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FTER Richard was dead, various factions of the French peoples under English domination began to emerge. The reason for this sedition was that part of the nobility judged that Richard’s brother John should be made their sovereign, but part favored Richard’s nephew Arthur, the son of his brother Geoffrey, who was older than John and whom Richard had appointed heir in his will. John, going first to Chinon, drained the treasury of a great deal of money, and then, received by the burghers of Rouen, did the same there, displaying extreme liberality towards all. And, having won over the minds of the soldiers and the common people to him by his largesse, he took possession of the dukedom of Normandy. But the townsmen of Anjou, together with those of Le Mans and Tours, voluntarily submitted to the duke’s rule. Meanwhile John’s mother Eleanor, whose authority was supreme among the English, at the persuasion of Hubert of Canterbury and a number of nobles who were not thinking aright, arranged for all England to swear allegiance to John. Everybody was less reluctant to do so because of Arthur’s age, as if the heritage ought to come to the man who was more mature than the legitimate heir. But hatred alone inspired Eleanor, for she foresaw that, if Arthur were to gain the crown, his mother Constance would do everything as she saw fit until her son came of age: thus it is difficult for women, whose natures are often so diverse, to have a meeting of the minds. When the boy’s mother Constance learned of this, she was stricken by womanish fear, and when she saw that her cause required the support of other people’s wealth, she straightway entrusted her son Arthur to King Philippe of France, so that in this way she might protect him from being harmed by his enemies until he himself was old enough to defend himself from their violence by himself, and to recover his ancestral throne. With grand words the French king undertook the boy’s protection, promising he would serve as his father in raising him and equipping him with the best morals. Therefore he first committed Arthur to be educated in the goodly arts by some of his nobles who were by far the most outstanding for their wisdom and probity, and then he reinforced Britanny and the rest of his possessions with a French garrison. This thing frightened Eleanor. So as not to lose Aquitaine in the interim, she quickly crossed the sea and went to John in Normandy. Here both, fearing lest the minds of the common people would be stricken with fear and turned away from them, they swiftly took up and either butchered the citizens or threw them in prison, but they were particularly cruel in punishing those who had helped Arthur. And having finished this business successfully, they threw such a scare in others that they appeared to be returning to the allegiance permanently. The King of France, who had other ideas about his self-advantage than to wage a war against the King of England for a trifling cause, pretended to ignore the business then. John left his mother in Aquitaine to protect it and, his French matters thus settled, crossed over to England so as to be created king quickly. And so a parliament was convoked as soon as possible, and was held at London. Hubert Archbishop of Canterbury, who surpassed the others in age and honor, is said to have spoken thus at the assembly:
2. “I have no doubt, right honorable prelates and brave lords, that you have come here to day minded to choose yourself a king who, if need should be, would deliberate about a matter in its entirety, who would finish doing that which he thinks advantageous for his subjects, if the situation should require, before he even seems to have begun considering it, and, lastly, who places his entire mind, care and thought only in that which he knows is for the advantage of the commonwealth rather than his own, and who thinks he has been born for the service of his nation and his entire realm, not for himself alone. And, although I am sure that you are not unaware that these qualities exist abundantly in Duke John of Normandy, a brave and prudent man, for which reason you should adjudge him worthy of government, nevertheless, fearing lest popular sentiment should move you, and lest, perhaps, you should choose to turn your favor to another man because the kingdom would seem to belong to this other man by hereditary right rather than to John, I beg and urge you to give me a hearing. For I, performing a double role, should not serve my nation only by my example and my urging, but also by my faith and counsel, which in the past I have cheerfully tried to do. Therefore, when at present we are deciding so great a matter, in such a way that we will have no occasion for second thoughts, I wholeheartedly commend John to you, and I am of the opinion that this office should be given to him. For in all the things he will ordain, decree, and do, undoubtedly will thus match, thus satisfy, thus be at the service of your opinions that the entire people will not only approve your choice, but praise it to the skies with its supreme approval. These things I promise you and, to the best of my ability, I shall face all eventualities, I shall run every risk.” When he had said these words, many held their silence, but most vied in acclaiming John as king, and all the Peerage swore allegiance to him. This was the year of human salvation 1200. But some of the nobilities of the wiser sort, who knew John intimately and down to his skin, as the saying goes, were very astonished that Archbishop Hubert had chosen to take responsibility for cheating Arthur, an excellent young man, of his ancestral crown, or for making John king contrary to right and law, when he should have known that the author of an evil is often considered worse than the evil itself, since he has the power to make things far worse. And so even then many thought it would come to pass that this thing would soon turn out badly for its own authors as well as for the people. Having been made king, John first promised his supreme care would be for all things touching religion, then that he would emend the laws, and finally that he would give good justice to every man, that which he did more in imitation of the habit of previous kings, who were accustomed to making large promises at the beginning of their reigns, than because he was minded to keep his promises.
3. While these things were happening in England, King Philippe of France suddenly gathered a great army and invaded Normandy, taking the city of Evreux, Arques, and some other places. Then he marched on and took back Le Mans, which he had lost a little earlier. In another direction, an industrious bad of Bretons took the towns of Gournay, Boutavant, and Tillieres, and, following up on their victory, the city of of Angers, which in the preceding year John had taken from Arthur. Learning of these things, John was very disturbed and accused the French king of having violated the five-year truce arranged with his brother Richard, and he saw no help for it but to come to grips with Philippe, and so he quickly left for Normandy. But when it came to a battle, his courage suddenly deserted him since he was unequal in strength, and therefore he decided for the moment to transact matters by complaints rather than arms so he could gain time for planning. Messengers were sent to and fro, and he and the French king came to the agreement that at a fixed time and place they would meet concerning peace. Three days later, therefore, they arranged a five days’ truce. Earl Baldwin of Flanders, the chief of the English party, whom in my preceding Book I have shown to have joined himself to Richard, learning of this truce between the kings, regretted that in this way a pause was given the enemy, during which he could prepare himself for a greater battle. And so he hastened to John at Rouen. Here they renewed their alliance and deliberated together about how to wage the war after the truce expired. And, a strategy thus devised, the count went off to Flanders. John, strengthened by this new alliance with Baldwin, energetically prepared for war so that, should the French king be led by hope of victory to refuse peace on fair conditions, he would then be able to employ arms to avenge the insult. Learning his counsel from deserters, the French king likewise readied himself for battle. Now the truce was almost finished, when the kings met between Veronne and the island of Andelys, to treat of peace. Here the French king tried to dictate rather than accept the conditions of peace, as if he were the victor, but on the other hand the English king refused to accept them, as if he were the vanquished, and so they left the conference, the matter unfinished. But neither side ran to arms before they came to a second conference not much later. For Philippe held his hand because at this time he had received an admonition from Pope Innocent III that he should take back his wife Ingelburga, daughter of the king of the Dalmatians or Dacians (for authors disagree on that point), whom he had divorced a little earlier. He refused to comply, and so was excommunicated, and, visited with this punishment, was at length compelled to take her back. But John (who was always unready) freely held his peace while his enemy was troubled by these domestic calamities, because this man, who shunned hard work and was not in the least energetic, preferred all things to a fight. During these days this development induced Duke Arthur to come to John at the behest of Guillaume de la Roche, an upright man, but he mistrusted the king, since he feared him as an enemy, so immediately thereafter he went back to Philippe.
4. After the passage of a few months, the kings met again concerning peace on the Norman border near Boutavant. There, just as had transpired in the other conference, no honorable conditions were proposed by either party. The King of France conducted himself arrogantly, boasting he would retain the plunder he had obtained, and the King of England was primarily bent on retrieving it. In the end, when John (no less lacking in counsel than in courage) abandoned hope of recovering the places he had lost by any peace conditions, he elected to disguise this disgrace by a new affinity. And so they came to these agreements, that Blanche, the daughter of Alfonso VIII King of Castile, Eleanor’s niece by her sister, should be betrothed to Philippe’s son Louis, and by way of a dowry John would surrender all the places captured by the French king prior to that day, with the exception of Angers, which he recovered as part of the treaty. And so a treaty was made on these conditions, and all those places assigned to the King of France, including the noble cities of the district of Ebreux, and especially the well-fortified towns in the territory of Bougres, Château-Renault, Grasse, and Issoudun, as well as Vaudancourt on the Norman border, part of the territory of Gisors. He also forfeited any right of seeking them back. John, who hoped that in this manner he had gained a lasting peace, arranged for the girl Blanche to be escorted to her husband at the earliest time possible, and when that business was settled he returned to England, triumphant with wonderful joy. But the English nobility, hearing that he made a shameful peace with the King of France, received him anything but happily. Rather, they began to scorn him as a coward devoid of all counsel, and to curse him in their disaffection, not so much because they thought this thing was a disgrace to themselves, as because they foresaw that it was going to be a great bane to the kingdom. And his ally Count Baldwin of Flanders henceforth held him of no account, and so he formed a friendship with the French king as soon as he could, and turned his mind to the Crusade, which he waged in no discreditable manner, as I shall show below. But John himself, having now gained leisure, and spending it in a very carefree manner amidst constant delights, given over to pleasures, as such men do, wholly failed in his duty of careful and moderate government. And, being imbued with the evil poisons of avarice, he single-mindedly devoted himself to the procurement of money. And by imposing a very harsh tax he threatened every man’s fortune, and seemed on the point of invading them. When he was chided by his brother Geoffrey Archbishop of York about this matter, he was so far from giving him a friendly hearing that he despoiled and banished him too, and then could not be placated, appeased, or mitigated by any submissiveness so that he would receive him back into his good graces before twelve months had passed. John did this did this, not because he hated his brother worse than all others, but so that he might deter other similarly-injured men from complaining. And thus laden down with spoils, he then went to Normandy, where he divorced his wife Avisia, the daughter of Earl Robert of Gloucester, because he was related to her in the third degree of consanguinity. And he married Isabelle, the sole daughter of the Count of Angolesme, with the help of the King of France, whose father had previously betrothed her to Count Hugh De La Marche. In those days the kings met again near Vernon, and as the beneficiary of the English king Arthur swore fealty for Britanny and the other parts of his domain on both sides of the Loire, but, not having sufficient trust in his uncle, he went back to the French. A few days later John returned to England and arranged for his wife Isabelle to be crowned in the traditional way. At the same time William King of Scots came to London on a state visit and is said to have sworn his oath. John asked for his military help against the French. But he, offering many excuses, finally replied it was not legal for him to promise anything of the sort without procuring the assent of his people. And so he hurried home. At the same time, they say, five moons were seen during the first watch of the night: one in the west, a second in the east, a third in the north, a fourth in south, and a fifth in high heaven. All men readily suspected this prodigy portended some harm for the kingdom, which soon was inflicted by the French king thanks to John’s sloth. And this opinion received further confirmation from the fact that an unnaturally cold winter followed, and towards spring there were continual downpours with frequent lightning, so that rivers became unnaturally swollen. At the same time of the spring the king crossed over to Normandy, and a little later went to Paris, where he was received with great honor by the French king. And there the treaty was renewed and a few days later he retired to Chignon. While the kings were at leisure, Pope Innocent, intent on the Crusade, moved some Christian sovereigns to join arms and go against the Saracens. And among those from western parts were Counts Baldwin of Flanders, Henry of St. Paul, and Louis of Savoy. But the Kings of England and France held themselves at home since their mutual hatreds were reviving, and, extracting money from their subjects, greatly helped soldiers departing for the Crusade.
