Friday, 28 December 2012

Council of Westminster from Thómas saga erkibyskups:

Thómas saga erkibyskups:
a life of Archbishop Thomas Becket, in Icelandic,
with English translation, notes and glossary, Volume 1

Quarrel between the King and the Bishop.

Unto this council in London proceedeth the lord arch-
bishop Thomas with such pageantry, that he hath in his
company the blessed council aforementioned. Thither
come also bishops and abbots, canons and clerks. King
Henry, too, is there, accompanied by all his barons and a
multitude of mighty folk. The meeting having been
opened, no long while weareth away ere the lord king
taketh up the speech for the harming of the clergy,
reasoning in the following manner :

" We have been silent a while," said he, " and listened
" meekly, how ye, bishops, are willing to dispose your-
" selves towards royal rights and our rule here in
" England. Now that we have been watching your
" proceedings, we have been thinking and peacefully
" searching our mind, as to what kind of fault ye might
" happen to have found in us, that we must needs be
" deemed less worthy than other kings, who have been
" before us, to wear an untottering crown, in virtue
" of such law-enactments and royal prerogatives, as
" each one has had and enjoyed in due succession, and
" no learned men before you listed to withdraw from
" royal honour. Now altiiough matters of this kind
" multiply daily, according as your boldness waxeth
" more and more, we yet desire as at this time, to turn
" our speech chiefly towards those men of forfeited lives
" whom you name clerks, but whom we call so much the
" worse than layfolk, in that they have had the fool-
" hatdiness to push themselves into the honours and
" ordinations of holy church, turning her dignity and
" liberty into mockery and fell thraldom ; for they may
" by rights be far rather called the doers of the works
" of the devil, than consecrated clerks, who forbear
" doing any kind of mischief much less even 'than lay-
" folk who lead all the days of their life in honouring
" and obeying the law. Now ye, the bishops, maintain,
" that it is written in your canon, that such dishouour-
" able things should be protected, and withdrawn from
" rightful punishment, in that ye think that none be-
" side yourselves alone are able to understand the laws
" of the emperor or those of the church ; but with
" greater truth we know, that there are with us men
" so wise in either law, as to be well fit to root out
" your own misunderstandings or utterly to refute
" them. These men have testified such to be a tine
" interpretation of the law, that evil-doers, even such
" as are ordained, shall be delivered unto rightful
" punishment by kingly power. We therefore demand
" of you, the bishops, by the honour and the obe-
" dience you owe the crown, that ye deliver all such
" clerks as you let wrongfully slip away from our
" power into sundry places inland as well as abroad,
" into our hand for rightful punishment, and as to this
" matter we desire to have clear answers from you."

Now the blessed archbishop Thomas, having heard this
speech of the king, which seemeth to him right harsh
against the church, holdeth a council with his wise
men, as to what is to be taken up in so troublous a
matter. But since they had ever one heart and were
of one assenting mind in good things, the sentence of
all of them is one and the same, according to the example
of the apostles, that they ought to obey God rather than
men. Now as soon as the archbishop has heard, and
given his whole heart's consent to, what they say, he has
the bishops summoned before him, to whom, when they
had all assembled, he thus speaketh:-

" Now need exacteth that we pay good heed as to
" how we answer the speech of the king ; but my own
" mind I may speak without delay: that the dignity
" and freedom which God gave to his church by the
" institutions and the framed laws of the other shall
" never come to nought through a word of consent
" from me, and the same we desire that ye should do."

They answer : -

" And whereas you are set to be our head and lord,
" it behoves, that you should give out the answers on
" our behalf, but to us it becometh, not to part from
" you."

