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The History of England From the Norman Conquest by George Burton Adams

Part 8 out of 9

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he was not overlooking his conduct toward his vassals. Several interviews
were held between the kings of a not unfriendly character; the treaty of
the previous year was confirmed, and John was invited to Paris by Philip
and entertained in the royal palace. It was at first proposed that the
case between John and the Lusignans should be tried in his own court as
Count of Poitou, but he insisted upon such conditions that the trial was
refused. Meanwhile Philip's affairs were rapidly becoming settled and he
was able to take up again his plans of conquest. The death of Agnes of
Meran made possible a reconciliation with the Church, and the death of
the Count of Champagne added the revenues of that great barony to his own
through his wardship of the heir. In the spring of 1202 he was ready for
action. The barons of Poitou had already lodged an appeal with him as
overlord against the illegal acts of John. This gave him a legal
opportunity without violating any existing treaty. After an interview
with John on March 25, which left things as they were, a formal summons
was issued citing John to appear before Philip's court and answer to any
charges against him. He neither came nor properly excused himself, though
he tried to avoid the difficulty. He alleged that as Duke of Normandy he
could not be summoned to Paris for trial, and was answered that he had
not been summoned as Duke of Normandy but as Count of Poitou. He demanded
a safe conduct and was told that he could have one for his coming, but
that his return would depend on the sentence of the court. He said that
the king of England could not submit to such a trial, and was answered
that the king of France could not lose his rights over a vassal because
he happened to have acquired another dignity. Finally, John's legal
rights of delay and excuse being exhausted, the court decreed that he
should be deprived of all the fiefs which he held of France on the ground
of failure of service. All the steps of this action from its beginning to
its ending seem to have been perfectly regular, John being tried, of
course, not on the appeal of the barons of Poitou which had led to the
king's action, but for his refusal to obey the summons, and the severe
sentence with which it closed was that which the law provided, though it
was not often enforced in its extreme form, and probably would not have
been in this case if John had been willing to submit.[67]

The sentence of his court Philip gladly accepted, and invaded Normandy
about June 1, capturing place after place with almost no opposition from
John. Arthur, now sixteen years old, he knighted, gave him the
investiture of all the Angevin fiefs except Normandy, and betrothed him
to his own daughter Mary. On August 1 occurred an event which promised at
first a great success for John, but proved in its consequences a main
cause of his failure, and led to the act of infamy by which he has ever
since been most familiarly known. Arthur, hearing that his grandmother
Eleanor was at the castle of Mirebeau in Poitou with a small force, laid
siege to the castle to capture her as John's chief helper, and quickly
carried the outer works. Eleanor had managed, however, to send off a
messenger to her son at Le Mans, and John, calling on the fierce energy
he at times displayed, covered the hundred miles between them in a day
and a night, surprised the besiegers by his sudden attack, and captured
their whole force. To England he wrote saying that the favour of God had
worked with him wonderfully, and a man more likely to receive the favour
of God might well think so. Besides Arthur, he captured Hugh of Lusignan
the younger and his uncle Geoffrey, king Richard's faithful supporter in
the Holy Land, with many of the revolted barons and, as he reported with
probable exaggeration, two hundred knights and more. Philip, who was
besieging Arques, on hearing the news, retired hastily to his own land
and in revenge made a raid on Tours, which in his assault and John's
recapture was almost totally destroyed by fire. The prisoners and booty
were safely conveyed to Normandy, and Arthur was imprisoned at Falaise.

Instantly anxiety began to be felt by the friends of Arthur as to his
fate. William des Roches, who was still in the service of John, went to
the king with barons from Britanny and asked that his prisoner be given up
to them. Notwithstanding the written promise and oath which John had given
to follow the counsel of William in his treatment of Arthur, he refused
this request. William left the king's presence to go into rebellion, and
was joined by many of the barons of Britanny; at the end of October they
got possession of Angers. It was a much more serious matter that during
the autumn and winter extensive disaffection and even open treason began
to show themselves among the barons of Normandy. What disposition should
be made of Arthur was, no doubt, a subject of much debate in the king's
mind, and very likely with his counsellors, during the months that
followed the capture. John's lack of insight was on the moral side, not
at all on the intellectual, and he no doubt saw clearly that so long as
Arthur lived he never could be safe from the designs of Philip. On the
other hand he probably did not believe that Philip would seriously attempt
the unusual step of enforcing in full the sentence of the court against
him, and underestimated both the danger of treason and the moral effect of
the death of Arthur. What the fate of the young Count of Britanny really
was no one has ever known. The most accurate statement of what we do know
is that of an English chronicler[68] who says that he was removed from
Falaise to Rouen by John's order and that not long after he suddenly
disappeared, and we may add that this disappearance must have been about
the Easter of 1203. Many different stories were in circulation at the time
or soon after, accounting for his death as natural, or accidental, or a
murder, some of them in abundant detail, but in none of these can we have
any confidence. The only detail of the history which seems historically
probable is one we find in an especially trustworthy chronicler, which
represents John as first intending to render Arthur incapable of ruling by
mutilation and sending men to Falaise to carry out this plan.[69] It was
not done, though Arthur's custodian, Hubert de Burgh, thought it best to
give out the report that it had been, and that the young man had died in
consequence. The report roused such a storm of anger among the Bretons
that Hubert speedily judged it necessary to try to quiet it by evidence
that Arthur was still alive, and John is said not to have been angry that
his orders had been disobeyed. It is certain, however, that he learned no
wisdom from the result of this experiment, and that Arthur finally died
either by his order or by his hand.

It is of some interest that in all the contemporary discussion of this
case no one ever suggested that John was personally incapable of such a
violation of his oath or of such a murder with his own hand. He is of all
kings the one for whose character no man, of his own age or later, has
ever had a good word. Historians have been found to speak highly of his
intellectual or military abilities, but words have been exhausted to
describe the meanness of his moral nature and his utter depravity. Fully
as wicked as William Rufus, the worst of his predecessors, he makes on
the reader of contemporary narratives the impression of a man far less
apt to be swept off his feet by passion, of a cooler and more deliberate,
of a meaner and smaller, a less respectable or pardonable lover of vice
and worker of crimes. The case of Arthur exhibits one of his deepest
traits, his utter falsity, the impossibility of binding him, his
readiness to betray any interest or any man or woman, whenever tempted to
it. The judgment of history on John has been one of terrible severity,
but the unanimous opinion of contemporaries and posterity is not likely
to be wrong, and the failure of personal knowledge and of later study to
find redeeming features assures us of their absence. As to the murder of
Arthur, it was a useless crime even if judged from the point of view of a
Borgian policy merely, one from which John had in any case little to gain
and of which his chief enemy was sure to reap the greatest advantage.

Soon after Easter Philip again took the field, still ignorant of the fate
of Arthur, as official acts show him to have been some months later.
Place after place fell into his hands with no serious check and no active
opposition on the part of John, some opening their gates on his approach,
and none offering an obstinate resistance. The listless conduct of John
during the loss of Normandy is not easy to explain. The only suggestion
of explanation in the contemporary historians is that of the general
prevalence of treason in the duchy, which made it impossible for the king
to know whom to trust and difficult to organize a sufficient defence to
the advance of Philip, and undoubtedly this factor in the case should
receive more emphasis than it has usually been given. Other kings had had
to contend with extensive treason on the part of the Norman barons, but
never in quite the same circumstances and probably never of quite the
same spirit. Treason now was a different thing from that of mere feudal
barons in their alliance with Louis VII in the reign of Henry I. It might
be still feudal in form, but its immediate and permanent results were
likely to be very different. It was no temporary defection to be overcome
by some stroke of policy or by the next turn of the wheel. It was joining
the cause of Philip Augustus and the France which he had done so much
already to create; it was being absorbed in the expansion of a great
nation to which the duchy naturally belonged, and coming under the
influence of rapidly forming ideals of nationality, possibly even induced
by them more or less consciously felt. This may have been treason in
form, but in real truth it was a natural and inevitable current, and
from it there was no return. John may have felt something of this.
Its spirit may have been in the atmosphere, and its effect would be
paralyzing. Still we find it impossible to believe that Henry I in the
same circumstances would have done no more than John did to stem the tide.
He seemed careless and inert. He showed none of the energy of action
or clearness of mind which he sometimes exhibits. Men came to him with
the news of Philip's repeated successes, and he said, "Let him go on, I
shall recover one day everything he is taking now"; though what he was
depending on for this result never appears. Perhaps he recognized
the truth of what, according to one account, William Marshal told him to
his face, that he had made too many enemies by his personal conduct,[70]
and so he did not dare to trust any one; but we are tempted after all
explanation to believe there was in the case something of that moral
breakdown in dangerous crises which at times comes to men of John's

By the end of August Philip was ready for the siege of the
Chateau-Gaillard, Richard's great fortress, the key to Rouen and so to
the duchy. John seems to have made one attempt soon after to raise the
siege, but with no very large forces, and the effort failed; it may even
have led to the capture of the fort on the island in the river and the
town of Les Andelys by the French. Philip then drew his lines round the
main fortress and settled down to a long blockade. The castle was
commanded by Roger de Lacy, a baron faithful to John, and one who could
be trusted not to give up his charge so long as any further defence was
possible. He was well furnished with supplies, but as the siege went on
he found himself obliged, following a practice not infrequent in the
middle ages, to turn out of the castle, to starve between the lines, some
hundreds of useless mouths of the inhabitants of Les Andelys, who had
sought refuge there on the capture of the town by the French. Philip
finally allowed them to pass his lines. Chateau-Gaillard was at last
taken not by the blockade, but by a series of assaults extending through
about two weeks and closing with the capture of the third or inner ward
and keep on March 6, 1204, an instance of the fact of which the history
of medieval times contains abundant proof, that the siege appliances of
the age were sufficient for the taking of the strongest fortress unless
it were in a situation inaccessible to them. In the meantime John, seeing
the hopelessness of defending Normandy with the resources left him there,
and even, it is said, fearing treasonable designs against his person, had
quitted the duchy in what proved to be a final abandonment and crossed to
England on December 5. He landed with no good feeling towards the English
barons whom he accused of leaving him at the mercy of his enemies, and he
ordered at once a tax of one-seventh of the personal property of clergy
and laymen alike. This was followed by a scutage at the rate of two marks
on the knight's fee, determined on at a great council held at Oxford
early in January. But, notwithstanding these taxes and other ways of
raising money, John seems to have been embarrassed in his measures of
defence by a lack of funds, while Philip was furnished with plenty to
reinforce the victories of his arms with purchased support where
necessary, and to attract John's mercenaries into his service.

After the fall of Chateau-Gaillard events drew rapidly to a close. John
tried the experiment of an embassy headed by Hubert Walter and William
Marshal to see if a peace could be arranged, but Philip naturally set his
terms so high that nothing was to be lost by going on with the war,
however disastrous it might prove. He demanded the release of Arthur, or,
if he were not living, of his sister Eleanor, with the cession to either
of them of the whole continental possessions of the Angevins. In the
interview Philip made known the policy that he proposed to follow in
regard to the English barons who had possessions in Normandy, for he
offered to guarantee to William Marshal and his colleague, the Earl of
Leicester, their Norman lands if they would do him homage. Philip's
wisdom in dealing with his conquests, leaving untouched the possessions
and rights of those who submitted, rewarding with gifts and office those
who proved faithful, made easy the incorporation of these new territories
in the royal domain. By the end of May nearly all the duchy was in the
hands of the French, the chief towns making hardly a show of resistance,
but opening their gates readily on the offer of favourable terms. For
Rouen, which was reserved to the last, the question was a more serious
one, bound as it was to England by commercial interests and likely to
suffer injury if the connexion were broken. Philip granted the city a
truce of thirty days on the understanding that it should be surrendered
if the English did not raise the siege within that time. The messengers
sent to the king in England returned with no promise of help, and on June
24 Philip entered the capital of Normandy.

With the loss of Normandy nothing remained to John but his mother's
inheritance, and against this Philip next turned. Queen Eleanor,
eighty-two years of age, had closed her marvellous career on April 1, and
no question of her rights stood in the way of the absorption of all
Aquitaine in France. The conquest of Touraine and Poitou was almost as
easy as that of Normandy, except the castles of Chinon and Loches which
held out for a year, and the cities of Niort, Thouars, and La Rochelle.
But beyond the bounds of the county of Poitou Philip made no progress. In
Gascony proper where feudal independence of the old type still survived
the barons had no difficulty in perceiving that Philip Augustus was much
less the sort of king they wished than the distant sovereign of England.
No local movement in his favour or national sympathy prepared the way for
an easy conquest, nor was any serious attempt at invasion made. Most of
the inheritance of Eleanor remained to her son, though not through any
effort of his, and the French advance stopped at the capture of the
castles of Loches and Chinon in the summer of 1205. John had not remained
in inactivity in England all this time, however, without some impatience?
but efforts to raise sufficient money for any considerable undertaking or
to carry abroad the feudal levies of the country had all failed. At the
end of May, 1205, he did collect at Portchester what is described as a
very great fleet and a splendid army to cross to the continent, but
Hubert Walter and William Marshal, supported by others of the barons,
opposed the expedition so vigorously and with so many arguments that the
king finally yielded to their opposition though with great reluctance.

