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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 41. AFTER THE DEATH OF THOMAS BECKET


    After the death of Thomas Becket, the king, fearing the pope's wrath and curse to be laid upon him, (whereunto Ludovike, the French king, also helped what he could to set the matter forward,) sent to Rome the archbishop of Rothomage, with certain other bishops and archdeacons, unto the pope with his excuse, which the pope could in no wise hear. And after other messengers being sent, (whom some of the cardinals received,) it was showed to them that on Good Friday (being then near at hand) the pope of custom was used to assoil or to curse, and that it was noised how the king of England, with his bishops, should be cursed, and his land interdicted, and that they should be put in prison. After this, certain of the cardinals showed the pope, that the messengers had power to swear to the pope that the king should obey his punishment and penance: which was taken both for the king and the archbishop of York. So that in the same day the pope cursed the deed-doers, with such as were of their consent, that either aided or harboured them. Concerning these deed-doers it is touched briefly before, how they, lying in Gnarsborough, fled into Yorkshire: who, after having in penance to go in their linen clothes barefoot (in fasting and prayer) to Jerusalem, by reason of this hard penance are said to die in few years after.

    The king's ambassadors lying, as is said, in Rome, could find no grace nor favour a long time at the pope's hands. At length with much ado it was agreed, that two cardinals should be sent down to inquire out the matter concerning them that were consenting to Becket's death. The king perceiving what was preparing at Rome, neither being yet certain whereto the intent of the pope and coming down of the cardinals would tend; in the mean time addressed himself with a great power to enter into Ireland, giving in charge and commandment, as Hoveden writeth, that no bringer of any brief or letter should come over into England, or pass out of the realm, (of what degree or condition soever he were,) without special licence, and assurance that he would bring nothing that should be prejudicial to the realm.

    This order being set and ordained, the king with four hundred great ships taketh his journey to Ireland, where he subdued in short time the whole land unto him, which at that time was governed under divers kings to the number of five; of whom four submitted themselves unto the said King Henry; only the fifth, who was the king of Conacta, denied to be subdued, keeping him in woods and marshes.

    In the mean season, while the king was thus occupied in Ireland, the two cardinals that were sent from the pope (Theodinus and Albertus) were come to Normandy. Unto whom the king the next year following resorted about the month of October, in the year 1172. But before (during the time of the king's being in Ireland) the bishop of London, and Joseline. bishop of Salisbury, had sent to Rome, and procured their absolution from the pope. The king returning out of Ireland, by Wales, into England, and from thence to Normandy. there made his purgation before the pope's legates, as touching the death of the foresaid Becket: to the which he sware he was neither aiding nor consenting, but only that he spake rigorous words against him, for that his knights would not avenge him against the said Thomas; for the which cause this penance was enjoined him under his oath.

    First, that he should send so much into the Holy Land as would find two hundred knights or soldiers for the defence of that land.

    Also, that from Christmas day next following he should set forth in his own person to fight for the Holy Land, the space of three years together, unless he should be otherwise dispensed withal by the pope.

    Item, that if he would make his joumey into Spain. (as his present necessity did require,) there he should fight against the Saracens; and as long time as he should there abide, so long space might he take in prolonging his journeys toward Jerusalem

    Item, that he should not hinder, nor cause to be hindered by him, any appellations made to the pope of Rome.

    Item, that neither he nor his son should depart or dissever from Pope Alexander, or from his catholic successors, so long as they should recount him or his son for kings catholic.

    Item, that the goods and possessions taken from the church of Canterbury should be restored again, (fully and amply,) as they stood the year before Thomas Becket departed the realm; and that free liberty should be granted to all such as were out lawed for Beckets cause to return again.

    Item, that the foresaid customs and decrees, by him established against the church, should be extinct and repealed, (such only except that concerned his own person, &c.,) besides other secret fastings and alms enjoined him.

    All these former conditions the king with his son did both agree unto, debasing himself in such sort of submission before the two cardinals; by the occasion whereof the cardinals took no little glory, using this verse of the Psalm: Which looketh upon the earth, and maketh it to tremble; which toucheth the hills, and they smoke, &c. Moreover, it is mentioned in histories of the said king, that, a little after William, king of Scots, with his army had made a road into the realm, he, returning out of Normandy into England, came first to Canterbury; who by the way (so soon as he came to the sight of Becket's church) lighting off his horse, and putting off his shoes, went barefoot to his tomb, whose stops were found bloody through the roughness of the stones. And not only that, but also he received further penance, by every monk of the cloister, certain discipline of a rod. By which so great dejection of the king (if it were true) thou mayst see the blind and lamentable superstition and ignorance of those days. If it were attempted (as might so be in time of war) to get the hearts of the people, thou mayest, learned reader, see what slavery kings and princes were brought into at that time under the pope's clergy. The same year, (as Hoveden writeth,) which was 1174, the whole city of Canterbury was almost all consumed, with fire, and the said minster church clean burnt.

