Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/30

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xxiv
Introduction

were intensified in the later ages. Unquestionably there were lawsuits about property and other rights between them, and misunderstandings such as will happen between men of all classes; but their relations seem to have been generally good and even, and exempt from any systematic bickering.

The privileged ecclesiastical position of the monastic orders found its counterpart in parliament. Abbots formed the bulk of the spiritual peerage, which in those times was both individually more influential and corporately much larger than at present. The position held by them throughout every part of the country gave yet a further weight to their great position as noblemen and local magnates. As such they went part passu with baron or earl of the noblest lineage. On the blazoned Roll of the Lords, the Lord Richard Whiting and the Lord Hugh Faringdon went hand in hand with a Howard and a Talbot. This individual ennoblement indicated by the form of title is striking. Whiting and Farringdon do not walk merely as the abbot of Glaston and the abbot of Reading, but in the rôle of English peers they still hold the name by which they were known when playing as children in the country manor-house or poor man's cottage. In the letter books of Durham priory the chiefs of the Cliffords and the Nevilles address the prior as their equal in no mere words of empty form. If on occasion the layman strikes a higher tone, to which the monk responds in gentleness, it does not affect the ring of trusty and sincere friendship which is caught throughout the whole correspondence. Nor is there anything surprising in this when the character of the monastic life is realised. The monk of Durham from his earliest years combined simplicity of life with surroundings of palatial grandeur and a state and ceremony equal to that of courts, and yet more measured. As time passed on, he grew from obedience to command, and naturally, without perceiving it, the peasant's son became the equal of the peer.