BBC - History - British History in depth: Becket, the Church and Henry II
Instead, the profundity of the experience derives from the themes of Becket's friendship with the English King Henry II, a relationship that in its. “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” Henry II, King of England ( – 89 ) succeeded King Stephen in Henry was not Stephen's. Medieval and Middle Ages History Timelines - Henry II and Thomas Becket. laid down by Henry II regarding the relationship between the church and the state . King Henry II used the Archbishop of York in the coronation of his son Henry, .
There, Henry presented the bishops with the infamous Constitutions of Clarendon, a list of 16 clauses defining the relationship between secular and canon law of which clause 3 explicitly outlines the criminous clerks proposal.
BBC Bitesize - KS3 History - Thomas Becket and Henry II - Revision 2
It was a closely worded document drawn up by Henry's legal hot-shots and was a deliberate attempt to wrong-foot the bishops into committing to something they had not previously agreed. Then, out of the blue, Becket told the bishops they had no choice but to give in.
Why he chose this option is unclear. Becket's own letters say that he opposed the Constitutions in his name only in order to divert the King's wrath from the bishops. This is as good an explanation as any. The king was incandescent. This, in his eyes, was the ultimate act of treachery and he was determined to exact revenge. He tried to forestall Becket's action by getting the Constitutions ratified by the pope, but the pope prevaricated. Now the dispute entered a malevolent stage in which Henry was out to get Becket any way he could.
In Octoberhe had Becket condemned on trumped-up charges of contempt of court over a land dispute in Pagham, and ruled that the archbishop should forfeit all his goods. Henry exploded and is said to have uttered the words: In another piece of theatre, Becket began the day with the quote at morning mass: Archbishop and King sat in separate rooms as the bishops and barons shuffled between them.
Thomas Becket and Henry II betrayal of a trusted friend
When the Council delivered its verdict, Becket refused to hear it, maintaining that they had no right to judge him. That night, he slipped away and fled to exile in France. We should be careful not to get the Becket dispute out of all proportion.
As it dragged on with claim and counter-claim throughout the yearsHenry had many other overwhelming things on his mind.
Yet it continued to crop up at most international summits as people tried to come up with a formula that would heal the rift between them. Becket himself was under incredible pressure to conform. Not only was he in exile at the French court, but all his money and lands had been sequestered and at least of his dependants were thrown out of the country also.
Yet Henry could not resolve the dispute in his own favour either. He bullied and cajoled, he even threatened to support the Holy Roman Emperor's anti-pope if Pope Alexander III did not decide in his favour, but Becket had a large international network of friends to support him, and he was essentially the 'good guy' in the dispute.
Throughout, one phrase keeps on recurring - at each of the attempts to reconcile the two, Becket would find himself faced with a formula that would not quite get him off the hook and took refuge in the get-out clause: In this way, he constantly avoided tying the Church to any formula the King's men could come up with. It was not a popular reconciliation. Henry the Younger himself refused to meet Becket when he arrived at Windsor.
Becket himself was now in a delicate position. He needed to recover his authority in England and avoid becoming a yes-man of the king. On his arrival in England, he immediately excommunicated his old ecclesiastical enemies, including the Archbishop of York who had crowned Henry the Younger.
When this news was brought to him in his Christmas court at Bures in Normandy, Henry exploded and is said to have uttered the words: Led by one Reginald fitz Urse, they slipped across the Channel to Canterbury, where they tried to force Becket to return with them and face the King's wrath.
He refused and they retired to bed. Next morning, while he was leading morning mass, they attempted to drag him out of the cathedral, and he resisted. It was during this struggle that he received a blow on the head which seems to have tipped the whole thing over into violence and the four knights fell on him with their swords. He died later that afternoon on 29 December His enemies clamoured for Henry's excommunication and the outrage against the murder almost precipitated a war.
The murder of Thomas Becket lost Henry the main argument. Becket became an instant martyr, and the international opprobrium poured upon Henry's head may well have been one reason why he chose to cross to Ireland in though the Irish crisis was in itself a very real incentive. Contemporary chroniclers label Henry a murderer, his enemies clamoured for the King's excommunication and the outrage against the murder almost precipitated a war. Through all of this, Pope Alexander negotiated a very measured path, excommunicating the four knights involved and prohibiting Henry from taking mass until he had made reparation for his sin.
