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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER VI IN TROUBLES--

Hugh Bishop Of Lincoln by Charles L. Marson

CHAPTER VI IN TROUBLES--

The king had before this time noticed a spot of immense military importance on the Seine between Rouen and Paris, the rock of Andelys. Indeed he had once tossed three Frenchmen from the rock. It was, or might be, the key to Normandy on the French side, and he feared lest Philip should seize upon it and use it against him. Consequently he pounced upon it, and began to fortify it at lavish expense. Archbishop Walter of Rouen, and late of Lincoln, in whose ecclesiastical patrimony it lay, was furious, and obtained an Interdict, and Philip was chafed too.{10} The former was appeased by the gift of Dieppe, and the latter left to digest his spleen as best he might. The work was just about finished in May when a shower of red rain fell, to the horror of all except the dauntless king, who |would have cursed an angel| who had told him to desist from this his great delight. Here it was that the king lay waiting for the truce with France to expire.

The bishop arrived at the Rock castle in the morning of St. Augustine's day (Aug.28th). The king was in the chapel hearing Mass, and thither the bishop followed him, and straightway saluted him. Now the king was in the royal dais, near the outer door. Two bishops were standing just below him. (We must think of something like a small upstair college chapel for the theatre of this tale.) These two were old Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham, and young Eustace, Bishop of Ely: the former a generous, loose-handed, loose-living old gentleman, the latter Longchamp's successor, a great scholar and revenue officer. Hugh looked past the shoulders of these two and saluted again. The king glared at him for a few seconds and then turned his face. The unabashed bishop put his face nearer: |Give me the kiss, lord king.| The king turned his face further away, and drew his head back. Then the bishop clutched the king's clothes at the chest, vigorously shook them, and said again, |You owe me the kiss, for I have come a long way to you.| The king, seemingly not astonished in the least, said, |You have not deserved my kiss.| The strong hand shook him still harder, and across the cape which he still held taut, the bold suppliant answered confidently, |Oh yes, I have deserved it. Kiss me.| The king, taken aback by this audacious importunity, smiled and kissed him. Two archbishops (Walter of Rouen most likely being one) and five other bishops were between the royal seat and the altar. They moved to make room for their uncourtly brother. But he passed through their ranks and went right up to the horn of the altar, fixed his looks firmly on the ground, and gave his whole attention to the celebration of the Divine mysteries. The king could hardly take his eyes off the bishop all through the service. So they continued until the threefold invocation of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. Then the celebrant, the king's chaplain, gave the kiss of peace to a certain foreign archbishop, whose business it was, by court custom, to bring it to the king. Richard came from his place right up to the altar steps to meet him, received |the sign of the peace which we get from the sacrifice of the Heavenly Lamb,| and then with humble reverence yielded the same to the Bishop of Lincoln by the kiss of his mouth. This respectful service, which the other archbishop was making ready to receive, as the custom was, and to pass on himself, was thus given direct to the holy man. The king stept quickly up to him, when Hugh was expecting nothing of the sort, but was wrapt in prayer.{11}

When the Mass was over, Hugh went to the king and spoke a few strong words of remonstrance against his unjustifiable anger, and explained his own innocence. The king could answer nothing to the purpose, but said that the Archbishop had often written suspicious suggestions against him. The bishop soon showed that these were groundless, and added, |God's honour apart, and the salvation of your soul and mine, I have never opposed your interests even in the least degree.| The king immediately asked him to come next day to the recently constructed castle of Chateau Gaillard, and ordered the bishop to be given a big Seine pike, knowing that he would not eat meat. But before they left the chapel Hugh gripped him by the hand and led him from his high seat to a place near the altar. There he set him down and sat beside him. |You are our parishioner, lord king| (he was born in Oxford), |and we must answer at the tremendous judgment of the Lord of all for your soul, which He redeemed with His own blood. So I wish you to tell me how stands it with your soul in its inner state? so that I may be able to give it some effectual counsel and help, as the Divine breathing shall direct. A whole year has gone by since I last spoke with you.|

