Saturday, 14 September 2013

Battle Abbey Case (1157)

May 1157 Henry II held a trial at Colchester Abbey concerning the right of the pope to overrule him on matters of religion. This was a case of the bishop of Chichester versus the abbot of Battle Abbey.

In 1070 William the Conqueror had founded Battle Abbey, a new monastery at the site of the Battle of Hastings, partly as a penance for the deaths which had happened in the battle and partly as a memorial to those who had died. He ordered a special charter to be drawn up which exempted Battle Abbey in certain matters from the authority of the local diocesan bishop, Chichester. In this manner he had granted it special Royal Peculiar status.

The abbot of Battle Abbey was Walter de Lucy, brother of king Henry II's Chief Justiciar, Richard de Lucy. Walter had applied to his brother Richard to have his abbey's full set of privileges confirmed . Hilary, bishop of Chichester had applied to Theobald, the archbishop of Canterbury, to have his episcopal rights enforced. The king summoned a full council of the Curia Regis, a Magnum Concilium, to hear the case.

The case discussed here had originally begun during king Stephen's reign. And was continued afterwards, in May 1157 at Colchester Abbey, after Henry II had succeeded to the throne. Walter, the abbot of Battle Abbey, argued for the Royal Peculiar status of his abbey and its autonomy from the bishop. Hilary, the bishop of Chichester, who also happened to be an expert in canon law, declared that the king did not have any right to exempt an abbey from ecclesiastical authority and episcopal oversight without having first obtained the pope's consent. He argued that the abbey could not have any such privilege, and neither could the king confer any such exemption, unless he had first got a necessary and special licence from the pope allowing him to do so. Bishop Hilary had excommunicated the abbot Walter. Henry was horrified at this and was short-tempered with the bishop. What right did the pope (and his bishop) have to interfere and decide such matters in his kingdom? He felt that he was full well within his royal prerogative and rights to decide this particular case on his own without any intercession from outside.

The case had taken place in a Royal Court [Curia Regis and Magnum Concilium] instead of an Ecclesiatical Court, which it should have done. Forged charters aided the decision to exempt the Abby from episcopal control.

During the deliberations, Thomas Becket, who was Henry's chancellor at the time, was one of chief contenders against Hilary's claim and gained a reputation for being anti-ecclesiastical as a consequence. Eventually, the case was decided in favour of the abbot by inducing and persuading Hilary into accepting the king's authority and his relinquishing any canonical rights that he might have had over the abbey. Becket had helped the king win his case against the Church, Canon Law and Papal Authority.

Great Britain. Privy Council. Judicial Committee; George Charles Brodrick; William Henry FREMANTLE (Hon.); Archibald Campbell TAIT (successively Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury.) (1865). Collection of the Judgments of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Ecclesiastical Cases relating to Doctrine and Discipline: with a preface by the Lord Bishop of London, and an historical introduction. Edited-under the direction of the Lord Bishop of London-by the Hon. George C. Brodrick ... and the Rev. William H. Fremantle. John Murray. pp. 26–.

Mark Antony Lower (1851). The chronicle of Battle Abbey, from 1066 to 1176. J.R. Smith.

Saint Thomas (à Becket) (2000). The Correspondence of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162-1170: Letters 176-329. Oxford University Press. pp. 1394–. ISBN 978-0-19-820893-8

Jeffrey Howard Denton (1970). "Battle Abbey: a royal free chapel?". English Royal Free Chapels, 1100-1300: A Constitutional Study. Manchester University Press. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-0-7190-0405-6.

Eleanor Searle (1974). Lordship and community: Battle Abbey and its banlieu, 1066-1538. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

Battle Abbey; Eleanor Searle (1980). The Chronicle of Battle Abbey. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-822238-5.

Michael Gervers (2002). Dating Undated Medieval Charters. N Vincent: The Charters of King Henry II: The Introduction of the Royal Inspeximus Revisited. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-85115-924-9.

R. Allen Brown; Reginald Allen Brown (1983). Anglo-Norman Studies: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1982. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-0-85115-178-6.

Wilfred Lewis Warren (1 January 1973). Henry II. University of California Press. pp. 429–. ISBN 978-0-520-02282-9.

Wilfred Lewis Warren (1978). King John. University of California Press. pp. 432–. ISBN 978-0-520-03494-5.

R. Allen Brown; Reginald Allen Brown (1984). The Norman Conquest of England: Sources and Documents. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 121–. ISBN 978-0-85115-618-7.

Selden Society (1991). English lawsuits from William I to Richard I. Selden Society. p. 277.

Emilie Amt (1 January 1993). The Accession of Henry II in England: Royal Government Restored, 1149-1159. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 22–. ISBN 978-0-85115-348-3.

Robert B. Patterson (1 January 1995). Studies in Medieval History 1994. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-85115-604-0.

Christopher Brooks; Michael Lobban (1997). Communities & Courts in Britain, 1150-1900. Continuum. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-1-85285-151-4.

Michael Green (2004). St Thomas Becket. Gracewing Publishing. pp. 24–. ISBN 978-0-85244-590-7.

James J. Spigelman (2004). Becket & Henry: The Becket Lectures. James Spigelman. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-0-646-43477-3.

Christopher Harper-Bill; Nicholas Vincent (2007). Henry II: New Interpretations. Boydell Press. pp. 162–. ISBN 978-1-84383-340-6.

Vincent, N. (2001). King Henry II and the Monks of Battle: The Battle Chronicle Unmasked’. In Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies presented to Henry Mayr-Harting (pp. 264-86).

George Garnett (25 January 2007). Conquered England: Kingship, Succession, and Tenure 1066-1166. Oxford University Press. pp. 297–. ISBN 978-0-19-820793-1.

William North (2010). The Haskins Society Journal 21: 2009. Studies in Medieval History. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 152–. ISBN 978-1-84383-560-8.

James Craigie Robertson (London 1877). Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (Canonized by Pope Alexander III, AD 1173). Volume 4. Cambridge University Press. pp. 244–. ISBN 978-1-108-04928-3.

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. pp. 326–.

Saint Thomas (à Becket) (2000). The Correspondence of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162-1170: Letters 176-329. Oxford University Press. pp. 1394–. ISBN 978-0-19-820893-8

John Allen Giles (1846). The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. Whittaker and Company. pp. 90–.

Hugh James Rose; Samuel Roffey Maitland (1832). The British Magazine. John Turrill. pp. 454–.

Thomas Becket martyr patriot
Thompson, Robert Anchor
CHAPTER V. p.77-
The King Upon The Judgment-Seat — The Battle Abbey Case.

The Chronicle of Battle Abbey
H. W. C. Davis
The English Historical Review
Vol. 29, No. 115 (Jul., 1914), pp. 426-434

Hilary, Bishop of Chichester (1147-1169) and Henry II
Henry Mayr-Harting
The English Historical Review
Vol. 78, No. 307 (Apr., 1963), pp. 209-224

Forgery and the Literacy of the Early Common Law
Bruce O'Brien
Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 1995), pp. 1-18:

A New Charter of Henry II to Battle Abbey
V. H. Galbraith
The English Historical Review
Vol. 52, No. 205 (Jan., 1937), pp. 67-73

Battle Abbey and Exemption: The Forged Charters
Author(s): Eleanor Searle
Source: The English Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 328 (Jul., 1968), pp. 449-480
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL:

Hides and Virgates at Battle Abbey
Author(s): James Tait
Source: The English Historical Review, Vol. 18, No. 72 (Oct., 1903), pp. 705-708
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL:

Battle Abbey v. Gilbert de Balliol

No comments:

Post a Comment