Posts Tagged ‘Constitutions of Lambeth’

The Lambeth Council of 8 to 13 May 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

The ecclesiastical council that met from 8 to 13 May was not in fact held at Westminster, as the king had suggested, but rather at Lambeth, the residence of the archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy. Things were not all that they seemed, as Henry surely now realised. The pope had ordered clerical councils to be held across Christendom, with the aim of mustering funds to combat the Mongol invasion of Hungary. This topic, though, was not on the agenda at Lambeth. Instead, Boniface seized the opportunity to resurrect the extensive complaints about Henry’s treatment of the Church, which had dominated ecclesiastical meetings of the 1250s when Henry had been demanding taxes from the English Church to support his ambitions in Sicily. To Henry, Boniface’s move was nothing less than a stab in the back. Writing angrily to the pope, Henry protested that he had been excluded from the council. Rather than being given the opportunity to address the clergy’s complaints, he had been presented with a fait accompli, an official set of statutes that were to be enforced by sentence of excommunication (potentially against the king himself). Timing, moreover, was crucial. The Constitutions of Lambeth came at the very moment that Henry was working to rebuild his position, when any opposition was bound to look like an attack against him. Particularly upsetting was the central role of Boniface of Savoy. Henry would have expected the archbishop, as Queen Eleanor’s uncle, to join his kinsmen Peter of Savoy and Richard of Cornwall in the vanguard of the royal revanche. Boniface might not have been a Montfortian but his failure to stand with the king at this decisive moment was, to Henry, a painful treachery, as the bitterness of his complaints to the pope attest.

A contribution by Sophie Ambler