James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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from the oath which he had taken to
observe the Charter. Driven to despair
by the coalition of the king and Pope,
the barons invited Louis, the son and heir
of Philip Augustus, to come and be their
king. He accepted the invitation ; and,
soon after he had landed, was master of
the eastern counties. John, however, upon
recovering from his first alarm, raised
the west against the rebels and showed
the qualities of a skilled general. But in
the midst of a campaign of forced marches
he succumbed to illness in 1216, and died,

leaving a son of only nine years old to
succeed him, under the title of Henry III.
John's death did more than his military
successes to save the dynasty. The barons,
already .alienated from their foreign
leader, who openly displayed his con-
tempt for the disloyalty by which he had
profited, returned one by one to the
allegiance of the boy-king. A victory in
the narrow streets of Lincoln, and a sea-
fight in the straits of Dover which destroyed
the French fleet, completed the ruin of
the opposition. In 1217 Louis signed the
Treaty of Lambeth and evacuated England.
His followers received an amnesty, and
some submitted, while others departed
for the Holy Land. Henceforth Henry
had more to fear from the party of the
Crown than from that of the Charter. His
minority was troubled by feuds between
the English and the foreign supporters
of his father. The papacy was with


This picture, by Mr. William Martin, in the University Galleries at Oxford, represents the Barons of England making
oath to compel King John to grant the Charter of Henry. I., which had been found by Archbishop Langton in
a monastery. The pressure brought to bear upon the king had the desired result, and the great Charter of
Liberties, which imposed on him and his successors distinct limitations of the royal power, was signed in 1215.



difficulty induced to withdraw a claim to
the guardianship of the king and kingdom,
which was based upon John's oath of
vassalage. In 1224 Falkes de Breaute,
who had commanded the foreign mercen-
aries during the war and had -been re-
warded with six sheriffdoms in the midland
counties, raised a rebellion which for a
moment threatened to shake the stability
of the throne. Even when he had been
crushed, the situation remained difficult.

Peter des Roches, a Poitevin ecclesiastic,
to whom John had given the see of
Winchester, succeeded in retaining the
control of the young king's education,
and filled the weak but ambitious mind of
Henry with dreams of conquest on the
continent and
of autocracy at
home. Trained
in this school,
the king quar-
relled at the
first oppor-
tunity with the
justiciar Hubert
de Burgh, who
had been for
some years the
head of the
regency. The
great minister
was dismissed in
1232, and the
king, now of
age, attempted
to govern, like

sions, with the result that he attempted
the invasion of Poitou in 1242, and
experienced a humiliating defeat from
Louis IX. at Taillebourg ; subsequently
they induced him to accept for his second
son, Edmund, the crown of Sicily, which
the papacy was endeavouring to wrest
from the heirs of the Emperor Frederic II.,
while they traduced and drove into
opposition the king's brother-in-law, Simon
de Montfort, who was the only able states-
man of the royal party.

Henry himself contributed to the popular
discontent by the facility with which he
allowed every new claim of the papacy upon
the Church. Under the stress of the war
with the Hohenstauffen. Rome had begun

to claim the
right of taxing
the national
Churches ; and
this pretension,
resented by
every class of
Englishmen, was
supported by the
king, in whom
religious feeling
was developed to
the point of
pietism. Under
the stress of
these grievances,
and encouraged
by the general
which domestic

the Capets of KING JOHN AND HIS QUEEN, ISABELLA OF ANGOULEME misrule was daily

France, through False, treacherous, and tyrannical, John, who became king of aggravating, the

insignificant England in 1199, was guilty of many infamous deeds. Being excom- Qr- e of Council

. . o municated by Pope Innocent III., he yielded to the papal claims and

ministers, Who agreed to hold his kingdom as a fief of the papacy. John has been made reiterated

Could be trusted described as "being odious and contemptible in public and private life." protests refused

to render an implicit obedience to their
master's wishes.

