History of England, Part I For the use of Middle Forms of Schools

Tout, T. F. --Powell, F. York


CHAPTER III: John Lackland 1199-1215

1. Earl now sent Archbishop Hubert and William the Marshal to England to help the Justiciar to take charge of the realm. They held a council, and promising on 's behalf to right all wrongs and rule righteously, got the barons and people to swear fealty to him. But the people of Brittany, Maine, Anjou, and Touraine wished Arthur to be king, and his mother Constance, a foolish, headstrong woman, gave the boy into Philip's charge, who took up his cause. However, the earl and Queen Eleanor wrested Angers and Maine from the rebels, and on Easter Day was crowned with the gilt coronet of Normandy by Hugh of Avalon. He then crossed to England, where on Ascension Day, 27th May, before a great gathering, he took the coronation oaths, Hubert adjuring him in the name of God not to dare take the crown unless he had it in his heart to fulfil the promises he had made.

loses Normandy, . then went back to Normandy, made peace with the French king, and, in , gave his niece, Blanche of Castile (whom Eleanor, now eighty years old, had herself fetched from Spain to her bridegroom), to the French prince Louis to wife. But in an evil hour fell in love with Isabel, daughter of the Earl of Angoulesme, who was already espoused to Hugh the Brown of Lusignan, Earl of Marche, and (putting away his own wife, Hawis of Gloster) married her. This match led to a breach with Philip, who took up the earl's quarrel, and, in , sent Arthur (whose mother was now dead) with 200 French knights to help the rebellious Poitevins against the English king. But the old queen, Eleanor, held out in the keep of Mirabel, though Hugh and her grandson had taken the bailey, till the 31st of July, when hurried up to her relief, and driving the besiegers like sheep into the castleyard took Aithur captive, together with his sister Eleanor the Fair Maid of Brittany, Earl Hugh, and nearly all their knights. Arthur was sent to Falaise and the rest thrown into prison. In offered his nephew fair terms if he would promise to be faithful to him, but the angry lad swore that he would never give his uncle a year's peace till he had won England and the rest of 's inheritance from him; whereon , seeing that he could never trust


him, sent him to the New Tower at Rouen under close guard. There he died, no man knows how, April , and Philip straightway summoned the English king to be tried for murder before the Peers of France on the accusation of the Bishop of Rennes. But as he would not promise him a safe-conduct there and back, refusing to risk himself in his enemy's power, was tried in his absence, found guilty of treason and felony, and sentenced to lose all his French fiefs. Philip further made ready to carry out the judgment, and invaded Normandy. Trusting in his riches and skill as a general, now fell into a strange kind of recklessness, sitting still in Rouen with his wife, feasting and making merry, and laughing at the news of Philip's successes, which he boasted he could revenge with interest whenever he had a mind to. In vain the poets tried to rouse the by their satires.

"Sore must Guienne, in this her evil plight, Bewail King


, who ne'er grudged to spend His gold and silver freely to defend The land that this man seems to hold so light. Feasting and hunting all his thoughts engage, And hawks and hounds he loves and ease; whereby He suffers lack of honour, carelessly, And lets men thrust him from his heritage."

His barons set his behaviour down to cowardice, some in disgust surrendering their castles at Philip's first summons, while most of the English knights went home without leave, for which , who crossed to England to hold his Yule as Hubert's guest at , fined them heavily. But though he raised money and gathered men, his faithful lieges over sea got no help. For nearly a year Roger of Lacy, the Constable of Chester, held the key of Normandy, The Saucy Castle, against all the French assaults, but in the spring of his stores gave out, when, despairing of relief, he tried to cut his way through the besiegers and was taken. Now this great stronghold had fallen, Rouen and the other towns sent a last message to , telling him that they must surrender in default of instant succour, but he bade them shift for themselves. The old queen, Eleanor, who had saved them before, fell ill and died, 21st March, and so all hope being gone, one by one they were obliged to make terms. By July all Normandy (save the Channel Isles), as well as Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, were in Philip's hands. No real attempt at a rescue was made till , for the English barons and distrusted each other, when the king sailed


to Rochelle with a large army and took Montauban with his war-engines. But after four months' campaign he agreed to a truce and went back to England. So the heritage of was lost for ever, and the Angevin princes forced to rule henceforward as English kings, not merely as kings of England.

