It was shortly after this that Aelred, the good Abbot of Rivaux, came to Dunfermline, on the affairs of his order; and in the presence of this holy man, the adopted brother of his beloved Henry, one of the four promising boys who had gladdened the early days of his reign, the King's grief broke freely forth, though still it was not the sorrow of one who had no hope. He told Aelred he saw in this calamity a punishment for the devastation he had caused in his invasion of England, and would fain have laid down his royalty, and spent the rest of his days in penitence in a convent; but he was persuaded to relinquish the design, and guard the crown for his grandsons. He shed tears as he tenderly embraced Aelred, and both felt it was their last meeting.
David did not long survive his son. He appointed his eldest grandchild, Malcolm, to succeed him, and set his affairs in order, redoubling all his pious and charitable acts. One of the last things he was heard to say, was, "Lord, I restore Thee the kingdom wherewith Thou didst entrust me. Put me in possession of that whereof the inhabitants are all kings." He was soon after found dead, in the attitude of devotion. His body was buried at Dunfermline, and his name added to the list of Scottish saints.
His grandsons, Malcolm, William, and David, were all good and valiant men.
Waltheof, his stepson, lived peaceably at Melrose, strict in rule, gentle in manners, and peculiarly humble in demeanor, and poor in dress. He once had occasion to meet King Stephen, and rode in among the barons in their armor, only clad in his coarse serge frock, and mounted, on an old gray horse. His brother Simon, who stood by the King, was displeased, and said, "See, my lord, how my brother and thy kinsman does honor to his lineage." He met with a reply he little expected. "If thou and I had only the grace to see it," said Stephen, "he is an honor indeed to us. He adorns our race, as the gem does the gold in which it is set!" And when he had parted with the meek abbot, Stephen exclaimed, with tears, "This man has put all worldly things under his feet; but we are presuming after this fleeting world, and losing both body and soul in the chase."
This must indeed have, been brought home soon after to Stephen, by the fate of his wretched son Eustace. This fiery youth had desired to be crowned in his father's lifetime; but Archbishop Theobald, and all his suffragans, perceiving that this would prevent the only hope of peace on Stephen's death, steadily refused, though the King shut them all up in his hall, and threatened them violently. The next year, when the treaty was made by which Henry of Anjou was to reign after Stephen, Eustace was so enraged at finding himself excluded from the succession, that he rushed off, accompanied by a party of lawless young men, and ravaged all Cambridgeshire, committing dreadful excesses. It is to be hoped that he was already under the influence of the brain-fever which came on in a few days' time, immediately after he had pillaged Bury St. Edmund's, and of which he died; leaving a belief among the country people, that, like King Sweyn, he had been struck by the avenging hand of the Saint himself. His father, King Stephen, only lived a few months after, worn out by the toils and troubles which he had brought on himself by his own ambition. His son William, who would have opposed Henry's accession, was prevented, by breaking his leg by a fall from his horse, and Henry peaceably gained the throne. His mother, Empress Maude, had in the meantime retired to Anjou, where she led a quiet life, giving up her rights to her son, and apparently profiting by the lesson she had been taught when her prosperity was turned at its full tide by her own pride and presumption.
Of the boys bred up in the good household of Dunfermline, Aelred was the last survivor. Waltheof had the happiness, before his death, of seeing his brother, the proud Earl Simon of Northampton, repent heartily, leave his evil courses, found churches, and endow the convent of Waldon, which he had once persecuted for sheltering his brother. Waltheof was elected to be Bishop of St. Andrews, and Aelred, as head of the Cistercians in Britain, came to Melrose, to order him, on his canonical obedience, to accept the see. But Waltheof was weak in health, and knew that another call had gone forth. He pointed to a stone slab on the floor of the chapter-house. "There," said he, "is the place of my rest. Here will be my habitation, among my children."
And in a short time he died, in the year 1159. Aelred lived seven or eight years longer, and was highly honored and trusted by the young Malcolm of Scotland. On his behalf the old Abbot undertook a journey, to treat with the wild men of Galloway, whom Malcolm had three times defeated in battle, and now wished to bring to terms. He succeeded in persuading their chief to submit, and even to become a canon at Holyrood.
He afterward attended a chapter of his order at Pavia, and died at Rivaux, after a long illness, about 1166.
YOUTH OF BECKET. (1154-1162)
King of England. 1154. Henry II.
King Of Scotland. 1153. Malcolm V.
King of France. 1137. Louis VII.
Emperors of Germany. 1138. Konrad II. 1152. Friedrich II.
Popes. 1154. Adrian IV. 1159. Alexander III.
Henry of Anjou showed, in his journey to England, both courage and moderation. He remained there for some little time, and then returned home to join his father in a war against the Count de Montreuil, who was befriended by both Pope and King of France. The Pope excommunicated Geoffrey, but he fought on, and made his enemy prisoner; then, at the command of the King of France, released him. When the Pope would have absolved Geoffrey, he refused, saying he had only done justice, and had not deserved the sentence. A few months after, in 1151, a cold bath, when he was heated with riding, brought on a fever that caused his death.
He left his son Henry his county of Anjou, to be resigned to Geoffrey if he should become King of England, and commanded that his body should not be interred till Henry had taken an oath to that effect. From this oath Henry was absolved by Adrian IV, properly Nicholas Brakespeare, the only English Pope, and stripped his brother of all his possessions. It was no good omen for his own relations with his sons. His mother lived many years in retirement, and used her influence chiefly for good. She died in 1167.
Henry, meantime, had come to the throne in 1154, and was the mightiest King who had yet reigned in England. More than half France was his—partly by inheritance, and partly by marriage with Eleanor, heiress of Aquitaine; and he was quite able to rule his vast dominions. His alertness and activity were the wonder of every one. He made journeys with great rapidity, was always busy, and hardly ever sat down. He had a face like a lion, well-knit limbs, and a hardy temperament. He was heedless what he ate or wore, and was an embodiment of vehemence and activity. He threw himself eagerly into the work of reducing to order the dreadful state of things allowed by Stephen.
Down came the castles—once more the nobles found they had a strong hand over them—no more dens of robbers were permitted—the King was here, there, and everywhere. He had English to tame Anglo-Normans, Angevins to set on French Normans, Poitevins to turn loose on both. He knew what order was, and kept it; and the counsellor who aided him most must now be described.
Here is the romantic ballad-tale of that counsellor's origin, though it is much to be feared that the fact cannot be established.
In the reign of Henry I. the citizens of London were amazed by the sight of a maiden in an Eastern dress, wandering along the streets, plaintively uttering the word "Gilbert!" Certain seafaring men declared that she had prevailed on them to take her on board their vessel and bring her to England, by constantly repeating the name "London!"—the only other word in the language that she knew.
Poor lady! The mob of London were less compassionate than the sailors had been. They hooted and hunted her, till she came to Southwark, in front of a house belonging to Gilbert a Becket, a rich and prosperous merchant, who, with his faithful serving-man, Richard, had lately returned from pilgrimage. Richard, who had come out on hearing the noise, hurried back into the house as soon as he perceived its cause; then, hastening out again, went up to the poor, persecuted maiden, who fainted away at the sight of him. He carried her to the house of an honorable widow lady, desiring her, in his master's name to take care of the desolate stranger, with whom, on her revival, he held converse in her own tongue, and seemed to cheer her greatly.
Meanwhile, Gilbert a Becket was on his way to St. Paul's, to consult the Bishop of London. He related how, in the East, he and his man Richard had been taken captive by the Saracens, and become slaves to a wealthy Emir. In the course of their services to their master, Gilbert had attracted the notice of his daughter, who had more than once asked him questions about his faith and country, and had at last offered to contrive his escape, if he would take her for his wife, and bring her to his own land. Gilbert, who did not trust her, effected his escape with Richard without her assistance, and returned to England, little thinking they should ever see her again. But she followed him, leaving her home, her riches, and her father, and seeking him through his long and dangerous journey, ignorant of all save his name, and the name of his city.
Five other prelates were present when he told the story, and one, the Bishop of Chichester, exclaimed, that Heaven itself most have conducted the damsel, and advised that Gilbert should at once marry her. The next day she was brought to St. Paul's, and was there baptized by the name of Matilda, Richard acting as interpreter; and shortly after the wedding took place.
This romantic story was the origin of several old English ballads, one of which celebrates the Saracen lady by the extraordinary title of Susy Pye, perhaps a vulgarism of her original Eastern name.
In the first year of his marriage, Gilbert went on pilgrimage again, leaving his wife under the care of his man Richard. Soon after his departure she gave birth to a son, to whom she gave the name of Thomas, and who was three years old by the time his father returned from the Holy Land. They afterward had two daughters, named Mary and Agnes, and lived in great piety and happiness, until the time of Matilda's death, at the end of twenty-two years.
Thomas received a clerkly education from the Canons of Merton, and showed such rare ability that his whole family deemed him destined for great things. He was very tall and handsome, and his aquiline nose, quick eyes, and long, slender, beautiful hands, accorded with the story of his Eastern ancestry; and he was very vigorous and athletic, delighting in the manly sports of the young men of his time. In his boyhood, while he was out hawking with a knight who used to lodge in his father's house when he came to London, he was exposed to a serious danger. They came to a narrow bridge, fit only for foot-passengers, with a mill-wheel just below. The knight nevertheless rode across the bridge, and Thomas was following, when his horse, making a false step, fell into the river. The boy could swim, but would not make for the bank, without rescuing the hawk, that had shared his fall, and thus was drawn by the current under the wheel, and in another moment would have been torn to pieces, had not the miller stopped the machinery, and pulled him out of the water, more dead than alive.
