This is Volume VI of a complete set of The Great Events by Famous Historians.
Issued Strictly as a Limited Edition. In Volume I of this Set will be found the Official Certificate, under the Seal of the National Alumni, as to the Limitation of the Edition, the Registered Number, and the Name of the Owner.
BINDING - Vol. VI
The binding of this volume is a facsimile of the original on exhibition in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
It was executed by Geoffroy Tory, and presented by him to King Francis I.
The broken vase so cleverly worked into the tooled design was the device of Tory, which, as explained in his book, Champfleury, represents our frail body—a vessel of clay.
Tory was professor of philosophy and literature in several colleges. In 1518 he set up a printing-press, from whence he brought out beautiful editions of the Greek and Latin authors, translated and annotated by himself. In 1530 he was appointed Printer to King Francis I.
THE GREAT EVENTS
A COMPREHENSIVE AND READABLE ACCOUNT OF THE WORLD'S HISTORY, EMPHASIZING THE MORE IMPORTANT EVENTS, AND PRESENTING THESE AS COMPLETE NARRATIVES IN THE MASTER-WORDS OF THE MOST EMINENT HISTORIANS
NON-SECTARIAN NON-PARTISAN NON-SECTIONAL
ON THE PLAN EVOLVED FROM A CONSENSUS OF OPINIONS GATHERED FROM THE MOST DISTINGUISHED SCHOLARS OF AMERICA AND EUROPE, INCLUDING BRIEF INTRODUCTIONS BY SPECIALISTS TO CONNECT AND EXPLAIN THE CELEBRATED NARRATIVES, ARRANGED CHRONOLOGICALLY, WITH THOROUGH INDICES, BIBLIOGRAPHIES, CHRONOLOGIES, AND COURSES OF READING.
SUPERVISING EDITOR ROSSITER JOHNSON, LL.D.
LITERARY EDITORS CHARLES F. HORNE, Ph.D. JOHN RUDD, LL.D.
DIRECTING EDITOR WALTER F. AUSTIN, LL.M.
With a staff of specialists VOLUME VI
The National Alumni
VOLUME VI PAGE
An Outline Narrative of the Great Events, CHARLES F. HORNE xiii
Archiepiscopate of Thomas Becket His Defence of Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction His Assassination (A.D. 1162-1170), JOHN LINGARD 1
The Peace of Constance Secures the Liberties of the Lombard Cities (A.D. 1183), ERNEST F. HENDERSON 28
Saladin Takes Jerusalem from the Christians (A.D. 1187), SIR GEORGE W. COX 41
The Third Crusade (A.D. 1189-1194), HENRY VON SYBEL 54
The Teutonic Knights Their Organization and History (A.D. 1190-1809), F.C. WOODHOUSE 68
Philip of France Wins the French Domains of the English Kings (A.D. 1202-1204), KATE NORGATE 86
_Founding of the Mongol Empire by Genghis Khan (A.D. 1203), HENRY H. HOWORTH 103
_Venetians and Crusaders Take Constantinople_ _Plunder of the Sacred Relics (A.D. 1204), EDWIN PEARS 121
Latin Empire of the East Its Foundation and Fall (A.D. 1204-1261), W.J. BRODRIBB SIR WALTER BESANT 140
Innocent III Exalts the Papal Power (A.D. 1208), T.F. TOUT 156
Signing of Magna Charta (A.D. 1215), DAVID HUME 175
The Golden Bull, "Hungary's Magna Charta," Signed (A.D. 1222), E.O.S., 191
Russia Conquered by the Tartar Hordes Alexander Nevski Saves the Remnant of His People (A.D. 1224-1262), ALFRED RAMBAUD 196
The Sixth Crusade Treaty of Frederick II with the Saracens (A.D. 1228), SIR GEORGE W. COX 208
Rise of the Hanseatic League (A.D. 1241), H. DENICKE 214
Mamelukes Usurp Power in Egypt (A.D. 1250), SIR WILLIAM MUIR 240
The "Mad Parliament" Beginning of England's House of Commons (A.D. 1258), JOHN LINGARD 246
Louis IX Leads the Last Crusade (A.D. 1270), JOSEPH FRANCOIS MICHAUD 275
Height of the Mongol Power in China (A.D. 1271), MARCO POLO 287
Founding of the House of Hapsburg (A.D. 1273), WILLIAM COXE 298
Edward I Conquers Wales (A.D. 1277), CHARLES H. PEARSON 316
Japanese Repel the Tartars (A.D. 1281), EDWARD H. PARKER MARCO POLO 327
The Sicilian Vespers (A.D. 1282), MICHELE AMARI 340
Expulsion of Jews from England (A.D. 1290), HENRY HART MILMAN 356
Exploits and Death of William Wallace, the "Hero of Scotland" (A.D. 1297-1305), SIR WALTER SCOTT 369
First Great Jubilee of the Roman Catholic Church (A.D. 1300), FERDINAND GREGOROVIUS 378
Universal Chronology (A.D. 1162-1300), JOHN RUDD 385
Tragic death of Thomas A Becket at the altar of the Cathedral of Canterbury (page 26), Painting by Albert Dawant. Frontispiece
The lust of the army spared neither maiden nor the virgin dedicated to God, Painting by E. Luminais. 128
King Edward I fulfils his promise of giving the Welsh "a native prince; one who could not speak a word of English", Painting by Ph. Morris. 324
AN OUTLINE NARRATIVE
TRACING BRIEFLY THE CAUSES, CONNECTIONS, AND CONSEQUENCES OF GREAT EVENTS (FROM BARBAROSSA TO DANTE)
CHARLES F. HORNE
It was during the period of about one hundred fifty years, extending from the middle of the twelfth to the close of the thirteenth century, that the features of our modern civilization began to assume a recognizable form. The age was characterized by the decline of feudalism, and by the growth of all the new influences which combined to create a new state of society.
With the decay of the great lords came the rise of the great cities, the increased power and importance of the middle classes, the burghers or "citizens," who dominate the world to-day. In opposition to these there came also an unforeseen accession of strength to kings. The boundaries of modern states grew more clearly defined; modern nationalities were distinctly established; Europe assumed something of the outline, something of the social character, which she still retains.
The period includes not only the culmination and close of the crusading fervor, but also, coincident with this, the culmination of both the religious and the temporal powers of the popes, and the scarce recognized beginning of their decline. Universities, vaguely existent before, now increase rapidly in numbers and importance, receive definite outlines and foundations, and exert a mighty influence. In fact it has been not inaptly said that the rule of mediaeval Europe was divided amid three powers—the emperor, the pope, and the University of Paris. Books, from which we can trace the history of the time, become as numerous as before they had been scant and vague and misleading. Thought reveals itself struggling everywhere for expression, displayed at times in the sunshine of song and rhyme and merry laughter, at times in the storms of philosophic dispute and religious persecution.
In short, this was an age of strife between old ways and new. It saw the granting of Magna Charta, but it saw also the establishment of the Inquisition, and the creation of the two great monastic orders, whose opposing methods, the Dominicans ruling by fear and the Franciscans by love, are typical of the contrasting spirits of the time. It was the age which in the next century under Dante's influence was to burst into blossom as the Renaissance.
Not often has one man proven influential enough to dominate and alter the direction of his epoch; but very frequently we see one taking advantage of its tendencies and so managing these, so directing them, that he seems almost to create his surroundings, and becomes to all men the expression and example of his times. Such a leader was the emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1152-1190), and we may follow his fortunes in tracing the early part of this era.
The First Crusade had depleted Europe of half a million fighting men. Then came a pause of fifty years, after which it was learned that Jerusalem was again in danger of falling into the hands of the Mahometans. So, in 1147, another vast crusading army set out to the rescue. Barbarossa himself went with this Second Crusade, as a young German noble. He was one of the few who escaped death in the Asian deserts, one of the very few who from the colossal failure of the expedition returned to Europe with added honor and reputation. He was elected Emperor. The crusade had been as deadly as the first, though less successful, and when this nominal leadership of Western Europe was thus conferred on the gallant Frederick, he found the Teutonic races weakened by the loss of a million of their most valiant warriors—that is, of the feudal lords and their retainers.
Here we find at once one of the great causes of the decay of Feudalism. Many of the old families had become wholly extinct; and under the feudal system their estates lapsed to their overlords, the kings. Other families were represented only by heiresses; and the marrying of these ladies became a recognized move in the game for power, in which the kings, and especially the emperor Frederick, now took a foremost part.
