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Author: John Foxe
Editor: Michael Best
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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.

[Conflict over the appointment of the new Archbhishop of Canterbury]

8The year of our Lord 1203, about the month of July, Hubert, the Archbishop of Canterbury, deceased: whose decease, after it was in Canterbury to the monks known, and afore his body was yet committed to the earth, the younger sort of the monks there gathered themselves together at midnight and elected their superior Reginald, and without the king's license or yet knowledge, privily placed him in the metropolical seat, singing Te Deum at midnight. And because the king should not make their election void, they charged him by virtue of his oath to keep all secret by the way and to show nothing what was done before he came to the Pope; but he, contrary to his oath, so soon as he came into Flanders, opened abroad all the matter and uttered their counsel, whereupon the monks, being not a little grieved with him, sent him privily unto the court of Rome out of hand. The next day the elder monks sent to the king, desiring him of his gracious license canonically to choose their archbishop. The king most gently and favorably granted their petition, requiring them instantly, and desiring that for his sake they would show favor to John Gray then Bishop of Norwich, as they did indeed, e[l]ecting him into that see of their high primacy. Moreover, because the authority of kings and princes was then but small in their own dominion without the Pope's consent and confirmation to the same, he sent also to Rome of his own charges to have the foresaid election ratified by the Pope. The suffragans of Canterbury then (being not a little offended at these two elections) sent speedily to Rome to have them both stopped, for that they had not been of counsel with them. And hereupon at the last grew a most prodigious tumult.

9The next year after, the suffragans of the province of Canterbury on the one side and the monks of Canterbury on the other side came afore the Pope with their brawling matter. First the monks, presenting Reginald their superior, desired that their election might be confirmed. The suffragans likewise complained that the monks would presume to choose the archbishop without their consent, and therefore desired by divers reasons the first election to be of none effect. The pope, deciding the matter between both, pronounced with the monks, charging the suffragans and bishops to meddle no more with that election but to let the monks alone. The monks of Canterbury, now having the whole election in their own hands, fell also at square among themselves, the younger sort with the elder. The younger sort, which had chosen Reginald their superior, would that election to stand. The elder sort of the monks replied again, saying that the first election was done by stealth and by night and by the younger part, also without the counsel of other monks. Over and besides, it was done without the king's license or appointment and without the due solemnity thereunto belonging.

10And as concerning our election, (said they), it was done in the clear light of the day, by which it had authority in presence of our liege lord the king, and his council being willing to the same.

11This allegation thus propounded, the suffragans' proctor, or man of law, stood forth, and proved the former election to be good and this latter to be void and of no value, after this sort. Whether the first election (saith he) were just or unjust, ye ought first by the law to have condemned it afore ye should have presumed to the second, but this ye did not; therefore is this your later doing no election at all, and the first therefore is rather to be ratified than yours. When they had thus multiplied talk on both sides, with many frivolous allegations, a long time, and could not agree upon one person, Pope Innocent condemned both their elections, commanding them to choose Stephen Langton, then cardinal of St. Chrysogon, for their archbishop. The monks then answered, that they durst not so do without consent of their king and for that it was prejudicial to their ancient liberties. The pope by and by (saith the text) as one in a fury, taking the words out of their mouths, said thus unto them: "We will you to know, that we have full power and authority over the church of Canterbury, neither are we wont to tarry the consent of princes; therefore we command you, in pain of our great curse, that ye choose him only whom we have appointed."

12The monks, at these words abashed and terrified, though they much murmured in their hearts, yet consented they all in one and thereupon sang Te Deum. Only Doctor Helias Brantfield withdrew himself from that election, whom the king had sent for the admission of the Bishop of Norwich.

13Thus was Stephen Langton, in the high church of Viterby, by the Pope's hand made Archbishop of Canterbury. From thenceforth (saith Matthew Paris) the Pope could do no less but mightily defend him from all vexation and danger, considering that he was his own dear darling, and a child of his own creation.

14Upon this occasion, King John conceived an exceeding displeasure against the clergy and monks of Canterbury, as he had good cause, they doing so many evils against his princely prerogative. Without his license they elected their archbishop and put by the Bishop of Norwich, whom he had appointed. They wasted a great part of his treasure for the wars; and to bring all to the devil, they made Stephen Langton their high metropolitan, whom he took for a grievous enemy to the whole realm, being always so familiar with the French king. Wherefore in his anger he banished them out of the land, to the number of threescore and four, for this their contumacy and contempt of his regal power.