The king answered that his conscience was clear, nearly in everything, except that he was troubled by hatred against the enemies whom he was apt to find doing him wrong, and wickedly attacking him. The reply was, |If in all things you please the grace of the Ruler of all, He will easily appease your enemies or give them into your hand. But you must beware with all your might, that you are not living against the laws of your Maker in any way (and God forbid you should) or even doing any wrong to your neighbours. The Scripture says that 'When a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.' On the other hand it says of others, 'The world shall fight with him, against the unwise,' and again the holy man saith of the Lord, 'Who hath hardened himself against Him and hath prospered?'

|Now there is a public report of you, and I grieve to say it, that you neither keep faithful to the marriage bed of your own wife, nor do you guard untouched the privileges of churches, especially in providing and choosing their rulers. Yes, it is said, and a huge piece of villainy it is, that moved by money or favour, you are used to promote some to the rule of souls. If this is true, then without any doubt, peace cannot be granted to you by God.| When he had given this careful and timely admonition and instruction, the king excused himself on some points, on others asked earnestly for the bishop's intercession, and was sent off with a blessing. The bishop then went in gladness to his pike. Richard's opinion was that |if all the other bishops were like him, no king or prince would dare to rear his neck against them.| Such salutary treatment now-a-days is the sole perquisite of the very poor. The higher up men get on the social scale, the less they need such honest dealing, it now appears.

But Hugh was not quite out of the toils. The king's counsellors suggested that he should carry back letters to the barons demanding aid and succour, letters which it was known would be well weighted by the authority of the postman, and would ensure their bearer continuance of the royal favour. The king's servants informed the bishop of this move, and his clerkly friends pointed out the great advantage to himself of this service. He answered: |That be far from me. It jumps neither with my intention nor my office. It is not my part to become the carrier of letters royal. It is not my part to co-operate in the least degree in exactions of this sort. Do not you know that this mighty man begs as it were with a drawn sword? Particularly this power (of the Crown), under guise of asking, really forces. Our English first attract with their gentle greetings, and then they force men with harshest compulsion to pay not what is voluntary but just what they choose to exact. They often compel unwilling folk to do what they know was once done spontaneously, either by this generation or the last. I have no cause to be mixed up in such dealings. These may please an earthly king at one's neighbour's expense, but afterwards they move the indignation of Almighty God.| He asked the counsellors to arrange that this burden should not be laid upon him with its consequent refusal, conflict, and disfavour. Richard heard the tale and sent a message, |God bless you, but get away home, and do not come here to-morrow as we said, but pray for us to the Lord without ceasing,| which message was most grateful to the bishop, and he soon set his face north. His exultant chaplains felt sure that all would turn out well, for on the steps of the chapel, when their hearts were all pit-a-pat, they had heard the chorus prose of St. Austin being chaunted, |Hail, noble prelate of Christ, most lovely flower,| a lucky omen! And again when they reached chapel doors they heard the bishops and clerks within in unison continue the introit, |O blessed, O holy Augustine, help thou this company.|

A month later Richard won a smart little victory near Gisors, where King Philip drank moat water, and nearly got knocked on the head. The king announced this in a letter, and asked for more prayers, and Adam, the biographer, felt that the heavenly triumph of his friend was complete. He would have been less elate if he had known that all the bishops got a similar letter, even wicked old Hugh de Pudsey.