The great duchy founded three hundred years before on the colonization of
the Northmen, always one of the mightiest of the feudal states of France,
all the dominions which the counts of Anjou had struggled to bring
together through so many generations, the disputed claims on Maine and
Britanny recognized now for a long time as going with Normandy, a part
even of the splendid possessions of the dukes of Aquitaine;--all these in
little more than two years Philip had transferred from the possession of
the king of England to his own, and all except Britanny to the royal
domain. If we consider the resources with which he began to reign, we
must pronounce it an achievement equalled by few kings. For the king of
England it was a corresponding loss in prestige and brilliancy of
position. John has been made to bear the responsibility of this disaster,
and morally with justice; but it must not be forgotten that, as the
modern nations were beginning to take shape and to become conscious of
themselves, the connexion with England would be felt to be unnatural, and
that it was certain to be broken. For England the loss of these
possessions was no disaster; it was indeed as great a blessing as to
France. The chief gain was that it cut off many diverting interests from
the barons of England, just at a time when they were learning to be
jealous of their rights at home and were about to enter upon a struggle
with the king to compel him to regard the law in his government of the
country, a struggle which determined the whole future history of the

[63] See Walter of Coventry, ii. 196.

[64] Matth. Paris, ii. 455.

[65] Rymer, Foedera, i. 140.

[66] Rymer, Foedera, i. 75.

[67] But see Guilhiermoz, Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Chartes, lx.
(1899), 45-85, whose argument is, however, not convincing.

[68] Roger of Wendover, iii. 170.

[69] Ralph of Coggeshall, 139-141.

[70] L'Histoire de Guillaume la Marechal, ll. 12737-12741.



The loss of the ancient possessions of the Norman dukes and the Angevin
counts marks the close of an epoch in the reign of John; but for the
history of England and for the personal history of the king the period is
more appropriately closed by the death of Archbishop Hubert Walter on
July 13, 1205, for the consequences which followed that event lead us
directly to the second period of the reign. Already at the accession of
John one of the two or three men of controlling influence on the course
of events, trained not merely in the school of Henry II, but by the
leading part he had played in the reign of Richard, there is no doubt
that he had kept a strong hand on the government of the opening years of
the new reign, and that his personality had been felt as a decided check
by the new king. We may believe also that as one who had been brought up
by Glanvill, the great jurist of Henry's time, and who had a large share
in carrying the constitutional beginnings of that time a further stage
forward, but who was himself a practical statesman rather than a lawyer,
he was one of the foremost teachers of that great lesson which England
was then learning, the lesson of law, of rights and responsibilities,
which was for the world at large a far more important result of the legal
reforms of the great Angevin monarch than anything in the field of
technical law. It is easy to believe that a later writer records at least
a genuine tradition of the feeling of John when he makes him exclaim on
hearing of the archbishop's death, "Now--for the first time am I king of
England." In truth practically shut up now for the first time to his
island kingdom, John was about to be plunged into that series of quarrels
and conflicts which fills the remainder of his life.

For the beginning of the conflict which gives its chief characteristic to
the second period of his reign, the conflict with the pope and the
Church, John is hardly to be blamed, at least not from the point of view
of a king of England. With the first scene of the drama he had nothing to
do; in the second he was doing no more than all his predecessors had done
with scarcely an instance of dispute since the Norman Conquest. There had
long been two questions concerning elections to the see of Canterbury
that troubled the minds of the clergy. The monks of the cathedral church
objected to the share which the bishops of the province had acquired in
the choice of their primate, and canonically they were probably right.
They also objected, and the bishops, though usually acting on the side of
the king, no doubt sympathized with them, to the virtual appointment of
the archbishop by the king. This objection, though felt by the clergy
since the day when Anselm had opened the way into England to the
principles of the Hildebrandine reformation, had never yet been given
decided expression in overt act or led to any serious struggle with the
sovereign; and it is clear that it would not have done so in this
instance if the papal throne had not been filled by Innocent III. That
great ecclesiastical statesman found in the political situation of more
than one country of Europe opportunities for the exercise of his decided
genius which enabled him to attain more nearly to the papacy of Gregory
VII's ideal than had been possible to any earlier pope, and none of his
triumphs was greater than that which he won from the opportunity offered
him in England.

On Archbishop Hubert's death a party of the monks of Canterbury
determined to be beforehand with the bishops and even with the king. They
secretly elected their subprior to the vacant see, and sent him off to
Rome to be confirmed before their action should be known, but the
personal vanity of their candidate betrayed the secret, and his boasting
that he was the elect of Canterbury was reported back from the continent
to England to the anger of the monks, who then sent a deputation to the
king and asked permission in the regular way to proceed to an election.
John gave consent, and suggested John de Grey, Bishop of Norwich, as his
candidate, since he was "alone of all the prelates of England in
possession of his counsels." The bishop was elected by the chapter; both
bishops and monks were induced to withdraw the appeals they had made to
Rome on their respective rights, and, on December 11, the new archbishop
was enthroned and invested with the fiefs of Canterbury by the king. Of
course the pallium from the pope was still necessary, and steps were at
once taken to secure it. Innocent took plenty of time to consider the
situation and did not render his decision until the end of March, 1206,
declaring then against the king's candidate and ordering a deputation of
the monks to be sent him, duly commissioned to act for the whole chapter.
King and bishops were also told to be represented at the final decision.
The pope's action postponed the settlement of the question for six
months, and the interval was spent by John in an effort to recover
something of his lost dominions, undertaken this time with some promise
of success because of active resistance to Philip in Poitou. On this
occasion no objection to the campaign was made by the barons, and with a
large English force John landed at La Rochelle on June 7. Encouraged by
his presence the insurrection spread through the greater part of Poitou
and brought it back into his possession. He even invaded Anjou and held
its capital for a time, and reached the borders of Maine, but these
conquests he could not retain after Philip took the field against him in
person; but on his side Philip did not think it wise to attempt the
recovery of Poitou. On October 26 a truce for two years was proclaimed,
each side to retain what it then possessed, but John formally abandoning
all rights north of the Loire during the period of the truce.

John did not return to England until near the middle of December, but
even at that date Innocent III had not decided the question of the
Canterbury election. On December 20 he declared against the claim of the
bishops and against the first secret election by the monks, and under his
influence the deputation from Canterbury elected an Englishman and
cardinal highly respected at Rome both for his character and for his
learning, Stephen of Langton. The representatives of the king at Rome
refused to agree to this election, and the pope himself wrote to John
urging him to accept the new archbishop, but taking care to make it clear
that the consent of the king was not essential, and indeed he did not
wait for it. After correspondence with John in which the king's anger and
his refusal to accept Langton were plainly expressed, on June 17, 1207,
he consecrated Stephen archbishop. John's answer was the confiscation of
the lands of the whole archbishopric, apparently those of the convent as
well as those of the archbishop, and the expulsion of the monks from the
country as traitors, while the trial in England of all appeals to the
pope was forbidden.

Before this violent proceeding against the Canterbury monks, the
financial necessities of John had led to an experiment in taxation which
embroiled him to almost the same extent with the northern province. Not
the only one, but the chief source of the troubles of John's reign after
the loss of Normandy, and the main cause of the revolution in which the
reign closed, is to be found in the financial situation of the king. The
normal expenses of government had been increasing rapidly in the last
half century. The growing amount and complexity of public and private
business, to be expected in a land long spared the ravages of war, which
showed itself in the remarkable development of judicial and
administrative machinery during the period, meant increased expenses in
many directions not to be met by the increased income from the new
machinery. The cost of the campaigns in France was undoubtedly great, and
the expense of those which the king desired to undertake was clearly
beyond the resources of the country, at least beyond the resources
available to him by existing methods of taxation. Nor was John a saving
and careful housekeeper who could make a small income go a long ways. The
complete breakdown of the ordinary feudal processes of raising revenue,
the necessity forced upon the king of discovering new sources of income,
the attempt within a single generation to impose on the country something
like the modern methods and regularity of taxation, these must be taken
into account as elements of decided importance in any final judgment we
may form of the struggles of John's reign and their constitutional
results. Down to this date a scutage had been imposed every year since
the king's accession, at the rate of two marks on the fee except on the
last occasion when the tax had been twenty shillings. Besides these there
had been demanded the carucage of 1200 and the seventh of personal
property of 1204, to say nothing of some extraordinary exactions. But
these taxes were slow in coming in; the machinery of collection was still
primitive, and the amount received in any year was far below what the tax
should have yielded.

At a great council held in London on January 8 the king asked the bishops
and abbots present to grant him a tax on the incomes of all beneficed
clergy. The demand has a decidedly modern sound. Precedents for taxation
of this sort had been made in various crusading levies, in the expedients
adopted for raising Richard's ransom, and in the seventh demanded by John
in 1204, which was exacted from at least a part of the clergy, but these
were all more or less exceptional cases, and there was no precedent for
such a tax as a means of meeting the ordinary expenses of the state. The
prelates refused their consent, and the matter was deferred to a second
great council to be held at Oxford a month later. This council was
attended by an unusually large number of ecclesiastics, and the king's
proposition, submitted to them again, was again refused. The council,
however, granted the thirteenth asked, to be collected of the incomes and
personal property of the laity. But John had no mind to give up his plan
because it had not been sanctioned by the prelates in general assembly,
and he proceeded, apparently by way of individual consent, doubtless
practically compulsory as usual, to collect the same tax from the whole
clergy, the Cistercians alone excepted. A tax of this kind whether of
laity or clergy was entirely non-feudal, foreign both in nature and
methods to the principles of feudalism, and a long step toward modern
taxation, but it was some time before the suggestion made by it was taken
up by the government as one of its ordinary resources. Archbishop
Geoffrey of York, the king's brother, who since the death of his father
seemed never to be happy unless in a quarrel with some one, took it upon
himself to oppose violently the taxation of his clergy, though he had
enforced the payment of a similar tax for Richard's ransom. Finding that
he could not prevent it he retired from the country, excommunicating the
despoilers of the church, and his lands were taken in hand by the king.

The expulsion of the monks of Canterbury was a declaration of war against
the Church and the pope, and the Church was far more powerful, more
closely organized, and more nearly actuated by a single ideal, than in
the case of any earlier conflict between Church and State in England, and
the pope was Innocent III, head of the world in his own conception of his
position and very nearly so in reality. There was no chance that a
declaration of war would pass unanswered, but the pope did not act
without deliberation. On the news of what the king had done he wrote to
the Bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester, directing them to try to
persuade John to give way, and if he obstinately continued his course, to
proclaim an interdict. This letter was written on August 27, but the
interdict was not actually put into force until March 24,1208,
negotiations going on all the winter, and John displaying, as he did
throughout the whole conflict, considerable ability in securing delay and
in keeping opponents occupied with proposals which he probably never
intended to carry out. At last a date was set on which the interdict
would be proclaimed if the king had not yielded by that time, and he was
given an opportunity of striking the first blow which he did not neglect.
He ordered the immediate confiscation of the property of all the clergy
who should obey the interdict.

The struggle which follows exhibits, as nothing else could do so well,
the tremendous power of the Norman feudal monarchy, the absolute hold
which it had on state and nation even on the verge of its fall. John had
not ruled during these eight years in such a way as to strengthen his
personal position. He had been a tyrant; he had disregarded the rights of
batons as well as of clergy; he had given to many private reasons of
hatred; he had lost rather than won respect by the way in which he had
defended his inheritance in France his present cause, if looked at from
the point of view of Church and nation and not from that of the royal
prerogative alone, was a bad one. The interdict was a much dreaded
penalty, suspending some of the most desired offices of religion, and,
while not certainly dooming all the dying to be lost in the world to
come, at least rendering their state to the pious mind somewhat doubtful;
and, though the effect of the spiritual terrors of the Church had been a
little weakened by their frequent use on slight occasions, the age was
still far distant when they could be disregarded. We should expect John
to prove as weak in the war with Innocent as he had in that with Philip,
and at such a test to find his power crumbling without recovery. What we
really find is a successful resistance kept up for years, almost without
expressed opposition, a great body of the clergy reconciling themselves
to the situation as best they could; a period during which the affairs of
the state seem to go on as if nothing were out of order, the period of
John's greatest tyranny, of almost unbridled power. And when he was
forced to yield at last, it was to a foreign attack, to a foreign attack
combined, it is true, with an opposition at home which had been long
accumulating, but no one can say how long this opposition might have gone
on accumulating before it would have grown strong enough to check the
king of itself.

