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and, without any congé d'élire from the king, chose Reginald, their
sub-prior, for the successor; installed him in the archiepiscopal
throne before midnight; and, having enjoined him the strictest
secrecy, sent him immediately to Rome, in order to solicit the
confirmation of his election [b]. 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 [c]. 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 [d]: and all men
concurred in the design of remedying the false measures which had been
taken. But as John knew that this affair would be canvassed before a
superior tribunal, where the interposition of royal authority in
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 [e]. 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, despatched
twelve monks of that order to support, before the same tribunal, the
election of the Bishop of Norwich.
[FN [b] M. Paris, p. 148. M. West. p. 266. [c] Ibid. [d] M. West.
p. 266. [e] M. Paris, p. 149. M. West. p. 266.]

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 [f]. 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
[FN [f] M. Paris, p. 155. Chron. de Mailr. p. 182.]

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 the 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, commendants, 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 [g]. [MN Cardinal
Langton appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.] 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.
[FN [g] M. Paris, p. 155. Ann. Waverl. p. 169. W. Heming. p. 553.
Knyghton, p. 2415.]

Innocent, sensible that this flagrant usurpation would be highly
resented by the court of England, wrote John a mollifying letter; sent
him four golden rings set with precious stones; and endeavoured to
enhance the value of the present by informing him of the many
mysteries implied in it. He begged him to consider seriously the FORM
of the rings, their NUMBER, their MATTER, and their COLOUR. Their
form, he said, being round, shadowed out eternity, which had neither
beginning nor end; and he ought thence to learn his duty of aspiring
from earthly objects to heavenly, from things temporal to things
eternal. The number four, being a square, denoted steadiness of mind,
not to be subverted either by adversity or prosperity, fixed for ever
on the firm basis of the four cardinal virtues. Gold, which is the
matter, being the most precious of metals, signified wisdom, which is
the most valuable of all accomplishments, and justly preferred by
Solomon to riches, power, and all exterior attainments. The blue
colour of the sapphire represented faith; the verdure of the emerald,
hope; the redness of the ruby, charity; and the splendour of the
topaz, good works [h]. By these conceits Innocent endeavoured to
repay John for one of the most important prerogatives of his crown,
which he had ravished from him; conceits probably admired by Innocent
himself: for it is easily possible for a man, especially in a
barbarous age, to unite strong talents for business with an absurd
taste for literature and the arts.
[FN [h] Rymer, vol. i. p. 139. M. Paris, p. 155.]

John was inflamed with the utmost rage when he heard of this attempt
of the court of Rome [i]; and he immediately vented his passion on the
monks of Christ-Church, 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 [k]. 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 [l]: 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
[FN [i] Rymer, vol. i. p. 143. [k] M. Paris, p. 156. Trivet, p. 151.
Ann. Waverl. p. 169. [l] M. Paris, p. 157.]

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 [m].
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 Christ-Church 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 of 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 [n]. 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. [MN Interdict of the kingdom.] Innocent, therefore,
perceiving the king's weakness, fulminated at last the sentence of
interdict, which he had for some time held suspended over him [o].
[FN [m] Ibid. [n] Ibid. [o] M. Paris, p. 157. Trivet, p. 152. Ann.
Waverl. p. 170. M. West. p. 268.]

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 lightest 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 pollute 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. Marriage was celebrated in the
church-yard [p]; 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.
[FN [p] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 51.]

The king, that he might oppose HIS temporal to THEIR spiritual
terrors, immediately, from his own authority, confiscated the estates
of all the clergy who obeyed the interdict [q]; banished the prelates,
confined the monks in their convent, and gave them only such a small
allowance from their own estates as would suffice to provide them with
food and raiment. He treated with the utmost rigour all Langton's
adherents, and every one that showed any disposition to obey the
commands of Rome; and in order to distress the clergy in the tenderest
point, and at the same time expose them to reproach and ridicule, he
threw into prison all their concubines, and required high fines as the
price of their liberty [r].
[FN [q] Ann. Waverl. p. 170. [r] M. Paris, p. 158. Ann. Waverl. p.

