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England shared the influence of the great changes which marked the age of Innocent III and Philip Augustus. A period of adventure passed into a period of order. In spite of his regard for custom, Henry II was a constructive statesman; but during the reigns of his sons his bold experiments underwent the process of development, definition, and tentative change. On the one hand, the power of the central government increased: judicial, military,and financial measures brought the resources of feudalism under the control of the Crown; a series of elaborate inquiries into the distribution of property and income added to the information possessed by the officers of the Exchequer; departmental business became more specialised and official records were both more numerous and better preserved. The accession of Richard I was accepted later as the limit of legal memory. On the other hand, during the quarter of a century which preceded the Great Charter, the theory of royal responsibility received practical expression. The separation of England from Normandy and Anjou brought the king face to face with forces which henceforward were to have a national significance. The king was now not king of the English, but king of England, the great vassals were English barons; feudal custom, the adjustments between secular and spiritual authority, the writs and practices of the Curia Regis combined to become the law of England. When King John strained the instrument of government and disregarded custom, he was met by an opposition which, although it was feudal in form and temper, gave expression for the first time since the conquest to English opinion.

John’s self-confidence was doubtless strengthened by the events of his brother’s reign. During the life-time of Richard I the work of Henry II was submitted to a severe test. It survived the civil disturbances of the opening years, enabled the government to collect an enormous ransom, and to respond to the incessant demands for men, stores, and supplies during the later war be tween Richard and Philip Augustus. The success of English administration was the more remarkable from the fact that, four or five months excepted, the king was absent from England through out his reign. The history of England between 1189 and 1199 is really, concerned with the activities in the first place of William Longchamp, and afterwards of Hubert Walter. The latter was the ruler of England during the French war, and, while he was assisting-Richard to hold his own, developed Henry’s  II machinery in every part.

Richard was crowned king on 3 September 1189, at Westminster. The order of the stately ceremony, which seems to have become a precedent, was afterwards preserved among the documents in the treasury, and is reported by the chronicler of the “deeds of King Richard”. Richard was of a free and impetuous disposition in all his ways. He loved magnificence, was generous and magnanimous when he desired to reward or to please, made his plans on a large reckless scale, plundered boldly, and was openly avaricious. He had a passion for organisation, building, and fighting, but he had little foresight or stability. The act of arrangement, of putting things into order, interested him more than the maintenance of order. Within a few months of his accession he had overhauled the administration of his dominions, settled his relations with the King of Scotland and the princes of Wales, made several bargains with Philip Augustus, collected a fleet, issued codes of regulations for the crusaders, and ordered an equitable change in the English custom with regard to wreckage. The organisation of England was commenced before Richard had arrived. His mother, Queen Eleanor, who was acting probably under the direction of William the Marshal, issued a proclamation of amnesty for those who had been illegally imprisoned and ordered all free men to take the oath of allegiance to Richard. In Normandy Richard endowed his brother John with the county of Mortain and large English estates. After his coronation, in a series of great councils held at the abbey of Pipewell (near the hunting lodge at Geddington in Northamptonshire), London, or Canterbury, and at Bur in Normandy, he filled the vacant bishoprics and abbeys, appointed sheriffs, received the homage of William of Scotland, and provided for the regency in England during his absence on crusade.

Throughout his English progress with its pomp and display Richard had made it clear that his immediate object was the Crusade. He had come to England to be crowned, and he stayed only long enough to collect a vast treasure and to make arrangements for the government. On the lowest computation the treasure left by Henry amounted to 100,000 marks, or about three times the annual revenue. Richard increased this sum by his exactions from the retiring, as well as the new officials and sheriffs. Henry II’s great justiciar, Ranulf Glanvil, was plundered on giving up the justiciarship and the county of Yorkshire. Bishop Hugh of Durham bought the former office and the county of Northumberland. William Longchamp, the new Bishop of Ely, paid three thousand marks for the chancery, and Godfrey de Lucy, the new Bishop of Winchester, got the treasures of his church, the custody of the castle, and the sheriffdom of Hampshire for three thousand pounds. Other sheriffs paid similar sums. For the relaxation of the hard terms made in 1175 the King of Scots paid £10,000. Richard’s settlement of his kingdom was based, therefore, upon a series of financial bargains, and suffered in consequence. The king had hardly turned his back before all sorts of local feuds and conflicting interests began to reveal themselves. During his slow journey to the East, he was forced to compose difficulties which at a distance he could hardly understand. His instructions were so hypothetical and conflicting that they have been the despair of histo­rians. In October 1192 the news from home made him decide to return.

At first sight the arrangements for the government of England during the king’s absence seem statesmanlike. The Crusade withdrew from England some of its ablest and most prominent men, including Glanvil and Baldwin the Archbishop of Canterbury; but Richard left behind a large number of his father’s trained servants. By his first arrangement the Earl of Essex and the Bishop of Durham were to be justiciars, sup­ported by a small group of advisers. All these men, together with the sheriffs in the midland and south-eastern counties, the barons of the Exchequer, and the justices, were experienced administrators. After the death of the Earl of Essex, William Longchamp the new chancellor was associated with the Bishop of Durham, and finally, when the two bishops were seen to be ill-mated colleagues, Richard gave the supreme position to the chancellor. The chancellor was to act as justiciar, while Bishop Hugh was to be justiciar in the north of England and castellan of Windsor in the south. The colleagues of the chancellor, forming with him a council of state, were the marshal, now Earl of Pembroke, Geoffrey Fitz Peter, Hugh Bardolf, and William Brewer. In one of his letters the king describes them as appares, and they were evidently intended to occupy a position above the other justices and officials of the Exchequer. It is clear, however, that the Exchequer was regarded as the seat of government. In the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury the chancellor was, at the king’s request, created papal legate by Pope Clement III. Upstart though he was, Longchamp was thus placed in a position to control, in addition to the secular administration, the powerful episcopate which now existed in England. As a last precaution, Richard imposed an oath upon his brothers John and Geoffrey that they would not enter England for three years. Unfortunately John was released almost immediately from this obligation.

The position allowed to Count John was, indeed, the chief cause of danger, and illustrates the defects of Richard’s policy. Richard and his mother were strange to English administration and dealt with English needs according to Poitevin rather than Anglo-Norman tradition. As Duke of Aquitaine Richard had achieved some success by a combination of strong administrative measures, such as the appointment of vigorous officials, castle-building, and a reform of the coinage, with the old policy of playing off one local interest against another. In England, so long as he had a good central administration, he saw nothing impolitic in the formation of strong local interests. He allowed his brother to form a state within a state, for he was accustomed to independent vassals like the Counts of La Marche and Angouleme. John had his own administration, which was a counterpart to that of the English chancery and exchequer. The royal officials and judges did not enter his shires, Derby and Nottingham, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, nor the county and honour of Lancaster, nor the honours of Peverel, the Peak, Tickhill on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, Marlborough and Ludgersball in Wiltshire, nor the great honour of Glamorgan which pertained to the Gloucester inheritance. These jurisdictions were, until 1194, exempted from the direction of the central government. In addition, John was lord of the lands and rights of the earldom of Gloucester, of the honour of Wallingford in Berkshire, and Eye in Suffolk, and many other lands in the midlands. He also held the revenue of the forests of Andover and Sherwood. It is true that Richard had taken the precaution to retain in his own hands some of the most important castles in this demesne. The grant of the shires included financial and judicial rights, but not the wardenship of the castles of Nottingham, Exeter, and Launceston. The castles of Tickhill, Gloucester, Eye, and Wallingford were also reserved. On the other hand, the king had sold many counties, including the custody of his most important castles, to great local personages who would be tempted to take sides with John in the event of a dispute. When the chancellor was placed at the head of affairs, the close connexion, so carefully elaborated by Henry II, between central and local government hardly existed beyond the home counties. Moreover, the Church in England was disturbed by serious disputes.

William Longchamp, in spite of his triple position as legate, chancellor, and justiciar, was not equal to the task which Richard had given him. His father was not of noble origin, and in spite of his English connexions and lands, he was regarded as an outsider. His appearance was by no means impressive, while his demeanour was overbearing and his style of living extravagant. He openly expressed his contempt for provincial English society, and he neglected to take the advice of his colleagues. As legate, he annoyed the English clergy by his autocratic bearing and his excessive demands upon their hospitality; as chancellor, in possession of the king’s seal, he claimed to control the executive and the disposition of the revenue. Not unnaturally he speedily found himself opposed by clergy and barons alike. His considerable ability and foresight were disregarded by men who, stirred by political annoyance and social prejudice, saw in him only an ugly distorted foreigner of servile origin and bad manners. His earliest actions illustrate both his insight and his imprudence. He was determined that there should be no dual government. Sure of the king’s confidence, he decided to secure without delay as much power as possible. The castles were the strategic points. Richard had entrusted the Tower of London to him, and he had ordered a deep fosse to be dug about it. The chief royal strongholds outside London were Winchester, Windsor, York, Lincoln, and Dover. The last named was under the control of his brother-in-law, but the rest were held by officials who were either dangerous or had ceased to be in close touch with the central government. The chancellor took Winchester from the bishop, Windsor from Bishop Hugh of Durham, and York from its castellan. The Bishop of Durham, in spite of the king’s grants, was further deprived of his political power and detained in his manor of Howden. The sheriff of York shared the fate of the castellan on the ground that they had both been implicated in the recent massacre of the Jews.

By these measures the chancellor had widened the area under the direct control of his administration; and, if he had acted with more caution, he might have firmly established himself, for at first he seems to have had his colleagues with him. But his semi-regal progresses, and his style of arrogant self-confidence, rapidly forced opposition to express itself. Complaints went to Richard before the end of 1190, and early in 1191 his enemies found a basis for attack. Queen Eleanor left England in order to negotiate and prepare for Richard’s marriage to Berengaria of Navarre; and John arrived shortly before her departure. The count immediately became a centre of intrigue. The unscrupulous Hugh of Nonant, Bishop of Coventry, who was sheriff of the three counties of Leicester, Stafford, and Warwick, lying between John’s honours in Gloucester and Derby, became his furious partisan. The sheriff of Lincolnshire, Gerard of Camville, was a still more useful ally. Gerard had bought his shire and was permitted to retain the custody of the castle of Lincoln which was hereditary in the family of his wife, Nicolaa of La Haye. After the check given to the Bishop of Durham and the downfall of the sheriff and castellan in York, he was the obvious leader of independent action in the north of England. In the days of King Stephen, the building of unlicensed castles and the abuse and usurpation of official power had been the main activities of the lawless element among the baronage; and the chancellor had good reason to believe that these anarchical tendencies were reviving. He struck at Gerard as the most prominent official among the suspected party. According to the charges brought against him after the king’s return, Gerard had allowed Lincoln Castle to become a refuge for highwaymen who robbed the merchants on their way to Stamford fair; and had afterwards been guilty of treason in refusing, on the ground that he had done homage to John, to appear before the king’s justices. Early in July 1191 the chancellor marched to take possession of Lincoln.

The move against Lincoln was the signal for open conflict between John and the chancellor. During the spring of this year several great issues had been raised. The news had reached England that, through the death of Archbishop Baldwin before Acre, the see of Canterbury was vacant. The succession immediately became the chief concern of the English clergy: if the chancellor became archbishop, his position would be greatly strengthened; if he did not, his position as legate might be seriously weakened. The dangerous question of the succession to the throne had also been reopened. Since his accession Richard had gradually declared his preference for Arthur, the son of his dead brother Geoffrey of Brittany, and in his treaties with Tailored of Sicily and Philip of France at Messina he definitely put him forward as his heir. But John could not be expected to acquiesce in this arrangement. It is significant that about this time the chancellor secured the adhesion of the King of Scots to Arthur’s succession, and before his advance on Lincoln had suppressed a mysterious rising in Herefordshire, where Roger of Mortimer, lord of Wigmore, a neighbour of John in the Welsh March, had been intriguing with the Welsh princes. Disputes had also arisen between John and the government with regard to the castles and revenues claimed by John as part of his demesne. When the chancellor struck at Gerard of Camville, John showed his power by securing from their castellans the surrender of Nottingham and Tickhill. Longchamp had to turn aside, and, after some angry exchanges of defiance, temporary agreement was reached at Winchester on 28 July, by the arbitration of barons and knights chosen from each side. The most important clause in this agreement was the chancellor’s promise that he would do his best to secure the succession for John in the event of the king’s death.