It seems that it was the practice for wealthy merchants to lodge their customers when brought to London by business, and thus young Thomas became known to several persons of high estimation in their several stations. A rich merchant called Osborn gave him big accounts to keep; knights noticed his riding, and clerks his learning and religious life.
Some of the clergy of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, who were among those guests, were desirous of presenting him to their master. He at first held back, but they at length prevailed with him: he became a member of the Archbishop's household, and, after he had improved himself in learning, was ordained deacon, and presented with the Archdeaconry of Canterbury, an office which was then by no means similar to what we at present call by that name. It really then meant being chief of the deacons, and involved the being counsellor, and, in a manner, treasurer to the Bishop of the diocese; and thus, to be Archdeacon of Canterbury, was the highest ecclesiastical dignity in the kingdom, next to that of the prelates and great mitred abbots.
Thomas a Becket was a secular clerk, bound by none of the vows of monastic orders; and therefore, though he led a strictly pure and self-denying life, he did hot consider himself obliged to abstain from worldly business or amusements, and in the year 1150 he was appointed Chancellor by Henry II. He was then in his thirty-eighth year, of great ability and cultivation, graceful in demeanor, ready of speech, clear in mind, and his tall frame (reported to have been no less than six feet two in height) fitting him for martial exercise and bodily exertion. The King, a youth of little past twenty, delighting in ability wherever he found it, became much attached to his gallant Chancellor, and not only sought his advice in the regulation of England after its long troubles, but, when business was done, they used to play together like two schoolboys.
It must have been a curious scene in the hall of Chancellor Becket, when, at the daily meal, earls and barons sat round his table, and knights and nobles crowded, so thickly at the others, that the benches were not sufficient, and the floor was daily strewn with hay or straw in winter, or in summer with green boughs, that those who sat on it might not soil their robes. Gold and silver dishes, and goblets, and the richest wines, were provided, and the choicest, most costly viands were purchased at any price by his servants for these entertainments: they once gave a hundred shillings for a dish of eels. But the Chancellor seldom touched these delicacies, living on the plainest fare, as he sat in his place as the host, answering the pledges of his guests, amusing them with his converse, and providing minstrelsy and sports of all kinds for their recreation. Often the King would ride into the hall, in the midst of the gay crowd seated on the floor, throw himself off his horse, leap over the table, and join in the mirth.
These rich feasts afforded afterward plentiful alms for the poor, who were never forgotten in the height of Becket's magnificence, and the widow and the oppressed never failed to find a protector in the Chancellor.
His house was full of young squires and pages, the sons of the nobility, who placed them there as the best school of knighthood; and among them was the King's own son Henry, who had been made his pupil.
The King seems to have been apt to laugh at Becket for his strict life and overflowing charity. One very cold day, as they were riding, they met an old man in a thin, ragged coat.
"Poor old man!" said Henry, "would it not be a charity to give him a good, warm cloak?"
"It would, indeed." said Becket: "you had better keep the matter in mind."
"No, no; it is you that shall have the credit of this great act of charity," said Henry, laughing. "Ha! old man, should you not like this nice, warm cloak?" and, with those words, he began to pull at the scarlet and gray mantle which the Chancellor wore. Becket struggled for it, and in this rough sport they were both nearly pulled off their horses, till the clasp gave way, and the King triumphantly tossed his prize to the astonished old man.
The Chancellor was in the habit of daily giving more costly gifts than these, both to rich and poor; gold and silver, robes and jewels, fine armor and horses, hawks and hounds—even fine new ships, were bestowed by him, from the wealth of the old merchant Gilbert, as well as from the revenues of his archdeaconry, and of several other benefices, which the lax opinions of his time caused him to think no shame to keep in his own hands.
We cannot call Thomas a Becket by any means a perfect character; but thoroughly conscientious he must ever have been, and very self-denying, keeping himself pure from every stain in the midst of the court, and guarding himself by strict discipline. He was found to be in the habit of sleeping on the bare boards beside his rich bed, and in secret he wore sackcloth, and submitted to the lash of penance. His uprightness and incorruptibility as a judge, his wisdom in administering the affairs of state, and his skill in restoring peace to England, made the reign of Henry Plantagenet a relief indeed to his subjects.
In almost every respect he lived like a layman. He hunted and hawked, and was found fault with by the Prior of Leicester for wearing a cape with sleeves, which it seems was an unclerical garment. The prior said it was more unsuitable in one who held so many ecclesiastical preferments, and was likely to become Archbishop of Canterbury.
To this Thomas answered: "I know three poor priests, each of whom I would rather see Archbishop than myself. If I had that rank, I know full well I must either lose the King's favor, or set aside my duty to God."
When Henry went to war with France respecting the inheritance of Eleanor of Aquitaine, his wife, his Chancellor brought to his aid seven hundred knights of his own household, besides twelve hundred in his pay, and four thousand foot soldiers. He fed the knights themselves at his own table, and paid them each three shillings a day for the support of their squires and horses; and he himself commanded them, wearing armor, and riding at their head. He kept them together by the sound of a long, slender trumpet, such as was then used only by his own band; and in combat he showed himself strong and dexterous in the use of lance and sword, winning great admiration and respect even from the enemy.
Henry resolved to come to a treaty, and to seal it by asking the King of France, Louis le Jeune, to give his daughter Margaret in marriage to Henry, the heir of England. Becket was sent on this embassy, and the splendor of his equipment was such as might become its importance.
Two hundred men on horseback, in armor or gay robes, were his immediate followers, and with them came eight waggons, each drawn by five horses, a groom walking beside each horse, and a driver and guard to every waggon, besides a large, fierce dog chained beneath each. The waggons carried provisions and garments, and furniture for the night: two were filled with ale for the French, who much admired that English liquor; another was fitted up as a kitchen, and another for a chapel. There were twelve sumpter horses carrying small articles, and on the back of each of these sat a long-tailed ape!
Dogs and hawks, with their attendants, accompanied the procession, the whole marshalled in regular order, and the men singing as they went; and the impression on the minds of all beholders was, "If such was the Chancellor, what must be the King?"
At Paris all these riches were given away, and so resolved was Becket to keep up his character for munificence, that he did not choose to be maintained at the expense of the French King; and when Louis, wishing to force him into being his guest, sent orders to the markets round to sell nothing to the English Chancellor, his attendants disguised themselves, and bought up all the provisions in the neighborhood. King Louis acquired a great esteem and admiration for the Chancellor, and willingly granted his request, betrothing Margaret, who was only seven years old, to Prince Henry. She, as well as her little husband, became Becket's pupils, by desire of King Henry, and she, at least, never seems to have lost her attachment to him.
The time Becket dreaded came. The good, old, peaceable Archbishop Theobald died in 1162, and Henry, who was then at Falaise, ordered his Chancellor to England, ostensibly to settle a disturbance in the western counties, but in reality, as he declared in a private interview, that he might be elected to the primacy.
Becket smiled, and, pointing to his gay robes, said, "You are choosing a pretty dress to figure at the head of your monks of Canterbury. If you do as you say, my lord, you will soon hate me as much as you love me now, for you assume an authority in Church affairs to which I shall not consent, and there will be plenty of persons to stir up strife between us."
Henry did not heed the warning, and King, Bishops, and the Chapter of Canterbury unanimously chose Becket as Archbishop, with only one reluctant voice, that of Gilbert Folliot, Bishop of London, who expected the same promotion himself. On Whit-Sunday Thomas received priest's orders, and shortly after was consecrated Bishop by Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, and brother of King Stephen. John of Salisbury, a priest of Becket's household, and his intimate friend, was sent to Rome to ask for the pallium; and, bringing it home, laid it on the altar of Canterbury Cathedral, whence the Archbishop took it up.
The magnificent Archdeacon was expected by King Henry to lead the same life when Archbishop, and thus to secularize the Church. But Henry had mistaken his man. Clever and clear-sighted as the King was, seven years of transacting business together, and of familiar intercourse with the frank-hearted, free-spoken Thomas a Becket, had failed to make him conscious of the inner life and deep devotion, the mortification and uncompromising sense of duty, that was the true spring of his actions. It was no secret; Becket avowed it from the first; the King only did not see it, because he could not understand it.
Becket had too high an idea of the office of a bishop to unite the care of state affairs with it, and he at once resigned the chancellorship. Outwardly there was not much difference—he still kept a magnificent table, and entertained nobles and knights at his banquets; but his self-discipline was secretly carried to a far greater extent than before. He touched the wine-cup with his lips, to do honor to his guests, but his drink was water in which hay had been boiled; and though costly meats were placed before him, he hardly tasted them, and his chief food was bread. He doubled all the gifts that Archbishop Theobald had been wont to make to the poor convents and hospitals, and gave very large alms. Every day he washed the feet of thirteen beggars, then fed them, and gave them each four shillings. This was, in fact, considered as a religious duty, almost an obligation on certain occasions. It is a ceremony still performed by the Pope at Passion-tide; and Queen Elizabeth herself used to do so on Maundy Thursday. The gifts now distributed by the Queen on that day are a relic of the custom.
Archbishop Becket, when at Canterbury, often visited the cloisters, where he sat reading among the monks; and he often went to see and console the sick or infirm brethren, who were unable to leave their cells. He was much loved and respected by those who knew him best; but the nobles, who had usurped lands belonging to his see, dreaded his maintenance of his rights, and hoped for disagreements between him and the King—especially one Randolf de Broc, who wrongfully held the Castle of Saltwood, near Canterbury.
