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The History of England, Volume I by David Hume

Part 9 out of 12

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the splendour of his enterprises, than either to promote their
happiness or his own grandeur by a sound and well-regulated policy.
As military talents made great impression on the people, he seems to
have been much beloved by his English subjects; and he is remarked to
have been the first prince of the Norman line that bore any sincere
regard to them. He passed however only four months of his reign in
that kingdom: the crusade employed him near three years; he was
detained about fourteen months in captivity; the rest of his reign was
spent either in war, or preparations for war, against France; and he
was so pleased with the fame which he had acquired in the East, that
he determined, notwithstanding his past misfortunes, to have farther
exhausted his kingdom, and to have exposed himself to new hazards, by
conducting another expedition against the infidels.

[MN Miscellaneous transactions of this reign.]
Though the English pleased themselves with the glory which the king's
martial genius procured them, his reign was very oppressive and
somewhat arbitrary, by the high taxes which he levied on them, and
often without consent of the states or great council. In the ninth
year of his reign, he levied five shillings on each hide of land; and
because the clergy refused to contribute their share, he put them out
of the protection of law, and ordered the civil courts to give them no
sentence for any debts which they might claim [k]. Twice in his reign
he ordered all his charters to be sealed anew, and the parties to pay
fees for the renewal [l]. It is said that Hubert, his justiciary,
sent him over to France, in the space of two years, no less a sum than
one million one hundred thousand marks, besides bearing all the
charges of the government in England. But this account is quite
incredible, unless we suppose that Richard made a thorough
dilapidation of the demesnes of the crown, which it is not likely he
could do with any advantage after his former resumption of all grants.
A king who possessed such a revenue could never have endured fourteen
months' captivity for not paying a hundred and fifty thousand marks to
the emperor, and be obliged at last to leave hostages for a third of
the sum. The prices of commodities in this reign are also a certain
proof that no such enormous sum could be levied on the people. A hide
of land, or about a hundred and twenty acres, was commonly let at
twenty shillings a year, money of that time. As there were two
hundred and forty-three thousand six hundred hides in England, it is
easy to compute the amount of all the landed rents of the kingdom.
The general and stated price of an ox was four shillings; of a
labouring horse the same; of a sow, one shilling; of a sheep with fine
wool, tenpence; with coarse wool, sixpence [m]. These commodities
seem not to have advanced in their prices since the conquest [n], and
to have still been ten times cheaper than at present.
[FN [k] Hoveden, p. 743. Tyrrel, vol. ii. p. 563. [l] Prynne's
Chronol. Vindic. tom. i. p. 1133. [m] Hoveden, p. 745. [n] See note
[S], at the end of the volume.]

Richard renewed the severe laws against transgressors in his forests,
whom he punished by castration and putting out their eyes, as in the
reign of his great-grandfather. He established by law one weight and
measure throughout his kingdom [o]: a useful institution, which the
mercenary disposition and necessities of his successor engaged him to
dispense with for money.
[FN [o] M. Paris, p. 109, 134. Trivet, p. 127. Ann. Waverl. p. 165.
Hoveden, p. 774.]

The disorders in London, derived from its bad police, had risen to a
great height during this reign; and in the year 1196, there seemed to
be formed so regular a conspiracy among the numerous malefactors, as
threatened the city with destruction. There was one William
Fitz-Osbert, commonly called LONGBEARD, a lawyer, who had rendered
himself extremely popular among the lower rank of citizens; and, by
defending them on all occasions, had acquired the appellation of the
advocate or saviour of the poor. He exerted his authority, by
injuring and insulting the more substantial citizens, with whom he
lived in a state of hostility, and who were every moment exposed to
the most outrageous violences from him and his licentious emissaries.
Murders were daily committed in the streets; houses were broken open
and pillaged in daylight; and it is pretended that no less than fifty-
two thousand persons had entered into an association, by which they
bound themselves to obey all the orders of this dangerous ruffian.
Archbishop Hubert, who was then chief justiciary, summoned him before
the council to answer for his conduct; but he came so well attended,
that no one durst accuse him, or give evidence against him; and the
primate, finding the impotence of law, contented himself with exacting
from the citizens hostages for their good behaviour. He kept,
however, a watchful eye on Fitz-Osbert; and seizing a favourable
opportunity, attempted to commit him to custody; but the criminal,
murdering one of the public officers, escaped with his concubine to
the church of St. Mary le Bow, where he defended himself by force of
arms. He was at last forced from his retreat, condemned, and
executed, amidst the regrets of the populace, who were so devoted to
his memory, that they stole his gibbet, paid the same veneration to it
as to the cross, and were equally zealous in propagating and attesting
reports of the miracles wrought by it [p]. But though the sectaries
of this superstition were punished by the justiciary [q], it received
so little encouragement from the established clergy, whose property
was endangered by such seditious practices, that it suddenly sunk and
[FN [p] Hoveden, p 765. Diceto, p. 691. Neubrig. p. 492, 493. [q]
Gervase, p. 1551.]

It was during the crusades that the custom of using coats of arms was
first introduced into Europe. The knights, cased up in armour, had no
way to make themselves be known and distinguished in battle but by the
devices on their shields; and these were gradually adopted by their
posterity and families, who were proud of the pious and military
enterprises of their ancestors.

King Richard was a passionate lover of poetry; there even remain some
poetical works of his composition; and he bears a rank among the
Provencal poets or TROBADORES, who were the first of the modern
Europeans that distinguished themselves by attempts of that nature.




[MN 1199. Accession of the king.]
The noble and free genius of the ancients, which made the government
of a single person be always regarded as a species of tyranny and
usurpation, and kept them from forming any conception of a legal and
regular monarchy, had rendered them entirely ignorant both of the
rights of PRIMOGENITURE, and a REPRESENTATION in succession;
inventions so necessary for preserving order in the lines of princes,
for obviating the evils of civil discord and of usurpation, and for
begetting moderation in that species of government, by giving security
to the ruling sovereign. These innovations arose from the feudal law,
which, first introducing the right of primogeniture, made such a
distinction between the families of the elder and younger brothers,
that the son of the former was thought entitled to succeed to his
grandfather, preferably to his uncles, though nearer allied to the
deceased monarch. But though this progress of ideas was natural, it
was gradual. In the age of which we treat, the practice of
representation was indeed introduced, but not thoroughly established;
and the minds of men fluctuated between opposite principles. Richard,
when he entered on the holy war, declared his nephew, Arthur, Duke of
Britany, his successor; and by a formal deed he set aside, in his
favour, the title of his brother John, who was younger than Geoffrey,
the father of that prince [a]. But John so little acquiesced in that
destination, that when he gained the ascendant in the English
ministry, by expelling Longchamp, the chancellor and great justiciary,
he engaged all the English barons to swear that they would maintain
his right of succession; and Richard, on his return, took no steps
towards restoring or securing the order which he had at first
established. He was even careful, by his last will, to declare his
brother John heir to all his dominions [b]; whether that he now
thought Arthur, who was only twelve years of age, incapable of
asserting his claim against John's faction, or was influenced by
Eleanor, the queen-mother, who hated Constantia, mother of the young
duke, and who dreaded the credit which that princess would naturally
acquire if her son should mount the throne. The authority of a
testament was great in that age, even where the succession of a
kingdom was concerned; and John had reason to hope that this title,
joined to his plausible right in other respects, would ensure him the
succession. But the idea of representation seems to have made, at this
time, greater progress in France than in England: the barons of the
transmarine provinces, Anjou, Maine, and Touraine, immediately
declared in favour of Arthur's title, and applied for assistance to
the French monarch as their superior lord. Philip, who desired only
an occasion to embarrass John, and dismember his dominions, embraced
the cause of the young Duke of Britany, took him under his protection,
and sent him to Paris to be educated, along with his own son Lewis
[c]. In this emergence, John hastened to establish his authority in
the chief members of the monarchy; and after sending Eleanor into
Poictou and Guienne, where her right was incontestable, and was
readily acknowledged, he hurried to Rouen, and having secured the
duchy of Normandy, he passed over, without loss of time, to England.
Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, William Mareschal, Earl of Strigul,
who also passes by the name of Earl of Pembroke, and Geoffrey
Fitz-Peter, the justiciary, the three most favoured ministers of the
late king, were already engaged on his side [d]; and the submission or
acquiescence of all the other barons put him, without opposition, in
possession of the throne.
[FN [a] Hoveden, p. 677. M Paris, p. 112. Chron. de Dunst. p. 43.
Rymer, vol i p. 66, 68. Bened. Abb. p. 619. [b] Hoveden, p. 791.
Trivet, p. 138. [c] Hoveden, p. 792. M. Paris, p. 137. M. West. p.
263. Knyghton, p. 2414. [d] Hoveden, p. 793. M. Paris, p. 137.]

The king soon returned to France, in order to conduct the war against
Philip, and to recover the revolted provinces from his nephew Arthur.
The alliances which Richard had formed with the Earl of Flanders [e],
and other potent French princes, though they had not been very
effectual, still subsisted, and enabled John to defend himself against
all the efforts of his enemy. In an action between the French and
Flemings, the elect Bishop of Cambray was taken prisoner by the
former; and when the Cardinal of Capua claimed his liberty, Philip,
instead of complying, reproached him with the weak efforts which he
had employed in favour of the Bishop of Beauvais, who was in a like
condition. The legate, to show his impartiality, laid, at the same
time, the kingdom of France and the duchy of Normandy under an
interdict; and the two kings found themselves obliged to make an
exchange of these military prelates.
[FN [e] Rymer, vol. i. p. 114. Hoveden, p. 794. M. Paris, p. 138.]

[MN 1200.] Nothing enabled the king to bring this war to a happy
issue so much as the selfish intriguing character of Philip, who acted
in the provinces that had declared for Arthur, without any regard to
the interests of that prince. Constantia, seized with a violent
jealousy that he intended to usurp the entire dominion of them [f],
found means to carry off her son secretly from Paris: she put him into
the hands of his uncle; restored the provinces which had adhered to
the young prince; and made him do homage for the duchy of Britany,
which was regarded as a rerefief of Normandy. From this incident,
Philip saw that he could not hope to make any progress against John;
and being threatened with an interdict on account of his irregular
divorce from Ingelburga, the Danish princess whom he had espoused, he
became desirous of concluding a peace with England. After some
fruitless conferences, the terms were at last adjusted; and the two
monarchs seemed in this treaty to have an intention, besides ending
the present quarrel, of preventing all future causes of discord, and
of obviating every controversy which could thereafter arise between
them. They adjusted the limits of all their territories, mutually
secured the interests of their vassals; and, to render the union more
durable, John gave his niece, Blanche of Castile, in marriage to
Prince Lewis, Philip's eldest son, and with her the baronies of
Issoudun and Gracai, and other fiefs in Berri. Nine barons of the
King of England, and as many of the King of France, were guarantees of
this treaty; and all of them swore that if their sovereign violated
any article of it, they would declare themselves against him, and
embrace the cause of the injured monarch [g].
[FN [f] Hoveden, p.795. [g] Norman Duchesnii, p. 1055. Rymer, vol.
i. p. 117, 118, 119. Hoveden, p. 814. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 47.]

John, now secure, as he imagined, on the side of France, indulged his
passion for Isabella, the daughter and heir of Aymar Tailleffer, Count
of Angouleme, a lady with whom he had become much enamoured. His
queen, the heiress of the family of Gloucester, was still alive:
Isabella was married to the Count de la Marche, and was already
consigned to the care of that nobleman; though, by reason of her
tender years, the marriage had not been consummated. The passion of
John made him overlook all these obstacles: he persuaded the Count of
Angouleme to carry off his daughter from her husband; and having, on
some pretence or other, procured a divorce from his own wife, he
espoused Isabella; [MN The king's marriage.] regardless both of the
menaces of the pope, who exclaimed against these irregular
proceedings, and of the resentment of the injured count, who soon
found means of punishing his powerful and insolent rival.

[MN 1201.] John had not the art of attaching his barons either by
affection or by fear. The Count de la Marche, and his brother, the
Count d'Eu, taking advantage of the general discontent against him,
excited commotions in Poictou and Normandy, and obliged the king to
have recourse to arms, in order to suppress the insurrection of his
vassals. He summoned together the barons of England, and required
them to pass the sea under his standard, and to quell the rebels: he
found that he possessed as little authority in that kingdom as in his
transmarine provinces. The English barons unanimously replied, that
they would not attend him on this expedition, unless he would promise
to restore and preserve their privileges [h]: the first symptom of a
regular association and plan of liberty among those noblemen! but
affairs were not yet fully ripe for the revolution projected. John,
by menacing the barons, broke the concert; and both engaged many of
them to follow him into Normandy, and obliged the rest who stayed
behind to pay him a scutage of two marks on each knight's fee, as the
price of their exemption from the service.
[FN [h] Annal. Burton, p. 262.]