The interdict seems to have been generally observed by the clergy. The
Cistercians at first declared that they were not bound to respect it, but
they were after a time forced by the pope to conform. Baptism and extreme
unction were allowed; marriages might be celebrated at the church door;
but no masses were publicly said, and all the ordinary course of the
sacraments was intermitted; the dead were buried in unconsecrated ground,
and the churches were closed except to those who wished to make
offerings. Nearly all the bishops went into exile. Two only remained in
the end, both devoted more to the king than to the Church; John de Grey,
Bishop of Norwich, employed during most of the time in secular business
in Ireland, and Peter des Roches, appointed Bishop of Winchester in 1205,
destined to play a leading part against the growing liberties of the
nation in the next reign, and now, as a chronicler says, occupied less
with defending the Church than in administering the king's affairs. The
general confiscation of Church property must have relieved greatly the
financial distress of the king, and during the years when these lands
were administered as part of the royal domains, we hear less of attempts
at national taxation. John did not stop with confiscation of the goods of
the clergy. Their exemption from the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts
of the state was suspended, and they were even in some cases denied the
protection of the laws. It is said that once there came to the king on
the borders of Wales officers of one of the sheriffs, leading a robber
with his hands bound behind his back, who had robbed and killed a priest,
and they asked the king what should be done with him. "He has killed
one of my enemies. Loose him and let him go," ordered John. After the
interdict had been followed by the excommunication of the king, Geoffrey,
Archdeacon of Norwich, urged upon his associates at the exchequer that it
was not safe for those who were in orders to remain in the service of an
excommunicate king, and left the court without permission and went home.
John hearing this sent William Talbot after him with a band of soldiers,
who arrested the archdeacon, and loaded him with chains, and threw him
into prison. There shortly after by the command of the king he was
pressed to death. It was by acts like these, of which other instances are
on record, that John terrorized the country and held it quiet under his

Even the greatest barons were subjected to arbitrary acts of power of the
same kind. On the slightest occasion of suspicion the king demanded their
sons or other relatives, or their vassals, as hostages, a measure which
had been in occasional use before, but which John carried to an extreme.
The great earl marshal himself, who, if we may trust his biographer, was
never afraid to do what he thought honour demanded, and was always able
to defend himself in the king's presence with such vigorous argument that
nothing could be done with him, was obliged to give over to the king's
keeping first his eldest and then his second son. The case of William de
Braose is that most commonly cited. He had been a devoted supporter of
John and had performed many valuable services in his interest, especially
at the time of the coronation. For these he had received many marks of
royal favour, and was rapidly becoming both in property and in family
alliances one of the greatest barons of the land. About the time of the
proclamation of the interdict a change took place in his fortunes. For
some reason he lost the favour of the king and fell instead under his
active enmity. According to a formal statement of the case, which John
thought well to put forth afterwards, he had failed to pay large sums
which he had promised in return for the grants that had been made him;
and the records support the accusation.[71] According to Roger of
Wendover the king had a personal cause of anger. On a demand of
hostages from her husband, the wife of William had rashly declared to
the officers that her sons should never be delivered to the king because
he had basely murdered his nephew Arthur, whom he was under obligation
to guard honourably, and it is impossible to believe that it was merely
delay in paying money that excited the fierce persecution that followed.
William with his family took refuge in Ireland, where he was received by
William Marshal and the Lacies, but John pursued him thither, and he was
again obliged to fly. His wife and son, attempting to escape to Scotland,
were seized in Galloway by a local baron and delivered to John, who
caused them to be starved to death in prison.

It may seem strange at the present day that the absolutism of the king
did not bring about a widespread rebellion earlier than it did. One of
the chief causes of his strength is to be found in the bands of mercenary
soldiers which he maintained, ready to do any bidding at a moment's
notice, under the command of men who were entirely his creatures, like
Gerald of Athies, a peasant of Touraine, who with some of his fellows was
thought worthy of mention by name in the Great Charter. The cost of
keeping these bands devoted to his service was no doubt one of the large
expenses of the reign. Another fact of greater permanent interest that
helped to keep up the king's power is the lack of unity among the barons,
of any feeling of a common cause, but rather the existence of jealousies,
and open conflicts even, which made it impossible to bring them together
in united action in their own defence. The fact is of especial importance
because it was the crushing tyranny of John that first gave rise to the
feeling of corporate unity in the baronage, and the growth of this
feeling is one of the great facts of the thirteenth century.

At the beginning of 1209 Innocent III had threatened the immediate
excommunication of John, but the king had known how to keep him, and the
bishops who represented him in the negotiations, occupied with one
proposition of compromise after another until almost the close of the
year. The summer was employed in settling affairs with Scotland, which
down to this time had not been put into form satisfactory to either king.
A meeting at the end of April led to no result, but in August, after
armies of the two countries had faced each other on the borders, a treaty
was agreed upon. William the Lion was not then in a condition to insist
strongly on his own terms, and the treaty was much in favour of John. The
king of Scotland promised to pay 15,000 marks, and gave over two of his
daughters to John to be given in marriage by him. In a later treaty
John was granted the same right with respect to Alexander, the heir of
Scotland, arrangements that look very much like a recognition of the
king of England as the overlord of Scotland. In Wales also quarrels among
the native chieftains enabled John to increase his influence in the still
unconquered districts. In November the long-deferred excommunication fell
upon the unrepentant king, but it could not be published in England.
There were no bishops left in the country who were acting in the
interests of the pope, and John took care that there should be no means
of making any proclamation of the sentence in his kingdom. The
excommunication was formally published in France, and news of it passed
over to England, but no attention was paid to it there. For the
individual, excommunication was a more dreaded penalty than the
interdict. The interdict might compel a king to yield by the public fear
and indignation which it would create, but an excommunication cut him off
as a man completely from the Church and all its mercies, cast him out of
the community of Christians, and involved in the same awful fate all who
continued to support him, or, indeed, to associate with him in any way.
Even more than the interdict, the excommunication reveals the terrible
strength of the king. When the time came for holding the Christmas court
of 1209, the fact that it had been pronounced was generally known, but it
made no difference in the attendance. All the barons are said to have
been present and to have associated with the king as usual, though there
must have been many of them who trembled at the audacity of the act, and
who would have withdrawn entirely from him if they had dared. On his
return from the north John had demanded and obtained a renewal of homage
from all the free tenants of the country. The men of Wales had even been
compelled to go to Woodstock to render it. It is quite possible that this
demand had been made in view of the excommunication that was coming; the
homage must certainly have been rendered by many who knew that the
sentence was hanging over the king's head.

The year 1210 is marked by an expedition of John with an army to Ireland.
Not only were William de Braose and his wife to be punished, but the
Lacies had been for some time altogether too independent, and the conduct
of William Marshal was not satisfactory. The undertaking occasioned the
first instance of direct taxation since the lands of the Church had been
taken in hand, a scutage, which in this case at least would have a
warrant in strict feudal law. The clergy also were compelled to pay a
special and heavy tax, and the Jews throughout the kingdom--perhaps an
act of piety on the part of the king to atone somewhat for his treatment
of the Church--were arrested and thrown into prison and forced to part
with large sums of money. It was on this occasion that the often-quoted
incident occurred of the Jew of Bristol who endured all ordinary tortures
to save his money, or that in his charge, until the king ordered a tooth
to be drawn each day so long as he remained obstinate. As the eighth was
about to be pulled, "tardily perceiving," as the chronicler remarks,
"what was useful," he gave up and promised the 10,000 marks demanded.

John landed in Ireland about June 20, and traversed with his army all that
part of the country which was occupied by Anglo-Norman settlers without
finding any serious opposition. William Marshal entertained his host for
two days with all loyalty. The Lacies and William de Braose's family fled
before him from one place to another and finally escaped out of the island
to Scotland. Carrickfergus, in which Hugh de Lacy had thought to stand a
siege, resisted for a few days, and then surrendered. At Dublin the native
kings of various districts, said by Roger of Wendover to have been more
than twenty in number, including the successor of Roderick, king of
Connaught, who had inherited a greatly reduced power, came in and did
homage and swore fealty to John. At the same time, we are told, the king
introduced into the island the laws and administrative system of England,
and appointed sheriffs.[72] John's march through the island and the
measures of government which he adopted have been thought to mark an
advance in the subjection of Ireland to English rule, and to form one of
the few permanent contributions to English history devised by the king. On
his departure Bishop John de Grey was left as justiciar, and toward the
end of August John landed in England to go on with the work of exacting
money from the clergy and the Jews that he had begun before he left the

The two years which followed John's return from Ireland, from August,
1210 to August 1212, form the period of his highest power. No attempt at
resistance to his will anywhere disturbed the peace of England. Llewelyn,
Prince of north Wales, husband of John's natural daughter Joanna,
involved in border warfare with the Earl of Chester, was not willing to
yield to the authority of the king, but two expeditions against him in
1211 forced him to make complete submission. A contemporary annalist
remarks with truth that none of John's predecessors exercised so great an
authority over Scotland, Wales, or Ireland as he, and we may add that
none exercised a greater over England. The kingdom was almost in a state
of blockade, and not only was unauthorized entrance into the country
forbidden, but departure from it as well, except as the king desired.
During these two years John's relations with the Church troubled him but
little. Negotiations were kept up as before, but they led to nothing. On
his return from the Welsh campaign the king met representatives of the
pope at Northampton, one of whom was the Roman subdeacon Pandulf, whom
John met later in a different mood. We have no entirely trustworthy
account of the interview, but it was found impossible to agree upon the
terms of any treaty which would bring the conflict to an end. The pope
demanded a promise of complete obedience from John on all the questions
that had caused the trouble, and restoration to the clergy of all their
confiscated revenues, and to one or both of these demands the king
refused to yield. Now it is that we begin to hear of threats of further
sentences to be issued by the pope against John, or actually issued,
releasing his subjects from their allegiance and declaring the king
incapable of ruling, but if any step of that kind was taken, it had for
the present no effect. The Christmas feast was kept as usual at Windsor,
and in Lent of the next year John knighted young Alexander of Scotland,
whose father had sent him to London to be married as his liege lord might
please, though "without disparagement."

In the spring of 1212 John seems to have felt himself strong enough to
take up seriously a plan for the recovery of the lands which he had lost
in France. The idea he had had in mind for some years was the formation of
a great coalition against Philip Augustus by combining various enemies of
his or of the pope's. In May the Count of Boulogne, who was in trouble
with the king of France, came to London and did homage to John. Otto IV,
the Guelfic emperor and John's nephew, was now in as desperate conflict
with the papacy as if he were a Ghibelline, and Innocent was supporting
against him the young Hohenstaufen Frederick, son of Henry VI and
Constance of Sicily. Otto therefore was ready to promise help to any one
from whom he could hope for aid in return, or to take part in any
enterprise from which a change of the general situation might be expected.
Ferdinand of Portugal, just become Count of Flanders by marriage with
Jeanne, the heiress of the crusading Count Baldwin, the emperor Baldwin of
the new Latin empire, had at the moment of his accession been made the
victim of Philip Augustus's ceaseless policy of absorbing the great fiefs
in the crown, and had lost the two cities of Aire and St. Omer. He was
ready to listen to John's solicitations, and after some hesitation and
delay joined the alliance, as did also most of the princes on the
north-east between France and Germany. John laboured long and hard with
much skill and final success, at a combination which would isolate the
king of France and make it possible to attack him with overwhelming force
at once from the north and the south. With a view, in all probability, to
calling out the largest military force possible in the event of a war with
France, John at this time ordered a new survey to be taken of the service
due from the various fiefs in England. The inquest was made by juries of
the hundreds, after a method very similar to that lately employed in the
carucage of 1198, and earlier in the Domesday survey by William the
Conqueror, though it was under the direction of the sheriffs, not of
special commissioners. The interesting returns to this inquiry have been
preserved to us only in part.[73] If John hoped to be able to attack his
enemy abroad in the course of the year 1212, he was disappointed in the
end. His combination of allies he was not able to complete. A new revolt
of the Welsh occupied his attention towards the end of the summer and led
him to hang twenty-eight boys, hostages whom they had given him the year
before. Worst of all, evidence now began to flow in to the king from
various quarters of a serious disaffection among the barons of the kingdom
and of a growing spirit of rebellion, even, it was said, of an intention
to deprive him of the crown. We are told that on the eve of his expedition
against the Welsh a warning came to him from the king of Scotland that he
was surrounded by treason, and another from his daughter in Wales to the
same effect. Whatever the source of his information, John was evidently
convinced--very likely he needed but little to convince him--of a danger
which he must have been always suspecting. At any rate he did not venture
to trust himself to his army in the field, but sent home the levies and
carefully guarded himself for a time. Then he called for new declarations
of loyalty and for hostages from the barons; and two of them, Eustace de
Vescy and Robert Fitz Walter, fled from the country, the king outlawing
them and seizing their property. About the same time a good deal of public
interest was excited by a hermit of Yorkshire, Peter of Pontefract, who
was thought able to foretell the future, and who declared that John would
not be king on next Ascension day, the anniversary of his coronation. It
was probably John's knowledge of the disposition of the barons, and
possibly the hope of extorting some information from him, that led him,
rather unwisely, to order the arrest of the hermit, and to question him as
to the way in which he should lose the crown. Peter could only tell him
that the event was sure, and that if it did not occur, the king might do
with him what he pleased. John took him at his word, held him in prison,
and hanged him when the day had safely passed.

