Adrian Iv., Pope

, the only Englishman who ever had the honour of sitting in the papal chair. His name | was Nicholas Brekespere; and he was born about the end of the 11th century, at Langley, near St. Alban’s, in Hertfordshire. His father having left his family, and taken the habit of the monastery of St. Alban’s, Nicholas was obliged to submit to the lowest offices in that house for daily support. After some time he desired to take the habit in that monastery, but was rejected by the abbot Richard: “He was examined,” says Matthew Paris, “and being found insufficient, the abbot said to him, Wait, my son, and go to school a little longer, till you are better qualified.” But if the character given of young Brekespere by Pitts be a just one, the abbot was certainly to be blamed for rejecting a person who would have done great honour to his house. He was, according to that author, a handsome and comely youth, of a sharp wit and ready utterance; circumspect in all his words and actions, polite in his behaviour, neat and elegant; full of zeal for the glory of God, and that according to some degree of knowledge; so possessed of all the most valuable endowments of mind and body, that in him the gifts of heaven exceeded nature: his piety exceeded his education; and the ripeness of his judgment and his other qualifications exceeded his age. Having met however with the above repulse, he resolved to try his fortune in another country, and went to Paris; where, though in very poor circumstances, he applied himself to his studies with great assiduity, and made a wonderful proficiency. But having still a strong inclination to a religious life, he left Paris, and removed to Provence, where he became a regular clerk in the monastery of St. Rufus. He was not immediately allowed to take the habit, but passed some time by way of trial, in recommending himself to the monks by a strict attention to all their commands. This behaviour, together with the beauty of his person, and prudent conversation, rendered him so acceptable to those religious, that after some time they entreated him to take the habit of the canonical order. Here he distinguished himself so much by his learning and strict observance of the monastic discipline, that, upon the death of the abbot, he was chosen superior of that house; and we are told that he rebuilt that convent. He did not long enjoy this abbacy: for the monks, being tired of the government of a foreigner, brought accusations against him before pope Eugenius III. who, after having examined their complaint, and heard the defence of Nicholas, declared him innocent; | his holiness, however, gave the monks leave to choose another superior, and, being sensible of the great merit of Nicholas, and thinking he might be serviceable to the church in a higher station, created him cardinal-bishop of Alba, in 1146.

