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on board, unless he took better counsel. From one of his retinue, the Archdeacon of Sens, being a foreigner, they required an oath of allegiance, which Becket forbade him to take, because it contained no saving clause in favour of the papal and ecclesiastical authorities. The point was not pressed by the Sheriff, who feared the temper and the numbers of the people. Becket then proceeded to Canterbury. He was met by all the poor and peasantry of the country: sore experience had made them feel the difference between living under an intrusive Lord, whose tenure was uncertain, and the regular system of the Church, which was always liberal and beneficent. Hope, gratitude, and personal attachment, led them to welcome him, with every demonstration of joy; but the impious application of Scripture must have been suggested by the Priests, when these simple people spread their garments in the way before him, and sung, “Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord !” The parochial Clergy of Canterbury went out in solemn procession to meet him, and finally the Monks received him into their convent, bells ringing, the organs pealing, and the quire echoing with hymns of triumphant thanksgiving.
On the morrow came messengers from the suspended Prelates, notifying to him that they appealed from the sentence to the Pope. There came also officers from the young King, requiring him to absolve them from their censures, the act itself being injurious to the King, and subversive of the laws. He replied, “ that it was not in the power of an inferior judge to release from the sentence of the superior ; though in fact he possessed that power in two of the cases, and would have possessed it in the third, if by his own especial desire it had not been withheld. . . They contended warmly on both sides, the men with whom he disputed being as resolute as himself. He offered at length, for the peace of the church, and in proof of respect for the King, to absolve them at his own peril, provided they would take an oath before him to obey the Pope's injunctions in this affair. The Bishops of Salisbury and London, when this was notified to them, were disposed to have consented; but the Archbishop of York observed to them, that it was against the laws to take such an oath without the King's permission ; and he declared that, if it were necessary, he would spend eight thousand marks of silver, which
he had by him, to restrain the obstinate arrogance of that man. It was their duty and their interest, he said, to be true to the King, and to him he advised that they should go. Accordingly they embarked for Normandy.
Before their departure, they despatched an account of these proceedings to the young King, representing that the end of Becket's conduct would be to tear the crown from his head. Becket also sent to justify his conduct, but his messenger was not admitted to an audience. He then set out himself to see the young King at Woodstock, and to visit his whole province, for the purpose of plucking and rooting out what had grown up in disorder during his absence ; that is, to turn out all persons who had been presented to benefices during that time. The Clergy of Rochester attended him to London, where the populace received him with acclamations. But on the following morning came an order from Woodstock, forbidding him to enter any of the King's towns or castles, and ordering him to retire with all his retinue within the verge of his Church. He answered haughtily, “that believing himself bound in duty to visit the whole of his province, he would not have obeyed the order,
had not Christmas been close at hand, on which festival he meant to officiate in his cathedral.” To Canterbury therefore he returned. The government had shown more firmness than he had expected. The higher clergy and the better citizens who had gone out to meet him were summoned to give bail upon a charge of sedition, for having thus received the King's enemy. Persons of rank kept away from him; and men who for their own sakes desired to render any accommodation impossible, endeavoured, even at Canterbury, to provoke him and his servants by studied indignities. Becket wrote to the Pope, that the sword of death was hanging over him, and desired his prayers. He told his Clergy that the quarrel could not now end without blood, but that he was ready to die for the Church ; and in his sermon on Christmas-day, he said to his congregation, that his dissolution was near, and he should quickly depart from them; one of their Archbishops had been a martyr, and it was possible they might have another. And then, in a strain of bold, fierce, fiery indig. nation, (for so his admiring friends and biographers have described it,) he thundered out his invectives against most of the King's
counsellors and friends, and excommunicated three of his enemies by name, with all the appalling forms of that abominable rite.
Meantime the Archbishop of York and the two Bishops had repaired to the father King in Normandy, imploring justice for themselves and the whole clergy of the kingdom. Henry was incensed at hearing what had passed, and observed with an oath, that if all who consented to his son's coronation were to be excommunicated, he himself should not escape. He asked their advice. "It was not for them,” they replied,“ to say what ought to be done.” Indeed they knew not what to advise, and no evil meaning can be imputed to them for saying, “ that there would be no peace for him or his kingdom while Becket was alive.” This was the plain truth; and Henry, in his despair of ever being suffered to rest by this ungrateful and treacherous friend, (for as such he regarded him,) and in his indignation at this fresh instance of unprovoked hostility, called himself unfortunate in having maintained so many cowardly and thankless men, none of whom would revenge him of the injuries he had sustained from one turbulent Priest ; . . . words which expressed, with culpable indiscretion, a wish for Becket's death, and were too hastily understood as conveying an order for it. It is certain that no such order was intended; but it is not surprising that men who were zealous in his service, and in no way scrupulous how they served him, should have imagined that what the King wished, he would gladly have them perform. Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Richard Brito, and Hugh de Moreville, who were all gentlemen of his bed-chamber, knights and barons of the realm, bound themselves by an oath that they would either compel the Primate to withdraw the censures, or carry him out of the kingdom, or put him to death, if he refused to do the one, and they found it impossible to effect the other; with this determination, they hastened to England, unknown to the King or any other person, and unsuspected, .
