Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Mission of Richard, prior of Dover to the Young King, Dec 1170

Several days after his return, eight days after he had arrived at Canterbury, Becket who wished to pay a visit to the court of the young King, sent ahead Richard, the prior of St. Martin's Dover (a dependency of Christchurch, Canterbury). On his arrival at Winchester, Richard found the King in council with his advisers and guardians [tutores: William de St John, William fitz Audelin, Hugh de Gundeville and Ranulf fitz Stephen] together with a council of nobles, and some bishops [but specifically excluding those of Worcester, Winchester, Exeter and Norwich (or Ely)] together with a number of abbots and archdeacons [in particular those of Canterbury (Geoffrey Ridell) and Poitiers (Richard of Ilchester). They were discussing in a highly uncanonical manner a scheme to fill the six vacant bishops' sees. They were to select six candidates to be sent on their way from Southampton to cross over the channel to see King Henry II at Bur-le-Roi, where he was staying over Christmas period in1170. There the elder King Henry would have them confirmed in their appointment.

This was a scheme designed rapidly to pre-empt Becket now he had returned to the kingdom from interfering and having any involvement in the selection and appointment process of filling the vacant sees. All the new bishops had to be partisan towards King Henry. Canon 13 of the 4th Council of Carthage (419 AD) was cited as a precedent and legal justification for this action.  But this process also contradicted another church canon, the 4th Canon of the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD), where, it was decreed that the right of confirmation of a new bishop should belong to the metropolitan bishop of the province.

Prior Richard's mission did not succeed. Becket was denied access to the Young King. Two knights were sent to meet him as he was making his way towards Woodstock where the Young King had now relocated himself to. The knights told Becket he was not welcome and ordered him to rerun to Canterbury, denying him the right to travel all over the kingdom.

Story according to William of Canterbury

An Annotated Translation of the Life of Saint Thomas, the Archbishop of Canterbury
by William, a Monk of Canterbury; trans. Mary Annette Bocke (1946)
Loyola University Chicago Book 2 Sections 11-16 p.45-58

Story according to Garnier

Translation of
Stanzas 954-990 Lines 4766-4950

Filling Vacant Bishoprics

954 Soon after his return from over the sea [from exile in France], he [Thomas Becket] determined he would not demure for long in his see without having gone to speak with the king of the land; so he sent before him a message by means of a monk, Richard, governor of the church at Dover.

955 The Young King was found at Winchester. There assembled were the barons of the land, deans, archdeacons, parsons and abbots  They were there on the counsel of the three bishops who had been severed from communion with the people [excommunicated/suspended, namely the bishops of London and Salisbury, and the archbishop of York],and  Geoffrey, the married one [Geoffrey Ridel, archdeacon (archdiabolus) of Canterbury who was later appointed bishop of Ely, but who also had to renounce his marriage before he could take up his post] .

956 There were six churches [bishoprics] in the kingdom which were without a pastor [bishop]. That is why these people, namely the prince, the earls, and many barons, were assembled that day [at Winchester] to select and appoint pastors to these honours. Those whom they selected had to cross over the sea [to the king] without delay.

957 There the parsons must be both elected and given [their posts] on the counsel of the four you've heard me number before. Neither did they wanted to summon archbishop, nor the several bishops of whom I have no wish to hide, those whom they knew were loyal [to Becket].

958 They had not wanted to have amongst them the Bishop of Winchester, nor Master Bartholomew of Exeter, nor the gentle and good Roger of Worcester, neither the bishop of Ely, who did not wish to be there. No one ought to extend his right hand to such a consecration.

959 Nowhere can bishops be ordained in thus manner. It is necessary to assemble as many of  bishops as possible. If necessary, three bishops can confer the consecration, but the bishop cannot be elevated to his office without the consent of the primate [metropolitan]. Thus stateth the Canonical decree.

960 And if a bishop is to be ordained in the land, it is necessary to summon all the bishops of the kingdom; those who cannot attend this assembly may send messengers with letters. Thus may it be known whether they approve of the consecration.

961 If a bishop or priest has been chosen and raised to his diocese by a prince, he is to be degraded. Anyone who has exercised secular authority and has purchased his divine office let him be wholly deposed and denied communion with the faithful.

962 I cannot see, neither cleric nor lay person, holding to the law of this decree, those who have been thus ordained, for they fear they may lose their offices. In thus manner they submit completely to the secular power, They bend before the wind wherever it comes from hoping for fairer weather.

963 They are not sons of Jesus: they are all degenerate. This year they will not let themselves be crucified for God!  They are utterly loathed to lose what they have embraced. They are not born of heaven; their gaze is not in that direction. They are baked from earth and it is towards earth they bow.

