Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Henry II's Decrees against the Pope and Becket, 1169

Also known as Henry II's Supplement to the Constitutions of Clarendon (1169)

On the 29th September 1169  [Michaelmas] Henry, whilst probably at Rouen in France, laid down a set of mandates aimed at the pope and 'Canterbury' [Becket]. His aides Richard of Ilchester [Richard the treasurer] and Guy of Waltham [Guido or Wido Rufus, dean of Waltham] were sent back across the sea to England to impose them. The object of the decrees was to prevent the pope and Becket sending interdicts and sentences of excommunication across to England. The decrees ordered his justices Richard de Luci, and two archdeacons namely Geoffrey Ridel archdeacon of Canterbury and Richard [of Ilchester] archdeacon of Poitiers to enforce them. They in turn compelled the sheriffs in every county forcing every male in the kingdom aged twelve or over swear an oath that they would obey them; contraventions of the decrees would be tried and enforced in the ordinary law courts of the land. 

It was probably January 1170 that these decrees became known to the papal curia in Rome.

Extract from
Christopher Harper-Bill; Nicholas Vincent (2007). Henry II: New Interpretations. Boydell Press. pp. 174–. ISBN 978-1-84383-340-6.
Usually given short shrift in the general Iiterature. they indicate how far Henry
was ab!e to go in paralysing papal authority in England, and how far he was
prepared to go. Oaths that they would not obey any papal or archiepiscopal sen-
tences of excommunication or interdict were imposed on the entire male popula-
tion of the kingdoin; anyone bearing interdict letters from the pope or Becket
(contemptuously called 'Canterbury', without any acknowledgement of his sta-
tus) was to be seized and kept in captivity until the king or his jusiices declared
the king's will; no one might appeal to pope or archbishop or hear pleas on their
mandate or receive any oftheir mandates in England: anyone who did was to be
seized and  held; any bishops, abbots, clergy. or Iaity who observed a sentence of
interdict  were without  delay  to be cast out ofthe kingdom,  with all their kin,  tak-
ing nothing with  them,  and  their chattels and properties were to be taken into the
king's hand.
Peter's Pence was to be seized and kept until the king's will was known

In essence these decrees were simply enforcing the already known decrees of and powers assumed by William the Conqueror with respect to the Church, which I have set down earlier in my blog posting at

These decrees seem to be identical to those which were drawn up in 1165, but which were not put into force then, which I have set out in

Roger of Hoveden Henry II's Decree of 1165

Or it is more than likely that Roger of Hovedon got the wrong date and his chronology wrong for this eventt as he records in the same chronicle  [link] that a dreadful earthquake had taken place in Catania  (Sicily) in the same year. That earthquake took place in 1169, and not 1165.


George Lord Lyttelton (1769). The History Of The Life Of King Henry The Second. Vol. IV. pp. 497-8.

Councils and Synods with other Documents Relating to the English Church, Vol.I, part 2: 1066-1204, eds Dorothy Whitelock, M. Brett, and C.N.L Brooke (Oxford. 1981 ), pp. 926-939.

Henry II's Supplement to the Constitutions of Clarendon
M. D. Knowles, Anne J. Duggan and C. N. L. Brooke
The English Historical Review
Vol. 87, No. 345 (Oct., 1972), pp. 757-771

Patres ecclesiae anglicanae : Aldhelmus, Beda, Bonifacius, Arcuionus, Lanfrancus, Anselmus, Thomas Cantuariensis. J.-H. Parker. 1845. pp. 206–8.

Gervase of Canterbury. The Historical Works of Gervase of Canterbury. Cambridge University Press. pp. 214–. ISBN 978-1-108-05159-0. 

English Historical Society (1841). Publications. sumptibus Societatis. pp. 308–.

Matthew Paris. Matthaei Parisiensis Chronica Majora. Cambridge University Press. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-1-108-04900-9.

Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Vol. VII
pp. 147-9 Alan of Tewkesbury

Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Vol. VII
pp. 150-1 Gervase of Canterbury

Anne Duggan (2004). Thomas Becket. Bloomsbury USA. pp. 174–5. ISBN 978-0-340-74137-5.

Geoffrey Ridel (Bishop of Ely/Archdeacon of Canterbury)

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