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the consent of the great council, great care was taken to keep the king steady. For that end pope Innocent gave directions to his new legate to gratify the king, in filling up all the vacant bishoprics and abbeys ; and the interest of the court of Rome lying now another way, after England and France had been set into flames, and all Europe deafened with the outeries of that court for the free elections of bishops and abbots, pope Innocent gave it as an instruction to his legate, that he should“ take particular care of the interest of the king, in filling up all the vacant preferments"; and that if chapters should make any opposition to the persons the king desired, he should compel them to obedience by the censures of the church.” Being thus backed by the interest of that court, the king carried all before him, and filled
up all the vacant churches and monasteries with men firm to his interest; and the legate pursued his instructions, and treated with haughtiness and insolence all the clergy that stood
in the way.
The clergy, too many whereof had for some time been tools to the Roman court, and had helped to enslave their coụntry to serve the interest thereof, could not persuade themselves on a sudden, that this usage was founded on the instructions of pope Innocent, but rather owing to some sinister ends of the legate ; and were very angry at this proceeding, and complained and appealed to the court of Rome. But, alas ! it was all in vain ; for shifting sides had on a sudden made such a change of men, that at Rome king John and archbishop Langton had shifted characters; and Pandulphus, who but a few months before had treated king John with great insolence and contempt, and made it his business to represent him as an enemy to God and to his church, and upon that ground had laboured to engage his subjects in a rebellion against him, being now sent to Rome to oppose the appeals of the clergy against the proceedings of the king and the new legate in the matter of the aforesaid elections, he represented king John as a prince of extraordinary modesty and humility, and blackened the archbishop, of whose great piety and goodness and wisdom pope Innocent had for some years past made so much boast and noise all over Europe :-accordingly, these two great men shifted places in the esteem and favours of pope Innocent and his court. And though the men, their principles, and their rights, were in the same state they had been in when the ecclesiastic liberty was so dear to that court, yet the merits of the English clergy vanished on a sudden; and Pandulphus, who had so often harangued them with the glory of their sufferings, and fed them with the hopes of a reward, did now represent them to the court of Rome as covetous and greedy, and unreasonable in their demands of satisfaction, and set them out as oppressors of the king and the just rights and liberties of the crown. Thus sped the archbishop and the bishops.
* M. Par. ann. 1213. p. 247. n. 30.
Lest his former favours should turn back upon him, and the bulls and epistles which he had given out for the encouragement of the clergy under the interdict, should reproach his present conduct, pope Innocent took all possible care to extinguish the memory thereof; and in order thereto commanded his legate the bishop of Tusculum to require that all letters and decrees from him, relating to the king, should be brought to him, and that he should forthwith cause them to be torn to pieces or to be burnt a ; by which means the clergy and religious were not only disappointed of the reward which they promised to themselves from their late sufferings, but in some measure they were deprived of the comforts, at least of the best proofs which they had of the merit of that cause in which they suffered ; and these were those letters and rescripts which pope Innocent commanded to be burnt.
Thus did the all-wise providence of God return their bigotry upon their own heads. They had been fond of a foreign power, charmed with the sound of ecclesiastic liberty, compared their late condition to the Egyptian bondage, and the change to their deliverance from slavery; and the issue was, they who distinguished themselves by greater measures of zeal for the papal usurpation, had the first and the greatest share in the tyranny thereof. And instead of that liberty which they fondly promised to themselves, this unhappy affair, by putting it out of the power of the crown to defend them, gave the finishing stroke to the usurpation which the court of Rome had so long been contending for; and the clergy of England, instead of liberty, entered upon a state of servitude which never ended till they finally threw off the yoke which they had fondly put about their own necks, and were by the Reformation restored again to their ancient state.
Whilst a ferment was thus raised, and a general discontent overspread the nation, the king (probably confiding in his new
* Innoc. Epist. lib. xvi. epist. 133.
friendship with the court of Rome) instead of applying proper remedies, by indulging his unwarrantable pleasures, by giving countenance to some arbitrary ministers, and by laying heavy impositions on his people to prosecute his war against the French, rather increased and inflamed the discontents of the nation, than did any thing towards a cure. And though his affairs at home were in this ill posture, he this year with an army went over into France, and attacked the country of Poictou, whilst his nephew Otho the emperor and the earl of Flanders attacked Philip king of France on the side of Flanders. In the mean time his absence gave opportunity to his discontented subjects to concert measures for that unhappy war which too soon ensued in England.