Lincoln by this time was the home of learned and reliable men. The canons, prebends, and placemen had been chosen with great care. Hugh had cast his net far and wide and enclosed some very edible fishes. We know of not a few. William of Leicester, Montanus, has already been mentioned. Giraldus Cambrensis (a most learned, amusing, and malicious writer, on the lines of Anthony A. Wood, or even of Horace Walpole) was another. Walter de Map a third.{12} It was part of Hugh's high sense of duty which made him fight with all his weight for a worthy though a broad-minded use of patronage. He often upbraided the archbishop with his careless use of this power, who was immersed in worldly business and too given to bestow benefices for political or useful services. He said himself that the most grievous worldly misfortune he ever suffered was to find men whom he trusted and advanced turn out to be immoral sluggards. Yet another of his promotions was that of William de Blois, who afterwards succeeded him. In fact, like every great bishop of the time, he gathered his eruditi, his scholars, around him, and these were not looked upon as mere dreamers and impracticable bookworms. Lore and action went hand in hand. The men of affairs and the men of learning, in this age, were interchangeable persons. Consequently when Richard's attention was directed to Lincoln and its bishop, when he noticed that it was a centre for sound and steady clerks whose wallets were by no means unstuffed, and when he reflected that he had failed to lay hands upon the bishop's money, he resolved to have something at any rate from this fine magazine. He wrote to the archbishop to order, by letter, twelve eminent clerks, who had prudence, counsel, and eloquence, to serve at their own expense in the Roman Court, in Germany, Spain, and elsewhere. The post from Canterbury duly arrived with twelve sealed |pair of letters,| to be directed to eminent men, and with a special letter to order the bishop to hasten and obey. The bearer found the bishop at his Buckden House, and dinner was just on the board. There was much buzz and hum among those present when the tale was told, but Hugh made no reply. He simply sat down to table. The clergy, a pavid flock, chattered their fears between the mouthfuls. They hoped rather hopelessly, that the answer would be all sugary and smiling; at any rate that their master would try a little ogling of the archbishop, who could, if he would, make things ever so much better. While they were exchanging their views upon expediency and the great propriety of saving one's skin, the stout-hearted bishop rose from table. He had consulted none of these scared advisers, so that he might not throw the responsibility upon their shivering backs. He turned to the messenger and said, |These are novelties, and hitherto unheard of, both the things which my lord has ordered on the king's authority and on his own. Still he may know that I never was, nor will be, a letter carrier of his epistles; and I never have, nor will now, oblige our clergy to undertake royal service. I have often stopped even clerks of other parts, beneficed in our bishopric, from daring to make themselves beholden to secular patronage in public offices, such as forest diversion, and other like administrations. Some, who were less obedient on this point, we have even chastened by long sequestration of their livings. On what reasonable count, then, ought we to pluck men from the very vitals of our Church, and send them by order on the royal service? Let it be enough for our lord the king that (certainly a danger to their soul's salvation) the archbishops, neglecting the duty of their calling, are already utterly given over to the performance of his business. If that is not enough for him, then this bishop will come with his people. He will come, I say, and hear his orders from the king's own lips. He will come ready to carry out what is right next after those same orders.

|But as for you, take the bundle of twelve letters which you say you have brought to us, and be off with them and make just what use you please of them. But every single word which I speak to you, be sure to repeat to our lord the archbishop: and do not fail to end with the message that if the arrangement holds that our clergy are to go to the king, I myself likewise will go with them. I have not gone before without them; and they will not go without me now. This is the right relation between a good shepherd and good sheep: he must not scatter them by foolishly letting them out of his ken. They must not get into trouble by rash escape from him.|