However, at the first meeting all was smooth. On the return of the court the Archbishop brought his pupil, Prince Henry, to meet his father at Southampton, and was received with great affection. The King embraced him eagerly, and spent much time apart with him, discussing all that had taken place in his absence.
THE CONSTITUTIONS OF CLARENDON. (1163-1172.)
King of England. 1151. Henry II.
King of Scotland. 1165. William.
King of France. 1137. Louis VII.
Emperor of Germany. 1152. Friedrich II.
Pope. 1159. Alexander III.
The strife between the Crown and the Mitre was not long in breaking out again. The former strife had been on the matter of investiture; the strife of the twelfth century was respecting jurisdiction.
We sometimes hear the expression, "Without benefit of clergy," and the readers of the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" cannot have forgotten William of Deloraine's declaration,
"Letter or line know I never a one, Were't my neck-verse at Harribee."
These are witnesses of the combat between Henry II. and Thomas a Becket. The Church, as bearing the message of peace, claimed to be exempt from the sword of the State. Her sacred buildings protected the criminal, the inhabitants of her lands were spared in war, and offences committed either by an ecclesiastic or against one, were not liable to be punished by the temporal power. This protection was extended not only over actually ordained clergymen, but all who held any office in connection with ecclesiastical affairs—all students, nay, all who were clerks enough to read and write. Thus the wild borderers, when made prisoners, escaped the halter by pretending to read a verse of the Miserere, which they had learnt by heart in case of such an emergency, and called their neck-verse; and "without benefit of clergy" was added to new laws, to prevent education from exempting persons from their power.
But this arose long after the battle had been fought and won; and it is not to be supposed, that the Church left offenders unpunished. Imprisonment, loss of rank, and penance, fell heavily on them, and it was only very hardened and desperate men who would die under excommunication rather than endure all that was required before they could be reconciled to the Church.
Henry II. had found the course of justice seriously impeded by these privileges of the clergy, and convoking a council at Westminster, in 1163, called on the bishops to consent that, as soon as a clerk should be proved guilty of a crime, he should be deprived of his orders, and handed over to receive punishment as a layman, at the hands of the King's officer.
According to our views in the present day, this demand was just, but to the Church of the twelfth century it seemed an attempt to deprive her of powers committed to her trust; and considering the uncertainty of justice, and the lawless tyranny and cruelty often exercised by the sovereigns and nobles, the resistance made to Henry II. cannot be wondered at.
The bishops, however, first took the King's view, and argued that a crime was worse in a clerk than in another, so that he deserved no immunity. To this Becket answered, that the loss of his orders was one penalty, and it was not right that he should be punished twice for the same offence. They said that the King would be displeased, and it would be better to give up their liberties than to perish themselves. This cowardly plea Becket treated no better than it deserved, and brought them over to his side, so that they all answered the King, that their duty forbade them to comply with his demand; Henry put the question in another form, asking them whether they would in all things observe the royal Constitutions of his ancestors. Becket replied, "We will in all things, saving the privileges of our order;" and so, one by one, said they all, except Hilary of Chichester, who was afraid, and left out the important restriction. But by this cowardice all he gained was the King's contempt. Henry chose him as the one on whom to vent his passion, abused him violently, and quitted the council, in one of his furious fits of rage.
Thenceforth Henry was at war with Becket. One of his first acts of spite, was exiling the Archbishop's friend, John of Salisbury, a faithful priest, and an excellent scholar, as his correspondence with his master remains to testify. It is curious to read his account of Paris. "The people here seem to enjoy abundance of everything; the Church ceremonies are performed with great splendor, and I thought, with Jacob, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not;' also, in the words of the poet,
"'Blessed is the banish'd man who liveth here.'
"The French are much afraid of our King Henry, and hate him most intensely; but this between ourselves."
The Archbishop wrote to the Pope for counsel, but the King had strong influence at Rome, and the Pope only advised Becket to preserve peace; owning that what the King demanded was wrong, but recommending Becket to give way, and make friends, so that England might be once more at his beck and call.
For this policy Becket was far too straight-forward, and his perplexity was great, especially when the Archbishop of York, who had always been his enemy, the jealous and disappointed Gilbert Folliot of London, and the time-serving Hilary of Chichester, all declared themselves of the King's party.
The Pope and his legate prevailed with Becket to consent to the Constitutions of the realm, without making any exception; the King said this must be done in public, and in January, 1164, convoked a council for the purpose at Clarendon, in Wiltshire.
The Constitutions were read, and proved to contain much that was contrary to the canons of the Church; they were discussed and commented on for three days, and then, to Becket's surprise and dismay, he was required not only to agree to them by word of mouth, as he had already done, but to set his archiepiscopal seal to them. He rose, and exclaimed, much agitated, "I declare by God Almighty, that no seal of mine shall ever be set to such Constitutions as these."
The King left the room in a fury, and great confusion ensued, of which we have no clear account. The nobles broke in on the bishops, and threatened them in the King's name; the Grand Master of the Templars persuaded Becket, and it seems that his firmness in some degree gave way, though whether what he repented of was the sealing the Constitutions, or merely the promise he had given, we cannot tell. The assembly broke up, the King and each of the Archbishops taking a copy of the Constitutions.
Becket, as he rode away, lamented over what had passed, as his faithful friend and biographer, Herbert of Bosham, has recorded. "My sins are the cause why the Church of England is reduced to bondage," he said. "I was taken from the court to fill this station, a proud and vain man; not from the cloister, nor from a school of the Saviour, but from the palace of Caesar. I was a feeder of birds, and I was suddenly made a feeder of men; I was a patron of players, and a follower of hounds, and I became a shepherd over many souls. I neglected my own vineyard, and yet was intrusted with the care of others."
He fasted, and abstained from ministering at the altar, till he had received from the Pope a letter of absolution for his act of weakness; and as the Pope gave no ratification of the Constitutions of Clarendon, he did not consider them binding.
Henry shifted his ground, and, calling another Council at Northampton in 1164, brought various petty charges against the Archbishop. The first was, that a man named John Marshall had failed to obtain justice in his court. The truth was, that the man had been caught making oaths on a jest-book, instead of on the Gospels; and Becket, instead of coming himself to state this, sent four knights with letters explaining it.
For this neglect, as it was said, of the King's summons, Becket was condemned to forfeit the whole of his personal property; and to this he submitted, but without appeasing the King, who went on to accuse him of taking the public money while Chancellor, when, as every one knew, he had spent far more largely than ever he had received in the King's service. Not a person was there who did not know that his character stood far above such base charges; besides, an appointment to an ecclesiastical dignity was always supposed to clear from all former charges.
Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, brother of King Stephen, went to the King, and offered to pay the whole sum required of Becket; but he was not listened to, and the Bishops of Chichester and London plainly told the Archbishop, that what was aimed at was to force him to resign. The plain, blunt Bishop of Lincoln said, "The man's life is in danger; he will lose it, or his bishopric; and what good his bishopric will do him without his life, I do not see."
On the decisive day on which he was expected to submit to judgment, Archbishop Thomas rose early and celebrated mass; after which, arrayed in his pontifical dress, except his mitre and pall, he set out for the place of meeting, attended by his faithful clerks. He wished to have gone thither barefoot, and, bearing his cross, to have thrown himself at the feet of the King, and intercede with him for the liberties of the Church; but his clergy and the Templars persuaded him to relinquish this design, contrary to his own judgment. He returned to it again so far, that, on dismounting in the Castle court, he took his cross from Alexander Llewellyn, its bearer, and carried it himself into the hall. The Bishop of Hereford ran up to him, saying, "Suffer me, my lord, to carry the cross; it is better than that you should carry it yourself."
"Nay, my son," he answered, "suffer me to retain it, as the banner under which I fight."
A French archdeacon, who was present, said to the Bishop of London, "My lord, do you allow the Archbishop to carry his own cross?"
"My good friend," was Folliot's rude reply, "he always was a fool, and will continue so to the end."
But when all gave way before the majestic figure of the Archbishop, with the cross in his hand, Gilbert went up to him, and tried to snatch it away, telling him he was disturbing the peace; for the King would take the sword, and then the King and Archbishop would be matched against each other.
"So be it," said Becket; "my cross is the sign of peace; the King's sword is an instrument of war."
He sat down to wait, while the other prelates were called to a consultation with the King in another apartment. His clerks sat round, and Herbert de Bosham said, "If they lay violent hands on you, you can excommunicate them all."
"Far be that from our lord," rejoined Fitzstephen, his secretary; "let him rather follow the pattern of the ancient confessors and martyrs, and pray for his enemies and persecutors."
One of the King's marshals touched Fitzstephen on the shoulder, telling him it was forbidden to speak to the Archbishop; upon which he glanced at his master, and pointed to the cross, to express what he was forbidden to say.
The King sat in his own chamber, and the bishops and barons were sent in turn with messages from him to the Archbishop. Becket appealed to the Pope, and the bishops, on their side, appealed against the Archbishop; and then the Earls of Leicester and Cornwall were sent to pronounce sentence on him; but instead of allowing them to proceed, he declared that the King had no right to call him to account for what had happened before he was Archbishop; for it had been expressly declared, when he was appointed, that he was freed from all former claims.
This was a point of view in which the Earls had not seen the case, and they said they must go back to the King. "One word more," said Becket: "as the soul is more worthy than the body, so you are bound to obey God rather than the King. Can the son judge his father? I can receive no judgment from you or the King; the Pope alone, under God, is my judge. I place myself and my Church under his protection. I call the bishops, who have obeyed their King rather than God, to answer before his tribunal; and so, protected by the Holy Catholic Church and the power of the Apostolic See, I leave this court."
