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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Of considerable importance that the primate


It

was, in fact, of considerable importance that the primate, on whose co-operation with the King the Norman state originally rested, united himself in this matter as closely as possible with the nobles; among all alike, without regard to their origin, whether from France or from England, had arisen the wish to limit the crown, as it had been limited in the Anglo-Saxon period.

Here, however, they had to discover that the Pope was minded to protect the King, his vassal, not only against attacks from abroad, but also against movements at home. The engagements which the barons had formed, when he released them from their oath of fidelity to the King, he now declared to be invalid and void. The legate in England reported unfavourably on their proceedings, and it was seen that he was intimately allied with the King. The war was still raging on the continent, and the King had been again defeated, at Bouvines, July 27, 1214; he had returned disheartened, but not without bodies of mercenaries, both horse and foot, which excited anxiety in the allied nobles. This feeling was strengthened by the fact that, after the death of a chancellor connected with them by family, and on good terms with them, he raised a foreigner, Peter des Roches, to that dignity, and it was believed that this foreigner would lend a hand to any attempt at restoring the previous state of things. Acts of violence of the old sort, and the King's lusts, which brought dishonour into their

families, added to their indignation. In short, the barons, far from breaking up their alliance, confirmed it with new oaths. While they pressed the King to accept the demands which they laid before him, they sent one of the chief of their number, Eustace de Vescy, to Rome, to win the Pope to their cause, by reminding him of the gratitude due to them for their services in the cause of the Church. As lord of England, for they did not hesitate to designate him as such, he might admonish King John, and, if necessary, force him to restore unimpaired the old rights guaranteed them by the charters of earlier Kings.[31]

But not so did Innocent understand his right of supreme lordship in England; he did not side with those who had helped to win the victory for him over the King, but with the King himself, to whose sudden decision he owed its fruits--the acknowledgment of his feudal superiority. He blamed the archbishop for concealing the movements of the barons from him, and for having, perhaps, even encouraged them, though knowing their pernicious nature: with what view was he stirring questions of which no mention had been made either under the King's father or brother? He censured the barons for refusing the scutage, which had been paid from old times, and for their threat of proceeding sword in hand. He repeated his command to them to break up their confederacy, under threat of excommunication.

As one step lower the primate and nobles, so in the highest sphere Innocent and John were in alliance. The Papacy, then in possession of supremacy over the world, made common cause with royalty. Would not the nobles, some from reverence for the supreme Pontiff's authority, others from a sense of religious obligation, yield to this alliance? Such was not their intention.[32]

The King proffered the barons an arbitration, the umpire to be the Pope, or else an absolute reference of the whole matter to him, who then by his apostolic power could settle what was right and lawful. They could not possibly accept either the one or the other, after the known declarations of the Pope. As they persevered in their hostile attitude, the King called on the archbishop to carry out the instructions of a Papal brief, and pronounce the barons excommunicated. Stephen Langton answered that he knew better what was the true intention of the holy father. The Pope's name this time remained quite powerless. Rather it was preached in London that the highest spiritual power should not encroach on temporal affairs; Peter, in the significant phrase of the time, could not be Constantine as well.[33] Only among the lower citizens was there a party favourable to the King, but they were put down at a blow by the great barons and the rich citizens. The capital threw its whole weight on the side of the barons. They rose in arms and formally renounced their allegiance to the King; they proclaimed war against him under the name of 'the army of God.' Thus confronted by the whole kingdom, in which there appeared to be only one opinion, the King had no means of resistance remaining, no choice left.


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