5. Meanwhile Count Hugh De La Marche, irate at King John for stealing away his intended wife Isabelle, and so eager to make him some trouble, joined himself to Arthur. He armed the Poitevins, who had become estranged from the English king. Arthur, enhanced by this new addition, first marched against the citizens of Tours, then turned against those of Anjou and obliged them to surrender, calling himself the count of that district in accordance with King Philippe’s command. Eleanor, the governor of these regions, was terrified by this sudden development, and retreated to Mirebeau, the strongest town of the province of Anjou. At the same time she wrote a letter to her son John, in which she asked for his speedy help. But Arthur, following up on his victory a little later, captured both the town and his grandmother, yet he was so far from offending her that he even cultivated and danced attendance upon her. During these events John, receiving his mother’s letter, was greatly distraught by the novelty of the thing and, trembling, now called the French king an ingrate, now bawled that he was a traitor for having broken their treaty and openly favoring Arthur’s cause. He was filled with wrath and, lest he frustrate his mother’s expectation, he quickly made forced marches, day and night, so he came to his enemies quicker than they could know what was afoot. For, having gained the town, they feared nothing and roamed about at will. And so they were suddenly terrified by everything, and by the enemy’s sudden arrival, so they had no time for taking counsel or snatching up their arms and were thrown into confusion, not knowing whether it were better to go against the enemy or take to their heels. And since their panic was easily indicated by their shouting and running about, the English burst upon them with a great assault, and had no difficulty in putting them to rout with a light skirmish. And while they ran about they either killed or captured them. As they ran back into the town, the English followed with such speed that they took it before the enemy could retire inside. There was a great slaughter, Arthur was captured together with the rest of his army, and a little later he was imprisoned at Rouen, where he did not long live. and in this way the Poitevins, Tours and Anjou were retaken. Writers disagree about Arthur’s death. Some say that he attempted flight by climbing the castle walls, fell in the Seine, and drowned. Others report he died of chagrin. But the rest agree with the persistent rumor that he was murdered by John. After his death Guy, the son of the Viscount of Thouars, who had been married to his mother Constance, succeeded to his wife’s fortune and gained Britanny.
6. When Arthur’s death was reported to Philippe, he indignantly used this as his reason for occupying all of England’s overseas possessions. For Arthur’s mother Constance, the Duchess of Britanny, denounced John to Philippe and accused him of murder. The French king appointed a day for him to stand his trial, and when John failed to appear he pronounced that his legal cause had failed and that the ownership of all the places he held as a beneficiary had reverted to himself. And so he immediately marched into Normandy with all his forces and worked great devastation on the land wherever he went, reclaiming Conques, Vaudreuil, and the island of Andelys. Meanwhile John, seeing his enemy’s malice was not cooling off, quite contrary to his expectation, invoked the faith of God and men, and particularly complained to Pope Innocent of the injuries done to him by the King of France. The Pope did not reject these complaints, and by letters and ambassadors ordered the French king to stay his hand from such a sinful war so that, their internal squabbles settled, Christian sovereigns might at last devote themselves to the Crusade in unity. But Philippe, aware of John’s weakness, by no means heeded this injunction. He led his forces to the very strong town of Rodepont, and, since it could not be taken at the first assault, he surrounded the place with his arms, and took it in the tenth day of the siege. Then as the victor he decided to attack Castle Galliard, built, as has been said, by Richard. And so, preparing all the things which seemed necessary for besieging a castle, lest he lose courage by attempting such a strong place with his arms, since there was a large garrison within, he first surrounded it with a wall. Then he deployed wooden towers from which arrows could be more easily shot at the besieged. And finally, he pressed the siege days and nights. On the other hand, the besieged, relying on the nature of the place and on their strength, and on the prudence of the castle governor Hugh Guarnay, repelled the French, and the nearer they saw their enemy approach, the more they raised a cry and redoubled their arrow-shots, so that they wounded many men. But the French king, undaunted by any difficulty or inconvenience, since he saw that nobody was coming to the aid of the suffering Normans, did not relax his siege. And by this the besieged were at length exhausted and oppressed by starvation and, despairing of help, were obliged to surrender. Meanwhile John was staying at Rouen, doubtful of mind and bereft of counsel, wonderfully overcome by sorrow. But when he heard of the slaughter of his subjects and the harm to his cause, like a madman he disguised the sadness of the times by a show of cheer, and displayed a proverbial Sardonic smile as if he had conquered. So some of his nobles openly reproached him because he was allowing the French king to inflict such disgrace and so many woes on his kingdom with impunity. And to those he said (for he regarded other men to be of no great use, in comparison with himself), “Pray what has the King of France committed other than theft? And I shall take care, work it out, and make it happen that within a few days he will repay this with interest.” And so, since he had gained such a bad reputation among his subjects, he returned to England, downcast. And when Philippe learned that he had gone away, in order not to irritate men’s minds by taking harsher advantage of his victory, so that they would despair of their safety and put up a stiffer resistance, fighting only for their lives, he decided, first, to rest a little from arms, and then to entice the other peoples who were under English rule to defect, partly by giving them gifts, and partly by making fine promises. Then he assigned the task of winning over the minds of these peoples to his governors and, leaving his army wintering in Normandy, he returned to France, intending to come with greater forces at the earliest moment possible to storm the other places, should they remain loyal to the King of England.
7. When he arrived in England, John did not prepare arms and an army to resist the enemy and bring help to his subjects. Rather, thinking that everything should be subordinated to his avaricious zeal, he only made a deep study of the money-making arts, and by accusing now this man, now that, as though he had lost his overseas cities and other places by their fault rather than his own sloth, he mulcted them all. And this (besides hatred at home) earned him a greater loss. For when the King of France had learned that he was ignoring the war and stirring up the loathing of his subjects by his exactions, he immediately collected the largest army possible and invaded Falaise. This being captured at the first assault, he besieged Domfront, which its townsmen, conquered without much effort, turned over. Then he went into the countryside as a victor, and with his quick progress he overwhelmed those fearlessly living in the country before they could take refuge in towns. And by this speed he so terrified all men’s minds that he occupied all of the Norman coast as far as the promontory of Mont St. Michel, the occupants surrendering everywhere. Rouen, the chief city of all Normandy, remained steadfast in its allegiance, and Philippe went there by forced marches to besiege it, so that he might compel its occupants (whom he believed to be frightened by rumor of the events that had transpired a little earlier) to surrender before they could ready their arms or ask help from the English king. And so he pitched camp near its walls, stationed his forces at moderate intervals, and by blocking all the entryways he provided a fearsome spectacle for the citizens looking on. And before attacking the city, for several days he ordered his captains to come to him at daybreak, so that he could more carefully plan what to do or what arrangements to make for a siege. And then, having formed a strategy, he began to assault the city, and this battle continued for many days. And because he made small progress by his arms and power, he began to win over the townsmen by gifts, and likewise to solicit them to surrender by his exhortations and promises. He also advised them by means of his messengers that they ought to consider the idleness of their sovereign, who would send them no aid beyond what he had supplied the other cities, and they should not scorn the honorable conditions they would not obtain if they waited much longer. These things so moved the burghers of Rouen that, equally fearful for themselves and their property, they offered hostages and requested a truce for several days, during which they could beg their king for help. And if he failed to provide it within this time, then they would entrust themselves to Philippe’s faith. And therefore, having obtained the truce, they sent messengers to England to ask for aid, explaining Rouen’s condition, and how, if he did not come quickly running to their support, it would soon come into the possession of his enemies. The king, most unconcerned about arms and warfare and neglecting his affairs, offered little hope to the messengers that help would be sent the besieged. So they returned to their fellow citizens empty-handed and announced there was nothing to be hoped for from a man plunged in idleness and deeply asleep over their cause, just as if his own fortunes were not at stake. This provided great consternation for the minds of the burghers of Rouen, who had previously boasted that they had always remained in allegiance to their king, as was proved, as I have shown at the end of his life, by the testimony of Richard, who had chosen to have his heart buried in that faithful city. Now, unless they wished all their goods to go straight to perdition, they were compelled to come into their enemies’ power, abandoned by their sovereign because of his sloth. Therefore, so as to give better proof of their loyalty, they delayed their surrender while awaiting a change in their fortune. Then, all the food within the city consumed, they nearly starved to death and, overcome by this, surrendered to the French king. The report of this thing went before it, so the citizens of Arques and Verneuil, and also those who had been recovered by the English a little earlier, the citizens of Pithou, Tours, and Anjou, were frightened and in a moment came into Philippe’s hands. And he, having in this way gained Normandy and the rest of Aquitaine, went back to France as a victor. And thus Neustria, which is to say Normandy, which Duke Rollo had possessed 316 years previously, was retaken by the French. This was the year of human salvation 1204, the fourth of John’s reign.
