Saturday, 26 January 2013

The case of Philip de Brois , about July 1163

The most infamous case concerning a Criminous Clerk, was that of Philip de Brois. Relations between Becket and king Henry II came to a crisis over this matter. This matter occurred in or around July 1163, at a time when Henry and Becket were both in London. 

Simon Fitz-Peter, one of the king's justices in eyre (circuit judge) in Bedfordshire, complained that he had been insolently treated by a cleric, called Philip de Brois.  The latter had been accused of the murder of a knight, tried in the court of the bishop of Lincoln and acquitted. But one of the king's officers, wishing, from an old grudge he bore him, that the cleric should be ruined, brought up the charge again and insisted that it should be heard in the lay or king's court. Philip de Brois refused to be tried again on the grounds that he was a cleric, and poured abuse upon the justice. The justice formally complained about the abuse he had been given to the king. 

The various different chroniclers each give a very different account of the story this case. In summary we can state the following. King Henry insisted that the man should be tried again for the murder, and anew for his insulting language. Becket claimed the trial for his own court at Canterbury, and there the accusation, which had already been heard and judged, was, of course, dismissed; while for the abuse a sentence of scourging was given, together with a heavy pecuniary punishment. King Henry was dissatisfied with this sentence and declared that the bishops who had judged the case had had more respect for the archbishop than for him. "By God's eyes," he said, "you shall make oath to me that you gave a just judgment and spared the man not because he was a clerk."

William FitzStephen's account

Item, erant regis justitiarii itinerantes aliquando apud Dunstapulam : orta est aliqua altercatio inter Simonem filium Petri et quendam canonicum Bedefordiae Philippum de Brois. Questus est postea Simon regi, quod eum Philippus, in obsequio ipsius et magna audientia, turpiloquio inhonorasset. Coram archiepiscopo Philippus super hoc a rege redargutus, cum negare non posset, respondit, se convitiis provocatum calore iracundiae dixisse, non animi judicio. Exegit rex judicium. Clerus ad regem mitigandum decrevit, per annum beneficio praebendae suae simul et regni inhabitatione Philippum privandum. Ita factum est : nec tamen regi satisfactum est.

Also, at one time there were some the king's itinerant justices at Dunstable. an altercation broke out between [one of them] Simon fitzPeter and a canon of Bedford, Philip de Brois. Simon later complained to the king that whilst in the king's service, and in front of a large audience, Philip had dishonoured him using foul language. In the presence of the Archbishop Philip contradicted the king,  but when he could not deny it, he answered that he had been provoked by the heat of anger, and spoken without the judgement of the mind. The king demanded justice [retrial]. The clergy in order to please the king decreed that Philip should lose his benefice [prebend] for one year and likewise be deprived of his habitation.  So it was done: however the king was not satisfied.

Roger de Potigny's [Anonymous I's] account

Nec multo post tempore facta est iterim inter eos contentio vehemens, pro quodam canonico nomine Philippo de Broc; qui super interfectione cujusdam militis a quibusdam fuerat impetitus. Is enim quum coram episcopo suo super objecto sibi homicidio sufficienter respondisset ; et deficientibus in causa adversariis ; ipse ad innocentiam suam certius comprobandam se sacramento purgasset : iterum eum in causam revocare nitebatur quidam Simon, filius Petri, quem rex in partibus Pedefordiae, ubi idem Philippus morabatur, judicem constituerat. Philippus autem de causa jam finita et ordine judiciario terminato iterum respondere noluit : praesertim ante laicam justitiam : quinimo ipsum Simonem pertinacius instantem cum indignatione a se repulit, multis eum afficiens convitiis et contumeliis. Rege itaque apud Londonias constituto ; accessit ad eum memoratus Simon, retulitque ei omnia qum sibi Philippus intulerat.  Quibus auditis rex in furiam versus, solito suo more per oculos Dei terribiliter jurabat ; sic se habere convitia illa militi suo illata, ac si sibi ipsi intulisset Philippus: quapropter absque mora eum judicari praecepit. 

Archiepiscopus autem quum praesens esset, et haec audiret. "Nequaquam," ait, "ita fiet nam clericorum judices laici esse non possunt. Quicquid autem iste vel alius quilibet de clero excesserit, in ecclesiastica debet emendari curia. Quapropter quicquid est illud quo rex laesum se queritur, vel miles ejus, Cantuariam veniat vel mittat, indeque plenam justitiam ex ecclesiastica auctoritate reportabit.  Rex vero vehementer irascens et multa dicens, tandem licet invitus quosdam episcopos et proceres ad diem sibi ab archiepiscopo constitutam Cantuariam transmisit, qui quum venissent, Philippum de veteri querela homicidii instanter impetebant. Quumque causam ecclesiastico judicio terminatam iterari non debere judicatum fuisset, ventum est tandem ad contumelias regio militi illatas. 

