« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the excuse of battle or strife, a priest at the altar, the consecrated servant of the God they themselves worshipped, in the very act of offering adoration to his divine Master. All their after acts shew how great was the effect of remorse upon them. They seemed bewildered and confused, not knowing what was to be done next-not knowing which way to turn their steps—where to seek an asylum, where to find repose. On the morning of the following day they again appeared before the gates of Canterbury in arms, but did not enter the city; pausing for some time under the walls, and then withdrawing again. It would appear that they remained in Kent for some days; but in the end they retired to the north of England, and took refuge in the castle Knaresborough in Yorkshire, belonging to Hugh de Moreville, where they remained for some months, not daring to present themselves at the court of the King, and not attempting to justify in any way the act they had committed.
In the meanwhile, the monks of Canterbury and friends of Thomas Becket, but more especially John of Salisbury, whose impudent invention the scheme probably was,* determined to gain for their mur
* No assertion seems to have been too gross and barefaced for this very elegant writer, but false and malignant man. He has the impudence to declare, that of his own knowledge the most extraordinary miracles were performed, both at the spot where Becket's blood was shed, and the tomb where he reposed.
dered pastor the reputation of a saint; and scarcely was he laid in the tomb, ere a number of fictitious miracles were enacted to confirm the holy reputation of the Archbishop. Ignorance and superstition, from a very early period, not contented with making others share with our Saviour and his immediate disciples in the glory and power of working miracles during their lives upon earth, have claimed for persons to whom it was thought right to attribute particular holiness, the posthumous privilege of sanctifying the spots where their bodies are inhumed; and by some extraordinary influence, performing wonderful cures, and other marvellous acts, in favour of those who visit the places of their mortal repose. The greediness of superstition, however, is never satisfied; and not only the spot where Becket lay and the spot where he was buried, were claimed for the working of miracles, but also the pavement before the high altar; and, in progress of time, the dead Archbishop obtained a retrospective effect for his sanctity. Thus we find from Hoveden and others, that after historians discovered miracles which Becket had even performed in his lifetime, almost at the very period when he was perjuring himself at Clarendon, and breaking his oath at Northampton. It is really painful to read the accounts of water being turned into wine, and of the other blasphemous parodies of our Saviour's miracles, which were attributed to this prelate, by the knavery of some, and the superstition of others.
The struggle between Becket and Henry was now over, but not the consequences, either of that struggle itself, or of the event with which it terminated ; and well might Henry be both horrified and alarmed, when the murder of the Archbishop was communicated to him. We are assured by the Bishop of Lisieux that, when the news was brought, he burst into the most frantic expressions of despair. He then seemed for a considerable time perfectly stupified and overwhelmed by the intelligence, though no one but himself could tell what were the feelings which agitated his bosom at that moment. Whether horror of a deed so black and infamous was not crossed with other sensations of various kinds, and what those sensations were— whether some degree of rejoicing at his deliverance from a strife that had appeared interminable, gleamed through the darkness which Becket's death brought upon his mind—and whether some memories of old affection did not in any degree make him regret the man whom he had loved as a friend, before he hated him as an adversary : these are questions that now never can be answered; but the prospect of the future was quite sufficiently dark and ominous to account for the agony of grief into which the King was plunged. He remained for three days as it were stupified, scarcely interchanging a word with any one, paying no attention to the affairs of state, and neglecting to give even the most necessary orders. At length, however, on the fourth day he was roused in a degree from this sad condition by the urgent representations and arguments of some of his best friends; and the good Bishop of Lisieux now undertook to write an exculpatory letter to the Pope, setting forth Henry's abhorrence of the crime that had been committed, mentioning the means that the King had taken to stop the murderers in their progress into England, and at the same time displaying in forcible language the profound grief and agony of mind which he suffered when the fatal result was known. An embassy was also appointed to proceed at once to the pontifical court, comprising a number of distinguished persons, and having the Archbishop of Rouen at its head. The latter, however, was prevented by age and infirmity from going on into Italy, though he set out for that purpose
While taking these measures to modify the Pope, Henry did not fail to employ means for exculpating himself in the eyes of the clergy. He sent messengers into England to confer with the monks of Canterbury, to express his grief for what had occurred, and to do honour to the remains of Becket, should his body not have been buried before their arrival. But at the same time, the two chaplains who were entrusted with this mission, were instructed to speak of the provocation which the King had received from the prelate, in a manner more firm and decided than might have been expected from the circumstances.
Active enemies, however, were now using every
effort to counteract all that Henry was doing. The malignant John of Salisbury was employing all the means that presented themselves to prejudice his master's cause. Two monks who had been chaplains to Becket, were sent to Rome, in fact as accusers of the English monarch. Furious letters and messages were despatched to Alexander, by Louis King of France, by the Count of Blois, and by the Archbishop of Sens. * Every one judged the cause of Henry without hearing his defence; every one condemned him before they really knew what had taken place. The Archbishop of Sens, indeed, went farther than any of the rest ; for, by virtue of a power given to the Archbishop of Rouen and to himself as apostolic legate, he pronounced a sentence of interdict against the King's continental dominions. But in this sentence the Archbishop of Rouen refused to concur, and the clergy of Henry's territories in France seemed to have paid no attention whatsoever to the unsupported denunciations of the Archbishop of Sens.
In the meantime, the monarch's messengers repaired to Italy; but difficulties, dangers, and inconveniences of various kinds impeded them
* The letters of this prelate are not a little abusive; the following are the terms in which he speaks of his fellow prelates, the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of London and Salisbury: “Rogerum videlicet Archiepiscopum Eboracensem, diabolum illum, et Lundoniensem Episcopum Gillebertum, et Jocelinum Salisbiriensem Episcopum; non Episcopos sed postaticos,” &c. Such was the Christian charity of the apostolic legate.