8. In this year, although the loss of Normandy troubled his nobles more than himself, John pretended to be preparing for war and extracted a great sum of money from the people. Heaven itself hated this fraud, flashing for six straight hours with ruddy glow, as if incensed with fury and wrath. At the same time died John’s mother Eleanor, a very prudent woman, who perished of sadness more than disease. And by this same malady Hubert of Canterbury died in the selfsame year, who was never so ashamed and repentant of anything in his life more than that he had arranged for John to be made king by the nobility, whom he afterwards more clearly realized to be unworthy of so great a kingdom, but he grew wise to late, unable to correct his deed. Hubert had sat for eleven years, eight months, and six days, and afterwards the archbishopric of Canterbury lay vacant for more than two years. In the following year, with all men exclaiming over the ignominious catastrophe England had suffered, the nobles did more to urge the king to think of his honor, to heal men’s sufferings, to provide for their safety, and to serve the advantage of the commonwealth, which had been so basely torn, wounded, and mutilated by its enemies. Moved by these warnings, John readied a fleet, held a levy of soldiers, and pretended to make war, as was shown by the outcome. But the multitude of nobles was eager to avenge its injuries out of their patriotism, and matched their sovereign’s enthusiasm for preparing arms and the other necessities of war, when the king employed such speed in making his journey that he purposefully left many unready men behind, to follow after him. Therefore, with a fleet outfitted at Portsmouth and his soldiers now sent ahead to the ships, he at length took ship and ordered the sail to be set. But when he had gone a little out to sea, he suddenly changed his mind and returned, giving as his excuse the treason of certain noblemen who had been ordered to follow him but had refused, and these he subsequently punished heavily, no matter how unjustly. At this same time the monks of Canterbury, without the king’s knowledge, elected Reginald, a monk of their college, as successor to the dead Archbishop Hubert. He secretly left the realm and headed for Rome to deal with Pope Innocent so he would confirm the legitimacy of the monks’ election. And this thing was the seed-bed for many and great quarrels between the Pope and King John. For when the Pope refused to confirm the election before seeing evidence that it had been legitimate, he created a small delay during which the monks piled evil upon evil. For when they learned that Reginald had not yet been made Archbishop of Canterbury by papal decree by their own fault, as they thought, then, to appease the irate king with a novel form of flattery, they constantly begged that it be permitted them by decree of the Privy Council to elect an archbishop. The king gladly agreed to their petition, and at the same time urged that they elect his personal chaplain and head of his Privy Council, John Bishop of Norwich. To gratify the sovereign, this the monks freely did, as if forgetful of their previous choice (which they plainly regarded as null and void), and they sent agents to Rome to procure papal ratification of this second election.
9. It was now the sixth year of John’s reign, the year of human salvation 1207, when the right reverend Hugh Bishop of Lincoln departed this life. This Frenchman, born at Grenoble, a man of keen wit, wonderfully excelled at both divine and secular learning, in which he made such progress that first he was made a so-called regular canon at the urging of his father, who had already entered this order after the death of his wife, Hugh mother. Then, desirous of greater abstinence and a more severe life, he was made a Carthusian monk. In which order he not only observed and endured everything which struck other men as harsh down to his fingertips, but endured incredibly long periods of wakefulness, frequently fasted, and, in sum, led an austere life. And so it came about that his reputation for sanctity grew famous among all men and so moved King Henry II of England that he sent Reginald Bishop of Bath to fetch him from his Grenoble monastery to England. And after he came there, he was put in charge of the Carthusian monks at Witham in the diocese of Wells, and not much later was created Bishop of Lincoln, as I have said in the life of Henry II. Then Hugh, charged with this very holy office, displayed greater integrity and greater constancy in his dealings, since there was nothing in him that was not ordered in accordance with virtue, and he was highly praised by all men. He did not flatter his sovereign, he was not swayed from the right by any man’s favor or friendship, nor was he dissuaded from right judgment by threats and arms, so much so that when the magistrates heavily fined an ordained cleric (and every day they imposed fines) for killing deer while hunting in royal parks, he fearlessly excommunicated them on his own authority. And when this was held against him, because he acted contrary to national law, then this very sharp defender of justice replied that he was not abrogating or violating the law, but only preserving it, and he did not depart from his purpose. Indeed he hated both Richard’s and John’s taxes, and steadfastly and openly refused to pay the demanded money to subsidize an impious war fought for the sake of quarrels between Christian sovereigns. And so it often happened that by royal command the tax-collectors made attempts on Hugh’s goods, and he openly denounced them as scorners of religion, and excommunicated them in the traditional way. And this began to be regarded not just as a punishment, for all the affairs of those excommunicated by Hugh went to rack and ruin, and when this was widely observed, henceforth no man, even at royal command, dared touch either Hugh or his property. What about the fact that he heard that the king was irate at him for this very thing, I mean for his refusal to pay taxes and for having scared off his money-men by denouncing them as worthy of being counted among the impious, he handled the king with such modesty, steadfastness of mind, and gravity, at the same time advising and reproving him, sometimes mixing sweet words with the bitter, sometimes humor with seriousness, so that he could easily soothe his mind and turn his wrath to laughter and good cheer? And the good prelate risked his venerable virtue not just with a single king, but with Henry and his sons Richard and John, in whose times he lived. Reverence for integrity is so great that we easily suffer the chiding, admonition, and reproach of men we know for sure are not rascals. Both in his life and after his death Hugh was famed for his miracles, and for this he was not undeservedly canonized, and the memory of his sanctity is celebrated everywhere, but especially at Lincoln, where his body is reverently preserved in the cathedral.
10. In the same year (to return to the point where I made my digression) Philippe King of France, who had long had it mind to take away from the English her overseas possessions that still remained loyal, came up with a large army and encamped not far from Loches, and set siege to the town (which had been destroyed and rebuilt by Richard a few years previously), and, having taken it, he continued with a siege of Chinon. Inside was Roger Lacey, a man among men, with a goodly-sized garrison, and, sensing the enemy would come, he had made preparations for defense as quickly as he could. After the French had arrived at this place, they did not cease their siege by day or by night. And the townsmen defended themselves from the walls, killing many with arrows, stones, and other missiles. After they became exhausted by several days’ constant fighting, their spirits began to flag, since the enemy onslaught was so strong that they could no longer resist if help were not sent by John. Therefore some of the more timid among them began to slip over the walls at night and desert to the enemy, and to save their skins they provided abundant evidence about the condition of the town. So the French, learning of the despair and fear inside, at all points renewed the fight with such energy that the town was immediately gained. A great number of English were captured, including Roger Lacy. Then Philippe, having captured and pulled down a number of castles, and strengthened other places with garrisons, entered into Britanny by crossing the Loire, stormed a very stoutly fortified castle set on the Grapl;ite promontory, a traditional bastion for the English, for they could retreat there. His reason for harrying the Bretons was that in those days Duke Guy of Brittany, Constance’s husband, who had succeeded his step-son Arthur in the duchy, and who for that reason was unconcerned about avenging the young man’s death, had allied himself with John, together with Savarre de Mauléon and Almeric de Lusignan, high-minded and wealthy lords. Meanwhile John, partly inspired by this new alliance, and partly aroused at length by so many setbacks and insults, prepared an army and a fleet and not long thereafter sailed for La Rochelle. And there he unshipped his forces and ordered his men to be ready as quickly as they could. Then he marched towards Angers, and when he approached the place he gave orders that his squadrons of horse should surround the city and at a single moment launch an attack. Meanwhile he with his footmen and heavily-armed knights attacked the gates with steel and fire. And when these were battered down in a moment, he first gave that noble city to his soldiers for the plundering, then, having captured or killed the citizens, he leveled its walls to the ground . Then at last he went out into the countryside and inflicted equal slaughter on whomever he encountered. Learning of this, the locals voluntarily went over to John, promising to supply a multitude of auxiliaries. Elated by such a success, he marched against the Poitevins, sending squadrons of horse in every direction to waste the countryside. Meanwhile, learning of these things, with his readied army the French king went to encounter the King of England, and while on the march he captured the Duke of Britanny, Savarre and Almeric unawares while they were plundering, and stripped all their companions of their arms. This did much to deflate and weaken the English king. After this he continued on his way and encamped near his enemy, and on the following day, eager for battle, led out his men early in the morning. And so, with both side in high spirits for a fight, they were awaiting the signal to begin the battle, when at the intervention of some bishops and soldiers who had great influence with the kings, both sides were granted a two years’ truce, and captives were exchanged. And so there was a cessation from arms, with the French king going back to France, and the English king to England. Afterwards John was very sorry he had leveled Angers, a noble city. None was dearer to his heart because he had been born there. And so with wonderful zeal he rebuilt it and made it much fairer than it had been. At the same time the Roman Emperor Otto visited England, and John received him honorably. They immediately fell to planning war against Philippe, and, since he had high hopes of receiving help in that war, he gave an immense sum of money to Otto when he departed.