    The next year ensuing, which was 1175, a convocation of bishops was holden at Westminster by Richard, archbishop of Canterbury. In which conventicle all the bishops and abbots of the province of Canterbury and of York, being present, determined (as it had done a little before in the days of King Henry the First. A.D. 1113) about the obedience that York should do to Canterbury; that is, whether the archbishop of York might bear his cross in the diocess of Canterbury or not, whereof something was touched before in time former process of this history. Also about the bishopric of Lincoln, of Chichester, of Worcester, and of Hereford, whether these churches were under the jurisdiction of the see of York or not, &c. Upon these and other like matters rose such controversy between these two sees, that the one appealed the other to the presence of the bishop of Rome.

    In these and such-like causes, how much better had it been if the supremacy had remained more near in the king's hands at home! Whereby not only much labour and travail had been saved, but also the great and wasteful expenses bestowed at Rome might with much more fruit and thank have been converted to their cures and flocks committed unto them, and also perhaps their cause no less indifferently heard, at least more speedily might have been decided. But to the purpose again. In this controversy divers of the bishop of York's clergy, such as were of Gloucester, belonging to the church of St. Oswald, were excommunicated by the archbishop of Canterbury, because they, being summoned, refused to appear before him, &c. At length the same year, which was 1175, there was a cardinal sent down from Rome by the king's procurement, who studied to set a peace between the two archbishops. Whereupon this way of agreement was taken (by the means of the king) at Winchester, that as touching the church of St. Oswald at Gloucester, the archbishop of Canterbury should cease his claim thereof, molesting the see of York no more therein; also should absolve again the clerks thereof whom he had excommunicated before. And as concerning the bearing of the cross and all other matters. it was referred to the archbishop of Rothomage, and of other bishops in France; so that for five years a league or truce was taken betwixt them, till they should have a full determination of their cause.

    The next year following, the foresaid King Henry the Second (dividing the realm of England into six parts) ordained upon every part three justices of assize. The circuit or limitation of which justices was thus disposed. The first upon Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertford shire. Two upon Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire. Three upon Kent, Surrey, Southamptoushire, Sussex, Berkshire. Oxfordshire. Four upon Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Shropshire. Five upon Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Somersetshire, Devonshire, Comwall. Six upon Everikeshire, Richmondshire, Lancaster, Copland, Westmoreland, Northumberland, Cumberland.

    In the which year also Richard, archbishop of Canterbury, made three archdeacons in his diocess, whereas before there was but one. About which time also it was granted by the king to the pope's legate, that a clerk should not be called before a temporal judge, except for offence in the forest, or for his lay fee that he holdeth.

    Item, that no archbishopric, bishopric, or abbey should remain in the king's hands over one year without great cause. It chanced the same year that this was done there was at Canterbury one elected to be abbot in the house of St. Austin named Albert, who made great labour and suit unto the archbishop that he would come to his church, and there consecrate him abbot of St. Austin's. To whom the archbishop sent word again, that he was not bound to come to him, but rather the other should repair to the metropolitan church of Canterbury, there to receive his consecration. Where upon (controversy rising between them) the foresaid new elect appealed up to the audience of the pope, and so laboured up himself to Rome. Where he so handled the matter, (by what means I cannot tell, unless with his golden bottle, wherewith he quenched the pope's thirsty soul, for abbots never travel lightly without fat purses to Rome,) that with short despatch he procured letters from Alexander the pope, to Roger, bishop of Worcester; signifying to him, that he had given in charge and commandment to the archbishop of Canterbury (in the behalf of his dear son Albert) that he should consecrate him within his own monastery; which monastery properly and solely without mediation belonged to the jurisdiction of Rome, and so likewise should do to his successors after him, without any exaction of obedience of them. Which thing, further he said, if the archbishop would refuse to do within the term appointed, that then he the foresaid bishop of Worcester should (by the authority committed unto him) execute the same, all manner of appellation or other decree, whatsoever should come, notwithstanding. This letter being obtained, the abbot that would be returneth home, supposing with himself all things to be sure. Tho archbishop understanding the cause, and seeing himself be so straitly charged, and yet loth to yield and stoop to the abbot, took to him policy where authority would not serve, and both to save himself, and yet to disappoint the abbot, he watcheth a time when the abbot was about business of his house. And coming the same time to the monastery, as he was commanded to do, with all things appointed that to such a business appertained, he called for the abbot, pretending no less than to give him his consecration. The abbot, being called for, was not at home; the archbishop, feigning himself not a little grieved at his labour and good will so lost, departed, as one in whom no ready diligence was lacking, if in case that the abbot had been at home. Whereupon the abbot, being thus disappointed, was fain to fill his silver flagons afresh. and make a now course to Rome to his father the pope, of whom he received his consecration, and so came home again, with as much wit as he went forth, but not with so much money peradventure as he went withal.

