitulate; and they
engaged, if not relieved within three days, to surrender the town, and
to retire into the citadel. On the last of these days, Henry appeared


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