The force which John carried abroad with him, and that which joined
him in Normandy, rendered him much superior to his malecontent barons;
and so much the more as Philip did not publicly give them any
countenance, and seemed as yet determined to persevere steadily in the
alliance which he had contracted with England. But the king, elated
with his superiority, advanced claims which gave an universal alarm to
his vassals, and diffused still wider the general discontent. As the
jurisprudence of those times required that the causes in the lords'
court should chiefly be decided by duel, he carried along with him
certain bravos, whom he retained as champions, and whom he destined to
fight with his barons, in order to determine any controversy which he
might raise against them [i]. The Count de la Marche, and other
noblemen, regarded this proceeding as an affront, as well as an
injury; and declared that they would never draw their swords against
men of such inferior quality. The king menaced them with vengeance;
but he had not vigour to employ against them the force in his hands,
or to prosecute the injustice, by crushing entirely the nobles who
opposed it.
[FN [i] Ibid.]

[MN War with France.]
This government, equally feeble and violent, gave the injured barons
courage, as well as inclination, to carry farther their opposition;
they appealed to the King of France; complained of the denial of
justice in John's court; demanded redress from him as their superior
lord; and entreated him to employ his authority, and prevent their
final ruin and oppression. [MN 1202.] Philip perceived his
advantage, opened his mind to great projects, interposed in behalf of
the French barons, and began to talk in a high and menacing style to
the King of England. John, who could not disavow Philip's authority,
replied, that it belonged to himself first to grant them a trial by
their peers in his own court; it was not till he failed in this duty
that he was answerable to his peers in the supreme court of the French
king [k]; and he promised, by a fair and equitable judicature, to give
satisfaction to his barons. When the nobles, in consequence of this
engagement, demanded a safe conduct, that they might attend his court,
he at first refused it; upon the renewal of Philip's menaces, he
promised to grant their demand; he violated this promise; fresh
menaces extorted from him a promise to surrender to Philip the
fortresses of Tillieres and Boutavant, as a security for performance;
he again violated his engagement; his enemies, sensible both of his
weakness and want of faith, combined still closer in the resolution of
pushing him to extremities; and a new and powerful ally soon appeared
to encourage them in their invasion of this odious and despicable
[FN [k] Philipp. lib. vi.]

[MN 1203.] The young Duke of Britany, who was now rising to man's
estate, sensible of the dangerous character of his uncle, determined
to seek both his security and elevation by a union with Philip and the
malecontent barons. He joined the French army, which had begun
hostilities against the King of England: he was received with great
marks of distinction by Philip; was knighted by him; espoused his
daughter Mary; and was invested not only in the duchy of Britany, but
in the counties of Anjou and Maine, which he had formerly resigned to
his uncle [l]. Every attempt succeeded with the allies. Tillieres
and Boutavant were taken by Philip, after making a feeble defence:
Mortimar and Lyons fell into his hands almost without resistance.
That prince next invested Gournai; and opening the sluices of a lake
which lay in the neighbourhood, poured such a torrent of water into
the place, that the garrison deserted it, and the French monarch,
without striking a blow, made himself master of that important
fortress. The progress of the French arms was rapid, and promised
more considerable success than usually in that age attended military
enterprises. In answer to every advance which the king made towards
peace, Philip still insisted that he should resign all his transmarine
dominions to his nephew, and rest contented with the kingdom of
England; when an event happened which seemed to turn the scales in
favour of John, and to give him a decisive superiority over his
[FN [l] Trivet, p. 142.]

Young Arthur, fond of military renown, had broken into Poictou at the
head of a small army; and passing near Mirebeau, he heard that his
grandmother, Queen Eleanor, who had always opposed his interests, was
lodged in that place, and was protected by a weak garrison and ruinous
fortifications [m]. He immediately determined to lay siege to the
fortress, and make himself master of her person: but John, roused from
his indolence by so pressing an occasion, collected an army of English
and Brabancons, and advanced from Normandy with hasty marches to the
relief of the queen-mother. He fell on Arthur's camp before that
prince was aware of the danger; dispersed his army; took him prisoner,
together with the Count de la Marche, Geoffrey de Lusignan, and the
most considerable of the revolted barons; and returned in triumph to
Normandy [n]. [MN 1st Aug.] Philip, who was lying before Arques in
that duchy, raised the siege, and retired upon his approach [o]. The
greater part of the prisoners were sent over to England; but Arthur
was shut up in the castle of Falaise.
[FN [m] Ann. Waverl. p. 167. M. West. p. 264. [n] Ann. Marg. p. 213.
M. West. p. 264. [o] M. West. p. 264.]

The king had here a conference with his nephew; represented to him the
folly of his pretensions; and required him to renounce the French
alliance, which had encouraged him to live in a state of enmity with
all his family: but the brave, though imprudent youth, rendered more
haughty from misfortunes, maintained the justice of his cause;
asserted his claim not only to the French provinces, but to the crown
of England; and in his turn, required the king to restore the son of
his elder brother to the possession of his inheritance [p]. John,
sensible from these symptoms of spirit that the young prince, though
now a prisoner, might hereafter prove a dangerous enemy, determined to
prevent all future peril by despatching his nephew; and Arthur was
never more heard of. [MN 1203. Murder of Arthur, Duke of Britany.]
The circumstances which attended this deed of darkness were, no doubt,
carefully concealed by the actors, and are variously related by
historians: but the most probable account is as follows: the king, it
is said, first proposed to William de la Bray, one of his servants, to
despatch Arthur; but William replied that he was a gentleman, not a
hangman; and he positively refused compliance. Another instrument of
murder was found, and was despatched with proper orders to Falaise;
but Hubert de Bourg, chamberlain to the king, and constable of the
castle, feigning that he himself would execute the king's mandate,
sent back the assassin, spread the report that the young prince was
dead, and publicly performed all the ceremonies of his interment; but
finding that the Bretons vowed revenge for the murder, and that all
the revolted barons persevered more obstinately in their rebellion, he
thought it prudent to reveal the secret, and to inform the world that
the Duke of Britany was still alive, and in his custody. This
discovery proved fatal to the young prince: John first removed him to
the castle of Rouen; and coming in a boat, during the night-time, to
that place, commanded Arthur to be brought forth to him. The young
prince, aware of his danger, and now more subdued by the continuance
of his misfortunes, and by the approach of death, threw himself on his
knees before his uncle, and begged for mercy: but the barbarous
tyrant, making no reply, stabbed him with his own hands; and fastening
a stone to the dead body, threw it into the Seine.
[FN [p] Ibid. p. 264.]

All men were struck with horror at this inhuman deed; and from that
moment the king, detested by his subjects, retained a very precarious
authority over both the people and the barons in his dominions. The
Bretons, enraged at this disappointment in their fond hopes, waged
implacable war against him; and fixing the succession of their
government, put themselves in a posture to revenge the murder of their
sovereign. John had got into his power his niece, Eleanor, sister to
Arthur, commonly called THE DAMSEL OF BRITANY; and carrying her over
to England, detained her ever after in captivity [q]; but the Bretons,
in despair of recovering this princess, chose Alice for their
sovereign; a younger daughter of Constantia, by her second marriage
with Guy de Thouars; and they intrusted the government of the duchy to
that nobleman. The states of Britany, meanwhile, carried their
complaints before Philip, as their liege lord, and demanded justice
for the violence committed by John on the person of Arthur, so near a
relation, who, notwithstanding the homage which he did to Normandy,
was always regarded as one of the chief vassals of the crown. Philip
received their application with pleasure; summoned John to stand a
trial before him, and on his non-appearance passed sentence, with the
concurrence of the peers, upon that prince; declared him guilty of
felony and parricide; and adjudged him to forfeit to his superior lord
all his seignories and fiefs in France [r].
[FN [q] Trivet, p. 145. T. Wykes, p. 36. Ypod. Neust. p. 459. [r]
W. Heming, p. 455. M. West. p. 264. Knyghton, p. 2420.]

[MN The King expelled from the French provinces.]
The King of France, whose ambitious and active spirit had been
hitherto confined, either by the sound policy of Henry, or the martial
genius of Richard, seeing now the opportunity favourable against this
base and odious prince, embraced the project of expelling the English,
or rather the English king, from France, and of annexing to the crown
so many considerable fiefs, which, during several ages, had been
dismembered from it. Many of the other great vassals, whose jealousy
might have interposed, and have obstructed the execution of this
project, were not at present in a situation to oppose it; and the rest
either looked on with indifference, or gave their assistance to this
dangerous aggrandizement of their superior lord. The Earls of
Flanders and Blois were engaged in the holy war: the Count of
Champagne was an infant, and under the guardianship of Philip: the
duchy of Britany, enraged at the murder of their prince, vigorously
promoted all his measures: and the general defection of John's vassals
made every enterprise easy and successful against him. Philip, after
taking several castles and fortresses beyond the Loire, which he
either garrisoned or dismantled, received the submissions of the Count
of Alencon, who deserted John, and delivered up all the places under
his command to the French: upon which Philip broke up his camp, in
order to give the troops some repose after the fatigues of the
campaign. John, suddenly recollecting some forces, laid siege to
Alencon; and Philip, whose dispersed army could not be brought
together in time to succour it, saw himself exposed to the disgrace of
suffering the oppression of his friend and confederate. But his
active and fertile genius found an expedient against this evil. There
was held at that very time a tournament at Moret, in the Gatinois;
whither all the chief nobility of France and the neighbouring
countries had resorted, in order to signalize their prowess and
address. Philip presented himself before them; craved their
assistance in his distress; and pointed out the plains of Alencon, as
the most honourable field in which they could display their generosity
and martial spirit. Those valorous knights vowed that they would take
vengeance on the base parricide, the stain of arms and of chivalry;
and putting themselves, with all their retinue, under the command of
Philip, instantly marched to raise the siege of Alencon. John,
hearing of their approach, fled from before the place; and, in the
hurry, abandoned all his tents, machines, and baggage, to the enemy.

This feeble effort was the last exploit of that slothful and cowardly
prince for the defence of his dominions. He thenceforth remained in
total inactivity at Rouen; passing all his time with his young wife in
pastimes and amusements, as if his state had been in the most profound
tranquillity, or his affairs in the most prosperous condition. If he
ever mentioned war, it was only to give himself vaunting airs, which,
in the eyes of all men, rendered him still more despicable and
indolence appeared so extraordinary, that the people endeavoured to
account for the infatuation by sorcery, and believed that he was
thrown into this lethargy by some magic or witchcraft. The English
barons, finding that their time was wasted to no purpose, and that
they must suffer the disgrace of seeing, without resistance, the
progress of the French arms, withdrew from their colours, and secretly
returned to their own country [t]. No one thought of defending a man
who seemed to have deserted himself; and his subjects regarded his
fate with the same indifference to which in this pressing exigency
they saw him totally abandoned.
[FN [s] M. Paris, p. 146. M. West. p. 266. [t] M. Paris, p. 146. M.
West. p. 264.]

John, while he neglected all domestic resources, had the meanness to
betake himself to a foreign power, whose protection he claimed: he
applied to the pope, Innocent III., and entreated him to interpose his
authority between him and the French monarch. Innocent, pleased with
any occasion of exerting his superiority, sent Philip orders to stop
the progress of his arms, and to make peace with the King of England.
But the French barons received the message with indignation;
disclaimed the temporal authority assumed by the pontiff; and vowed
that they would, to the uttermost, assist their prince against all his
enemies; Philip, seconding their ardour, proceeded, instead of obeying
the pope's envoys, to lay siege to Chateau Gaillard, the most
considerable fortress which remained to guard the frontiers of

[MN 1204.] Chateau Gaillard was situated partly on an island in the
river Seine, partly on a rock opposite to it; and was secured by every
advantage which either art or nature could bestow upon it. The late
king, having cast his eye on this favourable situation, had spared no
labour or expense in fortifying it; and it was defended by Roger de
Laci, Constable of Chester, a determined officer, at the head of a
numerous garrison. Philip, who despaired of taking the place by
force, purposed to reduce it by famine; and, that he might cut off its
communication with the neighbouring country, he threw a bridge across
the Seine, while he himself, with his army, blockaded it by land. The
Earl of Pembroke, the man of greatest vigour and capacity in the
English court, formed a plan for breaking through the French
intrenchments, and throwing relief into the place. He carried with
him an army of four thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry, and
suddenly attacked, with great success, Philip's camp in the
night-time; having left orders that a fleet of seventy flat-bottomed
vessels should sail up the Seine, and fall at the same instant on the
bridge. But the wind and the current of the river, by retarding the
vessels, disconcerted this plan of operations; and it was morning
before the fleet appeared; when Pembroke, though successful in the
beginning of the action, was already repulsed with considerable loss,
and the King of France had leisure to defend himself against these new
assailants, who also met with a repulse. After this misfortune, John
made no farther efforts for the relief of Chateau Gaillard; and Philip
had all the leisure requisite for conducting and finishing the siege.
Roger de Laci defended himself for a twelvemonth with great obstinacy;
and having bravely repelled every attack, and patiently borne all the
hardships of famine, he was at last overpowered by a sudden assault in
the night-time, and made prisoner of war, with his garrison [u].
Philip, who knew how to respect valour even in an enemy, treated him
with civility, and gave him the whole city of Paris for the place of
his confinement.
[FN [u] Trivet, p. 144. Gul. Britto, lib. 7. Ann. Waverl. p. 168.]

