The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part B. - From Henry III. to Richard III.
by David Hume
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London: James S. Virtue, City Road and Ivy Lane New York: 26 John Street 1860


Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. March 17, 1901

In Three Volumes:

VOLUME ONE: The History Of England From The Invasion Of Julius Caesar To The End Of The Reign Of James The Second............ By David Hume, Esq.

VOLUME TWO: Continued from the Reign of William and Mary to the Death of George II........................................... by Tobias Smollett.

VOLUME THREE: From the Accession of George III. to the Twenty-Third Year of the Reign of Queen Victoria............... by E. Farr and E.H. Nolan.


Part B.




{1216.} Most sciences, in proportion as they increase and improve, invent methods by which they facilitate their reasonings, and, employing general theorems, are enabled to comprehend, in a few propositions, a great number of inferences and conclusions. History, also, being a collection of facts which are multiplying without end, is obliged to adopt such arts of abridgment, to retain the more material events, and to drop all the minute circumstances, which are only interesting during the time, or to the persons engaged in the transactions. This truth is nowhere more evident than with regard to the reign upon which we are going to enter. What mortal could have the patience to write or read a long detail of such frivolous events as those with which it is filled, or attend to a tedious narrative which would follow, through a series of fifty-six years, the caprices and weaknesses of so mean a prince as Henry? The chief reason why Protestant writers have been so anxious to spread out the incidents of this reign, is in order to expose the rapacity, ambition, and artifices of the court of Rome, and to prove, that the great dignitaries of the Catholic church, while they pretended to have nothing in view but the salvation of souls, had bent all their attention to the acquisition of riches, and were restrained by no sense of justice or of honor in the pursuit of that great object.[*] But this conclusion would readily be allowed them, though it were not illustrated by such a detail of uninteresting incidents; and follows indeed, by an evident necessity, from the very situation in which that church was placed with regard to the rest of Europe. For, besides that ecclesiastical power, as it can always cover its operations under a cloak of sanctity, and attacks men on the side where they dare not employ their reason, lies less under control than civil government; besides this general cause, I say, the pope and his courtiers were foreigners to most of the churches which they governed; they could not possibly have any other object than to pillage the provinces for present gain; and as they lived at a distance, they would be little awed by shame or remorse in employing every lucrative expedient which was suggested to them. England being one of the most remote provinces attached to the Romish hierarchy, as well as the most prone to superstition, felt severely, during this reign, while its patience was not yet fully exhausted, the influence of these causes, and we shall often have occasion to touch cursorily upon such incidents. But we shall not attempt to comprehend every transaction transmitted to us: and till the end of the reign, when the events become more memorable, we shall not always observe an exact chronological order in our narration.

* M. Paris, p. 623.

The earl of Pembroke, who at the time of John's death, was mareschal of England, was, by his office, at the head of the armies, and consequently, during a state of civil wars and convulsions, at the head of the government; and it happened, fortunately for the young monarch and for the nation, that the power could not have been intrusted into more able and more faithful hands. This nobleman, who had maintained his loyalty unshaken to John during the lowest fortune of that monarch, determined to support the authority of the infant prince; nor was he dismayed at the number and violence of his enemies. Sensible that Henry, agreeably to the prejudices of the times, would not be deemed a sovereign till crowned and anointed by a churchman, he immediately carried the young prince to Glocester, where the ceremony of coronation was performed, in the presence of Gualo, the legate, and of a few noblemen, by the bishops of Winchester and Bath.[*] As the concurrence of the papal authority was requisite to support the tottering throne, Henry was obliged to swear fealty to the pope, and renew that homage to which his father had already subjected the kingdom:[**] and in order to enlarge the authority of Pembroke, and to give him a more regular and legal title to it, a general council of the barons was soon after summoned at Bristol, where that nobleman was chosen protector of the realm.

* M. Paris, p. 290. Hist Croyl. Cont. p. 474. W. Heming. p. 562. Privet, p. 168.

** M. Paris, p. 200.

Pembroke, that he might reconcile all men to the government of his pupil, made him grant a new charter of liberties, which, though mostly copied from the former concessions extorted from John, contains some alterations which may be deemed remarkable.[*] The full privilege of elections in the clergy, granted by the late king, was not confirmed, nor the liberty of going out of the kingdom without the royal consent: whence we may conclude, that Pembroke and the barons, jealous of the ecclesiastical power, both were desirous of renewing the king's claim to issue a conge d'elire to the monks and chapters, and thought it requisite to put some check to the frequent appeals to Rome. But what may chiefly surprise us is, that the obligation to which John had subjected himself, of obtaining the consent of the great council before he levied any aids or scutages upon the nation, was omitted; and this article was even declared hard and severe, and was expressly left to future deliberation. But we must consider, that, though this limitation may perhaps appear to us the most momentous in the whole charter of John, it was not regarded in that light by the ancient barons, who were more jealous in guarding against particular acts of violence in the crown than against such general impositions which, unless they were evidently reasonable and necessary, could scarcely, without general consent, be levied upon men who had arms in their hands, and who could repel any act of oppression by which they were all immediately affected. We accordingly find, that Henry, in the course of his reign, while he gave frequent occasions for complaint with regard to his violations of the Great Charter, never attempted, by his own will, to levy any aids or scutages, though he was often reduced to great necessities, and was refused supply by his people.

* Rymer, vol. i. p. 215.

So much easier was it for him to transgress the law, when individuals alone were affected, than even to exert his acknowledged prerogatives, where the interest of the whole body was concerned.

This charter was again confirmed by the king in the ensuing year, with the addition of some articles to prevent the oppressions by sheriffs; and also with an additional charter of forests, a circumstance of great moment in those ages, when hunting was so much the occupation of the nobility, and when the king comprehended so considerable a part of the kingdom within his forests, which he governed by peculiar and arbitrary laws. All the forests, which had been enclosed since the reign of Henry II., were disafforested, and new perambulations were appointed for that purpose; offences in the forests were declared to be no longer capital, but punishable by fine, imprisonment, and more gentle penalties; and all the proprietors of land recovered the power of cutting and using their own wood at their pleasure.

Thus these famous charters were brought nearly to the shape in which they have ever since stood; and they were, during many generations, the peculiar favorites of the English nation, and esteemed the most sacred rampart to national liberty and independence. As they secured the rights of all orders of men, they were anxiously defended by all, and became the basis, in a manner, of the English monarchy, and a kind of original contract which both limited the authority of the king and insured the conditional allegiance of his subjects. Though often violated, they were still claimed by the nobility and people; and as no precedents were supposed valid that infringed them, they rather acquired than lost authority, from the frequent attempts made against them in several ages by regal and arbitrary power.

