CHAPTER VII. THE STRIFE WITH THE CHURCH

The Assize of Clarendon was drawn up in February 1166, and in March Henry sailed for France. Trouble awaited him there on every hand, and during the next two years he had to meet no less than thirteen revolts or wars. Aquitaine declared against the imperial system; loud complaints were raised of Henry's contempt of old franchises and liberties, and of the "officers of a strange race" who violated the customs of the country by orders drawn up in a foreign tongue - the langue d'oil, the speech of Norman and Angevin. Maine, Touraine, and Britanny were in chronic revolt. The Welsh rose and conquered Flint. The King of Scotland was in treaty with France. Warring parties in Ireland claimed Henry's interference. England was uneasy and discontented. Louis of France was allied with all Henry's enemies - Gascons, Bretons, Welsh and Scotch; he aided the Count of Flanders and the Count of Boulogne in preparing a fleet of six hundred ships to attack the southern coast of England. The Pope's attitude was cautious and uncertain. When Barbarossa's armies were triumphant in Italy, when Henry's Italian alliances were strong and his bribes were big, Alexander leaned to the king; when success again returned to Rome he looked with more effectual favour on the demands of the archbishop. The rising tide of disaffection tried the king sorely. It was in vain that he sought to win over the leaders of the ecclesiastical party, the canon lawyers, such as John of Salisbury, or Master Herbert of Bosham, with whom he argued the point at his Easter Court at Angers. John of Salisbury flatly rejected the Constitutions, declaring that his first obedience was due to the Pope and the archbishop. Herbert was yet more defiant. "Look how this proud fellow comes!" said Henry, as the stately Herbert entered in his splendid dress of green cloth of Auxerre, with a richly trimmed cloak hanging after the German fashion to his heels. He was no true servant to the king, declared Herbert when he had seated himself, who would allow him to go astray. As for the customs, there were bad enough customs in other countries against the Church of God, but at least they were not written down either in the lands of the King of France or of the King of the Germans. "Why do you diminish his dignity?" hastily demanded the king, "by not calling him the Emperor of the Germans?" "The King of the Germans he is," retorted Herbert, "though when he writes, he signs Imperator Romanorum semper Augustus.'" "Shame!" cried the king, "here is an outrage! Why should this son of a priest disturb my kingdom and disquiet my peace?" "Nay," said Herbert, "I am not the son of a priest, for it was after my birth my father became a priest; neither is he the son of a king save one whom his father begat being king." "Whosesoever son he may be," cried a baron who sat by, "I would give the half of my land that he were mine!" Henry heard the words bitterly, and held his peace; and in a few moments ordered the intractable Herbert to depart.

The strife between Church and State was, in fact, taking every day a new harshness. Gregory VII. a century earlier had suggested that kingly power was of diabolic origin. "Who is ignorant that kings and princes have their beginning in this, that knowing not God, they by rapine, perfidy, and slaughter, the devil moving them, affect rule over their equals-that is, over men, with blind greed and intolerable presumption." But the papal theory of a vast Christian republic of all peoples, under the leadership of Rome, found little favour with the kings of the rising states which were beginning to shape themselves into the great powers of modern Europe. Henry, steeped in the new temper, proposed a rival theory of the origin of government. "Thou," he wrote to the Pope, "by the papal authority granted thee by men, thinkest to prevail over the authority of the royal dignity committed to me by God." The wisest of the churchmen of England used more sober language than all this. "Ecclesiastical dignity," wrote Ralph of Diceto, later the Dean of St. Paul's, "rather advances than abolishes royal dignity, and the royal dignity is wont rather to preserve than to destroy ecclesiastical liberty, for kings have no salvation without the Church, nor can the Church obtain peace without the protection of the king." To the fiery zeal of the archbishop, on the other hand, the secular power was as "lead" compared to the fine "gold" of the spiritual dignity. Henry, he cried loudly, was a "tyrant"-a word which to medieval ears meant not an arbitrary or capricious ruler, since that was the admitted right of every ruler, but a king who governed without heeding the eternal maxims of the "law of nature," an idea which theologians had borrowed from the theories of the ancient law of Rome, and modified to mean the law of Scripture or of the Church. But in the arguments of Thomas this law took the narrowest proportions, with no wider interpretation than that given by the pedantic temper of a fanatical ecclesiastical politician. He fought his battles too often by violent and vulgar methods, and Henry reaped the profit of his errors. How far our national solution of the problem raised between Church and State might have been altered or delayed if the claims of the Church had at this moment been represented by a leader of supreme moral and spiritual authority, it is hard to say. But Thomas was far from being at the highest level of his own day in religious thought. When some years later the holy Hugh of Lincoln forbade his archdeacons and their officers to receive fines instead of inflicting penance for crimes, he was met by the objection that the blessed archbishop and martyr Thomas himself had taken fines. "Believe me," said Hugh, "not for that was he a saint; he showed other marks of holiness, by another title he won the martyr's palm."