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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

On which Simon de Montfort necessarily relied


Without

doubt they had the opinion of the country on their side. For the first time since the Conquest the insular spirit of England, which was now shared even by the conquerors themselves, manifested itself in a natural opposition to all foreign influence. The King's half-brothers with their numerous dependents were driven out without mercy, their castles occupied, their places given to the foremost Englishmen. The Papal legate Guido, one of the most distinguished members of the Curia, who himself became Pope at a later time, was forbidden to enter England. Most foreigners, it mattered not of what station or nationality, were forced to quit the realm: it went hard with those who could not speak English. The leader of the barons, Simon de Montfort, was solemnly declared Protector of the kingdom and people; he had in particular the lower clergy, the natural leaders of the masses, on his side. When he was put under the ban of the Church his followers retorted by assuming the badge of the cross, since his cause appeared to them just and holy.[38]

At this very juncture it was that the attempt was made to form a Parliamentary Assembly corresponding to the meaning of that word.

The Statutes or Provisions of Oxford contain the first attempt to effect this, by enacting that thrice every year the newly formed royal Council should meet together with twelve men elected by the Commonalty of England, and consult on the affairs of

the kingdom.[39] There is no doubt that these twelve belonged to the nobles and were to represent them: the decisive point lies in the fact that it was not a number of nobles summoned by the King, but a committee of the Estates chosen by themselves that was placed by the side of the Council. The Council and the twelve persons elected formed for some years an association that united the executive and legislative powers.

But this continued only as long as the King acquiesced in it. When he had the courage to resist, it is true that in the first encounter which ensued, he was himself taken prisoner: but his partisans were not crushed by this; and soon after his wife, who had collected about her a considerable body of mercenaries, in concert with the Pope and the King of France, thought herself strong enough to invade England. Simon felt that he needed a greater, in other words, a broader, basis of support. And the design he then conceived has secured him an imperishable memory. He summoned first of all representatives of the knights of the shires, and directly afterwards representatives of the towns and the Cinque Ports, to form a Parliament in conjunction with the nobles of the realm. This was not an altogether new thing in the European world; we know that in the Cortes of Aragon, as early as the 12th century, by the side of the high nobility and the ecclesiastics there appeared also the Hidalgos and the deputies of the Commons; and Simon de Montfort might well be aware of this, since his father had been in so many ways connected with Aragon. In England itself under King John men had come very near it without however carrying it through: not till afterwards did the innovation appear a real necessity. In opposition to the one-sided power exercised by the foreigners, nothing was so much insisted on in daily talk and in the popular ballads as the propriety of calling the natives of the land to counsel, since to them its laws were best known. This justifiable wish met with adequate satisfaction now that the Commons were summoned; the public feeling against the foreigners, on which Simon de Montfort necessarily relied, thus found expression. The assembly which he called together doubtless sympathised with his party views. As he invited only those nobles to it who remained true to him (they were not more than twenty-three in number), so he appears to have summoned those only of the towns which adhered to him unconditionally. But the arrangement involved more than was contemplated from his point of view.


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