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England-Becket and Henry II

997 his countrymen to lose their skill with arms, and be less liable to rebel against him.

Although well educated for the times, and eager for the welfare of his people, Henry II. was depraved in his private life, and gave way to occasional outbursts of temper, during which his behavior was that of a lunatic.

He was very fond of Thomas Becket, who was his chancellor, and he secured the election of Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas was the son of a rich citizen of London, and had given his time to secular matters, but upon becoming Archbishop he went to the other extreme, resigned the Chancellorship, and led the most austere of lives. This displeased Henry, but before long a cause for more serious quarrel rose between them. It was the law that the bishops should hold courts of their own for the trial of ecclesiastics, but Henry insisted that they should be brought under the jurisdiction of the regular courts. Thomas Becket would not agree to this, maintaining that the special courts for the trial of the clergy should remain as instituted by William the Conqueror. The King had some new laws passed that were called the "Constitutions of Clarendon," because they were passed at that place by a council of the prelates and barons, in January, 1164. One of the laws was the special enactment demanded by the King, and another was a decree that all appeals in England should be made to the King and not to the Pope.

It was necessary for the Archbishop to sign these laws, but he resolutely refused to do so. Being summoned to the royal court he rode thither amid the applause of the people who loved him, and entered the hall with his cross held in his hands. Nothing could affect his resolution to oppose the will of the King. To all the appeals and persuasions of the bishops and nobles, who gathered around him, he calmly shook his head and replied that he must appeal to the Pope. Many grew impatient and angry, and as he passed out of the hall called after him "Traitor! traitor!"

Archbishop, who fled to The quarrel went on for coronation of the King's

As might be expected, the Pope sustained the France to escape the persecutions of King Henry. six years, and was intensified by the dispute over the eldest son, whom he wished to make his viceroy in England. The Pope declared that no one except the Archbishop of Canterbury had the right to crown him, but Henry persuaded the Archbishop of York to perform the ceremony.

The King, however, dreaded the anger of the Pope, and, through the mediation of Louis VII. of France, he patched up his quarrel with Thomas, who returned to England, where he was joyfully welcomed. But there was no yielding on his part, and he announced that he had in his possession the excommunication of the Archbishop of York and his assistant bishops. His manner and actions were so defiant that Henry was seized with one of his wild bursts

of rage, and, rolling on the floor and fairly foaming at the mouth, he exclaimed: "Is there no one who will rid me of this vile priest?"

Four knights, who heard the words, tool: it as a command.

Riding hastily

to Canterbury, they with their followers entered the presence of Becket, and sat down in silence upon the floor before him. It was no light matter in those days to slay a churchman, and they wanted full excuse before they acted. Becket rebuked them for their silence; and they tried to draw from him words that should condemn him as a traitor. Failing in this, they withdrew in hesitation; but later returned, and with sword and battle-axe forced a way into the cathedral, where the Archbishop was celebrating what he knew would be his last church service.

The monks besought their chief to flee; some endeavored to defend him; but Becket would neither fight nor escape. The assassins tried to drag him from God's altar; but he resisted them, and they slew him where he stood. Then they fled in fear.

By his death Becket triumphed. Henry was horrified when told what had been done, and made oath to the Pope that he had nothing to do with the crime. He gained general belief in his innocence by kneeling upon the spot reddened by the blood of his former friend, and submitting to a beating like the vilest criminal. The laws which Becket had opposed, were not established. The common people of England regarded the Archbishop as a martyr, slain for his service to them and the Church; and his grave became a shrine to which pilgrimages were made from all the land.

The close of Henry's life was stormy. His neglected wife and his enemies stirred up his three older sons to rebellion against him. They were Henry, his heir, Richard, who had received the government of Aquitaine, and Geoffrey, who obtained Brittany through his marriage with Constance, the heiress. In 1173, they, in conjunction with a number of nobles of England and Normandy, including the kings of France and Scotland, formed a league against King Henry. He subdued the rebellion and showed leniency toward all except the King of the Scots, who was compelled to submit to a more humiliating vassalage than before, although Henry's successor allowed him to buy back his freedom, with only a shadowy lordship remaining over Scotland.

But soon the quarrelsome sons were wrangling again with one another, as well as with their father. Henry the younger died in 1183, begging his father's forgiveness; Geoffrey was pardoned, rebelled once more, and died in 1186. Richard was quiet for a time, but it was against his nature, and in 1188 he fled to the King of France for protection, and then seized upon his father's foreign dominions. Henry made only a weak resistance, and then bowed to his enemies. In answer to his request for a list of the barons who

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England-Richard Cœur de Lion


had joined the last league against him, he read among the very first names that of his favorite and youngest son, John. He was so shocked and grieved that he fell into a fever and died in July, 1189.

The work done by Henry II. was the laying of the foundations of a just government in his country. It is said he levelled more than a thousand of the castles which had been illegally built during the reign of Stephen, and which had caused widespread woe and suffering in England. He abolished the debased coinage and substituted pieces of silver of full weight and value. When his barons refused to furnish men to fight for his continental possessions, he compromised by accepting the "scutage," which gave him the means of hiring mercenaries. This was afterward supplemented by the passage of a law reviving the national militia, and virtually made him independent of the barons. After much fighting in Ireland, Henry went thither in 1171, and his sovereignty was generally acknowledged. Four years later, Roderick, King of Connaught, became his liegeman, but Ireland remained for centuries the scene of disorder and rebellion, and was only nominally under English rule.

It will be remembered that the Norman method of settling disputes was by trial of battle. This was manifestly so unfair that Henry gave disputants the privilege of deciding their quarrels by reference to the decision of twelve knights of the neighborhood, who were familiar with the facts. This was the real origin of trial by jury, one of the most precious safeguards of modern justice. Another good law was that when the judges passed through a circuit, a grand jury of not less than sixteen was to report to them the criminals of the district. The judges sent the accused to the church to be examined by ordeal. If convicted, they were punished, but if acquitted they were ordered to leave the country within eight days. By this method the objectionable characterswere effectually removed.

Regarding trial by jury, it may be added that during the reign of John, the son of Henry, in 1215, the Church abolished the ordeal throughout Christendom. The custom then came into use of choosing a petit jury, familiar with the facts, who decided upon the truth of the accusations laid before the grand jury. In case of disagreement by the petit jury, a decision of the majority was generally accepted. The objections to this method gradually gave rise to that of summoning witnesses, who testified before the petit jury, with a view of making their decision unanimous. We first hear mention of this change in 1350, during the reign of Edward III., from which may be dated the modern method of trial by jury, though Henry II. was the real founder of the system.

Since the eldest son of Henry had died, he was succeeded in 1189 by his second son Richard, known in history as Cœur de Lion, or the Lion-Hearted. Richard spent his early years in Southern France, the home of music and


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