Up to a point the chancellor had been able to pose as the champion of order against rebellion and treachery; but from the spring of 1191 his authority rapidly decreased. On 27 April, before the crisis had come to a head, Walter of Coutances, the Archbishop of Rouen, landed in England. He had been released from his crusading vows and sent back by Richard from Messina to watch affairs and if necessary to act. The king had no desire to displace the chancellor, and for some time the archbishop used his large experience as an administrator to encourage good relations between Longchamp and John. On 28 July, after a revival of the dispute about Gerard of Camville, he assisted in the settlement made at Winchester. Yet there is no doubt that his presence gave confidence to the large number of bishops and barons whose sympathies were with John, but whose fears and sense of loyalty gave strength to an authorised government. By general consent John was the rightful heir of Richard, and if his influence in the cause of order could be secured by the recognition of his claim, the barons were prepared to recognise him. The chancellor’s record was by no means unblemished; he had favoured his kinsmen, disregarded his colleagues, and squandered the revenue which came from ecclesiastical sources. The history of the negotiations prior to the end of July shows that in the opinion of his own supporters he had acted rashly, if not unjustly. He was losing the support even of the financial interests in London. Amongst the clergy it was soon known that the Archbishop of Rouen had powers from the king to proceed with the election to the see of Canterbury. The recent death of the Pope had put an end to the chancellor’s legatine authority, and the lead was now taken by Walter of Coutances.

The opportunity of getting rid of the chancellor was given by his sister Richenda, wife of the castellan of Dover. In September 1191 Archbishop Geoffrey, the half-brother of King Richard and John, came to England. Like Walter of Coutances, Geoffrey had in his time been head of the chancery, and immediately after his father’s death the king had secured his election as Archbishop of York. The election had raised a violent storm of opposition, led by Hugh of Durhaffi, and Geoffrey had only recently succeeded in obtaining papal recognition. In August he was consecrated at Tours; in September he boldly came to England, relying perhaps on the friendship of his old servant, the chancellor, whom he had introduced to official life. But the chancellor had no desire to see in England yet another element of discord, and ordered the castellan of Dover to prevent his entry. In the absence of her husband, Richenda, who would seem to have exceeded her instructions, had the archbishop dragged from the priory church of St Martin and imprisoned in the castle of Dover. The consequences of this outrage were rapid and dramatic. The saintly Hugh of Lincoln and the intriguing Hugh of Coventry joined in denunciation of the act of sacrilege. A pamphlet warfare was opened against the chancellor, who in vain repudiated his sister’s action. His colleagues deserted their shires to join John at Reading. Longchamp, after some shuffling, agreed to submit himself to trial, but hearing that John’s forces were preparing to occupy London, he turned back from the meeting-place and took refuge in the Tower. He found that all resist­ance would be useless and, after a series of ignominious adventures, left the country at the end of October.

Longchamp’s career in England deserves attention because it shows how easily the system of government, through which Henry II had been able to concentrate his power, could be undermined. The events which followed the chancellor’s flight are significant because they reveal the Great Council acting alone for the first time in English political history. Under the guidance of administrators trained in the ideas of Henry II, it assumed the direction of affairs in the interest of the State.

Count John, the Archbishop of Rouen, the Marshal, and the citizens of London had combined to depose the chancellor. They found the authority for their action in a letter, dated from Messina on 20 February, which was produced by the archbishop in a Great Council held at St Paul’s. In this letter the king authorised the marshal and his colleagues to recognise the archbishop as justiciar in case of necessity. All parties benefited by the new settlement. The barons, it would seem, took an oath of allegiance to John and recognised his right to succeed his brother. The archbishop became justiciar and was careful to act with the advice of the marshal and his colleagues. The citizens of London secured general recognition for their commune, the rights of self-government which they had asserted some time before. The recognition of John and the commune is open to criticism; but the government established by the Great Council administered England with success during two very critical years. The services rendered at this time by the archbishop’s colleagues should not be underrated. It is not surprising that they hesitated long before they joined in the attack upon the chancellor and allowed him to be deprived of the great seal. Lougchamp had been invested with very great powers, his loyalty to Richard was unquestioned, and he had a considerable following. Although, according to Roger of Howden, his deposition was approved by the king, he did not lose royal favour. Later, he was mainly responsible for the arrangement with the Emperor by which Richard was released; and he was entrusted with important work until his death. It is significant, therefore, that Richard did not blame the marshal and his colleagues for their action. They had kept the peace between the various English interests, directed the verdict of the Great Council, and rehabilitated the justiciarship. The offices of justiciar and chancellor were never again combined, nor did the chancellor resume the chief place among the great officers of state until the end of the next century.

Returning pilgrims brought news at the end of 1192 that King Richard was on his way home. They had seen his ships arrive at Brindisi. If he had arrived safely, he would have found that the crisis which had hurried his return was over. He would have been welcomed by a united family and a successful administration, which, both in England and Normandy, had held its own against the intrigues of Philip Augustus. The news of his capture by the Duke of Austria at once disturbed the apparent harmony. All the latent anxieties of John were revealed. In his treacherous nature his reason was always at the mercy of his passions. At one time cynical and lethargic, at another full of impatient energy, he was the instant victim of suspicion. He had hoped that his brother would not return; now at the last moment he might prevent him. He had feared lest his claims to the succession might not be recognised; now he would end his fears. As he hurried to confer with the King of France, he was invited by the seneschal and barons of Normandy to deliberate with them upon means of defending the duchy. He insisted upon an oath of fealty which they properly refused. He agreed with Philip upon the division of his future dominions, returned to England with a band of mercenaries, collected a body of Welshmen, occupied Windsor and Wallingford, and claimed recognition as King of England. Richard, he said, was dead. The Archbishop of Rouen stood firm. The coasts were carefully guarded against the invasion prepared by the King of France, and in England John’s forces soon began to give way. In April 1193 the strain was released. Hubert Walter, the Bishop of Salisbury, arrived with the news that Richard was alive, in the custody of the Emperor Henry VI. John had to make the best terms that he could, and when, early in July, he heard that “the devil was loosed”, fear assailed him and he fled to Philip again.

Richard, however, was not yet free, although the terms of his release had been arranged. If John had shown the sligthest loyalty to his brother, he would have been perfectly safe, for, as late as 9 July, Richard’s envoys arranged a treaty with Philip at Mantes which included in its terms the restoration of John to the dignified appanage granted to him before the king had left for the East. Now the count had gone too far. The Normans would have nothing to do with him, and he became the eager accomplice of Philip, who, encouraged by the delay of Richard’s release, strove his utmost to induce the Emperor to keep the King of England in captivity. John decided to hold his own in England, but his plans were revealed through the boastings of a confidential clerk. By this time, early in the year 1194, Richard was on his way home. When he arrived, he found that Hubert Walter, the Bishop of Durham, and their colleagues had stifled all danger. Of John’s castles only Tickhill and Nottingham held out. Tickhill was surrendered in a few days, and on 28 March Richard, fighting, unknown to the besieged, in a coat of light mail and an iron cap, had the pleasure of sharing in the capture of Nottingham.

After the surrender of the castle of Nottingham, Richard held a Great Council, at which he began to deal with the pressing business of the State. On 17 April, the Sunday after Easter, he wore his crown with peculiar ceremony in the cathedral of Winchester, and received the blessing of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Hubert Walter. This ceremony, “intermediate between a coronation and a crown-wearing”, was intended to emphasise the complete restoration of the royal dignity after the humiliation of imprisonment; and it followed the order observed on a similar occasion in 1141 after Stephen’s captivity. If it is true that Richard had acknowledged the lordship of the Emperor and that there was some doubt whether England was not a vassal-state, the re-coronation was particularly necessary. Between the ceremony and his departure, which was delayed by contrary winds until 12 May, the king continued his arrangement for the government of England. On the second day of the council at Nottingham (31 March), John and the Bishop of Coventry had been cited to appear within forty days. According to some authori­ties John was actually disinherited and his possessions were retained in the king’s hands; if, however, these measures were taken, they soon lost effect. But the king’s chief concern was to collect men and money for his war against Philip Augustus. A great part of his ransom had just been collected in order to secure his release; the government had levied an aid of twenty shillings on the knight’s fee and had taken a fourth of all lay and ecclesiastical revenues, the wool of the Cistercians and of the Order of Sempringham for one year, and the treasures of the churches. But the country had still to make up her full share of the total 150,000 marks exacted by the Emperor. At the same time, the danger from Philip was pressing, and at Nottingham Richard demanded a land-tax of two shillings on the carucate, another contribution from the Cistercians, and a third of the knight service owed by his tenants. Money was also raised by the sale of offices, fines, and ransoms from John’s supporters and by “gifts” paid “for joy at the king’s return”. Hence it happened that the Bishop of Coventry, scoundrel though he was, Gerard of Camville, and most of the other rebels had soon bought their pardons. John himself was the chief sufferer, for it would have been both expensive and impolitic to reinstate him completely. A personal reconciliation between the brothers in Normandy was followed in the autumn of 1195 by the restoration to John of the honours of Mortain, Gloucester, and Eye; but he was not permitted to control a single castle, and the Exchequer recovered its authority in the English shires which had been granted to him in 1189.

Richard had resumed control of English affairs even in his irksome captivity. He held his court at the various places, Spires, Trifels, Hagenau, Worms, where he was detained; and the Germans were astonished at the number of his visitors. Richard showed no special favour to the Archbishop of Rouen and his English colleagues. The archbishop was summoned to Germany at the end of 1193, and was succeeded by Hubert Walter, who had shortly before been elected Archbishop of Canterbury. About the same time, the other justices ceased to exercise their authority as appares. Their last act was the collection of the royal ransom. On his departure for Normandy in 1194, England was left in charge of Hubert Walter, and the traditional system of government, by which a chief justiciar executed the commands of an absent but accessible king and supervised the administration of justice and finance, was restored.

The greatness of Hubert Walter is not yet fully recognised. Papal legate from 1195, justiciar until the middle of 1198, he possessed most of the powers at which William Longchamp had aimed. His strength of character, ingenuity, and a natural insight into detail which his legal training had quickened, made him more than equal to his position. He had been trained in the household of the justiciar Ranulf Glanvil, whose wife was Hubert’s aunt. In 1186 he became dean of York and seems to have passed before 1189 to more direct attendance upon the king in the chancery. If, as a high authority suggested, he was the author of the tract upon the laws of England (leges Anglicanae) usually ascribed to Glanvil, he had acquired in his uncle’s service a profound and orderly understanding of Anglo-Norman administration, a clear concise style, and some knowledge of Roman law. As Bishop of Salisbury, he preceded Richard on the crusade and speedily became the most useful if not the most important person in the English camp. Among other services he devised a system of poor relief for the benefit of needy crusaders. His appointment as archbishop and afterwards as justiciar proves Richard’s admiration for him. He was not a particularly religious man, not very learned, nor of strict moral life. He was fond of power and wealth. His secular outlook was the despair of that unyielding ecclesiastic, St Hugh of Lincoln; his indifference to the new culture and his suspicion of the cosmopolitan tendencies in the law and practice of the Church stirred the hatred of such men as Gerald of Wales. He was a great administrator in Church and State, proud of his office, eager to do things well, and, like Lanfranc, impatient of the logic which insisted on formulating the political dilemmas of the age.

The justiciar made the assertion of his authority his first task. As archbishop he had already claimed the office of legate and protested against the legatine authority of Longchamp. As archbishop also he had asserted his superiority to the Archbishop of York and soon after Richard’s departure he took an opportunity, as justiciar, of humiliating his chief rival. In his quarrels with his canons, Archbishop Geoffrey had laid himself open to civil as well as canonical proceedings; and, while the Pope was deciding against his ecclesiastical claims, a commission of inquiry, appointed by the justiciar, found his agents guilty of robbery. On Geoffrey’s refusal to accept legal liability, he was dispossessed of nearly all his estates. The shrievalty of Yorkshire, for which he had paid no less than £2000, was entrusted to two wardens (custodes). The aged Bishop of Durham was dispossessed of the shrievalty of Northumberland in a still more summary manner. By September the justiciar had got control of the north and had turned his attention to more general matters. The well-known judicial inquiry ordered in this month was a kind of national stock-taking. The king, doubtless by Hubert’s advice, had already revised the distribution of the shires, partly for the sake of financial profit, partly, perhaps, in order to break the connexion between particular shires and sheriffs who had been powerful during his absence. It is worthy of note that, although the justiciar recognised the judicial experience of the justices who had ruled England in the previous years and placed three of them upon the important commission of 1194, he ordered them and their colleagues to withdraw from the bench when they came to counties in which they ruled or, since Richard’s first coronation, had ruled as sheriffs. The elaborate inquiries of the justices were to be unprejudiced. These inquiries dealt both with unfinished judicial or financial business, and with the escheats, wardships, and demesnes of the king, the last of which were to be inventoried in a very elaborate manner. In addition, the justices were instructed to put into operation a careful scheme for preserving the record of all debts owing to Jews. They were to exact a tallage from the boroughs and the royal demesne. Finally, the practice of entrusting the record of pleas of the Crown to special officials at the time of their first presentment or detection was made general by the commission of 1194. Three knights and a clerk were to be elected in each shire court to act as custodes placitorum coronae. In 1195 the justiciar revised the local machinery for the preservation of the peace. His edict, although partly a state­ment of custom, also contains matter which was new in English practice.