Under this feeble despotism England
continued to the year 1258, and the Great
Council vainly protested against a policy
which was expensive, unpopular, and
fruitless. The king fell into the hands of
two groups of foreign favourites ; the one
was composed of Poitevins related to his
mother; the other, consisting of Pro-
ven gals and Savoyards, owed their
influence to the queen, Eleanor of Pro-
vence, whom Henry married in 1236. They
monopolised the highest honours and
were enriched from the royal demesnes.
They encouraged the king in his idle
dream of reconquering the French posses-

to vote supplies, and finally demanded the
right of nominating and controlling the
royal ministers. In 1258 the king's financial
embarrassments left him at the mercy of the
Great Council ; the result was the formu-
laton of a new scheme of government the
Provisions of Oxford under which supreme
power was divided between two baronial
committees, the one for executive and
the other for legislative purposes. The
crown on the one side, the Great Council
on the other, were by this scheme reduced
to insignificance. It was a device for
transferring power to those who considered
themselves in virtue of birth, wealth, and
influence the natural leaders of English



of the Lesser

The new government was not wholly
ineffective. It expelled the alien favourites,
cancelled the recent grants of royal
demesnes, and by renouncing the Angevin
claims to all French territory outside Gas-
cony it purchased peace with France ; but
it had no satisfaction to offer
either to the towns or to the
lesser landholders, who since
the time of Henry II. had
been qualifying for political life by an
active share in local administration.
Both these classes had grievances to be
redressed ; both demanded a share in the
government. Hence the ruling barons
lacked popular support. Simon de Mont-
fort and the king's eldest son, the Lord
Edward, dissociated
themselves at the first
opportunity from the
new government, which
they had originally sup-
ported. The object of
Montfort was simply to
procure ]ustice for the
commonalty. Edward,
on the other hand,
thought merely of re-
covering popular sup-
port for the crown.
Acting under his son's
advice, the king renounced
the Provisions in 1261,
and proposed that Louis
IX. of France should
arbitrate between himself
and the barons. The sug-

chief. But the three electors and their
nominees were made responsible to the
Great Council, and Montfort introduced a
radical change into the constitution of this
body. He summoned to it in 1265 not
only prelates and barons, but also two
knights from every shire, and burgesses
from a certain number of cities and
boroughs. Shire representatives had been
summoned on previous occasions, both in
this reign and in that of John, but the
towns had never before been represented ;
and the knights, who represented the estate
of the lesser landholders, had been con-
sulted in the past only about taxation.
In this parliament the third estate took
part in all the deliberations, and their assent
to the final decisions is
formally recorded.

Montfort appealed to
two distinct interests in
the nation. There was
an ecclesiastical party,
which resented the league
between king and Pope
and the consequent taxa-
tion of the national
Church for the benefit
of Rome. There was also
a constitutional party,
whose views were sum-
med up in the thesis of
their famous manifesto,
the Song of Lewes, that
" the king is not above
the law, but the law
above the king," and in


gestion was accepted, and Crowned King of England at Gloucester in the doctrine that the law
by the Mise of Amiens the 1216, Henry in. was a ruler who lacked should be made, and its

French king declared the f ner <P * nd resolutenes s, but he was Piousand
_. . . 3 ,, , . , loved art and literature. He died in 1272.

Provisions null and void.

The decision came as a crushing blow to
the leaders of the oligarchic movement,
and they retired from the struggle. But
Montfort, at the head of a party which
comprised some of the younger barons, the
lesser tenants in chief, the towns, and a
section of the clergy, refused to accept a
settlement which left the king unfettered,
and the people without a share in the
government. At the battle of Lewes,
in 1264, Montfort captured the king and
Prince Edward. He immediately pro-
mulgated a new constitution, the most
original and far-seeing scheme of political
reform which the Middle Ages can show.
It placed the nomination of councillors
and ministers of state in the hands of a
board of three, of whom Montfort was the



by a representative
assembly. But it is the usual fate of
enthusiasts to be dependent on the sup-
port of a well-intentioned but apathetic
majority, which is easily converted from
the new doctrine to the old. Montfort fell
at Evesham in 1265. He had incurred the
suspicion of designs upon the crown, he
had failed to reform in a few months the
Th F accumulated abuses of centu-

f 1. ries, and he had outraged the

, accepted ideas of loyalty and

de Montfort , r , . , _ / _ J ,

good faith. From the first he
was confronted by a compact body of irre-
concilables. As soon as his popularity
waned, they fell upon him and restored
the old order over his grave. He. was
long revered as a patriot, but his party
disappeared from English politics.