After the canons which established the celibacy of the clergy were, by
the zealous endeavours of Archbishop Anselm, more rigorously executed
in England, the ecclesiastics gave, almost universally, and avowedly,
in to the use of concubinage; and the court of Rome, which had no
interest in prohibiting this practice, made very slight opposition to
it. The custom was become so prevalent, that, in some cantons of
Switzerland, before the reformation, the laws not only permitted, but,
to avoid scandal, enjoined the use of concubines to the younger clergy
[s]; and it was usual every where for priests to apply to the
ordinary, and obtain from him a formal liberty for this indulgence.
The bishop commonly took care to prevent the practice from
degenerating into licentiousness: he confined the priest to the use of
one woman, required him to be constant to her bed, obliged him to
provide for her subsistence and that of her children; and though the
offspring was, in the eye of the law, deemed illegitimate, this
commerce was really a kind of inferior marriage, such as is still
practised in Germany among the nobles; and may be regarded by the
candid as an appeal from the tyranny of civil and ecclesiastical
institutions, to the more virtuous and more unerring laws of nature.
[FN [s] Padre Paolo, Hist. Conc. Trid. lib. I.]

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 Welsh [t]; 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 discontents of the ecclesiastics increased his
natural propension to tyranny; and he seems to have even 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 occupation and amusement [u]; 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. [MN 1208.] Conscious
of the general hatred which he had incurred, he required his nobility
to give him hostages for security of their allegiance; and they were
obliged to put into his hands their sons, nephews, or near relations.
When his messengers 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 intrust her son into the hands of one who had
murdered his own nephew while in his custody. Her husband reproved
her for the severity of this speech; but, sensible of his danger, he
immediately fled with his wife and son into Ireland, where he
endeavoured to conceal himself. The king discovered the unhappy
family in their retreat; seized the wife and son, whom he starved to
death in prison; and the baron himself narrowly escaped, by flying
into France.
[FN [t] W. Heming. p. 556. Ypod. Neust, p. 460. Knyghton, p. 2420.
[u] M. West. p. 268.]

[MN 1209.] The court of Rome had artfully contrived a gradation of
sentences, by which it kept offenders in awe; still affording them an
opportunity of preventing the next anathema by submission; and in case
of their obstinacy, was able to refresh the horror of the people
against them by new denunciations of the wrath and vengeance of
Heaven. As the sentence of interdict had not produced the desired
effect on John, and as his people, though extremely discontented, had
hitherto been restrained from rising in open rebellion against him, he
was soon to look for the sentence of excommunication; and he had
reason to apprehend, that, notwithstanding all his precautions, the
most dangerous consequences might ensue from it. He was witness of
the other scenes, which, at that very time, were acting in Europe, and
which displayed the unbounded and uncontrolled power of the papacy.
Innocent, far from being dismayed at his contests with the King of
England, had excommunicated the Emperor Otho, John's nephew [w]; and
soon brought that powerful and haughty prince to submit to his
authority. He published a crusade against the Abigenses, a species of
enthusiasts in the south of France, whom he denominated heretics,
because, like other enthusiasts, they neglected the rites of the
church, and opposed the power and influence of the clergy: the people
from all parts of Europe, moved by their superstition and their
passion for wars and adventures, flocked to his standard: Simon de
Montfort, the general of the crusade, acquired to himself a
sovereignty in these provinces: the Count of Toulouse, who protected,
or perhaps only tolerated the Albigenses, was stripped of his
dominions: and these sectaries themselves, though the most innocent
and inoffensive of mankind, were exterminated with all the
circumstances of extreme violence and barbarity. Here were therefore
both an army and a general, dangerous from their zeal and valour, who
might be directed to act against John; and Innocent, after keeping the
thunder long suspended, gave, at last, authority to the Bishops of
London, Ely, and Worcester, to fulminate the sentence of
excommunication against him [x]. [MN Excommunication of the king.]
These prelates obeyed; though their brethren were deterred from
publishing, as the pope required of them, the sentence in the several
churches of their dioceses.
[FN [w] M. Paris, p. 160. Trivet, p. 154. M. West. p. 269. [x] M.
Paris, p. 159. M. West. p. 270.]

