Friday, 7 September 2012

Becket's Letter: Desiderio desideravi

Extract from a Letter to King Henry II
Late May - early June 1166

This was one of the more significant letters that  was sent by Becket to King Henry II, when he was in exile in France. It was the second of three written appeals to the King to see the case from his point of view. It was conveyed by Abbot Urban and read aloud before the King whilst he was holding a council at Chinon. Henry rejected the implications and content of the letter.

The words desiderio desideravi, which the letter begins with, are a reference to Luke 22:15 (The Latin Vulgate Version), to the Last Supper, when Jesus said "with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."

A Latin version of this letter is to be found here

Roger (of Wendover)
Chronica, sive Flores historiarum,.

Desiderio desideravi videre faciem vestram et
vobiscum loqui, multum quidem proplaer me, sed
maxime propter vos, ut, visa. facie mes, reduceretis
ad memoriam servitia, quae dum essem in obsequio
vestro exhibui vobis devote juxta. animi mei con-
scientiam; sic me Deus adjuvet in examine ultimo,
quando omnea adatabunt ante tribunal ipsius recep-
turi prout geaserunt. in corpore, sive bonum sive
malum; et ut moveremini super me, quom oportet
inter alienos vivere mendicando. Propter vos uti-
qua tribus do causis, tum quia dominus meus estis,
tum quia rex meus, tum quia filius meus spiritu-
alis; in eo quod dominus, debeo et offero vobis
oonsilium meum, eo quod rex, teneor vobis ad reve- ,
rentiam et oommonitionem, eo quod filius, ratione
officii ad castigationem et cohortationem. Inungun-
tur reges in capite, in pectore, in brachiis, quod
significat gloriam, sanctitatem et fortitudinem; regi-
bus, qui temporibus antiquis justificationes Dei non
observabant et praevericati sunt mandata ejus, his
sublata est gloria, sanctitas et fortitudo, exemplo
Saulis et Salomonis, qui vero post delictum humili-
averunt se Domino, his Dei gratin accessit, sicut
Davidi, Ezechiae et aliis quampluribus. Audiat, si
placeat, dominus meus consilium servi sui, com-
monitionem episcopi sui, castigationem patris sui,
ne cum schismaticis habeat do caetero aliquam
familiaritatem vel communionem, nec contrahat ali-
quid cum eis; memoresque sitis professionis, quam
fecistis et posuistis scriptam super altare, de ser-
vanda eeclesiae Dei libertate quando in regem con-
secrati  Esclesiam etiam Cantuariensem, a.
qua promotionem accepistis, in eum statum resti-
tuatis et dignitatem, in quibus fuit temporibus
praedecessorum vestrorum at nostrorum; alioquin '
pro certo sciatis, quod divinam severitatem et
ultionem sentietis.

A far fuller Latin version is found here

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, canonized by pope Alexander III, A. D. 1173. Vol. 2 / ed. by James Craigie Robertson,...
Longman (London) (1875-1885) PP 419-21

Michael Staunton (2006). Thomas Becket and His Biographers. Boydell Press. pp. 103–. ISBN 978-1-84383-271-3

Extract and Translation:
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (2000). The Correspondence of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162-1170: Letters 1-175. Oxford University Press. pp. 292–. ISBN 978-0-19-820892-1


For God's Church consists of two orders, the clergy and the people. Among the clergy are apostles,Popes, bishops, and the other teachers of the Church, to whom is entrusted the care and rule of the Church itself, who have the ability to conduct ecclesiastical affairs so that they may direct the whole to the salvation of souls. This is why it was said to Peter, and in Peter to the other governors of God's Church, and not to kings or princes, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church; and the gates of the underworld shall not prevail against it)" Among the people are kings, princes, dukes, earls, and other men of power, who have the ability to conduct secular affairs, that they may bring the whole to the peace and unity of the Church. And since it is certain that kings receive their power from the Church, and the Church receives hers not from them but from Christ, if you allow me to say so, you do not have the power to command bishops to absolve or
excommunicate anyone, to draw clergy to secular judgments, to pass judgment concerning churches and tithes, to forbid bishops to hear cases concerning breach of faith or oaths, and many other things of this kind, which are written down among your customs, which you call ‘ancestral’. For the Lord says, ‘Keep my laws’;” and spin, he declares through the Prophet, ‘Woe to them who make unjust laws and set down injustices in writing to oppress the poor in judgement and deprive God’s humble people of their right'." ...


Michael Staunton (2006). Thomas Becket and His Biographers. Boydell Press. pp. 103–. ISBN 978-1-84383-271-3 

Saint Thomas (à Becket) (2000). "Letter 74". In Anne Duggan. The Correspondence of Thomas Becket: Archbishop of Canterbury 1162-1170. Oxford University Press. pp. 292–9. ISBN 978-0-19-820892-1

 Rogerus (de Hoveden) (1868). Chronica. Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer. pp. 233–.

Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). OperaVolume 1. Parker. pp. 64–.

Thomas Becket (st., abp. of Canterbury.) (1845). Epistolæ sancti Thomæ Cantuariensis ... et aliorum, ed. ab I.A. Giles. pp. 365–

Epistolæ sancti Thomæ Cantuariensis ... et aliorum, ed. ab I.A. Giles (1845)

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