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who had been his followers and counsellors asserted these things as eye-witnesses, and affirmed, that upon the spot where he was slain, and before the altar, where his corpse was laid out, and at his tomb, paralytics recovered strength, the lame walked, the blind obtained sight, the deaf heard, and the dumb spake. The ministers who were about the young King endeavoured at first to stop these impudent and impious impostures; but they took no measures for exposing them; and the delusion spread, many being interested to support it, and the multitude, as usual, believing with eager credulity.
So effectually were these frauds practised, and so villanously encouraged by the papal court, that within two years after his death, St. Thomas of Canterbury was canonized in form, and the 29th of December, being the day of his martyrdom, dedicated to him in the kalendar. It was affirmed, that till the murderers were absolved from the excommunication which had been passed against them, dogs would not take food from their hands; and that even when they had been released from these censures, upon contrition, they remained, as long as they lived, trembling as if with palsy, and disturbed in mind like men whom horror had distracted. What marvel ? The martyr himself had said that his blood cried from the earth for vengeance more than that of Abel ; and it was revealed that his place in Heaven was higher than that of St. Stephen, and of all other martyrs ! His brains were sent to Rome; and devout persons at Canterbury were shown his skull, in one part of the church, and in a chapel behind the high altar, what was said to be his face, set in gold. The Abbey of St. Augustine's exchanged several houses and a piece of ground for a portion of his scalp. The rust of the sword that killed him was tendered to pilgrims, that they might kiss it; and a fraternity of mendicants stationed themselves by the wayside on the road to London, where they levied contributions upon pious travellers, by virtue of the upper-leather of his shoe. No arts, no falsehoods, no blasphemies were spared which might raise the reputation of the new shrine above all others in England : lost members were said to be restored there, and the dead, even birds and beasts, restored to life : parallels were drawn between this turbulent, ambitious, unforgiving churchman, and our Lord and
| Alford, iv. 244.
Saviour himself; and a prayer was introduced in the service of his day, for salvation through the merits and blood of St. Thomas à Becket. These abominable artifices were successful. A jubilee was accorded every fifty years, when plenary indulgence was to be obtained by all who visited his tomb: 100,000 pilgrims are known to have been present at one of these seasons ; and at this day it may be seen where their knees have worn the marble steps.
The cathedral itself was commonly called St. Thomas's; and in the account of one year it appeared, that more than 6001. had been offered at Becket's altar, when at the altar of Christ nothing had been presented.
If at the commencement due vigilance had been exerted, this superstition might have been crushed in the germ, and the exposure of the tricks and falsehoods which were systematically practised might have produced a salutary effect upon public opinion. But the Prelates, who were most interested in the detection of these artifices, were with the King in Normandy; possibly too, had they been on the spot, the fear of injuring the craft, and the knowledge that they had to make their peace with the Pope, might have withheld them. We should remember also that those disorders over which the imagination possessed any power, were actually healed at Becket's shrine in many cases, and in very many were suspended or relieved for a time; and they who had witnessed or experienced one such fact, were ready to believe any exaggeration or any falsehood; what they knew to have happened was to them miraculous, and therefore nothing could appear impossible. Not having opposed the delusion in time, Henry yielded to it. His sons had taken arms against him; France and Flanders were allied against his continental dominions, and the Scotch invaded England. If Henry himself did not account the death of St. Thomas of Canterbury among the evils which had brought these calamities and dangers upon him, such an opinion was professed by his enemies, and likely to have a disheartening influence upon his friends. And as the Pope had authorized and enjoined prayers to the new saint, that he should intercede with God for the clergy and people of England, Henry, either from prostration of mind, or in policy far less to be excused, determined to implore his intercession in the most public manner, and with the most striking cir
cumstances. Landing at Southampton, he there left his court and the mercenaries whom he had brought over, and set off on horseback with a few attendants for Canterbury. When he came within sight of its towers he dismounted, laid aside his garments, threw a coarse cloth over his shoulders, and proceeded to the city, which was three miles distant, barefoot over the Alinty road, so that in many places his steps were traced in blood. He reached the church trembling with emotion, and was led to the martyr's shrine; there, in the crypt, he threw himself prostrate before it, with his arms extended, and remained in that posture, as if in earnest prayer, while the Bishop of London solemnly declared, in his name, that he had neither commanded nor advised, nor by any artifice contrived, the death of Thomas à Becket, for the truth of which he appealed to God; but because his words, too inconsiderately spoken, had given occasion for the commission of that crime, he now voluntarily submitted himself to the discipline of the Church. The monks of the conrent, eighty in number, and four bishops, abbots, and other clergy who were present, were provided each with a knotted cord; he bared his shoulders, and received five stripes from the prelates, three from every other hand. When this severe penance had been endured, he threw sackcloth over his bleeding shoulders, and resumed his prayers, kneeling on the pavement, and not allowing a carpet to be spread beneath him : thus he continued all that day, and till the midnight-bell tolled for matins. After that hour, he visited all the altars of the church, prayed before the bodies of all the saints who were there deposited, then returned to his devotions at the shrine till day-break. During this whole time he had neither ate nor drank; but now, after assisting at mass, and assigning, in addition to other gifts, forty pounds a year for tapers to burn perpetually before the martyr's tomb, he drank some water, in which a portion of Becket's blood was mingled. He then set off for London, where he found himself in a state incapable of exertion, and it was necessary to bleed him. The believers in Becket have not failed to remark, that on the morning when Henry completed his reconciliation with the canonized martyr, the King of Scotland was defeated and taken.