While Pembroke, by renewing and confirming the Great Charter, gave so much satisfaction and security to the nation in general, he also applied himself successfully to individuals; he wrote letters, in the king's name, to all the malcontent barons; in which he represented to them that, whatever jealousy and animosity they might have entertained against the late king, a young prince, the lineal heir of their ancient monarchs, had now succeeded to the throne, without succeeding either to the resentments or principles of his predecessor; that the desperate expedient, which they had employed, of calling in a foreign potentate, had, happily for them as well as for the nation, failed of entire success, and it was still in their power, by a speedy return to their duty, to restore the independence of the kingdom, and to secure that liberty for which they so zealously contended; that as all past offences of the barons were now buried in oblivion, they ought, on their part, to forget their complaints against their late sovereign, who, if he had been anywise blamable in his conduct had left to his son the salutary warning, to avoid the paths which had led to such fatal extremities: and that having now obtained a charter for their liberties, it was their interest to show, by their conduct, that this acquisition was not incompatible with their allegiance, and that the rights of king and people, so far from being hostile and opposite, might mutually support and sustain each other.[*]

These considerations, enforced by the character of honor and constancy which Pembroke had ever maintained, had a mighty influence on the barons; and most of them began secretly to negotiate with him, and many of them openly returned to their duty. The diffidence which Lewis discovered of their fidelity, forwarded this general propension towards the king; and when the French prince refused the government of the castle of Hertford to Robert Fitz-Walter, who had been so active against the late king, and who claimed that fortress as his property, they plainly saw that the English were excluded from every trust, and that foreigners had engrossed all the confidence and affection of their new sovereign.[**] The excommunication, too, denounced by the legate against all the adherents of Lewis, failed not, in the turn which men's dispositions had taken, to produce a mighty effect upon them; and they were easily persuaded to consider a cause as impious, for which they had already entertained an unsurmountable aversion.[***] Though Lewis made a journey to France, and brought over succors from that kingdom [****] he found, on his return, that his party was still more weakened by the desertion of his English confederates, and that the death of John had, contrary to his expectations, given an incurable wound to his cause. The earls of Salisbury Arundel, and Warrenne, together with William Mareschal, eldest son of the protector, had embraced Henry's party; and every English nobleman was plainly watching for an opportunity of returning to his allegiance.

* Rymer, vol. i. p. 215. Brady's App. No. 143.

** M. Paris, p. 200, 202.

*** Ibid. p. 200 M. West, p. 277

**** Chron. Dunst vol. i. p. 79.

Pembroke was so much strengthened by these accessions, that he ventured to invest Mount Sorel; though, upon the approach of the count of Perche with the French army, he desisted from his enterprise, and raised the siege.[*] The count, elated with this success, marched to Lincoln; and being admitted into the town, he began to attack the castle, which he soon reduced to extremity. The protector summoned all his forces from every quarter, in order to relieve a place of such importance; and he appeared so much superior to the French, that they shut themselves up within the city, and resolved to act upon the defensive.[**] But the garrison of the castle, having received a strong reenforcement, made a vigorous sally upon the besiegers; while the English army, by concert, assaulted them in the same instant from without, mounted the walls by scalade, and bearing down all resistance, entered the city sword in hand. Lincoln was delivered over to be pillaged; the French army was totally routed; the count de Perche, with only two persons more, was killed, but many of the chief commanders, and about four hundred knights, were made prisoners by the English.[***] So little blood was shed in this important action, which decided the fate of one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe; and such wretched soldiers were those ancient barons, who yet were unacquainted with every thing but arms!

* M. Paris, p. 203

** Chron. Dunst vol. i. p. 81.

*** M. Paris, p. 204, 205.

**** Chron. de Mailr. p. 195.

Prince Lewis was informed of this fatal event while employed in the siege of Dover, which was still valiantly defended against him by Hubert de Burgh. He immediately retreated to London, the centre and life of his party; and he there received intelligence of a new disaster, which put an end to all his hopes. A French fleet, bringing over a strong, reenforcement, had appeared on the coast of Kent; where they were attacked by the English under the command of Philip d'Albiney, and were routed with considerable loss. D'Albiney employed a stratagem against them, which is said to have contributed to the victory: having gained the wind of the French, he came down upon them with violence; and throwing in their faces a great quantity of quick lime, which he purposely carried on board, he so blinded them, that they were disabled from defending themselves.[*]

After this second misfortune of the French, the English barons hastened every where to make peace with the protector, and, by an early submission, to prevent those attainders to which they were exposed on account of their rebellion. Lewis, whose cause was now totally desperate, began to be anxious for the safety of his person, and was glad, on any honorable conditions, to make his escape from a country where he found every thing was now become hostile to him. He concluded a peace with Pembroke, promised to evacuate the kingdom, and only stipulated in return an indemnity to his adherents, and a restitution of their honors and fortunes, together with the free and equal enjoyment of those liberties which had been granted to the rest of the nation.[**] Thus was happily ended a civil war which seemed to be founded on the most incurable hatred and jealousy, and had threatened the kingdom with the most fatal consequences.

The precautions which the king of France used in the conduct of this whole affair are remarkable. He pretended that his son had accepted of the offer from the English barons without his advice, and contrary to his inclination: the armies sent to England were levied in Lewis's name: when that prince came over to France for aid, his father publicly refused to grant him any assistance, and would not so much as admit him to his presence: even after Henry's party acquired the ascendant, and Lewis was in danger of falling into the hands of his enemies, it was Blanche of Castile his wife, not the king his father, who raised armies and equipped fleets for his succor.[***]

*. M. Paris, p. 206. Ann. Waverl. p. 183. W. Heming. p. 563. Trivet, p. 109. M. West. p. 277. Knyghton, p. 2428.

**. Rhymer, vol. i. p. 221. M. Paris, p. 207. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 83. M. West. p. 278. Knyghton, p. 2429.

*** M, Paris, p. 256. Chron. Dunst, vol. i. p. 82.

All these artifices were employed, not to satisfy the pope; for he had too much penetration to be so easily imposed on: nor yet to deceive the people; for they were too gross even for that purpose: they only served for a coloring to Philip's cause; and in public affairs men are often better pleased that the truth, though known to every body, should be wrapped up under a decent cover, than if it were exposed in open daylight to the eyes of all the world.

After the expulsion of the French, the prudence and equity of the protector's subsequent conduct contributed to cure entirely those wounds which had been made by intestine discord. He received the rebellious barons into favor; observed strictly the terms of peace which he had granted them; restored them to their possessions; and endeavored, by an equal behavior, to bury all past animosities in perpetual oblivion. The clergy alone, who had adhered to Lewis, were sufferers in this revolution. As they had rebelled against their spiritual sovereign, by disregarding the interdict and excommunication, it was not in Pembroke's power to make any stipulations in their favor; and Gualo, the legate, prepared to take vengeance on them for their disobedience.[*] Many of them were deposed; many suspended; some banished; and all who escaped punishment made atonement for their offence, by paying large sums to the legate, who amassed an immense treasure by this expedient.