Quod cum Philippus minime inficiari dignaretur, (erat namque vir magnus et de magno genere,) adversarii ejus prosilientes in medium, "Judicium," inquiunt, "de evidenti et non negata injuria postulamus."  Et cum Philippus se ad spontaneam satisfactionem offerret, nihilominus tamen eum judicari oportuit. Diffinitum est igitur, ut Philippus per biennium praebendam suam in manu regis admitteret, et rex iterum de reditibus ejus quod vellet faceret; ipse vero ante militem, nudum se, secundum morem patrim satisfacturus, offerret. Revertentibus autem qui missi fuerant et quod gestum erat conferentibus; rex honorem suum laesum que abjudicatum esse respondit. Episcopi vero cum se juste judicasse dixissent excepto quod Philippum ultra quam meruisset, pro pace et honore regis gravassent, rex magis inardescens, "Per oculos," ait, "Dei, vos ipsi mihi jurabitis, quod verum expresseritis judicium." Sed nimis longum erit, si per singula prosequi voluerimus, qum vel a rege improbe vel ab archiepiscopo constanter dicta seu facta sunt : quapropter iis omissis, ad communem ecclesiae causam accedamus.

Not a long time after this [the Council of Woodstock, 1163] it came to pass again that another violent struggle arose between them, over a certain canon by the name of Philip de Broc, who had been accused by some of the killing of a certain knight. Philip had already sufficiently answered the case of the murder before the bishop; and that the cause of his adversaries had been deficient, further he had himself proved his innocence with a greater certainty, by the sacrament of purging his soul. However a certain Simon fitzPeter, whom the king had appointed as judge in the district of Bedford, in the same district where Philip resided, tried to have the case recalled, and for Phillip to face the charge again. Phillip, however, answered that he was unwilling to respond to the case for a second time as it had already been concluded, and that all judicial matters had been determined, and especially he refused to appear before a lay justice.  But further, at the same time that he persistently rejected this, this same Simon was confronted with Philips anger, and distressing insults, and the many abuses that were hurled at him.

The King was in London and Simon approached him. He mentioned and referred the king to everything that this Phillip had said and done. Upon hearing this the king flew into a fury, and in his usual fashion he most  terribly did swear "by the eyes of God"; anyone whom had abused a knight of his was to be treated as if they had insulted him personally, such as that which this Philip had done, wherefore he ordered him to be held and judged without delay.

However, the archbishop, who was also present, heard this . "By no means," he said "can clerics be brought before lay judges. Whatever, whether this case or that, for which any cleric might have been accused, this must be in an ecclesiastical court corrected. Therefore, for whatever reason about that which the king complains of or has been offended by, or his knights, let him come or be sent to Canterbury, and there answer before the full justice of the ecclesiastical authority."

The king truly became exceedingly angry, and after saying much, at last reluctantly allowed that some bishops and noblemen to be sent to Canterbury, where on the day appointed by the archbishop,  after they had arrived, they were urgently to deal with the prior charge of the murder committed by Philip. But as soon as it was concluded that the case must not be adjudged a second time by ecclesiastical justices, they came finally to the case of the insults brought by the royal knight. But since Philip deigned little enough to deny this, (inasmuch as he was an important man and a descendant from an important family,) his adversaries jumped up in the middle of the proceedings declaring, "We demand justice based on the evidence and undenied injury that has been done." But since Philip was offering himself for a voluntary penalty, likewise how yet he ought to be judged. It was therefore held, that for two years Philip's prebend was to be delivered into the hands of the king, for to the king to receive all the income he might make from this; and that then truly before the knight [he had insulted], he was to bare himself, according to the custom of the land, so that he may offer satisfaction. However, the outcome which had been sent back and which the decision had been reached in conference, the king replied that his honour had been injured, and he rejected it. The bishops truly said they had rightly judged, except that beyond that which Philip had deserved, for the peace and honour of the king they had made worse, the king greatly glowed, "by the eyes of God, " he said, "you will swear to me that you have pronounced truth in this judgement." But it would take a very long time if we were to follow through all that was said, either that which was shamelessly uttered by the king, or that which came firmly from the archbishop: wherefore with these matters laid aside, we can now come to the common cause of the Church [and the dealings which took place at the  Council of Clarendon, January 1164].

