Constitutions of Clarendon

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CLARENDON, CONSTITUTIONS OF

A list of allegedly ancestral customs put forward by King henry ii of England in January 1164 at a council held near Salisbury. Relations between the king and Abp. Thomas Becket had been strained by Becket's refusal to hand over for punishment by the king "criminous clerks" convicted in the church courts. Instead, Becket proposed degradationn to the lay state which would render them in the future liable to trial by the royal courts. Henry, at a council at Westminster (1163), required the bishops to swear to observe the ancient customs of the kingdom in this and other matters. They demurred, but Becket finally agreed, commanding the others to follow. The king at Clarendon insisted upon solemn submission to written provisions. Of these, six clauses were innocuous. Six others clearly ran counter to Canon Law: clauses six and eight forbade clergy to leave the country or appeal to Rome without royal permission; clauses five, six, and ten limited the bishops' powers of excommunication; and clause 12 regulated the royal control of episcopal elections. Four others defined in the king's favor questions of jurisdiction, including the punishment of criminous clerks. Historians agree that as a whole the constitutions were a fair statement of royal practice under Henry I, but that several clauses were incompatible with the freedom of the Church as defined by current Canon Law. On the issue of criminous clerks, opinion is divided as to both the canonical validity and the practical justification of the archbishop's claim, which was subsequently upheld by Pope alexander iii. The archbishop yielded; his subsequent remorse and resistance are recorded elsewhere.

See Also: becket, thomas, st.

Bibliography: Text. w. stubbs, Select Charters (Oxford 1929) 163167. English Historical Documents, ed. d. c. douglas (New York 1953) 2:718722. a. l. poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (Oxford 1955) 205207. h. g. richardson and g. o. sayles, The Governance of Medieval England (Edinburgh 1963) 303318.

[m. d. knowles]

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Constitutions of Clarendon, 1164, articles issued by King Henry II of England at the Council of Clarendon defining the customs governing relations between church and state. In the anarchic conditions of the previous reign, the church had extended its jurisdiction in various ways, and it was the king's object to curb the growth of ecclesiastical power by securing the assent of the English prelates to this codification, which he claimed represented the practices followed during the reign of his grandfather, Henry I. The majority of the 16 articles dealt with church authority and the competence of ecclesiastical courts, while others defined the extent of papal authority in England; and they were in fact a fair statement of earlier customs. However, several articles were contrary to canon law, and controversy centered on two clauses in particular: that which provided for the secular punishment of clerics convicted of crime in the ecclesiastical courts (already a major point at issue between the king and the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas à Becket) and that which forbade appeals to Rome without royal consent. After much debate, the English prelates assented to the Constitutions at Clarendon, but after the pope had condemned the codification, Becket repudiated his agreement. When the bitter quarrel between the king and his archbishop ended (1170) in Becket's murder, Henry felt compelled to amend the Constitutions, explicitly revoking the two controversial clauses. However, for the most part the Constitutions of Clarendon remained in effect as part of the law of the land.

See A. L. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087–1216 (2d ed. 1955).

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CLARENDON, CONSTITUTIONS OF

Statutes—enacted by a parliament convened at Clarendon, England, in 1164 during the reign of King Henry II—that restricted the authority of the pope and his clergy by subjecting them to the secular jurisdiction of the king's court.

The Constitutions of Clarendon limited the jurisdiction that ecclesiastical courts exercised over members of the clergy while expanding the jurisdiction of the civil court of the king. Clerics accused of common-law crimes, as opposed to violations of canon law, were tried in the king's court. The procedure for making appeals in ecclesiastical law was revised so that the final decision was to be rendered by the king, rather than the pope. Archbishop of Canterbury thomas À becket reluctantly agreed to these enactments at first but subsequently rejected them with the approval of Pope Alexander III. His efforts had, however, no effect on the development of english law resulting from the Constitutions of Clarendon.

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Clarendon, constitutions of. A written statement of Henry II's view of his customary rights over the English church. It was issued at a council held at the palace of Clarendon in January 1164 in an attempt to clarify and settle the issues at stake in the king's quarrel with Becket. He required the bishops to promise to obey these customs in good faith, but since some of the constitutions, including one perceived as undermining benefit of clergy, seemed to threaten the liberty of the church and in consequence were soon condemned by Pope Alexander III, the only outcome was to escalate the dispute.

John Gillingham

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Clarendon, Constitutions of (1164) Sixteen articles issued by Henry II of England to limit the temporal and judicial powers of the Church. The most controversial article required clergy who had been convicted in church courts to be punished by royal courts. They played a significant role in the dispute between Henry and Thomas à Becket.