Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Council of Northampton (William Fitz Stephen)

Chartres Cathedral Bay18 Panel 09 

Council of Northampton October 1164
By William Fitzstephen

Hence the king afterwards decreed the convening of another General Council, designating Northampton as the place. In the week following Michaelmas, on the Tuesday, the day specified for the Council, that day came; that very same day we arrived at Northampton. That day the Archbishop did not see the king, for the king had gone hawking along the brooks and streams, coming back to Northampton late.

1st Day
The following morning the Archbishop, after having recited mass and performed the office of the hours, came to the court at the king's castle. He was admitted to an antechamber, where he sat down waiting for the king, who was hearing mass at the time. When the king approached he rose respectfully, presenting a constant and placid expression on his face modestly and in anticipation ready to receive the customary English kiss were the king to offer it. A kiss was not received. 

Speaking, the archbishop, the first matter which he raised, was about William de Curci, who had occupied one of his lodgings; he sought an order from the king for it to be vacated. The king gave that order. The deliberation came to the second matter, which concerned the summons itself for which he had come, literally that which John the Marshal had motioned against him, as John was petioning for a parcel of land in a place called Pagham, part of an archiepiscopal manor [of the See of Canterbury]. And when the several days had been assigned to him for the hearing, where he had come into the archbishop's court bearing the king's writ. But he did not gain advantage there, for his case was not supported by any legal right, as the law then stood. He tried, however, at length to prove it as a defect of the Archbishop's court, [by swearing an oath] on a book of tropes brought out from underneath his cloak, but the justiciars of the archbishop's court said that neither should used such a book for this purpose, nor ought he to have brought one. Going back to the king, he emerged with a writ summoning the archbishop to answer him in the king's court, the appointed day for the hearing, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross [14th September]. The appointed day came but the archbishop did not appear. Instead he sent four knights together with the sheriff of Kent to the king['s court], with letters from him bearing witness to John's wrong and defective proof [oath]. But to what end? This caused the king indignation, for the archbishop had been summoned to appear in his own person, if he wished to make those allegations; the king treated the archbishop's messengers badly, in anger annoying them and making threats, as if they had brought into the king's court, contrary to his summons, a sham excuse of no use; and at last, after their having given bail, only after difficulty, he released them. And at the request of the aforesaid John the king appointed another day to hear the same case, giving writs to the sheriff of Kent summoning the Archbishop. Neither at this time, nor for a long time before, did he want him to write to him [personally], because he did not want to greet him. Neither had any letters been addressed to the archbishop first and solemnly when he had been summoned to the Council, as was the ancient custom. I say that the archbishop said that he had come himself to attend the case of John by order of the king. To which the king said, John was on his service in London. He would come in the near future. It was so indeed John was in the treasury together with the other royal fiscal officers, with the coins, moneys and public revenues in London, at a rectangular table made of two coloured stones, commonly known as the Exchequer [like a chessboard], although in fact, it is rather the king's table with white-coloured coins, and also [the court] where the king's pleas are dealt with [The Exchequer of Pleas or Court of Exchequer]. That day nothing further was transacted between the king and the archbishop. The king said to him that he was to go back to his lodgings, but that he was to return on the following day for the trial.