[Letters between King John and the Pope]

14The monks of Canterbury thus being expulsed, the king forthwith sendeth messengers to the Pope with his letters, wherein he doth sharply and expressly expostulate with the Pope. First, for that so uncourteously he repulsed the election of the Bishop of Norwich and set up one Stephen Langton, a man unknown to him and brought up amongst his enemies a long time in the kingdom of France, consecrating him Archbishop of Canterbury and letting the other go. Also (which is more) for that it redoundeth to the subversion and derogation of the liberties appertaining to his crown; for notwithstanding his consent past (being before of the monks not made privy, which should have so done), yet he rashly presumed to promote and prefer another. Wherefore he cannot marvel (he saith) enough, that neither the said pope, nor the court of Rome, doth consider and revolve with themselves how necessary his love and favor hath been always hitherto to the see of Rome, and that they consider not what great profit and revenues have proceeded hitherto to them out of the realm of England, the like whereof hath not been received out of any other country besides on this side the Alps. He addeth moreover and saith that for his liberties he will stand (if need be) unto death, neither can he be so removed and shaken off from the election of the Bishop of Norwich which he seeth to be so commodious to him and profitable. Finally, he thus concludeth, saying, that in case in this his request he be not heard, he will so provide by the seas that there shall be no such gadding and coursing any moreover to Rome, suffering the riches of the land no more to be transported over, whereby he should be himself the less able to resist his enemies. And seeing he hath of his own at home archbishops, bishops, and other prelates of the church, both of Englishmen and of others, sufficiently provided and instructed in all kind of knowledge, therefore he shall not need greatly to seek for judgment and justice further abroad.

15When these came to the Pope's intelligence, be directeth letters again to the king in this form:

16"Innocentius, pope, servant of the servants of God, to our wel-beloved son in Christ the king of England, health, and apostolical blessing. Whereas we have written to you heretofore, exhorting and entreating you after a humble, diligent, and gentle sort concerning the church of Canterbury, you have written to us again after a threatening sort and upbraiding manner, both spitefully and also frowardly. And whereas we more and above that our right and duty required have borne and given to you, you again for your part have given to us not so much as by right and duty you are bound to do. And though your devotion, as you say, hath been to us very necessary, yet consider again that ours also is not a little opportune and expedient for you. And whereas we in such like cases have not showed at any time the like honor to any prince as we have unto you, you again have so much derogated our honor, as no prince else hath presumed to do besides you alone, pretending certain frivolous causes and occasions -- I cannot tell what -- why you would not condescend to the election of Stephen Langton, cardinal of St. Chrysogono, chosen by the monks of Canterbury; for that the said Stephen (as you say) hath been conversant and brought up amongst your enemies, and his person is to you unknown. But you know what is the proverb of Solomon, The net is cast, but in vain in the sight of the flying birds," etc.

17With much other matter in the same epistle, wherein he falleth into the commendation of Stephen Langton his cardinal, declaring how learned he was in the liberal arts, and in divinity, insomuch that he was prebendated at Paris; also come of an honest stock and an Englishman born, and not unknown to the king, seeing the king had written his letters thrice to him before. Declaring moreover in the said letter how the messengers of the king had specified to him another cause, which was for that the monks of Canterbury, which had to do in the election, came not to him before for his consent. Declaring moreover, in the said letter, how the said messengers of the king entreated in the king's behalf, that forasmuch as the Pope's letters, wherein the king was commanded to send his proctors to Rome for the same matter, came not to the king's hand, neither did the monks direct any such letters or message to the king to have his consent; therefore the Pope, considering the same, would grant so much for the regard of the king's honor that the monks of Canterbury should not proceed without the king's assent therein. And for so much as that hath not been done as yet, therefore they desired some delay therein to be given sufficient for the doing thereof. Whereunto he said that he had granted and fulfilled their request in sending his letters and messengers once or twice to the king for the same purpose, although he said it was not the manner of the see apostolic, who had the fullness of power over the church of Canterbury, to wait for princes' consents in such elections, who then could not be suffered to do that which they came for. Wherefore, in knitting up his letter, he thus concludeth in these words:

18"And therefore, seeing the matter so standeth, we see no cause why we should require or tarry for the king's favor or consent any more therein, but intend so to proceed in this matter, neither inclining on the right hand nor on the left, according as the canonical ordinances of the holy fathers shall direct us; that is (all impediments and delays set aside) so to provide that the church of Canterbury be not any longer destitute of her pastor. Wherefore be it known to your discretion or kingly prudence, that forasmuch as this election of Stephen Langton hath orderly and concordly thus proceeded without fraud or deceit upon a person meet for the same, therefore we will for no man's pleasure, neither may we without danger of fame and of conscience, defer or protract any longer the consummation of the said election. Wherefore, my well-beloved son, seeing we have had respect to your honor above that our right and duty required, study to honor us so much as your duty requireth again so that you may the more plentifully deserve favor both at God's hand and ours, lest that, by doing the contrary, you bring yourself into such a peck of troubles as afterwards you shall scarce rid yourself of again. For this know for a certain, in the end it must needs fall out that he shall have the better unto whom every knee (of heavenly, earthly, and infernal creatures) doth bow, whose turn I serve in earth, though I be unworthy.

