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horse, which he led off in great triumph. He carried over, at his own charge, seven hundred knights to attend the king in his wars at Toulouse; in the subsequent wars on the frontiers of Normandy he maintained, during forty days, one thousand two hundred knights, and four thousand of their train ; and, in an embassy to France, with which he was entrusted, he astonished the court by the numbers and magnificence of his retinue. Besides putting the most important affairs to the management of Becket, the king honoured him with his friendship and intimacy; and whenever he was disposed to relax himself by sports of any kind, he always admitted the chancellor to the party. But this good fellowship between the king and his officer was doomed soon to terminate. Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, dying, and Henry having long entertained the design of humbling the clergy, he thought Becket would favour his views, by appointing him his successor: In this he was most completely disappointed. No sooner was Becket installed in his new dignity, which rendered him for life the second person in the kingdom, than he entirely altered his de meanour and conduct, and endeavoured to acquire the reputation for sanctity which his former gay and ostentatious life might have bereaved him.
Without consulting the kir he immediately returned into his hands the commission of chancellor; pretending that he must henceforth detach himself from all secular affairs, and be solely employed in the exercise of his holy function.
He maintained, in his retinue and attendants alone, his ancient pomp and taste, which was useful to strike the vulgar. In his own person he affected the greatest austerity and most rigid mortification. He wore sackcloth next his skin, which, by his affected care to conceal it, was necessarily more remarked by all the world. His usual diet was bread, his drink water, which he rendered farther unpalatable by the mixture of unsavoury herbs. He tore his back by the frequent stripes he inflicted upon it; and daily, on his knees, in imitation of our Saviour, washed the feet of thirteen beggars, whom he afterwards dismissed with presents. He gained the affections of the monks by his frequent largesses to the convents and hospitals. Every one who made a profession of sanctity was admitted to his conversation, and returned full of wonder at the humility, piety, and mortification of the late chancellor, now the holy primate. He appeared perpetually employed in reciting prayers and pious lectures, or in perusing religious discourses. His aspect was the very type of seriousness, mental recollection, and secret devotion ; but all men of penetration saw that he was meditating some great design, and that the ambition and ostentation of his character had turned itself towards a new and more dangerous object.
This in a very short time developed itself, by Becket's ecclesiastical usurpations, in defiance of the king, the laws, and the welfare of the people. He insisted that the clergy were not amenable to civil jurisdiction, and could only be tried by their own
order_who inflicted none but spiritual punishments. Encouraged by the exemption from accusation before the magistrates, crimes of the deepest dye were daily committed by the ecclesiastics, and Holy orders became a full protection for all enormities. Numberless were the complaints made to the king of the atrocities and cruelties of these licensed barbarians; and from every part of the kingdom petitions were multiplied, praying for justice upon them.
A clerk in Worcestershire having debauched a farmer's daughter, and murdered her father, the king insisted he should be given up to the civil power, and receive the punishment due to the enormity of his crime. Becket insisted on the privilege of the church, confined the murderer in the bishop's prison, lest he should be seized by the king's officers, and maintained that no greater punishment should be inflicted on him than degradation. Henry, enraged at this opposition to his will, assembled a general council of the nobility and clergy, and proposed the abolition of the infamous law. The bishops, finding there was a general combination against them, thought it prudent to submit, and the laws known by the name of the Constitutions of Clarendon were voted without opposition by the whole assembly, with the exception of Becket, who stood up and opposed the king with great haughtiness, and refused his assent.
War being thus openly declared between the primate and his sovereign, no means were left untried on either side to mortify each other's pride, revenge their mutual insults, and maintain their several supremacies.
The king caused Becket to be accused of divers crimes and misdemeanours, and he was condemned by his council as a perjured villain and a traitor. Becket, on his side, was profuse in his invectives against his sovereign, and excommunicated every person who, in the slightest degree, opposed him. After a long period of tumult and disorder, during which Becket, fearing the anger of the king would attack his life, fled to France, where he remained four years, when, by the intercession of the pope, his quarrel with Henry was at last adjusted, and he prepared to return to England --indeed, so anxious was Henry to accommodate all differences, that he took the most extraordinary steps to flatter Becket's vanity, and even on one occasion humiliated himself so far as to hold the stirrup of the haughty prelate while he mounted his horse.
