Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/131

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

the diocesan bishop, was likewise restored to him. Some three months later John summoned him to give up both fortresses, but Stephen refused to do so without legal warrant. Meanwhile John had succeeded only too well in misrepresenting to Innocent III the actions and motives of the constitutional leaders, including the archbishop. On 16 Aug. Stephen and his suffragans, gathered at Oxford for a meeting with John, received a papal letter bidding them, on pain of suspension, cause all 'disturbers of king and kingdom' to be publicly denounced as excommunicate throughout the country on every Sunday and holiday till peace was restored. As no names were mentioned the application of the sentence was uncertain; the archbishop and bishops, therefore, after some hesitation, published it at Staines on 26 Aug. Once published, however, they took no further notice of it till the pope's commissioners, Pandulf and the Bishop of Winchester, summoned Stephen to urge upon his suffragans and enforce in his own diocese its public repetition on the appointed days. Stephen, on the point of setting out for a council at Rome, answered that he believed the sentence to have been issued by the pope under a misapprehension, and that he would do nothing further in the matter till he had spoken about it with Innocent himself, whereupon the commissioners suspended him from all ecclesiastical functions. Ralph of Coggeshall says that they shouted their sentence after him as he set sail, and Walter of Coventry that Pandulf followed him across the sea to deliver it. He accepted it without protest; he was, in fact, contemplating escape from a sphere in which all his efforts seemed doomed to failure, by withdrawal to a hermitage or a Carthusian cell. From this project he was warmly dissuaded by Gerald of Wales (Gir. Cambr. Opp. i. 401–7); but he seems to have still cherished it on his arrival at Rome. Confronted there by two envoys from John, who charged him with complicity in a plot of the barons to dethrone the king, and contempt of the papal mandate for the excommunication of the rebels, he made no defence, but simply begged to be absolved from suspension. Innocent, however, confirmed the sentence 4 Nov. Matthew Paris (Hist. Angl. ii. 468) adds that he even, at John's instigation, proposed to deprive the archbishop of his see, but was dissuaded by the unanimous remonstrances of the other cardinals. Reading this story by the light of Gerald's letter we may well suspect it to be but a distorted account of a resignation voluntarily tendered by Stephen himself. Again he submitted in silence. He spent the winter at Rome, and in the spring was released from suspension, on condition of standing to the pope's judgment on the charges against him, and keeping out of England till peace was restored. The first condition expired with Innocent III in July 1216; the second was fulfilled in September 1217, when the treaty of Lambeth rallied all parties round the throne of Henry III; and the primate came home once more, 'with the favour of the Roman court,' in May 1218 (Ann. Worc. and Chron. Mailros, ann. 1218).

For nearly two years he was free to devote himself entirely to the ecclesiastical duties of his office. He at once began preparations for a translation of the relics of St. Thomas of Canterbury; shortly afterwards Pope Honorius III commissioned him to investigate, conjointly with the abbot of Fountains, the grounds of a proposal for the canonisation of Bishop Hugh of Lincoln [q. v.]. In the spring of 1220 Honorius ordered that the unavoidable irregularities of the young king's first crowning [see Henry III] should be set right by a second coronation, to be performed at Westminster, according to ancient precedent, by the Archbishop of Canterbury; this order was joyfully obeyed by Stephen on Whitsunday, 17 May. On this occasion the primate gave an address to the people, exhorting them to take the cross, and published Honorius's bull for the canonisation of St. Hugh. On 7 July he presided over the most splendid ceremony that had ever taken place in his cathedral church, the translation of the relics of St. Thomas, amid a concourse of pilgrims of all ranks and all nations, such as had never been seen in England before, for all of whom he provided entertainment at his own cost, in a temporary 'palace' run up for the occasion on a scale and in a fashion so astonishing to his contemporaries that they 'thought there could have been nothing like it since Solomon's time.' Immediately after Michaelmas he set out for Rome, 'on business of the realm and the church.' He carried with him a portion of the relics of St. Thomas, and at the pope's desire the first thing he did on his arrival was to deliver to the Roman people a sermon on the English martyr. He demanded of the pope three things: that all assumption of metropolitical dignity by the Archbishop of York in the southern province should be once more forbidden; that the papal claim of provision should never be exercised twice for the same benefice; and that during his own lifetime no resident legate should be again sent to England. This last demand aimed at securing England's political, as well as ecclesiastical, independence against a continuance