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with those customs which it could be proved that his ancestors had enjoyed, by the oaths of an hundred Englishmen, an hundred Normans, and an hundred men of his other continental dominions. If this would not satisfy Becket, he would abide by the arbitration of three English and three Norman Bishops: and if this offer also were rejected, he would submit to the Pope's judgement, provided only that his act should not prejudice the rights of his successors. The Legates conceived a hope that Henry would concede the customs, if by so doing he could rid himself of Becket, and that for the sake of succeeding in this point, Becket would resign his archbishopric; but when this proposal was made to him, he replied the concessions were not equal ; the King was bound in duty, and for the good of his soul, to renounce the customs, but he could not surrender the primacy without betraying the Church. And he assured the Pope that he would rather be put to death than suffer himself to be torn while living from his mother, the Church of Canterbury, which had nursed him and reared him to what he was ; ... rather perish by the cruellest death, than shamefully live, while the King was permitted to act as he did, without receiving condign punishment.
At length, peace having been made between the two Kings, it was arranged that at the interview between them Henry and Becket should meet. The latter was with difficulty persuaded to this; and though, to satisfy Louis, he knelt to humble himself before his sovereign, it was with an unbending spirit. His language was so qualified as to show that he yielded not a tittle of the disputed points; and when Henry declared all he asked was that he would then promise, without fraud or fallacy, to keep all the laws which his predecessors had kept in former reigns, and which he himself had formerly promised to keep, the answer still contained the same fatal condition of saving his order: ... to regain the King's favour he would do all he could without prejudice to the honour of God. Henry did not refrain from reproaching Becket with ingratitude and pride ; but subduing this emotion of anger he addressed himself to Louis, in a manner which, if that monarch had been less blindly devoted to the papal court, must have wrought a change in his disposition toward the contending parties. “ Mark!” said he, “my liege !
Whatever displeases him he says is against the honour of God: and with this plea he would dispossess me of all my rights ! But that I may not be thought to require anything contrary to that honour, I make him this offer. There have been many Kings of England before me, some who had greater power than I, others who had less. There have been many Archbishops of Canterbury before him, great and holy men. What the greatest and holiest of his predecessors did for the least of mine, let him do that for me, and I shall be satisfied.” The whole assembly with one accord declared that the King had condescended sufficiently; eren Louis felt, for the time, the fairness of such a proposal, and turning to Becket, who continued silent, asked him, if he would be greater and wiser than all those holy men ? and wherefore he hesitated when peace was at hand ? The inflexible Primate replied, “ It is true, many of my predecessors were greater and better than I. Each of them in his time cut off some abuses, but not all; if they had, I should not now be exposed to this fiery trial; a trial whereby being proved as they have been, I also may be found worthy of their praise and reward. If any one of them was too cool in his zeal, or too intemperate in it, I am not bound to follow his example, one way or the other. I would willingly return to my church if it were possessed of that liberty which in the days of my predecessors it enjoyed; but admit customs which are contrary to the decrees of the holy Fathers I will not: nor give up the honour of Christ, for the sake of recovering the favour of man.”
Becket's own friends were, on this occasion, so sensible of the imprudence ... if not the unreasonableness and unrelenting obstinacy of his conduct ... that they prevented him from proceeding, and drew him forcibly away. The opinion that he no longer deserved protection, when it was now plainly seen that his arrogance was the only obstacle to peace, was loudly expressed; and when the interview ended, it was thought that he had irrecoverably forfeited the King of France's favour. So it appeared from Louis's demeanour, who neither visited him that night, nor sent him food as before from his own kitchen, nor saw him on the ensuing day, before his departure. His followers were in despair, expecting to be banished from the French territories. But that conduct which Louis had seen in its true light when Becket
was in the presence of his King, and the candour of the one was contrasted with the stubborn pride of the other, assumed a different colour when he reflected upon it in solitude, under the influence of unmitigated enmity towards Henry, and unbounded devotion to the Church. Regarding the Primate then as the heroic and saintly champion of a sacred cause, he sent for him, fell at his feet, entreated with tears forgiveness for having advised him to prefer the favour of man before the honour of God, recommended his kingdom to God and him, ... as to a tutelary being, and promised never to desert him and his followers. And when Henry, by his messengers, expressed his wonder that he should continue to abet the Primate after what he had himself witnessed at the interview; “ Tell your King," was his reply, “ that he will not give up certain customs because they appertain to his royal dignity, neither will I give up the hereditary privilege of my crown, which is to protect the unfortunate and the victims of injustice.” There was magnanimity as well as error in this conduct; and perhaps Louis himself was not aware how greatly the satisfaction which he felt, in performing a generous part, was enhanced by knowing that it was the surest way to mortify and injure a rival whom he hated.
