Monday, 30 March 2015

Becket's Attempt To Meet With The Pope In Summer 1164

In the summer of 1164 Becket tried twice to cross the English Channel to visit the Pope in Sens. Both attempts ended in failure.

Story as related by Edward Grim

Edward Grim, MTB 2. 389-90.

Story of one attempt according to Alan of Tewkesbury

Biala, Mary De Chantal, "Annotated Translation of the Life of Saint Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury By John of Salisbury and Alan of Tewkesbury" (1945). Master's Theses. Paper 51.  p. 41-2

Therefore the Archbishop in fear turned to flight and came to his manor at Aldington. While the others were sleeping, he secretly started out with only two companions and having found a boat, he embarked on the sea. Worn by adverse wind for a long time, he returned ashore barely alive as day dawned. When his departure was discovered, his household and friends dispersed.
The Archbishop called some of the monks to the Church of Canterbury, and explained to them what happened to him and how it was the will of God that he should not yet leave. He rested after a light refreshment. In the morning the officials by the order of the king rushed in order that in the Archbishop's absence they might confiscate all, but seeing and hearing him, they were confused into silence by his presence.

As related by Garnier [Guernes de Pont-Sainte-Maxence]

E pur ceo que Deus aime mult mercial justise
E plus misericorde k'il ne fet sacrifise,
A li bons arceveske cele bataille emprise
Pur les clers maintenir e pur sa mere iglise.
Bien veit que laie mein n'i devreit estre mise. - 1355

Quant l'arceveske veit ne purra conquester
L'amur al rei, kil het cume del chief colper
(Car cu'il het une feitz, nel voldra puis amer),
Sun eire apareilla, si se mist en la mer.
Dejuste Rumenel comencent a sigler. 1360

Quant furent luinz en mer e empeinz e siglé,
Li notunier k'i ierent unt ensemble parlé ;
E Adam de Cherringes dient k'il sunt desvé,
Ke l'enemi le rei unt del païs geté ;
E il e lur lignage erent desherité. 1365

A l'arceveske vunt tut ensemble parler :
Dient li k'il ne poent cuntre le vent sigler,
Ne nuls hum a cel vent ne purreit passer mer.
"Quant nus estuet, fet il, pur oré returner,
Pernez port la u Deus le vus voldra doner. " 1370

L'arceveske l'a puis suvent issi cunté,
E a sun escïent sunt pur ceo returné.

The Archbishop was aware that he could not regain the affection of the King. Henry hated Thomas to the point of wanting to cut off his head, (because his hate was such that once made, he would never again want to love). And so Thomas prepared to put to sea, sailing from Romney. When they had sailed far from the shore, the sailors were overheard talking together saying that they had spoken to Adam of Charing, who had said they had lost their reason wanting to bear the king's enemy out of the country and that their line of descendants would be disinherited. They all went up to the Archbishop and said to him  that they could not sail against the wind: no one could pass across the sea against the wind. "Take the port," he [Becket] said, "that which God gives to you." The archbishop often spoke of this later in these terms; in so far as we knew they had put back because of the wind

Hutton (1899)

Becket at home attempted to see Henry at Woodstock
in vain. Then, going to his manor of Aldington, he
made two attempts to escape, from Romney. The
first time the wind drove him back ; the second the
sailors put back, recognising him and dreading the
king's wrath, and he returned to Canterbury.
One of his servants was audaciously going to sleep
in the archbishop's own chamber. After supper he
began to think sadly of his master's evil case ; then
when night was half over he wished to sleep and told
a boy to go and shut the outer door. There on the
doorstep sat the archbishop himself alone. The lad
in terror fled in, thinking he had seen a vision, but the
clerk would not believe him and went to see for himself.
There was the archbishop, who then entered
the house, and, sending for some of the monks, told
them of what had happened to him, and so after a
brief supper went to bed. Next morning came some
of the king's men to seize his goods, but when they
saw him they retired in silent confusion. Henry,
indeed, knew of his attempt at flight, and, in another
meeting at Woodstock, half laughingly reproached
him for it. He did not give him all the ceremony that
was the due of the primate of all England. He asked
him whether he did not think the kingdom big enough
to hold them both. 



