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§ 23. William Rufus and Anselm.


William II., commonly called William Rufus or the Red (for his red hair), the third son and first successor of the Conqueror, ruled from 1087 to 1100. He bought Normandy from his brother Robert to enable him to make a crusade. This is the only good thing he did, besides appointing Anselm primate of England. He inherited all the vices and none of the virtues of his father. He despised and hated the clergy. It was said of him that, "he feared God but little, and man not at all." He was not a sceptic or infidel, as some represent him, but profane and blasphemous. He believed in God, like the demons, but did not tremble. He defied the Almighty. When he recovered from a severe sickness, he said: "God shall never see me a good man; I have suffered too much at his hands." He doubted his justice, and mocked at the ordeals. He declared publicly that neither St. Peter nor any other saint had any influence with God, and that he would not ask them for aid. He used to swear "by the holy face of Lucca."105105    Per sanctum vultum de Luca. A figure of the crucified Saviour in wood which was said to have been carved by Nicodemus, and was preserved in the cathedral at Lucca.n gross and shameless debaucheries. The people said of him that he rose a worse man every morning, and lay down a worse man every evening.

He had promised Lanfranc at his coronation to exercise justice and mercy and to protect the freedom of the Church, but soon forgot his vow, and began systematically to plunder the Church and to oppress the clergy. He robbed the bishoprics and abbeys of their income by leaving them vacant or selling them to the highest bidders. Within four years he changed thirty cemeteries into royal parks to satisfy his passion for bunting, which at last cost him his life. He used to say: "The bread of Christ is rich; the kings have given to the Church one-half of its income: why should I not try to win it back?"

He kept the see of Canterbury vacant for nearly four years (1089–1093). At last he yielded, under the influence of a severe sickness, to the pressure of the better class of bishops and noblemen, and elected Anselm, who was then in England, and well known as a profound theologian and saintly character. A greater contrast can scarcely be imagined. While William Rufus delighted in witnessing the tortures of innocent men and animals, Anselm was singularly tenderhearted: he saved the life of a hare which was chased by the hunters and had sought protection under his horse; he saw a worthy object for prayer in the sufferings of a bird tortured by a thoughtless child.106106    These rare traits of character are mentioned by Eadmer in his Vita Anselmi. Freeman, V. 25.

The primacy was forced upon Anselm in spite of his remonstrance. He foresaw a hard struggle. He compared himself to an old and feeble sheep, and the king to a young, wild bull. Thus yoked, he was to draw the plough of the Church of England, with the prospect of being torn to pieces by the ferocity of the bull.107107    Eadmer (Hist. Nov., in Migne’s edition of Anselm, II. 368): "Indomitum taurum et vetulam ac debilem ovem in aratro conjungere sub uno jugo," etc. Ranke, Weltgesch., VIII. 115, makes here a curious mistake by putting into Anselm’s mouth the saying that England’s plough must be drawn by "two noble and powerful bulls" (von zwei edlen und kräftigen Stieren, dem König und dem Primas).inciples of Hildebrand, though with more moderation and gentleness.

A short time elapsed before the relations between the king and the prelate became strained. Anselm supported Urban II.; William leaned to the anti-pope Clement III. The question of investiture with the pallium at once became a matter of dispute. The king at first insisted upon Anselm’s receiving it from Clement and then claimed the right to confer it himself. Anselm refused to yield and received it, 1095, from Urban’s legate, who brought the sacred vestment to England in a silver casket. The archbishop gave further offence to the king by the mean way, as was said, in which he performed his feudal obligations.108108    Soon after he was made archbishop, Anselm sent the king £500, a sum far below what the king expected. On another occasion when the king was starting on a campaign against Wales, Anselm sent what the king regarded as a beggarly contingent of ill-trained knights.se, not submit. It was the old question whether an English ecclesiastic owed primary allegiance to the pope or to the crown.109109    The matters in dispute were discussed at Rockingham at a meeting of barons and bishops with Anselm at their head. See Freeman,W. Rufus, I. 476 sqq.elate by ordering Anselm’s baggage searched at Dover. He seized the revenues of Canterbury, and Anselm’s absence was equivalent to exile. Eadmer reports a remarkable scene before Anselm’s departure.110110    Hist. Nov., II., Migne’s ed. 169, 402. the king’s presence until he had given him his blessing. "As a spiritual father to his son, as Archbishop of Canterbury to the king of England," he said, "I would fain before I go give you God’s blessing." To these words the king made reply that he did not decline the priestly blessing. It was the last time they met.

Anselm was most honorably received by the pope, who threatened the king with excommunication, and pronounced an anathema on all laymen who exercised the right of investiture and on all clergymen who submitted to lay-investiture.111111    According to Eadmer, Hist. Nov., Migne’s ed. 159, 414, it was due to Anselm’s intercession that Urban withheld from William Rufus the anathema.

The Red King was shot dead by an arrow,—nobody knows whether by a hunter or by an assassin, Aug. 2, 1100, while hunting in the New Forest. "Cut off without shrift, without repentance, he found a tomb in the Old Minster of Winchester; but the voice of clergy and people, like the voice of one man, pronounced, by a common impulse, the sentence which Rome had feared to pronounce. He received the more unique brand of popular excommunication. No bell was tolled, no prayer was said, no alms were given for the soul of the one baptized and anointed ruler, whose eternal damnation was taken for granted by all men as a thing about which there could be no doubt."112112    Freeman, Norm. Conq., V. 147.



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