Magna Carta is a code of some sixty clauses. It declares the law in the technical language of the royal court on the points which the insurgents had raised. It reforms specific abuses, some of general interest, some of local or sectional importance, some of long standing. The charter is the largest body of enacted law since the code of Cnut, and was worthily placed near the front of the Statutes of the Realm. Yet in substance the charter is curiously disappointing.
It displays no real understanding of the problems of government, and in fact exerted no detailed influence on the development of the royal administration; and it ignores some of the most important matters which the king and baronage had to settle, such as military service. It comments mostly on the periphery of the royal sphere of action and condemns mainly those abuses of power by subordinates which were universal at the time and regularly investigated by the Angevin kings through their ‘inquests of sheriffs’.
It was an inadequate judgment on the past and an impracticable guide for the future. Gregory VII was born in an age of barbarism, ignorance, and superstition; and he had to deal with a young, debauched, inexperienced emperor, deficient in money, and whose power was contested by all the powerful lords of Germany. Gregory VII proposed to reform the Church, cleanse and renew the corrupt Hierarchy, set it free from its bondage to kings and nobles, and in doing so, to abase the Empire, which until of late had been his stay.
Such a policy, straight as an arrow to his own apprehension, appeared crooked, subtle, and devilish in the eyes of many, and those not always depraved. Against him stood up, rank after rank, the thousands of clergy who would rather forego their livings than their wives. On the Bishops, gorged with plunder and open lawbreakers, he might count for a determined opposition. Nor did the people, who like himself, were little better than born serfs, rise to that view of Church or Papacy, pure in its angelic brightness, with its gleaming sword unsheathed to smite even royal vice, which, as his letters testify, was habitual with him.
“To forsake righteousness,” he said, “is to make shipwreck of the soul”; and with ? schylean energy, “All the attempts of mortals are but straw and stubble. against the rights of St. Peter and the power of the Most High. ” Leo IX (1049-54) and Urban II ( 108899) on their long tours north of the Alps were active in visiting great churches and consecrating them, and one must suppose that the meetings, no doubt with a sermon by the pope, helped to create the sympathy between the pope and upper clergy which is a feature of both pontificates.
Leo IX is indeed the prime example of a pope whose activity was less legal and administrative (although he did not neglect these spheres) than charismatic: the power of his preaching, the dramatic repentance of simoniacs, and their even more dramatic deaths gave an impetus to the cause of reform which no legislation could have achieved.
In the pattern of changing social structures the improvement of the means for disseminating ideas was of major importance, for it involved the localities of Europe, still in many ways remote from each other, in the great issues which were central to the new age. Godfrey of Bouillon was a popular figure in Crusader tradition, honoured not only for his leading role in the conquest and foundation of the kingdom but also for his pious and devout character.
It was only natural that a day marking his memory should be celebrated by acts of charity. Saladin had the qualities which commended him to both Christian and Muslim. He did not have the broad tolerance in religion with which Lessing endowed him in Nathan der Weise; no Muslim leader could have had this tolerance; some of the Christian leaders in the Crusades came nearer to it through their acquaintance with the many religions they found in the Holy Land, and through their disillusionment with their own narrow inherited faith.
Saladin did have the virtues of generosity and courtesy, with which Scott, following the example of medieval Christian writers, depicted him in The Talisman. He won the admiration of followers and enemies by his bravery. He never broke his word, a virtue which his opponents made use of, but did not imitate. Although he could be stern in his vengeance on occasion, he was usually merciful, and in this respect his character shines brilliantly against the barbaric background of the age.
Many examples are recorded of his compassion for those in tribulation, especially Christian women and children. He was so open-handed and generous that his servants had to secrete funds lest he leave himself without necessary resources. When he died, the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world, he was almost penniless. Saladin, which means Honor of the Faith, was a name prophetic of his character and success.