He rose, followed by his clerks. Cries of abuse followed him; Ranulf de Broc shot straws at him, and a relation of the King reproached him with sneaking away like a traitor. "If I were a knight," said the Archbishop, "my sword should answer that foul speech."
It was only the King's immediate followers that thus reviled him; the poor crowded after him in multitudes, so that he could hardly hold in his horse, carry the cross, which he still retained, and give his blessing to those who sought it. "See," he said to his clerks, "what a glorious train escorts me home! These are the poor of whom Christ spake, partakers of my distress: open the door, and let us feast together!"
On coming to the monastery, they first went to the chapel, where he prayed, and laid down the cross; then went to the refectory to take food. In talking over the events of the day, he bade his clerks beware of retorting on their enemies the abuse that was poured on them. "To rail," he said "is the mark of an inferior; to bear it, of a superior. If we would teach them to control their tongues, let us show that we control our ears."
In the reading that evening, at supper, the text occurred, "If they persecute you in one city, flee to another." This Becket took as direction for his course, and sent to ask the King for a safe-conduct to return to Canterbury. The King said he should have an answer to-morrow, which Becket and his clerks considered as a sign that his life was not safe. That night, therefore, he, with three of his clergy, mounted at the postern of the monastery, and rode off, in such torrents of rain, that four times he was obliged to cut off a portion of his long cloak to relieve himself of the weight. He made for Kent, travelling by night and hiding by day, for twenty days, till he reached the coast, and at Estrey was hidden for several days in a little secret chamber opening into the parish church, whence, at mass, he gave the blessing to the congregation, though they knew it not. At last a small open boat was procured, and, embarking on the 2d of November, 1164, he safely landed near Gravelines.
The county of Boulogne belonged to Mary de Blois, Stephen's daughter. She had taken the veil at Romsey, when a girl; but on the death of her brothers, Eustace and William, became the heiress of her mother's county of Boulogne, and had been stolen away and married, for the sake of her inheritance, by Matthew of Flanders. The Archbishop had opposed this marriage, and the count was therefore his enemy, so that he was obliged to pass through his territory in the disguise of a Cistercian monk, calling himself Brother Christian.
Twice he was in danger of discovery. The first time was when they met a party of young men hawking. Becket, who had never lost his admiration for the noble birds (for one of whom he had so nearly lost his life), showed so much interest in the falcons, that their owner, surprised at seeing so much sportsmanship in a monk, exclaimed, "You must be the Archbishop of Canterbury!" "What!" said another of the hawking party, "do you think the Archbishop travels in this sort?" And thus Becket was saved from being obliged to make answer. The next time was at supper, when they had reached the inn at Gravelines, where his great height and beautiful hands attracted attention; and the host, further remarking that he bestowed all the choicest morsels on the children, was convinced that this must be the English Archbishop, whose escape was already known on the Continent, and falling down at his feet, blessed the saints for bringing such a guest under his roof. Becket was much afraid the good man might unintentionally betray him, and left Gravelines early the next morning, on his way to the monastery of St. Bertin's, at St. Omer. It is amusing to find Becket's faithful clerks, on the Friday when they were to arrive at that hospitable convent, trying to coax their master to grant them leave, after their journey, to eat a little meat: "for, suppose there should be a scarcity of fish." Here they were joined by Herbert de Bosham, who had been sent to Canterbury to collect such money and valuables as he could bring away.
Henry had in the meantime sent an embassy to desire the King of France not to shelter "the late Archbishop;" but it met with no favorable reception from Louis. "He is a noble-minded man," said he; "if I knew where to find him, I would go with my whole court to meet him."
"But he did much harm to France," said the Earl of Arundel, "at the head of the English army."
"That was his duty," said Louis; "I admire him the more. If he had been my servant, he would have done the same for me."
Nor did the embassy meet with much better success on going to Sens, where Pope Alexander III. then was. The Bishop of London began to abuse the Archbishop virulently, saying that he had fled, "as the Scripture saith. 'The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth.'"
"Nay," interrupted the Pope, "spare. I entreat you, spare—"
"I will spare him, holy father," said Gilbert
"Not him, but yourself, brother," said Alexander; and Gilbert was silenced.
Finding how favorably both Pope and King were disposed toward him, Becket left his retreat at St. Omer, and was received with much respect by Louis at Soissons, after which he proceeded to Sens. There he was treated with high honor by Alexander, and almost his first measure was to confess, with deep grief, that he considered his election uncanonical, "the handiwork of men, and not of God," and that therefore these troubles had fallen on his Church. He therefore gave up his see; but the Pope would not accept his resignation, and assigned to him the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny as his dwelling-place. Here he remained two years, while the King persecuted his adherents and banished his kindred. Four hundred poor creatures were stripped of their goods, and turned adrift in Flanders, where they must have perished, had not the Count and the Empress Maude taken pity on them.
DEATH OF BECKET.
King of England. 1154. Henry II.
King of Scotland. 1165. William.
King of France. 1137. Louis VII.
Emperor of Germany. 1152. Friedrich II.
Pope. 1159. Alexander III.
In 1166, Pope Alexander III. returned to Rome, after many vain attempts to reconcile the King and Archbishop, and it was determined that Becket should pronounce sentence of excommunication on the King and his chief followers in his uncanonical proceedings. Henry was at this time seriously ill, and Becket therefore did not include him under the sentence; the others were excommunicated, and this so exasperated Henry, that he intimated to the monks at Pontigny that he should seize all the possessions of the Cistercians in England, if they continued to harbor his enemy.
The poor monks were much distressed, and laid the letter before their guest, who could, of course, do no other than depart. "He who feeds the birds of the air, and clothes the lilies of the field, will provide for me and my fellow-exiles," said he; and he soon after received an invitation from the King of France to choose any castle or convent in his dominions for his abode. He selected the Abbey of St. Columba, a little beyond the walls of Sens, and took leave of the brethren at Pontigny, with such a burst of tears that the abbot remarked them with surprise, and begged to know their cause. "I feel that my days are numbered," said Becket; "I dreamt, last night, that I was put to death."
"Do you think you are going to be a martyr?" said the abbot. "You eat and drink too much for that."
"I know that I am too self-indulgent," said the Arch bishop; "but God is merciful, albeit I am unworthy of His favor."
Legates were sent by the Pope to negotiate, and many letters were written on either side, but without effect. The difference was said to lie in a nutshell; but where the liberties of the Church were concerned, Becket was inflexible. At the Epiphany, 1169, he was put to a severe trial; Henry himself, who had long been at war with Louis le Jeune, came to Montmirail, to hold a conference and sign a treaty, and he was summoned to attend it. By the advice of the legates and other clergy, Becket had agreed to give up the phrase which had formerly given the King so much offence at Clarendon, "Saving the privileges of my order," but not without inserting in its stead an equivalent, "Saving the honor of God," which, as being concerned in that of the Church, meant the same thing.
Yet on this the clergy of France, who were always extremely submissive to the crown, were by no means of Becket's opinion, and tried so hard to persuade him, for the sake of peace, to suppress this clause altogether, and make no reservation, that the bold and faithful Herbert de Bosham began to fear he might give way, and, pressing through the crowd as the Archbishop was advancing to the presence of the two kings, he whispered in his ear, "Take heed, my lord—walk warily. I tell you truly, if you leave out the words, 'Saving God's honor,' as you suppressed the other phrase, saving your own order, your sorrow will be renewed, and the more bitterly."
The throng was so dense, that Becket could only answer him by a look, and he remained in great anxiety as he watched his master advance and throw himself at the feet of King Henry; then, when raised up by the King, begin to speak, accusing himself of being by his unworthiness, the cause of the troubles of the English Church. "Therefore," said he, "I throw myself on your mercy and pleasure, my lord, on the whole matter that lies between us, only saving the honor of my God."
Henry burst out in rage and fury, heaping on Becket a load of abuse; declaring, to the King of France that this was all a pretence and that he himself was willing, to leave the Archbishop to the full as much power as any of his predecessors, but that he knew that, whatever the Archbishop disapproved, he would say was contrary to God's honor. "Now," said Henry, "there have been many kings of England before me, some of greater power than I am, some of less; and there have been many archbishops of Canterbury before him. Now let him behave to me as the holiest of his predecessors behaved to the least of mine, and I am satisfied."
There was apparent reason in this, that brought over Louis to Henry's side, and he said, rather insultingly, "My lord Archbishop, do you wish to be more than a saint?"
But Becket stood firm. He said there had indeed been holier and greater archbishops before him, each one of whom had corrected some abuse of the Church; and had they corrected all, he should not have been exposed to this fiery trial. Besides, the point was, that Henry was not leaving the Church as it had been under them, but seeking to bind a yoke on her that they had never borne. Almost all the French clergy and nobles were now against him; they called him obstinate and proud; the two kings mounted their horses and rode away together, without bidding him farewell; and some of the last words his clerks heard from the French nobles were, "He has been cast out by England; let him find no support in France."
Dreading what might come next, and grievously disappointed in their hopes of returning to their homes, even his clerks were out of humor, and blamed his determination. As they rode back in the gloom toward St. Columba, the horse of one happened to stumble, and in his vexation he exclaimed, "Come up, saving the honor of the Church and my order."
The Archbishop looked grieved, but was silent, and Herbert took this moment for riding up to him, and saying, "Heaven be praised, my lord, that through all to-day's tribulation you have been sustained by the Lord, and have not suffered that slippery member to betray you into anything against the honor of God."
The great ground of anxiety was the displeasure of Louis, who had hitherto not only allowed the exiles to take shelter in his dominions, but absolutely maintained them; and if he was won over by their persecutors, what was to become of them?
