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The same tendency to substitute national for feudal
machinery which appears in government under Henry's
reign appears also in finance. A regular land-tax, after-
.wards called carucage, is imposed in place of the obsolete
danegelt. Scutage is in effect a substitution of taxation
for service. Henry, however, no doubt like other kings
in those days, took all that he could get ; imposts, old or
new, regular or irregular, including fines and composi-
tions for offences real or factitious, sale of royal favours,
of offices in church and state, of heiresses in marriage, of
the custody of the estates of royal wards. The people
groaned, as they always groaned under taxation, and the
louder, the more regular the taxation was. The necessi-
ties of government they could not see. There was in
those days no budget, no understanding between govern-
ment and people as to the need of supply, or as to the
purposes to which the supply was to be devoted. A very
odious source of royal revenue was the Jewry, practising
usury under the king's protection and paying to him a
large part of its gains, which was now organized as a
regular department of finance.

The English, no doubt, had to pay for their king's wars
in France. On the other hand, they had the benefit of
trade with his French dominions as well as with Germany,
whose friendship his diplomacy secured. The whole west-
ern coast of France, with the arteries of trade, was in his
hands. Putting down the license of private coinage, he
gave commerce the sound currency which is her life.
Special privileges were granted to the merchants of
Cologne. Wealth increased with law and order ; towns,
with town life and its political influences, grew.

From the repression of lay crime the king turned to


repression of crime among the clergy, and at the same
time to the rectification of the boundary line between
the ecclesiastical and the civil jurisdiction. William the
Conqueror, while he sternly repelled papal encroachment,
had so far complied with high church principle as to
divide the ecclesiastical jurisdiction from the civil. Ec-
clesiastical tribunals were usurping suits really civil, such
as those relating to property, wherever, as in cases of
marriage and legitimacy, the church could pretend to
a voice, and to advowsons ; while behind them were
creeping onwards, to the subversion of royal authority
and of national independence, the appellate jurisdiction
and the autocracy of the Holy See. There was, in fact,
no assignable limit to the pretensions of the church or
of the pope as its absolute head. Man cannot be divided
into soul and body. He who is master of the soul is
master of man, and he who holds *the keys of heaven and
can cut off from eternal life is master of the soul. The
conflict between the ecclesiastical and the lay power in
the middle ages was irrepressible and internecine.

The discipline of the church was lax. Secularism,
nepotism, simony, pluralism, and sinecurism prevailed, if
we may trust the satire of the age, to a scandalous extent.
Rich church preferment was given to boys. Bishops
were courtiers or fighting barons, and were not ashamed
of having bastard children. Under Stephen we have
seen bishops closing the gates of their castles against
the crown. The salt of monasticism had lost its savour.
Concubinage was common among the clergy and could
not fail to deprave. The minor orders swarmed with
vagabonds who had nothing clerical about them but the
tonsure, and among whom murder and robbery were rife.


Yet the tonsure protected from justice. The ecclesiasti-
cal courts claimed the criminal, who was still, according
to clerical theory, a part of the soul of the world, not to
be punished by the profane arm of flesh ; while penal-
ties which the ecclesiastical courts under canon law could
inflict, or would probably wish to inflict, were inadequate
to the suppression of crime. It was reported to the king
by his justiciars that in the nine years of his reign more
than a hundred murders, together with a number of rob-
beries and other offences, had been committed by clerks
whom the lay jurisdiction could not reach. In the last
reign an archdeacon had administered poison to his arch-
bishop in the eucharistic cup and as a churchman had
escaped justice. Even among the hierarchy not secular-
ism only but violence prevailed. Soon after this the
chronic struggle between the archbishops of Canterbury
and York about precedence leads to an affray in a church
council in which the Archbishop of York is sorely mauled
by the monks attendant on his rival.

