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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ. Queens of England. Vol.1.

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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ.
Queens of England. Vol.1.
page 77



The particulars of this contest, which raged for about eight years, it belongs rather to history than biography to relate. It may, however, be interesting to glance at the leading events which led to the horrible death of the obstinatelyfirm primate. After a series of contentions, in which the respective powers of the ecclesiastical and the civil jurisdiction were warmly canvassed, the disputo reached to such a height, that Jiecket withdrew his adherence to the celebrated constitutions of Clarendon, and to avoid the vengeance of the king, who deprived him of all his dignities and estates, fled to France, where, supported by the Pope, he thundered forth anathemas against those who had dared to support the King against him. Shortly afterwards, the King was seized with a severe illness, and believing his death was at hand, he recalled the offending Archbishop from exile, and restored to him his primateship and estates. Put after a brief truce, the quarrel again burst forth with redoubled fury, Becket, on landing in England, was joyfully welcomed by the clergy and the people, who hailed him as a friend and a father. He disembarked at Dover, whence he proceeded to Canterbury, where he preached a sermon from the text, " For wc have no continuing city," a prophetic foreshadowing of his future downfall. From Canterbury he went to London, where three thousand clergy and nearly all the citizens met him, in procession, chaunting the Te J)eum. In the midst of this, his last triumph, he was forewarned of the treachery that awaited him, by an old woman, who rushed up to him and exclaimed, " Blessed father, beware of the murderer's knife!" He had visited London to do homage to young Henry, who, in his absence, had been crowned as heir to the throne, l'ut in this he was foiled. The Prince objected to see him, and he retired to Canterbury, where, believing that his end was near, he passed his time in penance and prayer. Meanwhile, several prelates, whom Becket had suspended, carried their complaints to the King, then in Nor mandy ; and their tale so enraged Henry, that, in the excitement of the moment, he exclaimed, ''God's wot!" his usual oath, u will no enc revenge the insults perpetually showered at me by this haughty primate ?" The hint was sufficient ; on that very night, Eitz-Urse, Tracy, Morville, and Bri to, embarked for England. They arrived at Canterbury on the thirtieth of December, 1170; entered the Archbishop's palace, clad in complete mail, and after, with insulting menaces, helping themselves to refreshments, followed Beeket, who now saw that his hour was come, into the cathedral, where, during the performance of vespers, they brutally butchered him on the steps of the high altar. The murderous task completed, they coolly mounted their horses, and triumphantly departed, unchallenged and unopposed by the assembled monks, who being few in number, were too overcome with fear and horror, to revenge the cowardly assassination of their primate. The assassins proceeded to Knaresborough Castle, which belonged to Morvillc, and which they had scarcely reached, when they were solemnly excommunicated. The terrible sentence was carried out against them with such rigour, both by the clergy and the people, that no one would speak to them, nor perform the slightest office for them, and to save themselves from famishing of want, they were compelled to share with the houseless dogs any castaway fragments or offal they could pick up. At length they went to the Pope at Rome, who, after absolving the sentence of excommunication, ordered them to travel to Jerusalem, and do penance on the black mountains for life, where, after several years spent in solitude, they died, and were buried outside the Temple. Immediately after his martyrdom, Becket was canonized ; and at his shrine a multitude of extraordinary miracles are said to have been wrought. To King Henry the news of this detestable crime came as a thunderbolt. Overcome by the compunctions of a re


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