The earl of Pembroke did not long survive the pacification, which had been chiefly owing to his wisdom and valor;[*] and he was succeeded in the government by Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester, and Hubert de Burgh, the justiciary. The counsels of the latter were chiefly followed; and had he possessed equal authority in the kingdom with Pembroke, he seemed to be every way worthy of filling the place of that virtuous nobleman. But the licentious and powerful barons, who had once broken the reins of subjection to their prince, and had obtained by violence an enlargement of their liberties and independence, could ill be restrained by laws under a minority; and the people, no less than the king, suffered from their outrages and disorders. They retained by force the royal castles, which they had seized during the past convulsions, or which had been committed to their custody by the protector;[**] they usurped the king's demesnes;[***] they oppressed their vassals; they infested their weaker neighbors; they invited all disorderly people to enter in their retinue, and to live upon their lands; and they gave them protection in all their robberies and extortions.

* Brady's App. No. 144. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 83.

** M. Paris, p. 210. * Trivet, p. 174

*** Rymer, vol. i. p. 276.

No one was more infamous for these violent and illegal practices than the earl of Albemarle; who, though he had early returned to his duty, and had been serviceable in expelling the French, augmented to the utmost the general disorder, and committed outrages in all the counties of the north. In order to reduce him to obedience, Hubert seized an opportunity of getting possession of Rockingham Castle, which Albemarle had garrisoned with his licentious retinue: but this nobleman, instead of submitting, entered into a secret confederacy with Fawkes de Breaute, Peter de Mauleon, and other barons, and both fortified the Gastle of Biham for his defence, and made himself master by surprise of that of Fotheringay. Pandulf, who was restored to his legateship, was active in suppressing this rebellion; and with the concurrence of eleven bishops, he pronounced the sentence of excommunication against Albemarle and his adherents:[*] an army was levied: a scutage of ten shillings a knight's fee was imposed on all the military tenants. Albemarle's associates gradually deserted him; and he himself was obliged at last to sue for mercy. He received a pardon, and was restored to his whole estate.

This impolitic lenity, too frequent in those times, was probably the result of a secret combination among the barons, who never could endure to see the total ruin of one of their own order: but it encouraged Fawkes de Breaute, a man whom King John had raised from a low origin, to persevere in the course of violence to which he had owed his fortune and to set at nought all law and justice. When thirty-five verdicts were at one time found against him, on account of his violent expulsion of so many freeholders from their possessions, he came to the court of justice with an armed force, seized the judge who had pronounced the verdicts, and imprisoned him in Bedford Castle. He then levied open war against the king; but being subdued and taken prisoner, his life was granted him; but his estate was confiscated, and he was banished the kingdom.[**]

* Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 102.

** Rymer, vol. i. p. 198. M. Paris, p. 221, 224. Ann. Waverl p. 188, Chron. Dunst vol. i. p. 141, 146. M. West, p. 283.

{1222.} Justice was executed with greater severity against disorders less premeditated, which broke out in London. A frivolous emulation in a match of wrestling, between the Londoners on the one hand, and the inhabitants of Westminster and those of the neighboring villages on the other, occasioned this commotion. The former rose in a body, and pulled down some houses belonging to the abbot of Westminster: but this riot, which, considering the tumultuous disposition familiar to that capital, would have been little regarded, seemed to become more serious by the symptoms which then appeared of the former attachment of the citizens to the French interest. The populace, in the tumult, made use of the cry of war commonly employed by the French troops: "Mountjoy, Mountjoy, God help us and our lord Lewis." The justiciary made inquiry into the disorder; and finding one Constantine Fitz-Arnulf to have been the ring-*leader, an insolent man, who justified his crime in Hubert's presence, he proceeded against him by martial law, and ordered him immediately to be hanged, without trial or form of process. He also cut off the feet of some of Constantine's accomplices.[*]

This act of power was complained of as an infringement of the Great Charter: yet the justiciary, in a parliament summoned at Oxford, (for the great councils about this time began to receive that appellation,) made no scruple to grant in the king's name a renewal and confirmation of that charter. When the assembly made application to the crown for this favor,—as a law in those times seemed to lose its validity if not frequently renewed,—William de Briewere, one of the council of regency, was so bold as to say openly, that those liberties were extorted by force, and ought not to be observed: but he was reprimanded by the archbishop of Canterbury, and was not countenanced by the king or his chief ministers.[**] A new confirmation was demanded and granted two years after; and an aid, amounting to a fifteenth of all movables, was given by the parliament, in return for this indulgence. The king issued writs anew to the sheriffs, enjoining the observance of the charter; but he inserted a remarkable clause in the writs, that those who paid not the fifteenth should not for the future be entitled to the benefit of those liberties.[***]

* M. Paris, p. 217, 218, 259. Ann. Waverl. p. 187. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 129.

** M. West. p. 282.

*** Clause ix. H. 3, m. 9, and m. 6, d.

The low state into which the crown was fallen, made it requisite for a good minister to be attentive to the preservation of the royal prerogatives, as well as to the security of public liberty. Hubert applied to the pope, who had always great authority in the kingdom, and was now considered as its superior lord, and desired him to issue a bull, declaring the king to be of full age, and entitled to exercise in person all the acts of royalty.[*] In consequence of this declaration, the justiciary resigned into Henry's hands the two important fortresses of the Tower and Dover Castle, which had been intrusted to his custody; and he required the other barons to imitate his example. They refused compliance: the earls of Chester and Albemarle, John Constable of Chester, John de Lacy, Brian de l'Isle, and William de Cantel, with some others, even formed a conspiracy to surprise London, and met in arms at Waltham with that intention: but finding the king prepared for defence, they desisted from their enterprise. When summoned to court in order to answer for their conduct, they scrupled not to appear, and to confess the design: but they told the king that they had no bad intentions against his person, but only against Hubert de Burgh, whom they were determined to remove from his office.[**] They appeared too formidable to be chastised; and they were so little discouraged by the failure of their first enterprise, that they again met in arms at Leicester, in order to seize the king, who then resided at Northampton: but Henry, informed of their purpose, took care to be so well armed and attended, that the barons found it dangerous to make the attempt; and they sat down and kept Christmas in his neighborhood.[***] The archbishop and the prelates, finding every thing tend towards a civil war, interposed with their authority, and threatened the barons with the sentence of excommunication, if they persisted in detaining the king's castles. This menace at last prevailed: most of the fortresses were surrendered; though the barons complained that Hubert's castles were soon after restored to him, while the king still kept theirs in his own custody. There are said to have been one thousand one hundred and fifteen castles at that time in England.[****]

* M. Paris, p. 220.

** Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 137.

*** M. Paris, p. 221. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 138.

**** Coke's Comment on Magna Charta, chap. 17.

It must be acknowledged that the influence of the prelates and the clergy was often of great service to the public.

Though the religion of that age can merit no better name than that of superstition, it served to unite together a body of men who had great sway over the people, and who kept the community from falling to pieces, by the factions and independent power of the nobles. And what was of great importance, it threw a mighty authority into the hands of men, who by their profession were averse to arms and violence, who tempered by their mediation the general disposition towards military enterprises; and who still maintained, even amidst the shock of arms, those secret links, without which it is impossible for human society to subsist.

Notwithstanding these intestine commotions in England, and the precarious authority of the crown, Henry was obliged to carry on war in France; and he employed to that purpose the fifteenth which had been granted him by parliament. Lewis VIII., who had succeeded to his father Philip, instead of complying with Henry's claim, who demanded the restitution of Normandy and the other provinces wrested from England, made an irruption into Poictou, took Rochelle[*] after a long siege, and seemed determined to expel the English from the few provinces which still remained to them. Henry sent over his uncle, the earl of Salisbury, together with his brother, Prince Richard, to whom he had granted the earldom of Cornwall, which had escheated to the crown. Salisbury stopped the progress of Lewis's arms, and retained the Poictevin and Gascon vassals in their allegiance: but no military action of any moment was performed on either side. The earl of Cornwall, after two years' stay in Guienne, returned to England.

* Rymer, vol i. p. 269. Trivet, p. 179.

{1227.} This prince was nowise turbulent or factious in his disposition: his ruling passion was to amass money, in which he succeeded so well as to become the richest subject in Christendom: yet his attention to gain threw him sometimes into acts of violence, and gave disturbance to the government. There was a manor, which had formerly belonged to the earldom of Cornwall but had been granted to Waleran de Ties, before Richard had been invested with that dignity, and while the earldom remained in the crown. Richard claimed this manor, and expelled the proprietor by force: Waleran complained: the king ordered his brother to do justice to the man, and restore him to his rights: the earl said that he would not submit to these orders, till the cause should be decided against him by the judgment of his peers: Henry replied, that it was first necessary to reinstate Waleran in possession, before the cause could be tried; and he reiterated his orders to the earl.[*] We may judge of the state of the government, when this affair had nearly produced a civil war The earl of Cornwall, finding Henry peremptory in his commands, associated himself with the young earl of Pembroke who had married his sister, and who was displeased on account of the king's requiring him to deliver up some royal castles which were in his custody. These two malecontents took into the confederacy the earls of Chester, Warrenne, Glocester, Hereford, Warwick, and Ferrers, who were all disgusted on a like account. [**] They assembled an army, which the king had not the power or courage to resist; and he was obliged to give his brother satisfaction, by grants of much greater importance than the manor, which had been the first ground of the quarrel.[***]

The character of the king, as he grew to man's estate, became every day better known; and he was found in every respect unqualified for maintaining a proper sway among those turbulent barons, whom the feudal constitution subjected to his authority. Gentle, humane, and merciful even to a fault, he seems to have been steady in no other circumstance of his character; but to have received every impression from those who surrounded him, and whom he loved, for the time, with the most imprudent and most unreserved affection. Without activity or vigor, he was unfit to conduct war; without policy or art, he was ill fitted to maintain peace: his resentments, though hasty and violent, were not dreaded, while he was found to drop them with such facility; his friendships were little valued, because they were neither derived from choice, nor maintained with constancy: a proper pageant of state in a regular monarchy, where his ministers could have conducted all affairs in his name and by his authority; but too feeble in those disorderly times to sway a sceptre, whose weight depended entirely on the firmness and dexterity of the hand which held it.

* M. Paris, p. 233.

** M. Paris, p. 233.

*** M. Paris, p. 233.

The ablest and most virtuous minister that Henry ever possessed was Hubert de Burgh;[*] a man who had been steady to the crown in the most difficult and dangerous times, and who yet showed no disposition, in the height of his power, to enslave or oppress the people. The only exceptionable part of his conduct is that which is mentioned by Matthew Paris,[**] if the fact be really true, and proceeded from Hubert's advice, namely, the recalling publicly and the annulling of the charter of forests, a concession so reasonable in itself, and so passionately claimed both by the nobility and people: but it must be confessed that this measure is so unlikely, both from the circumstances of the times and character of the minister, that there is reason to doubt of its reality, especially as it is mentioned by no other historian. Hubert, while he enjoyed his authority, had an entire ascendant over Henry, and was loaded with honors and favors beyond any other subject.

{1231.} Besides acquiring the property of many castles and manors, he married the eldest sister of the king of Scots, was created earl of Kent, and, by an unusual concession, was made chief justiciary of England for life; yet Henry, in a sudden caprice, threw off his faithful minister, and exposed him to the violent persecutions of his enemies. Among other frivolous crimes objected to him, he was accused of gaining the king's affections by enchantment, and of purloining from the royal treasury a gem which had the virtue to render the wearer invulnerable, and of sending this valuable curiosity to the prince of Wales.[***] The nobility, who hated Hubert on account of his zeal in resuming the rights and possessions of the crown, no sooner saw the opportunity favorable, than they inflamed the king's animosity against him, and pushed him to seek the total ruin of his minister. Hubert took sanctuary in a church: the king ordered him to be dragged from thence: he recalled those orders: he afterwards renewed them: he was obliged by the clergy to restore him to the sanctuary: he constrained him soon after to surrender himself prisoner, and he confined him in the castle of the Devizes. Hubert made his escape, was expelled the kingdom, was again received into favor, recovered a great share of the king's confidence, but never showed any inclination to reinstate himself in power and authority.[****]

* Ypod. Neust. p. 464.

** Page 232. M. West (p. 216) ascribes this counsel to Peter, bishop of Winchester.

*** M. Paris, p. 259.

**** M. Paris, p. 259, 260, 261, 266. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 41, 47 Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 220, 221. M. West, p. 291, 301.

The man who succeeded him in the government of the king and kingdom, was Peter, bishop of Winchester, a Poictevin by birth, who had been raised by the late king, and who was no less distinguished by his arbitrary principles and violent conduct, than by his courage and abilities. This prelate had been left by King John justiciary and regent of the kingdom during an expedition which that prince made into France; and his illegal administration was one chief cause of that great combination among the barons, which finally extorted from the crown the charter of liberties, and laid the foundation of the English constitution. Henry, though incapable, from his character, of pursuing the same violent maxims which had governed his father, had imbibed the same arbitrary principles; and in prosecution of Peter's advice, he invited over a great number of Poictevins and other foreigners, who, he believed, could more safely be trusted than the English, and who seemed useful to counterbalance the great and independent power of the nobility.[*] Every office and command was bestowed on these strangers; they exhausted the revenues of the crown, already too much impoverished;[**] they invaded the rights of the people; and their insolence, still more provoking than their power, drew on them the hatred and envy of all orders of men in the kingdom.[***]

{1233.} The barons formed a combination against this odious ministry, and withdrew from parliament, on pretence of the danger to which they were exposed from the machinations of the Poictevins. When again summoned to attend, they gave for answer, that the king should dismiss his foreigners, otherwise they would drive both him and them out of the kingdom, and put the crown on another head, more worthy to wear it: [****] such was the style they used to their sovereign. They at last came to parliament, but so well attended, that they seemed in a condition to prescribe laws to the king and ministry.

