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Kingdom, and Becket upon saving the honour of the Church, all mention of the accounts was waived on one part and of the customs on the other. Upon the point of restitution, Becket would have accepted half the amount of the estimated claim; with regard to the rest, he told his agents, he was willing to show a patient forbearance, because it was expedient that the Church should have something in her power to keep the King in awe with, and to bring out against him, if he should begin new disturbances and seditions. Everything seemed at last to be accorded, when the negotiation was broken off, because Henry would not consent to go through the customary form of giving the kiss of peace; this he said he could not do, though willing to have done it, because in his anger he had publicly sworn that he would never give it to Becket; but he protested that he would bear no rancour against him. The Primate was not satisfied with this; the French King, who desired the continuance of a contest so harassing to his enemy, encouraged him not to accede to any terms without this form; and the Nuncio admonished Henry to comply with what was required of him, for otherwise repentance would come too late.
The effect of this was not what the Nuncio expected. It roused the King's spirit, and he sent orders from his French dominions, where he then was, to England, that any persons carrying an interdict thither, should be punished as traitors, and all persons
who should act in obedience to it be banished with all their kin, and suffer confiscation of all their goods. He directed also that Peter-pence should be paid into his treasury, and no longer to the Pope ; and required an oath from all his subjects to obey these orders.' The laity without hesitating took this oath, which was actually an abjuration of obedience to the Primate and the Pope, and was so denominated at the time. The clergy as generally refused, and Becket privately sent over letters to absolve the laity from observing it. ... But the crisis was not so near as Henry apprehended; the negotiation was again renewed, and an agreement proposed on his part, upon the general terms that each should perform what he owed to the other. Meantime, he was pursuing a business at the Court of Rome, which he had greatly at heart, and which eventually brought about the shocking catastrophe of this long and perplexed drama.
For many reasons, he had long wished to have his eldest son crowned,—the surest method he thought of precluding any struggle for the succession after his own death. With this intention he had obtained a bull, while the see of Canterbury was vacant, empowering him to have the ceremony performed by what Bishop he pleased; this bull had been revoked virtually though not directly; now, however, Alexander by his apostolic authority enjoined the Archbishop of York to officiate in this function, as one belonging to his see.
It does not appear by what persuasions he was induced to this compliance: but there was a disgraceful duplicity in his conduct; he earnestly desired Henry to keep this permission secret from Becket, and yet shortly after, at Becket's desire, prohibited the Archbishop of York and all other English Bishops from performing the ceremony, declaring it was the privilege of the see of Canterbury. But the ports were so well watched that Becket could find no means of introducing his inhibitory letter, and the Prince was crowned.
In giving the permission, Alexander had carefully asserted the pretensions of the Papal Court, granting, by St. Peter's authority, and his own, and with the advice of his brethren, that Prince Henry should be crowned King of England. It was a severe mortification to Becket thus to be defrauded, as his friends called it, of what he had so long sighed for, and to see the Prince, who ought to have reigned by none but him, made King by another. This was their language, and it shows the entire dependence upon the Church to which they would have reduced the royal authority. He had the farther mortification of learn. ing that the Pope had commissioned his Legates to absolve the Bishops of Salisbury and London, calling the latter, whom Becket regarded as the worst, being indeed the ablest of his enemies, a religious, learned, prudent, and discreet man. Becket's indignation at this was unbounded, and using language which he would have been the first to condemn in another, he declared that St. Peter himself, were he upon earth, could not have power to absolve such impenitent sinners ; Satan, he said, was let loose to the destruction of the Church ; Barabbas was freed, and Christ crucified a second time.
This temper was encouraged by some of his friends, who, for
the purpose of serving him more effectually, had continued about Henry's person, and communicated to him the information thus treacherously obtained. They advised him to use no farther forbearance, but to pour out his whole spirit, and unsheath his whole sword. May the eye of God,” said they, “ look with favour upon you, and the sheep of his pasture; and give his Church the glory of a victory over Princes, rather than an insincere peace with them !” Thus excited, he wrote letters to England, peremptorily placing the kingdom under an interdict ;but here he was baffled, for the letters could not be introduced. He was in this temper, when Legates were again appointed by the Pope to effect an accommodation; and he wrote to them, warning them against the artifices of Henry, whom he called “ that monster,” and bidding them suspect whatever he might say, as deceitful.