Previous emperors had been figureheads; Frederick became the real ruler of Europe. The kings of Denmark and Poland fully acknowledged themselves his vassals. So also, though less definitely, did the King of England. For a moment the imperial unity of Europe seemed reviving. Only one of the Emperor's great dukes, Henry the Lion, of Saxony, dared stand against him; and Henry was ultimately crushed. The war-cries of the two opponents, however, became eternalized as factional names in the struggle of Frederick's successors against other foes. For generations whoever upheld the empire was a Waibling, and whoever would attack it, on whatsoever plea, a Welf. Frederick, having established his power in Germany, attempted to assert it in Italy as well; and so the strife passed over the Alps and became that of Ghibelline against Guelf, in Italian phrase, of emperor against pope, of monarchy against democracy.
It was this fatal insistence upon Italian authority that brought disaster upon Frederick and all his house, and ultimately upon the empire as well, and on the entire German race. The Italians had been quite content to call themselves subjects of a Holy Roman Empire which extended but vaguely over Europe, and whose chief took his title from their ancient city and only came among them to be crowned. They looked at the matter in a wholly different light when Frederick regarded his position seriously, and interfered in their affairs with the strong hand, crushing their feuds and exacting money tribute. Rebellion was promptly kindled, and for twenty years one German army after another dwindled away in the passage of the Alps, wasted under the fevers of Italian marshes, or was crushed in desperate battle. By the treaty of Constance, in 1183, Frederick confessed the one defeat of his career. He acknowledged the practical independence of the Italian cities.
CITIES AND KINGS
The Emperor had in fact encountered a power too strong for him. He had been struggling against the beginnings of modern democracy, a system stronger even in its infancy than the ancient rule of the aristocracy which it has gradually supplanted. The resistance of Italy came not from its knights and lords, but from its great cities, which had been slowly growing more and more self-reliant and independent. The rise of these city republics of the Middle Ages cannot be fully traced. Everywhere little communities of men seem to have been driven by desperation to build walls about their group of homes and to defy all comers. As it was in Italy that the ancient Roman civilization had been most firmly established and the barbarian dominance least complete, so it was in Italy that these walled towns first asserted their importance. Venice indeed, protected by her marshes, we have seen establishing a somewhat republican form even from her foundation. She and Genoa and Pisa defended themselves against the Saracens and built ships and grew to be the chief maritime powers of the Mediterranean, rulers of island empires. They fought wars against one another, and Pisa was overwhelmed and ruined in a tremendous conflict with Genoa. Genoa's fleets carried supplies for the first crusaders. In later crusades, when the deadly nature of the long journey by land was more clearly known, the wealthy maritime republics were hired to carry the crusaders themselves to the East—and profited vastly by the business.
Gradually the inland cities took courage from their sea-board neighbors. Florence became the centre of reviving art, her citizens the chief bankers for all Europe. Milan became chief of the Lombard cities, leading them against Barbarossa. And when he captured and destroyed the metropolis in 1161, the burghers of the surrounding lesser towns rallied to her help. No sooner was the Emperor out of reach than walls and houses rose again with the speed of magic, till Milan stood reincarnate, fairer and stronger than before.
A similar though slower growth can be traced among the cities of the North. As early as 1067 we find the town of Mans near Normandy rebelling against its lord. Still earlier had Henry the City-builder thought it wise to strengthen and fortify his peasantry, despite the counsel of his barons. Indeed, through all the Middle Ages we find kings and commons drawn often into union by their mutual antagonism to the feudal nobility. Barbarossa, even while he quarrelled with the Italian cities, encouraged those of Germany.
At the same time that Frederick was thus reasserting the imperial power, England had a strong king in Henry II. By wedding the most important feudal heiress in France, Henry added so many provinces to his ancestral French domain of Normandy that more than half France lay in his possession, and the French kings found that in this overgrown duke, who was also an independent monarch, they possessed a vassal far wealthier and more powerful than themselves. Henry took more than one step toward the humiliation, or even subjugation, of France, but seems to have been hampered by a real feudal respect for his overlord. Moreover, he got into the same difficulty as the Emperor. He quarrelled with the Church, and found it too strong for him. Much of his time and most of his energy were devoted to his celebrated struggle against his great bishop, Thomas Becket.
Thus the French King was given time and opportunity to strengthen his sovereignty. Then came the great Third Crusade, altering and once more upsetting the growing forces of the times, and among its many unforeseen results was the rescue of France from the grip of her too mighty vassal. The long threatening recapture of Jerusalem became a fact in 1187. The Christian kingdom established by the First Crusade was overthrown; and Emperor Barbarossa, in his splendid and revered old age, vowed to attempt its reestablishment.
Once more did all the nobility of Europe pour eastward, embracing eagerly the purpose of their chief. This was the last great crusade, those that followed being but feeble and unimportant efforts in comparison. Not only was the Emperor at its head, but the King of England, son of Henry II, the famous Richard of the Lion Heart, took up the movement with enthusiasm. So, also, though less passionately, did Philip Augustus, ablest of the kings of France. No other crusade could boast such names as these.
Yet the mighty undertaking ended in failure. Barbarossa perished in the East, and the glory of his empire died with him. Richard and Philip quarrelled about precedence, and the French King seized the opportunity to return home, full of shrewd plans for the humbling of his obnoxious vassal sovereign. Richard, left almost alone with his dwindling plague-stricken forces, had finally to acknowledge the hopelessness of the cause. His adventures have been made the theme of many a romance. On his way home he was seized and imprisoned in Germany, and this and his death soon after left the throne to his brother John.
BEGINNINGS OF MODERN GOVERNMENT
Historians have united to pour upon John every species of opprobrium. Certain it is that he secured his crown by evil means, that he sought to protect it by falsity and treachery. But after all, his rival, Philip Augustus, could be treacherous too, and the main difference between them is that Philip defeated John. He wrenched from him Normandy and many of John's other French provinces, so that the dominions of the English kings were reduced to scarce half their former compass. Hence the opprobrium on John.
Heavy as the loss might seem, it proved in reality a blessing to the English race. Forced to confine themselves to Great Britain, her kings became truly English, instead of French—which they had been hitherto. England ceased to be a mere appanage of Normandy, ruled by Norman nobles. The Normans who had settled in the island became sharply divided from those who remained in France, and Saxons and English-Normans became firmly welded into a united race. This is what England owes to John.
Moreover his tyranny and falsehood led the lower classes in his realm to unite with the nobility against him. Thus the deepset class distinction of feudal times between lord and serf, the owner and the owned, became less marked in England than elsewhere in Europe. The vast threefold struggle which had everywhere to be fought out between kings, nobles, and commons was in England decided against the kings by the union of the other two.
Their combined strength forced from John the Magna Charta, or Great Charter, the foundation of modern government in England, though the celebrated document granted no new privilege to lord or citizen or peasant. It only confirmed on parchment the rights which John would have denied them. So this also, the corner-stone of liberty, the beginning of constitutional progress, does England owe to her oppressor. Never perhaps has any man devoted to evil done unwittingly so much of good as he.
Thus the English nation grew united, while the French provinces were brought into closer dependence on their own king. In fact, Philip Augustus, by clever use now of the commons, now of the nobles, succeeded in dominating both. Following his example his successors managed for many centuries to remain "lords of France" with a security and absoluteness of power which no English king, no German emperor, was ever again to attain.
In Germany the death of Barbarossa left his throne to a short-lived evil son and then to an infant grandson, Frederick II. Other claimants to the realm sprang up, the great lords asserted and fully established their right to elect what emperor they pleased. Through this right they made themselves strong, their ruler weak, and so feudalism persisted in Germany while it was fading in France and England. Private war continued, baron fought against baron, confusion and anarchy prevailed more and more, and in the march of civilization Germany was left behind. She lagged for centuries in the rear of her neighbors, staring after them, despising, envying, scarce comprehending. It is only within the last hundred and fifty years that Germany has reasserted her ancient place among the foremost of the nations.
We have said that the only place where Barbarossa failed was in his Italian wars. These were waged against democracy and against the popes. Southern Italy was at this time a kingdom, in Central Italy lay the papal states, and north of these were all the independent cities. Assuming the democratic leadership of the cities, the popes acquired a strong temporal power. The growth of this we have traced through earlier periods; it reached its culmination under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). He almost succeeded to the emperors as the acknowledged ruler of Europe.
Secured from martial invasion by the strength of the federated cities, as well as by the spiritual dominion which he wielded, Innocent extended his authority over all men and all affairs. He ordered unlucky King John to accept a certain archbishop for England; and when John refused, England was laid under an "interdict," that is, no church services could be held there, not even to shrive the dying or bury the dead. For a while John was scornful, but at length his accumulating troubles forced him to kneel submissively to the Pope, surrender his crown, and receive it back as a vassal of the papacy under obligation to pay heavy tribute. By the same weapon of an interdict Innocent forced the mighty Philip Augustus to take back a wife whom he had divorced without papal consent. And in Germany Innocent twice secured the creation of an emperor of his own choice, the second being the child, Frederick II, who had been brought up under the Pope's own guardianship.
