In the years that followed the Assize of Northampton Henry was at the height of his power. He was only forty-three, and already his triumph was complete. One of his sons was King of England, one Count of Poitou, one Lord of Britanny, one was named King of Ireland. His eldest daughter, wife of the Duke of Saxony, was mother of a future emperor, the second was Queen of Castile, the third was in 1176 married to William of Sicily, the wealthiest king of his time. All nations hastened to do honour to so great a potentate. Henry's counselors were called together to receive, now ambassadors from Sicily, now the envoys of the Emperors both of the East and of the West, of the Kings of Castile and Navarre, and of the Duke of Saxony, the Archbishop of Reims, and the Count of Flanders.

In England the king's power knew no limits. Rebellion had been finally crushed. His wife and sons were held in check. He had practically won a victory over the Church. Even in renouncing the Constitutions of Clarendon at Avranches Henry abandoned more in word than in deed. He could still fall back on the law of the land and the authority which he had inherited from the Norman kings. Since the Conqueror's days no Pope might be recognized as Apostolic Pope save at the king's command; no legate might land or use any power in England without the king's consent; no ecclesiastical senate could decree laws which were not authorized by the king, or could judge his servants against his will. The king could effectually resist the introduction of foreign canon law; he could control communications with Rome; he could stay the proceedings of ecclesiastical courts if they went too far, or prejudiced the rights of his subjects; and no sentence could be enforced save by his will. Henry was strong enough only six years after the death of Thomas to win control over a vast amount of important property by insisting that questions of advowson should be tried in the secular courts, and that the murderers of clerks should be punished by the common law. He was able in effect to prevent the Church courts from interfering in secular matters save in the case of marriages and of wills. He preserved an unlimited control over the choice of bishops. In an election to the see of St. David's the canons had neglected to give the king notice before the nomination of the bishop. He at once ordered them to be deprived of their lands and revenues. "As they have deprived me," he said, "of all share in the election, they shall have neither part nor lot in this promotion." The monks, stricken with well-founded terror, followed the king from place to place to implore his mercy and to save their livings; with abject repentance they declared they would accept whomsoever the king liked, wherever and whenever he chose. Finally Henry sent them a monk unknown to the chapter, who had been elected in his chamber, at his bedside, in the presence of his paid servants, and according to his orders, "after the fashion of an English tyrant," and who had then and there raised his tremulous and fearful song of thanksgiving. Towards the close of his reign there was again a dispute as to the election of an Archbishop of Canterbury. The monks, under Prior Alban, were determined that the election should lie with them. The king was resolved to secure the due influence of the bishops, on whom he could depend. "The Prior wanted to be a second Pope in England," he complained to the Count of Flanders, to which his affable visitor replied that he would see all the churches of his land burned before he would submit to such a thing. For three months the strife raged between the convent and the bishops in spite of the king's earnest efforts at reconciliation. "Peace is by all means to be sought," he urged. "He was a wise man who said, 'Let peace be in our days'. For the sake of God choose peace, as much as in you lies follow after peace" "The voice of the people is the voice of God," he argued in proposing at last that bishops and monks should sit together for the election. "But this he said," observed the monks, "knowing the mind of the bishops, and that they sought rather the favour of the king than of God, as their fathers and predecessors had done, who denied St. Anselm for Rufus, who forsook Theobald for King Stephen, who rejected the holy martyr Thomas for King Henry." Henry, however, won the day, and his friend and nominee, the good Bishop Baldwin of Worcester, singular for piety and righteousness, was set in the Primate's chair. Of this archbishop we read that "his power was so great and so formidable that no one was equal to him in all England, and without his pleasure no one would dare even to obey the commands of the Pope.... But," adds the irritated chronicler, "I think that he would do nothing save at the orders of the king, even if the Apostle Peter came to England about it."

In the opinion of anxious critics of the day, indeed, the victory which had been almost won by Thomas seemed altogether lost after his death. Even the monasteries, where the ecclesiastical temper was most formidable, were forced to choose abbots and priors whom the king could trust. In its subjection the Church was in Henry's eyes an admirable engine to serve the uses of the governing power. One of the most important steps in the conquest of Wales had been the forcing of the Welsh Church into obedience to the see of Canterbury; and Henry steadily used the Welsh clergy as instruments of his policy. His efforts to draw the Scotch Church into a like obedience were unceasing. In Ireland he worked hard for the same object. On the death of an Archbishop of Dublin, the Irish clergy were summoned to Evesham, and there bidden in the king's court, after the English fashion, to choose an Englishman, Cumin, as their archbishop. The claims of the papacy were watched with the most jealous care. No legate dared to land in England save at the king's express will. A legate in Ireland who seemed to "play the Roman over them" was curtly told by the king's officers that he must do their bidding or leave the country. In 1184 the Pope sent to ask aid for his necessities in Rome. A council was called to consider the matter, and Glanville urged that if papal messengers were allowed to come through England collecting money, it might afterwards become a custom to the injury of the kingdom. The Council decided that the only tolerable solution of the difficulty was for the king to send whatever he liked to the Pope as a gift from himself, and to accept afterwards from them compensation for what he might have given.