In this long contention, (for five years had now elapsed since Becket withdrew from England,) each party had committed acts as unwarrantable as the other could have desired, giving thus just cause of indignation on both sides. The question concerning Becket's accounts as chancellor was altogether slighted by him, as a demand which, but for the Constitutions of Clarendon, would never have been brought forward: nor did Henry press a point, which, whatever he might deem of its legality, he knew to be substantially unjust. But there was a demand upon Henry, in which the Church was too much interested ever to relax its pursuit; ... it was for restitution ... even to the last farthing ... of all that had been taken from the Primate and those who had either followed or been driven after him into exile. Henry had declared that he would make no restitution, and had even sworn that all the property which had been seized on this account, he had bestowed upon poor churches. But Becket ceased not to call upon the Pope to use the rigour of justice; and Alexander, whose letters of admonition produced no effect, sent let
ters of commination now, bidding the King not to imagine that the Lord, who now slept, might not be awakened, nor that the sword of St. Peter was rusted in the scabbard and had lost its edge; and warning him that if restitution were not made before the beginning of Lent, the Primate should no longer be restrained as he had thus long been.
Becket waited till the term prescribed, and then, without informing the Pope of his intentions, thundered out his censures against so many of the King's household, that Henry was surrounded by excommunicated persons, and had scarcely one among his chaplains from whom he could receive the kiss of peace. The Bishops of London and of Salisbury, who were among these persons, appealed to the Pope; and Henry, declaring that he resented this audacious act not less than if Becket had vomited out his poison upon his own person, wrote to Alexander, complaining that he seemed to have abandoned him to the malice of his enemy, and requesting him to annul these injurious proceedings. His desire now was that Becket might be appointed to soine foreign see, and thereby removed from France; such a termination of the dispute Henry would have purchased at any price; if Alexander would do this, he promised to procure for him a peace with the Emperor, to buy over all the Roman nobles of the Ghibelline party, to give him 10,000 marks, and allow him to appoint whom he pleased to Canterbury, and to all the other sees then vacant. He made presents to the Roman barons of Alexander's party, for their interest; and promised large sums to several Italian cities if they could effect it by their interference. The Sicilian court, whose friendship was of the utmost importance to Alexander at this time, was induced carnestly to second these solicitations, and this long contest created hardly less trouble and anxiety to the Pope than to Henry himself. Gladly would he have reconciled the parties, and to his honour it must be said that, though dexterously availing himself of every opportunity to strengthen and extend the papal power, he acted throughout in a spirit of mediation. But Becket's inflexible temper frustrated all his conciliatory plans. Though Alexander exhorted, entreated, and admonished him to suspend the censures which he had passed, till it should be seen what a new legation might effect with the King, and though he
requested it particularly on the Bishop of Salisbury's behalf, on the score of his own long intimacy with that prelate, who moreover had acted not from inclination, but under fear of the King, through the natural infirmity of old age, Becket equally disregarded the advice and the solicitations of the Pontiff, his opinions and his feelings, relying so confidently upon the support of the French King and the system of the Papal Court that he ventured to treat with this disrespect the Pope himself.
The censures indeed produced in England the effect which the intrepid Primate looked for. For the other prelates, though they had hitherto acted in concert with their excommunicated brethren, refused to hold communion with them now, and even, in direct defiance of the King's orders, enjoined all men in their respective dioceses to avoid them, in obedience to the sentence. Becket announced his intention not to spare the King's person if repentance and satisfaction were delayed, and ordered his clergy to stop the celebration of divine service after the Purification, if the King should continue contumacious till that time. However Henry, he said, might affect to threaten, in reality he trembled with fear, seeing the accomplices of his iniquity thus delivered over to Satan. Nothing but punishment could recall him; and when they were crushed, he might be more easily subdued. In this language did he speak of his sovereign; and so nearly was he considered in the light of an independent power engaged in hostilities with him upon equal terms, that the common expression which the Pope as well as he himself used for the proposed accommodation, was that of concluding peace between them. The two Nuncios who were now charged with this negotiation required Henry, for the love of God and the remission of his sins, to restore Becket and take him sincerely into favour : till this should be done, they refused to absolve the excommunicated persons. Growing angry in the debate which ensued, Henry turned away, swearing that if the Pope would not grant anything which he requested, he would take other
“Sir,” said one of the Nuncios, “ do not threaten! we fear no threats, for we are of a court which has been accustomed to give laws to Emperors and Kings.”
After long disputation concerning a written form of reconciliation, in which the King insisted upon saving the dignity of his