Among other spectacular features of his reign Innocent founded the Inquisition, and thus formally divorced the Church from its earlier preaching of universal peace and love. Moreover, he attempted a diversion of the tremendous, wasted power of the crusades. He wanted holy wars fought nearer home, and preached a crusade against John of England. The mere threat brought John to his knees; and Innocent then turned his newfound weapon against the heretics of southern France, the Albigenses. These unfortunate people, having a certain religious firmness wholly incomprehensible to John, refused submission.
The crusade against them became an actual and awful reality. In the name of Christ, men devastated a Christian country. The spirit of persecution thus aroused became rampant in religion and remained so for over half a thousand years. Rebels against the Church accepted its most evil teaching, and in their brief periods of power became torturers and executioners in their turn.
This first of the "religious wars" achieved its purpose. It exterminated or at least suppressed the heresy by exterminating every heretic who dared assert himself. Vast numbers of wholly orthodox Christians perished also, since even they fought against the "crusaders" in defending their homes. War did not change its hideous face because man had presumed to place a blessing on it. Next to Italy, Southern France had been the most cultured land of Europe. The crusaders left it almost a desert. It had been practically independent of the kings at Paris, henceforth it offered them no resistance.
A more excusable direction given by Innocent to the crusading enthusiasm was against the Saracens in Spain. A new and tremendous army of these had come over from Africa to reenforce their brethren, who shared the peninsula with the Spaniards. The Pope's preaching sent sixty thousand crusaders to help the Spaniards against this swarm of invaders, and the Saracens were completely defeated. The battle of Navas de Tolosa, in 1212, settled that Spain was to be Christian instead of Mahometan.
THE LATER CRUSADES
Against the Saracens of the East, however, crusades grew less and less effective. "Geography explains much of history." In Spain the Saracens were weak because far from the centre of their power. In the East the Europeans were at the same disadvantage. For one man who fell in battle in the Holy Land, twenty perished of starvation or disease upon the journey thither. Europe began to realize this. The East no longer lured men with the golden glamour that it held for an earlier generation. Kings had the contrasted examples of Philip Augustus and the heroic Richard to teach them the value of staying at home.
We need glance but briefly at these later crusades. The fourth was undertaken in 1203. Venice contracted to transport its warriors to the Holy Land, but instead persuaded them to join her in an attack upon the decrepit Empire of the East. Constantinople fell before their assault and received a Norman emperor, nor did the religious zeal of these particular followers of the cross ever carry them farther on their original errand. They were content to establish themselves as kings, dukes, and counts in their unexpected empire. Some of the little Frankish states thus created lasted for over two centuries, though the central power at Constantinople was regained by the Greek emperors of the east in 1261.
Meanwhile the patriotic and powerful King Andrew of Hungary led a fifth crusade. The German Emperor, Frederick II, headed a sixth in which, by diplomacy rather than arms, he temporarily regained Jerusalem. For a time this treaty of peace deprived of their occupation the orders of religious knighthood still warring in the East. One of these, the Teutonic Knights, made friends with Frederick, and by his aid its members were transported to the eastern frontier of Germany, where among the Poles and Po-russians (Prussians) they could still find heathen fighting to their taste. From this order sprang the military basis of modern Prussia.
The Seventh and Eighth crusades were the work of the great French King and saint, Louis IX. The enthusiasm which had roused the mass of ordinary men to these vast destructive outpourings was faded. Louis had to coax and persuade his people to follow him, and even his earnest purpose and real ability could not save his expeditions from disastrous failure. In the Seventh Crusade he attacked, not Jerusalem, but Egypt, then the centre of Mahometan power. He was defeated and made prisoner; his army was practically exterminated. Yet by a personal heroism, which shone even more brilliantly in adversity than in success, he has won lasting fame. His captivity disrupted an empire. The mamelukes, the slave soldiers of Egypt, who had fought most valiantly against him, were wakened to a realization of their own power. They overthrew their sultan, and founded an Egyptian government which lasted until Napoleon's time.
After much suffering, Louis was allowed to purchase his freedom and returned to France. There he spent long years of wise government, of noble guidance of his people, and of secret preparations which he dared not avow. At length in his old age he confessed to his astounded nation that he meant to make one more attempt against the Saracens. It was a vow to God, he said, and he begged his people for assistance. The age had outgrown crusades. Perhaps no one man in all Louis' domains believed in the possibility of his success. History scarce presents anywhere a spectacle more pathetic than this last crusade, compelled by the fire of a single enthusiast. In love of him, his soldiers followed him, though with despair at heart; and the weeping crowds who bade them farewell at their ships, mourned them as men already dead. They attempted to attack the Saracens first at Tunis, and there Louis died of fever. The crusades perished with him.
POPE AND EMPEROR
With the wane of the crusading fervor waned also the power of the popes. Innocent had extended his authority by terror and physical force. But men soon ceased to find religious inspiration for such "holy wars," and the calls of later popes fell upon deafened ears. The democratic policy of Innocent's predecessors had rallied all Italy around them; but his successors seem to have failed to recognize their true sources of strength. They abandoned their allies and ruled with autocratic power. Italy became divided, half Guelf, half Ghibelline, Moreover, even Frederick II, the ward whom Innocent had placed on the imperial throne, refused to sanction the encroachments of papal authority over the empire. So the strife of emperor and pope began again, only to terminate with the utter defeat and extermination of the great house of Barbarossa. Their possessions in Southern Italy and Sicily were conferred by the popes upon Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX of France.
But while the popes were thus temporarily successful in the giant contest against their greatest rival, to such partisan extremities were they driven by the necessities of the struggle, that the awakening world looked at them with doubtful eyes, began to question their spiritual rights and honors, as well as the temporal authority they claimed. In Charles of Anjou the popes soon found that they had but substituted one master for another. Charles was rapidly becoming as obnoxious to Rome as the emperors had ever been, when suddenly the tyranny of his French soldiers roused the Sicilians to desperation, and by the massacre of the Sicilian Vespers the French power in Italy was crushed.
Men were slow to realize that the mighty hold which the papacy had once possessed on the deep heart of the world was being sapped at its foundation. Diplomatic pontiffs still managed for a time to play off one sovereign against another, and to have their battles fought by foreign armies on a business basis. As late as the year 1300 the first great jubilee of the Church was celebrated and brought hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flocking to Rome. The papacy, though sorely pressed by many enemies, still proudly asserted its political supremacy. But in truth it had lost its power, not only over the minds of kings to hold them in subjection, not only over the interests of nobles to stir them to revolt, but alas, even over the love of the lower classes to rally them for its defence. Within ten years from the great jubilee the papacy met complete defeat and subjugation at the hands of a far lesser man and feebler monarch than Frederick II.
To the empire the long contest was as disastrous as to the papacy. When Frederick II, at one time the most splendid monarch of Europe, died in 1250, a crushed and defeated man, Germany sank into such anarchy as it had not known since the days of the Hunnish invasion. "When the Emperor was condemned by the Church," says an ancient chronicle, "robbers made merry over their booty. Ploughshares were beaten into swords, reaping hooks into lances. Men went everywhere with flint and steel, setting in a blaze whatsoever they found." The period from 1254 to 1273 is known as the "Great Interregnum" in German history. There was no emperor, no authority, and every little lord fought and robbed as he pleased. The cities, driven to desperation, raised armed forces of their own and united in leagues, which later developed into the great Hanseatic League, more powerful than neighboring kings. The anarchy spread to Italy. Bands of "Free Companies" roamed from place to place, plundering, fighting battles, storming walled cities, and at last the Pope sent thoroughly frightened word to Germany that the lords must elect an emperor to keep order or he would appoint one himself.
The Church had learned its lesson, that without a strong civil government it could not exist. And perhaps the government had at least partly seen what later ages learned more fully, that without religion it could not exist. Church and state were gentler to each other after that. They realized that, whatever their quarrels, they must stand or fall together.
So, in 1273, it was the Pope's insistence that led to the selection of another emperor, Rudolph of Hapsburg. He was one of the lesser nobles, elected by the great dukes so that he should be too feeble to interfere with them. But he did interfere, and overthrew Ottocar of Bohemia, the strongest of them all, and restored some measure of law and tranquillity to distracted Germany. His son he managed to establish as Duke of Austria, and eventually the empire became hereditary in the family; so that the Hapsburgs remained rulers of Germany until Napoleon, that upsetter of so many comfortable sinecures, drove them out. Of Austria they are emperors even to this day.
As though poor, dishevelled Germany had not troubles sufficient of her own, she suffered also in this century from the last of the great Asiatic invasions. About the year 1200 a remarkable military leader, Genghis Khan, appeared among the Tartars, a Mongol race of Northern Asia. He organized their wild tribes and started them on a bloody career of rapine and conquest.
