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BECKET AS ROYAL MINISTER.
he went as ambassador to Paris (1159 A.D.), the magnificence of his embassy increased the prestige of the English name, and contributed to the success of his negotiations; he procured the recognition of Henry's right to Brittany, where Geoffrey, his brother, had been elected count, and had died without issue. When Henry disputed the possession of Toulouse with Louis (1159 A.D.), the chancellor brought 2,100 knights and 4,000 men-at-arms into the field at his own expense; armed and riding at their head, he unhorsed a French champion, Engelram de Trie. The contrast between himself and his sovereign came out curiously in one particular: Henry scrupled to make his suzerain prisoner, and let slip a golden opportunity of ending the war at a blow; Becket's resolute mind saw through the sophistry which professed allegiance to the king and waged war against his people; and he in vain pressed Henry to storm the town. It is clear that Becket was the better statesman, and Henry here at least the more honourable man. The chancellor's talents found a nobler employment in expelling the mercenaries from England (1154 A.D.), and in restoring order to the church. He caused vacancies to be punctually filled up. He opposed the taxation of the clergy in council, and bore the blame of it in public. Once a question of disputed jurisdiction between Hilary, bishop of Chichester, and the monks of Battle abbey, was tried by the king in full court. The monks claimed to be independent of all episcopal control. Their abbey was the symbol of Norman dominion, founded by the conqueror, enriched even by his godless second son; and the attempt to assert authority over it was nothing, they said, but Saxon jealousy of the governing classes. Hilary had procured decisions in his own favour from Rome. The king and his nobles were strongly influenced by the appeal to Norman
1 Fitz-Stephen, Vitæ Beck., vol. i., p. 200. He says, amusingly enough, "vanâ superstitione et reverentiâ rex tentus." Henry's scrupulosity was evidently a feature of his character; the Norman Chronicle mentions it as remarkable that, at a moment of great irritation, he burned a fortress belonging to Louis (1166 A.D.)-Duchesne, p. 1,001. The feeling wore off with constant
BECKET'S CONDUCT AT BATTLE ABBEY.
sentiment, and indignant that the pope's interference had been solicited. Henry put forward, in the strongest manner, his pretensions to maintain all the rights ever claimed by Norman kings over the church; the bishops and barons assisted him; and Hilary, a factious and time-serving man, was speedily clamoured down, and made abject submission. The chancellor was present during the trial, and supported the king energetically.
At first sight it appears irrational as well as monstrous that Becket afterwards cited this very case of Battle abbey, in a letter to the pope, as an instance of Henry's violent and oppressive character. The point is really a small one in summing up the conduct of a man whose life was divided between two opposite lines of action. The distinction of church and state had been merged during Saxon times in their general agreement, as it is now practically obliterated by the supremacy of the state. But since the conquest, its sharp contrasts had come more and more prominently forward. The Norman kings on the one hand, Anselm and Henry of Winchester on the other, had never allowed their respective rights to rust, while the same quarrel divided Europe between pope and emperor. The general feeling of state officers and great lords was hostile to the jurisdiction claimed by the church. Justiciaries and ma
'His words, if genuine, are remarkable: “Tu pro papæ auctoritate ab hominibus concessâ, contra dignitatum regalium auctoritates mihi a Deo concessas calliditate argutâ niti præcogitas." The first clause has been expunged in the MS., but exists in the copies printed by Spelman and Wilkins, vol. i., p. 431. Becket followed up the king's speech with one apparently of the same tenor, but an expunged clause in this has been hopelessly lost. A writer in the Dublin Review, No. 97, thinks the erasures contemporary with the MS., and that they were probably made by the scribe, who distrusted his own accuracy in recording strong language. As, however, in the first instance, there must have been time for a full copy of the MS. to be made, I am inclined to think that they were made at different times by some reader, whose piety was shocked. Becket's language was the first erased, not perhaps as the most violent, but because the anxiety to clear his character was greater. The MS. appears to have suffered from Puritan hands as well, as the word "papa" is generally blotted out.-Hist. Mon. de Bello, p. 91, note by Prof. Brewer.
2 Becket, Epist. 18.
DUALISM OF CHURCH AND STATE.