When this bulwark of Normandy was once subdued, all the province lay
open to the inroads of Philip; and the King of England despaired of
being any longer able to defend it. He secretly prepared vessels for
a scandalous flight, and that the Normans might no longer doubt of his
resolution to abandon them, he ordered the fortifications of Pont de
l'Arche, Molineaux, and Montfort l'Amauri, to be demolished. Not
daring to repose confidence in any of his barons, whom he believed to
be universally engaged in a conspiracy against him, he intrusted the
government of the province to Archas Martin and Lupicaire, two
mercenary Brabancons, whom he had retained in his service. Philip,
now secure of his prey, pushed his conquests with vigour and success
against the dismayed Normans. Falaise was first besieged; and
Lupicaire, who commanded in this impregnable fortress, after
surrendering the place, enlisted himself with his troops in the
service of Philip, and carried on hostilities against his ancient
master. Caen, Coutance, Seez, Evreux, Baieux, soon fell into the
hands of the French monarch, and all the Lower Normandy was reduced
under his dominion. To forward his enterprises on the other division
of the province, Gui de Thouars, at the head of the Bretons, broke
into the territory, and took Mount St. Michael, Avranches, and all the
other fortresses in that neighbourhood. The Normans, who abhorred the
French yoke, and who would have defended themselves to the last
extremity if their prince had appeared to conduct them, found no
resource but in submission; and every city opened its gates as soon as
Philip appeared before it. [MN 1205.] Rouen alone, Arques, and
Verneuil, determined to maintain their liberties, and formed a
confederacy for mutual defence. Philip began with the siege of Rouen:
the inhabitants were so inflamed with hatred to France, that, on the
appearance of his army, they fell on all the natives of that country
whom they found within their walls, and put them to death. But after
the French king had begun his operations with success, and had taken
some of their outworks, the citizens, seeing no resource, offered to
capitulate; and demanded only thirty days to advertise their prince of
their danger, and to require succours against the enemy. [MN 1st
June.] Upon the expiration of the term, as no supply had arrived,
they opened their gates to Philip [w]; and the whole province soon
after imitated the example, and submitted to the victor. Thus was
this important territory re-united to the crown of France, about three
centuries after the cession of it by Charles the Simple to Rollo, the
first duke: and the Normans, sensible that this conquest was probably
final, demanded the privilege of being governed by French laws; which
Philip, making a few alterations on the ancient Norman customs,
readily granted them. But the French monarch had too much ambition
and genius to stop in his present career of success. He carried his
victorious army into the western provinces; soon reduced Anjou, Maine,
Touraine, and part of Poictou [x]; and in this manner the French
crown, during the reign of one able and active prince, received such
an accession of power and grandeur, as in the ordinary course of
things, it would have required several ages to attain.
[FN [w] Trivet. p. 147. Ypod. Neust. p. 459. [x] Trivet, p. 149.]

John, on his arrival in England, that he might cover the disgrace of
his own conduct, exclaimed loudly against his barons, who, he
pretended, had deserted his standard in Normandy; and he arbitrarily
extorted from them a seventh of all their moveables, as a punishment
for the offence [y]. Soon after he forced them to grant him a scutage
of two marks and a half on each knight's fee for an expedition into
Normandy; but he did not attempt to execute the service for which he
pretended to exact it. Next year he summoned all the barons of his
realm to attend him on this foreign expedition, and collected ships
from all the sea-ports; but meeting with opposition from some of his
ministers, and abandoning his design, he dismissed both fleet and
army, and then renewed his exclamations against the barons for
deserting him. He next put to sea with a small army, and his subjects
believed that he was resolved to expose himself to the utmost hazard
for the defence and recovery of his dominions: but they were
surprised, after a few days, to see him return again into harbour,
without attempting any thing. [MN 1206.] In the subsequent season,
he had the courage to carry his hostile measures a step farther. Gui
de Thouars, who governed Britany, jealous of the rapid progress made
by his ally, the French king, promised to join the King of England
with all his forces; and John ventured abroad with a considerable
army, and landed at Rochelle. He marched to Angers, which he took and
reduced to ashes. But the approach of Philip with an army threw him
into a panic; and he immediately made proposals for peace, and fixed a
place of interview with his enemy: but instead of keeping his
engagement, he stole off with his army, embarked at Rochelle, and
returned, loaded with new shame and disgrace, into England. The
mediation of the pope, procured him at last a truce for two years with
the French monarch [z]; almost all the transmarine provinces were
ravished from him; and his English barons, though harassed with
arbitrary taxes and fruitless expeditions, saw themselves and their
country baffled and affronted in every enterprise.
[FN [y] M. Paris, p. 146. M. West. p. 265. [z] Rymer, vol. i. p.

In an age when personal valour was regarded as the chief
accomplishment, such conduct as that of John, always disgraceful, must
be exposed to peculiar contempt; and he must thenceforth have expected
to rule his turbulent vassals with a very doubtful authority. But the
government exercised by the Norman princes had wound up the royal
power to so high a pitch, and so much beyond the usual tenour of the
feudal constitutions, that it still behoved him to be debased by new
affronts and disgraces, ere his barons could entertain the view of
conspiring against him, in order to retrench his prerogatives. The
church, which at that time declined not a contest with the most
powerful and vigorous monarchs, took first advantage of John's
imbecility; and, with the most aggravating circumstances of insolence
and scorn, fixed her yoke upon him.

[MN 1207. The king's quarrel with the court of Rome.]
The papal chair was then filled by Innocent III., who, having attained
that dignity at the age of thirty-seven years, and being endowed with
a lofty and enterprising genius, gave full scope to his ambition, and
attempted, perhaps more openly than any of his predecessors, to
convert that superiority which was yielded him by all the European
princes into a real dominion over them. The hierarchy, protected by
the Roman pontiff, had already carried to an enormous height its
usurpations upon the civil power; but in order to extend them farther,
and render them useful to the court of Rome, it was necessary to
reduce the ecclesiastics themselves under an absolute monarchy, and to
make them entirely dependent on their spiritual leader. For this
purpose, Innocent first attempted to impose taxes at pleasure upon the
clergy; and in the first year of this century, taking advantage of the
popular frenzy for crusades, he sent collectors over all Europe, who
levied, by his authority, the fortieth of all ecclesiastical revenues
for the relief of the Holy Land, and received the voluntary
contributions of the laity to a like amount [a]. The same year
Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, attempted another innovation,
favourable to ecclesiastical and papal power: in the king's absence,
he summoned, by his legatine authority, a synod of all the English
clergy, contrary to the inhibition of Geoffrey Fitz-Peter, the chief
justiciary; and no proper censure was ever passed on this
encroachment, the first of the kind, upon the royal power. But a
favourable incident soon after happened, which enabled so aspiring a
pontiff as Innocent to extend still farther his usurpations on so
contemptible a prince as John.
[FN [a] Rymer, vol. i. p. 119.]

Hubert the primate died in 1205; and as the monks or canons of Christ-
Church, Canterbury, possessed a right of voting in the election of
their archbishop, some of the juniors of the order, who lay in wait
for that event, met clandestinely the very night of Hubert's death,
and, without any conge d'elire from the king, chose Reginald, their
sub-prior, for the successor; installed him in the archiepiscopal
throne before midnight; and, having enjoined him the strictest
secrecy, sent him immediately to Rome, in order to solicit the
confirmation of his election [b]. The vanity of Reginald prevailed
over his prudence; and he no sooner arrived in Flanders, than he
revealed to every one the purpose of his journey, which was
immediately known in England [c]. The king was enraged at the novelty
and temerity of the attempt, in filling so important an office without
his knowledge or consent: the suffragan bishops of Canterbury, who
were accustomed to concur in the choice of their primate, were no less
displeased at the exclusion given them in this election: the senior
monks of Christ-Church were injured by the irregular proceedings of
their juniors: the juniors themselves, ashamed of their conduct, and
disgusted with the levity of Reginald, who had broken his engagements
with them, were willing to set aside his election [d]: and all men
concurred in the design of remedying the false measures which had been
taken. But as John knew that this affair would be canvassed before a
superior tribunal, where the interposition of royal authority in
bestowing ecclesiastical benefices was very invidious; where even the
cause of suffragan bishops was not so favourable as that of monks; he
determined to make the new election entirely unexceptionable: he
submitted the affair wholly to the canons of Christ-Church, and,
departing from the right claimed by his predecessors, ventured no
farther than to inform them privately, that they would do him an
acceptable service if they chose John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich, for
their primate [e]. The election of that prelate was accordingly made
without a contradictory vote; and the king, to obviate all contests,
endeavoured to persuade the suffragan bishops not to insist on their
claim of concurring in the election; but those prelates, persevering
in their pretensions, sent an agent to maintain their cause before
Innocent; while the king and the convent of Christ-Church, despatched
twelve monks of that order to support, before the same tribunal, the
election of the Bishop of Norwich.
[FN [b] M. Paris, p. 148. M. West. p. 266. [c] Ibid. [d] M. West.
p. 266. [e] M. Paris, p. 149. M. West. p. 266.]

Thus there lay three different claims before the pope, whom all
parties allowed to be the supreme arbiter in the contest. The claim
of the suffragans, being so opposite to the usual maxims of the papal
court, was soon set aside: the election of Reginald was so obviously
fraudulent and irregular, that there was no possibility of defending
it; but Innocent maintained that, though this election was null and
invalid, it ought previously to have been declared such by the
sovereign pontiff, before the monks could proceed to a new election;
and that the choice of the Bishop of Norwich was of course as
uncanonical as that of his competitor [f]. Advantage was therefore
taken of this subtlety for introducing a precedent, by which the see
of Canterbury, the most important dignity in the church after the
papal throne, should ever after be at the disposal of the court of
[FN [f] M. Paris, p. 155. Chron. de Mailr. p. 182.]

While the pope maintained so many fierce contests, in order to wrest
from princes the right of granting investitures, and to exclude laymen
from all authority in conferring ecclesiastical benefices, he was
supported by the united influence of the clergy, who, aspiring to
independence, fought with all the ardour of ambition, and all the zeal
of superstition, under his sacred banners. But no sooner was this
point, after a great effusion of blood, and the convulsions of many
states, established in some tolerable degree, than the victorious
leader, as is usual, turned his arms against his own community, and
aspired to centre all power in his person. By the invention of
reserves, provisions, commendants, and other devices, the pope
gradually assumed the right of filling vacant benefices; and the
plenitude of his apostolic power, which was not subject to any
limitations, supplied all defects of title in the person on whom he
bestowed preferment. The canons which regulated elections were
purposely rendered intricate and involved: frequent disputes arose
among candidates: appeals were every day carried to Rome: the
apostolic see, besides reaping pecuniary advantages from these
contests, often exercised the power of setting aside both the
litigants, and, on pretence of appeasing faction, nominated a third
person, who might be more acceptable to the contending parties.

The present controversy about the election to the see of Canterbury
afforded Innocent an opportunity of claiming this right; and he failed
not to perceive and avail himself of the advantage. He sent for the
twelve monks deputed by the convent to maintain the cause of the
Bishop of Norwich; and commanded them, under the penalty of
excommunication, to choose for their primate Cardinal Langton, an
Englishman by birth, but educated in France, and connected, by his
interest and attachments, with the see of Rome [g]. [MN Cardinal
Langton appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.] In vain did the monks
represent, that they had received from their convent no authority for
this purpose; that an election, without a previous writ from the king,
would be deemed highly irregular; and that they were merely agents for
another person, whose right they had no power or pretence to abandon.
None of them had the courage to persevere in this opposition, except
one, Elias de Brantefield: all the rest, overcome by the menaces and
authority of the pope, complied with his orders, and made the election
required of them.
[FN [g] M. Paris, p. 155. Ann. Waverl. p. 169. W. Heming. p. 553.
Knyghton, p. 2415.]

