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who, though unworthy, hold on earth His place, who in wrath restrains not His mercy nor forgets to take pity, now pour out for you the oil of mercy, after you have experienced the bitterness of the punishment, and after the rod offer to you the salve," and permit you, at the king's request, to return to England, which hitherto you have been forbidden to do by the Apostolic See.
Gregory, from his first coming to the papacy, in no way relaxed the watchful solicitude over the English king, which the policy of his two predecessors had made traditional. On 25th May, 1227, he dispatched a letter of strong remonstrance to the French king on the policy of aggression upon which he had apparently once more embarked. He says that the Roman pontiffs had never hesitated to interfere to prevent menaces of English rights by the French kings, “since the kingdom of England specially belongs to” the Roman Church. It was altogether in defiance of the papal prohibition that the grandfather of the present French king had attacked the English sovereign, who ought to have been shielded from attacks as a crusader. Against the pope's prohibition also, the king's father had occupied almost all the possessions of England over the sea, and now once again rumour speaks of a design to disturb the peace which had existed between the two countries, and of an attempt on the part of France to wrest the remaining English possessions on the continent from the English Crown. Gregory consequently warns the French monarch to desist from such designs, and at once to restore any parts of English territory he may have already occupied.”
Notwithstanding his great age, the new pontiff at once commenced to manifest as great a capacity of administra
Royal Letters, i. 548. ? Registres de Grég. IX., etc., i. No. 86.
tion as his predecessor. His letters deal with every kind of ecclesiastical business, from the organisation of the great crusade and the writing of individual letters of protection to those who had taken the cross, to the appointment of some minor official to a benefice in far-off England. In this last matter, indeed, Gregory IX seems to have taken a more personal interest than did even Honorius III. Several difficulties having risen about these papal presentations, and indeed, in one case, one bishop having refused to induct, it is hardly wonderful if the national spirit was stirred against a practice which could not be regarded as anything less than unwarrantable exactions from the revenues of the country. In the first year of his pontificate the same thing had been felt by the Church of France, and the Chapter of Paris had protested against the demands that were being made by the legate in the pope's name. He had made great promises of help to the French king out of the ecclesiastical revenues, which the French ecclesiastics held to be quite beyond his powers, and which they determined to resist, since, if allowed, it would, in their opinion, lead to the destruction of the Church. Later on, as will be seen, the opposition to these “provisions” in this country became so acute, as to call forth a strong letter on the subject from the pope. This, however, was after Langton's death, for so long as he lived the relations between England and the Roman officials were apparently uniformly harmonious.
There is sufficient evidence, in the royal correspondence of the time, to show that there was a very great amount of business transacted at this period by the king's agents in Curia. On several occasions letters of credit for large sums -in one case amounting to as much as 3,000 marks—are
Registres de Grég. IX., etc., i., No. 134.
notified from Henry's representatives at the papal court as required to meet expenses. The great fact in the history of the papacy in the reign of Gregory 1X was, of course, the quarrel between the emperor and the pope. We are not concerned with either the origin of the difficulties or with the course of events, except in so far as England was brought into the matter in her relations with the Holy See. Both the emperor and the pope had written their view of the situation to King Henry. In his reply to the latter the English king had expressed his grief at the sorrow caused to Gregory, but hints that he thinks the emperor has something to say on his side. He had, he writes, shown the letters received from the emperor Frederick to the pope's clerk, “ Master Stephen," who was then with him, and by his advice had written in return to beseech the emperor not rashly to “depart from the duty owing to you and the Church, but humbly to obey and follow your directions.” On the other hand the king did not hesitate to express his hopes “in the spirit of all fidelity and obedience, by which he is bound to such a father and lord,” that should Frederick make any advances towards reconciliation, Gregory will receive him into peace.
The same day the king dispatched his letter to the emperor. Whilst compassionating Frederick's wounded imperial dignity, he expresses his regret that the “enemy of mankind” has been able to sow discord between him and the Roman Church. He trusts that the pope may be somewhat moved by his prayers and advice, since he is more " bound to him by great and special obligations than to other earthly princes.” And he further hopes that the emperor on his part will not“ despise the hand of the Church, which is stretched out against him.”
1 Rymer, i. 189.
One of the important pieces of business transacted by the royal agents in the Curia, in the first years of Pope Gregory, had reference to the king's coming of age. It has been pointed out already that Henry announced his determination in the February of 1227 to rule his kingdom from that time without further assistance from the governor appointed over him. There were many of the nobles and others, who saw in this fresh evidence of the ascendance of de Burgh, and of his determination to remove the still youthful Henry from the influence of Peter de Rupibus, bishop of Winchester. The gathering distrust and dislike of the justiciar was not unknown to the king, and he took measures to obtain the papal approval of his design to take the reins of government into his own hands. Honorius III, however, died before anything could be done in the matter, and it was not till the beginning of 1228 that there are indications that the affair was again being mooted in Rome. The first sign appears in a letter from Gregory IX, directing that certain tournaments which were being held in England should be put a stop to. It had been represented to him, he says, that certain barons and nobles were taking advantage of these meetings to discuss the king's policy, and even to make compacts to resist it. This, if not checked, might lead to a serious disturbance of the peace of the kingdom. The pope, therefore, takes advantage of the attitude of disapproval which the Church has always maintained towards these tournaments, inasmuch as they frequently lead to loss of life, to prohibit them altogether, and he authorises certain bishops to excommunicate any who persist in taking part in them.' A few weeks later, in the April of 1228, the pope
1 Rymer, i. 189.
addressed the nobles of England directly upon their king's determination to rule, in deed as well as in name, and gave the project his approval. Even rulers, he says, whilst young, are rightly placed under tutors to prevent any rashness incidental to youth. This should last till they were grown up, unless an unwonted quality of prudence should supply the defect of age. And “though our beloved son in Christ, Henry, the illustrious king of England, is in years a youth, he is already, as we rejoice to hear, possessed of a man's mind, and has made such progress in the qualities) of age and prudence, that what is wanting to him in years seems to have been made up to him in the virtue of discretion, and so there is no longer any reason to prevent his ordering, usefully and prudently, the kingdom and its affairs." Gregory then commands all by his “ Apostolic letters” to give their help and cordial assistance to the directions he has given to the bishop of Winchester and the justiciar, to allow the king the full and free use of his royal authority. Any one that opposes this is to know that he lays himself open to the penalties of excommunication.
The continued hostility of the emperor Frederick to the pope made the latter naturally all the more anxious to secure the support of other Christian kings, and to prevent any chance of hostilities breaking out between them. He exerted himself from the first, as has been already pointed out, to secure a continuance of peace, or rather of a truce, between France and England, which all during this period appeared to have been of a very precarious nature. Henry sent his ambassadors to Louis of France with every desire to carry out what “has been ordered us by the lord pope" in this matter. And, upon the French king pleading that 1 Rymer, i. 190.