* M. Paris, p. 263

** Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 151.

*** M. Paris, p. 258

**** M. Paris, p 265.

Peter des Roches, however, had in the interval found means of sowing dissension among them, and of bringing over to his party the earl of Cornwall, as well as the earls of Lincoln and Chester. The confederates were disconcerted in their measures: Richard, earl Mareschal, who had succeeded to that dignity on the death of his brother William, was chased into Wales; he thence withdrew into Ireland, where he was treacherously murdered by the contrivance of the bishop of Winchester.[*] The estates of the more obnoxious barons were confiscated, without legal sentence or trial by their peers; [**] and were bestowed with a profuse liberality on the Poictevins. Peter even carried his insolence so far as to declare publicly, that the barons of England must not pretend to put themselves on the same foot with those of France, or assume the same liberties and privileges: the monarch in the former country had a more absolute power than in the latter. It had been more justifiable for him to have said, that men so unwilling to submit to the authority of laws, could with the worst grace claim any shelter or protection from them.

When the king at any time was checked in his illegal practices, and when the authority of the Great Charter was objected to him, he was wont to reply, "Why should I observe this charter, which is neglected by all my grandees, both prelates and nobility?" It was very reasonably said to him, "You ought, sir, to set them the example." [***]

So violent a ministry as that of the bishop of Winchester could not be of long duration; but its fall proceeded at last from the influence of the church, not from the efforts of the nobles. Edmond, the primate, came to court, attended by many of the other prelates, and represented to the king the pernicious measures embraced by Peter des Roches, the discontents of his people, the ruin of his affairs; and after requiring the dismission of the minister and his associates, threatened him with excommunication in case of his refusal. Henry, who knew that an excommunication so agreeable to the sense of the people could not fail of producing the most dangerous effects, was obliged to submit: foreigners were banished; the natives were restored to their place in council;[****] the primate, who was a man of prudence, and who took care to execute the laws and observe the charter of liberties, bore the chief sway in the government.

{1236.} But the English in vain flattered themselves that they should be long free from the dominion of foreigners. The king, having married Eleanor, daughter of the count of Provence,[*****] was surrounded by a great number of strangers from that country, whom he caressed with the fondest affection, and enriched by an imprudent generosity.[******]

* Chron. Dunst. vol. i p. 219.

** M. Paris, p. 265.

*** M. Paris, p. 608.

**** M. Paris, p. 271, 272

***** Rymer, vol. i. p. 448.

****** M. Paris, p. 286.

The bishop of Valence, a prelate of the house of Savoy, and maternal uncle to the queen, was his chief minister, and employed every art to amass wealth for himself and his relations. Peter of Savoy, a brother of the same family, was invested in the honor of Richmond, and received the rich wardship of Earl Warrenne; Boniface of Savoy was promoted to the see of Canterbury: many young ladies were invited over to Provence, and married to the chief noblemen of England, who were the king's wards. [*] And, as the source of Henry's bounty began to fail, his Savoyard ministry applied to Rome, and obtained a bull, permitting him to resume all past grants; absolving him from the oath which he had taken to maintain them; even enjoining him to make such a resumption, and representing those grants as invalid, on account of the prejudice which ensued from them to the Roman pontiff, in whom the superiority of the kingdom was vested.[**] The opposition made to the intended resumption prevented it from taking place; but the nation saw the indignities to which the king was willing to submit, in order to gratify the avidity of his foreign favorites. About the same time he published in England the sentence of excommunication, pronounced against the emperor Frederic, his brother-in-law;[***] and said in excuse, that, being the pope's vassal, he was obliged by his allegiance to obey all the commands of his holiness. In this weak reign, when any neighboring potentate insulted the king's dominions, instead of taking revenge for the injury, he complained to the pope as his superior lord, and begged him to give protection to his vassal.[****]

* M. Paris, p. 236, 301, 305, 316, 541.

**M. West. p. 302, 304.

*** M. Paris, p. 484.

****M. West.p. 338.

{1247.} The resentment of the English barons rose high at the preference given to foreigners; but no remonstrance or complaint could ever prevail on the king to abandon them, or even to moderate his attachment towards them. After the Provencals and Savoyards might have been supposed pretty well satiated with the dignities and riches which they had acquired, a new set of hungry foreigners were invited over, and shared among them those favors which the king ought in policy to have conferred on the English nobility, by whom his government could have been supported and defended. His mother Isabella, who had been unjustly taken by the late king from the count de la Marche, to whom she was betrothed, was no mistress of herself by the death of her husband, than she married that nobleman;[*] and she had born him four sons, Guy, William, Geoffrey, and Aymer, whom she sent over to England, in order to pay a visit to their brother. The good-natured and affectionate disposition of Henry was moved at the sight of such near relations; and he considered neither his own circumstances, nor the inclinations of his people, in the honors and riches which he conferred upon them.[**] Complaints rose as high against the credit of the Gascon, as ever they had done against that of the Poictevin and of the Savoyard favorites; and to a nation prejudiced against them, all their measures appeared exceptionable and criminal. Violations of the Great Charter were frequently mentioned; and it is indeed more than probable, that foreigners, ignorant of the laws, and relying on the boundless affections of a weak prince, would, in an age when a regular administration was not any where known, pay more attention to their present interest than to the liberties of the people. It is reported that the Poictevins and other strangers, when the laws were at any time appealed to in opposition to their oppressions, scrupled not to reply, "What did the English laws signify to them? They minded them not." And as words are often more offensive than actions, this open contempt of the English tended much to aggravate the general discontent, and made every act of violence committed by the foreigners appear not only an injury, but an affront to them.[***]

I reckon not among the violations of the Great Charter some arbitrary exertions of prerogative to which Henry's necessities pushed him, and which, without producing any discontent, were uniformly continued by all his successors, till the last century. As the parliament often refused him supplies, and that in a manner somewhat rude and indecent,[****] he obliged his opulent subjects, particularly the citizens of London, to grant him loans of money; and it is natural to imagine that the same want of economy which reduced him to the necessity of borrowing, would prevent him from being very punctual in the repayment.[*****] He demanded benevolences, or pretended voluntary contributions, from his nobility and prelates.[******]

* Trivet, p. 174.

