Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Raphael Holinshed
Editor: Michael Best
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Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1587 (Selection)


217[The bishops and barons demand to have ancient laws restored]

Whilst these things were thus in doing, Geoffrey FitzPeter and the Bishop of Winchester were come to Saint Albans, together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops and peers of the realm, where, the king's peace being proclaimed to all men, it was on his behalf straitly commanded that the laws of King Henry his grandfather should be observed universally within his realmKing Henry the First his laws. and that all unjust laws and ordinances should be abrogated. It was also commanded that no sheriff, nor forester, nor other minister of the king's should upon pain of life and limb take violently any thing of any man by way of extortion, nor presume to wrong any man or to fine any man, as they had afore time been accustomed to do.

218After this, the king, being come back from his journey which he purposed to have made into Poitou, assembled an army and meant to have gone against those lords which had refused to go with him, but the Archbishop of Canterbury coming to him at Northampton sought to appease his mood and to cause him to stay, but yet in his furious rage he went forward till he came to Nottingham, and there with much adoThe archbishop menaceth to excommunicate those that assist the king. the archbishop, following him with threatening to excommunicate all those that should aid him, procured him to leave off his enterprise.

219Then the archbishop (about the five and twentieth day of August) came to London there to take advice for the reformation of things touching the good government of the commonwealth. But here whilst the archbishop, with other peers of the realm, devised orders very necessary (as was thought) for the state of the commonwealth, the king, doubting lest the same should be a bridle for him to restrain his authority royal from doing things to his pleasure, began to find fault and seemed as though he had repented himself of his large promises made for his reconciliation; but the Archbishop of Canterbury so assuaged his mood and persuaded him, by opening unto him what danger would ensue both to him and to his realm if he went from the agreement, that he was glad to be quiet for fear of further trouble.

220In this hurly-burly also the lords and peers of the realm (by the setting on of the archbishop) were earnestly bent to have the king to restore and confirm the grant which his grandfather King Henry the First had by his charter granted and confirmed to his subjects, which to do, King John thought greatly prejudicial to his royal estate and dignity. The Earl of Toulouse, having lost all his possessions,The Earl of Toulouse. the city of Toulouse only excepted, came over into England and rendered the said city into the hands of King John, and received at his departure the sum of ten thousand marks, as was reported, by the bountiful gift of King John.

221Upon the second of October,Geoffrey FitzPeers or FitPeter departeth this life. Geoffrey FitzPeter Earl of Essex and lord chief justice of England departed this life, a man of great power and authority, in whose politic direction and government the order of things pertaining to the commonwealth chiefly consisted. He was of a noble mind, expert in knowledge of the laws of the land, rich in possessions, and joined in blood or affinity with the more part of all the nobles of the realm, so that his death was no small loss to the commonwealth; for through him and the Archbishop Hubert, the king was oftentimes revoked from such wilful purposes as now and then he was determined to have put in practise, in so much that the king, as was reported (but how truly I cannot tell) seemed to rejoice for his death because he might now work his will without any to control him.

222[The pope's legate negotiates conditions for raising the interdiction]

The same time, to wit about the feast of Saint Michael,A cardinal sent into England. came Nicholas, the Cardinal of Tusculum, into England, sent from the pope to take away the interdiction if the king would stand to that agreement which he had made and promised by his oath to perform. King John received this cardinal in most honorable wise, and gladly heard him in all things that he had to say. This legate, at his coming to Westminster, deposed the abbot of that place, named William, from his room, for that he was accused both of wasting the revenues of the house and also of notable incontinency. Moreover the burgesses of the town of Oxford came unto him to obtain absolution of their offenceThe burgess of Oxford require absolution. in that through their presumption the three scholars (of whom ye have heard before) were hanged there, to the great terror of all the residue. To be short, they were absolved and penance enjoined them that they should strip them out of their apparel at every church in the town, and going barefooted with scourges in their hands they should require the benefit of absolution of every parish priest within their town, saying the psalm of Miserere.