In 1148 Eugenius sent him legate to Denmark and Norway; where, by his fervent preaching and diligent instructions, he converted those barbarous nations to the Christian faith; and we are told, that he erected the church of Upsal into an archiepiscopal see. On his return to Rome, he was received by the pope and cardinals with great marks of honour: and pope Anastatius, who succeeded Eugenius, happening to die at this time, Nicholas was unanimously chosen to the holy see, in November, 1154, and took the name of Adrian. When the news of his -promotion reached England, Henry II. sent Robert, abbot of St. Alban’s, and three bishops, to Rome, to congratulate him on his election; upon which occasion Adrian granted to the monastery of St. Alban’s, the privilege of being exempt front all episcopal jurisdiction except that of Rome. Next year, king Henry having solicited the pope’s consent that he might undertake the conquest of Ireland, Adrian very readily complied, and sent him a bull for that purpose, of which the following is a translation: “Adrian, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his most dear son in Christ, the illustrious king of England, sendeth greeting and apostolical benediction. Your magnificence is very careful to spread your glorious name in the world, and to merit an immortal crown in heaven, whilst, as a good catholic prince, you form a design of extending the bounds of the church, of instructing ignorant and barbarous people in the Christian faith, and of reforming the licentious and immoral; and the more effectually to put this design in execution, you desire the advice and assistance of the holy see. We are confident, that, by the blessing of God, the success will answer the wisdom and discretion of the undertaking. You have advertised us, dear son, of your intended expedition into Ireland, to reduce that people to the obedience of the Christian faith; and that you are willing to pay for every house a yearly acknowledgment of one penny to St. Peter, promising to maintain the rights of those churches in the fullest manner. We therefore, being willing to assist you in this pious and laudable design, and consenting to your petition, do grant you full liberty to make a descent upon that island, in order to enlarge the borders of the church, | to check the progress of immorality, and to promote the spiritual happiness of the natives: and we command the people of that country to receire and acknowledge you as their sovereign lord; provided the rights of the churches be inviolably preserved, and the Peter pence duly paid: for indeed it is certain (and your highness acknowledges it) that all the islands, which are enlightened by Christ, the sun of righteousness, and have embraced the doctrines of Christianity, are unquestionably St. Peter’s right, and belong to the holy Roman church. If, therefore, you resolve to put your designs in execution, be careful to reform the manners of that people; and commit the government of the churches to able and virtuous persons, that the Christian religion may grow and flourish, and the honour of God and the preservation of souls be effectually promoted; so shall you deserve an everlasting reward in heaven, and leave a glorious name to all posterity.” His indulgence to this prince was so great, that he even consented to absolve him from the oath he had taken not to set aside any part of his father’s will. The reason of this was, that Geoffry Plantagenet, earl of Anjou, had by the empress Maud, three sons, Henry, Geoffry, and William. This prince, being sensible that his ovrn dominions would of course descend to his eldest son Henry, and that the kingdom of England and duchy of Normandy would likewise fall to him in right of his mother, thought fit to devise the earldom of Anjou to his second son Geoffry; and to render this the more valid, he exacted an oath of the bishops and nobility, not to suffer his corpse to be buried till his son Henry had sworn to fulfil every part of his will. When Henry came to attend his father’s funeral, the oath was tendered to him; but for some time he refused to swear to a writing, with the contents of which he was unacquainted. Howerer, being reproached with the scandal of letting his father lie unburied, he at last took the oath with great reluctance. But after his accession to the throne, upon a complaint to pope Adrian that the oath was forced upon him, he procured a dispensation from his holiness, absolving him from the obligation he had laid himself under: and in consequence thereof, he dispossessed his brother Geoffry of the dominions of Anjou, allowing him only a yearly pension for his maintenance.

Adrian, in the beginning of his pontificate, boldly withstood the attempts of the Roman people to recover their ancient liberty under the consuls, and obliged those | magistrates to abdicate their authority, and leave the government of the city to the pope. In 1155, he drove Arnold of Bresse and his followers out of Rome. The same year he excommunicated William king of Sicily, who ravaged the territories of the church, and absolved that prince’s subjects from their allegiance. About the same time, Frederic, king of the Romans, having entered Italy with a powerful army, Adrian met him near Sutrium, and concluded a peace with him. At this interview, Frederic consented to hold the pope’s stirrup whilst he mounted on horseback. After which his holiness conducted that prince to Rome, and in St. Peter’s church placed the imperial crown on his head, to the great mortification of the Roman people, who assembled in a tumultuous manner, and killed several of the imperialists. The next year a reconciliation was brought about between the pope and the Sicilian king, that prince taking an oath to do nothing farther to the prejudice of the church, and Adrian granting him the title of king of the two Sicilies. He built and fortified several castles, and left the papal dominions in a more flourishing condition than he found them. But notwithstanding all his success, he was extremely sensible of the disquietudes attending so high a station, and complained of them to his countryman John of Salisbury. He died Sept. 1, 1159, in the fourth year and tenth month of his pontificate, and was buried in St. Peter’s church, near the tomb of his predecessor Eugenius. Besides some writings attributed to this ambitious pope, not yet printed, there are, in Labbe’s Concilia, forty-two letters; and Martene, Balusius, Usher, Marca, &c. have brought others to light, as may be seen in Fabric. Biblioth. Lat. med. setat. and Cave. The most remarkable of those letters are what contain the word beneficium. In Aventini Annal. Bajor. are letters between the emperor and the pope, the authenticity of which is still disputed j and those betwixt the bishops of Germany and the pope, and the letter of licence to Henry II. to conquer Ireland, are in Wilkins’s Concil. Britan. The famous peace with king William, which so nearly concerns the Sicilian monarchy, is in Baronius’s Annals. 1

1

Biographia Britannica.—Leland.—Pitts.—Bower’s Hist. of the Popes, vol. VI.—Walch’s Compendious History.