Hume, vol. i., p. 383. BECKET'S MURDER. Nothing could exceed the insolence with which Becket conducted himself, on his first landing in England on his return from banishment. Instead of retiring quietly to his diocese with the modesty which became a man just pardoned by his king, he made
progress through Kent in all the splendour of a sovereign pon, tiff
. As he approached Southwark, the clergy, the laity, men of all ranks and ages came forth to meet him, and celebrated his
triumphal entry with hymns of joy. Thus confident of the voices and the hearts of the people, he began to launch forth his thun. ders against those who had been his former opposers. The Archbishop of York was the first against whom he denounced sentence of suspension. The Bishops of London and Salisbury he actually excommunicated. When the suspended and excommunicated prelates arrived at Bayeux, where the king then resided, and complained to him of the insolence of Becket, and implored his protection from that disgrace and ruin with which they were threatened by the primate, painting the violence of his proceedings against themselves and others, in such strong colours, that Henry fell into one of those violent fits of passion to which he was liable, in the height of his fury he cried out,- -“Shall this fellow, who came to court on a lame horse, with all his estate in a wallet behind him, trample upon his king, the royal family, and the whole kingdom? Will none
of all those lazy, cowardly knights whom I maintain, deliver me from this turbulent priest ?"
This passionate exclamation made too deep an impression on some of those who heard it, particularly on the four following barons, Reginald Fitz-Urse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morvile, and Richard Breto, who formed a resolution either to terrify the archbishop into submission, or to put him to death. Having laid their plan, they left the court at different times, and took different routes, to prevent suspicion ; but being conducted by the devil, as some monkish historians tell us, they all arrived at the castle of Ranulph de Droc, about six miles from Canterbury, on the same day, December 28th, and almost at the same hour. Here they settled the whole scheme of their proceedings, and next morning early, set out for Canterbury, accompanied by a body of resolute men, with arms concealed under their clothes. These men they placed in different parts of the city, to prevent any interruption from the citizens. The four barons above named then went un. armed, with twelve of their company, to the archiepiscopal palace, about eleven o'clock, forenoon, and were admitted into the apartment where the archbishop sat conversing with some of his clergy. After their admission a long silence ensued, which was at length broken by Reginald Fitz-Urse, who told the archbishop that they were sent by the king to command him to absolve the prelates and others whom he had excommunicated; and then to go to Winchester, and make satisfaction to the young king, whom he had endeavoured to dethrone. On this a very long and violent altercation followed, in the course of which they gave several hints that his life was in danger if he did not comply. But he remained undaunted in his refusal. At their departure they charged his servants not to allow him to flee; on which he cried out with great vehemence,—“Flee! I will never fee from any man living. I am not come to flee, but to defy the rage of impious assassins. When they were gone his friends blamed him for the roughness of his answers, which had inflamed the fury of his enemies, and earnestly pressed him to make his escape ; but
he only answered—"I have no need of your advice. I know what I ought to do.” The barons, with their accomplices, finding that threats were ineffectual, put on their coats of mail; and taking each a sword in his right hand, and an axe in his left, returned to the palace; but found the gate shut. When they were preparing to break it open, Robert de Brock conducted them up a back stair, and let them in at a window. A cry then arose, “They are armed! they are armed,” on which the clergy hurried the archbishop, almost by force, into the church, hoping that the sacredness of the place would protect him from violence. They would also have shut the door, but he cried out,—"Begone, ye cowards! I charge you on your obedience, do not shut the door. What! will you make a castle of a church?” The conspirators having searched the palace, came to the church, and one of them crying,—“Where is that traitor? Where is the archbishop?" Becket advanced boldly, and said, “Here I am, an archbishop, but no traitor !” “Flee!" cried the conspirator, “or you are a dead man.