No sooner was the excommunication known, than the effects of it
appeared. Geoffrey, Archdeacon of Norwich, who was intrusted with a
considerable office in the court of exchequer, being informed of it
while sitting on the bench, observed to his colleagues the danger of
serving under an excommunicated king; and he immediately left his
chair, and departed the court. John gave orders to seize him, to
throw him into prison, to cover his head with a great leaden cope;
and, by this and other severe usage, he soon put an end to his life
[y]: nor was there any thing wanting to Geoffrey, except the dignity
and rank of Becket, to exalt him to an equal station in heaven with
that great and celebrated martyr. Hugh de Wells, the chancellor,
being elected by the king's appointment Bishop of Lincoln, upon a
vacancy in that see, desired leave to go abroad, in order to receive
consecration from the Archbishop of Rouen; but he no sooner reached
France than he hastened to Pontigny, where Langton then resided, and
paid submissions to him as his primate. The bishops, finding
themselves exposed either to the jealousy of the king or hatred of the
people, gradually stole out of the kingdom; and, at last, there
remained only three prelates to perform the functions of the episcopal
office [z]. Many of the nobility, terrified by John’s tyranny, and
obnoxious to him on different accounts, imitated the example of the
bishops; and most of the others who remained were, with reason,
suspected of having secretly entered into a confederacy against him
[a]. John was alarmed at his dangerous situation; a situation which
prudence, vigour, and popularity might formerly have prevented, but
which no virtues or abilities were now sufficient to retrieve. He
desired a conference with Langton at Dover; offered to acknowledge him
as primate, to submit to the pope, to restore the exiled clergy, even
to pay them a limited sum as a compensation for the rents of their
confiscated estates. But Langton, perceiving his advantage, was not
satisfied with these concessions: he demanded that full restitution
and reparation should be made to all the clergy; a condition so
exorbitant, that the king, who probably had not the power of
fulfilling it, and who foresaw that this estimation of damages might
amount to an immense sum, finally broke off the conference [b].
[FN [y] M. Paris, p. 159. [z] Ann. Waverl. p. 170. Ann. Marg. p. 14.
[a] M. Paris, p. 162. M. West. p. 270, 271. [b] Ann. Waverl. p.

[MN 1212.] The next gradation of papal sentences was to absolve
John's subjects from their oaths of fidelity and allegiance, and to
declare every one excommunicated who had any commerce with him in
public or in private; at his table, in his council, or even in private
conversation [c]; and this sentence was accordingly, with all
imaginable solemnity, pronounced against him. But as John still
persevered in his contumacy, there remained nothing but the sentence
of deposition; which, though intimately connected with the former, had
been distinguished from it by the artifice of the court of Rome; and
Innocent determined to dart this last thunderbolt against the
refractory monarch. But as a sentence of this kind required an armed
force to execute it, the pontiff, casting his eyes around, fixed at
last on Philip, King of France, as the person into whose powerful hand
he could most properly intrust that weapon, the ultimate resource of
his ghostly authority. And he offered the monarch, besides the
remission of all his sins and endless spiritual benefits, the property
and possession of the kingdom of England, as the reward of his labour
[FN [c] M. Paris, p. 161. M. West. p. 270. [d] M. Paris, p. 162. M.
West. p. 271.]

[MN 1213.] It was the common concern of all princes to oppose these
exorbitant pretensions of the Roman pontiff, by which they themselves
were rendered vassals, and vassals totally dependent, of the papal
crown: yet even Philip, the most able monarch of the age, was seduced
by present interest, and by the prospect of so tempting a prize, to
accept this liberal offer of the pontiff, and thereby to ratify that
authority which, if he ever opposed its boundless usurpations, might,
next day, tumble him from the throne. He levied a great army;
summoned all the vassals of the crown to attend him at Rouen;
collected a fleet of seventeen hundred vessels, great and small, in
the sea-ports of Normandy and Picardy; and partly from the zealous
spirit of the age, partly from the personal regard universally paid
him, prepared a force, which seemed equal to the greatness of his
enterprise. The king, on the other hand, issued out writs, requiring
the attendance of all his military tenants at Dover, and even of all
able-bodied men, to defend the kingdom in this dangerous extremity. A
great number appeared; and he selected an army of sixty thousand men;
a power invincible, had they been united in affection to their prince,
and animated with a becoming zeal for the defence of their native
country [e]. But the people were swayed by superstition, and regarded

Online LibraryDavid HumeThe History of England, Volume I → online text (page 43 of 57)