The archbishops: Becket to Hubert Walter

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1801.

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Edward Hasted, 'The archbishops: Becket to Hubert Walter', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12, (Canterbury, 1801), pp. 327-352. British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

Edward Hasted. "The archbishops: Becket to Hubert Walter", in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12, (Canterbury, 1801) 327-352. British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

Hasted, Edward. "The archbishops: Becket to Hubert Walter", The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12, (Canterbury, 1801). 327-352. British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

Becket to Hubert Walter

39. THOMAS BECKET, the king's chancellor, succeeded as archbishop in 1162, after the see had continued vacant little more than a year. He was born in London in 1119, being the son of Gilbert Becket, a merchant of good note, his mother Maud being a Syrian by birth. (fn. 1) He was first educated at the monastery of Merton, from whence he went to Oxford, and was made chaplain to archbishop Theobald, after which he studied in the universities of Paris and Bononia, the most celebrated seats of learning in those times, in the latter of which he made a great proficiency in the civil law; on his return, he proceeded S. T. P. at Oxford, and being greatly in the favour of the archbishop, he was received into his family, and made by him archdeacon of Canterbury, and provost of Beverly, after which he was preferred to the parsonage of Bromfield, and of St. Mary le Strand, and to prebends in the churches of St. Paul and Lincoln, and was made one of the king's chaplains; (fn. 2) and lastly, at that prelate's earnest entreaty, he was promoted to be chancellor of England in 1154, (fn. 3) in which station he became a perfect courtier, and carried himself so highly to the king's satisfaction, not only by his dexterity in the management of the affairs of his office, but by his splendid manner of living, and by his affable and engaging behaviour, that he became his chief favourite and the companion of his amusements. The king was in Normandy when he heard of archbishop Theobald's death, and immediately resolved to raise the chancellor to the primacy, in hopes of governing the church of England, by his means, in perfect tranquility. The empress Maud, the king's mother, endeavoured to dissuade her son from this design, and the clergy and bishops of England opposed this promotion, which retarded it above a year; but such was the king's partiality to his favourite, that he was deaf to all advice, and through his directions, Becket was elected archbishop on June 3, 1162, (fn. 4) and being then only a deacon, he was, on the eve of Trinity Sunday, ordained a priest in Christ-church, in Canterbury, and the next day, being then 44 years of age, he was consecrated in the same church, by the bishop of Winchester, though not without great altercation among the bishops concerning their right to the performance of this ceremony, and he afterwards received his pall there. (fn. 5)

As soon as Becket found himself seated in the archiepiscopal chair, he suddenly changed his whole de portment and manner of life, and from the greatest and most luxurious courtier, became the most austere and solemn monk. One of the most remarkable actions after his promotion to it, which equally irritated and surprized the king, was his resignation of his office of chancellor the next year, without having ever consulted the king's inclination, or having given him the least intimation of his design. Before the king returned to England in January, 1163, he had received so many complaints of the archbishop's severities, that he became sensible, when it was too late, of his having made a wrong choice; when the archbishop therefore waited on him at Southampton, it was plainly observed, that he was not received with the same marks of friendship, as on former occasions. The king at the same time gave a still plainer proof of his dissatisfaction, by obliging him to resign the archdeaconry of Canterbury, which he did with great reluctance.

Pope Alexander III. held a general council of the prelates in his interest, at Tours, in April, 1163, and the archbishop was present at it, and was treated with every mark of respect and honour by the pope and his cardinals, who were not ignorant that vanity and the love of admiration, were Becket's predominant passions. It is highly probable, that at this interview, the archbishop was animated by the pope in his design of becoming the champion for the liberties of the church and the immunities of the clergy; thus much, at least, is certain, that soon after his return, he began to prosecute his design with less reserve than formerly, which produced an open breach between the king and him, the archbishop maintaining with much passion and peremptory obstinacy, that the clergy were subject only to the laws of the church, and amenable only to spiritual courts, and to be punished only by ecclesiastical censures; to which may be added the archbishop's claim to several rights and privileges belonging to the see of Canterbury, which were with-held from it, and which he then demanded to be restored to it. (fn. 6)

These differences caused the long and troublesome contest which followed; to avoid the king's resentment, Becket fled abroad, (fn. 7) where he staid, till a feigned reconciliation took place between them; but fresh discontents soon arising, the king obliged him to confine himself within the precincts of his church, where he resided in great solitude, receiving daily accounts of fresh insults offered to his friends, and depredations committed on his estates, he was obstinate in his pursuit, though he foresaw it would not end without bloodshed, and that he himself would be the victim of it. So much is written in all our chronicles and histories concerning these unhappy differences, that there is hardly any one that is not acquainted with them, and therefore the less necessary to repeat them here more at large. The archbishop's life has been written by several, and in particular by John Grandison, bishop of Exeter, (fn. 8) and one of a much later date, printed in English at Cologn, in 1639, and dedicated to the archbishop of Calcedon.

At length the archbishop put the finishing stroke to the series of vexations which he had suffered, by pronouncing at the end of his sermon, which he preached on Christmas-day, in his cathedral, a sentence of excommunication against Ralph de Broc, his great enemy, Robert de Broc, and almost all the king's most familiar servants, and that with visible marks of the most violent anger in his voice and countenance.