Innocent, sensible that this flagrant usurpation would be highly
resented by the court of England, wrote John a mollifying letter; sent
him four golden rings set with precious stones; and endeavoured to
enhance the value of the present by informing him of the many
mysteries implied in it. He begged him to consider seriously the FORM
of the rings, their NUMBER, their MATTER, and their COLOUR. Their
form, he said, being round, shadowed out eternity, which had neither
beginning nor end; and he ought thence to learn his duty of aspiring
from earthly objects to heavenly, from things temporal to things
eternal. The number four, being a square, denoted steadiness of mind,
not to be subverted either by adversity or prosperity, fixed for ever
on the firm basis of the four cardinal virtues. Gold, which is the
matter, being the most precious of metals, signified wisdom, which is
the most valuable of all accomplishments, and justly preferred by
Solomon to riches, power, and all exterior attainments. The blue
colour of the sapphire represented faith; the verdure of the emerald,
hope; the redness of the ruby, charity; and the splendour of the
topaz, good works [h]. By these conceits Innocent endeavoured to
repay John for one of the most important prerogatives of his crown,
which he had ravished from him; conceits probably admired by Innocent
himself: for it is easily possible for a man, especially in a
barbarous age, to unite strong talents for business with an absurd
taste for literature and the arts.
[FN [h] Rymer, vol. i. p. 139. M. Paris, p. 155.]

John was inflamed with the utmost rage when he heard of this attempt
of the court of Rome [i]; and he immediately vented his passion on the
monks of Christ-Church, whom he found inclined to support the election
made by their fellows at Rome. He sent Fulke de Cantelupe, and Henry
de Cornhulle, two knights of his retinue, men of violent tempers and
rude manners, to expel them the convent, and take possession of their
revenues. These knights entered the monastery with drawn swords,
commanded the prior and the monks to depart the kingdom, and menaced
them, that, in case of disobedience, they would instantly burn them
with the convent [k]. Innocent, prognosticating, from the violence
and imprudence of these measures, that John would finally sink in the
contest, persevered the more vigorously in his pretensions, and
exhorted the king not to oppose God and the church any longer, nor to
prosecute that cause for which the holy martyr, St. Thomas, had
sacrificed his life, and which had exalted him equal to the highest
saints in heaven [l]: a clear hint to John to profit by the example of
his father; and to remember the prejudices and established principles
of his subjects, who bore a profound veneration to that martyr, and
regarded his merits as the subject of their chief glory and
[FN [i] Rymer, vol. i. p. 143. [k] M. Paris, p. 156. Trivet, p. 151.
Ann. Waverl. p. 169. [l] M. Paris, p. 157.]

Innocent, finding that John was not sufficiently tamed to submission,
sent three prelates, the Bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester, to
intimate, that if he persevered in his disobedience, the sovereign
pontiff would be obliged to lay the kingdom under an interdict [m].
All the other prelates threw themselves on their knees before him, and
entreated him, with tears in their eyes, to prevent the scandal of
this sentence, by making a speedy submission to his spiritual father,
by receiving from his hands the new-elected primate, and by restoring
the monks of Christ-Church to all their rights and possessions. He
burst out into the most indecent invectives against the prelates;
swore by God's teeth, (his usual oath,) that if the pope presumed to
lay his kingdom under an interdict, he would send to him all the
bishops and clergy of England, and would confiscate all their estates;
and threatened that, if thenceforth he caught any Romans in his
dominions, he would put out their eyes and cut off their noses, in
order to set a mark upon them which might distinguish them from all
other nations [n]. Amidst all this idle violence, John stood on such
bad terms with his nobility, that he never dared to assemble the
states of the kingdom, who, in so just a cause, would probably have
adhered to any other monarch, and have defended with vigour the
liberties of the nation against these palpable usurpations of the
court of Rome. [MN Interdict of the kingdom.] Innocent, therefore,
perceiving the king's weakness, fulminated at last the sentence of
interdict, which he had for some time held suspended over him [o].
[FN [m] Ibid. [n] Ibid. [o] M. Paris, p. 157. Trivet, p. 152. Ann.
Waverl. p. 170. M. West. p. 268.]

The sentence of interdict was at that time the great instrument of
vengeance and policy employed by the court of Rome; was denounced
against sovereigns for the lightest offences; and made the guilt of
one person involve the ruin of millions, even in their spiritual and
eternal welfare. The execution of it was calculated to strike the
senses in the highest degree, and to operate with irresistible force
on the superstitious minds of the people. The nation was of a sudden
deprived of all exterior exercise of its religion: the altars were
despoiled of their ornaments: the crosses, the relics, the images, the
statues of the saints, were laid on the ground; and, as if the air
itself were profaned, and might pollute them by its contact, the
priests carefully covered them up, even from their own approach and
veneration. The use of bells entirely ceased in all the churches: the
bells themselves were removed from the steeples, and laid on the
ground with the other sacred utensils. Mass was celebrated with shut
doors, and none but the priests were admitted to that holy
institution. The laity partook of no religious rite, except baptism
to new-born infants, and the communion to the dying: the dead were not
interred in consecrated ground: they were thrown into ditches, or
buried in common fields; and their obsequies were not attended with
prayers or any hallowed ceremony. Marriage was celebrated in the
church-yard [p]; and that every action in life might bear the marks of
this dreadful situation, the people were prohibited the use of meat,
as in Lent, or times of the highest penance; were debarred from all
pleasures and entertainments; and were forbidden even to salute each
other, or so much as to shave their beards, and give any decent
attention to their person and apparel. Every circumstance carried
symptoms of the deepest distress, and of the most immediate
apprehension of divine vengeance and indignation.
[FN [p] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 51.]

The king, that he might oppose HIS temporal to THEIR spiritual
terrors, immediately, from his own authority, confiscated the estates
of all the clergy who obeyed the interdict [q]; banished the prelates,
confined the monks in their convent, and gave them only such a small
allowance from their own estates as would suffice to provide them with
food and raiment. He treated with the utmost rigour all Langton's
adherents, and every one that showed any disposition to obey the
commands of Rome; and in order to distress the clergy in the tenderest
point, and at the same time expose them to reproach and ridicule, he
threw into prison all their concubines, and required high fines as the
price of their liberty [r].
[FN [q] Ann. Waverl. p. 170. [r] M. Paris, p. 158. Ann. Waverl. p.

After the canons which established the celibacy of the clergy were, by
the zealous endeavours of Archbishop Anselm, more rigorously executed
in England, the ecclesiastics gave, almost universally, and avowedly,
in to the use of concubinage; and the court of Rome, which had no
interest in prohibiting this practice, made very slight opposition to
it. The custom was become so prevalent, that, in some cantons of
Switzerland, before the reformation, the laws not only permitted, but,
to avoid scandal, enjoined the use of concubines to the younger clergy
[s]; and it was usual every where for priests to apply to the
ordinary, and obtain from him a formal liberty for this indulgence.
The bishop commonly took care to prevent the practice from
degenerating into licentiousness: he confined the priest to the use of
one woman, required him to be constant to her bed, obliged him to
provide for her subsistence and that of her children; and though the
offspring was, in the eye of the law, deemed illegitimate, this
commerce was really a kind of inferior marriage, such as is still
practised in Germany among the nobles; and may be regarded by the
candid as an appeal from the tyranny of civil and ecclesiastical
institutions, to the more virtuous and more unerring laws of nature.
[FN [s] Padre Paolo, Hist. Conc. Trid. lib. I.]

The quarrel between the king and the see of Rome continued for some
years; and though many of the clergy, from the fear of punishment,
obeyed the orders of John, and celebrated divine service, they
complied with the utmost reluctance, and were regarded, both by
themselves and the people, as men who betrayed their principles, and
sacrificed their conscience to temporal regards and interests. During
this violent situation, the king, in order to give a lustre to his
government, attempted military expeditions against Scotland, against
Ireland, against the Welsh [t]; and he commonly prevailed, more from
the weakness of his enemies, than from his own vigour or abilities.
Meanwhile, the danger to which his government stood continually
exposed from the discontents of the ecclesiastics increased his
natural propension to tyranny; and he seems to have even wantonly
disgusted all orders of men, especially his nobles, from whom alone he
could reasonably expect support and assistance. He dishonoured their
families by his licentious amours; he published edicts, prohibiting
them from hunting feathered game, and thereby restrained them from
their favourite occupation and amusement [u]; he ordered all the
hedges and fences near his forests to be levelled, that his deer might
have more ready access into the fields for pasture; and he continually
loaded the nation with arbitrary impositions. [MN 1208.] Conscious
of the general hatred which he had incurred, he required his nobility
to give him hostages for security of their allegiance; and they were
obliged to put into his hands their sons, nephews, or near relations.
When his messengers came with like orders to the castle of William de
Braouse, a baron of great note, the lady of that nobleman replied,
that she would never intrust her son into the hands of one who had
murdered his own nephew while in his custody. Her husband reproved
her for the severity of this speech; but, sensible of his danger, he
immediately fled with his wife and son into Ireland, where he
endeavoured to conceal himself. The king discovered the unhappy
family in their retreat; seized the wife and son, whom he starved to
death in prison; and the baron himself narrowly escaped, by flying
into France.
[FN [t] W. Heming. p. 556. Ypod. Neust, p. 460. Knyghton, p. 2420.
[u] M. West. p. 268.]

[MN 1209.] The court of Rome had artfully contrived a gradation of
sentences, by which it kept offenders in awe; still affording them an
opportunity of preventing the next anathema by submission; and in case
of their obstinacy, was able to refresh the horror of the people
against them by new denunciations of the wrath and vengeance of
Heaven. As the sentence of interdict had not produced the desired
effect on John, and as his people, though extremely discontented, had
hitherto been restrained from rising in open rebellion against him, he
was soon to look for the sentence of excommunication; and he had
reason to apprehend, that, notwithstanding all his precautions, the
most dangerous consequences might ensue from it. He was witness of
the other scenes, which, at that very time, were acting in Europe, and
which displayed the unbounded and uncontrolled power of the papacy.
Innocent, far from being dismayed at his contests with the King of
England, had excommunicated the Emperor Otho, John's nephew [w]; and
soon brought that powerful and haughty prince to submit to his
authority. He published a crusade against the Abigenses, a species of
enthusiasts in the south of France, whom he denominated heretics,
because, like other enthusiasts, they neglected the rites of the
church, and opposed the power and influence of the clergy: the people
from all parts of Europe, moved by their superstition and their
passion for wars and adventures, flocked to his standard: Simon de
Montfort, the general of the crusade, acquired to himself a
sovereignty in these provinces: the Count of Toulouse, who protected,
or perhaps only tolerated the Albigenses, was stripped of his
dominions: and these sectaries themselves, though the most innocent
and inoffensive of mankind, were exterminated with all the
circumstances of extreme violence and barbarity. Here were therefore
both an army and a general, dangerous from their zeal and valour, who
might be directed to act against John; and Innocent, after keeping the
thunder long suspended, gave, at last, authority to the Bishops of
London, Ely, and Worcester, to fulminate the sentence of
excommunication against him [x]. [MN Excommunication of the king.]
These prelates obeyed; though their brethren were deterred from
publishing, as the pope required of them, the sentence in the several
churches of their dioceses.
[FN [w] M. Paris, p. 160. Trivet, p. 154. M. West. p. 269. [x] M.
Paris, p. 159. M. West. p. 270.]

No sooner was the excommunication known, than the effects of it
appeared. Geoffrey, Archdeacon of Norwich, who was intrusted with a
considerable office in the court of exchequer, being informed of it
while sitting on the bench, observed to his colleagues the danger of
serving under an excommunicated king; and he immediately left his
chair, and departed the court. John gave orders to seize him, to
throw him into prison, to cover his head with a great leaden cope;
and, by this and other severe usage, he soon put an end to his life
[y]: nor was there any thing wanting to Geoffrey, except the dignity
and rank of Becket, to exalt him to an equal station in heaven with
that great and celebrated martyr. Hugh de Wells, the chancellor,
being elected by the king's appointment Bishop of Lincoln, upon a
vacancy in that see, desired leave to go abroad, in order to receive
consecration from the Archbishop of Rouen; but he no sooner reached
France than he hastened to Pontigny, where Langton then resided, and
paid submissions to him as his primate. The bishops, finding
themselves exposed either to the jealousy of the king or hatred of the
people, gradually stole out of the kingdom; and, at last, there
remained only three prelates to perform the functions of the episcopal
office [z]. Many of the nobility, terrified by John's tyranny, and
obnoxious to him on different accounts, imitated the example of the
bishops; and most of the others who remained were, with reason,
suspected of having secretly entered into a confederacy against him
[a]. John was alarmed at his dangerous situation; a situation which
prudence, vigour, and popularity might formerly have prevented, but
which no virtues or abilities were now sufficient to retrieve. He
desired a conference with Langton at Dover; offered to acknowledge him
as primate, to submit to the pope, to restore the exiled clergy, even
to pay them a limited sum as a compensation for the rents of their
confiscated estates. But Langton, perceiving his advantage, was not
satisfied with these concessions: he demanded that full restitution
and reparation should be made to all the clergy; a condition so
exorbitant, that the king, who probably had not the power of
fulfilling it, and who foresaw that this estimation of damages might
amount to an immense sum, finally broke off the conference [b].
[FN [y] M. Paris, p. 159. [z] Ann. Waverl. p. 170. Ann. Marg. p. 14.
[a] M. Paris, p. 162. M. West. p. 270, 271. [b] Ann. Waverl. p.