With a contested case before him, the king moved.
But here he came into conflict with the spirit of the age.
Hildebrandic principles of church privilege and suprem-
acy had been gaining ground. They were steadily pushed
forward by a power unswerving in its aim, raised by its
self-created divinity above scruple in the choice of its
means, and supported by the corporate spirit of a power-
ful order working in its interest through all nations.
They found support in the False Decretals, making the
papacy the supreme and universal court of appeal, and
in the development of the canon law. Henry lY. of
Germany had been humbled by Hildebrand ; Barbarossa
was about to be humbled by Pope Alexander III. The


crusades had put the pope at the head of the armies of
Christendom. They had filled the world with religious
enthusiasm and kindled a wild passion for martyrdom.
During the anarchy under Stephen the church in Eng-
land, keeping her organization, had advanced her power.
Under Henry a memorable champion of church privilege
arose in the person of Thomas Becket.

We have to gather the history of this canonized cham-
pion and martyr of clerical privilege chiefly from pane-
gyrical biographers, who make heaven announce his birth
through prophetic dreams ; who ascribe to him, living
and dead, miracles countless and portentous ; and in
whose eyes veracity, if it took from the honour of the
saint, would have been sin. He was the son of a London
citizen of Norman name and race. He was well educated,
and at Bologna studied papalizing law. Received into
the ecclesiastical and high-church household of Theobald,
Archbishop of Canterbury, he, by his brilliant gifts, hand-
some person, and engaging manners made his way, rose
in his master's favour, was employed in important busi-
ness, bore a part in the negotiations which, by preventing
the recognition of Eustace, secured to Henry the succes- 1152
sion of the crown, and in connection with that affair was
sent to Rome, where he no doubt imbibed Roman ideas.
To qualify himself for preferment he took deacons' orders,
and preferment was showered on him. He was invested 1154
with the archdeaconry of Canterbury, the best thing after
the bishoprics, with the provostship of Beverley, and with
several prebends or benefices besides. From the service
of the archbishop he passed to that of the king and was
made chancellor or secretary of state, an office which,
though then not the highest, brought him close to the


king's person. He became Henry's most trusted coun-
sellor, bosom friend, and boon companion. He is credited
with the king's policy, but this remained the same after
their rupture and was a bequest from Henry I. As
chancellor he handled large sums of money, including the
revenues of all vacant sees, abbeys, and benefices in the
gift of the crown. His style of living was most sump-
tuous, his hospitality was profuse, his establishment was

1158 magnificent. As ambassador he entered Paris with a
parade resembling and surpassing a modern Lord Mayor's
show, and scattered money among the Parisians with both
hands. He served the king not only in council but in
war, slaying, ravaging, and burning, as his biographers
complacently tell us, without mercy. When Henry
scrupled to attack the person of his suzerain the French
king, Becket scrupled not. All this time he was holding
his archdeaconry and his other ecclesiastical preferments,
so that of secularism, pluralism, and sinecurism he was a
palmary example. His biographers aver, and would in
any case have averred, that amidst all his luxury the
saint kept his purity unstained. Becket as chancellor
seems to have pushed, if he did not devise, a scheme for
taxing the clergy, which caused the high churchmen to
say that he had plunged a sword into the bowels of his
mother. Here apparently was the man who, if placed at
the head of the church, would help the king to put limits
to ecclesiastical jurisdiction and bring clerical crime
under the sword of justice. AVlien, by the death of
Theobald, the archbishopric of Canterbury fell vacant,
the king announced to Becket his intention of making

1162 him archbishop. Becket said afterwards that he warned
the king ; he did not undeceive him ; and he must have


known that by his previous conduct his master had been
misled. He accepted the appointment, however, and w^as
thrust by the lay power on the electors, who might well
be scandalized at the promotion of so notorious a world-
ling to the headship of the English church.

Character does not suddenly change in middle age, but
aims sometimes do. Becket would now be the English
Hildebrand, the head of a realm within the realm, wield-
ing a power independent of national law and above that
of the temporal ruler. He threw up the secular office of
chancellor. We are told that he changed his life, prac-
tised asceticism, wore a hair shirt till it swarmed with
vermin, every day washed the feet of twelve poor men,
and was profuse in his almsgiving. He kept up great
outward state and pomp; but this was* a proof of his
humility, as he thus veiled his austerities from the eyes
of men. That he set himself to reform the church his
biographers assure us ; but to two great abuses, pluralism
and sinecurism, he was bound to be kind, since he had
not only himself been one of the greatest of pluralists and
sinecurists before his appointment to the archbishopric,
but after his appointment had continued with his arch-
bishopric to hold the rich archdeaconry of Canterbury.