As justiciar Hubert Walter was president of the Exchequer, and his chief work was done in this great centre of orderly activity. He attempted the revision of taxation and of the existing system of military service. The land-tax, or Danegeld, had long ceased to be a regular charge upon the community, although its exaction was still regarded as a possible necessity. Richard had recourse to it in 1194, before he left for Normandy. In 1198 Hubert Walter felt that the time had come for a systematic return to the principle of a land-tax upon a new assessment. He sent two commissioners to each shire, who, in co-operation with the sheriff and certain elected knights, inquired into the amount of arable land from representatives of each vill, and levied a tax, first of two, afterwards of three shillings upon each ploughland. The ploughland, or parcel which could be reckoned to a single plough, was estimated to be one hundred acres. A few returns, contained in the Exchequer record known as the Testa de Nevill, prove that this inquiry was seriously attempted, if not completed; but the justiciar ceased to rule England in this year, and the scheme for a new Domesday Book was apparently abandoned. During the minority of Henry III “carucages and hidages” were occasionally levied, but it is probable that they were levied on the old assessment, if not according to the simpler method of 1200 and 1220 when the expedient was adopted of counting the ploughs actually in use and charging two or three shillings on each. As in Ireland during the eighteenth century, the symmetrical assessment of ploughlands broke down. Indeed in England the idea of a general land-tax was discarded after 1235, save for the fixed sum paid as a local rate under the names of hidage and sheriff’s aid.

The justiciar’s reorganisation of military service was undertaken in close co-operation with the king, and although equally transitory was more immediately successful than the attempt to revive the land-tax. The Norman wars required the presence of a small long-service force of knights in addition to the mercenaries and the local levies and garrisons. Between 1194 and 1198 Richard made three or four attempts to raise such a force from his English fiefs. In 1194 he demanded a third of the knight-service of England, in 1196 he ordered each lay baron to cross the Channel with a few picked men, in 1198 he tried to raise a force of 300 knights from the whole body of English vassals, and, as this plan seems to have broken down owing to the opposition of the Bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury, he finally demanded a tenth of all knight-service. In these various demands two objects were made increasingly clear: the king desired to insist upon the duty of the English vassals to equip and pay for a small long-service army; and he ultimately made no distinction between the liability of lay and of ecclesiastical fiefs. The demand of 1198 that the military obligations of the vassals should be treated as a whole by the levy of a tax to pay 300 knights, and the consequent debate in the Great Council at Oxford, suggest that Hubert Walter was preparing to go farther still. The opposition of Bishop Herbert of Salisbury suggests, as Stubbs pointed out, that the archbishop was going beyond what the Dialogue de Scaccario terms the fixed rules of the Exchequer. His proposal involved a considerable change in the relations between the Crown and the military tenants; the direct, limited, and personal liability of each vassal would have been merged in the liability to a general tax on the knight’s fee; and in course of time such a tax might well have provided the king with a standing army. If this view is correct, Hubert’s failure is very important. Future events were to show how far succeeding kings could go within the framework of feudal organisation, John turned Richard’s expedients into a system. Scutages, or taxes on the knight’s fee, were levied regularly, and the vassals who served in person had to secure their “writs of scutage”, or right to appropriate the tax from their fees, as best they could. Additional fines were levied on those who failed to cross the sea or bargained for exemption from personal service. Careful investigations were made into the services due to the king in England. Although Henry III was unable to levy scutage at will, he adopted, so far as was possible, the policy of his father, and Edward I deliberately collected scutage as a tax independent of considerations of service. Yet neither John nor Henry III nor Edward I seems to have tried to go so far as Hubert Walter nearly succeeded in going. In 1201 and again in 1205 John summoned his vassals and their knights to Portsmouth, and there made his selection and decided upon his exactions. In the latter year he ordered, as part of a larger scheme of national defence, every tenth knight to be equipped for service by his fellows. Although the military tenants, lay and clerical, seemed to be completely under royal control, they were still immediately concerned in the equipment of the host; their legal quota of knight-service (servitium debitum) was in most cases less, often ludicrously less, than the service which their estates could have provided. In their eyes an aid or scutage on all knights’ fees was illegal, unless it were levied in connexion with a definite military enterprise, and unless those who served could recover it. And when the northerners refused foreign service, John’s absolutism was brought to an end.


King Richard never saw England again after 1194 and, five years later, he died in Aquitaine from the results of a wound (6 April 1199). His successor was crowned, after taking the usual oath, on Ascension Day. Archbishop Hubert had resigned the office of justiciar to Geoffrey Fitz Peter in 1198, but he did not sever his connexion with the administration. He was John’s chancellor until his death in 1205; and it is impossible to dissociate him from the developments of John’s early reign, or indeed to consider the reigns of Richard and John apart from each other. King John, in fact, felt with much truth that he was not his own master so long as his great minister was alive. Hubert Walter held the view, natural to an ecclesiastical statesman, that the kingship was an office invested with solemn duties. Royal power must be inseparable from the law. And the archbishop’s prestige was so great that a word from him upon the interpretation of the law could set aside the opinion of the king and his advisers. Under his eye and in the hands of Geoffrey Fitz Peter, the hardworking experienced baron who succeeded him as justiciar—regni columna, legum peritus—the administrative system continued unshaken. For this reason, before we consider the new king’s quarrels with the Church and the baronage, we may say something here about the general tendencies in John’s reign and connect them with a survey of developments in English government and society.

The reign of King John is, to a degree found in no period of previous history, a commentary upon the development of the Curia Regis. The growth of the court, and notably of the Exchequer, both displayed and consolidated the strength of the royal power. The Crown was able to strengthen its hold over local administration and to profit by the increasing prosperity of the country. On the other hand, the disasters of the time, the loss of Normandy and the quarrel with Pope Innocent III, threw the king’s unstable personality into strong relief against the back­ground of administrative routine and social activity. The baronage was disillusioned. The generation which came to manhood after the great rebellion of 1173 had lived through a time of great experiences. Its spirit had been fed on a new literature, in which the expression of the cruder passions was refined by a suggestion of the beauty of self-restraint and idealism in life; its eyes had rejoiced in new forms of art, a marvellous activity in the building of churches, monasteries, castles, bridges, whose austerity was consistent with the reception of new devices or luxuries. Some of these young nobles had brought back from the East ineffaceable memories of a crusade under the greatest leader of his time, and had shared in his counsels during the stiff contests with Philip Augustus on the Norman frontier. They had seen Château Gaillard rise with the rapidity of a miracle and had heard the bitter news of its capture. Some had worked beside Hubert Walter and Geoffrey Fitz Peter and, if the intricacies of the abacus or the technicality of the common law might be somewhat beyond their comprehension, they had learned that the new administrative system could be as interesting as a tournament, and was far more closely related to the problems presented in the management of their own estates. The experience of all had impressed upon them the duty of loyalty; and the inclinations of few would be towards sympathy with the ecclesiastics who scurried out of England in the days of the Interdict; but they could not fail to feel the contrast between their king—who had so often disappointed them in the past—and a man like Stephen Langton, in whom, as in the great and well-remembered Hugh of Lincoln, loyalty was devotion, not to a man, but to a system of law and order which he believed to be a reflection of the law and order of the universe. Whether they continued to cling to the king or not, the more serious men among the baronage must have learned to interpret the traditions of personal loyalty and the feudal contract in a larger way, to have been conscious of deeper implication in the favourite distinction of political thought—a distinction as profound as it was simple—between the rex and the tyrannus. Beneath all the violence and impulsiveness of society in this time, the hatred of some, the lethargy or selfishness of others, we can feel at work the impulse to a new adventure in response to the idea that administration is a public, not merely a personal, task.

John’s character hastened both the development in his Curia and the interpretation by his vassals of the royal power. He was not lacking in energy or insight. After his withdrawal from the continent, he renewed his acquaintance with England to much purpose and probably knew it better than any other English ruler prior to Edward VII and George V. In discussion he was shrewd, though sophistical. His biting tongue, which can occasionally be heard even beneath the forms of his official correspond­ence, could wound the more because it was informed by wit and observation. As the Plea Rolls show, he was not neglectful of business, and, although he preferred a trial by combat to a legal discussion, he could intervene effectively in a dispute. We shall never know the extent of his personal responsibility for the measures of his reign, such as the great inquiry of 1215, but it is clear that he was always a real force, never a nonentity. His decisions were formed rapidly and for a time executed ruthlessly. During the period of the interdict he was in an excited state, varying from vindictive irritability to far-reaching schemes for the reduction of Wales, the Isle of Man, Ireland. At the same time he chafed under discipline. He liked his ease and he took his ease when he liked. At the most critical time in the history of his house he won for himself the nick­name of “soft sword”, and his enemies welcomed his succession because he was a lover of quiet; not the rest of the soul, but the indolence of the self-indulgent. If the report by the Marshal’s biographer of the conversation between the Earl Marshal and Archbishop Hubert Walter after Richard’s death can be trusted—and there is no reason to doubt its general accuracy—the archbishop agreed with reluctance and foreboding to the recognition of John. The Marshal preferred John to Arthur on legal grounds (he quoted a Norman custom) and because Arthur had bad friends, was proud and passionate, and disliked the English. The archbishop told him that he would never regret anything as much as this decision. The king’s peculiar temperament, indeed, which was unbalanced and erotic, put him at the mercy of fits of anger, cruelty, and lethargy; and, more than this, made him quite indifferent to those principles of harmony in life and nature which underlay all the current belief in justice and responsibility. He was, as William of Newburgh well said, an enemy to nature (hostis naturae), a fool, in the Scriptural sense, who says in his heart that there is no God. Habits of decorum and respect for the views of other people were impossible to him. He rejoiced in the death of his greatest ministers. He far outstripped his father and brothers, whose feelings of reverence were not highly developed, in his indifference to the claims of his Church upon the conscience; not that he was a free-thinker, so much as that loyalty meant nothing to him. Hence he saw treachery everywhere and was happiest in the company of boon companions, who doubtless found much amusement in his irresponsible humour and his cynical jibes at the serious and pedantic. He was a clever, amusing, unreliable, distrustful, and thoroughly bad man.

His saving quality was that he was an Angevin, of the race of Fulk Nerra. His energy might fail, but he could never forget that he had succeeded to a great inheritance. In his youth he had intrigued for it, and in manhood he clung to it. In his irresponsibility he was ambitious; in his moods of lethargy he could plan great enterprises, to which his vitality was not unequal. Hence his reign was rich in achievement, of which he was never a mere spectator.

In this period systematic records begin to be kept in the royal chancery and before the royal justices. Although it is now hardly possible to define the extent to which records of letters and proceedings were kept in the reign of Henry II, Archbishop Hubert certainly developed the practice greatly and it cannot be an accident that the earliest extant Chancery Rolls belong to his time, and that the references to earlier Plea Rolls of proceedings in the Curia Regis are casual and doubtful. We know the precise date—15 July 1195—on which a final concord was first written in triplicate, and its foot filed in the Treasury. The elaborate system of recording the financial operations of the Jews, instituted by the archbishop in 1194, shows his orderly mind at work soon after his appointment as justiciar. The “Exchequer of the Jews”, which appears soon afterwards, was not a new financial department; it was a piece of permanent machinery with justices, clerks, and records, dependent upon the Exchequer at Westminster, for the supervision of Jewish business and the settlement of disputes to which the financial transactions of Jews, especially with Christians, gave rise; and it was an expression of the general development at this time of judicial activity, and of the systematic registration of judicial business. As a financial body the Exchequer itself had behind it long experience in the keeping of records. Domesday Book was still the “Book of Winchester”, but was probably now kept at Westminster. At all events the Treasury at Westminster was a great record office, with its Pipe Rolls, returns of knights’ fees, records of old inquiries such as the Inquest of Sheriffs (1170), and the investigations of wardships, heiresses in the king’s gift, escheats, and the like. Here Hubert Walter, and in John’s reign the great treasurer William of Ely, were content to define and improve. To Hubert was due the exhaustive stocktaking of 1194 and the survey of ploughlands four years later, fragments of which still survive. William of Ely in the Red Book of the Exchequer saved the returns of knights’ fees of 1166; he was doubtless partly responsible also for the great enquiry of this reign recorded in the Book of Fees. The Exchequer officials by 1215 must have had access to an almost unmanageable mass of material relating to tenures of every kind.

