Internet Shakespeare Editions

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


[King John seizes Church property]

23When the form of agreement was thus concluded, it was engrossed in a pair of indentures; and the foresaid four bishops to the one part thereof set their seals; and the other part the said bishops, earls, and abbots carried to show the king. When the king saw the order thereof he liked it well, saving he would not agree to make restitution of the Church goods. So he sent to the four bishops again that they should put out that point of restitution. But they answered stoutly that they would not put out one word. Then the king sent word to the archbishop by the four bishops that he should come to Canterbury to speak with him; and, for his safe conduct to come and go again at his will, he sent his justices as pledges: Gilbert Peiteuin, Wilham de la Berevar, and John Letfitz. Which thing thus done, the Archbishop Stephen came to Canterbury and the king, hearing thereof, came to Chilham, from whence he sent his treasurer, the Bishop of Winchester, to him to have him put out of the indentures the clause of restitution aforesaid; who, denying to alter any word of the same, moved the king in such sort that immediately it was proclaimed throughout England at the king's commandment that all those that had any church livings, and went over sea, should come again into England by a certain day, or else lose their livings for evermore. And further, in that proclamation, he charged all sheriffs within the realm to inquire if any bishops, abbots, priors, or any other churchman from that day forward received any commandment that came from the Pope, and that they should take his or their body, and bring it before him; and also that they should take into their hands, for the king's use, all the Church lands that were given to any man through the Archbishop Stephen, or by the priors of Canterbury, from the time of the election of the archbishop; and further charged that all the woods that were the archbishop's should be cut down and sold.

24When tidings came to the Pope that the king had thus done, being moved thereby with fiery wrath, he sent to the king two legates, the one called Pandulph and the other Durant, to warn him in the Pope's name that he should cease his doings to the holy church and amend the wrong he had done to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the priors and the monks of Canterbury, and to all the clergy of England. And further, that he should restore the goods again that he had taken of them against their will, or else they should curse the king by name; and, to do this, the Pope took them his letters in bulls patent. These two legates, coming into England, resorted to the king to Northampton, where he held his parliament, and, saluting him, said they came from the Pope of Rome to reform the peace of holy Church. And first, said they, we admonish you in the Pope's behalf that ye make full restitution of the goods and of the lands that ye have ravished holy church of; and that ye receive Stephen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, into his dignity, and the prior of Canterbury and his monks; and that ye yield again unto the archbishop all his lands and rents without any withholding. And, sir, yet moreover, that ye shall make such restitution to them, as the Church shall think sufficient.

25Then answered the king, As touching the prior and his monks of Canterbury, all that ye have said I would gladly do, and all things else that you would ordain; but as touching the archbishop, I shall tell you as it lieth in my heart. Let the archbishop leave his bishopric, and if the Pope then shall entreat for him, peradventure I may like to give him some other bishopric in England; and upon this condition I will receive and admit him. Then said Pandulph unto the king, holy Church was wont never to degrade archbishop without cause reasonable, but ever she was wont to correct princes that were disobedient to her. "What! How now," (quoth the king) "threaten ye me?" "Nay," said Pandulph, "but ye have now openly told us as it standeth in your heart, and now we will tell you what is the Pope's will, and thus it standeth: he hath wholly interdicted and cursed you for the wrongs you have done unto the holy church and unto the clergy. And forasmuch as ye will dwell still in your malice and will come to no amendment, you shall understand that from this time forward the sentences upon you given have force and strength. And all those that with you have communed before this time, whether that they he earls, barons, or knights, or any other what so ever they be, we assoil them safely from their sins unto this day; and from this time forward (of what condition soever they be) we accurse them openly, and specially by this our sentence, that do commune with you. And we assoil moreover earls, barons, knights, and all other manner of men of their homages, services, and fealties that they should do unto you. And this thing to confirm, we give plain power unto the Bishop of Winchester, and to the Bishop of Norwich; and the same power we give against Scotland unto the Bishop of Rochester and of Salisbury; and in Wales we give the same power to the bishops of St. David, and of Landaff, and of St. Asse."

26"Also, sir king," (quoth Pandulph) "all the kings, princes, and the great dukes christened have labored to the Pope to have license to cross themselves and to war against thee, as upon God's enemy, and win thy land, and to make king whom it pleaseth the Pope. And we here now assoil all those of their sins that will rise against thee here in thine own land."

27Then the king, hearing this, answered, "What shame may ye do more to me than this?" Pandulph again:" We say to you in verbo Dei that neither you, nor any heir that you have, after this day shall be crowned. So the king said, By him that is Almighty God, if I had known of this thing before ye came into this land, and that ye had brought me such news, I should have made you tarry out these twelve months." Then answered Pandulph, "Full well we thought, at our first coming, that ye would have been obedient to God and to holy church and have fulfilled the Pope's commandment which we have showed and pronounced to you, as we were charged there with. And now ye say that if ye had wist the cause of our coming ye would have made us tarry out a whole year; who might as well say, that ye would have taken a whole year's respite without the Pope's leave; but for to suffer what death ye can ordain, we shall not spare to tell you all the Pope's message and will that he gave us in charge."

28In another chronicle I find the words between the king and Pandulph something otherwise described, as though the king should first threaten him with hanging if he had foreknown of his coming. To whom Pandulph again should answer that he looked for nothing else at his hand, but to suffer for the Church's right. Whereupon the king, being mightily incensed, departed. The king, the same time being at Northampton, willed the sheriffs and bailiffs to bring forth all the prisoners there that such as had deserved should be put to death, to the intent, as some think, to make Pandulph afraid. Among whom was a certain clerk who, for counterfeiting the king's coin, was also condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered; and, moreover, by the king was commanded (thereby to anger Pandulph the more, as may be thought) to be hanged up highest above the rest. Pandulph hearing thereof, notwithstanding he somewhat began to fear lest he should be hanged himself, yet, with such courage as he had, be went to the church to fetch out book, bell, and candle, charging that no man, under pain of accursing, should lay hands upon the clerk. Upon this the king and the cardinal departed in no little anger. And Pandulph went to Rome and reported to the Pope and the cardinals what had been done.