[MN 1212.] The next gradation of papal sentences was to absolve
John's subjects from their oaths of fidelity and allegiance, and to
declare every one excommunicated who had any commerce with him in
public or in private; at his table, in his council, or even in private
conversation [c]; and this sentence was accordingly, with all
imaginable solemnity, pronounced against him. But as John still
persevered in his contumacy, there remained nothing but the sentence
of deposition; which, though intimately connected with the former, had
been distinguished from it by the artifice of the court of Rome; and
Innocent determined to dart this last thunderbolt against the
refractory monarch. But as a sentence of this kind required an armed
force to execute it, the pontiff, casting his eyes around, fixed at
last on Philip, King of France, as the person into whose powerful hand
he could most properly intrust that weapon, the ultimate resource of
his ghostly authority. And he offered the monarch, besides the
remission of all his sins and endless spiritual benefits, the property
and possession of the kingdom of England, as the reward of his labour
[FN [c] M. Paris, p. 161. M. West. p. 270. [d] M. Paris, p. 162. M.
West. p. 271.]

[MN 1213.] It was the common concern of all princes to oppose these
exorbitant pretensions of the Roman pontiff, by which they themselves
were rendered vassals, and vassals totally dependent, of the papal
crown: yet even Philip, the most able monarch of the age, was seduced
by present interest, and by the prospect of so tempting a prize, to
accept this liberal offer of the pontiff, and thereby to ratify that
authority which, if he ever opposed its boundless usurpations, might,
next day, tumble him from the throne. He levied a great army;
summoned all the vassals of the crown to attend him at Rouen;
collected a fleet of seventeen hundred vessels, great and small, in
the sea-ports of Normandy and Picardy; and partly from the zealous
spirit of the age, partly from the personal regard universally paid
him, prepared a force, which seemed equal to the greatness of his
enterprise. The king, on the other hand, issued out writs, requiring
the attendance of all his military tenants at Dover, and even of all
able-bodied men, to defend the kingdom in this dangerous extremity. A
great number appeared; and he selected an army of sixty thousand men;
a power invincible, had they been united in affection to their prince,
and animated with a becoming zeal for the defence of their native
country [e]. But the people were swayed by superstition, and regarded
their king with horror, as anathematized by papal censures: the
barons, besides lying under the same prejudices, were all disgusted by
his tyranny, and were, many of them, suspected of holding a secret
correspondence with the enemy; and the incapacity and cowardice of the
king himself, ill fitted to contend with those mighty difficulties,
made men prognosticate the most fatal effects from the French
[FN [e] M. Paris, p. 163. M. West. p. 271.]

Pandolf, whom the pope had chosen for his legate, and appointed to
head this important expedition, had, before he left Rome, applied for
a secret conference with his master, and had asked him, whether, if
the King of England, in this desperate situation, were willing to
submit to the apostolic see, the church should, without the consent of
Philip, grant him any terms of accommodation [f]! Innocent, expecting
from his agreement with a prince so abject both in character and
fortune, more advantages than from his alliance with a great and
victorious monarch, who, after such mighty acquisitions, might become
too haughty to be bound by spiritual chains, explained to Pandolf the
conditions on which he was willing to be reconciled to the King of
England. The legate, therefore, as soon as he arrived in the north of
France, sent over two Knights Templars to desire an interview with
John at Dover, which was readily granted: he there represented to him,
in such strong and probably in such true colours, his lost condition,
the disaffection of his subjects, the secret combination of his
vassals against him, the mighty armament of France, that John yielded
at discretion [g], and subscribed to all the conditions which Pandolf
was pleased to impose upon him. [MN 13th May. The king's submission
to the pope.] He promised, among other articles, that he would submit
himself entirely to the judgment of the pope; that he would
acknowledge Langton for primate; that he would restore all the exiled
clergy and laity, who had been banished on account of the contest;
that he would make them full restitution of their goods, and
compensation for all damages, and instantly consign eight thousand
pounds in part of payment; and that every one outlawed or imprisoned
for his adherence to the pope should immediately be received into
grace and favour [h]. Four barons swore, along with the king, to the
observance of this ignominious treaty [i].
[FN [f] M. Paris, p. 162. [g] M. West. p. 271. [h] Rymer, vol. i. p.
166. M. Paris, p. 163. Annal. Burt. p. 268. [i] Rymer, vol. i. p.
170. M. Paris, p. 163.]

But the ignominy of the king was not yet carried to its full height.
Pandolf required him, as the first trial of obedience, to resign his
kingdom to the church; and he persuaded him, that he could nowise so
effectually disappoint the French invasion as by thus putting himself
under the immediate protection of the apostolic see. John, lying
under the agonies of present terror, made no scruple of submitting to
this condition. He passed a charter, in which he said, that, not
constrained by fear, but of his own free will, and by the common
advice and consent of his barons, he had, for remission of his own
sins, and those of his family, resigned England and Ireland, to God,
to St. Peter and St. Paul, and to Pope Innocent and his successors in
the apostolic chair: he agreed to hold these dominions as feudatory of
the church of Rome, by the annual payment of a thousand marks; seven
hundred for England, three hundred for Ireland: and he stipulated that
if he or his successors should ever presume to revoke or infringe this
charter, they should instantly, except upon admonition they repented
of their offence, forfeit all right to their dominions [k].
[FN [k] Rymer, vol. i. p. 176. M. Paris, p. 165.]

[MN 15th May.] In consequence of this agreement, John did homage to
Pandolf, as the pope's legate, with all the submissive rites which the
feudal law required of vassals before their liege lord and superior.
He came disarmed into the legate's presence, who was seated on a
throne; he flung himself on his knees before him; he lifted up his
joined hands, and put them within those of Pandolf; he swore fealty to
the pope; and he paid part of the tribute which he owed for his
kingdom as the patrimony of St. Peter. The legate, elated by this
supreme triumph of sacerdotal power, could not forbear discovering
extravagant symptoms of joy and exultation: he trampled on the money,
which was laid at his feet as an earnest of the subjection of the
kingdom; an insolence of which, however offensive to all the English,
no one present, except the Archbishop of Dublin, dared to take any
notice. But though Pandolf had brought the king to submit to these
base conditions, he still refused to free him from the excommunication
and interdict, till an estimation should be taken of the losses of the
ecclesiastics, and full compensation and restitution should be made

John, reduced to this abject situation under a foreign power, still
showed the same disposition to tyrannize over his subjects, which had
been the chief cause of all his misfortunes. One Peter of Pomfret, a
hermit, had foretold that the king, this very year, should lose his
crown; and for that rash prophecy he had been thrown into prison in
Corfe-castle. John now determined to bring him to punishment as an
impostor; and though the man pleaded that his prophecy was fulfilled,
and that the king had lost the royal and independent crown which he
formerly wore, the defence was supposed to aggravate his guilt: he was
dragged at horses' tails to the town of Warham, and there hanged on a
gibbet with his son [l].
[FN [l] M. Paris, p. 165. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 56.]

When Pandolf, after receiving the homage of John, returned to France,
he congratulated Philip on the success of his pious enterprise; and
informed him that John, moved by the terror of the French arms, had
now come to a just sense of his guilt; had returned to obedience under
the apostolic see, and even consented to do homage to the pope for his
dominions; and having thus made his kingdom a part of St. Peter's
patrimony, had rendered it impossible for any Christian prince,
without the most manifest and most flagrant impiety, to attack him
[m]. Philip was enraged on receiving this intelligence: he exclaimed
that having, at the pope's instigation, undertaken an expedition,
which had cost him above sixty thousand pounds sterling, he was
frustrated of his purpose, at the time when its success was become
infallible: he complained that all the expense had fallen upon him;
all the advantages had accrued to Innocent: he threatened to be no
longer the dupe of these hypocritical pretences; and, assembling his
vassals, he laid before them the ill-treatment which he had received,
exposed the interested and fraudulent conduct of the pope, and
required their assistance to execute his enterprise against England,
in which he told them, that, notwithstanding the inhibitions and
menaces of the legate, he was determined to persevere. The French
barons were, in that age, little less ignorant and superstitious than
the English: yet, so much does the influence of those religious
principles depend on the present dispositions of men, they all vowed
to follow their prince on his intended expedition, and were resolute
not to be disappointed of that glory and those riches which they had
long expected from this enterprise. The Earl of Flanders alone, who
had previously formed a secret treaty with John, declaring against the
injustice and impiety of the undertaking, retired with his forces [n];
and Philip, that he might not leave so dangerous an enemy behind him,
first turned his arms against the dominions of that prince.
Meanwhile, the English fleet was assembled under the Earl of
Salisbury, the king's natural brother; and though inferior in number,
received orders to attack the French in their harbours. Salisbury
performed this service with so much success, that he took three
hundred ships; destroyed a hundred more [o]; and Philip, finding it
impossible to prevent the rest from falling into the hands of the
enemy, set fire to them himself, and thereby rendered it impossible
for him to proceed any farther in his enterprise.
[FN [m] Trivet, p. 160. [n] M. Paris, p. 166. [o] Ibid. p. 166.
Chron. Dunst, vol. i. p. 59. Trivet, p. 157.]

John, exulting in his present security, insensible to his past
disgrace, was so elated with this success, that he thought of no less
than invading France in his turn, and recovering all those provinces
which the prosperous arms of Philip had formerly ravished from him.
He proposed this expedition to the barons, who were already assembled
for the defence of the kingdom. But the English nobles both hated and
despised their prince: they prognosticated no success to any
enterprise conducted by such a leader; and pretending that their time
of service was elapsed, and all their provisions exhausted, they
refused to second his undertaking [p]. The king, however, resolute in
his purpose, embarked with a few followers, and sailed to Jersey, in
the foolish expectation that the barons would at last be ashamed to
stay behind [q]. But finding himself disappointed, he returned to
England; and, raising some troops, threatened to take vengeance on all
his nobles for their desertion and disobedience. The Archbishop of
Canterbury, who was in a confederacy with the barons, here interposed;
strictly inhibited the king from thinking of such an attempt; and
threatened him with a renewal of the sentence of excommunication, if
he pretended to levy war upon any of his subjects, before the kingdom
were freed from the sentence of interdict [r].
[FN [p] M. Paris, p. 166. [q] M. Paris, p. 166. [r] Ibid. p. 167.]

The church had recalled the several anathemas pronounced against John,
by the same gradual progress with which she had at first issued them.
By receiving his homage, and admitting him to the rank of a vassal,
his deposition had been virtually annulled, and his subjects were
again bound by their oaths of allegiance. The exiled prelates had
then returned in great triumph, with Langton at their head; and the
king, hearing of their approach, went forth to meet them, and throwing
himself on the ground before them, he entreated them, with tears, to
have compassion on him and the kingdom of England [s]. [MN July.]
The primate, seeing these marks of sincere penitence, led him to the
chapter-house of Winchester, and there administered an oath to him, by
which he again swore fealty and obedience to Pope Innocent and his
successors; promised to love, maintain, and defend holy church and the
clergy; engaged that he would re-establish the good laws of his
predecessors, particularly those of St. Edward, and would abolish the
wicked ones; and expressed his resolution of maintaining justice and
right in all his dominions [t]. The primate next gave him absolution
in the requisite forms, and admitted him to dine with him, to the
great joy of all the people. The sentence of interdict, however, was
still upheld against the kingdom. A new legate, Nicholas, Bishop of
Frescati, came into England in the room of Pandolf; and he declared it
to be the pope's intentions never to loosen that sentence till full
restitution were made to the clergy of every thing taken from them,
and ample reparation for all damages which they had sustained. He
only permitted mass to be said with a low voice in the churches, till
those losses and damages could be estimated to the satisfaction of the
parties. Certain barons were appointed to take an account of the
claims; and John was astonished at the greatness of the sums to which
the clergy made their losses to amount. No less than twenty thousand
marks were demanded by the monks of Canterbury alone; twenty-three
thousand for the see of Lincoln; and the king, finding these
pretensions to be exorbitant and endless, offered the clergy the sum
of a hundred thousand marks for a final acquittal. The clergy
rejected the offer with disdain; but the pope, willing to favour his
new vassal, whom he found zealous in his declarations of fealty, and
regular in paying the stipulated tribute to Rome, directed his legate
to accept of forty thousand. The issue of the whole was, that the
bishops and considerable abbots got reparation beyond what they had
any title to demand; the inferior clergy were obliged to sit down
contented with their losses; and the king, after the interdict was
taken off, renewed, in the most solemn manner, and by a new charter,
sealed with gold, his professions of homage and obedience to the see
of Rome.
[FN [s] Ibid. p. 166. Ann. Waverl. p. 178. [t] M. Paris, p. 166.]

