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the nobles, who revolted in Stephen's favour. The earl of Gloucester having been taken in a battle near Winchester, A.D. 1141, was exchanged for Stephen; and it was now the empress's turn to be often in great danger. On one occasion she escaped her foes by being shut up in a coffin. On another, she fled by night from the Castle of Oxford, attended by four knights, in white dresses, that they might not be distinguished from the snow which was on the ground. The death of Eustace, the son of Stephen, removed one obstacle in the way of an agreement; and at length, by the mediation of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, a treaty was concluded, by which Stephen was to be king during his life, and the crown to devolve on Henry, the empress's son, to whom the nobles did homage as heir-apparent.
The influence of Rome was now making great strides in England. William of Corboil had given a fatal blow to our Church's independence of foreign interference, by consenting to act as the pope's legate or deputy, rather than by his own authority as the Primate, that is, the first Bishop of England. One effect of this was to make persons think that the clergy and the religious bodies only were the Church, and that it was a power to which they might look for shelter from the lawlessness of the barons, who reigned as petty princes in their castles. Such shelter they obtained-but they obtained it by a sacrifice of the true idea of the Church, of which we shall speak in the next reign. The readiness with which men of all parties forgot the sanctity of oaths, is no less a mark of this dismal period than the cruelty of the nobles. The king himself was not destitute of such qualities as engaged the affections of his followers, but by his own perjury in usurping the throne he set an example which men were too apt to copy. He died A.D. 1154; and was succeeded by prince Henry.
The Hospital of St. Cross, near Winchester, and the Monastery of Feversham, in Kent, were founded by Stephen. In this latter place he and his queen, Matilda, who was niece to the empress Maud, were buried.
HENRY II. (PLANTAGENET.)
Born in Anjou. Buried in the Abbey of Fontevrault. Reigned From A.D. 1154 to A.D. 1189.
Theobald, A.D. 133–1161.
Archbishops of Canterbury.
(Vacancy more than a year.)
Richard, A.D. 1172-1184.
Thomas à Becket, A.D. 1162-1170. Baldwin, A.D. 1184—1191. (Vacancy two years.)
WITH the name of Plantagenet, Henry brought a vast accession of territory to the English crown. From his father he inherited Anjou; and Normandy had been given up to him by his mother. He possessed the provinces of France from the Loire to the Pyrenees, in right of Eleanor, whom he married after she was divorced from Louis VII., the king of France. In the course of his reign he acquired Bretagne, by the marriage of Geoffrey, one of his younger sons, with Constance the heiress of that duchy. It may be doubted whether these foreign provinces added to the real greatness of England. They were the source of endless wars with France, both in the time of Henry and in the reigns of his successors for many generations.
What was dearer to the English than these foreign possessions, was the knowledge that in Henry they had for their sovereign a descendant of the Saxon kings: and he showed himself no unworthy descendant of them, not only by his many conquests, but by doing much to revive the Saxon customs, which were so favourable to English liberty. He began by taming the pride of the nobles, whom he forced to pull down or deliver up their castles, and recalled the grants made by Stephen. He also disbanded the foreign soldiers hired by that king, and gave charters to many towns. He then set himself to lessen the power of the clergy, who now claimed a complete independence of the civil courts, and who would allow no causes that concerned their own order to be tried in any but the ecclesiastical courts; by which such trifling punishments were awarded
for the most enormous crimes, that the abuse became unbearable; and if any attempts were made to interfere with these claims, the clergy appealed to Rome. They doubtless believed that they were thus upholding the liberty of the Church, but they little knew the true nature or due limits of its independence. They forgot also that in an undivided Christian nation, the clergy and laity are the Church,― not the clergy only; that the clergy and laity are the State, not the laity only. And that to exempt the clergy from the operation of the ordinary laws is but to favour, without really benefiting, merely a portion of the Church. These false views caused appeals to the Roman see, the power of which had now become almost unquestioned; nay, such consideration was shown to it, that when on some occasion Pope Alexander was met by Henry and the King of France, those monarchs held his stirrup as he mounted, and led his horse by the bridle.
