Page 1423

1423 THE CRUSADESENGLAND AND FRANCE IN THE 13TH CENTURY. 1423

understand that Thomas a Becket's exit from the

world would be a fact most pleasing to himself. Hereupon Reginald Fitzurse, William

de Tracy, Hugh de Moreville, and Richard

Brito made a conspiracy against the archbishop's life. On the 28th of December,

1170, they met at the castle of Ranulph de

Broc, near Canterbury, and were there joined

by a body of armed men ready for any business, however desperate. On the following day

the leaders, who appear to have desired to

stop short of taking the prelate's life, had

an interview with him, and tried to frighten

him out of the realm. But the soldier priest

was not to be terrified, and on the evening

of that day the conspirators forced their

way into the cathedral, where Becket was

conducting vespers. They first attempted to

drag him from the church, but the bishop

tore himself from their clutches and knelt

down at the altar, already bleeding with a

sword gash in his head. His assailants now

fell upon him with fury and dashed out his

brains on the floor.

Though the king's party had thus freed

themselves from the presence of their powerful enemy, the spirit which he represented

was not so easily extinguished. The people

of Knaresborough rose in their wrath, and

the slayers of Becket were obliged to fly

from the kingdom. Everywhere throughout

England the tide rose so high against Henry

that he and his dynasty were threatened

with overthrow. The king of France took

up arms and the Pope threatened excommunication. The king, however, escaped from

the dangerous situation by taking a solemn

oath that he had not been privy to the murder of Becket; but even after this he deemed

it necessary to make a further atonement

at the altars of the irate church. He accordingly made a pilgrimage to the tomb

of Thomas a Becket, and after fasting and

praying at the shrine of that martyr received

a flagellation on his naked back at the hands

of the monks. After this public mark of his

submission and penitence the excitement subsided, and Henry forbode to give further

cause of offense to the ecclesiastical party.

The king now found time to resist an

invasion of the Scots. The latter proved

to be unequal to the enterprise which they

had undertaken, Henry defeated them,

compelled the king of Scotland to surrender

a part of his dominions and himself and his

sons to do homage for the remainder.

On the death of King Henry, in 1189,

the crown descended to his eccentric and

famous son, Richard the Lionheart.

On the occasion of his coronation an insurrection broke out in London, and the

hated Jews became the objects of a popular

vengeance which could not be easily appeased.

At first the new king sought to stay the

fury of his subjects, and afforded some protection to the hunted Israelites. But when

Richard, by nature large-hearted and generous, departed on the great Crusade, the

persecutions broke out afresh, and extended

into various parts of the kingdom. It was

the peculiarity of the times that the brutal

religious fanaticism of the people of Western Europe burst forth with indiscriminate madness against all those who were, or

had ever been, the enemies of Christ. The

Jews were as much hated in various parts of

the West as were the Mohammedans in the

East. England was the scene of several

butcheries hardly surpassed in any age of

barbarism. Three years after the crowning of the Lion Heart the city of York witnessed a massacre of unusual atrocity. Hundreds of the Jews were slaughtered without

mercy. Their distinguished and kind-spirited

rabbi, with a large number of his people,

was driven into the castle of York, where,

attempting to save themselves from destruction, and despairing of help or compassion, they slew their wives and children, fired the edifice, and perished in the

flames.

The earlier years of the twelfth century

were a stormy and agitated epocha kind

of March-month of English liberty. In

the closing year of the preceding centennium

King Richard Coeur de Lion died, bequeathing his crown and kingdom to his unheroic

and contemptible brother John, surnamed

Sansterre, or Lackland. The latter came to

the throne with all of the vices and none

of the virtues of the Plantagenets. The

Lion Heart had been induced in the last

hours of his life to discard his nephew Arthur,

of Brittany, in favor of the unprincipled John,

who was already intriguing against the interests of England. Philip, who had been

the protector of Prince Arthur, abandoned

him on the accession of John to the throne, and