964 A bishop should put the world on the straight path: he must be a good men and good cleric, born of a woman in wedlock. A good cutting grafted onto the right rootstock will bear good fruit; and I see that a good cutting grafted onto poor rootstock will bear bad fruit: Cultivate a bad tree, bad will be the quality of its fruit [as ye sow, so shall ye reap].

965  Devils blind princes and kings! Whosoever has had a bad father poor is his heritage. He who has a weak chief will often be scourged. When the son does this to the father, order is overturned. The heavens are under the ground and  the stars are no longer visible. 

966  When the king appoints a pastor [bishop] , he ought to see to it to find one who can command his body and soul. And depending on the extent to he does this he decides to reverse this then it is as if pure emerald were to be set in lead: no one else can judge him but himself for this act.

967 One must give to Holy Church such a pastor whom we can submit to with honour. Holy Church is the wife of the sovereign Master; if He has taken a bride who is a bad steward, God is dishonoured by such a marriage.

968 The archbishop's messenger of Thomas thus came to Winchester, but found that the chamber was heavily guarded and barred against him. That was because both the clergy and laity feared that he was bearing letters which were not salutations but contained suspensions for some of them.

969 The messenger strongly pointed out saying that he brought no such malevolent mandate: but that the primate much loved the King and his people. Thus he gained access into the Young King's presence, where he bowed to him, and speaking humbly, he said:

970 "Thomas, the archbishop of Canterbury, legate of the Holy See of Rome and primate of the whole empire, greets King Henry, who is lord of England. Sire, you have heard enough said by others, wherefore that is why yet I am writing this letter to you.

971 "So that you may learn from me too, when your father was angry against me, that the good God has, by His grace, made peace between us and bound us in concord, harmony and love. But many have been infuriated by this.

972 And want me to quarrel with you, and have a evil intent, and want to undo and make disappear the love and peace: they say that I want to take away the crown from you! But not so! so help me God, whom we must serve, God who may grant me to be blessed with heavenly joy

973 How many kingdoms I would like you to have besides those which you already have,  I would have conquered them for you with my own flesh, and spill a part of my blood, but not if I become accused before God, so may the Holy Trinity help me at the end.

974 So how is it that I seek to do you harm or to dishonour you, whom I behold as and must do [for you] as king and lord, heir and successor to the kingdom, whom I love above all men in faith and with affection except my lord the king, who placed me in this [position of] honour?

975 "However, [I must tell you of] of how much bitterness there is in my heart for not having placed the crown of gold upon your head, according to the privilege of our mother church. Therefore, by my letter, I beg your bounty to let me speak to you about this and other matters."

976 Well did Richard deliver this message. But his advisers counselled the young king not to speak at this time to the archbishop .And master Geoffrey Ridel said to him and swore that the old king had spoken from the heart to him about this:

977 That he did not want his son to talk to this man, who, if he could, would deprive him of the inheritance of his kingdom, and who would take away and remove the crown from his head. The young king then sent to the archbishop two knights: one among that number was Thomas de Tournebu.

[I am of the opinion that the King did not have any right to deny access into the presence of the King in Council by the archbishop of Canterbury, as the archbishop was legally a baron and in order of precedence, the second person in the kingdom. On this occasion when the Young King was discussing who would be candidates to fill the vacant bishops'sees, the archbishop should have been present.]

978 And Joscelin came to him on behalf of the king. He forbade the Archbishop to enter any of the King's refuges: vills, boroughs and castles -woe unto him if he is seen in any of them! The archbishop had already reached London in order to speak to the king; he had alighted at Southwark.

[The two knights were Joscelin of Leuven, younger brother of Adeliza, Queen of Henry I, together with a knight called Thomas of Turnebuke]

979 "What!" said St. Thomas, "do you defy me?" - "Not at all," said Jocelin, "but you are ordered to do this by the King, because you have acted very badly towards him: you want to overthrow the laws and customs of his kingdom, and take away the crown from the Young King,

980 "You pass through his country with armed knights, you bring with you clerics from foreign lands and countries, and you have cut off prelates from their ministries. Henry now wants you to absolve them because in this as in other matters, you did greatly insult him."

[The knights are almost accusing Becket of lèse-majesté.]

981 Then the valiant one could no longer remain silent, and answered, "that is not right," he said to him " I have never seen it before laid down that what has been done by a person of higher rank may be undone by one of lesser rank; because that which has been actually done, and fully confirmed by Pope may not be legitimately undone by one of lesser authority."

982 These madmen replied in one voice.: "If you do not submit to that which the King has commanded, he will exert his right, and you will punished for it dearly!"  All this advice had been provided and drawn up by the three prelates who had been cut off from their ministries.