The questions raised by the king between Church and State in England had everywhere to be faced sooner or later. Even so devoted a servant of the Church as St. Louis of France was forced into measures of reform as far-reaching as those which Henry had planned a century earlier. But Henry had begun his work a hundred years too soon; he stood far before his age in his attempt to bring the clergy under a law which was not their own. His violence had further hindered the cause of reform, and the work which he had taken in hand was not to be fully carried out till three centuries and a half had passed away. We must remember that in raising the question of judicial reform he had no desire to quarrel with the Church or priesthood. He refused indeed to join in any fanatical outbreak of persecution of the Jews, such as Philip of France consented to; and when persecution raged against the Albigenses of the south he would have no part or lot in it, and kept his own dominions open as a refuge for the wandering outcasts; but this may well have been by the counsel of the wise churchmen about him. To the last he looked on the clergy as his best advisers and supporters. He never demanded tribute from churches or monasteries, a monkish historian tells us, as other princes were wont to do on plea of necessity; with religious care he preserved them from unjust burthens and public exactions. By frequent acts of devotion he sought to win the favour of Heaven or to rouse the religious sympathies of England on his behalf. In April 1177 he met at Canterbury his old enemy, the Archbishop of Reims, and laid on the shrine of St. Thomas a charter of privileges for the convent. On the 1st of May he visited the shrine of St. Eadmund, and the next day that of St. Aetheldreda at Ely. The bones of a saint stolen from Bodmin were restored by the king's order, and on their journey were brought to Winchester that he might do them reverence. Relics discovered by miraculous vision were buried with pomp at St. Albans. Since his vow four years before at Avranches to build three monasteries for the remission of his sins, he had founded in Normandy and England four or five religious houses for the Templars, the Carthusians, and the Austin canons; he now brought nuns from Fontevraud, for whom he had a special reverence, and set them in the convent at Amesbury, whose former inhabitants were turned out to make way for them; while the canons of Waltham were replaced by a stricter order of Austin canons. A templar was chosen to be his almoner, that he might carry to the king the complaints of the poor which could not come to his own ears, and distribute among the needy a tenth of all the food and drink that came into the house of the king.

It is true that on Henry himself the strife with the Church left deep traces. He became imperious, violent, suspicious. The darker sides of his character showed themselves, its defiance, its superstition, its cynical craft, its passionate pride, its ungoverned wrath. His passions broke out with a reckless disregard of earlier restraints. Eleanor was a prisoner and a traitor; she was nearly fifty when he himself was but forty-one. From this time she practically disappeared out of Henry's life. The king had bitter enemies at court, and they busied themselves in spreading abroad dark tales; more friendly critics could only plead that he was "not as bad as his grandfather." After the rebellion of 1174 he openly avowed his connection with Rosamond Clifford, which seems to have begun some time before. Eleanor was then in prison, and tales of the maze, the silken clue, the dagger, and the bowl, were the growth of later centuries. But "fair Rosamond" did not long hold her place at court. She died early and was carried to Godstowe nunnery, to which rich gifts were sent by her friends and by the king himself. A few years later Hugh of Lincoln found her shrine before the high altar decked with gold and silken hangings, and the saintly bishop had the last finery of Rosamond swept from the holy place, till nothing remained but a stone with the two words graven on it, "Tumba Rosamundae."

