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the archbishop of Canterbury to compel the obedience of his barons, according to the tenor of the pope's letters by the spiritual weapon of excommunication, but that Cardinal Langton had demurred to this course. He had persistently refused to pronounce any such sentence, saying that he knew well what the pope's mind was on such matters. He had, however, undertaken, if he, the king, would get rid of the foreign mercenaries he had imported, to do what he could for him. After this, he continues, we offered, through the archbishop, to submit the whole matter to you, the pope, through eight representatives, four appointed by me, and four elected by the barons. This too they rejected.
Further, the king desired to remind the pope that, as a necessary consequence of these continued disturbances, he had been obliged to give up his journey to the Holy Land, and consequently he could not now say when he would be able to undertake it. Moreover, in thus abandoning his expedition, many others who were going with him had been prevented doing so. “Finally, o venerated Father," he concludes, “in the presence of Brother William, a member of your court, and of the venerable Fathers, the bishops of Coventry and Worcester, we offered the said barons to submit to your Benignity all the demands they have made of us, that you, who enjoy the plenitude of power, might determine what is just; and they refuse all these offers. Wherefore, loving Father, we have determined to expose the present state of things to your Lordship, that in your kindness you might determine what should be done."
Innocent III replied at once on the receipt of John's letter. He wrote in haste, for his reply is dated June 18, only three weeks after the dispatch of the king's communication. It was too late, however, to affect the situation.
1 Rymer, i. 129.
Although of course the pope did not then know it, the Great Charter had been agreed to and sealed three days before the issue of the papal letter, which is addressed to Langton and the other English bishops. The king's agents, he says, had represented to him the difficulties which surrounded their royal master. He does not understand the situation. Long ago he had urged the king, in remission of his sins, to treat the barons with mildness and listen to their just petitions. “Why cannot they put an end to these contentions by the means sanctioned by the laws and customs of their country?” The barons had not even waited for his reply; but after the king had taken the cross and had promised them more than justice, they had taken up arms against him. They did not appear to feel concern that their action prevented the work of liberating the Holy Land, and forced the king to spend money intended for the Crusade upon resisting the destruction of their own country. What was most " wicked and absurd was, that when the king in his perversity had offended God and the Church, they had helped him; but that, when he had turned again to God and satisfied his Church, they then attacked him.” To permit this would be an injury to God, to the Roman Church, and to the pope, as well as to the king, and would be a danger and a menace to the kingdom. “Wherefore,” continues the document, “greatly desirous of procuring, as indeed we are bound to do, the peace of the kingdom of England, (we determine) to put down these disturbances and to protect the said king, who is our vassal, from injustice and injury; particularly as, by reason of the cross he has assumed, he is under our special protection. We therefore strictly enjoin upon the aforesaid archbishop and his suffragans, in virtue of their obedience, that they proceed to the excommunication of the said barons, if after eight days after being warned “they refuse to make their peace with their sovereign.”
Before this letter could reach England, and, indeed, before it was penned, it had been stipulated by the barons at Runnymede that all foreign mercenaries were to be disbanded and forthwith sent out of the country, and that, for two months before the provision of the Charter became effective, London should remain in the keeping of the barons, Cardinal Langton holding the Tower. Further, that twenty-four of their number should be constituted guardians of the liberties of their country, with power, should there be any attempt to ignore the provisions of the Charter, to declare war against the king.
John did not rest calmly under these repressive measures. The sequel shows that he had never meant to keep faith with the barons. He had only sworn to the provisions of Magna Charta because he could not help himself, and to gain the time necessary for once more invoking papal assistance. By 27th June, and before the reply of the pope to his former letter could have reached England, his messengers, including Pandulph, then bishop-elect of Norwich, and the agent for the Curia in England, were on their way to Rome with a fresh appeal for help. “We humble ourselves,” the king writes, “in the sight of your Paternity. As far as we know how and are able, we thank you deeply for the care and solicitude which your paternal loving kindness has unceasingly devoted to our defence and that of our kingdom of England. But the hard-heartedness of the English prelates and their malicious disobedience prevents your loving designs from having effect.
“We, however, eagerly turn once more to your clemency, knowing the true affection you have for us. Although for
1 P.R.O. Papal Bulls, Box lii. No. 2.
the moment you are looked upon by the proud and evil. minded, in their folly, as powerless, by God's help you will protect us and secure us peace, and bring terror and confusion upon our enemies. Though indeed Pandulph, your trusty subdeacon and the elect of Norwich, is most necessary here in England, faithfully and devotedly to further the interests and honour of the Roman Church and yours, as well as that of our whole kingdom, still because in no better way could your Paternity be made acquainted with our state and that of our realm than through him, we have unwillingly dispatched him to your feet. We earnestly beg that when, through him and our other trusted messengers, you shall have understood the injury offered to you in our person, you will stretch forth the hand of your paternal care to secure the right order of our kingdom and our dignity, in whatsoever way your discretion shall think best, as through God's grace you ever laudably do and have done.
“Know for certain, that, after God, we have in you and in the authority of the Apostolic See our one and only protection and we live trusting to your patronage.” 1
Pandulph and the king's envoys related in detail to Innocent III the discussions which had taken place between the king and his barons. They told him that King John “had publicly protested that England in a special manner belonged to the Roman Church as to an overlord,”? and that for this reason he—John-neither could nor ought to pass any new law, or change anything in the kingdom to the prejudice of the Lord Pope, without his knowledge. For this reason, “when having made his appeal, he had put himself and the rights of his kingdom under the pope's protection,” the barons at once seized London, the capital Rymer, i. 135.
? Ratione dominii.
of the kingdom, and forcibly “demanded from the king confirmation of the privileges they claimed. And he, fearing their violence, did not dare to refuse what they demanded.” 1
John's messengers then pointed out to the pope certain articles in the Great Charter which they suggested were plainly subversive of all royal authority. After Innocent III had carefully examined these he exclaimed with energy: “Do these English barons want to drive from his kingdom one who has taken the cross and thus placed himself under the protection of the Holy See? Do they desire to transfer to someone else the dominion of the Roman Church ? By St. Peter, we cannot allow this injury to pass unpunished.” Then “after deliberating with the cardinals, by a definitive sentence he condemned and annulled the aforesaid Charter which granted certain liberties in the kingdom of England, and as evidence of this judgement” he issued a bull on the subject addressed to the whole world.?
In this document, dated 24th August of this year, 1215, Innocent III recorded the humiliation and penitence of John for his former misdeeds; his free gift of the kingdoms of England and Ireland to St. Peter and the Roman Church; his public profession of fealty and his promise of annual tribute. More than this: the king had taken the cross and had really intended to go to the war in the Holy Land, if the devil had not stirred up these dissensions in his kingdom, by which he was prevented from carrying out his design. When made acquainted with these troubles he, the pope, wrote to Cardinal Langton and the other English bishops to put a stop to the disorder, even if they had to have recourse to the spiritual sword. And at the same time he had warned the king to treat his subjects well and redress any substantial grievance, in accordance with the Roger de Wendover, Chronica, ii. 138.
2 Ibid. 139.