Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Conference at Montmirail 6th Jan 1169 - Salvo Honore Dei

This was a meeting held between the kings of France and England, Becket and three papal legates in the hope that some kind of reconciliation could be brought about between Becket and Henry II. It was not the only reason for the conference, which was also convened to discuss matters of state between the French part of Henry's Angevin empire on the one side and the Capetian kingdom of France on the other. Henry and his sons who held lands in France were technically king Louis's vassals, and had to do homage to him, which they did. Among other matters settled included a contractual agreement for the betrothal of king Henry's son, Richard, to the eight year old daughter of king Louis, Alys, countess of the Vexin.

The general advice that Becket had been given beforehand by all parties and the mediators was that he should submit the issue to king Henry's mercy, and place himself unconditionally into his hands. He was led with the pope legates into the presence of the two kings, who were there waiting together with a large number of their nobles and knights.

[Herbert of Bosham]
The king seeing the archbishop on his knees before him, immediately caught him by the hand and made him rise.

"The archbishop, standing up in the presence of the kings, began humbly to entreat the royal mercy on the English Church, which was committed to so unworthy a sinner as himself, and in the beginning of his speech, accused himself, as every just man does, ascribing to his own demerits the troubles and afflictions which she had suffered. At the conclusion of his address he added, 'On the whole subject, therefore, which lies between us, my lord the king, I throw myself on your mercy and on your pleasure, here in presence of our lord the king of France and of the archbishops, princes, and others who stand round us' but here he added what neither the king, nor the mediators, nor even his own friends anticipated 

'Saving The Honour Of My God!'
[Salvo Honore Dei!]

When he added these words, the king was scandalized, and burst into rage against the archbishop, assailing him with much contumely and reproach, abusing him as proud, vain, and entirely forgetful of the royal munificence towards him, and ungrateful for all his favours. And because the character of 'our master,' as we have stated in the beginning of this history, even from his youth, was so pure that his greatest and most mendacious enemies feared to bring a false charge against him, he could find no other point on which to accuse him but this, that when he was chancellor, he received oaths of allegiance from the king's subjects on both sides of the sea, in order, as he said, to disinherit his lord and sovereign, who had conferred so many favours on him, and to become king in his stead. 'It was for the same reason,' the king added, 'that he lived so splendidly, and acted with so much munificence in his chancellorship.'

"The archbishop heard all this patiently, and without showing the least sign of perturbation, answered the king's abuse with humility and modesty, in terms neither too unbending nor too submissive. When he had replied to all the other points of the king's speech, and came to the charge about his chancellorship, he said, 'My lord, you accuse me for what I did when I was chancellor; but it is your anger which leads you thus to censure as a fault, what ought to have earned for me your majesty's endless gratitude. It does not beseem me, nor is it necessary at present, to revive, for the sake of my own glory, what I then did in your service, or the fidelity with which I served you. Our lord the king of France here knows it; all who stand round know it; the whole world knows it: my deeds themselves testify for me, and declare how I behaved in that office, whilst I was still in your majesty's court, to promote your advantage and your honour. It would be degrading and unbecoming in me to revive the advantage which I rendered by my services, or to taunt you with them, for the world saw it and knows it to be true.'

"The king would hear no more, but taking the words out of his mouth, he said to the king of France, 'Hear, my lord, if you please, how foolishly, and vainly, this man deserted his Church, though neither I nor any other person drove him out of the kingdom, but himself fled away privately by night; and now he tells, you that his cause is that of the Church, and that he is suffering for justice's sake; and by this showing he deceives many, and those men of influence. I have always been willing, as I am at present, to allow him to rule the Church, over which he presides, with as much liberty as any of the saints his predecessors held it or governed it.

[Alan of Tewkesbury]
"' But take notice, if you please, my lord,' continued Henry, addressing the king of France, 'whatever his lordship of Canterbury disapproves, he will say is contrary to God's honour, and so he will on all occasions get the advantage of me; but that I may not be thought to despise God's honour, I will make this proposition to him. There have been many kings of England before me, some of greater and some of less power than I. There have also been many good and holy archbishops of Canterbury before him. Now let him behave towards me as the most holy of his predecessors behaved towards the least of mine, and I am satisfied.' All present exclaimed aloud, 'The king humbles himself enough ;!'
"The king of France, as if struck by what the English king said about the archbishop's predecessors, and so inclining in his majesty's favour, said to the archbishop, 'My lord archbishop, do you wish to be more than a saint?' And this speech, which was uttered rather insultingly by the French king, gave no little pleasure to the king of England and his party, whose sole wish was to justify their own cause and to disparage ours in the eyes of the French king, that so his good-will, which by God's grace had so long befriended us and been our sole refuge, might be alienated from us.

