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in the forenoon, and were admitted into the apartment where the archbishop sat conversing with some of his clergy. After their admission a long silence ensued, which was at length broken by Reginald Fitz-Urse, who told the archbishop that they were sent by the king to command him to absolve the prelates, and others, whom he had excommunicated; and then to go to Winchester, and make satisfaction to the young king, whom he had endeavoured to dethrone. On this a very long and violent altercation followed, in the course of which they gave several hints, that his life was in danger if he did not comply. But he remained undaunted in his refusal. At their departure they charged his servants not to allow him to flee; on which he cried out with great vehemence, “ Flee! I will never flee from
any man living ; I am not come to flee, but to defy the rage of impious assassins.” When they were gone, his friends blamed him for the roughness of his answers, which had inflamed the fury of his enemies, and earnestly pressed him to make his escape; but he only answered, “ I have no need of your advice — I know what I ought to do."
The barons, with their accomplices, finding their threats were ineffectual, put on their coats of mail; and taking each a sword in his right hand, and an axe in his left, returned to the palace, but found the gate shut. When they were preparing to break it open, Robert de Broc conducted them up a back stair-case, and let them in at a window. A cry then arose, “ they are armed! they are armed !” on which the clergy hurried the archbishop almost by force into the church, hoping that the sacredness of the place would protect him from violence. They would also have shut the door, but he cried out, “Begone, ye cowards! I charge you on your obedience, do not shut the door. What! will you make a castle of a church?” The conspirators having searched the palace, came to the church, and one of them crying, “Where is the traitor ? where is the archbishop?” Becket advanced boldly and said, “ Here I am, an archbishop, but no traitor." “ Flee," cried the conspirator," or you are or you are a dead man.”
" I will never fee," replied Becket. William de Tracy then took hold of his robe, and said, “You are my prisoner; come along with me.” But Becket seizing him by the collar, shook bim with so much force, that he almost threw him down. De Tracy, enraged at this resistance, aimed a blow with his sword, which almost cut off the arm of one Edward
Grim, a priest, and slightly wounded the archbishop on the head. By three other blows given by the other conspirators, his skull was cloven almost in two, and his brains scattered about the pavement of the church.
The assassins, conscious of their crime, and dreading its consequences, durst not return to the king's court at Normandy, but retired to Knaresburgh in Yorkshire; where every body avoided their company, hardly any person even choosing to eat or drink with them. They at length took a voyage to Rome, and being admitted to penance by pope Alexander III. they went to Jerusalem ; where, according to the pope's order, they spent their lives in penitential austerities, and died in the Black Mountain. They were buried at Jerusalem, without the church door belonging to the Templars, and this inscription was put over them: Hic jacent miseri, qui martyrizaverunt beatum Archiepiscopum
Cantuariensem. King Henry was much disturbed at the news of Becket's death, and immediately dispatched an embassy to Rome to clear himself from the imputation of being the cause of it. Immediately all divine offices ceased in the church of Canterbury; and this for a year, excepting nine days, at the end of which, by order of the pope, it was re-consecrated. Two years after, Becket was canonized; and the following year, Henry, returning to England, went to Canterbury, where he did penance as a testimony of his regret for the murder of Becket. When he came within sight of the church, where the archbishop was buried, he alighted off his horse, and walked barefoot, in the habit of a pilgrim, till he came to Becket's tomb; where, after he had prostrated himself, and prayed for a considerable time, he submitted to be scourged by the monks, and passed all that day and night without any refreshment, and kneeling upon the bare stone. In 1221, Becket's body was taken pp, in the presence of king Henry III. and several nobility, and deposited in a rich shrine on the east side of the church. The miracles said to be wrought at his tomb were so numerous, that we are told two large volumes of them were kept in that church. His shrine was visited from all parts, and enriched with the most costly gifts and offerings.
According to lord Lyttelton, who appears to have studied the character of this turbulent prelate with great care, Becket was "a man of great talents, of elevated thoughts,
and of invincible courage; but of a most violent and turbulent spirit; excessively passionate, haughty, and vainglorious; in his resolutions inflexible, in his resentments implacable. It cannot be denied that he was guilty of a wilful and premeditated perjury; that he opposed the necessary course of public justice, and acted in defiance of the laws of his country; laws which he had most solemnly acknowledged and confirmed : nor is it less evident, that, during the heat of this dispute, he was in the highest degree ungrateful to a very kind master, whose confidence in him had been boundless, and who from a private condition had advanced him to be the second man in his kingdom, On what motives he acted, can be certainly judged of by Him alone, to whom all hearts are open.' He might be misled by the prejudices of a bigotted age, and think he was doing an acceptable service to God, in contending, even to death, for the utmost excess of ecclesiastical and papal authority. Yet the strength of his understanding, his conversation in courts and camps, among persons
whose notions were more free and enlarged, the different colour of his former life, and the suddenness of the change which seemed to be wrought in him upon his election to Canterbury, would make one suspect, as many did in the times wherein he lived, that he only became the champion of the church from an ambitious desire of sharing its power; a power more independent on the favour of the king, and therefore more agreeable to the haughtiness of his mind, than that which he had enjoyed as a minister of the crown, And this suspicion is increased by the marks of cunning and falseness, which are evidently seen in his conduct on some occasions. Neither is it impossible, that, when first he assumed his new character, he might act the part of a zealot, merely or principally from motives of arrogance and ambition ; yet, afterwards, being engaged, and inflamed by the contest, work himself up into a real enthusiasm. The continual praises of those with whom he acted, the honours done him in his exile by all the clergy of France, and the vanity which appears so predominant in his mind, may have conduced to operate such a change. He certainly shewed in the latter part of his life a spirit as fervent as the warmest enthusiast's; such a spirit indeed as constitutes heroism, when it exerts itself in a cause beneficial to mankind. Had he defended the established laws of his country, and the fundamental rules of civil justice,
with as much zeal and intrepidity as he opposed them, he would have deserved to be ranked with those great men, whose virtues make one easily forget the allay of some natural imperfections: but, unhappily, his good qualities were so misapplied, that they became no less hurtful to the public weal of the kingdom, than the worst of his vices.”