Soon after this the archbishop of York, with the bishops of London and Salisbary, arriving in Normandy, threw themselves at the king's feet, and implored his protection from that disgrace and ruin with which they were threatened by the archbishop, painting the violence of his proceedings, against themselves and others whom Becket had excommunicated, in such strong colours, that Henry fell in to one of those fits of passion to which he was liable, lamenting bitterly, that no one would deliver him from this turbulent priest, or revenge the continual injuries he received from him. This passionate exclamation made too deep an impression on those who heard him, particularly on four of his courtiers, Reginald Fitzurse, William Tracy, Hugh de Morville and Richard Bryto, who bound themselves by an oath, either to terrify Becket into a dutiful submission, or to put him to death.

Having laid their plan, they left the court at different times, and took different routes to prevent suspicion, and meeting together near Canterbury, on December 28, they settled the whole scheme of their proceedings, and next morning early set out thither, accompanied by a body of resolute men, with arms concealed under their cloaths, and these they placed in different parts of the city, to prevent any interruption from the citizens. The four principals then went unarmed, with twelve of their company to the archiepiscopal palace, where they found the archbishop sitting and conversing with some of his clergy; after a long silence which ensued, Reginald Fitzurse informed the archbishop, that they were sent by the king's command to 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 violent and very long altercation ensued, 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 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, that he had no need of their advice, and knew what he had to do. Reginald Fitzurse and his three companions, finding their threats ineffectual, put on their coats of mail, and taking each a sword and a battle axe in their hands, returned in the afternoon to the palace, and having at last gained admittance, for it had been shut, they searched throughout it for the archbishop, who had been hurried, during the cry which their entrance armed had occasioned, almost by force into the church, hoping, that the sacredness of the place would protect his person from violence, and they would have shut the door of it, but he would not permit them. The assassins having searched the palace throughout came next to the church, which they entered promiscuously with the crowd, it being about the time of vespers, through the door from the cloyster, where they found the archbi. shop, who having entered it had passed through the nave, and was standing on the third or fourth step in the lower north wing, going upwards to the choir.—Upon their entrance the foremost of them cried out aloud, Where is the traitor? where is the archbishop? Upon which the archbishop turned back and came down the steps, saying, Here is no traitor, but here is the archbishop, here I am ! Upon which William Tracy seized on him by the robe and a scuffle ensued, and by the blows which he received from them altogether, his skull was cloven almost in two, and his brains were scattered about on the pavement, (fn. 9), and he sunk down lifeless at the altar of St. Benedict. (fn. 10) Thus fell archbishop Becket, on December 29, 1170, in the fifty third year of his age, and the ninth of his pontificate.

He was evidently a man of great abilities, particularly of consummate cunning, undaunted courage, and inflexible constancy in the prosecution of his designs; but his schemes were of a most pernicious tendency. On the other hand, he was vain, obstinate, and implacable, as little affected by the intreaties of his friends as by the threats of his enemies, and his ingratitude to the king, his benefactor, admits of no excuse, and has fixed an indelible stain on his character. Though his murderers were highly criminal, his death was very seasonable, and probably prevented much mischief and confusion. Few events in history have made a much greater noise than this murder, which was generally imputed to the king's commands, and represented as the most execrable deed that had ever been perpetrated. (fn. 11)

Some affirm archbishop Becket to have been the founder of St. Thomas's, alias Eastbridge hospital, in Canterbury; but others suppose its origin to have been of a much earlier date, of which further mention will be found in the account of that hospital. There are several treatises written by archbishop Becket among the Bodleian and Harleian MSS.

The apprehensions of the thunders of the church of Rome had such an effect upon the king, that he appeared exceedingly shocked at the murder, and immediately sent his ambassadors to the pope, to clear himself from the guilt of this deed, who were but roughly received by his Holiness and the court of Rome; nor could they procure the king's pardon till they had strengthened their application (Romano More, as Gervas calls it) by a present of 500 marcs, and by swearing, in the name of the king, that he would submit himself to whatever judgment that church should impose on him. On these conditions they obtained, that neither he nor his kingdom should be laid under sentence of suspension or excommunication. (fn. 12)

To obtain this peace with the pope, the king on his return to England, in the humble habit of a pilgrim, and his feet naked, walked through the city to the tomb of Becket, where, having prostrated himself in sorrowful repentance, he underwent afterwards, in the chapter-house, the punishment of being whipped by every one of the monks, and some writers say, by all others of the clergy present, bishops, abbots, and others, some giving three lashes, and others five, with much harshness and severity. The next night he passed on the bare ground at the tomb, with fasting and prayers, and much outward sign of affiction, and in the morning, having at his request heard mass, he departed from Canterbury with much appearance of joy; no doubt, at his having got through so disagreeable a business.

After the confusion which the murder of the archbishop occasioned in the church, and the concourse of people, which the tumult of it had brought together, had dispersed, (fn. 13) the monks took the body and carried it to the great altar, where it remained till the next morning, when a rumour prevailing that the assassins would come and take the body away, and throw it without the walls, as a prey to the dogs and and fowls of the air, the prior and convent, together with the abbot of Boxley, who happened to be present at the time, after consultation, resolved to bury it immediately, stripping it therefore of the hair-cloth and habit of a monk, which the archbishop always wore underneath, they cloathed it in his pontifical dress, and buried him in a new stone coffin in the crypt, at the east end of the undercrost of the church. (fn. 14)

The monks tell us, that not long afterwards, miracles began to be wrought at his tomb, and in process of time throughout the whole world; and that there were in this church two volumes, filled with the records of these miracles. The same of them and the still more prevailing reason of his dying in defence of the privileges and immunities of the church, procured him the honour of being inrolled in the list of saints, by a formal canonization from pope Alexander III. whose bull declaratory of it, bore date March 13, and our historians place it in the year 1172. (fn. 15). In the ecclesiastical history, as it is stiled, of the life of St. Thomas, it is said, that there is a manuscript in the Vatican library, in which it is recorded, that among the acts of the above-mentioned pope, in the beginning of the year 1173 (computing the year to begin in January) upon the feast of the Purification, the pope assembling together at Signia, the bishops and abbots of Campania, celebrated a solemn mass in honour of St. Thomas the martyr, and ordained, that the memory of his passion should be celebrated for ever upon the 29th day of December, and that he published his apostolical letter concerning his canonization, on the fourth of the ides of March, at Signia, directed to the clergy of the church of Canterbury, and the like letters to all Christian people whatever; and this declaration of the pope being soon known in all places, the reports of his miracles were every where founded abroad.

