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Accession of Henry II page 2


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Anticipating the alarm this great increase of his territory would cause in the French court, Henry sent there as ambassador Thomas a Becket, and afterwards followed in person, and a treaty was concluded, by which the French king undertook to maintain his neutrality. Louis, after his divorce from Eleanor, had married Constance of Castile, who had born to him a daughter. Henry affianced his eldest son to the young princess, who was delivered up to one of the Anglo-Norman barons, and her dower was confided to the custody of the knights of the Temple, to be restored on the celebration of the marriage.

Henry then proceeded to secure the possession of the whole of Brittany by an alliance with Conan, to whose daughter, then but five years old, he affianced his youngest son, Geoffrey, who was only eight years of age. By this treaty Conan was placed in possession of Brittany for his life, on condition that at his death the future husband of his daughter was made heir to his power. The fears of the French king were aroused once more by this alliance, which it was evident would one day place the whole of western France under the power of the Anglo-Normans. Louis attempted to procure the Pope's interdict of the marriage, on the ground that Conan was the descendant of a bastard daughter of the grandfather of Henry II. The Pope Alexander III., however, refused to recognise such consanguinity, and the marriage was celebrated in the year 1166.

Not satisfied with the success which had hitherto attended his schemes of aggrandisement, Henry took proceedings to obtain the earldom of Toulouse, preferring a claim in right of his wife, which certainly was without any just foundation. William, Duke of Aquitaine, the grandfather of Eleanor, had married Philippa, the only daughter of William, Earl of Toulouse. That portion of the Salic law which precluded a female succession being in operation in the country, the father of Philippa sold the province to his brother, Raymond of St. Gilles, whose posterity subsequently held possession of it. At the time of Eleanor's marriage with Louis, she had insisted upon her right to the earldom of Toulouse, and her husband had marched an army to defend the claim. The earl, however, concluded an alliance with Constance, sister of the King of France, and by this means retained possession of his power.

Henry now proclaimed his right to the earldom on the same ground that Louis had previously preferred. Raymond of St. Gilles, grandson of the contemporary of the Conqueror, prepared to defend his patrimony, and applied for assistance to his brother-in-law, the King of France. While Louis was making ready to take the field, Henry adopted a measure, to which may probably be traced the decline of the feudal system in England. According to the laws, the service of a vassal to his sovereign in the field was limited to forty days - a period which would have been. nearly consumed in transporting the English troops to the scene of action. Henry, therefore, determined to levy a sum of money in lieu of the services of his vassals, both in England and Normandy, and to apply the sum so raised to organising a body of troops, which would be free from all authority but his own, and would be ready to follow him without any limit of time. This tax was called the scutage, and amounted to three pounds English, or forty Angevin shillings, for each knight's fee. There are stated to have been 60,000 of these fees in England, which would, therefore, yield 180,000, an immense sum in those days.

The army thus raised by Henry was composed, for the most part, of the infantry of the Low Countries, who were already distinguished for their stubborn resolution and gallantry in combat. The king was accompanied by Thomas a Becket, who had lately been made Chancellor of England, and also by Malcolm, King of Scotland, and Raymond, King of Arragon, with whom Henry had formed an alliance. The town of Cahors was quickly reduced, and the English army marched upon Toulouse, which was defends:-by the citizens under Raymond, in conjunction with a small body of troops which the King of France had marched to their assistance.

Becket, who, although in holy orders, marched in warlike equipments at the head of 700 knights and men-at-charms, displayed great energy in the field. He advised the king to take advantage of the weakness of the garrison, to make an immediate attack upon the place; but Henry, whose audacity was tempered by profound calculation, hesitated to commit an act in direct defiance of those feudal laws in whose support he had himself the strongest interest. As Earl of Anjou, Henry was the hereditary Seneschal of France, and he asserted that he could not make an attack upon the troops of his feudal suzerain.

A second French army advancing to the defence of Toulouse, Henry raised the siege, and committing the command of his forces to Becket, returned with a small body of troops into Normandy. Thither the chancellor soon afterwards followed him, having taken possession of a few castles on the banks of the river Garonne. A campaign ensued, which lasted for a few months, on the frontiers of Normandy; and was concluded in the year 1160 by a treaty, according to the terms of which, the eldest son of Henry did homage to Louis for the dukedom of Normandy.

The condition of the people of Langueaoc and the surrounding country, from this time, began rapidly to decline. Placed between two great powers whose rivalry resulted in frequent acts of hostility, the inhabitants attached themselves first to the cause of one and then to that of another, according to circumstances, and were by each alternately protected and deserted, betrayed and sold. From the time of the twelfth century, the people of the south enjoyed no tranquillity, except when the kings of France and England were at war. "We rejoice," said the troubadours in their songs, "when peace is broken between the Easterlings and the Tomes," under which names they described the French and English. They possessed an early civilisation; but they appear to have been too much devoted to the pursuits of pleasure and the dreams of romance to be fitted for self-government. In addition to the disturbances which they suffered from without, they were engaged in perpetual quarrels amongst themselves. They were fond of war, but rather for the excitements it afforded than for the purposes of ambition. They loved the pomp and splendour of the tented field - the armour flashing in the sun - the turmoil and the struggle, the honour and reward. At a word from a fair lady, they were ready to fly off to Palestine, to engage in a quarrel about which they cared little, or were equally willing to risk their lives in hazardous and foolhardy achievements at home. They were a people in whom the gifts of imagination, and a taste for the beautiful in art and nature, were not restrained by prudence. Actuated by no spirit of union or foresight, they were content to bask carelessly in the passing sunshine, regardless of the future.

The peace between Henry and the King of France only lasted one month. The queen, Constance, died without leaving a son, and Louis, anxious to obtain an inheritor of his throne, contracted a union within three weeks afterwards with Adelais, niece of King Stephen and sister of the Earl of Blois. By this alliance with his enemies, Henry perceived that his own connection with the French king was endangered, and having secretly obtained the authority of the Pope, he caused the marriage of his son Henry, who was seven years old, and the daughter of Louis, to be immediately solemnised. Henry, then, according to the terms of the treaty, obtained the dowry of the princess from the knights Templars, who were not prepared to resist at once the authority of the Pope and the power of the English king. Louis immediately declared war, and banished the Templars from his kingdom. Henry contented himself with defending his territories from the attacks made upon them until peace was once more concluded, through the intervention of the Pope.

At this period (a.d. 1162), as had already been the case on a previous occasion, there were two Popes. One of these, Victor IV., occupied the papal chair at Rome, under the protection of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany; and the other, Alexander III., was living in exile in France. The latter was generally regarded in that country and in England as the legitimate pontiff, and Henry and Louis alike acknowledged his authority, vying with each other in offers of protection and in reverence. It is related by the Norman chronicler that when the two kings met the Pope Alexander at the town of Courcy-sur-Loire, they dismounted from their horses, and each taking hold of one of the bridle reins of his mule, walked at his side on foot, and so conducted him to the castle.

The reconciliation thus effected was followed by a brief period of tranquillity, both in England and Normandy, and when the name of war again broke out, its origin was to be referred to no foreign enemy, but to the machinations of a man whom Henry had raised to the height of power and dignity.

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