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THE CONSTITUTIONS OF CLARENDON.

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sions privately from Becket at the royal lodge at Woodstock, convoked that great assembly at Clarendon, near Salisbury, since so celebrated, in March, 1164. One of his own ecclesiastical partisans was nominated by the king as president, and on the question being put, that the "ancient customs” should be observed, all the prelates at once gave in their adhesion, except the primate, who had previously pledged himself to do so.

Then commenced a scene of uproar. Becket, accusing himself of having weakly made undue concessions to the King, positively refused his assent. The partisans of the King were furious. The bishops implored Becket to agree, as they had done. The barons threatened him if he refused to accede; and while two of the knights-templars, who sought to act as mediators, besought him with tears to pay the required duty to the King's wish and not to endanger himself and his friends, knights were seen in an adjoining apartment hastily donning their coats of mail, and girding on their swords, to use force to compel him to obedience if need should so be.

Becket’s conduct on this awful emergency has been differently described by historians, and some have even imputed timidity to him in the temporizing policy he now adopted. It would rather appear to have arisen from his subtilty, than from his fear. His great object was to gain time, when he felt that his calm determination would eventually triumph over the hasty passion of his foes. He professed himself ready to concede all that was required on certain conditions-he would observe all the ancient customs, if time were permitted him to sift and examine at leisure what the ancient customs really were, and to verify them from history!

Upon this, certain experienced legislators were appointed to reduce to writing the “ ancient customs," and they were produced at an adjourned council on the following day, under the title of the Constitutions of Clarendon. We may not pause to recite the intervening events of the night, nor do more than indicate that a Saxon monk, named Grim or Grimes (the same afterwards present at his murder), is said to have been the means of confirming Becket in his refusal to adopt these constitutions. Suffice it to say that they were adopted by the whole Parliament, except himself, and went forth as the decrees of the Council, he alone having claimed further delay, and refused to sign or seal them, though his name appeared in the preamble as giving them his consent.

Before leaving this first enactment of the Constitutions of Clarendon, let us pause one moment to observe the great extent of territory influenced by the decisions of this Council. England by no means represented the whole of Henry's dominions. Almost all the West of France, the people of Anjou, Maine, Brittany, Poitou, and Aquitaine, were equally affected with the English by the decrees now passed ; and it affords therefore no matter of surprise to find that the Pope, Alexander III. (then holding his court at Sens, in consequence of the anti-Pope, Victor, being in possession of Rome), interfered with a vain attempt at mediation between the conflicting parties. We may, however, remark in passing that the utter insincerity and base venality of the Papal court at this time, immensely increased the difficulties of the contest to all.

2. Becket was thwarted in a repeated attempt to quit England by the port of Romney; and when the King summoned Parliament to meet at Northampton a few months later, he was compelled to appear. Here he and his retinue were treated with studied insult by the King, who, in addition to personal injuries cast upon him, called him to account, in the first place, for refusing justice to a great officer of the household (John, the Marshal), and in the second, for malversation of trust as chancellor of the kingdom. On both of the charges (as well as on some minor ones) he was found guilty, though a calm examination of the records leaves the impression that the condemnation was unjust, and the conduct both of King and Court vindictive.

Though the iron will of Becket refused to give way, his frame succumbed to the perpetual annoyances and manifested persecutions he was subjected to; and about the fourth day he fell seriously ill in his lodgings. The proof that the King really strove in earnest to break his spirit at this time, is found in his own words, “If Becket does not cease to be Archbishop, I shall cease to be King." But Henry had not yet learned the stuff the man was made of with whom he had to deal. The King's especial messengers seem to have informed him that his destruction was determined upon when he should next appear; but appear he did, notwithstanding, and that in no ordinary fashion.

It was on a Tuesday morning-the Council having already sat several days, and Becket having been too ill to attend on the Monday— that he opened the day with attendance at divine service, and performed at St. Stephen's altar the mass appointed for that martyr's day, commencing with the words, “ Princes sate and spake against me;" and, in order to make his own feelings more manifest, he caused the anthem to be chanted, “The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take council together, against the Lord and against his anointed!" Then, robed in his archiepiscopal vestments, he mounted his horse, and, holding a silver cross before him in his right hand, and the reins in his left, rode straight to the Council. When the bishops saw him approaching they went out to meet him, but he passed forward in solitary dignity, and, still holding the cross before him, seated himself at the Council board. One of the bishops tried to take the cross from him, but he held it firmly. The Archbishop of York reminded him that the King's

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sword was sharper than any episcopal staff. Becket remained unmoved in the midst of the commotion his presence, thus armed, excited. The King had withdrawn into an inner chamber on his entrance in so unusual a manner, and was exasperated with passion at what he and his nobles regarded as an act of deliberate defiance. It was a strange scene!

Meanwhile, Becket remaining in the Council chamber, the King gathered the nobles and prelates around him in the apartment within, and took counsel with them. One of the bishops (Exeter), trembling for the primate's life when he witnessed the King's exasperation, implored him to fly. “Fly thyself if thou fearest,” said the stern man; canst not understand the things of God!" The Archbishop of Yorkno friend to Becket-left the Council hastily with his chaplains, fearing to behold what might follow, and evidently anticipating bloodshed,

At length, after an agitated council within, the bishops came forth from the King, and, with the Bishop of Chichester at their head, renounced their allegiance to Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, appealed to the Pope, and cited Thomas as a perjured man to render account of himself to the Holy See. “I hear what you say,” was all the acknowledgment the unmoved prelate made.

