The 1160's. A time of consolidation of the Angevin Empire, still ruled by a dynamic, young and aggressive Henry. But mainly remembered for the start of the struggle between church and state – or more accurately, the struggle between Henry and Thomas Becket. We start that well trodden paths, with a bit about 12th Education and Brittany thrown in for good measure
Gilbert and Matilda Becket were Normans, who came to London to make their fortunes. Gilbert at first suceeded handsomely, being able to afford a grand house between ironmongers Street and Old Jewry. Young Thomas was given an academic education, but according to all it was the physical life that appealed to him as a young man. He hunted and hawked at the estates of Roger L'aigle, and he loved all forms of sports.
Thomas's early career
Gilbert's business started to struggle, so Thomas would have to earn his keep. After a stint in the household of a family friend, Thomas was placed int eh household of Theobald of Bec, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was something of a coup, and Thomas made the most of it, rising to become an Archdeacon. Then, Theobald decided he needed a placeman in the houshold of the king; so when the Chancellorship of England came up, Theobald went and spoke to the king
Henry and Thomas got on like a house on fire by all accounts – giggling and playing like children, Thomas kept a magnificant household, dressed in the grandest of clothes, advocated the most aggressive of foreign adventures – and generally just seemed to be a man of the material rather than spiritual world.
But oh dear, when he put on the robes of the Archbishop he also donned the hairshirt. His appointment was not well received by the Bishops, who knew full well they were getting Henry's man. So Thomas set out to prove his independence, by opposing the king at every turn. It came to a head at Westminister when Thomas led the Bishops in opposing an unconditional oath to support the customs of the realm. Henry was livid.
The Constitutions of Clarendon
Henry wanted to clarity about process of justice and the relationship between church and state. The Consitutions were meant to do this – a writing down of the English customs. He also wanted to push Thomas's nose in it, by forcing him to submit. Thomas and the English bishops were subjected to 3 days of abuse and pressure from Henry and the lay barons, but they stood up to it. Then Thomas bottled it, and signed them – leaving his bishops leaderless,
But, on the road outside, Thomas recanted. I suspect he only signed the thing to get out of Clarendon. Henry was now out to get rid of his Archbishop.
You can download the Constitutions of Clarendon below. I have put some notes into the text for explanation.
School: was quite common, but revolved often around there being a local priest or monastery with a passion to provide the school. The curriculum was focussed on the acquisition of Latin as it's main aim
University: from 1096, Oxford is clearly one of the leading centres of higher education in England. But Universities as we think of them don't yet exist; what we have is towns with a concentration of Masters. The basic curriculum is the trivium, i.e. grammar, logic and rhetoric, and the quadrivium, i.e. arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. You could keep going and get into law, theology or medicine.