Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: John Foxe
Editor: Michael Best
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The Book of Martyrs: Selection (Modern)


[King John asks the Pope for aid in return for his crown]

32After that the popish prelates, monks, canons, priests, etc. saw this their crafty juggling by their feigned prophet would not speed, notwithstanding they had done no little harm thereby; to help the matter more forward, they began to travail and practice with Pope Innocent of the one side, and also with the French king on the other side; besides subtle treasons which they wrought within the realm, and by their confessions in the ear, whereby they both blinded the nobility and commons. The King thus compassed about on every side with enemies, and fearing the sequel thereof, knowing the conspiracies that were in working against him, as well by the Pope (in all that ever he might) as also by Philip the French king by his procurement; and moreover his own people, especially his lords and barons, being rebelliously incited against him; as by the Pope's curses and interdictions against such as took his part and by his absolutions and dispensations with all those that would rebel against him, commanding them to detain from him such homage, service, duties, debts, and all other allegiance that godly subjects owe and are bound to yield and give to their liege lord and prince: all which things considered, the king, I say, in the thirteenth year of his reign, for that the French king began to make sharp invasion upon him within his own realm, sent speedy ambassadors to the Pope (as to the fountain of all this his mischief) to work and entreat his peace and reconciliation with him, promising to do whatsoever the Pope should will him and command him in the reformation of himself, and restitution of all wrongs done to holy church, and to make due satisfaction therefore unto all men that could complain.

33Then sent the Pope again into England his legate Pandulph with other ambassadors; the king also at Canterbury (by letters, as it should seem, certified from his own ambassadors) waited their coming. Where, the thirteenth day of May, the king received them, making unto them an oath that of and for all things wherein he stood accursed he would make ample restitution and satisfaction. Unto whom also all the lords and barons of England (so many as there were with the king attending the legate's coming) swore in like manner that if the king would not accomplish in every thing the oath which he had taken then they would cause him to bold and confirm the same, whether he would or not (or by strength), to use the author's words.

34Then submitted the king himself unto the court of Rome and to the Pope, and, resigning, gave up his dominions and realms of England and Ireland from him and from his heirs for evermore that should come of him, with this condition that the king and his heirs should take again these two dominions of the Pope to farm, paying yearly therefore to the court of Rome one thousand marks of silver. Then took the king the crown from his head, kneeling upon his knees, in the presence of all his lords and barons of England, to Pandulph, the Pope's chief legate, saying in this wise: "Here I resign up the crown of the realm of England to the Pope's hands, Innocent the Third, and put me wholly in his mercy and ordinance." Then took Pandulph the crown of King John, and kept it five days as a possession and seizing-taking of these two realms of England and Ireland, confirming also all things promised by his charter obligatory as followeth.

35"To all Christian people throughout the world dwelling, John, by the grace of God king of England, greeting. To your university known be it that, forasmuch as we have grieved and offended God and our mother church of Rome and forsook much as we have need of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and we may nothing so worthy offer and competent satisfaction make to God and to holy church (but if it were our own body) as with our realms of England and of Ireland, then by the grace of the Holy Ghost we desire to meek us for the love of him that maketh him to the death upon the cross. And through counsel of the nobles, earls, and barons, we offer and freely grant to God and to the apostles St. Peter and Paul and to our mother church of Rome, and to our holy father Pope Innocent the Third and to all the Popes that come after him, all the realm, patronages of churches of England and of Ireland with all the appurtenances, for remission of sins, and help and health of our kings' souls and of all Christian souls. So that from this time afterward we will receive and hold of our mother church of Rome as in farm, doing fealty to our holy father the Pope, Innocent the Third and to all the Popes that come after him, in the manner above said. And in the presence of the wise man Pandulph, the Pope's sooth-deacon, we make liege homage as if it were in the Pope's presence and we before him were, and as if he himself should have done all manner of things above said; and thereto we bind us and all that come after us, and our heirs for evermore without any gainsaying, to the Pope, and eke the ward of the church vacant. And in token of this thing ever for to last, we will, confirm, and ordain that he be our special renter of the foresaid realms (saving St. Peter pence) in all things. To the mother church of Rome paying by the year one thousand marks of silver, at two times of the year, for all manner of customs that we should do for the said realms; that is to say, at Michaelmas and at Easter; that is, for England seven hundred marks, and three hundred marks for Ireland; saving to us and to our heirs our justices and our other franchises. And all these things that have been said before, we will that they be firm and stable without end; and to that obligation we, and all our successors and our heirs in this manner will be bound that if we or any of our heirs through any presumption fail in any point again of these things above said (and after being warned, he will not right amend him) he shall then lose the foresaid realms for evermore, and this charter of obligation and our warrant for evermore be firm and stable without gainsaying. We shall from this day afterward be true to God, and to the mother church of Rome, and to thee, Innocent the Third, and to all that come after thee; and the realms of England and of Ireland we shall maintain truly in all manner of points, against all manner of men, by our power, through God's help."

