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BLOSS C.A. Heroines of the Crusades

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BLOSS C.A.
Heroines of the Crusades
page 152



confidently upon his co-operation, offered him the vacancy. The chancellor objected that he was not a priest, but Henry insisted that the time required to take orders was only a few hours. Still the chancellor seemed to decline the daz-zling gift. He protested that were he once a bishop he must uphold the rights of the church, and solemnly told the king the night before his consecration that the mitre would interpose an eternal barrier between them. Henry persisted, and Becket at last modestly accepted the first office in the kingdom. Directly on his investment the new archbishop became as much distinguished for his austerity as he had before been for his ostentation. He resigned his office of chan-cellor, dismissed his knightly train, clothed himself in sack-cloth, fed upon the coarsest fare, drank water nauseous with fennel, and daily upon his knees washed the feet of thirteen beggars, whom he afterwards dismissed with alms. On all occasions he defended the rights of the church in opposition to those of the crown. As he was the most learned man in the kingdom, the most eloquent and the best beloved, he possessed unbounded influence with all classes, and Henry soon found in the man whom he trusted as an ally a most powerful adversary. * But the king did not on this account relinquish his plans for reform. A parish priest had been guilty of murder under circumstances that peculiarly aggravated the crime. The judicial courts sought to try the criminal. The bishop contended that degradation from office was the highest punishment that could be inflicted upon a son of the church. The affair created great sensation throughout the kingdom, and Henry finally convened a general council of the no-bility and clergy. Several articles, were drawn up called the Constitutions of Clarendon, the drift of which was that no churchman should be entitled to privileges greater than those enjoyed by his peers among the laity. Becket at first refused to sign the articles and the other bishops fol-lowed his example. Being threatened with exile or death he at length yielded ; but afterwards, learning that the 11 ELEANOR. 161


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