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of fraud and duplicity utterly at variance with the first principles of Christianity; and how the spirit of selfishness and tyranny displayed itself in the acts of the King using his temporal, and the priest his spiritual weapons of offence, each against the other !—but time and space preclude us from entering into detail, inasmuch as we have yet to relate in some fulness the closing scene of this dreadful controversy.
Let us then pass forward at once to the year 1170, in which Becket returned to England. The king's eldest son, Prince Henry, had been consecrated, in the month of June, joint-sovereign with his father, by the Archbishop of York. This was an infringement on the rights of Canterbury, but had been allowed by the Pope. It had increased Becket's anger, and led to the issue of an excommunication of the three consecrating prelates. But a doubtful peace had, meanwhile, been patched up, by the Pope and the King of France, between the contending parties; interviews had taken place between them, and Henry II, had written favourably to his son in England regarding the return of the primate to Canterbury. That return took place in the month of December, when Becket was received in his metropolitical city and cathedral with every demonstration of public joy. “ The cathedral was hung with silken drapery; magnificent banquets were prepared; the churches resounded with organs and hymns; the palace hall with trumpets; but in the midst of all this jubilance and sacred festivity, the archbishop seemed oppressed with a sense of his coming doom, and preached in the chapter-house, from the text-"Here we have no abiding city, but we seek one to come.”
There was good reason for this gloomy anticipation in the mind of the primate. He had procured letters of excommunication from the Pope against the prelates who had consecrated the young king, and had them in his possession at the time of his reconciliation with his father, though the fact was kept secret from him. By the time of his landing they were delivered ; and the prelates immediately left Eng. land to lay them before Henry II., then in his foreign dominions; so that Becket must have felt certain there would be another outbreak ere long. He was also conscious of the near neighbourhood of im. placablo enemies in the family of the De Brocs, who held possession of his castle of Saltwood and the lands attached, and had sworn to maintain them in defiance of his rights.
With a view to conciliate the young king, he sent him, to Woodstock, a present of three magnificent chargers, and intimated his intention of shortly following them to pay his personal court. After a brief delay at Canterbury, he went to London, where he became the guest of the aged Bishop of Winchester (Henry of Blois, brother to King Stephen) at his palace at Southwark. Here he received a message from the young king, declining to receive him, and enjoining his rə
BECKET'S CHRISTMAS-DAY SERMON.
turn to Canterbury ; to which place, after a brief visit to Harrow-onthe-Hill, he returned to keep his last Christmas upon earth!
Something of the old hatred between the Norman and Saxon races seems to show itself in this part of Becket's history. His great supporters were the Saxon populace ; his bitterest opponents, the Norman nobles. In resisting the authority of the Norman Crown, he threw himself upon the sympathy of the Saxon people. He had worldly sagacity enough to observe that his Saxon blood gave him great influence with the masses. He had experience enough to know that his spiritual weapons were terrible in the eyes of the superstitious Normans. He had tact enough to see that, if he could excite the enthusiasm of the people in his favour, while his ecclesiastical connection with the dominant influence of Rome paralyzed the nobles, his own keen wit, sharp tongue, and resolute determination would be more than a match for the King!
Those of our readers who have read Thierry will remember that this animosity between the two races is his favourite solution of all the historical difficulties that successively arose in the ages of history whereof he treats; and those who have read a work by Mr. D’Israeli, entitled “Sybil, or the Two Nations,” will find this idea applied to the condition of modern society. That such animosity existed in the time of Becket is no doubt true; and had he truly realized his singular fitness-like Moses between the Egyptians and Israelitesto be a mediator between the two, he might have done much to bring the two peoples into harmony. But he split upon a rock that has been fatal to many, both before and since his day. The rock of intellectualism was his bane, and his mental pride neither yielded to the shocks of power nor softened to the influences of affection.
5. If we had magic power to place ourselves in the cathedral of Canterbury on the early morning of Christmas-day, A.D. 1170, we should see the proud man refining away all the gentleness of the gospel by the subtilty of his intellect. Let us try to realize the
The pulpit is erected in the nave. The midnight mass has been celebrated; probably prime and matins have been sung; but the tapers that dimly light the vast cathedral are still burning. Becket has mounted the pulpit stairs, and given out his text from a portion of the angelic message. He uses the text, as it was then received, somewhat differently from what our Church now receives it. He says, not “ Peace on earth, good will to man;" but, “On earth, peace to men of good will." We will not quarrel with him for adopting a reading common to his age, but we will hesitate before we accept as good tidings from earthly lips that which is selected with a special view to limit the good tidings of God! He begins to discourse on the assump
VOL. I.-NO. V.
tion that there is no peace except to men of good will. He recites the holy deeds of the sainted fathers of the church of Canterbury, and reminds his hearers that the scene they now behold is hallowed by their present relics. He touches their feelings by a recital of the hallowed lives of these their fathers who have passed away; he then alludes to the trials and dignities of martyrdom, and, with a presentiment of his coming fate, while he tells them of Elphege, who was murdered by the Danes, implies that, ere long, they may have another martyr in their roll.
Unlike the stillness kept now-a-days during the sermon, we sce the people swaying to and fro in wild excitement at the preacher's stirring words. Many weep; more groan aloud ; at length, during the pauses of the preacher's eloquence, the feelings of the congregation find utterance in words. An audible murmur, at first indistinct, gradually growing more clear, rises on the ear of the listener: “ Father, whither goest thou ?” “ Father, wliy will you desert us?” “Father, to whom will you leave us ?" The orator perceives his congregation are now thoroughly under his control. He leaves the gentle, plaintive tone he had used to win them; he bursts forth in a fiery strain of indignant eloquence calculated to command them. An eye-witnessHerbert of Bosham, a faithful follower of Becket-has left on record his own feelings on beholding his master in the pulpit on this occasion. “ You would have thought,” he writes, “that you were looking on the prophetic beast, which had at once the face of a man and the face of a lion.” But mark the presence of subtle wisdom, and the absence of Divine love, in the preacher's strong eloquence. Having gained his auditory, he perverts his own power over them to teach them hatred rather than good will ; he perverts the spiritual power he possesses to fulminate curses rather than to invite to blessing. He declaims against his personal enemies, and arraigns his foes. Grotesque as it may seem, it is yet a recorded fact that he recites, among other offences of his opponents, the docking of the tail of one of his sumpter mules; and the with that awful power (which a dark and superstitious age rendered yet more terrible) of anathema, he proceeds to curse and excommunicate by name the De Brocs and others, and among them the three bishops who had already fled to the king. In addition to the other forms, he seizes with his right hand a lighted taper from the pulpit whence he preaches, and then, dashing it on the ground so as to extinguish it, he pronounces these words, which have come down to us in the chronicle, “May they be cursed by Jesus Christ, and may their memory be blotted out of the assembly of the saints, whoever shall sow hatred and discord between me and my Lord the King !"
6. Meanwhile, another scene was being enacted in Normandy, whero the excommunicated bishops had joined the king's court. It was either