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Unformatted text preview: excommunicated prelates arrived at Baieux, where the king then resided, and complained to him of the violent proceedings of Becket, he instantly perceived the consequences; was sensible, that his whole plan of operations was overthrown; foresaw, that the dangerous contest between the civil and spiritual powers, a contest which he himself had first rouzed, but which he had endeavoured, by all his late negociations and concessions, to appease, must come to an immediate and decisive issue; and he was thence thrown into the most violent commotion. The archbishop of York remarked to him, that, so long as Becket lived, he could never expect to enjoy peace or tranquillity: The king himself, being vehemently agitated, burst forth into an exclamation against his servants, whose want of zeal, he said, had so long left him exposed to the enterprizes of that ungrateful and imperious prelate.o Four gentlemen of his household, Reginald Fitz-Urse, William de Traci, Hugh de Moreville, and Richard Brito, taking these passionate expressions to be a hint for Becket’s death, immediately communicated their thoughts to each other; and swearing to avenge their prince’s quarrel, secretly withdrew from court.p Some menacing expressions, which they had dropped, gave a suspicion of their design; and the king dispatched a messenger after them, charging them to attempt nothing against the person of the primate:q But these orders arrived too late to prevent their fatal purpose. PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 229 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 The four assassins, though they took different roads to England, arrived nearly about the same time at Saltwoode near Canterbury; and being there joined by some assistants, they proceeded in great haste to the archiepiscopal palace. They found the primate, who trusted entirely to the sacredness of his character, very slenderly attended; and though they threw out many menaces and reproaches against him, he was so incapable of fear, that, without using any precautions against their violence, he immediately went to St. Benedict’s church, to hear vespers. They followed him thither, attacked him before the altar, and having cloven his head with many blows, retired without Decemb. 29. Murder meeting any opposition. This was the tragical end of Thomas a of Thomas a Becket. Becket, a prelate of the most lofty, intrepid, and inflexible spirit, who was able to cover, to the world and probably to himself, the enterprizes of pride and ambition, under the disguise of sanctity and of zeal for the interests of religion: An extraordinary personage, surely, had he been allowed to remain in his first station, and had directed the vehemence of his character to the support of law and justice; instead of being engaged, by the prejudices of the times, to sacrifice all private duties and public connexions to tyes, which he imagined, or represented, as superior to every civil and political consideration. But no man, who enters into the genius of that age, can reasonably doubt of this prelate’s sincerity. The spirit of superstition was so prevalent, that it infallibly caught every careless reasoner, much more every one whose interest...
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