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counsel with the other cardinals, confirmed the sentence of excommunication. Moreover, by a letter addressed to the bishops of the Canterbury province, and another directed to the laity and clergy, he charged them not to obey their archbishop “until such time as by his conduct he should merit absolution.”
The king was elated at the success of his diplomacy in Rome. He went in person to St. Alban's with the letters of suspension, and ordered them to be read in his presence to the monks assembled in chapter. He afterwards sat in the cloister for a long time, talking over the measures he was now going to take against any others who were opposed to him. It may here be noted that in the following year Cardinal Langton was absolved from the suspension under which he lay, upon giving his personal pledge not to return to England until the disturbances were entirely over.
King John soon made known throughout the country the pope's determination to put down all opposition to him: In December, 1215, further letters were procured from Rome excommunicating the leaders among the barons, personally and by name.' John's mercenaries, whom he was pledged to disband and send out of England, were now turned loose on the estates and possessions of the barons. They were encouraged to rob and butcher without mercy. Outrages were committed by one army of these foreigners in the north of England and in the fen country, whilst a second was engaged in a similar work of destruction and rapine in the south. This state of things lasted for three months, and everywhere the barons lost ground and suffered great losses. But, writes a contemporary, “they received the news of their misfortunes with Christian fortitude, saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. These things must be borne with a brave heart.” But when other nameless horrors, which had been committed by the king's orders, were told them, they exclaimed: “This is the beloved son in Christ of the pope, who protects his vassal by trying to subjugate this free and noble country in this unheard of manner! Alas! that he, who should heal the ills of the world, should be found openly to destroy the bodies of the poor, whom we are taught to call the Church.” 1
* Roger de Wendover, ii. 160; cf. Rymer, i. 139. * Matth. Paris, Chron. Maj., ii. 635.
3 Rymer, i. 139.
Driven to despair, the barons took a desperate step. Not seeing any other hope, they determined to invite Louis, the son of Philip of France, to come to their help, offering to make him king of England. After some brief negociations, Louis agreed to their proposals, and some of his French nobles reached London towards the end of February, 1216, bringing letters from Louis, who promised to be in England about Easter.
Before this time, however, the pope, informed of the intention of the barons, had dispatched his legate, Gualo, into France to prohibit the expedition. Gualo was instructed to say that “the king of England was the vassal of the Roman Church, and that the pope would protect him, whose kingdom belonged to the Roman Church by the title of Lordship.” On hearing this statement, the French king protested: “The kingdom of England,” he said, “had never been part of the patrimony of St. Peter, nor is it now, nor ever shall be.” Philip added that, in his opinion, John was not king of England at all, since he had been convicted of treason against his brother, King Richard, and consequently, “as he was not king, he could not give away a kingdom” that was not his to give. Besides this, he argued, even if he had ever been the rightful sovereign,“he had afterwards forfeited
· Matth. Paris, Chron. Maj., ii. 637. ? Roger de Wendover, ii. 174.
the kingdom by the murder of Arthur, of which he had been convicted” in the French royal tribunal. He then went on to point out to Gualo that no king had any right to give away his kingdom without the assent of his barons, who had taken their oaths to him, and “should the pope determine to maintain this erroneous view, it would afford a very pernicious precedent to other countries." Upon this declaration of the French king, his nobles affirmed that they were ready to maintain to the death that no king or prince could surrender his kingdom to another, or make it tributary.
The following day, the papal legate made another attempt. He appealed directly to Louis not to go to England and thus “invade the patrimony of the Roman Church.” King Philip replied for his son, saying: “I have ever been a faithful and devoted son of the Lord Pope and of the Roman Church. Hitherto I have always, and in all matters, promoted its interests, and I would not now counsel my son, Louis, to do anything against the Church. And now let us hear what he has to say for himself.” Thereupon the French prince declared that in his opinion, also, John had ceased to be the rightful king, not merely because of the murder of Arthur, but also because, without the assent of his barons, he had given up his kingdom to the Holy See, and had promised to pay a yearly tribute in recognition of Roman rights over the country. His resignation of the crown, he argued, gave John no claim to take it again at the hands of the pope. The barons had a perfect right, on his resignation, to make what choice they liked; and they had, in the exercise of this, elected him, in right of his wife, whose mother was the sole survivor of King John's brothers and sisters. This right, thus conferred upon him, he meant to maintain in spite of everything, even of the excommunication, which he understood the legate was prepared to pronounce upon him.
This action of the legate somewhat delayed the journey of the French prince to England. Finally, however, he landed in this country on 19th May, 1216, and was followed almost immediately by the legate Gualo, who was sent over by the pope to protect, as far as possible, the interests of King John.
The subsequent successes and failures of either party are not of present interest. Meantime, however, it may be noted that the envoys of Prince Louis were busy in Rome trying to convince Pope Innocent III that he had been hitherto supporting a man wholly unworthy of his confidence. If we are to believe our chroniclers, they had already made some progress in their diplomacy, and the pope had already got so far as to say that he would wait till he had heard what his legate, Gualo, had to say on this subject, when, on 16th July, the great pontiff died, leaving the settlement of the difficulties in England as a legacy to his successor, Honorius III.
Roger de Wendover, ii. 177.
CHAPTER II THE WORK OF GUALO THE LEGATE THE death of King John himself on 16th October, 1216, three months after Pope Innocent III, was a most fortunate event for the country. Had he lived longer and had the barons, with the help of the French, succeeded in their design of deposing him, as it is more than likely they would, England might have become, with Louis upon the throne, a dependency of the French kingdom. This catastrophe, as well as the scourge of a long-continued civil war, was averted by the sudden illness and death of the king, and by the energy and determination of the pope's legate, Gualo.
The tender age of John's son, Henry, at the time of his father's death, was a factor greatly in his favour, and helped him to win back many of the barons who had renounced their allegiance to his father. Their main reason for desiring to get rid of the rule of the faithless John ceased with his death. Prince Henry, a lad only ten years old, had not committed those crimes by reason of which, at least in the opinion of most Englishmen of the day, his father had been thought to have forfeited his right to rule. Neither had the lad, of course, been a party to the surrender of his kingdom to the pope, by which move John had cunningly contrived to preserve his crown at a critical moment; for, however much the nation had tacitly connived at the act, at heart. it undoubtedly disliked it. Moreover the new king