He became emperor of China; his hordes spread over India and Persia. In 1226 they entered Russia, and after an heroic struggle the Russian duchies and republics were forced into submission to the Tartar yoke. For nearly two centuries Russia became part, not of Europe, but of Asia, and her civilization received an oriental tinge which it has scarce yet outgrown.
The huge Tartar invasion penetrated even to Silesia in Eastern Germany, where the Asiatics defeated a German army at Liegnitz (1241). But so great was the invader's loss that they retreated, nor did their leaders ever again seek to penetrate the "land of the iron-clad men." The real "yellow peril" of Europe, her submersion under the flood of Asia's millions, was perhaps possible at Liegnitz. It has never been so since. In the construction of impenetrable armor the inventive genius of the West had already begun to rise superior to the barbaric fury of the East. The arts of civilization were soon to soar immeasurably above mere numerical superiority.
In Asia the Tartar power probably reached its greatest height under Kublai Khan, the Emperor of China whom Marco Polo visited. And it is worth our modern notice that Kublai failed in an attempt to conquer Japan. Russia fell a victim to the Tartar hordes; Japan repelled them.
PROGRESS OF CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT
While Europe and Asia were thus in turmoil throughout most of this era, England, secure in her island isolation, was making rapid progress on the career of union and free government whereon John had so unintentionally started her. The age thus adds to its other claims to distinction that of having seen the beginnings of constitutional government. England's Magna Charta was paralleled by the "Golden Bull" of Hungary, a charter granted by the crusading King, Andrew, to his tumultuous subjects. In England the long reign of the weak Henry III, son of John, took more and more from the power of the crown. He was opposed by Simon of Montfort, who, to secure the affections and support of the common people, summoned their representatives to meet in a parliament with the knights and bishops. His "Mad Parliament" of 1258 contained the first shadow of a government by the people; his later assemblies were still more democratic. Considered in this light one likes to remember that Montfort's first assembly won its title of "mad" by passing such excellent laws that none of those in power would submit to them.
Following Henry III, Edward I came to the throne, a man of broad views and legal mind. He confirmed and legalized the rights already attained by his subjects, and centralized the authority of all Great Britain in his own hands by conquering both Wales and Scotland. The struggles of Sir William Wallace and his devoted followers to throw off the English yoke ended only in disaster.
Edward, the most enlightened and perhaps the most brilliant sovereign of the thirteenth century, endeavored to protect the Jews, but was finally compelled, by the clamor of his subjects, to expel the unfortunate race from his domains. He, however, permitted the exiles to take their wealth with them; and the scarcity thus created was one of the contributing causes which compelled him to promise his parliaments not to lay taxes without their consent. It was by this power to control the purse of king and country that parliament finally established itself as the supreme power in England. It "bought" each one of its concessions, each added authority. So that we may fairly figure that, from this time, trade becomes as important as war. Gold begins to seem to men not only more attractive, but more powerful than iron. The age of brute strength has passed; the age of schemes and subtle policies begun. The merchant dominates the knight.
[FOR THE NEXT SECTION OF THIS GENERAL SURVEY SEE VOLUME VII.]
ARCHIEPISCOPATE OF THOMAS BECKET
HIS DEFENCE OF ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION: HIS ASSASSINATION
Henry II, son of the empress Matilda of Germany by her second husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, ascended the throne of England on the death of his uncle Stephen, the usurper, and was the first king of that Plantagenet line which ruled England for over three centuries.
Henry was crowned at Westminster on December 19, 1154, by Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald by his authority and vigilance had maintained public tranquillity after the death of Stephen, and by his counsels of conciliation and peace and other services had earned the gratitude of the Monarch.
When age compelled Theobald to retire from the councils of his sovereign, he recommended Henry to accept as minister his archdeacon, Thomas Becket.
Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, a prominent citizen of London. The boy's mother, according to an interesting tradition, had been the daughter of a Saracen emir who had made Gilbert a captive, in Jerusalem, after the First Crusade. The daughter helped Gilbert to escape, and later, for love of him, followed on an eastern ship bound for the English metropolis, although she knew no other words of the English language than "London" and "Gilbert." Wandering desolately through the streets and markets, with these words on her lips, she was recognized by a servant who had shared his master's captivity. He hastened to tell Gilbert, who at once sought for, sheltered her, and, shortly afterward, made her his wife.
Their son Thomas was educated at the Abbey of Merton and in the schools of London, Oxford, and Paris. When his father died, Archbishop Theobald took the youth into his family. He studied civil and canon law on the Continent, attending, among others, the lectures of Gratian at Bologna.
His accomplishments and talents were fully recognized on his return to England, and preferments followed rapidly until he became archdeacon of Canterbury, a dignity with the rank of baron, next to that of bishop and abbot. He became confidential adviser to the Primate; as his representative twice visited Rome; and, recommended to the notice of King Henry, was appointed chancellor, preceptor of the young prince, depositary of the royal favor, and received several valuable sinecures. He assumed great splendor and magnificence in his retinue. He attended Henry on his expedition to France, and his chivalric exploits in Normandy at the head of seven hundred knights, twelve hundred cavalry, and four thousand infantry, were more befitting the career of a military adventurer than that of a churchman.
Archbishop Theobald died in 1161, and left at the royal disposal the highest dignity in the English Church.
The favor enjoyed by the Chancellor Thomas Becket, and the situation which he filled, pointed him out as the person the most likely to succeed Theobald. By the courtiers he was already called the "Future Archbishop"; and when the report was mentioned to him, he ambiguously replied that he was acquainted with four poor priests far better qualified for that dignity than himself. But Henry, whatever were his intentions, is believed to have kept them locked up within his own breast. During the vacancy the revenues of the see were paid into his exchequer, nor was he anxious to deprive himself of so valuable an income by a precipitate election. At the end of thirteen months (A.D. 1162) he sent for the Chancellor at Falaise, bade him prepare for a voyage to England, and added that within a few days he would be archbishop of Canterbury. Becket, looking with a smile of irony on his dress, replied that he had not much of the appearance of an archbishop; and that if the King were serious, he must beg permission to decline the preferment, because it would be impossible for him to perform the duties of the situation and at the same time retain the favor of his benefactor. But Henry was inflexible; the legate Henry of Pisa added his entreaties; and Becket, though he already saw the storm gathering in which he afterward perished, was induced, against his own judgment, to acquiesce.
He sailed to England (May 30); the prelates and a deputation of the monks of Canterbury assembled in the king's chapel at Westminster; every vote was given in his favor; the applause of the nobility testified their satisfaction; and Prince Henry in the name of his father gave the royal assent. Becket was ordained priest by the Bishop of Rochester, and the next day, having been declared free from all secular obligations, he was consecrated by Henry of Winchester. It was a most pompous ceremony, for all the nobility of England, to gratify the King, attended in honor of his favorite. That the known intentions of Henry must have influenced the electors there can be little doubt; but it appears that throughout the whole business every necessary form was fully observed. Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of Hereford, a prelate of rigid morals and much canonical learning, alone observed jeeringly that the King had at last wrought a miracle; for he had changed a soldier into a priest, a layman into an archbishop. The sarcasm was noticed at the time as a sally of disappointed ambition.
That Becket had still to learn the self-denying virtues of the clerical character is plain from his own confession; that his conduct had always defied the reproach of immorality was confidently asserted by his friends, and is equivalently acknowledged by the silence of his enemies. The ostentatious parade and worldly pursuits of the chancellor were instantly renounced by the Archbishop, who in the fervor of his conversion prescribed to himself, as a punishment for the luxury and vanity of his former life, a daily course of secret mortification. His conduct was now marked by the strictest attention to the decencies of his station. To the train of knights and noblemen, who had been accustomed to wait on him, succeeded a few companions selected from the most virtuous and learned of his clergy. His diet was abstemious; his charities were abundant; his time was divided into certain portions allotted to prayer and study and the episcopal functions. These he found it difficult to unite with those of the chancellor; and, therefore, as at his consecration he had been declared free from all secular engagements, he resigned that office into the hands of the King.
This total change of conduct has been viewed with admiration or censure according to the candor or prejudices of the beholders. By his contemporaries it was universally attributed to a conscientious sense of duty: modern writers have frequently described it as a mere affectation of piety, under which he sought to conceal projects of immeasurable ambition. But how came this hypocrisy, if it existed, to elude, during a long and bitter contest, the keen eyes of his adversaries? A more certain path would surely have offered itself to ambition. By continuing to flatter the King's wishes, and by uniting in himself the offices of chancellor and archbishop, he might in all probability have ruled without control both in church and state.