HE was indeed a mighty man, and prudent, and circumspect ; in the use of arms and in
experience of warfare superior to all others of his time ; commendably endowed
with knowledge of letters ; fond of hearing the offices of the Church by day and night ;
sparing of food and drink, as those who were about him saw with their own eyes ; in fime
of night watching more than he slept, as his more intimate friends have oft related. In
the greatest difficulties which he went through while handling affairs of state, he was '
found trustworthy ; notably in Gascony, whither he went by command of the king, and
there subdued to the king's majesty rebels beforetime unconquered, and sent them to
England to his lord the king. He was, moreover, pleasant and witty in speech, and ever
aimed at the reward of an admirable faith ; on account of which he did not fear to undergo
death, as shall be told hereafter. His constancy all men, even his enemies, admired ; for
when others had sworn to observe the Provisions of Oxford, and the most part of them
despised and rejected that to which they had sworn, he, having once taken the oath, like
an immovable pillar stood firm, and neither by threats, nor promises, nor gifts, nor
flattery could be moved to depart in any way with the other magnates from the
oath which he had taken to reform the state of the realm. . ... And the eapl,
like a second Joshua, worshipped justice, as the very medicine of his soul.

Rishanger, the Monk of St. Albans, in his " Chronicle "

HAD he lived longer, the prospect of the throne might have opened before him, and he
might have become a destroyer instead of a saviour. If he had succeeded in such
a design, he could not have made a better king than Edward ; if he had failed, England
would have lain at the feet of Edward, a ruler whose virtues would have made him more
dangerous as a despot than his father's vices had made him in his attempt at despotism.
He was greater as an opponent of tyranny than as a deviser of liberties ; the fetters
imposed on royal autocracy, cumbrous and entangled as they were, seem to have been an
integral part of his policy; the means he took for admitting the nation to self-govern-
ment wear very much the form of an occasional or party expedient, which a longer tenure
of undivided power might have led him either to develop or to discard. The idea of
representative government had, however, ripened under his hand ; and although the germ
of the growth lay in the primitive institutions of the land, Simon has the merit of having
been one of the first to see the uses and the glories to which it would ultimately grow.

Bishop Stubbs in "The Early Plantagenets "

HE was more than a great general, more than a great politician, far more than a mere
party leader, inasmuch as he obeyed to the death that ruling principle which his
own words expressed, " I would rather die without a foot of land than break the oath that
I have made." This was why he was worshipped as a saint and a martyr; and if we
smile at the popular superstition which believed in the miracles wrought at his tomb, we
can look up to the popular instinct which recognised in him that rarest of all miracles, a.
true patriot. The form of government which he set up, and the constitutional measures'
he adopted to strengthen it, sufficiently disprove the assertion that he used the pretext of
reform to cover the designs of a purely selfish ambition. The fact that he never aimed at
supreme power, in spite of the insults and injuries he received at the hands of Henry,
until it became evident that in no other way could justice be done, acquits him of the
charge of traitorous disloyalty to his king. The fact that he was the only one of the'
greater nobles who remained true to his cause shows how far he was above the prejudices
of class, and what temptations he had to surmount .before he left the common rut in
which his peers were content to move, and marked out for himself the nobler and more
dangerous course to which duty called him. A conviction of his own honesty of purpose,
a firm faith that the right would triumph, as well as an overweening confidence in his own
powers, led him to persevere in that course to the end, and to essay the impossible.
He failed, but he was fortunate in that he did not live to feel the bitterness of failure.
rn W. G. Prothero in " Simon de Montfort " n?