The archbishop further speaketh : -

" Prepare your mind for patience and episcopal stead-
" fastness, for the wrath of the king is ready for all of
" us. if we arise against his will, and fain will we
" suffer for the name of God whatsoever stones may
" befall rather than purchase for ourselves worldly peace
" by everlasting peril"

They all said yea, they would
stand firmly; and thus they come before the king.
The blessed archbishop Thomas then beginneth his
errand in this wise : -

" Let it be the unfeigned desire of us, the bishops,
" to honour- and worshipfully to heed your will in all
" things, my good lord, if it timii not against that
" which is right But if it setteth itself up thwart-
" ingly against the will of God, and the laws and
" dignity of the holy churchy we neither may nor
" dare give our assent to it. We pray your power,
" that you deign to take for your guide the laudable
" examples of other good lords ; for it will not be found,
" where Christian rule is rightfully holden and law-
" fully warded, that a consecrated person be judged
" as an unconsecrated one ; for the ancient decrees of
" the holy fathers ordain even thus : -

" clerks shall
" be taken in such unseemly deeds as manslaughter,
" theft, or robbeiy, they shall for a beginning be sus-
" pended from all offices, and be entirely deprived of
" all goods coming from the church ; then be excommu-
" nicated and degraded from all orders ; and, thus
" degraded and dishonoured, they are amenable to lay-
" folk law, but not till then. Now a second time, we
" pray your lordship, in all humbleness, that you may
" be pleased, not to introduce into your country any
" novelties against the holy church, for if you are of
" a mind to establish such laws as shall go straightway
" against the right of God, it is not for us, the bishops,
" to give consent to such things. I also desire, in all
" lowliness, to let you know, that the sentences which
" the holy fathers have settled to be law for the up-
" holding of holy church, shall not come down in this
" country whilst I may hold them up."

Thus the archbishop closeth his speech. But king
Henry answered thereto in great anger : -

" Know ye, for sure," said he, " that through your
" ill-will and violence I am nowise likely to lay down
" the royal dignity ; for by rightful succession we have
" come to the throne and its honours after my mother's
" father king Henry the old, and therefore we demand
" of you yet once more, that you allow to the kingdom
" freedom and peace, law-amendments and land-customs,
" such, and as many, as may be shown to have obtained
" in his day, and to this we demand your plighted
" consent."

Unto this the archbishop answered : -

" All praiseworthy customs here in the land will we
" hold saving our consecration and the unimpaired
" right of God."

Now all the bishops stand here awhile as if following
the words of the archbishop, to hold to the royal customs,
saving their consecration. But now that the king be-
cometh mad at this word with such a furious anger, as
if aU his power had been fordone, one of the bL^ops,
hight Hilarius of Chichester, as aforenamed, may nowise
bear this, but tumeth his words about and giveth an-
other hue to them. It fell, however, right deservedly,
that in thrusting faith away from him, he reaped there-
for no thanks from the king ; far rather the contrary,
because a little later the king springeth up from his
high seat with these words :-

" Although ye now huddle together, all of you, under
" one shield against us, ye shall nowise have a victory
" to boast of, for in such way shall matters fare, that if
" any man among you presumeth, from this day to dis-
" turb our realm, the same shall according to desert
" have to pay right dearly therefor."

With these hard words the king bringeth the meeting
to a close. But the lord archbishop lets sharp words
of chiding drop on the bare brows of bishop Hilary, for
the fickle and hireling-like manner in which he held his
stand even through the very first trial. But how great
a spite there must have been in the king's mind now,
may appear from this, that the very first night after
the meeting he rideth away from London stealthily,
ere even day did dawn, so that none of the bishops
gave him a blessing or bade him fare well.


Thómas saga erkibyskups: a life of Archbishop Thomas Becket, in Icelandic, with English translation, notes and glossary, Volume 1
Volume 65 of Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores
Volume 65 of Chronicles and memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the ages
Volume 65 of Rerum britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, or Chronicles and memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages
Thómas Saga Erkibyskups: A Life of Archbishop Thomas Becket, in Icelandic, with English Translation, Notes and Glossary, Eiríkr Magnússon
Editor Eiríkr Magnússon
Publisher Longman & Co., 1875

Thomas saga erkibyskups :fortælling om Thomas Becket erkebiskop af Canterbury (1869)
Carl Rikard Unger (1869). Thomas saga Erkibyskups. B.M. Bentzen. pp. 330–

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