By that 23d of May, however, a great change had taken place in the formal
standing of John among the sovereigns of the world, a change which many
believed fulfilled the prediction of Peter, and one which affected the
history of England for many generations. As the year 1212 drew to its
close, John was not merely learning his own weakness in England, but he
was forced by the course of events abroad to recognize the terrible
strength of the papacy and the small chance that even a strong king could
have of winning a victory over it.[74] His nephew Otto IV had been obliged
to retire, almost defeated, before the enthusiasm which the young
Frederick of Hohenstaufen had aroused in his adventurous expedition to
recover the crown of Germany. Raymond of Toulouse, John's brother-in-law,
had been overwhelmed and almost despoiled of his possessions in an attempt
to protect his subjects in their right to believe what seemed to them the
truth. For the moment the vigorous action which John had taken after the
warnings received on the eve of the Welsh campaign had put an end to the
disposition to revolt, and had left him again all powerful. He had even
been able to extort from the clergy formal letters stating that the sums
he had forced them to pay were voluntarily granted him. But he had been
made to understand on how weak a foundation his power rested. He must
have known that Philip Augustus had for some time been considering the
possibility of an invasion of England, whether invited by the barons to
undertake it or not, and he could hardly fail to dread the results to
himself of such a step after the lesson he had learned in Normandy of the
consequences of treason. The situation at home and abroad forced upon him
the conclusion that he must soon come to terms with the papacy, and in
November he sent representatives to Rome to signify that he would agree to
the proposals he had rejected when made by Pandulf early in the previous
year.[75] Even in this case John may be suspected, as so often before, of
making a proposition which he did not intend to carry out, or at least of
trying to gain time, for it was found that the embassy could not make a
formally binding agreement; and it is clear that Innocent III, while ready
to go on with the negotiations and hoping to carry them to success, was
now convinced that he must bring to bear on John the only kind of pressure
to which he would yield.

There is reason to believe that after his reconciliation with the king
of England Innocent III had all the letters in which he had threatened
John with the severest penalties collected so far as possible and
destroyed.[76] It is uncertain, however, whether before the end of 1212
he had gone so far as to depose the king and to absolve his subjects
from their allegiance, though this is asserted by English chroniclers.
But there is no good ground to doubt that in January, 1213, he took
this step, and authorized the king of France to invade England and
deprive John of his kingdom. Philip needed no urging. He collected a
numerous fleet, we are told, of 1500 vessels, and a large army. In
the first week of April he held a great council at Soissons, and the
enterprise was determined on by the barons and bishops of France. At
the same council arrangements were made to define the legal relations
to France of the kingdom to be conquered, The king of England was to be
Philip's son, Louis, who could advance some show of right through his
wife, John's niece, Blanche of Castile but during his father's lifetime
he was to make no pretension to any part of France, a provision which
would leave the duchy of Aquitaine in Philip's hands, as Normandy was.
Louis was to require an oath of his new subjects that they would
undertake nothing against France, and he was to leave to his father the
disposal of the person of John and of his private possessions. Of the
relationship between the two countries when Louis should succeed to the
crown of France, nothing was said. Preparations were so far advanced
that it was expected that the army would embark before the end of May.

In the meantime John was taking measures for a vigorous defence. Orders
were sent out for all ships capable of carrying at least six horses to
assemble at Portsmouth by the middle of Lent. The feudal levies and all
men able to bear arms were called out for April 21. The summons was
obeyed by such numbers that they could not be fed, and all but the best
armed were sent home, while the main force was collected on Barham Down,
between Canterbury and Dover, with outposts at the threatened ports. John
has been thought by some to have had a special interest in the
development of the fleet; at any rate he knew how to employ here the
defensive manoeuvre which has been more than once of avail to England,
and he sent out a naval force to capture and destroy the enemy's ships in
the mouth of the Seine and at Fecamp, and to take and burn the town of
Dieppe. It was his plan also to defend the country with the fleet rather
than with the army, and to attack and destroy the hostile armament on its
way across the channel. To contemporaries the preparations seemed
entirely sufficient to defend the country, not merely against France, but
against any enemy whatever, provided only the hearts of all had been
devoted to the king.

While preparations were being made in France for an invasion of England
under the commission of the pope, Innocent was going on with the effort
to bring John to his terms by negotiation. The messengers whom the king
had sent to Rome returned bringing no modification of the papal demands.
At the same time Pandulf, the pope's representative, empowered to make a
formal agreement, came on as far as Calais and sent over two Templars to
England to obtain permission for an interview with John, while he held
back the French fleet to learn the result. The answer of John to
Pandulf's messengers would be his answer to the pope and also his
defiance of Philip. There can be no doubt what his answer would have been
if he had had entire confidence in his army, nor what it would have been
if Philip's fleet had not been ready. He yielded only because there was
no other way out of the situation into which he had brought himself, and
he made his submission complete enough to insure his escape. He sent for
Pandulf, and on May 13 met him at Dover and accepted his terms. Four of
his chief barons, as the pope required, the Earl of Salisbury, the Count
of Boulogne, and the Earls Warenne and Ferrers, swore on the king's soul
that he would keep the agreement, and John issued letters patent formally
declaring what he had promised. Stephen Langton was to be accepted as
Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the exiled bishops, monks, and laymen
were to be reinstated, and full compensation made them for their
financial losses. Two days later John went very much further than this:
at the house of the Templars near Dover in the presence of the barons he
surrendered the kingdom to the pope, confirming the act by a charter
witnessed by two bishops and eleven barons, and received it back to be
held as a fief, doing homage to Pandulf as the representative of the
pope, and promising for himself and his heirs the annual payment of 700
marks for England and 300 for Ireland in lieu of feudal service.

Whether this extraordinary act was demanded by Innocent or suggested by
John, the evidence does not permit us to say. The balance of
probabilities, however, inclines strongly to the opinion that it was a
voluntary act of the king's. There is nothing in the papal documents to
indicate any such demand, and it is hardly possible that the pope could
have believed that he could carry the matter so far. On the other hand,
John was able to see clearly that nothing else would save him. He had
every reason to be sure that no ordinary reconciliation with the papacy
would check the invasion of Philip or prevent the treason of the barons.
If England were made a possession of the pope, the whole situation would
take on a different aspect. Not only would all Europe think Innocent
justified in adopting the most extreme measures for the defence of his
vassal, but also the most peculiar circumstances only would justify Philip
in going on with his attack, and without him disaffection at home was
powerless. We should be particularly careful not to judge this act of
John's by the sentiment of a later time. There was nothing that seemed
degrading to that age about becoming a vassal. Every member of the
aristocracy of Europe and almost every king was a vassal. A man passed
from the classes that were looked down upon, the peasantry and the
bourgeoisie, into the nobility by becoming a vassal. The English kings had
been vassals since feudalism had existed in England, though not for the
kingdom, and only a few years before Richard had made even that a fief of
the empire. There is no evidence that John's right to take this step was
questioned by any one, or that there was any general condemnation of it at
that time. One writer a few years later says that the act seemed to many
"ignominious," but he records in the same sentence his own judgment that
John was "very prudently providing for himself and his by the deed."[77]
Even in the rebellion against John that closed his reign no objection was
made to the relationship with the papacy, nor was the king's right to act
as he did denied, though his action was alleged by his enemies to be
illegal because it did not have the consent of the barons. John's charter
of concession, however, expressly affirms this consent, and the barons on
one occasion seem to have confirmed the assertion.[78]

[71] See J.H. Round's article on William in Dict. Nat. Biogr., vi. 229.

[72] See C.L. Falkiner in Proc. Royal Irish Acad., xxiv. c. pt. 4 (1903).

[73] See Round, Commune of London, 261-277.

[74] Ralph of Coggeshall, 164-165.

[75] Walter of Coventry, ii, lviii. n. 4.

[76] Innocent III, Epp. xvi. 133. (Rymer, Foedera, i. 116.)

[77] Walter of Coventry, ii. 210.

[78] Rymer, Foedera, i. 120.



The king of France may have been acting, as he would have the world
believe, as the instrument of heaven to punish the enemy of the Church,
but he did not learn with any great rejoicing of the conversion of John
from the error of his ways. Orders were sent him at once to abstain from
all attack on one who was now the vassal of the pope, and he found it
necessary in the end to obey, declaring, it is said, that the victory was
after all his, since it was due to him that the pope had subdued England.
The army and fleet prepared for the invasion, he turned against his own
vassal who had withheld his assistance from the undertaking, the Count of
Flanders, and quickly occupied a considerable part of the country. Count
Ferdinand in his extremity turned to King John and he sent over a force
under command of his brother, William Longsword, Earl of Salisbury, which
surprised the French fleet badly guarded in the harbour of Damme and
captured or destroyed 400 ships. If Philip had any lingering hope that he
might yet be able to carry out his plan of invasion, he was forced now to
abandon it, and in despair of preserving the rest of his fleet, or in a
fit of anger, he ordered it to be burned.

The Archbishop of Canterbury landed in England in July, accompanied
by five of the exiled bishops, and a few days later met the king. On
the 20th at Winchester John was absolved from his excommunication,
swearing publicly that he would be true to his agreement with
the Church, and taking an additional oath in form somewhat like the
coronation oath, which the archbishop required or which perhaps the
fact of his excommunication made necessary, "that holy Church and her
ministers he would love, defend, and maintain against all her enemies
to the best of his power, that he would renew the good laws of his
predecessors, and especially the laws of King Edward, and annul all
bad ones, and that he would judge all men according to just judgments
of his courts and restore to every man his rights." It is doubtful
if we should regard this as anything more than a renewal of the
coronation oath necessary to a full restoration of the king from the
effects of the Church censure, but at any rate the form of words seems
to have been noticed by those who heard it, and to have been referred
to afterwards when the political opposition to the king was taking
share, a sure sign of increasing watchfulness regarding the mutual
rights of king and subjects.[79]

The king was no longer excommunicate, but the kingdom was still under the
interdict, and the pope had no intention of annulling it until the
question of compensation for their losses was settled to the satisfaction
of the bishops and others whose lands had been in the hands of the king.
That was not an easy question to settle. It was not a matter of arrears
of revenue merely, for John had not been content with the annual income
of the lands, but he had cut down forests and raised money in other
extraordinary ways to the permanent injury of the property. In the end
only a comparatively small sum was paid, and in all probability a full
payment would have been entirely beyond the resources of the king, but at
the beginning John seems to have intended to carry out his agreement in
good faith. There is no reason to doubt the statement of a chronicler of
the time that on the next day after his absolution the king sent out
writs to all the sheriffs, ordering them to send to St. Albans at the
beginning of August the reeve and four legal men from each township of
the royal domains, that by their testimony and that of his own officers
the amount of these losses might be determined. This would be to all
England a familiar expedient, a simple use of the jury principle, with
nothing new about it except the bringing of the local juries together in
one place, nor must it be regarded as in any sense a beginning of
representation. It has no historic connexion with the growth of that
system, and cannot possibly indicate more than that the idea of uniting
local juries in one place had occurred to some one. We have no evidence
that this assembly was actually held, and it is highly probable that it
was not. Nor can anything more be said with certainly of writs which were
issued in November of this year directing the sheriffs to send four
discreet men from each county to attend a meeting of the council at
Oxford. John himself was busily occupied with a plan to transport the
forces he had collected into Poitou to attack the king of France there,
and he appointed the justiciar, Geoffrey Fitz Peter, and the Bishop of
Winchester, Peter des Roches, as his representatives during his absence.
These two held a great council at St. Albans in August at which formal
proclamation was made of the restoration of good laws and the abolition
of bad ones as the king had promised, the good laws now referred to being
those of Henry I; and all sheriffs and other officers were strictly
enjoined to abstain from violence and injustice for the future, but no
decision was reached as to the sum to be paid the clergy.