John Allen Giles (1846). The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. Whittaker and Company. pp. 228–.

F. R. H. Du Boulay (1966). The lordship of Canterbury: an essay on medieval society. Nelson. page 201-3

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 322–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 322–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

John Allen Giles (1846). The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. Whittaker and Company. pp. 228–.

Gourde, Leo T., "An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket by William Fitzstephen" Volume 1 (1943).
Master's Theses. Paper 622. pp. 63-4

Aldington manor, the Archbishop of Canterbury's enormous demesne manor, in 1164 it was by the sea coast, and very near to the Roman haven, Portus Limanus.

Near Romney Marsh, In medieval times the marsh was sea.  New Romney [and Lydd] was the principal Cinque port. It was once a port of considerable importance at the mouth of the river Rother until it became blocked in 1287.

William Holloway (1849). The History of Romney Marsh ... J.R. Smith. pp. 66–.

Edward Hasted, 'Parishes: Aldington', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 314-327
Edward Hasted, 'Romney Marsh', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 465-473

Edward Hasted, 'The town and port of New Romney', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 446-464

  Aldington, Kent - Wikipedia

Aldington manor, the Archbishop of Canterbury's enormous demesne manor, in 1164 it was by the sea coast, and very near to the Roman haven, Portus Limanus.

Near Romney Marsh, In medieval times the marsh was sea.  New Romney [and Lydd] was the principal Cinque port. It was once a port of considerable importance at the mouth of the river Rother until it became blocked in 1287.

William Holloway (1849). The History of Romney Marsh ... J.R. Smith. pp. 66–.

Edward Hasted, 'Parishes: Aldington', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 314-327
Edward Hasted, 'Romney Marsh', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 465-473

Edward Hasted, 'The town and port of New Romney', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 446-464

Edward Grim, MTB 2. 389-90.

Michael Staunton (2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. 22. Thomas attempts to flee (August- September 1164): Manchester University Press. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Archaeologia Cantiana. Kent Archaeological Society. 1954. p. 92-
Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 66  1953 

Edward Hasted (1798). The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent. W. Bristow. pp. 432–.
La vie de Saint Thomas le martyr

Adam of Charing

Adam of Charing is often reported in various biographies of Becket to be the skipper of one of the ships transporting Becket to the continent on this occaion. I disagree with this. There is no substantial evidence stating that he was the skipper or boat owner on this or any other occasion.. It is true that he was a well-known and leading citizen of Canterbury, possibly a lawyer, merchant or business man, that he had a significant role in the king's programme for the sequestering the property of the church of Canterbury after Becket had fled into exile later on, and for which he is excommunicated by Becket at Vezelay. It could be true that he did comment to those sailors who did try to transport Becket on this occasion across the Channel that they had been very foolish,  risking everything by doing so, though Becket was not strictly an outlaw at this point in the proceedings, but was breaking the law as stated in the Constitutions of Clarendon by not obtaining the king's permission for this journey. Adam of Charings' comment to these sailors might have been at a much later date, long after the events described here, his having experienced having ti pay a huge sum of money in three installments into the king's treasury, as recorded in the pipe rolls for the years 1165, 1166 and 1167. We do not know the reason he had to  make these payments. They are simply described as an amercement.or fine. We are not told what the fine was for: smuggling, or some other crime. It is often presumed that he was fined for the attempt  to transport Becket to France. There is no evidence that this was what his fine was for. 

John of Salisbury Letter Ex Insperato

In this letter John narrates the story of the murder of  Archbishop Thomas Becket. It is the earliest written account attempting to describe Becket's murder as a martyrdom. In this letter he refers to Becket as "the confessor of Christ" and "Christ's champion" and constantly stresses how pious and righteous he was. By emphasizing this piety John attempts to confirm that this murder truly was a martyrdom. And  John asks whether he should be added to the lists of martyrs who should be venerated, but clarifying that this was a question which the Pope would have to have the last word upon.

that you know of the passion of the glorious martyr Thomas, And because I did not doubt  the
Archbishop of Canterbury, who glorifies not only his own Church but every province of Eng-
land by his many great miracles.