2. ' quarrel with the Church, .In died Hubert, the wise archbishop, whose talents as a soldier and architect had won the favour of , and whose clear statecraft had made him a useful servant to ; while his truthfulness and wisdom gained him the respect of the clergy, who had at first looked on him with distrust; and his generosity and even temper compelled the regard of the people, who had dreaded his stern justice. By his advice the king had hitherto, like his father and brother, treated the Church with a fair tongue and a firm hand, and avoided all cause of trouble. But ere Hubert was buried, the younger party of the monks of , who claimed the right of choosing the archbishops, met secretly, named their sub-prior Reginald to the office, and sent him to Rome for the pall. The elder monks, fearing lest their rashness might bring evil on the minister, went to and agreed to name the man he should wish. chose one of his ministers, John of Gray, Bishop of , a man ill-spoken of as

" a servant of Mammon and an evil shepherd that devoured his own sheep."

Several of the monks were then sent to Rome to beg the Pope to confirm the election. But the bishops, who held that the choice of an archbislop lay with them, not with the monks, appealed to Rome against both claimants. However, Innocent, the most proud and powerful of all the popes, quashed their plea, set aside both Reginald and as unduly chosen, and made the monks elect his friend, Dr. Stephen Langton, a pious and wise man, whom he consecrated himself at Viterbo, June .

The king angrily refused to acknowledge Stephen, drove the monks abroad, and defied the Pope, who, after writing in vain to persuade him to an agreement, on March 23, , laid an Interdict on the whole realm. No public service could be held, the churches were closed, and the dead were refused burial in the churchyards while it lasted, so that the people were in sore distress. But the king was the more angry, and sent his officers to seize the goods and land of the Church for his own use, merely leaving the clergy enough for their daily bread. In Innocent threatened to excommunicate and cast him out of the pale of the Church;


when most of the bishops,

"fearing the king, but daring not obey him for dread of the Pope,"

fled abroad till these troubles were past.

Still would not yield. He made good his position in England by ordering his barons to swear fealty to him afresh and give hostages for their loyalty. With the money he wrung from the Church and the Jews (whom he treated cruelly, imprisoning them and torturing them till they ransomed themselves with their treasure) he raised great numbers of hired troops. Marching north in he compelled William the Lion to do homage and pay a heavy tribute. Next year with a fleet of 500 ships he went to Ireland, which was troubled by the quarrels between the Lacies and Courcy in Ulster, and the lawless behaviour of the outlaws who had fled from England to the Pale, beside the usual Irish wars. By seizing the outlaws, beating the King of Connaught, receiving the oaths of the Irish princes, restoring good laws, and setting good officers in the Pale, he quickly pacified the country, and leaving John of Gray, who, whatever his faults as a churchman, was no mean statesman, as Justiciar, sailed home with his captives in triumph. In he forced his son-in-law , the Welsh prince, to do homage at Snowdon, and sternly punished all outrages done along the Welsh border.

But now the Pope sent Pandulf, his counsellor, and Durand, a knight of S. John, to make peace between the king and the archbishop, and they gave the king the Pope's message at a great council at Northampton. And when he refused to listen to their words, Pandulf, in the Pope's name, declared all 's subjects free from their oaths of fealty to him. Whereon the enemies of were glad, the Welsh rose again, and the king was afraid to summon his barons together against them, for he knew that Robert Fitz-Walter the Banner-bearer of London and Eustace of Vesci, with many of the northern barons whom he had set against him by his insulting behaviour, were plotting against him. Still the greater part of the nobles, under the leadership of his brother William Longsword Earl of Salisbury, Geoffrey Fitz-Peter the Justiciar, and Hugh Neville the Grand Forester, a brave old crusader who had slain a lion single-handed in the Holy Land, as well as many of the more worldly clergy, such as des Roches Bishop of; and the Bishops of Bath and Durham, held by him; though his chief trust was in his hired troops and their captains-in Fawkes of Breaute with his engineers and Flemish men-at-arms,


and in Gerard of Athyes, Ingelard of Cigognes, Philip Mark, and many more with their Gascon arblast-men and knights. Those conspirators who were unable to get away were speedily thrown into prison, and set about pleasing the people by laying down good rules for the seaports' trade, and forgiving offenders against the forest law.

