CHAPTER VII. THE STRIFE WITH THE CHURCH
Henry perhaps already saw the deep current of discontent which only a year later was to break out in the most terrible rebellion of his reign. In any case the severity of the measures which he took shows how serious he thought the crisis. After his landing in March 1170 one month was given to inquiry as to the state of the country. In the beginning of April he held a council to consider the reform of justice. A commission was appointed to examine, during the next two months, every freeholder throughout the kingdom as to the conduct of judges and sheriffs and every other officer charged with the duty of collecting or accounting for the public money. Its members were chosen from among the most zealous opponents of the Court officials-the great barons, the priors, the important abbots of the shires - and they were all men who had no connection with the Exchequer or the Curia Regis. Their work was done, and their report presented within the time allowed; but the king, practical, businesslike, impatient of abuses, like every vigorous autocratic ruler, had no mind to wait two months to redress the grievances of his people. The barons who had been appointed as sheriffs at the opening of his reign had governed after the old corrupt traditions, or perhaps themselves suffering under the ruthless pressure of the barons of the Exchequer, had been driven to a like severity of extortion. By an edict of the king every sheriff throughout the country was struck from his post; of the twenty-seven only seven were restored to their places, and new sheriffs were appointed, all of whom save four were officers of the King's Court. The great local noble who had lorded it as he chose over the suitors of the Court for fifteen years, and fined and taxed and forfeited as seemed good to him, suddenly, without a moment's warning, saw his place filled by a stranger, a mere clerk trained in the Court among the royal servants, a simple nominee of the king; he could no longer doubt that the royal supremacy was now without rival, without limit, irresistible, complete. Such an act of absolute authority had indeed, as Dr. Stubbs says, "no example in the history of Europe since the time of the Roman Empire, except possibly in the power wielded by Charles the Great."