223After this, the said cardinal called a council or convocation of the clergyA convocation called by the cardinal. to reform such things touching the state of the church as should be thought requisite. And though he handled not this matter with such favor and uprightness as the bishops wished on their behalves, yet he caused King John to restore the most part of all those goods that remained unspent, and also the value of half of those that were consumed and made away, unto those persons, as well spiritual as temporal from whom they had been taken in time of the discord betwixt him and the pope. But before all things could be thus quieted and set in order betwixt the king and the bishops many meetings were had, as at London, Reading, Wallingford, and in other places.

224Now the archbishop and prelates for their parts thought this recompense to be but small in respect of the great losses and hindrances which they had sustained; and to have the whole restitution delayed they took it not well. Howbeit the cardinal leaned so to the king's side, having received of him to the pope's use the charter of subjection of the realms of England and Ireland, now bulled with gold, where at the first it was delivered to Pandulph sealed only with wax. But their suit came to little effect, and in the end it fell out in such wise that their complaint was less regarded. Moreover, the rating of the value which the king should restore unto the archbishop and the other bishops was by agreement of the king and them together appointed unto four barons indifferently chosen betwixt them.

225 At length, notwithstanding, that device took no place, for it was otherwise decreed by the pope that the king should restore to them the sum of forty thousand marks, of the which he had paid already twelve thousand before the return of the said archbishop and bishops into the realm and fifteen thousand more at the late meeting had betwixt them at Reading, so that there remained only 13,000 behind; for not only the king, but also the cardinal, had sent to the pope, requiring him to take direction in the matter and to advertise him that there was a great fault in the archbishop and his fellows. Insomuch that Pandulph which was sent to him from the legateKing John commended to the pope for an humble prince. declared in favor of the king that there was not a more humble and modest prince to be found than King John, and that the archbishop and his fellows were too hard and showed themselves too covetous in requiring the restitution that should be made to them for losses sustained in time of the interdiction.

226Now the cause wherefore the legate and the king did send unto the pope was this. There was some grudge betwixt the legate and the archbishop, for that where the pope had written to the legate how he should (according to the order of the ancient canons of the church) place in every bishop's see and abbey that was void meet and able persons to rule and guide the same,The presumption of the cardinal. the legate, presuming on that authority granted him by the pope without the advice of the archbishop or other bishops, took only with him certain of the king's chaplains, and, coming with them to such churches as were vacant, ordained in them such persons as were nothing meet to take such charge upon them -- and that according to the old abuse of England, as Matthew Paris saith. Whereupon the Archbishop of Canterbury, repining at such doings, sent to the legate, as then being at Burton upon Trent,Burton upon Trent. Dunstable. A synod. Discord betwixt the cardinal and the Archbishop of Canterbury. two of his chaplains from Dunstable where he and his suffragans held as then a synod after the feast of the Epiphany, commanding him by way of appeal in no wise to meddle with instituting any governors to churches within the precinct of his jurisdiction where such institutions belonged only to him.

227Hereupon therefore the legate dispatched Pandulph to Rome unto the pope as is aforesaid, and the king likewise sent ambassadors thither, as the Bishop of Norwich, and the Archdeacon of Northumberland with others, the which in the end so behaved themselves in their suit that (notwithstanding Simon Langton, the archbishop's brother, earnestly withstood them as proctor for the bishops) yet at length the pope took order in the matter, writing unto his legate that he should see the same fulfilled and then absolve the realm of the former interdiction. In this mean time, King John made provision to go over into France (as after ye shall hear) but at his going over he committed the whole ordering of this matter unto the legate and to William Marshall the Earl of Pembroke. The legate therefore, upon the receipt of the pope's bulls, called a council at London, and there declaring what was contained in the same he took bonds for payment of the residue of the forty thousand marks which was behind, being 13,000 only, as before I have said.