36Upon this obligation the king was discharged, the second day of July, from that tyrannical interdiction, under which he continued six years and three months. But before the releasement thereof, first he was miserably compelled (as hath been declared) to give over both his crown and scepter to that antichrist of Rome for the space of five days, and, as his client, vassal, feudary, and tenant, to receive it again of him at the hands of another cardinal; being bound obligatory, both for himself and for his successors to pay yearly (for acknowledgment thereof) one thousand marks for England and Ireland. Then came they thither from all parts of the realm so many as had their consciences wounded for obeying their liege king, as blind idiots, and there they were absolved, every one of his own bishop, except the spiritual fathers and ecclesiastical soldiers for they were compelled to seek to Rome as captives reserved to the Pope's own fatherhood. In this new ruffling the king easily granted that abbots, deans, and curates should be elected freely everywhere so that the laws of the realm were truly observed. But against that were the bishops, alleging their canonical decrees and rules synodal, determining the king therein to have nothing to do but only to give his consent after they had once elected. But among this shaven rabble some there were which consented not to this wicked error; a sort also there were of the prelates at that time which were not pleased that the land's interdiction should cease till the king had paid all that which their clergy in all quarters of the realm had demanded, without reason; yea, what every saucy Sir John for his part demanded even to the very breaking of their hedges, the stealing of their apples, and their other occasional damages, which grew to an incredible sum, and impossible to be answered. Such was the outrageous cruel noise of that mischievous progeny of antichrist against their natural king.

37Notwithstanding that which is uttered afore concerning the bitter malice of the clergy against their prince, yet did the Pope's legate and cardinal Nicolaus Tusculanus much favor his doings and allow of his proceedings. Wherefore they reported of him, that he was exceeding partial, and regarded not their matters ecclesiastical as he should have done. For, leaving the account of their restitutions, he went with the king's officers, as the king's pleasure was, to the cathedral minsters, abbeys, priories, deaneries, and great churches vacant; and there for the next incumbent always he appointed two: one for the king, another for the parties. But upon him only whom the king nominated he compelled most commonly the election to pass, which vexed them wonderfully. Upon this, therefore, they raised a new conspiracy against the king's person by help of their bishops, seditious prelates, and such noblemen as they had drawn to their parties. We beheld (saith Hoveden) about the same time many noble houses and assemblies divided in many places. The fathers and the aged men stood upon the king's part, but the younger sort contrary. And some there were that for the love of their kindred, and in other sundry respects, forsook the king again. Yea, the fame went that time, saith he, that they were confederated with Alexander, the Scottish king, and Leolin, the prince of Wales, to work him an utter mischief. The archbishop called a council at Oxford, whereat some would not tarry, considering the confusion thereof; the other sort, having very obstinate hearts, reviled the king most spitefully behind his back and said that from thenceforth he ought to be taken for no governor of theirs. Their outrageous and frantic clamors so much prevailed in those days that it grew to a grievous tumult and a most perilous commotion.

