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decision as to the restitution of the royal castles, were then at Chester, and thither the archbishop sent messengers to tell all whom it might concern, that if by the following day the royal possessions were not delivered up, he would pronounce them excommunicate by name, according to the orders received from the pope. The barons at Leicester, fearing that they were not strong enough to resist, and dreading that Langton would proceed to extremities as he had threatened, came into Northampton and surrendered the royal possessions as they had been ordered to do by the pope.'
It seems probable that the real instigator of the rebellion against the king was the bishop of Winchester, Peter de Rupibus; and the cause may be sought in his hostility to the still all-powerful justiciar, de Burgh. In the early January of 1224, the bishop secured by his influence and representations in Rome, the dispatch of a letter of remonstrance from the pope to Henry. In this document Honorius reminded the English king of what both his father and he himself owed to the bishop “at a time of great need;" and he declares that he “has heard, and since hearing has not ceased to wonder," how Henry had apparently forgotten these benefits and interfered with the undoubted rights of the bishop's See. He warns him not to act in such a way as to offend him and the Apostolic See, which has the Church of Winchester under its special protection. The pope goes on to explain what it was that the bishop complained of specially. De Rupibus had intended to pay a visit to Rome on his way to the Holy Land to consult the Holy Father about the fulfilment of his vow and “other business of his See.” No doubt it was not considered desirable that, whilst the difficulties between the barons and the king were pending, one who was in sympathy with the recalcitrant nobles,
Roger de Wendover, ii. 276.
or at any rate hostile to the justiciar, should be permitted to throw in with the opposition the weight of his influence at the Curia. Still, Honorius resented the prohibition, and declares that he cannot comprehend how any bishop can be prohibited from “ coming to us and to the Roman Church his mother, for this is really no more an injury to him than it is to us and the Apostolic See.” The pope hoped, therefore, that the rumour might prove to be false, and that Henry has not been so far “forgetful of the reverence due to the Apostolic See and to the true fidelity of the said bishop,” neither of which ought he at any time to forget.'
We do not possess the reply made on the king's behalf to the pope's letter ; but there is evidence that the royal agents did not get the ear of the pontiff so completely as they expected. An event, in the summer of the year 1224, shows that some powerful influence was at work in Rome adverse to Henry's interests. Amongst the hostile barons was one Falkes de Breauté, a man of infamous character, but one who nevertheless somehow or other succeeded in securing Honorius's powerful protection. He had long been famous, or infamous, in England for his crimes, and for setting all laws at defiance almost as he pleased. This year his evil courses reached a climax. He was summoned before the king's justices at Dunstable, to answer to more than thirty writs for having robbed various people, and he was condemned to pay heavy fines to the king. De Breauté, upon hearing this, sent soldiers from Bedford Castle to seize the persons of the judges. Two of them escaped, but one of them, Henry de Braibroc, was unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of the baron's retainers, and was thrust into a dungeon at Bedford. Braibroc's wife appealed to the king; and upon the refusal of Falkes's party to set
1 Royal Letters, i. 218.
the ill-fated judge at liberty, the archbishop and bishops solemnly excommunicated Falkes and his retainers, and the king laid siege to the castle. This stronghold, however, for a long time resisted all efforts to capture it, and before it fell Falkes de Breauté had escaped into Wales. When, after some weeks, the castle was taken, the king hanged most of the defenders, amongst whom was William de Breauté, Falkes's brother. Upon this, the latter made his submission and was handed over to the custody of the bishop of London, until such time as it should be determined what to do with him, besides depriving him of all his property.'
Before this, however, and whilst the siege of Bedford Castle was actually in progress, the pope intervened in de Breauté's behalf. On 17th August, 1224, he wrote to the king, reminding him that he had frequently warned him to deal with his subjects in “a spirit of mildness,” and “to strive to keep peace and concord.” In spite of all these admonitions, he hears, he says, with grief that, “despising these warnings, you have rashly taken up arms against that noble man, Falkes de Breauté, who in time of need has risked his life and property for your father and for yourself.” Those who have counselled you in this are as unwise as they are faithless. It is not the time to turn your arms against your own subjects. “Even if they have gravely injured you, at the present moment you should rather strive to win them by your royal favours to unite heartily in defence of your kingdom and yourself. ... We warn your Highness, therefore, and earnestly exhort you, as well as strictly order you by these Apostolic letters, at once on sight of them, to desist from the siege of de Breauté's castle without delay, and not to punish the foresaid nobleman, nor allow him to be punished in any way.” Then after saying
| Dunstable Annals (Ann. Monastici, iii.), 5; cf. Wendover, ii. 279.
that should the king have anything against de Breauté, he, the pope, will himself be surety for him, he concludes: "Prefer not any other counsels to our salutary admonitions and commands; but do what we suggest and order as you trust to our favour and help.”1
To Cardinal Langton, Honorius wrote on this subject in a manner even more peremptory. “We have not yet,” he says, “ been able to force our mind to credit what has been suggested to us about you by many, though they have striven to enforce the truth of what they say by many evidences. We thought indeed of that eminent knowledge of Divine Scripture which you possess ; of that uprightness, which you should have put on with the bishop's office and dignity; and of that abundance of love which has been shown to you by the Apostolic See in so many ways; and turning these things over in our mind, we could not bring ourselves to think anything evil or unworthy of you.” The pope then goes on to say that, whilst Langton's agents were representing that "all things in England were peaceful and tranquil, so as to prevent by every means in their power the mission of any legate," others were “telling us of disturbances in the kingdom and eagerly beseeching us to dispatch a legate thither.” Trusting to you, “though not indeed without suspicion (for why do you fear the eyes of the Apostolic See), we desisted from our design to send thither a legate, and determined to send simple messengers. When they were ready to start, so that in two days' time they would have left the city, your letters arrived containing assurances that peace was fully established in England.” Upon this the orders to the nuncio were recalled. Immediately after, however, “ we were informed by the other side," of the king's attack upon Falkes de Breauté, and of
Royal Letters, i. 544.
the fact “that you with other bishops had published an excommunication against him and his. What can you say to this? Will you reply, that after your letters had been dispatched to us discord broke out against your expectation? If so, why did you not inform us about it at once? Perhaps you will say, that justice required arms to be taken up against the foresaid noble? But most certainly prudence would have required the contrary, and at the present time prudence should rather be considered. Where then is your great wisdom, if it has been done by your advice? We consequently warn your Fraternity, and strictly order you, by our Apostolic letters that ... you cause the king at once to abandon the siege of the said noble, and that you, without delay or difficulty, relax the sentence you have laid upon him and his followers.” By so doing, and "faithfully carrying out our order, you may justify our trust in you and give us greater hope of your love.” 1
Henry replied to the pope with firmness and dignity. The case of the bishop of Winchester, as well as that of Falkes de Breauté had evidently, he says, been misrepresented to him. He had acted by the advice of those who knew the circumstances, and he details some of the doings of de Breauté, for which it had been considered necessary to punish him, that the pope might understand that the very order of the kingdom demanded peremptory satisfaction from the man whom the pope had gone out of his way to defend.
The correspondence was dropped; but the pope's mind seems still to have been set on protecting de Breauté, and there can be little doubt that this was one reason which prompted him to take up once more his design of sending a nuncio, about which he had told Langton. 1 Royal Letters, 543.
2 Ibid., 224.