For more than twelve months the primate appeared to enjoy his wonted ascendency in the royal favor. But during his absence the warmth of Henry's affection insensibly evaporated. The sycophants of the court, who observed the change, industriously misrepresented the actions of the Archbishop, and declaimed in exaggerated terms against the loftiness of his views, the superiority of his talents, and the decision of his character. Such hints made a deep impression on the suspicious and irritable mind of the King, who now began to pursue his late favorite with a hatred as vehement as had been the friendship with which he had formerly honored him.
Amidst a number of discordant statements it is difficult to fix on the original ground of the dissension between them; whether it were the Archbishop's resignation of the chancellorship, or his resumption of the lands alienated from his see, or his attempt to reform the clergymen who attended the court, or his opposition to the revival of the odious tax known by the name of the danegelt. But that which brought them into immediate collision was a controversy respecting the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. A rapid view of the origin and progress of these courts, and of their authority in civil and criminal causes, may not prove uninteresting to the reader.
From the commencement of Christianity its professors had been exhorted to withdraw their differences from the cognizance of profane tribunals, and to submit them to the paternal authority of their bishops, who, by the nature of their office, were bound to heal the wounds of dissension, and by the sacredness of their character were removed beyond the suspicion of partiality or prejudice. Though an honorable, it was a distracting, servitude, from which the more pious would gladly have been relieved; but the advantages of the system recommended it to the approbation of the Christian emperors.
Constantine and his successors appointed the bishops the general arbitrators within their respective dioceses; and the officers of justice were compelled to execute their decisions without either delay or appeal. At first, to authorize the interference of the spiritual judge, the previous consent of both the plaintiff and defendant was requisite; but Theodosius left it to the option of the parties, either of whom was indulged with the liberty of carrying the cause in the first instance into the bishop's court, or even of removing it thither in any stage of the pleadings before the civil magistrate. Charlemagne inserted this constitution of Theodosius in his code, and ordered it to be invariably observed among all the nations which acknowledged his authority. If by the imperial law the laity were permitted, by the canon law the clergy were compelled, to accept of the bishop as the judge of civil controversies. It did not become them to quit the spiritual duties of their profession, and entangle themselves in the intricacies of law proceedings. The principle was fully admitted by the emperor Justinian, who decided that in cases in which only one of the parties was a clergyman, the cause must be submitted to the decision of the bishop. This valuable privilege, to which the teachers of the northern nations had been accustomed under their own princes, they naturally established among their converts; and it was soon confirmed to the clergy by the civil power in every Christian country.
Constantine had thought that the irregularities of an order of men devoted to the offices of religion should be veiled from the scrutinizing eye of the people. With this view he granted to each bishop, if he were accused of violating the law, the liberty of being tried by his colleagues, and moreover invested him with a criminal jurisdiction over his own clergy. Whether his authority was confined to lesser offences, or extended to capital crimes, is a subject of controversy. There are many edicts which without any limitation reserve the correction of the clergy to the discretion of the bishop; but in the novels of Justinian a distinction is drawn between ecclesiastical and civil transgressions. With the former the Emperor acknowledges that the civil power has no concern: the latter are cognisable by the civil judge. Yet before his sentence can be executed, the convict must be degraded by his ecclesiastical superior; or, if the superior refuse, the whole affair must be referred to the consideration of the sovereign. That this regulation prevailed among the western nations, after their separation from the Empire, is proved by the canons of several councils; but the distinction laid down by Justinian was insensibly abolished, and, whatever might be the nature of the offence with which a clergyman was charged, he was, in the first instance at least, amenable to none but an ecclesiastical tribunal.
It was thus that on the Continent the spiritual courts were first established, and their authority was afterward enlarged; but among the Anglo-Saxons the limits of the two judicatures were intermixed and undefined. When the Imperial government ceased in other countries, the natives preserved many of its institutions, which the conquerors incorporated with their own laws; but our barbarian ancestors eradicated every prior establishment, and transplanted the manners of the wilds of Germany into the new solitude which they had made. After their conversion, they associated the heads of the clergy with their nobles, and both equally exercised the functions of civil magistrates.
It is plain that the bishop was the sole judge of the clergy in criminal cases: that he alone decided their differences, and that to him appertained the cognizance of certain offences against the rights of the Church and the sanctions of religion; but as it was his duty to sit with the sheriff in the court of the county, his ecclesiastical became blended with his secular jurisdiction, and many causes, which in other countries had been reserved to the spiritual judge, were decided in England before a mixed tribunal. This disposition continued in force till the Norman Conquest; when, as the reader must have formerly noticed, the two judicatures were completely separated by the new sovereign; and in every diocese "Courts Christian," that is, of the bishop and his archdeacons, were established after the model and with the authority of similar courts in all other parts of the Western Church.
The tribunals, created by this arrangement, were bound in the terms of the original charter to be guided in their proceedings by the "episcopal laws," a system of ecclesiastical jurisprudence, composed of the canons of councils, the decrees of popes, and the maxims of the more ancient fathers. This, like all other codes of law, had in the course of centuries received numerous additions. New cases perpetually occurred; new decisions were given; and new compilations were made and published. The two, which at the time of the Conquest prevailed in the spiritual courts of France, and which were sanctioned by the charter of William in England, were the collection under the name of Isidore, and that of Burchard, Bishop of Worms.
About the end of the century appeared a new code from the pen of Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, whose acquaintance with the civil law of Rome enabled him to give to his work a superiority over the compilations of his predecessors. Yet the knowledge of Ivo must have been confined to the Theodosian code, the institutes and mutilated extracts from the pandects of Justinian. But when Amalphi was taken by the Pisans in 1137, an entire copy of the last work was discovered; and its publication immediately attracted, and almost monopolized, the attention of the learned. Among the students and admirers of the pandects was Gratian, a monk of Bologna, who conceived the idea of compiling a digest of the canon law on the model of that favorite work; and soon afterwards, having incorporated with his own labors the collections of former writers, he gave his "decretum" to the public in 1151. From that moment the two codes, the civil and canon laws, were deemed the principal repositories of legal knowledge; and the study of each was supposed necessary to throw light on the other. Roger, the bachelor, a monk of Bec, had already read lectures on the sister sciences in England, but he was advanced to the government of his abbey; and the English scholars, immediately after the publication of the decretum, crowded to the more renowned professors in the city of Bologna. After their return they practised in the episcopal courts; their respective merits were easily appreciated, and the proficiency of the more eminent was rewarded with an ample harvest of wealth and preferment.
This circumstance gave to the spiritual a marked superiority over the secular courts. The proceedings in the former were guided by fixed and invariable principles, the result of the wisdom of ages; the latter were compelled to follow a system of jurisprudence confused and uncertain, partly of Anglo-Saxon, partly of Norman origin, and depending on precedents, of which some were furnished by memory, others had been transmitted by tradition. The clerical judges were men of talents and education; the uniformity and equity of their decisions were preferred to the caprice and violence which seemed to sway the royal and baronial justiciaries; and by degrees every cause, which legal ingenuity could connect with the provisions of the canons, whether it regarded tithes, or advowsons, or public scandal, or marriage, or testaments, or perjury, or breach of contract, was drawn before the ecclesiastical tribunals. A spirit of rivalry arose between the two judicatures, which quickly ripened into open hostility. On the one side were ranged the bishops and chief dignitaries of the Church, on the other the King and barons; both equally interested in the quarrel, because both were accustomed to receive the principal share of the fees, fines, and forfeitures in their respective courts. Archbishop Theobald had seen the approach, and trembled for the issue of the contest; and from his death-bed he wrote to Henry, recommending to his protection the liberties of the Church, and putting him on his guard against the machinations of its enemies.
The contest at last commenced; and the first attack was made with great judgment against that quarter in which the spiritual courts were the most defenceless, their criminal jurisdiction. The canons had excluded clergymen from judgments of blood; and the severest punishments which they could inflict were flagellation, fine, imprisonment, and degradation. It was contended that such punishments were inadequate to the suppression of the more enormous offences; and that they encouraged the perpetration of crime by insuring a species of impunity to the perpetrator. As every individual who had been admitted to the tonsure, whether he afterward received holy orders or not, was entitled to the clerical privileges, we may concede that there were in these turbulent times many criminals among the clergy; but, if it were ever said that they had committed more than a hundred homicides within the last ten years, we may qualify our belief of the assertion, by recollecting the warmth of the two parties, and the exaggeration to which contests naturally give birth.