And so for one of your learning to instruct our humble selves as to whether it would be safe
to invoke him as a guardian of salvation among the lists of the martyrs in the solemnities of
Masses and in other public prayers without the authority of the Roman Pontiff, or whether we
are bound to offer supplication prayers for him whom God has glorified by so many signs of
miracles, just as we would for any other departed soul.


Latin Version

John (of Salisbury, Bishop of Chartres): Edited J. Giles (1848). Joannis Saresberiensis Postea Epizcopi Carnotensis Opera Omnia ... Apud J. H. Parker. pp. 251–. 


O'Connor, John Francis, "An Annotated Translation of the Letters of John of Salisbury" (1947). Master's Theses. Paper 672.
Page 88-98
 Letter 307/304
John of Salisbury to Bishop John Belmeis of Poitiers


Paul Dalton; Dr. Charles Insley; Louise J. Wilkinson (2011). Cathedrals, Communities and Conflict in the Anglo-Norman World. Boydell Press. pp. 170–. ISBN 978-1-84383-620-9.

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Actes Du Colloque International de Sedieres. Editions Beauchesne. pp. 78–.

Het Martelaarschap van Thomas Becket en Karel de Goede
by Sjoukje Telleman
Open Access version via Utrecht University Repository

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Table of Contents

The Constitutions of Clarendon was a formal document, a set of laws 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, as a kind of constitutional statute, so that there would be no doubt as to what they were. Many of the clauses, however, contradicted and conflicted with the 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 and which later the Pope was to absolve him of his obligations to the Church regarding this. However, king Henry was furious, and effectively had him declared him as a traitor later that same year.

Some have seen the Constitutions of Clarendon as the most important medieval document providing a foundation for the separation of church and state, as the most important legislative enactment of the most important king in English constitutional history. Herbert of Bosham, one of Becket's contemporary hagiographers/biographers, describes  them as the full cause of the dissension between King Henry II and Becket and the reason for Becket's exile and subsequent martyrdom. The Constitutions brought to the front deep questions about the evolving nature of judicial authority in England, Church [ecclesiastical] versus State [royal] power, and the formalization of the relationship between the two sovereignties. More specifically they were part of Henry II's intended reform of government in England following  the long anarchy of King Stephen's reign, and relect his personal will to assume and reclaim  power in that land.

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 sees and abbacies, 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, and his right to have ecclesiastics who had committed felonies to be tried in his own royal courts.

Indeed Henry's whole reign might be seen as one of his wanting obsessively to assert his claims and rights as king of England or lands and rights in France. His mother, the Empress Mathilda, had lost her right to rule England to her cousin Stephen of Blois, who had usurped the kingdom. When she eventually won the civil war that ensued, after defeating Stephen, it was Henry who was to inherit the kingdom instead of her. But she was always in the background. Perhaps it was her who was pushing him. She was an extremely strong-willed person.

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.

The Becket Dispute also involved his relationship with his fellow bishops in England, and the issue concerning the primacy of Canterbury in the kingdom, or whether the archepiscopacy of York was independent from that of Canterbury.

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 and quite possibly changed the course of English history.

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



Anselm of Canterbury
Richard de Lucy
John of Oxford
John of Canterbury
Richard of Ilchester
Arnulf of Lisieux
Philippe, abbé de l'Aumône
Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London
Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester
Hilary, bishop of Chichester
Peter of Blois
Reginald Fitz Jocelin
Pope Alexander III
Pope Alexander III (b)
Louis VII of France [Louis le Jeune]
Catalogue of the Learned Men in the Court of the Archbishop
Becket's Spy Ring
The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church
Roger, bishop of Worcester (d. 1179)
Pont l'Évêque, Roger de (c.1115–1181),
The Four Enemies of the Martyr
William, Archbishop of Sens
John Cumin
Prior Odo of Christ Church Canterbury
Eleanor of Aquitaine

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

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

Crown Wearing Ceremonies
Becket Pilgrim Medallions and Badges

Seal of the City of London
Ritual, Behaviour and Symbolic Communication
Becket and the Templars
Inquest of Sheriffs, 1170