** M. Paris, p. 491. M. West. p. 338. Knyghton, p. 2436.

*** M. Paris, p. 566, 666. Ann. Waverl. p. 214. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 335.

**** M. Paris, p. 301

***** M. Paris, p. 406.

****** M. Paris, p. 507

He was the first king of England, since the conquest, that could fairly be said to lie under the restraint of law; and he was also the first that practised the dispensing power, and he employed the clause of "non obstante" in his grants and patents. When objections were made to this novelty, he replied that the pope exercised that authority, and why might not he imitate the example? But the abuse which the pope made of his dispensing power, in violating the canons of general councils, in invading the privileges and customs of all particular churches, and in usurping on the rights of patrons, was more likely to excite the jealousy of the people than to reconcile them to a similar practice in their civil government. Roger de Thurkesby, one of the king's justices, was so displeased with the precedent, that he exclaimed, "Alas! what times are we fallen into? Behold, the civil court is corrupted in imitation of the ecclesiastical, and the river is poisoned from that fountain."

The king's partiality and profuse bounty to his foreign relations, and to their friends and favorites, would have appeared more tolerable to the English, had any thing been done meanwhile for the honor of the nation, or had Henry's enterprises in foreign countries been attended with any success or glory to himself or to the public; at least, such military talents in the king would have served to keep his barons in awe, and have given weight and authority to his government. But though he declared war against Lewis IX. in 1242, and made an expedition into Guienne, upon the invitation of his father-in-law, the count de la Marche, who promised to join him with all his forces, he was unsuccessful in his attempts against that great monarch, was worsted at Taillebourg, was deserted by his allies, lost what remained to him of Poictou, and was obliged to return with loss of honor into England.[*]

{1253.} The Gascon nobility were attached to the English government, because the distance of their sovereign allowed them to remain in a state of almost total independence; and they claimed, some time after, Henry's protection against an invasion which the king of Castile made upon that territory. Henry returned into Guienne, and was more successful in this expedition; but he thereby involved himself and his nobility in an enormous debt, which both increased their discontents, and exposed him to greater danger from their enterprises.[**]

* M. Paris, p. 393, 394, 398, 399, 405. W. Heming. p. 574. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 153.

** M. Paris, p. 414.

Want of economy and an ill-judged liberality were Henry's great defects; and his debts, even before this expedition, had become so troublesome, that he sold all his plate and jewels, in order to discharge them. When this expedient was first proposed to him, he asked where he should find purchasers. It was replied, the citizens of London. "On my word," said he, "if the treasury of Augustus were brought to sale, the citizens are able to be the purchasers: these clowns, who assume to themselves the name of barons, abound in every thing, while we are reduced to necessities."[*] And he was thenceforth observed to be more forward and greedy in his exactions upon the citizens.[**]

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

* M. Paris, p. 501.

** M. Paris, p. 501, 507, 518, 578, 606, 625, 548.

*** M. Paris, p. 244.

**** M. Paris, p. 254.

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

Meanwhile all the chief benefices of the kingdom were conferred on Italians; great numbers of that nation were sent over at one time to be provided for; non-residence and pluralities were carried to an enormous height; Mansel, the king's chaplain, is computed to have held at once seven hundred ecclesiastical livings; and the abuses became so evident, as to be palpable to the blindness of superstition itself. The people, entering into associations, rose against the Italian clergy; pillaged their barns; wasted their lands; insulted the persons of such of them as they found in the kingdom;[*] and when the justices made inquiry into the authors of this disorder, the guilt was found to involve so many, and those of such high rank, that it passed unpunished.

* Rymer, vol. i. p. 323. M. Paris, p. 255, 257.

At last, when Innocent IV., in 1245, called a general council at Lyons, in order to excommunicate the emperor Frederic, the king and nobility sent over agents to complain, before the council, of the rapacity of the Romish church. They represented, among many other grievances, that the benefices of the Italian clergy in England had been estimated, and were found to amount to sixty thousand marks[*] a year, a sum which exceeded the annual revenue of the crown itself.[**] They obtained only an evasive answer from the pope; but as mention had been made, before the council, of the feudal subjection of England to the see of Rome, the English agents, at whose head was Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, exclaimed against the pretension, and insisted that King John had no right, without the consent of his barons, to subject the kingdom to so ignominious a servitude.[***] The popes, indeed, afraid of carrying matters too far against England, seem thenceforth to have little insisted on that pretension.

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

* Innocent's bull in Rymer, vol. i. p. 471, says only fifty thousand marks a year.

** M. Paris, p. 451. The customs were part of Henry's revenue, and amounted to six thousand pounds a year: they were at first email sums paid by the merchants for the use of the king's ware-houses, measures, weights, etc. See Gilbert's History of the Exch p. 214.

*** M. Paris, p. 460.

**** M. Paris, p. 480. Ann. Burt. p. 305, 573.

***** M. Paris, p. 474.

****** M. Paris, p. 476.

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

* M. Paris, p.650.

** Rymer, vol. i. p. 502, 512, 530. M. Paris, p. 599, 613

*** Rymer, vol i. p. 587. Chron. Dunst vol. i. p. 319.

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

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

This prelate, who resided at the court of Rome by a deputation from the English church, drew bills of different values but amounting on the whole to a hundred and fifty thousand five hundred and forty marks on all the bishops and abbots of the kingdom; and granted these bills to Italian merchants, who, it was pretended, had advanced money for the service of the war against Mainfroy.[****] As there was no likelihood of the English prelates' submitting, without compulsion, to such an extraordinary demand, Rustand the legate was charged with the commission of employing authority to that purpose, and he summoned an assembly of the bishops and abbots whom he acquainted with the pleasure of the pope and of the king.

* M. Paris, p. 614

** Rymer, vol. i. p. 547, 548, etc.

*** Rymer, vol. i. p. 597, 598.

**** M. Paris, p. 612, 628. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 54.

Great were the surprise and indignation of the assembly: the bishop of Worcester exclaimed, that he would lose his life rather than comply: the bishop of London said, that the pope and king were more powerful than he; but if his mitre were taken off his head, he would clap on a helmet in its place.[*] The legate was no less violent on the other hand; and he told the assembly, in plain terms, that all ecclesiastical benefices were the property of the pope, and he might dispose of them, either in whole or in part, as he saw proper.[**] In the end, the bishops and abbots, being threatened with excommunication, which made all their revenues fall into the king's hands, were obliged to submit to the exaction; and the only mitigation which the legate allowed them was, that the tenths already granted should be accepted as a partial payment of the bills. But the money was still insufficient for the pope's purpose: the conquest of Sicily was as remote as ever: the demands which came from Rome were endless: Pope Alexander became so urgent a creditor, that he sent over a legate to England, threatening the kingdom with an interdict, and the king with excommunication, if the arrears, which he pretended to be due to him, were not instantly remitted;[***] and at last Henry, sensible of the cheat, began to think of breaking off the agreement, and of resigning into the pope's hands that crown which it was not intended by Alexander that he or his family should ever enjoy.[****]

* M. Paris, p. 614.

