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The History of England, Volume I by David Hume

Part 11 out of 12

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grants and patents. When objections were made to this novelty, he
replied, that the pope exercised that authority; and why might not he
imitate the example? But the abuse which the pope made of his
dispensing power, in violating the canons of general councils, in
invading the privileges and customs of all particular churches, and in
usurping on the rights of patrons, was more likely to excite the
jealousy of the people, than to reconcile them to a similar practice
in their civil government. Roger de Thurkesby, one of the king's
justices, was so displeased with the precedent, that he exclaimed,
[FN [e] M. Paris, p. 301. [f] Ibid. p. 406. [g] Ibid. p. 507.]

The king's partiality and profuse bounty to his foreign relations, and
to their friends and favourites, would have appeared more tolerable to
the English, had any thing been done meanwhile for the honour of the
nation; or had Henry's enterprises in foreign countries been attended
with any success or glory to himself or to the public: at least, such
military talents in the king would have served to keep his barons in
awe, and have given weight and authority to his government. But
though he declared war against Lewis IX. in 1242, and made an
expedition into Guienne, upon the invitation of his father-in-law, the
Count de la Marche, who promised to join him with all his forces, he
was unsuccessful in his attempts against that great monarch, was
worsted at Taillebourg, was deserted by his allies, lost what remained
to him of Poictou, and was obliged to return, with loss of honour,
into England [h]. The Gascon nobility were attached to the English
government, because the distance of their sovereign allowed them to
remain in a state of almost total independence; [MN 1253.] and they
claimed, some time after, Henry's protection against an invasion,
which the King of Castile made upon that territory. Henry returned
into Guienne, and was more successful in this expedition; but he
thereby involved himself and his nobility in an enormous debt, which
both increased their discontents, and exposed him to greater danger
from their enterprises [i].
[FN [h] M. Paris, p. 393, 394, 398, 399, 405. W. Heming. p. 574.
Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 153. [i] M. Paris, p. 614.]

Want of economy, and an ill-judged liberality, were Henry's great
defects; and his debts, even before this expedition, had become so
troublesome, that he sold all his plate and jewels, in order to
discharge them. When this expedient was first proposed to him, he
asked where he should find purchasers? It was replied, the citizens
thenceforth observed to be more forward and greedy in his exactions
upon the citizens [l].
[FN [k] Ibid. p. 501. [l] Ibid. p. 501, 507, 518, 578, 606, 625,

[MN Ecclesiastical grievances.]
But the grievances, which the English during this reign had reason to
complain of in the civil government, seem to have been still less
burdensome than those which they suffered from the usurpations and
exactions of the court of Rome. [MN 1253.] On the death of Langton
in 1228, the monks of Christ-church elected Walter de Hemesham, one of
their own body, for his successor: but as Henry refused to confirm the
election, the pope, at his desire, annulled it [m]; and immediately
appointed Richard, Chancellor of Lincoln, for archbishop, without
waiting for a new election. On the death of Richard in 1231, the
monks elected Ralph de Neville, Bishop of Chichester; and though Henry
was much pleased with the election, the pope, who thought that prelate
too much attached to the crown, assumed the power of annulling his
election [n]. He rejected two clergymen more, whom the monks had
successively chosen; and he at last told them, that, if they would
elect Edmond, treasurer of the church of Salisbury, he would confirm
their choice; and his nomination was complied with. The pope had the
prudence to appoint both times very worthy primates; but men could not
forbear observing his intention of thus drawing gradually to himself
the right of bestowing that important dignity.
[FN [m] M. Paris, p. 224. [n] Ibid. p. 254.]

The avarice, however, more than the ambition, of the see of Rome,
seems to have been in this age the ground of general complaint. The
papal ministers, finding a vast stock of power amassed by their
predecessors, were desirous of turning it to immediate profit which
they enjoyed at home, rather than of enlarging their authority in
distant countries, where they never intended to reside. Every thing
was become venal in the Romish tribunals; simony was openly practised;
no favours, and even no justice, could be obtained without a bribe;
the highest bidder was sure to have the preference, without regard
either to the merits of the person or of the cause; and besides the
usual perversions of right in the decision of controversies, the pope
openly assumed an absolute and uncontrolled authority of setting
aside, by the plenitude of his apostolic power, all particular rules,
and all privileges of patrons, churches, and convents. On pretence of
remedying these abuses, Pope Honorius, in 1226, complaining of the
poverty of his see as the source of all grievances, demanded from
every cathedral two of the best prebends, and from every convent two
monks' portions, to be set apart as a perpetual and settled revenue of
the papal crown: but all men being sensible that the revenue would
continue for ever, the abuses immediately return, his demand was
unanimously rejected. About three years after, the pope demanded and
obtained the tenth of all ecclesiastical revenues, which he levied in
a very oppressive manner; requiring payment before the clergy had
drawn their rents or tithes, and sending about usurers, who advanced
them the money at exorbitant interest. In the year 1240, Otho, the
legate, having in vain attempted the clergy in a body, obtained
separately, by intrigues and menaces, large sums from the prelates and
convents, and on his departure is said to have carried more money out
of the kingdom than he left in it. This experiment was renewed four
years after with success by Martin the nuncio, who brought from Rome
powers of suspending and excommunicating all clergymen that refused to
comply with his demands. The king, who relied on the pope for the
support of his tottering authority, never failed to countenance those

Meanwhile, all the chief benefices of the kingdom were conferred on
Italians; great numbers of that nation were sent over at one time to
be provided for; non-residence and pluralities were carried to an
enormous height; Mansel, the king's chaplain, is computed to have held
at once seven hundred ecclesiastical livings; and the abuses became so
evident as to be palpable to the blindness of superstition itself.
The people, entering into associations, rose against the Italian
clergy; pillaged their barns; wasted their lands; insulted the persons
of such of them as they found in the kingdom [o]; and when the
justices made inquiry into the authors of this disorder, the guilt was
found to involve so many, and those of such high rank, that it passed
unpunished. At last, when Innocent IV., in 1245, called a general
council at Lyons, in order to excommunicate the Emperor Frederic, the
king and nobility sent over agents to complain before the council of
the rapacity of the Romish church. They represented, among many other
grievances, that the benefices of the Italian clergy in England had
been estimated, and were found to amount to sixty thousand marks [p] a
year, a sum which exceeded the annual revenue of the crown [q]. They
obtained only an evasive answer from the pope; but as mention had been
made before the council of the feudal subjection of England to the see
of Rome, the English agents, at whose head was Roger Bigod, Earl of
Norfolk, exclaimed against the pretension, and insisted that King John
had no right, without the consent of his barons, to subject the
kingdom to so ignominious a servitude [r]. The popes, indeed, afraid
of carrying matters too far against England, seem thenceforth to have
little insisted on that pretension.
[FN [o] Rymer, vol. i. p. 323. M. Paris, p. 255, 257. [p] Innocent's
bull in Rymer, vol. i. p. 471, says only fifty thousand marks a year.
[q] M. Paris, p. 451. The customs were part of Henry's revenue, and
amounted to six thousand pounds a year: they were at first small sums
paid by the merchants for the use of the king's warehouses, measures,
weights, &c. See Gilbert's History of the Exch. p. 214. [r] M.
Paris, p. 460.]

This check, received at the council of Lyons, was not able to stop the
court of Rome in its rapacity; Innocent exacted the revenues of all
vacant benefices, the twentieth of all ecclesiastical revenues without
exception; the third of such as exceeded a hundred marks a year, and
the half of such as were possessed by non-residents [s]. He claimed
the goods of all intestate clergymen [t]; he pretended a title to
inherit all money gotten by usury; he levied benevolences upon the
people; and when the king, contrary to his usual practice, prohibited
these exactions, he threatened to pronounce against him the same
censures which he had emitted against the Emperor Frederic [u].
[FN [s] Ibid. p. 480. Ann. Burt. p. 305, 373. [t] M. Paris, p. 474.
[u] Ibid. p. 476.]

[MN 1255.] But the most oppressive expedient employed by the pope was
the embarking of Henry in a project for the conquest of Naples or
Sicily on this side the Fare, as it was called; an enterprise, which
threw much dishonour on the king, and involved him, during some years,
in great trouble and expense. The Romish church, taking advantage of
favourable incidents, had reduced the kingdom of Sicily to the same
state of feudal vassalage which she pretended to extend over England,
and which, by reason of the distance, as well as high spirit of this
latter kingdom, she was not able to maintain. After the death of the
Emperor Frederic II., the succession of Sicily devolved to Conradine,
grandson of that monarch; and Mainfroy, his natural son, under
pretence of governing the kingdom during the minority of the prince,
had formed a scheme of establishing his own authority. Pope Innocent,
who had carried on violent war against the Emperor Frederic, and had
endeavoured to dispossess him of his Italian dominions, still
continued hostilities against his grandson; but being disappointed in
all his schemes by the activity and artifices of Mainfroy, he found
that his own force alone was not sufficient to bring to a happy issue
so great an enterprise. He pretended to dispose of the Sicilian
crown, both as superior lord of that particular kingdom, and as vicar
of Christ, to whom all kingdoms of the earth were subjected; and he
made a tender of it to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, whose immense
riches, he flattered himself, would be able to support the military
operations against Mainfroy. As Richard had the prudence to refuse
the present [w], he applied to the king, whose levity and thoughtless
disposition gave Innocent more hopes of success; and he offered him
the crown of Sicily for his second son, Edmond [x]. Henry, allured by
so magnificent a present, without reflecting on the consequences,
without consulting either with his brother or the Parliament, accepted
of the insidious proposal; and gave the pope unlimited credit to
expend whatever sums he thought necessary for completing the conquest
of Sicily. Innocent, who was engaged by his own interests to wage war
with Mainfroy, was glad to carry on his enterprises at the expense of
his ally: Alexander IV., who succeeded him in the papal throne,
continued the same policy; and Henry was surprised to find himself on
a sudden involved in an immense debt, which he had never been
consulted in contracting. The sum already amounted to one hundred and
thirty-five thousand five hundred and forty-one marks, besides
interest [y]; and he had the prospect, if he answered this demand, of
being soon loaded with more exorbitant expenses; if he refused it, of
both incurring the pope's displeasure, and losing the crown of Sicily,
which he hoped soon to have the glory of fixing on the head of his
[FN [w] M. Paris, p. 650. [x] Rymer, vol. i. p. 502, 512, 530. M.
Paris, p. 599, 613. [y] Rymer, vol. i. p. 587. Chron. Dunst. vol. i.
p. 319.]

He applied to the Parliament for supplies; and that he might be sure
not to meet with opposition, he sent no writs to the more refractory
barons; but even those who were summoned, sensible of the ridiculous
cheat imposed by the pope, determined not to lavish their money on
such chimerical projects; and making a pretext of the absence of their
brethren, they refused to take the king's demands into consideration
[z]. In this extremity the clergy were his only resource; and as both
their temporal and spiritual sovereign concurred in loading them, they
were ill able to defend themselves against this united authority.
[FN [z] M. Paris, p. 614.]

The pope published a crusade for the conquest of Sicily; and required
every one, who had taken the cross against the infidels, or had vowed
to advance money for that service, to support the war against
Mainfroy, a more terrible enemy, as he pretended, to the Christian
faith than any Saracen [a]. He levied a tenth on all ecclesiastical
benefices in England for three years; and gave orders to excommunicate
all bishops who made not punctual payment. He granted to the king the
goods of intestate clergymen; the revenues of vacant benefices; the
revenues of all non-residents [b]. But these taxations, being levied
by some rule, were deemed less grievous than another imposition, which
arose from the suggestion of the Bishop of Hereford, and which might
have opened the door to endless and intolerable abuses.
[FN [a] Rymer, vol. i. p. 547, 548, &c. [b] Ibid. vol. i. p. 597,

This prelate, who resided at the court of Rome, by a deputation from
the English church, drew bills of different values, but amounting on
the whole to one hundred and fifty thousand five hundred and forty
marks, on all the bishops and abbots of the kingdom; and granted these
bills to Italian merchants, who, it was pretended, had advanced money
for the service of the war against Mainfroy [c]. As there was no
likelihood of the English prelates submitting, without compulsion, to
such an extraordinary demand, Rustand, the legate, was charged with
the commission of employing authority to that purpose; and he summoned
an assembly of the bishops and abbots, whom he acquainted with the
pleasure of the pope and of the king. Great were the surprise and
indignation of the assembly. The Bishop of Worcester exclaimed, that
he would lose his life rather than comply: the Bishop of London said,
that the pope and king were more powerful than he; but if his mitre
were taken off his head, he would clap on a helmet in its place [d].
The legate was no less violent on the other hand; and he told the
assembly, in plain terms, that all ecclesiastical benefices were the
property of the pope, and he might dispose of them, either in whole or
in part, as he saw proper [e]. In the end, the bishops and abbots,
being threatened with excommunication, which made all the revenues
fall into the king's hands, were obliged to submit to the exaction;
and the only mitigation which the legate allowed them was, that the
tenths, already granted, should be accepted as a partial payment of
the bills. But the money was still insufficient for the pope's
purpose: the conquest of Sicily was as remote as ever: the demands
which came from Rome were endless: Pope Alexander became so urgent a
creditor, that he sent over a legate to England, threatening the
kingdom with an interdict, and the king with excommunication, if the
arrears, which he pretended to be due to him, were not instantly
remitted [f]. And at last Henry, sensible of the cheat, began to
think of breaking off the agreement, and of resigning into the pope's
hands that crown, which it was not intended by Alexander, that he or
his family should ever enjoy [g].
[FN [c] M. Paris, p. 612, 628. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 54. [d] M. Paris,
p. 614. [e] Ibid. p. 619. [f] Rymer, vol. i. p. 624. M. Paris, p.
648. [g] Rymer, vol. i. p. 630.]