Roger of Wendover's account

Extracted from

The Clergy subjected to lay jurisdiction.
Quod rex decrevit, ut a laicis clerici punirentur. 

Eodem anno rex Henricus volens in singulis, ut dicebat, maleficia debita cum severitate punire, et cujuscumque ordinis dignitatem ad quum trahi dispendium, incongruum esse asseruit, clericos a suis justiciariis in publico flagitio deprehensos episcopo loci tradere impunitos decrevit enim, ut quos episcopi invenirent obnoxios, praesente regis justiciario, exauctorarent, et post curiae regis traderent puniendos. In contrarium sentiebat archiepiscopus, ut quos exauctorent episcopi a manu laicali postmodum non punirentur, quia bis in id ipsum puniri viderentur. Huic controversiae praestitit occasionem Philippus de Broc, canonicus Bedefordensis, qui, tractus in causam propter homicidium in regis justiciarium verbum protulit contumeliosum ; quod cum negare coram archiepiscopo non posset, praebendum suae beneficio multatus est et per biennium a regno pulsus ; et hic nono loco apparuit perturbatio regis contra archiepiscopum.

This chapter taken verbatim from Diceto, col. 536.
De Broc is  de Brois in Stephan. p. 32, and Quadrilog. p. 32. 

Translation by J.A. Giles

Extracted from

How the king decreed that the clergy should receive punishment from the laity. 

The same year king Henry, wishing always, as he asserted, to punish crimes with due severity, and that the dignity of all orders should be treated fairly, asserted it was un-reasonable that his justices should be obliged to hand over clerks, when convicted of crimes, to the bishop of the diocese, without punishment ; and he ordered that all clerks whom their bishops found guilty, should be deprived of their orders, in presence of the king's justiciary, and afterwards be delivered over for punishment to the king's court. The archbishop maintained the opposite opinion, that none, who were deprived of their order for a crime by their bishop, should receive any further punishment from a lay tribunal, which would look like inflicting a double punishment for a single offence. This controversy owed its origin to Philip de Broc, canon of Bedford, who, when arraigned on a charge of murder, used contumelious language towards the judge. This he was unable to deny when he was had up before the archbishop, wherefore he was deprived of his prebend, and banished the kingdom for two years. This was the ninth cause of bad feeling between the king and the archbishop.

To this Matthew Paris adds: —" Pope Octavian died, and the emperor Frederic substituted another in his place. Reading abbey was dedicated this year by the archbishop, in presence of the king and the bishops." 

Ralph de Diceto's description

Rex Anglorum volens in singulis, ut dicebat, maleficia debita cum severitate punire, et ordinis dignitatem ad iniquum trahi compendium incongruum esse considerans, clericos a suis judiciariis in publico flagitio deprehensos episcopo loci reddendos decrevat ut quos episcopus inveniret obnoxios, praesente justiciario regis exauctoret, et curiae traderet puniendos. In contrarium sentiebant episcopi, quos enim exauctorarent a manu laicali contendebant protegere, alioquin bis judicaretur in idipsum. Huic controversiae praestitit occasionem Philippus de Broc, canonicus de Bedeford, qui tractus in causam propter homicidium, in justiciarium regis verbum protulit contumeliosum. Quod cum coram archiepiscopo negare non posset, praebendae suae multatus est beneficio, pultus est a regno per biennium.

The King of the English in particular wanted, as he was saying, that crimes should be punished with all due severity. Regardless of dignity or rank he considered that for a more consistent and just outcome, clerics seized by his own justices in public disgrace should be rendered to the bishop of the district to be judged, and if the bishop determines they were guilty and  having been degraded, they should then be presented before the King's justice and delivered to his court for punishment. The bishops felt quite the opposite; they contended that those indeed who had been degraded, should be protected from the hand of lay justice, otherwise it would seem as if they had been judged twice for the same crime.

This controversy became apparent on the occasion of Philip de Broc, canon of Bedford, who, when he had been dragged into a case concerning murder, had proferred profanities in front of the king's justiciar.  And when he was not be able to deny this, in the presence of the archbishop, he was deprived of the benefit of his prebend as punishment, and banished from the kingdom for two years.

Edward Grim's account

Selden Society (1991). English lawsuits from William I to Richard I. Selden Society. p. 100.

Great Britain. Public Record Office (1965). Rerum Britannicarum Medii Ævi Scriptores: Or, Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland During the Middle AgesIssue 67, Volume 2. pp. 374–6.