In the meantime John was in difficulties about his proposed expedition to
Poitou. When he was about to set out, he found the barons unwilling. They
declared that the money they had provided for their expenses had all been
used up in the long delay, and that if they went, the king must meet the
cost, while the barons of the north refused, according to one account,
because they were not bound by the conditions of their tenure to serve
abroad. In this they were no doubt wrong, if services were to be
determined, as would naturally be the case, by custom; but their refusal
to obey the king on whatever ground so soon after he had apparently
recovered power by his reconciliation with the Church is very noteworthy.
In great anger the king embarked with his household only and landed in
Jersey, as if he would conquer France alone, but he was obliged to
return. His wrath, however, was not abated, and he collected a large
force and marched to the north, intending to bring the unwilling barons
to their accustomed obedience; but his plan was interrupted by a new and
more serious opposition. Archbishop Stephen Langton seems to have
returned to England determined to contend as vigorously for the rights of
the laity as for those of the Church. We are told by one chronicler that
he had heard it said that on August 25, while the king was on the march
to the north, Stephen was presiding over a council of prelates and barons
at St. Paul's, and that to certain of them he read a copy of Henry I's
coronation charter as a record of the ancient laws which they had a right
to demand of the king. There may be difficulties in supposing that such
an incident occurred at this exact date, but something of the kind must
have happened not long before or after. If we may trust the record we
have of the oath taken by John at the time of his absolution, it suggests
that the charter of Henry I was in the mind of the man who drew it up.
Now, at any rate, was an opportunity to interfere in protection of
clearly defined rights, and to insist that the king should keep the oath
which he had just sworn. Without hesitation the archbishop went after the
king, overtook him at Northampton, where John was on the 28th, and
reminded him that he would break his oath if he made war on any of his
barons without a judgment of his court. John broke out into a storm of
rage, as he was apt to do; "with great noise" he told the archbishop to
mind his own business and let matters of lay jurisdiction alone, and
moved on to Nottingham. Undismayed, Langton followed, declaring that he
would excommunicate every one except the king who should take part in the
attack, and John was obliged again to yield and to appoint a time for the
court to try the case.

The attempt to settle the indemnity to be paid the clergy dragged on
through the remainder of the year, and was not then completed. Councils
were held at London, Wallingford, and Reading, early in October,
November, and December respectively, in each of which the subject was
discussed, and left unsettled, except that after the Reading council
the king paid the archbishop and the bishops who had been exiled 15,000
marks. At the end of September a legate from the pope, Cardinal
Nicholas, landed in England, and to him John repeated the surrender of
the crown and his homage as the pope's vassal. Along with the question
of indemnity, that of filling up the vacant sees was discussed, and
with nearly as little result. The local officers of the Church were
disposed to make as much as possible out of John's humiliation and the
chapters to assert the right of independent election. The king was not
willing to allow this, and pope and legate inclined to support him. On
October 14 the justiciar, Geoffrey Fitz Peter, died. John's exclamation
when he heard the news, as preserved in the tradition of the next
generation,--"When he gets to hell, let him greet Hubert Walter," and,
as earlier in the case of Hubert himself, "Now by the feet of God am
I first king and lord of England,"--and, more trustworthy perhaps,
the rapid decline of events after Geoffrey's death towards civil war
and revolution, lead us to believe that like many a great judge he
exercised a stronger influence over the actual history of his age than
appears in any contemporary record.

It was near the middle of February, 1214, before John was able to carry
out in earnest his plan for the recovery of Poitou. At that time he
landed at La Rochelle with a large army and a full military chest, but
with very few English barons of rank accompanying him. Since the close of
actual war between them Philip had made gains in one way or another
within the lands that had remained to John, and it was time for the Duke
of Aquitaine to appear to protect his own, to say nothing of any attempt
to recover his lost territories. At first his presence seemed all that
was necessary; barons renewed their allegiance, those who had done homage
to Philip returned and were pardoned, castles were surrendered, and John
passed through portions of Poitou and Angouleme, meeting with almost no
resistance. A dash of Philip's, in April, drove him back to the south,
but the king of France was too much occupied with the more serious danger
that threatened him from the coalition in the north to give much time to
John, and he returned after a few days, leaving his son Louis to guard
the line of approach to Paris. Then John returned to the field, attacked
the Lusignans, took their castles, and forced them to submit. The Count
of La Marche was the Hugh the Brown from whom years before he had stolen
his bride, Isabel of Angouleme, and now he proposed to strengthen the
new-made alliance by giving to Hugh's eldest son Isabel's daughter
Joanna. On June 11 John crossed the Loire, and a few days later entered
Angers, whose fortifications had been destroyed by the French. The
occupation of the capital of Anjou marks the highest point of his success
in the expedition. To protect and complete his new conquest, John began
at once the siege of La Roche-au-Moine, a new castle built by William des
Roches on the Loire, which commanded communications with the south.
Against him there Louis of France advanced to raise the siege. John
wished to go out and meet him, but the barons of Poitou refused,
declaring that they were not prepared to fight battles in the field, and
the siege had to be abandoned and a hasty retreat made across the river.
Angers at once fell into the hands of Louis, and its new ramparts were

It was about July first that Louis set out to raise the siege of La
Roche-au-Moine, and on the 27th the decisive battle of Bouvines was
fought in the north before John had resolved on his next move. The
coalition, on which John had laboured so long and from which he hoped so
much, was at last in the field. The emperor Otto IV, the Counts of
Flanders, Boulogne, Holland, Brabant, and Limburg, the Duke of Lorraine,
and others, each from motives of his own, had joined their forces with
the English under the Earl of Salisbury, to overthrow the king of France.
To oppose this combination Philip had only his vassals of northern
France, without foreign allies and with a part of his force detached to
watch the movements of the English king on the Loire. The odds seemed to
be decidedly against him, but the allies, attacking at a disadvantage the
French army which they believed in retreat, were totally defeated near
Bouvines. The Earl of Salisbury and the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne
with many others were taken prisoners, and the triumph of Philip was as
complete as his danger had been great. The popular enthusiasm with which
the news of this victory was received in northern France shows how
thorough had been the work of the monarchy during the past century and
how great progress had been made in the creation of a nation in feeling
and spirit as well as in name under the Capetian king. The general
rejoicing was but another expression of the force before which in reality
the English dominion in France had fallen.

The effects of the battle of Bouvines were not confined to France nor to
the war then going on. The results in German history--the fall of Otto
IV, the triumph of Frederick II--we have no occasion to trace. In English
history its least important result was that John was obliged to make
peace with Philip. The treaty was dated on September 18. A truce was
agreed upon to last for five years from the following Easter, everything
to remain in the meantime practically as it was left at the close of the
war. This might be a virtual recognition by John of the conquests which
Philip had made, but for him it was a much more serious matter that the
ruin of his schemes left him alone, unsupported by the glamour of a
brilliant combination of allies, without prestige, overwhelmed with
defeat, to face the baronial opposition which in the past few years had
been growing so rapidly in strength, in intelligent perception of the
wrongs that had been suffered, and in the knowledge of its own power.

About the middle of October John returned to England to find that the
disaffection among the barons, which had expressed itself in the refusal
to serve in Poitou, had not grown less during his absence. The interdict
had been removed on July 2, John having given security for the payment of
a sum as indemnity to the Church which was satisfactory to the pope, but
the rejoicing over this relief was somewhat lessened by the fact that the
monastic houses and the minor clergy were unprovided for and received no
compensation for their losses. The justiciar whom the king had appointed
on the eve of his departure, the Bishop of Winchester, Peter des Roches,
naturally unpopular because he was a foreigner and out of sympathy with
the spirit of the barons, had ruled with a strong hand and sternly
repressed all expression of discontent, but his success in this respect
had only increased the determination to have a reckoning with the king.
In these circumstances John's first important act after his return
brought matters to a crisis. Evidently he had no intention of abandoning
any of his rights or of letting slip any of his power in England because
he had been defeated in France, and he called at once for a scutage from
those barons who had not gone with him to Poitou. This raised again the
question of right, and we are told that it was the northern barons who
once more declared that their English holdings did not oblige them to
follow the king abroad or to pay a scutage when he went, John on his side
asserting that the service was due to him because it had been rendered to
his father and brother. In this the king was undoubtedly right. He could,
if he had known it, have carried back his historical argument a century
further, but in general feudal law there was justification enough for the
position of the barons to warrant them in taking a stand on the point if
they wished to join issue with the king. This they were now determined to
do. We know from several annalists that after John's return the barons
came to an agreement among themselves that they would demand of the king
a confirmation of the charter of Henry I and a re-grant of the liberties
contained in it. In one account we have the story of a meeting at Bury
St. Edmunds, on pretence of a pilgrimage, in which this agreement was
made and an oath taken by all to wage war on the king if he should refuse
their request which they decided to make of him in form after Christmas.
Concerted action there must have been, and it seems altogether likely
that this account is correct.

The references to the charter of Henry I in the historians of the time
prove clearly enough the great part which that document played at the
origin of the revolution now beginning. It undoubtedly gave to the
discontented barons the consciousness of legal right, crystallized their
ideas, and suggested the method of action, but it is hardly possible to
believe that a simple confirmation of this charter could now have been
regarded as adequate. The charter of Henry I is as remarkable a document
for the beginning of the twelfth as the Great Charter is for the
beginning of the thirteenth century, but no small progress had taken
place in two directions in the intervening hundred years. In one
direction the demands of the crown--we ought really to say the demands of
the government--were more frequent, new in kind, and heavier in amount
than at the earlier date. The reorganization of the judicial and
administrative systems had enlarged greatly the king's sphere of action
at the expense of the baron's. All this, and it forms together a great
body of change, was advance, was true progress, but it seemed to the
baron encroachment on his liberties and denial of his rights, and there
was a sense in which his view was perfectly correct. It was partly due to
these changes, partly to the general on-going of things, that in the
other direction the judgment of the baron was more clear, his view of his
own rights and wrongs more specific than a hundred years before, and, by
far most important of all, that he had come to a definite understanding
of the principle that the king, as lord of his vassals, was just as much
under obligation to keep the law as the baron was. Independent of these
two main lines of development was the personal tyranny of John, his
contemptuous disregard of custom and right in dealing with men, his
violent overriding of the processes of his own courts in arbitrary arrest
and cruel punishment. The charter of Henry I would be a suggestive model;
a new charter must follow its lines and be founded on its principles, but
the needs of the barons would now go far beyond its meagre provisions and
demand the translation of its general statements into specific form.

According to the agreement they had made the barons came together at
London soon after January 1, 1215, with some show of arms, and demanded
of the king the confirmation of the charter of Henry I. John replied that
the matter was new and important, and that he must have some time for
consideration, and asked for delay until the octave of Easter, April 26.
With reluctance the barons made this concession, Stephen Langton, William
Marshal, and the Bishop of Ely becoming sureties for the king that he
would then give satisfaction to all. The interval which was allowed him
John used in a variety of attempts to strengthen himself and to prepare
for the trial of arms which he must have known to be inevitable. On the
21st of the previous November he had issued a charter granting to the
cathedral churches and monasteries throughout England full freedom of
election, and this charter he now reissued a few days after the meeting
with the barons. If this was an attempt to separate the clergy from
the cause of the barons, or to bring the archbishop over wholly to his
own side, it was a failure. About the same time he adopted a familiar
expedient and ordered the oath of allegiance to himself against all men
to be taken throughout the country, but he added a new clause requiring
men to swear to stand by him against the charter.[80] Since the discussion
of the charter had begun a general interest in its provisions had been
excited, and the determination to secure the liberties it embodied had
grown rapidly, so that now the king quickly found, by the opposition it
aroused, that in this peculiar demand he had overshot the mark, and he was
obliged to recall his orders. Naturally John turned at once to the pope,
who was now under obligation to protect him from his enemies, but his
envoy was followed by Eustace de Vescy, who argued strongly for the
barons' side. The pope's letters to England in reply did not afford
decisive support to either party, though more in favour of the king's, who
was exhorted, however, to grant "just petitions" of the barons. On Ash
Wednesday John went so far as to assume the cross of the crusader, most
likely to secure additional favour from the pope, who was very anxious to
renew the attempt that had failed in the early part of his reign, no doubt
having in mind also the personal immunities it would secure him. For
troops to resist the barons in the field the king's reliance was chiefly,
as it had been during all his reign, on soldiers hired abroad, and he made
efforts to get these into his service from Flanders and from Poitou,
promising great rewards to knights who would join him from thence, as well
as from Wales.