2nd Day

The second day there were in session the bishops, the earls, and all the barons of England, and many from Normandy, except for the bishop of Rochester, who had not yet arrived, and one other. The archbishop was charged with Lèse Majesté against the royal crown, because, of course, as we have already related, in the case of John [the Marshal] for which he had been summoned by the king, neither did he appear, nor was his excuse proper. None of the archbishop's defence was accepted: the alleged above-mentioned wrong committed by John, that the jurisdiction of this case belonged to him, and the integrity of his court. The king called for judgement. The Archbishop's argument was not approved. None of the archbishop's defence was accepted: the allegation of the above-mentioned wrong committed by John, that the jurisdiction of this case belonged to him, and the integrity of his court. The king called for judgement. It seemed to all that, out of reverence to the king's majesty and out of the stricture of liege homage, because of what the archbishop had done to the king, and out of loyalty and respect for his earthly honour, which he [the archbishop] had sworn to him, that his [the archbishop's] defence and excuse was [too] little, because he had not come when he had been summoned by the king, and neither infirmity of the body, nor the necessity of the administration of his ecclesiastical office, could admit postponement through messengers. And they condemned him, saying that as punishment all his money and his moveable chattels should be placed at the mercy of the king. However, when it came to having to pronounce sentence there was a difference [of opinion] between the bishops and the barons, both each imposing it [the duty] on the other, and each making excuses. Said the barons, "You bishops must pronounce sentence. This does not belong to us. We are laity. You are people of the church, as he is, his fellow priests, his fellow bishops." To this one of the bishops [replied]: "On the contrary, rather this is your duty, and it is not for us to own this, for this is not an ecclesiastical sentence, but a secular one. We are not sitting here as bishops, but as barons, and as barons we are equal to you barons. However, it is vain to lean on us by reason of our order, for we have to take into consideration our ordination, and in the very same way, you must too. And it is for that very fact that we, as bishops, cannot pass sentence on our lord, the archbishop." But to what avail. The king, hearing the controversy over the pronouncement, became agitated; to overcome the controversy over this he called upon the Lord Bishop of Winchester to make the affirmation, and finally and reluctantly he [the bishop of Winchester] pronounced the sentence. The archbishop, however, because it is against the law in England to gainsay the sentence or records of the king's court, upon the advice of the bishops, bore it. In concession to the sentence, as is the custom, bail was placed solemnly into the hands of the King to pacify and honour him. All the Bishops stood surety, except for Gilbert, the bishop of London, who when asked to make a pledge said that he did not wish to, a singular act for which he became noted.

Later, on that same day, the archbishop was sued for 300 pounds which had received from the castleries of Eye and Berkhamsted. He first refused the lawsuit , since he had not been summoned for this matter. But not as part of a legal action, the archbishop said that he had used that money, and much more, for the repair of both the palace in London and on the aforesaid castles, as could be seen. The king did not wish to assume responsibility for this, as it had not been authorised by him. He called for judgement. The archbishop out of grace consented to hand over this money to the king, because he did not at all want, however much the money was, for it to be a cause of anger between them; separately he put forward as lay guarantors his vassals the Earl of Gloucester William of Eynesford, and a certain third person. After this came the end of the day; they departed.

3rd Day

Friday, October 9, The third day of the Council, the Archbishop was sent a message via intermediaries to summon him to account to the King for about five hundred marks, which he had borrowed for the Toulouse military campaign, and also, at the same time, for five hundred marks which he had borrowed from a certain Jew on the King's surety. He was also called upon to answer for all the income arising from the benefices under his guardianship of the archdiocese and all the other bishoprics and abbacies which had been vacant at the time when he was Chancellor. For all these he was ordered also to give an account to the King. The Archbishop answered that he had come without being prepared for this as he had not been summoned to give such an account. "On this matter" the Archbishop said, "if I am legally required to be summoned to answer this at a place and time before the King, so be it." The King demanded surety. And the Archbishop said that he ought to take counsel on this latter with his own suffragan bishops and clerks. The King consented to this. Thomas left, and from that day forward, the barons and other knights no longer came to visit him anymore, having understood the king's mind.