In the time of Theobald, Philip de Brois, a canon of Bedford, had been arraigned before his bishop, convicted of manslaughter, and condemned to make pecuniary compensation to the relations of the deceased. Long afterward, Fitz-Peter, the itinerant justiciary, alluding to the same case, called him a murderer in the open court at Dunstable. A violent altercation ensued, and the irritation of Philip drew from him expressions of insult and contempt. The report was carried to the King, who deemed himself injured in the person of his officer, and ordered De Brois to be indicted for this new offence in the spiritual court. He was tried and condemned to be publicly whipped, to be deprived of the fruits of his benefice, and to be suspended from his functions during two years.
It was hoped that the severity of the sentence would mitigate the King's anger; but Henry was implacable: he swore "by God's eyes" that they had favored De Brois on account of his clerical character, and required the bishops to make oath that they had done justice between himself and the prisoner (A.D. 1163). In this temper of mind he summoned them to Westminster, and required their consent that, for the future, whenever a clergyman had been degraded for a public crime by the sentence of the spiritual judge, he should be immediately delivered into the custody of a lay officer to be punished by the sentence of a lay tribunal. To this the bishops, as guardians of the rights of the Church, objected. The proposal, they observed, went to place the English clergy on a worse footing than their brethren in any other Christian country; it was repugnant to those liberties which the King had sworn to preserve at his coronation; and it violated the first principle of law, by requiring that the same individual should be tried twice and punished twice for one and the same offence. Henry, who had probably anticipated the answer, immediately quitted the subject, and inquired whether they would promise to observe the ancient customs of the realm. The question was captious, as neither the number nor the tendency of these customs had been defined; and the Archbishop with equal policy replied that he would observe them, "saving his order." The clause was admitted when the clergy swore fealty to the sovereign; why should it be rejected when they only promised the observance of customs? The King put the question separately to all the prelates, and, with the exception of the Bishop of Chichester, received from each the same answer. His eyes flashed with indignation: they were leagued, he said, in a conspiracy against him; and in a burst of fury he rushed out of the apartment. The next morning the primate received an order to surrender the honor of Eye and the castle of Berkhamstead. The King had departed by break of day.
The original point in dispute was now merged in a more important controversy; for it was evident that under the name of the customs was meditated an attack not on one, but on most of the clerical immunities. Of the duty of the prelates to oppose this innovation no clergyman at that period entertained a doubt; but to determine how far that opposition might safely be carried was a subject of uncertain discussion. The Archbishop of York, who had been gained by the King, proposed to yield for the present, and to resume the contest under more favorable auspices; the undaunted spirit of Becket spurned the temporizing policy of his former rival, and urged the necessity of unanimous and persevering resistance. Every expedient was employed to subdue his resolution; and at length, wearied out by the representations of his friends and the threats of his enemies, the pretended advice of the Pontiff, and the assurance that Henry would be content with the mere honor of victory, he waited on the King at Woodstock, and offered to make the promise and omit the obnoxious clause. He was graciously received; and to bring the matter to an issue, a great council was summoned to meet at Clarendon after the Christmas holidays.
In this assembly, January 25, 1164, John of Oxford, one of the royal chaplains, was appointed president by the King, who immediately called on the bishops to fulfil their promise. His angry manner and threatening tone revived the suspicions of the Primate, who ventured to express a wish that the saving clause might still be admitted. At this request the indignation of the King was extreme; he threatened Becket with exile or death; the door of the next apartment was thrown open, and discovered a body of knights with their garments tucked up, and their swords drawn; the nobles and prelates besought the Archbishop to relent; and two Knights Templars on their knees conjured him to prevent by his acquiescence the massacre of all the bishops, which otherwise would most certainly ensue. Sacrificing his own judgment to their entreaties rather than their arguments, he promised in the word of truth to observe the "customs," and required of the King to be informed what they were.
The reader will probably feel some surprise to learn that they were yet unknown; but a committee of inquiry was appointed, and the next day Richard de Lucy and Joscelin de Baliol exhibited the sixteen Constitutions of Clarendon. Three copies were made, each of which was subscribed by the King, the prelates, and thirty-seven barons. Henry then demanded that the bishops should affix their seals. After what had passed, it was a trifle neither worth the asking nor the refusing. The Primate replied that he had performed all that he had promised, and that he would do nothing more. His conduct on this trying occasion has been severely condemned for its duplicity. To me he appears more deserving of pity than censure. His was not the tergiversation of one who seeks to effect his object by fraud and deception: it was rather the hesitation of a mind oscillating between the decision of his own judgment and the opinions and apprehensions of others. His conviction seems to have remained unchanged: he yielded to avoid the charge of having by his obstinacy drawn destruction on the heads of his fellow-bishops.
After the vehemence with which the recognition of the "customs" was urged, and the importance which has been attached to them by modern writers, the reader will naturally expect some account of the Constitutions of Clarendon. I shall therefore mention the principal:
I. It was enacted that "the custody of every vacant archbishopric, bishopric, abbey, and priory of royal foundation ought to be given and its revenues paid to the king; and that the election of a new incumbent ought to be made in consequence of the king's writ, by the chief clergy of the church, assembled in the king's chapel, with the assent of the king, and with the advice of such prelates as the king may call to his assistance." The custom recited in the first part of this constitution could not claim higher antiquity than the reign of William Rufus, by whom it was introduced. It had, moreover, been renounced after his death by all his successors, by Henry I, by Stephen, and, lastly, by the present King himself. On what plea therefore it could be now confirmed as an ancient custom it is difficult to comprehend.
II. By the second and seventh articles it was provided that in almost every suit, civil or criminal, in which each or either party was a clergyman, the proceeding should commence before the king's justices, who should determine whether the cause ought to be tried in the secular or episcopal courts; and that in the latter case a civil officer should be present to report the proceedings, and the defendant, if he were convicted in a criminal action, should lose his benefit of clergy. This, however it might be called for by the exigencies of the times, ought not to have been termed an ancient custom. It was most certainly an innovation. It overturned the law as it had invariably stood from the days of the Conqueror, and did not restore the judicial process of the Anglo-Saxon dynasty.
III. It was ordered that "no tenant-in-chief of the king, no officer of his household, or of his demesne, should be excommunicated, or his lands put under an interdict, until application had been made to the king, or in his absence to the grand justiciary, who ought to take care that what belongs to the king's courts shall be there determined, and what belongs to the ecclesiastical courts shall be determined in them."
Sentences of excommunication had been greatly multiplied and abused during the Middle Ages. They were the principal weapons with which the clergy sought to protect themselves and their property from the cruelty and rapacity of the banditti in the service of the barons. They were feared by the most powerful and unprincipled, because, at the same time that they excluded the culprit from the offices of religion, they also cut him off from the intercourse of society. Men were compelled to avoid the company of the excommunicated, unless they were willing to participate in his punishment. Hence much ingenuity was displayed in the discovery of expedients to restrain the exercise of this power; and it was contended that no tenant of the crown ought to be excommunicated without the king's permission, because it deprived the sovereign of the personal services which he had a right to demand of his vassal. This "custom" had been introduced by the Conqueror, and, though the clergy constantly reclaimed, had often been enforced by his successors.
IV. The next was also a custom deriving its origin from the Conquest, that no archbishop, bishop, or dignified clergyman should lawfully go beyond the sea without the king's permission. Its object was to prevent complaints at the papal court, to the prejudice of the sovereign.
V. It was enacted that appeals should proceed regularly from the archdeacon to the bishop, and from the bishop to the archbishop. If the archbishop failed to do justice, the cause ought to be carried before the king, that by his precept the suit might be terminated in the archbishop's court, so as not to proceed further without the king's consent. Henry I had endeavored to prevent appeals from being carried before the Pope, and it was supposed that the same was the object of the present constitution. The King, however, thought proper to deny it. According to the explanation which he gave, it prohibited clergymen from appealing to the pope in civil causes only, when they might obtain justice in the royal courts. The remaining articles are of minor importance. They confine pleas of debt and disputes respecting advowsons to the cognizance of the king's justices; declare that clergymen who hold lands of the crown hold by barony, and are bound to the same services as the lay barons; and forbid the bishops to admit to orders the sons of villeins, without the license of their respective lords.
As the Primate retired he meditated in silence on his conduct in the council. His scruples revived, and the spontaneous censures of his attendants added to the poignancy of his feelings. In great agony of mind he reached Canterbury, where he condemned his late weakness, interdicted himself from the exercise of his functions, wrote to Alexander a full account of the transaction, and solicited absolution from that Pontiff. It was believed that, if he had submitted with cheerfulness at Clarendon, he would have recovered his former ascendency over the royal mind: but his tardy assent did not allay the indignation which his opposition had kindled, and his subsequent repentance for that assent closed the door to forgiveness. Henry had flattered himself with the hope that he should be able to extort the approbation of the "customs" either from the gratitude of Alexander, whom he had assisted in his necessities, or from the fears of that Pontiff, lest a refusal might add England to the nations which acknowledged the antipope.
