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


83[King Philip makes war against King John]

In the year 1202 King John held his Christmas at Argenton in Normandy, and in the Lent following he and the French king met together near unto the castle of Le Goulet, and there in talk had between them he commanded King John with no small arrogancy, and contrary to his former promise, to restore unto his nephew Arthur duke of Brittany all those lands now in his possession on that side the sea,The French King beginneth to make war against King John. which King John earnestly denied to do. Whereupon the French king immediately after began war against him and took Boteavant, Augi, and the castle of Linos. Moreover, he besieged the castle of Radepont for the space of eight days till King John came thither and forced him to depart with much dishonor. Howbeit, after this the French king won Gourney, and then, returning to Paris, he appointed certain persons to have the government of the foresaid Arthur duke of Brittany, and then sent him forth with 200 men of arms into Poitou, that he might bring the country also under his subjection.

84Hugh Earl of March.Hereupon, Hugh le Brun, Earl of March (unto whom queen Isabel the wife of King John had been promised in marriage, before that King John was motioned unto her, and therefore bore an inward displeasure towards the king of England for that he had so bereft him of his promised spouse), being now desirous to procure some trouble also unto King John,The Poitouins revolt from King John. joined himself with Arthur, Duke of Brittany, and found means to cause them of Poitou (a people ever subject to rebellion) to revolt from King John and to take armor against him, so that the young Arthur, being encouraged with this new supply of associates, first went into Touraine, and after into Anjou, compelling both those countries to submit themselves unto him,Arthur proclaimeth himself Earl of Anjou, etc. and proclaimed himself earl of those places by commission and grant obtained from King Philip.

85[Queen Eleanor is rescued, Arthur captured]

Queen Eleanor that was regent in those parties being put in great fear with the news of this sudden stir, got her into Mirebeau, a strong townQueen Eleanor. situated in the country of Anjou, and forthwith dispatched a messenger with letters unto King John, requiring him of speedy succor in this her present danger. In the mean time, Arthur, following the victory, shortly after followed her and won Mirebeau, where he took his grandmother within the same, whom he yet entreated very honorably, and with great reverence (as some have reported). ¶ But other write far more truly that she was not taken, but escaped into a tower, within the which she was straitly besieged. Thither came also to aid Arthur all the nobles and men of arms in Poitou, and namely the foresaid Earl of March according to appointment betwixt them; so that by this means Arthur had a great army together in the field.

86King John in the mean time, having received his mother's letters and understanding thereby in what danger she stood, was marvellously troubled with the strangeness of the news, and with many bitter words accused the French king as an untrue prince and a fraudulent league-breaker, and in all possible haste speedeth him forth, continuing his journey for the most part both day and night to come to the succor of his people. To be brief,King John cometh upon his enemies not looked for. he used such diligence that he was upon his enemies' necks ere they could understand any thing of his coming, or guess what the matter meant when they saw such a company of soldiers as he brought with him to approach so near the city. For so negligent were they that, having once won the town, they ranged abroad over the country hither and thither at their liberty without any care. So that now being put in a sudden fear, as prevented by the hasty coming of the enemies upon them, and wanting leisure to take advice what was best to be done, and having not time in manner to get any armor on their backs, they were in a marvellous trouble, not knowing whether it were best for them to fight or to flee, to yield or to resist.

87This their fear being apparent to the Englishmen (by their disorder showed in running up and down from place to place with great noise and turmoil) they set upon them with great violence, and, compassing them round about, they either took or slew them in a manner at their pleasure. And having thus put them all to flight they pursued the chase towards the town of Mirebeau, into which the enemies made very great haste to enter; but such speed was used by the English soldiers at that present that they entered and won the said town before their enemies could come near to get into it. Great slaughter was made within Mirebeau itself,Arthur duke of Brittany taken prisoner. and Arthur with the residue of the army that escaped with life from the first bickering was taken, who, being hereupon committed to prison, first at Falaise, and after within the city of Rouen, lived not long after as you shall hear. The other of the prisoners were also committed unto safe keeping, some into castles within Normandy, and some were sent into England.

88King John having gotten this victory, and taken his nephew Arthur, he wrote the manner of that his success unto his barons in England, in manner as followeth.

89John by the grace of God king of England, and lord of Ireland, to all his barons sendeth greeting. Know ye that we, by God's good favor, are in sound and perfect health, and through God's grace that marvellously worketh with us, on Tuesday before Lammas day, we being before the city of Le Mans, were advertised that our mother was besieged in Mirebeau, and therefore we hasted so fast as we possibly might so that we came thither on Lammas day, and there we took our nephew Arthur, Hugh le Brun, Andrew de Chavenie, the Viscount of Chateau Erald, Raimond de Touars, Saverie de Mauleon, and Hugh Bangi, and all other enemies of Poitou that were there assembled against us, to the number of two hundred knights and above252 knights or men of arms besides demi-lances. so that not one of them escaped. Give God therefore thanks, and rejoice at our good success.

90The French king at the same time lying in siege before Arques, immediately upon the news of this overthrow raised from thence and returned homewards, destroying all that came in his way, till he was entered into his own country. It is said that King John caused his nephew Arthur to be brought before him at Falaise, and there went about to persuade him all that he could to forsake his friendship and alliance with the French king, and to lean and stick to him being his natural uncle. But Arthur, like one that wanted good counsel and abounding too much in his own wilful opinion, made a presumptuous answer, not only denying so to do, but also commanding King John to restore unto him the realm of England with all those other lands and possessions which King Richard had in his hand at the hour of his death. For sith the same appertained to him by right of inheritance, he assured him, except restitution were made the sooner, he should not long continue quiet. King John being sore moved with such words thus uttered by his nephew, appointed (as before is said) that he should be straitly kept in prison, as first in Falaise, and after at Rouen within the new castle there. Thus by means of this good success the countries of Poitou, Touraine, and Anjou were recovered.

91[King John crowned a second time; Arthur's death]

Shortly after King John coming over into England,King John eftsoons crowned. caused himself to be crowned again at Canterbury by the hands of Hubert the archbishop there, on the fourteenth day of April, and then went back again into Normandy, where immediately upon his arrival a rumor was spread through all France of the death of his nephew Arthur. True it is that great suit was made to have Arthur set at liberty, as well by the French king as by William de Riches, a valiant baron of Poitou and divers other noblemen of the Bretons, who, when they could not prevail in their suit, they banded themselves together, and joining in confederacy with Robert Earl of Alençon, the viscount Beaumont, William de Fulgiers, and other, they began to levy sharp wars against King John in divers places, insomuch (as it was thought) that so long as Arthur lived, there would be no quiet in those parts. Whereupon it was reported that King John, through persuasion of his councillors, appointed certain persons to go unto Falaise where Arthur was kept in prison under the charge of Hubert de Burgh, and there to put out the young gentleman's eyes.

92But through such resistance as he made against one of the tormentors that came to execute the king's commandment (for the other rather forsook their prince and country than they would consent to obey the king's authority herein) and such lamentable words as he uttered, Hubert de Burgh did preserve him from that injury, not doubting but rather to have thanks than displeasure at the kings hands for delivering him of such infamy as would have redounded unto his highness if the young gentleman had been so cruelly dealt withal. For he considered that King John had resolved upon this point only in his heat and fury -- which moveth men to undertake many an inconvenient enterprise unbeseeming the person of a common man, much more reproachful to a prince, all men in that mood being mere foolish and furious and prone to accomplish the perverse conceits of their ill possessed heart; as one saith right well,

93pronus in iram
Stultorum est animus, facile excandescit et audet
Omne scelus, quoties concepta bile tumescit --

94and that afterwards, upon better advisement, he would both repent himself so to have commanded, and give them small thank that should see it put in execution. Howbeit to satisfy his mind for the time, and to stay the rage of the Bretons, he caused it to be bruited abroad through the country that the king's commandment was fulfilled and that Arthur also through sorrow and grief was departed out of this life. For the space of fifteen days this rumor incessantly ran through both the realms of England and France, and there was ringing for him through towns and villages, as it had been for his funerals. It was also bruited that his body was buried in the Monastery of Saint Andrews of the Cîteaux order.

95But when the Bretons were nothing pacified, but rather kindled more vehemently to work all the mischief they could devise in revenge of their sovereign's death, there was no remedy but to signify abroad again that Arthur was as yet living and in health. Now when the king heard the truth of all this matter, he was nothing displeased for that his commandment was not executed, sith there were divers of his captains which uttered in plain words that he should not find knights to keep his castles if he dealt so cruelly with his nephew. For if it chanced any of them to be taken by the king of France or other their adversaries, they should be sure to taste of the like cup. ¶ But now touching the manner in very deed of the end of this Arthur, writers make sundry reports. Nevertheless certain it is that in the year next ensuing he was removed from Falaise unto the castle or tower of Rouen, out of the which there was not any that would confess that ever he saw him go alive. Some have written that as he assayed to have escaped out of prison, and proving to climb over the walls of the castle, he fell into the river of Seine, and so was drowned. Other write that through very grief and languor he pined away and died of natural sickness. But some affirm that King John secretly caused him to be murdered and made away, so as it is not thoroughly agreed upon in what sort he finished his days; but verily King John was had in great suspicion, whether worthily or not, the lord knoweth. Yet how extremely soever he dealt with his nephew, he released and set at liberty divers of those lords that were taken prisoners with him, namely Hugh le Brun, and Savery de Mauleon, the one to his great trouble and hindrance, and the other to his gain; for Hugh le Brun afterwards levied and occasioned sore wars against him, but Savery de Mauleon continued ever after his loyal subject, doing to him very agreeable service, as hereafter may appear.

96Guy son to the viscount of Touars. The Lord Guy, son to the viscount of Touars who had taken Arthur's mother Constance to wife after the divorce made betwixt her and the Earl of Chester, in right of her obtained the dukedome of Brittany. But King Philip, after he was advertised of Arthur's death, took the matter very grievously, and upon occasion thereofConstance the mother of duke Arthur accuseth King John. cited King John to appear before him at a certain day to answer such objections as Constance the duchess of Brittany, mother to the said Arthur, should lay to his charge touching the murder of her son. And because King John appeared not, he was therefore condemned in the action and adjudged to forfeit all that he held within the precinct of France, as well Normandy as all his other lands and dominions.

97[The price of bread fixed]

The ordinance for the assize of bread. About the same time the king caused a proclamation to be published for the lawful assize of bread to be made by the bakers, upon pain to be punished by the pillory; which assize was approved and assessed by the baker of Geoffrey FitzPeter, lord chief justice of England, and by the baker of Robert de Turnham. So that the baker might sell and gain in every quarter three pence, besides the bran, and two loaves for the heater of the oven, and for four servants four halfpence, for two boys a farthing, for allowance in salt an halfpenny, yeast an halfpenny, for candle a farthing, for fuel three pence, and for a bolter an halfpenny. And this was the rate.

98When wheat was sold for six shillings the quarter, then shall every loaf of fine manchet weigh 41 shillings and every loaf of cheat shall weigh 24 shillings. When wheat is sold for five shillings and six pence, then manchet shall weigh 20 shillings and cheat 28 shillings. When wheat is sold for five shillings, then manchet shall weigh 24 shillings and the cheat bread 32 shillings. When wheat is sold for four shillings six pence, manchet shall weigh 32 shillings and cheat 42 shillings. When wheat is sold for four shillings, manchet shall weigh 36 shillings and cheat 46 shillings. When wheat is sold for three shillings six pence, then shall manchet weigh 42 shillings and cheat 54 shillings. When wheat is sold for three shillings, manchet shall weigh 48 shillings and cheat 44 shillings. When wheat is sold for two shillings and six pence, manchet shall weigh 54 shillings and cheat 72 shillings. When wheat is sold for two shillings, manchet shall weigh sixty shillings and cheat four pound. When wheat is sold for 18 pence the quarter, manchet shall weigh 77 shillings and cheat four pound and eight shillings. This ordinance was proclaimed throughout the realm as most necessary and profitable for the commonwealth.

99This year many wonderful things happened, for besides the sore winter, which passed any other that had been heard of in many years before both for continuance in length and extreme coldness of frosts,Great tempests. there followed grisly tempests with thunder, lightning, and storms of rain, and hail of the bigness of hens' eggs, wherewith much fruit and great store of corn was perished beside other great hurts done upon houses and young cattle. Also spirits (as it was thought) in likeness of birds and fowl were seen in the air flying with fire in their beaks, wherewith they set divers houses on fire, which did import great troubles ere long to ensue -- and followed indeed as shall appear hereafter.

100[1203]With this entrance of the year of our lord 1203, King John held his Christmas at Caen, where not having (as some writers say) sufficient regard to the necessary affairs of his wars he gave his mind to banqueting, and passed the time in pleasure with the queen his wife to the great grief of his lords, so that they, perceiving his reckless demeanour (or as some write, the doubtful minds of the nobility which served on that side and were ready daily to revolt from his obedience), withdrew their dutiful hearts from him, and therefore getting licence returned home into England.

101[King Philip invades Normandy]

In this mean time the French kingAnno Reg. 5. to bring his purpose to full effect entered into Normandy, wasted the countries and won the towns of Couches,The French king invadeth Normandy. le Val de Rueil, and L'Isle d'Andely. Le Val de Rueil wis given over without any great enforcement of assault by two noblemen that had charge thereof, the one named Robert FitzWalter and the other Saer de Quincie. Howbeit, L'Isle d'Andely was valiantly for a certain time defended by Roger de La Cie, the Constable of Chester. But at length they within were so constrained by famine and long siege that the said La Cie and others perceiving it to be more honorable for them to die by the sword than to starve through want of food, broke out upon their enemies, and slew a great sort of the Frenchmen,Roger de La Cie, Constable of Chester taken. but yet in the end they were taken prisoners, and so these fortresses came into the French king's hands.

102The pope hearing of these variances betwixt the two kings, sent the Abbot of Casmer into France,The pope sendeth his Nuncii into France. accompanied with the abbot of Troissons, to move them to a peace. These two abbots took such pains in the matter that the kings were almost brought to agreement. But the French king, perceiving himself to be aforehand in his business, sticked at one article, which was to repair all such abbeys as he had destroyed within the dominions of King John, and King John to do the like by all those that he had wasted within the French king's countries. The pope's Nuncii would have excommunicated King Philip because he would not thus agree. But King Philip, appealing from them, pursued the war and besieged the town of Radpont. The soldiers within the town defended the first assault very manfully, and caused the Frenchmen to retire back; but King Philip meaning to have the town ere he departed, did so enclose it about that within ten days he won itRadpont won. and took there twenty men of arms, an hundred demi-lances, and twenty arcubalisters.

103After this, when he had fortified this place, he went to castle Galliard, which he besieged,castle Galliard. and though by the high valiancy of Hugh de Gourney, the captain there, the Frenchmen were manfully beaten back and kept out for a month and more, yet at length by strict siege and near approaches hardily made the fortress was delivered into the French king's hands.Hugh de Gourney revolteth from King John. And in the end the said Hugh Gourney revolted from his obedience, delivering also the castle of Mountfort unto the French king, which castle with the honor thereto appertaining King John had given to the same Hugh not very long before. All this while King John did lie at Rouen; but forsomuch as he could not well remedy the matter as then because he wanted such help as he daily looked for out of England and durst not trust any of that side, he passed it over with a stout countenance for a while, and would say oftentimes to such as stood about him, "What else doth my cousin the French king now than steal those things from me which hereafter I shall endeavour my self to cause him to restore with interest?" But when he saw that his enemies would still proceed,King John cometh back into England. and that no aid came out of England, he came over himself and landed at Portsmouth on Saint Nicholas's day.

104King Philip, doubting by using the victory with too much rigor, lest he should bring the Normans into a desperate boldness and so cause them for safeguard of their lives to hazard all upon resistance, he stayed for a time, and withdrew his soldiers back again into France, having not only furnished those places in the mean time which he had won with strong garrisons of his soldiers, but also appointed certain personages to travail with the people yet remaining in the English subjection to revolt and turn from King John to his obeisance and subjection.

105King John, being returned into England, accused divers of his nobles for showing themselves negligent and slothful in aiding him according to his commandment, alleging furthermore that, being destitute of their due and requisite service, he was constrained to lose his time in Normandy, as not being able for want of their aid to resist his enemies. Wherefore for this and other matters laid to their charges, he did put them to grievous fines. By means whereof, and by levying a subsidy of his people, he got together an huge sum of money. This subsidy was granted him in a parliament holden at Oxenford,A parliament at Oxenford. 1204. and begun there upon the second of January 1204, wherein of every knight's fee was granted the sum of two marks and an half. Neither were the bishops,A subsidy granted. abbots, nor any other ecclesiastical persons exempted, by means whereof he ran first into the hatred of the clergy and consequently of many other of his subjects, so that they failed him at his need, whereby he often sustained no small damage which he might have prevented and withstood if he had been so qualified with discretion as to have seen what was convenient and what inconvenient for his royal estate. But

-- voluptas
Improba perniciem ingentem mortalibus affert --

as it did to him, which may be gathered by a due observation of the consequence. ¶ This year the air toward the north and east parts seemed to be on a bright fire for the space of six hours together. It began about the first watch of the night, on the first of April.

106King John about the beginning of this sixth year of his reign,Anno Reg. 6. sent in embassage to the French king the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Norwich and Ely,Ambassadors sent into France. the earls Marshall and Leicester to treat with him of peace, but he was so far off from coming near to any reasonable motions, because he saw the world frame as he wished, that still by demanding somewhat that might not be granted he kept off, and brought in such hard conditions that it was not possible to conclude any agreement. And this he did of purpose, hoping within short time to conquer all that the king of England possessed as yet on that side the seas. He was the more untoward to compound for that he was informed how Arthur the duke of Brittany was dispatched of his life, and therefore, not doubting but to have many to take part with him in seeking revenge of his death, he made that his chief quarrel, swearing that he would not cease to pursue the war against King John till he had deprived him of his whole kingdom. So the ambassadors departed without all hope to come to any agreement. ¶ This year Easter day fell so high as it possibly might, that is to say, on Saint Mark's day.

107[King Philip takes Rouen]

King Philip, understanding that King John remained still in England rather occupied in gathering of money amongst his subjects than in making other provision to bring them into the field (to the great offence of his said people), thought now for his part to lose no time, but assembling a mighty army he came with the same into Normandy,Towns won by the French king. and upon his first coming he won the town of Falaise, and shortly after was Domfront delivered unto him by surrender. This done, he marched further into the country, and with his sudden invasion so oppressed the people everywhere that they could have no time to make shift by flight to get into the towns. With this swiftness of speed he brought also such a fear into the hearts of most men that he won all the country of Normandy even to Mount Saint Michel. The inhabitants in every place submitted themselves, as those of Bayeux, Constance, Liseux, and other towns thereabouts.

108Finally, he came before Rouen,Rouen besieged by the French king. the principal city of all the country, and encamped so in sundry places about the city that all the issues, entries and ways were closed up by his army, being so divided into several camps that the distance was not great from one to another, making a terrible show to them within. At length after he had provided all things necessary for his purpose, and taken good advice of his captains how he should best employ his force for the winning of this city (in which exploit he knew the full perfection of all his passed conquests chiefly to consist) he did manfully assault it, and they within as manfully defended themselves, so that he got little by the assaults and approaches which he made. Whereupon he fell in hand to practise with the citizens to win them with meed, courtesy, gentle speech, and great promises. So that, in fine, they within were so moved with such reasons as he used to persuade them withal that they made request for a truce to be had for certain days, within the term whereof if no succor came they covenanted to yield without any further trouble.

109This truce being obtained, ambassadors were sent from them of Rouen into England to signify unto King John the whole state of the city and of the truce, so that if aid came not within the time appointed the city must needs be delivered into the enemy's hands. The king having no army in readiness to send over, nor other shift to make for the succor of the city, permitted the ambassadors to depart without comfort of any aid, who hereupon returning to Rouen and reporting what they had heard, seen, and found, brought the city into great sorrow. For whereas that city had ever been accustomed to glory for the great loyalty and faithful fidelity which the same had ever showed towards their liege lords and natural princes,The great fidelity of the citizens of Rouen. now the citizens perceived manifestly that unless they would cast away themselves and lose all they had they must of force yield into the hands of their enemies. Wherefore to make their true allegiance more apparent to the world, they stayed the surrender as long as they had any store of victuals within the city to relieve their fainting bodies withal;Rouen through famine is surrendered to the French king. and so in the end being vanquished with hunger they submitted themselves to the French king. Their submission being once known, caused all those other towns which had not yielded to deliver up their keys unto the Frenchmen, as Arques, Vernueil, and others.

