Clarendon, Constitutions of

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Clarendon, Constitutions of

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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