[MN 1214.] When this vexatious affair was at last brought to a
conclusion, the king, as if he had nothing farther to attend to but
triumphs and victories, went over to Poictou, which still acknowledged
his authority [u]; and he carried war into Philip's dominions. He
besieged a castle near Angiers; but the approach of Prince Lewis,
Philip's son, obliged him to raise the siege with such precipitation,
that he left his tents, machines, and baggage behind him; and he
returned to England with disgrace. About the same time he heard of
the great and decisive victory gained by the King of France at Bovines
over the Emperor Otho, who had entered France at the head of a hundred
and fifty thousand Germans; a victory which established for ever the
glory of Philip, and gave full security to all his dominions. John
could, therefore, think henceforth of nothing farther than of ruling
peaceably his own kingdom; and his close connexions with the pope,
which he was determined at any price to maintain, ensured him, as he
imagined, the certain attainment of that object. But the last and
most grievous scene of this prince's misfortunes still awaited him;
and he was destined to pass through a series of more humiliating
circumstances than had ever yet fallen to the lot of any other
[FN [u] Queen Eleanor died in 1203 or 1204.]

[MN Discontents of the barons.]
The introduction of the feudal law into England by William the
Conqueror had much infringed the liberties, however imperfect, enjoyed
by the Anglo-Saxons in their ancient government, and had reduced the
whole people to a state of vassalage under the king or barons, and
even the greater part of them to a state of real slavery. The
necessity also of intrusting great power in the hands of a prince, who
was to maintain military dominion over a vanquished nation, had
engaged the Norman barons to submit to a more severe and absolute
prerogative than that to which men of their rank, in other feudal
governments, were commonly subjected. The power of the crown, once
raised to a high pitch, was not easily reduced; and the nation, during
the course of a hundred and fifty years, was governed by an authority
unknown, in the same degree, to all the kingdoms founded by the
northern conquerors. Henry I., that he might allure the people to
give an exclusion to his elder brother Robert, had granted them a
charter, favourable in many particulars to their liberties; Stephen
had renewed the grant; Henry II. had confirmed it: but the concessions
of all these princes had still remained without effect; and the same
unlimited, at least irregular authority, continued to be exercised
both by them and their successors. The only happiness was, that arms
were never yet ravished from the hands of the barons and people: the
nation, by a great confederacy, might still vindicate its liberties;
and nothing was more likely than the character, conduct, and fortunes
of the reigning prince to produce such a general combination against
him. Equally odious and contemptible, both in public and private
life, he affronted the barons by his insolence, dishonoured their
families by his gallantries, enraged them by his tyranny, and gave
discontent to all ranks of men by his endless exactions and
impositions [w]. The effect of these lawless practices had already
appeared in the general demand made by the barons of a restoration of
their privileges; and after he had reconciled himself to the pope, by
abandoning the independence of the kingdom, he appeared to all his
subjects in so mean a light, that they universally thought they might
with safety and honour insist upon their pretensions.
[FN [w] Chron Mailr. p. 188. T. Wykes, p. 36. Ann. Waverl. p. 181.
W. Heming. p. 557.]

But nothing forwarded this confederacy so much as the concurrence of
Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury; a man whose memory, though he was
obtruded on the nation by a palpable encroachment of the see of Rome,
ought always to be respected by the English. This prelate, whether he
was moved by the generosity of his nature and his affection to public
good; or had entertained an animosity against John on account of the
long opposition made by that prince to his election; or thought that
an acquisition of liberty to the people would serve to increase and
secure the privileges of the church; had formed the plan of reforming
the government, and had prepared the way for that great innovation, by
inserting those singular clauses above-mentioned in the oath which he
administered to the king, before he would absolve him from the
sentence of excommunication. Soon after, in a private meeting of some
principal barons at London, he showed them a copy of Henry I.'s
charter, which, he said, he had happily found in a monastery; and he
exhorted them to insist on the renewal and observance of it: the
barons swore, that they would sooner lose their lives than depart from
so reasonable a demand [x]. The confederacy began now to spread
wider, and to comprehend almost all the barons in England; and a new
and more numerous meeting was summoned by Langton at St. Edmondsbury,
under colour of devotion. [MN Nov. 1.] He again produced to the
assembly the old charter of Henry; renewed his exhortations of
unanimity and vigour in the prosecution of their purpose; and
represented in the strongest colours the tyranny to which they had so
long been subjected, and from which it now behoved them to free
themselves and their posterity [y]. The barons, inflamed by his
eloquence, incited by the sense of their own wrongs, and encouraged by
the appearance of their power and numbers, solemnly took an oath,
before the high altar, to adhere to each other, to insist on their
demands, and to make endless war on the king, till he should submit to
grant them [z]. They agreed that, after the festival of Christmas,
they would prefer in a body their common petition; and, in the mean
time, they separated, after mutually engaging that they would put
themselves in a posture of defence, would enlist men and purchase
arms, and would supply their castles with the necessary provisions.
[FN [x] M. Paris, p. 167. [y] M. Paris, p. 175. [z] Ibid. p. 176.]

[MN 1215. 6th Jan.]
The barons appeared in London on the day appointed, and demanded of
the king, that, in consequence of his own oath before the primate, as
well as in deference to their just rights, he should grant them a
renewal of Henry's charter, and a confirmation of the laws of St.
Edward. The king, alarmed with their zeal and unanimity, as well as
with their power, required a delay; promised that, at the festival of
Easter, he would give them a positive answer to their petition; and
offered them the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Ely, and the
Earl of Pembroke, the mareschal, as sureties for his fulfilling this
engagement [a]. The barons accepted of the terms, and peaceably
returned to their castles.
[FN [a] Ibid. p. 176. M. West. p. 273.]

[MN 15th Jan.] During this interval, John, in order to break or
subdue the league of his barons, endeavoured to avail himself of the
ecclesiastical power, of whose influence he had, from his own recent
misfortunes, had such fatal experience. He granted to the clergy a
charter, relinquishing for ever that important prerogative, for which
his father and all his ancestors had zealously contended; yielding to
them the free election on all vacancies; reserving only the power to
issue a conge d'elire, and to subjoin a confirmation of the election;
and declaring that, if either of these were withheld, the choice
should nevertheless be deemed just and valid [b]. He made a vow to
lead an army into Palestine against the infidels, and he took on him
the cross; in hopes that he should receive from the church that
protection which she tendered to every one that had entered into this
sacred and meritorious engagement [c]. And he sent to Rome his agent,
William de Mauclerc, in order to appeal to the pope against the
violence of his barons, and procure him a favourable sentence from
that powerful tribunal [d]. The barons also were not negligent on
their part in endeavouring to engage the pope in their interests: they
despatched Eustace de Vescie to Rome; laid their case before Innocent
as their feudal lord: and petitioned him to interpose his authority
with the king, and oblige him to restore and confirm all their just
and undoubted privileges [e].
[FN [b] Rymer, vol. i. p. 197. [c] Rymer, vol. i. p. 200. Trivet, p.
162. T. Wykes, p. 37. M. West. p. 273. [d] Rymer, vol. i. p. 184.
[e] Ibid.]

Innocent beheld with regret the disturbances which had arisen in
England, and was much inclined to favour John in his pretensions. He
had no hopes of retaining and extending his newly-acquired superiority
over that kingdom, but by supporting so base and degenerate a prince,
who was willing to sacrifice every consideration to his present
safety: and he foresaw that, if the administration should fall into
the hands of those gallant and high-spirited barons, they would
vindicate the honour, liberty, and independence of the nation, with
the same ardour which they now exerted in defence of their own. He
wrote letters therefore to the prelates, to the nobility, and to the
king himself. He exhorted the first to employ their good offices in
conciliating peace between the contending parties, and putting an end
to civil discord: to the second he expressed his disapprobation of
their conduct in employing force to extort concessions from their
reluctant sovereign: the last he advised to treat his nobles with
grace and indulgence, and to grant them such of their demands as
should appear just and reasonable [f].
[FN [f] Ibid. p. 196, 197.]

The barons easily saw, from the tenour of these letters, that they
must reckon on having the pope, as well as the king, for their
adversary; but they had already advanced too far to recede from their
pretensions, and their passions were so deeply engaged, that it
exceeded even the power of superstition itself any longer to control
them. They also foresaw, that the thunders of Rome, when not seconded
by the efforts of the English ecclesiastics, would be of small avail
against them; and they perceived that the most considerable of the
prelates, as well as all the inferior clergy, professed the highest
approbation of their cause. Besides that these men were seized with
the national passion for laws and liberty, blessings of which they
themselves expected to partake, there concurred very powerful causes
to loosen their devoted attachment to the apostolic see. It appeared
from the late usurpations of the Roman pontiff, that he pretended to
reap alone all the advantages accruing from that victory which, under
his banners, though at their own peril, they had every where obtained
over the civil magistrate. The pope assumed a despotic power over all
the churches: their particular customs, privileges, and immunities,
were treated with disdain: even the canons of general councils were
set aside by his dispensing power: the whole administration of the
church was centered in the court of Rome: all preferments ran of
course in the same channel: and the provincial clergy saw, at least
felt, that there was a necessity for limiting these pretensions. The
legate, Nicholas, in filling those numerous vacancies which had fallen
in England during an interdict of six years, had proceeded in the most
arbitrary manner; and had paid no regard, in conferring dignities, to
personal merit, to rank, to the inclination of the electors, or to the
customs of the country. The English church was universally disgusted;
and Langton himself, though he owed his elevation to an encroachment
of the Romish see, was no sooner established in his high office than
he became jealous of the privileges annexed to it, and formed
attachments with the country subjected to his jurisdiction. These
causes, though they opened slowly the eyes of men, failed not to
produce their effect: they set bounds to the usurpations of the
papacy: the tide first stopped, and then turned against the sovereign
pontiff: and it is otherwise inconceivable how that age, so prone to
superstition, and so sunk in ignorance, or rather so devoted to a
spurious erudition, could have escaped falling into an absolute and
total slavery under the court of Rome.

[MN 1215. Insurrection of the barons.]
About the time that the pope's letters arrived in England, the
malecontent barons, on the approach of the festival of Easter, when
they were to expect the king's answer to their petition, met by
agreement at Stamford; and they assembled a force, consisting of above
two thousand knights, besides their retainers and inferior persons
without number. [MN 27th April.] Elated with their power, they
advanced in a body to Brackley, within fifteen miles of Oxford, the
place where the court then resided; and they there received a message
from the king, by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earl of
Pembroke, desiring to know what those liberties were which they so
zealously challenged from their sovereign. They delivered to these
messengers a schedule containing the chief articles of their demands;
which was no sooner shown to the king than he burst into a furious
passion, and asked why the barons did not also demand of him his
kingdom? swearing that he would never grant them such liberties as
must reduce himself to slavery [g].
[FN [g] M. Paris, p. 176.]

No sooner were the confederated nobles informed of John's reply than
they chose Robert Fitz-Walter their general, whom they called THE
without farther ceremony to levy war upon the king. They besieged the
castle of Northampton during fifteen days, though without success [h]:
the gates of Bedford castle were willingly opened to them by William
Beauchamp, its owner: [MN 24th May.] they advanced to Ware in their
way to London, where they held a correspondence with the principal
citizens: they were received without opposition into that capital: and
finding now the great superiority of their force, they issued
proclamations, requiring the other barons to join them; and menacing
them, in case of refusal or delay, with committing devastation on
their houses and estates [i]. In order to show what might be expected
from their prosperous arms, they made incursions from London, and laid
waste the king's parks and palaces; and all the barons, who had
hitherto carried the semblance of supporting the royal party, were
glad of this pretence for openly joining a cause which they always had
secretly favoured. The king was left at Odiham in Hampshire, with a
poor retinue of only seven knights; and after trying several
expedients to elude the blow, after offering to refer all differences
to the pope alone, or to eight barons, four to be chosen by himself,
and four by the confederates [k], he found himself at last obliged to
submit at discretion.
[FN [h] Ibid. p. 177. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 71. [i] M. Paris, p.
177. [k] Rymer, vol. i. p. 200.]

