Anselm - E. M. Wilmot-Buxton

The Pallium Comes to England

Anselm was now in the strange position of an archbishop deprived of almost all his powers, both spiritual and temporal, and liable after Whitsuntide to be deprived of his see.

Moving sadly from his manor at Harrow to that at Hayes or Mortlake, he did his best to use his influence for good upon a very restricted circle, for any larger sphere was closed to him as one out of favour with the King. A deep spirit of loneliness fell upon him, and we find him speaking of himself in this time in such terms as these: "When I sit among my fledglings (his Canterbury monks) I am it peace. But when I am engaged in secular affairs I am like an owl in the daylight, flying helplessly amid attacking daws and crows."

Moreover, his was an ultra-sensitive nature, capable of much heart-searching and self-reproach as to his methods of warfare against his sovereign; and the real heroism of his character comes out most, perhaps, in the fact that in spite of keen temptation to throw up the wearisome conflict and return to his peaceful seclusion at Le Bec, he would not earn peace for himself at the price of a great principle. Yet occasionally, in spite of stern self-discipline, he breaks out into a bitter cry of weeping as he sits among his monks: "Have pity upon me, O my friends, have pity upon me, for the hand of God has touched me."

More often, however, he seems to have been filled with that spirit of quiet cheerfulness that was formerly so strong a characteristic of his, and to have been content to wait in patience for what might next befall.

Meantime a plan had been set afoot by William by which he hoped to bring the archbishop to complete ruin.

Very soon after the question of the pallium had first arisen, he had taken the precaution to send messengers to Rome to find which way the wind blew with regard to the rival Popes, bidding them, if they found that Urban's star was in the ascendant, to make such terms with him that he would be willing to send the pall direct to the King, to be by him delivered to the 'Archbishop of Canterbury,' the name being purposely suppressed.

It was an astute idea, since the reception of the sacred emblem from the King's own hands would amount to an open acknowledgment of his supremacy in matters spiritual as well as temporal. As for the principle involved, William had none himself, and believed that the whole trouble was merely about an empty point of ritual over which Anselm wanted to assert his own importance.

Fortunately, however, in Urban, the Pope of the First Crusade, William the Red had met more than his match.

Just before Whitsuntide, his two messengers, chaplains of the royal court, returned as the escort of a courtly prelate named Walter of Albano, who, acting as papal legate, brought with him in secret the famous 'pallium.'

The two Norman chaplains had not been obliged to go as far as Rome, after all, for they had found Urban preaching the crusade in Lombardy, not far front Anselm's old home, having meantime succeeded in making it very evident that to him, and to no other Pope, was the allegiance of Christendom due.

A rumour as to the identity of the travelers had reached Canterbury before them, but although the archbishop was probably in residence at Christ Church, his people were astounded to find that they rode through the city without taking for the smallest notice of the primate, and made straight her the King's court.

Had Walter come then, by order of the Pope, to take the side of William and so complete the archbishop's discomfiture?

It looked uncommonly as if such were the case, for, when he reached the court, the legate apparently put in no plea of any kind for Anselm, contenting himself with a smooth assurance to the King that Urban, once acknowledged as Pope by the English sovereign, would be ready to consult his wishes in every possible way.

A murmur of disapproval, even from those who had feared to take the side of the disgraced archbishop, was not slow to make itself heard.

"What is to be said if Rome prefers gold to righteousness? And what help may those expect n their difficulties who have not wherewith to pay for justice?

Meantime the Red King, delighted to have got so powerful an influence on his side, issued an edict by which Urban was to be acknowledged as Pope throughout the kingdom, "and in whatsoever concerned the Christian religion to be obeyed." This being done, he made his obvious request, accompanied by what seemed to a man of his stamp a no less obvious offer. He would have the cardinal legate at once depose Anselm from office, by the authority of the papal see, in return for which he would not only give his support to Urban, but pay him a yearly tribute.

To his astonishment the courtly legate showed an unexpected firmness of front to his suggestion. Such a course was quite impossible, the responsibility of deposing such a man as Anselm far too great, even if it were desirable from any point of view save the King's.

Having said this, the papal representative gently intimated that he should be glad of an opportunity to confer the 'pallium' on Anselm as soon as possible; and to any suggestion that the emblem should be conferred by William, he turned an ear politely deaf.

Bitterly mortified, and conscious of having been completely outwitted, William fell into one of the brooding fits common to his family. From this he presently emerged determined to make one last attempt to get something out of his enforced acquiescence. He was keeping his Whitsuntide court at Windsor, Anselm at Mortlake, when a civil message reached the latter bidding him take up his residence at Hayes, as being a more convenient spot for communication with the King.



There the archbishop was visited by nearly all the bishops of the realm, who urged him to conciliate William, prepared as he was to make overtures of peace, with a large sum of money. To this Anselm returned a decided refusal. He would not permit his lord to demean himself openly by offering his friendship for money. "What then do you desire?" they asked, puzzled at his fearless attitude.

"A safe-conduct to the coast," replied the undaunted prelate.

Somewhat sheepishly they explained that this was no longer necessary, since the papal legate had brought the 'pallium' with him and was ready to confer it on him; and then they made their last appeal. Surely he would pay something "if only what the journey to Rome would have cost him, in return for this great benefit."

"Benefit!" groaned the archbishop, "God, who reads my conscience, knows what store I set by the benefit!"

Finding their persuasions all in vain, the bishops departed, and Anselm went unwillingly enough to Windsor to reap the fruits of his triumph.

Once there, however, his personal charm and tact seem to have conquered the surliness of the worsted King, for as they sat together in friendly converse in the sight of all the court, the legate entered and quoted with approving smiles the words: "Behold, how good and how pleasant a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity "; and conversed affably with them concerning the blessings of peace.

One more faint attempt was made by William, this time to get Anselm to say that 'for the honour of his royalty' he preferred to receive the pall at his hands; but when the ready-witted archbishop promptly replied that such a symbol belonged not in any way to the King's royalty but only to the authority of St Peter and his vicars, he threw up the game. The 'pallium' was forthwith taken to Canterbury and laid by Cardinal Walter upon the high altar of the cathedral.

It was a striking scene that thus closed the first period of the 'investiture struggle' in England. The long stole of snow-white wool was borne in a silver casket by the legate, followed by a long procession of white-robed monks; at the end of this was seen the fragile form of Anselm, now much bent and aged, his thin face pale with fasting, his shoulders bowed beneath the heavy cope and chasuble, walking barefoot because his humility forbade him to wear even his monk's sandals within the House of God. Going up to the altar upon which the casket was laid he slowly took the 'pallium' out, and with a full heart laid it upon his neck; then proceeding to the ancient chair of St Augustine, he sat there, dreaming, maybe, of his past days as child and youth, and as monk in the quiet cloisters of Le Bec, while cardinal, bishops, and clergy advanced in order to kneel at his feet and kiss the sacred emblem, won in the face of such determined odds.

But when the Mass followed, and men strained their ears to hear the words of the Gospel that they might 'seek a sign from Heaven,' a look of consternation spread throughout the crowd. For it was the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, and the words read at once recalled those heard at the archbishop's consecration a year and a half before:

"A certain man made a great supper and invited many . . . saying, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' And they all with one consent began to make excuse."