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Other deprivations and appointments took place in these assemblies. The see of York was given to Thomas, a canon of Bayeux, a man of high character and memorable in the local history of his see. The abbey of Peterborough was vacant by the death of Brand, who had received the staff from the uncrowned Eadgar. It was only by rich gifts that he had turned away the wrath of William from his house. The Fenland was perhaps already stirring, and the Abbot of Peterborough might have to act as a military commander. In this case the prelate appointed, a Norman named Turold, was accordingly more of a soldier than of a monk. From these assemblies of 1070 the series of William's ecclesiastical changes goes on. As the English bishops die or are deprived, strangers take their place. They are commonly Normans, but Walcher, who became Bishop of Durham in 1071, was one of those natives of Lorraine who had been largely favoured in Edward's day. At the time of William's death Wulfstan was the only Englishman who kept a bishopric. Even his deprivation had once been thought of. The story takes a legendary shape, but it throws an important light on the relations of Church and State in England. In an assembly held in the West Minster Wulfstan is called on by William and Lanfranc to give up his staff. He refuses; he will give it back to him who gave it, and places it on the tomb of his dead master Edward. No of his enemies can move it. The sentence is recalled, and the staff yields to his touch. Edward was not yet a canonized saint; the appeal is simply from the living and foreign king to the dead and native king. This legend, growing up when Western Europe was torn in pieces by the struggle about investitures, proves better than the most authentic documents how the right which Popes denied to Emperors was taken for granted in the case of an English king. But, while the spoils of England, temporal and spiritual, were thus scattered abroad among men of the conquering race, two men at least among them refused all share in plunder which they deemed unrighteous. One gallant Norman knight, Gulbert of Hugleville, followed William through all his campaigns, but when English estates were offered as his reward, he refused to share in unrighteous gains, and went back to the lands of his fathers which he could hold with a good conscience. And one monk, Wimund of Saint-Leutfried, not only refused bishoprics and abbeys, but rebuked the Conqueror for wrong and robbery. And William bore no grudge against his censor, but, when the archbishopric of Rouen became vacant, he offered it to the man who had rebuked him. Among the worthies of England Gulbert and Wimund can hardly claim a place, but a place should surely be theirs among the men whom England honours.
The primacy of Lanfranc is one of the most memorable in our history. In the words of the parable put forth by Anselm in the next reign, the plough of the English Church was for seventeen years drawn by two oxen of equal strength. By ancient English custom the Archbishop of Canterbury was the King's special counsellor, the special representative of his Church and people. Lanfranc cannot be charged with any direct oppression; yet in the hands of a stranger who had his spiritual conquest to make, the tribunitian office of former archbishops was lost in that of chief minister of the sovereign. In the first action of their joint rule, the interest of king and primate was the same. Lanfranc sought for a more distinct acknowledgement of the superiority of Canterbury over the rival metropolis of York. And this fell in with William's schemes for the consolidation of the kingdom. The political motive is avowed. Northumberland, which had been so hard to subdue and which still lay open to Danish invaders or deliverers, was still dangerous. An independent Archbishop of York might consecrate a King of the Northumbrians, native or Danish, who might grow into a King of the English. The Northern metropolitan had unwillingly to admit the superiority, and something more, of the Southern. The caution of William and his ecclesiastical adviser reckoned it among possible chances that even Thomas of Bayeux might crown an invading Cnut or Harold in opposition to his native sovereign and benefactor.
