Monday, 24 March 2014

Becket Correspondence relating to First Papal Legation - 1167

Abridgements of the principal letters relating to the First Papal Legation  1167

CTB =

Giles TB =
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). Opera. Volume 6. Parker.

MTB =
James Craigie Robertson. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket... Volume 6. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-04930-6.

CTB 121 after 2 February 1167
[Giles TB 466, MTB 283] 
Ipso die purificationis
Bishop John of Poitiers to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

Told Becket that he had spoken to John Cumin and Ralph of Tamworth  who had arrived in Tours on their way back from the papal curia. Said they were being very secretive; he could not get much reliable information out of them. Told Becket that he was able to extract much more from the Dean of the establishment where they were staying, and also from a clerk who had travelled with them. He learnt that cardinal William of Pavia would be coming as papal legate to all of king Henry's lands, and, it seems, he would have "full power to examine and judge, to plant and root out and to determine all disputes, whether between you and the king, or others, and to issue inviolable decisions, without the hindrance of appeals".

Told Becket that he also heard that Otto, cardinal deacon of Tulliano, would be accompanying Cardinal William of Pavia, and that they had left Rome on 1st January on their way to France.

Told Becket he heard that John of Oxford had obtained absolution from the Pope on condition that he disclaimed the famous Constitutions [of Clarendon] of behalf of king Henry. And that he had been removed from Becket's power as far as being able to excommunicate him. He said it seemed that John of Oxford had acquired considerable grace and favour in the Pope's eyes because he had advised him that peace could be restored between Becket and king Henry if there were someone to conduct it honestly, like him.  For this very reason Cumin and Tamworth considered John of Oxford to be a traitor to king Henry, and were publicly declaring it so, [because he had essentially acted beyond his level of authority without the assent of the king.]

And that they were also bringing  back to king Henry all of Becket's letters and petitions, those which attacked him which Becket had sent to the Pope and others, and including also other letters which were written in Becket's favour and against the king from bishops within the king's own territories, and indeed some from the king's very own household.

Cumin boasted that he had rebuked the Pope because Becket had sent the Pope a letter which said that Becket would issue a sentence against the king's person. Cumin said that he had acquired this letter at Viterbo, where he had caught Becket's messenger carrying it. 

Bishop John of Poitiers learnt from Cumin and Tamworth that Becket's other excommunicates had been sent to some prelates in the Poitiers district for absolution, but he was not able to find out who they were. 

Bishop John went on to say that it was believed that John of Oxford had gone to England to procure, prepare, and persuade witnesses and other informers to be against Becket. He advised Becket to take action by whatever means he could, whilst there was time. He warned Becket that many magnates were about to rise up against him and accuse him  of serious crimes. That he could expect no thanks from the king, nor could expect to trust any of the king's promises.

He told the doctors who were inquiring about the nature and cause of his sickness that he could be cured only if they had a medicine which could take away the rancour and indignation of his spirit. 

Bishop John concluded his letter to Becket telling him that those who had returned from the Papal Curia were making serious threats against him, because of the letters which he had  sent to the Pope, which they were now bringing back to the king, letter which called the king a wicked tyrant.

CTB 122 after 2 February 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Silvester,Treasurer of Lisieux
[Lupus 155, MTB 269]

We must hold onto the certainty, that whatever the trickster, the oath-taker [John of Oxford] had falsely declared, by God's mercy, neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor any creature would be able to separate them from the love of God.

Liberty is like a great tree which which takes a long time to grow but which can be cut down in an hour: Whoever waits for its fruit but does not consider its possible fall is a fool.

If those who have excommunicated were to be absolved or have been absolved, clearly they are or were excommunicated. It follows logically that those who have knowingly communicated with them have themselves contracted the taint of excommunication.

John of Oxford did not get the concessions for nothing. There was some compensation in having learnt from those returning from the Curia: that John had renounced in the king's name the royal customs [The Constitutions of Clarendon]. Becket advised Silvester to bring this information to the ears of the king and to the people in his province, but to suppress the fact Becket was the source of this information, also not to allow himself to be cited as the author either. 


CTB 123 after 2 February 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to his Clerk John


The manner in which we been shamed before our neighbours, mocked not only before those in our circle but to almost all the people in the kingdoms of France and England, and even in the Empire. The rumour, infamy and scandal that seem to be being made against the Pope, this is flying around in the ears and mouths of everyone. And the serious verbal attacks, insults, and shameful reproaches being thrown at the whole Curia,

Send our messenger back as quickly as you can, so that we may be re-assured, for we are in a critical position, if the rumours below are true.

John of Oxford  and the other king's envoys have returned to England from the Curia, lauding themselves, claiming that they had won everything they wanted. The king has been exempted from the power of all bishops, except the Pope, as far as the imposition of excommunication is concerned; and he will get the legate he wants, our manifest enemy, William of Pavia, who, it is rumoured, will have full power, throughout the king's territories, to build and plant, to root out and cast down, without any remedy of appeal, and most especially to decide the principal case between the king and ourselves, and in every ancillary case, to bring a pre-judgement against every exception and every decree.

John of Oxford after landing back home found the bishop of Hereford, waiting to cross over the Channel, secretly because he had been forbidden to do this. John ordered him not to cross, first in the king's name, and then  in the Pope's. When the bishop asked to see the letter confirming the Pope's order, John said that he had one which forbade the English bishops to obey Becket in any way, until after the papal legate a latere had been to determine both their appeals and the case between the king and Becket.  When the bishop insisted on seeing the letter, John said that he had sent it on ahead with his baggage to Winchester.

The bishop then sent his clerk, a Master Edward, with John to Winchester, where he saw the letter together with the bishop of London. who was also waiting to cross the sea. When London saw the letter, he cried out in jubilation, saying, 'Thomas will no longer be my archbishop'.

John further added that he was now a privileged person, that he could not be excommunicated by Becket, nor even charged, except by the Pope himself, and that he was free to bestow the subdeaconry of Salisbury on anyone he pleased, and that Becket's jurisdiction and legation was reduced and suspended in everything until after legates who were about to come, had been.

The Lord Pope can be sure that we will not on any account enter the king's lands to litigate, nor will we accept the judgement of our enemies, especially Pavia, who is thirsting after our blood in order to obtain our see, which has actually been promised to him, so we have heard, provided it can be extricated from us.

There is another matter.  The French magnates and prelates, despairing of  us, have sent back to us some of our unfortunate fellow-exiles, whom they were supporting. These will die of cold and hunger, as some had already done so. Please report this to the Pope, so that he may provide us with some remedy. We hope and pray that our petition is not in vain.

CTB 124 after 2 February 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Pope Alexander
[Lupus 45, MTB 286]
[About how John of Oxford has spread lies in Gaul after his return from Rome.]