110Moreover the towns in Poitou, Touraine, and Anjou, which King John had recovered lately before, did now again (being in no small fear) yield themselves unto King Philip; so that of all the towns within those countries there remained none under the English obeisance, save only Rochelle, Tours, Niorth, and a few other. Thus Normandy, which king Rollo had purchased and gotten 316 years before that present time, was then recovered by the Frenchmen to the great reproach and dishonor of the English, in this year 1204. About this time queen Eleanor the mother of King John departed this life, consumed rather through sorrow and anguish of mind than of any other natural infirmity.

111[A marvellous man-like fish]

By Rafe Coggeshall's report this should seem to have chanced in the days of King Henry the Second. A fish like to a man.In this sixth year of King John's reign, at Oxford in Suffolk, as Fabian saith (although I think he be deceived in the time), a fish was taken by fishers in their nets as they were at sea resembling in shape a wild or savage man, whom they presented unto sir Bartholomew de Glanville knight that had then the keeping of the castle of Orford in Suffolk. He was naked, and in all his limbs and members resembling the right proportion of a man; he had hairs also in the usual parts of his body, albeit that the crown of his head was bald, his beard was long and rugged, and his breast hairy. The knight caused him to be kept certain days and nights from the sea. Meat set afore him he greedily devoured, and did eat fish both raw and sod. Those that were raw he pressed in his hand till he had thrust out all the moisture, and so then did eat them. He would not or could not utter any speech, although to try him they hung him up by the heels and miserably tormented him. He would get him to his couch at the setting of the sun, and rise again at the rising of the same.

112One day they brought him to the haven, and suffered him to go into the sea, but to be sure he should not escape from them, they set three ranks of mighty strong nets before him so to catch him again at their pleasure (as they imagined) but he straightaways diving down to the bottom of the water, got past all the nets, and coming up showed himself to them again that stood waiting for him, and ducking divers times under water and coming up again he beheld them on the shore that stood still looking at him, who seemed as it were to mock them for that he had deceived them and got past their nets. At length after he had thus sported himself a great while in the water, and that there was no more hope of his return, he came to them again of his own accord, swimming through the water, and remained with them two months after. But finally, when he was negligently looked to and now seemed not to be regarded, he fled secretly to the sea, and was never after seen nor heard of.

113¶ Thus much out of Rafe Coggeshall, who affirmeth that this chanced in the days of Henry the Second, about the 33rd of his reign, as John Stow in his summary hath also noted. Which report of theirs in respect of the strangeness thereof might seem incredible, specially to such as be hard of belief and refuse to give faith and credit to any thing but what their own eyes have sealed to their consciences, so that the reading of such wonders as these is no more beneficial to them than to carry a candle before a blind man, or to sing a song to him that is stark deaf. Nevertheless, of all uncouth and rare sights, specially of monstrous appearances, we ought to be so far from having little regard that we should rather in them and by them observe the event and falling out of some future thing, no less miraculous in the issue than they be wonderful at the sudden sight. This was well noted of a philosopher, who to the purpose (among other matters by him touched) hath spoken no less pithily than credibly, saying;

Nec fieri aut errore aut casu monstra putandum,
Cum certas habeant causas, ut tristia monstrent,
Unde illis nomen, quare et portenta vocantur.

114[The war continues]

The war was mightily maintained all this while betwixt them of Poitou and Aquitaine, and many sharp encounters chanced betwixt the parties, of which the one following the king of England's lieutenant Robert de Turnham valiantly resisted the other that held with the French king under the conduct of William de Roches and Hugh le Brun, Earl of March, chief leaders of that faction. But Robert Turnham, together with Savery de Mauleon and Gerard de Atie, bare themselves so manfully that in all conflicts for the most part the victory remained on their sides. The Gascons also took part with King John, and continued in dutiful obedience towards him, for the which their loyalty he was ready to consider them with princely gifts and beneficial rewards, in such bountiful wise that he gave unto a nobleman of the country named Moreve the sum of 28 thousand marks to levy and wage thirty thousand men to aid him at his coming over into those parties. The Archbishop of Bordeaux, that was brother unto the foresaid Moreve, became surety for performance of the covenants and remained in England a long time because the same covenants were not in all points accomplished.