Hence a blind devotion lead vast crowds of zealous people to his tomb; kings, princes, noblemen, and all ranks of people resorted to it, to be forgiven, through his merit, for their sins, and to insure his protection and the certain success of their undertaking in future, all of whom came with their hands filled with rich oblations, to offer at his tomb, which produced an almost incredible income to this church, even whilst his body lay in the undercrost. (fn. 16) In the mean time, a new chapel, at the upper part of the east end of the church (in the room of the former one, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, which had been demolished) was prepared with all splendor and magnificence, ready for this new saint to be placed there, and an altar erected in it, both chapel and altar being called by his name, nay the whole church lost its former name, and was thenceforth called the church of St. Thomas the martyr. (fn. 17)

On July 7, in the year 1220, this saint was translated from his tomb in the undercrost to his shrine; the ceremony of it was performed with the greatest solemnity and rejoicings. Pandulph, the pope's legate, and the archbishops of Canterbury and Rhemes, assisted by many bishops and abbots, carried the coffin on their shoulders, and placed it on the new shrine; the king too graced this solemnity with his royal presence; but the expences arising from this ceremony was so great to Stephen Langton, then archbishop of Canterbury, that it left a debt upon this archbishopric, which Boniface, his fourth successor, could hardly discharge. (fn. 18) Let us now view this saint placed in his new shrine, the object of adoration, and consider the excessive honours done to him.

The titles of glorious, saint, and martyr, were conferred upon him immediately after his death, and were confirmed by a speedy and formal canonization; his murder and death were usually stiled his martyrdom and passion. The reports of his miracles were published every where; the humblest devotions and richest oblations were poured forth at the foot of his shrine, where his altar was continually frequented by crowds of people of all ranks and nations; the relics of the saint, even the meanest things that had any relation to him, as his hair, his shirt, his cloaths, and his shoes, were obtained as invaluable treasures by all who could procure them, either by purchase or favour; and several cathedral and monastical churches obtained some of them, (fn. 19) and thought themselves rich and happy in the possession of them; his effigies was engraved on many seals of the public bodies (fn. 20) and religious houses, with the arms he bore, being Argent, three Cornish choughs, sable; and besides this veneration, there were erected and dedicated to his honour in many places, altars, churches and chapels; of the latter, the ruins of one remained till within these few years, in the grounds of St. Gregory's priory.

The profit continually flowing in to the convent from the oblations made at this shrine, enriched it amazingly, with a large and constant annual income, and enabled the monks to rebuild and adorn this church magnificiently from time to time, and it continued as a plentiful supply to them till the reformation, when the shrine was demolished, and the priory itself was dissolved. (fn. 21)

After archbishop Becket's death, king Henry II. granted licence to the prior and convent, to chuse a successor, not recommending any particular person, but advising and requiring them to make choice of a person of gravity and prudence, and of a gentle disposition. In this election, the disputes between the bishops and the prior and convent were carried to a great height, and there were great contests concerning the right of election; at last the former were willing to compromise the matter, and to act jointly with the monks in it; but to this and other proposals made by them, the convent would by no means acquiesce, and the cause was referred to the king, who, neverthless, left it wholly undetermined; in short, neither threats nor intreaties prevailing on the prior to give up his claim, he seems to have persisted in it, and the convent elected Robert, abbot of Bec, and when he could not be prevailed on to accept of this dignity, they made a second choice, and elected Richard, prior of Dover; upon which the bishop of London stood up, and with the consent of the other bishops, as it appears, to give some colour to their having jointly made the election, said aloud, we elect Richard, prior of Dover, and proclaimed him archbishop elect accordingly. (fn. 22)

But the archbishop, on his arriving at Rome, found that the new king, desirous of hindering the pope's approbation of this election, had sent his agents there to request him not to confirm it, as having been made against his consent, notwithstanding which, the pope himself consecrated the archbishop elect. (fn. 23)

40. RICHARD, prior of Dover, being thus accordingly constituted, was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury in 1174, (fn. 24) after the see had been vacant for two years and five months. He was a Norman by birth, and was first a monk of this church, and made chaplain to archbishop Theobald, afterwards prior of Dover, and then promoted to this archbishopric. In 1175, being the legate of the apostolic see, he celebrated a provincial council at Westminister, at which were present two kings, eleven English bishops of his province, the bishop of St. David's, in Wales, and several abbots, &c. In 1176, he is recorded to have given 1000 marcs towards the foundation of Londonbridge, (fn. 25) and was a benefactor to that of Rochester, and a considerable one to his own convent; and he is said to have founded a nunnery at Remsted, in Sussex. (fn. 26)