[MN Earl of Cornwall elected King of the Romans.]
The Earl of Cornwall had now reason to value himself on his foresight,
in refusing the fraudulent bargain with Rome, and in preferring the
solid honours of an opulent and powerful prince of the blood of
England, to the empty and precarious glory of a foreign dignity. But
he had not always firmness sufficient to adhere to this resolution:
his vanity and ambition prevailed at last over his prudence and his
avarice; and he was engaged in an enterprise no less extensive and
vexatious than that of his brother, and not attended with much greater
probability of success. The immense opulence of Richard having made
the German princes cast their eye on him as a candidate for the
empire, he was tempted to expend vast sums of money on his election;
and he succeeded so far as to be chosen King of the Romans, which
seemed to render his succession infallible to the imperial throne. He
went over to Germany, and carried out of the kingdom no less a sum
than seven hundred thousand marks, if we may credit the account given
by some ancient authors [h], which is probably much exaggerated [i].
His money, while it lasted, procured him friends and partisans; but it
was soon drained from him by the avidity of the German princes; and
having no personal or family connexions in that country, and no solid
foundation of power, he found at last that he had lavished away the
frugality of a whole life in order to procure a splendid title; and
that his absence from England, joined to the weakness of his brother's
government, gave reins to the factious and turbulent dispositions of
the English barons, and involved his own country and family in great
[FN [h] M. Paris, p. 638. The same author, a few pages before, makes
Richard's treasures amount to little more than half the sum, p. 634.
The king's dissipations and expenses, throughout his whole reign,
according to the same author, had amounted only to about nine hundred
and forty thousand marks, p. 638. [i] The sums mentioned by ancient
authors, who were almost all monks, are often improbable, and never
consistent. But we know, from an infallible authority, the public
remonstrance to the council of Lyons, that the king's revenues were
below sixty thousand marks a year: his brother, therefore, could never
have been master of seven hundred thousand marks; especially as he did
not sell his estates in England, as we learn from the same author: and
we hear afterwards of his ordering all his woods to be cut, in order
to satisfy the rapacity of the German princes. His son succeeded to
the earldom of Cornwall, and his other revenues.]

[MN Discontents of the barons.]
The successful revolt of the nobility from King John, and their
imposing on him and his successors limitations of their royal power,
had made them feel their own weight and importance, had set a
dangerous precedent of resistance, and being followed by a long
minority, had impoverished as well as weakened that crown, which they
were at last induced, from the fear of worse consequences, to replace
on the head of young Henry. In the king's situation, either great
abilities and vigour were requisite to overawe the barons, or great
caution and reserve to give them no pretence for complaints; and it
must be confessed that this prince was possessed of neither of these
talents. He had not prudence to choose right measures; he wanted even
that constancy, which sometimes gives weight to wrong ones; he was
entirely devoted to his favourites, who were always foreigners; he
lavished on them, without discretion, his diminished revenue; and
finding that his barons indulged their disposition towards tyranny,
and observed not to their own vassals the same rules which they had
imposed on the crown, he was apt, in his administration, to neglect
all the salutary articles of the great charter, which he remarked to
be so little regarded by his nobility. This conduct had extremely
lessened his authority in the kingdom; had multiplied complaints
against him; and had frequently exposed him to affronts, and even to
dangerous attempts upon his prerogative. In the year 1244, when he
desired a supply from Parliament, the barons, complaining of the
frequent breaches of the great charter, and of the many fruitless
applications which they had formerly made for the redress of this and
other grievances, demanded, in return, that he should give them the
nomination of the great justiciary and of the chancellor, to whose
hands chiefly the administration of justice was committed; and if we
may credit the historian [k], they had formed the plan of other
limitations, as well as of associations to maintain them, which would
have reduced the king to be an absolute cipher; and have held the
crown in perpetual pupilage and dependence. The king, to satisfy
them, would agree to nothing but a renewal of the charter, and a
general permission to excommunicate all the violaters of it; and he
received no supply, except a scutage of twenty shillings on each
knight's fee, for the marriage of his eldest daughter to the King of
Scotland; a burden which was expressly annexed to their feudal
[FN [k] M. Paris, p. 432.]

Four years after, in a full Parliament, when Henry demanded a new
supply, he was openly reproached with a breach of his word, and the
frequent violations of the charter. He was asked, whether he did not
blush to desire any aid from his people, whom he professedly hated and
despised, to whom, on all occasions, he preferred aliens and
foreigners, and who groaned under the oppressions which he either
permitted or exercised over them. He was told that, besides
disparaging his nobility, by forcing them to contract unequal and mean
marriages with strangers, no rank of men was so low as to escape
vexatious from him or his ministers; that even the victuals consumed
in his household, the clothes which himself and his servants wore,
still more the wine which they used, were all taken by violence from
the lawful owners, and no compensation was ever made them for the
injury; that foreign merchants, to the great prejudice and infamy of
the kingdom, shunned the English harbours, as if they were possessed
by pirates, and the commerce with all nations was thus cut off by
these acts of violence; that loss was added to loss, and injury to
injury, while the merchants, who had been despoiled of their goods,
were also obliged to carry them at their own charge to whatever place
the king was pleased to appoint them; that even the poor fishermen on
the coast could not escape his oppressions and those of his courtiers;
and finding that they had not full liberty to dispose of their
commodities in the English market, were frequently constrained to
carry them to foreign ports, and to hazard all the perils of the
ocean, rather than those which awaited them from his oppressive
emissaries; and that his very religion was a ground of complaint to
his subjects, while they observed, that the waxen tapers and splendid
silks, employed in so many useless processions, were the spoils which
he had forcibly ravished from the true owners [l]. Throughout this
remonstrance, in which the complaints, derived from an abuse of the
ancient right of purveyance, may be supposed to be somewhat
exaggerated, there appears a strange mixture of regal tyranny in the
practices which gave rise to it, and of aristocratical liberty, or
rather licentiousness, in the expressions employed by the Parliament.
But a mixture of this kind is observable in all the ancient feudal
governments; and both of them proved equally hurtful to the people.
[FN [l] M. Paris, p. 498. See farther, p. 578. M. West. p. 348.]

As the king, in answer to their remonstrance, gave the Parliament only
good words and fair promises, attended with the most humble
submissions, which they had often found deceitful, he obtained at that
time no supply; and therefore, in the year 1253, when he found himself
again under the necessity of applying to Parliament, he had provided a
new pretence, which he deemed infallible, and taking the vow of a
crusade, he demanded their assistance in that pious enterprise [m].
The Parliament, however, for some time hesitated to comply; and the
ecclesiastical order sent a deputation, consisting of four prelates,
the primate, and the Bishops of Winchester, Salisbury, and Carlisle,
in order to remonstrate with him on his frequent violations of their
privileges, the oppressions with which he had loaded them and all his
subjects [n], and the uncanonical and forced elections which were made
to vacant dignities. "It is true," replied the king, "I have been
somewhat faulty in this particular: I obtruded you, my Lord of
Canterbury, upon your see: I was obliged to employ both entreaties and
menaces, my Lord of Winchester, to have you elected: my proceedings, I
confess, were very irregular, my Lords of Salisbury and Carlisle, when
I raised you from the lowest stations to your present dignities: I am
determined henceforth to correct these abuses; and it will also become
you, in order to make a thorough reformation, to resign your present
benefices, and try to enter again in a more regular and canonical
manner [o]." The bishops, surprised at these unexpected sarcasms,
replied, that the question was not at present how to correct past
errors, but to avoid them for the future. The king promised redress
both of ecclesiastical and civil grievances; and the Parliament in
return agreed to grant him a supply, a tenth of the ecclesiastical
benefices, and a scutage of three marks on each knight's fee: but as
they had experienced his frequent breach of promise, they required
that he should ratify the great charter in a manner still more
authentic and more solemn than any which he had hitherto employed.
All the prelates and abbots were assembled: they held burning tapers
in their hands: the great charter was read before them: they denounced
the sentence of excommunication against every one who should
thenceforth violate that fundamental law: they threw their tapers on
the ground, and exclaimed, MAY THE SOUL OF EVERY ONE WHO INCURS THIS
SENTENCE SO STINK AND CORRUPT IN HELL! The king bore a part in this
ceremony, and subjoined, "So help me God, I will keep all these
articles inviolate, as I am a man, as I am a Christian, as I am a
knight, and as I am a king crowned and anointed [p]." Yet was the
tremendous ceremony no sooner finished, than his favourites, abusing
his weakness, made him return to the same arbitrary and irregular
administration; and the reasonable expectations of his people were
thus perpetually eluded and disappointed [q].
[FN [m] M. Paris, p. 518, 558, 568. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 293.
[n] M. Paris, p. 568. [o] Ibid. p. 579. [p] M. Paris, p. 580. Ann.
Burt. p. 323. Ann. Waverl. p. 210. W. Heming. p. 571. M. West. p.
353. [q] M. Paris, p. 597, 608.]

[MN 1258. Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.]
All these imprudent and illegal measures afforded a pretence to Simon
de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, to attempt an innovation in the
government, and to wrest the sceptre from the feeble and irresolute
hand which held it. This nobleman was a younger son of that Simon de
Montfort, who had conducted, with such valour and renown, the crusade
against the Albigenses, and who, though he tarnished his famous
exploits by cruelty and ambition, had left a name very precious to all
the bigots of that age, particularly to the ecclesiastics. A large
inheritance in England fell by succession to this family; but as the
elder brother enjoyed still more opulent possessions in France, and
could not perform fealty to two masters, he transferred his right to
Simon, his younger brother, who came over to England, did homage for
his lands, and was raised to the dignity of Earl of Leicester. In the
year 1238, he espoused Eleanor, dowager of William, Earl of Pembroke,
and sister to the king [r]; but the marriage of this princess with a
subject and a foreigner, though contracted with Henry's consent, was
loudly complained of by the Earl of Cornwall and all the barons of
England; and Leicester was supported against their violence by the
king's favour and authority alone [s]. But he had no sooner
established himself in his possessions and dignities, than he
acquired, by insinuation and address, a strong interest with the
nation, and gained equally the affections of all orders of men. He
lost, however, the friendship of Henry, from the usual levity and
fickleness of that prince; he was banished the court; he was recalled;
he was intrusted with the command of Guienne [t], where he did good
service and acquired honour; he was again disgraced by the king, and
his banishment from court seemed now final and irrevocable. Henry
called him traitor to his face: Leicester gave him the lie, and told
him, that if he were not his sovereign, he would soon make him repent
of that insult. Yet was this quarrel accommodated, either from the
good nature or timidity of the king; and Leicester was again admitted
into some degree of favour and authority. But as this nobleman was
become too great to preserve an entire complaisance to Henry's
humours, and to act in subserviency to his other minions, he found
more advantage in cultivating his interest with the public, and in
inflaming the general discontents which prevailed against the
administration. He filled every place with complaints against the
infringement of the great charter, the acts of violence committed on
the people, the combination between the pope and the king in their
tyranny and extortions, Henry's neglect of his native subjects and
barons; and though he himself a foreigner, he was more loud than any
in representing the indignity of submitting to the dominion of
foreigners. By his hypocritical pretensions to devotion, he gained
the favour of the zealots and clergy: by his seeming concern for
public good, he acquired the affections of the public: and besides the
private friendships which he had cultivated with the barons, his
animosity against the favourites created an union of interests between
him and that powerful order.
[FN [r] Ibid. p. 314. [s] M. Paris, p. 315. [t] Rymer, vol. i. p.
459, 513.]