But behind Henry's darkest and sternest moods lay a nature quick in passionate emotion, singularly sensitive to affection, tender, full of generous impulse, clinging to those he loved with yearning fidelity and long patience. The story of St. Hugh shows the unlimited influence won over him by a character of singular holiness. Henry had brought Hugh from Burgundy, and set him over a newly-founded Cistercian priory at Witham. The little settlement was in sore straits, and the impatient monks railed passionately at the king, who had abandoned them in their necessities. It was just after the rebellion, and Henry, hard pressed by anxiety, was in his harshest and most bitter temper. "Have patience," said Hugh, "for the king is wise beyond measure and wholly inscrutable; it may be that he delays to grant our request that he may try us." But brother Girard was not to be soothed, and in a fresh appeal to the king his vehemence broke out in a torrent of reproaches and abuse. Henry listened unmoved till the monk ceased from sheer lack of words. There was dead silence for a time, while Prior Hugh bent down his head in distress, and the king watched him under his eyelids. At last, taking no more notice of the monk than if he never existed, Henry turned to Hugh, "What are you thinking of, good man?" he said. "Are you preparing to go away and leave our kingdom?" Hugh answered humbly and gently, "I do not despair of you so far, my lord; rather I have great sorrow for the troubles and labours which hinder the care for your soul. You are busy now, but some day, when the Lord helps, we will finish the good work begun." At this the king's self-control broke down; his tears burst forth as he fell on Hugh's neck, and cried with an oath, "By the salvation of my soul, while you have the breath of life you shall not depart from my kingdom! With you I wilt hold wise counsel, and with you I will take heed for my soul!" From that time there was none in the kingdom whom Henry loved and trusted as he did the Prior of Witham, and to the end of his life he constantly sought in all matters the advice of one who gave him scant flattery and much sharp reproof. The coarse-fibred, hard-worked man of affairs looked with superstitious reverence on one who lived so near to God that even in sleep his lips still moved in prayer. Such a man as Hugh could succeed where Thomas of Canterbury had failed. He excommunicated without notice to the king a chief forester who had interfered with the liberties of the Lincoln clergy, and bluntly refused to make amends by appointing a royal officer to a prebend in his cathedral, saying that "benefices were for clergy and not for courtiers." A general storm of abuse and calumny broke out against him at the palace. Henry angrily summoned him to his presence. The bishop was received by the king in an open space under the trees, where he sat with all the courtiers ranged in a close circle. Hugh drew near and saluted, but there was no answer. Upon this the bishop put his hand lightly on the noble who sat next to the king, and made place for himself by Henry's side. Still the silence was unbroken, the king speechless as a furious man choked with his anger. Looking up at last, he asked a servant for needle and thread, and began to sew up a torn bandage which was tied round a wounded finger. The lively Frenchman observed him patiently; at last he turned to the king, "How like you are now," he said, "to your cousins of Falaise!" The king's quick wit caught the extravagant impertinence, and in an ecstasy of delight he rolled on the ground with laughter, while a perplexed merriment ran round the circle of courtiers who scarce knew what the joke might be. At last the king found his voice. "Do you hear the insolence of this barbarian? I myself will explain." And he reminded them of his ancestress, the peasant girl Arlotta of Falaise, where the citizens were famous for their working in skins. "And now, good man," he said, turning to the bishop in a broad good-humour, "how is it that without consulting us you have laid our forester under anathema, and made of no account the poor little request we made, and sent not even a message of explanation or excuse?" - "Ah," said Hugh, "I knew in what a rage you and your courtiers were!" and he then proceeded boldly to declare what were his rights and duties as a bishop of the Church of God. Henry gave way on every point. The forester had to make open satisfaction and was publicly flogged, and from that time the bishop was no more tormented to set courtiers over the Church. There were many other theologians besides Hugh of Lincoln among the king's friends - Baldwin, afterwards archbishop; Foliot, one of the chief scholars of his time; Richard of Ilchester, as learned in theology as capable in administration; John of Oxford, lawyer and theologian; Peter of Blois, ready for all kinds of services that might be asked, and as skilled in theology as in rhetoric. Henry was never known to choose an unworthy friend; laymen could only grumble that he was accustomed to take advice of bishops and abbots rather than that of knights even about military matters. But theology was not the main preoccupation of the court. Henry, inquisitive in all things, learned in most, formed the centre of a group of distinguished men which, for varied intellectual activity, had no rival save at the university of Paris. There was not a court in Christendom in the affairs of which the king was not concerned, and a crowd of travellers was for ever coming and going. English chroniclers grew inquisitive about revolutions in Norway, the state of parties in Germany, the geography of Spain. They copied despatches and treaties. They asked endless questions of every traveller as to what was passing abroad, and noted down records which have since become authorities for the histories of foreign states. Political and historical questions were eagerly debated. Gerald of Wales and Glanville, as they rode together, would discuss why the Normans had so fallen away in valour that now even when helped by the English they were less able to resist the French than formerly when they stood alone. The philosophic Glanville might suggest that the French at that time had been weakened by previous wars, but Gerald, true to the feudal instincts of a baron of the Norman-Welsh border, spoke of the happy days before dukes had been made into kings, who oppressed the Norman nobles by their overbearing violence, and the English by their insular tyranny; "For there is nothing which so stirs the heart of man as the joy of liberty, and there is nothing which so weakens it as the oppression of slavery," said Gerald, who had himself felt the king's hand heavy on him.