4th Day

On the fourth day, all manner of ecclesiastical persons came to visit the Archbishop at his lodgings. Then with each bishop and abbot in turn separately he held discussions about these matters taking their counsel. On the counsel of Henry, the respected Bishop of Winchester, who had ordained him [he had consecrated Thomas as Archbishop in 1162], he promised significant help, that he would make an attempt to see if money would satisfy and could calm the King down: and presented him with two thousand marks. The King refused. Some of the clerks advised the Archbishop that it was the duty of his office to safeguard the Church of God, to defend his person and dignity, and honour the King in all things saving that which did not endanger the reverence due to God and honour due to the Church; that he need not fear the opposition, since no crime, or accusation of corruption could be levelled against him. He had been given over to the Church of Canterbury [upon his consecration] free of chancery and all the King's secular suits: just as if any vacancy for the post of abbot by a monk from another monastery, who would not be elected to this and received from the other house unless he had [first] been exempted and dismissed from all obedience to his [former] abbot. Others secretly inclined towards the King's ear and mind, tell that he was of a very different mind, that the Lord king was wrathful towards this troublesome person. "From the mind of the King by certain signs, we interpret that it was this, for all that the Lord Archbishop, should give up the archiepiscopate, and put himself entirely at the mercy of the King." Among those inclined towards the King was Hilary, Bishop of Chichester, who said to him, "would that you could no longer be archbishop, but remain as Thomas." Here, too, as on other occasions he said concerning it: "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted." [Matthew 15:13], as if to say, because the declared will of the King preceded his election. Concerning which the Archbishop, afterwards in his exile, said to some one "And this man has taken the place of the traitor, Judas, amongst the brethren." And later on, before the Archbishop's recall and the peace [between him and the King], this man, as if slain by God, gave up the ghost. This man from Chichester, pursuing this on behalf of himself and other accomplices, said, "from companionship and the close friendship of the Chancery, you know the king better than we do. Undoubtedly it is noble, whether contending or yielding, it is better that he is won over, by pointing out that, whilst acting as his Chancellor, in both time of peace and in war, you had done so in an upright and a commendably responsible fashion, not without envy, however, and for the praise which he gave you for it. Who in all reason, in view of the uncertain amount of money could possibly find this for you? It is said that the King has said that he can no longer be King in England and you as Archbishop at the same time. It is safer to abandon everything to his mercy, lest by chance, God forbid, as it were, as his chancellor, to account for his money and revenues, as it were, and then to hold you accused of extortion and on bail and it deem that he should lay hands on you or hold you fast you whence the Church in England would feel sorrow and the kingdom would appear to blush in dishonour." Another said, "Lord forbid, that he would consider the safety of his own person and allow himself to bring dishonour on the Church of Canterbury, which chose him for its own. None of his predecessors, however, who also suffered persecution, has done this. Besides the benefit could be that he could justly prevent the archiepiscopal estate, villas and the like falling into the hands of the lord King on this occasion, but, in truth, not so his own office. After the consultations the various opinions were so divided; for some it was to be done this way, for others not so."

5th Day

The fifth day, which, being the Lord's day, was given over to counselling. Scarcely an hour's break was allowed, during which the Archbishop did not leave his lodgings.

6th Day

On the sixth day, a sudden faintness rose up in him, rendering him unable to attend court. In fact his kidneys trembled with cold and pain and he had to have hot pads placed on them. Which, when the King heard this, he sent the earls, and several barons, demanding an answer from him, now that he had received counsel, whether he proposed to render surety of bail for the income accruing from the vacant churches from the time when he was chancellor. Answering through the bishops the Archbishop, evidently because of his adverse state of health, said that he would come to court on the morrow.

7th Day

In the morning at the alter, at matins, the Archbishop celebrated the votive mass of St. Stephen Protomartyr, and singing the Introit which began with these words Princes also did sit and speak against me [Psalm 119]. Immediately the King's secret informers reported the chanting of that mass, spitefully explaining why that particular chant was used and why he made a reference to Stephen Protomartyr [subtle reference to King Stephen], and how this was, by implication, against the King and the Archbishop's persecutors.

After which he proceeded to court. Incidentally, preceding him was his cross-bearer Alexander: "Better I act if I approach with our device of office. " He had proposed to make an entrance with bare feet, wearing his robe of office and advance, in supplication, towards the king bearing the cross , for the peace of the church. But his clerics dissuaded him from this idea, neither did they think he should carry the cross. After climbing down from his horse and was about to enter the hall of the castle, he took into his own hands the cross which Alexander the Welshman had been carrying on the way. There, at the entrance door to the hall, stood the bishop already spoken of, Gilbert of London. Also there was Hugh de Nunant, who was Archdeacon of Lisieux, who had come with the Archbishop and was a member of his household. He said to Bishop Gilbert: "My Lord Bishop of London, why do you let him carry his cross?" The Bishop answered, "My good man, he always was a fool, and always will be."

Everyone indeed, as the Archbishop advanced, let him pass. He made his way to the chamber, sat down in his usual seat The bishop next to him was the Bishop of London. Those present were stunned. Everyone strained their eyes to look at him. The Bishop of London tried to persuade him to give up the cross to one of his own clerics. He said it looked as if he wanted to disturb the whole kingdom. "The cross that you hold in your hands," said London, "what if the King also took up his sword, behold a brave King, behold a brave Archbishop." The Archbishop answered, "If it were possible, I should always carry it in my own hands; but now I know what I am doing. Would indeed that I could preserve the peace of God for my person and the Church in England. You say what you think, but if you were in my position you would feel differently. If our Lord the King, as you say, took up his sword now that scarcely could be understood as a sign of peace." Perhaps this reminded him of the time when the Archbishop had, at Clarendon, received the King's messengers who had come to him and burst into tears.