On the death of Archbishop Theobald the king looked out for some successor to that prelate, on whom he could rely in his endeavours to curb the encroachments of the clergy, and appointed Thomas à Becket, whom he had himself raised to the office of Lord Chancellor. Never did a king take a step more fatal to his own views. No sooner was Becket consecrated, than he set himself to resist the wishes of the king, and Henry found himself bitterly opposed by the very prelate on whose aid he had counted. He summoned, however, a large council at Clarendon, (A.D. 1164), where certain articles (called the Constitutions of Clarendon) were agreed to, by which the clergy were to be tried in the civil courts, and no appeal allowed to Rome without the king's licence. Becket subscribed these articles; but afterwards withdrew his concession; and being assailed by Henry with a succession of vexatious measures, he once (after a solemn mass 2) took in his own hands the silver cross that was usually carried before him, and thus walked into Henry's presence-chamber, where, amidst the assembied nobles, he singly maintained his claims with a courage
2 The word (Missa or) Mass originally signified any office of prayer, and its name was derived from the words used, at the conclusion of prayers, to the people, "Ite, missa est," which implied that they were dismissed. Afterwards the word was more closely appropriated, as at this period, to the office of the holy Eucharist.
that would have been worthy of admiration, had his cause been as sacred as it appeared in his own view. He then fled into France, where he was protected by Louis, and sanctioned by the Pope in excommunicating his enemies, and in threatening to lay the whole kingdom under what was called an Interdict. An Interdict was at that time a recent invention of the Church of Rome, by which the spiritual privileges of a whole nation, men, women, and children, were affected. In fact, instead of depriving merely the guilty of the consolations of religion, as the ancient and lawful measure of excommunication did, it involved guilty and innocent alike. No sooner was it promulged, than the churches were closed; the church-bells were silenced; no public service was performed; and the very Sacraments were withheld except from children and the dying. The fear of such a sentence operated most strongly on men's minds at that time; and probably the king himself, if he did not dread its spiritual effect, was alarmed lest it should shake his subjects' allegiance. At any rate, finding at length that his interests were much affected by that prelate's residence in France, he agreed to an accommodation, and Becket returned to England, to act with more arrogance and contempt of the royal authority than ever. When his proceedings were reported to Henry, the king passionately exclaimed, "Have I no one to rid me of the insults of this priest." These words induced four knights to follow the archbishop to Canterbury, where they slew him on the very steps of the altar in the northern transept of the cathedral; a deed which caused Henry the deepest concern, and, as he foresaw, involved him in great difficulty. Becket was canonized by the Pope as a saint about two years after his death; and all the actors or abettors in his murder were at once excommunicated. To show his sorrow for having in any degree occasioned the archbishop's death, Henry some time afterwards walked in solemn procession to the shrine which was built over Becket's tomb, and having bared his shoulders, submitted to be severely scourged by the monks.
The happiness of Henry's reign was marred by this long dispute. In his many wars with Louis, he was very successful; and also in repelling William the Lion, king of Scotland, who, being taken prisoner at Alnwick in A.D.
1174, did homage to Henry for his crown. glory, however, of his reign was the conquest of Ireland, which was then divided among five petty kings; and the aid of Henry was sought by Dermot, king of Leinster, against the kings of Connaught and Meath. Henry had already meditated the conquest of that island, of which he had received a grant from Hadrian IV. (Nicholas Breakspear), the only Englishman that was ever pope. He was, therefore, glad to avail himself of the opening thus afforded, and sanctioned an enterprise which was successfully conducted by Richard Strongbow, earl of Pembroke, who married Dermot's daughter, and succeeded to his crown. Henry himself afterwards landed in Ireland, and the princes of that country submitted to him without resistance. It has ever since been annexed to England, and is now united with great Britain into one kingdom.
The troubles of Henry did not cease with the removal of Becket. The latter years of his life were saddened by the rebellions of his sons; nor can this domestic unhappiness excite surprise, when his treatment of Queen Eleanor is remembered; for Henry had several children by a lady not his wife, whose seclusion at Woodstock, under the name of the fair Rosamond, has been the groundwork of much romance, probably little founded on fact. Notwithstanding this unfaithfulness, the king was tenderly attached to his lawful offspring. He had his eldest son Henry crowned in England; but that prince died before his father; as also did Geoffrey, whose widow bore a son named Arthur, after her husband's death. Richard was entrusted with the government of Guienne, and too often leagued himself with his father's enemies in open rebellion. This was, indeed, the case at the time of Henry's death; which was hastened by the deep mortification of having been worsted in battle by Philip of France, assisted by Prince Richard, and of finding that John, his fourth and favourite son, was in league against him. He died A.D. 1189, and was buried in the nunnery of Fontevrault in Anjou. He has ever been regarded as one of the ablest and greatest of our kings, and was as remarkable for courtesy as for courage. The origin
3 The five kingdoms at that time were Leinster, Ulster, Connaught, Munster and Meath. The most powerful of the petty kings who ruled these districts generally took the title of king of Ireland.