[The Pope holds a council]

38In the year of our Lord 1215, as witnesseth Paulus AEmilius, and other histori[an]s, Pope Innocent the Third held a general synod at Rome, called the Council Lateran. The chief causes of that council were these: in the days of this Innocent, heresy (as he calleth the truth of God, or the doctrine that rebuketh sin) began to rise up very high and to spread forth his branches abroad, by reason whereof many princes were excommunicated: as Otho, the emperor, John, the king of England, Peter, king of Arragon, Raymond, the Earl of Toulouse, Aquitania, Sataloni, and such other like, as is aforesaid. So that it could be no otherwise, saith Hoveden, but with the sharp axe of the gospel (so called he the Pope's excommunications) they ought of necessity to have been cut off from the Church. Therefore was this council provided, proclaimed, and prelates from all nations thereunto called. And to color those mischiefs which he then went about, he caused it by his legates and cardinals (very crafty merchants) to be noised abroad that his intent therein was only to have the Church universally reformed, and the Holy Land from the Turks' hands recovered. But all this was craft and falsehood, as the sequel thereof hath manifestly declared. For his purpose thereby was to subdue all princes and to make himself rich and wealthy. For there he made this antichristian act, and established it by public decree, that the Pope should have from thenceforth the correction of all Christian princes, and that no emperor should be admitted, except he were sworn before, and were also crowned of him. He ordained, moreover, that whosoever he were that should speak evil of the Pope, he should he punished in hell with eternal damnation. He provided confession to help these matters; he allowed their bread a pix to cover him, and a bell when he goeth abroad, and made the mass equal with Christ's gospel.

39In this council was first invented and brought in transubstantiation, of which Johannes Scotus, whom we call Duns, maketh mention in his fourth book, writing in these words:

40"The words of the Scripture might be expounded more easily and more plainly without transubstantiation. But the Church did choose this sense, which is more hard; being moved thereunto, as it seemeth, chiefly because that of the sacraments men ought to hold as the holy Church of Rome holdeth," etc.

41And in the same place he maketh mention of Innocentius the Third. Moreover, in the said council was established and ratified the wretched and impious act compelling priests to abjure lawful matrimony. Whereupon these meters or verses were made the same time against him, which here follow under-written.

42Non est Innocentius, imo nocens vere,
Qui quod facto docuit, verbo vult delere.
Et quod olim iuuenis voluit habere,
Modo vetus pontifex studet prohibere.
Zacharias habuit prolem et vxorem,
Per virum quem genuit adeptus honorem,
Baptizauit etenim mundi saluatorem:
Pereat qui teneat nouum hunc errorem.
Paulus cœlos rapitur ad superiores,
Vbi multas didicit res secretiores.
Ad nos tandem rediens instruensq; mores,
Suas inquit habeant quilibet vxores.
Propter hæc et alia dogmata doctorum,
Reor esse melius et magis decorum,
Quisq; suam habeat et non proximorum,
Ne incurrat odium vel iram eorum.
Proximorum feminas, filias, et neptes
Violare nefas est, quare nil deceptes,
Vere tuam habeas, et in hac delectes
Diem vt sic vltimum tutius expectes.

43Nocent, not innocent, he is that seeketh to deface
By word the thing that he by deed hath taught men to embrace;
Which, being now a bishop old, doth study to destroy
The thing which he a young man once did covet to enjoy.
Priest Zachary both had a wife and had a child also,
By means of whom there did to him great praise and honor grow;
For he did baptize him which was the savior of mankind:
Ill him befall that holdeth this new error in his mind.
Into the higher heavens good Paul was lifted from below,
And many secret hidden things be lea[r]ned there to know:
Returned at length from them to us, and teaching rules of life,
He said, "Let each man have his own and only wedded wife."
For this and other documents of them that learned be.
Much better and more comely eke it seemeth unto me.
That each should have his own alone, and not his neighbors wife,
Lest with his neighbor he do fall in hate and wrathful strife.
Thy neighbors' daughters, or their wives, or nieces to defile,
Unlawful is, therefore beware do not thyself beguile.
Have thou thine own true wedded wife, delight in her alway,
With safer mind that thou mayst look to see the later day.