On the other hand, Mr. Berington, in his “ History of the reign of Henry II.” has attempted a vindication of Becket, in which he differs considerably from lord Lyttelton and other protestant historians, but for this we must refer to the book itself. Few men have had more biographers, if reliance could be placed on them, than Becket, but unfortunately the greater part of them were his panegyrists, and not his historians, and too much under the influence of the monkish principles of their days, to deserve much credit. The following list, however, of his biographers may afford some information to the curious inquirer, taken from Leland, Bale, Pits, and others. 1. Herbert Bosenham, or Bosscham, or de Hoscham, who was this archbishop's secretary, and also present at the slaughter of him. 2. Edward, a monk of Canterbury, the martyr's most intimate friend. 3. Johannes Sarisburiensis, who accompanied Becket in his exile, but never countenanced his behaviour towards the king, being as sharp a writer against the encroachments of the papal see, as any man of his time. 4. Bartholomæus Iscanus, or Exonensis, bishop of Exeter, where he died in 1184. 5. E. a monk of Evesham, who dedicated his book, or wrote it by way of epistle, to Henry, abbot of Croyland. 6. William Stephens, or Fitz-Stephen, a monk of Canterbury, and, for that reason, usually called Gulielmus Cantuariensis. He is said to have written three several treatises of the life, martyrdom, and miracles of St. Thomas Becket; which are now in the Cotton library: But that, which there carries his name, seems to have been penned by Johannes Carnotensis, who is the same person with Sarisburiensis above mentioned, since, in the Quadripartite History, what we have from him is often to be found, in the same words, in the life there ascribed to. Fitz-Stephen. 7. Benedictus Petroburgensis, abbot of Peterborough, who died in 1200. 8. Alanus Teukesburiensis, abbot of Tewkesbury, who died about the same time. 9. Roger, a monk of Croyland, who lived about 1214. It is observed, that St. Thomas's mira:cles were become so numerous in this writer's time, that
he bad matter for seven large volumnes, in composing of which he spent no less than fifteen years. 10. Stephen Langton, a famous successor of Becket's in the see of Canterbury, whose work on this subject is said to be in the library of Bene't college. 11. Alexander de Hales, so called from the monastery of Hales in Gloucestershire, where he was educated, one of the most eminent schoolmen of his age, and master to Thomas Aquinas, Bonaven
12. John Grandison, or Graunston, who died in 1369. 13. Quadrilogus, or the author of a book, entitled “De vita et processu S. Thomæ Cantuariensis et Martyris super Libertate Ecclesiastica.” It is collected out of four historians, who were contemporary and conversant with Becket, viz. Herbert de Hoscham, Johannes Carnotensis,, Gulielmus Canterburiensis, and Alanus Teukesburiensis, who are introduced as so many relaters of facts interchangeably. This book was first printed at Paris in 1495, and is often quoted by our historians, in the reign of Henry II. by the name of Quadripartita Historia. 14. Thomas Stapleton, the translator of Bede, in whose book De tribus Thomis, or Of the three Thomas's, our saint makes as considerable a figure as either Thomas the Apostle, or Thomas Aquinas. 15. Laurence Vade, or Wade, a Benedictine monk of Canterbury, who lived and died we know not when, or where ; unless perhaps he be the same person with 16. An anonymous writer of Becket's life, who appears to have been a monk of that church, and whose book is said to be in the library at Lambeth. 17. Richard James, nephew of Dr. Thomas James, some time keeper of the Bodleian library; a very industrious and eminent antiquary, who endeavoured to overthrow the great design of all the above-mentioned authors, in his “De, canonizatio Thomæ Cantuariensis et suorum,” which, with other manuscript pieces by the same hand, is in the public library at Oxford. These are the principal writers of our archbishop's life; besides whom, several other historians have spoken largely of him; as John Bromton, Matthew Paris, Gervase, &c. 1
BECKINGHAM (CHARLES), a dramatic writer, born in 1699, was the son of a linen-draper in Fleet-street, London, and educated at Merchant Taylors' school, under the
1 Biog. Brit.-Henry's History of Great Britain, vol. V.-Lyttelton's Hist. of Henry II.-Berington's ditto.-&c.