History Of The Christian Church (1892) Philip Schaff

§ 23. William Rufus and Anselm


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§ 23. William Rufus and Anselm.

William II., commonly called William Rufus or the Red (for his red hair), the third son and first successor of the Conqueror, ruled from 1087 to 1100. He bought Normandy from his brother Robert to enable him to make a crusade. This is the only good thing he did, besides appointing Anselm primate of England. He inherited all the vices and none of the virtues of his father. He despised and hated the clergy. It was said of him that, "he feared God but little, and man not at all." He was not a sceptic or infidel, as some represent him, but profane and blasphemous. He believed in God, like the demons, but did not tremble. He defied the Almighty. When he recovered from a severe sickness, he said: "God shall never see me a good man; I have suffered too much at his hands." He doubted his justice, and mocked at the ordeals. He declared publicly that neither St. Peter nor any other saint had any influence with God, and that he would not ask them for aid. He used to swear "by the holy face of Lucca."104  He was not married, but indulged in gross and shameless debaucheries. The people said of him that he rose a worse man every morning, and lay down a worse man every evening.

He had promised Lanfranc at his coronation to exercise justice and mercy and to protect the freedom of the Church, but soon forgot his vow, and began systematically to plunder the Church and to oppress the clergy. He robbed the bishoprics and abbeys of their income by leaving them vacant or selling them to the highest bidders. Within four years he changed thirty cemeteries into royal parks to satisfy his passion for bunting, which at last cost him his life. He used to say: "The bread of Christ is rich; the kings have given to the Church one-half of its income: why should I not try to win it back?"

He kept the see of Canterbury vacant for nearly four years (1089–1093). At last he yielded, under the influence of a severe sickness, to the pressure of the better class of bishops and noblemen, and elected Anselm, who was then in England, and well known as a profound theologian and saintly character. A greater contrast can scarcely be imagined. While William Rufus delighted in witnessing the tortures of innocent men and animals, Anselm was singularly tenderhearted: he saved the life of a hare which was chased by the hunters and had sought protection under his horse; he saw a worthy object for prayer in the sufferings of a bird tortured by a thoughtless child.105  Yet, with all his gentleness, he could be firm and unyielding in the defence of truth and righteousness.

The primacy was forced upon Anselm in spite of his remonstrance. He foresaw a hard struggle. He compared himself to an old and feeble sheep, and the king to a young, wild bull. Thus yoked, he was to draw the plough of the Church of England, with the prospect of being torn to pieces by the ferocity of the bull.106  He was received with intense enthusiasm at Canterbury by the clergy, the monks, and the people, and was consecrated on the second Sunday of Advent, 1093. He began at once to restore discipline according to the principles of Hildebrand, though with more moderation and gentleness.

A short time elapsed before the relations between the king and the prelate became strained. Anselm supported Urban II.; William leaned to the anti-pope Clement III. The question of investiture with the pallium at once became a matter of dispute. The king at first insisted upon Anselm’s receiving it from Clement and then claimed the right to confer it himself. Anselm refused to yield and received it, 1095, from Urban’s legate, who brought the sacred vestment to England in a silver casket. The archbishop gave further offence to the king by the mean way, as was said, in which he performed his feudal obligations.107  William decided to try him in his court. To this indignity Anselm would, of course, not submit. It was the old question whether an English ecclesiastic owed primary allegiance to the pope or to the crown.108  The archbishop secured the king’s reluctant permission, 1097, to go to Rome. But William’s petty spirit pursued the departing prelate by ordering Anselm’s baggage searched at Dover. He seized the revenues of Canterbury, and Anselm’s absence was equivalent to exile. Eadmer reports a remarkable scene before Anselm’s departure.109  At his last interview with William he refused to leave the king’s presence until he had given him his blessing. "As a spiritual father to his son, as Archbishop of Canterbury to the king of England," he said, "I would fain before I go give you God’s blessing." To these words the king made reply that he did not decline the priestly blessing. It was the last time they met.