We are sending to your holiness a messenger, one of our intimates, Please listen to what he has to say about our suffering, Rise up, O lord, do not delay any longer. Deal with us and our unfortunate companions who have been disheartened in the face of overwhelming affliction. Save us, for we are perishing. In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, make a great name for yourself, restore your honour, elevate the fame of your reputation, which has been seriously diminished in Gallic regions by the false preaching of that excommunicate and perjured schismatic, John of Oxford, upon his return from the Curia.

Believe me that I am not lying. Enquire from those of Gaul about the truth of what I say, those who long for the Church's success. I am speaking of your reputation which has been wrongly vilified. Let it be known that John of Oxford has spread falsehoods. Let him who has not deserved forgiveness experience sternness; let him who has abused kindness suffer vengeance, Let the world know Christ's vicar is founded on firm rock, and is not a man of straw, as the wicked are muttering in secret. 

Let it be known that you are a maintainer of justice and equity; sparing no one in judgment, fairly and faithfully dispensing equity and justice as much to the king as to the ordinary man.

CTB 125 after 2 February 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to all the Cardinals
[Giles TB 29, MTB 287]
[Appealing to them]

It is not easy for a wretched man to speak kind words. Please forgive us.

Holy fathers you have been appointed to the highest office by divine grace to remove injustice, to assist those labouring in the priesthood, and never to provide opportunity for their disgrace and injury, but to severely punish their oppressors. He who does not oppose a manifest crime gives secret approval to it. Bend all your efforts dutifully to the case which has arisen between the king and us, rather, between him and you as  the salvation of the whole Church is threatened.

You had already joined battle against him had not the haggling of a legation deceived your judgement Those who know the inner workings of the king's mind more clearly can affirm this. Peace is obtained by preparing for war. He who seeks to extinguish the Church's liberty deserves the penalty of being denied your mercy. If you love justice, you, who exercise judgement in the world, should be entirely free from the favour of others. Justice alone can bring peace. Therefore act accordingly. How can you in all conscience hide away from the injury done to Christ in me, and certainly also to you, you who exercise Christ's authority on Earth? Is not my cause the same as yours?

Please do not pretend that you are not aware that the English king every day occupies the Church's property, overthrowing its liberty, laying his hands on the Lord's anointed, the clergy, continually and without distinction, imprisoning some, killing others, ripping out of some their eyes, compelling others to engage in single combat, and subjecting many further to the judgements of fire or water, He compels bishops to disobey their metropolitans, and minor clerics their superiors, and does not treat as excommunicate those who were rightfully so punished. Worse, he is taking away the liberty of the Church in every way on the model of the great schismatic who seeks to tear the Church to pieces from its very foundation.

If these evils are practiced by our king without penalty, what will his heirs do? The evil is growing day by day. Can he really be allowed to do these things with impunity? Who will free you from the hands of the oppressor, if not God Himself? Not silver, nor gold, nor the favour of princes. Do not put your trust in princes, in whom there is no salvation. Do you not know  that neither silver nor gold can save you in the day of the Lord's anger?

You have brought shame upon us, made us a mockery, a joke to those who are around us. Already it is loudly proclaimed through the land that there is no justice at Rome. Why have you taken our authority away to punish the outrages against Christ, so that we cannot redeem these evils by means of ecclesiastical censure, so that impunity does not grow strong through silence, so that later times may see that such hateful things did not happen without penalty, but were deservedly attacked? This disease must be cured in some other way, if you do not wish all the kings of the world to be infected with it by your pretence.

From every quarter the clergy of England rush to his court and as chaplains become courtiers, where they are bound of necessity to swear an oath to him. By this means he secures more freely for the future what is only established as law merely by his will. There was indeed an easier access to his peace for me, if, independently of you, had I chosen to neglect the dangers to the Church. The path to the Church's ruin cannot quickly be reclaimed. You can judge for yourselves what will be left for you or us in that land in the future, if this great peril is not very quickly resisted,

But however you treat me, whatever you do I shall do nothing without you, I will not harm the Church, and with Christ as my leader, I will not change my decision. This is the way of salvation for me. The day of vengeance that spares no one will come. Believe me!

The Church must be ruled not by deceit, but by justice and the truth, which will free from all peril the man who respects this.


CTB 127 Lateran, ca March 1167
Pope Alexander to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

We do not write to you more frequently because we inform you by word of mouth through your own messengers about those matters which we do not wish to commit to writing.

We now inform you that we have directed William, cardinal priest of S. Pietro in Vincoli, and Otto, cardinal deacon of S. Nicola in Carcere Tulliano, to the king of English as legate in his lands on this side of the Channel, 1and particularly to restore peace and concord between you and the same king and make an amicable settlement, with the Lord's help.

We request, instruct, counsel, and command your fraternity by apostolic letter that you very carefully and diligently ponder both the dangers inherent in the present time and how much the Church entrusted to your care needs your presence and counsel, and bend your mind and will to the establishment of peace and concord between yourself and the said king, as far as it is possible, saving the honour of yourself and the Church.

You can truly have full confidence in the fore-mentioned cardinals, and you should not have any kind of doubt about the said William, because we have firmly and strictly ordered him to strive for your peace with all his strength, and he has made us so binding a promise that we cannot in any way doubt him in this matter.

We also request and instruct you, brother, to approach the noble count of Flanders in your own name and encourage him very forcefully to endeavour to assist us generously in any way he can,

CTB 130

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 256–.

CTB 131


Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 257–.

CTB 132 Rouen, August 1167
Brother Nicholas of Mont-Rouen to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

The king and his household are staying in Rouen. The very mention of your name is hard and hateful to his ears, nor does anyone appear who speaks well of you or dares even to make an allusion to you in his presence.

You know far better than us that he is in a tight spot. France opposes him; he is terrified of the Poitevins; he fears the Welsh and is suspicious of the Bretons; he fears his own men, and is nowhere secure. It is hardly surprising he makes so many enemies, since the Church does not protect him.

Either Herbert or I shall try to bring you a full report of whatever we learn in the meantime.

CTB 133 September-October 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to William of Pavia

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839) Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 258–.
From Thomas unfortunate and wretched exile from the church of Canterbury, greeting, and strength against the arrogance of princes.

We have received your highness's letter, offering what seems to be honey in the beginning, poison in the middle, and oil at the end. It says you have come to determine the questions at issue between the king of England and us, whatever you shall consider expedient. We do not believe that you have come to do this, and certainly do not accept you for this purpose. Nevertheless, we thank God and you for any good or peace that may perchance come to us through your hand.

CTB 134 September-October 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Cardinal Otto

When we heard the news of your eminence's arrival, we were overjoyed, as if an angel had been sent to free the clergy.

