A Pope’s Letter

• Letter of Pope Innocent II confirming Stephen in his Kingship – 1136

Innocent the Bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his most beloved in Christ, Stephen, illustrious King of England, Greeting and apostolic blessing. The king of kings and lord of lords, in whose hands reside all power and the disposal of all realms, has of divine provision, when he wishes, the mystical power to transform circumstances and successions. As the prophet says: ‘The Most High is sovereign in the kingdom of men; he gives the kingdom to whom he wills.’ When our son of glorious memory King Henry ruled trade, a happy peace, and real justice flourished in both England and Normandy – King Henry, who excelled all in the integrity which he applied to the affairs of world. When this man – a friend to those of the church, a promoter of peace and justice, a steady protector of widows and orphans and a dutiful defender of those who were too weak to protect themselves – when he was taken from among us, as was reported to us, the affairs of the church were put into confusion in England; no royal writ was respected; and thievery went unpunished. So that such terrible disorder should not have a chance to increase its grip on God’s people, England was moved by the mercy of divine pity at the prayers of godly men, as well as by the increase of such disorders, to choose you as king by the people’s acclaim and the general agreement of noblemen and commoners, and so to be consecrated by the Bishops of the realm. This I have learned through several means: the letters of our venerable brothers the Archbishops and Bishops of England and Normandy, and of those lovers of the Holy Roman Church, the glorious King of France and that noble Lord, Count Theobald, as well also by the investigation of our agents. Since we appreciate the trust of such men in your good character, moved by God’s grace, we have agreed to this. This we have done because of certain future considerations, as well as because you promised obedience and reverence to St Peter on the day of your consecration, and because you are acknowledged to have been a very close relation of the late King. Now we, acknowledging your thanks, receive you into the special fatherly love of St Peter and the Holy Roman Church, and we wish most sincerely to hold you in that same pre-eminence of honour and love in which your predecessor the late King Henry was crowned by us.

~ from Richard of Hexham, De Gestis Regis Stephani, Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard
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