3. [1] But the Pope, grieved at the wretched state of England, now gave final sentence that



should be thrust from his throne, and that another worthier than he should reign in his stead,"

granting the crown to Philip of France, whom he bade carry out this decree. had already formed a league with his nephew Otho the Emperor (who had also quarrelled with Innocent), Earl Ferdinand of Flanders, and Reginald Earl of Boulogne against Philip, and both sides gathered their forces. And now resolved to come to terms with Innocent, believing that if he could only make peace speedily with the Church, he might crush his rival and win back all he had lost. He was also afraid of dying excommunicate, and frightened at the prophecy of Peter the Wise the Wakefield Hermit who had foretold that he should lose his crown ere next Ascension Day. Accordingly on May 15th, at Ewell, near , where he was lying with a huge host, he received Pandulf, and by advice of his barons agreed to all Innocent's demands, promising to receive Stephen and make good to the clergy all the damage they had undergone. Moreover, he gave up his kingdom to the Pope, taking it back as a fief, for which he was to pay homage and a yearly rent of 1000 marks.

Before the Pope's absolution could arrive William Longsword and the Earl of Boulogne attacked the French fleet lying at Damme, ready to invade England, took 300 ships and all the stores, and burned the rest, so putting an end to Philip's carefully-laid plans. However, the English nobles, ill-pleased at the behaviour of 's ministers and hired soldiers, and worn down by the heavy taxes which he laid upon them, refused under different excuses to go with him to France to follow up this splendid success.

In July Stephen landed and absolved the king at Winchester, giving him the coronation oaths again. He also persuaded him not to punish the disobedient northern barons, while at S. Albans (4th August) Geoffrey the Justiciar promised that the laws of King I. should be kept henceforward and all injustices swept away. On the 25th August the archbishop read the charter of I.


to a gathering of barons at S. Paul's, telling them that if they stood by it they would soon win back all the rights they had let drop, and promising to help them. They were pleased with his words, and swore to stand by their rights to the death, and Geoffrey laid their wishes before the king. A council was then called at , to which not only those barons and knights who held their lands directly of the king were to come, but also four gentlemen chosen from each county to talk with him about the needs and business of the country. Soon after this died the Justiciar,

"a most steadfast pillar of the realm, a man of high birth, well skilled in the law, rich, and of great possessions, and knit to the greatest nobles in England by blood or friendship, wherefore the king feared him above all other men, and he was able to hold the reins of the realm."

When heard of his faithful servant's death he laughed, and said with an oath, and he gave the justiciarship to his favourite, For the time the nobles were uncertain what to do, and the clergy were divided; for when the legate Nicolas came in November to take off the Interdict and receive the king's homage, he filled the vacant sees and abbacies with the king's friends, and took the king's part against Archbishop Stephen.

So, though his barons were still stubborn, gathered a great hired force and sailed to La Rochelle early in , meaning to put down a rebellion in Poitou and attack Philip from the west, while his nephew the Emperor Otho, the Flemish earls, and William Longsword should invade France on the east. was successful on his side, and Prince Louis retreated before him. On the east the allies marched as far as the bridge of Bovines, where Philip met them with his knights and the militia levies, a fine body of footmen, who had marched up from the towns and villages under their parish priests. He pitched his camp for the night, barricading his front with baggage and waggons. Next morning, Sunday, July 27, Earl Reginald and Otho were unwilling to attack; but they were overruled, and the allied army was drawn up for battle in three divisions. In the first were the English and Flemings under the Earls of Salisbury, Flanders, and Boulogne; in the second the Brabanters led by Hugh of Boves, and the Hollanders by their duke William; and in the third the Germans under the Emperor himself. The earls led the attack and pressed on


hotly, fighting their way through the barricade to the French king, who was struck down and all but slain by Earl Reginald; but the French militia swarmed round them, and after a hard fight they were cut off and made prisoners, the Bishop of Beauvais striking down and seizing William of Salisbury with his own hand. Philip and his knights then pushed on in triumph, routed Duke William and Hugh, driving them from the field, and fell with all their force upon the third division of the allied army. But though he had three horses killed under him, Otho scorned to surrender, and laid about him so fiercely with his sharp two-handed sword that at length the French gave up the attack and let him withdraw his troops in good order. This defeat led to Otho's fall, and forced to make a hasty peace with Philip and go back to England baffled and exhausted to face his discontented subjects.