[The Pope encourages rebellion against King John]

29Then the Pope summoned all the bishops, abbots, and clerks of England to come and repair unto Rome to consult what was to be done therein. This council began the first day of October. In the which council it was decreed by the Pope and his assembly that John, king of England, should be accursed, with all such as held with him, every day so long as that council endured. Albeit this was not yet granted that the people should be crossed to fight against him, because as yet he had shed no blood. But afterwards the said Pope Innocent, seeing that King John by no means would stoop under his subjection nor under the rule of his popish see, he sent unto the French king, upon remission of all his sins and of all that went with him, that he should take with him all the power he might and so to invade the realm of England to destroy King John. This occasion given, Pope Innocent yet once again commanded, in pain of his great curse, that no man should obey King John, neither yet keep company with him. He forbade all persons to eat and drink with him, to talk with him, to commune or counsel with him; yea, his own familiar household to do him any kind of service, either at bed or at board, in church, hall, or stable. And what followed thereof? The greater part of them which after such sort fled from him, by the ordinance of God of divers and sundry diseases the same year died. And between both nations (English and French) fell that year great amity; but secret, subtle, and false, to the bitter betraying of England. Neither was the Pope content only with this, but moreover, the said Pope Innocent gave sentence definitive, by counsel of his cardinals, that King John should be put from his seat regal and deposed and another put in his room. And, to the speedy execution thereof, he appointed the French king, Philip, promising to give him full remission of all his sins and the clear possession of all the realm of England to him and his heirs if he did either kill him or expel him.

30The next year the French king began his attempt in hope of the crown of England, being well manned with bishops, monks, prelates, and priests, and their servants to maintain the same; bragging of the letters which they had received from the great men there. But behold the work of God! the English navy took three hundred of the French king's ships well loaden with wheat, wine, meal, flesh, armor, and such other like, meet for the war; and one hundred they burnt within the haven, taking the spoils with them. In the mean time, the priests within England had provided them a certain false counterfeit prophet called Peter Wakefield of Poiz, who was an idle gadder about and a prattling merchant. This Peter they made to prophesy lies, rumoring his prophecies abroad to bring the king out of all credit with his people. They noised it daily among the commons of the realm that Christ had twice appeared to this prophet of theirs in shape of a child between the priests' hands, once at York, another time at Pomfret, and that he had breathed on him thrice, saying "Peace, peace, peace," and teaching many things which he anon after declared to the bishops, and bid the people amend their naughty living. Being rapt also in spirit (they said), he beheld the joys of heaven and sorrows of hell. For scant were there three (saith the chronicle) among a thousand that lived Christianly. This counterfeit soothsayer prophesied of King John that he should reign no longer than the Ascension day, within the year of our Lord 1213, which was the fourteenth from his coronation, and this (he said) he had by revelation. Then was it of him demanded whether he should be slain or expelled, or should of himself give over the crown? He answered, that he could not tell. But of this he was sure (he said), that neither he, nor any of his stock or lineage should reign that day once finished. The king, hearing of this, laughed much at it, and made but a scoff thereof. "Tush," (saith he) "it is but an idiot knave, and such a one as lacketh his right wits." But when this foolish prophet had so escaped the danger of the king's displeasure and that he made no more of it, he got him abroad and prated thereof at large (as he was a very idle vagabond) and used to tattle and talk more than enough; so that they which loved the king caused him anon after to be apprehended as a malefactor, and to be thrown into prison, the king not knowing thereof.

31Anon after, the fame of this fantastical prophet went all the realm over and his name was known everywhere (as foolishness is much regarded of people where wisdom is not in place), specially because he was then imprisoned for the matter the rumor was the larger, their wonderings were the wantoner, their practicing the foolisher, their busy talks and other idle occupyings the greater. Continually from thence (as the rude manner of people is) old gossips' tales went abroad, new tales were invented, fables were added to fables, and lies grew upon lies, so that every day new slanders were raised on the king, and not one of them true. Rumors arose, blasphemies were spread, the enemies rejoiced, and treasons by the priests were maintained; and what likewise was surmised, or other subtlety practiced, all was then fathered upon this foolish prophet: as, "Thus saith Peter Wakefield"; "Thus hath he prophesied"; and, "This shall come to pass"; yea, many times when he thought nothing less. When the Ascension day was come, which was prophesied of before, King John commanded his regal tent to be spread abroad in the open field, passing that day with his noble council and men of honor in the greatest solemnity that ever he did afore, solacing himself with musical instruments and songs, most in sight amongst his trusty friends, When that day was past in all prosperity and mirth, his enemies, being confounded, turned all to an allegorical understanding, to make the prophecy good, and said, "He is no longer king, for the Pope reigneth, and not he"; yet reigned he still, and his son after him, to prove that prophet a liar. Then was the king by his council persuaded that this false prophet had troubled all the realm, perverted the hearts of the people, and raised the commons against him. For his words went over the sea by the help of his prelates and came to the French king's ear, and gave unto him a great encouragement to invade the land; he had not else done it so suddenly. But be was most foully deceived, as all they are and shall be that put their trust in such dark, drowsy dreams of hypocrites. The king therefore commanded that he should be drawn and hanged like a traitor.