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Theobald's death, and was attended by Thomas archdeacon of Canterbury, whose services there were so necessary to him, that whatever thoughts he might have of his succession, that chair was not filled till the year following.
The king having determined to put that important trust into the hands of his present chancellor, in order thereto he sent him into England, where, by the appointment of Henry the father, his son Henry, lately crowned king of England, summoned a council to meet at London; and the prior and some of the monks of Canterbury being commanded to attend that assembly, the said prior and monks, with the concurrence of the bishops of the province, elected Thomas Becket', provost of Beverly, archdeacon of Canterbury and lord chancellor of England, archbishop. To fit him for that great station he was ordained priest on Trinity Sunday this year (1162), and in the beginning of June following was consecrated bishop, by Henry bishop of Winchester, assisted by several other bishops of the province. This prelate was the son of a merchant, and born in London, and is said to be the first Englishman advanced to the see of Canterbury since the Norman conquest. He was at this time the great favourite and minister of Henry the Second, and at his desire chosen archbishop ; and as chancellor he had acquitted himself so much to the satisfaction of the king and the court, that from his great complaisance and address in that post, the king had formed a mighty expectance, and promised himself a freedom from the disputes and broils, which the stiffness of Anselm and some other of this prelate's predecessors had drawn upon the kingdom.
But the king too soon saw himself deceived, and the ground of his hopes turned back upon him. For no sooner did that prelate change his character, but his air and address became new too, and his conversation and conduct had a turn so different from what they appeared before, as too plainly showed the king he had
1 Thomas Becket.] “ Thomas a Becket. This is a small error; but being so often repeated, deserveth to be observed and corrected. The name of that archbishop was Thomas Becket ; nor can it otherwise have been found to be written in any authentic history, record, calendar, or other book. If the vulgar did formerly, as it doth now, call him Thomas a Becket, their mistake is not to be followed by learned men.” Henry Wharton's Observations subjoined to Strype's Memorials of Archbishop Cranmer ; Appendix,
misplaced his hopes and favours, and that there wanted nothing but opportunity and instructions from the court of Rome, to render this prelate the fittest instrument to consummate that usurpation which was already become insupportable to the church and kingdom; and the trusts which he had passed through, served only to increase and give still greater reason for the suspicion and fears of the king. However, things passed quietly the first year.
Pope Alexander the Third, as has been said before, finding himself very uneasy at Rome, and by the power of the emperor Frederick, who had espoused the interest of his rival pope Victor the Fourth, so shut up in Italy, that he could not without great difficulty keep up a correspondence with France, England, or Spain ; and having for that reason ground to suspect, that the emperor might bring those nations over to his adversary; at least make such impressions as might be to his disadvantage ; he left Rome, and sailed to France ; and the better to concert measures with the clergy of France and England, called a council, which met at Tours in France about Whitsuntide this year (1163).
This put so colourable an opportunity into the hands of the new archbishop of Canterbury, to concert measures for the carrying on what his after conduct gives one reason to think he had before projected, that he could not overlook it. Therefore he applied himself to the king, and having obtained his leave, he, accompanied by Roger archbishop of York and the bishop of Durham *, went over into France. Pope Alexander received the archbishop of Canterbury with all the marks of honour and esteem; and in return, if we may rely on the authority of Neubrigensis, he secretly resigned his archbishopric, because, as that author saith, he had received his investiture from the hands of the king b; and then took it back again from the hands of the pope
Baronius agrees that he resigned his bishopric to pope Alexander, but fixes the resignation after the council of Clarendon when that prelate fled into France, and says, the reason of this resignation was for that his conscience was troubled, because he chiefly owed his election to the archbishopric to the favour of the
* Baron. Annal. ann. 1163. N. 2.
king a And herein Baronius follows the writers of his life; and if he be not mistaken in the time he fixed for this affair, it is very probable he is not mistaken in the reason and true ground thereof. For beside the many papal canons which had been made upon that subject, King Henry the First did in the year 1107 give up his right to the investiture of bishops', and it does
· Annal. ann. 1164. N. 30.
· Investiture of Bishops.] “ The king's” (Henry I.)“contests with the church, concerning the right of investiture, (A.D. 1108) were more obstinate and more dangerous. As this is an affair that troubled all Europe as well as England, and holds deservedly a principal place in the story of those times, it will not be impertinent to trace it up to its original. In the early times of Christianity, when religion was only drawn from its obscurity to be persecuted; when a bishop was only a candidate for martyrdom; neither the preferment, nor the right of bestowing it, were sought with great ambition. Bishops were then elected, and often against their desire, by their clergy and people; the subordinate ecclesiastical districts were provided for in the same manner. After the Roman empire became Christian, this usage, so generally established, still maintained its ground. However, in the principal cities, the emperor frequently exercised the privilege of giviny a sanction to the choice and sometimes of appointing the bishop; though, for the most part, the popular election still prevailed. But when the Barbarians, after destroying the empire, had at length submitted their necks to the gospel, their kings and great men, full of zeal and gratitude to their instructors, endowed the church with large territories and great privileges. In this case it is but natural that they should be the patrons of those dignities, and nominate to that power, which arose from their own free bounty. Hence the bishoprics in the greatest part of Europe became in effect, whatever some few might have been in appearance, merely donative. And as the bishoprics formed so many seigniories, when the feudal establishment was completed, they partook of the feudal nature, so far as they were subjects capable of it; homage and fealty were required on the part of the spiritual vassal ; the king on his part gave the bishop the investiture, or livery and seizin of his temporalities, by the delivery of a ring and staff. This was the original manner of granting feudal property, and something like it is still practised in our base-courts. Pope Adrian confirmed this privilege to Charlemagne by an express grant. The clergy of that time, ignorant, but inquisitive, were ready at finding types and mysteries in every ceremony: they construed the staff into an emblem of the pastoral care, and the ring into a type of the bishop's allegorical marriage with his church ; and therefore supposed them designed as emblems of a jurisdiction merely spiritual. The papal pretensions increased with the general ignorance and superstition; and the better to support these pretensions, it was necessary at once to exalt the clergy extremely, and, by breaking off all ties between them and their natural sovereigns, to attach them wholly to the Roman see. In pursuance of this project, the pope first strictly forbade the clergy to receive investitures from laymen, or to do them homage.
