Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: John Foxe
Editor: Michael Best
Not Peer Reviewed

The Book of Martyrs: Selection (Modern)


1This modern-spelling text of Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Acts and Monuments) is based upon the public domain version available at Ex-classics Project, 2009, http://www.exclassics.com.

King John

[Early dealings with the French king and the Pope]

2After the death of King Richard, called Coeur-de-Lion, reigned his brother, John, Earl of Morton. Afterward the archbishop put the crown on his head, and swore him to defend the Church, and to maintain the same in her good laws, and to destroy the ill. And except he thought in his mind to do this, the archbishop charged him not to presume to take on him this dignity. And on St. John Baptist's day next following, King John sailed into Normandy and came to Rouen, where he was royally received, and truce concluded between him and the French king for a time. And thither came to him the Earl of Flanders, and all other lords of France that were of King Richard's band and friendship, and were sworn unto him.

3Not long after this, Philip the French king made Arthur knight, and took his homage for Normandy, Brittany, and all other his possessions beyond the sea, and promised him help against King John. After this, King John and the French king talked together with their lords about one hour's space, and the French king asked so much land for himself and Knight Arthur, that King John would grant him none, and so he departed in wrath.

4The same year a legate came into France, and commanded the king, in pain of interdiction, to deliver one Peter out of prison, that was elect to a bishopric; and thereupon he was delivered. After that the legate came into England, and commanded King John, under pain of interdiction, to deliver the archbishop whom he had kept as prisoner two years; which the king denied to do till he had paid him six thousand marks, because he took him in harness in a field against him, and swore him upon his deliverance that he should never wear harness against any Christian man. This time divorce was made between King John and his wife, daughter of the Earl of Gloucester, because they were in the third degree of kindred. And afterwards, by the counsel of the French king, King John wedded Isabel, daughter of the Earl of Angoulême; and then Arthur of Britanny did homage to King John for Britanny and others. At this time fell strife between King John and Geoffrey, the Archbishop of York, for divers causes: first, because he would not suffer and permit the sheriff of York in such affairs as he had to do for the king within his diocese; secondly, because he did also excommunicate the said sheriff; thirdly, because he would not sail with him into Normandy, to make the marriage between Lewis, the French king's son, and his niece, etc.

5After this, A.D. 1202, Philip the French king, in a communication between King John and him, required that the said King John should part with all his lands in Normandy and Pictavia which he had beyond the sea, unto Arthur his nephew, and that incontinent, or else he would war against him; and so he did. For when King John denied that request, the next day following, the French king, with the said Arthur, set upon certain of his towns and castles in Normandy, and put him to much disquietness. But he (the Lord so providing, who is the giver of all victory) had such repulse at the Englishmen's hands, that they, pursuing the French men in their flight, did so follow them to their hold, and so pressed upon them, that not only they took the said Arthur prisoner with many other of the Frenchmen, but also gave such an overthrow to the rest, that none was left to bear tidings home. This Arthur was nephew to King John, and son to Geoffrey, which was the elder son to John. For King Henry the Second (to make the matter more evident) had eight children: one William, which died in his childhood; the second, Henry, which died also, his father being yet alive; the third, Geoffrey, Earl of Britanny, which likewise deceased in his father's days, leaving behind him two children, Arthur and Brecea; the fourth, Richard Cœur-de-Lion, king; the fifth, John, now reigning; and three other daughters besides. The same Arthur, being thus taken in war, was brought before the king at the castle of Falaise in Normandy; who, on being exhorted with many gentle words to leave the French king, and to incline to his uncle, answered again stoutly and with great indignation, requiring the kingdom of England, with all the other dominions thereto belonging, to he restored to him, as to the lawful heir of the crown. By reason whereof he (provoking the king's displeasure against him) was sent to the tower of Rouen, where at length, whether by leaping into the ditch, thinking to make his escape, or whether by some other privy hand, or by what chance else, it is not yet agreed upon in stories, he finished his life. By occasion whereof the foresaid King John was had after in great suspicion; whether justly or unjustly, the Lord knoweth.

6The year following, historiographers write that King John, for lack of rescue, lost all his holds and possessions in Normandy through the force of the French king.

7After these losses, came other troubles upon him, with other as great or more great enemies. That is, with the Pope and his popelings, by occasion of choosing of the Archbishop of Canterbury as in this history following by Christ's grace is to be declared.