Whilst at his palace at Wrotham, this archbishop had a most fearful dream, and next morning setting out on his journey towards Rochester, the remembrance of it terrisied him so much, that he could not refrain from disclosing it to his attendants, and having done so, he was immediately afterwards stricken with such a horror and chill cold, that he was forced to alight in his way, at Halling, a palace belonging to the bishop of Rochester, where he in torment ended his life the next day, being Feb. 16, 1184, (fn. 27) having sat in this see ten years and eight months. He was honorably interred in his own cathedral, in the Lady chapel, not in that now in being, but a more antient one, included in the old body of the church at the upper end of the north isle of it, (fn. 28) in which place his remains were found, in digging a grave, about sixty years ago. A writer has given him the character of having been a harmless, illiterate man, who did not interfere in any great matters, but prudently contented himself with those within the bounds of his own capacity. (fn. 29)

He is said by some to have been a good preacher, and to have had a considerable share of learning. He was taxed with not keeping up the strictness of church discipline, and of being negligent of his archiepiscopal duty, in securing the privileges of his church, but this must have been in comparision of the steps followed by his predecessor; and his writings were far different, being against these disturbers; and as to his own church, he was a good friend and benefactor to it, laying out much in improving the revenues of it, and repairing the houses belonging to his see.

Among the Cartæ Antiquæ, in the dean and chapter's treasury, are several seals of this archbishop appendant to them, viz one the archbishop standing robed, pall and mitred, having his cross in his left hand, blessing; legend, SIGILLUM RICARDI DEI G. CANTUARIENSIS ARCHIEPISCOPI. Small counterseal, archbishop standing, half length, on a shield of arms A. 83. p. 122, 124. He bore for his arms, Azure, between two bendlets, three mullets, argent.

In the election of a successor in this see, the contentions between the bishops and the convent of Canterbury increased more and more; for pope Lucius sent his letters mandatory to the suffragan bishops and the prior and convent, by which they were required to elect an archbishop. They all met at Reading, where the king then was, and afterwards at Windsor, but could not come to any agreement. At last they met at London, where the bishops elected Baldwin, bishop of Worcester, and sent their letters to the pope to notify his election; but the monks absolutely refused to be present at it, upon which the king himself came to Canterbury, and persuaded the monks to return to London, where Baldwin declared, in the presence of the king and them, that he never would enter that church without their free consent. This so far prevailed, that the monks being left alone to themselves in their chapter, declared the election made by the bishops void, but that he the prior, to whom this office did of right belong, and his brethren there present, with the common consent of the whole church of Canterbury, did elect Baldwin, bishop of Worcester, to be archbishop of Canterbury, and then proceeded to the usual solemnities of the election; they then sent their letters supplicatory to the pope, to confirm their election. (fn. 30)

41. BALDWIN, bishop of Worcester, was thus accordingly elected archbishop in 1184, with the consent of, as well the suffragan bishops of this province, as of the convent of Christ-church, and this with the king's approbation. He was born at Exeter, but of mean extraction, and was made archdeacon of Totness, by Bartholomew, bishop of Exeter; after which, he took on him the Cistertian habit in Ford abbey, and after a few years was made abbot there, and then bishop of Worcester, (fn. 31) from whence he was translated to Canterbury, as above-mentioned; in 1184, and in the second year afterwards, was inthronized and received his pall at Canterbury, on St. Dunstan's day. (fn. 32)

His attenpting to erect a college at Hackington, alias St. Stephen's, near Canterbury, occasioned such continual and bitter enmity and dissentions between him and the convent of Christ-church, as created a lasting hatred between them. (fn. 33) Accordingly, Gervas, who was one of them, with doleful lamentations, loads him with better reproaches for the continual injuries he did them, charging him with pouring his malice on them, upon every occasion, even to threaten the ruin of their church. (fn. 34)

In the year 1189, he crowned king Richard I. with extraordinary solemnity at Westminister, on Sunday, 3d September, and afterwards attended him in his crusade to the holy war in Palestine, where he died at Tyre, during the siege of Acon, in the year 1190, and was there buried. (fn. 35) He sat in this see near six years, and by his last will left all he possessed to the purpose of the holy war, making Hugh, bishop of Salisbury, the executor of it. (fn. 36)

Giraldus Cambrensis, who knew him personally, gives him the character of a learned and pious man; but says, he was of too mild and easy a temper, and had a great simplicity of mind and spirit, which prevented his acting with that discipline, as became his high station, and that the higher he moved in his stations, he filled them with a worse grace.

This archbishop first annexed Wales to the province of Canterbury. (fn. 37) He wrote a treatise, De Sacramento Altaris. The archbishop bore for his arms, Gules, two bendlets, and a bordure, argent.

In the election of an archbishop, after Baldwin's death, as well as the following one, the monks grew more wise and cunning than they had been before, and being before hand with the bishops, gained their point, for when upon the death of Baldwin, the bishops, with some of the nobles, came to Canterbury, by the king's mandate, to elect an archbishop, the prior and convent immediately declared, that they had chosen Reginald, bishop of Bath, to be their archbishop elect, and by force placed him in the archiepiscopal chair, and afterwards made their canonical profession of obedience to him.