Although your colleague is suspect in many things, it being alleged that he has regard for gifts and persons, is a close supporter of the lord king, and that he wishes to support him in all things and to tie us, or rather God's Church, down and strangle it with our spoils,

In contrast, your reputation shines forth, the Holy Spirit will not suffer you to deny God, nor allow you to put gift or person or cause before the word of God. For this reason, the whole French Church doubts not that you will go by clean paths and 'straight ways', because it trusts without doubt that your path lies through the straight ways, and that you know that money acquired by the prostitution of justice may not be put into the sacred chest, because it is the price of blood. Nothing good can come from sordid plunder. 

Our opponent, or rather the Church's,  taunt us, saying that the cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli has been sent against us, that by his ministry Peter will be chained up again; although I would still trust that the friendship he has established with the king to bring about our disparagement may advance the Church's liberation, the king's salvation, and the glory of God. There is, however, one thing that I fear very much, that he can attempt to subvert the intention of the law by an imaginary law. 

I believe you to be a man of God, sent to us by the Lord to bring us joy. If you can bring the king back to the true path, he will we hope immediately repent, confess his error, and humbly make reparation restoring the Church's liberty and peace, and give back to all of us whatever he has taken away, and that he will cease to strive for observation of those customs which the Lord Pope condemned at Sens in your presence and with the unanimous counsel of his brethren.

Because all eyes are turned towards you, therefore, if it seems right, pursue God's honour and the Church's peace; tell us what we should do so that God's Church may enjoy its due liberty. For there is nothing we would not most willingly do, saving our conscience and our reputation, to recover the lord king's affection.

CTB 135 September-October 1167
John of Salisbury to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2.  J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 259–.
I have read the letter which you propose to send to Cardinal William of Pavia, but I cannot agree with its manner and style. Nor does it seem to strike the right note of humility. Your reply to him seems to have come from bitterness. Do you think that a cardinal priest and legate of the Holy See upon a first greeting should be branded with suspicion and gratuitously provoked? It is not the way to address even a humble courier of the Pope. If he forwards his and your letters to the Pope, the evidence will seem to justify the king's case and to convict you of insubordination. Although William has been and still is your enemy, I think one should hide one's feelings until his evil deeds are become known. I am not saying  that you should agree to accept him as judge before his good faith has been tested; but equally neither am I advising a hasty rejection of him.

I think judgement should be avoided until restitution has first been made, which is at present impossible. I believe that you should stand firm on this point, and cultivate the cardinals themselves,

If he has said  he has been sent to settle the disputes for the good of the Church, what harm has done to you? If he has urged you to avoid courses which may lead to further disagreement what he has done wrong? Your closest friends advise the same, to strive for peace, as far as is consistent with the Church's honour and your own good name.

You should ask him to specify exactly what should be avoided. and to deal with the king concerning your and your followers'  restitution, and the liberty of the Church.  And then to let you know by letter whether he succeeds, since you and your followers lack the money to pay for a journey to confer with him; nor can any of you enter the English king's lands safely.

If the legate brings about what he promised at the end of his letter, I think he will deserve great thanks. If the bishop of London and your archdeacon get what they deserve, they have only themselves to blame. But ensure your sentence can be enforced and preceded by a citation. I pray the outcome will be as is deserved, not only in law and but also in fact too.

CTB 136 September-October 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to William of Pavia

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2.  J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 261–.
Greeting and strength against the arrogance of princes.

You have said that many think that you have remained aloof  to the various proposals concerning the peace put forward by ourselves, and that you had done this for our benefit, so that the king would not suspect your motives, and thereby become less devoted to the holy Roman Church, and less favourable to making peace with us. God who searches hearts will judge the truth of this by the outcome.

If indeed you are now going down to his lands to decide the disputed points which have arisen between him and us, we urge you to use your discretion wisely, in the Lord, and conduct yourself in a manner that produces honour to God, relief for the Church, and fame to yourself. If any good or peace should happen to us and the English Church it will be thanks to God and your attentiveness.

We hope that you will pay heed compassionately to the many troubles that we and the English Church have suffered, and how much the universal Church has been damaged by our difficulty. The eyes of all are turned towards this matter, and waiting for its conclusion. Either the arrogance of princes will surge forward or it will suffer an eclipse. Hopefully it suffers eclipse rather than having its strength restored by your coming.

CTB 137



Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 255–.




CTB 138 September-October 1167
John of Salisbury to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury
[Lupus 25, MTB 318]
Nec Priorum

[Referring to CTB133 and CTB136 above, which were not sent, JoS compiled a far more diplomatic letter to Cardinal William, Fama divulgante (Giles JohnS 221, MTB 319),  for which he was now seeking the approval of Masters Lombard of Piacenza and Alexander Walensis, and correction, if necessary, by John bishop of Poitiers before being sent on.]
I do not agree with either the first or second letter you propose to send to Cardinal William. Both seem to be too full of suspicion and biting sarcasm.

I have instructed my messenger to call upon you en route to the bishop of Poitiers. I prefer a different way of making my first address to the Cardinals closer to what I think is suitable, but not as you might think right.  However, I do not want my insipid matter exposed to the ridicule of your household, to the cost of my reputation. I am happy, however, for it to be secretly shown to Lombardus and Alexander, one is my prince, the other a fellow brother in my order. If you  approve it, it shall go on to the bishop of Poitiers, and from him onto the Cardinals. Else, either you burn it or let that be done in his.


CTB 139 September-October 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Pope Alexander
[On the destruction of Frederick I's army outside Rome by some plague.]

Holy father, greeting and a firm spirit against the cruelty of princes.

We have been anxious to hear about your situation and circumstances, and for reliable news about your safety. Word of what the Lord is said to have done to that the schismatic Frederick has reached us and the whole of France, how he has been ignominiously humiliated and disgraced before all nations. But, as it is right to believe some rumours and not others, we implore you to hear from you directly, to learn if God has done for you what he has usually does for those who show hope in him, and not for those who put their trust in princes, in whom there is no salvation.

If that is how things have turned out, as rumour has it, blessed be to God who knows how to be merciful to His servants! How great is the power of God, how great is His compassion. No more manifest demonstration of God's power has been heard of since the beginning of time.  If we rightly evaluate what has happened to the authors of this wickedness, He has consumed them with an infamous death.

Your holiness will know, moreover, that what we feared has come to pass, what we were predicting about the presumption and arrogance of Cardinal William of Pavia has clearly become evident, as you can judge from the letter which he sent to us immediately on his arrival.

We were hoping, after the mandate which you sent to the king of France and ourself, for the comfort of peace by his coming, rather than shame which has resulted from the determination of the questions at issue between the king of England and ourself. Certainly he is not the man we should be subject to his authority in this case, especially as  it was at the king's insistence which persuaded you to send him than through your own judgement.

