Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Ira Regis: The King's Anger

J. E. A. Jolliffe (1955). Angevin Kingship. Chapter IV: Ira et Malevolentia. A. and C. Black. p. 87-

Ira et Malevolentia = Wrath and Spite or Malevolence

On the history and the study of the politics of emotion; emotions which are religious, interpersonal or political in nature become open to historical inquiry.

For example, is that anger, which is often found in autocrats, a necessary component or tool in the exercise of their power over others? Should courtiers flatter their autocrat? Should they be obsequious? Ruthless, absolute wrathful, vengeful rulers build large empires: Genghis Khan, Caesar, Stalin, Hitler, Attila the Hun. Being nice is not necessarily being very Machiavellian.

Henry II was notorious for his rages. Many notable personages occurred his wrath at one time or other and were dismissed from his court, including bishop Arnulf of Lisieux, John of Salisbury and others. Indeed, it was one of his rages that led to Becket's martyrdom. We see Henry's anger shown towards Becket at the Council of Woodstock. We see Henry's malevolence exhibited at the wholly unfair trial of Becket conducted at Northampton in October 1164. We see his rage  when Becket's ecclesiastical punishments, excommunications and suspensions of some of the most important clerics in his kingdom were made known to him in December 1170. "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?".

But why should Becket have continued to be obsequious and subservient towards his master, king Henry, after he had been made archbishop? A king derives his moral authority and the duty he owes to God during his coronation ceremony. Similarly the archbishop is elevated to his authority at his consecration; the archbishop also owes a duty to God as a consequence. In this sense both the king and the archbishop are equals in the eyes of God. Bishops and archbishops were made to swear fealty to the king for their lands and baronies before being consecrated. But these were only material goods and not spiritual. Indeed Becket, during his long exile in France, learned to do without material goods, perhaps to strengthen him when dealing with Henry. To whom did Becket owe his true allegiance? to God, the Pope and the Church, or to the king?

On he other side of the coin, did Becket intend to provoke the king? Having worked at close quarters with him as his Chancellor he must have know what he was like. Becket hagiographers tell his life story as if what happened was inevitable: Becket was fated from the very beginning to suffer martyrdom at the rage of king Henry, but then isn't this what saints are supposed to do.

Does having an angry vengeful, malevolent and vindictive God [as in the Old Testament] make your tribe stronger and more able to survive difficulties?


Disseizin [Dispossession of Land]  at the Will of the King
Ralph Turner (1994). JUDGES, ADMINISTRATORS & COMMON LAW. A&C Black. pp. 251–. ISBN 978-1-85285-104-0.

Stephen Morillo (1 January 2005). Haskins Society Journal. Boydell Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-1-84383-116-7.

Barbara H. Rosenwein (1 January 1998). Anger's Past: The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages. Cornell University Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 0-8014-8343-3.

Anger's Past. The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages by Barbara H. Rosenwein
Johannes Burkardt
Vol. 14, (2001), pp. 242-245

Ryan K. Balot (30 March 2009). A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 299–. ISBN 978-1-4443-1033-7.
On Seneca: De Ira

Matthew B. Roller (2001). Constructing Autocracy: Aristocrats and Emperors in Julio-Claudian Rome. Princeton University Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 0-691-05021-X.

Thomas Hobbes On The Contractual Nature of Society
Mitchell Cohen; Nicole Fermon (4 March 1996). Princeton Readings in Political Thought: Essential Texts since Plato. Princeton University Press. pp. 212–. ISBN 1-4008-3587-9.

Stephen Morillo; Richard Abels (2004). Studies in Medieval History. Boydell Press. pp. 155–. ISBN 978-1-84383-050-4.

Monday, 29 September 2014

John of Canterbury

John of Canterbury
Aka John of Poitiers, John of Belmeis, Jean de Belmeia, Jean aux Belles-Mains, Jean des Bellesmains and Jean de Bellesmes.


The Constitutions of Clarendon was a formal document, a set of laws, a statute, which king Henry II of England had drawn up in January 1164. Henry tried to force Thomas Becket archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of the English Church to give recognition to it and their consent by affixing their seals to the parchment. The document contained a list of Henry's so-called 'Customs of the Kingdom', the royal and legal rights which he claimed over the Church in England, which he asserted as having been in force during his grandfather's time (Henry I). All Henry maintained that he was doing was setting them down in writing, so that there would be no doubt as to what they were. Many of the clauses, however,  contradicted and conflicted with the Roman Catholic Church's own Canon Law. As a consequence Becket refused to affix his seal to the document, and only reluctantly after considerable pressure gave his consent and endorsement to them verbally, which he later retracted. The Pope absolved him of his obligations to the Church regarding this. However,  the king was furious, and effectively had him declared him as a traitor.

The principal customs which Henry regarded as belonging to him, but which were contentious, were: his right to collect monies from the Church's vacant posts, control over the right of appeal of churchmen to the Pope in Rome, control over the right of the Church to excommunicate the king's barons and other servants of the crown, his right to have ecclesiastics who had committed felonies to be tried in his own royal courts.

Some have seen the Constitutions of Clarendon as one among a series of steps in an undisclosed plan or programme of Henry II's to unite Church and State in England, in which his very first step was to appoint his favourite, his chancellor, Thomas Becket, as archbishop of Canterbury. Henry perhaps wanted to make Becket a junior partner in the management of his kingdom, where Henry was to manage the temporal and Becket the ecclesiastical. Should Becket have been grateful for this great honour? Or was his ingratitude treacherous?  This was a programme which Henry ultimately failed to bring about. Or did he? Perhaps Becket knew or understood Henry's real intentions beforehand, and decided to resist them once he became archbishop. Or did Becket stand his ground because the king's so-called customs were an attempt to take away more rights  from the Church than either Henry I or any previous king of England had hitherto claimed as theirs.  Becket feared that acceptance of these Constitutions  might eventually come to mean that England would end up having totally secular clergy appointed by the king or one wholly under his control. Did Becket really protect the Liberty of the Church or did his intransigence ultimately destroy it?