It is customary to divide the records of current business into the two series of Exchequer and Chancery records, the former consisting of mem­branes fastened together at the head, the latter of membranes sewed, the foot of one to the head of the next, to form a continuous roll. The distinction is a real one: thus, the Plea Rolls, which are Exchequer records in form, were actually Exchequer rather than Chancery documents; judges sat in the Exchequer to hear common pleas and all judicial rolls were returned, or were supposed to return, to the Treasury. Yet it would be misleading to make the distinction between Chancery and Exchequer the starting-point in the analysis of English administration at this time. Both were activities, inseparable in practice, of the royal Curia and, taken together, did not exhaust the functions of the Curia, either as a financial or as a secretarial body.

The king was the source of order and justice. His court was the seat of government. In John’s reign the judicial, financial, and secretarial elements in the royal household were well developed, and through them the Crown kept in touch with, and controlled, the whole country. The two marks of the household were a capacity for indefinite expansion and a tendency to differentiation. No logical line can be drawn between the groups of men, the furniture and wagons which followed the king from place to place, and the Great Council of ecclesiastics, magnates, officials who gathered about him on solemn occasions; we cannot say where the household ceased to comprise the activities of his subjects. A great baron who had the right to carry the sword or hold the cup when the king sat in state, and the humble tenant who held his land by the serjeanty of carrying the king’s letters to Newcastle or providing bread for his kitchen, were alike involved in the business of the household. Wherever the king came, a score of lament duties might leap into activity, in the stable or the kitchen, at the gate or in the forest; and all would be under the supervision of the royal Chamber. Every kind of activity, from matters of State to the trivial details of domestic life, were within the cognisance of the Chamber, and of its financial department, the Wardrobe. They come before us in the records of expenditure (Misae rolls) which can definitely be described in John’s reign as rolls of the Wardrobe. The almoner who periodically feeds a crowd of poor folk is paid in the Ward­robe. The candles burnt before the holy relics and the royal gambling debts are alike charged there. If the king takes a bath, his aquarius draws his fee at the Wardrobe; if huntsmen and dogs are summoned or sent into temporary seclusion, the expense of their maintenance is entered on the roll of the Wardrobe. A messenger arrives carrying a gruesome burden, the heads of some treacherous Welshmen; another departs bearing a fragrant garland of roses from Geoffrey Fitz Peter’s gardens at Ditton to the King’s mistress; both are paid in the Wardrobe. The rolls reflect national as well as domestic interests. The Wardrobe has its chests for important documents, the charters or receipts of great nobles, the correspondence of foreign princes, its sacks of money, its chequered cloth for the reckoning of accounts, its clerks with wax, ink, and parchment. It handles the money which the Chamber can draw at will upon the royal treasure. Normally the outlay is not large; it meets current expenses, presented to the Chamber by various departments or individuals. These bring their computi, which are sometimes examined by one or two officials—for example, Richard Marsh, Keeper of the Seal. Their accounts, if of any length, are entered on the dorso of the Misae roll. But when a great expedition is on foot, the roll shews that large sums are involved—long lists of pensions are paid to foreign allies, wages to hundreds of Welsh mercenaries. The Wardrobe and Chamber are working with the Marshal­sea as a War Office.

Naturally, the growth of business involved differentiation. Some officers of the Chamber were always with the king, for they had the small seal, which operated the whole machinery of state. The Wardrobe was generally with the king but not always. It was still literally a wardrobe, as well as a financial department—the royal tailor (scissor) was a prominent person in it—and when the king was a guest, as of the justiciar in his manor at Ditton, the furniture of his bedroom was not required; the carts and horses carrying the wardrobe waited for the king elsewhere. The Chancery, so far as it was independent of the Chamber, might or might not be with the king, and if the keeper of the seal were in the Chamber, the presence of the chancellor was not necessary. Sometimes, when John was making a rapid tour far away from London, Chancery and seal, chancellor and keeper, all stayed behind. Letters under the great seal were issued under a writ of small or privy seal, and a note to this effect was inserted in the Patent or Close or Charter roll. Departmental officers were empowered to authorise letters affecting their departmental business, just as the Exchequer issued writs under the Exchequer seal, which was a facsimile of the great seal, without reference to the king. Indeed, it would seem that public documents of the highest importance might pass the great seal without a royal writ of authorisation, for King Richard deprived Longchamp of his great seal on the ground that he had affixed it to a treaty which infringed the customs of Poitou. The same possibility of temporary detachment from the king existed in the case of the judges and barons in his train; when we are told that the king was in one place and the Curia in another, we may probably see a distinction between the domestic and the non-domestic elements in the household.

These facts show that the tendency to specialisation was due to the expansion of business in a feudal household which had a kingdom for its province. The Chancery, the Wardrobe, and the court of justices were the links between the royal chamber and the country. They were extensions of function, which kept the Crown in touch with earlier localised expressions of the royal power and which were destined to produce intricate developments in their turn. Let us take, for example, the relations between the Wardrobe and the Exchequer. As spending departments they are hardly distinguishable. If the Chamber were short of ready money and no one was at hand to lend it, the Chancery would be ordered to send the bills of the royal huntsman and tailor to the Exchequer in a writ of “liberate”, which would be entered upon the Close Roll. The earliest Close Rolls indeed were records of such letters, although in a few years (by 1206) they became registers of miscellaneous correspondence issued under the great and small seal. In such a case the Exchequer, through the medium of the Chancery, would stand in precisely the same relation to the Chamber as the Wardrobe did. We may regard the various chancery rolls of letters patent and close, of charters, and oblations or fines, together with the wardrobe accounts of loans (prestita) and expenses (misae), as developments of the chamber rolls which, though now lost, are known to have existed from the middle of the twelfth century. They were devised, perhaps by Hubert Walter himself, to keep a systematic record of the complicated relations between the Chamber and the administrative machine.

The frequent and sometimes prolonged absence of Henry II and Richard I in their continental fiefs had naturally had much influence on English government. The justiciar was the king’s deputy during these periods of absence. He transmitted or executed royal commands under his own seal and presided over the King’s Court. He was inevitably less independent and self-contained than the king; he required a base; and the evidence suggests that this base was the Exchequer, just as the Exchequer at Caen was the base of the Norman seneschal. Longchamp, who combined the functions of justiciar and chancellor and therefore issued letters under the great seal, made the Exchequer his headquarters. When he was justiciar, Hubert Walter was constantly concerned with Exchequer business. Geoffrey Fitz Peter, though frequently on circuit or in John’s company, had his head-quarters at Westminster, where he presided over the Bench or Court of Common Pleas and supervised the agreements known as final concords. At Westminster the justiciar found the treasurer, barons, and officials of the Exchequer as well as the judges. He was in the chief palace of the kingdom, a home of routine and orderly tradition. The royal treasure was there, or at the Temple on the way to London, or in the Tower on the other side of the city. The records of judicial proceedings could be examined there. The activities of Westminster, although in fact no less than in theory an extension of the activities of the wandering court, were the expression of official as distinct from arbitrary power. The Exchequer was the seat of public law, the home of a professional civil service linked up with the administration of the shires, the collection of taxes, and the work of the justices; it expressed the fact that, whether the king was at hand or not, the king’s government always went on. By this time it sat almost continuously throughout the year, and the two terms of Michaelmas and Easter were merely periods of concentrated business and audit.

Henry II’s judicial reforms had started a similar development of judicial officialism, whose rules, practices, precedents were rapidly giving shape to the body of common law. The king usually had in his train a group of justices who heard pleas. In theory the king was present; the proceedings were recorded on a roll of pleas before the king. In fact also the king was present as often as not, and, if some great tenant-in-chief were concerned, or some knotty point had been deferred to him, or some new ordinance had to be sanctioned, the Curia Regis became a council of prelates and barons as well as judges. At this date there was no distinction between the Council as a future parliament and the Council as a future King’s Bench, nor between equity and common law, John, who took his judicial work seriously, dealt with all sorts of matters, sometimes as an arbitrator, more frequently as a judge. Yet the differentiation of judicial business in the technical sense can already be traced. If we read the story of the wrangles, the abusive give and take, between John and his barons, described by the biographer of William the Marshal, we find it hard to draw the line between a family quarrel and the pleadings in a court of justice; if on the other hand we read the cases which the clerks of John’s justices thought it wise to record, we breathe a rarefied air. There is less formality, less specialism than there is at Westminster, but most of the cases are very similar.

The later history of England is the history of the conflict of various tendencies within this great royal household which we have tried to describe in the preceding pages—a system so simple in principle, yet so complicated in structure, concentrated here, diffused there, in one place a thing of routine, in another almost anarchical in its irresponsibility. During the first few years of John’s reign these tendencies were in equilibrium. The king had in his justiciar, chancellor, and treasurer three of the most efficient men of the age. His justices, sheriffs, castellans, and more intimate officials and companions were, on the whole, men who had been trained in the service of his father and brother. The baronage supported him loyally in his conflict with Philip Augustus. The change for the worse was gradual, and the loyalty of the majority of the administrative officers and of an influential minority of his barons was remarkable to the very end. It stood the strain of his frequent fits of petulance, suspicion, and treachery. Yet under the demoralising conditions of the interdict, the breach between the king and the mass of the baronage became marked. The influence of the coterie of domestic clerks, knights, bachelors, and mercenaries about him grew, until at last all. the efforts of men of stability and moderation to maintain peace were in vain.

During the earlier years, however, the Crown strengthened its hold over  local administration and profited by the increasing prosperity of the country. Hubert Walter’s policy was continued and extended by John’s ministers.

Far-reaching reforms were made in the organization of local finance under the supervision of the Exchequer. It has been noted that during this period the sheriffs frequently acted, not as firmarii but as custodes, and although the exact bearing of this change cannot be satisfactorily explained, it was doubtless connected with the enormous increase in the profits of the shires—an increase so onerous and involving so much extortion that it was attacked in one of the clauses of the Great Charter. Again, by the introduction of the grouping of debts under the sheriff’s name and the contrivance of the dividend tally or single receipt for a variety of small payments, the Exchequer began to meet the problems of book­keeping caused by the innumerable fines and amercements. These reforms involved important changes in Exchequer administration and increased the efficiency of the sheriff's departments, for the sheriff was made more directly responsible for the collection of local debts. His extended powers gave him opportunities for exaction to which both the Charter and subsequent complaints bear witness.

The Exchequer, indeed, was in touch continuously with every section of the community. The great inquiry of 1212 into tenures was no isolated, although it was an impressive and comprehensive, achievement. The very rapidity with which it was carried through proves that the data were easily acquired, and comparison between the returns and the parallel compilation in the Red Book of the Exchequer shows that the Exchequer was already in possession of much classified material. For example, the resumption of alienated demesne, which the Waverley annalist erroneously supposed to be the main object of the great inquiry, had begun several years before, e.g. in the honour of Lancaster. The revenues from the royal estates increased, sometimes by fifty or a hundred per cent. Bensington in Oxfordshire, which in 1189 was farmed at £57. 8s., was valued at £100 in 1199, and in 1208 was expected to bring £149. 2s. into the Exchequer. The constant tallages to which the demesne was liable pressed hardly upon the boroughs, the Jews, and the estates of bishops, chapters, and monasteries which came into the king’s hands during the Interdict. A Gloucester writer complains that the tallage of 1210 affected all the churches of England, rich and poor, so that not even the lepers escaped. Among the scores of municipal charters granted or confirmed by John, only about half-a-dozen contain a clause of exemption from tallage. John took the Jews under his special care. Hubert Walter had established government supervision of Jewish transactions at the Exchequer. In 1201 their position was confirmed in an elaborate charter. They were safe­guarded, so far as was possible, from such savage outbreaks as had disgraced Richard’s accession; they lived in special quarters under the protection of royal castellans, and had the right to be tried by their peers. This was probably the period of their greatest activity, for every baron turned to them in his embarrassments, and their wealth helped to build more than one noble monastery; but their privileges isolated them and were useless against the king. John took 4000 marks for the Charter of 1201; in 1210 he laid hands upon them and demanded a tallage of 66,000 marks. His knowledge of their transactions was used to exploit them as well as their debtors, while in times of political excitement, as in 1215, they were exposed to attack as the king’s creatures.