44Now let us return to King John again, and mark how the priests and their adherents were plagued for their humble handlings of his Majesty's will. In the foresaid Council of Lateran, and the same year, was Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. excommunicated of Pope Innocent, with all those bishops, prelates, priests, barons, and commons which had been of counsel with him in the former rebellion. And when the said archbishop had made instant suit of him to be absolved, anon he made him this answer with great indignation: "Brother mine, I swear by Saint Peter thou shalt not so soon at my hand obtain the benefit of absolution. For why? Thou hast not only done harm to the king of England, but also thou hast in a great many of things injured the Church of Rome here; and therefore thou shalt tarry my leisure. The archbishop was also at that time suspended out of the Church, and commanded to say no mass at all, neither yet to exercise any other ecclesiastical office, because he would not at time convenient execute the Pope's curse upon the rebellious barons. With them the said pope had been so deeply offended and angered a little before that the great charter of the liberties of England (with great indignation and countenance most terrible) he rent and destroyed by sentence definitive condemning it for ever; and by and by thereupon cursed all the other rebels, with book, bell, and candle. The greater captains of them (with the citizens of London) for that assay were pronounced excommunicate by name, and remained still interdicted. They appealed then to the council general.

45In the same year, 1215, were those great men also summoned to appear at Rome in that general synod, which would not consent to their king's expulsion, nor yet tyrannical deposing. Though they were called (they said) thereunto by the Archbishop of Canterbury and others, and required by oath to subscribe unto the same, yet could they not of their conscience do it because he had humbled himself, and also granted to keep peace with all men. Thus was the whole realm miserably then divided into two factions through malice of the clergy; so strifes increased in the land everywhere. Yet were there of the lords and gentlemen a great number at that time that followed the king and allowed his doings. But they which were on the other side, not a little suspecting the state that they were in, fled speedily to the French king Philip, desiring him that he would grant to them his eldest son Louis and they would elect him to he their king, and that without much tarriance. They besought him, moreover, that he would send with him a strong and mighty power, such as were able to subdue him utterly, that they might (they said) be delivered of such a wicked tyrant. Such was the report that those most wicked papists gave their Christian governor, appointed to them of God; whom they ought to have obeyed, though he had been evil, even for very conscience sake, (Romans xiii). And as certain of the lords and barons were busy to choose the said Louis for their king, the Pope sent thither one Gualo, the cardinal of St. Martin, to stay those rash and cruel attempts, charging the French king, upon his allegiance, that he with all power possible should favor, maintain, and defend King John of England, his feudary or tenant. The French king thereto made answer, as one not content with that arrogant precept, "The realm of England," said he, "was never yet any part of Saint Peter's patrimony, neither is it now, nor yet any time shall be hereafter." Thus spake he, for that he was in hope to obtain it for his son by treason of the barons.

46No prince or potentate," said Philip the French king, "may pledge or give away his kingdom, which is, beside the realm, the government of his whole commonwealth, without the lawful consent of his barons, which are bound to defend the same. If the Pope shall introduce or set up such a precedent in Christianity, he shall at his pleasure bring all Christian kings and their kingdoms to naught. I like not this example in these days begun. I cannot therefore allow this fact of King John of England; though he be my utter adversary, yet I much lament that he hath so endamaged his realm, and hath brought that noble ground and queen of provinces under miserable tribute." The chief lords and men of his nobility standing by when he uttered these words, being as it were in a fury, cried with one voice, "By the blood of God, in whom we trust to be saved, we will stick in this article to the losing of our heads. Let the king of England do therein what him liketh; no king may put his land under tribute, and so make his nobility captive servants." With that came in Louis, the king's eldest son, and said unto them all there present, "I beseech you, let not my purposed journey; the barons of England have elected me for their lord and king, and I will not surely lose my right, but I will fight for it even to the very death, yea, so long as heart shall stir within my breast; and I doubt not but I shall well obtain it, for I have friends among them." His father the king stood still, as if he had been in a dump, and answered never a word, but fared as though he had dissembled the matter, Belike he mistrusted something therein, as he might well enough; for all was procured by the priests, that they might live licentiously in all wealth and freedom from the king's yoke.