The Conflict Between King and Church in Medieval England

Classified in History

Written at on English with a size of 3.78 KB.

Before Henry I, the two moments belonged to the king because bishops were feudal lords in first place, so the king had the right to choose them. In times of Henry II, the church is going to have a reform known as the Gregorian Reform, and one of the things that the church wanted was to be independent from the king. So this was the first battle, the first moment of tension between the King and the Church.

There was an agreement and Henry I retained the right to choose the bishop, but then the ceremony remained totally religious. So to the eyes of the world it was the Church who invested the bishop.

Henry I had one daughter, Mathilda, but he had no male heirs. That was a problem because it had never been a woman ruling England. Mathilda was married with Geoffrey of Anjou “Plantagenet” and they formed a powerful union. The term “Plantagenet” derives from the name of a plant in Latin “planta genista” which was the personal emblem of Geoffrey in the crusades.

On the other hand, Henry’s nephew was Stephen of Blois, who pretended the throne and there were problems between him and Mathilda. He crowned himself king of England with the help of his brother Henry of Blois (bishop of Winchester). A civil war took place during 19 years known as the “War of the 19 winters” or “Anarchy” (it’s one of the darkest periods in English history). The solution was an agreement between both sides, the Treaty of Westminster that established that at the end if the kingship of Stephen his successor would be Mathilda’s son Henry (II). So Mathilda will never be queen.

The Plantagenets

Henry II, who was also known as the “Lion of justice”, happens to be one of the most prominent kings of England. His father was Geoffrey of Anjou, so he was also a Plantagenet.

His dominions are going to be known as the “Angevin Empire” (Angevin derives from Anjou).He married

Henry II was the founder of the system we know as Common Law, which is a law based on experience; he sent a number of officers all over his reign with the capacity of being judges, but he also recorded the cases . The idea was that if a similar case would appear in the future, the same system would be applied. He wanted the same law for religious figures so it supposed a serious problem: the criminal clerk or “criminous”, which was a religious figure, someone that had taken a holy order. So there was no distinction between civil and clerks, justice was the same for everyone.

In the case of Henry II the conflict is embodied in two figures: the king and Thomas Becket, who was Henry most intimate, so he was named chancellor of Henry II. He was also made Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry II. But Becket held the position that all clergy were not to be dealt with by secular powers, and that only the ecclesiastical hierarchy could judge them for crimes. Henry, however, felt that this position deprived him of the ability to govern effectively. So at the end Thomas Beckett was assassinated in Canterbury by four knights under the orders of the king.

There are a number of consequences imposed on the king:

Entradas relacionadas: