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By this time Boniface, the archbishop of Canterbury, had returned once more to England, and by his orders the bishops and archdeacons of his province were summoned to meet at Canterbury some time about 22nd August, 1257, to consider the oppressions under which the Church in England was then suffering. At this meeting articles of complaint to the number of fifty were drafted. One of the most serious was that which asserted that the king had endeavoured to prevent the prelates coming together to discuss their grievances. He had threatened them with confiscation if they did, and thus endeavoured to deprive the Church of its natural and necessary liberty. The prelates, however, wholly disregarding the royal prohibition, met according to the archbishop's summons. The articles agreed upon by the assembly appertained to the essential liberties of the Church, and the archbishop and bishops agreed to fight vigorously to maintain these rights, which were really, as the account of the proceedings states, “ like to those for which St. Thomas, the archbishop of Canterbury, contended, and gloriously won the cause.” The taxes which had been laid upon them formed only one of the many complaints made by the ecclesiastics at this time. Yet there seemed to be no limit to the money required by the king. Almost at the very time of this meeting, in despair of receiving any protection from the Roman Curia, except when it desired to safeguard its own right of taxation, the prelates gave way under the pressure brought to bear upon them by Henry, and agreed to find him 42,000 marks for the Sicilian business. On his part the king again promised to respect and guard their liberties,
Matthew Paris, v. 632.
and gave his assent to the fifty articles drawn up by the bishops.
Up to the end of 1257 there was little change in the condition of affairs. The pope increased his gifts of the ecclesiastical revenues in England to the king, allowing him to take another tenth for five years;? but the same difficulty as before was experienced in collecting these dues, in spite of the sentences of excommunication issued against those who would not pay.' In December, 1257, a letter to the king from the pope says that the sentence of excommunication for the non-fulfilment of his engagements was not pronounced upon him, owing to the representations made by his agents in Rome. Henry must, however, remember that delays must come to an end, and he must be careful not to find himself finally under the sentence passed against one who has forsworn himself, and his country plunged into an ecclesiastical interdict. At the beginning of 1258, in two more letters addressed to Henry, the pope urges him to try and meet the creditors who have lent money for the recovery of the Sicilian possessions. His agents in Rome, conjointly with Rustand, who knew the situation in England, have pledged the king's credit for these payments. As a general reply to these appeals, the king wrote to Octavian, cardinal of Sancta Maria in Via Lata, that in time he still hoped to carry out all he had promised. Notwithstanding the opposition of the English barons to the scheme, he still trusted somehow to find the means of carrying through the affair of the Sicilies by himself, in the four months still left of the period allowed him for completing the conditions of the gift of the crown to his son. 1 Matthew Paris, v. 638.
Gervase of Cant., ii. 206. • Brit. Mus. Add. MS., 15,359, f. 153; Rymer, i. 368. • Rymer, i. 366. s Ibid., 365, 368, 369.
6 Royal Letters, ii. 126.
CHAPTER XX THE CHURCH AND THE PROVISIONS OF OXFORD With the retirement of the nuncio Herlot from England, the troublesome business of the Sicilian crown practically came to an end, so far as England was concerned. It was not, however, until the year 1263, that the right of Prince Edmund to the throne was formally renounced at the invitation of Pope Alexander IV's successor, Urban IV. On 25th July of that year, the pope announced to the English king his intention of sending over an envoy to settle the matter,' and the English bishops were warned to assist this mission. Two days later, the letter introducing the embassy was written, as well as a citation to the king and Prince Edmund, to prove their rights within four months if they still desired to claim the throne of the Sicilies. In this last communication, the pope expresses the disappointment felt generally in the Curia, that "the great power of the royal house and of the English people (which, in bestowing the crown, his predecessor had specially desired to honour), had not long ago come to the help of its mother (the Roman Church)." As nothing, however, had been done, it became necessary to take measures to relieve the Church of its responsibilities and to free the kingdom of Sicily from the many evils from which it was suffering on account of the delay. Understanding, however, that the design he had formed was not
Reg. Urbani IV, No. 298; cf. Brit. Mus. Add. MS., 15,360, f. 233. ? Ibid., No. 299.
3 Ibid., No. 297.
taken in good part by you (King Henry), we think it right to warn you that should you fail to fulfil the conditions upon which you received the crown for your son, within the specified time of four months, we will proceed to grant it to some one else."
On the arrival of the delegate in this country, the position of the English king was indeed so critical in regard to his own people, that it became clear to the envoy, if not to the king, that all idea of receiving material or financial assistance from England must be abandoned. This practically closed the incident of Sicily so far as the English king was concerned. Herlot, the pope's nuncio, had arrived about the middle of March, and parliament was summoned to meet in London on 2nd April. The object of the nuncio was, it is said, to obtain “a clear and exact reply” as to the intention of England in regard to Sicily. He asked, in the first place, for a vast sum of money to free the pope from the obligations he had taken on himself in behalf of the king and at his request. The amount of this claim far exceeded what the barons had expected, and the meeting broke up without coming to any conclusion;' but shortly after, another nuncio, a friar named Mansuetus, sent at the king's request, arrived in England, possessing more extensive papal powers than Herlot. His efforts, and even threats, did not, however, avail more than those of his predecessor to induce parliament to accept the burden of indebtedness in regard to Sicily.
To return to the situation in England in 1258: For a second time Herlot met the parliament at Oxford on 28th April, and whether by design or by accident, the bishops and other prelates were absent from this meeting. In the pope's name Herlot demanded a third part of all goods, moveable and immoveable for his master's use. “This most harsh and unheard-of tax" caused absolute consternation among the nobles, who asked for time for reflection and consultation. To all the expostulations of the nuncio they replied that the immense sum asked would mean ruin to them, and that if the king had obtained the crown of Sicily from the pope for his son Edmund, this was done wholly without their knowledge and consent. It was an evident folly, they said, and had been treated as such by Richard of Cornwall, when the throne had been offered to him. They attended the adjourned meeting at Westminster with retainers fully armed, and they demanded in the first place that the king should at once dismiss his foreign advisers, that he should renew all the charters of liberties so frequently promised, and should take an oath on the gospels to govern henceforth by the advice of a council of twenty-four Englishmen. Henry and his son Edward were unable to resist, and at once took the oath; upon this all the nobles renewed their fealty to the king.
1 Reg. Urbani IV, No. 297; cf. Rymer, i. 428. 2 Matthew Paris, v. 676.
3 Ibid., 679.
Though parliament was prolonged to 5th May of this year, 1258, nothing more could be done by the papal agents in the business upon which they had come; whilst it became more and more evident that grave difficulties between the king and his subjects were imminent. In view of these internal commotions in England, the Sicilian question remained in abeyance. . If pressed it would obviously have tended to alienate the barons from the king even more than they already were; and so, on 15th August, Herlot “quietly and prudently” left England having accomplished nothing by his mission.
Matthew Paris, v. 680.