** M. Paris, p. 619

*** Rymer, vol. i. p. 624. M. Paris, p. 648.

**** Rymer, vol. i. p. 630.

The earl of Cornwall had now reason to value himself on his foresight, in refusing the fraudulent bargain with Rome, and in preferring the solid honors of an opulent and powerful prince of the blood of England, to the empty and precarious glory of a foreign dignity. But he had not always firmness sufficient to adhere to this resolution: his vanity and ambition prevailed at last over his prudence and his avarice; and he was engaged in an enterprise no less expensive and vexatious than that of his brother, and not attended with much greater probability of success. The immense opulence of Richard having made the German princes cast their eye on him as a candidate for the empire, he was tempted to expend vast sums of money on his election; and he succeeded so far as to be chosen king of the Romans, which seemed to render his succession infallible to the imperial throne. He went over to Germany, and carried out of the kingdom no less a sum than seven hundred thousand marks, if we may credit the account given by some ancient authors,[*] which is probably much exaggerated.[**] His money, while it lasted, procured him friends and partisans; but it was soon drained from him by the avidity of the German princes; and, having no personal or family connections in that country, and no solid foundation of power, he found, at last, that he had lavished away the frugality of a whole life in order to procure a splendid title; and that his absence from England, joined to the weakness of his brother's government, gave reins to the factious and turbulent dispositions of the English barons, and involved his own country and family in great calamities.

* M. Paris, p. 638. The same author, a few pages before, makes Richard's treasures amount to little more than half the sum, (p. 634.) The king's dissipations and expenses, throughout this whole reign, according to the same author, had amounted only to about nine hundred and forty thousand marks, (p. 638.)

** The sums mentioned by ancient authors, who were almost all monks, are often improbable, and never consistent. But we know from an infallible authority, the public remonstrance to the council of Lyons, that the king's revenues were below sixty thousand marks a year: his brother, therefore, could never have been master of seven hundred thousand marks; especially as he did not sell his estates in England, as we learn from the same author; and we hear afterwards of his ordering all his woods to be cut, in order to satisfy the rapacity of the German princes: his son succeeded to the earldom of Cornwall and his other revenues.

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

* M. Paris, p. 432.

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

As the king, in answer to their remonstrance, gave the parliament only good words and fair promises, attended with the most humble submissions, which they had often found deceitful, he obtained at that time no supply; and therefore, in the year 1253, when he found himself again under the necessity of applying to parliament, he had provided a new pretence, which he deemed infallible, and taking the vow of a crusade, he demanded their assistance in that pious enterprise.[**] The parliament, however, for some time hesitated to comply, and the ecclesiastical order sent a deputation consisting of four prelates, the primate and the bishops of Winchester Salisbury, and Carlisle, in order to remonstrate with him on his frequent violations of their privileges, the oppressions with which he had loaded them and all his subjects,[***] and the uncanonical and forced elections which were made to vacant dignities.

* M. Paris, p. 498. See further, p. 578. M. West. p. 348.

** M. Paris, p. 518, 558, 568. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 293.

*** M. Paris, p. 568.

"It is true," replied the king, "I have been somewhat faulty in this particular: I obtruded you, my lord of Canterbury, upon your see; I was obliged to employ both entreaties and menaces, my lord of Winchester, to have, you elected; my proceedings, I confess, were very irregular, my lords of Salisbury and Carlisle, when I raised you from the lowest stations to your present dignities; I am determined henceforth to correct these abuses; and it will also become you, in order to make a thorough reformation, to resign your present benefices; and try to enter again in a more regular and canonical manner."[*] The bishops, surprised at these unexpected sarcasms, replied, that the question was not at present how to correct past errors, but to avoid them for the future. The king promised redress both of ecclesiastical and civil grievances; and the parliament in return agreed to grant him a supply, a tenth of the ecclesiastical benefices, and a scutage of three marks on each knight's fee: but as they had experienced his frequent breach of promise, they required that he should ratify the Great Charter in a manner still more authentic and more solemn than any which he had hitherto employed. All the prelates and abbots were assembled: they held burning tapers in their hands: the Great Charter was read before them: they denounced the sentence of excommunication against every one who should thenceforth violate that fundamental law: they threw their tapers on the ground, and exclaimed, "May the soul of every one who incurs this sentence so stink and corrupt in hell!" The king bore a part in this ceremony, and subjoined, "So help me God, I will keep all these articles inviolate, as I am a man, as I am a Christian, as I am a knight, and as I am a king crowned and anointed."[**] Yet was the tremendous ceremony no sooner finished, than his favorites, abusing his weakness, made him return to the same arbitrary and irregular administration; and the reasonable expectations of his people were thus perpetually eluded and disappointed.[***]

* M. Paris, p. 579.

** Ibid. p. 580. Ann. Burt. p. 323. Ann. Waverl. p. 210. W Heming. p. 571. M. West. p. 353.

*** M. Paris, p. 597, 608.

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

* M. Paris, p. 314.

** Ibid, p. 315.

*** Rymer, vol. i. p. 459, 513.

By his hypocritical pretensions to devotion he gained the favor of the zealots and clergy: by his seeming concern for public good he acquired the affections of the public: and besides the private friendships which he had cultivated with the barons, his animosity against the favorites created a union of interests between him and that powerful order.

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

* M. Paris, p. 649.

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

This parliament, which the royalists, and even the nation, from experience of the confusions that attended its measures, afterwards denominated the "mad parliament," met on the day appointed; and as all the barons brought along with them their military vassals, and appeared with an armed force, the king, who had taken no precautions against them, was in reality a prisoner in their hands, and was obliged to submit to all the terms which they were pleased to impose upon him. Twelve barons were selected from among the king's ministers; twelve more were chosen by parliament: to these twenty-four unlimited authority was granted to reform the state; and the king himself took an oath, that he would maintain whatever ordinances they should think proper to enact for that purpose.[**] Leicester was at the head of this supreme council, to which the legislative power was thus in reality transferred; and all their measures were taken by his secret influence and direction.

* Annal. Theokesoury.