Their alarm increased as they heard nothing from him of his usual messages of kindness and friendship, and they were consulting together on their plans if they should be turned out of St. Columba.
"Never fear," said the Archbishop; "I am the only person King Henry wishes to injure: if I go away, no one will molest you."
"It is for you we are anxious," they said; "we do not see where you can find refuge."
"Care not for me," he said: "my God can protect me. Though England and France are closed against me, I shall not be undone. I will not apply to those Roman robbers, who do nothing but plunder the needy. I have heard that the people who dwell on the banks of the Arar, in Burgundy, are open-handed. I will go among them, on foot, with one comrade, and they will surely have compassion on me."
Just then a messenger came to desire the Archbishop to come to the lodgings of the French King.
"There! it is to drive us out of his kingdom," said one of the clerks.
"Do not forebode evil," returned Becket. "You are not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet."
Becket could hardly have been prepared for the manner of his reception. Louis threw himself on his knees, crying out, "My father, forgive me; you were the only wise man among us. We were all blinded and besotted, and advised you to make God's honor give way to a man's will! I repent of it, my father, and entreat you to bestow on me absolution!"
Louis had been brought to this change of mind by a breach of promise on Henry's part, but he never again wavered in his confidence and support of Becket.
In the November of the same year there was another interview between the two kings and Becket, at Montmartre, near Paris.
By this time, the Bishops of London and Salisbury had been excommunicated for disobedience to their primate; and Henry, expecting the same stroke to fall on himself, was resolved to put an end to the quarrel, and, bringing back Becket to his kingdom, to deal with him there as best he might.
Becket did not, by any means, trust the King's intentions, and had written to ask the Pope what pledge for his security he had better require. Alexander answered, that it was not accordant with the character of an ecclesiastic to stipulate for such pledges, but that he had better content himself with obtaining from the King a kiss of peace.
Now this kiss Henry would not give. He said he had sworn an oath never to kiss the Archbishop, and this refusal immediately convinced every one that evil was intended. Louis and all the Archbishop's friends concurred in advising him never to come to any terms without this seal of friend ship, and entirely on this ground the treaty was broken off. One of Becket's clergy remarked, that the meeting had taken place on the spot where St. Denys was put to death, adding, "It is my belief that nothing but your martyrdom will insure peace to the Church."
"Be it so," said Becket; "God grant that she may be redeemed, even at the sacrifice of my life."
He began to make up his mind that, since the King had given up the point at issue, he ought to allow no regard for his personal safety to keep him away from his flock; but just at this point the quarrel became further complicated. Henry, in dread of excommunication, resolved to have his son Henry crowned, to reign jointly with him, and the difficulty arose that no one could lawfully perform the coronation but the primate. Letters prohibiting the bishops from taking part in the coronation were sent by Becket, but, in the meantime, Gilbert Folliot had been appealing to Rome against his own excommunication. The Pope, who had been shuffling throughout, would not absolve him himself, but gave him letters to the Archbishops of Rouen and Nevers, and they granted him absolution; on which he returned triumphant to England, and joined with Roger of York and Hilary of Chichester in setting the crown on the head of young Henry. It was a measure which every person concerned in it had bitterly to rue—king, prince, bishops, every one, except Margaret, young Henry's wife, who steadily avoided receiving the crown from any one but her old tutor and friend, the primate.
Pope and Archbishop both agreed that this contempt of prohibition must be visited by excommunication; and as Alexander had about this time effectually humbled the pride of the Emperor Frederick, Henry thought it time to submit, at least in appearance, lest his realm should be laid under an interdict. At Freitval, therefore, he met the Archbishop in the autumn of 1170, and all was arranged. He consented to the excommunication of those concerned in the coronation; he held Becket's stirrup; he did everything but give the kiss of peace, but that he constantly avoided. Even when they went to church together at Tours, when, in the course of the communion service, Henry must have received the kiss from the Archbishop, he contrived to change the service to the mass for the dead, in which the kiss did not occur. The last time the King and Archbishop met was at Chaumont, near Blois, and here they had a return of old feelings, talked cheerfully and in a friendly manner, and Henry was so much touched by his remembrance of his happiest and best days, when his noble Chancellor was his friend and counsellor, that he exclaimed, "Why will you not do as I wish you? I would put all my affairs into your hands."
But Becket told his clerks that he recollected, "All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me."
They parted for the last time, and Becket prepared for his return, after his seven years' exile, sending before him letters from the Pope, suspending the Archbishop of York, and excommunicating the other bishops who had assisted at the coronation. At every step warnings met him that the English coast was beset with his foes, lying in wait to murder him; but he was resolved to proceed, and bold Herbert helped to strengthen his resolution by his arguments. On the 3d of December he set sail from the Boulogne coast. "There is England, my lord!" cried the rejoicing clerks.
"You are glad to go," he said; "but, before forty days, you will wish yourself anywhere else."
With extreme joy did the people of Sandwich see, for the first time for seven years, the archepiscopal cross, as it stood high above the prow of the ship. They thronged to receive their pastor and ask his blessing, and in every village through which he passed the parish priest came forth, with cross or banner, his flock in procession behind him, and the bells pealing merrily, while the road was strewed with garlands.
At Canterbury the joy was extreme; anthems were sung in all the churches, and the streets resounded with trumpets and the shouts of the people in their holiday robes. The Archbishop rode through the midst, saluted each of the monks of Christ Church on the cheek, and then went straight to his own cathedral, where his greeting to his flock was a sermon on the text, "Here we have no abiding city."
After taking possession of his palace, Becket set out to London to visit his pupil, the young King, taking him a present of a fine horse; but he was not allowed to see him, and the courtiers threatened him severely, because of the rejoicings of the citizens of London. At home he was much annoyed by his old enemy, Ranulf de Broc, who from Saltwood Castle made forays on all that were going to the archiepiscopal palace, stole his baggage, and cut off the tail of one of the poor horses that carried it.
The bishops who had been placed under the censures of the Church were, meanwhile, in violent anger. Roger of York said he had 8,000 crowns in his coffers, and would spend every one of them in beating down Thomas's insolence: and together they all set out to make their complaints to the King, who was at Falaise.
It would seem that Henry either forgot, or did not choose to tell them, of the permission he had given Becket at Freital, and he went into a passion, saying, if all who were concerned in the coronation were to be excommunicated, he ought to be one. The Archbishop of York talked of patience and good contrivance. "What would you have me do?" said Henry.
"Your barons must advise you," said one of the bishops (which, is not known); "but as long as Thomas lives, you will never be at peace."
Henry's eyes flashed. "A curse," cried he, "on all the false varlets I have maintained, who have left me so long subject to the insolence of a priest, without attempting to rid me of him!"
A council of the barons was called, and Henry found them willing enough to advise him as he wished. "The only way to deal with such a fellow," said one, "is to plait a few withe in a rope, and have him up to a gallows." In the midst of the council, however, it was observed that four of the King's knights were missing—Reginald Fitzurse, William Tracy, Hugh Morville, and William Brito. It was remembered that they had heard the King's words about the insolent priest, and, becoming alarmed for the consequences, Henry sent off the Earl of Mandeville, and some others, with orders to overtake them, and arrest the Archbishop.
The four knights had held a hasty council, after which they set out separately, agreeing to meet in Saltwood Castle, where they were sure of assistance in their designs from Randolf de Broc. They reached it on Innocents' day, and the next day set out for Canterbury, accompanied by several of the Broc family and their armed retainers. In the meantime, Becket had been keeping Christmas, and preaching his last sermon on the text, "Peace on earth, good-will to men." He had sent away his cross-bearer, Alexander Llewellyn, and his high-minded friend, Herbert de Bosham, with letters to the Pope—perhaps because he was afraid that Herbert's boldness might bring him into peril; and he was sitting in his own chamber writing, when the four knights arrived, and desired to speak with him.
He received them with his clergy about him, and they began to threaten him in the name of the King, and order him to leave the kingdom. He must fully have understood the meaning of all this; but he stood firm, and quietly answered all their railing. They then told him his doings should recoil on his own head; and on his replying that he was ready to suffer martyrdom, they noisily left the room, Fiturse shouting out, "Ho! clerks and monks, in the King's name seize that man, and keep him till justice is done."
"You will find me here," answered Becket, standing by the door.
The knights had gone back to arm themselves and join their retainers. In the meantime the terrified clergy fastened all the doors of the monastery, and besought the Archbishop to take shelter in the church; but he seemed the only person present who had no fear, and replied that he would not flee—he would remain where he was. At last he was persuaded to come into church, as it was the hour for vespers, and set off, with the cross borne before him.
"My lord! my lord! they are arming!" cried one frightened monk; and another brought word that they were upon them—Robert de Broc having shown them the way through the orchard. Still Becket was calm; and as the monks tried to drag him into the church, he stood at the door, saying, "Go on with the holy service. As long as you are afraid of death, I will not enter."
They proceeded, and he advanced up the aisle. As he was going up the steps to the altar, there was a rush of monks into the church; for Reginald Fitzurse, with a drawn sword, had just come through the cloister door, the other murderers following. Becket turned, on seeing the monks trying to bolt and bar the church doors. "It is not right," said he; "to make a fortress of the house of prayer. It can protect its own, even if its doors are open. We shall conquer our enemies by suffering, not by fighting."
The vespers ceased; the clergy threw themselves on the altars for protection; the Archbishop stood alone with one canon, with Fitzstephen and Edward Grim, a priest who had come to visit him. In rushed the band of armed men, crying out, "Where is the traitor, Thomas Becket?" To this he made no answer; but when the cry was, "Where is the Archbishop?" he came down the steps, saying, "Here I am; no traitor, but a priest of the Lord. What would you of me?"