The letter carrier, a court cleric, was finely indignant. He was a man careful-chosen, haughty by nature, but still more haughty as royal envoy. He was bridling up for a volley of threats when the bishop cut him short, and ordered him off at the double. He slunk away abashed. A deputation, of weight, from Lincoln next waited upon the archbishop to expostulate with him for playing chuck taw with the immunity of the church, and franking with his authority such messages. He smiled graciously, after the manner of his kind, and hid his spleen. He meant no harm, of course: if harm there were, he was glad to be disobeyed, and he would make all quiet and right. Of course in reality he took care to twist the Lion's tail with both hands, and the next thing was a public edict, that all the goods of the bishop were to be taken care of by the king's collectors. The good man heard and remarked, |Did I not tell you truly of these men: their voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau?| It was easier to order than to execute. The anathema counted for much, but the public conscience no doubt for more. The officers balked and remonstrated. Richard insisted, but his tools bent in his hand. |Those English are scared at shadows,| he said; |let us send Mercadier. He will know how to play with the Burgundian fellow.| This amiable man was the captain of the Routiers, whose playful habits may be guessed from the fact that he is the gentleman who afterwards skinned Bertrand de Gourdon for shooting the king. One of the king's friends answered, |Mercadier is necessary, my lord the king, to your war. We should lose our pains and also his services if the Lincoln bishop's anathema should take effect.| The king agreed that the risk was too heavy, so he ordered Stephen de Turnham to take charge of the bishop's goods, as he loved his life and limbs. This man had been seneschal of Anjou under the king's father, and was well affected to the bishop; but he was between the devil and the deep sea. With some heaviness and nervousness Stephen moved upon Sleaford. Between Peterborough and Market Deeping, whom should he fall in with but the bishop and his party! The uneasy disseizers fetched a compass, halted, and got hold of some of the clergy. They were as humble as Ahaziah's third captain before Elijah. They were obliged to do it, but, poor lambs, they would not hurt so much as a swan's feather. And would the bishop, by all that was invokeable, kindly defer his anathema? or else the king would be royally angry, and they would get more than they deserved. The bishop answered the clergy, |It is not their parts to keep our things whole. Let them go. Let them finger and break in upon the goods, as they think fit. They are not ours but our Lady's, the holy Mother of God.| He then brought out the end of his linen stole from his cloak (which stole he always wore, ready for confirmation and excommunication) shook it and added, |This little bit of stuff will bring back to the last halfpenny whatever they reeve away.| He then passed on to Buckden (near Huntingdon), where he issued orders to all the archdeacons and rural deans, that so soon as the officers should arrive they should clang bells, light candles and solemnly ban all who should violently and unrighteously touch the property of their Church. The flutter in the clerical dovecot was immense, but the bishop simply said good-night to his excited chaplains and was soon in the sweetest slumber. Except that he said Amen in his sleep a few more times than usual, and more earnestly, they saw no trace of neural tremours about his sedate carriage. He seems to have been well aware of the gravity of the struggle, for he had already announced at Lincoln that he would have to go abroad. He had gathered his children at the Mass, where he added the priestly blessing from the law of Moses,{13} had commended himself to their prayers, given them the kiss of peace and commended them to God, and was already on the way to the archbishop. He stayed a few days at Buckden. Thence he slowly made his way to London. On the road a rural dean consulted him upon the case of a girl with second sight and a terrific tongue. This damsel would prophetically discover things stolen or lost, and she had a large following. If any discreet and learned man tackled her she would talk him down, and put him to rout. She was brought to meet Hugh by the roadside, amid a crowd of confirmation candidates. He addressed her, chiding not so much the damsel as the demon within her, |Come now, unhappy girl, what can you divine for us? Tell me please, if you can, what this hand holds in it?| He held out his right hand closed over his stole end. She made no reply, but fell at his feet in a sort of faint. After a pause he bade them lift her up and asked through the dean (for he was ignorant of the country woman's talk) how she had learnt to divine? |I cannot divine. I implore the mercy of this holy bishop,| she replied, and knelt at his feet. He laid his hands upon her head, prayed, blessed her, and sent her to the Prior of Huntingdon, the penitentiary priest of the district, to hear her confession. She not only gave up witchcraft, but ceased to be brazen-faced and a shrew: so that people bruited this matter as a miracle, and a handsome one it was. The bishop probably saved her from the vengeance of this rural dean, for witch-burning was not unknown even then, as Walter de Map witnesses. This was not the first essay of our bishop in witch-laying. When he was still Prior of Witham, Bartholomew, Bishop of Exeter, a learned and pious man, and one of St. Thomas' opposers, consulted him upon a sad case. Bishop Bartholomew was interested in spiritualism (which shews the same face in every century, and never adds much to its phenomena), as Matthew Paris recounts. A poor girl was the prey of a most violent and cruel Incubus, whom no fasts or austerities could divorce from her. Hugh suggested united prayer on her behalf, which was made, but not answered. A rival Incubus, however, came upon the scenes, of a softer mood, and wooed with mild speeches. He promised to deliver her, and pointed out the perforated St. John's wort as a herb odious to devils. This the artful woman put in her bosom and her house, and kept both suitors at bay.{14} The bishop was much struck with this story, as well he might be, and used often to tell it. A monk told him another similar tale from Essex; but enough of such fables.