gistrates everywhere saw that two powers could not rule the
land together. There was no trace of superstition in the Nor man character. The barons disliked the rivalry of men who had risen from the ranks, and would have been well pleased to reduce the whole church establishment to a few chaplains and parish priests, who would do their lords' bidding quietly. It is clear that these views were incompatible with the claims of the church to control public morality, and to be considered a self-governing corporation, responsible only to its own laws and the pope. Either side, as it got the upper hand, might make life in England unendurable. Without the church, the people would have been pitilessly oppressed, and no outlet would have been open for humble merit; with the state subordinated, England would have been subjected to inquisitorial courts, and the whole sense of national existence would have been lost. A thoughtful and upright man might easily take part with the state, as St. Louis, Ockham, and Dante did afterwards, or, like Hildebrand, Anselm, and Stephen Langton, with the church. The public, sensible that two opposite theories could never be held together by the same man at the same time, that no one could serve two masters, demanded only that a man should adhere loyally to the flag under which he fought. Becket, as chancellor, was virtually a state servant, retained like a barrister to plead for the crown. Becket, as primate, was bound to consider the church above all feelings of loyalty or personal attachment. Within certain limits, therefore, he was justified by the morality of his times in acting firmly for the king in his first position, and as firmly afterwards against him. Henry had no right to make a man primate in the expectation that he would betray his duties. But on grounds of honour, Becket cannot be defended. His conduct, though not unclerical, had certainly been such as to give an impression that he was not a zealous churchman at heart; no man ever made that mistake about Anselm or Stephen Langton. Influenced by that supposition, Henry had ordered his justiciary to labour for Becket's promotion as zealously as if the royal rights of the king's son were at stake. Becket knew
BECKET'S PROMOTION AND CHANGE OF LIFE.
what was going on, and foresaw the complications that would arise. It is said that he warned the king not to appoint him. The story is probably false; but if it be true, it is certain that he did not let Henry understand how broad a gulf henceforth lay between them. No man was more astonished than the king when the new archbishop threw up his office of chancellor. Without supposing, therefore, that Becket foresaw the great struggle of his life, it is clear that he obtained the office, which he intended to use as a churchman against the king, by acting as the king's servant and friend. Only a coarse-fibred man could deliberately have gratified his ambition by such an expedient. Yet if the steps by which he climbed to power were slippery, it is fair to remember, that, having obtained it, he had no right to look back; from that moment a new history began for him. He fought out the doubtful contest with unflinching courage; and expiated the great crime of his life with his blood.
From the day of his consecration by Henry of Winchester (June 3, 1162 A.D.) Becket's life changed. He still lived in princely state, but he wore sackcloth, diminished the hours of sleep, and submitted to discipline. There is no reason to tax him with ostentation in all this; it was only a frank declaration that with the privileges of his new position he had accepted the duties. It was not long before those duties involved him in quarrels on every side. The king had promised that he should be allowed to reclaim all the old possessions of his see; it is likely the promise had been made with no definite idea of its extent: Becket understood it to comprehend all that any archbishop had ever held. He therefore claimed the castle of Rochester, which had been entrusted for keeping to his see, and the castle and lands of Tonbridge, over which
'Herbert of Bosham says, (Vita Beck., p. 86) that the deed of grant of William the conqueror was produced in this case. But this statement cannot outweigh the implied evidence of Domesday Book, which nowhere mentions the castle as part of the Canterbury demesne, or the fact that Eudes of Bayeux and his party seized it on the conqueror's death, which they could hardly have done if Lanfranc had garrisoned it. Florence of Worcester says, that the grant was
QUARRELS WITH THE BARONS AND THE KING.
the see had probably exercised no rights since the conquest.1 Gilbert de Clare, earl of Tonbridge, was strong in his noble connections, and in the influence of his pretty sister, whom Henry had once loved. He offered to do homage generally, not expressing what it was for, as in fact some of the Tonbridge estate was held of the archbishop; but Becket refused to listen to the compromise; and the matter went no further, as Henry supported the earl. Moreover, as a fresh survey of fiefs was now being made, the royal commissioners scrutinized Becket's titles curiously, and decided that he had no right to the homage which William of Ros had hitherto paid him. It is difficult to pronounce positively at this distance of time, but claims for homage and the custody of a castle seem of a kind which a prelate might better have left untouched. Neither was Becket happy in another quarrel. Assuming the right to present to all churches in his demesne, he presented to one which had been in the gift of William of Eynesford. William ejected the primate's nominee, and was forthwith excommunicated. Such a sentence on a tenant-in-chief, without the king's privity, was a breach of the conqueror's customs; Henry forced Becket to retract his censures. But the archbishop was soon able to retaliate, and annoy the king with signal benefit to the commonwealth. The tenants-in-chief in the different counties were in the habit of paying a fixed allowance of two shillings a hide to the sheriffs; they could give or withhold
made in perpetuity by Henry I., with advice of his barons.-Vol. ii., p. 85. It had probably been lost to the see under Stephen.
1 This seems to have been De Clare's rejoinder.-Diceto, Twysden, p. 536. The castle of Tonbridge had been given to his ancestor by the conqueror, with whom he was connected. But the manor attached to it, probably even the ground on which it stood, was made up of patches from neighbouring estates, and those in Otford, Totimgrow, Wrotham, and Axtane hundreds, were in the archbishop's demesne or dependencies.- Henshall's Domesday of Kent, pp. 16, 18, 25.
2 Under Henry III., the dispute was finally compromised by an agreement that the earls should do homage, or other appropriate suit, for the manors held of the see, should act as the archbishop's high stewards at his inthronization, and that he should have the guardianship of minors in the family.-Hasted's Kent, vol. v., p. 207; Camden's Britannia, p. 243.