Thomas Becket and Henry II
He also sent two papal legates over to England to negotiate these reparations. It was a canny move. With Becket out of the way, the Pope recognised that there was an opportunity for proper reconciliation between King and Church, and was careful not to overexploit the advantage which Henry's contrition provided him.
Once it assembled, the king demanded that the bishops and Becket swear to uphold without reservations the customs of the church as they had been in the king's grandfather's reign. At first, Becket refused, but threats and other arguments eventually persuaded him to support the customs, and Becket then ordered the remaining bishops to assent also. The king then proposed to have a committee of barons and clerks compile these customs into a written document, which would be presented to the council.
This was done, but in the middle of the recitation of the customs, Becket asked for a postponement in order for him to consult with others about the customs.
However, he eventually accepted these customs, and the bishops also swore to uphold these, which subsequently became known as the Constitutions of Clarendon. He was caught, and then tried on 6 October at a royal court on different charges of failing to adequately address a suit brought against him by nobleman John Marshal about lands that Becket had confiscated. Once at the council, Becket was found guilty of ignoring the court summons and under pressure from the bishops, accepted the sentence of confiscation of all non-landed property pending the pleasure of the king.
However, the original dispute over John Marshal's lands was decided in the archbishop's favour. The king then brought further charges and asked for an accounting of Becket's spending while the archbishop had been chancellor. Another charge was that he was not fulfilling his oath to observe the Constitutions.
Becket replied that he was not prepared to answer those charges and was eventually found guilty of both. The archbishop refused to accept the sentence, and fled Northampton and took sanctuary. Henry exiles Becket's family and servants; Becket lies sick at Pontigny Abbeyafter excessive fasting. Becket Leaves, folio 1v. Thomas took a ship to the continent on 2 November eventually reaching a resting spot at Senswhere both sides presented their cases to Alexander.
Although Becket was not ordered back to England as the king's envoys requested, neither was the king ordered to back down. Instead, Becket went into exile at Pontigny.
Afterward, the king confiscated all the benefices of the archbishop's clerks, who had accompanied him into exile. The king also ordered the exile of Becket's family and servants.
He engaged in a series of letter exchanges with Gilbert Foliotthe Bishop of Londonwho was also the recipient of letters from the pope.
Becket continued to attempt to resolve the dispute, but Alexander ordered the archbishop to refrain from provoking the king before spring Neither Foliot nor Henry had any great desire to settle with Becket quickly. Henry ignored the initial warning letters, but Becket's position was strengthened by the grant to Becket of the status of a papal legate to England, dated on 2 May The council sent letters both to the pope and to Becket, appealing against the excommunications.
After the dispatch of these letters, letters from the archbishop were delivered to Foliot, ordering him to publicize Becket's decisions, and disallowing any appeal to the papacy against the archbishop's sentences. Foliot and the bishops then once again sent letters to the papacy, probably from Northampton on 6 July.
Although the Order did not exactly expel Becket from Potigny, a delegation of Cistercians did meet with Becket, pointing out that while they would not throw him out, they felt sure that he would not wish to bring harm to the Order.
Becket then secured aid from the king of France, who offered a sanctuary at Sens. Although later writers on both sides of the controversy claimed that there was to be no appeal from the legates' decisions, nowhere in the documents announcing their appointment was any such limitation mentioned.
Alexander wrote two letters, one to each of the main combatants. The letter to the king stressed that the pope had forbidden the archbishop from escalating the dispute until the legates had decided the issues, and that the legates were to absolve the excommunicated once they arrived in England. The letter to the archbishop, however, stressed that the pope had begged the king to restore Becket to Canterbury, and instead of commanding Becket to refrain from further escalation, merely advised the archbishop to restrain himself from hostile moves.
Meanwhile, John of Oxford had returned to England from a mission to Rome, and was proclaiming that the legates were to depose Becket, and supposedly showed papal letters confirming this to Foliot.
The pope wrote to the papal legates complaining that John of Oxford's actions had harmed the pope's reputation, but never claimed that John of Oxford was lying. Neither Becket nor Henry were disposed to settle, and the pope needed Henry's support too much to rule against him, as the pope was engaged in a protracted dispute with the German emperor, and needed English support.
After some discussion and argument, Henry appears to have agreed that the legates could judge both the king's case against Becket as well as the bishops' case. Henry also offered a compromise on the subject of the Constitutions of Clarendon, that the legates accepted. As the legates had no mandate to compel Becket to accept them as judges, the negotiations came to an end with the king and bishops still appealing to the papacy.
Becket Leaves, folio 2r.