Indeed we believe justice is not served if we are subject to his judgement, one who wishes to trade in our blood for himself, from whose price he seeks to make a name for himself. Therefore we implore you, kind father, if you have concern for us, to cancel what power he has concerning our affairs. He has chosen to be the hammer of the clergy by deferring to princes, rather than acting as a challenge to the king through divine grace. If it please your holiness, we humbly beg you to listen to what the present bearer of our message will reveal to you.

Take up again the strength and authority of a teacher, unsheathe the sword of blessed Peter, avenge the affront committed against Christ and those who are his. Let them feel the heavy hands of Peter so that the Church's liberty, so long enfeebled and laid low, may begin to breath again, and the world rejoice, glorifying God, who has shown his mercy to you.

Cardinal William and his king perhaps believed that they could mock your authority through fortuitous misfortunes as time passed, but as the Lord changes bad conditions into better ones, he who was hoping that you would be deceived will himself be mocked. By God's mercy, he will fall into the trap which he hoped you and we would fall into.


CTB 142 Sens, October 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to William of Pavia

We learn from your letter that you have received the genuine grace of the king of France. We pray that you will be more kindly disposed towards us and our affairs, out of respect for him. For a long time we have striven to obtain your kind favour. We hope to receive what is just.

We give thanks to Almighty God for the future peace which you promise. A wise man hides his feelings for a while, but "while you wait, time flies; and does not return at will." The physician says, 'while the patient suffers, collect the money". But I say to you grasp the present fortune which now appears naked before your eyes.

Please send us word three days before your arrival in Paris, so that if we can acquire horses, of which there are very few here because of the war, so that we may meet you an appropriate place and enjoy a welcome discussion with you. If that is not possible, we shall send you one of our companions to bring back news of where you are and where you intend to go.


CTB 143 (a and b) ca October 1167
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Cardinal Otto

We send back to you many thanks as one in whom we completely trust. We prize the memory of your kind letter in which you thanked us for persuading the French king [to give you a licence to pass through his lands] so as to bring your business to a successful conclusion. In friendship we shall give our counsel and support to advance your honour with the king and our other friends, not only in this matter but in others.

We shall always remember that moment when you received us into your protection saying that you never wished to abandon us for the love of kings or favour of princes for the desire of any profit. We, however, did not wish to ask the king for so large an amount of money, as we learned  from the king himself that his counsellors were reluctant to advance this.

On the question why he forbade you to enter his lands either as legate or to carry out your legation, you should not be annoyed; it has arisen because of the Schism. even if it was not what he should have done. Indeed a wise man should hide his annoyance for the time being.

Beyond this, we are very astonished that you have not yet told us anything about the progress you have made concerning our business and your reason for coming here. We implore you to let us know about this soon, whether we can expect any hope concerning the liberty of the English Church or what we ought to do in the future. We pray you will work effectively for the re-establishment of peace between the king and ourselves.

CTB 144 ca 19th November 1167
The Conference held between Gisors and Trie
Haec est actio
[MTB 334, Giles TB 382]


Étienne Mignot (1756). Histoire du démêlé de Henri II, roi d'Angleterre avec Thomas Becket:. Arkstée et Merkus. pp. 207–.


Migne (1854). Patrologiae cursus completus: sive Bibliotheca universalis. J. P. Migne. pp. 394–.

Anne Hope (1868). The life of s. Thomas à Becket. London Burns and Oates. pp. 216–.

Summary of the Conference that was held between the archbishop of Canterbury between Gisors and Trie in the presence of the Cardinals William of Pavia, and Otto of Brescia.


On 18 November 1167 Becket came out of Burgundy into the town of Trie in the Vexin to see the cardinals, whom king Henry had sent from Caen to Gisors to meet with him.

The following were present: the two cardinals with Rotrou, archbishop of  Rouen and many others of the king's party, and also Becket [then a proclaimed legate of the  Holy See] and with him his fellow exiles:  John  of Salisbury, Herbert  of Bosham,  Lombardus of Piacenza, Alexander the Welshman, Geoffrey prior of Pentney and  Warin the canon, Robert and Gilbert canons, Becket's own chaplains, John the precentor, Alan, Richard, Henry, and many others.


The cardinals began by telling of the Pope's affection, and of their daily suffering to win peace and security for Becket and his followers. They described the dangerous long journey they had undertaken, leaving Rome in mid-May and only reaching Normandy by November. They spoke of the great power of king Henry and of the critical situation which the Roman Church found itself in, how it used to receive many gifts from him but, because of the present strife, it no longer did so. And of the honour which the king had always shown Becket.


They related the complaints which king Henry claimed he had suffered from Becket, accusing him that he had stirred up the king of France to wage war against him.


They asked for Becket's advice, how the anger of so mighty a prince could be calmed, because a resolution of the situation could not be found without humility and moderation and the giving of great honour.  They said this deliberately in order to try to rouse anger in him, perhaps expecting Becket to reply unwisely and without humility.


But Becket replied humbly, clearly and calmly in eloquent Latin to every point they had made. He answered the king's complaints, nullifying them and expounded plainly on the  injuries and losses of the Church. And to their demand for humility and due show of honour from  him, he replied that he would show all humility, and as much honour and reverence to his lord the king as was consistent with God's honour and the Church's liberty, with his own and his office's good name and the possessions of the Church, and if they felt it was necessary that more should be added, he asked the cardinals to advise  him, saying that he intended to accept whatever they proposed, saving the liberty of his position, his profession and his order.


They replied that they had come not to give him advice but to receive his counsel about how a reconciliation could be established. They asked Becket whether he would consent to observance within his own province of the customs [Constitutions] of Clarendon (in which 'clerics' had been 'damned'), [which the king had persuaded them by large gifts and even larger promises] customs they had heard had been followed in the time of his predecessors as archbishops; and if by doing this all quarrels between him and the king could be set at rest. And that therefore he could return in peace to his office and See together with his followers.


To this Becket replied that none of his predecessors had been forced to make any such profession before their kings; that with God's help he would never promise to obey customs which opposed God's law, and which were repugnant to the privileges of the Holy See and destructive of Church  liberty, customs which even the Pope had personally condemned at Sens before many witnesses, including themselves. Becket said that he was only following the Pope's authority by condemning certain "customs" and those who practised them, just as the Catholic Church has been known to do on many previous occasions. All Becket claimed he was doing was abolishing that text of the royal constitutions, where 'clerics had been 'damned' by the evil clauses contained in it, especially the following:-

That no appeals could be made to the Holy See without the king's official permission.

That no archbishop or bishop was allowed to leave the kingdom and obey a papal summons without the king's official permission.