    We have declarod a little afore touching the acts and doings of this Pope Alexander the Third, how he had brought the emperor's head under his foot in St. Mark's church at Venice; at which time and place peace was concluded, and a composition made between the pope and the said Frederic the emperor. Which pacification Rogerus Hovedenus, and Gualterus Gisburgensis, refer to this time, being the year of our Lord 1177, bringing in two several letters sent from the said pope to Richard, archbishop of Canterbury, and to Roger, archbishop of York, and Hugh, bishop of Duresme. Out of the which letters, so much as serveth to our purpose, I have taken and here inserted.

The letter of Pope Alexander, sent to Roger, archbishop of York, and to the bishop of Duresme.

    "Alexander, servant of the servants of God, to his reverend brethren Roger, archbishop of York, and Hugh, bishop of Duresme, greeting and apostolical blessing. The obsequies and service of your kind devotion, which hitherto you are known to have given both devoutly and laudably to us and to the church, requireth that we should describe to you, as to our special friends, the prosperous success of the church, and to let you know, as spiritual children of the church, what hath happened to the same. For meet it is, convenient, and also honest, that you, whom we have had so firm and sure in our devotion, should now be cherished and made joyous in the prosperity of us and of the church." And about the end of the epistle it followeth thus:

    "The next day following, which was the feast of St. James, (the said emperor so requesting,) we came to the foresaid church of St. Mark, there to celebrate our solemn mass; where (as we were coming in the way) the said emperor met us without the church, and placing us again on his right hand, he brought us so into the said church. After the mass was done, placing us again on his right hand, he brought us to the church door. And, moreover, when we should take our palfry, he held our stirrup, exhibiting to us such honour and reverence as his progenitors were wont to exhibit to our predecessors. Wherefore these shall be to incite your diligence and study towards us, that you rejoice with us and the church in these our prosperous successes; and also that you shall open the same effect of peace to other devout children of the church, that such as be touched with the zeal of the house of the Lord, may congratulate and rejoice also in the Lord for the great working of peace which he hath given. Given at Venice, in the deep river, the six and twentieth of July."

    This year the contention revived again, spoken of a little before, between the two archbishops of York and Canterbury, the occasion whereof was this: The manner and practice of the pope is, when he beginneth to lack money, he sendeth some limiting cardinal abroad to fetch his harvest in. So there came this year into England (as lightly few years were without them) a certain cardinal from Rome, called Hugo, or, as Hovedenus nameth him, Hugezim, who would needs keep a council at Westminster. To this council resorted a great confluence (about middle of Lent) of bishops, abbots, priors, doctors, and such others of the clergy. As every one was there placed in his order, and after his degree, first cometh the archbishop of York, named Roger, who (thinking to prevent the other archbishop) came something sooner, and straightway placed himself on the right hand of the cardinal. Richard, the archbishop of Canterbury, following shortly after, and seeing the first place taken up, refuseth to take the second, complaining of the archbishop of York, as one prejudicial to his see. So while the one would not rise, and the other part not sit down, there rose no small contention between them two. The archbishop of Canterbury claimed the upper seat by the pre-eminence of his church. Contrary, the archbishop of York alleged for him the old decree of Gregory, whereof mention is made before. By which this order was taken between the two metropolitans of Canterbury and York, that which of them two should be first in election, he should have the pre-eminence in dignity, to go before the other. Thus they contending to and fro, waxed so warm in words, that at last they turned to hot blows. How strong the archbishop of York was in reason and argument I cannot tell; but the archbishop of Canterbury was stronger at the arms' end; whose servants, being more in number, (like valiant men,) not suffering their master to take such a foil, so prevailed against York, (sitting on the right hand of the cardinal,) that they plucked him down from the hand to the foot of the cardinal upon the ground, treading and trampling upon him with their feet, that marvel it was he escaped with life. His casule, chimer, and rochet were all to be rent and torn from his back. Here no reason would take place, no debating would serve, no praying could be heard, such clamour and tumult was there in the house among them.

    But what did the noble Roman cardinal? Like a pretty man of his hands, (but a prettier man of his feet,) standing up in the midst, and seeing the house in such a broil, committed himself to flight, and (as Hovedenus writeth) abscondit se a fade illorum. The next day after, the archbishop of York bringeth to the cardinal his rochet, to bear witness what injury and violence he had sustained; appealing and citing up the archbishop of Canterbury with certain of his men to the bishop of Rome. And thus the holy council (the same day it was begun) brake up and was dissolved.