Suits arose about fiefs and advowsons claimed for
Becket's see. These he proceeded to treat as matters of
ecclesiastical jurisdiction and to decide in his own favour.
In the course of one of them he broke a law of the realm 1163
by excommunicating without notice to the king a tenant-
in-chief of the crown. Nor was it long before he came
into collision with the king himself on a fiscal question.
Here he gets the credit of having anticipated Hampden in uca
patriotic resistance to taxation, though it does not appear


that he was resisting taxation of any but church lands, or
on grounds broader than that of church privilege. High
words passed, and Becket showed that he felt little rever-
ence for the king. He assumes towards the king hence-
forth the airs of a spiritual father, which in one who had
so lately been Henry's boon companion must have been
difficult to bear.

When Henry disclosed his design of curbing the eccle-
siastical courts, and bringing clerical crime within the
grasp of the law, war between him and the primate broke
out. After some preliminary fencing, in the course of
which Becket seems to have professed his willingness to
submit, saving his order, that is, saving all the preten-
sions of the clergy and the pope, a pitched battle between
the two theories was fought before the council of barons
1164 and prelates at Clarendon. Sixteen constitutions, declar-
ing the relations between church and state as to matters
of jurisdiction, were there promulgated on the part of the
king. They formed, in effect, a declaratory act of the
great council, setting forth the established custom of
the realm as found by the council or by those who dic-
tated its finding. Clerks accused of crime were to be
arraigned first in the king's court, which might at its dis-
cretion send them to an ecclesiastical court. If convicted
in the ecclesiastical court and degraded, the clerk was to
lose his benefit of clergy, and become amenable to lay
justice. No prelate or other ecclesiastic was to leave the
realm without the king's license, or without giving se-
curity that he would attempt nothing against the king or
kingdom, an enactment the object of which was evidently
to restrict resort to Rome. Appeals were to be carried
from the archdeacon to the bishop, from the bishop to the

IV HENRY 11 91

archbishop, and in the . last resort to the king in the arch-
bishop's court, but never to the pope without the consent
of the king. Without the leave of the king sentence of
excommunication was not to be pronounced against any
tenant-in-chief of the crown. Archbishops and bishops
were to hold their estates as fiefs, subject to the feudal
obligations. They were to be elected in the king's
chapel, with the assent of the king and his council.
Cases of church property and advowsons were to be tried
in the civil courts. The right of sanctuary was not to
protect goods forfeited to the crown. Protection was
given to laymen against stretches of power on the part of
the ecclesiastical courts. Serfs were not to be ordained
without the consent of their lords. All the articles but
the last seem to have been agreeable to the manifesto of
the Conqueror and the custom of the realm, as well as to
reason and the first principles of jurisprudence. William
had with his own liand arrested the Bishop of Bayeux for
breach of secular fealty. In his reign the suit for church
property relating to the see of Canterbury between
Archbishop Lanfranc and Odo of Bayeux had been tried
by a county court on Pennenden Heath. The restric-
tions on papal interference were, in effect, those which
the Conqueror had imposed. Fancy has pitched on the
article forbidding the ordination of serfs without the con-
sent of the lords, and Becket, for resisting that enact-
ment, has been held up as the tribune of an oppressed
people and a subject race. There is nothing of this in
the biographies or in the voluminous correspondence of
Becket and his friends. When the constitutions were
laid before the pope he divided them into two sets, the
tolerable and the intolerable , and the article respecting


the ordination of serfs was in the tolerable set. That
ordination did open a door to the serf is true ; let the
church have full credit for it. But the constitution was
not intended to close that door ; it was intended simply
to guard the property of the lay lord. The church
preached eniancipation as a good deed ; yet she held serfs
herself, though probably in mild bondage, to the last;.
It seems also that she restrained her own serfs from
ordination. The decision of the pope respecting this
constitution is fatal to the existence of anything like a
definite intention on her part to make her orders the
means of elevation for the serf. Nothing that in reality
was God's was taken from God by any of the consti-