One of the most striking features of the court was the group of great lawyers which surrounded the king. The official nobility trained at the Exchequer and Curia Regis, and bound together by the daily work of administering justice, formed a class which was quite unknown anywhere on the continent. It was not till a generation later that a few clerks learned in civil law were called to the king's court of justice in France, and the system was not developed till the time of Louis IX.; in Germany such a reform did not take place for centuries. But in England judges and lawyers were already busied in building up the scientific study of English law. Richard Fitz-Neal, son of Bishop Nigel of Ely and great-nephew of Roger of Salisbury, and himself Treasurer of the Exchequer and Bishop of London, began in 1178 theDialogus de Scaccario, an elaborate account of the whole system of administration. Glanville, the king's justiciar, drew up probably the oldest version which we have of the Conqueror's laws and the English usages which still prevailed in the inferior jurisdictions. A few years later he wrote his Tractatus de Legibus Angliae, which was in fact a handbook for the Curia Regis, and described the new process in civil trials and the rules established by the Norman lawyers for the King's Court and its travelling judges. Thomas Brown, the king's almoner, besides his daily record of the king's doings, left behind him an account of the laws of the kingdom.

The court became too a great school of history. From the reign of Alfred to the end of the Wars of the Roses there is but one break in the contemporary records of our history, a break which came in the years that followed the outbreak of feudal lawlessness. In 1143 William of Malmesbury and Orderic ceased writing; in 1151 the historians who had carried on the task of Florence of Worcester also ceased; three years later the Saxon Chronicle itself came to an end, and in 1155 Henry of Huntingdon finished his work. From 1154 to 1170 we have, in fact, no contemporary chronicle. In the historical schools of the north compilers had laboured at Hexham, at Durham, and in the Yorkshire monasteries to draw together valuable chronicles founded on the work of Baeda; but in 1153 the historians of Hexham closed their work, and those of Durham in 1161. Only the monks of Melrose still carried on their chronicle as far as 1169. The great tradition, however, was once more worthily taken up by the men of Henry's court, kindled by the king's intellectual activity. A series of chronicles appeared in a few years, which are unparalleled in Europe at the time. At the head of the court historians stood the treasurer, Richard Fitz Neal, the author of the Dialogus, who in 1172 began a learned work in three columns, treating of the ecclesiastical, political, and miscellaneous history of England in his time - a work which some scholars say is included in theGesta Henrici II that was once connected with the name of Benedict of Peterborough. The king's clerk and justiciar, Roger of Hoveden, must have been collecting materials for the famous Chronicle which he began very soon after Henry's death, when he gathered up and completed the work of the Durham historians. Gervase of Tilbury, marshal of the kingdom of Arles, well known in every great town of Italy and Sicily, afterwards the writer of Otia Imperialia for the Emperor Otto IV., wrote a book of anecdotes, now lost, for the younger King Henry. Gerald of Wales, a busy courtier, and later a chaplain of the king, was the brilliant historian of the Irish conquest and the mighty deeds of his cousins, the Fitz Geralds and Fitz Stephens. "In process of time when the work was completed, not willing to hide his candle under a bushel, but to place it on a candlestick that it might give light to all, he resolved to read it publicly at Oxford, where the most learned and famous English clergy were at that time to be found. And as there were three distinctions or divisions in the work, and as each division occupied a day, the reading lasted three successive days. On the first day he received and entertained at his lodgings all the poor of the town, on the next day all the doctors of the different faculties and such of their pupils as were of fame and note, on the third day the rest of the scholars with the milites, townsmen, and many burgesses. It was a costly and noble act; the authentic and ancient times of poesy were thus in some measure renewed, and neither present nor past time can furnish any record of such a solemnity having ever taken place in England."

