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The messengers to the pope took with them also a letter from the abbots and priors of England, and another from the bishops. In the first document the religious superiors of England say that they turn with confidence“ to the supreme pontiff of the Universal Church.” The providence of the Divine Majesty "which has ordered all things in measure and number and weight,' has so set the foundations of His Spouse, the Church, upon the solid rock, that on that firm foundation rendered strong by the blood of His Son, the building to be erected might the more easily and happily rise up. For the Universal Church—at the will of its Spouse-is ruled, like the ark at the deluge, by one Father and one Shepherd.” The writers then go on to say that the English Church had ever been renowned as “a special member of the holy Roman Church, but that now it was rendered not a little sorrowful, sad and disturbed by exactions, oppressions, and manifold troubles." Therefore, they say, “to you, Reverend Father, the English Church has recourse, as to a column of strength, which God, not man, has set up,” knowing that you will see justice done and protect it from all oppression. “Since, therefore, we are all faithful and devoted sons of the holy Roman Church, and since blows that are expected are less hurtful, we have determined to make known our difficulties to the Apostolic See," for it is to be feared that unless matters are quickly remedied, there will be a “popular tumult, a scandal, and a schism.” The “people are stirred up against the king and are ready to withdraw their fidelity from him unless by his royal power he stays the evil. The bishops and nobles say that if the churches and other benefices given by them to monasteries are bestowed on Italian clerics, they can justly take back these benefices and churches, since their revenues ought to be spent on the poor and pilgrims, this being the intention of the donors and the reason of the gifts.” 1
1 Wisd. xi. 2.
The bishops were not less explicit as to the danger of continuing the present policy of the Curia. The archbishop of Canterbury was not then in England, but the letter was sent in the name of all the bishops of the province. They had heard, they say, with great grief, the complaints which had been made in the late Council at Lyons on behalf of the king, nobles, and entire English people. Their love for the Holy See had always made them most desirous of keeping the people and kingdom in “the unity of their mother the Church.” Discontent, however, was rife, and had increased since the Council, as nothing in the way of a remedy which the pope had then been understood to promise, had been attempted. They entertained the gravest fears as to the result of all this discontent, and they begged Pope Innocent to regard “the fervour of the English faith, and to remember how the kingdom was always most devoted to the holy Roman Church," and to find some remedy for the dangers which threaten even the peace of the nation.
The messengers bearing the complaints of the English nation and the accompanying letters, set out for Lyons on 9th April, 1246. At their head was the same William de Powick who had been spokesman at the Council for the king's proctors. Already there were rumours that the offi. cials at the Curia were inclined to give way on some points, and it was apparently quite certain that the pope had promised that henceforth no Italian should be appointed to any English benefice unless the king had first been petitioned on the matter. On the other hand there was a
1 Rymer, i. 265. ? Matthew Paris, iv. 530. Ibid., 533.
story current, which found its way to the ears of Matthew Paris, that Innocent IV had made demands in an altogether new way that opened out possibilities of further exactions from the English. At the Council the pope had noticed the embroidered and gold-worked orphreys of the copes used by the English ecclesiastics. “Where are these made?” he inquired. “In England," was the reply: whereupon he exclaimed, “truly, England is our garden of delights, it is an inexhaustible mine; and where much exists there is the possibility of extracting much from it!”. And so, shortly after, the English Cistercian abbots received the papal commands to send him some well-worked orphreys to ornament the papal copes and chasubles, “just as if,” says the chronicler, “they could be got for nothing."
Almost at the same time a novel claim was put forward by the pope, which Henry at once determined to resist. Rumour at the Curia had spoken of the great wealth of some of the English clerks who had died without making a will, and whose property had thus reverted to their relations. One, John of Houghton, archdeacon of Northampton, had died, it was said, suddenly, and intestate, leaving an estate of over 5,000 marks, thirty gold and silver cups, as well as jewels innumerable. Innocent IV, in consequence of these rumours, ordered that a new canon should be promulgated in England by the Franciscans and Dominicans to the effect that the property of every clerk who died without having made a will should belong to the pope. The king at once prohibited the promulgation of this “novel and unheard-of proposal,” as detrimental to the best interests of his kingdom.
On 24th March, 1246, even before the English representatives had left the country on their way to Lyons, a
* Matthew Paris, iv. 546.
papal letter demanding a subsidy was circulated by the bishops of Winchester and Norwich, to whom it was addressed. In this letter the pope reminds the bishops that the previous year, before they left the Council, he had written to them and to the bishops of Lincoln, London, and Worcester, ordering them to collect a sum of 6,000 marks from the English Church. He asks them to let him know what they had done in the matter. If they have done nothing, he bids them under obedience within twenty days apportion the subsidy according to the means of the various dioceses, and see that it is collected and forwarded at once to him.
To the prelates who had not been present at the Council, and of course to the nobles and king, this demand was entirely new. The matter was at once raised in parliament, and fresh protests were suggested. Henry, however, cut the matter short by prohibiting altogether the collection of the tallage in behalf of the pope. He blamed the bishops who had been present at the Council of Lyons for having given even a tacit consent to the papal demands. Before even seeming to acknowledge such a power of taxation, they should have referred the whole question to their peers in England. And he threatened with the confiscation of their temporalities all who, after this warning, should persist in collecting the sum asked for.' The collection, however, had already been made in certain districts, · and in these cases the bishops were directed to hold the money, and not to let it pass out of their hands. Thus, to the abbot of St. Alban's Henry wrote that he was astonished to hear that the bishop of London had compelled him to pay the papal tallage, and he ordered him to give no heed to such a command.' · Matthew Paris, iv. 558.
Bishop Grosseteste, as one of the prelates present at the Council of Lyons, was involved in some difficulty. He writes to the king to justify his action in the matter, and in view of his well recognised opposition to papal provisions generally, the ground he now takes to defend himself is not unimportant. Henry had expressed his astonishment that Grosseteste had ventured to demand the tallage in his diocese on his own initiative. To this the bishop replies: “I have done nothing in this matter upon my own authority, or indeed alone; for the other venerable fathers and bishops are doing the same, or have already finished the collection, in the way laid down for them by Master Martin, the pope's nuncio, when he was still in the country. They, like me, were obliged to do this by the pontiff's authority, for not to do what he orders, is like the sin of witchcraft-and to refuse to obey, like the crime of idolatry.”? The wonder is, “not that I and my fellow bishops have done what we have, but it would be more to be wondered at, and our conduct would be deserving of the greatest reprobation if, even had we not been asked and bidden, we had not done something and even more than we have. For we see our spiritual father and mother (whom we are incomparably more bound to honour, obey and reverence, as well as to assist in every way in their needs, than we are our natural parents), driven into exile, on every side attacked by persecutions and tribulations, despoiled of all patrimony, and not having proper and fitting means of support. If, therefore, we come not to their assistance when in such a condition, it is certain that we are transgressing the Lord's command to honour our parents. . ... That royal clemency which strengthens the kingly throne, will never prevent nor check children wishful to honour their father and
1 1. Reg., xv. 23.