"Absolve those you have excommunicated."
"They have not repented, and I will not."
"Then you shall die."
"I am ready, for the Lord's sake; but, in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to harm these, whether priests or laymen."
"Flee, or you are a dead man!" cried one, striking him with the back of his sword, and unwilling, apparently, to slay him in the church. They tried to push him away from the pillar against which he was standing, but in vain. Becket was a tall, powerful man, expert in the use of weapons. Had he snatched a sword from one of these, he might have saved his life; but temporal arms he had long since laid aside, and he only stood still, clasped his hands in prayer, and commended his soul to his God. Reginald Fitzurse began to fear the people might break in to his rescue, and struck a blow which wounded his head, as well as the arm of Edward Grim, who fled to the altar; but Becket did not move hand or foot—only, as the blood flowed from his face, he said, "In the name of Christ, and for the defence of the Church, I am ready to die." Tracy struck him again twice on the head: he staggered, and, as he was falling, the fourth stroke, given by Brito, cleft off the top of his skull with such violence, that the sword broke against the pavement.
The murderers, after making sure of his death, left the church; the monks took up his corpse, unwounded, save the crown of his head, which was shattered to pieces above his tonsure, and laid it out on the high altar, deeming that he had indeed been a sacrifice, and weeping as they beheld the beauty of his peaceful expression, as if he had calmly fallen asleep. They folded outward the haircloth shirt he had always worn secretly; and as the blood still trickled from the wound, it was caught in a dish.
The threats of Randolf de Broc obliged them to bury him in haste the next morning; and they were strictly forbidden to place his coffin among those of the former archbishops—a command which they obeyed, from the dread that otherwise his remains might be insulted. They had not long to fear. Europe rang with horror at the crime, and admiration, rather than compassion, for the victim. No one was more shocked than the King himself, who was at Bure, in Normandy, when the news reached him. For three days he remained shut; up in his room, taking no food, and seeing no one, in an agony of grief and dismay at the consequence of his hasty words, and dwelling on those days of early friendship which he had passed with the murdered Becket. Not till these first paroxysms of grief were over was he even able to think of the danger he was in; and he then sent off an embassy to explain to the Pope how far he was from intending the bloody deed, and to entreat forgiveness.
He was at a loss how to treat the murderers. He could not punish what his own words had been supposed to authorize, and he dared not let them escape, lest he should be supposed to be their defender. He therefore let them reap the benefit of the liberties for which Becket had died: their crime was done on the person of a clerk; therefore it was left to the censures of the Church.
They had, in the meantime, fled to Morville's Castle, in Cumberland, where they found themselves regarded with universal execration; their servants shrank from their presence, and, in the exaggerations of tradition, it was said that the very dogs would not approach them.
Overwhelmed with remorse, they set out for Italy, and dreaded and avoided, as if they bore a mark like the first "murderer and vagabond," they threw themselves at the feet of the Pope, and entreated to know what they should do to obtain mercy. He ordered them to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; and they all went except Tracy, who, lingering behind, was seized with a dreadful illness, and died at Cosenza. The others all died within three years, with deep marks of penitence, and were buried before the door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Henry obtained pardon from the Pope on giving up all attempts at subjecting the Church to the law of the State, and on giving a large sum of money to maintain 200 knights for three years in the Holy Land. He also largely endowed Mary and Agnes Becket, the Archbishop's sisters, with possessions in his newly-conquered domain in Ireland; and one of them became the ancestress of the noble family of Butler, Earls of Ormonde.
The cathedral at Canterbury had, in the meantime, been sprinkled with holy water, to purify it from the crime of sacrilege and murder there committed, and for which it had been a whole year left neglected, and without the celebration of Divine service. On its reopening, gifts poured in from all quarters, in honor of the Archbishop, and it was repaired and beautified to a great degree. The beautiful circular chapel at the east end was named Becket's Crown, and the spot by the north transept, where he fell, was termed The Martyrdom. Reports of miracles having been performed at his intercession were carried to Rome, and Pope Alexander canonized him as St. Thomas of Canterbury. The next year, 1174, Henry II., who was broken down with grief at the rebellion of his sons, rode from Southampton to Canterbury without resting, taking no food but bread and water, entered the city, and walked through the streets barefoot to the cathedral, and into the crypt, where he threw himself prostrate on the ground, while Gilbert Folliot preached to the people.
In the chapter-house Henry caused each of the clergy present, to the number of eighty, to strike him over the shoulders with a knotted cord, and afterward spent the whole night beside the tomb. He heard mass the next morning, and returned to London.
A few years after, Louis VII. came to pray at the tomb of his friend for the recovery of his son Philippe Auguste, who was ill of a fever. He made splendid gifts to the cathedral, and in especial a very large diamond, and a golden cup. In Italy Thomas was equally honored. William the Good, of Sicily, who married Joan, daughter to Henry II., placed a colossal statue of St. Thomas of Canterbury in his new foundation, the Church of Monreale; and at Agnani there is still preserved a richly-embroidered cope, presented by Pope Innocent III., bearing thirty-six different scenes in delicate needlework, and among them the death of the English Archbishop. There are also many German and French representations of the subject; the murderers, in the more ancient ones, carefully distinguished by their shields: Morville, fretty fleur-de-lis; Tracy, two bars gules; Brito, three bears, heads muzzled; Fitzurse, three bears passant.
In Henry III.'s reign a new shrine was built at Canterbury, and the Archbishop's relics were thither translated. No saint in England was more popular than St. Thomas of Canterbury, and frequent pilgrimages were made to his shrine. The Canterbury Pilgrims of Chaucer are thither journeying, and Simon of Sudbury, the archbishop killed by Wat Tyler's mob, is said to have made himself unpopular by rebuking the superstition that made the ignorant believe in the efficacy of these pilgrimages.
Then came the reaction. Henry VIII., little able to endure such a saint as Becket, sent the spoilers to Canterbury. Lord Cromwell burnt his relics, and carried off the treasures of gold and jewels, which filled two chests, so heavy that six or eight men were wanted to carry each of them. Henry wore Louis VII.'s diamond in a ring. The costly shrine was destroyed, and the pavement, worn by the knees of the pilgrims, alone remained to show where Becket's tomb had been. In London, the house of Gilbert a Becket, in Southwark, where the Saracen lady had ended her toilsome journey, and where Thomas had been born, had, in Henry III.'s reign, been made a hospital; Edward VI. granted it for the same use; and thus it still remains, by its old name of St. Thomas's Hospital, which perhaps would not so generally be given it, if it were known after what saint it was so called. His likeness was destroyed in every church and public building, so that but one head of St. Thomas a Becket is known to exist in England—namely, one in stained glass, at the village of Horton, in Ribblesdale—and even in missals and breviaries it was defaced.
No one has met with more abuse than Becket, ever since the Reformation. Proud, ostentatious, hypocritical, and rebellious—these are the terms usually bestowed on him. How far he deserves them, may be judged from a life detailed with unusual minuteness by three intimate companions, none of them treating him as faultless. Of the rights of the struggle we will not speak. No one can doubt that Becket gave his life for the cause which, in all sincerity, he deemed that of the Church against the World.
The fate of the murderers has been questioned in later times. It is said that they died at home, in peace and fair prosperity; but the evidence on either side is nearly balanced.
THE CONQUEST OF IRELAND. (1172)
Few histories are more strange and confused than the Irish. The inhabitants of Ierne, or Erin, as far as anything credible can be discovered about them, were of three different nations, who had in turn subdued the island before the beginning of history. These were the Tuath de Dunans, the Firbolg, and the Scots, or Milesians. Who the two first were, we will not attempt to say, though Irish traditions declare that some of them were there before the Flood, and that one Fintan was saved by being transformed into a salmon, and so swimming about till the water subsided, after which he resumed the human form, and lived so long that the saying was, "I could tell you much, if I was as old as Fintan."
The Milesians are not much behind their predecessors in their claim, for they say they are descended from a son of Japhet, and first discovered writing, and all the arts commonly said to have been derived from Egypt, but which they assert were carried thither by one Neill, who gave his name to the river Nile, as well as to his sons, all the O'Neills of Ireland.
It is more certain that these Milesians were Kelts, and were in early times called Scots. A colony of them conquered the Picts; drove the Caledonians into Galway, and gave North Britain, or Albin the name of Lesser Scotland, while their own country, or Greater Scotia, returned to its former name of Erin, called by the Romans Hibernia, and by the English, Ireland.
The Erse tongue is nearly the same as the Gaelic, and there was much in the Irish and Highland institutions showing their common origin. The clan system prevailed in Ireland, the clans being called Septs, and all having, as a surname, the name of the common ancestor. His representative, the chief, was known as the Carfinny; but the succession was not determined by the rules of primogeniture. It was always in one family, but the choice was made by election of the next heir. When a Carfinny died, another came into office who had been chosen on his accession as heir, or Tanist, and at the same time another Tanist was chosen to succeed him as Carfinny at his death. The land was the property of the tribe, divided into holdings; and whenever the death of a considerable proprietor took place, there was a fresh allotment of the whole, which, of course, as well as the choice of a Tanist, set the whole population at war.
There were four kingdoms—Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught—to which the chiefs succeeded by tanistry, besides Meath, another kingdom which always belonged to the principal king, or Toparch, who was in like manner elected as Tanist on each new accession; and the number of battles and murders among these wild Irish princes is beyond all estimate. Out of 178 kings, 71 were slain in battle, and 60 murdered.