11. Meanwhile at Rome the suit about the archbishopric of Canterbury between Reginald and John Bishop of Norwich, previously elected by the monks, was still pending. After duly investigating their elections the Pope declared them both invalid, and acted by his own authority to bring it about that the monks, who had come in large numbers to Rome for that reason, finally chose Stephen Langton Cardinal of St. Chrysogonus, an Englishman, upright and most learned, whom he himself subsequently made archbishop. Having done all these things, the Pope wrote a letter to John explaining it all, and asked that, for his excellent virtues, he would accept Stephen as having been duly created Archbishop of Canterbury. The king took it hard that John, Bishop of Norwich, his appointee as Archbishop of Canterbury, had been rejected, and was so irate that first he deprived Stephen of all his goods, then banished him, and declared the monks of Canterbury who had gone to Rome to be enemies to their country. Then in a letter to the Pope, very full of insults and expostulations, he replied he would never permit Stephen to preside over the see of Canterbury. When these things were announced at Rome, Innocent (as was only reasonable) was astonished that John had not approved the election of such an excellent man, and an Englishman at that, and as a good father he began, by means of frequent letters and messengers, to advise, exhort and request him to keep his hands off religious affairs, to restore the banished monks, and to allow the man made Archbishop of Canterbury to obtain his province. John was so far from being moved by these admonitions that he dealt much more savagely than before, not only with the clergy, but also with all his subjects who had helped Stephen. And so Stephen was an object of hatred to his king through no fault of his own, and could not help gaining a bad reputation with other men who had been punished for his sake, according to that Gospel verse, No prophet is accepted in his own country. When these things were reported to Innocent, he regarded the bad odor in which the man was held to be intolerable, since it was destined to inflict great harm, not just on one man, but on the entire clerical order. So he decided to apply a remedy to this widespread disease. And although nothing seemed as timely as a denunciation for impiety, yet he decided to be as slow as possible in inflicting this disgrace upon such a great prince (for he did not do this gladly), so as to give him time to acknowledge and make amends for his sin.
12. It was now the year of human salvation 1207 when King John had a son by Isabella, whom he named Henry. Meanwhile Pope Innocent, hearing that John was very stubbornly persisting in his contumacy, greatly grieved over his misfortune, that a man properly raised in Christian piety from boyhood should be so heedless of religion and think right and wrong were all the same. Therefore, so this evil would not grow more widespread, he was obliged to deal with him him more harshly. So he wrote a letter commanding Bishops William of London, Eustace of Ely, and Mauger of Worcester to visit the king and advise him on the Pope’s behalf that he should finally chose to obey the Pope, uphold religion, and look to the welfare of his realm, but, should he continue in his error, than he would be punished. When they received the papal letter the bishops diligently carried out their mandate. John not only failed to heed their wholesome admonitions, but even grew very angry at them for their good advice. So they lost hope of healing the prince’s minds. And so they excluded both John and his people from the community of Christians as of March 23, the date on which Easter fell in that year (although some writers say that this had previously done by papal decree), and forbade them the sacraments. Then they fled to France not long thereafter. The king was unmoved by this terrible severity, but rather decided to overthrow the clergy entirely. Since divine services had been suspended everywhere, he straightway banished a goodly number of priests and prelates, seized their property, and, like a storm falling on his own nation, he likewise plundered the churches. And this bane on religion did much to disfigure the clergy. Just as it was a wretched to see no services held in churches, so it was far more wretched not just to see, but also to hear that priests were everywhere held in scorn. After this, John, fearing the disloyalty of Man more than the wrath of God, compelled the people to swear another oath of allegiance to himself, and immediately began to assemble an army so that he might invade Alexander II King of Scots, who had a little earlier succeeded his deceased father William, and to whom he heard many English nobles were constantly fleeing, to punish him heavily for having broken the conditions of their treaty. Amidst these things, at the humble behest of Stephen Archbishop of Canterbury, who greatly grieved that his nation was being so troubled for his own sake, the Pope made the concession that certain priests could preside over divine services on certain days. But John, urged by his friends and nobles that he should recover the good graces and favor of God and Man before starting this war, not long thereafter, heedless as to what was fitting or best, prepared his army and hastened in to Northumbria. Thence he invaded enemy territory and offered battle. The Scottish king, seeing he was unequal to the English forces, and so not thinking he should come to blows for the moment, at the suggestion of his friends set aside his arms, went to John, and purchased piece for a large sum of gold, even if John feigned reluctance in accepting this. Then John, much more hostile towards his subjects, so that he might inflict a similar unpleasantness on those of his subjects who had refused to follow him to Scotland because he had been pronounced impious, invented a new form of devastation. For, since the end of July was approaching, at which time the crops begin to ripen in England, commanded all the fences of his deer parks to be taken down, and all the moats around them filled in, so that the beasts could run free and, attracted by the sweetness of the crops, pick the fields clean. Because of this crime farmers everywhere called out curses against the king, since they could gain no other revenge. For to kill the animals was all but a capital offence. In the same year the Keeper of the Great Seal, Hugh Archdeacon of Wells, a prudent man, was proclaimed Bishop of Lincoln. Desiring to be consecrated by Stephen of Canterbury in the traditional way, when he said he wished to go to Rouen so as to be consecrated by the prelate of that city, he easily received John’s permission to travel abroad. When he arrived at Normandy, he turned aside from the road leading to Rouen and made straight for Rome, and there he was duly installed as bishop by his archbishop. When John found this out, he was fired with rage and immediately confiscated Hugh’s goods as well as the income of his see, which he commanded to be taken yearly by his money-men. And being ill-disposed in those days towards all men as well, he sharply taxed the Jews, with those refusing to pay their money subject to various tortures.
13. While John troubled himself with these cares, and his subjects with these depredations, he learned that the Irish were all but estranged from himself. And therefore, so that they might suffer a similar calamity and remain obedient to the King of England, he obtained suitable weather and brought an army over to the island. When he came to Dublin, before he could plan a strategy for this war, all the inhabitants of the flatlands and seacoasts voluntarily came to him out of fear, and swore their loyalty. With these men restored to their loyalty, he gave them John of Norwich for a governor. And although the rest, who dwelt in the mountains and forested districts, refused to obey him, yet he did not prosecute them since winter was coming on (which is early there). So, having quickly concluded this affair, he returned to England. And since he did this to turn a profit, and Irish poverty baffled his plan, he thought about how to fill his pockets with English wealth. Therefore, claiming he had suffered great expenses in the Irish war, he demanded a great sum from his people. It was now the eleventh year of John’s reign, when he went to Wales and subdued some disobedient citizens there near the end of the summer, and, taking hostages, compelled the rest to remain loyal. Afterwards he came home and in the very same year changed the form of the City of London. They say that the reason for the change was that during a grain-shortage the Bailiffs Roger Winchester and Edmund Hardell made it impossible for palace stewards to purchase grain, which those two magistrates had already bought up for the use of the people. John, irritated over this matter, deprived the Bailiffs of their magistracy and threw both in prison. But immediately afterwards, appeased by both entreaties and bribes, he allowed the burgers to chose in the annual meetings of their corporation a Lord Mayor, in the Roman manner, and two Sheriffs in place of these Bailiffs. The first Lord Mayer was Henry Fitzalwin, and the Sheriffs were Peter Duke and Thomas Neal.