42. REGINALD FITZ JOCELINE, bishop of Bath, (fn. 38) a native of Lombardy, was accordingly the next archbishop of this see elect, in the year 1191; but the archbishop of Roan, then justiciary of England, not considering the election as void, seized all the archbibishop's revenues into the king's hands, but the elect notwithstanding, carried himself as metropolitan, in the hearing and deciding of all ecclesiastical causes, and without delay sent his agents to the pope for his confirmation and pall; but before his agents could reach Rome he died, fourteen days after his election, on Christmas eve, and was buried in the cathedral church of Bath. (fn. 39) He bore for his arms, Argent, a fess, dancette, in the upper part a cross formee, gules

On the death of archbishop Reginald, the prior and convent made the like haste, as in the former election in the choice of an archbishop, (fn. 40) for the king having sent his letters to the suffragan bishops to proceed to the election of an archbishop, the day appointed for it, was Sunday, April 29; but on the day before, the monks, that they might be beforehand with the bi shops, elected Hubert, bishop of Sarum, and the next day when they came to the place where the bishops were then met, for the purpose of election, the prior presented Hubert to the bishops, as having been elected by the convent the day before; notwithstanding which, the bishops proceeded to election, to save appearances, and the bishop of London proclaimed the same Hubert their archbishop elect, and here ended the contest, for pope Innocent III, anno 1206, gave a peremptory decision of the dispute, in favour of the monks by his bull, which is still extant among the archives of the church, in which the whole controversy is recited, which was prosecuted with much vigour on both sides, at the court of Rome. (fn. 41)

43. HUBERT WALTER, bishop of Salisbury, elected archbishop in 1193, (fn. 42) was a native of West Dereham, in Norfolk, (fn. 43) and had been dean of York, from whence he was promoted to the see of Salisbury, and attended king Richard I. with archbishop Baldwin, to the holy land, where he signalized his skill in military affairs; but when the king was in his return from thence, taken and kept prisoner, he sent Hubert into England, to manage the affairs of the kingdom, when on the king's commendatory letters, he was elected archbishop, and received the pall and was inthronized at Canterbury, in November, with much pomp, (fn. 44) and was next year created legate of the apostolic see. (fn. 45)

He crowned king Richard soon after his return at Winchester, in 1194, with great solemnity, in the presence of William, king of Scotland, and others, (fn. 46) and king John afterwards, at Westminister, on Ascension Sunday, 1199, notwithstanding the appeal of the bishop of Durham, on behalf of the archbishop of York, who was then absent; (fn. 47) and he again crowned that king and Isabel his last wife, in 1201. (fn. 48)

He had been constituted chief justiciary of England in 1194, being then high immediate governor under king Richard of all his dominions, both in England and Wales, he resigned that office in 1196, and was again appointed to it, for in 1198 he sat, with others, as such, in the king's court at Westminster, and was the next year appointed chancellor, (fn. 49) in each of which he proved himself a wise, able and faithful minister of state. (fn. 50) He was the first who devised our assize of bread, and our weights and measures of wine, oil, corn, &c. He encompassed the tower of London with a strong wall and a deep moat, so that the water inclosed it all round, which before that time could never be effected; and he performed other great works of inestimable charge, such as his ecclesiastical revenues could never have enabled him to do, had not his great secular offices contributed to them. (fn. 51)

His predecessor, Baldwin, having left the chapel at Lambeth, built in the room of that at Hackington, unfinished, archbishop Hubert carried the building on; (fn. 52) but when it was just compleated in 1199, he was forced to pull it down to the ground, by the papal bulls, which had been obtained, at the strong instance of the monks of Christ-church, who were jealous likewise of this new foundation for seculars so near the archiepiscopal palace. This caused great difference between the archbishop and the monks, which being put to reference, the arbitrators in 1201, awarded, that the archbishop might build an ordinary church at Lambeth any where, but on the foundation of the former chapel, and place therein a certain number of canons, and endow the same; (fn. 53) but the archbishop seems to have made no use of this agreement, and the design of it was entirely laid aside by him. (fn. 54) Vexed at this disappointment, however, he turned his mind to his native place of West Dereham, in the county of Norfolk, where he built and endowed an abbey for Premonstratensian canons from Welbec, in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary. (fn. 55)

After which, having become possessed of the collegiate church of secular canons of Wolverhampton, by the resignation of it into his hands by the famous Peter Blesensis, then dean of it, that he might build an abbey there for monks of the Cistertain order; the archbishop began, about the fifth year of king John, anno 1204, to put his intention for that purpose into execution; but, from what motives is not known, it seems never to have been finished, or fully settled; for we find the secular canons in the possestion of it again not long after, and they still continue so. (fn. 56) The arch bishop celebrated a council at Westminster. (fn. 57) He recovered to his church Saltwood, Hythe, the castle of Rochester, the fee of Geoffry de Ros, viz. the service of five knights fees, and the homage of the earl of Clare, for the castle of Tunbridge; all which had been claimed by archbishop Becket, as belonging of right to his see, which had caused such diffention between that prelate and king Henry II. as has been already mentioned before. (fn. 58)

Having sat in the chair of this see almost twelve years, he died at his manor of Tenham, on July 13, 1205, and was buried under a window in the south wall of his own cathedral, beside the choir, where his tomb, having his effigies lying at length on it, in his pontificals, is still remaining, being one of the most antient that this church affords to view; for it is observed that the most antient tombs in churches are thus situated in or along by the walls of them. (fn. 59)

The archbishop in his life time much improved the buildings of his archbishopric, and at his death gave many things of great value to this convent, of which Gervas has recorded an inventory, and he gave three hundred marcs to be expended for the benefit of his soul; (fn. 60) besides which, he increased the privileges of his convent, and gave the church of Halstow to the library of it, and he obtained a market and fair at his manor of Lambeth, (fn. 61) two years after it had been granted to him by the bishop and church of Rochester. He is said to have been very tall in person, of a generous and high spirit, and consummate resolution; of singular firmness in the management of the state, and of incomparable wisdom, and a true lover of his country; but that he was better skilled in secular matters than in his station as metropolitan. He kept a splendid table, was hospitable to all strangers, and bountiful to the poor. (fn. 62)

Among the Cartæ Antiquæ, in the dean and chapter's treasury, is a seal of this archbishop appendant to one of them, 3 by 2 diam. the archbishop standing mitred, robed, pall, blessing; his crozier in his left hand; legend, SIGILLU DOMNI HUB. CANT. ARCHIEPISCOPI. The counterseal, Becket's murder, legend defaced. He bore for his arms, Quarterly, azure and argent, a cross, or; in the first and fourth quarters, five mullets of the first; in the second and third, an eagle displayed, sable.

