Ruins of Saint Augustine's Abbey,
During the period of Anglo-Saxon Christianity the great devotion of the Anglo-Saxon peoples to Saint Peter the Apostle built and strengthened ties between Roman and English Christianity. In order to forge ties to Rome with the northern Church and its more independent tradition, Pope Gregory III named Bishop Ecgbert of York an Archbishop in 735, raising York to metropolitan status and thus dependent on Rome for the archbishop’s pallium, as was Canterbury. Nevertheless Archbishops of both Canterbury and York as well as the other English bishops were almost always elected independent of papal nomination and only appealed for recognition after their election and consecration. That would later change and while they would still be elected independently of Rome, their consecration would not occur until after papal confirmation. One exception where the Pope did appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury was when Archbishop Wighard died in 668 on a visit to Rome to receive his pallium and Pope Vitalian uses the opportunity to selected a Greek, Theodore of Tarsus, as the new Archbishop/primate for the English Church.
The relationship of the English Church with the papacy was strengthened by William the Conqueror who in 1066 invaded England to claim the throne after the death of Edward the Confessor. There were two claimants to the English Throne, the Anglo-Saxon Harold Godwinson and the Norman Duke, William the Bastard. After William defeated Harold and secured the English throne, he replaced the Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand (who had supported Harold) with his own candidate, an Italian monk by the name of Lanfranc who had served as Abbot of Saint Étienne in Caen. Lanfranc was succeeded in 1093 by another Italian, Anselm, abbot of Bec. To be fair, William waited three years from his conquest before sending Stigand into retirement but it was part of the Norman policy after the conquest to replace Saxons with Normans. The Normans had strong ties to the papacy at this period—the Normans in Italy under Robert Guiscard were protecting Gregory VII from Emperor Henry IV in their dispute over the right of Emperors to invest prelates with the insignia of office. Ironically William was fighting a variation of the same battle when it came to William of Saint Calais—his sometime rebel bishop of Durham. That is a story for another time, suffice it to say now that with Normans on English throne and their Italian archbishops ensconced as primates, the relationship between the English Church (the Ecclesia Anglicana) and the papacy grew even stronger. This is not to say that the Crown and Canterbury acted in concert—far from it. William and his successors had strong intentions to control the Church in their realms and Lanfranc and Anselm both resisted royal authority and appealed to the Pope to back them up in their disputes with the Crown. Such reliance on the papacy increased papal influence in England. Tensions became particularly high under William’s son, William Rufus and Anselm ended up going into exile in 1097 and again in 1105 in disputes with William Rufus and later with William’s son, Henry I. These conflicts were anticipatory of the debacle between Henry II and Thomas Becket later in the twelfth century but we will come to that matter down the line. Suffice it to say that with the replacement of an Anglo-Saxon hierarchy by a Norman hierarchy after the conquest, the relationship of the English Church to the papacy began to evolve from a relationship of ecclesial communion to the English Church becoming a client dependent on the Roman See. It would be a long slow process and one with reverses, especially during the Avignon papacy of the fourteenth century, but throughout the one can see throughout the Plantagenet centuries a gradual loss of the ancient autonomy of the Anglican Church and its subjection to more control from Rome. When the Plantagenets finally lost the Crown to the Tudors, this dependency would be challenged by new views of royal authority.