The inner council was then resumed; and Becket, as late arch, bishop,” was accused of sundry high crimes and misdemeanours before the King. On refusing to plead, he was condemned ; and Robert, Earl of Leicester, as Chief Justiciary, coming forth and addressing him officially, called on him to hear his sentence! The crisis had now arrived. Becket rose with a majestic mien, and interrupting him with à voice of power, said, “Sir Earl! I forbid you in the name of Almighty God to utter a judgment against me who am your spiritual father. I appeal from this court to the Sovereign Pontiff, and cite you to appear before his throne !"

Availing himself of the silence that followed this solemn and startling action, Becket, still bearing his cross, proceeded to quit the Council chamber. As he approached the door, a cry was raised of "Traitor ! perjured traitor! Stay for your doom!" At these shouts his severely-tried temper at length gave way, and turning fiercely round, he said that “were it not forbidden him by his vows he would appeal to arms, and meet in the lists any one who dared thus to insult him !" His enemies were again overawed, and no violence was offered to oppose his retreat. Then, riding back to the monastery where he lodged, he forthwith ordered a banquet to be prepared on a grand scale, and sent out messengers to gather in the poorest of the populace to partake of it with him! Thus he closed this memorable day, and while the King and the royal household were protracting to a late hour their own evening meal, the disgraced primate, accompanied

by two monks, took horse, and rode from Northampton, a three days' journey into the fens of Lincolnshire, where he rested for awhile in privacy, in the cabin of a hermit. Thence, in humble disguise, and under the name of Dereman, he found his way south, and in the month of November crossed the channel to Gravelines; from thence he went on foot to St. Omer, where he found a home in the monastery of St. Bertin.

3. We must pass rapidly over the years of Becket's exile. On his flight being declared, his goods and lands were confiscated, and all his relatives and followers, to the number of 400 persons, banished the realm. Embassies were sent abroad announcing the condemnation of “the late archbishop”-a phrase to which the King of France took exception, and forthwith extended his protection to the fugitive prelate.

The Pope still resided at Sens, and having previously committed himself to the side of Henry, looked at first coldly on the overtures of Becket. With his accustomed daring policy, however, the ex-primate went, uninvited, to his court, and soon made way there. His first interview with the cardinals is worthy of notice, because it tends to confirm the view, already expressed, that he was uninfluenced by mere personal ambition in his prolonged contest with his sovereign. They had received him with marked distance, and some of them had rebuked him for his turbulence and arrogance. “ Listen,” said Becket; “I do nct pride myself particularly on my wisdom; but, certainly, I am not such a fool as to set myself in opposition to a king for nothing! If I had chosen simply to seek his pleasure, and obey his will, there would not have been in his kingdom at this moment so great a man as I!” This remark of his clearly indicates that his struggle was not for personal ambition, which might have been easily gratified by complaisance, bat for the supremacy of spiritual power, which could only be achieved by great cost, and personal and determinate self-sacrifice !

The horrible duplicity of the Pope was shown at this as well as at later periods. A short while before, he had offered to Henry all the powers of Legate, with its title and its rights, except in the single case of deposing the archbishop; he now accorded to the archbishop the power to excommunicate all those who had possessed themselves of the property of his cathedral, except the King himself

! The constitutions of Clarendon which he had before tacitly, if not openly, allowed, he now solemnly condemned, to the extent of ten out of the sixteen, and officially anathematized all who adhered to them! But this was not all. Becket accused himself before the Pope having unjustly intruded himself into the See of Canterbury on merely regal power.

He therefore resigned his archbishoprio into the hands of the Pope, by whom he was forthwith re-invested with

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it! No long time after this he was appointed papal legate for England! While Becket was residing at Pontigny, in 1166, he heard of Henry crossing the sea to Normandy. Immediately he left his retirement and went to Vezelay near Auxerre ; and there, in the principal church, on Ascension-day, he exercised his legatine power, and pronounced with great publicity and solemnity a sentence of excommunication against all defenders of the constitutions of Clarendon ; against holders of church-lands or goods pertaining to Canterbury; and individually, by name, against several of the personal friends and adherents of the King !

On hearing of this bold and contumacious act, Henry gave way to one of those paroxysms of fury which have been already described, and shortly afterwards wrote to the Pope, desiring him to annul this sentence of excommunication. The wily pontiff replied, that he had already authorized two cardinal priests (William and Otho) to exercise this power, and that he would give the King every satisfaction; and, at the same time, wrote to Becket that he might place every confidence in these men as his friends!

This base double-dealing did not deceive the keen-witted Becket, who wrote a sharp letter to his Holiness, rebuking his insincerity and hypocrisy. But Henry's impulsive nature allowed him to be more easily imposed upon. On parting from the two legates, Thierry tells as that he besought them, with tears, to get the Pope to free him from the man who was the torment of his life! One of the cardinals, it seems, being already sold to the King, wept for sympathy; the other wept too; but it was because he found a difficulty in otherwise hiding his disposition to laugh!

In the year following, the kings of England and France had an interview, which augured ill for Becket. In fact, political causes were making the sovereigns more friendly, and the Gallican friendship for the priest was, consequently, on the wane. Henry, delighted with the favourable letters he had received from the Pope, was in high glee. " Thank heaven,” he said, our Hercules has at length lost his club : his threats and excommunications against me and mine are now only ridiculous; for lo! I hold in my purse the power of the Pope and all the cardinals to boot!"

4. There is much, very much, more of deep interest that took place during the remainder of Becket's exile. Much that tells us how Henry's heart was torn by anxiety; how Becket's spirit rose superior to poverty, to persecution, and to calamity, and remained fixed and determined in the policy he had adopted; how the King of France showed an honourable care for the oppressed, and no mean skill in politics, by his use of his own fair conduct in advancing the interests of his kingdom ; how the Pope disgraced the name of religion by a course

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