Society as a whole was hardly less responsive to official discipline. Heavy scutages were levied annually, there was a plough tax in 1200, a seventh on barons’ movable property in 1203, a thirteenth on the value of chattels in 1207. The opposition, even of the clergy, was slight, for although the Church forced the king to confine the thirteenth to the laity, it found it advisable to subscribe. At this time of war and anticipation of French attack on England, the spirit of the people seems to have been as docile as the administration of Geoffrey Fitz Peter and William of Ely was efficient. A sum of nearly £60,000 was raised from the thirteenth within a few months, and in the following year the justices on eyre were ordered to inquire into the arrears which were still unpaid. The recruiting of mercenaries in Wales and the March, the collection of stores and material, the arrangements for transport in the earlier years, involved elaborate organisation and implied general acquiescence. The ease with which the Angevin kings could bring together a large fleet by uniting the resources of the ports is revealed for the first time in the letters of this reign, and there is an element of truth in the exaggeration that King John was one of the founders of the English navy. The plan, made in 1205, for the military organisation of the country is an even more impressive witness to the administrative unity of England : every group of nine knights was to equip a tenth; the population was to be formed into a vast sworn commune under a hierarchy of constables, who in shire and hundred, city and borough, were to enforce the obligation of every male of twelve years of age and upwards to defend his country.

The baronial movement, which led to the first political struggle in English history, was closely connected with the social development, the growing capacity for corporate self-discipline, which was the counterpart to the development in administrative unity and bureaucratic control. The rebellion of 1215 was separated from the rebellion of 1173 by over forty years of political experiment and social advance. Prelates, barons, lawyers, clerks, knights, and burgesses had behind them a record of con­certed endeavour. They were capable of thinking intelligently and critically. Beneath the rule of the royal court, of sheriffs and justices, in hall and chapter and cloister, in the courts of the bishop and the arch­deacon, of shire, hundred, and manor, in the borough and the market, a self-reliant life was actively at work. The dominating issues of the reign have too often diverted attention from the organic developments in English society. The intensity of local and class interests breaks through the records of bishopric, abbey, and borough. The bishop disputes with his chapter, bishop and chapter with the neighbouring monasteries, the Benedictine with the Cistercian, and the orgy of passion is full of dialectic concerned with endless technicalities, involving constant reference to Rome. All parties were conscious of being bound up with a great legal system which they were helping to define; and the energy and purpose in the life common to them all were enshrined in the buildings—so intricate and beautiful in their austerity—which have survived to this day. The main part of Wells Cathedral, the choir of Lincoln, the western bays of the nave at Peterborough, the retrochoir of Chichester were built or finished in Richard’s reign. When John died the galilee at Ely and the choir at Lichfield had been completed; and the masons were at work upon the transept and nave of Lincoln, the choirs of Fountains and Rochester, the west front of Peterborough, the retrochoirs of Winchester and Worcester, and the church of St Saviour’s, Southwark. Around some of these and other marvels in stone, the burgesses were adjusting their secular affairs; for the reign of John marks the climax of the vigorous municipal movement of the twelfth century. He granted more than seventy known charters to from fifty to sixty boroughs. These charters were not extorted by the pressure of new circumstances; the great majority of them confirm or develop existing privileges and date from the early years of his reign—nine from 1199, eighteen from 1200, fourteen from 1201, six from 1204, eight from 1205. In Normandy and Aquitaine his generosity had a political motive, in England it was probably bought by the large sums which, as the oblate rolls show, he received in return. In our municipal history the foundation of Liverpool is his only act of distinction, just as the foundation of Beaulieu was his main achievement as a patron of monasteries. The absence of a royal policy, as indeed of a determined communal movement, increases the significance of the boroughs in the quiet economic development of England. The boroughs were gradually and in very various degrees acquiring certain notes or characteristics which distinguished them from other groups or areas; all had tenurial privileges, many had the right to appoint their own officials, control their courts, and, through a gild merchant, protect their trade. John’s charter to Dunwich refers to the representation of the borough by twelve men before the justices—a privilege which every sheriff could feel to be distinctive. The phrase “free borough” (liber burgus) which is common in charters of this reign, was used as a convenient and elastic formula by which a place was recognised to possess a status different from that of a manor but which did not “tie the grantee to a particular model”. “Thus the connotation of ‘free borough’ varied from the privileges of London or Winchester to the mere burgage tenure of the humblest seignorial borough”. The arrangements for the defence of England in 1205 show how the borough was regarded as a type of ‘commune’ fitting into the structure of the whole community.

The interests of most of these small societies were doubtless insig­nificant. With the exception of London, they could exercise little, if any, pressure as separate bodies, and they had no opportunity of joint action, except on the few occasions on which the king summoned representatives of selected towns for some definite and fleeting purpose. Yet the significance of these centres of continuous and organised activity is very great. They were proud of their traditions, tenacious of their customs, able to bargain with their lords. The story of Abbot Samson’s relations with his borough of Bury St Edmunds is not only a typical piece of municipal history; it is also a picture in miniature of efforts which were made in all classes and communities towards self-assertion and definite understandings. The insistence upon customary procedure, the definition of the competence in jurisdiction of the monastic cellarer and the borough reeve, the wrangles about reapsilver and other dues, the substitution of fixed payments for vexatious assessments, the charge that rich burgesses were favoured at the expense of the poor, the wise adjustments made by the abbot, help us to understand the dual character of English rule. At every turn the administration co-operated with local bodies; it extended the traditional system of the sworn inquiry, and trained knights and burgesses in the service of the whole body politic. The local juries summoned by the sheriff to give evidence on any matter upon which the justices might require local information, or to assess taxation or view expenditure, had very great public responsibility. They might be called upon by the Crown to justify their evidence, and if they were negligent they fell into the king’s mercy. The practice of calling up knights from the shires to report, with authoritative testimony upon judicial proceedings in local courts, was firmly established at this time; and the non-existence of any clear line of division between juries in judicial and administrative matters made it easy to call upon local representatives for conference as well as for testimony. For example, it would be hard to draw any line of principle between the twelve burgesses who went to the justices on eyre and, let us say, the “duodecim de melioribus et discretioribus hominibus” of Bristol, whom King John summon one occasion to Marlborough to hear his commands; and from this it was an easy step to a conference of representatives from various towns with a royal official on such business as the defence of the land. The employment of local people in public administration within their own areas had naturally gone much further. In 1194 Hubert Walter ordered the indirect election of knights or other law-worthy men who  should report upon the escheats, wardships, and demesne of the Crown. The survey of wainages in 1198 was made by knights elected for the purpose. The Assize of Measures was executed by local wardens. The collection of a fifteenth on merchandise in 1205 was entrusted to six or seven of the more substantial men who were to be elected in each port. Among the writs which prepared the way for the great concentration of forces at Nottingham in September 1212, preliminary to the projected attack on Wales, there is a letter dated 18 August ordering each sheriff to summon all those who were in debt to the Jews to appear before the king, and also to appear himself with all haste”. In the following year John summoned four men from each shire to discuss the affairs of the realm. The investigation into abuses which were denounced in the Great Charter was entrusted in each shire to twelve sworn knights, who were to be eleted in the Shire Court; and, if civil war had not broken out, these local commissions would probably have been brought together, as similar bodies were in 1258 and subsequent years. In the light of all these instances of the practice of representation, the puzzling passage in Roger of Wendover’s chronicle on the assembling of local juries at St Albans in 1213 loses much of its significance.

The gradual extension of the representative principle was a necessary stage in the development which led to the parliamentary system, for the peculiar tenacity of this system was due, not to an organisation which had many continental parallels, but to the fact that the knights and good men of the shires had already become inextricably involved in the government of England. The developments of the twelfth century had done much to prevent the formation in later times of a rigid system of privileged classes, mutually exclusive of each other. The distinctions between different classes of men were, indeed, recognised by English law, but England was not to contain clearly defined estates. The unity of English society, at least in its administrative capacity, explains the fact that, once the baronial opposition to John had been formed, its demands were more than a class manifesto.

The growth of trade had done something to strengthen the community of interests. Two clauses of the Great Charter (Caps. 35, 41) define important principles of commercial policy. One re-enacts an assize of 1197 which ordered that throughout the kingdom the same weights and the same measures of wine, ale, and corn should prevail, and that cloth should be woven of the same width; the other abolishes maltolts or new customs charged on merchandise and, repeating an order of the year 1200, gave all merchants, except those from lands at war with the king, the right of free entry and exit from the country. The Assize of Measures had always been difficult to enforce, and numerous letters of exemption had been sold. The policy of freedom to trade involved innumerable modifications in practice; each borough insisted upon its exclusive privileges or monopolies, each landholder would continue to exact the customary tolls, but the prosperity of both depended to an increasing degree upon the presence of the merchant class. London for a long time had had close connexions with the traders from Cologne and the Meuse valley, for through the Lorrainers they had the benefit of merchandise which came by way of Ratisbon from Constantinople, the market for gold and silver and precious stones. The relations of the South and East of England with the Low Countries and Germany had grown rapidly during the later years of the twelfth century. The men of Boston, Yarmouth, Lynn, Sandwich, and the southern ports exchanged wool, cheese, and tin for wine and cloth. The traders of Brabant came from Antwerp, Louvain, and Brussels, the Frisians from Emden and Stavoren. Saxon merchandise was imported from the Westphalian towns, or through Bremen by way of the river valleys of Brunswick. The men of Cologne, now a great city whose political sympathies were with the English kings and their nephew Otto of Brunswick, came through Utrecht or by the toll station at Geervliet at the mouth of the Meuse. Elsewhere the movement which involved England in the ecclesiastical life and political adventures of Europe had brought commercial relations, notably with Aquitaine, Portugal, and Lombardy. Two important measures taken by John, with the counsel and consent of the magnates, ten years before the Great Charter was granted, illustrate the growing appreciation of the value of these commercial ties. In June 1204 he laid down rules for the conduct of trade between England and the lands of Philip Augustus. Although the bitterly resented conquests of Philip were hardly completed in Normandy, trade, except in food-stuffs, was by no means forbidden; but a small host of local elected officials was created under three commissioners to levy a fifteenth upon all merchandise carried to or from the lands subject to the French king. Six months later, in January 1205, another measure provided for the gradual withdrawal of the old coinage and the issue of new money. Jews, goldsmiths, and foreign traders were permitted to buy food and clothing with the old money, but were required to use the new in their main commercial dealings and when they arranged loans.


This study of English society during the reigns of Henry II’s sons may now be completed by a short survey of the reign of King John in England. The outstanding events are the quarrel with the Church with its consequence, the interdict, and the struggle for the Charter.

Archbishop Hubert died in the middle of the night of 12-13 July 1205. His knowledge of the law and his past service in the highest positions in the State gave him a personal authority which, at any rate in the administration of every day, exceeded that of John himself; and his influence upon policy was revealed in a very puzzling way during the last months of his life. In the spring of 1205, while the king was collecting a great host at Portsmouth and the fate of Rouen and the last Norman strong­holds was still undecided, the archbishop had intervened to interrupt negotiations between the King of France and John’s envoys, William the Marshal and the royal clerk, Hugh of Wells, who kept the great seal. The Marshal’s biographer interpreted this act as a treacherous intrusion by a jealous man; yet, if the Coggeshall chronicler was rightly informed, the Marshal and the archbishop joined shortly afterwards in dissuading the king from his intended campaign in Poitou. Whatever manoeuvres lay behind these actions, it is significant that the archbishop was still able to get his wav, and it is still more significant that he seems to have in­sisted, as archbishop or chancellor or in both capacities, on his right to be consulted and to add his authorisation to important negotiations. It is unlikely that he acted merely on his own behalf; we may perhaps read in this intervention by a dying man an attempt to define a view which, in the next reign, was to become a constitutional principle of the baronial party: namely, the responsibility of the chancellor to the king and his advisers for the use of the great seal which authorises royal acts.