A recent quarrel, which broke out between Leicester and William de
Valence, Henry's half-brother, and chief favourite, brought matters to
extremity [u], and determined the former to give full scope to his
bold and unbounded ambition, which the laws and the king's authority
had hitherto with difficulty restrained. He secretly called a meeting
of the most considerable barons, particularly Humphrey de Bohun, high
constable, Roger Bigod, earl mareschal, and the Earls of Warwick and
Gloucester; men who by their family and possessions stood in the first
rank of the English nobility. He represented to this company the
necessity of reforming the state, and of putting the execution of the
laws into other hands than those which had hitherto appeared, from
repeated experience, so unfit for the charge with which they were
intrusted. He exaggerated the oppressions exercised against the lower
orders of the state, the violations of the barons' privileges, the
continued depredations made on the clergy; and in order to aggravate
the enormity of his conduct, he appealed to the great charter, which
Henry had so often ratified, and which was calculated to prevent for
ever the return of those intolerable grievances. He magnified the
generosity of their ancestors, who, at a great expense of blood, had
extorted that famous concession from the crown; but lamented their own
degeneracy, who allowed so important an advantage, once obtained, to
be wrested from them by a weak prince and by insolent strangers. And
he insisted, that the king's word, after so many submissions and
fruitless promises on his part, could no longer be relied on; and that
nothing but his absolute inability to violate national privileges
could henceforth ensure the regular observance of them.
[FN [u] M. Paris, p. 649.]

These topics, which were founded in truth, and suited so well to the
sentiments of the company, had the desired effect; and the barons
embraced a resolution of redressing the public grievances, by taking
into their own hands the administration of government. Henry having
summoned a Parliament, in expectation of receiving supplies for his
Sicilian project, the barons appeared in the hall, clad in complete
armour, and with their swords by their side: the king on his entry,
struck with the unusual appearance, asked them what was their purpose,
and whether they intended to make him their prisoner [w]: Roger Bigod
replied, in the name of the rest, that he was not their prisoner, but
their sovereign; that they even intended to grant him large supplies,
in order to fix his son on the throne of Sicily; that they only
expected some return for this expense and service; and that, as he had
frequently made submissions to the Parliament, had acknowledged his
past errors, and had still allowed himself to be carried into the same
path, which gave them such just reason of complaint, he must now yield
to more strict regulations, and confer authority on those who were
able and willing to redress the national grievances. Henry, partly
allured by the hopes of supply, partly intimidated by the union and
martial appearance of the barons, agreed to their demand: and promised
to summon another Parliament at Oxford, in order to digest the new
plan of government, and to elect the persons who were to be intrusted
with the chief authority.
[FN [w] Annal. Theokesbury.]

[MN 11th June. Provisions of Oxford.]
This Parliament, which the royalists, and even the nation, from
experience of the confusions that attended its measures, afterwards
denominated the MAD PARLIAMENT, met on the day appointed; and as all
the barons brought along with them their military vassals, and
appeared with an armed force, the king, who had taken no precautions
against them, was in reality a prisoner in their hands, and was
obliged to submit to all the terms which they were pleased to impose
upon him. Twelve barons were selected from among the king's
ministers; twelve more were chosen by Parliament: to these twenty-
four, unlimited authority was granted to reform the state; and the
king himself took an oath, that he would maintain whatever ordinances
they should think proper to enact for that purpose [x]. Leicester was
at the head of the supreme council, to which the legislative power was
thus in reality transferred; and all their measures were taken by his
secret influence and direction. Their first step bore a specious
appearance, and seemed well calculated for the end which they
professed to be the object of all these innovations: they ordered that
four knights should be chosen by each county; that they should make
inquiry into the grievances of which their neighbourhood had reason to
complain, and should attend the ensuing Parliament, in order to give
information to that assembly of the state of their particular counties
[y]: a nearer approach to our present constitution than had been made
by the barons in the reign of King John, when the knights were only
appointed to meet in their several counties, and there to draw up a
detail of their grievances. Meanwhile the twenty-four barons
proceeded to enact some regulations as a redress of such grievances as
were supposed to be sufficiently notorious. They ordered that three
sessions of Parliament should be regularly held every year in the
months of February, June, and October; that a new sheriff should be
annually elected by the votes of the freeholders in each county [z];
that the sheriffs should have no power of fining the barons who did
not attend their courts, or the circuits of the justiciaries; that no
heirs should be committed to the wardship of foreigners, and no
castles intrusted to their custody; and that no new warrens or forests
should be created, nor the revenues of any counties or hundreds be let
to farm. Such were the regulations which the twenty-four barons
established at Oxford, for the redress of public grievances.
[FN [x] Rymer, vol. i. p. 655. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 334.
Knyghton, p. 2445. [y] M. Paris, p. 657. Addit. p. 140. Ann. Burt.
p. 412. [z] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 336.]

But the Earl of Leicester and his associates, having advanced so far
to satisfy the nation, instead of continuing in this popular course,
or granting the king that supply which they had promised him,
immediately provided for the extension and continuance of their own
authority. They roused anew the popular clamour which had long
prevailed against foreigners; and they fell with the utmost violence
on the king's half-brothers, who were supposed to be the authors of
all national grievances, and whom Henry had no longer any power to
protect. The four brothers, sensible of their danger, took to flight,
with an intention of making their escape out of the kingdom; they were
eagerly pursued by the barons; Aymer, one of the brothers, who had
been elected to the see of Winchester, took shelter in his episcopal
palace, and carried the others along with him; they were surrounded in
that place, and threatened to be dragged out by force, and to be
punished for their crimes and misdemeanors; and the king, pleading the
sacredness of an ecclesiastical sanctuary, was glad to extricate them
from this danger by banishing them the kingdom. In this act of
violence, as well as in the former usurpations of the barons, the
queen and her uncles were thought to have secretly concurred; being
jealous of the credit acquired by the brothers, which they found had
eclipsed and annihilated their own.

[MN Usurpations of the barons.]
But the subsequent proceedings of the twenty-four barons were
sufficient to open the eyes of the nation, and to prove their
intention of reducing for ever both the king and the people under the
arbitrary power of a very narrow aristocracy, which must at last have
terminated either in anarchy, or in a violent usurpation and tyranny.
They pretended that they had not yet digested all the regulations
necessary for the reformation of the state and for the redress of
grievances; and they must still retain their power, till that great
purpose were thoroughly effected: in other words, that they must be
perpetual governors, and must continue to reform, till they were
pleased to abdicate their authority. They formed an association among
themselves, and swore that they would stand by each other with their
lives and fortunes; they displaced all the chief officers of the
crown, the justiciary, the chancellor, the treasurer; and advanced
either themselves or their own creatures in their place: even the
officers of the king's household were disposed of at their pleasure:
the government of all the castles was put into hands in whom they
found reason to confide: and the whole power of the state being thus
transferred to them, they ventured to impose an oath, by which all the
subjects were obliged to swear, under the penalty of being declared
public enemies, that they would obey and execute all the regulations,
both known and unknown, of the twenty-four barons; and all this for
the greater glory of God, the honour of the church, the service of the
king, and the advantage of the kingdom [a]. No one dared to withstand
this tyrannical authority. Prince Edward himself, the king's eldest
son, a youth of eighteen, who began to give indications of that great
and manly spirit which appeared throughout the whole course of his
life, was, after making some opposition, constrained to take that oath
which really deposed his father and his family from sovereign
authority [b]. Earl Warrenne was the last person in the kingdom that
could be brought to give the confederated barons this mark of
[FN [a] Chron T. Wykes, p. 52. [b] Ann. Burt. p. 411.]

But the twenty-four barons, not content with the usurpation of the
royal power, introduced an innovation in the constitution of
Parliament, which was of the utmost importance. They ordained that
this assembly should choose a committee of twelve persons, who should,
in the intervals of the sessions, possess the authority of the whole
Parliament, and should attend, on a summons, the person of the king in
all his motions. But so powerful were these barons, that this
regulation was also submitted to; the whole government was overthrown,
or fixed on new foundations; and the monarchy was totally subverted,
without its being possible for the king to strike a single stroke in
defence of the constitution against the newly-elected oligarchy.

[MN 1259.] The report that the King of the Romans intended to pay a
visit to England gave alarm to the ruling barons, who dreaded lest the
extensive influence and established authority of that prince would be
employed to restore the prerogatives of his family, and overturn their
plan of government [c]. They sent over the Bishop of Worcester, who
met him at St. Omars; asked him, in the name of the barons, the reason
of his journey, and how long he intended to stay in England; and
insisted that, before he entered the kingdom, he should swear to
observe the regulations established at Oxford. On Richard's refusal
to take this oath, they prepared to resist him as a public enemy; they
fitted out a fleet, assembled an army, and exciting the inveterate
prejudices of the people against foreigners, from whom they had
suffered so many oppressions, spread the report that Richard, attended
by a number of strangers, meant to restore by force the authority of
his exiled brothers, and to violate all the securities provided for
public liberty. The King of the Romans was at last obliged to submit
to the terms required of him [d].
[FN [c] M. Paris, p. 661. [d] Ibid. p. 661, 662. Chron. T. Wykes, p.

But the barons, in proportion to their continuance in power, began
gradually to lose that popularity which had assisted them in obtaining
it; and men repined that regulations, which were occasionally
established for the reformation of the state, were likely to become
perpetual, and to subvert entirely the ancient constitution. They
were apprehensive lest the power of the nobles, always oppressive,
should now exert itself without control, by removing the counterpoise
of the crown; and their fears were increased by some new edicts of the
barons, which were plainly calculated to procure to themselves an
impunity in all their violences. They appointed that the circuits of
the itinerant justices, the sole check on their arbitrary conduct,
should be held only once in seven years; and men easily saw that a
remedy, which returned after such long intervals against an oppressive
power, which was perpetual, would prove totally insignificant and
useless [e]. The cry became loud in the nation, that the barons
should finish their intended regulations. The knights of the shires,
who seem now to have been pretty regularly assembled, and sometimes in
a separate house, made remonstrances against the slowness of their
proceedings. They represented that, though the king had performed all
the conditions required of him, the barons had hitherto done nothing
for the public good, and had only been careful to promote their own
private advantage, and to make inroads on the royal authority; and
they even appealed to Prince Edward, and claimed his interposition for
the interests of the nation and the reformation of the government [f].
The prince replied, that though it was from constraint, and contrary
to his private sentiments, he had sworn to maintain the provisions of
Oxford, he was determined to observe his oath: but he sent a message
to the barons, requiring them to bring their undertaking to a speedy
conclusion, and fulfil their engagements to the public: otherwise he
menaced them, that, at the expense of his life, he would oblige them
to do their duty, and would shed the last drop of his blood in
promoting the interests, and satisfying the just wishes of the nation
[FN [e] M. Paris, p. 667. Trivet, p. 209. [f] Annal. Burt. p. 427.
[g] Id. ibid.]

The barons, urged by so pressing a necessity, published at last a new
code of ordinances for the reformation of the state [h]; but the
expectations of the people were extremely disappointed, when they
found that these consisted only of some trivial alterations in the
municipal law, and still more, when the barons pretended that the task
was not yet finished, and that they must farther prolong their
authority, in order to bring the work of reformation to the desired
period. The current of popularity was now much turned to the side of
the crown; and the barons had little to rely on for their support,
besides the private influence and power of their families, which,
though exorbitant, was likely to prove inferior to the combination of
king and people. Even this basis of power was daily weakened by their
intestine jealousies and animosities; their ancient and inveterate
quarrels broke out when they came to share the spoils of the crown;
and the rivalship between the Earls of Leicester and Gloucester, the
chief leaders among them, began to disjoint the whole confederacy.
The latter, more moderate in his pretensions, was desirous of stopping
or retarding the career of the barons' usurpations; but the former,
enraged at the opposition which he met with in his own party,
pretended to throw up all concern in English affairs, and he retired
into France [i].
[FN [h] Ann. Burt. p. 428, 439. [i] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 348.]

The kingdom of France, the only state with which England had any
considerable intercourse, was at this time governed by Lewis IX., a
prince of the most singular character that is to be met with in all
the records of history. This monarch united, to the mean and abject
superstition of a monk, all the courage and magnanimity of the
greatest hero; and, what may be deemed more extraordinary, the justice
and integrity of a disinterested patriot, the mildness and humanity of
an accomplished philosopher. So far from taking advantage of the
divisions among the English, or attempting to expel those dangerous
rivals from the provinces which they still possessed in France, he had
entertained many scruples with regard to the sentence of attainder
pronounced against the king's father, had even expressed some
intention of restoring the other provinces, and was only prevented
from taking that imprudent resolution by the united remonstrances of
his own barons, who represented the extreme danger of such a measure
[k], and, what had a greater influence on Lewis, the justice of
punishing, by a legal sentence, the barbarity and felony of John.
Whenever this prince interposed in English affairs, it was always with
an intention of composing the differences between the king and his
nobility; he recommended to both parties every peaceable and
reconciling measure; and he used all his authority with the Earl of
Leicester, his native subject, to bend him to compliance with Henry.
[MN 20th May.] He made a treaty with England, at a time when the
distractions of that kingdom were at the greatest height, and when the
king's authority was totally annihilated; and the terms which he
granted might, even in a more prosperous state of their affairs, be
deemed reasonable and advantageous to the English. He yielded up some
territories which had been conquered from Poictou and Guienne; he
ensured the peaceable possession of the latter province to Henry; he
agreed to pay that prince a large sum of money; and he only required
that the king should, in return, make a final cession of Normandy and
the other provinces, which he could never entertain any hopes of
recovering by force of arms [l]. This cession was ratified by Henry,
by his two sons, and two daughters, and by the King of the Romans and
his three sons: Leicester alone, either moved by a vain arrogance, or
desirous to ingratiate himself with the English populace, protested
against the deed, and insisted on the right, however distant, which
might accrue to his consort [m]. Lewis saw, in his obstinacy, the
unbounded ambition of the man; and as the barons insisted that the
money due by treaty should be at their disposal, not at Henry's, he
also saw, and probably with regret, the low condition to which this
monarch, who had more erred from weakness than from any bad intention,
was reduced by the turbulence of his own subjects.
[FN [k] M. Paris, p. 604. [l] Rymer, vol. i. p. 675. M. Paris, p.
566. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 53. Trivet, p. 208. M. West. p. 371. [m]
Chron. T. Wykes, p. 53.]