The King sent for all the bishops. Roger, the Archbishop of York had been last to come to court. He went in last to make people believe he was not of the King's party. That prelate had also had his cross carried before him, "quasi pila minantia pilis." The Pope by letter had prohibited him to have his cross carried before him when in the province of Canterbury. But he did not obey that order. He acted in virtue of an appeal he had made against the prohibition, claiming that the prohibition had come from a false suggestion of the Lord of Canterbury.

And little wonder if pain and cries, and contrition of the heart plagued the Archbishop, for he had heard on that day he was either to be held by some sentence, or if he managed to evade that, of the plots of a group of conspirators against him, who would cut him down and kill him without the King knowing anything about it.

Meanwhile, Herbert, master of the holy scriptures, quietly spoke to the Archbishop: "Lord, if you are sent into their impious hands make ready to have a sentence of excommunication to serve upon them, so that perhaps the spirit might be saved on the day of the Lord." William Fitzstephen who was sitting at the feet of the Archbishop,said to Herbert, in a somewhat louder tone, so that the Archbishop would hear, "Far be it this from him; they, the holy apostles and martyrs of God did not do this, when they were taken and dragged up on high. Rather, if this happens, let him pray for them and forgive, and take possession of his own soul, in its own patience. For if it shall happen that he suffers for the cause of justice, and the freedom of the Church, with the help of the Lord, his soul, thereof, shall be at rest, and his memory blessed. If he were to pass sentence upon them it would seem to all men to have been done from anger and impatience, in vengeance, from the fact that it was possible to for him to do this. Indubitably this would be an act contrary to the the canonical decrees."

Thus wrote the blessed Gregory, to archbishop Januarius: "You demonstrate that you are not thinking of the heavenly way, but show that you follow an earthly way of life, when you cast the malediction of anathemas in vengeance for a personal injury, which is forbidden by the sacred rules."

John Planet on hearing this burst into tears, but continued working. Ralph de Diceto, archdeacon of London, later dean, spent the most part of the day in tears.

The Archbishop listened to these things, and conferred upon them in his heart. After a while the same William Fitzstephen wished to speak to the Archbishop, but was forbidden from doing so by a certain marshal of the king who standing nearby with a staff, saying that no one should speak with him. After an interval, staring intently towards the archbishop, moved his lips and raised his eyes, signalling him to look to the example of his cross and its crucifix, which he held, and using its image, urged him to pray. That, after many years, when the Archbishop was in France as an exile at Saint Benedict on the Loire, he encountered this same William who was on his way to the lord Pope. Among others of their troubles, this story was recalled


The bishops, conferring with the king and the barons within the upper chamber, told the king of the rebuke they had received from the Archbishop that very same day for having joined in the condemnation against him, and how, together with the barons, they had acted deceptively in this case in their judgement of him. They repeated the arguments to the king that he had used to prove the injustice of the penalty. Just because of one absence, he had said, this should not be punished or judged as contumacy, with, at the caprice of the king, the pecuniary loss and sequestration of all his moveable goods. Indeed, this is how the See of Canterbury could be ruined, if the king unmercifully wanted to be obdurate towards him. This, he had further argued, was contrary to established custom: in London, this was fixed at a customary one hundred shillings, but in Kent, which is nearer to the sea and which is exposed in the first line of attack from enemies and had to ward off pirates from the coast of England, and which therefore had to carry heavier burdens, it was only forty shillings. Those having their domicile in Kent should have their case determined subject to the laws of Kent. Furthermore, they told the king that he had made an appeal that same day to the Pope against the sentence, summoning them to be in the presence of his holiness within ten days, and that from that day onwards they were not to pass judgement on him for any secular matter which derived from those times before he was appointed Archbishop, which the authority of the Lord the Pope prohibits.
The king, upon hearing this, was sorely vexed, and sent some of the earls and barons to the Archbishop to ascertain from him whether he admitted to having made this appeal and prohibition, especially as he was his liegeman, and held of him, and since at Clarendon he had promised to keep lawfully, by word of truth, to observe, in good faith, all the king's royal dignities, sincerely and honestly, one of which was that the bishops should attend his court, except in the judgement of those cases involving the shedding of blood. They were also directed to ask him if he would explicitly render the accounts from the time of his chancellorship, and, above all, stand by the judgement of the court. The Archbishop listened to what they had to say. Upon this, in the image of He who was crucified, mind and face firm, seated, the archbishop kept his dignity, brilliantly and calmly, delivered the following response:

Men and brothers, lords, earls and barons of the king, I am indeed bound to the king, our liege lord, by homage, fealty and oath; but most of all to the sacrament of the priesthood which shares company with justice and equity. I am bound by honour and fealty to our lord the king, devoutly and with due submission, for the sake of God, ready to be obedient [to him] in all matters, saving [without prejudice to] the obedience I owe to God, the dignity of my ecclesiastic rank, and my personal honour as a bishop. I reject the litigation, to which neither to explain my reasoning, nor answer to any case other than the suit of John [the Marshal], for which I was summoned, nor to answer in any other case in a judicial hearing for which I may have here been held liable.