That no bishop was allowed to excommunicate anyone who holds of the king as tenant-in-chief without the king's licence, nor to place his land or his officers under interdict.


That no bishop was permitted to coerce anyone for perjury or breach of faith.

That clerics may be summoned to appear in secular courts.

That laymen, both the king and others, might hear cases concerning churches or tithes.
And other similar clauses. 

Then the cardinals asked whether Becket would promise,  if he could not to confirm, at least whether he would pretend to tolerate the customs of "Cleridamnum"; and to return to his see, accepting  peace, without any specific mention of the customs being made.

Becket replied that there was a saying amongst his people that "silence implies consent". Since the king would seem still to own those "customs" and would unjustly force the Church to observe them. And if the attack on them which was already under way was halted by his silence, especially if this was authorized by the intervention of the papal legates themselves, it would instantly seem that the king had won.  He said that he would rather remain in exile for ever, be an outlaw and even die for justice, than accept the peace which the Cardinals offered, which would endanger his soul and the damage the cause of Church liberty, and which God himself forbade priests to do in such cases.

The list of the loathsome customs was then read out loud, and the cardinals were asked whether they considered it was lawful for Christians to follow such practices, let alone their pastors to turn a blind eye to them.

The Cardinals then asked Becket whether he was willing to accept their judgment concerning  the differences between himself and the king.  


Becket said that he believed in the rightness of his case, since he and his had long since been stripped of their possessions; that he would gladly obey the law after these had been restored in full, and when full account had been taken of these. He said that he would not refuse to submit to the judgment of whomsoever the Pope nominated, wherever, whenever and however he ought. In the meantime, however, he and his followers could not be forced into legal process, as they did not have sufficient resources for this; they had nothing to live on, and were dependent on the charity of the most  Christian king of France.


Passing over this the Cardinals asked him whether he would respond before their judgement in the appeals that the bishops have made against him.



Becket recalled the letter in which the [non-]appeal, which claimed to be in the name of all the bishops, abbots and barons resident in the province of Canterbury; that he was certain that they were not all present at Rouen when it was drawn up, that many of them did not know of it, and that many of those who did disapproved, since the authors of the letter were evading justice rather than appealing for it.  He replied he had not received any papal mandate on this matter, and that when the time came he would give it a considered answer; but for the time being he and his own followers' poverty was insufficient to cover the expenses of a journey and litigation, and that it was intolerable to depend on the generosity of the most Christian king of France, who was already providing support for exiled bishops, and who would now be forced to divert further funds to maintain Becket and his fellow exiles over an extended period. Where there was food a-plenty, it was easier to provide sustenance.

On the following day the king of France received the papal legates. On oath he defended Becket's integrity testifying he had always given Louis counsel aimed at preserving peace, saving the honour of both kings, and the tranquility owed to both peoples. Becket asked the legates to provide the church with some advice and whether he himself had strayed from it at any time, then to show him the more direct path. 


The Cardinals gave  him their sympathy and applauded his enthusiasm but failed to advise that his course and purpose should be changed.  Parting with blessings to each other, and so things stood.


And so they stood in this region, with God's help, until the  Church revived and its persecutors were either converted or perished. The Church prayed for you and that your faith will not fail; and know this, that whenever there was opportunity,  turn to your brothers and strengthen  them. You will learn how this raised up those who have fallen, and confirm those who stand upright, that they might be strong; and there were more who defended the Church than attacked it.


He who gave up his life for its freedom  will not desert it in its hour of trouble. The saints will not desert the cause, nor will they be afraid to give up their blood for it. Over all this God will beat down Satan under his feet, swiftly triumphing over Satan and the servants of wickedness, just as the faithful hope and the fathers of the Church have promised.



CTB 146 Argentan,  29  November 1167
The English Church to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury
[Gilbert Foliot 441, MTB 345]

The bishops reminded Becket that they had appealed to the Pope the year before, and had notified him that they had done so. They claimed that their appeal was entirely just, and that it was not right for them to have been excommunicated without a hearing.

It was also wrong of Becket to have threatened the king with excommunication and the imposition of an interdict on his kingdom whilst he was waiting for the papal legates to hear his case, and that if Becket had gone ahead with this it would have done immense damage to the Pope and the Church. The Pope had sent from his court wise and impartial men learned in the law to hear the appeals, with full powers to conclude them.

That they had letters from the Pope commanding them by his authority to appear before the legates to explain their case and accept their sentence. They had appeared before the legates asking them to determine the matters that had arisen between the king and themselves, and Becket in accordance with the papal mandate. That they had not evaded this judgement. That they had followed the mandate and said to Becket that it would be entirely uncanonical of him to use powers that he had been given to defend the Church and not to have granted his subjects a time and place to hear their defence. That it was against the laws of the Fathers of the Church for him to have executed suspensions based on evidence which was not true. That they have appealed to the Pope against the sentences he had imposed on them, and against all his orders bringing any kind of trouble to the king and his kingdom, or upon them, their churches and jurisdictions. And gave Becket formal notice that the following Martinmas was the term of their appeal.


CTB 148 Evreux, ca 9 December 1167
Cardinals William and Otto to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury
[Giles Gilbert Foliot 408, MTB 343]

The Cardinals said that king Henry had noted Becket's response concerning the will to re-establish good relations with him even though he had earlier been provoked to anger by Becket, and how the king was now fuming with rage more so because of Becket's arrogance and the Pope's lack of concern for him.

When the English prelates heard that Becket had refused either to enter into discussions with them, or to submit to the Cardinals' judgement the prelates read out the Pope's letter, which commanded Becket not to impose an interdict on the English kingdom.

The English prelates asked the papal legates whether they could be protected from Becket's exactions if they accepted legation to England. However they learned that the Cardinals had no authority concerning the English realm; instantly they made an appeal to the Pope in the cardinal's presence, for themselves and the whole kingdom, appointing  Martinmas as its term. The cardinals then told Becket that the prelates would be sending their own messengers separately to him about this. 

Consequently the cardinals issued a further order on behalf of the Pope directing Becket to defer this appeal, and to heed the Pope's prohibition that he might not excommunicate anyone nor place any interdict against the kingdom of England, until the Pope and his Curia have first been approached and their pleasure apprised in these matters. 


CTB 149 after 9 December 1167
[Giles TB 381, MTB 339]
A Close Friend [possibly John of Salisbury] to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

Richard Hurrell Froude; James Bowling Mozley (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude. Volume 2. Letter Anonymous to the Archbishop of Canterbury: J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 280–.

The Cardinals travelled by way of the monastery of Bec, Lisieux, Saint- Pierre sur Dive, arriving at Argentan on the Sunday before Advent. That day the king rode out two leagues to meet them, and accompany each to their own lodgings. 