“I will never flee,” replied Becket. William de Tracy then took hold of his robe, and said, “You are my prisoner ; come along with me.' But Becket seizing him by the collar, shook him with so much force that he almost threw him down. De Tracy, enraged at this resistance, aimed a blow with his sword, which almost cut off the arm of one Edward Grim, a priest, and slightly wounded the archbishop on the head. By three other blows given by the other three conspirators, his scull was cloven almost in two, and his brains scattered about the pavement of the church.*
Dr. Henry's History, BECKET'S SHRINE. The excitement caused by the murder of Becket has had few parallels in English history. For a twelvemonth divine service was suspended in the cathedral; the unnatural silence reigning through the vast pile during that time making the scene of bloodshed all the more impressive to the eyes of the devout, who began to pour thither from all parts of the world in a constantly increasing stream. Canterbury then became a kind of second Holy City, where the guilty sought remission of their sins, the diseased health and pilgrims the blessings that awaited the performance of duly fulfilled vows. Henry himself, moved by a death so sudden and so dreadful, and so directly following his own hasty words, did penance in the most abject manner before Becket's tomb;t and
* The spot where this bloody act was performed, is still pointed out in the northern wing of the west transept, and that part of the cathedral is, in consequence, emphatically called “Martyrdom;" the martyr being the designation by which Becket was immediately and universally spoken of.
+ As soon as he came within sight of the Church of Canterbury he dismounted, walked barefoot towards it, prostrated himself before the shrine of the saint, remained in fasting and prayer a whole day, and watched all night the holy relics. Not content with this hypocritical devotion towards a man whose violence and ingratitude had so long disquieted his government, and had been the object of his most inveterate animosity, he submitted to a penance still more singular and hu.
two years later gave up all that he had so long struggled for, by repealing the famous constitutions of Clarendon, which had subjected both church and clergy to the civil authority.
It was a noticeable coincidence that, only four year's after the death of Becket, the cathedral was all but destroyed by fire; a calamity, from the opportunity it afforded of developing in a practical shape the passion that filled the universal heart of England to do something memorable in honour of the illustrious martyr. To say that funds poured in from all parts, and in all shapes, gives but little notion of the enthusiasm of the contributors to the restoration of the edifice. The feelings evinced by foreigners show forcibly what must have been those of our countrymen.
“In 1179," says Mr. Batteley, in his Additions of Somner's Antiquities of Canterbury, “Louis VII., King of France, landed at Dover, where our king expected his arrival. On the 23rd August these two kings came to Canterbury with a great train of nobility of both nations, and were received by the archbishop and his comprovincials, the prior and convent, with great honour and unspeakable joy. The oblations of gold and silver made by the French were incredible. The king (Louis) came in manner and habit of a pil. grim, and was conducted to the tomb of St. Thomas in solemn procession, where he offered his cup of gold, and a royal precious stone, with a yearly rental of one hundred muids (hogsheads) of wine for ever to the convent.” The task of rebuilding even a Canterbury Cathedral would be found comparatively light under such circumstances; so the good work proceeded rapidly towards completion, until the fabric appeared of which the chief parts remain at the present time. It is not, therefore, in its associations merely that the cathedral reminds us at every step we take in it of the turbulent and ambitious, but able and brave priest; it may really be almost esteemed his monument; for admiration of his selfsacrifice, veneration of his piety, and yearning to do him honour, were the moving powers that raised anew the lofty roof, extended the long drawn aisles, and nave, and choir. The direct testimonies of the people's affections are still more remarkable. Among the earliesť additions made after the fire to the former place was the circular east end, including the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, and another called Becket's crown; the last so designated, according to some authorities, from the circumstance of the chapels having been erected during the prelacy of Becket, whilst others attribute it to the form of the roof: there may have been, however, a much more poetical origin ; Becket's crown was probably intended to be significant of the crown of martyrdom won here by the slaughtered prelate. It was in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity that the shrine, famous the wide world over, was erected, and which speedily became so rich as to be without rival, we should imagine in Europe. It was “builded,” says Stow, “about a man's height, all of miliating. Ue assembled a chapter of the monks, disrobed himself before them, put à discipline into the hands of each, and presented his bare shoulders to the lashes which these ecclesiastics successively inflicted upon him.
Hume, p. 444.