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which he had strictly promised to give, and which indeed he had actually given at the setting-out of the legates. He had promised in a most decided manner to furnish them with power to enquire, judge, and terminate, and he reduced that power to a mere shadow, only permitting them to enquire and mediate. For this conduct, Henry reproached him in a bitter manner in the year 1169 ; * but Becket, of course, rejoiced, treated the power of the legates with contempt, shewed the utmost virulence and malignity towards William of Pavia, and endeavoured to sow divisions between him and his colleague by courting the one while he abused the other. It may be easily supposed that the mission was ineffectual; though, had the legates proceeded with the powers which had been first entrusted to them, the dispute would have terminated in the only way in which it could end with safety to any of the parties concerned; namely, by the abasement of the stubborn pride of Becket.
Thus failed the negociation of the legates; and, although we do not find it positively stated, yet there is reason to believe that about this time the protectors of Becket began to be somewhat weary
* In Rymer, the words he makes use of to the Pope are: “Qui cum in potestate sicut Nuncii vestri ad nos reportaverunt, et litteris vestris continebatur expressum, quas adhuc penes nos habemus, quod missi fuissent, sicut per eosdem legatos, cum ad nos pervenissent accepimus, potestas illa, ad injuriam nostram, illis subtracta est.”
of his ambitious resistance. When the two Kings of England and France met at Montmirail, Becket was brought thither by the mediators, and was in some sort forced by the King of France to kneel to Henry and make submission; but the wily Prelate contrived so to frame his speech, as to leave himself a reserve, which the King perceiving, refused to receive such an ineffectual act of submission. The monarch proposed other forms, but Becket refused to adopt any without conditions derogatory to Henry's dignity. On one occasion, the King suggested that the Archbishop should promise to do for him what the greatest and holiest of his predecessors had done for the least of the Kings of England; but Becket would not agree to this, even though the French monarch exclaimed with some indignation: “Would you be greater and wiser than all those holy men ?”
Thus these dissensions remained unabated; and from that time, it would seem, the dispute between Henry and Becket assumed the form of a struggle of wits, both striving to prove which, by the cunningest and best covered artifice, could devise such a form of words as would bind the other to more than he meant, without his perceiving it. Fairly viewed, there is not perhaps in the whole course of history such a display of meanness and duplicity, as that which is afforded by the conduct both of Henry and Becket at this period. Becket, however, had this great advantage, that the Pope, now
rising again in power and authority, was driving on the King of England to hear new proposals every day by threats of using all the thunders of the see of Rome against him. It is true that all the terrors in which the Roman church armed itself in the middle ages were ideal; but when ideal terrors, by the power of superstition, become influential with great masses of mankind, they are rendered substantially dangerous to those superior minds who understand them and abstractedly contemn them. Henry was himself superstitious; and though his contemporary, Frederic, would not have entertained the slightest apprehension of his own salvation, if all the popes and bishops of the last thousand years had anathematized him for what he knew to be right, yet the King of England might feel some dread. But had such not been the case, he might well and reasonably fear that the papal condemnation would gain power from the superstition of his people and his clergy, and that his authority might be shaken-even if the very bonds of society in his dominions were not dissolved—by the full expression of the indignation of Rome. He endeavoured, indeed, to keep the furious mandates of the Archbishop out of England, but even in that attempt he was not successful; and he knew that at any time a sentence of excommunication or interdict could be diffused over the whole of his continental possessions. He had soon to learn to what an extent the clergy of England would be affected by the conduct of the Roman see. Becket, in spite of remonstrances even from the Pope, excommunicated at once every one who was inimical to him : the King's officers, the King's servants, the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Salisbury. In regard to the latter, Becket would not hold his hand nor recal the blow, even though Alexander himself entreated him to do so. Indeed for that Pope he seemed every day to be losing respect, in consequence, probably, of Alexander's tergiversation and double-dealing ; and from some of his furious epistles, when Alexander did not do exactly what he wished, as well as from the account given by John, of Salisbury of various letters that he wrote, but did not send, there is every reason to believe that he would have excommunicated the Pope himself, if he had dared. I write these words without levity; for the extent of his wrath and pride was such, as to involve him in contradictions to the tenets of his church fully as extraordinary; and, on one occasion, referring to the Bishops of London and Salisbury, when the Pope absolved them, he forgot altogether the very foundation of the supremacy which he claimed for Rome, and declared that St. Peter himself, if he were on earth, could not absolve such sinners..
The Bishops whom Becket excommunicated appealed to Rome, and on the appearance of new danger renewed their appeal. To pursue the whole course of the efforts made to bring about a com
promise between him and Henry would occupy too great a space in this work; suffice it to say, the Cardinals Gratian and Albert were sent to negociate once more between the King and Becket, threatening the former with excommunication of his person and interdict upon his realm, if he did not grant peace to the Archbishop within a certain time. The conferences were renewed frequently, but still without effect. Henry employed those means which he knew to be so effectual with the Court of Rome: bribes, promises, and advantages; but Louis was once more eager in the cause of Becket, and the Pope did not think fit both to sacrifice a great principle for which Rome had so long struggled, and the friendship of the French monarch. The danger of the interdict being pronounced thus became imminent.
Once more Henry renewed his prohibitions in regard to the introduction of the interdict, or any mandate of the kind, into England; and the terms of the King's orders now show him at open war with the Church of Rome. Not only are those who introduce the interdict or obey it, threatened with the most severe punishments of the law, but those also who “favour the Pope or the Archbishop ;” and the officers of counties and of towns are commanded to assemble the inhabitants, and to swear them to obey the King's mandate. This was done without the slightest resistance or opposition, and there cannot be any doubt that the