[MN 1261.] But the situation of Henry soon after wore a more
favourable aspect. The twenty-four barons had now enjoyed the
sovereign power near three years; and had visibly employed it, not for
the reformation of the state, which was their first pretence, but for
the aggrandizement of themselves and of their families. The breach of
trust was apparent to all the world: every order of men felt it, and
murmured against it: the dissensions among the barons themselves,
which increased the evil, made also the remedy more obvious and easy;
and the secret desertion, in particular, of the Earl of Gloucester to
the crown, seemed to promise Henry certain success in any attempt to
resume his authority. Yet durst he not take that step, so
reconcilable both to justice and policy, without making a previous
application to Rome, and desiring an absolution from his oaths and
engagements [n].
[FN [n] Ann. Burt. p. 389.]

The pope was at this time much dissatisfied with the conduct of the
barons, who, in order to gain the favour of the people and clergy of
England, had expelled all the Italian ecclesiastics, had confiscated
their benefices, and seemed determined to maintain the liberties and
privileges of the English church, in which the rights of patronage,
belonging to their own families, were included. The extreme animosity
of the English clergy against the Italians was also a source of his
disgust to this order; and an attempt, which had been made by them for
farther liberty and greater independence on the civil power, was
therefore less acceptable to the court of Rome [o]. About the same
time that the barons at Oxford had annihilated the prerogatives of the
monarchy, the clergy met in a synod at Merton, and passed several
ordinances, which were no less calculated to promote their own
grandeur at the expense of the crown. They decreed, that it was
unlawful to try ecclesiastics by secular judges; that the clergy were
not to regard any prohibitions from civil courts; that lay patrons had
no right to confer spiritual benefices; that the magistrate was
obliged, without farther inquiry, to imprison all excommunicated
persons; and that ancient usage, without any particular grant or
charter, was a sufficient authority for any clerical possessions or
privileges [p]. About a century before, these claims would have been
supported by the court of Rome beyond the most fundamental articles of
faith: they were the chief points maintained by the great martyr,
Becket; and his resolution in defending them had exalted him to the
high station which he held in the catalogue of Romish saints. But
principles were changed with the times: the pope was become somewhat
jealous of the great independence of the English clergy, which made
them stand less in need of his protection, and even imboldened them to
resist his authority, and to complain of the preference given to the
Italian courtiers, whose interests, it is natural to imagine, were the
chief object of his concern. He was ready, therefore, on the king's
application, to annul these new constitutions of the church of England
[q]. And, at the same time, he absolved the king, and all his
subjects, from the oath which they had taken to observe the provisions
of Oxford [r].
[FN [o] Rymer, vol. i. p. 755. [p] Ann. Burt. p. 389. [q] Rymer,
vol. i. p. 755. [r] Ibid. p. 722. M. Paris, p. 666. W. Heming. p.
580. Ypod. Neust. p. 463. Knyghton, p. 2446.]

[MN Prince Edward.]
Prince Edward, whose liberal mind, though in such early youth, had
taught him the great prejudice which his father had incurred, by his
levity, inconstancy, and frequent breach of promise, refused for a
long time to take advantage of this absolution; and declared, that the
provisions of Oxford, how unreasonable soever in themselves, and how
much soever abused by the barons, ought still to be adhered to by
those who had sworn to observe them [s]: he himself had been
constrained by violence to take that oath; yet he was determined to
keep it. By this scrupulous fidelity, the prince acquired the
confidence of all parties, and was afterwards enabled to recover fully
the royal authority, and to perform such great actions, both during
his own reign and that of his father.
[FN [s] M. Paris, p. 667.]

The situation of England, during this period, as well as that of most
European kingdoms, was somewhat peculiar. There was no regular
military force maintained in the nation: the sword, however, was not,
properly speaking, in the hands of the people: the barons were alone
intrusted with the defence of the community; and after any effort
which they made, either against their own prince or against
foreigners, as the military retainers departed home, the armies were
disbanded, and could not speedily be re-assembled at pleasure. It was
easy, therefore, for a few barons, by a combination, to get the start
of the other party, to collect suddenly their troops, and to appear
unexpectedly in the field with an army, which their antagonists,
though equal, or even superior in power and interest, would not dare
to encounter. Hence the sudden revolutions which often took place in
those governments: hence the frequent victories obtained, without a
blow, by one faction over the other: and hence it happened, that the
seeming prevalence of a party was seldom a prognostic of its long
continuance in power and authority.

[MN 1262.] The king, as soon as he received the pope's absolution
from his oath, accompanied with menaces of excommunication against all
opponents, trusting to the countenance of the church, to the support
promised him by many considerable barons, and to the returning favour
of the people, immediately took off the mask. After justifying his
conduct by a proclamation, in which he set forth the private ambition,
and the breach of trust, conspicuous in Leicester and his associates,
he declared, that he had resumed the government, and was determined
thenceforth to exert the royal authority for the protection of his
subjects. He removed Hugh le Despenser and Nicholas de Ely, the
justiciary and chancellor appointed by the barons; and put Philip
Basset and Walter de Merton in their place. He substituted new
sheriffs in all the counties, men of character and honour: he placed
new governors in most of the castles: he changed all the officers of
his household: [MN 23d April.] he summoned a Parliament, in which the
resumption of his authority was ratified, with only five dissenting
voices: and the barons, after making one fruitless effort to take the
king by surprise at Winchester, were obliged to acquiesce in those new
regulations [t].
[FN [t] M. Paris, p. 668. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 55.]

The king, in order to cut off every objection to his conduct, offered
to refer all the differences between him and the Earl of Leicester,
to Margaret, Queen of France [u]. The celebrated integrity of Lewis
gave a mighty influence to any decision which issued from his court;
and Henry probably hoped, that the gallantry, on which all barons, as
true knights, valued themselves, would make them ashamed not to submit
to the award of that princess. Lewis merited the confidence reposed
in him. By an admirable conduct, probably as political as just, he
continually interposed his good offices to allay the civil discords of
the English: he forwarded all healing measures, which might give
security to both parties: and he still endeavoured, though in vain, to
soothe, by persuasion, the fierce ambition of the Earl of Leicester,
and to convince him how much it was his duty to submit peaceably to
the authority of his sovereign.
[FN [u] Rymer, vol. i. p. 724.]

[MN 1263.] That bold and artful conspirator was nowise discouraged by
the bad success of his past enterprises. The death of Richard, Earl
of Gloucester, who was his chief rival in power, and who, before his
decease, had joined the royal party, seemed to open a new field to his
violence, and to expose the throne to fresh insults and injuries. It
was in vain that the king professed his intentions of observing
strictly the great charter, even of maintaining all the regulations
made by the reforming barons at Oxford or afterwards, except those
which entirely annihilated the royal authority: these powerful
chieftains, now obnoxious to the court, could not peaceably resign the
hopes of entire independence and uncontrolled power, with which they
had flattered themselves, and which they had so long enjoyed. [MN
Civil wars of the barons.] Many of them engaged in Leicester's views;
and among the rest, Gilbert, the young Earl of Gloucester, who brought
him a mighty accession of power, from the extensive authority
possessed by that opulent family. Even Henry, son of the King of the
Romans, commonly called Henry d'Allmaine, though a prince of the
blood, joined the party of the barons against the king, the head of
his own family. Leicester himself, who still resided in France,
secretly formed the links of this great conspiracy, and planned the
whole scheme of operations.

The princes of Wales, notwithstanding the great power of the monarchs,
both of the Saxon and Norman line, still preserved authority in their
own country. Though they had often been constrained to pay tribute to
the crown of England, they were with difficulty retained in
subordination, or even in peace; and almost through every reign since
the Conquest, they had infested the English frontiers with such petty
incursions and sudden inroads, as seldom merit to have place in a
general history. The English, still content with repelling their
invasions, and chasing them back into their mountains, had never
pursued the advantages obtained over them, nor been able, even under
their greatest and most active princes, to fix a total, or so much as
a feudal subjection on the country. This advantage was reserved to
the present king, the weakest and most indolent. In the year 1237,
Lewellyn, Prince of Wales, declining in years, and broken with
infirmities, but still more harassed with the rebellion and undutiful
behaviour of his youngest son, Griffin, had recourse to the protection
of Henry; and consenting to subject his principality, which had so
long maintained, or soon recovered, its independence, to vassalage
under the crown of England, had purchased security and tranquillity on
these dishonourable terms. His eldest son and heir, David, renewed
the homage to England; and having taken his brother prisoner,
delivered him into Henry's hands, who committed him to custody in the
Tower. That prince, endeavouring to make his escape, lost his life in
the attempt; and the Prince of Wales, freed from the apprehensions of
so dangerous a rival, paid thenceforth less regard to the English
monarch, and even renewed those incursions, by which the Welsh, during
so many ages, had been accustomed to infest the English borders.
Lewellyn, however, the son of Griffin, who succeeded to his uncle, had
been obliged to renew the homage, which was now claimed by England as
an established right; but he was well pleased to inflame those civil
discords, on which he rested his present security, and founded his
hopes of future independence. He entered into a confederacy with the
Earl of Leicester, and collecting all the force of his principality,
invaded England with an army of thirty thousand men. He ravaged the
lands of Roger de Mortimer, and of all the barons who adhered to the
crown [w]; he marched into Cheshire, and committed like depredations
on Prince Edward's territories; every place where his disorderly
troops appeared was laid waste with fire and sword; and though
Mortimer, a gallant and expert soldier, made stout resistance, it was
found necessary that the prince himself should head the army against
this invader. Edward repulsed Prince Lewellyn, and obliged him to
take shelter in the mountains of North Wales: but he was prevented
from making farther progress against the enemy, by the disorders which
soon after broke out in England.
[FN [w] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 354.]

The Welsh invasion was the appointed signal for the malecontent barons
to rise in arms, and Leicester, coming over secretly from France,
collected all the forces of his party, and commenced an open
rebellion. He seized the person of the Bishop of Hereford; a prelate
obnoxious to all the inferior clergy, on account of his devoted
attachment to the court of Rome [x]. Simon, Bishop of Norwich, and
John Mansel, because they had published the pope's bull, absolving the
king and kingdom from their oaths to observe the provisions of Oxford,
were made prisoners, and exposed to the rage of the party. The king's
demesnes were ravaged with unbounded fury [y]: and as it was
Leicester's interest to allure to his side, by the hopes of plunder,
all the disorderly ruffians in England, he gave them a general licence
to pillage the barons of the opposite party, and even all neutral
persons. But one of the principal resources of his faction was the
populace of the cities, particularly of London; and as he had, by his
hypocritical pretensions to sanctity, and his zeal against Rome,
engaged the monks and lower ecclesiastics in his party, his dominion
over the inferior ranks of men became uncontrollable. Thomas
Fitz-Richard, Mayor of London, a furious and licentious man, gave the
countenance of authority to these disorders in the capital; and having
declared war against the substantial citizens, he loosened all the
bands of government, by which that turbulent city was commonly but ill
restrained. On the approach of Easter, the zeal of superstition, the
appetite for plunder, or what is often as prevalent with the populace
as either of these motives, the pleasure of committing havoc and
destruction, prompted them to attack the unhappy Jews, who were first
pillaged without resistance, then massacred to the number of five
hundred persons [z]. The Lombard bankers wore next exposed to the
rage of the people; and though, by taking sanctuary in the churches,
they escaped with their lives, all their money and goods became a prey
to the licentious multitude. Even the houses of the rich citizens,
though English, were attacked by night; and way was made by sword and
by fire to the pillage of their goods, and often to the destruction of
their persons. The queen, who, though defended by the Tower, was
terrified by the neighbourhood of such dangerous commotions, resolved
to go by water to the castle of Windsor; but as she approached the
bridge, the populace assembled against her: the cry ran, DROWN THE
WITCH; and besides abusing her with the most opprobrious language, and
pelting her with rotten eggs and dirt, they had prepared large stones
to sink her barge, when she should attempt to shoot the bridge; and
she was so frightened, that she returned to the Tower [a].
[FN [x] Trivet, p. 211. M. West. p. 382, 392. [y] Trivet, p. 211.
M. West. p. 382. [z] Chron. T. Wykes, p. 59. [a] Ibid. p. 57.]

