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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

'Is not the King of England my vassal


and had then in turn overcome

the vassals by combining with the monarchy and its endangered rights. It must not be regarded as a mere title, an empty word, if the Pope was acknowledged to be feudal Lord of England: his legates, Gualo, Pandulph, Otho, and with them some native prelates, devoted to him (above all that Peter des Roches, who, by his conduct when Bishop of Winchester, through the mistrust awakened, incurred almost the chief responsibility of the earlier troubles), spoke the decisive word in the affairs of the kingdom and crushed their opponents. It was reported that Innocent IV was heard to say, 'Is not the King of England my vassal, my servant? At my nod he will imprison and punish.'[37] Under this influence the best benefices in the kingdom were given away without regard to the freedom of election or the rights of patrons, and in fact mostly to foreigners. The Pope's exchequer drew its richest revenues from England; there was no end to the exactions of its subordinate agents, Master Martin, Master Marin, Peter Rubeo, and all the rest of them. Even the King surrounded himself with foreigners. To his own relations and to the relations of his Provencal wife fell the most profitable places, and the advantages arising from his paramount feudal rights; they too exercised much influence on public affairs, and that in the interests of the Papal power, with which they were allied. Riotous movements occasionally took place against this system, but they were suppressed: men suffered in silence as long as
it was only the exercise of rights once acknowledged. But now it happened that the Popes in their war with the last of the Hohenstaufen, whom they had resolved to destroy, proposed to employ the resources of England and in a very different manner than before. They awoke Henry III's dynastic ambition by promoting the elevation of his brother to be King of the Romans, and destining his younger son Edmund for the crown of Naples and Sicily. King Henry pledged himself in return to the heaviest money-payments. It began to appear as if England were no longer a free kingdom, using its resources for its own objects: the land and all its riches was at the service of the Pope at Rome; the King was little more than a tool of the hierarchy.

It was at this crisis that the Parliaments of England, if they did not actually begin, yet first attained to a definite form and efficiency.

The opposition of the country to the ecclesiastico-temporal government became most conspicuous in the year 1257, when Henry, happy beyond measure in his son's being raised to royal rank by the Apostolic See, presented his son to the Great Council of the nation, already wearing the national costume of Naples, and named the sum, to the payment of which he had pledged himself in return. The Estates at once refused their consent to his accepting the crown, which they considered could not be maintained owing to the untrustworthiness of the Italians, and of the Romish See itself, and the distance of the country; the money-pledge excited loud displeasure. Since they were required to redeem it, they reasonably enough gave it to be understood that they ought to have been consulted first. It was precisely the alliance of the Pope and the King that they had long felt most bitterly; they said truly, England would by such a joint action be as it were ground to dust between two millstones. As, however, despite all remonstrances, the demands were persevered with,--for the King had taken on himself the debts incurred by Pope Alexander IV in the Neapolitan war, and the Pope had already referred to England the bankers entrusted with the payments,--a storm of opposition broke out, which led to what was equivalent to an overthrow of the government. The King had to consent to the appointment of a committee for reforming the realm, to be named in equal proportions by himself and by the barons; from this, however, was selected a council of fifteen members, in which the King's opponents had a decisive majority. They put forth Statutes, at Oxford, which virtually stripped the King of his power; he had to swear to them with a lighted taper in his hand. The Pope without hesitation at once condemned these ordinances; King Louis IX of France also, who was called in as arbiter, decided against them: and some moderate men drew back from them: but among the rest the zeal with which they held to them was thus only inflamed to greater violence. They had the King in their power, and felt themselves strong enough to impose their will on him as law.


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