Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: John Foxe
Editor: Michael Best
Not Peer Reviewed

The Book of Martyrs: Selection (Modern)


[King John withdraws; Louis takes London]

47About the same time were such treasons and conspiracies wrought by the bishops, priests, and monks throughout all the realm, that the king knew not where to become or find trusty friends. He was then compelled, by the uncertainty of his subjects, to travel from place to place, but not without a great army of men, looking every day when his barons and their confederates would cruelly set upon him. At last he came to Dover, and there looked for aid from other quarters which loved him better than did his own people. And thither resorted to him from Flanders, Brabant, and Holland, on the one side, and from Guyenne, Gascony, and Poitiers, on the other side, and from other countries besides, a wonderful number of men. The report then went that the Pope had written unto those countries mightily to assist him for divers considerations: one was for that he had both submitted himself and his dominions unto his protection; another was because he had taken upon him, a little before, the livery of the cross, to win again Jerusalem; the third was for that be had gotten by him the dominion of England and Ireland, and feared to lose both if he should chance to decay. For the space of three months the king remained in the Isle of Wight abroad in the air to quiet himself for a time from all manner of tumults, and led there a solitary life among rivers and watermen; whereas he rather counted to die than to live, being so traitorously handled of his bishops and barons and not knowing how to be justly avenged of them. Upon the purification day of our Lady therefore he took upon him the cross or voyage against the Turks, for recovery of Jerusalem, moved thereto rather for the doubts which he had of his people, than for any other devotion else. And thus he said to his familiar servants: "Since I submitted myself and my lands, England and Ireland, to the Church of Rome (sorrow come to it), never thing prospered with me, but all hath gone against me."

48In the next year after, 1216, was Simon Langton chosen Archbishop of York; but that election soon after was dissolved; for information was given to the Pope that the said Simon was brother to Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, which had been the occasion of all the tumults which were at that time in England. And the Pope had the more hate unto him for that he had brought him up of naught and did find him at that time so stubborn; wherefore he placed in his brother's place Walter Gray, the Bishop of Winchester.

49In the same year, Gualo, the Pope's legate, renewed his great curse upon Louis, the French king's son, for usurping upon King John; likewise upon Simon Langton, and Gervais Hobruge, for provoking him to the same, and that with a wonderful solemnity; for in that doing he made all the bells to be rung, the candles to be light, the doors to be opened and the book of excommunications or interdictions publicly to be read, committing them wholly to the devil for their contumacy and contempt. He also commanded the bishops and curates to publish it abroad over all the whole realm, to the terror of all his subjects. The said Simon and Gervais laughed him to scorn, and derided much his doings in that behalf, saying that for the just title of Louis they had appealed to the general council at Rome.

50The magistrates of London, and citizens of the same did likewise despise and disdainfully mock all that the Pope had there commanded and done. And, in spite both of him and his legate, they kept company with them that were excommunicated, both at table and at church, showing themselves thereby as open contemners both of him and his laws. Louis at London, taking himself for king, constituted Simon Langton for his high chancellor and Gervais Hobruge for his chief preacher, by whose daily preachings (as well the barons as the citizens themselves being excommunicated) he caused all the church doors to be opened and the service to be sung; and the said Ludovic was in all points fit for their hands. About this time was Pandulph, then cardinal, collecting the Peter pence, an old pillage of the Pope, taking great pains therein. And for his great labors in those the affairs of holy church, and for other great miracles besides, he was then made Bishop of Norwich, to the augmenting of his dignity and expenses.

[The barons are warned of Louis's treachery]

51It chanced about this time, that the viscount of Melun, a very noble man of the realm of France which came thither with the Prince Louis, fell deadly sick at London, and also moved in conscience to call certain of the English barons unto him, such as were there appointed to the custody of that city, said unto them, "I lament your sorrowful case, and pity with my heart the destruction that is coming towards you and your country. The dangerous snares which are prepared for your utter confusion are hidden from you; you do not behold them, but take you heed of them in time. Prince Louis hath sworn a great oath, and sixteen of his earls and noblemen are of counsel with him, that if he obtain the crown of England, be will banish all them from service, and deprive them of lands and goods, as many as he findeth now to go against their liege king and are traitors to his noble person. And because you shall not take this tale for a fable, I assure you on my faith, lying now at the mercy of God, that I was one of them which was sworn to the same. I have great conscience thereof, and therefore I give you this warning. I pity poor England, which hath been so noble a region, that now it is come to so extreme misery." And when he with tears had lamented it a space, he returned again unto them, and said, "My friends, I counsel you earnestly to look to yourselves and to provide the remedy in time, lest it come upon you unawares. Your king for a season hath kept you under; but if Louis prevail, be will put you from all. Of two extreme evils choose the more easy, and keep that secret which I have told you of good will." With that he gave over and departed this life.

52When this was once noised among the barons, they were in great heaviness, for they saw themselves entrapped every way and to be in exceeding great danger. And this daily augmented that fear which then came upon the barons. They were extremely hated of the Pope and his legates, and every week came upon them new excommunications. Daily detriments they had besides in their possessions and goods, in their lands and houses, corn and cattle, wives and children; so that some of them were driven to such need that they were enforced to seek preys and booties for sustaining their miserable lives. For look whatsoever Prince Louis obtained by his wars, either territories or castles, he gave them all to his Frenchmen, in spite of their heads, and said that they were but traitors, like as they had warning afore, which grieved them worst of all. At the last, they perceiving that they in seeking to avoid one mischief were ready to fall into another much worse, they began to lay their heads together, consenting to submit themselves wholly with all humility unto the mercy of their late sovereign and natural liege lord King John. And for that they were somewhat in doubt of their lives for the treason before committed, many of the friends of them which were of most credit with him made suit for them. So were a great number of them pardoned, after instant and great suit made for them. I here omit his recovery of Rochester castle and city, with many other dangerous adventures against the foresaid Louis, both at London, York, Lincoln, Winchester, Norwich, and other places else, as things not pertaining to my purpose. And now I return to my matter again.

53Into Suffolk and Norfolk he consequently journeyed, with a very strong army of men, and there with great mischief he afflicted them, because they had given place and were sworn to his enemies. After that, he destroyed the abbeys of Peterborough and Crowland, for the great treasons which they also had wrought against him, and so he departed from thence into Lincolnshire.

54In this year, A.D. 1216, about the seventeenth day of July, died Pope Innocent the Third, and was buried, in a city called Perugia in Italy; whither he had travelled to make a peace between the Genoese and Pisans, for his own commodity and advantage. After him anon succeeded one Centius, otherwise called Honorius III, a man of very great age; yet lived he in the papacy ten years and a half, and more. When this was once known in England, greatly rejoiced all they which were King John's enemies, specially the priests; yet had they small cause, as will appear hereafter. They noised it all the realm over, that this new pope would set a new order and not rule all things as the other pope did, thinking thereby that he would have done all things to their commodity; but they found it otherwise, for he made all them which were excommunicate to pay double and treble ere they could be restored again to their former livings.