« AnteriorContinuar »
“ Shortly after King John coming over into England caused himself to be crowned again at Canterbury, by the hands of Hubert, the archbishop there, on the fourteenth of April, and then went back again into Normandy, where, immediately upon his arrival
, a rumour was spread through all France, of the death of his nephew Arthur. True it is that great suit was made to have Arthur set at liberty, as well by the French king, as by William de Miches, a valiant baron of Poitou, and divers other noblemen of the Britains, who, when they could not prevail in their suit, they banded themselves together, and joining in confederacy with Robert Earl of Alanson, the Viscount Beaumont, William de Fulgiers, and other, they began to levy sharp wars against King John in divers places, insomuch (as it was thought) that so long as Arthur lived, there would be no quiet in those parts ; whereupon it was reported, that King John, through persuasion of his counsellors, appointed certain persons to go into Falaise, where Arthur was kept in prison, under the charge of Hubert de Burgh, and there to put out the young gentleman's eyes.
“ But through such resistance as he made against one of the tormentors that came to execute the king's command (for the other rather forsook their prince and country, than they would consent to obey the king's authority therein) and such lamentable words as he uttered, Hubert de Burgh did preserve him from that injury, not doubting but rather to have thanks than displeasure at the kiug's hands, for delivering him of such infamy as would have redounded unto his highness, if the young gentleman had been so cruelly dealt withal. For he considered, that King John had resolved upon this point only in his heat and fury (which moveth men to undertake many an inconvenient enterprise, unbeseeming the person of a common man, much more reproachful to a prince, all men in that mood being more foolish and furious, and prone to accomplish the perverse conceits of their ill possessed hearts; as one saith right well,
pronus in iarm
Omne scelus, quoties concepta bile tumescit), and that afterwards, upon better advisement, he would both repent himself so to have commanded, and give them small thank that should see it put in execution. Howbeit, to satisfy his mind for the time, and to stay the rage of the Britains, he caused it to be bruited abroad through the country, that the king's commandment was fulfilled, and that Arthur also, through sorrow and grief, was departed out of this life. For the space of fifteen days this rumour incessantly ran through both the realms of England and France, and there was ringing for him through towns and villages, as it had been for his funerals. It was also bruited, that his body was buried in the monastery of Saint Andrews of the Cisteaux order.
“But when the Britains were nothing pacified, but rather kindled morc vehemently to work all the mischief they could devise, in revenge of their sovereign's death, there was no remedy but to signify abroad again that Arthu was as yet living, and in health. Now when the king heard the truth of all this matter, he was nothing displeased for that his commandment was not executed, sith there were divers of his captains which uttered in plain words, that he should not find knights to keep his castles, if he dealt so cruelly with his nephew. For if it chanced any of them to be taken by the King of France, or other their adversaries, they should be sure to taste of the like cup. But now touching the manner in very deed of the end of this Arthur, writers make sundry reports. Nevertheless certain it is, that in the year next ensuing, he was removed from Falaise unto the castle or tower of Roan, out of which there was not any that would confess that ever he saw him go
alive. Some have written that as he essayed to have escaped out of prison, and proving to climb over the walls of the castle, he fell into the river of Seine, and so was drowned. Other write, that through very grief and languor he pined away and died of natural sickness. But some affirm that King John secretly caused him to be murdered and made away, so as it is not thoroughly agreed upon, in what sort he finished his days; but verily King John was had in great suspicion, whether worthily or not, the Lord knoweth."
Wisely has the old chronicler said, " verily King John was had in great suspicion, whether worthily or not, the Lord knoweth ;" and wisely has Shakspere taken the least offensive mode of Arthur's death, which was to be found noticed in the obscure records of those times. It is, all things considered, most probable that Arthur perished at Rouen. The darkest of the stories connected with his death is that which makes him on the night of the 3rd April, 1203, awakened from his sleep, and led to the foot of the castle of Rouen, which the Seine washed. There, say the French historians, he entered a boat, in which sate John and Peter de Maulac, his esquire. Terror took possession of the unhappy boy, and he threw himself at his uncle's feet ;-—but John came to do or to witness a deed of horror, and with his own hand he slew his nephew, and the deep waters of the river roceived the body of his victim.
85.—KING JOHN AND THE PAPAL POWER.-I.
HUME. The papal chair was in 1201 filled by Innocent III., who having attained that dignity at the age of thirty-seven years, and being endowed with a lofty and enterprising genius, gave full scope to his ambition, and attempted, perhaps more openly than any of his predecessors, to convert that superiority which was yielded him by all the European princes, into a real dominion over them. The hierarchy, protected by the Roman pontiff
, had already carried to an enormous height its usurpations upon the civil power; but in order to extend them further, and render them useful to the court of Rome, it was necessary to reduce the ecclesiastics themselves under an absolute monarchy, and to make them entirely dependent on their spiritual leader. For this purpose, Innocent first attempted to impose taxes at pleasure upon the clergy, and in the first year of this century, taking advantage of the popular frenzy for crusades, he sent collectors over all Europe, who levied by his authority, the fortieth of all ecclesiastical revenues for the relief of the Holy Land, and received the voluntary contributions of the laity to a like amount. The same year Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, attempted another innovation, favourable to ecclesiastical and papal power. In the king's absence, he summoned by his legantine authority, a synod of all the English clergy, contrary to the inhibtion of Geoffrey Fitz-Peter, the chief justiciary; and no proper censure was ever passed on this encroachment, the first of the kind, upon the royal power. But a favourable incident soon after happened, which enabled so aspiring a pontiff as Innocent, to extend still farther his usurpations on so contenuptible a prince as John.