[MN 15th June. Magna Charta.]
A conference between the king and the barons was appointed at
Runnemede, between Windsor and Staines; a place which has ever since
been extremely celebrated on account of this great event. The two
parties encamped apart, like open enemies; and after a debate of a few
days, the king, with a facility somewhat suspicious, signed and sealed
the charter which was required of him. [MN 19th June.] This famous
deed, commonly called the GREAT CHARTER, either granted or secured
very important liberties and privileges to every order of men in the
kingdom; to the clergy, to the barons, and to the people.

The freedom of elections was secured to the clergy; the former charter
of the king was confirmed, by which the necessity of a royal conge'
d'elire and confirmation was superseded: all check upon appeals to
Rome was removed, by the allowance granted every man to depart the
kingdom at pleasure: and the fines to be imposed on the clergy for any
offence were ordained to be proportional to their lay estates, not to
their ecclesiastical benefices.

The privileges granted to the barons were either abatements in the
rigour of the feudal law, or determinations in points which had been
left by that law, or had become, by practice, arbitrary and ambiguous.
The reliefs of heirs succeeding to a military fee were ascertained; an
earl's and baron's at a hundred marks, a knight's at a hundred
shillings. It was ordained by the charter, that, if the heir be a
minor, he shall immediately, upon his majority, enter upon his estate,
without paying any relief: the king shall not sell his wardship: he
shall levy only reasonable profits upon the estate, without committing
waste, or hurting the property: he shall uphold the castles, houses,
mills, parks, and ponds: and if he commit the guardianship of the
estate to the sheriff or any other, he shall previously oblige them to
find surety to the same purpose. During the minority of a baron,
while his lands are in wardship, and are not in his own possession, no
debt which he owes to the Jews shall bear any interest. Heirs shall
be married without disparagement; and before the marriage be
contracted, the nearest relations of the person shall be informed of
it. A widow, without paying any relief, shall enter upon her dower,
the third part of her husband's rents: she shall not be compelled to
marry, so long as she chooses to continue single; she shall only give
security never to marry without her lord's consent. The king shall
not claim the wardship of any minor who hold lands by military tenure
of a baron, on pretence that he also holds lands of the crown by
soccage or any other tenure. Scutages shall be estimated at the same
rate as in the time of Henry I.; and no scutage or aid, except in the
three general feudal cases, the king's captivity, the knighting of his
eldest son, and the marrying of his eldest daughter, shall be imposed
but by the great council of the kingdom: the prelates, earls, and
great barons, shall be called to this great council, each by a
particular writ; the lesser barons by a general summons of the
sheriff. The king shall not seize any baron's land for a debt to the
crown, if the baron possesses as many goods and chattels as are
sufficient to discharge the debt. No man shall be obliged to perform
more service for his fee than he is bound to by his tenure. No
governor or constable of a castle shall oblige any knight to give
money for castle-guard, if the knight be willing to perform the
service in person, or by another able-bodied man; and if the knight be
in the field himself, by the king's command, he shall be exempted from
all other service of this nature. No vassal shall be allowed to sell
so much of his land as to incapacitate himself from performing his
service to his lord.

These were the principal articles calculated for the interest of the
barons; and had the charter contained nothing farther, national
happiness and liberty had been very little promoted by it, as it would
only have tended to increase the power and independence of an order of
men who were already too powerful, and whose yoke might have become
more heavy on the people than even that of an absolute monarch. But
the barons, who alone drew and imposed on the prince this memorable
charter, were necessitated to insert in it other clauses of a more
extensive and more beneficent nature: they could not expect the
concurrence of the people without comprehending, together with their
own, the interests of inferior ranks of men; and all provisions which
the barons, for their own sake, were obliged to make, in order to
ensure the free and equitable administration of justice, tended
directly to the benefit of the whole community. The following were
the principal clauses of this nature.

It was ordained, that all the privileges and immunities above-
mentioned, granted to the barons against the king, should be extended
by the barons to their inferior vassals. The king bound himself not
to grant any writ, empowering a baron to levy aids from his vassals,
except in the three feudal cases. One weight and one measure shall be
established throughout the kingdom. Merchants shall be allowed to
transact all business, without being exposed to any arbitrary tolls
and impositions; they and all freemen shall be allowed to go out of
the kingdom and return to it at pleasure: London, and all cities and
burghs, shall preserve their ancient liberties, immunities, and free
customs: aids shall not be required of them but by the consent of the
great council: no towns or individuals shall be obliged to make or
support bridges but by ancient custom: the goods of every freeman
shall be disposed of according to his will: if he die intestate, his
heirs shall succeed to them. No officer of the crown shall take any
horses, carts, or wood, without the consent of the owner. The king's
courts of justice shall be stationary, and shall no longer follow his
person: they shall be open to every one; and justice shall no longer
be sold, refused, or delayed by them. Circuits shall be regularly
held every year: the inferior tribunals of justice, the county court,
sheriff's turn, and court leet, shall meet at their appointed time and
place: the sheriffs shall be incapacitated to hold pleas of the crown,
and shall not put any person upon his trial from rumour or suspicion
alone, but upon the evidence of lawful witnesses. No freeman shall be
taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed of his free tenement and
liberties, or outlawed, or banished, or anywise hurt or injured,
unless by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land;
and all who suffered otherwise, in this or the two former reigns,
shall be restored to their rights and possessions. Every freeman
shall be fined in proportion to his fault; and no fine shall be levied
on him to his utter ruin: even a villain or rustic shall not, by any
fine, be bereaved of his carts, ploughs, and implements of husbandry.
This was the only article calculated for the interests of this body of
men, probably at that time the most numerous in the kingdom.

It must be confessed, that the former articles of the great charter
contain such mitigations and explanations of the feudal law as are
reasonable and equitable; and that the latter involve all the chief
outlines of a legal government, and provide for the equal distribution
of justice and free enjoyment of property; the great objects for which
political society was at first founded by men, which the people have a
perpetual and unalienable right to recall, and which no time, nor
precedent, nor statute, nor positive institution, ought to deter them
from keeping ever uppermost in their thoughts and attention. Though
the provisions made by this charter might, conformably to the genius
of the age, be esteemed too concise, and too bare of circumstances, to
maintain the execution of its articles, in opposition to the chicanery
of lawyers, supported by the violence of power; time gradually
ascertained the sense of all the ambiguous expressions; and those
generous barons who first extorted this concession still held their
swords in their hands, and could turn them against those who dared, on
any pretence, to depart from the original spirit and meaning of the
grant. We may now, from the tenour of this charter, conjecture what
those laws were of King Edward, which the English nation, during so
many generations, still desired, with such an obstinate perseverance,
to have recalled and established. They were chiefly these latter
articles of MAGNA CHARTA; and the barons who, at the beginning of
these commotions, demanded the revival of the Saxon laws, undoubtedly
thought that they had sufficiently satisfied the people, by procuring
them this concession, which comprehended the principal objects to
which they had so long aspired. But what we are most to admire is,
the prudence and moderation of those haughty nobles themselves, who
were enraged by injuries, inflamed by opposition, and elated by a
total victory over their sovereign. They were content, even in this
plenitude of power, to depart from some articles of Henry I.'s
charter, which they made the foundation of their demands, particularly
from the abolition of wardships, a matter of the greatest importance;
and they seem to have been sufficiently careful not to diminish too
far the power and revenue of the crown. If they appear, therefore, to
have carried other demands to too great a height, it can be ascribed
only to the faithless and tyrannical character of the king himself, of
which they had long had experience, and which, they foresaw, would, if
they provided no farther security, lead him soon to infringe their new
liberties, and revoke his own concessions. This alone gave birth to
those other articles, seemingly exorbitant, which were added as a
rampart for the safeguard of the great charter.

The barons obliged the king to agree that London should remain in
their hands, and the Tower be consigned to the custody of the primate,
till the fifteenth of August ensuing, or till the execution of the
several articles of the great charter [l]. The better to ensure the
same end, he allowed them to choose five-and-twenty members from their
own body, as conservators of the public liberties; and no bounds were
set to the authority of these men either in extent or duration. If
any complaint were made of a violation of the charter, whether
attempted by the king, justiciaries, sheriffs, or foresters, any four
of these barons might admonish the king to redress the grievance: if
satisfaction were not obtained, they could assemble the whole council
of twenty-five, who, in conjunction with the great council, were
empowered to compel him to observe the charter, and, in case of
resistance, might levy war against him, attack his castles, and employ
every kind of violence, except against his royal person, and that of
his queen and children. All men throughout the kingdom were bound,
under the penalty of confiscation, to swear obedience to the twenty-
five barons; and the freeholders of each county were to choose twelve
knights, who were to make report of such evil customs as required
redress, conformably to the tenour of the great charter [m]. The
names of those conservators were, the Earls of Clare, Albemarle,
Gloucester, Winchester, Hereford, Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, Robert
de Vere, Earl of Oxford, William Mareschal the younger, Robert
Fitz-Walter, Gilbert de Clare, Eustace de Vescey, Gilbert Delaval,
William de Mowbray, Geoffrey de Say, Roger de Mombezon, William de
Huntingfield, Robert de Ros, the constable of Chester, William de
Aubenie, Richard de Perci, William Malet, John Fitz-Robert, William de
Lanvalay, Hugh de Bigod, and Roger de Montfichet [n]. These men were,
by this convention, really invested with the sovereignty of the
kingdom: they were rendered co-ordinate with the king, or rather
superior to him, in the exercise of the executive power: and as there
was no circumstance of government which, either directly or
indirectly, might not bear a relation to the security or observance of
the great charter, there could scarcely occur any incident in which
they might not lawfully interpose their authority.
[FN [l] Rymer, vol. i. p. 201. Chron. Dunst vol. i. p. 73. [m] This
seems a very strong proof that the House of Commons was not then in
being; otherwise the knights and burgesses from the several counties
could have given in to the Lords a list of grievances, without so
unusual an election. [n] M. Paris, p. 181.]

John seemed to submit passively to all these regulations, however
injurious to majesty: he sent writs to all the sheriffs, ordering them
to constrain every one to swear obedience to the twenty-five barons
[o]: he dismissed all his foreign forces: he pretended that his
government was thenceforth to run in a new tenour, and be more
indulgent to the liberty and independence of his people. But he only
dissembled, till he should find a favourable opportunity for annulling
all his concessions. The injuries and indignities which he had
formerly suffered from the pope and the King of France, as they came
from equals or superiors, seemed to make but small impression on him:
but the sense of this perpetual and total subjection under his own
rebellious vassals sunk deep in his mind, and he was determined, at
all hazards, to throw off so ignominious a slavery [p]. He grew
sullen, silent, and reserved: he shunned the society of his courtiers
and nobles: he retired into the Isle of Wight, as if desirous of
hiding his shame and confusion; but in this retreat he meditated the
most fatal vengeance against all his enemies [q]. He secretly sent
abroad his emissaries to enlist foreign soldiers, and to invite the
rapacious Brabancons into his service, by the prospect of sharing the
spoils of England, and reaping the forfeitures of so many opulent
barons, who had incurred the guilt of rebellion by rising in arms
against him [r]: and he despatched a messenger to Rome, in order to
lay before the pope the great charter, which he had been compelled to
sign, and to complain, before that tribunal, of the violence which had
been imposed upon him [s].
[FN [o] Ibid. p. 182. [p] M. Paris, p. 183. [q] Ibid. [r] Ibid.
Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p.72. Chron. Malr. p. 188. [s] M. Paris, p.
183. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 73.]

