Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Becket in Exile: From Clairmarais to Sens October to November 1164

Extract from

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, archbishop of Canterbury: A biography. J. Murray. pp. 137–.

...
At length the party reached the Cistercian monastery of Clair-Marais; but feeling themselves still insecure, they left this place by night in a boat, and proceeded onward to a cell on a little island, belonging to the abbey of Sithiu or St. Bertin. Here they were joined by Herbert of Bosham, who had been charged by Becket at Northampton to repair to Canterbury and endeavour to secure some portion of the archiepiscopal rents, which were then in course of payment. The King, however, had lost no time in ordering that the Primate's property should be placed under custody, as the pending appeals to the Pope prevented a confiscation ; and Herbert had only been able to lay hands on a hundred marks, with some silver plate. After having spent three days at the cell, the Archbishop removed, at the abbot's invitation, to the great abbey of St. Bertin's which was close to the town of St. Omer; and as his arrival there took place on a Wednesday, he carried with him a large fish, which had miraculously jumped out of the water into his bosom, in order that the arrival of the party might not press too heavily on the fast-day provisions of their hosts.

Sixty-seven years before, Anselm of Canterbury had visited St. Bertin's, when driven from England for a cause which was identified with that of Becket under the name of the Church's liberty; and in the same monastery Theobald had since found a refuge when banished for attending a papal council in defiance of King Stephen's command." At St. Bertin's the Archbishop had an interview with the Grand Justiciary De Luci, who, during the late troubles, had been engaged on a pilgrimage to Compostella [which accounts for the non-occurrence of the Justiciary's name at Northampton] , and was now returning by an indirect way, for the sake of transacting some business for his master with the King of France and the Count of Flanders." This old friend strongly urged him to return to England, and undertook to make his peace with the King; but finding his advice ineffectual, he became angry, and told the Archbishop that he must no longer reckon on his support. " You owe me homage," said Becket, " and must not speak to me in this style". " I return you my homage," answered De Luci. " I did not give it to you as a loan," rejoined the Archbishop; and on these terms they parted.

In the mean time Henry's envoys, the Earl of Arundel, the Bishop of London, and Richard of Ilchester, archdeacon of Poitiers, who were charged with a letter requesting that the fugitive might not be harboured in France, had an audience of the French King at Compiegne. Louis VII. had in his earlier days come roughly into collision with the Church by invading the right of election to bishoprics, and otherwise," and had once been placed under a solemn interdict. His character, however, had undergone a change, and, from the time of the disastrous crusade in which he embarked at the instance of Pope Eugene and St. Bernard, while his reputation as a Sovereign had sunk, his devotion to the Church had become more and more submissive and superstitious. His rivalry to Henry and his religious feelings combined to engage him in the interest of Becket. Soon after the breaking out of the troubles he had sent an assurance to the Archbishop that, if his fortunes should take him into France, he might reckon on being received " not as a Bishop or an Archbishop, but as a partner of his kingdom;" and Becket, in thanking him, had protested that, next to the King of England, there was " no mortal man in whom he more trusted for good, and honour, and support."The King's behaviour to the English ambassadors was a strong declaration as to the part which he was resolved to take. When their master's letter was read, in which Thomas was designated as " late Archbishop of Canterbury " —" Who then," said Louis, " has deposed him? I am a King as well as the King of England; but I should have no power to depose the meanest clerk in my dominions." To the demand that he should give Becket up, in compliance with an agreement between the two Sovereigns for mutual surrender of fugitives, he answered that he knew of no such agreement, but that, if one existed, it could not imply the delivery of the Archbishop, who was not the English King's vassal, but rather his lord and patron. The Earl of Arundel" reminded the King of the damage which Becket had done to France in the war of Toulouse; but Louis replied that in this the Chancellor had acted as a faithful servant of his Sovereign, who had since requited him most unworthily. And at last, when the envoys requested him to write to the Pope, desiring him not to favour Becket, he not only refused, but despatched a messenger with a request that Alexander would show his love for him by treating the banished Archbishop with love.

From Compiegne the envoys, reinforced by Roger of York, the Bishops of Chichester and Exeter, and others, proceeded to the court of the Pope at Sens; but so strong was the general feeling in favour of Becket—(for Henry was popularly believed abroad to have usurped the whole administration of the Church) "—that the prelates of the party thought it well to disguise themselves as members of the Earl of Arundel's household."