Hubert, the primate, died in 1205 ; and as the monks or canons of Christchurch, Canterbury, possessed a right of voting in the election of their archbishop, some of the juniors of the order, who lay in wait for that event, met clandestinely the very night of Hubert's death ; and without any congé d'élire from the king, chose Reginald, their sub-prior, for the successor ; installed him in the archiepiscopa! throne before midnight ; and, having enjoined him the strictest secrecy, sent
him immediately to Rome, in order to solicit the confirmation of his election. The vanity of Reginald prevailed over his prudence; and he no sooner arrived in Flanders, than he revealed to every one the purpose of his journey, which was immediately known in England. The king was enraged at the novelty and temerity of the attempt, in filling so important an office without his knowledge or consent. The suffragan bishops of Canterbury, who were accustomed to concur in the choice of their primate, were no less displeased at the exclusion given them in this election. The senior monks of Christ-church were injured by the irregular proceedings of their juniors. The juniors themselves, ashamed of their conduct, and disgusted with the levity of Reginald, who had broken his engagements with them, were willing to set aside his election ; and all men concurred in the design of remedying the false measure which had been taken. But as John knew that this affair would be canvassed before a superior tribunal, where the interposition of royal authority of bestowing ecclesiastical benefices was very invidious; where even the cause of suffragan bishops was not so favourable as that of monks; he determined to make the new election entirely unexceptionable. He submitted the affair wholly to the canons of Christ-church, and departing from the right claimed by his predecessors, ventured no farther than to inform them privately, that they would do him an acceptable service if they chose John de Gray, bishop of Norwich, for their primate. The election of that prelate was accordingly made without a contradictory vote; and the king, to obviate all contests, endeavoured to persuade the suffragan bishops not to insist on their claim of concurring in the election. But those prelates persevering in their pretensions, sent an agent to maintain their cause before Innocent : while the king, and the convent of Christ-church, dispatched twelve monks of that. order to support, before the same tribunal, the election of the bishop of Norwich.
Thus there lay three different claims before the pope, whom all parties allowed to be the supreme arbiter in the contest. The claim of the suffragans, being so opposite to the usual maxims of the papal court, was soon set aside. The election of Reginald was so obviously fraudulent and irregular, that there was no possibility of defending it. But Innocent maintained, that though this election was null and invalid, it ought previously to have been declared such by the sovereign pontiff, before the monks could proceed to a new election ; and that the choice of the bishop of Norwich was of course as uncanonical as that of his competitor. Advantage was therefore taken of this subtlety for introducing a precedent, by which the see of Canterbury, the most important dignity in the church after the papal throne, should ever after be at the disposal of the court of Rome.
While the pope maintained so many fierce contests, in order to wrest from princes the right of granting investitures, and to exclude laymen from all authority in conferring ecclesiastical benefices, he was supported by the united influence of the clergy, who, aspiring to independence, fought, with all the ardour of ambition, and all the zeal of superstition, under his sacred banners. But no sooner was this point, after a great effusion of blood and convulsions of many states, established in some tolerable degree, than the victorious leader, as is usual, turned his arms against his own community, and aspired to centre all power in his person. By the invention of reserves, provisions, commendams, and other devices, the pope gradually assumed the right of filling vacant. benefices; and the plenitude of his apostolic power, which was not subject to any limitations, supplied all defects of title in the person on whom he bestowed preferment. The canons which regulated elections were purposely rendered intricate and involved. Frequent disputes arose among candidates ; appeals were every day carried to Rome. The Apostolic See, besides reaping pecuniary advantages from these contests, often exercised the power
of setting aside both the litigants, and on pretence of appeasing faction, nominated a third person, who might be more acceptable to the contending parties.
The present controversy about the election to the See of Canterbury, afforded Innocent an opportunity of claiming this right; and he failed not to perceive and avail himself of the advantage. He sent for the twelve monks deputed by the convent to maintain the cause of the bishop of Norwich ; and commanded them, under the penalty of excommunication, to choose for their primate, cardinal Langton, an Englishman by birth, but educated in France, and connected by his interest and attachments with the See of Rome. In vain did the monks represent, that they had received from their convent no authority for this purpose ; that an election, without a previous writ from the king, would be deemed highly irregular ; and that they were merely agents for another person, whose right they had no power or pretence to abandon. None of them had the courage to persevere in this opposition, except one, Elias de Brantefield; all the rest, overcome by the menaces and authority of the pope, complied with his orders, and made the election required of them.
