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laws and customs of the realm. “But,” he continues, “before the messengers with this just and prudent order could return to King John, the nobles rejected their oaths of allegiance. Even had the king oppressed them unjustly, they ought not to have acted against him as they had done, presuming to band themselves in arms with his known enemies, occupying and despoiling his lands, and even seizing the city of London, the capital of the kingdom, which was traitorously betrayed into their hands."
Furthermore: when on the return of our messengers the king offered them full justice, in accordance with the tenure of our commands, they rejected these overtures for peace, with others of a similar nature. Finally, seeing that the dominion over the kingdom belongs to the Roman Church, and that consequently he neither could nor ought to act in prejudice to our rights, the king proposed that they should appeal to us. When this, too, was of no avail, he “asked the archbishop and bishops to obey our order to defend the rights of the Roman Church and to protect him, according to the privileges of all who had taken the cross.” At length, when they had refused to do this, he, finding himself left without help, no longer dared to refuse what was demanded of him. In this way "he was compelled by force, and by that fear which may seize upon even the boldest of men, to enter into a treaty with them. This treaty is not only vile and disgraceful, but unlawful and wicked, and calculated to greatly diminish, and gravely to derogate from his royal rights and honour.” Wherefore, “because to us has been said by the Lord that of the prophet: I have set you over peoples and kingdoms, that you may raise up and destroy, may build up and plant, as also those words of another prophet: Loose the bands of wicked
Jerem. i. 10.
ness, undo the bundles that oppress" (we are forced to take action). "We are unwilling to pass over such brazen wickedness perpetrated in contempt of the Apostolic See, to the destruction of all royal prerogatives, to the scandal of the English nation, and to the grave danger of all Christian people, unless everything is revoked by our authority. We consequently condemn and utterly reject this composition, forbidding the king under an anathema to observe it, or the barons and their accomplices to require its observance. We annul and declare void not only the Charter itself, but the obligations and pledges given by the king for its performance.” 2
On the same day the pope addressed a brief, couched in almost identical terms, to the English barons. At the close of this letter he suggested that, when the archbishop and bishops were present at the General Council which was shortly to be held, the barons might send proctors to represent their grievances to him, and he pledged himself to examine into them and to redress them. “But,” writes the chronicler, “when through the king's instrumentality the nobles of England received these condemnatory and threatening letters, they were unwilling to surrender what they had gained, but began the more strenuously to band themselves together against ” the king.*
So far as the influence of Cardinal Langton was concerned, matters were not improved at the Roman Curia by the sympathy shown in the North for the archbishop's attitude. The see of York was vacant; and the canons, having obtained the royal licence to elect, set aside the candidate suggested to them by the king, and made choice of Simon Langton, the cardinal's brother, as their archbishop. John forthwith dispatched messengers to Rome to prevent the pope's confirmation of this election. These envoys did not hesitate to declare that “the archbishop of Canterbury was a public enemy of the king of England; that he had given his help and counsel to the barons against his sovereign, and that if Simon Langton, his brother, were now promoted to the archiepiscopal see of York, there would be no peace for the king and kingdom.” The pope listened to their objections, quashed the election and forbade Simon Langton ever to return to England.
1 Is. lviii. 6. ? Roger de Wendover, ii. 139-143; cf. Rymer, i. 135. 3 Rymer, i. 136. ^ Roger de Wendover, ii. 145.
Meantime, before, or almost before, Pope Innocent's condemnation of Magna Charta could have reached England, King John was again complaining of his irreconcilable barons. On 13th September he wrote to the pope and, after expressing his "reverence due to such a Father and Lord,” he tried to make out that the hostility of his subjects to him was due to his surrender of his kingdom to the Roman Church. “The earls and barons,” he writes, were devoted to us before we submitted ourselves and our country to your dominion. From that time, and specially on that account, as they publicly state, they are violently opposed to us. “We however," he continues, " believe that, after God, we have in you a special Lord and patron, and that our protection and that of the whole kingdom, which is yours, is committed (by Him) to your Paternity.” Consequently our business is indeed yours; we hand over all our authority to your Holiness and will approve whatever, upon the information of our messengers, you may think well to ordain.
No direct reply to this communication is, apparently, extant. Innocent III, however, immediately sent a letter to the bishop of Winchester, Pandulph and others, excom? Roger de Wendover, ii. 153.
2 Rymer, i. 138.
municating the barons generally. “We are greatly astonished and moved,” he writes, “to understand that, when our beloved son in Christ, John the illustrious king of England, had, beyond all expectation made satisfaction to the Lord and His Church, and in particular to our brother Stephen, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishops, they failed to protect and help him during the disturbances in the kingdom, which is known to all to belong to the Roman Church, by right of lordship. In this they made themselves abettors (conscii) not to say associates, in that wicked conspiracy, since he who fails to oppose a manifest crime cannot free himself from the taint of his evil company."
“See how these bishops defend the patrimony of the Roman Church! See how they protect those signed with the cross ! Aye, see how they oppose those who strive to destroy the work of the Crucified One! Of a truth they are worse than the very Saracens themselves, since they desire to drive from his kingdom one from whom it was hoped help would be given to the Holy Land." The pope then goes on to excommunicate all disturbers of the peace of the king and kingdom, and to place their lands and possessions under an interdict. He charges the archbishop and bishops in virtue of obedience to publish this general sentence, on all Sundays and Feast days, until all shall have made their peace and returned to their obedience. And, continues the document, “if any of the bishops neglect to fulfil this our precept, let them know that he is suspended from the episcopal office, and his subjects released from their obedience to him, since it is but just that he who refuses to obey his superior shall not be obeyed by his inferiors.” 1 On receiving this letter, the bishop of Winchester and
| Rymer, i. 138.
Pandulph went to the archbishop and required him in the pope's name to order his suffragans to publish it, and to do so himself in the diocese of Canterbury. They reached him only as he was actually on shipboard, waiting to cross over the Channel on his way to the General Council, and he asked them to leave the matter until such time as he could himself speak with the pope. He refused to publish the document until he had been able to explain to Innocent III the real state of the case. Pandulph and his fellow envoy, however, construing Langton's attitude into absolute disobedience to the authority of the Holy See, at once declared the cardinal suspended and forbade him to enter any church or to say mass till the suspension had been removed by proper authority. And, writes the chronicler, “humbly observing this suspension, the archbishop set out for the Apostolic See.” Immediately upon his departure from the country, the bishop of Winchester and Pandulph, as they were directed, themselves published the excommunication. The barons, however, on the plea that no one was specifically mentioned by name in the sentence, wholly disregarded it.'
The Fourth Council of Lateran met in Rome in November, 1215. During the sessions of this assembly, the proctors of the English king charged Archbishop Langton with aiding and abetting the barons in their opposition to their sovereign, with refusing or neglecting to declare the papal condemnation of the barons' action, and finally, with declining to give any undertaking that he would publish the recent excommunication, for which he had been suspended by the bishop of Winchester, and had come on to Rome. Langton refused to reply or plead, and only requested to be absolved from the sentence passed on him in England. The pope would not consider his petition, and having taken
Roger de Wendover, ii. 155.