John's preparations alarmed the barons, and they determined not to wait
for April 26, the appointed day for the king's answer. They came together
in arms at Stamford, advanced from thence to Northampton, and then on to
Brackley to be in the neighbourhood of the king, who was then at Oxford.
Their array was a formidable one. The list recorded gives us the names of
five earls, forty barons, and one bishop, Giles de Braose, who had family
wrongs to avenge; and while the party was called the Northerners, because
the movement had such strong support in that part of England, other
portions of the country were well represented. Annalists of the time
noticed that younger men inclined to the side of the insurgents, while
the older remained with the king. This fact in some cases divided
families, as in the case of the Marshals, William the elder staying with
John, while William the younger was with the barons. That one abode in
the king's company does not indicate, however, that his sympathies in
this struggle were on that side. Stephen Langton was in form with the
king and acted as his representative in the negotiations, though it was
universally known that he supported the reforms asked for. It is probable
that this was true also of the Earl of Pembroke. These two were sent by
John to the barons to get an exact statement of their demands, and
returned with a "schedule," which was recited to the king point by point.
These were no doubt the same as the "articles" presented to the king
afterwards, on which the Great Charter was based. When John was made to
understand what they meant, his hot, ancestral temper swept him away in
an insane passion of anger. "Why do they not go on and demand the kingdom
itself?" he cried, and added with a furious oath that he would never make
himself a slave by granting such concessions.

When the barons received their answer, they decided on immediate war. As
they viewed the case, this was a step justified by the feudal law. It was
their contention that the reforms they demanded had been granted and
recognized as legal by former kings. In other words, their suzerain was
denying them their hereditary rights, acknowledged and conceded by his
predecessors. To the feudal mind the situation which this fact created
was simple and obvious. They were no longer bound by any fealty to him.
It was their right to make war upon him until he should consent to grant
them what was their due. Their first step was to send to the king the
formal diffidatio prescribed for such cases, withdrawing their fealty
and notifying him of their intention to begin war. Then choosing Robert
Fitz Walter their commander, under the title of Marshal of the Army of
God and Holy Church, they began the siege of Northampton, but were unable
to take it from lack of siege machinery. On May 17 the barons, having in
the meantime rejected several unsatisfactory proposals of the king,
entered London at the request of the chief citizens, though the tower was
still held by John's troops. The great strength of the barons at this
time as against the king was not, however, their possession of London, or
the forces which had taken the field in their cause, but the fact that
John had practically no part of England with him beyond the ground
commanded by the castles still held by his foreign soldiers. Pleas ceased
in the exchequer, we are told, and the operations of the sheriffs,
because no one could be found who would pay the king anything or show him
any obedience, and many of the barons, who up to this time had stood with
him, now joined the insurgents. No help could be had for some time from
the pope. Langton refused to act at the king's request and excommunicate
his enemies. There was nothing for John to do but to yield and trust that
time would bring about some change to relieve him of the obligations he
must assume.

On June 8 John granted a safe conduct to representatives of the barons to
negotiate with him to hold good until the 11th, and later extended the
period until the 15th. He was then at Windsor, and the barons from London
came to Staines and camped in the field of Runnymede. The "Articles" were
presented to the king in form, and now accepted by him, and on the basis
of them the Great Charter was drawn up and sealed on June 15, 1215.

In the history of constitutional liberty, of which the Great Charter is
the beginning, its specific provisions are of far less importance than
its underlying principle. What we to-day consider the great safeguards of
Anglo-Saxon liberty are all conspicuously absent from the first of its
creative statutes, nor could any of them have been explained in the
meaning we give them to the understanding of the men who framed the
charter. Consent to taxation in the modern sense is not there; neither
taxation nor consent. Trial by jury is not there in that form of it which
became a check on arbitrary power, nor is it referred to at all in the
clause which has been said to embody it. Parliament, habeas corpus, bail,
the independence of the judiciary, are all of later growth, or existed
only in rudimentary form. Nor can the charter be properly called a
contract between king and nation. The idea of the nation, as we now hold
it, was still in the future, to be called into existence by the
circumstances of the next reign. The idea of contract certainly pervades
the document, but only as the expression of the always existent contract
between the suzerain and his vassals which was the foundation of all
feudal law. On the other hand, some of the provisions of our civil
liberty, mainly in the interest of individual rights, are plainly
present. That private property shall not be taken for public use without
just compensation, that cruel and unusual punishments shall not be
inflicted nor excessive fines be imposed, that justice shall be free and
fair to all, these may be found almost in modern form.

But it is in none of these directions that the great importance of the
document is to be sought. All its specific provisions together as
specific provisions are not worth, either in themselves or in their
historical influence, the one principle which underlies them all and
gives validity to them all--the principle that the king must keep the
law. This it was that justified the barons in their rebellion. It was to
secure this from a king who could not be bound by the ordinary law that
the Great Charter was drawn up and its clauses put into the form in which
they stand. In other words, the barons contended that the king was
already bound by the law as it stood, and that former kings had
recognized the fact. In this they were entirely correct. The Great
Charter is old law. It is codification, or rather it is a selection of
those points of the existing law which the king had constantly violated,
for the purpose of stating them in such form that his specific pledge to
regard them could be secured, and his consent to machinery for enforcing
them in case he broke his pledge. The source of the Great Charter, then,
of its various provisions and of its underlying principle, must be sought
in the existing law that regulated the relations between the king and the
barons--the feudal law.

From beginning to end the Great Charter is a feudal document. The most
important of its provisions which cannot be found in this law, those
which may perhaps be called new legislation, relate to the judicial
system as recently developed, which had proved too useful and was
probably too firmly fixed to be set aside, though it was considered by
the barons to infringe upon their feudal rights and had been used in the
past as an engine of oppression and extortion. In this one direction the
development of institutions in England had already left the feudal system
behind. In financial matters a similar development was under rapid way,
but John's effort to push forward too fast along that line was one cause
of the insurrection and the charter, and of the reaction in this
particular which it embodies. As a statement of feudal law the Great
Charter is moderate, conservative, and carefully regardful of the real
rights of the king. As a document born in civil strife it is remarkable
in this respect, or would be were this not true of all its progeny in
Anglo-Saxon history. Whoever framed it must have been fair-minded and
have held the balance level between king and insurgents. Its provisions
in regard to wardship and marriage have been called weak. They are not
weak; they are just, and as compared with the corresponding provisions of
the charter of Henry I they are less revolutionary, and leave to the king
what belonged to him historically--the rights which all English kings had
exercised and which in that generation Philip of France also had
repeatedly exercised, even against John himself.

But the chief feature of the Great Charter apart from all its specific
enactments, that on which it all rests, is this, that the king has no
right to violate the law, and if he attempts to do so, may be constrained
by force to obey it. That also is feudal law. It was the fundamental
conception of the whole feudal relationship that the suzerain was bound to
respect the recognized rights of his vassal, and that if he would not, he
might be compelled to do so; nor was it in England alone that this idea
was held to include the highest suzerain, the lord paramount of the
realm.[81] Clause 61 which to the modern mind seems the most astonishing
of the whole charter, legalizing insurrection and revolution, contains
nothing that was new, except the arrangement for a body of twenty-five
barons who were to put into orderly operation the right of coercion. It
is certainly not necessary to show by argument the supreme importance of
this principle. It is the true corner-stone of the English constitution.
It was the preservation of this right, its development into new forms
to meet the changing needs of the state, that created and protected
constitutional liberty, and it was the supreme service of the Great
Charter, far beyond any accomplished by any one clause or by all specific
clauses together, to carry over from feudalism this right and to make it
the fostering principle of a new growth in which feudalism had no

It may be that the barons believed they were demanding nothing in the
Great Charter that had not been granted by former kings or that the king
was not bound by the law to observe. It may be possible to prove that
this belief was historically correct in principle if not in specific
form; but the king could not be expected to take the same view of the
case. He had been compelled to renounce many things that he had been
doing through his whole reign, and some things, as he very well knew,
that had been done by his father and brother before him. He may honestly
have believed that he had been forced to surrender genuine royal rights.
He certainly knew that if he faithfully kept its provisions, the task of
raising the necessary money to carry on the government, already not easy,
would become extremely difficult if not impossible. It is not likely that
John promised to be bound by the charter with any intention of keeping
his promise. He had no choice at the moment but to yield, and if he
yielded, the forces of the barons would probably scatter, and the chances
favour such a recovery of his strength that with the help of the pope he
could set the charter aside. At first nothing could be done but to
conform to its requirements, and orders were sent throughout the country
for the taking of the oath in which all men were to swear to obey the
twenty-five barons appointed guardians of the charter. Juries were to be
chosen to inquire into grievances, and some of the foreign troops were
sent home. Suspicions began to be felt, however, in regard to the
intentions of the king during the negotiations concerning details which
followed the signing of the charter. A council called to meet at Oxford
about the middle of July, he refused to attend. Nor were provocations and
violations of the spirit of the charter wanting on the part of the
barons. Certain of the party, indeed, "Trans-Humbrians" they are called,
probably the extreme enemies of the king, had withdrawn from the
conference at Runnymede, and now refused to cease hostilities because
they had had no part in making peace. The royal officers were maltreated
and driven off, and the king's manors plundered.

By August John was rapidly preparing for a renewal of the war. He sent
out orders to get the royal castles ready for defence. His emissaries
were collecting troops in Flanders and Aquitaine. Philip Augustus's Count
of Britanny, Peter of Dreux, was offered the honour of Richmond, which
former counts had held, if he would come to John's aid with a body of
knights. Money does not seem to have been lacking through the struggle
that followed, and John's efforts to collect mercenary troops were
abundantly successful. Dover was appointed as the gathering-place of his
army, both as a convenient landing-place for those coming from abroad and
for strategic reasons. As it became evident that the charter had not
brought the conflict to an end, the barons were obliged to consider what
their next step should be. In clause 61 of the charter in regard to
coercing the king, they had bound themselves not to depose him, but the
arrangements made in that clause were never put into operation, nor could
they be. There was only one way of dealing with a king who obstinately
insisted on his rights, as he regarded them, against the law, and that
was by deposition. The leaders of the barons now decided that this step
was necessary, and an effort was made to unite all barons in taking it,
but those who had been with the king before refused, and some members of
the baronial party itself were not willing to go so far, nor were the
clergy. The pope was making his position perfectly plain. Before the
meeting at Runnymede he had ordered the excommunication of the disturbers
of the king and kingdom; and when this sentence was published later, the
barons might pretend that the king was the worst disturber of the
kingdom, but they really knew what the pope intended. In September the
Bishop of Winchester and Pandulf, representing the pope, suspended
Archbishop Langton because of his refusal to enforce the papal sentences.
By the end of the month the news reached England of Innocent's bull
against the charter itself, declaring it null and void, and forbidding
the king to observe it or the barons to require it to be kept under
penalty of excommunication. Doubtless John expected this from the pope,
and if his own view of the charter were correct, Innocent's action would
be entirely within his rights. No vassal had a right to enter into any
agreement which would diminish the value of his fief, and John had done
this if the rights that he was exercising in 1213 were really his. It was
apparently about this time that the insurgent barons determined to
transfer their allegiance to Louis of France. We are told that they
selected him because, if he were king of England, most of John's
mercenaries would leave his service since they were vassals of France;
but Louis was really the only one available who could be thought to
represent in any way the old dynasty, and it would certainly be
remembered that he had been proposed for the place in 1213. Negotiations
were begun to induce him to accept, but in the meantime John had secured
a sufficient force to take the offensive, and was beginning to push the
war with unusual spirit and vigour. A part of his force he sent to
relieve Northampton and Oxford, besieged by the barons, and he himself
with the rest set out to take Rochester castle which was held against
him. Repulsed at first, he succeeded in a second attempt to destroy the
bridge across the Medway to cut off communication with London, and began
a regular siege which he pressed fiercely. The garrison was not large,
but they defended themselves with great courage, having reason to fear
the consequences of yielding, and prolonged the siege for seven weeks.
Even after the keep had been in part taken by undermining the wall they
maintained themselves in what was left until they were starved into
surrender. It was only the threat that his mercenaries would leave him
for fear of reprisals that kept John from hanging his prisoners. During
this siege the barons in London had remained in a strange inactivity,
making only one half-hearted attempt to save their friends, seemingly
afraid to meet the king in the field, and accused of preferring the
selfish security and luxury of the capital. This was their conduct during
the whole of the winter while their strongholds were captured and their
lands devastated in all parts of England by the forces of their enemy,
for John continued his campaign. Soon after the capture of Rochester he
marched through Windsor to the north of London and, leaving a part of his
army under the Earl of Salisbury to watch the barons and to lay waste
their lands in that part of the country, he passed himself through the
midlands to the north, destroying everything belonging to his enemies
that he could find and not always distinguishing carefully between
friends and foes. England had not for generations suffered such a
harrying as it received that winter. So great was the terror created by
the cruelties practised that garrisons of the barons' castles, it is
said, fled on the news of the king's approach, leaving the castles
undefended to fall into his hands. The march extended as far as Scotland.
Berwick was taken and burnt, and the parts of the country about were laid
waste in revenge for the favour which King Alexander had shown the
barons. In March, 1216, John returned to the neighbourhood of London,
leaving a new track of devastation further to the east, and bringing with
him a great store of plunder.