Novo autem praemeditato nocendi genere subintroducitur contra derieum Philippum de Broii nomine ab olim consopita calumnia, siquidem de morte militis cujusdam fuerat appellatus, sed in audientia Lincolniensis episcopi quum ventilata fuisset causa, ecclesiastico jure purgatur, et soluta controversia liber a parentibus clamatus est. Rursum vero minister regis, ad cujus providentiam illud pertinebat negotium, volens clericum deperire ex antiquo odio, causam revocavit in medium, et calumniam reiteravit. Clericus autem ut vir ingenuus, dolore tactus et indignatione, convitiis vicecomitem aggressus est, qui quum regi detulisset illatam sibi u clerico contumeliam, gavisus, ut creditur, rex accepta occasione saeviendi in clericum, conceptam commotionem refudit in Philippum. Et facta quaestione de clerico in praesentia archiepiscopi, protestatur rex, quod plenaria fiet justitia et de homicidio pariter et de convitio, nec stabit penitus solutio facta. Archiepiscopus vero infra curiam suam et tuitionem ecclesiae clericum recepit, ut ibi pro se loquatur, et respondent calumnianti. Missis igitur a rege episcopis aliisque ordinis utriusque, qui clericum judicarent, negat ille homicidium, asserens non debere cogi ulterius super eo responsum reddere, nec haberi in legibus causam revocari in medium, quam purgatio solemnis terminarat, et pax inita cum adversariis sepelivit :

"Quod autem regis ministrum dehonestavi, animi victus amaritudine, fateor, inqiiit, sed plenam pro maledicto polliceor emenditionem, tantum rationis metas correptio non excedat. Et nos, inquiunt, decernimus ut biennio maneat sub manu regis praebenda tua, et possessiones, omniaque quae in reditibus habes ad nutum ipsius eroganda pauperibus."

Adjungunt adhuc nuntii, quod nudus astaret ministro regis, laicali more, et ipsi offerret arma pro injuria, et in illius viveret subjectione.

Hutton's translation
Extract from
William Holden Hutton (1899). S. Thomas of Canterbury. D. Nutt. pp. 35–6

1163. The case of Philip de Brois.

Edw. Grim. Materials ii., p. 374.

A new method of attacking a clerk, Philip of Brois by name, was resorted to by the resuscitation of a charge that had long been forgotten. He had been accused of the murder of a certain knight, but when the case had been heard in the audience of the bishop of Lincoln he was acquitted by ecclesiastical law, and, the matter ended, he was claimed as free by his kinsfolk. Later on, however, one of the king's officers to whom that duty belonged, wishing, from an ancient grudge he bore him, that the clerk should be ruined, brought forward the case again and repeated the charge of murder. But the clerk, being a man of high birth, overwhelmed with grief and indignation, attacked the sheriff with abuse. The sheriff reported this contumelious language to the king, who, glad (as it was thought) to have an occasion of venting his spleen on a clerk, poured upon Philip the wrath that he had conceived. When the question was raised about the clerk in the presence of the archbishop, the king protested that full justice should be done both about the homicide and about the insult, and that the acquittal would not stand. But the archbishop received the clerk into his court under protection of the Church that he might there answer for himself and reply to the charge. Bishops and others of either order were accordingly sent by the king to judge the clerk. He denied the charge of homicide, asserting that he ought not to be compelled to make any further answer to it, and that there was no legal right to try a case over again, a case which had been ended by the solemn purgation and which the peace he had made with his opponents had buried. 

"I confess," he said, "that in the bitterness of my heart I have abused the king's officer, but I promise a full amendment for my misdeeds ; yet let not the correction exceed the bounds of reason." 

"And we decree," said they, "that your prebend remain under the king's hand for two years, and your possessions and all your incomings to be distributed at his will and pleasure to the poor." 

They added that he was to stand naked before the king's official, just as a layman might, and offer him his arms for the injury he had done him and live in subjection to him.. The clerk submitted to the judgment, glad to have escaped the sentence of death which the king threatened. The king, on the other hand, wishing to condemn the man to death, contended that an injury had been done to himself and to the prejudice of his court. He exclaimed that the bishops had had respect of the person because of the archbishop, and had not judged according to equity, and he added,

 "By the eyes of God, you shall swear to me that you judged a just judgment and did not spare the man because he was a clerk." 

[This, says Grim, led up immediately to the Council of Westminster.]