228[King John's varied fortunes in France]

About the same time also, Walter Gray, Bishop of Worcester, was removed to the government of the See of York,Walter Gray Bishop of Worcester is removed to the see of York. which had been vacant ever since the death of the Archbishop Geoffrey. This Walter was the three and thirtieth archbishop that governed that see. But now to return and speak of the king's affairs in the parts beyond the sea. Ye shall understand that, having set his business in some good stay at home with the legate, he applied his study to the performance of his wars abroad, and therefore he first sent money into Flanders to pay the soldiers' wagesMoney sent in to Flanders. which he had sent thither to aid the earl there against king Philip. Which earl came over this year into England, and at Canterbury the king received him where he did homage to the king for the whole earldom of Flanders;The Earl of Flanders doth homage to King John. and on the other part, the king as well, to the said earl as to such lords and bishops which came over with him, declared his royal liberality by princely gifts of gold, silver, jewels, and precious stones. After his return, such captains as remained in his country with their bands at the king of England's payThe lands of the earl of Guienne wasted. made a journey into France, and wasted the lands that belonged to the Earl of Guienne, won the castle of Bruncham and razed it, taking within it divers men of arms and demi-lances. They also won by siege the town of Aire and burnt it. The castle of Lyons they took by assault and slew many soldiers that defended it, beside those which they took prisoners.

229Moreover, they wasted and destroyed the lands which Lewis the French king's son was possessed of in those parts. In the mean time, King John, having prepared a mighty navy and a strong army of valiant soldiers, took sea at Portsmouth on Candlemas day with his wife, his son Richard, and Eleanor the sister of Arthur, Duke of Brittany. He had not many of his earls or barons with him but a great number of knights and gentlemen, with whom he landed at Rochelle in safety within a few days after his setting forth. He took over with him inestimable treasure, as it was reported, in gold, silver, and jewels. Immediately upon his arrival at Rochelle, the barons of Poitou revolted from the French king, and, coming in to King John, did homage unto him as to their king and sovereign lord.

230But howsoever it was, after the truce began to expire which he had granted unto the earls of Marsh and Augi, on the Friday before Whitsunday he came with his army before the castle of Mervent, which belonged unto Geoffrey de Lusignan, and on the day next ensuing, being Whitsun eve, he won the same. On Whitsunday he laid siege unto Novant,Mervent. Geoffrey de Lusignan. another castle belonging to the same Geoffrey, who as then was lodged in the same, and also two of his sons; but within three days after that the siege was laid the Earl of Marsh came to King John and did so much prevail that through his means both Geoffrey and his two sons were received to mercy, and King John put in possession of the castle. After this, because King John was advertised that Lewis the French king's son had now besieged Mountcounter, a castle that was appertaining to the said Geoffrey, he hasted thitherwards, and came to Parthenay, whither came to him as well the aforesaid Earl of Marsh, as also the Earl of Augi, and both they together with the said Geoffrey de Lusignan, did homage to our king,Mountcounter. and so became his liege men. The same time also, the Lady Jane, the king's daughter, was affianced to the said Earl of Marsh his son,Parthenay. whereas the French king made means to have her married to his son;Jane the daughter of King John married to the earl of Marsh. but because King John doubted lest that suit was attempted but under some cloaked pretence, he would give no ear thereto, but rather made this match with the Earl of Marsh in hope so to assure himself of the said earl that he might stand him in no small stead to defend his cause against his adversaries of France. But now to the doings in England.

231¶ Ye have heard before how Pope Innocent (or rather Nocent, who was the root of much mischief and trouble, which qualities are nothing consonant to his name) according to that King John had required of him by solemn messengers, directed his bulls unto his legate Nicholas, declaring upon what conditions his pleasure was to have the sentence of interdiction released. Wherein first he commanded that the king should satisfy and pay so much money unto the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the bishop of London and Ely as should fully amount to the sum of 40 thousand marks (with that which already he had paid, which was 27 thousand marks, at two several payments, as upon his accounts appeared). For true contestation and payment to be made of the residue, he ordained that the king should be sworn, and also seal to an obligation, and certain sureties with him (as the bishops of Norwich and Winchester, with the earls of Chester, Winchester, and Marshall) all which things were performed at this present, so that after the assurance so taken for payment of the odd 13 thousand marks behind, residue of the 40 thousand marks,The interdiction released. the interdiction was taken utterly away and the land solemnly released by the legate, sitting within the cathedral church of Saint Paul at London upon the 29th of June in the year 1214, after the term of six years, three months, and 14 days that the realm had been striken with that dreadful dart of correction, as it was then esteemed.