Herbert of Bosham and another of Becket's train were appointed to watch the movements of the Ambassadors and to counteract their efforts. They arrived at Compiegne a day later, and were received by Louis with the most gratifying affability and sympathy. " The King of England," he said, " ought, before treating such a friend and so eminent a person as the Archbishop so harshly, to have remembered the verse ' Be ye angry, and sin not.'" "Perhaps, Sir," said Herbert's companion, " he would have remembered it if he had heard it as often as we have done in church." At this sallythe King condescended to smile, and he dismissed the messengers with an assurance of safety for the Archbishop throughout all his dominions, declaring it to be one of the " royal dignities " of France to defend the persecuted, and especially those who were suffering for the Church."

On reaching Sens, Herbert and his companion were admitted in the evening to a private interview with the Pope, to whom they detailed the course of the'Archbishop's labours, perils, and sufferings. Alexander listened with interest, and even with tears. " Your master,"! he said, "although he is yet living in the flesh, may! claim the privilege of martyrdom." b The following day was appointed for the audience of the English King's ambassadors, who had arrived at Sens on the day before Herbert. The Bishop of London opened the case by strongly blaming the Primate for the evils which had arisen. In allusion to the flight from Northampton, he quoted the text " The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth." " Spare, brother," said the Pope. " I will spare him, my Lord." "I do not mean that you should spare him, but yourself," rejoined the Pope: " it is clear that without cause you hate and persecute an innocent man;" and so much was Foliot confused by these words, that he paused and said no more.
The next speaker was Hilary of Chichester, whose delight in the music of his own eloquence is a subject of frequent amusement to the writers of the opposite party.His grammatical acquirements, however, were not on a level with his rhetoric, and the portentous word oportuebat excited the laughter of his hearers. " You have got badly into port at last," cried one of them ; and, after a vain attempt to recover himself, the unlucky orator broke down."
The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Exeter followed, and the King's cause was wound up by the Earl of Arundel, who avoided an exhibition like that which had been made by his diocesan, by speaking in his native tongue, the only one which he professed to understand. His speech, which was marked by skill, vigour, and judgment, made a far greater impression than those of the ecclesiastics. He reminded the Pope of King Henry's good service and attachment; he allowed the Archbishop's high merits, and requested that the Pontiff would study to restore harmony, for the sake both of the Church and of the kingdom." It was remarked that (with the exception of Foliot's mistake) the speakers refrained from attacking Becket, and preferred to insist on the merits of Henry; so that, although the Archbishop's clerks were present, and ready to speak in their master's defence, the Pope declared no defence to be necessary, inasmuch as nothing had been said against him. To the repeated praises of the King, Alexander uniformly answered that he was glad to hear so much in  his commendation, and that he prayed God to increase his virtues."
Finding the result of the audience unsatisfactory, the ambassadors attempted to gain Alexander by private solicitations; but they found him inflexible, although they were authorised to make various tempting offers, such as that Peter-pence, which had hitherto been exacted only from the villeins in England, should in future be paid by other classes, and should be secured to the see of Kome for ever." He refused to depose the Archbishop or to send him back ; " for," says Herbert, " for one to contend in an island against the king of the island is as if a chained prisoner were to contend against his gaoler."  And, although he had promised at the public audience to send two cardinals to England, agreeably to the desire of Henry, who had reason to believe such dignitaries to be not inaccessible to money, he absolutely refused to commit to these legates the final decision of the matter in dispute; never, he said, would he abdicate his office by granting a commission in which the appeal to himself should not be reserved."
The ambassadors hurried away from Sens, partly because the King's instructions had limited their stay there to three days, so that they could not wait, as the Pope desired them to do, until they should be able to hold a discussion in his presence with Becket himself; and partly because they had reason to believe that some knights of the neighbourhood, " out of favour to the Archbishop and of hatred to themselves," as Herbert says, had formed a design of attacking and plundering them." On the fourth day after their departure, the Archbishop of Canterbury entered the city. From St. Bertin's he had sent a request that the Count of Flanders would grant him a safe conduct, but the answer was equivocal or worse, so that, on receiving it, he resolved to set out at once and by night." He was accompanied to Soissons by the Abbot of St. Bertin's and by Miles, Bishop of Terouanne, a prelate of English birth. The French King, on being informed of his arrival, waited on him at his lodgings, and pressed on him zealous offers of support; d and now, by the munificence of Louis, he appeared with a train of three hundred horsemen. The advancing and the retiring parties had seen each other by the way, on the opposite banks of a river, and Guy, Dean of Waltham, had been detached by the English ambassadors to observe the Primate's reception by the Pope.
Alexander III was a Churchman of the highest hierarchical school. His views as to the relation of sacerdotal and secular power had been memorably expressed some years before, when, as legate of his predecessor Adrian, he exasperated Frederick Barbarossa and the princes of Germany by asking, "From whom but the Pope does the Emperor hold his crown ? "  He had proudly refused the invitation to submit the question of his election to a council convened by the Emperor, and in consequence of this it was that, while his rival Octavian was acknowledged and upheld by Frederick, Alexander had been obliged to leave Italy as a fugitive. It was, therefore, natural that the Pope's sympathies should be with the champion of the clerical immunities, and the power of the king in whose dominions he had found an asylum contributed to sway him in the same direction. There were, however, contrary forces, which acted on' him with considerable strength. He had reason to fear the Emperor and the Antipope; for, although his original opponent Octavian, or Victor IV, had died in April, 1164, a successor, Guy of Crema, had been set up, under the name of Paschal III, and was supported by the Imperial influence. A breach with the King of England was to be dreaded above all things. Henry had been earlier and firmer in his support of Alexander than Louis, who, indeed, had been mainly secured to t
hat Pope's interest through the influence of the English King. His wealth, which exceeded that of any other sovereign, was essential to the maintenance of the Pope's cause; and with such considerations, both from the past and from the future, to sway him, we may imagine the apprehension with which the Pope must have learnt that an emissary of Henry had been long at the Imperial Court," and must have heard the hints which were broadly uttered by the lay members of the late legation, that their master, if provoked, might possibly transfer his obedience to Paschal." Moreover, although in their general views Alexander and Becket were agreed, they differed widely both in the choice of a primary object and in character. To the English Primate the whole cause of the Church seemed to be bound up in the struggle for the immunity of the English clergy from temporal laws and courts, while the Pope was mainly intent on asserting the pretensions of the Papacy against the Empire: and whereas the most striking characteristic of Becket was the bold impetuosity of his spirit, Alexander's great strength consisted in a patient and indomitable tenacity, which, after years of exile from Italy, and a far longer term of exclusion from his own city, enabled him at length to humble the pride of Frederick, not only before the see of St. Peter, but before the new-born independence of its Lombard allies. Hence, although in other circumstances the Pope might have been ready to act with vigour and steadiness for the maintenance of Becket's cause, it is evident that he had been alarmed an annoyed by so unseasonable an outbreak of differences between the Primate and the King of England. Although, therefore, the conduct of Alexander, if we limit our view to the controversy which is now before us, will probably appear to us vacillating, crooked, double, and pusillanimous, a wider consideration may perhaps suggest a somewhat more favourable estimate of it, and we may even doubt whether, in the same circumstances, Becket would have obtained from the great hierarch Gregory VII. himself any more constant and open support than that which he received from Alexander. Yet this is no justification of that policy by which Gregory and Alexander alike were ready to sacrifice their friends for the sake of their own greater objects; and those writers have indeed undertaken a difficult task who feel themselves bound to defend alike the tortuous caution of the Pope and the headstrong vehemence of the Archbishop. Either Becket was too narrow, or Alexander was too unscrupulous.
Alexander, on receiving the first reports of the difficulties in which the English Primate was involved, had earnestly exhorted him to patience and conciliation in his dealings with the King." The feelings of the Papal Court, soon after the Council of Westminster, are thus represented by an emissary of the Archbishop in a letter to his master: " They all extol in you that courage of which they feel themselves in every way devoid. They are all in such a state of imbecility that they seem to fear God less than men. So much are they aifrighted by a number of things which have happened all at once, that at this time they would not dare to offend any prince in any point—-especially the King of England—nor, even if they could, would they attempt to succour the Church of God, which is in danger all over the world.”‘ The utmost help that could at that time be obtained from the Pope was a recommendation of the Archbishop and his Church to the prayers of some Cistercian communities.b When, however, Becket visited him at Sens, Alexander was disposed to take a more decided part. The King of France's letter and the imposing cavalcade of three hundred were not without their effect (in him.