19Therefore settle not yourself to obey their persuasions, which always desire your unquietness, whereby they may fish the better in the water when it is troubled, but commit yourself to our pleasure, which undoubtedly shall turn to your praise, glory, and honor. For it should not be much for your safety in this cause to resist God and the Church, in whose quarrel that blessed martyr and glorious bishop Thomas hath of late shed his blood; especially seeing your father and your brother of famous memory, then kings of England, did give over those three wicked customs into the hands of the legates of the see apostolic. But if you yield yourself humbly into our hands we will look that you and yours shall be sufficiently provided for, that no prejudice may arise hereupon to you-ward. Given at Lateran the tenth year of our popedom."

[England falls under the Pope's interdiction]

20Thus hast thou, gentle reader, the glorious letter of the proud pope; I beseech thee mark it well. Now to the story. After this letter was sent out, not long after proceedeth a charge and commandment sent into England unto certain bishops there, requiring them by authority apostolical, that if the said king would not receive the said prior of Canterbury and his monks, then they should interdict him throughout all his realm. For the executing whereof four bishops were appointed by the usurped power of the Pope's bulls: namely, William, Bishop of London, Eustace, Bishop of Ely, Walter, Bishop of Winchester, and Giles, Bishop of Hereford. Which said four bishops went unto the king and showed their commission from the Pope, as is aforesaid, willing him to consent thereto, etc.

21But the said king refused the same, and would by no means grant to their request. Whereupon they, departing from his Grace, went the morrow after the Annunciation of our Lady, and pronounced the said general interdiction through out all England so that the church doors were shut up with keys and other fastenings and with walls, etc.

22Now when the king heard of this, he began to be moved against them, and took all the possessions of the four bishops into his hands, appointing certain men to keep the livings of the clergy through out the realm, and that they should enjoy no part thereof. Which being done, the bishops, seeing the same, cursed all them that kept or should meddle with church goods against the will of them that owed them; and understanding, for all that, that the king nothing regarded their doings, they went over sea to the Bishop of Canterbury and informed him what had happened; who, hearing the same, willed them again to return to Canterbury, and he would come thither to them, or else send certain persons thither in his stead that should do as much as if he were there himself. Then when the bishops heard this, they returned again to England, to Canterbury, and the tidings came shortly to the king that they were come thither again. And because he might not himself travel to them, he sent thither bishops, earls, and abbots to entreat them, that the archbishop whom he had chosen might be admitted; promising the prior and all the monks of Canterbury in his behalf that he should never take any thing of the Church goods against the will of them that owe them: but would make amends to them of whom he had taken any such goods, and that the Church should have all her franchises in as ample manner as in Saint Edward's time, the Confessor, it had.

[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.

[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.

[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.

[King John's death]

55And in the selfsame year, as King John was come to Swinstead abbey, not far from Lincoln, he rested there two days; where, as most writers testify, he was most traitorously poisoned by a monk of that abbey, of the sect of the Cistercians or St. Bernard's brethren, called Simon of Swinstead. As concerning the noble personage of this prince, this testimony giveth Roger Heveden therein: princeps quidem magnus erat sed minus felix: atque vt Marius vtramque fortunam expertus. "Doubtless," saith he, "King Jobn was a mighty prince, but not so fortunate as many were; not altogether unlike to Marius the noble Roman, he tasted of fortune both ways; bountiful in mercy; in wars sometimes he won, sometimes again he lost." Munificus ac liberalis in exteros fuit, sed proditionis causa suorum depredator, plus aduenis quam suis confidens. "He was also very bounteous and liberal unto strangers, but of his own people (for their daily treasons' sake) he was a great oppressor, so that he trusted more to foreigners than to them."

56Among other divers and sundry conditions belonging to this king, one there was which is not in him to be reprehended, but commended rather; for that, being far from the superstition which kings at that time were commonly subject to, he regarded not the popish mass, as in certain chronicles written of him may be collected; for this I find testified of him by Matthew Paris, that the king upon a time in his hunting, coming where a very fat stag was cut lip and opened (or how the hunters term it I cannot tell) the king beholding the fatness and the liking of the stag. "See," saith he, "how easily and happily he hath lived, and yet for all that he never heard any mass."