[Herbert of Bosham]
"But the archbishop did not appear to be in the least moved or disturbed, though both the kings were against him, for he replied with composure and equanimity, that he was ready to resume the charge of his Church with all its liberties, such as the holy men his predecessors had enjoyed, but would not admit any fresh ones passed with a view to the Church's detriment, and would reject and condemn them as being contrary to the institutes of the holy Fathers. 'It is true,' continued he, 'that there have been archbishops before me, holier and greater than I, every one of whom extirpated some of the abuses in the Church, but if they had corrected all, I should not now be exposed to this hot and fiery trial V He then began to apologise for his flight, which he had effected by night without the knowledge of the king, but the mediators of the peace, who, as we have said, were many, and men of great respectability, justly considering that this subject would be much more likely to exasperate the king than accelerate the peace, drew the archbishop aside, and began again to urge him as before, crying out, 'Give the king due honour, and suppress that phrase which offends him; submit yourself unconditionally to his will and pleasure; now or never is the time for a reconciliation, when the king and nobles are present, and all wish for peace but yourself.' The same arguments were used by the other nobles and bishops who were present, both French, English, Normans, Bretons, and Poitevans, as also by certain men of the religious order ['Simon, Engelbert, and Bernard de Corilo.] who had been deputed by the pope to attend the meeting especially on our behalf. They all urged him to suppress that little word, 'saving God's honour,' that peace might be obtained both for himself and his followers in the presence of both the kings and their nobles.

"If you had then seen the archbishop, you would have thought him a victim standing before the executioners, whose tongues were their weapons, all of whom sought to suppress God's honour, yet thinking that in this they were doing Him service. Afterwards, however, as will be shown, they acknowledged themselves to have been circumvented and deceived. But let us now resume.

"The archbishop standing, as we have said, turned now to one, now to another, assuring them that he would do as they wished him, as far as was consistent with God's honour: but that it did not become a priest and a bishop to submit himself in any other way to the will of the men of this world, especially in a question which concerned the liberties of the Church; and that this ought to be sufficient, and indeed was more than sufficient, if the peace of the Church did not warrant his doing it.

"The king, as we have mentioned above, was offended in England at the phrase 'saving his order,' and the archbishop for the sake of peace withdrew it, by the advice of several, and by doing so he did not recover the king's favour, but suffered from it much more severely than before. He therefore feared that the same would again happen, and stood firm in the midst of all their solicitations like a city founded upon a rock

"The mediators of peace, therefore, seeing him firm and inflexible, departed from him and he was left alone. The nobles of both kingdoms rose up, imputing the failure of the negotiation to the arrogance of the archbishop; and one of the counts who were present said, that as he set himself in opposition to the will of both kingdoms, he was unworthy of the protection of either: 'He is rejected by England, let him find no countenance or support in France'!'"

Night now approaching put an end to the conference, and the kings mounting their horses, rode off in haste without saluting the archbishop or waiting to be saluted by him. The king of England, as they were riding away, continued still to vent abuse on the archbishop, though they had now parted; amongst other things, he said that he was now fully avenged on the traitor. The courtiers also, and the mediators of the peace, censured the archbishop to his face as they were returning from the place of meeting, saying that he had always been a proud man and wise in his own eyes, and always endeavouring to gratify his own will, and to have his own opinion: they added, moreover, that it was a great pity he had ever been raised to be a ruler of the Church, which was already almost ruined through him, and would very soon be ruined entirely.

But the archbishop put a restraint upon his tongue, and though he was thus assailed and reproached by all around him, yet he appeared as if he did not hear them,with one exception however: for when his friend John bishop of Poitiers, who was by birth an Englishman, reproached him with bringing destruction upon the Church, he replied mildly and modestly, " Nay, brother, take care that the Church is not destroyed by you: for by God's grace she will never be destroyed by me."