This blog is the story of the Becket Controversy and the events which led to the Council of Clarendon in January 1164, at which the Constitutions were announced. It is about Becket's subsequent trial as a traitor at Northampton in October 1164, and his ensuing escape into exile to France, after which there followed many years of negotiation between Henry and Becket, involving the Pope and the king of France among others, before he was able to return to England. It is the story of Becket's return and his ensuing murder (martyrdom) in his own cathedral at Canterbury in December 1170. This story has all the dramatic features of a classical Greek tragedy: the politics, the interacting dialogue between a protagonist and an antagonist, the chorus of bishops, and the Pope as deus ex machina. It is the story of Becket's murder (martyrdom) and his subsequent elevation to sainthood. It is about the cult of Becket that followed, and the pilgrimages to Canterbury made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Becket was perhaps the most famous personage of his time and about whom a huge number of Lives (hagiographies) and biographies have been written.

It is one in the many stories of the power struggles between Church and State which took place during the 11th, 12th and subsequent centuries. It is about the rise in the power of the Pope. It is set in the context of the large empires under powerful monarchs who ruled over vast tracts of Western Europe. The period also marks the beginning of centuries of struggle between the kingdoms of France and England. It coincides with the emergence of the formulation of the Common Law in England. It takes place at a time between, but largely unaffected by either of, the second and third crusades, except perhaps the requirement conceived at the Reconciliation of Avranches in 1172, that Henry provide 200 knights for a year [of the monetary equivalent] for the defence of Jerusalem as purgation for his part in the murder of Becket.

Indeed, St. Thomas Becket is still honoured today by the Catholic Church, as the example par excellence of the necessity of every member of the church to show obedience to Rome, to the Pope and the principles of the Catholic Church, its fathers and the canon laws, and its very being, its organisation, its methods, rights to control the faith centrally, its hierarchy and authority, and so forth. Becket honoured the central authority that the Catholic Church asserted it had, and still has, and the Church, in turn, honoured him with the title of Saint following his murder in his cathedral. Becket gave his life for the principles laid down in the Reform of the Church as instigated by Pope Gregory VII. Once he had decided that he would do that it became clear that he could not serve two masters. In the end this decision cost him his life.

The Constitutions of Clarendon

a) In Latin

b) In English

Constitutions of Clarendon in English : Joseph Berington (1790)
Albert Beebe White translation
Constitutions of Clarendon from the Medieval Sourcebook
The Constitutions: Hutton's Translation and Commentary
Roger of Wendover's version of the Constitutions: ...
James Tyrrell's Translation of the Constitutions 1700.

Notes and Miscellaneous
Central Issue behind the Constitutions of Clarendon
The Constitutions documented as a compromise

Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 1
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 4
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 5
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 7
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 8
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 11
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 12
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 15
Lyttleton's Comments: Constitutions Clause 16

Clause 3 and The Law Against Double Jeopardy

Historical Notes on Clause 4: Restrictions on Travel Abroad for Clerics

Historical Notes on Clause 7: Excommunication and Interdict without king's consent

Historical Notes on Clause 8: Appeals to the Pope

Historical Notes on Clause 9: Juries and the Assize Utrum.

Historical Notes on Clause 14: The Goods and Chattels of Felons on Church Lands

Historical Notes of Clause 15: Breach of Faith -King's Justice or Church Court

Historical Notes on Clause 16: Requirement of Rustics to have their Lord's Consent

Clauses of the Constitutions of Clarendon Allowed/Tolerated or Condemned by the Pope.
Thomas Saga: Customs of the King Condemned By The Pope

Concordat of London 1107 and Clause 12 of the Constitutions

Rustics and Clause 16

Clause X of the Assizes of King Roger II (1130-54)..

Garnier: Content of the Constitutions of Clarendon in Norman French.

Comparing the Preamble to Magna Carta

Imperium in imperio

Henry II's Decrees against the Pope and Becket, 1169

The British Magazine (1833-4): Froude's Articles on Henry II's Plan to Unite Church and State


On the origins of the Doctrine of Papal Supremacy
Conflict of Investitures
Canonical Decretals which empower the Pope
Dictatus Papae, A.D. 1075
Papal Supremacy
Papal Authority
Libertas Ecclesiae
Canon Law and The Canonical System
Decretum Gratiani
Donation of Constantine
Priveligium Fori - "Privilege of the forum"
The Disputed Papal Election of 1159


Canterbury - York Controversy




Becket as Chancellor

Disputes up till Council of Westminster

Council of Westminster October 1163
The Council of Clarendon, January 1164

The State Trial of Becket at Northampton, October 1164

Flight into Exile

Becket's Letter: Desiderio desideravi

Another Stained Glass Window from Canterbury Cathedral.
Wooden Carving of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral: Tomb of Henry IV - Martyrdom of Thomas Becket
Martydom Painting
St Thomas Archbishop, Alcobaca Monastery Portugal
Mosaic of St. Thomas Monreale Sicily
The Baptismal Font at Lyngsjö Church in Skåne, Sweden...
Romanesque or Norman Architecture
The Becket Leaves
Becket Pilgrim Medallions and Badges