Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Disputes between Becket and King Henry II which led to the Constitutions of Clarendon

History records several disputes, events and cases which led directly to the formulation of the Constitutions of Clarendon, and which were the beginnings of signs of the difference of opinion on matters of state between Becket and King Henry II.

Becket, soon after his elevation to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, began to organise a major programme or campaign for the recovery to the Church and for his See all those lands and properties which had been taken from it in the then recent  and previous decades prior to his appointment. It did not matter to him how seemingly important or powerful the current occupiers of these properties were, which included among their number, the king's own direct tenants-in-chief and even the king himself, they were all to be persuaded to give them up and return them to the Church. All such properties for which it was known for certain within living memory of any person at that time that the Church was the owner, then that was proof enough, the properties were to be immediately reclaimed, seized and taken back into the possession of the See, by force if necessary, without the need for any litigation.  But where such property has lapsed into other hands for a longer time, then the testimony of reliable men or documentary evidence was to be used to prove the Church's ownership.

Among the properties Becket claimed for the See of Canterbury was the constableship and wardenship of the tower of Rochester, which was formerly in the possession of the See but which was, at the time, held directly by the King himself. He also demanded from the King the custody of the castles of Saltwood (Hythe, Kent)as likewise also appertaining to the See of Canterbury, arguing that the King had acted most illegally in his resistance, as the grants to the See by Henry I, the King's direct ancestor, and other former kings could not just be set aside by his successors. (There existed a deed signed in 1026 by Canute and a number of archbishops and noblemen, including Earl Godwin, conveying Saltwood Castle to the Church.) Hythe was once one of the Cinque Ports and of considerable significance to the defence of the realm such that it was defended by two castles, Saltwood and Lympne. But during the reign of King Canute the manor of Saltwood had been granted by deed to the priory of Christ Church in Canterbury, but during the 12th century it was for a while to become the home and possession of Henry d' Essex, a royal appointment, Constable of England. But at Easter 1163 Henry d' Essex was tried and convicted as a traitor at a trial and his estates and offices were forfeit to the king. His castles and property were then subsequently given over by Henry II to Ranulf de Broc. It was this Becket sought to recover from the king. It was this matter which probably subsequently subsequently made Ranulf an particular enemy of Becket.

Among the other possessions belonging to the See of Canterbury was the homage due by the Earl of Clare for the castle of Tonbridge. Roger De Clare, third Earl of Hertford and fifth Earl of Clare (this particular earl was, at the time, a significant military baron in King Henry II's campaign to subdue South Wales) in July 1163 he was summoned to do homage by Becket in his capacity as steward to the archbishops of Canterbury for the castle. He refused, based on the grounds that he held the castle of the King and not of the archbishop. In this refusal he was strongly supported by Henry II.


John Philipot; Thomas Philipot (1776). "Saltwood"Villare Cantianum: Or, Kent Surveyed and Illustrated. Being an Exact Description of All the Parishes, Boroughs, Villages, and Other Respective Manors in the County of Kent; ... pp. 298–.

Tonbridge Castle and its Leuga or Lowry

Lowry [Leuga]= Square League or Banlieu

Familytreemaker.genealogy.com. 2013. 
Richard FitzGilbert de Clare.

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. pp. 71–

Ramsay: The Scholar's History of England ... Volume 2. p. 35-

Norman J. G. Pounds (1994). The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Political and Social History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-0-521-45828-3.

Robert Liddiard (2003). Anglo-Norman Castles. Boydell Press. pp. 46–. ISBN 978-0-85115-904-1

Adrian Pettifer (2002). English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 130–. ISBN 978-0-85115-782-5.

Thomas K. Keefe (1 January 1983). Feudal Assessments and the Political Community Under Henry II and His Sons. University of California Press. pp. 11–. ISBN 978-0-520-04582-8

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