Page images



come a monk, and he entered the monastery of Bec, 1060 A.D., against his first intentions, for he dreaded to be obscured by Lanfranc's eminence. The fear was not unnatural. At this day it would be absurd to contrast the blunt, broad common sense of Lanfranc with the profound and subtle philosophical power of Anselm; great as a statesman, Lanfranc was as a child in abstract thought beside his pupil. But Lanfranc had

a more vigorous style, and imposed, so to speak, on the world by his splendid personality; till nearly the end of his life, Anselm's first ambition was still ungratified: he was only the third European teacher, while his old master, and the now forgotten Guitmund, were the first. But Anselm's reputation as a saint was unequalled. He had something of the power, which Loyola afterwards displayed, of winning over men who were on their guard against his ascendancy. Fifteen years prior, and fifteen years abbot, of the convent, "he gained the love of young and old, of men and women, of rich and poor, and all were glad to minister to him." Yet his rule was strict as well as gentle; it was believed in Bec that the soul of a departed brother had obeyed the prior after death as it was wont to obey him in life, and had come to give an account of its final doom. When Lanfranc was pressing heavily on the English church, Anselm interposed to moderate his zeal; and defended the commemoration of St. Elfeg with the noble sentiment that whoever died for justice and truth died for Christ. Lanfranc bowed to his pupil's wisdom. A few years later, the conqueror lay on his death-bed at Rouen, and prayed that Anselm might come to him. Anselm was ill, and could not obey the command; the king died unshriven and unblessed by the one man in whose presence he spoke softly, or whom he and his sons respected for mere holiness.

On the death of Lanfranc, public opinion designated Anselm as his successor. Hugh of Chester, whose wild character was strangely tempered with religion, and who loved to listen to

1 Anselm, Epist., lib. i., 16. "Quod vero quæritis, cur fama Lanfranci atque Guitmundi plus meâ per orbem volet, utique quia non quilibet flos pari rosso flagrat odore, etiamsi non dispari fallat rubore."




Bible stories and legends of the saints,1 invited the abbot of Bec to come over and superintend a new monastery. Anselm suspected that his own promotion was contemplated, and refused to comply, till the earl, falling dangerously ill, summoned him more pressingly, and pledged his honour that no preferment was designed for him. In fact the king had confiscated the archbishopric, and declared that there should be no primate but himself, jesting at what he called the feigned humility of Anselm, yet refusing him permission to return to Normandy. But some months later (1093 A.D.) William fell ill, and in a panic resolved to propitiate God by filling up the see of Canterbury with the one priest who dared to rebuke him to his face for his vices. Anselm was literally dragged into the royal presence, implored with many promises to consent, and finally conse crated by force (March 6). Yet he did not accept the office till some months later, when leave had been obtained from his monastery and native sovereign, and when William had made fresh promises of amendment. The conditions agreed on were three in number: that the property of the see should be restored, that Anselm's recognition of pope Urban should be confirmed, and that William should take the primate for “his spiritual father and soul's guardian."

Before long, Anselm's previsions of trouble were justified. The ordinary business of his diocese was sufficiently trying to a nervous, highly scrupulous recluse, who disliked business, and revolted from the petty tricks and quarrels of suitors for his favour, or rival prelates. Once he had to defend the rights of his see against the bishop of London, who tried to usurp jurisdiction over the manors which were set apart for the primate in every diocese. At another time he was called upon to superintend the armed levies on his estate when the kingdom was threatened with invasion. But his relations with the

1 Orderic, vol. iv., p. 4.

2 Eadmer, Hist. Nov., lib. i., pp. 370, 371.

3 Anselm, Epist., lib. iii., 19.

Anselm, Epist., lib. iii., 35. There is no date to this letter, and it is difficult to say at what time under Rufus, Kent was threatened with invasion.



king were his greatest difficulty. Against his own judgement, for he dreaded the imputation of simony, he had been prevailed on to offer William a gift of five hundred marks on his accession to the see; the king refused it as too small a sum; and Anselm, convinced that his impoverished diocese could not afford a larger contribution, made no further offer, and gave away the money in alms, bidding those who took it pray for the king's soul. William retaliated by advancing a claim against the property of the see of Canterbury. Among the manors which it held by military service there were some whose owners, since the conquest, had died without heirs; it was alleged that fiefs thus circumstanced reverted to the crown. The question turned on the point, whether the crown had peculiar rights over lands held by knight's tenure, and the royal claim was too invidious to have been enforced against any lay lord. As it was now mooted for the first time, it af fected the title to many of the diocesan manors. Anselm knew that whatever he gave up was irretrievably lost to the church, and firmly asserted his rights. But there were two other points which touched him more nearly. He was not allowed to visit Rome and obtain his pall from the pope. William affected to consider it treason that the primate should recognize claims which the king had not admitted. He further refused to let a synod be held for the reformation of manners. The point was one of importance, for the clergy and people, so long left without rule, were already demoralized by the example of the court. Foul crimes, hitherto

