history of england_david hume

The partiality of the confessor towards the normans

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Unformatted text preview: war a number of knights or military tenants, proportioned to the extent of property possessed by each see or abbey; and they were liable, in case of failure, to the same penalties which were exacted from the laity.e The pope and the ecclesiastics exclaimed against this tyranny, as they called it; but the king’s authority was so well established over the army, who held every thing from his bounty, that superstition itself, even in that age, when it was most prevalent, was constrained to bend under his superior influence. But as the great body of the clergy were still natives, the king had much reason to dread the effects of their resentment: He therefore used the precaution of expelling the English from all the considerable dignities, and of advancing foreigners in their place. The partiality of the Confessor towards the Normans had been so great, that, aided by their superior learning, it had promoted them to many of the sees in England; and even before the period of the conquest, scarcely more than six or seven of the prelates were natives of the country. But among these was Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury; a man, who, by his address and vigour, by the greatness of his family and alliances, by the extent of his possessions, as well as by the dignity of his office, and his authority among the English, gave jealousy to the king.f Though William had, on his accession, affronted this prelate, by employing the archbishop of York to officiate at his consecration, he was careful, on other occasions, to load him with honours and PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 148 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 caresses, and to avoid giving him farther offence till the opportunity should offer of effecting his final destruction.g The suppression of the late rebellions, and the total subjection of the English, made him hope, that an attempt against Stigand, however violent, would be covered by his great successes, and be overlooked amidst the other important revolutions, which affected so deeply the property and liberty of the kingdom. Yet, notwithstanding these great advantages, he did not think it safe to violate the reverence usually paid to the primate, but under cover of a new superstition, which he was the great instrument of introducing into England. The doctrine, which exalted the papacy above all human power, Innovation in had gradually diffused itself from the city and court of Rome; ecclesiastical government. and was, during that age, much more prevalent in the southern than in the northern kingdoms of Europe. Pope Alexander, who had assisted William in his conquests, naturally expected, that the French and Normans would import into England, the same reverence for his sacred character, with which they were impressed in their own country; and would break the spiritual, as well as civil independency of the Saxons, who had hitherto conducted their ecclesiastical government, with an acknowledgment indeed of primacy in the see of Rome, but without mu...
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