not appear that this usage was resumed either by king Stephen or by the present king. But it is very evident that the court of Rome began about this time to be very impatient of allowing princes any share in the election of bishops; and the archbishop's
A council held at Rome entirely condemned this practice: and the condemnation was the less unpopular, because the investiture gave rise to frequent and flagrant abuses, especially in England, where the sees were on this pretence with much scandal (often) held long in the king's hands, and afterwards as scandalously and publicly sold to the highest bidder. So it had been in the last reign, and so it continued in this.
“Henry, though vigorously attacked, with great resolution maintained the rights of his crown with regard to investitures, whilst he saw the emperor, who claimed a right of investing the pope himself, subdued by the thunder of the Vatican. His chief opposition was within his own kingdom. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, a man of unblamable life, and of learning for his time, but blindly attached to the rights of the church, real or supposed, refused to consecrate those who received investitures from the king. The parties appealed to Rome. Rome, unwilling either to recede from her pretensions or to provoke a powerful monarch, gives a dubious answer. Meanwhile the contest grows hotter: Anselm is obliged to quit the kingdom, but is still inflexible. At last the king, who, from the delicate situation of his affairs in the beginning of his reign, had been obliged to temporize for a long time, by his usual prudent mixture of management with force, obliged the pope to a temperament, which seemed extremely judicious. The king received homage and fealty from his vassal : the investiture, as it was generally understood to relate to spiritual jurisdiction, was given up, and on this equal bottom peace was established. The secret of the pope's moderation was this : he was at that juncture close pressed by the emperor, and it might be highly dangerous to contend with two such enemies at once; and he was much more ready to yield to Henry, who had no reciprocal demands on him, than to the emperor, who had many and just ones, and to whom he could not yield any one point, without giving up an infinite number of others very material and interesting.
“As the king extricated himself happily from so great an affair, so all the other difficulties of his reign only exercised without endangering him.” Burke's Essay towards an Abridgment of the English History. Works, vol. x. p. 437. 8vo. 1812.
This is the best concise account I have seen of Henry's struggle in the question of the investiture. But looking at the turn of some of the expressions, it may not be improper to remind my reader, that Burke, at least at the time when this work was written, was a Roman Catholic.
On the same dispute, see also Southey's Book of the Church, vol. i. p. 128—31. 134,5. 137,8. edit. 1824; an exact and masterly compendium, which, with Blunt's History of the Reformation, ought to be in the hands of every young person of suitable condition in the kingdom.
Consult also, for the general history of this question, Inett, vol. ii. p. 24–7, 92–101, 104–9, and 238, &c., part of the extract now before us.
pretence of being troubled in conscience', for being advanced by the interest and recommendation of the king, was at this time
1 Troubled in conscience.] It will be right here to turn to Inett's account of the previous practice of the church of England in the appointment of bishops, and of what took place in the cases of the four immediate predecessors of Becket:
“The elections of bishops had hitherto ever had their beginning from the crown. The method observed from the Conquest had been this : Whensoever the see of Canterbury became void, the time of filling it was governed by the pleasure of the king; and when he had first resolved upon disposing that great trust, he sent his summons to the prior and convent of Canterbury, to depute some of their body to attend him at some meeting of a great council, to assist in the choice of an archbishop, where, with the advice of that assembly and the suffrage of the bishops of the province, a person nominated by the king was usually chosen. Thus Lanfranc, and Anselm, and William, the three preceding archbishops, were advanced to that great station.
“But in the summons of the legate (Alberic, bishop of Ostia) to the aforesaid council of Westminster (December A.D. 1138), directed to Jeremy the prior, and the convent of Canterbury, that prelate requires that the prior, with a number of the convent, sufficiently empowered for the election of an archbishop, should attend upon the council. Nor was he content thus to break in upon the rights of the crown in making the first step in this affair ; but in the same instrument he tells the prior that their election being thus made, and consented to by the bishops of the province, the king cannot and ought not in justice to deny his consent. Such an insult upon the rights of the crown was too open to be overseen by the king (Stephen), but the ill posture of his government made him wink at it; and his brother the bishop of Winchester had set his heart upon Canterbury, and was not to provoke the legate, who by the bold and insolent manner in which he had set the business of the election into motion, without the knowledge of the king, had given ground to believe that the conduct of that affair would fall into his hands.
“ But it happened here as it generally does when some present views lead men out of the ways of law and justice. The compliment made to the bishops of the province in asserting their rights to a vote in the choice of their own metropolitan served only to render their rights an easier prey, by separating them from the rights of the crown.-Such was the case of the convent too. Neither did the king nor his brother find their accounts in this matter. The king was afraid to trust a new accession of power in the hands of his brother, whose authority in his capacity of legate had already overshadowed the royal power; and therefore, notwithstanding the passion of his brother for the vacant chair, the king secretly favoured the interest of Theobald, abbot of Bec in Normandy: and this so influenced the election, that Theobald was chosen archbishop of Canterbury.” Inett, vol. ii. p. 179, 80.
Compare Twisden's Vindication, p. 54, thus: “Our writers do wholly look upon the placing of Lanfranc in Canterbury as the king's act, though it