Christianity was brought to Ireland about the year 400, by St. Colman and St. Patrick. It does not seem to have materially softened the manners of the people at large, whose wars went on as fiercely as ever; but the churches were seats of peace and learning, whence teachers went forth in numbers into Gaul, and among the heathen Saxons of England. The Roman calender shows so many names of Irish hermits, priests, and nuns, that we do not wonder Erin once was known as the Isle of Saints.
The Northmen made their cruel inroads on Ireland, and swept away much of the beginnings of civilization. Turges, a Danish chief, was, in 815, King of all Ireland; and having forced Melachlin, or Malachy, King of Meath, to give up his daughter to him, Melachlin sent with her, in the disguise of female attendants, sixteen young men armed with skeynes, or long knives. They killed Turges, and brought the princess back to her father, who was waiting in ambush at no great distance with his armed men, set upon the Danes, defeated them, and, being joined by the other Irish princes, destroyed them all.
It is said that shortly before, Melachlin, when at the court of Turges, had told him that Ireland was full of a kind of foul, ravenous bird, and asked his advice how to get rid of them; to which Turges answered, that he had better destroy the nests—eggs, nestlings, and all—counsel which the Irish hardly needed; and the massacre of the Danish raven's brood was frightful.
During the lull brought about by Alfred's conquests, the Irish enjoyed the halcyon days remembered as those of Malachy with the collar of gold (which he had torn from the neck of a conquered Dane), and those of Brien Boromhe, or Boru, the great Brien, in whose reign a maiden, though
"Rich and rare were the gems she wore," travelled safely round the Green Isle unprotected, save by "Erin's honor and Erin's pride."
But when England suffered again, Ireland shared its fate, and, in 1004, Brien Boru, at the age of eighty-eight, perished in the great battle of Clontarf, with his eldest son Morogh, and the Danes gained a permanent settlement, besides making endless forays on the coast. King Olaf Trygvesson, of Norway, conducted one of these descents; and while driving off a large herd of cattle, a peasant so piteously entreated to have his own cows restored, that the king told him he might take them, if he could tell at once which they were, but that he must not delay the march. The peasant said his dog knew them, and sent the animal into the midst of the herd, which consisted of several hundreds, when he drove out just the number his master had asked, and all bearing the same mark. The King desired to purchase the intelligent animal, but the man begged that he would take it as a gift; on which Olaf presented him with a gold ring, and kept and valued the faithful Vige as "the best of dogs" for many years after.
Turlogh, the contemporary of the Conqueror, seems to have been prosperous, since his subjects were rich enough to buy the unfortunate English, who were sold for slaves, till St. Wulstan put a stop to the traffic.
Morogh O'Brien, of Leinster, sent to William Rufus bog oak from the green of Oxmanton, on the Liffey, to serve for the timber of the roof of Westminster Hall; and this wood, enjoying the universal Irish exemption from vermin, is said never to harbor a spider. Morogh was once told that William Rufus intended to make a bridge of his ships, and conquer Ireland. After some musing, Morogh asked, "Hath the King, in his great threatening, said, 'If it please God?'" "No!" "Then, seeing he putteth his trust only in man, and not in God, I fear not his coming."
Morogh was a peaceable man. Magnus, the Norse King of Man, by way of defiance, sent him his shoes, ordering him to hang them on his shoulders on Christmas-day, as he passed through his hall. The Irish were, of course, much enraged at the insult offered to their master, but Morogh only laughed at the folly of the conceit, saying, "I will not only bear his shoes, but I had rather eat them, than that he should destroy one province in Ireland." Magnus did not, however, give up his purpose of invasion, but was killed in reconnoitring the coast. Morogh was murdered at Dublin about 1130, and thenceforward all was dire confusion.
The Irish Church had never been decidedly under the dominion of Rome, and the Popes, in the divided state of the country, obtained neither money nor obedience from it. They thought much advantage might be gained if it were under the rule of England; and in 1154, Adrian IV., assuming that all islands were at the disposal of the Church, gave Henry II. a bull, authorizing him to become Lord of Ireland, provided he would establish the Pope's authority there. However, the Irish, not being likely readily to receive their new Lord, and Henry having full occupation at home, allowed his grant to rest in oblivion till circumstances arose to enable him to avail himself of it.
Dermod MacMorogh, King of Leinster, a cruel savage, who had barbarously revenged the death of his father, the good Morogh, had, in the year 1152, stolen away Devorghal, the wife of Tigheirnach O'Rourke, Prince of Breffny. The toparch, Turlogh O'Connor, was the friend of O'Rourke, and forced Dermod to make restitution, but the husband and lover, of course, remained bitter enemies; and when O'Connor died, the new chieftain, O'Lachlan, being on the side of Dermod, O'Rourke was severely oppressed, till the tables were turned by O'Lachlan being killed, and Roderick O'Connor, the son of Turlogh, becoming toparch. Thereupon Leinster was invaded in 1167, and Dermod was obliged to flee, setting fire to his capital at Ferns. He hastened to Henry II. in Normandy, and offered his allegiance, provided the King would restore him. But Henry was too much engaged in his disputes with France to attend to the matter, and all Dermod could obtain was a letter permitting the English knights to take up his cause, if they were so inclined.
With these letters Dermod sought the fierce Normans whose estates bordered on Wales. The first who attended to him was Richard de Clare, son of the Earl of Pembroke, and surnamed Strongbow—a bold, adventurous man, ruined by his extravagance, and kept at a distance by the King on account of his ambition. To him Dermod offered the hand of his daughter Eva, and the succession of Leinster, provided he would recover for him the kingdom. Richard accepted, but thought it prudent to obtain the King's special permission; and in the meantime, Dermod, by his promises, further engaged in his cause a small band of other knights—Robert Fitzstephen, Maurice Fitzgerald, Milo Fitzhenry, Herve de Montmarais, and some others. In May, 1169, thirty knights, sixty men-at-arms, and three hundred archers, landed at the Creek of Bann, near Wexford, to conquer Ireland.
They first besieged Wexford, and took it; then attacked the Prince of Ossory, and gained a great victory; after which they had full opportunity of seeing of what a savage they had undertaken the defence, for Dermod mangled with his teeth the face of his chief foe among the slain, to gratify his revenge.
However, they fought not for the right, but for the spoil; and when Roderick O'Connor sent to declare war against them, and inform them of the true character of their ally, they returned a scornful answer; and, with their heavy armor and good discipline, made such progress against the half-armed Irish kernes, that Richard Strongbow saw the speculation was a good one, and was in haste for his share. He went to the King, to beg him either to give him his inheritance, or to grant him leave to seek his fortune in other lands. "Go where thou wilt, for what I care," said Henry. "Take Daedalus's wings, and fly away."
Taking this as sufficient consent, Strongbow sent before him 3,000 men under his friend Raymond le Gros, and, landing on St. Bartholomew's day, joined his forces with Dermod, took Waterford, and in a few days was married to Eva. The successes of the English continued, and on the death of Dermod, which took place shortly after, he declared Earl Richard his heir. However, the vassals would not submit to the Englishman, and the invaders were for a time hard beset, and found it difficult to keep the enemy at bay, while the King in great displeasure peremptorily summoned Strongbow to return, and forbade men, horses, or arms to be sent to his aid. On this Richard found himself obliged to make his peace with the King, sending Raymond le Gros and Herve de Montmarais before him. The King was at Newnham, in Gloucestershire, and at first refused to see him, but soon relented; and Richard, on entering his presence, threw himself on his knees, and gave up to him the city of Dublin, and all other towns and castles on the coast, after which Henry confirmed him in the possession of the rest of Leinster, and made him Seneschal of Ireland, though at the same time confiscating his castles in Pembrokeshire, because his expedition had been unsanctioned. In October of the next year, 1172, Henry himself came to Ireland, with 500 knights and 4,000 men-at-arms. The Irish princes felt that it was needful to submit to such power, nor was it with much reluctance on the part of the toparchs, who had some pride in being under the sway of the mighty Henry Fitzempress, rather than that of the petty chieftain of Meath.
Henry professed not to come as a conqueror, but in consequence of the Pope's grant, and soon received the submission of all the toparchs of Leinster and Munster. Roderick O'Connor himself did not hold out, though he would not come to the King, and only met Hugo de Lacy and William Fitz Adhelm on the Shannon, where he swore allegiance, but, as appeared afterward, with a mental reservation—Connaught he was willing to hold under Henry, but Ireland he neither could nor did yield up.
Henry invited all these new subjects of his to keep Christmas with him at Dublin, where he entertained them in a temporary structure of wicker-work, outside the gates; and after receiving their homage, he gave them a banquet of every kind of Norman delicacy, among which were especially noticed roasted cranes—a food hitherto held in abhorrence by them, so that partaking of it was a sort of pledge that they were about to forsake their peculiar and barbarous habits. They are said to have been much impressed by the splendor of Henry's gold and jewels, the rich robes of his court, and the chivalrous exercises of the knights and nobles. Afterward he held a synod of the Irish clergy at Cashel, where he caused the bull of Adrian to be read, and regulations were made for the Church, requiring the priests to catechize children and baptize them, enforcing the payment of tithes, and the performance of Divine service, as well as that corpses should receive Christian burial. Henry had intended to subject Ireland to English law, but the danger in which he had been involved by the murder of Becket obliged him to return at Easter, before his arrangements were completed. The lands settled by the Normans around Dublin, which were called the English pale, were alone under English laws; besides five septs—the O'Neills, the O'Connors, the O'Briens, the O'Lachlans, and the MacMoroghs—all the rest were under the Brehon, or Irish law; and an injury, or even murder done by an Englishman on one of the Irish, was to be atoned for by a fine according to this code.