From the policy of the king, thus formally presented,
Becket at once recoiled. The question whether it was
good for the church of Christ to harbour crime seems not
to have presented itself to his mind. The church's privi-
lege was to be upheld. Should the hands which made
God be bound, asks a follower of Becket, like those of a
mere layman, behind the priestly back ? The hands of
the minor orders, in which crime chiefly prevailed, did
not make God. The bishops, nominees of the crown,
good worldly men, besought the primate to give way and
avert the wrath of the king. Some Templars, whose
order was now at the zenith of its reputation, added their
entreaties. Becket at last yielded, swore, and permitted
the bishops to swear, to the constitutions ; but vowed
that he would not seal. Afterwards, for having sworn,
he put himself to penance, and suspended himself from
the service of the altar till he should be absolved by the
pope. In the-sequel he advised the bishops that the oath


which they had taken, being sinful, was null and void.
It was not easy to make terms with such a power.

The council met again at Northampton, whither Becket 1164
came with a great train. The king's savage temper
now broke out, and he put himself in the wrong. He
had summoned the archbishop in a contumelious man-
ner through the sheriff, instead of summoning him per-
sonally, like other magnates. He now tried to crush him
by getting the council to condemn him for contempt of
the king's court in a lawsuit. Then he charged him with
malversation. Becket had no doubt, as chancellor, spent
great sums in splendid living as well as in his gorgeous
embassy, but his accounts had been passed ; at all events,
the charge was barred by time and the subsequent con-
duct of the king. A stormy scene ensued. Barons and
bishops, though on the king's side, shrank from the
extremity of condemning their primate, and each order
tried to shift the task upon the other. Becket's soul rose
up in defiance. After celebrating the mass of the proto-
martyr Stephen, with its threatening Introit Etenim
Sederunt Principes, he entered the assembly, uplifting his
cross in his own hands as a standard of spiritual war. In
the debate, or rather altercation, which ensued, he thun-
dered high-church doctrine in its extreme form, protesting
that he owed for none of his possessions service to any
earthly lord, and warning the earl w^ho, on a civil charge,
was about to pronounce the sentence of the assembly,
against condemning his father. At last he left the hall
amidst a volley of insults, which, the soldier rising within
him, he returned in kind. By the common people, his
panegyrists say, he was received with enthusiasm ; but
they admit that not only the lay members of his house-


hold, his knights and noble pages, but forty clerks who
had basked in the summer sunshine of his prosperity, now
1164 left him like swallows at the coming of winter. He
withdrew by stealth, not having the king's leave, from
the realm, passed over to France, and there, unlike
Anselm in all things, presently threw himself into the
arms of his sovereign's antagonist, Louis, who welcomed an
instrument of mischief, and provided him with a guard of
honour. To clear himself of the taint of lay nomination,
he afterwards surrendered his archbishopric to the pope,
and received it back from the pope's hand, committing
therein something like an act of treason. On his depart-
ure from the kingdom without the royal permission, which
was a breach of allegiance, his estates were sequestrated
by the king.

The principles proclaimed by Becket at Northampton
amounted to nothing less than the subjection of the state
to the church, and the exemption of an immensely
wealthy and powerful order, an order whose wealth and
power were growing always and without limit, from the
law. If the champion of such principles was able by his
hold on the superstition of the age and his sacramental
thaumaturgy to convulse society, and thus compel the
submission of the government, the government could deal
with him only in one of two ways, by throwing itself at
his feet or by taking him by the throat.