The violence and fury of Leicester's faction had risen to such a
height in all parts of England, that the king, unable to resist their
power, was obliged to set on foot a treaty of peace; and to make an
accommodation with the barons on the most disadvantageous terms [b].
[MN July.] He agreed to confirm anew the provisions of Oxford, even
those which entirely annihilated the royal authority; and the barons
were again reinstated in the sovereignty of the kingdom. They
restored Hugh le Despenser to the office of chief justiciary; they
appointed their own creatures sheriffs in every county in England;
they took possession of all the royal castles and fortresses; they
even named all the officers of the king's household; and they summoned
a Parliament to meet at Westminster, in order to settle more fully
their plan of government. [MN 1263. 14th Oct.] They here produced a
new list of twenty-four barons, to whom they proposed that the
administration should be entirely committed; and they insisted that
the authority of this junto should continue, not only during the reign
of the king, but also during that of Prince Edward.
[FN [b] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 358. Trivet, p. 211.]

This prince, the life and soul of the royal party, had unhappily,
before the king's accommodation with the barons, been taken prisoner
by Leicester in a parley at Windsor [c]; and that misfortune, more
than any other incident, had determined Henry to submit to the
ignominious conditions imposed upon him. But Edward, having recovered
his liberty by the treaty, employed his activity in defending the
prerogatives of his family; and he gained a great party even among
those who had at first adhered to the cause of the barons. His cousin
Henry d'Allmaine, Roger Bigod, earl marshal, Earl Warrenne, Humphrey
Bohun, Eaff of Hereford, John Lord Basset, Ralph Basset, Hammond
l'Estrange, Roger Mortimer, Henry de Piercy, Robert do Brus, Roger de
Leybourne, with almost all the lords marchers, as they were called, on
the borders of Wales and of Scotland, the most warlike parts of the
kingdom, declared in favour of the royal cause; and hostilities, which
were scarcely well composed, were again renewed in every part of
England. But the near balance of the parties, joined to the universal
clamour of the people, obliged the king and barons to open anew the
negotiations for peace; and it was agreed, by both sides, to submit
their differences to the arbitration of the King of France [d].
[FN [c] M. Paris, p. 669. Trivet, p. 213. [d] M. Paris, p. 668.
Chron. T. Wykes, p. 58. W. Heming, p. 580. Chron Dunst. vol. i. p.

[MN Reference to the King of France.]
This virtuous prince, the only man who, in like circumstances, could
safely have been intrusted with such an authority by a neighbouring
nation, had never ceased to interpose his good offices between the
English factions; and had even, during the short interval of peace,
invited over to Paris both the king and the Earl of Leicester, in
order to accommodate the differences between them; but found, that the
fears and animosities on both sides, as well as the ambition of
Leicester, were so violent, as to render all his endeavours
ineffectual. But when this solemn appeal, ratified by the oaths and
subscriptions of the leaders in both factions, was made to his
judgment, he was not discouraged from pursuing his honourable purpose:
[MN 1264.] he summoned the states of France at Amiens; and there, in
the presence of that assembly, as well as in that of the King of
England, and Peter de Montfort, Leicester's son, he brought this great
cause to a trial and examination. It appeared to him, that the
provisions of Oxford, even had they not been extorted by force, had
they not been so exorbitant in their nature, and subversive of the
ancient constitution, were expressly established as a temporary
expedient, and could not, without breach of trust, be rendered
perpetual by the barons. [MN 23d Jan.] He therefore annulled these
provisions; restored to the king the possession of his castles, and
the power of nomination to the great offices; allowed him to retain
what foreigners he pleased in his kingdom, and even to confer on them
places of trust and dignity; and, in a word, re-established the royal
power in the same condition on which it stood before the meeting of
the Parliament at Oxford. But while he thus suppressed dangerous
innovations, and preserved unimpaired the prerogatives of the English
crown, he was not negligent of the rights of the people; and besides
ordering that a general amnesty should be granted for all past
offences, he declared that his award was not anywise meant to derogate
from the privileges and liberties which the nation enjoyed by any
former concessions or charters of the crown [e].
[FN [e] Rymer, vol. i. p. 776, 777, &c. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 58.
Knyghton, p. 2446.]

This equitable sentence was no sooner known in England, than Leicester
and his confederates determined to reject it, and to have recourse to
arms, in order to procure to themselves more safe and advantageous
conditions [f]. [MN Renewal of the civil wars.] Without regard to
his oaths and subscriptions, that enterprising conspirator directed
his two sons, Richard and Peter de Montfort, in conjunction with
Robert de Ferrars, Earl of Derby, to attack the city of Worcester;
while Henry and Simon de Montfort, two others of his sons, assisted by
the Prince of Wales, were ordered to lay waste the estate of Roger de
Mortimer. He himself resided at London; and employing, as his
instrument, Fitz-Richard, the seditious mayor, who had violently and
illegally prolonged his authority, he wrought up that city to the
highest ferment and agitation. The populace formed themselves into
bands and companies; chose leaders; practised all military exercises;
committed violence on the royalists; and to give them greater
countenance in their disorders, an association was entered into
between the city and eighteen great barons, never to make peace with
the king but by common consent and approbation. At the head of those
who swore to maintain this association were the Earls of Leicester,
Gloucester, and Derby, with le Despenser, the chief justiciary; men
who had all previously sworn to submit to the award of the French
monarch. Their only pretence for this breach of faith was, that the
latter part of Lewis's sentence was, as they affirmed, a contradiction
to the former: he ratified the charter of liberties, yet annulled the
provisions of Oxford; which were only calculated, as they maintained,
to preserve that charter; and without which, in their estimation, they
had no security for its observance.
[FN [f] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 363.]

The king and prince finding a civil war inevitable, prepared
themselves for defence; and summoning the military vassals from all
quarters, and being reinforced by Baliol, Lord of Galloway, Brus, Lord
of Annandale, Henry Piercy, John Comyn [g], and other barons of the
north, they composed an army, formidable, as well from its numbers as
its military prowess and experience. The first enterprise of the
royalists was the attack of Northampton, which was defended by Simon
de Montfort, with many of the principal barons of that party; and a
breach being made in the walls by Philip Basset, the place was carried
by assault, and both the governor and the garrison were made
prisoners. [MN 5th April.] The royalists marched thence to Leicester
and Nottingham; both which places having opened their gates to them,
Prince Edward proceeded with a detachment into the county of Derby, in
order to ravage with fire and sword the lands of the earl of that
name, and take revenge on him for his disloyalty. Like maxims of war
prevailed with both parties throughout England; and the kingdom was
thus exposed in a moment to greater devastation, from the animosities
of the rival barons, than it would have suffered from many years of
foreign or even domestic hostilities, conducted by more humane and
more generous principles.
[FN [g] Rymer, vol. i. p 772. M. West. p. 385. Ypod. Neust. p. 469.]

The Earl of Leicester, master of London, and of the counties in the
south-east of England, formed the siege of Rochester, which alone
declared for the king in those parts, and which, besides Earl
Warrenne, the governor, was garrisoned by many noble and powerful
barons of the royal party. The king and prince hastened from
Nottingham, where they were then quartered, to the relief of the
place; and on their approach, Leicester raised the siege, and
retreated to London, which, being the centre of his power, he was
afraid might, in his absence, fall into the king's hands, either by
force, or by a correspondence with the principal citizens, who were
all secretly inclined to the royal cause. Reinforced by a great body
of Londoners, and having summoned his partisans from all quarters, he
thought himself strong enough to hazard a general battle with the
royalists, and to determine the fate of the nation in one great
engagement; which, if it proved successful, must be decisive against
the king, who had no retreat for his broken troops in those parts;
while Leicester himself, in case of any sinister accident, could
easily take shelter in the city. To give the better colouring to his
cause, he previously sent a message with conditions of peace to Henry,
submissive in the language, but exorbitant in the demands [h]; and
when the messenger returned with the lie and defiance from the king,
the prince, and the King of the Romans, he sent a new message,
renouncing in the name of himself and of the associated barons, all
fealty and allegiance to Henry. He then marched out of the city, with
his army divided into four bodies: the first commanded by his two
sons, Henry and Guy de Montfort, together with Humphrey de Bohun, Earl
of Hereford, who had deserted to the barons; the second led by the
Earl of Gloucester, with William de Montchesney and John Fitz-John;
the third, composed of Londoners, under the command of Nicholas de
Segrave; the fourth headed by himself in person. The Bishop of
Chichester gave a general absolution to the army, accompanied with
assurances that, if any of them fell in the ensuing action, they would
infallibly be received into heaven, as the reward of their suffering
in so meritorious a cause.
[FN [h] M. Paris, p. 669. W. Heming. p. 583.]

[MN Battle of Lewes. 14th May.]
Leicester, who possessed great talents for war, conducted his march
with such skill and secrecy, that he had well nigh surprised the
royalists in their quarters at Lewes in Sussex: but the vigilance and
activity of Prince Edward soon repaired this negligence; and he led
out the king's army to the field in three bodies. He himself
conducted the van, attended by Earl Warrenne and William de Valence:
the main body was commanded by the King of the Romans and his son
Henry: the king himself was placed in the rear at the head of his
principal nobility. Prince Edward rushed upon the Londoners, who had
demanded the post of honour in leading the rebel army, but who, from
their ignorance of discipline and want of experience, were ill fitted
to resist the gentry and military men, of whom the prince's body was
composed. They were broken in an instant; were chased off the field;
and Edward, transported by his martial ardour, and eager to revenge
the insolence of the Londoners against his mother [i], put them to the
sword for the length of four miles, without giving them any quarter,
and without reflecting on the fate which in the mean time attended the
rest of the army. The Earl of Leicester, seeing the royalists thrown
into confusion by their eagerness in the pursuit, led on his remaining
troops against the bodies commanded by the two royal brothers: he
defeated, with great slaughter, the forces headed by the King of the
Romans; and that prince was obliged to yield himself prisoner to the
Earl of Gloucester; he penetrated to the body where the king himself
was placed, threw it into disorder, pursued his advantage, chased it
into the town of Lewes, and obliged Henry to surrender himself
prisoner [k].
[FN [i] M. Paris, p. 670. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 62. W. Heming. p. 583.
M. West. p. 387. Ypod. Neust. p. 469. H. Knyghton, p. 2450. [k] M.
Paris, p. 670. M. West. p. 387.]

Prince Edward, returning to the field of battle from his precipitate
pursuit of the Londoners, was astonished to find it covered with the
dead bodies of his friends and still more to hear, that his father and
uncle were defeated and taken prisoners, and that Arundel, Comyn Brus,
Hamond L'Estrange, Roger Leybourne, and many considerable barons of
his party, were in the hands of the victorious enemy. Earl Warrenne,
Hugh Bigod, and William de Valence, struck with despair at this event,
immediately took to flight, hurried to Pevensey, and made their escape
beyond sea [l]: but the prince, intrepid amidst the greatest
disasters, exhorted his troops to revenge the death of their friends,
to relieve the royal captives, and to snatch an easy conquest from an
enemy disordered by their own victory [m]. He found his followers
intimidated by their situation; while Leicester, afraid of a sudden
and violent blow from the prince, amused him by a feigned negotiation,
till he was able to recall his troops from the pursuit, and to bring
them into order [n]. There now appeared no farther resource to the
royal party, surrounded by the armies and garrisons of the enemy,
destitute of forage and provisions, and deprived of their sovereign,
as well as of their principal leaders, who could alone inspirit them
to an obstinate resistance. The prince, therefore, was obliged to
submit to Leicester's terms, which were short and severe, agreeably to
the suddenness and necessity of the situation: he stipulated, that he
and Henry d'Allmaine should surrender themselves prisoners as pledges
in lieu of the two kings; that all other prisoners on both sides
should be released [o]; and that, in order to settle fully the terms
of agreement, application should be made to the King of France, that
he should name six Frenchmen, three prelates, and three noblemen:
these six to choose two others of their own country; and these two to
choose one Englishman, who, in conjunction with themselves, were to be
invested by both parties with full powers to make what regulations
they thought proper for the settlement of the kingdom. The prince and
young Henry accordingly delivered themselves into Leicester's hands,
who sent them under a guard to Dover castle. Such are the terms of
agreement commonly called the MISE of Lewes, from an obsolete French
term of that meaning: for it appears, that all the gentry and nobility
of England, who valued themselves on their Norman extraction, and who
disdained the language of their native country, made familiar use of
the French tongue till this period, and for some time after.
[FN [l] Chron. T. Wykes, p. 63. [m] W. Heming. p. 584. [n] Ibid.
[o] M. Paris, p. 671 Knyghton, p. 2451.]