When he left Huntingdon the bishop went on to St. Albans, seemingly in a leisurely way, and as he drew near to this place, he met a crowd of provost's men dragging a condemned thief to the gallows. The poor creature's arms were braced behind his back. The word went round quickly that it was Hugh of Lincoln, and there was the usual rush to beg for his blessing, police craft and piety being wedded in those officers. The captive by some acrobatics managed to rush too, and came against the horse's neck, was knocked down, and in the dust cried for mercy. The bishop drew rein and asked who the man was and what he wanted. His attendants, who knew the language, answered him, |It is not your part, my lord, to ask more about the fellow. Indeed, you must let him just pass.| They feared lest the bishop, already in deep water, should fall into still deeper by some chivalrous audacity. But he would know the tale and why the man cried him mercy: and when he knew it, he cried, |Lackaday! God be blessed!| and turning to the hangmen, he said, |Come back, my sons, with us to St. Albans. Hand the man over to us, and tell your masters and the judges that we have taken him from you. We will see that you take no harm.| They did not dare to resist, but gave up their victim. He was quickly untied and given to the almoner. When they reached the abbey the clergy and attendant came to the bishop and begged him most earnestly to allow the civil magistrates to do their office. |Up till now, my lord, neither the king nor any other man who lay in wait for you, could bring a just or a just-seeming charge against you. But if when the legal judges have passed sentence and handed the case to the executive, you quash that sentence by your pontifical authority, your ill-wishers will call it a blow against the king's crown, and you will fall into the condemnation of flat treason.| |I am assured of your kindness,| he answered; |but let these judges come in to us and you shall hear what we have to say to each other.| The judges were already tapping at the doors, for a word with the audacious bishop. |Gentlemen, you are wise enough to know that your holy Mother the Church has everywhere this prerogative: all who are falling into any danger of condemnation and fly to her, may get freedom, and be kept unhurt.| This they well knew and believed to be quite right. |If you know this, you ought to know that where the bishop is, united to the faithful in Christ, there too is the church. He who is used by his ministry to dedicate the material stones of the church to the Lord; who also has the work of sanctifying the living stones, the real stuff of the church, by each of the Sacraments, to rear from them the Lord's temple, he by right must enjoy the privileges of ecclesiastical dignity, wherever he be, and succour all who are in danger, according to his legal order.|

The judges gratefully agreed, remembered that this was so expressed in ancient English law, but now obsolete, thanks to bishops' sloth or princes' tyranny. They summed up by this politeness, |My lord, we are your sons and parishioners. You are our father and pastor. So it will not be ours to run counter to your privilege or to dispute it: nor yours, by your leave, to bring us into any hazard. If you decide upon the man's release, we offer no opposition; but by your leave we trust you to see that we incur no danger from the king.| |Well and rightly spoken,| said he, |and on these terms I take him from your hands. For this infraction, I will make answer where I must.| So the man escaped the gallows, and was set free again when they reached London.

Two remarks are worth making here. First, that the right of sanctuary, both for accused and of guilty persons, were guaranteed by the old Laws Ecclesiastical of King Edward the Confessor, as collected by William the First in the fourth year of his reign, which laws were romantically dear to the English people. The stretch came in where the Church was interpreted to mean the bishop and faithful. Secondly, Saint Nicholas similarly rescued two men from the scaffold, but not at a moment so inopportune for himself. If the rescue had law behind it, and it might be so defended, it was a very awkward moment to choose to champion a hangdog. But this was the age of chivalry, and without such innate chivalry Hugh would never have cast the spell he did over King Richard's England.

FOOTNOTES:

{10} |I will take it, though it were built of iron,| he said; to which Richard replied, |And I will defend it, though it were of butter.|

{11} There is no osculatory to be found in the records. This is a slightly later invention, and no one seems to kneel in this picture.

{12} Whom some wish to acquit of writing that jovial drinking song,

|I intend to end my days,
In a tavern drinking.|

{13} |The Lord bless thee and keep thee,| &c. Numbers, vi., 24.

{14} If the reader disbelieves this story, let him read Bede upon Luke viii., 30, says the narrator.

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