4. [2] The northern barons and the archbishop saw that their time was come, and meeting at S. Edmund's Minster, November 20, under colour of a pilgrimage, the nobles swore at the high altar to throw off their allegiance and take up arms unless the king pledged himself to allow their rights in a charter under seal; agreeing to present their terms to him at Christmas, and meanwhile to furnish themselves with horses and arms. When heard their request at Christmas, he was afraid, and asked them to wait till Easter, for the matter was weighty, and they agreed to this. Meanwhile he busied himself in trying to win over the clergy by granting them free right to choose their own bishops, and to check the barons by asking them to swear fresh oaths of allegiance, and by taking the Cross, which would shelter him from armed attack; he also prayed the Pope to help his faithful vassal. But all availed nothing, at Easter the northern league and the archbishop, who were now joined by most of the other English nobles, met at Stamford, March 19, in number 2000 armed knights, besides men-at-arms and foot-soldiers in great force, and sent to at a list of Articles which they wished him to sign. But he refused with an angry oath.

Thus rebuffed, the barons flew to arms, and having chosen Robert Fitz-Walter as general, naming him marched to London, where


the burgesses gladly received them, May 24. Hence they wrote to William the Marshal, William Longsword, Randulf Earl of Chester, the Earls of Warrenne, Albemarle, and Cornwall, Hugh Neville, and the other ministers who still held by the king, bidding them join them at once unless they wished to be treated as foes. Their summons was quickly obeyed, and found himself alone with his hired soldiers against the whole English baronage. He could not but yield, and on June 15 he met the barons at , between Staines and Windsor, and sealed .

By this Charter, founded upon that of I. and sworn to by the king and the whole of the prelates and barons- a. The full rights and liberties of the Church are acknowledged. b. The feudal rights of the king over his vassals, and of these vassals over their tenants, are limited and settled. c. No scutage or aid (save for the ransom of the king, the knighting of his eldest son, and the first marriage of his eldest daughter) is to be levied save by the Common Council of the realm, specially called, by separate writs [letters] to the bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons, and general writs through the sheriffs and bailiffs to all who held directly of the king. The free rights of London and the other chartered towns are allowed. d. The harsh law of debts to the king and the Jews is made milder. A court of Common Pleas [cases between subjects] is fixed at Westminster. Cases touching the ownership of land are to be tried in the counties by the justices in eyre. Vexatious appeals are forbidden, and the conduct and appointment of the king's judges, sheriffs, and officers strictly regulated. No free man is to be taken, imprisoned, ousted of his land, outlawed, banished, or hurt in any way save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. No free man is to be fined beyond his offence or means or without trial. Englishmen and foreigners are to have free right to pass in and out of England in time of peace. The king is neither to sell, put off, or deny right or justice to any one. e. An inquiry into the Forest Laws is promised. The foreign soldiers, Gerard of Athyes, Ingelard of Cigognes, and all the gang that came with horses and arms to the hurt of the realm, are to be sent out of the country. Right is to be done to , Prince of Wales, and , King of Scots, who had sided with the barons. All past ill will and offences arising from the struggle are forgiven. In a supplementary document, called Secutitas Pacis, twenty-five Sworn Guardians chosen from among the barons were appointed to watch over the keeping of the Charter, being empowered to demand the instant putting right of any breach of its articles, and, in default, allowed to make war on the king till the matter should be settled to their pleasure.

The Twenty-five chosen were seven earls-Clare, Albemarle, Gloster,


, Hereford, Norfolk, and ; the chief of the younger barons--Robert Fitz-Walter, Gilbert Clare, Hugh Bigod, John Fitz-Robert, William Mallet, and William, son of the Marshal; Eustace of Vesci, and four other northerln barons-Percy, Mowbray, Ros, and Lacy; the Mayor of London, and the lords of Lanvalay, Say, Mumbazon, Huntingfield, Montfichet, and Albiney.

This great table of laws, won by the people of England from a tyrannous king, was the first Act which laid down in black and white the main points of the Constitution and the several rights and duties of king and people.

5. [3]  never meant to abide by the Charter, but his rage at having been forced to yield was terrible. He at once sent over the sea for more hired troops, and wrote secretly to bid Fawkes and Philip Mark, and the other foreign captains, to whom he chiefly trusted, to store and arm the castles they still held for him against their coming. He also appealed to the Pope against the Charter as won by force and against the overlord's interests.