Leicester had no sooner obtained this great advantage, and gotten the
whole royal family in his power, than he openly violated every article
of the treaty, and acted as sole master, and even tyrant of the
kingdom. He still detained the king in effect a prisoner, and made
use of that prince's authority to purposes the most prejudicial to his
interests, and the most oppressive of his people [p]. He every where
disarmed the royalists, and kept all his own partisans in a military
posture [q]: he observed the same partial conduct in the deliverance
of the captives, and even threw many of the royalists into prison,
besides those who were taken in the battle of Lewes: he carried the
king from place to place, and obliged all the royal castles, on
pretence of Henry's commands, to receive a governor and garrison of
his own appointment: all the officers of the crown and of the
household were named by him; and the whole authority, as well as arms
of the state, was lodged in his hands: he instituted in the counties a
new kind of magistracy, endowed with new and arbitrary powers, that of
conservators of the peace [r]: his avarice appeared bare-faced, and
might induce us to question the greatness of his ambition, at least
the largeness of his mind, if we had not reason to think, that he
intended to employ his acquisitions as the instruments for attaining
farther power and grandeur. He seized the estates of no less than
eighteen barons, as his share of the spoil gained in the battle of
Lewes: he engrossed to himself the ransom of all the prisoners; and
told his barons, with a wanton insolence, that it was sufficient for
them that he had saved them, by that victory, from the forfeitures
and attainders which hung over them [s]: he even treated the Earl of
Gloucester in the same injurious manner, and applied to his own use
the ransom of the King of the Romans, who, in the field of battle, had
yielded himself prisoner to that nobleman. Henry, his eldest son,
made a monopoly of all the wool in the kingdom, the only valuable
commodity for foreign markets which it at that time produced [t]. The
inhabitants of the cinque-ports, during the present dissolution of
government, betook themselves to the most licentious piracy, preyed on
the ships of all nations, threw the mariners into the sea, and, by
these practices, soon banished all merchants from the English coasts
and harbours. Every foreign commodity rose to an exorbitant price;
and woollen cloth, which the English had not then the art of dyeing,
was worn by them white, and without receiving the last hand of the
manufacturer. In answer to the complaints which arose on this
occasion, Leicester replied, that the kingdom could well enough
subsist within itself, and needed no intercourse with foreigners; and
it was found that he even combined with the pirates of the
cinque-ports, and received as his share the third of their prizes [u].
[FN [p] Rymer, vol. i. p. 790, 791, &c. [q] Ibid. p. 795. Brady's
Appeals, No. 211, 212. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 63. [r] Rymer, vol. i. p.
792. [s] Knyghton, p. 2451. [t] Chron. T. Wykes, p. 65. [u] Ibid.]

No farther mention was made of the reference to the King of France, so
essential an article in the agreement of Lewes; and Leicester summoned
a Parliament, composed altogether of his own partisans, in order to
rivet, by their authority, that power which he had acquired by so much
violence, and which he used with so much tyranny and injustice. An
ordinance was there passed, to which the king's consent had been
previously extorted, that every act of royal power should be exercised
by a council of nine persons, who were to be chosen and removed by the
majority of three, Leicester himself, the Earl of Gloucester, and the
Bishop of Chichester [w]. By this intricate plan of government, the
sceptre was really put into Leicester's hands; as he had the entire
direction of the Bishop of Chichester, and thereby commanded all the
resolutions of the council of three, who could appoint or discard at
pleasure every member of the supreme council.
[FN [w] Rymer, vol. i. p. 793. Brady's App. No. 213.]

But it was impossible that things could long remain in this strange
situation. It behoved Leicester either to descend with some peril
into the rank of a subject or to mount up with no less into that of a
sovereign; and his ambition, unrestrained either by fear or by
principle, gave too much reason to suspect him of the latter
intention. Meanwhile he was exposed to anxiety from every quarter;
and felt that the smallest incident was capable of overturning that
immense and ill-cemented fabric which he had reared. The queen, whom
her husband had left abroad, had collected in foreign parts an army of
desperate adventurers, and had assembled a great number of ships, with
a view of invading the kingdom, and of bringing relief to her
unfortunate family. Lewis, detesting Leicester's usurpations and
perjuries, and disgusted at the English barons, who had refused to
submit to his award, secretly favoured all her enterprises, and was
generally believed to be making preparations for the same purpose. An
English army, by the pretended authority of the captive king, was
assembled on the seacoast to oppose this projected invasion [x]; but
Leicester owed his safety more to cross winds, which long detained and
at last dispersed and ruined the queen's fleet, than to any resistance
which, in their present situation, could have been expected from the
[FN [x] Brady's App. No. 216, 217. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 373. M.
West. p. 385.]

Leicester found himself better able to resist the spiritual thunders
which were levelled against him. The pope, still adhering to the
king's cause, against the barons, despatched Cardinal Guido as his
legate into England, with orders to excommunicate, by name, the three
earls, Leicester, Gloucester, and Norfolk, and all others, in general,
who concurred in the oppression and captivity of their sovereign [y].
Leicester menaced the legate with death, if he set foot within the
kingdom; but Guido, meeting in France the Bishops of Winchester,
London, and Worcester, who had been sent thither on a negotiation,
commanded them, under the penalty of ecclesiastical censures, to carry
his bull into England, and to publish it against the barons. When the
prelates arrived off the coast, they were boarded by the piratical
mariners of the cinque-ports, to whom probably they gave a hint of the
cargo which they brought along with them: the bull was torn and thrown
into the sea; which furnished the artful prelates with a plausible
excuse for not obeying the orders of the legate. Leicester appealed
from Guido to the pope in person; but before the ambassadors,
appointed to defend his cause, could reach Rome, the pope was dead;
and they found the legate himself, from whom they had appealed, seated
on the papal throne, by the name of Urban IV. That daring leader was
nowise dismayed with this incident; and as he found that a great part
of his popularity in England was founded on his opposition to the
court of Rome, which was now become odious, he persisted with the more
obstinacy in the prosecution of his measures.
[FN [y] Rymer, vol. i. p. 798. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 373.]

[MN 1265. 20th Jan.] That he might both increase and turn to
advantage his popularity, Leicester summoned a new Parliament in
London, where he knew his power was uncontrollable; and he fixed this
assembly on a more democratical basis than any which had ever been
summoned since the foundation of the monarchy. Besides the barons of
his own party, and several ecclesiastics who were not immediate
tenants of the crown, he ordered returns to be made of two knights
from each shire, and what is more remarkable, of deputies from the
boroughs, an order of men which, in former ages, had always been
regarded as too mean to enjoy a place in the national councils [z].
[MN House of Commons.] This period is commonly esteemed the epoch of
the House of Commons in England; and it is certainly the first time
that historians speak of any representatives sent to Parliament by the
boroughs. In all the general accounts given in preceding times of
those assemblies, the prelates and barons only are mentioned as the
constituent members; and even in the most particular narratives
delivered of parliamentary transactions, as in the trial of Thomas a
Becket, where the events of each day, and almost of each hour, are
carefully recorded by contemporary authors [a], there is not,
throughout the whole, the least appearance of a House of Commons. But
though that House derived its existence from so precarious and even
so invidious an origin as Leicester's usurpation, it soon proved, when
summoned by the legal princes, one of the most useful, and, in process
of time, one of the most powerful members of the national
constitution; and gradually rescued the kingdom from aristocratical as
well as from regal tyranny. But Leicester's policy, if we must
ascribe to him so great a blessing, only forwarded by some years an
institution, for which the general state of things had already
prepared the nation; and it is otherwise inconceivable, that a plant
set by so inauspicious a hand could have attained to so vigorous a
growth, and have flourished in the midst of such tempests and
convulsions. The feudal system, with which the liberty, much more the
power of the Commons, was totally incompatible, began gradually to
decline; and both the king and the commonalty, who felt its
inconveniences, contributed to favour this new power, which was more
submissive than the barons to the regular authority of the crown, and
at the same time afforded protection to the inferior orders of the
[FN [z] Rymer, vol. i. p. 802. [a] Fitz-Stephen, Hist. Quadrip.
Hoveden, &c.]

Leicester having thus assembled a Parliament of his own model, and
trusting to the attachment of the populace of London, seized the
opportunity of crushing his rivals among the powerful barons. Robert
de Ferrars, Earl of Derby, was accused in the king's name, seized, and
committed to custody without being brought to any legal trial [b].
John Gifford, menaced with the same fate, fled from London, and took
shelter in the borders of Wales. Even the Earl of Gloucester, whose
power and influence had so much contributed to the success of the
barons, but who of late was extremely disgusted with Leicester's
arbitrary conduct, found himself in danger from the prevailing
authority of his ancient confederate; and he retired from Parliament
[c]. This known dissension gave courage to all Leicester's enemies
and to the king's friends, who were now sure of protection from so
potent a leader. Though Roger Mortimer, Hamond L'Estrange, and other
powerful marchers of Wales, had been obliged to leave the kingdom,
their authority still remained over the territories subjected to their
jurisdiction; and there were many others who were disposed to give
disturbance to the new government. The animosities, inseparable from
the feudal aristocracy, broke out with fresh violence, and threatened
the kingdom with new convulsions and disorders.
[FN [b] Chron. T. Wykes, p. 66. Ann. Waverl. p. 216. [c] M. Paris,
p. 671. Ann. Waverl. p. 216.]

The Earl of Leicester, surrounded with these difficulties, embraced a
measure from which he hoped to reap some present advantages, but which
proved in the end the source of all his future calamities. The active
and intrepid Prince Edward had languished in prison ever since the
fatal battle of Lewes; and as he was extremely popular in the kingdom,
there arose a general desire of seeing him again restored to liberty
[d]. Leicester, finding that he could with difficulty oppose the
concurring wishes of the nation, stipulated with the prince, that, in
return, he should order his adherents to deliver up to the barons all
their castles, particularly those on the borders of Wales; and should
swear neither to depart the kingdom during three years, nor introduce
into it any foreign forces [e]. The king took an oath to the same
effect, and he also passed a charter, in which he confirmed the
agreement or MISE of Lewes; and even permitted his subjects to rise in
arms against him if he should ever attempt to infringe it [f]. So
little care did Leicester take, though he constantly made use of the
authority of this captive prince, to preserve to him any appearance of
royalty or kingly prerogatives!
[FN [d] Knyghton, p. 2451. [e] Ann. Waverl. p. 216. [f] Blackstone's
Mag. Charta. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 378.]

[MN 11th Mar.] In consequence of this treaty, Prince Edward was
brought into Westminster-hall, and was declared free by the barons:
but instead of really recovering his liberty, as he had vainly
expected, he found that the whole transaction was a fraud on the part
of Leicester; that he himself still continued a prisoner at large, and
was guarded by the emissaries of that nobleman; and that, while the
faction reaped all the benefit from the performance of his part of the
treaty, care was taken that he should enjoy no advantage by it. As
Gloucester, on his rupture with the barons, had retired for safety to
his estates on the borders of Wales, Leicester followed him with an
army to Hereford [g]; continued still to menace and negotiate; and
that he might add authority to his cause, he carried both the king and
prince along with him. The Earl of Gloucester here concerted with
young Edward the manner of that prince's escape. He found means to
convey to him a horse of extraordinary swiftness; and appointed Roger
Mortimer, who had returned into the kingdom, to be ready at hand with
a small party to receive the prince, and to guard him to a place of
safety. Edward pretended to take the air with some of Leicester's
retinue, who were his guards; and making matches between their horses,
after he thought he had tired and blown them sufficiently, he suddenly
mounted Gloucester's horse and called to his attendants, that he had
long enough enjoyed the pleasure of their company, and now bid them
adieu. They followed him for some time, without being able to
overtake him; and the appearance of Mortimer with his company put an
end to their pursuit.
[FN [g] Chron. T. Wykes, p. 67. Ann. Waverl. p. 218. W. Heming. p.
585. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 383, 384.]

