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one people. They had married with one another, and
HENRY II. AND BECKET.
1. HENRY II. came to the throne of England quite peace-
This would have been a difficult task for a wise and experienced ruler, and the new king was only twentyone years old. But he seems to have known by nature how to govern and make laws, and besides this he had the gift of knowing how to choose his ministers wisely, and how to get out of them the best work they could do.
2. Henry II. was a little above middle height, a stout man, with a short, thick neck, and quick eyes full of expression; his round head was covered with
Henry's close-clipped reddish hair. He was a busy character man, of active habits; he never sat down except at meals or on horseback. He was rough and passionate, a man of strong feelings, careless of his dress and appearance, though he liked his court to be magnifi
cent. He cared little for religion, but whispered and scribbled at mass. He had a distinct aim in life, and kept to it steadily: this was to strengthen and bind together the vast dominions over which he ruled. To do this, he saw that, in the first place, he must govern England as an English king. His foreign possessions were much larger than England ; but he hoped to keep them all together by wise alliances and marriages. Foreign affairs often called him away from England, and whilst he was away his ministers ruled the country in his place. But he himself was always the centre of all power. He remembered everything, he thought of everything, he cared for everything. When busy with foreign wars he found time to think of reforms in English law; nothing escaped his eye and his hand.
3. England welcomed Henry to the throne, because he promised to bring back order in the land. He gave the Henry II.'s people a charter of liberties in which he con
firmed all that Henry I. had granted, and he at once set about the work of reform. In this he was helped by Archbishop Theobald, and also by a young English clerk in Theobald's service, Thomas Becket. Thomas was tall and handsome, a man of ready wit, whom the king soon grew to like, and whom he made his Chancellor. The two were much the same age, and became intimate friends, who joked and laughed together whilst they managed the business of the country.
In his first reforms Henry followed the plan which he had agreed upon with Stephen. He sent out of the country the foreign troops which Stephen had brought to England. He bade the barons destroy the castles, which they had built in the time of disorder. When some of them refused, he quickly led his troops against them and made them obey. Stephen had granted to
many of the barons parts of the royal lands. These now had to be all given back to the king.
The courts of justice began to work again. New sheriffs were put over most of the counties, and once more justice was done in the land. Under Henry's rule a staff of able men grew up, fitted to do justice and reform the laws. For the first ten years of the king's reign all went smoothly, and peace and order reigned in the land.
4. In all Henry's reforms Becket was at his right hand, and got rich rewards for his services, so that the Chancellor became one of the richest and
Henry and most powerful men in England. Never, it
Becket. was said, had the world seen two friends so thoroughly of one mind as Henry and Becket.
Once as they rode through the streets of London side by side on a cold winter's day, they met a beggar all in rags. "Would it not be charity,' said the king, 'to give that fellow a cloak and cover him from the cold?' Becket agreed; so the king, in jest, plucked from Becket's shoulders, in spite of his struggles, his rich furred mantle, and threw it to the beggar. It was in this way that the two jested together like friends and equals.
Becket lived like a prince; every day he kept an open table, to which every man was welcome. His household was like that of a great baron, and the nobles sent their sons to be brought up as pages under his care, though he was only a merchant's son.
5. When Archbishop Theobald died, six years after Henry II. became king, all men spoke of Becket as the man to succeed him. Henry let a year pass, and then told Becket that he was to be the
bishop, 1162. new archbishop. Becket warned the king that as archbishop he must put God before the king.
Becket made arch
Beckct's life as arch
But Henry thought that by choosing the man whom he had raised from a humble rank in life and made his friend and favourite, he would get an archbishop who would obey his wishes, and so he would have the Church in his power.
For the same reasons the Church was afraid of having Becket for its head. The clergy thought that the king's friend would put the king's interest before theirs, and that they would have a primate whose mind was given up to the world.
6. But when Becket became archbishop he showed that he meant to live as one of the strictest of the clergy.
He wore a haircloth next his skin, he fasted
and prayed much, and at mass often melted bishop.
into passionate tears. He gave very large sums to the poor, and every night he washed the feet of thirteen beggars. He no longer invited knights and barons but learned clerks to his table, and whilst they ate, grave Latin books were read aloud to them.
He gave up the Chancellorship, and in this way seemed to cut himself off from his old friendship with the king. Henry was not pleased; he had hoped to keep Becket as his minister, but now the archbishop seemed to mean to act by himself apart from the king. The two soon began to quarrel. Henry wanted to bring the Church under his rule, as he had brought everything else. Becket clung closely to the rights of the clergy. He would not allow clerks who had been guilty of crimes to be judged in the lay courts.
We have seen that the Conqueror had given the bishops courts of their own, and so had separated the Church law from the common law of the land. The evils of this were now seen. Many clerks who were guilty of crimes and many laymen who had harmed clerks were not punished at all. Henry wished to put a stop to this dis
Constitutions of Clarendon.
order by bringing them to trial before the king's courts. But Becket refused to lessen the power of the bishops' courts. Henry grew more and more angry with him, but could get him to agree to nothing.
7. At last, in January 1164, Henry bade all the bishops meet him at Clarendon. A list of the customs which Henry said the Church had observed in the time of his grandfather, Henry I., was then drawn up. This was called the Constitutions of Clarendon. They were much the same as the customs which the Conqueror had brought in. They said that bishops and abbots should be chosen before the king's officers, with the king's assent, and that they were to hold their lands like other feudal vassals and do homage to the king. They went on further to say that the king's court should decide whether a suit between a clerk and a layman should be judged in the Church court or the king's court. A royal officer was to be present in the Church courts to see that they did not go beyond their powers, and men might appeal from the archbishop's to the king's court.
At first Becket would not agree, but he stood alone., All the other bishops bent to the king's will, and at last they persuaded Becket to put his seal to the Constitutions.
The moment afterwards he repented. He wrote to the Pope to ask him to forgive him and free him from his oath.
8. Then the king's rage knew no bounds, and all Becket's enemies felt that the time was come when his power might be destroyed. He was bidden to
Quarrel of appear before the king at a great council held at Henry II. Northampton. There was no one on his side, and all kinds of charges were brought against him. In the midst of his enemies he showed his true courage and