i - _-, , - -I












'"THE influence of Montfort's ideas is
* apparent in the policy of Edward I.
The overthrower of Montfort succeeded his
father, in 1272, with no intention of satis-
fying the political aspirations of the third
estate. But circumstances were too
strong for him. He found the crown
impoverished and heavily in debt ; the
hereditary revenue barely sufficed for
ordinary expenses, and throughout his
reign he was involved, partly by circum-
stances, but more often by his own choice,
in prolonged wars. So far as he could, he
used feudal levies, liable to serve for forty
days at their own expense ; but it was no
longer possible to win campaigns with
forces of this kind. Making an extensive
use of paid knights and men-at-arms, he
required frequent grants of taxation from
the Great Council, and it soon became
evident that taxes upon the property of the
non-feudal classes would be tolerated only
,, if these classes were con-

M . suited. From 1273 onwafds
Parliament ^ j i_-

. . we find him trying expen-
of Edward I. . f.

ments in representation.

These culminate in the summoning of the
so-called Model Parliament in 1295.

To this assembly the prelates and
barons were summoned as to a Great
Council, representatives of the inferior
clergy as to a national synod, knights
of the shire and burgesses as to Mont-
fort's parliament of 1265, with this differ-
ence, that there was no attempt to pack
the assembly as Montfort had done.
Since 1295 the form of the English Parlia-
ment has undergone considerable changes.
The estate of the lower clergy withdrew,
by its own wish, soon after Edward's time,
and thenceforth, till the reign of Charles
II., voted supplies through the convoca-
tions of the two archiepiscopal provinces.

The list of magnates and of towns entitled
to be summoned was frequently altered
even in Edward's reign. But from the
year 1295 a parliament including represen-
tatives of towns and shires has been an

essential feature of the English constitu-

The control of the new body over taxa-
tion was settled in principle as early as
1297, when the threat of rebellion, pro-
voked by illegal imposts on exports and on
the shires, compelled the king to sign the
' ' Confirmatio Cartarum ." The language of
_. . this document is guarded, and

Edward, while abandoning
Abandons the ,, ., j ,,

,, r .. n the evil dues, carefully
Evil Dues , . , ,

refrained from committing
himself to any general principle. There is,
however, little doubt that his concession
was understood, and meant to be under-
stood, as a promise that neither land nor
movables should be in future taxed at the
king's arbitrary will and pleasure. It should
be noticed that it was the king's intention
to consult the third estate on no other
question save that of subsidies. For ad-
vice on legislation and policy he looked, as
of old, exclusively to the magnates. But
before the end of the reign the commons
had asserted the principle that redress of
the grievances expressed in their petitions
ought to precede the grant of money ; and
thus the way was prepared for the claims
which they advanced in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries to exercise a power of
control and revision over almost every
department of the administration.

The development of this new assembly,
through which a definite, although a sub-
ordinate, share of political power was
allotted to the commons, could not fail to
B , weaken the position of the
, baronage. The significance of

Weakened ,. ,. ,.

parliamentary institutions from
Powers f, 1 '* '

this point of view was recognised

and resented shortly after Edward's death.
But in his lifetime the new parliament was
accepted by the estate of the barons as a
necessity, and was no doubt the less
criticised because it was the result of a
gradual evolution. The reign of Henry
III. had shown how powerful feudalism
could be so long as it stood on the defensive,



and how little popular support would
be worth in a protracted struggle with the
traditional leaders of the nation.

Edward therefore shrank from declaring
open war upon feudalism, and preferred
to use it rather than to crush it. The
concessions which he
made to win the support
of the barons were almost
as important as his covert
invasions of their privi-
leges. Already, as the ally
of Simon de Montfort, he
had helped, by the Pro-
visions of Westminster, to
bind and define the
judicial power of the
great lords over their free
tenants. In the statute of
Gloucester in 1278 he went
a step further, ordering a
strict inquiry into the
nature and source of all
existing private jurisdic-
tions. From this time
forward a sharp distinc-

through which they were robbed of their
feudal dues ; and, finally, that of " Quia
emptores " in 1290, which, while permit-
ting the holder of unentailed land to sell
it freely, made the buyer the immediate
tenant of the seller's lord, came as a boon
both to great landlords
and to the holders of en-
cumbered estates. It is
not surprising that
Edward, though he had
to deal with a hostile
coalition of barons in the
crisis 'of 1297, was
generally able to count
on their support. Feudal
levies were a valuable
element in the great
armies with which he
overran Wales and Scot-
land, and the estate of the
barons did him excellent
service in his determined
conflict with the papacy.
This conflict assumed
importance because it


tion was drawn between Coming to the throne of England in 1272, came at a time of friction

"royal rights" of justice

between the monarchy

and ordinary seignorial proved himself to be one of England's greatest and national Church.

