Constitutions of Clarendon

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Clarendon, Constitutions of,

1164, articles issued by King Henry IIHenry II,
1133–89, king of England (1154–89), son of Matilda, queen of England, and Geoffrey IV, count of Anjou. He was the founder of the Angevin, or Plantagenet, line in England and one of the ablest and most remarkable of the English kings.
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 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 BecketThomas à Becket, Saint,
or Saint Thomas Becket,
1118–70, English martyr, archbishop of Canterbury, b. London. He is called St. Thomas of Canterbury and occasionally St. Thomas of London.
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) 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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Clarendon, Constitutions of


articles compiled at the order of the English king Henry II that limited the jurisdiction of the English ecclesiastical courts and subordinated them to secular royal courts.

The articles, 16 in all, were discussed at a council of the feudal nobility in Clarendon in January 1164. They were attacked by the head of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury T. Becket. After Becket’s condemnation and his flight at the end of 1164, the articles were officially adopted. However, when Becket was murdered in 1170, Henry II was forced by the threat of papal excommunication in 1172 to abandon them.


In Russian translation:
Pamiatniki istorii Anglii XI-XIII vv. Moscow, 1936.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.