14. Meanwhile the Pope, who was most of all gnawed by a concern for helping Christendom, was very anxious, not only because the Saracens were continually pressing Christians with their arms in Asia, but also, under the leadership of Al-Mu’minin had visited the greatest calamities on all Spain, in a public edict he urged all who could bear arms to come to the aid of our men. But nothing was more important to him than recalling the mad King of England to his sanity. And so at the first possible time he sent his legate Pandolfo, together with the Templar Durante, to King John, to urge him to abandon his perversity, set aside his errors, return to himself, and reflect that it did not serve his best interest, nor that of his kingdom nor Christendom, to remain in such impiety, which would be a perpetual evil for himself above all others. Armed with such mandates, they went to England, where the met the king on the road as he was returning from Wales, not far from the town of Northampton. They received a kind reception and were escorted to Northampton. There, after they discussed a reconciliation, when John accepted all the other conditions, but refused to provide compensation for damages suffered by the clergy or inflicted on others, the legates, seeing there was no reason to stay, returned to France with their business incomplete, and informed the Pope of what had been done. In no way improved by the legates’ admonitions, not long afterwards John cruelly mulcted certain noblemen, because, hating the man’s vices and tyranny, they had reluctantly gone on campaign, and so had refused to follow him to Wales. In those days Count Reginald of Boulogne, publicly condemned for impiety because he had appropriated church money, fled to John and was held in great honor: as the proverb says, birds of a feather flock together. Meanwhile Innocent, learning from his legates’ letter of John’s stubbornness, was greatly astonished at the man’s impiety, and in his sacred consistory he began to discuss with this Fathers how he might induce him to change his mind. After a long discussion, all agreed that John needed to be stripped of his royal dignity for holding religion in such contempt, for he was heedless of the warnings of the Pope, nay, of Christ Himself, who had no consideration for the salvation of himself and his people, and daily distanced himself further from the community of Christians. Therefore, especially at the urging of the English bishops who grieved for their nations’ evils, the Pope absolved all peoples under John’s government of the oaths that bound them, then deposed John himself from the government of his reign, and finally notified the King of France and other Christian princes of this deposition, and advised them that they should prosecute John, thus repudiated, as a public enemy of God. But so that it would be known to all men that nothing would more pleasing for him than to see John repentant of his sin, so that, filled with faith, he would ask God for mercy, he sent Pandolfo, who had returned to Rome a little earlier with a goodly number of English exiles, together with Stephen Archbishop of Canterbury and other English bishops to King Philippe in France, and gave him the mandate that he share all with himself all his decisions concerning the King of England, and urged him that he wage war against this impious man John; and, should Pandolfo adjudge this necessary, that he go on to John and give him a letter which he wrote in a friendlier vein, and attempt to lead him from his depraved policy. Meanwhile, when the rumor spread throughout England that all peoples had been released of every obligation of loyalty they owed to their sovereign and that the king’s rule had been abolished, then gradually many soldiers, citizens, magistrates and governors abandoned their castles, and likewise bishops together with a multitude of the clergy left John and shunning his conversation and presence, secretly escaped to France. In this flight some died for sorrow. Among those was Geoffrey Archbishop of York, for John’s wickedness saddened him so much that he finally succumbed. Likewise the Welsh, who could at no time keep the peace, passed beyond their borders and wasted all the local countryside, leveling some castles to the ground. When these things were reported to John, he wrathfully executed the hostages he had taken a little earlier, as I have recounted above, and, like a madman, unslaked by the catastrophe of his subjects, he raged against all men. He removed some men from their magistracies and others from their governorships, he confiscated, he despoiled. He renoked the immunities and privileges that had been granted to monks and other members of the clergy, and offered them to these men to be repurchased, he so wished to drain all men wholly dry with his expenditures. In that selfsame year all the structures built on London Bridge and on either side of the bridge were consumed by fire, which was taken for a prodigy.
15. This was the year of human salvation 1211, when Philippe, requested by Pandolfo (who had now arrived in France) to wage war against the English king, energetically and happily readied an army, together with a fleet, so that he might cross over as quickly as he could with other nobles, ready in mind and armament, for an invasion, so as to remove John from the throne in accordance with the Pope’s command, and substitute some other man standing in the line of inheritance. And since the French king especially desired this, certain that it would also be to his advantage if John were to be deposed, he fell to this work all the more eagerly. Bringing his fleet to the mouth of the Seine, he quickly prepared himself for the voyage, when Pandolfo, not unaware that it would be perilous to transport such great forces, and particularly French ones, whom he suspected would either gain power over the island, being superior in number and arms, or at least would plunder, not without slaughter of the islanders, decided to go before them and try once more if he could make an impression on John’s mind. He thought it would be excellent if he were successful; if not, he could not be blamed. Even if few men liked this plan, for they preferred war with the English king to peace, nevertheless Pandolfo promptly crossed over to the island to speak with John. At that time John himself, aware of his adversaries’ plan thanks to his spies, assembled a multitude of men from all parts and arranged them on the coast facing France so as to ward off the approaching enemies by land and by sea. He also outfitted a fleet so that, should the situation demand, he could fight a sea-battle. But when he learned the legate was at hand, he went to meet him at Dover and received him kindly. Then the two went aside, and after they had spoken a little for the sake of courtesy and honor, Pandolfo is said to have spoken as follows: “John, I do not think you are unaware that our great Pope Innocent, so that his party will not be left bereft, has both freed your peoples from the oath by which they were originally bound to you, and has deposed you from rule over England, as you have deserved, and has also commanded Christian sovereigns to remove you from your throne and replace you with another man, so that you may pay a deserved penalty for your contempt of religion. And so King Philippe of the French is particularly intent on carrying out the Pope’s commands. He has prepared an army, and with his fleet readied he is waiting for a good wind at the mouth of the Seine, so that, when it blows, he may sail for England. And, as he says, he is relying on the support of your subjects, who neither call you their king nor wish you to be such. He hopes to deprive you of your throne without any great difficulty, and easily to gain it for himself. And so, since God is justly angry against you, and you have as an evil reputation among all men as those coming against you have a good one, I would advise you that right now, while you still have the opportunity to gain grace, you should obey the Pope’s just instructions, whose words other Christian princes heed, rather than to destroy yourself and that which is yours by struggling in vain.”
16. When he said these things, John, who was now wholly without faith in his ability to defend himself, seeing that the necessity of complying was imposed on himself, was greatly disturbed of mind and for a while, hesitant and looking around him with a baleful expression, he considered what plan to adopt. In the end, overwhelmed by the impending danger and downfal, he unwillingly and most reluctantly promised upon his oath that he would stand by the Pope’s decision. Therefore not long therafter, just as Innocent had commanded, he took the crown from off his head and handed it over to the legate Pandolfo: neither he nor his successors would accept this crown, save from the Pope. Then he promised kindly to accept into his good graces Stephen of Canterbury and the other bishops, as well as the rest of the exiles, and liberally to repay them for injuries suffered. And the would spare them, in such a way that it would be held against no man that he had defected. Then Pandolfo, seeing that John was not repentant for his badly-led life and his deeds, gave him back the crown in his capacity as papal vicar. From this arose the story that John, wishing to perpetuate the memory of this benefit hje had received, made himself Innocent’s beneficiary on the condition that henceforth English kings would derive their right to rule from the Pope alone. But following kings scarcely observed these terms of reconciliation, nor do English annals mention any such concession. And so it is well enough agreed that all the burdens were placed on John for his delinquency, but these were not intended to be endured by his successors. These things having been done, Pandolfo that the remaining things were scarcely to be settled before John had performed his promise. Therefore, thinking it not timely to lift the interdict, he quickly returned to Rouen and explained his actions to King Philippe and the others. I find among some historians varying accunts of what was accomplished between John and Pandolfo concerning this reconciliation, and have thought it wrong to set down what appears to have been concocted in accordance with individual writers’ opinions. And Philippe, who had everything in readiness for transporting his forces, and had conceived in his mind high hopes for gaining a victory, hearing of the reconciliation of Innocent and John, exploded in wrath, and made no amiable reply to Pandolfo’s request that he bear arms against John no longer. For he, overcome by fear and terror of divine vengeance had now returned to himself, but Philippe, speaking of the English king with accusations and reproaches, openly stated he would not hold his peace, lest he be said have wasted both his time and his money in preparations for this war. And so he held a conference with his captains as soon as possible, in which he set forth why he had been led to have a sure hope for victory, became of the opportunity both of the time and of other considerations; he hoped they would follow him, especially since he had with him the banished English bishops, and he had no doubt that by restoring them he would gain much favor among the English people. Everyone approved the king’s opinon save Count Ferdinand of Flanders. He had succeeded Baldwin, and because the French king had taken from by force the part of Flanders nearest to France, he was secretly in league with the King of England and the Count of Boulogne. The king, however, did not change his mind, but he gave immediate orders for the fleet to follow him, and he with a lightly-armed band of followers went to Boulogne, and then to Gravelines, so that he might sail over to England with the fleet.
17. While Philippe was waiting here, since Count Ferrand (whom he now held in suspicion) had not appeared on the appointed day, he decided that he had to place the tumult in Flanders ahead of the English war, fearing lest, should he do otherwise, while he waged war abroad he would suffer from seditions at home. Therefore, breaking off his intended war, he went against Ferrand and first ordered his fleet to be brought to the port of Damme. Damme is an artificial channel dug as far as Brughes, by which the sea flows in like a navigable river. Then, sending his light horse ahead of him, he went into the territory of Cassel and took Ypres. Having reinforced it with a garrison, he headed for Brughes. And since this was a particularly strong city, he could not take at the first assault. So, having left behind a goodly band to besiege it, he, together with the rest of his forces, hastened to set siege to Ghent. This is a very well-fortified town twenty-five miles from Brughes, watered by the river Scheldt, once possessed by the Gorduni. Meanwhile Ferrand, far weaker than his enemy, sent to the King of England asking for timely aid. John, learning that the French king had turned all his force against the count, was overjoyed at being freed from fear and danger, and immediately commanded all the ships already collected, which had been readied for war, as I have said, when he feared the arrival of his adversaries, together with a great number of soldiers, under the leadership of Reginald of Boulogne, William Longsword, and a second William, the brother of the Earls of Salisbury by a mistress, to go to the aid of his friend. These captains obtained fair weather, and when they were asea the espied a large collection of ships around Damme. And since that port was unable to contain the royal fleet in its entirety, a great part of the ships rode at anchor along the shore. Thinking these to belong to the enemy, they immediately commanded their sailors to lower sail and come to a stop. After this was done, they sent some small craft built for scouting to discover what ships those were, and whether they were guarded. It so happened that at that very moment the French guard, together with a goodly part of their sailors, had gone into the countryside to forage. And so it came about that the scouts, who were disguised as fishermen, saw that the ships were unguarded and, quickly returning, reported to the captains that victory was in their hands, if only they would resort to speed. Happy at this news, the captains ordered their men to get ready for battle and, raising sail, went right at the enemy ships. At their first assault they captured the larger ships riding at anchor in a moment, their sailors pleading for their lives. The remainder, which were beached on the sand because the tide was at its ebb, they stripped of their rigging and other goods, and then burned as the sailors who had manned them took to their heels. When this business had been profitably completed, they also attacked some minor shipping within the harbor. Here there was something of a fight. For, because of the narrowness of the place, no multitude could support the fight, and a great part of the garrison, who had learned of the coming of their enemy from their sailors’ shouting, returned to the ships and put up a stuff resistance. But when the English landed and attacked the port from either side with arrows and stones, and the ships, lashed together, allowed something like a land-battle, the French could no longer resist the assault, and after great slaughter on both sides they were captured to a man. The English captains, having won this unhoped-for victory, were incredibly overjoyed, They quickly removed the better of the captured ships, and either broke or burned the rest within the port. Then they landed the army and led it forward in battle-formation, in the hope of encountering Philippe as he was coming up in support of his men. And this increased their victory. For Philippe, informed of the peril overhanging his fleet and his men because of the enemies’ sudden arrival, while he was hastening to his fleet at full speed, saw that his enemy had captured his fleet and were awaiting his arrival, drawn up to block his route, and also that Ferrand had been told of the victory and was following behind them. Therefore, to avoid rashly exposing himself to this obvious danger, he encamped not far from Brughes and there he spent the day, and on the following day he retreated to France along the way he had come, with nobody following after him since the enemy was satisfied with the victory they had gained and saw no need for a pursuit. Hearing the news of this success, was wonderfully uplifted and invigorated, confident in his mind that henceforth all would turn out much better for himself.