“ If,” said he," he perceives that he cannot turn you from your purpose, he will counterfeit fury, he will swear and forswear, take as many shapes as Proteus did, and come to himself at last ; and if it is not your own fault, you will be from that time a God to Pharaoh.” The Legates however had received wiser instructions from Rome, and everything was now adjusted, except that Henry still objected to give the kiss, by reason of his oath, proposing that it should be given in his stead by the young King his son; and Becket demurred at this, saying the form was essential, as one established among all nations, and in all religions, and without which peace was no where confirmed: but that, if he accepted it from the young King, it might be said he was not in the father's favour. To remove this obstacle, Alexander, though unsolicited, had absolved the King from his oath. On a like occasion, Henry I. had refused to consent to such a dispensation, saying, “ it was not consistent with a King's honour, for who would afterwards trust to a sworn promise, if it were shown by such an example that the obligation of an oath might so easily be cancelled ?” This was too generous as well as too wise a precedent for his grandson to have overlooked, had it been in his power to pursue the same straight and dignified course; but at this time the circumstances in which he was placed were so critical that he deemed it expedient to submit in this point to his imperious subject, desiring only, that as his interview with Becket was to be
in the French territories, the ceremony might be delayed till he returned to his own. To this Becket consented, and they met in a meadow near Frettevalle, in the district of Chartres, and upon the borders of Touraine, where the Kings of England and France had held conference on the two preceding days.
On Henry's part no appearance of sincerity was wanting. As soon as he saw the Primate at a distance, he galloped forward to meet him, uncovered his head, and prevented his salutation, by first greeting him. They then withdrew together, as if familiarly discoursing. But Becket's discourse was, by his own account, (for no third person was present,) far less conciliatory than his manner. He urged the King to make public satisfaction for the great injuries which he had done the Church, and asked, whether, in despoiling Canterbury of her ancient and acknowledged right, he had wished to perpetuate enmity between the Church and her children? He advised him to avert from himself and from his son the wrath of God, and of those Saints who rested in the Church of Canterbury and were grievously injured by this proceeding; he bade him remember that, for many ages, no one had injured that Church without being corrected, or crushed, by Christ our Lord; and he also observed to him, that the consecration of a King, like other sacraments, derived its whole validity from the right of the administering person to perform the office. Becket represents the King as having replied, that Canterbury, which was the most noble of all the western Churches, should be redressed in this point, and recover its pristine dignity in all respects. But he added, . . to those persons who have hitherto betrayed both you and me, I will, by the blessing of God, make such an answer as traitors deserve. It is much more likely that this should mean those persons who, while they pretended to agree with the King, had corresponded with Becket and spurred him on to extremities, than that Henry should have alluded to the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London, as the Primate seems to have understood. For at these words he alighted, and threw himself at the King's feet: Henry also alighted, and ordered him to remount, and held the stirrup for him, and said, “ My Lord Archbishop, what occasion is there for many words ? Let us mutually restore to each other our former affection, and do one another all the good we can,
forgetting the late discord.” Then returning to his retinue, he said aloud, that if he did not show to the Archbishop such good will as he had now found in him, he should be the worst of men.
The business of the interview yet remained, after the first, and as it seemed the most difficult, step had been taken. Henry sent the Bishops who were with him, to desire that Becket would now, in the presence of the assembly, make his petition; these messengers advised him to throw himself and his cause upon the King's pleasure ; which, as the terms had in fact already been adjusted with the Pope, would have been the wisest and most decorous course. But this he rejected, as the iniquitous counsel of Scribes and Pharisees; and determined, with the advice of his own friends, to submit nothing to the King, neither the question concerning the customs, nor of the sequestration, nor of the coronation, nor of the damages which the Church had suffered in her liberties, and he in his honour. Instead of this, he petitioned by the Archbishop of Sens, that the King would restore the Church of Canterbury with its possessions, and his royal favour, and peace and security, to him and his; and that he would graciously be pleased to amend what had presumptuously been done against him and the Church in the late coronation ; promising, on his own part, love and honour, and whatever could be performed in the Lord by an Archbishop to his Sovereign. A very different form of words had been concerted with the Pope; but Henry felt that this was no place for disputing. He may have felt also, that when words were purposely made vague enough to admit of large interpretation, the advantage which they afforded was not to the claimant only. He agreed to all, and declared that he received the Primate and his friends into favour. They passed the evening together, and it was settled that Becket should go to take leave of the French King, and then come to Normandy, to make some abode in the court and near the King's person, that it might be publicly seen into what favour he had been received. When he was about to depart, the Bishop of Lisieux proposed to him, that on the day of indulgence he should absolve the excommunicated servants of the King, then present, showing thus to others such favour as he and his friends had received. But he evaded this : the