As the Archbishop approached the city, he was met by a number of cardinals on horseback, (although it is said that the greater part of those dignitaries had been gained by King Henry’s money,) and, on his entrance into the Pope’s presence, Alexander, as formerly at the Council of Tours, rose up to receive him.c A day or two later he was again admitted to an audience for the purpose of stating his cause~—a task which devolved on the Archbishop ‘Lhimself, as his clerks, although there were many learned canonists and eloquent speakers among them, declined it, out of fear lest they should render themselves especially obnoxious to the King.‘ The Pope placed him at his right hand, and, as he was about to rise for the purpose of speaking, desired him to remain seated. After a short opening, in which he
declared himself willing to endure anything rather than consent to the demands which were made against the liberties of the Church, the Archbishop threw himself on his knees, and, instead of the present which was customary in such cases,b spread out before the Pope the parchment which he had received at Clarendon. The Constitutions were then read aloud, and the Pope emphatically expressed his disapproval of them. Some, he said, might have been borne with, although none were good; but ten out of the sixteen he pronounced abominable, as being contrary to ancient canons and to all that was holy, and he anathematized all who should observe them.c William of Pavia, a cardinal who was supposed to be under especial obligations to the English King and to have planned the deposition of Becket, endeavoured to entangle him in disputation; but the Archbishop, whose fluent and elegant Latin is said to have been no less admirable than his readiness in argument, broke through all his sophistries “like a spider’s web,” to the admiration of the whole assembly.“ The Pope strongly reproved Becket for having joined with the other English prelates in consenting to the Constitutions, even for a moment: a submission, he said, which amounted to renouncing their priesthood, and reducing the Church to the condition of a bondmaid. But he declared that the Archbishop’s subsequent conduct had atoned for his passing weakness ; “ and thus,” says Herbert, “having first rebuked him with the severity of a father, he dismissed him with the sweetness of a mother’s consolation.” "