** Rymer, vol. i. p. 655. Chron. Dunst. vol.i. p. 334. Knyghton p. 2445.

Their first step bore a specious appearance, and seemed well calculated for the end which they professed to be the object of all these innovations; they ordered that four knights should be chosen by each county; that they should make inquiry into the grievances of which their neighborhood had reason to complain, and should attend the ensuing parliament, in order to give information to that assembly of the state of their particular counties;[*] a nearer approach to our present constitution than had been made by the barons in the reign of King John, when the knights were only appointed to meet in their several counties, and there to draw up a detail of their grievances. Meanwhile the twenty-four barons proceeded to enact some regulations, as a redress of such grievances as were supposed to be sufficiently notorious. They ordered, that three sessions of parliament should be regularly held every year, in the months of February, June, and October; "that a new sheriff should be annually elected by the votes of the freeholders in each county;[**] that the sheriffs should have no power of fining the barons who did not attend their courts, or the circuits of the justiciaries; that no heirs should be committed to the wardship of foreigners, and no castles intrusted to their custody; and that no new warrens or forests should be created, nor the revenues of any counties or hundreds be let to farm." Such were the regulations which the twenty-four barons established at Oxford, for the redress of public grievances.

* M. Paris, p. 657. Addit. p. 140. Ann. Burt, p, 412.

** Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 336.

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

But the subsequent proceedings of the twenty-four barons were sufficient to open the eyes of the nation, and to prove their intention of reducing forever both the king and the people under the arbitrary power of a very narrow aristocracy., which must at last have terminated either in anarchy, or in a violent usurpation and tyranny. They pretended that they had not yet digested all the regulations necessary for the reformation of the state, and for the redress of grievances; and that they must still retain their power, till that great purpose were thoroughly effected: in other words, that they must be perpetual governors, and must continue to reform, till they were pleased to abdicate their authority. They formed an association among themselves, and swore that they would stand by each other with their lives and fortunes; they displaced all the chief officers of the crown, the justiciary, the chancellor, the treasurer; and advanced either themselves or their own creatures in their place: even the offices of the king's household were disposed of at their pleasure: the government of all the castles was put into hands in whom they found reason to confide: and the whole power of the state being thus transferred to them, they ventured to impose an oath, by which all the subjects were obliged to swear, under the penalty of being declared public enemies, that they would obey and execute all the regulations, both known and unknown, of the twenty-four barons: and all this, for the greater glory of God, the honor of the church, the service of the king, and the advantage of the kingdom.[*]

* Chron. T. Wykes, p. 52.

No one dared to withstand this tyrannical authority: Prince Edward himself, the king's eldest son, a youth of eighteen, who began to give indications of that great and manly spirit which appeared throughout the whole course of his life, was, after making some opposition, constrained to take that oath, which really deposed his father and his family from sovereign authority.[*] Earl Warrenne was the last person in the kingdom that could be brought to give the confederated barons this mark of submission.

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

{1259.} The report that the king of the Romans intended to pay a visit to England, gave alarm to the ruling barons, who dreaded lest the extensive influence and established authority of that prince would be employed to restore the prerogatives of his family, and overturn their plan of government.[**] They sent over the bishop of Worcester, who met him at St. Omars; asked him, in the name of the barons, the reason of his journey, and how long he intended to stay in England; and insisted that, before he entered the kingdom he should swear to observe the regulations established at Oxford. On Richard's refusal to take this oath, they prepared to resist him as a public enemy; they fitted out a fleet, assembled an army, and exciting the inveterate prejudices of the people against foreigners, from whom they had suffered so many oppressions, spread the report that Richard, attended by a number of strangers, meant to restore by force the authority of his exiled brothers, and to violate all the securities provided for public liberty. The king of the Romans was at last obliged to submit to the terms required of him. [***]

* Ann. Burt. p. 411.

** M. Paris, p. 661.

*** Ibid p. 661, 662. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 53.

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

The barons, urged by so pressing a necessity, published at last a new code of ordinances for the reformation of the state: [****] but the expectations of the people were extremely disappointed when they found that these consisted only of some trivial alterations in the municipal law; and still more, when the barons pretended that the task was not yet finished and that they must further prolong their authority, in order to bring the work of reformation to the desired period.

* M. Paris, p. 667. Trivet, p. 209.

** Ann. Burt. p. 427.

*** Ann Burt. p. 427.

**** Ann. Burt. p. 428, 439

The current of popularity was now much turned to the side of the crown; and the barons had little, to rely on for their support besides the private influence and power of their families, which, though exorbitant, was likely to prove inferior to the combination of king and people. Even this basis of power was daily weakened by their intestine jealousies and animosities; their ancient and inveterate quarrels broke out when they came to share the spoils of the crown; and the rivalship between the earls of Leicester and Glocester, the chief leaders among them, began to disjoint the whole confederacy. The latter, more moderate in his pretensions, was desirous of stopping or retarding the career of the barons' usurpations; but the former, enraged at the opposition which, he met with in his own party, pretended to throw up all concern in English affairs; and he retired into France.[*]

The kingdom of France, the only state with which England had any considerable intercourse, was at this time governed by Lewis IX., a prince of the most singular character that is to be met with in all the records of history. This monarch united to the mean and abject superstition of a monk all the courage and magnanimity of the greatest hero; and, what may be deemed more extraordinary, the justice and integrity of a disinterested patriot, the mildness and humanity of an accomplished philosopher. So far from taking advantage of the divisions among the English, or attempting to expel those dangerous rivals from the provinces which they still possessed in France, he had entertained many scruples with regard to the sentence of attainder pronounced against the king's father, had even expressed some intention of restoring the other provinces, and was only prevented from taking that imprudent resolution by the united remonstrances of his own barons, who represented the extreme danger of such a measure,[**] and, what had a greater influence on Lewis, the justice of punishing by a legal sentence the barbarity and felony of John. Whenever this prince interposed in English affairs, it was always with an intention of composing the differences between the king and his nobility: he recommended to both parties every peaceable and reconciling measure; and he used all his authority with the earl of Leicester, his native subject, to bend him to a compliance with Henry.

* Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 348.

** M. Paris, p. 604.

He made a treaty with England at a time when the distractions of that kingdom were at the greatest height, and when the king's authority was totally annihilated; and the terms which he granted might, even in a more prosperous state of their affairs, be deemed reasonable and advantageous to the English. He yielded up some territories which had been conquered from Poictou and Guienne; he insured the peaceable possession of the latter province to Henry; he agreed to pay that prince a large sum of money; and he only required that the king should, in return, make a final cession of Normandy and the other provinces, which he could never entertain any hopes of recovering by force of arms.[*] This cession was ratified by Henry, by his two sons and two daughters, and by the king of the Romans and his three sons: Leicester alone, either moved by a vain arrogance, or desirous to ingratiate himself with the English populace, protested against the deed, and insisted on the right, however distant, which might accrue to his consort.[**] Lewis saw in his obstinacy the unbounded ambition of the man; and as the barons insisted that the money due by treaty should be at their disposal, not at Henry's, he also saw, and probably with regret, the low condition to which this monarch, who had more erred from weakness than from any bad intentions, was reduced by the turbulence of his own subjects.

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

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