John was inflamed with the utmost rage when he heard of this attempt of the court of Rome ; and he immediately vented his passion on the monks of Christchurch, whom he found inclined to support the election made by their fellows at Rome. He sent Fulke de Cantelupe and Henry de Cornhulle, two knights of his retinue, men of violent tempers and rude manners, to expel them the convent, and take possession of their revenues. These knights entered the monastery with drawn swords, commanded the prior and the monks to depart the kingdom, and menaced them, that in case of disobedience, they would instantly burn them with the convent. Innocent prognosticating, from the violence and imprudence of these measures, that John would finally sink in the contest, persevered the more vigorously in his pretensions, and exhorted the king not to oppose God and the church any longer, nor to prosecute that cause for which the holy martyr St. Thomas had sacrificed his life, and which had exalted him equal to the highest saints in heaven. A clear hint to John to profit by the example of his father, and to remember the prejudices and established principles of his subjects, who bore a profound veneration to that martyr, and regarded his merits as the subject of their chief glory and exultation.
Innocent, finding that John was not sufficiently tamed to submission, sent three prelates, the bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester
, to intimate that if he persevered in his disobedience, the sovereign pontiff would be obliged to lay the kingdom under an interdict. All the other prelates threw themselves on their knees before him, and entreated him, with tears in their eyes, to prevent the scandal of this sentence, by making a speedy submission to his spiritual father, by receiving from his hands the new-elected primate, and by restoring the monks of Christchurch to all their rights and possessions. He burst out into the most indecent invectives against the prelates ; swore by God's teeth, (his usual oath), that if the pope presumed to lay his kingdom under an interdict, he would send to him all the bishops and clergy in England, and would confiscate all their estates ; and threatened, that if, thenceforth he caught any Romans in his dominions, he would put out their eyes, and cut off their noses, in order to set a mark upon them which might distinguish them from all other nations. Amidst all this idle violence, John stood on such bad terms with his nobility, that he never dared to assemble the states of the kingdom, who, in so just a cause, would probably have adhered to any other monarch, and have defended with vigour the liberties of the nation against these palpable usurpations of the court of Rome. Innocent, therefore, perceiving
the king's weakness, fulminated at last the sentence of interdict, which he had for some time held suspended over him.
The sentence of interdict was at that time the great instrument of vengeance and policy employed by the court of Rome ; was denounced against sovereigns for the slightest offences ; and made the guilt of one person involve the ruin of millions, even in their spiritual and eternal welfare. The execution of it was calculated to strike the senses in the highest degree, and to operate with irresistible force on the superstitious minds of the people. The nation was of a sudden deprived of all exterior exercise of its religion: the altars were despoiled of their ornaments; the crosses, the relics, the images, the statues of the saints, were laid on the ground; and, as if the air itself were profaned, and might poilute them by its contact, the priests carefully covered them up, even from their own approach and veneration, The use of bells entirely ceased in all the churches. The bells themselves were removed from the steeples, and laid on the ground with the other sacred utensils. Mass was celebrated with shut doors, and none but the priests were admitted to that holy institution. The laity partook of no religious rite, except baptism to new-born infants, and the communion to the dying. The dead were not interred in consecrated ground. They were thrown into ditches, or buried in common fields; and their obsequies were not attended with prayers or any hallowed ceremony. Marriages were celebrated in the church-yards; and that every action in life might bear the marks of this dreadful situation, the people were prohibited the use of meat, as in Lent, or times of the highest penance ; were debarred from all pleasures and entertainments; and were forbidden even to salute each other ; or so much as to shave their beards, and give any decent attention to their person and apparel. Every circumstance carried symptoms of the deepest distress, and of the most immediate apprehension of divine vengeance and indignation,
86.-KING JOHN AND THE PAPAL POWER.-II.
HUME. The quarrel between the king and the see of Rome continued for some years : and though many of the clergy, from the fear of punishment, obeyed the orders of John, and celebrated divine service, they complied with the utmost reluctance, and were regarded, both by themselves and the people, as men who betrayed their principles, and sacrificed their conscience to temporal regards and interests. During this violent situation, the king, in order to give a lustre to his government, attempted military expeditions against Scotland, against Ireland, against the Welch ; and he commonly prevailed, more from the weakness of his enemies, than from his own vigour or abilities. Meanwhile, the danger to which his government stood continually exposed from the discontent of ecclesiastics, increased his natural propension to tyranny; and he seems to have ever wantonly disgusted all orders of men, especially his nobles, from whom alone he could reasonably expect support and assistance. He dishonoured their families by his licentious amours ; he published edicts, prohibiting them from hunting feathered game, and thereby restrained them from their favourite amusement; he ordered all the hedges and fences near his forests to be levelled, that his deer might have more ready access into the fields for pasture ; and he continually loaded the nation with arbitrary impositions. Conscious of the general hatred which he had incurred, he required his nobility to give him hostages for security of their ailegiance; and they were obliged to put into his hands their sons, nephews, or near relations. When his messenger came with like orders to the castle of William de Braouse, a baron of great note, the lady of that nobleman replied, " that she would never entrust her