It would seem that the see of Canterbury had suffered in several ways. All the lands held by Lanfranc had been sequestered. These were restored on Anselm's consecration. But the lands held by military tenants who fought at Hastings had been seized by the crown for treason. Anselm had stipulated that the right to these should be tried in the law courts.-Eadmer, Hist. Nov., lib. i., p. 370. Distinct from these two grievances, was the new claim set up by William to succeed to tenants dying without heirs. Anselm's language is very explicit: "Quoniam terras easdem antequam Northmanni Angliam invaderent, milites Angli ab archiepiscopo Cantuariæ tenuisse dicuntur, et mortui sunt sine hæredibus, vult asserere se posse juste quos vult eorum hæredes constituere."-Epist., lib. iii., 24.



unknown in England, were becoming customary; the clergy, who had sworn under Lanfranc to renounce marriage, were beginning again to take wives: the old vice of hard drinking was prevalent: the quarrels of clergy and monks ran high ;2 in one convent the abbot went to mass in military state; in another he forced the horrified brothers to assist at an indecent debauch. But the effect of Lanfranc's concessions was now felt. William appealed to the precedents of the last reign; Anselm, borne down by his predecessor's authority, could only plead that times had changed, and that he must be guided by present emergencies and his own conscience. The plea was fearfully weak; English conservatism clung to precedent; the interests of all who looked for preferment were with the king, and the faint-hearted among the clergy shrunk from the prospect of a contest with royalty.

It was not long before the contest came. In the autumn of 1094 A.D., William had sailed to Normandy, refusing to let a synod be held, and denied the archbishop's blessing. In March 1095 A.D., Anselm formally requested leave to proceed to Rome and receive the pall from pope Urban. William angrily refused, but consented to call a great council at Rockingham. Before it met officially, Anselm held a private meeting, attended by all the great lords, spiritual and temporal, and by many of the clergy and laity. He stated his case, and asked the bishops their advice; they refused to give it, but offered either to intercede for him, if he would make submission, or to report his arguments for the king's consideration. Anselm consented to let them do this, and they met again next day. The bishops were now prepared with an answer; they would do nothing against the king's wishes. Anselm towered up among the timid sycophants in conscious purity of motive. "If men deserted him, he

1 Concilium Londinense, A.D. 1102; Art. v. Ut nullus archidiaconus, presbyter diaconus, canonicus uxorem ducat vel ductam retineat; Art. x. Ut presbyteri non eant ad potationes nec ad pinnas bibant.-Wilkins, vol. i., p. 382. Compare Anselm, Epist., lib. iii., 62.

2 In Exeter, Anselm was compelled to interfere and prevent the bishops and clergy from oppressing the monks. Amongst other things they forbade the convents to toll bells for divine service.-Anselm, Epist., lib. iii., 20.



would take council of Christ; he would render to Cæsar the things of Cæsar, and to God the things of God; he would obey the pope in church matters, and do faithful service to the king in all feudal obligations." The assembly broke up in disorder; no one would bear such a message as this to the king: Anselm went himself, and repeated what he had said. The day passed in angry deliberation. At last the bishops, headed by William of Durham, tried to force Anselm into one of two courses: let him either restore to the king the chief jewel of his crown, the right of recognizing a pope, or resign the ring and crozier, which he had no right to retain, if he withheld the feudal obedience which they symbolized. Anselm calmly challenged his opponents to prove in what single point he had violated his oath of homage. They retired in confusion. But a knight stepped out from the crowd, knelt before Anselm, and prayed him in the people's name "not to let his heart be troubled." Rufus wished the bishops to condemn Anselm; they dared not comply; but consented to renounce their obedience. The barons were nobler, and stood by the fallen man; "they had taken no oath of homage which they could now unsay; and they would not renounce a blameless man and the head of their Christianity." The bishops were confounded to find themselves alone in the nation assisting royalty against the church. William's violence soon gave them an opportunity of deserting him. He insisted that they should renounce the primate unconditionally; and those who would only consent to renounce him as regarded the claims of pope Urban, were treated as enemies to the king, till they bought back his favour with money. But this severity broke up his party in the church.

The immediate result of Anselm's firmness was, that Wil- . liam, needing an ally, determined to recognize pope Urban, and obtain in return a sentence from the papal see against the archbishop. A legate came over to bring the pall to Canterbury, and arrange a compromise; sentence against the primate

It is note-worthy, that in the contest between Henry II. and Becket, the lay lords all took part with the state against the church.

« PreviousContinue »