After the death of archbishop Hubert, the prior and convent met in their chapter house at Canterbury, to elect one to succeed him; but there was a division among them, for some of them were for electing John Gray, bishop of Norwich, a man of wisdom and learning, whom the king had recommended; and others were for electing Reginald, the sub-prior of the convent. On this disagreement both parties made their appeal to the pope at Rome, who quickly decided the matter by declaring their election void, and giving them licence to make a new one in the court of Rome; upon which they all agreed in the choice of the bishop of Norwich, and requested the pope's confirmation of it, which he at first assented to; but afterwards shewing much displeasure at it, he refused to admit of their choice, and suspended them from proceeding to any further election of an archbishop, so far as concerned the present turn; and the monks, who so lately withstood both king and bishops with an invincible stubbornness, now overcome with dread and consternation, humbled themselves to the pope, and submitted themselves entirely to his will and pleasure, who commanded them to chuse Stephen Langton, a man firmly attached to him, for their archbishop, whom they accordingly immediately elected. (fn. 63)


  • 1. Mary, the archbishop's sister, was in 1172, made abbess of Barking, in Essex. Chron. Tables, col. 2250.
  • 2. See Weever, p. 199.
  • 3. Spelman. Gloss. verbum Cancellarius, says, he continued chancellor till 1162, when being made archbishop, he resigned.—M. Paris says, he was made chancellor in 1155.
  • 4. The election of Thomas Becket was made, as those writers say, who savoured the claim of the bishops to a right of election, in an assembly of the clergy of the whole province of Canterbury, who were solemoly called together for this purpose at London, and that the election was proclaimed by the bishop of Winchester, in the resectory of St. Peter's, at Westminster, without opposition or contradiction. But the monk of Canterbury, on the contrary, says, that the king sent his mandate requiring the prior and some of his monks to meet the bishops and clergy, then assembled at London, to chuse an archbishop; upon which, the prior with some of the elder monks of his church went thither, where they found the bishops convened, and after much discourse had passed between them, concerning the election, the prior and his monks elected and proclaimed Thomas, the king's chancellor, to be archbishop; and Stephen Birchington, a monk of Canterbury, likewise says, that Becket was elected by the prior, with the consent of his whole convent. On the whole it seems plain, that the archbishop was first elected, and proclaimed elect by the bishops; and that afterwards to continue their right, the prior and his monks proceeded to a new election of the same person. See R. de Diceto, col. 533. Gervas, col. 1382. See Decem. Scriptores, col. 711, &c. See Matthew Paris, Birchington, Hoveden, and others, Gervas, 1669, Battely, pt. ii. p. 150.
  • 5. Gervas, col. 1382.
  • 6. Archbishop Becket required of the king the custody of the castle of Rochester, the castle of Saltwood, and Hythe, which he claimed, as especially belonging to the domain of his see. Of the earl of Clare, he required the homage of the castle of Tunbridge, with the adjacent lowy; the fee likewise of William de Ros, and others of the like sort. Gervas, col. 1384, 1669.
  • 7. R. de Diceto, col. 537. Bromton, col. 1052. Gervas, col. 1384.
  • 8. See R. de Diceto, 512, 536, 550. Gervas, col. 1671.—Bromton, col. 1064. Leland's Coll. vol. iii. p. 422. Gervas, col. 1670, mentions the names of several who had written the archbishop's life.
  • 9. It is a vuigar notion that the stones of the pavement on which he fell down dead, have still the marks of his blood flained on them, but it is a mistaken one; for those stones have been removed several hundred years ago. being carried away by Benedict the prior, to the abbey of Peterborough, where he made two altars of them in 1177. See Battely's Somner, pt. ii. p. 22. On one of the stones there is at this time, a smail square piece neatly let in to it, perhaps in the room of a part of the stone which might have been stained with his blood, and was probably taken away as a valuable reiic of the saint.
  • 10. See W. Neubrigen, l. ii. c. 25. Gervas, col. 1414. Bromton, col. 1063. Hoveden, p. 505. Biog. Brit. vol. i. p. 629, Speed, Hollinshed, and other chreniclers. After the murder the assassins fled to. Knareshorough, in Yorkshire, which then belonged to Hugh de Moreville.
  • 11. See Bromton, col. 1095. Gervas, col. 1427.
  • 12. R. de Diceto, col. 556. Gervas, col. 1419.
  • 13. The church of Canterbury, after the death of Becket, remained in a most dirty condition, occasioned by the multitude of people who had flocked in to it at the time of the murder; the celebration of divine service was suspended, the ornaments were taken away from the altars, the pillars were stripped, and the cross was veiled as in the time of Lent, and the whole rendered a place of solitude, and the sound of bells and the voice of chaunting was heard no more, and divine service ceased in the church for almost a year. The suffragan bishops therefore met on the feast of St. Thomas the apostle, to reinstate the mother church of Canterbury, cast down by this long suspension, and to restore it by command of the pope to its former state, and to the great joy of the clergy and people of Canterbury, Bartholomew, bishop of Exeter, at their petition, celebrated a solemn mass, and preached to them, that to the days spent in grief they should oppose the comfort of the celebration of joy. R. de Diceto, col. 558. Gervas. col. 1417, 1421, 1672.