The firmness of the Pope defeated all his schemes, and the King in his anger vowed to be revenged on the Archbishop. Among his advisers there were some who sought to goad him on to extremities. They scattered unfounded reports; they attributed to Becket a design of becoming independent; they accused him of using language the most likely to wound the vanity of the monarch. He was reported to have said to his confidants that the youth of Henry required a master; that the violence of his passions must and might easily be tamed; and that he knew how necessary he himself was to a king incapable of guiding the reins of government without his assistance. It was not that these men were in reality friends to Henry. They are said to have been equally enemies to him and to the Church. They sighed after the licentiousness of the last reign, of which they had been deprived, and sought to provoke a contest, in which, whatever party should succeed, they would have to rejoice over the defeat either of the clergy, whom they considered as rivals, or of the King, whom they hated as their oppressor.
The ruin of a single bishop was now the principal object that occupied and perplexed the mind of this mighty monarch. By the advice of his counsellors it was resolved to waive the controversy respecting the "customs," and to fight with those more powerful weapons which the feudal jurisprudence always offered to the choice of a vindictive sovereign. A succession of charges was prepared, and the Primate was cited to a great council in the town of Northampton. With a misboding heart he obeyed the summons; and the King's refusal to accept from him the kiss of peace admonished him of his danger.
At the opening of the council, October 13th, John of Oxford presided; Henry exercised the office of prosecutor. The first charge regarded some act of contempt against the King, supposed to have been committed by Becket in his judicial capacity. The Archbishop offered a plea in excuse; but Henry swore that justice should be done him; and the obsequious court condemned Becket to the forfeiture of his goods and chattels, a penalty which was immediately commuted for a fine of five hundred pounds. The next morning the King required him to refund three hundred pounds, the rents which he had received as warden of Eye and Berkhamstead. Becket coolly replied that he would pay it; more, indeed, had been expended by him in the repairs, but money should never prove a cause of dissension between himself and his sovereign.
Another demand followed of five hundred pounds received by the Chancellor before the walls of Toulouse. It was in vain that the Archbishop described the transaction as a gift. Henry maintained that it was a loan; and the Court, on the principle that the word of the sovereign was preferable to that of a subject, compelled him to give security for the repayment of the money. The third day the King required an account of all the receipts from vacant abbeys and bishoprics which had come into the hands of Becket during his chancellorship, and estimated the balance due to the Crown at the sum of forty-four thousand marks. At the mention of this enormous demand the Archbishop stood aghast. However, recovering himself, he replied that he was not bound to answer: that at his consecration both Prince Henry and the Earl of Leicester, the justiciary, had publicly released him by the royal command from all similar claims; and that on a demand so unexpected and important he had a right to require the advice of his fellow-bishops.
Had the Primate been ignorant of the King's object, it was sufficiently disclosed in the conference which followed between him and the bishops. Foliot, with the prelates who enjoyed the royal confidence, exhorted him to resign; Henry of Winchester alone had the courage to reprobate this interested advice. On his return to his lodgings the anxiety of Becket's mind brought on an indisposition which confined him to his chamber; and during the next two days he had leisure to arrange plans for his subsequent conduct. The first idea which suggested itself was a bold, and what perhaps might have proved a successful, appeal to the royal pity. He proposed to go barefoot to the palace, to throw himself at the feet of the King, and to conjure him by their former friendship to consent to a reconciliation. But he afterward adopted another resolution, to decline the authority of the court, and trust for protection to the sacredness of his character.
In the morning, October 18th, having previously celebrated the mass of St. Stephen the first martyr, he proceeded to court, arrayed as he was in pontifical robes, and bearing in his hand the archiepiscopal cross. As he entered, the King with the barons retired into a neighboring apartment, and was soon after followed by the bishops. The Primate, left alone with his clerks in the spacious hall, seated himself on a bench, and with calm and intrepid dignity awaited their decision. The courtiers, to please the prince, strove to distinguish themselves by the intemperance of their language. Henry, in the vehemence of his passion, inveighed, one while against the insolence of Becket, at another against the pusillanimity and ingratitude of his favorites; till even the most active of the prelates who had raised the storm began to view with horror the probable consequences. Roger of York contrived to retire; and as he passed through the hall, bade his clerks follow him, that they might not witness the effusion of blood. Next came the Bishop of Exeter, who threw himself at the feet of the Primate, and conjured him to have pity on himself and the episcopal order; for the King had threatened with death the first man who should speak in his favor. "Flee, then," he replied; "thou canst not understand the things that are of God." Soon afterward appeared the rest of the bishops. Hilary of Chichester spoke in their name. "You were," he said, "our primate; but by opposing the royal customs, you have broken your oath of fealty to the King. A perjured archbishop has no right to our obedience. From you, then, we appeal to the Pope, and summon you to answer us before him." "I hear," was his only reply.
The bishops seated themselves along the opposite side of the hall, and a solemn silence ensued. At length the door opened and the Earl of Leicester at the head of the barons bade him hear his sentence. "My sentence," interrupted the Archbishop; "son and earl, hear me first. You know with what fidelity I served the King, how reluctantly, to please him, I accepted my present office, and in what manner I was declared by him free from all secular claims. For what happened before my consecration I ought not to answer, nor will I. Know, moreover, that you are my children in God. Neither law nor reason allows you to judge your father. I therefore decline your tribunal, and refer my quarrel to the decision of the Pope. To him I appeal and shall now, under the protection of the Catholic Church and the apostolic see, depart." As he walked along the hall, some of the courtiers threw at him knots of straw, which they took from the floor. A voice called him a traitor. At the word he stopped, and, hastily turning round, rejoined, "Were it not that my order forbids me, that coward should repent of his insolence." At the gate he was received with acclamations of joy by the clergy and people, and was conducted in triumph to his lodgings.
It was generally believed that if the Archbishop had remained at Northampton, that night would have proved his last. Alarmed by frequent hints from his friends, he petitioned to retire beyond the sea, and was told that he might expect an answer the following morning. This unnecessary delay increased his apprehensions. To deceive the vigilance of the spies that beset him, he ordered a bed to be prepared in the church, and in the dusk of the evening, accompanied by two clerks and a servant on foot, escaped by the north gate. After fifteen days of perils and adventures, Brother Christian (that was the name he assumed) landed at Gravelines in Flanders.
His first visit was paid, November 3d, to the King of France, who received him with marks of veneration; his second to Alexander, who kept his court in the city of Sens.
He had been preceded by a magnificent embassy of English prelates and barons, who had endeavored in vain to prejudice the Pontiff against him, though by the distribution of presents they had purchased advocates in the college of cardinals. The very lecture of the constitutions closed the mouths of his adversaries. Alexander, having condemned in express terms ten of the articles, recommended the Archbishop to the care of the Abbot of Pontigny, and exhorted him to bear with resignation the hardships of exile. When Thomas surrendered his bishopric into the hands of the Pope, his resignation was hailed by a part of the consistory as the readiest means of terminating a vexatious and dangerous controversy, but Alexander preferred honor to convenience, and refusing to abandon a prelate who had sacrificed the friendship of a king for the interests of the Church, reinvested him with the archiepiscopal dignity.
The eyes of the King were still fixed on the exile at Pontigny, and by his order the punishment of treason was denounced against any person who should presume to bring into England letters of excommunication or interdict from either the Pontiff or the Archbishop. He confiscated the estates of that prelate, commanded his name to be erased from the liturgy, and seized the revenues of every clergyman who had followed him into France or had sent him pecuniary assistance.
By a refinement of vengeance, he involved all who were connected with him either by blood or friendship, and with them their families, without distinction of rank or age or sex, in one promiscuous sentence of banishment. Neither men, bowing under the weight of years, nor infants still hanging at the breast, were excepted. The list of proscription was swelled with four hundred names; and the misfortune of the sufferers was aggravated by the obligation of an oath to visit the Archbishop, and importune him with the history of their wrongs. Day after day crowds of exiles besieged the door of his cell at Pontigny. His heart was wrung with anguish; he implored the compassion of his friends, and enjoyed at last the satisfaction of knowing that the wants of these blameless victims had been amply relieved by the benefactions of the King of France, the Queen of Sicily, and the Pope. Still Henry's resentment was insatiable. Pontigny belonged to the Cistercians; and he informed them that if they continued to afford an asylum to the traitor, not one of their order should be permitted to remain within his dominions. The Archbishop was compelled to quit his retreat; but Louis immediately offered him the city of Sens for his residence.
Here, as he had done at Pontigny, Becket led the solitary and mortified life of a recluse. Withdrawing himself from company and amusements, he divided the whole of his time between prayer and reading. His choice of books was determined by a reference to the circumstances in which he was placed; and in the canon law, the histories of the martyrs, and the Holy Scriptures he sought for advice and consolation. On a mind naturally firm and unbending, such studies were likely to make a powerful impression; and his friends, dreading the consequences, endeavored to divert his attention to other objects. But their remonstrances were fruitless.