On the next day after Mass they met with the king in his council chamber. Also present were the archbishops, bishops, and abbots. After two hours the Cardinals left the room. As they departed the king muttered within their earshot:  'Would to God that I may never set eyes on a cardinal again'.  The Cardinals left in such a hurry that they did not use their own horses, but ones which happened to be nearby.

The archbishops, bishops, and abbots remained with the king until evening. Afterwards they went to the Cardinals' lodgings looking very worried, and where they spent some time.

The next day the prelates stayed with the king until late, afterwards passing to and fro between the king and the Cardinals with secret messages and responses.

The very next day the king rose at dawn and went out hunting, plainly backing out of the proceedings. That same day, the prelates gathered in the king's council chamber in his absence to continue the discussions there, following which they met with the Cardinals at a church near their lodgings. Present together with the Cardinals were the archbishops of Rouen and York, the bishops of Worcester, Salisbury, Bayeux, London, Chichester, and Angouleme, many abbots, and a mass of other clergy and laity.

The bishop of London spoke to those assembled. He told them how the Pope had directed the bishops to meet with the Cardinals over the case between the king and Becket, and the sentences made against them. How they had been told that the Cardinals had been given full powers by the Pope. And how they had hurried to meet with them fully prepared to accept whatever sentence was to befall them, and to answer whatever legal action arose. The king also offered the same, agreeing to ratify whatever sentence the Cardinals were to decide. And since the king and the bishops had not taken any action which would impede the accomplishment of the Pope's mandate, he said "let the blame be placed where it should".  He went on to explain how Becket did everything precipitously, striking without warning, with suspensions and excommunications, and how the bishops of England now wished to renew their appeal concerning these.

The bishop of London then went on to outline the case between Becket and the king. That the
king was demanding 44,000 silver marks from Becket for monies which had been entrusted to him when he was Chancellor. He said that as Becket had not been charged with this when he was promoted to archbishop, therefore neither had he been discharged from this, poking fun at Becket by saying that Becket thought as sins were forgiven by baptism so debts were waived upon promotion.

He then warned of the dangers. He explained why he and the other English bishops had appealed, both to preempt Becket's injustice towards them, but also by suggesting that the king might break with Rome were they to obey any interdict which might be imposed by Becket. 

He reported how Becket had denounced the king because of his decrees. Explaining the king's case he said that the king had now lifted his prohibition against appeals by clerics to Rome, which had only been introduced to save the clerics of their costs, but which he was now nullifying because their ingratitude. Further, the king was only saying that if cases were civil ones, clerics should dispute these before lay judges; but if they were ecclesiastical ones, these should then be heard before their own judges in their own courts.

Finally, how Becket had burdened him with too many financial costs.  How  Becket had ordered  him to distribute his letters across England, for which forty couriers were not enough. How Becket had deprived him personally of the income of about sixty churches, and which had now been taken out of his jurisdiction. And how Becket used to have his own agent in the city of London, a dean who plotted against him, and before whom the cases involving these churches were heard. And he explained how he was more distressed by these burdens than any other bishop.

The bishops of Salisbury and Winchester also wished to include themselves in this appeal. Salisbury, upon hearing that Becket had excommunicated him had already appealed before, and that he was now doing so again. Similarly two clerics from Canterbury wished for theirs to be included too, for which, it was believed, formal letters were given to them by the Cardinals. 

Cardinal Otto secretly informed the Pope that he would not be involved in Becket's
deposition. The king wanted nothing less than his head on a dish.

The Cardinals left the king on the Thursday following Advent Sunday. The king begged them to ask the Pope to rid him of Becket, shedding tears as he did so. William of Pavia likewise seemed to weep too, but Cardinal Otto merely smiled at all this.

The outcome Cardinal William of Pavia sent a messenger to the Pope, as did the king send two of his envoys as well.


CTB 150 ca 11 December 1167
[Giles TB 7, MTB 331]
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Pope Alexander

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 270–.

Our wretchedness and and sufferings have struck an accord with the people and king of France. John of Oxford tried to turn their hearts. But may the merciful God reward you, our most holy judge, faithful guardian and father of His holy church. You have consoled our sorrows. France and its most Christian king are exceedingly grateful for your apostolic authority. So much so that they have turned against all who boasted that they had triumphed over your majesty with oaths. After the king had received you communication he openly praised the renown of your holiness' prudence, justice and sanctity. He exposed their malicious lies and false rumours.

After talking to your legates he has very pleased to learn that they had only come to try, if possible, to establish a peace agreement between us and the king of England and with the Church, and not to prejudice its liberty.

Summoned to appear before them ten days later on the borders between the two kingdoms' lands, because we only had three horses  they granted us a further week's extension to assemble our fellow exiles, who were scattered every, prepare for the journey and consider our case.

Despite being short of time and our poverty making it difficult, we met with the legates between Gisors and Trie on 18th November, the king of France having kindly sent his servants to provide for us.

Some have suggested that our opponents have deliberately tried to burden us with journeys and expenses, to make us hateful to the king of France, who supports us by his charity, to snatch us away from the comfort of his alms, just as they destroyed the support of the Cistercian Order.

Together with legates only the archbishop of Rouen came, the bishops and abbots of our province  summoned by the king being kept at Rouen.

The legates emphasised just how obstinant the king was being, the difficulties the Church faced, under attack from all sides except in France, and battered by storms it could scarce withstand. They stressed the greatness and power of the king, and the honour he had shown to it by his friendship, favour, and benefices, and how we had injured him, alleging that we had stirred up the war between the French king and the count of Flanders. They urged us to calm his anger by great humility. They sought our advice how to soften his hard-heartness, as we had personally known him well, and how he had well demonstrated it to them when he learned that they were not allowed publicly to condemn us, as John of Oxford's had promised they would. What he was overheard saying within the earshot of his bishops would be better reported to you verbally by the messenger rather than in writing.  On day after the king of France cleared our name under oath in their presence insofar as it concerned him:  we are wholly innocent of this offence.

