Saturday, 3 March 2018

King Henry II's Letter to Reginald of Cologne [Rainald of Dassel]

Extract from

Roger (of Wendover); Matthew Paris (1849). Roger of Wendover's Flowers of History: Comprising the History of England from the Descent of the Saxons to A.D. 1235; Formerly Ascribed to Matthew Paris. 1168: King Henry II's letter to Reginald of Cologne: H. G. Bohn. pp. 556–.

King Henry II was exploring the option of  abandoning Pope Alexander III in favour of the schismatic anti-popes of the Holy Roman Empire.

King Henry, incensed against pope Alexander for having granted the primacy of England to the archbishop of Canterbury, sent the following letter to Reginald the schismatic archbishop of Cologne, an enemy to Alexander:— "I have long wished to have a just cause for withdrawing myself from pope Alexander and his perfidious cardinals, because they presume to maintain against me my rebellious subject, Thomas archbishop of Canterbury. Wherefore, with the consent of my barons and clergy, I am about to send as ambassadors to Rome the following eminent men of my kingdom—the archbishop of York, the bishop of London, the archdeacon of Poictiers, Richard de Lucy, and John of Oxford; to declare plainly and publicly to pope Alexander and his cardinals, on the part of myself and all my subjects throughout my dominions, that they must no longer maintain the cause of that traitor, but release me from him, so that I may, with the consent of my clergy, appoint another archbishop to the see of Canterbury, and that they must annul immediately all the acts of the said Thomas. They will also demand that the pope shall swear publicly, for himself and his successors, to observe all the royal customs of my grandfather king Henry, entire and inviolate, for ever. But, if they shall refuse their consent to any of my requests, neither I, nor my barons, or clergy, will obey them any longer; but will openly take part against the pope himself and his cardinals, and expel from the kingdom any one, who from that time shall espouse his cause. We therefore request of you, as our dear friend, to send to us immediately, without delay, brother Arnold the Hospitaller, on the part of the emperor and yourself, to escort my ambassadors through the emperor's dominions.—Farewell!"

It was reported by the clerks and notaries of the king, that Gilbert bishop of London dictated this letter at the king's request, to ruin the cause of the pope, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the whole English church: wherefore, also, it happened one night that whilst Gilbert was lying awake in bed, and meditating without compunction how he might bring confusion on the archbishop, by means of this iniquitous letter, he heard a terrible voice saying over him in loud and plain terms:

« 0 Gilbertus Foliot,
Dum revolvis tot et tot,
Deus tuus est Astaroth! "


Wilfred Lewis Warren (1973). Henry II. University of California Press. pp. 492–. ISBN 978-0-520-02282-9.

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 136–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.
Constitutions of Clarendon: Henry II's Dealings with the Holy Roman Empire, 1165-6

Richard Hurrell Froude; James Bowling Mozley (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude. J. G. and F. Rivington. pp. 127–.

J. A. Giles (1846). The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. King Henry's letter to Reginald archbishop of Cologne.: Whittaker. pp. 316–.

Paul Webster; Marie-Pierre Gelin (2016). The Cult of St Thomas Becket in the Plantagenet World, C.1170-c.1220. Chapter 6: Matilda, Duchess of Saxony (1168-1196) and the Cult of Becket: Boydell & Brewer. pp. 113–. ISBN 978-1-78327-161-0.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. Manchester University Press. pp. 139–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Joseph Patrick Huffman (2009). The Social Politics of Medieval Diplomacy: Anglo-German Relations (1066-1307). University of Michigan Press. pp. 57–. ISBN 0-472-02418-3.

England and the Empire in the Early Twelfth Century
K. Leyser
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
Vol. 10 (1960), pp. 61-83
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Royal Historical Society
DOI: 10.2307/3678774
Stable URL:

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