Hugo de Lacy, [Footnote: The readers of "The Betrothed" will here recognise a friend.] constable of Chester, an old, experienced warrior, much trusted by the King, was made governor of Ireland with a grant of the county of Meath. Shortly after, Oraric, a chieftain of that territory, invited De Lacy to a conference on the hill of Tara, whither each party was to come unarmed. The night before the meeting young Griffith, the nephew of Maurice Fitzgerald, dreamt that he saw a herd of wild boars rush upon his uncle and Hugo de Lacy, and tear them to pieces with their tusks. Treating this dream as a warning, he chose seven tall men of his own kindred, armed them well, and, leading them near the place of conference, began to career about with them as if in chivalrous exercises, always watching the assembly on the hill.
After a time Oraric retired a few steps from the rest, and made a sign, on which an Irishman came forward and gave him his weapons. He instantly fell upon Hugo de Lacy, and would have cloven his skull, if the interpreter had not thrown himself between, and saved his master, with the loss of his own arm. Oraric's men sprung from their ambush, but at the same moment the eight Fitzgeralds rushed to the rescue; the traitor fled, pursued by Griffith, who overtook him, thrust him through with a lance, cut off his head, and sent it to King Henry.
Hugo de Lacy kept tolerable order until the King recalled him in the troubles occasioned by the rebellion of the young princes, when trusty friends were scarce. Earl Strongbow became governor, and was at once more violent and less firm in the restraint of English and Irish. He quarrelled with Raymond le Gros for presuming to gain the affections of his sister Basilia, and took from him the command, conferring it on Herve de Montmarais, a person much disliked. Raymond went home to Wales, to receive his inheritance, on his father's death; and the Irish, as old Campion's history says, rose "tagge and ragge;" headed by Roderick O'Connor. They be sieged Waterford and Dublin; and Strongbow, in distress, wrote to Raymond: "As soon as you read this, make all the haste you can, bring all the help you can raise, and you shall have what you have so long desired." No further summons was needed; and just as Waterford was on the point of being taken, and the wild Irish were about to massacre the English, Raymond, with twenty ships, sailed into the harbor, dispersed the Irish, relieved Dublin, and in his full armor wedded the Lady Basilia. The very next morning he pursued the Irish; he took Limerick, and reduced Roderick to come to a final peace with the King, to whom that prince sent messengers, disdaining to treat with Strongbow.
Montmarais, being displaced, went in revenge to the King, and maligned Raymond, so that Henry empowered commissioners to inquire into his conduct, and send him home. Just as he was departing, the O'Briens of Thomond broke out in insurrection, and besieged Limerick; the troops refused to march unless under Raymond, and the commissioners were obliged to send him to chastise the rebels. He pushed his conquests into Desmond, and established his good fame. During his absence Earl Strongbow died, leaving, by Eva, one daughter named Isabel, who, being of tender age, became the ward of the Crown. It is said that he also had a son by a former wife, and that this youth, being seized with a panic in a battle with the Irish, was afterward stricken through with a sword by his command, though given with streaming tears. He was buried at Dublin, with an epitaph recording his cowardice.
The friends of Montmarais were resolved to let no tidings of Strongbow's death reach Raymond, that so they might first gain the ear of the King, and prevent him being made governor. They turned back all the servants, and intercepted all the letters sent to him with the news, till they were outwitted by Lady Basilia. She wrote a letter to her husband, with no word of her brother, but full of household matters; among others, that she had lost the "master tooth which had been so long ailing, and she sent it to him for a token." The tooth was "tipped with gold and burnished featly," but Raymond knew it was none of his lady's; and gathering her meaning, hurried home, and was made Protector of Ireland till the King's pleasure should be known. Henry sent as governor William Fitz Adhelm, a selfish voluptuary, under whose command all went ill; and, indeed, the English rule never prospered except when in the hands of good old Hugo de Lacy, under whom "the priest kept his church, the soldier his garrison, and the ploughman followed his plough." But Henry, who was constantly tormented by jealousies of his Anglo-Irish nobles, was perpetually recalling him on suspicion, and then finding it necessary to send him back again. He built many castles, and, while fortifying that of Dernwath, was entreated by some of the Irish to allow them to work for hire. Glad to encourage any commencement of industry, he took a pickaxe to show them how to work; when one of them, seizing the moment when he bent forward to strike with it, cleft his head with an axe, and killed him on the spot. His less worthy nephew and namesake succeeded to his Irish estates, and at times held the government.
King Henry intended Ireland as the inheritance of his son John, and in 1185 wrote to request the Pope to grant him the investiture. Urban returned a favorable answer, and with it a crown of peacock's feathers set in gold—a more appropriate present than he intended for the feather-pated prince, who was then sixteen years of age, and who, having been knighted by his father, set off for Dublin, accompanied by a train of youths of his own age, whom the steadier heads of the good knight Philip Barry, and his clerkly relative Gerald, were unable to keep in order. This Gerald Barry was the historian commonly known as Giraldus Cambrensis, to whom we are chiefly indebted for the account of the conquest of Ireland. The Irish chiefs of Leinster flocked to pay their respects, but were most improperly received by John and his friends, who could not restrain their mirth at their homely garb, and soon proceeded to gibes and practical jokes; pricking them with pins, and rapping them on the head with a stick as they bent to pay homage, tweaking their ample mantles, and pulling their long beards and moustaches, all as if they had studied to enrage this proud and sensitive people. These were the Irish of the friendly country; and when those of more distant and unsubdued regions heard what treatment they had met, they turned back, and soon broke out in insurrection. John and his gay companions did not stay to meet the storm they had raised, but hastily fled to England, and the King wrote to Sir John de Courcy to take the government, and do his best to restore obedience.
It is round this De Courcy that the interest of the Irish wars chiefly centres. [Footnote: This history of De Courcy is derived from an old life of him by an Irish priest, which is disputed by many historical authorities] In his youth, while serving the King in Normandy, he had made friends with Sir Almeric Tristrem, and, in true chivalrous style, the two knights plighted their faith in the Church of our Lady at Rouen, to be sworn brethren-in-arms, to live and die for each other, and to divide equally whatever they might gain in war. Their friendship was never broken till death, and their whole career was one of perfect chivalry. Almeric became the husband of his friend's sister, and in honor of this closer alliance changed his surname to De St. Laurence, their wedding-day being the feast of that Saint. The two brethren-in-arms came into Ireland with Henry in 1172, and De Courcy received a grant of Ulster, when he could conquer it. Sir Almeric at once landed at Howth, and fought a bloody battle, in which he gained the victory, but with the loss of seven of his kindred, and for that reason Howth was made his portion, and long remained in his family. At the battle of Daud, fought with Roderick O'Connor, the two friends, with seven hundred men, were again victorious, owing to a timely charge of Almeric's with his reserve of forty horse. The next midsummer another battle took place, with the same result, though Sir Almeric was so sorely wounded that he was found lying, faint and bleeding, under a hedge, eating honeysuckles by way of cure, and his son Nicholas received nine wounds, and was left for dead. These successes made the Irish submit, and De Courcy was acknowledged as their feudal chief. He proceeded to build castles, and granted two of them to one MacMahon, who had made every promise of fidelity. Within a month, De Courcy heard that the castles were pulled down, and, on his calling his refractory vassal to account, received a truly Irish answer: MacMahon said he had not promised to hold stones, but land, and it was contrary to his nature to couch within cold stones, when the warm woods were so nigh.
De Courcy proceeded to foray his land, and was driving off a great herd of cattle, when a host of Irish set on him, and by their shouts so frightened the cows, that they ran on the English, and more were killed by being trodden down by them than were slain by the Irish; and De Courcy and De St. Laurence with difficulty collected the remnant in a little fort. At night Almeric went out to survey the enemy, and reported that there were five thousand feasting and drinking at no great distance. If they should fall on the wearied, hungry, and wounded English the next day, they would make them an easy prey, and he therefore advised a night-attack, to take them by surprise. The English sat silent, looking at each other, til Sir John de Courcy spoke: "I looked all this while for some of these young gallants to deliver their courage; but, Sir Almeric, where are their horses bestowed?"
"Your white horse and my black," said Sir Almeric, "I have cunningly conveyed away, and the rest I can point out to you with my finger."
"Then," said Sir John, "let two men ride these two horses, gather their horses together, and drive them in on the enemy; then, all who can bear arms shall follow, and we will serve them with their horses as they did us with our kine."
The stratagem was completely successful; the Irish were entirely routed with great slaughter, while the English lost only two—though the preceding day had lost them four hundred men.
By six battles, altogether, Sir John established his power, and he then received from Henry the rank of Earl of Ulster. He governed Ireland from the time of Prince John's flight till the accession of Richard Coeur de Lion, with great prosperity; and during this time Roderick O'Connor was dethroned by his sons, and forced to retire to a convent, where he died.
King Richard left the management of Irish affairs to his brother, who took the government from De Courcy, and gave it to Hugo de Lacy, the nephew. He, comporting himself as a favorite, of John was likely to do, of course occasioned another war, and Cathal O'Connor, the Bloody-handed, of Connaught, began to threaten Ulster. De Courcy summoned Almeric to his aid, and the good knight set out with two hundred foot and thirty horse; but, while passing through the enemy's country, he suddenly found himself beset by Cathal, at the head of an enormous host. The horsemen might easily have saved themselves by their speed; but though death was certain if he remained, this true knight would not forsake the foot in their extremity.