However, that he might not seem altogether careless, and unconcerned for the affections of his people, the king obtained an order from pope Innocent to his legate to release the interdict; and an assembly being convened to St Paul's in London for that purpose, the interdict was with great pomp and solemnity released
, the twenty-ninth of June this year (1214), after it had lasted six years three months and fourteen days. This release gave great satisfaction to the common people, who are usually charmed with the pompous outside and appearances of religion: and some of the clergy and religious had upon another account great reason to be pleased with the issue of this assembly; especially the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishops of Ely, Hereford, Bath, and Lincoln, and the monks of Canterbury; for upon adjusting the account betwixt them and the king at this meeting, it appeared that they had received seven-and-twenty thousand marks from the king, and had security given them for thirteen thousand more, for the losses which they had sustained under the interdict.
This example, together with the repeated assurances which they had formerly received from the legates, had raised a general expectation in the religious and lower ranks of secular clergy, that their losses should be considered : therefore, as M. Paris observes, an innumerable company of abbots, priors, templars, hospitalers, abbesses, monks, secular clergy, and laity, did at the time of releasing the interdict apply themselves to the legate, and demanded satisfaction for the losses which they had sustained during the continuance of it; but they were dismissed by the legate with this mortifying answer, that he had no instructions concerning them," and that "it was not fit for him to act beyond his commission.” However, that he might not drive them into despair, he advised them to apply themselves to the pope: but it being now above a year since the agreement betwixt king John and Pandulphus, this answer appeared to be nothing else but artifice, and the art lay so open, that the clergy and religious easily saw what they were to expect, and returned home in great discontent, and, for aught appears to the contrary, without a thought of applying to pope Innocent for a remedy.
The nation continued in a mighty ferment, and the discontents every day spread farther and grew bolder. The clergy and religious universally ran into the party which opposed the king and the court of Rome. A general discontent having thus prepared the way, the earls and barons of England, under the colour of a pilgrimage, met together about the middle of October at St. Edmundsbury in Suffolk, where they bound themselves by an oath to demand of the king the grant of the laws and liberties which king Edward had formerly granted to the church and kingdom of England, and, in case of refusal, agreed to compel him to it by force of arms. And preparations being made accordingly, at Christmas following (1214), they appeared armed and very numerous at the court held at the New Temple in London, where they made their demand in such a manner as gave the king reason enough to be assured they were resolved not to be denied.
This demand was grounded upon a promise made by the king at Winchester in the year 1213, when the archbishop gave him absolution from the excommunication he had lain under for some time: for, taking that opportunity, the archbishop required a promise of the king, which was confirmed by his oath, that he would love, defend, and maintain the church and the clergy against all their adversaries; that he would restore the good laws of his ancestors, especially those of king Edward; and, in general, that he would govern justly. But the king, having answered that it was a matter of the first moment and required time, did by the mediation and security given by the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Ely and William Mareschall, gain time till Easter following, to give his final answer to the demand of the barons.
But as this delay seems to have been designed by the king only to gain time, so it served also, by this appearance of duty and moderation, to give a colour and reputation to the pretences of the confederates. But Easter (1215) being come, the barons met at Stamford in Lincolnshire, and from thence proceeded in a warlike manner towards Oxford, where the king then was; but coming as far as Brackley, they were met by the archbishop and some other commissioners from the king, appointed to receive their demands; which being carried to the king, he answered with great indignation, “Why did not the barons demand his kingdom?" and the second time denied their petition.
Things being come to this pass, both sides prepared for war; and the better to amuse the world and cover their pretensions, both parties took pattern from the court of Rome, and took sanctuary in a pretence of zeal for religion and the church. The king, who was much influenced by the counsels of the legates, fell directly into the steps the court of Rome had frequently tried with good success; and whilst he saw himself in no condition to defend his crown and country, as if he had been perfectly at leisure, and had had nothing to do at home, did with great solemnity take upon him the cross, and put himself under vows of going to Palestine: and, in truth, though he was much more likely to be driven out of his own country than to do any thing towards the recovery of the Holy Land, and in all probability had not so much as one thought of that kind, but, on the contrary, his hypocrisy and dissimulation lay open to every view; yet it is very likely that he was as sincere, and had as much religion at the bottom of this pretence as that court ever had, from whence he took the artifice. And as under this cover that prince pretended that his person and crown were under the immediate protection of the holy chair, so upon the same ground he reproached the other side under the title of apostates to religion, and, according to the new doctrine of the court of Rome, pretended “they had forfeited their lands,” and invited “foreigners to his service with the promises of the forfeited estates b."
That the address might be equal on both sides, the barons set up the like pretensions to religion, and chose Robert Fitz-Walter as their general, under the title of the mareschal of the army of God, and of his holy church. Thus did these unhappy nations behold a war begun upon such grounds, and conducted with such circumstances as the world had never seen before. The king took part with his own vassalage, and drew his sword to continue himself a slave ; and he who for some years before had with a becoming bravery and courage maintained the rights of his crown,
• M. Par. ann. 1215. p. 255. n. 20.
Ejusd. p, 254, n. 40.