18. At that time lived a certain hermit named Peter, a man of Yorkshire, either divinely inspired (as the common opinion had it), or well-versed in the magical arts, who was in the habit of predicting future events. And since (as happens) his predictions sometimes came true, he had a great reputation as an infallible prophet. While John was afflicted by adversities, about New Year’s Day he predicted that he would be dethroned by Advent Day, and, either to give his words greater credit or overconfident in his heart, he said he would not object to being put to death if his prediction was wrong. Therefore, when the appointed day came and John received no particular setback, the hermit was hanged by his order. All men abhorred this deed, full of cruelty, because Peter had a popular reputation for great sanctity, and his innocent son was executed too.
19. As soon as the king learned of the victory that had been won in Flanders, as I have said, exulting in his mind and not giving a fig that his kingdom was still under interdict, immediately prepared an army so he might hasten to Aquitaine against the French, who were harrying the entire vicinity. But his captains refused to follow him to France unless the Pope’s excommunication were revoked and all men repaid for their injuries, so that he might wage war against his enemies with God appeased, he was obliged to change his mind and turned aside at Winchester, and immediately he sent ambassadors with a letter to the prelates of Canterbury, London, and Ely, asking them to return to England with the other exiles, and promising a general amnesty and restitution of what he had taken from them. The prelates received the letters and quickly crossed over to England with the rest of the exiles. As they were approaching Winchester the king met them. As he drew closer he recognized Canterbury and fell at his feet, humbly begging his pardon. He asked him and the other bishops they take pity on the unhappy condition of their nation and henceforth agree to give good counsel to the commonwealth. When these words had been said, tears welled upon both sides. They entered the city together, and the joyous people cheered when they saw the head of the commonwealth at last agreeing with its limbs. And this was the thirteenth year of John’s reign, and the year of human salvation 1212. Here, when John humbly asked absolution from the archbishop, who was the papal vicar in England, and promised on his oath that he would first of all defend the clergy from harm, and then would restore to use the laws of the ancient kings, especially those said to belong to St. Edward, which were nearly obsolete, a thing the people especially demanded, and finally, that he would make restitution to all men he had harmed. When he had done this, he received absolution for his impiety, and not long thereafter he sent ambassadors to Rome to deal with the Pope for the lifting of the interdict. He began to devote himself to give satisfaction, to correct new laws and restore old ones, and to duly preserve the splendor of religion, and the responsibility for doing these things was assigned to Canterbury in particular. Then Stephen turned aside to Canterbury and restored the monks to their monastery. Then at length he obtained his province of Canterbury, where he was the forty-second in the line of archbishops. Afterwards, bent on doing the work of the commonwealth, he returned to London. But John’s feigned goodness could not restrain itself from turning into evildoing, since it was vain. For while Canterbury and the other nobles who were eager to restore ancient liberty were busied in establishing some advantageous state of the commonwealth, and many things had now been established for the better, meanwhile he, ill-disposed towards his subjects, began to fear lest these improvements might prevent him from doing as he pleased And so he greatly regretted his promises and the pact of reconciliation, he openly exclaimed this had been foisted upon him, and so he refused to stand by what had been agreed. For a while Canterbury managed to restrain his madness by maintaining that both he and his kingdom would go to ruin if he broke his word. While time was wasted in these debates, Cardinal Niccolo, a Tuscan bishop, arrived in England, sent as a papal legate empowered to lift the interdict if John had was performing what he had undertaken to do. John received him and gave him a very kindly hearing. And since the affairs of the clergy had been settled (if not with the degree of enthusiasm and integrity that the bishops and nobility would have liked to see), he convened a synod of bishops and the other clergy for the sake of establishing matters of religion on the best footing possible, and after King John had restored a goodly part of their remaining wealth he had wrongly stolen, and a half of the estimated amount which had been spent, the clergy and laymen, by his authority he lifted the interdict on June 29, 1213, six years, three months, and twelve days after England had been stricken by that dreadful thunderbolt of justice. In those days Walter de Grey, Bishop of Worcester, was set over the diocese of York, which had been vacant since Geoffrey’s death, and he was accounted the thirty-third in the series of Archbishops of York.
20. Matters thus being arranged at home, John then decided he should attend to foreign wars. Therefore, having sent wages to his captains fighting to aid Count Ferrand against the French king, and quickly assembling a large army, he came to La Rochelle with a fleet of many ships, and when he had landed he marched in fighting order to Anjou, and this he industriously repaired, as he had previously made up his mind to do. But while he was lingering there, the Poitevins, now abhorring French domination, deserted to him, and, enhanced by their help, he turned his mind to the occupation if Britanny, partly with the intention of weakening the French strength, and partly to draw them off from their war against Flanders, which was impending any day, which he thought ought to be waged under the leadership and auspices of the Emperor Otto. And so at the beginning of springtime he went into the neighboring countryside with all his horse. His devastation reached as far as the walls of Nantes, as his horsemen created great slaughter and terror. But not much later the young men of Britanny under the leadership of Peter, son of Count Robert of Dreux, who had to wife Adele, the daughter of Duke Guy, came into the field to defend their nation from depredations, and came to grips with the enemy. From the beginning it was a hot fight, but the Bretons were quickly overcome by arms and fear, and, taking to flight, abandoned the battle. More were captured than killed, among whom was Peter with a goodly number of their nobles, whom the English king straightway put in fetters and sent to Anjou. Then he began to besiege a very strong castle on the bank of the Loire called La-Roche-aux-Moines, and when at his first onslaught he learned that there was a large French garrison within and that it could not be taken with ease, he hastened to encircle it with a wall, place his siege-engines at strategic points, and batter down the walls. And so while that siege did not relax, it was reported to him that Philippe’s son Louis coming to the aid of his fellow-subjects with a strong force of young men. Learning this, John, seeing he would be fighting against an immense number of enemy, and having little trust in the Poitevins, broke up the siege so as not to risk himself, and retreated to Angers. After the departure of the English, Louis executed the men responsible for the defection and brought the Poitevins back to their loyalty. Meanwhile his father Philippe, with the same result but with a singular fight at the bridge of Boivines in Flanders, routed the Emperor Otto, who had come to the aid of the English and Flemish cause with a huge army (I have already written that John had given him money for the cost of this war), and took captive Counts Ferrand of Flanders, Reginald of Boulogne, and William of Salisbury, together with many other nobles who had fought as mercenaries under John, the whole army destroyed. When this was announced to King John, he was so overwhelmed by his troubles that he went a whole day without eating, hoping to starve himself to death. But then, because of his wrath, his sadness turned to anger, and he spared no insults, openly exclaiming that nothing could turn out well for him after he returned to the good graces of God and the Pope of Rome. When he often repeated this, a popular saying arose, not unwitty, that nothing had gone well for John because he had not beem reconciled with God or Man. For he had lately been compelled by necessity of all his affairs to pretend obedience to the Pope, because of the multitude of men he had offended, he had made full satisfaction to few. From such results, let Christian men learn the truth of that that proverbial Psalm verse, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which is to say, wisdom consists of fearing God, since undoubtedly punishment waits those who act against Him. Furthermore (not to cast further for examples) it is believed that the Emperor Otto and Counts Ferrand of Flanders, Reginald of Boulogne, and William of Salisbury fought unsuccessfully at Boivines Bridge because they had already been adjudged as impious by Pope Innocent, for having no fear of God and the laws, and had been bannished from the fellowship of Christian men. But John is especially proof of this, for he lived a hard life and died a wretched death because of God’s anger, whose religion he held in low esteem. After this, having lost most of his friends when they were taken captive by the enemy, the rest either deserted him or remained obedient with but pretended loyalty, and now domestic seditions were gradually revived, and he saw his fortunes were afflicted and lost. And so he might manage his domestic affairs with greater safety, he thought he must settle his foreign ones, and so ambassadors were sent back and forth, he pledged a five years’ truce with the French, and he immediately went back to England.