However this may be, the king was greatly relieved by the archbishop’s death. He was free to press on his grandiose schemes, the first of which was the abortive French campaign which occupied him during the summer and autumn of 1206. In 1207 he got rid of his half-brother Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, who had resisted the collection of the thirteenth from tenants of the Church. The secular administration of the great northern see was, like that of so many other sees in this reign, placed under the control of royal officials. King Richard is said, during a dispute with Hugh of Lincoln in the last year of his reign, to have raved against the timid scrupulosity of the English officials and to have threatened to send his mercenary Mercadier to deal with the stiffnecked saint. John was now in a position to put his brother’s hot speech into cold practice.

The opportunity was improved by the quarrel with Rome. The king set his mind, Roger of Wendover informs us, on having as archbishop a man who had been trained in the royal service under his eye and was familiar with his affairs. From his point of view the obvious man was the Bishop of Norwich, John de Grey, whom John persuaded the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, to elect in December 1205. But the situation was complicated by two very important facts. In the first place every election to the archbishopric, at least since 1162, had raised the question of the fit and customary electorate. The monks had persistently refused to allow the co-operation of the bishops of the southern province; the bishops had insisted upon their right to a voice in the election. In order to steal a march upon them, some of the monks, in the night when Arch­bishop Hubert died, had hurriedly and, so it was decided afterwards, uncanonicallv elected their sub-prior, Reginald, and had sent him off to Rome to receive the pallium. Reginald could not keep the occasion of his journey secret, and the bishops had discovered it. The disputes and appeals to Rome which ensued added significance to the second complicating fact—the well-known attitude of Pope Innocent III. Innocent, frequently and persistently, tried to supervise the election of bishops in Normandy and England, in order to bring them into conformity with the decrees of the Lateran Council of 1179. His sagacious decision in a difficult case in 1199-1200, when Manger, Bishop of Worcester, a good man of illegitimate birth, had been chosen, was later to be included in the Corpus Iuris Canonici (the decretal Innotuit nobis olim). He detested the delays in appointment, and the method, still generally adopted, of election by representatives of the chapter in the king’s chamber; and he had seized any chance of submitting the process in particular elections to the test of the canons. Hitherto, a breach between Pope and king or between Pope and clergy had been avoided; but the situation created by the double election of Reginald and John de Grey raised fundamental issues. The validity of the recent elections and the case between the bishops and the monks were clearly matters for decision at Rome, and, after Innocent had quashed the second election, the king consented to a fresh election before the Pope by sixteen accredited electors from the monastic chapter. He promised to abide by the election of any Englishman, but privately extorted an oath from the majority of the monks that they would again choose John de Grey. In December the various parties—proctors of king and bishops, with the representatives from Canterbury—urged their various causes, and Innocent in full con­sistory decided that the suffragans had no right to interfere in the election of an archbishop, but also that the sub-prior’s election was, like John de Grey’s, invalid. He brushed aside the oath extorted by the king, and called their attention to the claims of the Englishman Stephen Langton, a cardinal who had won fame as a scholar at Paris. The electors, with one exception, were persuaded, and King John must have heard of Langton’s election early in January 1207, three or four weeks after his return from Poitou.

John was a master in dilatory negotiations, and the great interdict was not published by the three bishops, London, Ely, and Worcester, to whom Innocent had entrusted the conduct of the affair, until 24 March 1208. In spite of royal opposition Langton had been consecrated by the Pope at Viterbo in June 1207. John had retaliated by refusing, to receive him and by ejecting the monks of Christ Church. Proposals for a settlement came to a head in January 1208, when the king informed the three bishops that he was ready to come to terms, “saving his royal rights and liberties”. On 12 March, in the presence of all the existing bishops, he met Simon Langton, the archbishop’s brother, at Winchester. Simon, speaking from instructions, insisted upon full and absolute obedience. John’s fury broke loose, and the negotiations eroded abruptly. He immediately proceeded to appoint royal bailiffs for the administration of the dioceses. The Bishop of London and his two colleagues published the interdict, and with one or two other bishops, fled from the country.

The view which the archbishop took of the quarrel is illuminating. In a letter addressed to the English he argued the case, not so much as a papalist, but rather as an exponent of feudal custom in the light of those high principles of law to which all human law should conform. John’s position was not so strong as Henry II’s had been, for Christendom, which was now firmly united under Innocent III, was divided in the days of Alexander III. By putting himself against the will of the Church, canonically expressed, by refusing to honour his own promises, John was imposing upon his vassals an obligation which made them traitors to the supreme lord, the King of Kings, God himself. Even a slave is not bound to his lord in everything. And Langton was writing to free men, to men who understood the legal and moral implications of lordship. Any vassal who broke his obligations to the king at the will or command of inferior lords was regarded as a traitor, for he had done homage to his lord “salva fide domini regis”. John had placed his vassals exactly in this position, for they owed him obedience “salva fide Domini superioris, scilicet Regis aeterni”. The time was to come when the archbishop would be ready to maintain his doctrine of feudal freedom and feudal responsi­bility against the Pope himself. The king’s attitude, on the other hand, was frankly conservative and separatist. He undoubtedly reflected the views of administrators who thought of English custom in non-feudal terms, and had breathed that historical atmosphere which was so prevalent in the court of Henry II. It is curious to find him appealing to English practice in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and linking the story of St Wulfstan’s appointment to the bishopric of Worcester with the argument that English prelates were by custom elected in the royal Chamber. We know that he had men about him who were ready to argue on behalf of royal rights against the claims of the Papacy in the manner of the Anonymous of York a century earlier. That John of all people should compare himself to the Confessor and take St Wulfstan, to whose protection at Worcester he was later to submit his body for burial, as a patron saint is sufficiently strange. The fact helps us to understand the mood of men like Geoffrey Fitz Peter and Hubert de Burgh, and to realise in some degree the influences under which Henry III, the devotee of Edward the Confessor, passed his childhood.

The years of the great interdict were years of demoralisation, not because the king did not have the general will behind him, but because he gradually lost all sense of restraint in a situation which, however men might endure it, was fraught with daily inconvenience and humiliation and involved a continuous strain upon the conscience. The administration, which was probably more efficient at this time than it had ever been, found little difficulty in coping with the actual facts. The interdict was an opportunity no less than a menace, and even before it was pronounced John’s plans were ready. The policy adopted was the seizure into the king’s hands of all ecclesiastical property, spiritualities as well as temporalities. Wardens, generally the sheriffs, were appointed in each shire. The amount of extra work which had to be done in the offices of local administrators must have been severe, and it was fortunate that important reforms in the presentation of accounts had recently been made by the Exchequer. Prelates, religious houses, and parish clergy were alike submitted to this regime and were provided with a subsistence allowance in the performance of their attenuated duties. It appears that in each parish this allowance was made under the supervision of four lawful men. The revenues, with this deduction, were destined for the royal treasury, at any rate so far as they came from churches on the king’s demesne. Many barons received royal permission to assume the control of the monastic houses and churches on their estates and to have the rents drawn by clerks from their domain. The Earl of Norfolk, for example, got the custody of the rents and property of churches in his gift, and of the abbots of his fief. To what extent custody involved the right to retain the proceeds in such cases requires investigation. An estimate of the loss suffered by the clergy during the next five years is impossible, for there was inevitably much extortion and destruction of property; but the Exchequer admitted that John had received £105,000, and the king himself was prepared to compound the sums due in compensation at 100,000 marks. Some of the bishops got fairly large payments in 1213 and 1214 by way of compensa­tion; the clergy as a whole had to write off most of their loss. Finally, the king extorted from the clergy charters of quit-claim of his extortions.

Such was the general character of John’s reply to the interdict. The plan was not observed universally, for modifications or exemptions were numerous. The author of the Life of St Hugh of Lincoln, referring to a certain Reymund, afterwards Archdeacon of Leicester, breaks off his narrative to observe that, in the days of the interdict, Reymund was one of the few “ecclesiarum rectores” who refused to reach an accommodation with the king. Certainly it was to the interest of any ecclesiastic, at a time when, in spite of a proclamation of April 1208, churchmen were regarded as almost outside the law and were liable to suffer personal indignity, violence, and loss, to pay something in return for protection and the control of his property. Acquiescence on the part of the lower clergy was inevitable, and for six years Englishmen had all around them a Church which did not function, closed buildings, unused cemeteries, silent bells, disconsolate dignitaries, and parsons whose only duties were the baptism of infants in private houses or the celebration of mass for the dying. If they had bought control of their estates, they would suffer from the heavy tallage of 1210; if they had not, they lived on pittances provided by the wardens—royal officials, their landlords, or a group of their own parishioners. The orders of regular clergy, if they obeyed the papal decree, were debarred from the spiritual exercises in choir which were a necessary counterpart to their daily tasks and private devotions. The Cistercian monks, it is true, noted for some time in disregard of the papal injunctions, and in obedience to the Abbot of Citeaux continued their services on the ground that no authentic copies of the papal bull had reached the Order; but they were compelled to submit, and, on the other hand, though they got control of their lands, they were pillaged unmercifully by the king, notably after their refusal to finance his expedition to Ireland in 1210.

It would be tedious to analyse the negotiations which continued at intervals before John's definite promise of submission in May 1213. Peace hovered on the horizon in October 1209, but its fugitive appearance was followed by the personal excommunication of the king. From this time all leadership of the Church in England dismbebered. John could rely on only two bishops, his friends Peter des Ecuhes, of Winchester, and John de Grey, of Norwich. His servants, the two brothers Jocelin and Hugh of Wells, the one now Bishop of Wells, the other of Lincoln, withdrew after the act of excommunication. Another ally, Philip, Bishop of Durham, had died in 1208. As the Bishop of Norwich was justiciar in Ireland from 1209 to 1213, the king had the Bishop of Winchester alone of all the bishops by his side during these years. The sees of Lichfield, Exeter, and Chichester were vacant; Archbishop Geoffrey of York was already in exile and died in 1212. The rest had joined Stephen Langton and, with the exception of the Bishop of Worcester, who died in exile, returned with him. Many of the great abbeys by this time were also without a head, and some, like Waverley, had been deserted by brethren unable to hold on any longer. Unless agreement were reached, dissolution threatened the ecclesiastical system. The credit of averting this disaster lay with the papal legate, Pandulf, a skilful exponent of the directions of the bold and clear-sighted Pope Innocent. Experience showed that personal discussion with John, though it was not shirked, was futile; but early in 1213 the political situation abroad—the embarrassment of John’s allies, Otto IV of Brunswick and Raymond VI of Toulouse, and the alliance between Innocent and Philip Augustus—gave the Pope his opportunity. John had to decide between submission to the Church and a life and death struggle against a French invasion, with a disheartened and restless people behind him. He was wise enough to choose the former alternative.

The situation which developed during the next three years was a strange and paradoxical one. In the spring of 1213 John had been an excommunicate, his kingdom declared forfeit by the Pope, his foreign enemies ready to attack him with the privileges of crusaders. He had posed as the champion of ancient English customs against alien interference in Church and State. His justiciar and the officers of his administration were on his side, and he had extracted promises of support from his people, first at Marlborough in September 1209, when all freemen were ordered to swear fealty, and again in 1212-13, when the magnates of England and Ireland approved of his resistance to the Pope. Three years later, in the spring of 1216, he was fighting as a vassal of the Pope, as a crusader protected by his vows, against excommunicated rebels backed by the foreign power whom Innocent had used against him in 1213. The archbishop, whose election had caused all the trouble before 1213, was now suspended from his office because he had failed to support the papal policy against the rebels. The clergy who had suffered in the days of the interdict for the cause of ecclesiastical law and unity now saw their local liberties threatened by the encroachments of papal emissaries working hand-in-glove with John.

The attitude of Innocent is not hard to explain. He had got his way and had reconciled an erring son to the Church. The time had come for peace, not for wrangling about details. The cardinal-legate Nicholas was sent to measure justice with prudence. When the bishops grumbled that the terms arranged in a series of councils for the repayment of their losses were neither adequate nor properly guaranteed, Innocent doubtless reflected that he had not been fighting on their behalf so much as for principles which were now assured. The archbishop and his colleagues, faced with the task of setting their dioceses in order, naturally took a more insular view, and in any case the archbishop’s belief in papal authority was bound up with a belief in law and custom which he could not but interpret, as no Pope or legate was able to do, in the light of local tradition. The successful assertion of the Pope’s plenitudo potestatis saved the unity of the Church, but it put the local clergy in that equivocal position from which they were at last violently extricated by King Henry VIII. The later history of Archbishop Stephen is the first and perhaps the best example. The scholar, cardinal, persecuted prelate were merged in the English primate, the chief adviser of the Crown. As such he found that duty and inclination led him to support, at the risk of papal disapproval, the vassals against their lord. Just as a few years earlier he had exhorted them to place their allegiance to the Lord of Lords above their allegiance to the king, so now he exhorted the king to remember that their loyalty to him is only a conditional loyalty.