Indeed, to avoid any such accusation being made against us we held off from meeting with the king of France until we were summoned by him to present him with your explanatory letter and to obtain  a safe conduct for the legate, lord Otto. who had asked us for this via his clerk. King Louis was mistrustful of this legation, which the king of England had asked for, as he had been injured by one on a previous occasion, and because he was very annoyed when he heard about John of Oxford's boasts. After this we returned to our humble place of exile. Since the legates required us to show humility towards the king we said that we would devotedly do so saving the honour of God and the Apostolic See, the Church's liberty, the dignity of our own office, and the property of the Church. We asked them to tell us if anything should be amended since it was our desire to obey them as far as our rank and status permitted. They said they had no definite policy regrading this and they come not to give us advice but to seek our opinion. They asked whether we were willing to promise the king in their presence that we would observe all the customs which his predecessors had exercised in the times of our predecessors, since we are no better than them, to return to our see and his favour, and to settle all disputes in this fashion. We replied none of our predecessors had been forced by any king to make such a profession, nor would we ever agree to observe these customs, which destroy the Church's liberty, overthrow the privilege of the Apostolic See, and are manifestly opposed to God's law, and from which had you already absolved us at Sens, witnessed by them and many others. Rather that we should bare our neck to be severed  by an executioner before consenting to such depravities. The condemned customs were read aloud in their presence, some of which we had already condemned or rather, the Catholic Church itself has, from the very beginning, condemned them and those who would observe them, divinely cursed by many of its councils.  Was a priest really allowed to observe them and even to turn a blind eye without endangering his order and salvation?  We added that we had sworn fealty to the king, saving our order, and would willingly keep that promise, as long as we did not renounce the faith we owe to God. One of the Cardinals whom we have suspected all along said that it would be better for us to give in utterly than for the Church to be disrupted in this way;the rest that was said on this would be better related by word of mouth.   We replied to the man who suggested this that we would not yield on that matter, because it would lead to the destruction of ecclesiastical liberty, and even damage to the Christian faith. Who would dare to speak up in the future if pastors were to give way in this fashion? We added that no Pope, including your holiness, has ever set such an example for God's Church. Did not Egypt, where religion has greatly flourished since the beginning, return to idolatry after its pastors had fled?

Moving on from this they asked if we would to accept their adjudication concerning the controversy between us and the king, saying if we refused this we would be seen to justify the king's case injuring our own. Let it be known, by your leave, we will not accept that man, our known enemy, as our judge. We cannot be safe in this matter except in your presence. Consider how that king has terrorised everyone forcing us and our companions into exile, and the harm he has inflicted on others. No one dares with his knowledge to remember any good about us at all. We did not say that we would refuse judgment, or involve ourselves in risky litigation rather that we would willingly submit ourselves and the questions to your judgement, or to any person (or persons) acting on your mandate, where and when that we should, after we had been restored to everything. We do not wish to refuse justice. Presently nothing compels us to litigate,  our poverty does not suffice us to sustain it. Nor can we rely on the generosity of our benefactor, the king of France, to supply us with money for a long stays in other men's houses, as he is in great need himself. We are better off concerning expenses where there is an abundance of food.

They came to the third matter concerning the appeal of the bishops against us with they as judges We replied that we had not received your mandate on that. Nor again could we litigate owing to cost and our poverty. This was being pushed by other quarters to discredit  us in front of the legates, believing that none of our fellow-provincials would dare to help us against the king.

The king has only summoned those who have been our opponents since the beginning, the archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Chichester, with the addition of Worcester, disguising the malice of the others. The others approved our election: witness the praise lavished upon us in the letters when they sought our pallium (as you may well remember) and who also now applaud the king's will and seek our blood.They have made
themselves contemptible by the audacity of their lies and adulation. It is not safe or possible for us to submit to judgement, except in your presence, and under your holiness' examination.

Although we trust the reliability of the other legate, there is really no one else whom we can trust to the Lord's cause. May God transform the other legate into the kind of man who ought to be a full cardinal.  If it should happen perchance that Cardinal William should combine with the power and severe will of the king we fear the consequences. Listen to Lord Otto, therefore. He will tell you what he saw and learned about the church and province of Tours, and what he heard about the English Church, and what he experienced in Normandy. He will tell of the pain the church is suffering: how the king of England is keeping seven vacant bishoprics in his own hands,, nor will he suffer any bishops to be appointed to them. How the clergy of his realm have been given over to his henchmen for spoil and destruction. If, good father, we neglect these matters, how then can we reply to Christ on the day of Judgement? Who will resist the anti-Christ? Such negligence makes the powerful arrogant; kings become tyrants, so much so that no right will be left to the Church, except at their pleasure. Be strong, father, and stand firm. We are greater in number. The Lord has smashed Frederick, the hammer of the impious, to pieces, and he will soon strike down the others, unless they come to themselves and make peace with God's Church.

In conclusion, we are hoping simply for a judgement from your mouth. Our messengers will bring more by word of mouth than we have set down in writing. Be certain there would have been no need for the intervention of any cardinal had we been willing to accept the bad customs from the outset. What if we were to set tyrants above the apostolic institutions and believe in the haughty power of secular princes? Is this the pattern for living rather than the eternal testament sealed by the blood and death of Christ?

It is up to your holiness to decide whether we should continue to suffer, that naked we should be judged, wretched, deprived of all our property, and that we should subject ourselves to the risks of law because we dared to oppose a most fierce oppressor of the Church. Could they not just be satisfied that they have brought about the death of some of our colleagues, and our poverty and ruin, in which we scarcely survive, living by the alms, without being sued and summoned year by year, by the authority of this legation, which should never have been granted? Our right for justice has turned to our destruction and that of our unfortunate followers.

Good God where will all this suffering end?

CTB 151 ca 11 December 1167
[Giles TB 33, MTB 501]
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Albert and Theodwin

[On Becket's motives for challenging king Henry]

We are in no doubt that you feel for the  the Church of God's trouble. itcannot stand for long if those with the duty of saving it bring on its destruction.

We loved our lord, the king of England and served him to the best of our strength and in accordance with his will, without conscious fault, before we received the priesthood.  Not wishing after that to agree with him by insulting God and overthrowing the Church, we opposed him on God's behalf, preferring to summon him to pardon by offending him, rather than to propel him into Hell by flattery. The case which he conducts against us is between him and God, because we seek nothing more from him than that which the God left to his Church as an everlasting testament, when he took flesh for her sake.

We beg you to rise up with us in support of the shipwrecked Church, and with your authority and wisdom to resist this man. If you are in any doubt, enquire about how this man treats the churches of Gaul and Tours, from the people of Aquitaine and Normandy, and also from those who have come to Rome from England. You will be in no doubt about the rightness of our cause. We prefer to suffer a temporal death rather than to deserve an eternal death.

The outcome of this dispute will have consequences in other times. Either the Church will grieve in perpetual torment, or rejoice in eternal liberty.

We would not need the intercession of anyone had we consented from the outset, to agree with the king the decrees of Clarendon, which are not customs but perversions, simply endorsing them absolutely, without saving our order in any way. If he succeeds in establishing such great wrongs with the consent of the Roman Church, who will then dare to speak out against him in future? Who will prevent his heirs or other princes, equally noble and powerful, from claiming the same? Subsequent  generations very rarely practice virtue when they have inherited the vices of their predecessors.