21. While there was a rest from external wars, henceforth the whole realm was in a discordant condition and began to openly blaze with internal hatred because the laws of St. Edward had not yet been restored, as John had promised. Nor had those laws been quashed which were of great commodity to the king, but not to the people. So some nobles, thinking such an evil was no longer tolerable, met at Bury, at the monastery consecrated to St. Edmund, on the pretext of having gone there for absolution. Here they made common complaint about the king’s tyranny, exclaiming that, although they had often fought for their nation, at home they were continually oppressed by their kings who, relying on the unfairness of the laws, dared do everything at their whim. And if any men should expostulate about the injury inflicted, the kings would retort that this was right, not injury, and so it was the duty of stout fellows and great men to consider how these evils might be abolished by good laws, such as those by which their ancestors had lived more quietly. Aroused by these sayings and others of the same kind, they promptly decided to visit John and petition him at length to grant the promised laws. And since they were sure that the king would take this in ill part, they should make their request threateningly rather than humbly, and so each man chose to army himself, so that, when they made their demand for laws, if he could not hold his hand, they could resort to these. Meanwhile John was at Worcester, and there he secretly found out about the nobles’ conspiracy. Reflecting that a thing of no small moment was hanging over his head, when he had celebrated Christmas (this was in the year 1214), he straightway set out for London, where the princes came with no less speed, leaving their followers in the suburbs so that, if need be, they could be armed and ready. Then the nobles went to the king, made their demands, asked for the laws and old institutions by which kings had once properly governed the people of England and which he himself had sworn to restore to their former usage, repealing the more recent ones which every man could rightly call insults. And the demanded all the other things which he had in past solemnly undertaken to observe. Contrary to his true thoughts, John answered their request calmly, for he thought it both safer and easier to sway their aroused spirits with trifling remedies than to break them. Therefore he promised to give his attention to their demands within a few days, and, so they would trust him the more, he ensured that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely, together with William Marshall, Earl of Gloucester, to whom he had given his daughter Eleanor, would make these promises on his behalf, that which they did in very good faith. And so the nobles went home, their minds appeased.
22. But the king, from whose mind nothing was farther than to concede anything that would be expedient for doing these things, seeing that matters would soon come to violence, at this time feared for himself, prepared an army, and fortified the strongholds in which, if the need should arise, he could confine himself. And the lords, not unaware of the king’s energetic preparations for war, quickly collected their forces, and by common consent placed in charge of these Robert Fitzwalter, a man of good counsel and powerful strength, so that they could protect themselves from harm. After this they went to the Archbishop of Canterbury and handed over a document containing their petitions, and asked that he sound the king’s feelings about these matters. He, desiring to end the sedition, met with the king, exhorted him, and begged him again and again to satisfy his nobles. At the same time he set forth their demands. When the king caught sight of what was being asked for (they were asking for a new ordering of the kingdom more advantageous to its people), he grew irate and loudly swore a dire oath that he would never concede these things. When this was told to the nobles, they immediately ran to arms, and rushed in battle array to besiege Northampton. But a little thereafter, when they had accomplished nothing because the townsmen were already defended and they themselves lacked siege engines, they broke off their siege and went on to besiege the castle of Bedford. William Beauchamps, the governor of the place secretly sided with them, and immediately handed it over. There, while they were consuming time in fortifying the place and reinforcing it with a garrison, they received a letter from the Londoners, who were very estranged from the king, sent by a swift courier, in which they indicated they would accept the nobles inside their walls at night, if they would send a garrison sufficient to protect the city. Receiving this message, the nobles were overjoyed to find that the capital city of the realm would follow their party, and sent four troops of foot to London. The burghers admitted them inside during the night, and the day after these had arrived they openly defected. John, who meanwhile was at his camp at Windsor, and had decided to lead the army he had gathered against his enemy as soon as possible, learned of the Londoners’ desertion, changed his plan, and, afraid to leave there, almost collapsed from fear, since he was frightened lest the other cities imitate the Londoners. And so, to suppress this present evil, he decided that his adversaries must be gulled by a trick, and immediately sent ambassadors to tell the nobles he would comply with all their wishes if they would meet at his camp at Windsor. The nobles, their forces drawn up in battle array (for they had no faith in John), took position three miles from his camp, where the king too came immediately. And addressing now this man, now that, calmly, amicably, and honorably, he freely consented to their demand. And so that they would trust him to do this, he allowed them chose a number of grave men who would ensure that his concessions would be duly enacted. By this treacherous kindness, John wonderfully won over all men’s minds and brought it about that they imagined he had conceded everything out of liberality rather than fear. And so the nobles, happy as if they had gained their wish, departed for London.
23. But the king, who was agitated by anger and hatred, had promised nothing in good faith. On the night of the next day he furtively went to Southampton with a few men, and from there he crossed over to the Isle of Wight. There the question was debated what remedy could be applied to cure the nobles’ minds. And when various men expressed different views, a goodly part of his councilors thought it best and most timely to seek aid from the Pope. Therefore Bishops Walter of Worcester and John of Norwich, together with Richard, who was from Marisco, were sent to Pope Innocent as ambassadors at the earliest possible moment, to inform him of the nobles’ sedition and explain that the king, compelled by their force, had given his people laws and an immunity fatal for his kingdom. And, since all this had done without the authority of the Pope, who had especial jurisdiction over the kingdom of England, he should choose to nullify those things, and command the nobles to obey their sovereign. When these arrangements had been made, the king returned to England where he had no peace by day or night, since he could not sufficiently entrust himself to any place or any man. Rather, he often went hither and thither by day and night, contrary to what royal dignity demanded, so that in this way he could be equally free of war and fear until he learned what assistance he might expect from the Pope. The nobles kept themselves at London, and daily consulted with the city corporation (which Roger Alan, the Lord Mayor for that year, convened frequently) about the things that needed to be done. Because they had no idea where in the world John was, they suspectged fraud. Meanwhile the ambassadors arrived at Rome and explained their mandates to the Pope. Innocent was grived that such great dissention existed between the king and his nobles, and the bishops who were royal ambassadors set forth the reason for the quarrel in a papal consistory, affirming on their oaths that the law, as well as the judgment of the wisest men, supported the king, and that all the blame resided with the nobles, by his authority the Pope decreed that whatever immunity the king had given his people a little before out of his fear of violence was null and void. He likewise warned the nobles in a letter that they should put down their arms as soon as possible and obey their king. The ambassadors received the Pope’s reply and his letter to the same effect, and quickly returned to England. Learning of their return, the king had come a little earlier to Windsor Castle, where the ambassadors came too. From them he learned the Pope had decreed everything as he wished. A little improved in spirits by this, he made it his business to see that the Pope’s injunctions were proclaimed to the nobles and it be commanded they should abide by these. The indignant nobles, learning of the fraud they had suspected, that John’s promises about the laws were being turned into a joke, not only failed to obey the decree, as being unjust, but accused the Pope’s judgment of being unfair, because he had been misled by the tricks of John and the bishops who were on his Council, and had not first given a hearing to the other side’s case, immediately took up arms, exclaiming they would avenge so great an insult with steel, death and blood, fighting against a lawless tyrant who had mocked his nobles so. Therefore they immediately gathered the army they had almost disbanded and made William de Albiney, a man skilled at the martial art, governor of the strong castle at Rochester. When John discovered that the nobles had scorned the papal rescript, and were more hostile and hateful towards himself than ever, he again sent ambassadors to the Pope to inform him of the stubborn response of his nobility. Then he went to the castle of Rochester, where a goodly part of the nobles were, besieged it, and meanwhile wrote to Count Ferrand of Flanders, who not long previously had redeemed himself from the King of France for a large sum, asking help, Ferrand, mindful of the support John had given him, immediately sent this, under the leadership of Fawkes de Breauté. Therefore John, made stronger by this new accession of soldiers, on whose prowess he pinned his greatest hope. So he pressed the siege night and day, so that sixty days after its commencement he compelled the castle to surrender. This business successfully concluded, he divided his arm in two, and with one he tried to storm London. Over this he placed Savari de Mauleon, a citizen of Poictou, and Fawkes, a man distinguished for his cruelty. He himself led the other part into Yorkshire against the noblemen he had heard to be creating a new army there. At the same time Pope Innocent, disturbed that the noble had not obeyed is rescript, adjudged all those who had borne arms against John to be enemies of religion, and he instructed Peter Bishop of Winchester and Abbot of Reading that he should make declaration throughout the kingdom that they were to be accounted as impious. But he was forbidden to do these things by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who favored the nobles, and for this was afterwards forbidden from participating in divine services and, haled to Rome, came extremely close to being stripped of his archbishopric, but who obtained absolution in the end thanks to the intervention of some Cardinals. And Innocent made himself unpopular with all men, for the zeal with which he embraced John, although knowing full well he was not an upright man. Meanwhile John came to Yorkshire and with steel and fire he wasted all the nobles’ property, homes, manors, and landholdings. And whatever man excelled in family or wealth within that shire he likewise either plundered or punished, for the sake of avenging his injuries, as he said. His other army did the same in the region of London, and in the end, seeing there was no hope for storming the city in a the king gave to Fawkes as a gift, and then they pillaged their way as far as Ely. Such was the cold that time that the water around the Isle frozen, allowing men safe passage to it on foot, and so he made an assault on it, and when the Cathedral and adjacent parts had been plundered, he carried off a great amont of loot.