Salvo Honore Dei

"Saving the Honour of God" is the very formula, its wording is very similar to that found in the ceremony of homage, the commendation ceremony. Here Becket, as archbishop, wants to make God his feudal Suzerain, his Paramount Lord or Sovereign owing a fealty to him way above that to his King, even those the king is his immediate Lord.

In the commendation ceremony a feudal tenant or vassal pledged reverence and submission to his immediate direct feudal liege lord, but he also swore fealty to God and his earthly Sovereign.

In the Laws of Henry I we may find every man owes faith to his lord of life and limb and earthly worship, and must observe his lord’s command in all that is honourable and proper, saving the faith due to God and the ruler of the land

Frederick Pollock; Frederic William Maitland The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. pp. 300–. ISBN 978-1-58477-718-2.

... fide Dei et terre principis salva. ...

... saving his faith [fealty] due to God and that due to his earthly prince or sovereign [king]. ...


Herbert (of Bosham). Materials for the history of Thomas Becket: archbishop of Canterbury, Vol III pp. 418-
(26.) De quodam regum colloquio, ubi pax nostra stetit pro hoc adjecto, scilicet Salvo honore Dei.
[Conference at Montmirail. Jan 6, 1169.]

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket: archbishop of Canterbury, Vol IV pp. 360-

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 179–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. Manchester University Press. pp. 154–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Christopher Harper-Bill; Nicholas Vincent (2007). Henry II: New Interpretations. Boydell Press. pp. 72–. ISBN 978-1-84383-340-6.

James J. Spigelman (2004). Becket & Henry: The Becket Lectures. James Spigelman. pp. 190–. ISBN 978-0-646-43477-3.

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). "Chapter XV: Conferences at Mountmirail"Remains. pp. 365–.

John Allen Giles (1846). "Letter LXXV1I: "The Archbishop Of Canterbury To Simon And Bernard De Corilo.". The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. Whittaker and Company. pp. 139–.

Great Britain. Public Record Office (1965). Rerum Britannicarum Medii Ævi Scriptores: Or, Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland During the Middle Ages. Issue 67, Volume 6. Kraus Reprint.

Episcopus Carnotensis Johannes Saresberiensis (1848). Opera omnia (etc.). Parker. pp. 196–204.

John of Salisbury to Bartholemew bishop of Exeter
Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains. pp. 374–.

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, archbishop of Canterbury: A biography. J. Murray. pp. 213–.

James J. Spigelman (2004). Becket & Henry: The Becket Lectures. James Spigelman. pp. 191–. ISBN 978-0-646-43477-3.

Gustave Dugat; Julien Havet; Octave Victor Houdas; Antoine Isaac baron Silvestre de Sacy, Emmanuel Latouche, Edme Paul Marcellin Longueville (1813). Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale et autres bibliothèques. de l'Imprimerie royale. pp. 1–.

Wilfred Lewis Warren (1 January 1973). Henry II. University of California Press. pp. 497–8. ISBN 978-0-520-02282-9
John D. Hosler (2007). Henry II: A Medieval Soldier at War, 1147-1189. BRILL. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-90-04-15724-8.

Richard I of England - Wikipedia

Two years later, when it was hoped that Becket would make some concession at the meeting of Montmirail, but would only substitute 'salvo honore Dei' for 'salvo ordine nostro,' and the conference was broken off in anger, the bishop of Poitiers appears in the part, of a reconciliator. He was sent after Becket to Etampes, begging him to leave all things to the king's will; Becket had often openly longed for peace, let him now show that his wish was sincere. But he could only get for answer that the archbishop would promise nothing to the prejudice of the divine law. It was on this occasion that Becket reproached his old friend with the words; 'Brother, beware lest God's church be destroyed by you; by me, with God's favour, it shall not be destroyed,' John, being loth to carry back the archbishop's true message, translated it into a desire on Becket's part to commit his cause to Henry before all other mortals, adding a prayer that the king would provide (as a christian prince should) for the honour of the church and the archbishop's person. This design, however kindly meant, broke down.

An ecclesiastical history of Great Britain : Collier, Jeremy, Conference at Monmirail

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