During the winter the barons had kept up their negotiations with Louis,
and an agreement had finally been made. They had pledged themselves to
do homage to Louis and accept him as king, and had sent to France
twenty-four hostages "of the noblest of the land" in pledge of their
fidelity. Louis in return sent over small bodies of men to their aid and
promised himself to follow in person in the spring. To this step the
barons were indeed driven, unless they were prepared to submit, because
of the strength the king had gained since the signing of the charter and
their own comparative weakness. Why this change had taken place so soon
after the barons had been all-powerful cannot now be fully explained, but
so far as we can see the opinion of a contemporary that they would have
been overcome but for the aid of the French is correct. Against the
invasion of Louis, John had two lines of defence, the pope and the fleet.
Innocent, who had once favoured a transfer of the English crown to Louis,
must now oppose it. When he learned how far preparations for the
expedition had gone, he sent a legate, Cardinal Gualo, to France to
forbid any further step. Gualo was received by Philip and his son at
Melun on April 25. There before the king and the court the case was
argued between the cardinal and a knight representing Louis, as if it
were a suit at law to be decided in the ordinary way. Louis's case was
skilfully constructed to deprive the legate of his ground of
interference, but his assertions were falsehoods or misrepresentations.
John had been condemned to death for the murder of Arthur--the first
occasion on which we hear of this--and afterwards rejected by the barons
of England for his many crimes, and they were making war on him to expel
him from the kingdom. John had surrendered the kingdom to the pope
without the consent of the barons, and if he could not legally do this,
he could by the attempt create a vacancy, which the barons had filled by
the choice of Louis. The legate, apparently unable to meet these
unexpected arguments, asserted that John was a crusader and therefore
under the protection of the apostolic see. For Louis it was answered that
John had been making war on him long before he took the cross and had
continued to do so since, so that Louis had a right to go on with the
war. The legate had no answer to this, though it was false, but he
prohibited Louis from going and his father from allowing him to go.
Louis, denying the right of his father to interfere with his claims in a
land not subject to the king of France, and sending an embassy to argue
his case before the pope, went on with his preparations. Philip Augustus
carefully avoided anything that would bring him into open conflict with
Innocent and threw the whole responsibility on his son.

Louis landed in England in the Isle of Thanet on May 21. John had
collected a large and strong fleet to prevent his crossing, but a storm
just at the moment had dispersed it and left the enemy a clear passage.
John, then at Canterbury, first thought to attack the French with his
land forces, but fearing that his hired troops would be less loyal to a
mere paymaster than to the heir and representative of their suzerain in
France, he fell back and left the way open for Louis's advance to London.
Soon after landing, Louis sent forward a letter to the Abbot of St.
Augustine's in Canterbury, who, he feared, was about to excommunicate
him. In this letter which was possibly intended also for general
circulation, he repeated the arguments used against the legate with some
additional points of the same sort, and explained the hereditary claim of
his wife and his own right by the choice of the barons. The document is a
peculiar mixture of fact and falsehood, but it was well calculated to
impose on persons to whom the minor details of history would certainly be
unknown. Rochester castle fell into the hands of the French with no real
resistance; and on June 2, Louis was welcomed in London with great
rejoicing, and at once received the homage of the barons and of the
mayor. Louis's arrival seemed to turn the tide for the moment against the
king. He retreated into the west, while the barons took the field once
more, and with the French gained many successes in the east and north,
particularly against towns and castles. On June 25, Louis occupied
Winchester. Barons who had been until now faithful to the king began to
come in and join the French as their rapid advance threatened their
estates; among them was even John's brother, the Earl of Salisbury. Early
in July Worcester was captured and Exeter threatened, and John was forced
back to the borders of Wales. This marks, however, the limit of Louis's
success. Instead of pushing his advance rapidly forward against the one
important enemy, the king himself, he turned aside to undertake some
difficult sieges, and made the further mistake of angering the English
barons by showing too great favour to his French companions. Dover castle
seemed to the military judgment of the French particularly important as
"key of England," and for more than three months Louis gave himself up to
the effort to take it.

For the first of these months, till the end of August, John remained
inactive on the borders of Wales. The death of Innocent III made no
change in the situation. His successor Honorius III continued his English
policy. With the beginning of September the king advanced as if to raise
the siege of Windsor, but gave up the attempt and passed on east into
Cambridgeshire, ravaging horribly the lands of his enemies. The barons
pursued him, and he fell back on Lincoln from which as a centre he raided
the surrounding country for more than a fortnight. On October 9, he
marched eastwards again to Lynn which, like most of the towns, was
favourable to him, and there he brought on a dysentery by overeating.
From that time his physical decline was rapid. His violent passions,
utterly unbridled, tore him to pieces more and more fiercely as he
recognized his own loss of strength and learned of one misfortune after
another. He would not rest, and he would not listen to counsel. On the
11th he went on to Wisbech, and on the next day he insisted on crossing
the Wash, without knowing the crossing or regarding the tide. He himself
passed in safety, but he lost a part of his troops and all his baggage
with his booty, money, and jewels. At night at Swineshead abbey, hot with
anger and grief, and feverish from his illness, he gave way to his
appetite again, as always, and ate to excess of peaches and new cider.
After a rest of a day he pushed on with difficulty to Sleaford. There
messengers reached him from his garrison in Dover asking his permission
to surrender if he could not relieve them at once, and the news brought
on a new passion of anger. He insisted on going one stage further to
Newark, although he had already recognized that his end was near. There
three days later, on the 19th of October, he died. The teachings of the
Church which he had slighted and despised during his life he listened to
as his end drew near, and he confessed and received the communion. He
designated his son Henry, now nine years old, as his heir, and especially
recommended him to the care of the Earl of Pembroke, and appointed
thirteen persons by name to settle his affairs and to distribute his
property according to general directions which he left. At his desire he
was buried in Worcester cathedral and in the habit of a monk.

It has already been suggested that the reigns of Richard and John form a
period of transition to a new age. That period closes and the new age
opens with the granting of the Great Charter and the attempted
revolution which followed. The reign of John was the culmination of a
long tendency in English history, most rapid since the accession of his
father, towards the establishment of an absolutism in which the rights
of all classes would disappear and the arbitrary will of the king be
supreme. The story of his reign should reveal how very near that result
was of accomplishment. A monarchy had been forming in the last three
reigns, and very rapidly in the reign of John, capable of crushing any
ordinary opposition, disregarding public opinion and traditional rights,
possessing in the new judicial system, if regarded as an organ of the
king's will alone, an engine of centralization, punishment, and
extortion, of irresistible force, and developing rapidly in financial
matters complete independence of all controlling principles. Though the
barons were acting rather from personal and selfish motives, freedom for
all classes depended on the speedy checking of this steady drift of two
generations. The reigns of Richard and John may be called transitional
because it is in them that the barons came to see clearly the principles
on which successful resistance could be founded and the absolutist
tendency checked. The embodiment of these principles in permanent form
in the Great Charter to be accepted by the sovereign and enforced in
practice, introduces an age, the age of constitutional growth, new in
the history of England, and in the form and importance of its results
new in the history of the world.


While the material on which the history of any period of the Middle Ages
is based is scanty as compared with the abundant supply at the service of
the writer of modern history, the number of the original sources for the
Norman and early Angevin period is so great as to render impossible any
attempt to characterize them all in this place. The more important or
more typical chroniclers have been selected to give an idea of the nature
of the material on which the narrative rests.

The medieval chronicler did not content himself with writing the history
of his own time. He was usually ambitious to write a general history from
the beginning of the world or from the Christian era at least, and in
comparatively few cases began with the origin of his own land. For a
knowledge of times before his own he had to depend on his predecessors in
the same line, and often for long periods together the new book would be
only an exact copy or a condensation of an older one. If several earlier
writers were at hand, the new text might be a composite one, resting on
them all, but really adding nothing to our knowledge. As the writer drew
nearer to his own time, local tradition or the documents preserved in his
monastery might give him information on new points or fuller information
on others. On such matters his narrative becomes an independent authority
of more or less value, and much that is important has been preserved to
us in such additions to the earlier sources. Sometimes for a longer or
shorter period before his own day the writer may be using materials all
of which have been lost to us, and in such a case he is for our purposes
an original and independent authority, although in reality he is not
strictly original. Then follows a period, sometimes a long one, sometimes
only a very few years, in which his narrative is contemporary and written
from his own knowledge or from strictly first-hand materials. This is
usually the most valuable portion for the modern writer of history.

A large mass of material of great value cannot be described here. It is
made up of records primarily of value for constitutional history,
charters, writs, laws, and documentary material of all kinds, from which
often new facts are obtained for narrative history or light of great
value thrown on doubtful points, especially of chronology or of the
history of individuals. Of such a kind are the various monastic
cartularies, law-books like Glanvill's, records like the Patent, Close,
and Charter Rolls, collections of letters, and modern collections of
documents like T. Rymer's Foedera or J.H. Round's Calendar of
Documents Preserved in France.

The Saxon Chronicle (with translation by B. Thorpe in the Rolls Series
(1861), or C. Plummer's Two Saxon Chronicles, 1892-99) continues during
the first part of this period with its earlier characteristics unchanged,
though more full than for all but the last of the preceding age. The
Conquest had no effect on its language, and it continued to be written in
English until the end. The Worcester chronicle closes with the year 1079,
while the Peterborough book goes on to the coronation of Henry II in
1154. Practically a contemporary record for the whole period, though not
preserved to us in a strictly contemporary form throughout, it is of
especial value for the indications it gives of the feelings of the
English at a time when they were not often recorded.

William, called of Poitiers, though a Norman, chaplain of William I and
Archdeacon of Lisieux, wrote a biography of the king, Gesta Willelmi
Duels Normannorum et Regis Anglice (in Migne's Patrologia Latina,149),
of much value for the period immediately following the Conquest. It has
been thought that he was not present at the battle of Hastings, but the
account of William's movements between the battle and his coronation
contains several indications of first--hand knowledge, matters of detail
likely to be noted by an eye--witness; and though he was a strong
partisan and panegyrist of the king, his statements of what happened may
generally be accepted. His comments and opinions, however, must be used
with the greatest caution. His work originally ended in 1071, but the
last part is now wanting, and it ends abruptly in the spring of 1067. The
entire book was used, however, by Orderic Vitalis as one of the chief
sources of his narrative, and in that form we probably have all the main
facts it contained.

William of Malmesbury, born probably between 1090 and 1096, devoted
himself from early life to the study of history, seemingly attracted to
it, as he tells us himself, by the pleasure which the record of the past
gave him and by its ethical value as a collection of practical examples
of virtues and vices. This confession gives the key to the character of
his work. He prided himself on his Latin style, and with some justice. He
regarded himself not as a mere chronicler, but as a historian of a higher
rank, the disciple and first continuator of Bede. The accurate telling of
facts in their chronological order was to him less important than a
well-written and philosophical account of events selected for their
importance or interest and narrated in such a way as to bring out the
character of the actors or the meaning of the history. That he succeeded
in these objects cannot be questioned. His work is of a higher literary
and philosophical character than any written since his master Bede, or
for some time after himself. On this account, however, it gives less
direct information as to the events of the time in which he lived than we
could wish, though it is a contemporary authority of considerable value
on the reign of Henry I, and of even more value on the first years of

His political history is contained in two works, the Gesta Regum, which
closes with the year 1128, and the Historia Novella, which continues
the narrative to December, 1142 (W. Stubbs, Rolls Series, 1887-89). A
third work, the Gesta Pontificum (N.E.S.A. Hamilton, Rolls Series,
1870), also contains some notices of value for the political history.
William boasted a friendship with Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who was his
patron, and his sympathies were with the Empress's party in the civil
war, but he had also personal relations with Roger of Salisbury and Henry
of Winchester, and was no blind partisan.