232King John in the mean time remaining still in France, and finding at the beginning fortune favorable enough unto him by reason his power was much increased by the aid of the Poitouins, determined to attempt the winning of Brittany, for this cause specially that he might by so doing weaken the French king's power, and partly also to withdraw him from the wars of Flanders, on which side he had procured likewise the French borders to be invaded with great force, and that not only by the earl and such captains as he had sent thither and retained in wages, but also by the Emperor Otho, who in proper person came down into that country himself.The emperor Otho.

233Hereupon King John went forth with all his power of horsemen,King John invadeth Brittany. and, entering into Brittany, made roads through the country, wasting the same even to the walls of Nantes. But shortly after, the Bretons assembled together under the leading of Peter, the son of Robert Earl of Drieux (the French king's uncle, who had married the Lady Adela, daughter to Duke Guy of Brittany) and, marching forth into the field to defend their country from the enemies, came to join with them in battle. At the first there was a very sharp encounter, but at length the Bretons being vanquished and put to flight,The Bretons put to flight. a great number of them were taken prisoners, and amongst other their captains, the aforesaid Peter was one, whom King John sent away with all the rest unto AngiersPeter the Earl of Drieux his son taken prisoner. to be kept in safeguard until he should return.

234After this, he besieged a castle that stood upon the bank of the river of Loire, called La Roche aux Moines, enforcing his whole endeavor to have won it.The French king's son came to fight with King John. But ere he could attain his purpose, he was advertised that Lewis, the son of King Philip was coming towards him with a great power to raise his siege. Wherefore having no great confidence in the Poitouins, and understanding that Lewis brought with him a very strong army, he took advice of his council, who judged that it should be best for him to break up his siege and to depart, which he did,King John removeth to Angiers. The Poitouins subdued by the French. The battle at the bridge of Bouins. and went straightways to Angiers. Lewis (after King John was thus retired) brought the Poitouins again to subjection, and put the chief authors of the rebellion to death. In the mean time also his father King Philip with like success, but in a foughten field, vanquished the Emperor Otho at the bridge of Bouin on the 28th day of July, as in the history of France more at large appear. There among other prisoners, the three earls of Flanders, Salisbury, and Boulogne were taken.

235Now King John being advertised of that overthrow, was marvellously sad and sorrowful for the chance, insomuch that he would not receive any meat in a whole day after the news thereof was brought unto him.The saying of King John. At length turning his sorrow into rage, he openly said that since the time that he made himself and his kingdom subject to the church of Rome nothing that he did had prospered well with him. Indeed he condescended to an agreement with the pope (as may be thought) more by force than of devotion, and therefore rather dissembled with the pope (sith he could not otherwise choose) than agreed to the covenants with any hearty affection.

236But to the purpose. perceiving himself now destitute of his best friends, of whom divers remained prisoners with the French king (being taken at the battle of Bouin) he thought good to agree with King Philip for this present by way of taking some truce, which by mediation of ambassadors riding to and fro betwixt them,A truce taken betwixt the two kings of England and France. was at length accorded to endure for five years, and to begin at Easter, in the year of our Lord, 1215. After this, about the 19th day of October, he returned into England to appease certain tumults which began already to shoot out buds of some new civil dissension. And surely the same spread abroad their blossoms so freshly that the fruit was knit before the growth by any timely provision could be hindered. For the people, being set on by divers of the superiors of both sorts, finding themselves grieved that the king kept not promise in restoring the ancient laws of Saint Edward, determined from thenceforth to use force, since by request he might not prevail. To appease this fury of the people, not only policy but power also was required, for the people undertaking an evil enterprise, specially raising a tumult or joining in a conspiracy, are as hardily suppressed and vanquished as Hydra the monster having many heads and therefore it is well said, that

237-- comes est discordia vulgi,
. . .
Namque a turbando nomen sibi turba recepit.