983 Then the noble one replied calmly to them saying that if the bishop of London and of Salisbury wished to come to him and swear to hold to the law of Holy Church and keep the peace, he was ready and willing to take up and bear the heavy responsibility of doing this,

984 And of the King's council, if he was willing, and with the advice of Roger of Worcester and the other bishops whom he had to consult, he would negotiate with humility [on their behalf] with the Apostolic honour [his holiness the Pope], and they would be very dear to him.

985 Joscelin then said, "since you persist in not wanting to absolve the King's prelates, the King has prohibited you access to his boroughs and cities, vills, and castles: woe unto you if you enter them! Go perform your ministry at Canterbury!

986 "How can I advise and monitor the churches and parishes, " said the saint, "if I cannot travel around to my flock? I cannot honourably perform my ministry." Having listened to such words the good man well understood that he must hastily come to his end as a martyr.

987 Bidding à Dieu, which is salvation to the righteous, he then turned back toward London and the City, where he made a halt, Many a miracle was performed by God at the place where he alighted, for the blind, cripples, the deaf, mute and lepers, who received both health and strength.

988 Bidding à Dieu to God he made his return. He set out along the road, thus the best one made his way. He confirmed children in the vills and boroughs, dismounting from his horse wherever they were brought to him. In no way did it seem painful to him to serve God:

989 Thus God was served willingly. There is no need to highlight all the places where he stopped to confirm children: you just have to find the chapels that have been built there. There God gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, makes the dumb to speak, and the lepers are cleansed; the dead are revived to walk again.

990 Thus St. Thomas returned to his see, where he remained in his archbishopric for the rest of his life. Whenever he saw the poor, he took pity, working to serve God night and day. Well he knew he faced martyrdom. He had foretold this.

Story according to Herbert of Boseham

An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas. Becket--Books 5-7.
Herbert of Bosham
trans Irene T. Pearse. (1944)
Loyola University Chicago.
pp. 26-


Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. 45. Thomas is Prevented from Visiting the young King: Manchester University Press. pp. 185–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Sinclair, Mary Aelred, "An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket By William Fitzstephen: (Part Two)" (1944). Master's Theses.Paper 369
. p.62-7
And as translated and edited by George Greenaway in The Life of Thomas Becket. Chancellor and Archbishop (London, Folio Society, 1961). p.

He stayed for a day and a night as the guest of the aforesaid Henry, bishop of Winchester. On the morrow Jocelyn of Arundel, the queen's brother, came to him with a message from the young king to the effect that he would not be permitted to visit him or to enter the cities and casdes of the realm. Let him rather return to Canterbury and remain in his see and not depart from it. At this the archbishop was dumbfounded. Realizing that such orders did not convey the true mind of the young king, he asked Jocelyn whether the king had signified his intention to remove him from his confidence and companionship. The envoy curdy replied, ' I have given you your orders'. Arrogantly taking his leave, he chanced to meet a certain citizen of London, a rich man and well known to him, to whom he said, 'Have you too come to join the king's enemy ? I advise you to return with all speed'. The man answered, 'Whether you hold him to be the king's enemy, I know not; but we have seen and heard read the letters from the king overseas dealing with the archbishop's peace and restoration.If something else lies behind them, we know naught of it'. These were prophetic signs of evil to come.

See also


An Annotated Translation of the Life of Saint Thomas, the Archbishop of Canterbury
by William, a Monk of Canterbury; trans. Mary Annette Bocke (1946)

Loyola University Chicago p.45-

John Horace Round (17 June 2010). Feudal England: Historical Studies on the XIth and XIIth Centuries. Cambridge University Press. pp. 506–. ISBN 978-1-108-01449-6.

Antonio Mira de Amescua; Olin Harris Moore; William Samuel Hendrix (1925). The Young King, Henry Plantagenet (1155-1183): In History, Literature and Tradition. Ohio State University.

Charles Duggan, ‘Richard (d. 1184)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Materials for the history of Thomas Becket by William, of Canterbury. Vol 1 p. 115

An Annotated Translation of the Life of Saint Thomas, the Archbishop of Canterbury
by William, a Monk of Canterbury; trans. Mary Annette Bocke (1946)
Loyola University Chicago Book 2 Sections 11-16 p.45-58

James Craigie Robertson.Rolls Series 67  Materials for the History of Thomas Becket. Volume 1 Willelmus Cantuariensi Liber secundus - Sections 11-16 : Cambridge University Press. pp. 105–. ISBN 978-1-108-04925-2.

Canons on the Election of Bishops

Gratianus Pars Prima Distinctio LXIV Causa II
Catholic Church; Aemilius Ludwig Richter; Emil Friedberg (1879). Corpus Iuris Canonici: Editio Lipsiensis Secunda - Post Aemilii Ludouici Richteri [1879]. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. pp. 64–. ISBN 978-1-58477-088-6.

