Thursday, 19 March 2015

Henry II's Dealings with the Holy Roman Empire, 1165-6

During Lent, in 1165, Henry crossed over the sea from England to Normandy, On April 11th he met with Louis VII king of France at Gisors. Afterwards, on 15th April, at Rouen, he received a delegation from Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, led by Rainald von Dassell, archbishop-elect of Cologne and chancellor of Italy. The principal purpose of this mission was to ask for the hands in marriage of two of King Henry's daughters, Eleanor to the Friederich’s eldest son, also Friederich, and Mathilda, as the spouse for Frederick's relative, Henry the Lion, of Saxony.  During the negotiations ecclesiastical matters were also brought up, as Pope Alexander's recent imperfect handling of Henry over the Constitutions of Clarendon and Becket's subsequent flight into exile was topmost in Henry's mind. Rainald saw this as a clear opportunity to win over Henry to the Emperor's side. Some say Henry made vague promises in this direction. Whatever, Henry and the English Church were too much in the camp of Pope Alexander's.

After the meeting in Normandy the Germans followed Henry back across the sea to England, where, although received with due formal honours, they were treated coldly by the English court because of their association with the imperial antipope. Several "undiplomatic" incidents occurred, including the ritual cleansing of altars where they had celebrated mass. and the refusal by one of king Henry's senior barons, the Earl of Leicester, chief justiciar of the kingdom, to give Rainald the kiss of peace. The imperial mission returned back to Germany together with two of King Henry's most trusted envoys and representatives, John of Oxford and Richard of Ilchester. After he got back Rainald was full of boasts that he had won over Henry to the antipapal cause, and who would bring with him more than fifty bishops from his vast domains

At Whitsuntide, May 24th 1165 a grand Imperial Diet was summoned by Frederick Barbarossa to Wurzburg, There Rainald of Cologne proposed that Frederick should swear publicly on oath that he would never give recognition to Alexander as Pope, but that he would only recognise, Paschal III [Guy of Crema, the second antipope] as Pope. Frederick agreed to do this and swore this on behalf of both himself and his successors The same oath was also exacted from Frederick's prelates and the princes of his empire. Included in this oath, according to documents published by Frederick, and also in a letter sent to one of Becket’s agents, it was said that the English envoys John of Oxford and Richard of Ilchester had also subscribed their master’s name to this oath, although Henry afterwards claimed he was never party to or bound by his envoys actions, and he never personally issued an official denial, thought it seems that he did force Rotrou, archbishop of Rouen to send a letter to Pope Alexander's curia that he had not given any kind of oath of support to the emperor's antipope Paschal III.

The oath given by Henry's legates to Frederick at the Diet of Wurzburg 1165 was recorded thus

Ad hæc honorabiles Legati illustris amici nostri Henrici , gloriosi Anglorum Regis, ad nos ab ipso transmissi , in totius Curia: nostra præsentia super sanctorum Reliquias ex parte Regis Angliæ publice juraverunt nobis , quod Rex ipfe cum toto Regno suo in parte nostra fideliter stabit: Dominum Paschalem , quem nos tenemos, nobiscum semper tenebit .

At these words the most illustrious ambassadors of our friend of Henry, the glorious King of the English, sent to us by him, before and in the presence of the whole court did publicly swear to us upon the relics of the saints that the King of England, the King himself, on his part, would faithfully, and together with the whole of his kingdom that he shall stand with the Lord Paschal, and would hold to this with us. ...

Henry's denial is recorded in


Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Volume 5 p. 194  MTB Epistola 101 July 1st 1165

In the sequel Richard of Ilchester does not seem to have been expressly charged with having sworn to recognise Paschal. John of Oxford, however, was so charged again and again, and Becket excommunicated him at Vezelay on Whitsunday 1166 on this ground as well as on another. It is true that Richard of Ilchester was excommunicated among several other persons on the same day, but we are not told that this was the specific charge laid against him. John of Oxford himself soon afterwards got released  by the pope and was restored to his deanery at Salisbury, having explained the Wurzburg incident and having sworn that he had done nothing to the injury of the Church or of Alexander. One has to conclude, then, that the oath taken at Wurzburg was capable of two interpretations, and that the emperor was deceived as to the pledge which he supposed was being made on behalf of the English king.