Innocent warmly took his part, ordered Archbishop Stephen to Rome, freed from his oaths, and threatened to excommunicate the barons if they persisted in rebellion.

Soon bands of hired soldiers, thirsty for blood and gold, and caring little for aught else, came flocking to the royal banner. There were Savary of Mauleon the poet-baron and his Poitevin knights, Walter Buck and his Brabanters, Godshalk of Saxony with his crossbowmen; and many more, though the cruel Hugh of Boves, with a whole colony of Flemings, to whom the king had given Norfolk and Suffolk to dwell in, were shipwrecked and drowned to the great joy of the East English.

Thoroughly roused, showed skill and quickness, seized Rochester, while the barons lay feasting and jousting at London, and hurried north with William of Albemarle and Godshalk to drive King of Scots from Northumberland, which the barons had promised him, and to lay waste the northern rebels' lands, leaving Fawkes, Savary, and Walter Buck to watch London. Burning, plundering, and wasting all before him, reached Berwick and took it, swearing he would drive the red fox [] from his earth, then turned south again. Fawkes meanwhile harried the midlands, and the barons made raids on the home counties to get food and stores for their needs. Wherever the troops came the country-folk fled, for the Flemings slew the poor-men, women, and children-and tortured the rich to make them give up their money, while some of the English nobles,


reckless under the Pope's ban and the fear of 's vengeance, behaved little better.

In despair the barons, March , offered the crown to Louis the French prince, who in spite of the commands of Walo, the Pope's legate, landed at Stonor, May 21. broke up his camp at , for fear of treachery from his foreign hirelings, and leaving Hubert of Burgh (a good and true knight who had been his seneschal in Poitou) to keep the castle, retreated westward. Louis was joyfully welcomed to London, where the barons paid him homage. He was shortly joined by many Flemish deserters, by the King of Scots, and not a few who had hitherto held with John -Hugh Neville, the Earls of Warrenne and Arundel, and even William Longsword; and Lynn, , , Cambridge, and yielded to him. But Windsor held out, 1000 yeomen under Wilkin the Archer took to the woods and harassed his army, the Cinque Ports' fleet burned his ships, and he could not win ; nay, when William Longsword came to the gate and told Hubert that Louis had sworn to hang his brother Thomas de Burgh (whom he had captured) unless he yielded, the stout castellan rebuked the earl as traitor to his king and kinsman, and threatened to shoot him if he said more. In September, having got help from the Welsh border, where he had ruled best, marched swiftly across the midlands, resolved to bring matters to a speedy issue, retook Lynn and (where he was well-liked by the merchants and sailors), and set out for London. As they crossed the Wash, by some ill-hap his baggage and treasure were swallowed in a quicksand. The king himself having narrowly escaped, fell ill at Swineshead Abbey (where he lay next night, October 12), whether of poison, as some say, or, as others think, of grief and rage at his loss. Still he pressed on, and paying no heed to his health, but gorging himself with peaches and new cider, he grew worse and worse, and died at Newark, October 19, bequeathing his soul to God and his body to S. Wulfstan, in whose minster at Worcester it was honourably buried.

had all the vices, most of the talent, and none of the virtues of his family. Handsome, well-made, and graceful, of fair speech and winning manner when he wished to please, he had the gift of binding men and women to him, so that none whom he trusted ever betrayed him though his cold-hearted ungratefulness was known to all. He led a foul and shameless life, was hatefully cruel, torturing his


prisoners (even women and children), faithless to word and bond, treacherous to his best friends or closest kin; for he regarded neither honour, love, or duty where they would thwart his pride or passion. Well-read, well-trained, a good general, a cunning statesman, knowing how to profit by men's weaknesses, succeeding to a united realm and a body of capable servants, with a successful policy clearly marked out for him, an honest man with half his brains might have ruled gloriously, but 's wicked selfishness met its due reward, and in spite of his well-laid plans and mighty power, he was forced to humble himself to the Pope, whom he scorned and defied, to the rival whom he loathed and despised, and to the subjects whom he had insulted and betrayed.


[] [1203-1209.]

[] [1209-1213.]

[1] John becomes the Pope'vassal, May 15, 1213.

[] [1213-1215.]

[2] The Great Charter, June 1,1215.

[] [1215-1216.]

[3] Wretched end of John's reign, 1215-1216.

[] [1216.

  • In-text illustrations for this text are cataloged in MS004/002.001#DO01.
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