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Unformatted text preview: red to proceed to Normandy for that purpose; and though Henry’s foreign dominions were already laid under an interdict by the archbishop of Sens, Becket’s great partizan, and the pope’s legate in France, the general expectation, that the monarch would easily exculpate himself from any concurrence in the guilt, kept every one in suspence, and prevented all the bad consequences, which might be dreaded from that sentence. The clergy, mean while, though their rage was happily diverted from falling on the king, were not idle in magnifying the sanctity of Becket; in extolling the merits of his martyrdom; and in exalting him above all that devoted tribe, who, in several ages, had, by their blood, cemented the fabric of the temple. Other saints had only borne testimony by their sufferings to the general doctrines of Christianity; but Becket had sacrificed his life to the power and privileges of the clergy; and this peculiar merit challenged, and not in vain, a suitable acknowledgment to his memory. Endless were the panegyrics on his virtues; and the miracles, wrought by his reliques, were more numerous, more nonsensical, and more impudently attested, than those which ever filled the legend of any confessor or martyr. Two years after his death he was canonized by pope Alexander; a solemn jubilee was established for celebrating his merits; his body was removed to a magnificent shrine, enriched with presents from all parts of Christendom; pilgrimages were performed to obtain his intercession with heaven; and it was computed, that, in one year, above a hundred thousand pilgrims arrived in Canterbury, and paid their devotions at his tomb. It is indeed a mortifying reflection to those who are actuated by the love of fame, so justly denominated the last infirmity of noble minds, that the wisest legislator and most exalted genius, that ever reformed or enlightened the world, can never expect such tributes of praise, as are lavished on the memory of pretended saints, whose whole conduct was probably, to the last degree, odious or contemptible, and whose industry was entirely directed to the pursuit of objects pernicious to mankind. It is only a conqueror, a personage no less intitled to our hatred, who can pretend to the attainment of equal renown and glory. It may not be amiss to remark, before we conclude this subject of Thomas a Becket, that the king, during his controversy with that prelate, was on every occasion more anxious than usual to express his zeal for religion, and to avoid all appearance of a profane negligence on that head. He gave his consent to the imposing of a tax on all his dominions for the delivery of the holy land, now threatened by the famous Saladine: This tax amounted to two-pence a pound for one year, and a penny a pound for the four subsequent.w Almost all the princes of Europe laid a like imposition on their subjects, which received the name of Saladine’s tax. During this period, there came over from Germany about thirty heretics of bot...
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- Spring '08