Innocent, considering himself as feudal lord of the kingdom, was
incensed at the temerity of the barons, who, though they pretended to
appeal to his authority, had dared, without waiting for his consent,
to impose such terms on a prince, who, by resigning to the Roman
pontiff his crown and independence, had placed himself immediately
under the papal protection. He issued, therefore, a bull, in which,
from the plenitude of his apostolic power, and from the authority
which God had committed to him, to build and destroy kingdoms, to
plant and overthrow, he annulled and abrogated the whole charter, as
unjust in itself, as obtained by compulsion, and as derogatory to the
dignity of the apostolic see. He prohibited the barons from exacting
the observance of it: he even prohibited the king himself from paying
any regard to it: he absolved him and his subjects from all oaths
which they had been constrained to take to that purpose: and he
pronounced a general sentence of excommunication against every one who
should persevere in maintaining such treasonable and iniquitous
pretensions [t].
[FN [t] Rymer, vol. i. p. 203, 204, 205, 208. M. Paris, p. 184, 185,

[MN Renewal of the civil wars.]
The king, as his foreign forces arrived along with this bull, now
ventured to take off the mask; and, under sanction of the pope's
decree, recalled all the liberties which he had granted to his
subjects, and which he had solemnly sworn to observe. But the
spiritual weapon was found, upon trial, to carry less force with it
than he had reason from his own experience to apprehend. The primate
refused to obey the pope in publishing the sentence of excommunication
against the barons: and though he was cited to Rome, that he might
attend a general council there assembled, and was suspended, on
account of his disobedience to the pope, and his secret correspondence
with the king's enemies [u]; though a new and particular sentence of
excommunication was pronounced by name against the principal barons
[w]; John still found, that his nobility and people, and even his
clergy, adhered to the defence of their liberties, and to their
combination against him: the sword of his foreign mercenaries was all
he had to trust to for restoring his authority.
[FN [u] M. Paris, p. 189. [w] Rymer, vol. i. p. 211. M. Paris, p.

The barons, after obtaining the great charter, seem to have been
lulled into a fatal security, and to have taken no rational measures,
in case of the introduction of a foreign force, for reassembling their
armies. The king was, from the first, master of the field; and
immediately laid siege to the castle of Rochester, which was
obstinately defended by William de Aubenie, at the head of a hundred
and forty knights with their retainers, but was at last reduced by
famine. [MN 30th Nov.] John, irritated with the resistance, intended
to have hanged the governor and all the garrison; but, on the
representation of William de Mauleon, who suggested to him the danger
of reprisals, he was content to sacrifice, in this barbarous manner,
the inferior prisoners only [x]. The captivity of William de Aubenie,
the best officer among the confederated barons, was an irreparable
loss to their cause; and no regular opposition was thenceforth made to
the progress of the royal arms. The ravenous and barbarous
mercenaries, incited by a cruel and enraged prince, were let loose
against the estates, tenants, manors, houses, parks of the barons, and
spread devastation over the face of the kingdom. Nothing was to be
seen but the flames of villages and castles reduced to ashes, the
consternation and misery of the inhabitants, tortures exercised by the
soldiery to make them reveal their concealed treasures, and reprisals
no less barbarous committed by the barons and their partisans on the
royal demesnes, and on the estates of such as still adhered to the
crown. The king, marching through the whole extent of England, from
Dover to Berwick, laid the provinces waste on each side of him; and
considered every estate, which was not his immediate property, as
entirely hostile, and the object of military execution. The nobility
of the north, in particular, who had shown the greatest violence in
the recovery of their liberties, and who, acting in a separate body,
had expressed their discontent even at the concessions made by the
great charter, as they could expect no mercy, fled before him with
their wives and families, and purchased the friendship of Alexander,
the young King of Scots, by doing homage to him.
[FN [x] M. Paris, p. 187.]

[MN Prince Lewis called over.]
The barons, reduced to this desperate extremity, and menaced with the
total loss of their liberties, their properties, and their lives,
employed a remedy no less desperate; and making applications to the
court of France, they offered to acknowledge Lewis, the eldest son of
Philip, for their sovereign, on condition that he would afford them
protection from the violence of their enraged prince. Though the
sense of the common rights of mankind, the only rights that are
entirely indefeasible, might have justified them in the deposition of
their king; they declined insisting, before Philip, on a pretension
which is commonly so disagreeable to sovereigns, and which sounds
harshly in the royal ears. They affirmed, that John was incapable of
succeeding to the crown, by reason of the attainder passed upon him
during his brother's reign; though that attainder had been reversed,
and Richard. had even, by his last will, declared him his successor.
They pretended that he was already legally deposed by sentence of the
Peers of France, on account of the murder of his nephew; though that
sentence could not possibly regard any thing but his transmarine
dominions, which alone he held in vassalage to that crown. On more
plausible grounds they affirmed, that he had already deposed himself
by doing homage to the pope, changing the nature of his sovereignty,
and resigning an independent crown for a fee under a foreign power.
And as Blanche of Castile, the wife of Lewis, was descended by her
mother from Henry II., they maintained, though many other princes
stood before her in the order of succession, that they had not shaken
off the royal family, in choosing her husband for their sovereign.

Philip was strongly tempted to lay hold on the rich prize which was
offered to him. The legate menaced interdicts and excommunications,
if he invaded the patrimony of St. Peter, or attacked a prince who was
under the immediate protection of the holy see [y]: but as Philip was
assured of the obedience of his own vassals, his principles were
changed with the times, and he now undervalued as much all papal
censures, as he formerly pretended to pay respect to them. His chief
scruple was with regard to the fidelity which he might expect from the
English barons in their new engagements, and the danger of intrusting
his son and heir into the hands of men, who might, on any caprice or
necessity, make peace with their native sovereign, by sacrificing a
pledge of so much value. He therefore exacted from the barons twenty-
five hostages of the most noble birth in the kingdom [z]; and having
obtained this security, he sent over first a small army to the relief
of the confederates; then more numerous forces, which arrived with
Lewis himself at their head.
[FN [y] M. Paris, p. 194. M. West. p. 275. [z] M. Paris, p. 193.
Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 74.]

The first effect of the young prince's appearance in England was the
desertion of John's foreign troops, who, being mostly levied in
Flanders, and other provinces of France, refused to serve against the
heir of their monarchy [a]. The Gascons and Poictevins alone, who
were still John's subjects, adhered to his cause; but they were too
weak to maintain that superiority in the field which they had hitherto
supported against the confederated barons. Many considerable noblemen
deserted John's party, the Earls of Salisbury, Arundel, Warrenne,
Oxford, Albemarle, and William Mareschal the younger: his castles fell
daily into the hands of the enemy; Dover was the only place which,
from the valour and fidelity of Hubert de Burgh, the governor, made
resistance to the progress of Lewis [b]: and the barons had the
melancholy prospect of finally succeeding in their purpose, and of
escaping the tyranny of their own king, by imposing on themselves and
the nation a foreign yoke. But this union was of short duration
between the French and English nobles: and the imprudence of Lewis,
who, on every occasion, showed too visible a preference to the former,
increased that jealousy which it was so natural for the latter to
entertain in their present situation [c]. The Viscount of Melun, too,
it is said, one of his courtiers, fell sick at London, and finding the
approaches of death, he sent for some of his friends among the English
barons, and warning them of their danger, revealed Lewis's secret
intentions of exterminating them and their families as traitors to
their prince, and of bestowing their estates and dignities on his
native subjects, in whose fidelity he could more reasonably place
confidence [d]: this story, whether true or false, was universally
reported and believed; and concurring with other circumstances which
rendered it credible, did great prejudice to the cause of Lewis. The
Earl of Salisbury, and other noblemen, deserted again to John's party
[e]; and as men easily change sides in a civil war, especially where
their power is founded on an hereditary and independent authority, and
is not derived from the opinion and favour of the people, the French
prince had reason to dread a sudden reverse of fortune. The king was
assembling a considerable army, with a view of fighting one great
battle for his crown; but passing from Lynn to Lincolnshire, his road
lay along the sea-shore, which was overflowed at high water; and not
choosing the proper time for his journey, he lost in the inundation
all his carriages, treasure, baggage, and regalia. The affliction
for this disaster, and vexation from the distracted state of his
affairs, increased the sickness under which he then laboured; and
though he reached the castle of Newark, he was obliged to halt there,
[MN 17th Oct. Death,] and his distemper soon after put an end to his
life, in the forty-ninth year of his age, and eighteenth of his reign;
and freed the nation from the dangers to which it was equally exposed
by his success or by his misfortunes.
[FN [a] M. Paris, p. 195. [b] M. Paris, p. 198. Chron. Dunst. vol.
i. p. 75, 76. [c] W. Heming. p. 559. [d] M. Paris, p. 199. M. West.
p. 277. [e] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 76.]

[MN and character of the king.] The character of this prince is
nothing but a complication of vices, equally mean and odious; ruinous
to himself, and destructive to his people. Cowardice, inactivity,
folly, levity, licentiousness, ingratitude, treachery, tyranny, and
cruelty; all these qualities appear too evidently in the several
incidents of his life, to give us room to suspect that the
disagreeable picture has been anywise overcharged by the prejudices of
the ancient historians. It is hard to say whether his conduct to his
father, his brother, his nephew, or his subjects, was most culpable;
or whether his crimes, in these respects, were not even exceeded by
the baseness which appeared in his transactions with the King of
France, the pope, and the barons. His European dominions, when they
devolved to him by the death of his brother, were more extensive than
have ever, since his time, been ruled by an English monarch; but he
first lost, by his misconduct, the flourishing provinces in France,
the ancient patrimony of his family: he subjected his kingdom to a
shameful vassalage under the see of Rome: he saw the prerogatives of
his crown diminished by law, and still more reduced by faction: and he
died at last, when in danger of being totally expelled by a foreign
power, and of either ending his life miserably in prison, or seeking
shelter, as a fugitive, from the pursuit of his enemies.

The prejudices against this prince were so violent, that he was
believed to have sent an embassy to the Miramoulin, or Emperor of
Morocco, and to have offered to change his religion and become
Mahometan, in order to purchase the protection of that monarch. But
though this story is told us, on plausible authority, by Matthew Paris
[f], it is in itself utterly improbable; except that there is nothing
so incredible but may be believed to proceed from the folly and
wickedness of John.
[FN [f] P. 169.]

The monks throw great reproaches on this prince for his impiety and
even infidelity; and as an instance of it, they tell us, that having
one day caught a very fat stag, he exclaimed, HOW PLUMP AND WELL FED
sally of wit upon the usual corpulency of the priests, more than all
his enormous crimes and iniquities, made him pass with them for an

John left two legitimate sons behind him; Henry, born on the first of
October, 1207, and now nine years of age; and Richard, born on the
sixth of January, 1209; and three daughters; Jane, afterwards married
to Alexander King of Scots; Eleanor, married first to William
Mareschal the younger, Earl of Pembroke, and then to Simon Mountfort,
Earl of Leicester; and Isabella, married to the Emperor Frederic II.
All these children were born to him by Isabella of Angoulesme, his
second wife. His illegitimate children were numerous, but none of
them were anywise distinguished.

It was this king who, in the ninth year of his reign, first gave by
charter, to the city of London, the right of electing, annually, a
mayor out of its own body, an office which was till now held for life.
He gave the city also power to elect and remove its sheriffs at
pleasure, and its common-councilmen annually. London-bridge was
finished in this reign. The former bridge was of wood. Maud, the
empress, was the first that built a stone bridge in England.
[FN [g] M. Paris, p. 170.]




The feudal law is the chief foundation, both of the political
government and of the jurisprudence established by the Normans in
England. Our subject therefore requires, that we should form a just
idea of this law, in order to explain the state, as well of that
kingdom, as of all other kingdoms of Europe, which, during those ages,
were governed by similar institutions. And though I am sensible, that
I must here repeat many observations and reflections which have been
communicated by others [a]; yet, as every book, agreeably to the
observation of a great historian [b], should be as complete as
possible within itself, and should never refer, for any thing
material, to other books, it will be necessary, in this place, to
deliver a short plan of that prodigious fabric, which, for several
centuries, preserved such a mixture of liberty and oppression, order
and anarchy, stability and revolution, as was never experienced in any
other age, or any other part of the world.
[FN [a] L'Esprit des Loix. Dr. Robertson's History of Scotland. [b]
Padre Paolo, Hist. Conc. Trid.]

[MN Origin of the feudal law.]
After the northern nations had subdued the provinces of the Roman
empire, they were obliged to establish a system of government which
might secure their conquests, as well against the revolt of their
numerous subjects, who remained in the provinces, as from the inroads
of other tribes, who might be tempted to ravish from them their new
acquisitions. The great change of circumstances made them here depart
from those institutions which prevailed among them while they remained
in the forests of Germany; yet it was still natural for them to
retain, in their present settlement, as much of their ancient customs
as was compatible with their new situation.

The German governments, being more a confederacy of independent
warriors than a civil subjection, derived their principal force from
many inferior and voluntary associations, which individuals formed
under a particular head or chieftain, and which it became the highest
point of honour to maintain with inviolable fidelity. The glory of
the chief consisted in the number, the bravery, and the zealous
attachment of his retainers: the duty of the retainers required, that
they should accompany their chief in all wars and dangers, that they
should fight and perish by his side, and that they should esteem his
renown or his favour a sufficient recompense for all their services

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