    Under the reign of this King Henry the Second, the dominion and crown of England extended so far as hath not been seen in this realm before him; whom histories record to possess under his rule and jurisdiction, first, Scotland, to whom William, king of Scots, with all the lords temporal and spiritual, did homage, both for them and for their successors, (the seal whereof rernaineth in the king's treasury,) as also Ireland, England, Normandy, Aquitan, Gant, &c., to the Pyrenees, which be in the uttermost part of the great ocean in the British Sea; being also protector of France; to whom Philip, the French king, yielded both himself and his realm wholly to his governance, in the year of our Lord, 1181. Moreover, he was offered also to be the king of Jerusalem by the patriarch and master of the hospital there; who, then being distressed by the soldan, brought him the keys of their city, desiring his aid against the infidels; which offer he then refused, alleging the great charge which he had at home, and the rebellion of his sons, which might happen in his absence.

    And here the old histories find a great fault with the king for his refusal; declaring that to be the cause of God's plagues which after ensued upon him by his children, as the patriarch in his oration (being offended with the king) prophesied should so happen to him for the same cause. Which story, if it be true, it may be a lesson to good princes not to deny their necessary help to their distressed neighbours, especially the cause appertaining unto God.

    The wisdom, discretion, manhood, and riches of this prince were so spread and renowned from all quarters, that messages came from Emmanuel, emperor of Constantinople, Frederic, emperor of Rome, and William, archbishop of Trevers in Almain, the duke of Saxon, and from the earl of Flanders, and also from the French king, (upon determination of great questions and strifes,) to ask counsel and determination thereof of this King Henry, as of one most wise, and schoolmaster of all wisdom and justice, to have solution of their questions and doubts. Moreover, Alphonsus, king of Castile, and Sancius, king of Naverne, being in strife for certain castles and other possessions, submitted them (of their free accord and by their oath) to abide the award of this King Henry, who made award and pleased them both; whereby it is to he presupposed that this king, to whom other princes did so resort, as to their arbiter and guide, did not attend either to any sloth or vicious living. Wherefore it may seem that the acts of this prince were not so vicious as some monkish writers do describe.

    Among many other things in this king memorable, this one is to be noted, (follow it who can,) that he, reigning five and thirty years, and having such wars with his enemies, yet never upon his subjects put any tribute or tax, nor yet upon the spirituality, first-fruits and appropriations of benefices. Belike they were not known, or else not used. And yet his treasure after his death (weighed by King Richard his son) amounted to above nine hundred thousand pounds, besides jewels, precious stones, and household furniture. Of the which substance eleven thousand pounds came to him by the death of Roger, archbishop of York; who had procured a bull of the pope, that if any priest died within his province without testament, then he should have all his goods. And shortly after the archbishop died, and the king had all his goods, which extended (as is said) to eleven thousand pounds besides plate, in the year of our Lord God 1181.

    But as there is no felicity or wealth in this mortal world so perfect, which is not darkened with some cloud of encumbrance and adversity; so it happened to this king, that, among his other princely successors, this incommodity followed him withal, that his sons rebelled and stood in armour against him, taking the part of the French king against their father. First, at the coronation of Henry his son, whom the father joined with him as king, he being both father and king, took upon him (that notwithstanding) but as a steward, and set down the first dish, as sewer unto his son, renouncing the name of a king. At what time the foresaid archbishop of York, sitting on the right hand of the young king, said, Sir, ye have great cause this day to joy, for there is no prince in the world that hath such an officer this day, &c. And the young king disdaining his words, said, My father is not dishonoured in this doing, for I am a king and a queen's son, and so is not he: and not only this, but after he also persecuted his father: and so in his youth, when he had reigned but a few years, died; teaching us what is the price and reward of breaking the just commandment of God.

    After him likewise Richard his son (who was Richard Cœur de Lion) rebelled against his father, and also John his youngest son did not much degenerate from the steps of his brethren. Insomuch that this foresaid Richard, (like an unkind child,) persecuting and taking part against his father, brought him to such distress of body and mind, that for thought of heart he fell into an ague; and with in four days departed, after he had reigned five and thirty years; whose corpse as it was carried to be buried, Richard his son, coming by the way and meeting it, and beginning for compassion to weep, the blood burst incontinent out of the nose of the king at the coming of his son; giving thereby a certain demonstration how he was the only author of his death.

    After the death and reign of which king, his children after him, (worthily rewarded for their unnaturalness against their father,) lacking the success which their father had, lost all beyond the sea that their father had got before.

    And thus much concerning the reign of Henry the Second, and the death of Thomas Becket, whose death (as is aforesaid) happened in the days of Pope Alexander the Third.

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