115The bishop of London was sent ambassador from King John unto the emperor upon certain earnest business. The Duke of Louvain and the Earl of Bullogne were made friends by the French king's drift and promised to invade England with an army, and to make war against King John for the withholding of such lands and revenues as they claimed to be due unto them in right of their wives. King Philip also undertook to follow them within a month after they should be entered into England, and thus did the French king seek to make him strong with friends, which daily fell from King John on each hand. ¶ Godfrey bishop of Winchester, that was son to the lord Richard de Lucie departed this life. This year the king was on Christmas day at Tewkesbury where he stayed not past one day.

116The 14th day of January it began to freeze, and so continued till the 22 of March, with such extremityAn extreme frost. that the husbandmen could not make their tilth, by reason whereof in the summer following corn began to grow to an excessive price so that wheat was sold by the quarter at 12 shillings of money then currant. This year, about the feast of Pentecost, the king (by the advice of his council assembled at Northampton) prepared a navy of ships,King John prepareth an army to go into France. mustered soldiers, and showed great tokens that he would renew the war and seek to be revenged of his enemy the French king. The nobles of the realm endeavoured themselves also to match the diligence of the king in this preparation, upon an earnest desire to revenge the injuries lately done to the commonwealth.

117[King John persuaded not to cross to Normandy]

Now when all things were ready and the ships fraught with victuals, armor, and all other provisions necessary, the king came to Porchester, there to take the sea, purposing verily to pass over into France in hope of such fair promises as his friends of Normandy and Poitou had made in sending oftentimes to him to procure him with speed to come to their succors.The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earl of Pembroke persuade the king to stay at home. But as the king was ready to enter on shipboard, Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke came to him, and with many great reasons went about to persuade him to stay his journey. Who although he was very loath to follow their counsel, yet they put forth so many doubts and dangers that might follow of his departing the realm at that present to the hazarding of the whole state, that in the end (sore to his grief) he was overcome by their importunate persuasions, and, so dismissing the most part of his army, appointed his brother the Earl of Salisbury with a certain number of knights and men of arms to pass over into Rochelle, whither the lord Geoffrey the king's base son was gone before him with many other knights and men of arms.

118The lords and other that were dismissed took it very evil, considering the great preparation that had been made for that journey. But specially the mariners were sore offended, cursing the archbishop and the said Earl of Pembroke that were known to be authors of so naughty counsel as they took this to be. It was thought there was never so many ships gotten together at one time before as were at that present to have attended the king; for (as writers have recorded) there were to the number of fourteen thousand mariners that had brought their ships thither for that purpose. But as the breaking up of this voyage grieved others, so it pinched the king so near the heart, that he, being come back from the seaside to Winchester,The king repenting him goeth back to the sea side. repented so much that he had not gone forward with his journey, that the next day he returned again to the coast, and at Portsmouth, entering the sea with his ships, on the fifteenth of July he sailed to the Isle of WightHe goeth to the sea the 15th of July, as some authors have. and wasted up and down for the space of two days together, till by advice of his friends he was persuaded not to adventure to pass over sith his army was dismissed and gone home, and so he returned back to the shore again, arriving at Scotland near unto Warham, the third day after his setting forth; yet such as were behind and hasted after him thought verily he had been gone over, and such a bruit was spread over all till at length in time the truth was known.

119At his coming back (as some write) he charged certain of the nobility with treason, because they did not follow him; whereupon shortly after he punished them very grievously, and peradventure not without some ground of just cause. For likely it is that some greater matter forced him to break up his journey than appeareth in our writers, although Rafe Cogheshall setteth down some reasons alleged by the archbishop Hubert and earl Marshal, to persuade him not to depart the realm. But peradventure other causes there were also of far more importance that constrained him so greatly against his mind and full resolution, both at the first, and now at this second time to return. ¶ Verily to utter my conjecture, it may be that upon his last determination to go over he gave new commandment to his lords to follow him, and they peradventure used not such diligence in accomplishing his pleasure therein as he looked they should have done; or it may be, when the army was once discharged, the soldiers made such haste homewards, each man towards his country, that it was no easy matter to bring them back again in any convenient time. But howsoever it was, as it had been upon a change of purpose, he came back again (as before ye have heard.)