Anselm was most honorably received by the pope, who threatened the king with excommunication, and pronounced an anathema on all laymen who exercised the right of investiture and on all clergymen who submitted to lay-investiture.110

The Red King was shot dead by an arrow,—nobody knows whether by a hunter or by an assassin, Aug. 2, 1100, while hunting in the New Forest. "Cut off without shrift, without repentance, he found a tomb in the Old Minster of Winchester; but the voice of clergy and people, like the voice of one man, pronounced, by a common impulse, the sentence which Rome had feared to pronounce. He received the more unique brand of popular excommunication. No bell was tolled, no prayer was said, no alms were given for the soul of the one baptized and anointed ruler, whose eternal damnation was taken for granted by all men as a thing about which there could be no doubt."111

§ 24. Anselm and Henry I.

At the death of the Red King, one archbishopric, four bishoprics, and eleven abbeys were without pastors. Henry I., his younger brother, surnamed Beauclerc, ascended the throne (1100–1135). He connected the Norman blood with the imperial house of Germany by the marriage of his daughter Matilda to Henry V. After the emperor’s death, Matilda was privately married to Geoffrey Plantagenet, count of Anjou (1128), and became the mother of Henry II., the founder of the Plantagenet dynasty.

King Henry I. is favorably known by his strict administration of justice. He reconciled the clergy by recalling Anselm from exile, but soon renewed the investiture controversy. He instituted bishops and abbots, and summoned Anselm to consecrate them, which he steadfastly refused to do. He sent him into a second exile (1103–1106).112  The queen, Maud the Good, who had an extraordinary veneration for the archbishop, strove to mediate between him and her husband, and urged Anselm to return, even at the sacrifice of a little earthly power, reminding him that Paul circumcised Timothy, and went to the temple to conciliate the Jewish brethren.

Pascal II. excommunicated the bishops who had accepted investiture from Henry. But the king was not inclined to maintain a hostile attitude to Anselm. They had an interview in Normandy and appealed to the pope, who confirmed the previous investitures of the king on condition of his surrendering the right of investiture in future to the Church. This decision was ratified at Bec, Aug. 26, 1106. The king promised to restore to Anselm the profits of the see during his absence, to abstain from the revenues of vacant bishoprics and abbeys, and to remit all fines to the clergy. He retained the right of sending to vacant sees a congé d’élire, or notice to elect, which carried with it the right of nomination. Anselm now proceeded to consecrate bishops, among them Roger of Salisbury, who was first preferred to Henry’s notice because he "began prayers quickly and closed them speedily."113

Anselm returned to England in triumph, and was received by the queen at the head of the monks and the clergy. At a council held at Westminster in 1107,114 the king formally relinquished the privilege of investiture, while the archbishop promised to tolerate the ceremony of homage (which Urban II. had condemned). The synodical canons against clerical marriage were renewed and made more rigorous (1102, 1107, 1108); but the pope consented for a time that the sons of priests might be admitted to orders, for the remarkable reason, as Eadmer reports, that "almost the greater and the better part of the English clergy" were derived from this class.115

During the remaining years of his life, Anselm enjoyed the friendship and respect of the king, and during the latter’s absence on the Continent in 1108, he was intrusted with the regency and the care of the royal family. He was canonized by the voice of the English people long before the formal canonization by the pope.116

After his death, in April, 1109, the primacy remained vacant till 1114, when it was conferred upon Ralph of Escures, bishop of Rochester, who had administered its affairs during the interval. He is described as a learned, cheerful, affable, good-humored, facetious prelate. He was called "nugax," but his jests and repartees have not been recorded. He and his two Norman successors, William of Corbeuil, 1123–1136. and Theobald, 1139–1161, lived on good terms with the king and his successor, Stephen. Thomas Becket, an English man, resumed, in 1162, the controversy between the mitre and the crown with greater energy, but less wisdom, than Anselm.


Chapter 4. The Papacy From The Concordat Of Worms To Innocent III. A.D. 1122–1198.

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