If princes subject the Church to slavery and treat God's law as fable, empty words without truth or meaning, because we have dared to stand up for it. who will then respect papal decrees, or obey the mandates of the supreme pontiff? 

For these reasons we especially entrust the Church's cause to you believing you to be firm pillars of the Church. We expect God to be our judge and call upon Him to judge His cause.

Amen.

CTB 152 ca December 1167
[Lupus 71, Giles TB 54, MTB 290]
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Cardinal John of SS. Giovanni e Paolo
[Begging him not to befriend John of Oxford]

The church of Canterbury has always adhered to the Apostolic See, far more than all the other churches in our island. In our predecessor's time she used to look to you for consolation, for your counsel and strength in her difficulties. But since you seem to have forgotten this more than may be expedient for us, we beg you to believe your brother, who, we believe, is not unmindful of our devotion to you and your duty to us.

Therefore we wonder who made you turn away from the church of Canterbury and the protection of God's cause, which, if it should fail, would find the whole of the English Church's freedom perishing completely, and the authority of the Church of Rome excluded from England, with everything in the future determined according to the king's will.

If we had consented at the outset to the customs which the king seeks, we would have not needed you or anyone else to intercede with him. You should consider whether the church of Canterbury should have been so easily abandoned simply on the word of that notorious oathtaker, whose frauds have been uncovered,

We beg you not to cast off the church of Canterbury, which is offering her service to you; do not desert God's cause. Let Canterbury learn of the loyalty of an old friend. He who deserts a friend in his need is not his friend, but fortune's. You will gain far less from cultivating the friendship of that oath-taker and others of his ilk, having discarded that of the church of Canterbury.


CTB 153 December 1167
[Lupus 136, Giles TB 180, MTB 250]
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Cardinal Boso

No one knows more fully than you how much loyalty, obedience, and devotion the church of Canterbury has shown the Papacy. Our most immediate predecessor, your friend, twice fled into exile after king Stephen had proceeded against him for attending the Council of Rheims where he had been summoned by Pope Eugenius, but against the king's proscription. All the other bishops stayed behind, disobeying the Pope, except for three who went to the Council commanded by the king to excuse the non-attendance of the others. My immediate predecessor also refused to crown that king's son, Eustace, which had been prohibited by the Roman pontiffs.

Which other bishops from our island, except the archbishops of Canterbury, have readily challenged princes in defence of Church liberty, and obedience to the Apostolic See? There has not even been one. If acceptance of the customs, rather the abominations, as required of us, had flourished in our predecessor's time, he would not have exposed himself to ruin for the sake of obedience to the Pope against the king's command and the Pope would not have thanked him for doing so. If these perversities had existed in his time, he would have undoubtedly proceeded to crown the king's son, against the papal wishes, as the king's own court had already decreed it should be done. Do you remember how Roger, now archbishop of York and who came to Rome by order of the king and his council to seek from Pope Eugenius a withdrawal of the papal prohibition?

In contrast, Canterbury has always been devoted to you. We intend that our love will grow ever stronger. We beg you, in memory of our friendship, to bring these matters to the Pope's attention. Please ensure that he does not deliver unto wild beasts a Church which has always served God and the Apostolic See, and by our ruination destroy its liberty. King Stephen did not cease his attacks on our predecessor until after the then Pope had commanded all the bishops to observe without appeal, the sentence of anathema issued against him and the interdict imposed on his lands. A wolf is not readily kept away from sheep-pens, unless frightened by sticks and barking dogs.

CTB 154 December 1167
[Lupus 19, Giles TB 67, MTB 349]
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Cardinal William of Pavia

I did not believe that you would put me up for sale in the market-place, for you to profit from my blood and make a name for yourself.from the price of injustice. Changes of fortune alternate, and just as it is easy to fall from the pinnacle of success, so the opposite is possible. A man of your wisdom cannot ignorant of this, that nothing is so secure that danger is not nearby. and the contrary is also true. You would weigh the jests of fortune very differently, if you were not so dangerously forgetful of your own position.

I urge you to take careful note in your judgement, to use the full power of your ability against this furious storm, the growing tempest the Church of Rome faces. Your master, the prince of the apostles, won his reputation on earth and glory in heaven, by his blood, by opposing princes, and not yielding to them, not by arranging an unjust peace. It was in this manner that the Church's strength grew, when it was thought to be wiped out.

CTB 156 after 14 December 1167
[Lupus 24, Giles Gilbert Foliot 407, MTB 356]
Cardinals William and Otto to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

We received your messenger and read your letter very carefully.  Comparing your message with the Pope's letter concerning our purpose, it seems that we cannot do these now as there is no real hope of improvement from that direction. As you well know all your property and estates are in the hands of the king. It seems appropriate therefore to wait until God himself opens a path for reconciliation in some way, or until the Lord Pope commands what should be done, and how.

The king's mind and heart are so turned against you that he cannot bear to hear about reconciliation from anyone at all. And, therefore, as we have told you by our envoys, it is safer to hold back, until we know the mind of the Lord Pope.

CTB 157 after 14 December 1167
[Giles TB 10, MTB 348]
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Pope Alexander

We are sending two of our clerks, who share our exile, so that you can hear directly from them about our wretched tale. We hope to receive from your holiness the long-delayed freedom from oppression for our church and ourselves that we are due. We are cruelly oppressed in a multitude of ways.  We are unjustly being sued and summoned one season after another, in wretchedness and suffering. Either we should die under the attacks or give way under the blows of misfortune. It has never been more severe than now.

Listen, my lord. See if there ever was injustice like this. We have become a laughing-stock to those around us. Consider the outrageous actions of your legates. Is the legation that should never have been to continue? We have been suspended by them from our authority over the churches and people of England. You never did this before at the urging of any prince, nor through God's mercy should it be so, according to word you gave us. Why, my lord, did you make this man a legate? a man whose whole soul was from the outset bent on our ruin and the destruction of ecclesiastical authority, so as to gain the prince's favour.

The king of France, the queen, and some of his entourage have written to you, praising God and you, because your legates had proved to them that the oath-taker, John of Oxford and the other messengers of king Henry that what they had predicted about our future, being overthrown by the legates, was nothing but a pack of lies. However, unspeakable rumours have now spread throughout France. Because of this we urge your holiness to bring swift medicine to this new sickness, to make it clear to all that these things were presumed without your knowledge and mandate.

Come to our aid and deal with us according to your promises. Bring swift help to us and our church, and put an end to this wickedness, so that we are no longer summoned,  Indeed there is scarcely enough time for us even to breathe; let us experience the favour of your grace before we die. Our companions, some of whom have already begun to die, may be revived through your generosity. Have pity on us since after God there is no one else to fight for us, save only you and those loyal to you. May God have mercy on you at the Last Judgement, when you will have to give account of your stewardship.


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