The royalists, secretly prepared for this event, immediately flew to
arms; and the joy of this gallant prince's deliverance, the
oppressions under which the nation laboured, the expectation of a new
scene of affairs, and the countenance of the Earl of Gloucester,
procured Edward an army which Leicester was utterly unable to
withstand. This nobleman found himself in a remote quarter of the
kingdom, surrounded by his enemies, barred from all communication with
his friends by the Severn, whose bridges Edward had broken down, and
obliged to fight the cause of his party under these multiplied
disadvantages. In this extremity he wrote to his son, Simon de
Montfort, to hasten from London with an army for his relief; and Simon
had advanced to Kenilworth with that view, where, fancying that all
Edward's force and attention were directed against his father, he lay
secure and unguarded. But the prince, making a sudden and forced
march, surprised him in his camp, dispersed his army, and took the
Earl of Oxford and many other noblemen prisoners, almost without
resistance. Leicester, ignorant of his son 's fate, passed the Severn
in boats during Edward's absence, and lay at Evesham, in expectation
of being every hour joined by his friends from London; when the
prince, who availed himself of every favourable moment, appeared in
the field before him. [MN Battle of Evesham and death of Leicester.
4th Aug.] Edward made a body of his troops advance from the road
which led to Kenilworth, and ordered them to carry the banners taken
from Simon's army; while he himself, making a circuit with the rest of
his forces, purposed to attack the enemy on the other quarter.
Leicester was long deceived by this stratagem, and took one division
of Edward's army for his friends; but at last, perceiving his mistake,
and observing the great superiority and excellent disposition of the
royalists, he exclaimed that they had learned from him the art of war,
adding, "The Lord have mercy on our souls, for I see our bodies are
the prince's!" The battle immediately began, though on very unequal
terms. Leicester's army, by living on the mountains of Wales without
bread, which was not then much used among the inhabitants, had been
extremely weakened by sickness and desertion, and was soon broken by
the victorious royalists; while his Welsh allies, accustomed only to a
desultory kind of war, immediately took to flight, and were pursued
with great slaughter. Leicester himself; asking for quarter, was
slain in the heat of the action, with his eldest son Henry, Hugh le
Despenser, and about one hundred and sixty knights, and many other
gentlemen of his party. The old king had been purposely placed by the
rebels in the front of the battle; and being clad in armour, and
thereby not known by his friends, he received a wound, and was in
danger of his life; but crying out, I AM HENRY OF WINCHESTER, YOUR
KING, he was saved, and put in a place of safety by his son, who flew
to his rescue.

The violence, ingratitude, tyranny, rapacity, and treachery of the
Earl of Leicester, give a very bad idea of his moral character, and
make us regard his death as the most fortunate event which, in this
conjuncture, could have happened to the English nation; yet must we
allow the man to have possessed great abilities, and the appearance of
great virtues, who, though a stranger, could at a time when strangers
were the most odious, and the most universally decried, have acquired
so extensive an interest in the kingdom, and have so nearly paved his
way to the throne itself. His military capacity and his political
craft were equally eminent: he possessed the talents both of governing
men and conducting business: and though his ambition was boundless, it
seems neither to have exceeded his courage nor his genius; and he had
the happiness of making the low populace, as well as the haughty
barons, co-operate towards the success of his selfish and dangerous
purposes. A prince of greater abilities and vigour than Henry, might
have directed the talents of this nobleman either to the exaltation of
his throne, or to the good of his people: but the advantages given to
Leicester by the weak and variable administration of the king, brought
on the ruin of royal authority, and produced great confusions in the
kingdom, which however, in the end, preserved and extremely improved
national liberty and the constitution. His popularity, even after his
death, continued so great, that though he was excommunicated by Rome,
the people believed him to be a saint; and many miracles were said to
be wrought upon his tomb [h].
[FN [h] Chron. de Mailr. p. 232.]

[MN Settlement of the government.]
The victory of Evesham, with the death of Leicester, proved decisive
in favour of the royalists, and made an equal, though an opposite,
impression on friends and enemies in every part of England. The King
of the Romans recovered his liberty: the other prisoners of the royal
party were not only freed, but courted by their keepers: Fitz-Richard,
the seditious Mayor of London, who had marked out forty of the most
wealthy citizens for slaughter, immediately stopped his hand on
receiving intelligence of this great event: and almost all the
castles, garrisoned by the barons, hastened to make their submissions,
and to open their gates to the king. The isle of Axholme alone, and
that of Ely, trusting to the strength of their situation, ventured to
make resistance; but were at last reduced, as well as the castle of
Dover, by the valour and activity of Prince Edward [i]. [MN 1266.]
Adam de Gourdon, a courageous baron, maintained himself during some
time in the forests of Hampshire, committed depredations in the
neighbourhood, and obliged the prince to lead a body of troops into
that county against him. Edward attacked the camp of the rebels; and
being transported by the ardour of battle, leaped over the trench with
a few followers, and encountered Gourdon in single combat. The
victory was long disputed between these valiant combatants; but ended
at last in the prince's favour, who wounded his antagonist, threw him
from his horse, and took him prisoner. He not only gave him his life,
but introduced him that very night to the queen at Guildford, procured
him his pardon, restored him to his estate, received him into favour,
and was ever after faithfully served by him [k].
[FN [i] M. Paris, p. 676. W. Heming, p. 588. [k] M. Paris, p. 675.]

A total victory of the sovereign over so extensive a rebellion
commonly produces a revolution of government, and strengthens as well
as enlarges, for some time, the prerogatives of the crown: yet no
sacrifices of national liberty were made on this occasion; the great
charter remained still inviolate; and the king, sensible that his own
barons, by whose assistance alone he had prevailed, were no less
jealous of their independence than the other party, seems thenceforth
to have more carefully abstained from all those exertions of power
which had afforded so plausible a pretence to the rebels. The
clemency of this victory is also remarkable: no blood was shed on the
scaffold: no attainders, except of the Montfort family, were carried
into execution: and though a Parliament, assembled at Winchester,
attainted all those who had borne arms against the king, easy
compositions were made with them for their lands [1]; and the highest
sum levied on the most obnoxious offenders exceeded not five years'
rent of their estate. Even the Earl of Derby, who again rebelled,
after having been pardoned and restored to his fortune, was obliged to
pay only seven years' rent, and was a second time restored. The mild
disposition of the king, and the prudence of the prince, tempered the
insolence of victory, and gradually restored order to the several
members of the state, disjointed by so long a continuance of civil
wars and commotions.
[FN [l] Id. ibid.]

The city of London, which had carried farthest the rage and animosity
against the king, and which seemed determined to stand upon its
defence after almost all the kingdom had submitted, was, after some
interval, restored to most of its liberties and privileges; and
Fitz-Richard the mayor, who had been guilty of so much illegal
violence, was only punished by fine and imprisonment. The Countess of
Leicester, the king's sister, who had been extremely forward in all
attacks on the royal family, was dismissed the kingdom with her two
sons, Simon and Guy, who proved very ungrateful for this lenity. Five
years afterwards, they assassinated, at Viterbo in Italy, their cousin
Henry d'Allmaine, who at that very time was endeavouring to make their
peace with the king; and by taking sanctuary in the church of the
Franciscans, they escaped the punishment due to so great an enormity
[FN [m] Rymer, vol. i. p. 879. vol. ii. p. 4, 5. Chron. T. Wykes, p.
94. W. Heming. p. 589. Trivet, p. 240.]

[MN 1267.] The merits of the Earl of Gloucester, after he returned to
his allegiance, had been so great in restoring the prince to his
liberty, and assisting him in his victories against the rebellious
barons, that it was almost impossible to content him in his demands;
and his youth and temerity, as well as his great power, tempted him,
on some new disgust, to raise again the flames of rebellion in the
kingdom. The mutinous populace of London, at his instigation, took to
arms; and the prince was obliged to levy an army of thirty thousand
men in order to suppress them. Even this second rebellion did not
provoke the king to any act of cruelty; and the Earl of Gloucester
himself escaped with total impunity. He was only obliged to enter
into a bond of twenty thousand marks, that he should never again be
guilty of rebellion: a strange method of enforcing the laws, and a
proof of the dangerous independence of the barons in those ages!
These potent nobles were, from the danger of the precedent, averse to
the execution of the laws of forfeiture and felony against any of
their fellows; though they could not, with a good grace, refuse to
concur in obliging them to fulfil any voluntary contract and
engagement into which they had entered.

[MN 1270.] The prince, finding the state of the kingdom tolerably
composed, was seduced, by his avidity for glory and by the prejudices
of the age, as well as by the earnest solicitations of the King of
France, to undertake an expedition against the infidels in the Holy
Land [n]; and he endeavoured previously to settle the state in such a
manner as to dread no bad effects from his absence. As the formidable
power and turbulent disposition of the Earl of Gloucester gave him
apprehensions, he insisted on carrying him along with him, in
consequence of a vow which that nobleman had made to undertake the
same voyage: in the mean time, he obliged him to resign some of his
castles, and to enter into a new bond not to disturb the peace of the
kingdom [o]. He sailed from England with an army, and arrived in
Lewis's camp before Tunis in Africa, where he found that monarch
already dead from the intemperance of the climate and the fatigues of
his enterprise. The great, if not only, weakness of this prince in
his government, was the imprudent passion for crusades; but it was his
zeal chiefly that procured him from the clergy the title of St. Lewis,
by which he is known in the French history; and if that appellation
had not been so extremely prostituted, as to become rather a term of
reproach, he seems by his uniform probity and goodness, as well as his
piety, to have fully merited the title. He was succeeded by his son
Philip, denominated the Hardy; a prince of some merit, though much
inferior to that of his father.
[FN [n] M. Paris, p. 677. [o] Chron. T. Wykes, p. 90.]

[MN 1271.] Prince Edward, not discouraged by this event, continued
his voyage to the Holy Land, where he signalized himself by acts of
valour; revived the glory of the English name in those parts; and
struck such terror into the Saracens, that they employed an assassin
to murder him, who wounded him in the arm, but perished in the attempt
[p]. Meanwhile, his absence from England was attended with many of
those pernicious consequences which had been dreaded from it. The
laws were not executed: the barons oppressed the common people with
impunity [q]: they gave shelter on their estates to bands of robbers,
whom they employed in committing ravages on the estates of their
enemies: the populace of London returned to their usual
licentiousness: and the old king, unequal to the burden of public
affairs, called aloud for his gallant son to return [r], and to assist
him in swaying that sceptre which was ready to drop from his feeble
and irresolute hands. [MN 1272. 16th Nov. Death,] At last,
overcome by the cares of government and the infirmities of age, he
visibly declined, and he expired at St. Edmondsbury, in the
sixty-fourth year of his age, and fifty-sixth of his reign; the
longest reign that is to be met with in the English annals. His
brother, the King of the Romans, (for he never attained the title of
Emperor,) died about seven months before him.
[FN [p] M. Paris, p. 678, 679. W. Heming. p. 520. [q] Chron. Dunst.
vol. i. p. 404. [r] Rymer, vol. i. p. 869. M. Paris, p. 678.]

[MN and character of the king.] The most obvious circumstance of
Henry's character is his incapacity for government, which rendered him
as much a prisoner in the hands of his own ministers and favourites,
and as little at his own disposal, as when detained a captive in the
hands of his enemies. From this source, rather than from insincerity
or treachery, arose his negligence in observing his promises; and he
was too easily induced, for the sake of present convenience, to
sacrifice the lasting advantages arising from the trust and confidence
of his people. Hence too were derived his profusion to favourites,
his attachment to strangers, the variableness of his conduct, his
hasty resentments, and his sudden forgiveness and return of affection.
Instead of reducing the dangerous power of his nobles, by obliging
them to observe the laws towards their inferiors, and setting them the
salutary example in his own government, he was seduced to imitate
their conduct, and to make his arbitrary will, or rather that of his
ministers, the rule of his actions. Instead of accommodating himself,
by a strict frugality, to the embarrassed situation in which his
revenue had been left by the military expeditions of his uncle, the
dissipations of his father, and the usurpations of the barons; he was
tempted to levy money by irregular exactions, which, without enriching
himself, impoverished, at least disgusted, his people. Of all men,
nature seemed least to have fitted him for being a tyrant; yet there
are instances of oppression in his reign, which, though derived from
the precedents left him by his predecessors, had been carefully
guarded against by the great charter, and are inconsistent with all
rules of good government. And on the whole, we may say, that greater
abilities, with his good dispositions, would have prevented him from
falling into his faults; or, with worse dispositions, would have
enabled him to maintain and defend them.

This prince was noted for his piety and devotion, and his regular
attendance on public worship; and a saying of his on that head is much
celebrated by ancient writers. He was engaged in a dispute with Lewis
IX. of France, concerning the preference between sermons and masses:
he maintained the superiority of the latter, and affirmed that he
would rather have one hour's conversation with a friend, than hear
twenty of the most elaborate discourses pronounced in his praise [s].
[FN [s] Walsing. Edw. I. p. 43.]

Henry left two sons, Edward, his successor, and Edmond, Earl of
Lancaster; and two daughters, Margaret, Queen of Scotland, and
Beatrix, Duchess of Britany. He had five other children, who died in
their infancy.

[MN Miscellaneous transactions of the reign.]
The following are the most remarkable laws enacted during this reign.
There had been great disputes between the civil and ecclesiastical
courts concerning bastardy. The common law had deemed all those to be
bastards who were born before wedlock; by the canon law they were
legitimate: and when any dispute of inheritance arose, it had formerly
been usual for the civil courts to issue writs to the spiritual,
directing them to inquire into the legitimacy of the person. The
bishop always returned an answer agreeable to the canon law, though
contrary to the municipal law of the kingdom. For this reason the
civil courts had changed the terms of their writ; and instead of
requiring the spiritual courts to make inquisition concerning the
legitimacy of the person, they only proposed the simple question of
fact, whether he were born, before or after wedlock? The prelates
complained of this practice to the Parliament assembled at Merton in
the twentieth of this king, and desired that the municipal law might
be rendered conformable to the canon; but received from all the
nobility the memorable reply, NOLUMUS LEGES ANGLIAE MUTARE! We will
not change the laws of England [t].
[FN [t] Statute of Merton, chap. 9.]