I remember, and I must admit, that I received from the king very great offices and dignities, in which I served him faithfully here and overseas; and also, I used all of my own income in the service of his expenses, and I was glad to be able to service most of the creditors to which I was bound.

Since, however, by divine permission, and by the grace of our lord the King, after I was elected as Archbishop but before being consecrated, before the consecration I was granted immunity by the king, and the freedom of the revenues of the see of Canterbury, to enjoy these quietly, peacefully, and free from all litigation in the royal secular courts, although at present, in anger this is denied; many of you noble people, and all the ecclesiastical persons of this kingdom, well know this. And I beg and beseech you to inform others of this truth, that they might advise of these matters to the lord king, against whom, even if it were legal, it is not safe to name witnesses: nor is it necessary because I am not litigating.
After the consecration, I was disposed to take on the honour and burden of responsibility of the work of the church of God over which it was seen that I was to preside and to cultivate that work to produce some benefit for it. In this regard if it is not possible to move forward, if I cannot make any progress because of the winds of adversity, I must impute the cause not to the king, nor to any others, but chiefly to my own sins. Powerful is the Lord to increase his grace with whomsoever and whenever he wants.

I cannot give pledges concerning the rendering of accounts. All the bishops and my helpful friends have already given pledges here. Nor ought I to be forced to do this, for I have not been adjudged for this. Neither should I be tried in a case concerning accounts, because I was not summoned for any such a case, nor have I been [formally] cited in any other case, other than the case concerning John the Marshal. You urge upon me, however, that today that the bishops are prohibited from making an appeal: for my part, I recollect what I said to my fellow bishops, that for a just single absence, which was, however not done with any contempt, they have condemned me more severely than was right, and contrary to the usual custom and practice of a far-back antiquity. And whence I have called upon them, forbidding them to pass judgement in this secular case from a time before I was made archbishop, I repeat, whilst this appeal is pending; and still I call out. that both my person and the Church of Canterbury are placed under the protection of God and of the pope.

When he had finished, the nobles returned, some in silence, to the king, weighing up and examining his words. Others said, <<Behold, we have heard his blasphemy of prohibition from out of his own mouth.>> Some of the barons and king's attendants, walked with their necks twisted around looking backwards with their eyes scornfully at him, speaking to each other quite clearly, so that he would hear. <<King William, who conquered England, knew how to tame his clerics. He dealt with Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, (and also his own rebellious brother, Odo, bishop of Bayeux,) condemning him by throwing him down into a black well [an obliette], in perpetuity in prison till his death. Also the father of the king, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, who had subdued Normandy with a strong hand. Arnulf, bishop elect of Sées and many of his clergy were made eunuchs and had their severed members brought before Geoffrey in a basin, because he had not given his assent to Arnulf's election at the cathedral of Sées.>> Arnulf himself had given the assent, and assumed that he was the person who had been elected.

King received the response from the archbishop, and urged the bishops, commanding them and appealing to the homage and fidelity which they owed him, to pass judgement, so that together with the barons they could declare the sentence on the archbishop. Each began to excuse himself, through the imposition of the archbishop's prohibition. The king refused to accept this, declaring that he does not hold this against the fact that his simple prohibition Clarendon had made ​​a sworn. On the other hand the king applied over the bishops a heavy hand which would aggravate the archbishop, The king did not acquiesce, asserting that it was simple fact that his prohibition did not hold as that which had been at Clarendon had been done and sworn. Conversely the bishops loaded on the king, adding that, that the archbishop who is above them, could aggravate the situation for them, if his appeal and prohibition were not obeyed: and for the good of the king and of the kingdom, will and must be made to obey his prohibition. At last persuaded by the king, the bishops seized by his counsel, they went back to the archbishop. Robert of Lincoln was weeping, and some of the others were barely containing their tears.

