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THE NUNCIO OTHO In the year 1225 the needs both of the king of England and of the pope became pressing. In some way or other money had to be procured from the English people to carry on the administration of the kingdom and of the Church. The situation both in England and in Rome was extremely critical. In England the authorities of the Church, headed by Cardinal Langton, were resolved to resist, as far as they lawfully might, the growth of exactions on the part of the Curia, regarding them as tending inevitably to the utter ruin of religion in this country. In concert with the nobles, too, they were equally resolved to give no more aids to the king, unless he would pledge himself under the most solemn oaths to grant those measures of liberty which he had long promised them, but which under one pretext or another he had hitherto managed to evade. This was the situation when the pope determined to send over a nuncio to expedite the business in which he was chiefly interested ; namely, the procuring of money for the work of the crusades, and the securing of some of the best ecclesiastical benefices in England with which to reward those whose services were necessary to carry on the general administration of the Church.
In preparation for this mission, as early as the beginning of February, 1225, Pope Honorius III endeavoured to gain a favourable reception from the king for his representative. He urged the English bishops to help Henry liberally out of their ecclesiastical revenues, and shortly after directed his legate in France, Romanus, to induce Louis of France to act, in regard to matters in dispute between the two kingdoms, in such a way that the rights of England might be preserved, and Henry might realise that he had found in Honorius his natural protector. .
The needs of the sovereign had already been set before the parliament, which met at Westminster shortly after the close of the Christmas festivities, in January, 1225. Hubert de Burgh, on behalf of Henry, drew a melancholy picture of the foreign troubles and misfortunes of the nation, by which not only the king, but many of the nobles had suffered the loss of their foreign estates. As much was at stake, and because, if the fortunes of the British arms could not be retrieved, the general interests of the country at large would be placed seriously in jeopardy, he asked that the entire nation should rally to the king's assistance with a generous gift of money. He suggested that an aid of a fifteenth part of all movables, ecclesiastical as well as lay, would be sufficient to enable the king to defend the rights of the Crown and to reclaim the national inheritance over the sea.
Cardinal Langton and the other prelates discussed the matter with the lay peers and agreed upon a common reply to the royal demands. They would willingly grant the proposed tax, they said, provided that the king, upon his part, would grant those liberties which the nation had sought for so frequently, but had not been able to obtain.“ Moved by his desire to obtain the money," says Matthew Paris, “ Henry consented, and forthwith the royal Charters were dispatched under the king's seal into every county, and judges were appointed to view the forests and determine
? Bouquet, Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France, tom. xix. 767.
their limits. Simultaneously the royal agents were directed to gather in the aid of a fifteenth, by which these privileges had been purchased for the nation. Even at the time, however, in the minds of many, there were not wanting suspicions of the king's honesty of purpose, which subsequent events showed were not unwarranted.”
Rumours of the difficulties which existed between Henry and his nobility seemed to have reached Rome early in the year 1225, and Pope Honorius addressed a letter of gentle admonition to the English king. “We rejoice in the Lord,” he says, “and render Him thanks because your agents have told us and our brethren (the cardinals in Curia) that in all things you act in such a praiseworthy way, that the flower of your youth seems to give certain promise of pleasing and acceptable fruit. We are the more grateful for this since we embrace you and your subjects with the arms of sincere affection.
“But the souls of men, like their faces, are various and different according to the saying of the poet:
'Mille nominum species, et rerum discolor usus
Velle suum cuique est, nec voto vivitur uno.'* “Remembering this, since you are the common lord of all in your kingdom, it is well that you should strive to act fairly to all, showing yourself kind and favourable to every one. If differences arise, as among so great a number will happen, take neither the one side nor the other, but correct, rule and govern all with like affection, care and watchfulness. In this way your subjects, seeing in you the uprightness proper to your royal dignity, will not hesitate to leave their cause to your decision, and will put their trust in you as every loyal vassal does in his loving lord, and every dutiful son in his affectionate parent. ? Matthew Paris, iii. 91.
2 Persius, Sat., v. 52.
“We therefore beg your Highness to write these principles carefully on the tablets of your heart. Lay them up in the treasure-house of your mind and make use of them when need shall be. In particular, we would counsel your Highness and suggest in all good faith to you, that at this time you should not exact a full account from your vassals, nor alienate them by requiring the full payment of your revenues. This settlement and other matters which might cause discontent you should prudently defer to an opportune occasion. We would beg you to recognise, however, that your agents, whom we send back to you with every commendation for their fidelity, have presented your requests on these and other matters, and have strenuously and with insistence laboured to promote them. Some of them we have granted; others, by the advice of our brethren, we have thought proper to defer for a season. We think this is expedient at present; but when the time is fitting, we will listen to these requests and any others you may think proper to urge, for we love you with the fullest affection, as the special son of the Roman Church. We have hitherto striven to secure your peace and that of your kingdom within and without, even when we have not been asked, and by every watchful care; we will continue to guard this for you, and to afford you the favour, grace, counsel and help of the Apostolic See in all things, whensoever it is fitting.”
Simultaneously with this letter of advice to the young king, the pope wrote strongly to the English bishops upon the propriety of their granting a subsidy to meet the royal needs and arranging for its speedy and safe collection. “The Church,” he says, “is ever ready to relieve the necessities of secular princes, by liberally affording them help
| Rymer, i. 177.
when it is called for. This is no prejudice to the liberty of the Church, but must be regarded rather as a work of charity. And, since our beloved son in Christ, Henry, the illustrious king of England, is said to be greatly in want of your help, we earnestly request and exhort all of you, and by these Apostolic letters command you to give him a contribution fitting to the condition of your churches.” Then, after suggesting provisions for the immediate collection of this subsidy, the pope prudently adds: “We are, however, unwilling that this special favour of ours, and the fact of your charitable assistance should be hereafter pleaded as a precedent, or claimed as a right.” 1
Henry and his advisers, however, had deeper designs than Honorius had contemplated. The royal reply on this matter misunderstands—probably not undesignedly—the pope's plain directions as to the subsidy, or the “fitting help,” which the clergy were urged by the pontiff to give to their sovereign. “Moved," the king writes to the Chapter of Salisbury, "by the pope's exhortations to come to our help, or more truly to their own help in our person, the prelates of our country first agreed to grant a fifteenth of their movables. But, as on your liberality depends the completion of the work upon which we are engaged, we earnestly beg that in your goodness you will take pity upon our needs. This indeed we look for merely from your good will, not from any obligation on your parts. By so acting, your desire should be, through your efficacious assistance, to oblige us to render thanks to the Roman Church for the benefit it has conferred upon us through you, and to compel us to be more ready to assist each and every one of you in any business you may have. Your desire should be, not only to act yourselves in this
'Reg. S. Osmundi (Rolls ed.), ii. 57.