Szabolcs Anzelm Szuromi (6 October 2014). Pre-Gratian Medieval Canonical Collections: Texts, Manuscripts, Concepts. Frank & Timme GmbH. pp. 48–. ISBN 978-3-7329-0108-1.

Ordinationes episcoporum auctoritate apostolica ab omnibus, qui in eadem prouincia sunt, episcopis celebrandae sunt.

Ordination of a Bishop from the authority of an apostle for all those who are in the same province, the Bishops are to be celebrated §. 1. And if you all could have little to convene at the same time, that the assent, however, may offer their prayers, so that from the very ordering of the soul are not absent.

By the 4th Canon of the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD), however, it was decreed that the right of confirmation should belong to the metropolitan bishop of each province, a rule confirmed by the 12th Canon of the Council of Laodicaea.   The canonical right of the metropolitan to confirm the election of his suffragans was still affirmed by Gratian.

Robert W. Shaffern (2009). Law and Justice from Antiquity to Enlightenment. On the Canonical Election of Bishops: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-1-4616-3871-1.

Gratianus Pars Prima Distinctio LXV CausaV
C. V. Non ordinetur episcopus extra conscientiam metropolitani.
Item Innocentius. [Papa ad Victricium Episcopum Rothomagensem epist. II. c. I.]
Extra conscientiam metropolitani nullus audeat ordinare episcopum. Integrum enim est iudicium, quod plurimorum sentenciis confirmatur. Nec unus episcopus presumat ordinare episcopum, ne furtivum beneficium prestitum videatur. Hoc enim et sinodus Nycena constituit atque constituendo diffinivit.

A bishop should not be ordained without the complicity of the metropolitan. The whole is confirmed, such is justice, by the vote of the many.

Catholic Church; Aemilius Ludwig Richter; Emil Friedberg (1879). Corpus Iuris Canonici: Editio Lipsiensis Secunda - Post Aemilii Ludouici Richteri [1879]. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-1-58477-088-6.

Charles Reginald Haines (2013). Dover Priory: A History of the Priory of St Mary the Virgin, and St Martin of the New Work. Cambridge University Press. pp. 189–. ISBN 978-1-107-62324-8

Charles Duggan, ‘Richard (d. 1184)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

William Fitz Adeline

Ralph Fitz Stephen
James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. pp. 259–.

John Morris; Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1859). The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Etc. pp. 305–.

William Urry (1999). Thomas Becket: His Last Days. Sutton. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-7509-2179-4.


4th Council of Carthage 419 AD.

Source. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

Canon 13. That a bishop should not be ordained except by many bishops, but if there should be necessity he may be ordained by three
Bishop Aurelius said: What says your holiness on this matter? By all the bishops it was answered: The decrees of the ancients must be observed by us, to wit, that without the consent of the Primate of any province even many bishops assembled together should not lightly presume to ordain a bishop. But should there be a necessity, at his bidding, three bishops should ordain him in any place they happen to be, and if anyone contrary to his profession and subscription shall come into any place he shall thereby deprive himself of his honour.

Robert William Eyton (1878). Court, Household, and Itinerary of King Henry II. Taylor and Company. p 152.

Geoffrey Ridell held Otford by force

Saint Thomas (à Becket) (2000). The Correspondence of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162-1170: Letters 176-329. CTB 326 Thomas Becket to Pope Alexander III: Clarendon Press. pp. 1345–. ISBN 978-0-19-820893-8.

An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas. Becket--Books 5-7.
Herbert of Bosham
trans Irene T. Pearse. (1944)
Loyola University Chicago.
pp. 26-

Christopher Harper-Bill; Nicholas Vincent (2007). Henry II: New Interpretations. Matthew Strickland - On the Instruction of a Prince: Boydell Press. pp. 184–. ISBN 978-1-84383-340-6.

Strickland, M.. (2007). On the Instruction of a Prince: The Upbringing of Henry, the Young King. In C. Harper-Bill & N. Vincent (Eds.), Henry II: New Interpretations (pp. 184–214). Boydell & Brewer. Retrieved from

A Glimpse of the Young King's Court pp. 506-7

Stanzas 954-990 Lines 4766-4950
Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Janet Shirley (1975). Garnier's Becket: translated from the 12th-century Vie saint Thomas le martyr de Cantorbire of Garnier of Pont-Sainte-Maxence. Phillimore. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-0-85033-200-1.

Chapter LXXV How Archbishop Thomas was minded to go to the Young King
Ridel, Geoffrey (d. 1189), administrator and later, bishop of Ely
In December he persuaded the Young King not to receive the archbishop, with the message, ‘I know your father's wishes; and never will I be a party to admitting into your presence a man who purposes to disinherit you’ (ibid., 1.111)

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