Gradually his opinions became tinged with enthusiasm: he identified his cause with that of God and the Church; concession appeared to him like apostasy, and his resolution was fixed to bear every privation, and to sacrifice, if it was necessary, even his own life in so sacred a contest. The violence of Henry nourished and strengthened these sentiments; and at last, urged by the cries of the sufferers, the Archbishop assumed a bolder tone, which terrified his enemies, and compelled the court of Rome to come forward to his support. By a sentence, promulgated with more than the usual solemnity, he cut off from the society of the faithful such of the royal ministers as had communicated with the antipope, those who had framed the Constitutions of Clarendon, and all who had invaded the property of the Church. At the same time he confirmed by frequent letters the wavering mind of the Pontiff, checked by his remonstrances the opposition of the cardinals who had been gained by his adversaries; and intimated to Henry, in strong but affectionate language, the punishment which awaited his impenitence.
This mighty monarch, the lord of so many nations, while he affected to despise, secretly dreaded, the spiritual arms of his victim. The strictest orders were issued that every passenger from beyond the sea should be searched; that all letters from the Pope or the Archbishop should be seized; that the bearers should suffer the most severe and shameful punishments; and that all freemen, in the courts to which they owed service, should promise upon oath not to obey any censure published by ecclesiastical authority against the King or the kingdom. But it was for his Continental dominions that he felt chiefly alarmed. There the great barons, who hated his government, would gladly embrace the opportunity to revolt; and the King of France, his natural opponent, would instantly lend them his aid against the enemy of the Church. Hence for some years the principal object of his policy was to avert or at least to delay the blow which he so much dreaded.
As long as the Pope was a fugitive in France, dependent on the bounty of his adherents, the King had hoped that his necessities would compel him to abandon the Primate. But the antipope was now dead; and though the Emperor had raised up a second in the person of Guido of Crema, Alexander had returned to Italy, and recovered possession of Rome. Henry therefore resolved to try the influence of terror, by threatening to espouse the cause of Guido. He even opened a correspondence with the Emperor; and in a general diet at Wuerzburg his ambassadors made oath in the name of their master, that he would reject Alexander, and obey the authority of his rival. Of this fact there cannot be a doubt. It was announced to the German nations by an imperial edict, and is attested by an eye-witness, who from the council wrote to the Pope a full account of the transaction.
Henry, however, soon repented of his precipitancy. In 1167 his bishops refused to disgrace themselves by transferring their obedience at the nod of their prince; and he was unwilling to involve himself in a new and apparently a hopeless quarrel. To disguise or excuse his conduct he disavowed the act, attributed it to his envoys, and afterward induced them also to deny it. John of Oxford was despatched to Rome, who, in the presence of Alexander, swore that at Wuerzburg he had done nothing contrary to the faith of the Church or to the honor and service of the Pontiff.
His next expedient was one which had been prohibited by the Constitutions of Clarendon. He repeatedly authorized his bishops to appeal in their name and his own from the judgment of the Archbishop to that of the Pope. By this means the authority of that prelate was provisionally suspended; and though his friends maintained that these appeals were not vested with the conditions required by the canons, they were always admitted by Alexander. The King improved the delay to purchase friends. By the Pontiff his presents were indignantly refused: they were accepted by some of the cardinals, by the free states in Italy, and by several princes and barons supposed to possess influence in the papal councils.
On some occasions Henry threw himself and his cause on the equity of Alexander; at others he demanded and obtained legates to decide the controversy in France. Twice he condescended to receive the Primate, and to confer with him on the subject. To avoid altercation, it was agreed that no mention should be made of the "customs"; but each mistrusted the other. Henry was willing to preserve the liberties of the Church "saving the dignity of his crown"; and the Archbishop was equally willing to obey the King, "saving the rights of the Church." In the second conference these cautionary clauses were omitted; the terms were satisfactorily adjusted, and the Primate, as he was about to depart, requested of his sovereign the kiss of peace. It was the usual termination of such discussions, the bond by which the contending parties sealed their reconciliation. But Henry coldly replied that he had formerly sworn never to give it him; and that he was unwilling to incur the guilt of perjury. So flimsy an evasion could deceive no one; and the Primate departed in the full conviction that no reliance could be placed on the King's sincerity.
He had now in view the coronation of his son Henry, a measure the policy of which has been amply but unsatisfactorily discussed by modern historians. The performance of the ceremony belonged of right to the Archbishop of Canterbury; and Becket had obtained from the Pope a letter forbidding any of the English bishops to usurp an office which was the privilege of his see. But it was impossible for him to transmit this prohibition to those to whom it was addressed; and his enemies, to remove the scruples of the prelates, exhibited a pretended letter from the Pontiff empowering the Archbishop of York to crown the prince. He was knighted early in the morning of June 14th; the coronation was performed with the usual solemnities in Westminster Abbey; and at table the King waited on his son with his own hands. The next day William, King of Scotland, David his brother, and the English barons and free tenants did homage and swore fealty to the young King. Why the wife of the Prince was not crowned with her husband we are not informed; but Louis took to himself the insult offered to his daughter, and entered the borders of Normandy with his army. Henry hastened to defend his dominions; the two monarchs had a private conference; the former treaty was renewed; and a promise was given of an immediate reconciliation with the Primate.
Every attempt to undermine the integrity of the Pontiff had now failed; and Henry saw with alarm that the thunder, which he had so long feared, was about to burst on his dominions. A plan of adjustment had been arranged between his envoys and Alexander; and to defeat the chicanery of his advisers, it was accompanied with the threat of an interdict if it were not executed within the space of forty days. He consented to see the Archbishop, and awaited his arrival in a spacious meadow near the town of Freitville on the borders of Touraine (July 22d). As soon as Becket appeared, the King, spurring forward his horse with his cap in his hand, prevented his salutation; and, as if no dissension had ever divided them, discoursed with him apart, with all that easy familiarity which had distinguished their former friendship. In the course of their conversation, Henry exclaimed, "As for the men who have betrayed both you and me, I will make them such return as the deserts of traitors require." At these words the Archbishop alighted from his horse, and threw himself at the feet of his sovereign, but the King laid hold of the stirrup, and insisted that he should remount, saying: "In short, my Lord Archbishop, let us renew our ancient affection for each other; only show me honor before those who are now viewing our behavior." Then returning to his attendants, he observed: "I find the Archbishop in the best disposition toward me: were I otherwise toward him, I should be the worst of men." Becket followed him, and by the mouth of the Archbishop of Sens presented his petition. He prayed that the King would graciously admit him to the royal favor, would grant peace and security to him and his, would restore the possessions of the See of Canterbury, and would, in his mercy, make amends to that Church for the injury it had sustained in the late coronation of his son. In return he promised him love, honor, and every service which an archbishop could render in the Lord to his king and his sovereign. To these demands Henry assented: they again conversed apart for a considerable time; and at their separation it was mutually understood that the Archbishop, after he had arranged his affairs in France, should return to the court, and remain there for some days, that the public might be convinced of the renewal and solidity of their friendship.
If Henry felt as he pretended, his conduct in this interview will deserve the praise of magnanimity, but his skill in the art of dissimulation may fairly justify a suspicion of his sincerity. The man who that very morning had again bound himself by oath in the presence of his courtiers to refuse the kiss of peace, could not be animated with very friendly sentiments toward the Archbishop; and the mind of that prelate, though his hopes suggested brighter prospects, was still darkened with doubt and perplexity. Months were suffered to elapse before the royal engagements were executed; and when at last, with the terrors of another interdict hanging over his head (November 12th), the King restored the archiepiscopal lands, the rents had been previously levied, the corn and cattle had been carried off, and the buildings were left in a dilapidated state.
The remonstrances of the Primate and his two visits to the court obtained nothing but deceitful promises; his enemies publicly threatened his life, and his friends harassed him with the most gloomy presages; yet, as the road was at last open, he resolved to return to his diocese, and at his departure wrote to the King an eloquent and affecting letter. "It was my wish," he concludes, "to have waited on you once more, but necessity compels me, in the lowly state to which I am reduced, to revisit my afflicted church. I go, sir, with your permission, perhaps to perish for its security, unless you protect me. But whether I live, or die, yours I am, and yours I shall ever be in the Lord. Whatever may befall me or mine, may the blessing of God rest on you and your children." Henry had promised him money to pay his debts and defray the expenses of his journey. Having waited for it in vain, he borrowed three hundred pounds of the Archbishop of Rouen, and set out in the company, or rather in the custody, of his ancient enemy, John of Oxford.