  • 14. R. de Diceto, col. 555. Bromton, col. 1063. Gervas, col. 1413, 1417, 1672.
  • 15. R. de Diceto, col. 715, in whose history the bull is twice printed.
  • 16. See a more particular account of those who from time to time visited this tomb and shrine, and the offerings they made at them, above.
  • 17. The legend of St. Thomas Becket was curiously represented in the windows of this chapel, great part of which remain at this time; the colours of them are very beautiful.
  • 18. Besides other vast expences of the sumptuous entertainment made in his palace, he provided at his own cost, hay and oats on the road between London and Canterbury, for the horses of all who came to the solemnity; and he caused several pipes and conduits to run with wine, in several parts of the city. See Battely, p. 19.
  • 19. Many of his relics, as well as of every part of his cloathing, were pretended by the monks of Glastonbury, to be in that abbey. Dugd. Monast. vol. i. p. 7.
  • 20. His effigies was on the antient seal of the city of London, and on that of London bridge. Stow's Survey, B. iii p. 128—B. iv. p. 24. The seal of the cathedral of Canterbury was changed, and had on one side of it, the representation of his martyrdom, added on it; a like representation was made on that of Eastbridge, and the poor priests hospitals in Canterbury. Several of the archbishops had his martyrdom represented on their seals, in preference to their own effigies, and others on the reverse of their seals. Numbers of private seals had a like representation of it, and no doubt but there were many other religious societies who did the same throughout the kingdom.
  • 21. See a further account of this shrine from Erasmus, before and of the demolishing of it, and the total abolishing of the festival of St. Thomas, and every other honour paid to him, even to the mention of his name, and the erasing it and his figure out of all books, writings, windows, &c. by the king's command, at the time of the dissolution of this monastery by Henry VIII. related before. Besides the annual profits arising to the convent, from these oblations at St. Thomas's shrine, there was another, which though it happened more seldom, yet it was productive of incredible gain to it. This was the grant of a jubilee, made by the pope to this church, in honour of this saint; the first of which was solemnized here in 1220, on the translation of his body from the undercrost to his shrine, just fifty years after his death; and there were six. more at the same distance of fifty years between each of them; the last being in 1520, at all which, plenary indulgencies were granted to the church of Canterbury, for all such as should visit and offer their oblations at the saint's shrine, and the multitudes that flocked to the city on these occassions is scarce credible. See further particulars of these jubilees, before; and Battely's Somner, appendix, p 51.
  • 22. R de Diceto, col. 561, 568, 570. See the Variantes Lectiones, at the end of Decem. Script. Gervas, col. 1423, 1425, Battely, pt. ii. p. 48.
  • 23. Bromton, col. 1093, 1101. Gervas, col. 1429, 1674.
  • 24. Gervas, col. 1674.
  • 25. Stow's Survey, Bk. i. p. 53.
  • 26. See Tanner's Monasticon, p. 558.
  • 27. Gervas, col. 1465, 1675. Weever, p. 218. Chron. Tab. col. 2257.
  • 28. Battely's Somner, p. 127.
  • 29. See Leland's Collect. vol. i. p. 229, ex Chron. Gul. Parvi Novoburgensis.
  • 30. See R. de Diceto, col. 619. Gervas, col. 1466, has related the whole of these proceedings; the reasons on which the bishops grounded their pretension, and the answers and obstinacy of the monks, with whom nothing less could prevail than the king's coming himself to Canterbury, to intreat their return back to London, to make a new election of an archbishop. It is said, that in this business the monks at first in the king's presence elected the bishop of St. David's, to which the king gave his consent; but the matter being delayed and adjourned to London, the bishops by themselves elected Baldwin, as above-mentioned.
  • 31. See Bromton, col. 1255.
  • 32. R. de Diceto, col. 628. Gervas, col. 1475.
  • 33. See a full account of this controversy in Decem. Scriptores, Bromton, col. 1143, 1255. Gervas, col. 1303, 1676.
  • 34. Gervas, col. 1314, 1481, to col. 1574, 1676. See an account of the proceedings of archbishop Baldwin and the monks, concerning this building at Hackington, and continued under archbishop Hubert, with the letters written to and from several great persons on the occasion, among the Harleian MSS. No. 788—1—2.
  • 35. See R. de Diceto, col. 647. Bromton, col. 1157. Knyghton, col. 1402. Gervas, col. 1549, 1587; and other writers. Our historians generally refer his death to the year 1191, at which time the messenger arrived in England with the news of it, which seems to have occasioned their mistake.
  • 36. R. de Diceto, col. 521, 658. Battely, pt. ii. p. 69.
  • 37. Battely's Somner, p. 127. Higden in his Polychron. p. 205. says, that long before this time the bishops of Wales, at the king's command, received their consecration at Canterbury; in token of which investiture and subjection, archbishop Boniface, in king Henry III.'s time, solemnly celebrated mass, the first of any of the archbishops of Canterbury, in each of the cathedral churches of Wales.
  • 38. He was first promoted to the archdeaconry in the church of Salisbury, and was elected bishop of Bath at 33 years of age, to which church and Wells, he was an especial benefactor, and he built the hospital of St. John at Bath.