EADMER, a monk of Canterbury, stands with William of Malmesbury in the
forefront of the historians of the twelfth century. His work, less
pretentious than William's, is simpler and more straightforward. Eadmer
was of Saxon birth and was brought up from childhood in Christ Church,
Canterbury. Affectionately attached to Anselm from an early time, he
became his chaplain on his appointment as archbishop and was with him
almost constantly in his visits to court, in his troubled dealings with
his sovereigns, and in his exile abroad. With Anselm's successor,
Archbishop Ralph, he stood in equally close relations, and he was
honoured and respected in the ecclesiastical world of his time. He writes
throughout the greater part of his history, calmly and soberly, of the
things that he had seen and in which he had taken part. His chief work,
the Historia Novorum (M. Rule, Rolls Series, 1884), begins with the
Conquest, but his main interest before the days of Anselm is in the
personality and doings of Lanfranc. In the more detailed portion of his
work his point of view is always the ecclesiastical. This is the interest
which he desires to set forth most fully, but the policy of the Church
involved itself so closely in his day with that of the State that the
history of the one is almost of necessity that of the other, and in the
Historia Novarum we have a contemporary history of English affairs, as
they came into touch with the Church, of the greatest value from the
accession of Henry I to 1121, and one which preserves a larger proportion
of the important formal documents of the time than was usual with twelfth
century historians. He wrote also in the latter part of this period a
Vita Anselmi in which the religious was even more the leading interest
than in his history, but it adds something to our knowledge of the time.

One of the best authorities for the period from the Conquest to 1141 is
the Historia Ecclesiastica of ORDERIC VITALIS (A. le Prevost, Societe
de l'Histoire de France, 1838-55). Born in England in 1075, of a Norman
father, a clerk, and an English mother, he was sent by his father at the
age of ten to the monastery of St. Evroul, and there he spent his life.
The atmosphere in this monastery was favourable to study. It had an
extensive library, and Orderic had at his command good sources of
information, though he himself took no part in the events he describes.
He paid some visits to England in which he obtained information, and as
he always looked upon himself as an Englishman, his history naturally
includes England as well as Normandy. He began to write about 1123, and
from that date on he may be regarded as a contemporary authority, but
from the Conquest the book has in many places the value of an original
account. It is an exasperating book to use because of the extreme
confusion in which the facts are arranged, or left without arrangement,
the account of a single incident being often in two widely separated
places. But the book rises much above the level of mere annals, and while
perhaps not reaching that of the philosophical historian, gives the
reader more of the feeling that a living man is writing about living men
than is usual in medieval books. It reveals in the writer a lively
imagination, which, while it does not affect the historical value of the
narrative, gives it a pictorial setting. Orderic's interest in the
minuter details of life and in the personality of the men of his time
imparts a strong human element to the book; nor is the least useful
feature of the work the writer's critical judgment on men and events,
generally on moral grounds, but often assisting our knowledge of
character and the causes of events.

HENRY, ARCHDEACON OF HUNTINGDON's Historia Anglorum (T. Arnold, Rolls
Series, 1879) becomes original, to our present knowledge at least, with
the closing of the manuscript of the Saxon chronicle which he had been
following, probably in 1121, and his narrative is contemporary from the
last years of that decade to the coronation of Henry II. He adds,
however, surprisingly little to our knowledge of the twenty-five years
during which he was writing the history of his own time. He had an active
imagination and loved to embellish the facts which he had learned with
little details that he thought likely to be true. The main value of the
original portion of his history lies in its confirmation of what we learn
from other sources.

The chronicle of FLORENCE OF WORCESTER (B. Thorpe, Engl. Hist. Soc.,
1848-49) is continued by John of Worcester as a source of primary
importance to 1141 and by others afterwards. Florence himself died in
1118, but at what point before this his own work breaks off it does not
seem possible to determine. There is at no point any real change in the
character of the chronicle. The continental chronicle which Florence had
been using as the groundwork of his account, that of Marianus Scotus,
ends with 1082, but his manuscript of the Saxon chronicle probably went
on for some distance further, and about the time of Florence's death much
use is made of Eadmer. The account is annalistic throughout, even in the
full treatment of Stephen's reign; but in its original portions, or what
seem to us original, it has the value of a contemporary record, giving us
further insight into the feelings of the English in William's reign and
the feelings and sufferings of the people of the south-west in Stephen's

An interesting chronicle of Stephen's reign is that by an unknown author
known as the Gesta Stephani (R. Hewlett, Rolls Series, Chronicles of
Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, iii, 1866), which existed at the
beginning of the seventeenth century in a single manuscript since lost.
It has been conjectured with some probability that it was written by a
chaplain of the king's brother, Henry, Bishop of Winchester. Certainly
the author had very good sources of information, writes often from
personal knowledge, and though a strong partisan of Stephen's, is not
blind to his weaknesses and faults. While the first part of the narrative
was not written precisely at the date, the work has all the value of a
contemporary account from 1135, and from 1142 to 1147 it is almost our
only authority. The manuscript from which it was first printed in 1619
had been injured, and the book as it now exists breaks off in the middle
of a sentence in 1147.

ROBERT OF TORIGNI (R. Hewlett, Rolls Series. Chronicles of Stephen,
etc., iv, 1889) spent his life as a monk in Normandy, in the abbey of
Bec till 1154 and afterwards as abbot of the monastery of Mont Saint
Michel. He made apparently but two visits to England, of which we know no
particulars, but as a monk of Normandy, living in two of its most famous
monasteries, he was interested in the doings of the English kings,
particularly in their continental policy, and more especially in the
deeds of the two great Henries. He began to write as a young man, and by
1139, about the time he reached the age of thirty, he seems to have
completed his account of the reign of Henry I, which he wrote as an
additional, an eighth? book to the History of the Normans of William of
Jumieges. His more extended chronicle he had begun before leaving Bec,
and he carried the work with him to Mont-Saint-Michel. Down to 1100
this is the chronicle of Sigebert of Gemblours with additions, and it
becomes a wholly original chronicle only with 1147. Though of great value
for the knowledge of facts, especially between 1154 and 1170, the
chronicle never rises above the character of annals and was carelessly
constructed, especially as to chronology; it was perhaps worked up by
monks of his house from a somewhat rough first draft of memoranda by the
abbot. The book closes at the end of 1185, shortly before the death of

The writer of the twelfth century who comes the nearest to looking upon
the task of the historian as a modern writer would is WILLIAM OF NEWBURGH
(R. Hewlett, Rolls Series, Chronicles of Stephen, etc., i, and ii,
1884-85). His purpose is not merely to record what happened, with a
rather clear conception of the duty of the historian to be accurate and
to use the best sources, but to make a selection of the facts, using the
more important and those that will show the drift and meaning of the age,
and combining them into something like an explanatory account of the
period; and this he does with constant critical judgment of men and
measures and great breadth of historical view. His Historia Rerum
Anglicarum, which may be said to begin with the reign of Stephen, after
a brief introduction on the three preceding reigns, appears to have been
composed as a whole within two or three years at the close of the twelfth
century. The probability is that no part of it is original, in the sense
that it was written solely from first-hand knowledge; but the sources
from which he derived his material for the period from 1154 to 1173, and
at later dates, have not come down to us, and he must have drawn from
some personal knowledge in the last portion of his work. It is
throughout, however, a critical commentary of great value on the history,
and an interpretation of it by a man of clear, impartial, and broad
judgment, and one not too far removed from the time of which he wrote to
be out of sympathy with it.

For the last half of the reign of Henry II we have the advantage of a
valuable and in some respects very interesting and attractive chronicle.
This is the Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi, associated with the name of
BENEDICT OF PETERBOROUGH (Rolls Series, 2 vols.). Benedict, however, was
not the author, and no certain evidence as to who he was can be derived
from any source, nor does the chronicle itself supply many of those
incidental indications from which it is often possible to learn much
regarding the author of an anonymous book. The tentative suggestion of
Bishop Stubbs that it may have been written by Richard Fitz Neal, the
author of the Dialogus de Scaccario, is now generally regarded as
inadmissible. The work begins in 1170, and from a date a year or two
later is evidently contemporaneous to its close in 1192, with perhaps a
slight interruption at 1177. It is written in a simple and
straightforward way, and with a sure touch, unusual accuracy of
statement, and a clear understanding of constitutional details; it
suggests an interesting personality in its author, with whom we
constantly desire a closer acquaintance. Whoever he was, he possessed
good sources of information, though apparently too great consideration
for king or court keeps him sometimes from saying all he knows or
believes, and he has inserted in his work many letters and important

The work known by the name of Benedict was taken up into his own and
carried forward to 1201 by an almost equally important chronicler, ROGER
OF HOWDEN (W. Stubbs, Rolls Series, 1868-71). The writer was a northerner
who began his history with 732, using for all the first part of it
northern historians, with some slight additions between 1149 and 1169.
From 1170 he copies nearly all the Gesta Regis Henrici, adding to it
occasionally original information and some documents, but the knowledge
of value which we derive from his additions is disappointingly small
considering that he held official positions under the king and was
employed by him on various missions. From 1192 to its close the work is
an original and contemporary history, carefully written and of great
value, and containing an even larger proportion of documents than
Benedict. The chronicle excites less interest in the personality of its
author than does its predecessor; is of a somewhat more solemn type, and
shows more plainly the traits of the ordinary ecclesiastical writer in
its sympathy with current superstitions and its frequent moralizing.

RALPH DE DICETO, Dean of St. Paul's during the last ten years of Henry
II's reign and the whole of Richard's, began soon after he became dean a
chronicle which he called Imagines Historiarum, or Outlines of History
(W. Stubbs, Rolls Series, 1876). It begins with 1148, to which date he
had brought down an abstract of earlier chronicles from the creation. To
about 1183 the work is based on the writings of others, but from 1162 it
becomes more full and contains much that is original in form at least.
From 1183 to its close in 1202 it is a contemporary account of the
highest value, especially for the reign of Richard. Ralph stood in close
relations with Richard Fitz Neal, from 1189 Bishop of London, for forty
years treasurer of the kingdom, and himself the author of historical
books, and with William Longchamp King Richard's representative. From
his official position also he possessed unusually good opportunities of
information and means of forming those judgments on affairs which are a
feature of his chronicle. He has embodied many important documents in his
narrative though sometimes not with the true historian's feeling of the
importance of the exact language in such cases. His statements of fact
and of opinion both greatly aid our understanding of his times, and his
writing has, like Benedict of Peterborough, a straightforward air which
itself carries weight.

While the more important chroniclers were writing the secular history of
the reigns of Henry II and Richard I, a monk of Christ Church,
Canterbury, of the name of GERVASE (W. Stubbs, Rolls Series, 1879-80),
was also writing a chronicle in which he was chiefly interested to
preserve the history of the troubles and ecclesiastical controversies of
his house and of the archbishopric. Incidentally, however, he gives us
some information concerning political events and considerable
confirmatory evidence. He began writing about 1188, and his principal
chronicle becomes contemporary soon after that date. It exactly covers a
century, opening with the accession of Henry I and closing with the death
of Richard I. A minor chronicle, entitled Gesta Regum, begun after the
close of the other, starts with the mythical Brutus, the Trojan who gave
his name to Britain, and comes rapidly down to the accession of John,
abridging earlier works. For the reign of John it is a contemporary
chronicle, not very full, but of real value. Gervase writes always as a
monk, and even more narrowly, as a monk of Canterbury, influenced by the
feelings of his order and monastery. His attitude towards the kings under
whom he writes is unsympathetic, and his interest in political matters is
always very slight, but his references to them are not on that account
without a value of their own.

RALPH, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Coggeshall from 1207 to 1218,
when he resigned because of illness, wrote a Chronicon Anglicanum (J.
Stevenson, Rolls Series, 1875), which extends from 1066 to 1223. To 1186
the entries are brief annals: with 1187 the history becomes more full,
but the writer's interest is chiefly in the crusade, of which important
and interesting accounts are given from excellent sources; and
comparatively little is recorded concerning the history of England proper
before the accession of John. For the reign of John the book is one of
our most important and trustworthy contemporary sources. Ralph was
greatly interested in mythical tales, especially in wonderful occurrences
in nature, and he records these at length as he heard of them, but this
habit does not affect the character of his historical record proper. As a
historian he is very well informed, though he gives but few documents; he
saw clearly the essential point of things and had a sense of accuracy.

A compilation from earlier historical works made, in the form in which we
have it, at the end of the thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth
century and known by the name of WALTER OF COVENTRY (W. Stubbs, Rolls
Series, 1872-73), has preserved a continuation of Roger of Howden which

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