J i-nlAi- HP wa<rpH Innir ura r airainst SrnHanH. .

rights which might be

regarded as inherent in the ownership
of land. The crown resumed all royal
rights which had passed into private
hands otherwise than by express grant
or immemorial prescription. Owing to
this policy the higher feudal courts became
of little value to
their owners and
quickly fell into
desuetude, while
the importance of
manorial courts
was greatly
diminished. On
the other hand,
the land laws of
Edward I. minis-
tered to the ag-
grandisement of
the great families.
Tlie statute "De
Donis " in 1285
restored the
power of strict and perpetual entail, which
had been undermined by a series of
judicial decisions ; that of mortmain, in
1279, by forbidding religious bodies to
acquire new lands, secured lay lords
against one of the most frequent frauds

He waged long war against Scotland. ^^.

Ihe statute of mortmain

was naturally resented by the clergy, and
it was followed by the writ of " Circum-
specte Agatis " in 1285, which defined the
limits of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in civil
cases. The protests of Archbishop Peck-
ham against these measures did not call for

serious consider-
ation. But the
hands of the next
primate, W i n -
c h e 1 s e y , were
strengthened by
the daring and
action of Boni-
face VIII. in
issuing the Bull
Boniface forbade
the clergy to pay
taxes to the lay
power without
the consent of
the Holy See ; and it was not until the
clergy had been outlawed and the Pope
intimidated that the obligation of the
Church to contribute subsidies for national
purposes could be once more asserted.
Winchelsey, defeated ori the question of


King Edward I. of England twice defeated the Scots, but after the crowning- of Robert Bruce as King of Scotland
the English were driven from that country. Edward, however, determined again to make war on the Scots, and he
collected the whole of his forces at Carlisle to lead them northward. But while the troops were arriving the king
fell ill, and at Burgh-upon-Sands, resting by the wayside, he died, his last moments gladdened by the sight of a
flaming town that marked the course of his army. From his Scottish wars he was called "The Hammer of the Scots."

From the water-colour drawing by W. Bell Scott, by permission of Mrs. Hueffer

ecclesiastical privilege, made himself the
leader of a baronial opposition ; con-
stitutional grievances were made -'a pre-
text for avenging those of the clergy.
In 1300 Boniface VIII. claimed Scotland
as a fief of the papacy, and forbade Edward
to invade that country. Again Winchelsey
and the orthodox clergy were to be found
upon the side opposed to the king. The
struggle ended with the removal of Win-
chelsey from the primacy through the
good offices of a new and more moderate
Pope ; and the statute of Carlisle, for-
bidding men of religion to pay taxes to any
foreign power, gave the papacy a signifi-
cant hint of what might be expected if it
encouraged the perverse ambition of the
national Church.

Turning from the futile dreams of con-
tinental aggrandisement which had brought
his father to the verge of ruin, Edward
devoted his attention to consolidating the
royal power within the British Isles.
He interfered little with Ireland ; but
circumstances gave him the opportunity
of asserting himself in Wales with per-
manent, and in Scotland with temporary,
success. From the days of the Confessor,
Wales, though divided between petty

dynasties and convulsed by internal wars,
had been a thorn in the side of England ;
the raids conducted by the Norman
kings and Henry II., often with imposing
forces and a vast expenditure of treasure,
seldom resulted in a real extension of
English influence. The colonisation of the
marches by predatory adventurers had
proceeded steadily, and in the thirteenth
century the plain country to the north and
west and south of the Welsh mountains
was securely held by a chain of castles,
partly in royal and partly in private hands.
But the growth of the Marcher aristocracy
had led to a new danger. The great houses

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 49 of 55)