CHAPTER XIV. CONQUEST AND REBELLION
Henry no doubt felt that he had lost much, but in truth he had every reason to congratulate himself on the lightness of his punishment for the crime to which his passionate words had led. He did not get all which he had set out to recover from the Church, but his gains were large and substantial. The agreement is a starting-point of some importance in the legal history of England. It may be taken as the beginning, with more full consciousness of field and boundaries, of the development of two long lines of law and jurisdiction, running side by side for many generations, each encroaching somewhat on the occupied or natural ground of the other, but with no other conflict of so serious a character as this. The criminal jurisdiction of the state did not recover quite all that the Constitutions of Clarendon had demanded. Clerks accused of the worst offences, of felonies, except high treason, were tried and punished by the Church courts, and from this arose the privilege known as benefit of clergy with all its abuses, but in all minor offences no distinction was made between clerk and layman. In civil cases also, suits which involved the right of property, even the right of presentation to livings, the state courts had their way. Two large fields of law, on the other hand, - marriage, and wills, - the Church, much to its profit, had entirely to itself.
The interval of peace for Henry was not a long one. Hardly was he freed from one desperate struggle when he found himself by degrees involved in another from which he was never to find relief. The policy which he was to follow towards his sons had been already foreshadowed in the coronation of the young Henry in 1170, but we do not find it easy to account for it or to reconcile it with other lines of policy which he was as clearly following. The conflict of ideas, the subtle contradictions of the age in which he lived, must have been reflected in the mind of the king whose dominions themselves were an empire of contrasts. Of all the middle ages there is perhaps no period that saw the ideal which chivalry had created of the wholly "courteous" king and prince more nearly realized in practice than the last half of the twelfth century - the brave warrior and great ruler, of course, but always also the generous giver, who considered "largesse" one of the chiefest of virtues and first of duties, and bestowed with lavish hand on all comers money and food, robes and jewels, horses and arms, and even castles and fiefs, recognizing the natural right of each one to the gift his rank would seem to claim. That such an ideal was actually realized in any large number of cases it would be absurd to maintain. It is not likely that any one ever sought to equal in detail the extravagant squandering of wealth in gifts which figures in the poetry of the age - the rich mantles which Arthur hung about the halls at a coronation festival to be taken by any one, or the thirty bushels of silver coins tumbled in a heap on the floor from which all might help themselves. But these poems record the ideal, and probably no other age saw more men, from kings down to simple knights, who tried to pattern themselves on this model and to look on wealth as an exhaustless store of things to be given away. But in the mind of kings who reigned in a world more real than the romances of chivalry, this duty had always to contend with natural ambition and with their responsibility for the welfare of the lands they ruled. The last half of the twelfth century saw these considerations grow rapidly stronger. The age that formed and applauded the young Henry also gave birth to Philip Augustus.
The marriage with Eleanor added to the strange mixture of blood in the Norman-Angevin house a new and warmer strain. It showed itself, careless, luxurious, self-indulgent, restless at any control, in her sons. But the marriage had also its effect on the husband and father. It gave a strong impetus to the conquest, which had already begun, of the colder and slower north by the ideals of duty and manners which had blossomed out into a veritable theory of life in the more tropical south. Henry could not keep himself from the spell of these influences, though they never controlled him as they did his children. It seems impossible to doubt, however, that he really believed it to be his duly to give his sons the position that belonged to them as princes, where they could form courts of their own, surrounded by their barons and knights, and display the virtues which belonged to their station. They had a rightful claim to this, which the ruling idea of conduct befitting a king would not allow him to deny. The story of Henry's waiting on his son at table after his coronation "as seneschal" and the reply of the young king to those who spoke of the honour done him, that it was a proper thing for one who was only the son of a count to wait on the son of a king, is significant of deeper things than mere manners. But, though he might be under the spell of these ideals, to partition his kingdom in very truth, to divest himself of power, to make his sons actually independent in the provinces which he gave them, was impossible to him. The power of his empire he could not break up. The real control of the whole, and even the greater part of the revenues, must remain in his hands. The conflict of ideas in his mind, when he tried to be true to them all in practice, led inevitably to a like conflict of facts and of physical force.