On the following day the Archbishop was again admitted to an interview with the Pope. He broke out into lamentations over the unhappy condition of the Church, and traced all her calamities to his own promotion, eflected as it had been, not by a free canonical election, but by the intrusion of royal power. He professed that he had long been weary of his oflice ; that, from a wish not to give a precedent of sacrificing the Church’s rights in order to appease a prince’s anger, he had withstood the advice of his brethren who wished him to resign it: but that he had only reserved his resignation until he should be in the presence of the supreme Pontifl',--in whose hands he now placed the See of Canterbury, beseeching him to appoint to it a successor more capable of benefiting the Church. So saying, he drew ofl' the archiepiscopal ring, and delivered it to the Pope; and the tears with which he accompanied the action affected all who were present. He then withdrew, and the conclave debated as to the acceptance of his resignation. Some of the Cardinals—“and these," says Alan, “ were of the Pharisees ” “—bribed by the King of England, according to other writers--regarded it as the best means of extricating the Church from the difiiculties which beset her. But the opposite counsels prevailed; the champion of the Church, it was said, ought to be restored, “even if unwilling,” and to be assisted by all possible means. And Becket received his office anew from the hands of the Pope,—a mode of appointment which precluded all scruples as to the regularity of his former title.c Alexander assured him of his constant support and sympathy, and commended him to the care of the Abbot of Pontigny, a Cistercian monastery, about twelve leagues from Sens, which appears to have been chosen as a retreat by the Archbishop himself.‘ “Hitherto,” he said, “ you have lived in abundance and luxury; but, that you may learn to be in future, as you ought to be, the comforter of the poor, and as this lesson can only be learnt under the tuition of poverty herself, who is the mother of religion, we have thought fit to commit you to the poor of Christ.” 

References









Roger of Pontigny i 147-
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). "Rogerio de Pontiniaco"Opera. Parker. pp. 147–.

Edward Grim i 49-
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). "Edwardo Grim"Opera. Parker. pp. 49–.

Fitzstephen i 238-
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). "Willelmo Filio Stephani"Opera. Parker. pp. 237–.

Alan of Tewkesbury i 352-
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). "Alano de Tewkesberia"Opera. Parker. pp. 352–.

Herbert Bosham vii 167-

Garnier 2076-2390
http://archive.org/stream/laviedesaintthom00gueruoft#page/71/mode/1up

Gervase (of Canterbury)
http://archive.org/stream/historicalworks00offigoog#page/n253/mode/1up

Thómas saga erkibyskupsa life of Archbishop Thomas Becket, in Icelandic,
with English translation, notes and glossary, Volume 1 Chapter XXXIX Of The Travelling of Thomas


Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 118–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.


Michael Staunton (2001). "26. Thomas' Itinerary (October to November 1164)"The Lives of Thomas Becket. Manchester University Press. pp. 120–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.


Michael Staunton (2001). "27. Discussions with the Pope at Sens"The Lives of Thomas Becket. Manchester University Press. pp. 128–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.


Henry Hart Milman (1860). Life of Thomas à Becket. Sheldon & company. pp. 99–.

W.H.Hutton (1899) St Thomas of Canterbury (2nd ed) D.Nutt London. pp. 94-

W.H.Hutton (1910) St Thomas of Canterbury  Pitman London. pp. 112-

Morris: Chapter XVIII Exile (1164)
https://archive.org/stream/lifeandmartyrdo00morrgoog#page/n236/mode/1up

Morris: Chapter XIX the Pope (1164)
https://archive.org/stream/lifeandmartyrdo00morrgoog#page/n247/mode/1up

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