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Louis, even while he made this agreement, well knew that Alexander could not be brought to the council; but after having been obliged to give hostages of such quality as the Count of Nevers, the Count of Flanders, and the Duke of Burgundy, it seemed absolutely impossible that he could escape from ultimately recognizing Victor.
In the meantime, however, Henry the Second of England, towards whom the King of France had displayed but scanty ceremony in treating concerning a new Council without him, had sent neither Barons nor Prelates to the bank of the Saône; but on the contrary, had some time before dispatched the Archbishop of York, and the Bishops of Lisieux and Evreux, to attend upon Alexander, who was now in Berri. The King himself had remained at the head of his army; but the moment Alexander heard of the jeopardy in which the French king had placed himself, he besought the English monarch to march with all speed to his rescue, in order to counterbalance by his power and military strength the dangerous preponderance of the Emperor. Henry paused not to deliberate, but marched into France at the head of a large army, entered Berri, and advanced as far as Bourgdieu, where Alexander then resided. At the same time he sent messengers before him to announce his approach, and intelligence of his coming soon reached both Louis and the Emperor.
There was another foe, however, in Frederic's
camp, which was much more terrible and difficult to oppose than even the arms of the English monarch. A general dearth reigned upon the banks of the Sajne, as well as through the rest of the land. Louis could find food in Dijon for himself and his priests; but Frederic, with his mounted barons and their long trains of soldiery, found neither corn nor grass; and, after having endured the pressure of famine in his camp as long as possible, he was forced to vield to circumstances and retire to his own country.
To what extent he was influenced, in thus leaving the field, by the approach of Henry's army, can hardly now be told, nor does it at all affect the course of history. He knew that the King of England had marched to the assistance of the King of France, and his friendship towards his British ally was of course cooled in proportion. On the other hand, however, Louis was, for the time, as grateful for Henry's prompt assistance, as Frederic was offended by his interference. To him he seems to have attributed entirely his deliverance from the dangerous situation in which he had placed himself; and, at the meeting which took place immediately afterwards between Louis, Henry, and Alexander, on the banks of the Loire, a peace was concluded between the two monarchs, by which Henry was permitted to retain every thing that he had acquired, without the restitution of any part of the territory in dispute. The most remarkable incident, however, of this meeting on the banks of the Loire was, that Henry and Louis received the Pope on foot, and while he, on a horse splendidly caparisoned, rode towards the pavilion prepared for him, the two monarchs held the bridle on either side, to do him honour. Whether the motive of Henry, in performing this act of degradation, was to secure the friendship of the Pope, or to please the priest-ridden King of France, certain it is, that, in holding the bridle for the Pontiff, he virtually brought his head below the stirrup of Thomas à Becket.
His dissensions with that prelate I shall have to speak of hereafter; and it will be enough to notice, in this place, the elevation of Becket to the highest dignity in the English church. In the year 1161, died Theobald, the good old Archbishop of Canterbury, . and for a considerable time no new Archbishop was appointed. The advocates of the Roman Catholic Church have asserted, that this long interval was owing to Henry's desire of appropriating as long as possible the revenues of the vacant see. It is clearly proved, however, that the delay proceeded from the conscientious opposition of a great body of the English Clergy to the person whom the King thought fit to nominate, whose habits and character rendered him most unfit for the archiepiscopal dignity, and most obnoxious to the English Clergy. That person was Thomas Becket, Archdeacon of Canterbury, Chancellor, and favourite of the King. He had not
yet taken priest's orders; he had distinguished himself as a soldier, as a courtier, and as a negociator; he had lived a luxurious and worldly life; he was extravagant in his apparel and his household; he was notoriously ambitious and grasping; and he had caused the scutage for the war of Toulouse to fall with such peculiar weight upon the clergy, that the Archbishop Theobald had threatened with excommunication all who should be concerned in exacting the second instalment.
It is not wonderful, therefore, that the great body of the ecclesiastics of England should as strongly as they dared oppose the nomination of such a person. The famous Bishop Foliot, who perhaps hoped for the dignity himself, most decidedly endeavoured to delay, or to prevent his election; and even the people murmured at the elevation of a man so thoroughly worldly, to the highest spiritual office in the kingdom. The Empress Matilda, though she had long ceased to take any part in the political events of the day, remonstrated with Henry on his purpose of placing Becket in the archiepiscopal chair, and it was necessary for the king to make a very harsh and unscrupulous use of his authority, before he could force the obnoxious archdeacon into the Cathedral of Canterbury.
Nevertheless Henry persevered; for Becket had contrived to win at once the favour, the confidence, and the respect of the monarch. He had shown himself, in all their dealings, both subservient and
successful, which too frequently form the greatest recommendation to a monarch's favour; and Henry doubted not that in his projects regarding the Church, he should find in the new Archbishop the same pliancy of will, with the same powers of mind, which his Chancellor had displayed. Indeed, he had every reason to believe that such would be the case ; for Becket had more than once signalized himself in supporting the royal authority against the encroachments of the Church; and that he had still kept his eye upon the primacy, is evident, notwithstanding everything that his eulogists thought fit to assert after Henry had made him a martyr, and the Pope had made him a saint.
In judging of the views and proceedings of Henry and Becket, a very nice and critical examination of the authorities is necessary ; for very few documents have reached us free from a suspicion of partiality, except the records of various matters which took place before Becket's elevation to the dignity of primate and which were recorded previously. These are the purest sources when they can be found, but they are very rare, and do not embrace the most important points in question. The next best source, probably, are the letters written about the times of which we now speak; for, though they are all glowing with the heat of controversy, yet, as in the pleading of a cause, the opposite statements are laid before us, and we can judge between the parties. A more suspicious sort of au