The original plan to match a daughter of Henry II with the eldest son of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, was abandoned as this son died in childhood.  Matilda, however, left England in September 1167 to proceed with the arranged marriage to Henry the Lion of Saxony.

References

Elfinspell: 1166 A.D., Henry II's Letter to the Archbishop of Cologne, from King's Letters, edited by Robert Steel, Richard de Lucy, Saint Thomas, Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, martyr, Norman England History, Primary Source, English translation

John Allen Giles (1846). The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. Letter 29 King Henry to Reginald, archbishop of Cologne: Whittaker and Company. pp. 316–.

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Epistola 113 Henry king of England to Reginald schismatic archbishop of Cologne Summer 1166? [Sent after the excommunications of Vezelay on June 12, 1166]

Diu desideravi justam habere occasionem recedendi a papa Alexandro et a perfidis cardinalibus ejus, qui proditorem meum Thomam, Cantuariensem archiepiscopum, contra me manutenere praesumunt ; unde cum consilio baronum meorum et cleri, magnos viros de regno meo, archiepiscopum scilicet Eboracensem, episcopum Londoniensem, archidiaconum Pictavensem, Richardum de Luci, Johannem de Oxonia, Romam missurus sum, qui publice denuntiabunt, et manifesto ex parte mea et totius regni Angliae et omnium aliarum terrarum quas habeo proponent papa Alexandro et cardinalibus ejus, ne ulterius proditorem meum manuteneant sed ita liberent me ab eo, ut alium possim cum consilio cleri instituere in ecclesia Cantuari- ensi ; denuntiabimt etiam, quod quicquid Thomas fecit in irritum revocent. Hoc etiam postulabunt, ut coram eis papa jurari faciat publice, quod ipse et successores sui et mihi et omnibus meis regias consuetudines Henrici regis avi mei inconcussas et inviolatas, quantum ad se, in perpetuum conservabunt. Quod si forte alicui petitionum mearum contradicere voluerint, neque ego, neque barones mei, nequexslerus meus aliquam eia ulterius servabimus obedientiam, immo ipsum papam et omnes suos manif este impugnabimus, et quicumque in terra mea inventiLs fuerit, qui papa; post hsec adhaerere voluerit, expelletur a regno. Ea propter rogamus voa, ut carissimum amicum, quatenus fratrem Ernaldum Hospitaliarium, omni occasione remota, cito ad nos mittatis, qui ex parte imperatoris et vestra prasdictis nuntiis meis ducatum prsebeat in eundo^ per terram imperatoris; Valete.

I have long wished to have a just cause for leaving pope Alexander and his perfidious cardinals, who presume to support my traitor, Thomas, formerly archbishop of Canterbury, in his rebellion against me. Wherefore, by the counsel of my barons, I mean to send to Rome the archbishop of York, the bishop of London, and the archdeacon of Poitou, John of Oxford, and Richard de Lucy, to warn the pope from myself and my whole kingdom, no longer to support the cause of my traitor, but to release me from him altogether, and let me have another archbishop of Canterbury in his place. They are also required to revoke all that he has done in this matter, and to make a public decree that the pope, for himself and his successors for ever, shall ratify the constitutions of Henry my grandfather; and if they do not consent to this request, I and my barons and all my clergy will obey him no longer, but will do all we can against him, and any of his party who are found in my dominions shall be expelled. I therefore pray you, as a friend whom I value, to send 12 to us without delay brother Arnold, or brother Ralph the Hospitaller, that they may afford safe conduct to my ambassadors aforesaid through the emperor’s dominions, both in going and returning


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