Herbert of Bosham's Account

Extract from

Herbert (of Bosham) (1845). Herberti de Boseham S. Thomæ Cantuariensis clerici a secretis opera quæ extant omnia. Apud J.H. Parker. pp. 100–

Illud etiam minime praetereundem quod circa idem tempus Philippus quidam, cognomento de Brois, in sede episcopali Lincolniensi canonicus, justitias regis, quae vulgo errantes in terra dicuntur, probrosis quibusdam affecerat contumeliis. Propter quod rex non solum adversus ipsum sed potius adversus totum regni clerum exasperatus videbatur. Solet quippe mox in totam cujusvis officii professionem conferri si quid forte turpiter vel enormiter ab aliquibus de professione admittatur. Sed revera irae seu invidiae sicut citum nimis et inconsideratum judicium hoc, tanquam si in aliqua vel exigua corporis particula macula reperta fuerit et ob id mox totum corpus naevorum sorde judicetur respersum. Et in contumeliis illis et probris constat quidem clericum deliquisse non modicum, verum querela ad archipraesulem delata, citatus clericus etiam supra modum delicti ut vel sic regis facilius quiesceret indignatio, punitus est: publica virgarum disciplina clerico adjudicats et ipso per annos, quot tamen non recordor, ab omni ecclesiastico beneficio quod in regno habebat suspenso, verum regi irato necdum etiam plene pro irati voto satisfactum in hoc. Istud enim est quartum illud quod inter alia emimerat sapiens, quod donec penitus extinguatur, videlicet irae ignis, nunquam dicit sufficit, verum quum regi non sufficeret hoc, videbatur rex potius reum clericum ad aliquam pœnam corporalem deposcere, sed verebatur hoc exprimere, jam advertens archipraesulis rigorem non posse flecti ad hoc. Arctabatur itaque rex, arctabatur et pontifex. Rex etenim populi sui pacem, sicut archipraesul cleri sui zelans libertatem, audiens sic et videns et ad multorum relationes et querimonias accipiens per hujuscemodi castigationes talium clericorum, immo verius caracterizatorum demonum, flagitia non reprimi, sed potius in dies per regnum deterius fieri, archipraesulem el comprovinciales pontifices et reliquum regni clerum Londoniae apud Westmunstier celebriter convocat.

It should also be by no means passed over the fact that around about the same time a certain Philip, whose surname was de Brois, a canon in the episcopal see of Lincoln, had hurled some scandalous insults at some justices of the king, those whom are called in the common parlance, men who err in the land [Justices in Eyre]. As a result of this, the king was seen as becoming exasperated, not only at this, but rather at all the clergy in the kingdom. It is obvious and common that if a hugely shameful act is admitted by any member of a profession, that the blame for it is soon conferred upon the whole of that profession. But indeed, out of either anger or jealousy, by the very speediness and thoughtlessness of this judgment, it seemed as though that because on some small part of the body a small blemish was found, that that whole body was adjudged to be covered with filthy moles.  But it was a result of these reproaches and insults it was. indeed, evident that this cleric had greatly transgressed, so the complaint was referred to the Archbishop to judge the truth of the case. He summoned the clerk so that king might rest more easily and also that the above offense could be punished more suitably for the indignation and the degree of the crime: the cleric was sentenced to be publicly beaten with staves, the same punishment to be repeated every year (however I do not remember for how many), and he was to lose all of the ecclesiastical benefices which he held in the kingdom. But even this was truly not enough to satisfy the king in this matter. And this indeed was counted the fourth time among others, that the fire of anger, which, until it has been completely extinguished,  the wise say  "never saith it is enough." But when this was not enough for the king, it seemed preferable to him to ask for the cleric to receive some further corporal punishment,  but he was afraid to articulate this, already noting that he was not able to bend the rigidity of the Archbishop on this matter.  The king therefore became defensive and the archbishop became defensive too. Just as the king wanted peace for his people, so the archbishop was zealous for the liberty of his church.  But hearing and seeing so many reports and complaints received and the castigations throughout the kingdom for unchecked crimes committed by such clerics who could only be more accurately described as devils, this seemed daily to become worse.  The archbishop together with the co-bishops of his province and the remainder of his clergy therefore repaired to London to attend the celebrations which he had convoked at Westminster.

Extract From

c. July [1163]. The King and Becket are in London.

Simon fitz Peter, a Justiciar recently in Eyre in Bedfordshire, complained to the King of having been insulted in Court at Dunstable, by one Philip de Broc (or Brois), a Canon of Lincoln, whom having been acquitted of homicide by the Court Spiritual of the Diocese, the Justiciar had attempted to re-arraign, and had been resisted with insolence.

The King now insisted on a new Trial, while Becket carried the point that such new Trial should be in Court Spiritual. (De Broc was soon after tried at Canterbury by such a Court. He was acquitted of homicide, but heavily sentenced for contempt of a King's Officer).

S.T.C. Fitz Stephen, i. 214, Potigny, i. 114, Grim. i. 22. Boseham, vii. 101.

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