There is good reason for affirming, that Henry had not changed his opinion either concerning Becket's conduct, or the original
cause of their dispute, but his mind was broken by the ingrati. tude of his children: some remorse he justly felt, for the expression of a wish which had led to the murder; and above all, his extreme licentiousness of life degraded him intellectually, as well as morally, and made him catch at all the substitutes for repentance which the Romish superstition has provided. Some centuries after his death, the terms upon which he had made his peace with the Church were published at Rome; and an article then appeared among them, whereby he and his eldest son engaged, for themselves and their posterity, to hold the kingdom of England in fee from the Pope and his successors.
There were stronger motives for forging such a condition at the time when it was brought to light, than there could have been for concealing it when it was made, and keeping it secret during the reign of his son John. Without such an act of submission, without obtaining even the direct cession of any of the points in contention between Becket and the King, the court of Rome had gained more in England by the progress of the dispute, than it had ever been able to effect against the steadier policy of the Norman kings. For by pursuing a just cause violently and precipitately, through right and wrong, Henry involved himself in such difficulties, that the appeal to Rome, which he would not allow in his subjects, as being derogatory to the royal dignity, was resorted to in his own case, as a resource; and the authority of the Pope to interfere and determine between Kings and their subjects, was thus acknowledged by the most powerful Prince in Europe, for such unquestionably Henry was when this dispute began. And in the case of Becket's canonization, a more im. portant victory had been gained over the public mind : the cause for which he was worshipped as a saint and martyr, and which Heaven had ratified and approved by a profusion of miracles, was not the cause of Christian faith or Christian practice, but of the Roman Church ; its temporal power had been the sole point in dispute, and they who venerated St. Thomas of Canterbury, as they were now enjoined to do, necessarily believed that the authority of the Pope was supreme on earth.
It is not sufficiently remembered, in Protestant countries, how often that authority (though as little to be justified in itself as in the means whereby it was upheld) was exercised beneficially,
and to those ends which form the only excuse for its assumption. An instance of its proper exertion occurred, when Richard Ceur-de-Lion, having been villanously seized, on his return from the Holy Land, by the Duke of Austria, was villanously purchased from him by the Emperor, and put in chains. The indignation which this excited in the other German princes, honourable as it was to them, would hardly have sufficed to obtain his release, unless the Pope had interfered and threatened the Emperor with excommunication, if he persisted in thus wrongfully and inhumanly detaining the hero of Christendom. The fear of such a measure, which might have armed all Germany against him, overcame the feelings of personal hatred, and the base intrigues of Philip Augustus of France, for perpetuating Richard's captivity ; and the unworthy Emperor restored him to his subjects, upon payment of an enormous ransom.
Upon Richard's death, the clergy acted as unjust a part as they had done in raising Stephen to the throne: they assisted in electing John, to the exclusion of Arthur, his elder brother's son ; Hubert the Primate, in a speech which has not unfitly been called a seed-plot of treasons, arguing that the crown was elective, and that the worthiest member of the royal family ought to be chosen. For the former part of the assertion there was some ground; the right law of succession had often been departed from, and the evil of so doing had been severely proved : the latter position would have excluded the very person in whose behalf it was advanced, for John's character was already notorious; and perhaps there is no other King recorded in history, who has rendered himself at once so despicable and so odious. The motives for this choice were, the weighty one, of obedience to King Richard's will; the specious one, that the nobles would be able to maintain their rights against a sovereign of whom they exacted a promise to respect them, and who derived his own right from their suffrages ;-and the wicked one, of the Queen-mother's hatred for her daughter-in-law, the mother of Prince Arthur. The Primate did not live to witness the whole consequences of this unhappy election, but he saw enough to repent of the part which he had borne in it, as the worst action of his life.
Upon his death, a dispute arose concerning the appointment