For some of his own purposes, William had perhaps chosen his minister too wisely. The objects of the two colleagues were not always the same. Lanfranc, sprung from Imperialist Pavia, was no zealot for extravagant papal claims. The caution with which he bore himself during the schism which followed the strife between Gregory and Henry brought on him more than one papal censure. Yet the general tendency of his administration was towards the growth of ecclesiastical, and even of papal, claims. William never dreamed of giving up his ecclesiastical supremacy or of exempting churchmen from the ordinary power of the law. But the division of the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the increased frequency of synods distinct from the general assemblies of the realm--even though the acts of those synods needed the royal assent--were steps towards that exemption of churchmen from the civil power which was asserted in one memorable saying towards the end of William's own reign. William could hold his own against Hildebrand himself; yet the increased intercourse with Rome, the more frequent presence of Roman Legates, all tended to increase the papal claims and the deference yielded to them. William refused homage to Gregory; but it is significant that Gregory asked for it. It was a step towards the day when a King of England was glad to offer it. The increased strictness as to the marriage of the clergy tended the same way. Lanfranc did not at once enforce the full rigour of Hildebrand's decrees. Marriage was forbidden for the future; the capitular clergy had to part from their wives; but the vested interest of the parish priest was respected. In another point William directly helped to undermine his own authority and the independence of his kingdom. He exempted his abbey of the Battle from the authority of the diocesan bishop. With this began a crowd of such exemptions, which, by weakening local authority, strengthened the power of the Roman see. All these things helped on Hildebrand's great scheme which made the clergy everywhere members of one distinct and exclusive body, with the Roman Bishop at their head. Whatever tended to part the clergy from other men tended to weaken the throne of every king. While William reigned with Lanfranc at his side, these things were not felt; but the seed was sown for the controversy between Henry and Thomas and for the humiliation of John.
Even those changes of Lanfranc's primacy which seem of purely ecclesiastical concern all helped, in some way to increase the intercourse between England and the continent or to break down some insular peculiarity. And whatever did this increased the power of Rome. Even the decree of 1075 that bishoprics should be removed to the chief cities of their dioceses helped to make England more like Gaul or Italy. So did the fancy of William's bishops and abbots for rebuilding their churches on a greater scale and in the last devised continental style. All tended to make England less of another world. On the other hand, one insular peculiarity well served the purposes of the new primate. Monastic chapters in episcopal churches were almost unknown out of England. Lanfranc, himself a monk, favoured monks in this matter also. In several churches the secular canons were displaced by monks. The corporate spirit of the regulars, and their dependence on Rome, was far stronger than that of the secular clergy. The secular chapters could be refractory, but the disputes between them and their bishops were mainly of local importance; they form no such part of the general story of ecclesiastical and papal advance as the long tale of the quarrel between the archbishops and the monks of Christ Church.
Lanfranc survived William, and placed the crown on the head of his successor. The friendship between king and archbishop remained unbroken through their joint lives. Lanfranc's acts were William's acts; what the Primate did must have been approved by the King. How far William's acts were Lanfranc's acts it is less easy to say. But the Archbishop was ever a trusted minister, and a trusted counsellor, and in the King's frequent absences from England, he often acted as his lieutenant. We do not find him actually taking a part in warfare, but he duly reports military successes to his sovereign. It was William's combined wisdom and good luck to provide himself with a counsellor than whom for his immediate purposes none could be better. A man either of a higher or a lower moral level than Lanfranc, a saint like Anselm or one of the mere worldly bishops of the time, would not have done his work so well. William needed an ecclesiastical statesman, neither unscrupulous nor over-scrupulous, and he found him in the lawyer of Pavia, the doctor of Avranches, the monk of Bec, the abbot of Saint Stephen's. If Lanfranc sometimes unwittingly outwitted both his master and himself, if his policy served the purposes of Rome more than suited the purposes of either, that is the common course of human affairs. Great men are apt to forget that systems which they can work themselves cannot be worked by smaller men. From this error neither William nor Lanfranc was free. But, from their own point of view, it was their only error. Their work was to subdue England, soul and body; and they subdued it. That work could not be done without great wrong: but no other two men of that day could have done it with so little wrong. The shrinking from needless and violent change which is so strongly characteristic of William, and less strongly of Lanfranc also, made their work at the time easier to be done; in the course of ages it made it easier to be undone.
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William the Conqueror -by- E.A. Freeman