To all appearance John was in a very strong position. He had got large sums from the property of the Church, from tallages and scutages; the Exchequer was working smoothly and had recently carried through its great inquiry of 1212-13. He had fierce, able, well-paid mercenaries at his service, the ports and shipping had been organised by William of Wrotham, the feudal levies had not been allowed to forget their military duties. During the interdict expeditions had been led against Wales and Ireland and had threatened Scotland.

With Scotland John’s relations had been friendly. William the Lion did homage to him at Lincoln in 1200 and was able by a series of conces­sions to avert invasion in 1209. He had made a show of claiming the three northern counties of England, but was really concerned to keep his frontiers intact. In 1209 a castle was rising at Tweedmouth to threaten Berwick, and after abortive negotiations John gathered a host with which to enforce a claim to the possession of three castles on the borders. In August William made peace at Norham. He agreed to pay 13,000 marks by instalments—a promise on the whole faithfully performed—to give hostages, send his two daughters to John who was to have the feudal right of finding husbands for them, and to authorise his young son Alexander to take an oath of fealty for the disputed castles. In return the fortifications at Tweedmouth were abandoned. The Scottish King, indeed, stood to gain by an English alliance. He was a feudal lord, hard-pressed at times by native pretenders and hemmed in by the Norse Kings of the Isles. It was better to have the English King at his back, even at the cost of vassalage, than to face his displeasure. So William bought John’s “benevolence” in 1209 and again in 1212. In this latter year mercenaries from the south helped him against the rising of Guthred son of MacWilliam, while on his side King William surrendered to John the right of arranging Alexander’s marriage. The young man, a small red-haired lad of attractive bearing, was knighted by the English king. His sisters and his father’s hostages, some of whom were sons of great English barons in the north, remained in John’s keeping, and in the same year John received the homage of Reginald, King of the Isles.

Alexander, “the little red fox”, as John later called him, was to cause trouble after he became king, when some of the northern barons rose in rebellion; but in the meanwhile the understanding between the two countries was helpful. Indeed William is said to have warned John of the treachery around him while he was collecting a large host at Northampton for an attack upon Wales (September 1212). This expedition, for which very extensive preparations had been made, was intended to put an end to the restless activity of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, the king of Snowdonia. Fleets were sent along the Welsh coasts from Bristol and Chester and the advance by land was to start from the latter place. The adventure was hurriedly abandoned, the forces summoned from England, Ireland, and Galloway had to return; but Llywelyn was not in a position to press his advantage. He was John’s man, for he had done him homage in 1209, his wife was John’s illegitimate daughter, his son was a hostage, and John had shown that he was quite ruthless in the execution of hostages and prisoners. Moreover Llywelyn’s alliance with the other princes of Wales was not secure, and the English garrisons in the castles of Beganwy and Rhuddlan were on the watch, while the well-organised palatinate of Earl Ranulf of Chester lay behind. It was in John’s reign, as we may learn from numerous entries oil the chancery rolls, that the cordon, which his grandson was to draw tight, was first placed around the lairs of the Welsh princes.

John’s attitude to the Welsh princes was in part dictated by his position as a great Marcher lord, for during the greater part of his reign he had direct control of the Gloucester inheritance. Similarly his relations with Scotland were influenced by the complex of feudal ties which deprived the border between England and Scotland of most of its reality. His Irish policy was even more directly the outcome of feudal problems, and reacted upon his position in England. John de Courcy, Earl of Ulster, whom he overthrew with the help of the Lacys in 1205, was a brother-in-law of Reginald, King of the Isles. Hugh de Lacy, the next earl, and Walter de Lacy, Earl of Meath, had important English connexions, and were overthrown in their turn with the aid of the lords of Galloway and Carrick. Their downfall was mainly the result of their understanding with William de Braiose, the lord of Gower in South Wales and of the great honour of Limerick. It was natural for men with such vast opportunities and privileges to regard themselves as immune from those trammels by which they and their peers were bound in England, yet, if they were unchecked, they were natural centres of intrigue with the king’s enemies. William the Marshal himself, who esteemed loyalty as the chief virtue, found it hard to submit his privileges as lord of Leinster to the interference of the royal justiciar, just as he had found it hard to accept John’s decision that he must choose between himself and the King of France, and not try to serve both. The results of John’s imposing and drastic intervention in 1210 were felt at once in England. The Lacys had fallen, William de Braiose was a fugitive, the Angevin administration had been effectively imposed upon the Anglo-Irish lords, and the native Irish rulers had for the time been fitted into the system of vassal relations. During the next few years John could rely upon the support of his men in Ireland. They backed him in his resistance to the Pope, and they sent a strong force under their justiciar, the Bishop of Norwich, to swell the host which gathered on Barham Down to protect England against France in the spring of 1213.

It must indeed have seemed to John, as it seemed to contemporaries, that during these years no man dared withstand him. He had received the homage of princes throughout the British Isles. And when he in his turn submitted himself to Rome and knew that the danger of French invasion had passed, he might well renew the conflict across the Channel with confidence. The very difficulties of his foreign friends, of which the Pope had taken advantage, now gave him new prestige, for he could rely on their steady support in his stand against the growing might of Philip Augustus. During the last few months he had taken into his pay practically all the lords and very many knights in the Low Countries, including the Count of Flanders, and the Count of Boulogne, who with Hugh de Boves, an adventurer from Picardy, acted as his agent. He was in close touch with some of his old Poitevin vassals, with the Kings of Aragon and Portugal, and especially with his relative Raymond VI of Toulouse, He had learned how to play upon the sympathies of the towns of Flanders and the Rhine­land. In short he built up a coalition which all who felt themselves to be in danger from France or who, like John’s nephew, the Emperor Otto IV, realised that France was the main obstacle in their path, could not but join. Just before Whitsuntide 1213, an English fleet surprised and destroyed Philip’s ships in the Flemish harbour at Damme. Early in the following year, the king was ready to put the elaborate plans of the coalition into effect. His northern allies struck their blow through Flanders, while he moved northwards from La Rochelle. As he marched towards the Loire, his friends and vassals around him, he played not with his own destinies alone but with those of Western Europe. No member of his house, not even the great Richard himself, had ever cut such a figure in the world.

As is well known, John came back to England in October foiled and disappointed. His own campaign had been inglorious, and in July, away to the north-east, his rival had scattered his allies at Bouvines. A year later he was fighting for his kingdom against the most terrible rebellion that any King of England had yet had to face.

The disasters which began in France and continued after his return were due in large measure to John’s irresponsible optimism in 1213. We have seen him, apparently at the height of his power, launching out into great schemes. We have seen him, a few months earlier, a man suddenly conscious of realities, making a surrender to the Pope as complete as his defiance had been. Both confidence and despair were rooted in the experiences of the interdict and excommunication; and the annalists who grudgingly recognised his power testify to the facts which were undermining it. But John rarely saw the writing on the wall, and, when he did see it, he immediately forgot it.

The Great Charter is a carefully drawn document, and a careful examination of the events of the years 1213 to 1215 is required if its various parts are to be given their due significance. In its general form and in its insistence upon the return to good customs, it marks the culmination of the policy which the archbishop had tried to impose upon John ever since his return. The association of a large body of barons with this policy was due to John’s aggression after the refusal of many to follow him abroad and to pay the scutage demanded on his return. The comprehensive nature of the baronial demands, the result of their association with Langton, reflected that change in the position of the baronage which has already been discussed. The guarantees demanded from John, including the expulsion of the mercenaries and the imposition of a controlling body of twenty-five, were a later development, fostered by distrust and the heat of dissension.

It is clear that the archbishop’s view of the price which John had to pay for reconciliation to the Church was administrative reform. Since his excommunication the king had been very powerful, and his ministers very efficient, but they had borne very hardly on the people. Suspicion, to which the exaction of hostages from so many of the royal vassals bore witness, had bred recklessness and tyranny. The enormous weight attached to the prophecies and sermons of the hermit Peter of Wakefield in 1212 shows that king and people were nervously excited. It is significant that John began early in 1213 to issue commissions of inquiry into the misdeeds of local officials; and, before the archbishop absolved him at Winchester in July, he made him swear to bring back the good laws of his predecessors, especially those of the Confessor, abolish bad laws, do justice to all men according to the judgment of his Court, and render to every man his rights. In the following month, at St Albans, came a still more explicit anticipation of the Charter. If Wendover’s narrative can be trusted, the proceedings at this council were very significant. The king was absent on an abortive cruise which, if his men had followed him, he had intended to be the beginning of his Poitevin campaign. The justiciar, with the Bishop of Winchester, the primate, and bishops and magnates, declared in the king’s name that the laws of Henry I should be observed and bad laws be done away; and sheriffs, foresters, and other royal officials were commanded to cease from all injuries and extortion. If Geoffrey Fitz Peter was really acting in conjunction with the hated archbishop in forcing a policy of reform, one can well understand that his death in October was a relief to the king. The justiciar had supported John well, but he must have seen much to justify his disapproval, The return of the archbishop meant a return to the normal as it was in the time of Hubert Walter, when justiciar and archbishop worked together as chief advisers to the Crown. A story current later at St Albans said that John, when he heard of Geoffrey’s death, grimly remarked: “Let him go to greet Hubert Walter in hell”. In the meanwhile the archbishop worked away steadily on earth. At the end of August he faced the king’s fury and dissuaded him from proceeding “vi et armis” against the men who had refused to follow him abroad. They were to be summoned to trial according to law in the King’s Court. As we hear no more of this quarrel for the time being, it is probable that an under­standing was reached on the issue of foreign service and legal procedure. It was at this time, during a council at St Paul’s, that the archbishop is said to have produced Henry I’s Charter of Liberties and to have ex­plained privately to some of the barons the lines upon which they should proceed.

At all events John was able to take a considerable force to Poitou. It comprised many barons and knights, as well as Welsh mercenaries, and, although some of the great men and practically all the barons north of the Humber failed to appear, it was by no means unrepresentative of English feudalism. During the king’s absence the Bishop of Winchester, with the archbishop as chief counsellor, presided over the administration. The legate arranged a settlement about compensation due to the Church, the interdict was removed, and, shortly after his return, John formally ratified his promise to allow canonical elections (21 November 1214). But he was now discredited by military failure, and the baronial party which desired to see a comprehensive settlement of abuses and disputed questions had been formed. The demand, made in the summer, for a scutage of three marks on the knight’s fee, a tax from which only those who had served in the expedition could claim exemption, had brought matters to a head. The Exchequer was able to collect only about one-fifth of the payments due.  Early in November the opposition formed a conspiracy at Bury St Edmunds. They took their stand on Henry I’s Charter and swore to force the king, if necessary by arms, to observe the promises which he had made. The terms of their resolution show that they deliberately associated themselves with the policy upon which the archbishop had acted since he absolved John in the summer of 1213. Early in January they appeared at court in the New Temple and called on John to fulfil the oath which he had sworn at Winchester.

John had one characteristic in common with better men—he could be most alert in times of crisis. He staved off the baronial demand by pledging himself, with the archbishop, the Bishop of Ely, and William the Marshal as sureties, to give satisfaction at Easter. He used the breathing space to secure his position. He began a campaign of propaganda in the shires, ordered a renewal of the oath of allegiance, summoned aid from Ireland and Poitou, and took the last step in self-protection by assuming the cross. Both sides set out their position before the Pope, who, while urging John to give lawful satisfaction, admonished the barons for their conspiracies and contumacy and ordered them to pay the scutage. The barons were forced into the open and in Easter week, instead of seeking the royal promises again, came together in force at Stamford.