24. Beset with so many evils at once, on the one side the king robbing them of their goods and killing or imprisoning their wives and children, and on the other the Pope bitterly opposing them, the nobles were entirely at a loss where to turn themselves or what remedy to take. For, having lost a goodly number of their fellows in the castle at Rochester, they did not dare fight against John, and they thought it anything but safe to trust him, who had broken his word a little earlier. And so, oppressed by these difficulties, they decided to seek help from there enemy. They formed the plan of electing Louis, the son of King Philippe of France (to whom had lately been married, as was said above, Blanche, daughter of King Alfonso of Castile, John’s niece by his sister Eleanor), and sent messengers and hostages to France, asking the young man to come to their aid as quickly as he could. Philippe, taking this opportunity of gaining the throne of England, as he imagined, replied to the messengers that his son would come to their nobles as quickly as possible with a great number of soldiers, and with equal enthusiasm he outfitted a fleet. When he learned of the nobles’ plan, by his swiftest messengers John told everything to the Pope and asked that by his authority he delay, warn off, and prohibit Louis from crossing over to England, and from favoring his adversaries, their common enemies, whom he himself had excommunicated. The Pope, eager to support John, sent a legate named Gualo to King Philippe, to employ all measures in discouraging him from this English war. The French king heard what the legate had to say, but by no arguments could he be induced to refuse his assistance to the English nobles. He maintained John was not the legitimate King of England, because he had stolen the throne from his nephew Arthur in the first place, and afterwards he was negligent and heedless of his nation, an enemy of his own dignity, in claiming that he had lawfully surrendered the throne of the England to the Pope, and that the Pope had legitimately received it, because he had done so without obtaining the consent of his Peerage, for his crime he had been deprived of all his royal honor. And so the legate, seeing there was no point in wasting further effort, lest he waste his time in the French king’s court, hastened over to England, so that throughout the realm he might make proclamation that John’s adversaries had been declared enemies of religion by a papal decree. But, in order to get there before him, Louis shipped his army to Sandwich in Kent faster than anyone could have imagined, landed his men, and remained on the coast for three days, while meanwhile nobles came flocking to him and took their individual oaths of fealty. Upon Louis’ arrival John, setting out for Dover, decided to encounter his enemies while on the march and fight a battle. But, being timid by nature, he was suspicious lest the Flemish soldiers, who made up the majority of his army, would defect to the Frenchman, who they hated no worse than himself, and with a quick change of mind fortified Dover Castle and left Hubert de Burgh, a very stout man, as its governor. Then he went back to Canterbury, from where, fearful and like a fugitive, he retreated to Winchester. Learning of John’s flight, Louis made his way through Kent in safety. Then suddenly, when he had reduced every castle save Dover, he came to London. Here the assembled nobles pronounced Louis their king, and every man freely swore his fealty to him, asking that he preserve the ancient laws and customs. Then Louis is said to have spoken publicly as follows: “I accept your pledges, my lords, and I give you mine, that I shall preserve the institutions of your nation, and, mindful of the commodity of the English people rather than my own, I shall entirely protect you, who dearest to me after my parents, from harm. For I have not come here for the sake of wealth or a throne, which my most puissant father has prepared for me in abundance, but so I would not be called an ingrate for not coming to your aid, for having freely made my your king, nor be called a coward for neglecting such a just occasion for war. And so be faithful and follow me. I shall bring it about that the kingdom of England recovers its dignity, and you your liberty.”
25. After this had begun to be public knowledge and the rumor had spread throughout the island, the commoners freely gave their allegiance to the new king, as did a number of John’s soldiers. And so the Frenchman, transformed from the Englishman’s enemy into his friend, was joined to him. Alexander King of Scots approached London to see Louis with a choice band of soldiers, and since he was coming to the aid of the people he was given a warm welcome all along his way. Louis, his forces thus increased, at his first assault subjected the south part of England, with the exception of Winchester, where the King was keeping himself, and Windsor castle, with no man not despoiled of his fortune. Indeed, the French soldiers, greedy for booty, could not be restrained by their king from not only looting private homes, but also taking gold and silver plate from churches. But that conflagration swept through all men’s fortunes even more cruelly when Louis continued his march through the east of England. Louis, not sleeping over his cause, attacked the castle of Norwich and reduced it, although with no small amount of effort, and among those within he captured Thomas de Burgh, brother of the Hugh who was holding Dover Castle, whom he gave into careful custody, hoping to use him to corrupt his brother so he would hand over the castle. And so, partly relying on that hope, and partly urged on by his father Philippe, who argued that it was unwise to leave in his rear such a strong castle in the possession of his enemy, marched straight to Dover and besieged it. Bringing up all manner of siege equipment, he continued his assault day and night, not without loss to his men, who were kept at a far distance by arrows and thick stones. Among these events, Louis despaired of taking the castle by arms, and first tried to sway Hubert to surrender by making him fear for his brother’s life, threatening to visit the most excruciating tortures on Thomas in his sight and to inflict a most disgraceful form of death. When this had no effect on Hubert, he added some gold to convince the man’s mind, but not even this induced that steadfast man to commit treason. Then he irately exclaimed he was not going to depart before he captured the castle and butchered every last man, and fell to the siege with far greater energy. At the same time the nobles who held London launched a surprise attack on Windsor, so that they might not be seen to be idle in any quarter.
26. Meanwhile John, as soon as he understood that the enemy were preoccupied in these very difficult sieges, immediately dispatched messengers to summon all manner of villains, enticing they by hope of plunder to ravage every part of the island in the enemy’s control. A great number of rascals assembled from all over, and John (who burned for revenge), heartened by their strength, moved himself from Winchester and, like a lightning-bolt, laid everything low. In his excursions he devastated homes and entire villages with steel and fire and ransacked churches and priests. Made yet more ferocious by these successes, he turned wholeheartedly against the region of Canterbury, and when he had meted out equal slaughter there, he turned to the seacoast facing French Belgium, and, heading north, ravaged the fields. Whatever villages and towns he took he first gave to his soldiers for the plundering, then burned. On that expedition, having ransacked a village called Peterborough together with its monastery, he turned aside to the monastery of Crowland, which he likewise pillaged. It was the most horrible spectacle in history to see very cruel soldiers pursuing everywhere, to see wretched parents, their homes abandoned, fleeing with their children, being killed and captured, virgins being raped, many men wounded who were neither able to flee or stay, and amongst all this the soil soaked with blood; likewise to see ripe crops set afire, herds and flocks driven off, and, in sum, never a worse stain was inflicted on England by an Englishman. And it is reasonable to think that by his cruelty John called down on himself the wrath of God, Who soon inflicted a deserved punishment for these crimes. For while he was leading his booty-laden army along the shore, he came to the estuaries near Walpole, where the river Nyne empties into the sea. Here John, not knowing where to make his crossing, ordered one of his followers, who had a keen and spirited horse, to seek for a ford where the river enters the sea. He chanced to discover a ford and reached the other bank, thereby inducing the others to enter the water in disarray, so much so that their baggage-wagons and all their forces crossing by different paths stumbled over a whirlpool, of the kind that are frequent in the sands of that region, and were drowned in a minute. Both wagons and horses were sunk. John, who followed the guide across the ford, barely survived, with a few of his men. And thus he lost his sacrilegious loot along with his looters. The king, grieving over such a loss, was so saddened that he fell into a persistent and very troublesome fever. Suffering from this, he could not ride a horse, and he was borne in the direction of Lincoln on a straw-covered litter made of osiers, with nary a cushion. But the power of the malady compelled him to stop at the castle of Sleford (which still exists), or, as some writers would have it, he turned towards Newark, and in the very strong castle there, done in by chagrin more than disease, he died within a few days, on the October 16, or, as some say, November 16, in the fifty-second year of his life and the seventeenth year, sixth month, and twenty-seventh year of his reign. Some write (and I do not desire to omit this, so as to satisfy the vulgar) that, after he had lost his army, he was ablaze with ire and fury, and came to the Cistercian monastery at Swineshead, and there, indignant at the low cost of the food (since at the time there was scarcely a soul alive more hostile to the English nation) he wrathfully said that within a few days he would make it far more expensive, and that, distressed by that statement, one of the monks immediately administered poison to the king mixed in with his wine, which he himself tasted first so the king would drink more freely, and thus the both of them gave up the ghost at one and the same moment. His body was taken to Worcester and buried in the cathedral. By his wife Isabelle he fathered his sons Henry, who succeeded him, Richard, Joan, who married Alexander King of Scots, Isabelle, who was given to the Emperor Frederick II, and Eleanor, married to Earl William of Gloucester. Some also mention a fourth daughter also named Eleanor. His stature was good enough, his faith wrathful, his mind hardly strong, although savage: when danger threatened it would fail him, but when he was free of danger it suddenly recovered its nature. There is nothing to write about his virtues, and I have so abundantly written above of his vices that I have no need to repeat them here. Men of high reputation at that time were an abbot named Eustace, very learned in Scripture and notable for his sermons, Geoffrey Archbishop of York, Simon Thurai, a learned man who, when he was excessively proud of his erudition, suddenly became illiterate. Likewise the right reverend Hugh Bishop of Lincoln and many other clerics notable for their morals and learning, just as many also flourished for their martial discipline, whom I have mentioned at appropriate points above.
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