CHAPTER VII. THE STRIFE WITH THE CHURCH
Nor was this Henry's only act of high-handed government. On the 10th of April he called a council to London to consult about the coronation of his son. It was a dangerous innovation, against all custom and tradition, for no such coronation of the heir in his father's lifetime had ever taken place in England. But Henry was no mere king of England, nor did he greatly heed barbaric or insular prejudice when he had even before his eyes the example not only of the French Court, but of the Holy Roman Empire. The coronation was a necessary step in the completion of the plan unfolded at Montmirail for the ordering of the second empire of the West. Moreover, the settlement probably seemed to him more imperative than ever from the restlessness and discontent of the land. No king of England since the Conquest had succeeded peaceably to his father. The reign of Stephen had abundantly proved how vain were oaths of homage to secure the succession; and the sacred anointing, which in those days carried with it an inalienable consecration, was perhaps the only certain way of securing his son's right. It may well be, too, that, threatened as he was with interdict, he saw the advantage of providing for the peace and security of England by crowning as her king an innocent boy with whom the Church had no quarrel. The actual ceremony of consecration raised, indeed, an immediate and formidable difficulty. A king of England could be legally consecrated only by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Three years before Henry had forced the Pope, then in extreme peril, to grant special powers to the Archbishop of York to perform the rite, but he had not yet ventured to make use of the brief. Now, however, whether the case seemed to him more urgent, or whether his temper had grown more imperious, he cast aside his former prudence. On the 14th of June the lords and prelates were gathered together "in fear, none knowing what the king was about to decree." The younger Henry, a boy of fifteen, was brought before them; he was anointed and crowned by Roger of York. From this moment a new era opened in Henry's reign. The young king was now lord of England, in the view of the whole medieval world, by a right as absolute and sacred as that of his father. All who were discontented and restless had henceforth a leader ordained by law, consecrated by the Church, round whom they might rally. Delicate questions had to be solved as to the claims and powers of the new king, which never in fact found their answer so long as he lived. Meanwhile Henry had raised up for himself a host of new difficulties. The archbishop had a fresh grievance in the king's reckless contempt of the rights of Canterbury. The Church party both in England and in Europe was outraged at the wrong done to him. Many who had before wavered, like Henry of Blois, now threw themselves passionately on the side of Thomas. In the fierce contention that soon raged round the right of the archbishop to crown the king, and to deal as he chose with any prelate who might infringe his privileges, all other questions were forgotten. Not only the zealots for religious tradition, but all who clung loyally to established law and custom, were thrown into opposition. The French king was bitterly angry that his daughter had not been crowned with her husband. All Henry's enemies banded themselves together in a frenzy of rage. So immediate and formidable was the outburst of indignation that ten days after the coronation the king no longer ventured to remain in England; and on the 24th of June he hastily crossed the Channel. Near Falaise he was met by the bishop of Worcester, who had supported him at Northampton. The king turned upon him passionately, and broke out in angry words, "Now it is plain that thou art a traitor! I ordered thee to attend the coronation of my son, and since thou didst not choose to be there, thou hast shown that thou hast no love for me nor for my son's advancement. It is plain that thou favourest my enemy and hatest me. I will tear the revenues of the see from thy hands, who hast proved unworthy of the bishopric or any benefice. In truth thou wert never the son of my uncle, the good Count Robert, who reared me and thee in his castle, and had us there taught the first lessons of morals and of learning." Earl Robert's son, however, was swift in retort. He vehemently declared he would have no part in the guilt of such a consecration. "What grateful act of yours," he cried, "has shown that Count Robert was your uncle, and brought you up, and battled with Stephen for sixteen years for your sake, and for you was at last made captive? Had you called to mind his services you would not have driven my brothers to penury and ruin. My eldest brother's tenure, given him by your grandfather, you have curtailed. My youngest brother, a stout soldier, you have driven by stress of want to quit a soldier's life and give himself to the perpetual service of the hospital at Jerusalem, and don the monk's habit. Thus you know how to bless those of your own household! Thus you are wont to reward those who have deserved well of you! Why threaten me with the loss of my benefice? Be it yours if it suffice you not to have already seized an archbishopric, six vacant sees, and many abbeys, to the peril of your soul, and turned to secular uses the alms of your fathers, of pious kings, the patrimony of Jesus Christ!" All this abuse, and much more besides, the angry bishop poured out in the hearing of the knights who were riding on either side of the king. "He fares well with the king since he is a priest," commented a Gascon; "had he been a knight he would leave behind him two hides of land!" Some one else, thinking to please the king, abused the bishop roundly. Henry, however, turned on him with an outburst of rage. "Do you think, scoundrel, if I say what I choose to my kinsman and my bishop, that you or anyone else are at liberty to dishonour him with words and persecute him with threats?