  • 39. Bromton, col. 1188. R. de Diceto says, he died twentynine days after his nomination, on his birth day at Dogemerefeld, in the diocese of Winchester, and was buried in his church of Bath, near the great altar, on the day of St. Thomas the martyr. See Gervas, col. 1580. Battely's Somner, p. 69, pt. ii. p. 69.
  • 40. Gervas takes no notice of Reginald's election, but says, col. 1679, that the see, after the death of Baldwin, continued vacant for two years and seven months; and that the convent having received the king's letters in favour of Hubert, bishop of Salisbury, to be elected their archbishop, they rejected the many petitions which they had had from the great men, and elected Hubert immediately in their chapter, and the next day presented him by the hands of Geoffry their prior, to the bishops at London.
  • 41. See R. de Diceto, col. 666. Gervas, col. 1579, 1679.—In all these contests we may observe, that when the king sent his mandates, the bishops in general sided with him, and whomever he named they were ever ready to elect; but the monks were not so complying, and frequently shewed themselves stubborn and obstinate towards him; however, this exclusion of the bishops, though it left the prior and convent in the possession of the privilege of election, yet it turned out but little to their advantage, for the king remained on the one hand peremptory in his recommendation of a person to be elected archbishop, and on the other, what was still more grievous, the pope at this time by his authority took every opportunity to fill up the vacant sees by his bulls of provision, by which not only they, but most of the ecclesiastical dignities and rich benefices in England were disposed of at the pope's pleasure, whose power in it seems to have been irresistible; but surely it is a matter of astonishment, how the king could bear for so long a time such an arrogant usurpation on his royal prerogative, or the clergy on the right and liberties of the British church. Batt. Somn. pt. ii. p. 49, 50.
  • 42. R. de Diceto, col. 669, an. 1192. Chron. Tab. col. 2257.
  • 43. The noble family of the Botelers, of Ireland, are said to be descended from Theobald, second brother of this archbishop. Baronage of England, vol. i. p. 634.
  • 44. See R. de Diceto, col. 671. Gervas, col. 1585, vii. id. November.
  • 45. R. de Diceto, col. 679. He had conserred on him a plenitude of power, unheard of before by the common favour of all the cardinals.
  • 46. Gervas, col. 1586, 1679. Bromton, col. 1258.
  • 47. M. Paris, p. 169, 189. Bromton, col. 1282. Knyghton, col. 2408, 2414.
  • 48. R. de Diceto, col. 705, 707. Gervas, col. 1680. Batt. Somn. p. 127. By Gervas's account it should seem, that the archbishop crowned king John three times. He says, that John, brother of king Richard then deceased, came into England, and was crowned at Westminster by Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, who was made the king's chancellor, and the same as governor of the kingdom; afterwards, in the next column he says, that the archbishop crowned king John and his queen Isabel at London. and then that in the church of Canterbury, in the solemnity of Easter, he crowned the same and procured the necessaries for his expences at it, and though afterwards, by means of his enemies he lost the king's favour and his place of chancellor, yet by his prudence he afterwards regained it.
  • 49. Præsecturam, the chief justiceship. See Dugd. orig.
  • 50. Battely's Somner, pt. ii. p. 69.
  • 51. Ibid. p. 127.
  • 52. Gervas, col. 1591, says, the archbishop had once an intention of building this college at Maidstone, but afterwards changed it for Lambeth.
  • 53. Among the archives of the dean and chapter in their treasury, is a deed of composition, made between this archbishop and the prior and convent of Christ-church, concerning this chapel of Lamhea, and the confirmation of it, under the seals of the suffragans and others; and these seals appendant, viz. 1. Of the chapter of St. Paul's, London—2. Henry, bishop of Landaff.—3. Roger, dean of Lincoln—4. Samson, abbot of St. Edmandbury—5. John, bishop of Norwich.—6. Eustace. bishop of Ely.—7. William, bishop of London.—8. Hubett. archbishop.—9. John, cardinal Sti Stephani de monte Celi.—10. Gosfrid, bishop of Winchester.—11. Gilbert, bishop of Rochester—12. Henry, bishop of Exeter.—13. Robert, bishop of Bangor.—14. Maugcrius, bishop of Worcester.—15. Giles, bishop of Hereford.—16. Hospital of Jesus, in London.— Another exemplification of the same date, with three seals; first, not named, but is of Eustace, bishop of Ely.—2. Samson, about of St. Edmundsbury.—3. Roger, dean of Lincoln; and another like the last, but in a smaller size, L. 344-356-394.
  • 54. See MSS. Cotton lib. Vitellius A. viii. 5. M. de Diceto, col. 705, 707. Gervas, col. 1680. Tan. Mon. p. 540.
  • 55. Tan. Mon. p. 352. Leland's Collect vol. i. p. 34.
  • 56. See Tan. Mon. p. 490.
  • 57. See Gervas, col. 1681.
  • 58. Ibid.
  • 59. Battely's Somner, p. 127.
  • 60. Gervas, col. 1683.
  • 61. Cart. 1 Joh. m. 4. N. 33.
  • 62. Giraldus Cambrensis speaks of him very unhandsomely; and Thorn, col. 1340, represents him in a very odious light, especially for his pride and ignorance; but the archbishop's being a bitter enemy to St. Augustine's monastery, most probably occasioned this harsh, and at the same time, perhaps, untrue character from the chronicler of that monastery.
  • 63. knyghton, col. 2414, 2417. Battely, pt. ii. p. 50. See the definitive fentence of pope Innocent III. anno 1206, in the controversy of the fuffragans of the church of Canterbury with the monks of Christ church, concerning the election of an archbishop, at which, the suffragans contended that they ought to be present. Spelman's Councils, tom. ii. p. 130.