Literature was shaking itself free from the limits imposed upon it while it lay wholly in the hands of churchmen, and Gerald's writings, the first books of vivacious and popular prose-writing in England, were avowedly composed for "laymen and uneducated princes," and professed to tell "the doings of the people." He declared his intention to use common and easily understood words as he told his tales of Ireland and Wales, of their physical features, their ways and customs, and with a literary instinct that knew no scruple, added scandal, gossip, satire, bits of folk-lore or of classical learning or of Bible phrases, which might serve the purposes of literary artifice or of frank conceit. The independent temper which had been stirred by the fight with the Church was illustrated in his Speculum Ecclesiae, a bitter satire on the monks and on the Roman Curia. A yet more terrible scorn of the crime and vice which disgraced the Church inspired the Apocalypse and the Confession of Bishop Goliath, the work of Walter Map, Archdeacon of Oxford, king's chaplain ever since the days when Becket was chancellor, justiciar, ambassador, poet, scholar, theologian, satirist. The greater part of the legends of the Saint Graal that sprang out of the work of Robert de Boron were probably woven together by his genius; and were used in the great strife to prove that the English Church originated independently of Rome. His Courtier's Triflings, suggested by John of Salisbury's Polycraticus, is the only book which actually bears his name, and with its gossip, its odd accumulations of learning, its fragments of ancient history, its outbursts of moral earnestness, its philosophy, brings back to us the very temper of the court and the stir and quickening of men's minds - a stir which found expression in other works of bitter satire, in the lampoon of Ralph Niger, and in the violent attacks on the monks by Nigellus.

Nor was the new intellectual activity confined to the court. The whole country shared in the movement. Good classical learning might be had in England, if for the new-fashioned studies of canon law and theology men had to go abroad; but conservative scholars grumbled that now law and physics had become such money-making sciences that they were beginning to cut short the time which used to be given to classical studies. Gerald of Wales mourned over the bringing in from Spain of "certain treatises, lately found and translated, pretended to have been written by Aristotle," which tended to foster heresy. The cathedral schools, such as York, Lincoln, or London, played the part of the universities in our own day. The household of the Archbishop of Canterbury had been the earliest and the most distinguished centre of learning. Of all the remarkable men of the day there was none to compare with John of Salisbury, the friend of Theobald and of Becket, and his book, the _Polycraticus (1156-59), was perhaps the most important work of the time. It begins by recounting the follies of the court, passes on to the discussion of politics and philosophy, deals with the ethical systems of the ancients, and hints at a new system of his own, and is everywhere enriched by wide reading and learning acquired at the schools of Chartres and Paris London could boast of the historian Ralph of Diceto, always ready with a quotation from the classics amid the court news and politics of his day. Monasteries rivaled one another in their collection of books and in drawing up of chronicles. If their brethren were more famed for piety than for literary arts, they would borrow some noted man of learning, or even a practised scribe, who would for the occasion write under a famous name. The friends and followers of Becket told on every side and in every way, in prose or poetry, in Latin or Norman-French, the story of their master's martyrdom and miracles. The greatest historian of his day, William of Newburgh, was monk in a quiet little Yorkshire monastery. Gervase, a monk of Canterbury, began the Chronicle that bears his name in 1185. The historical workers of Durham, of Hexham, and of Melrose started into a new activity. A canon of the priory of St. Bartholomew's in London wrote before Henry's death a life of its founder Rahere, and noted the first cases received into the hospital. Joseph of Exeter, brother of Archbishop Baldwin, was the brilliant author of a Latin poem on the Troy Story, and of a poetic history of the first crusade. There was scarcely a religious house in the whole land which could not boast of some distinction in learning or literature.

Even the feudal nobles caught the prevailing temper. A baron was not content to have only his household dwarf or jester, he must have his household poet too. Intellectual interest and curiosity began to spread beyond the class of clerks to whom Latin, the language of learning and worship, was familiar, and a demand began to spring up for a popular literature which could be understood of the unlearned baron or burgher. Virgil and Statius and Ovid were translated into French. Wace in 1155 dedicated to Eleanor his translation into Norman-French of the History of Geoffrey of Monmouth, a book which came afterwards to be called the Brut d'Engleterre, and was one of the sources of the first important English poem, Layamon's Brut. Later on, in honour of Henry, Wace told in the Roman de Rou the story of his Norman ancestors, and the poem, especially in the account of Senlac, has given some brilliant details to history. Other Norman-French poems were written in England on the rebellion, on the conquest of Ireland, on the life of the martyred Thomas - poems which threw off the formal rules of the stilted Latin fashion, and embodied the tales of eye-witnesses with their graphic brief descriptions. An Anglo-Norman literature of song and sermon fast grew up, absolutely identical in tongue with the Norman literature beyond the Channel, but marked by special characteristics of thought and feeling. Meanwhile English, as the speech of the common folk, still lived on as a tongue apart, a tongue so foreign to judges and barons and Courtiers that authors or transcribers could not copy half a dozen English lines without a mistake. The serfs and traders who spoke it were too far removed from the upper court circle to take into their speech foreign words or foreign grammatical forms; the songs which their minstrels sang from fair to fair only lived on the lips of the poor, and left no echo behind them.