After the civil wars, the Parliament, summoned at Marlebridge, gave
their approbation to most of the ordinances which had been established
by the reforming barons, and which, though advantageous to the
security of the people, had not received the sanction of a legal
authority. Among other laws, it was there enacted, that all appeals
from the courts of inferior lords should be carried directly to the
king's courts without passing through the courts of the lords
immediately superior [u]. It was ordained that money should bear no
interest during the minority of the debtor [w]. This law was
reasonable, as the estates of minors were always in the hands of their
lords, and the debtors could not pay interest where they had no
revenue. The charter of King John had granted this indulgence: it was
omitted in that of Henry III., for what reason is not known; but it
was renewed by the statute of Marlebridge. Most of the other articles
of this statute are calculated to restrain the oppressions of
sheriffs, and the violence and iniquities committed in distraining
cattle and other goods. Cattle and the instruments of husbandry
formed at that time the chief riches of the people.
[FN [u] Statute of Marleb. chap. 20. [w] Ibid. chap. 16.]

In the thirty-fifth year of this king an assize was fixed of bread,
the price of which was settled, according to the different prices of
corn, from one shilling a quarter to seven shillings and sixpence [x],
money of that age. These great variations are alone a proof of bad
tillage [y]: yet did the prices often rise much higher than any taken
notice of by the statute. The Chronicle of Dunstable tells us, that,
in this reign, wheat was once sold for a mark, nay, for a pound, a
quarter, that is, three pounds of our present money [z]. The same law
affords us a proof of the little communication between the parts of
the kingdom, from the very different prices which the same commodity
bore at the same time. A brewer, says the statute, may sell two
gallons of ale for a penny in cities, and three or four gallons for
the same price in the country. At present, such commodities, by the
great consumption of the people, and the great stocks of the brewers,
are rather cheapest in cities. The Chronicle above mentioned
observes, that wheat one year was sold in many places for eight
shillings a quarter, but never rose in Dunstable above a crown.
[FN [x] Statutes at Large, p. 6. [y] We learn from Cicero's Orations
against Verres, lib. 3, cap. 84, 92, that the price of corn in Sicily
was, during the praetorship of Sacerdos, five Denarii a Modius; during
that of Verres, which immediately succeeded, only two Sesterces; that
is, ten times lower; a presumption, or rather a proof, of the very bad
state of tillage in ancient times. [z] Knyghton, p. 2444.]

Though commerce was still very low, it seems rather to have increased
since the Conquest; at least if we may judge of the increase of money
by the price of corn. The medium between the highest and lowest
prices of wheat, assigned by the statute, is four shillings and three
pence a quarter, that is, twelve shillings and nine pence of our
present money. This is near half of the middling price in our time.
Yet the middling price of cattle, so late as the reign of King
Richard, we find to be above eight, near ten times lower than the
present. Is not this the true inference, from comparing these facts,
that, in all uncivilized nations, cattle, which propagate of
themselves, bear always a lower price than corn, which requires more
art and stock to render it plentiful than those nations are possessed
of? It is to be remarked that Henry's assize of corn was copied from
a preceding assize established by King John; consequently, the prices
which we have here compared of corn and cattle may be looked on as
contemporary; and they were drawn, not from one particular year, but
from an estimation of the middling prices for a series of years. It
is true, the prices assigned by the assize of Richard were meant as a
standard for the accompts of sheriffs and escheators; and as
considerable profits were allowed to these ministers, we may naturally
suppose, that the common value of cattle was somewhat higher: yet
still, so great a difference between the prices of corn and cattle as
that of four to one, compared to the present rates, affords important
reflections concerning the very different state of industry and
tillage in the two periods.

Interest had in that age amounted to an enormous height, as might be
expected from the barbarism of the times and men's ignorance of
commerce. Instances occur of fifty per cent paid for money [a].
There is an edict of Philip Augustus near this period, limiting the
Jews in France to forty-eight per cent [b]. Such profits tempted the
Jews to remain in the kingdom, notwithstanding the grievous
oppressions to which, from the prevalent bigotry and rapine of the
age, they were continually exposed. It is easy to imagine how
precarious their state must have been under an indigent prince,
somewhat restrained in his tyranny over his native subjects, but who
possessed an unlimited authority over the Jews, the sole proprietors
of money in the kingdom, and hated, on account of their riches, their
religion, and their usury: yet will our ideas scarcely come up to the
extortions which, in fact, we find to have been practised upon them.
In the year 1241, twenty thousand marks were exacted from them [c]:
two years after money was again extorted; and one Jew alone, Aaron of
York, was obliged to pay above four thousand marks [d]. In 1250,
Henry renewed his oppressions; and the same Aaron was condemned to pay
him thirty thousand marks upon an accusation of forgery [e]: the high
penalty imposed upon him, and which, it seems, he was thought able to
pay, is rather a presumption of his innocence than of his guilt. In
1255, the king demanded eight thousand marks from the Jews, and
threatened to hang them if they refused compliance. They now lost all
patience, and desired leave to retire with their effects out of the
kingdom. But the king replied: "How can I remedy the oppressions you
complain of? I am myself a beggar. I am spoiled, I am stripped of
all my revenues: I owe above two hundred thousand marks; and if I had
said three hundred thousand, I should not exceed the truth: I am
obliged to pay my son, Prince Edward, fifteen thousand marks a year: I
have not a farthing; and I must have money, from any hand, from any
quarter, or by any means." He then delivered over the Jews to the
Earl of Cornwall, that those whom the one brother had flayed, the
other might embowel, to make use of the words of the historian [f].
King John, his father, once demanded ten thousand marks from a Jew of
Bristol; and on his refusal, ordered one of his teeth to be drawn
every day till he should comply. The Jew lost seven teeth, and then
paid the sum required of him [g]. One talliage paid upon the Jews in
1243 amounted to sixty thousand marks [h]; a sum equal to the whole
yearly revenue of the crown.
[FN [a] M. Paris, p. 586. [b] Brussel, Traite des Fiefs, vol. i. p.
576 [c] M. Paris, p. 372. [d] Ibid. p. 410. [e] Ibid. p. 525. [f]
M. Paris, p. 606. [g] Ibid. p. 160. [h] Madox, p. 152.]

To give a better pretence for extortions, the improbable and absurd
accusation, which has been at different times advanced against that
nation, was revived in England, that they had crucified a child in
derision of the sufferings of Christ. Eighteen of them were hanged at
once for this crime [i]: though it is nowise credible, that even the
antipathy borne them by the Christians, and the oppressions under
which they laboured, would ever have pushed them to be guilty of that
dangerous enormity. But it is natural to imagine, that a race,
exposed to such insults and indignities, both from king and people,
and who had so uncertain an enjoyment of their riches, would carry
usury to the utmost extremity, and by their great profits make
themselves some compensation for their continual perils.
[FN [i] M. Paris, p. 613.]

Though these acts of violence against the Jews proceeded much from
bigotry, they were still more derived from avidity and rapine. So far
from desiring in that age to convert them, it was enacted by law in
France, that if any Jew embraced Christianity, he forfeited all his
goods, without exception, to the king, or his superior lord. These
plunderers were careful, lest the profits, accruing from their
dominion over that unhappy race, should be diminished by their
conversion [k].
[FN [k] Brussel, vol. i. p. 622. Du Cange, verbo JUDAEI.]

Commerce must be in a wretched condition, where interest was so high,
and where the sole proprietors of money employed it in usury only, and
were exposed to such extortion and injustice. But the bad police of
the country was another obstacle to improvements; and rendered all
communication dangerous, and all property precarious. The Chronicle
of Dunstable says [l], that men were never secure in the houses, and
that whole villages were often plundered by bands of robbers, though
no civil wars at that time prevailed in the kingdom. In 1249, some
years before the insurrection of the barons, two merchants of Brabant
came to the king at Winchester, and told him that they had been
spoiled of all their goods by certain robbers, whom they knew, because
they saw their faces every day in his court; that like practices
prevailed all over England, and travellers were continually exposed to
the danger of being robbed, bound, wounded, and murdered; that these
crimes escaped with impunity, because the ministers of justice
themselves were in a confederacy was the robbers; and that they, for
their part, instead of bringing matters to a fruitless trial by law,
were willing, though merchants, to decide their cause with the robbers
by arms and a duel. The king, provoked at these abuses, ordered a
jury to be enclosed, and to try the robbers: the jury, though
consisting of twelve men of property in Hampshire, were found to be
also in a confederacy with the felons, and acquitted them. Henry, in
a rage, committed the jury to prison, threatened them with a severe
punishment, and ordered a new jury to be enclosed, who, dreading the
fate of their fellows, at last found a verdict against the criminals.
Many of the king's own household were discovered to have participated
in the guilt; and they said for their excuse, that they received no
wages from him, and were obliged to rob for a maintenance [m].
KNIGHTS AND ESQUIRES, says the Dictum of Kenilworth, WHO WERE ROBBERS,
were the matters of the times!
[FN [1] Vol. i. p. 155. [m] M. Paris, p. 509.]

One can the less repine, during the prevalence of such manners, at the
frauds and forgeries of the clergy; as it gives less disturbance to
society, to take men's money from them with their own consent, though
by deceits and lies, than to ravish it by open force and violence.
During this reign the papal power was at its summit, and was even
beginning insensibly to decline, by reason of the immeasurable avarice
and extortions of the court of Rome, which disgusted the clergy as
well as laity, in every kingdom of Europe. England itself, though
sunk in the deepest abyss of ignorance and superstition, had seriously
entertained thoughts of shaking off the papal yoke [n]; and the Roman
pontiff was obliged to think of new expedients for riveting it faster
upon the Christian world. For this purpose, Gregory IX. published his
decretals [o], which are a collection of forgeries, favourable to the
court of Rome, and consist of the supposed decrees of popes in the
first centuries. But these forgeries are so gross, and confound so
palpably all language, history, chronology, and antiquities, matters
more stubborn than any speculative truths whatsoever, that even that
church, which is not startled at the most monstrous contradictions and
absurdities, has been obliged to abandon them to the critics. But in
the dark period of the thirteenth century they passed for undisputed
and authentic; and men, entangled in the mazes of this false
literature, joined to the philosophy, equally false, of the times, had
nothing wherewithal to defend themselves, but some small remains of
common sense, which passed for profaneness and impiety, and the
indelible regard to self-interest, which, as it was the sole motive in
the priests for framing these impostures, served also, in some degree,
to protect the laity against them.
[FN [n] M. Paris, p. 421. [o] Trivet, p. 191.]

Another expedient, devised by the church of Rome, in this period, for
securing her power, was the institution of new religious orders,
chiefly the Dominicans and Franciscans, who proceeded with all the
zeal and success that attend novelties; were better qualified to gain
the populace than the old orders, now become rich and indolent;
maintained a perpetual rivalship with each other in promoting their
gainful superstitions; and acquired a great dominion over the minds,
and, consequently, over the purses of men, by pretending a desire of
poverty and a contempt for riches. The quarrels which arose between
these orders, lying still under the control of the sovereign pontiff,
never disturbed the peace of the church, and served only as a spur to
their industry in promoting the common cause; and though the
Dominicans lost some popularity by their denial of the immaculate
conception, a point in which they unwarily engaged too far to be able
to recede with honour, they counterbalanced this disadvantage, by
acquiring more solid establishments, by gaining the confidence of
kings and princes, and by exercising the jurisdiction assigned them,
of ultimate judges and punishers of heresy. Thus, the several orders
of monks became a kind of regular troops or garrisons of the Romish
church; and though the temporal interests of society, still more the
cause of true piety, were hurt, by their various devices to captivate
the populace, they proved the chief supports of that mighty fabric of
superstition, and till the revival of true learning, secured it from
any dangerous invasion.

The trial by ordeal was abolished in this reign by order of council: a
faint mark of improvement in the age [p].
[FN [p] Rymer, vol. i. p. 228. Spellman, p. 326.]

Henry granted a charter to the town of Newcastle, in which he gave the
inhabitants a licence to dig coal. This is the first mention of coal
in England.

We learn from Madox [q], that this king gave, at one time, one hundred
shillings to master Henry, his poet: also the same year he orders this
poet ten pounds.
[FN [q] Page 268.]

It appears from Selden, that, in the forty-seventh of his reign, a
hundred and fifty temporal, and fifty spiritual barons were summoned
to perform the service due by their tenures [r]. In the thirty-fifth
of the subsequent reign, eighty-six temporal barons, twenty bishops,
and forty-eight abbots, were summoned to a Parliament convened at
Carlisle [s].
[FN [r] Titles of Honour, part ii. Chap. 3. [s] Parl. Hist. vol. i.
p. 151.]

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