The result of Henry's counsel was the legal and proper measure of sending over three Barons to arrest Becket. These messengers were too late.
The ministers of vengeance, who were before them, landed near Dover, and passed the night in Ranulf de Broc's castle, one of the persons whom Becket had excommunicated on Christmas-day, and to whom interested motives
for his marked enmity to the Primate are imputable, because he was in possession of great part of the sequestered lands. He supplied soldiers enough to overpower the knights of Becket's household and the people of Canterbury, if resistance should be ‘attempted. They entered the city in small parties, concealing their arms, that no alarm might be excited. The Abbot of St. Augustine's, who was of the King's party, received them into his monastery, and is said to have joined counsel with them. About ten in the morning, they proceeded with twelve knights to Becket's bedchamber; his family were still at table, but he himself had dined, and was conversing with some of his monks and clergy. Without replying to his salutation, they sat down opposite to him, on the ground, among the monks. After a pause, Fitzurse said they came with orders from the King, and asked whether he would hear them in public or in private ? Becket said, as it might please him best, ... and then, at his desire, bade the company withdraw; but presently apprehending some violent proceeding from Fitzurse's manner, he called them in again from the antechamber, and told the Barons that whatever they had to impart might be delivered in their presence. Fitzurse required him to absolve the suspended and excommunicated Prelates. He returned the old evasive answer," that it was not he who had passed the sentence, nor was it in his power to take it off.”. A warm altercation ensued, in which Becket insisted that the King had authorized his measures, in telling him he might, by ecelesiastical censures, compel those who had disturbed the peace of the church to make satisfaction ; this, he affirmed, had been said in Fitzurse's presence. Fitzurse denied that he had heard any thing to that purport;- and indeed Becket himself must have known that, if such permission had ever been given, it certainly was not in the latitude which he now chose to represent.
The four Barons then, in the King's name, required that he, and all who belonged to him, should depart forthwith out of the kingdom, for he had broken the peace, and should no longer enjoy it. Becket replied, “ he would never again put the sea between him and his Church.” Their resolute manner only roused his spirit, and he declared, that if any man whatsoever infringed the laws of the Holy Roman See, or the right of the
Church, be that man who he would, he would not spare him.“ In vain,” said he, “ do you menace me! If all the swords in England were brandished over my head, you would find me foot to foot, fighting the battles of the Lord !” He upbraided those of them who had been in his service as Chancellor. They rose, and charged the monks to guard him, saying they should answer for it if he escaped ; the knights of his household they bade go with them, and wait the event in silence. Becket followed them to the outer door, saying, he came not there to fly, nor did he value their threats. “We will do more than threaten!” was the
Becket was presently told that they were arming themselves in the palace-court. Some of his servants barred the gate, and he was with difficulty persuaded by the monks to retire through the cloisters into the cathedral, where the afternoon service had now begun. He ordered the cross to be borne before him, retired slowly, and to some who were endeavouring to secure the doors, he called out, forbidding to do it, saying, “ You ought not to make a castle of the Church ; it will protect us sufficiently without being shut; neither did I come hither to resist, but to suffer." By this time the assailants, after endeavouring to break open the abbey gates, had entered, under Robert de Broc's guidance, through a window, searched the palace, and were now following him to the cathedral. He might still have concealed himself, and not improbably have escaped. But Becket disdained this: with all its errors, his was an heroic mind. He was ascending the steps of the high altar, when the Barons, and their armed followers, rushed into the choir with drawn swords, exclaiming, “ Where is Thomas à Becket? where is that traitor to the King and kingdom?” No answer was made ; but when they called out with a louder voice, “Where is the Archbishop?” he then came down the steps, saying, “ Here am I; no traitor, but a priest; ready to suffer in the name of Him who redeemed me. God forbid that I should fly for fear of your swords, or recede from justice !” They required him, once more, to take off the censures from the Prelates. “No satisfaction has yet been made,” was the answer, and I will not absolve them.” Then they told him he should instantly die. “Reginald," said he to Fitzurse, “I have done you many kindnesses ; and do you come