Then, reciting [the bishop of] Chichester began thus: <<Lord Archbishop, saving your grace, we have a great deal to complain about you. You have offended most of us, your bishops. You have entrapped us in a narrow alley, as it were, between the hammer and the anvil, with this prohibition of yours. which if it we do not obey we will be guilty of disobedience, and if we do obey this will constitute a royal offence and we will end up fettered. Recently indeed we were gathered with you at Clarendon, we were summoned there by the lord king on a matter concerning the observation of his royal privileges; and lest we would hesitate about what he was talking he showed us a written copy of his customs. Finally we responded with our assent, promised to observe them: you are the primate, after this we are your suffragans [subordinates], at your command.

Towards these our lord the king urged us to confirm on oath, and through the affixation of our seals. We said that it should suffice him that we would swear to him on sacerdotal oath, that we would uphold these royal privileges in good faith, without evil deceit, and in a lawful manner. The lord king was satisfied that he had persuaded us. Against now which you compel us to come, forbidding us, that he is not able to exact from us the present sentence. From this grievance, and lest you might add something towards our injury, we appeal to our lord the pope, and for this once we will render obedience to your prohibition.>>

The archbishop: <<Because you speak, I listen, and it is to the mercy of God I present an appeal of the prosecution. Nothing was conceded by me at Clarendon, nor by you through me, except saving the honour of the church. For, as you yourself said, there we retained these three limitations: in good faith, without evil deceit, and lawfulness, the means by which our churches hold their privileges, which we have by pontifical right. Because indeed, that which is contrary to the faith due to the church and against the laws of God, one cannot observe in good faith and lawfully. Again, a Christian king has no dignity, where the ecclesiastical liberty, which he has sworn to uphold, is lost. Moreover, regarding these same dignities, which you say are royal, the lord king has sent these across to the supreme pontiff for confirmation, but rather than being approved, they were condemned. He has given us an example in doctrine, of what we are to do and be ready like the the church of Rome to receive what it receives, and to refuse what it rejects. Besides, if we fell at Clarendon, for the flesh is weak, we must resume once more the spirit, and in the strength of the Holy Ghost, charge against the Ancient Enemy, who endeavours to ensure that he who stands falls, and who, when once he has fallen,that he does not rise up again. If under a promise we have, under oath conceded and sworn to anything unjust, know that those who swear to anything that is unlawful are not bound by any law.>>

The bishops returned to the king, and with his indulgence 
were excused from judging the archbishop, and they sat apart from the barons. The king demanded no less from his earls and barons than that they should pass sentence upon the archbishop. Some of the sheriffs and barons of the second rank, and those ancient of days were called forth, so that they could be added to those who were to be present when sentence was to be passed. After some delay the nobles returned to the archbishop. Robert, the Earl of Leicester, whose maturity and character of age stood out way above some of the others, imposing as pronounced endeavour again to begin to recall point by point the business which had been transacted at Clarendon, (as I have done above).

Hilary bishop of Chichester said to the Archbishop less cheerfully,<<In this there had been manifest contempt for the royal majesty and a transgression of promises made under oath>>; and he told the Archbishop that he should listen to his sentence.
The archbishop said, as he heard this, <<What is it that you want to do? Have you come to judge me? Judgement is the sentence that is passed after a trial. This day I have not spoken in response to any trial. I have not been summoned here to appear in any case other than that of John [the Marshal], which, as far as I am concerned, has not been proved. For this you cannot pass sentence on me. And for you nobles of the palace, powerful laity, you are secular persons, I will not listen to your sentence>>. 

The nobles withdrew. After an interval the archbishop rose, carrying his cross, he sought the entrance door, which had been for the whole day securely locked, which was now opened for him, of its own accord, as it were. Someone followed bad-mouthing him, saying that he would be forswearing the king by leaving. someone, as it were, saying that if he withdrew, he was a traitor, that he should be arrested for the king's judgement.

Oh, how much he suffered that same day in the spirit of martyrdom, but departed from the sight of the council happier, since it was fitting to have compassion in the name of Jesus. The hall was full of people. Not seeing a bundle of logs he stumbled over it, but did not fall. He reached the entrance door where there were horses waiting for him. He mounted his. Master Herbert, who could not mount his own quickly enough on account of the crowd being too large, was carried by him to their lodgings at the priory of St. Andrew. He said a prayer before the high altar, afterwards he stood his cross beside the shrine of the blessed virgin Mary. He sat down, and his household gathered round him. Then William Fitzstephen spoke, <<Indeed, this day has been bitter one>>. He [the archbishop] replied, << But the last day will be even more bitter>>.