57It is recorded and found in the chronicle of William Caxton, called Fructus Temporum, and in the seventh book, that the foresaid monk Simon, being much offended with certain talk that the king had at his table, concerning Louis, the French king's son, (which then had entered and usurped upon him,) did cast in his wicked heart how he most speedily might bring him to his end. And first of all he counseled with his abbot, showing him the whole matter, and what he was minded to do. He alleged for himself the prophecy of Caiaphas, John xi, saying, "It is better that one man die, than all the people should perish." "I am well contented," saith he," to lose my life, and so become a martyr, that I may utterly destroy this tyrant." With that the abbot did weep for gladness, and much commended his fervent zeal, as he took it. The monk then being absolved of his abbot for doing this act (aforehand) went secretly into a garden upon the back side, and finding there a most venomous toad, he so pricked him and pressed him with his penknife, that he made him vomit all the poison that was within him. This done, he conveyed it into a cup of wine, and with a smiling and flattering countenance he said thus to the king: "If it shall like your princely majesty, here is such a cup of wine as ye never drank a better before in all your lifetime; I trust this wassail shall make all England glad." And with that he drank a great draught thereof, the king pledging him. The monk anon after went to the farmary, and there died, (his entrails gushing out of his body) and had continually from thenceforth three monks to sing mass for his soul, confirmed by their general chapter. What became after that of King John, ye shall know right well in the process following. I would ye did mark well the wholesome proceedings of these holy votaries, how virtuously they obey their king, whom God hath appointed, and how religiously they bestow their confessions, absolutions, and masses.

58The king within a short space after, feeling great grief in his body, asked for Simon the monk; and answer was made that he was departed this life. Then God have mercy upon me (said he). I suspected as much after he had said that all England should thereof be glad; he meant now I perceive those of his own generation. With that he commanded his chariot to be prepared, for he was not able to ride. So went he from thence to Sleaford castle, and from thence to Newark on Trent, and there within less than three days he died. Upon his death-bed he much repented his former life, and forgave all them with a pitiful heart that had done him injury; desiring that his elder son Henry might be admonished by his example and learn by his misfortunes to be natural, favorable, gentle, and loving to his natural people. When his body was embalmed and spiced, as the manner is of kings, his bowels or entrails were buried at Croxton abbey, which was of the sect of Premonstratenses, or canons of St. Norbert. His hired soldiers, both Englishmen and strangers, were still about him, and followed his corpse triumphantly in their armor, till they came to the cathedral church of Worcester, and there honorably was he buried by Silvester the bishop, betwixt Saint Oswald and Saint Wolstan, two bishops of that church. He died in the year of our Lord 1216, the nineteenth day of October, after he had reigned in such calamity, by the subtle conveyance of his clergy, eighteen years, and six months, and odd days. Now so soon as King John was dead and buried (as is said before), the princes, lords, and barons, so many as were of his part (as well of strangers as of them that were born here) by counsel of the legate Gualo, gathered themselves together, and all with one consent proclaimed Henry his son for their king. Of whom more shall follow (the Lord willing) hereafter.

59Many opinions are among the chroniclers of the death of King John. Some of them do write that he died of sorrow and heaviness of heart, as Polydore; some, of surfeiting in the night, as Hadulphus Niger; some, of a bloody flux, as Roger Hoveden; some, of a burning ague; some, of a cold sweat; some, of eating apples; some, of eating pears; some, of plums, etc.

60Thus you see what variety is among the writers concerning the death of this King John. Of which writers, although the most agree in this, that he was poisoned by the monk above named, yet Matthew Paris, something differing from the others, writeth thus concerning his death, that he going from Lynn to Lincolnshire, and there hearing of the loss of his carriage and of his treasures upon the washes, was plunged into great heaviness of mind; insomuch that he fell thereby into a fervent fever, being at the abbey of Swinstead. This ague he also increased through evil surfeiting and naughty diet, by eating peaches and drinking of new ciser, or, as we call it, cider. Thus, being sick, he was carried to the castle of Sleaford, and from thence to the castle of Newark; where, calling for Henry his son, he gave to him the succession of his crown and kingdom, writing to all his lords and nobles to receive him for their king; and shortly after, upon St. Lucy's even, departed this life, being buried at Worcester.

61In Gisburn I find otherwise, who, dissenting from others, saith that he was poisoned with a dish of pears, which the monk had prepared for the king therewith to poison him. He asking the king whether he would taste of his fruit, and being bid to bring them in; according to the king's bidding, did so. At the bringing in whereof (saith the story) the precious stones about the king began to sweat; insomuch that the king, misdoubting some poison, demanded of the monk what he had brought. He said, of his fruit, and that very good, the best that ever he did taste. "Eat," said the king. And he took one of the pears which he did know, and did eat. Also being bid to take another, he did eat likewise savorily, and so likewise the third. Then the king, refraining no longer, took one of the poisoned pears, and was therewith poisoned, as is beforesaid.

62In the reign of this King John, the citizens of London first obtained of the king to choose yearly a mayor. In whose time also the bridge of London was first builded of stone, which before was of wood.