Then followed six years of tangled controversy, Becket
appealing to the pope to launch the papal thunderbolt
against the king, identifying himself with Christ and his
opponents with Satan, storming not only against the king
and his other English enemies, but against the weakness,
perfidy, and venality of Rome, who, if half of what he


says is true, must have been a strange mother of Chris-
tendom ; the pope, Avho was an Italian statesman and,
being hard pressed by an anti-pope with the Emperor
at his back, feared to make the king of England his
enemy, temporizing and vacillating ; the king and the
bishops who took his part appealing, trying the arts of
diplomacy, and not only of diplomacy, but of bribery, to
which, it was held by both sides, Rome was open. Fresh
fuel is heaped upon the flames when the king, having
determined to get his eldest son Henry crowned in
his own lifetime, the Archbishop of Canterbury being in
exile, has the ceremony performed by the Archbishop of 1170
York. This was taking from the primate a part, perhaps
regarded by him as more than honorary, in the election, of
the king, and Becket's wrath blazed out anew. The
king's cause is pleaded by Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of
London, whose austere virtue and famed learning add, in
the minds of Becket's aditiirers, piquancy to his inevitable
damnation as an opponent of the church's champion and
favourite. Becket strives to put heaven on his side by
increased asceticism ; wears not only a. hair shirt but hair
drawers, both swarming with vermin, multiplies the
flagellations which he had commenced from the time of
his conversion to the rate of five a day. So his hagio-
graphers assure us, although the Abbot of Pontigny play-
fully tells him that one who loved wine as he did could
hardly be a martyr. Already, according to his biogra-
phers, he performs miracles. A fish leaps into his bosom
to provide food for the fast-day ; a maggot which drops
from his sleeve while he sits beside the queen of France
is turned into a pearl. Betaking himself to the shrine
of Vezelay, after prayer to St. Drausius, who gave


victory in duels, he mounts the pulpit, and with
the awful forms of the Roman ritual launches curses
against his enemies, including De Lucy the Loyal, who
had really acted towards him as a friend. The king
shows himself not wanting in the temper which belonged
to the Angevin stock. He banishes Becket's kindred to
put pressure by their destitution on the archbishop ; he
compels the Cistercians by threats of sequestration to expel
Becket from their House of Pontigny. The French king,
from enmity to his English rival, countenances Becket
and Becket's principles, showing the advantage which, in
the conflict between church and state, the church had in
lier unity, while her antagonists were divided and she

1170 could play one of them against another. At last all
parties are worn out ; Henry yields ; Becket is restored
to his see and to the possessions which, upon his un-
licensed departure from the realm, had been seized into
the king's hands. He comes to England, but instead of
peace brings with him a renewal of war ; launches sen-
tence of excommunication against the Archbishop of York
and two other bishops who had offended him ; moves
about the country stirring up the people. On Christmas
Day he mounts the pulpit, and, taking " Peace on eartli "
as his text, again pours out curses on his enemies, the De
Brocs, who as receivers of his estates during sequestration
had wasted his property and had since cut off his
horse's tail, with others who had offended him, conclud-
ing by dashing a candle on the ground in token of their
extinction. The king, who is in France, hearing all this,

1170 lets fall a hasty word. Fired by it, four of his knights
cross to England ; force themselves into the chamber
where the archbishop after dinner is conversing with the


monks of his chapter ; engage in a tierce altercation
with him ; return armed as he is going to vespers in the
cathedral ; renew the altercation, in which he calls one of
them a pandar ; try to carry him out of the sacred place ;
and, on his resistance, slay him there. 1170

Of Christ in Becket's character there is little trace,
except the courage of martyrdom. Nor was he the
champion of any cause but clerical privilege. In that
cause he fought stoutly and died bravely. In passing
judgment on his case, we have to determine how far
privilege, in itself unreasonable and noxious, might in
that stage of civilization be useful as a bar against the
despotism of kings. That sympathy is due to the papacy
or the church as a moral power contending against a
power not moral seems a fallacy. Superstition, again it
must be said, is no more moral than force. To effect its
ends it has, in fact, to become force. The Norman con-
quest of England countenanced by a pope, the civil wars
kindled in Germany by the popes in their struggle for
supreme power with the Emperor, the extermination of
the Albigenses, the wars of the League, the massacre of
St. Bartholomew, the persecution in the Netherlands, the
work of the Spanish Inquisition, that of the Jesuits in the
Thirty Years' War, the expulsion of the Huguenots вАФ
what were these but acts of force commanded by super-

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