And after a little while, in exhortation, he said: <<Each of you will keep your silence and peace within yourself. Out of love keep your words in your mouth. Do not let them emerge. Do not respond to any slander. Let them jeer. Persons of the superior kind suffer these things; inferior ones do them. As they try to use their tongues, it is thus that we, by our ears, become masters. It is not to me evil is spoken, but because he, of whom the evil is spoken, acknowledges it within himself >>.

The king heard that the archbishop had left. And because his courtiers had pursued after him foul-mouthing, at the behest of Robert de Meldon, bishop of Hereford, or perhaps some other well-educated person, the king directed that a public-crier was to follow after him throughout the streets to proclaim in an authoritative voice, that no one was to sit next to him, or swear at him, or to be troublesome to any of his men in any manner.
The Archbishop ate with his own people late, as he was accustomed to. After dinner he asked all his soldiers who were present to return their homage to him, and thereby obtain their freedom, after which they left in tears because of it. Afterwards the Archbishop sent the king three Bishops, Walter of Rochester, his chaplain, and two others whom he had ordained, Robert of Hereford and Roger of Worcester to ask for his permission, and for a document granting safe-conduct to be given to him to allow him, to leave on the following morning. They discovered the king to be cheerful, but he told them that he [the archbishop] would have to wait until the morning of the following day for an answer. The answer was received through messengers, but because of the delay in receiving the king's response the archbishop was afraid that that brought danger to him.

It was night, the hour assigned to the recitation of Compline. The Archbishop said to his companions, that he wanted to keep vigil in the church. One of the past nights, when he had spent the night in vigil and prayers with his clerics in the church, he had done so there in pain genuflecting at the name of each saint mentioned in the litany. They said to him, some of his clerics, << We will and we want to be with you keeping vigil in the church.>> He said, <<Of course not: I would not have you trouble yourself in the dead of night in the silence of a third.>> They withdrew: no clergy, no soldiers of his company. On the morrow, when the king and all the council learned of it, in spite that it would be easy to sequestrate all the possessions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, these were left to remain in peace, and also without removing any of his officials, because they were here and there was an appeal to Rome. And that on account of these a delegation them to their lord the pope immediately sent to follow on after him, comprising the Archbishop of York, four bishops, Gilbert in London, Hilary of Chichester, Bartholemew of Exeter, and Roger of Worcester, and two earls and two barons, clerics of his house, and of his own household three persons. The rest of the day the council was spent in deliberation about leading the footsoldiers into an insurgent Wales against king Rhys, breaker of treaties, of which is written by individual persons, both ecclesiastical and secular, the king had promised a large number of foot soldiers and fighting men to help the petitioners. The Council was dissolved.

The following morning many and important emissaries [of the king] proceeded to the sea port of Dover, speedily hastened and imagining that the Archbishop might have anticipated them. The Archbishop in between being devout to God, and out of necessity hiding himself, and when night fell journeying, from the fifteen day after Michaelmas , till the second day in the month of November he lingered in England, until a ship with a pilot and sailors whom he could trust, was prepared for him; on the same day, to wit, the faithful departed are commemorated, both he and the messengers that were sent against him crossed over: those latter, however, were driven back by a storm, that the bishop of London with his cope and cowl removed was driven back to Portsmouth. The Archbishop secretly reached Gravelines [Gravenenga]. From there he went on foot, as a pauper, with two fellow servants, as far as a certain barn belonging to the Cistercian abbey of Clairmarais.


William Cobbett; David Jardine (1809). "1. Proceedings against Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury for High Treason 9 Henry II A D 1163"Cobbett's State Trials. Volume 1. R. Bagshaw. pp. 16–.

Universität Zürich Corpus Corporum
William FitzStephen
De concilio apud Northamptonam habito.

Other Translations

Michael Staunton (7 December 2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. Manchester University Press. pp. 103–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6

An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket
by William Fitzstephen
Trans by  Leo T. Gourde 

Leo T. Gourde; Mary Aelred Sinclair (1943). An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket by William Fitzstephen: (part Two). Loyola University of Chicago.

David Charles Douglas (1981). English Historical Documents. Oxford University Press
EHD #129  774-


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