It was the fashion at the time to describe the rebels as the Northerners. This was nothing more than a recognition of the fact that the original nucleus of resistance was among the barons across the Humber, notably in Yorkshire, who had refused foreign service and the payment of scutage. The centre of the opposition was in reality Essex and East Anglia. The North was equally divided and the northerners owed much of their strength to their understanding with the new King of Scots, the young Alexander II. The temporary prominence of Eustace de Vesey was due to the fact that he had been associated with Robert Fitz Walter in the plot which had so disturbed John in 1212. The two barons had fled and their return and restoration to their lands had been part of the terms imposed on John by the Pope. Robert Fitz Walter was a very powerful man. Lord of Bunmow in Essex, and of Baynard Castle, outside London wall on the river to the west of the city, he was in right of his wife in possession of the lands, also mainly in Essex, of the house of Valognes. It has been reckoned that his service must have amounted to a hundred knights. There was no greater man in the south-east of England, and his position gave him peculiar significance in London. He had been a strenuous, if at times unsuccessful and suspected, servant of John, and had fought for him in Normandy along with Saer de Quincy, lord of Leuchars in Fife, and husband of one of the heiresses of the house of Leicester. Saer de Quincy, in order that his position in England might be duly recognised, had been invested by the king with the title Earl of Winchester. About these two men the rebellious barons of the south­east were grouped. The adhesion of the Clares to the party gave it a dignity and following which it could hardly have maintained without them. Richard, Earl of Clare and Hertford, had entered by inheritance upon the English lands of the families of Giffard and Saint-Hilaire. In right of his wife, one of the Gloucester co-heiresses, he had expectations which were fulfilled when in 1217 his son Gilbert became Earl of Gloucester as well as of Hertford. His kindred were to be found through­out the higher baronage, and it may well have been the influence of kinship which brought the young William the Marshal to desert his father and join the rebels. The party were strengthened also by the adhesion of the Earls of Norfolk and Hereford, of Fulk Fitz Warin and John Fitz Alan from Shropshire, William Malet from Somerset and, after some hesitation, William d’Aubigny, the powerful lord of Belvoir in the Midlands.

It is impossible to estimate the motives which inspired these men. That there were causes of cohesion due to kinship, neighbourhood, and the memories of outrage and injustice is clear. Some of the younger men had suffered from the king’s greed and caprice when they entered upon their inheritance. Others had been wronged by interference with their domestic peace, and doubtless many bitter recollections, unknown to a later age, were stirred by incidents which seem colourless or trivial as they are recorded on the rolls of Chancery and Exchequer. We do not know, for example, the dark story which lay behind the enmity of the Earl of Essex, the son of Geoffrey Fitz Peter; but we do know that his first wife had been the daughter of Robert Fitz Walter and that Robert had complained of the king’s attentions to her; and we know that in 1214 the Earl had been compelled to pay or promise an enormous fine on his marriage, possibly an enforced marriage, with John’s discarded wife, Isabella of Gloucester. It is certain, moreover, that the cruel vendetta which John had waged against the family of his old friend William de Braiose had moved the English to indignation. William was lord of Bramber in Sussex, of Totnes and Barnstaple in the west country, of Gower, Radnor, and Brecon in South Wales, of Limerick in Ireland. His fall in 1210 was attributed by the king to a refusal to pay a debt, and was glossed over by the royal council; but it was almost certainly due to his and his wife’s knowledge of the fate of Arthur of Brittany. The story was beginning to leak out. William had to flee and his wife and heir, captured during the Irish campaign, were starved to death in Windsor Castle. After this no man who incurred John’s hostility could feel safe.

Such was the composition of the baronial party which met at Stam­ford in the Easter week of 1215. The king was prevailed upon to ask for the demands of the insurgents in writing. When the archbishop and the Marshal brought the document to John, he refused the conditions with indignation. “Why not ask for my kingdom?”. Thereupon the rebels formally renounced their homage and chose as their leader, “Marshal of the army of God and Holy Church”, Robert Fitz Walter. On 9 May John offered arbitration by four men from each side with the Pope as supreme arbitrator, and repeated his former undertakings to proceed against no one except in accordance with the law of the land and the judgment of his peers in the royal court—an anticipation of a famous clause inserted in a more general form in the Charter (c. 39). But the barons were rapidly gaining control of the home counties, and although John had some success in the West, notably at Exeter, he had to submit to meet them at Staines with a view to a formal treaty of peace.

On 17 May the baronial forces had entered London. The great city had been steadily favoured and fleeced by the king since in 1191 he had made friends with its leading citizens and encouraged it to form itself into a commune. The commune, in any technical sense of the word, had not lasted, but during the reigns of Richard and his brother the city had thriven. It was now ruled by a mayor—John’s last attempt to placate it shortly before its rebellion had taken the form of a charter in which he recognised its right to elect this official every year—it appointed its own sheriffs and collected its own rates and taxes. Its chief court was the busting, composed of the mayor, the elected aldermen of the wards, and the “good men” or barons of London who sat with them on the four benches. On two occasions, once under the leadership of William Fitz Osbert in 1194 and again in 1205-6, the lesser citizens had tried to overthrow the civic aristocracy which governed, or, as they said, mis­governed them, and on the latter occasion the king had sent a special commission to hear Crown pleas and to supervise a reconstitution of the council. From this time the governing body, which held the Hustings Court and had charge of the financial administration, consisted of the mayor and twenty-four sworn councillors elected by the community. The duties of watch and ward and the rules for the collection of rates and tallages were about this time carefully defined, and a strong sense of corporate life prevailed throughout the sokes and parishes, and in the artisan quarters of the city. Progress naturally produced the desire for greater freedom for more far-reaching reforms which would restrain the king’s habit of demanding heavy tallages and would distribute power within the city more generally. The Londoners wanted more control of the river, security against Jews and foreign merchants, reforms in the customs and exchange. They wanted the mayor to be elected, not by the ruling class, but in the folk-moot which was fast becoming obsolete. Robert Fitz Walter, who, as lord of Baynard’s castle, bore the title of “signifer et procurator” of the city, saw his chance. If any were hostile they were unheard. The barons occupied the city and proceeded to strengthen the walls. When they marched up the valley of the Thames to meet the king, they had the mayor of London with them.

The real history of the Great Charter, which was drafted and redrafted during the discussions at Runnymede, belongs to a later age. That as a whole it reflected the best and most stable feeling of Englishmen—of the moderate barons, the bishops, and the trained administrators—is clear from the fact that in its revised form it was issued after John’s death by the legate, William the Marshal, Hubert de Burgh, and other royalists. In the form given to it in 1225 it was regarded as a definite settlement of the law which regulated the relations between the Crown and the vassals, and the administration of justice and finance. In this form, much of it was old, some a mere restatement of administrative policy, adjustments and reforms disputed by none in local and judicial administration, and reaffirmations, suited to the time, of feudal custom. Since the days of Hubert Walter royal prerogative could not be synony­mous, in any healthy mind, with arbitrary rule. The acceptance of the Charter had been urged upon John by the archbishop and by his more responsible advisers, and from this point of view it was in fact an elabo­ration of the oath taken by John in 1213 at Winchester; just as the oath was an elaboration of promises which he had declared at his accession. Even the clause which forbade the tendency to undermine the judicial immunities of private courts by frequent use of the writ praecipe was not so much an act of violent reaction extorted by a self-seeking baronage as an attempt to strike the balance between traditional rights and the encroachments of the Curia Regis. What wrecked the settlement from the outlet was the rising temper of the king on the one hand, and of the rebels—many of whom were young and inexperienced men or ambitious frondeurs—on the other. Robert Fitz Walter and his companions had adopted in the name of God and the Church the programme which the archbishop had originally outlined for them, but they had no intention of following ecclesiastical guidance when power was once in their hands. The shrewd observers, such as the author of the so-called Histoire des ducs de Normandie, who saw in the struggle a fight for franchises and power, or who, like the Marshal’s biographer, dismissed it tersely as an act of folly, took a very natural view; but they were thinking of the men, not of the document. Until John was dead and passion had cooled and the opportunity for enjoying the sweets of power and revenge had gone, the only clauses of the Charter which mattered were those which transferred the control of affairs to the barons themselves.

For a while John had to wait on events. He did his part, and issued the necessary orders for the investigation of local abuses with the aid of twelve knights from each shire, and for changing local officials. He had protested that his feudal lord, the Pope, must have a say in the matter, and he saw to it that Innocent got his version of affairs. He was a crusader under the protection of the Church, and, so long as he could send messages abroad, he could be sure of buying support from his friends on the continent, He was powerless for the time, and ill in body, but he could carry his oath lightly. Everything indeed depended upon the way in which the barons, and especially the body of twenty-five who were chosen to protect the settlement and see that the royal grant was observed, interpreted their opportunity. For some years the king had depended in the main upon a select band of men like-minded with himself, English lords like Robert of Vieuxpont, the Bassets, and William Brewer, administrators like Philip of Ulecot and Henry of Cornhill, a crowd of obscure “bachelors’ or lesser landholders and household followers, and the powerful foreign adventurers, such as Faukes de Breaute, the low-born Norman who was sheriff of Glamorgan, Hugh de Boves, who acted as his agent abroad, and mercenaries from Touraine, several of whom had charge of shires or castles or both. Gerard of Athee, the chief of the latter, was no longer alive in 1215, but the memory of his evil rule in the Severn valley, at Gloucester and Bristol and Hereford, was still fresh, and Engelard of Cigogne had succeeded him in Gloucestershire. All of them were fearless and ruthless soldiers, upon whom John could depend. According to the Charter they and their broods were to be expelled, and if wise counsels had prevailed among the barons, it is unlikely that John’s friends in England would have done anything to prevent their departure. But the twenty-five did nothing to win the approval of the moderate section, and the consequence was that men who looked upon the rebellion with dislike or misgiving either rallied to the king or took as little part in affairs as they could. Among those who definitely threw in their lot with John were some of the chief earls and barons in the country. In addition to the Earl Marshal, the Earls of Salisbury, Arundel, Warenne, and Chester were on his side. William Longsword, Earl, of Salisbury was the king’s half-brother and had been his chief support in recent years. He had ruled Gascony, been Warden of Dover and the Cinque Ports, led the royal army to Ireland and, in 1214, in Flanders. As lord of Eye in Suffolk he was a neighbour of many of the rebels. William, Earl of Arundel, held a great honour owing the service of eighty knights’ fees in Sussex and another nearly as great in East Anglia, where his seat was Castle Rising. He was the brother-in-law of the mighty Ranulf, Earl of Chester, who from the almost independent shire of Chester dominated the middle west and had control of the honours of Leicester, and, with the exception of the castle, of Richmond, where he was in touch with the royalists Robert of Vieuxpont at Appleby and Hugh of Balliol at Barnard Castle. William, Earl Warenne, was like the Earl of Arundel a relative of the king—his father was an illegitimate brother of Henry II—and, like the Earl of Chester, a figure in the North. He had Conisburgh in Yorkshire, Stamford and Grantham in Lincolnshire, and Castle Acre in Norfolk, in addition to his fiefs in John, supported by the Pope and by many of the English bishops with Pandulf the papal legate by their side, would in any case be a formidable foe. He had his mercenaries, and could draw freely for men upon the Low Countries, South Wales, and Ireland, where he lavished favours upon the Anglo-Irish barons of all parties. His emissaries were busy in Poitou and Brittany. By alienating the loyalists in England the opposition made their own position untenable without foreign aid, and by bringing in foreign aid and a French claimant to the throne they won a present success at the risk of almost inevitable failure in the future. Distrust of John was natural and proper, but from the outset they showed an arrogant implacability which soon degenerated into the short-sighted egotism characteristic of earlier baronial revolts. The twenty-five, if one prejudiced but generally reliable author Ay can be trusted, acted not as watchful guardians but as rulers of the kingdom. John’s mercenaries styled them the “twenty-five kings.” After the conference at Runnymede an attempt had apparently been made to place the maintenance of the peace under a mixed body of barons chosen from each side, and the archbishop had vainly tried to secure some undertaking from the rebels of allegiance to the king. He had hoped to find in the Charter a real concordat, maintained by a joint effort as the Provisions of Oxford were to be in 1258. The body of twenty-five was to be, not a governing body, but a guarantee held in reserve, in case the Marshal and his colleagues should fail to secure the enforcement of reforms. It may be that the opposition had more justification for their disregard of this policy than we know; it is at least significant that the archbishop refused to acquiesce in the execution of the papal letters authorising their excommunication. Yet when John’s advisers saw the administration disorganised, the Exchequer at a stand, the shires so far as was possible placed under the military control of particular baronial leaders and the sheriffs disregarded, their rally to his side is not surprising. They could indeed do nothing less after the failure of all attempts of the bishops to effect a compromise, and the promulgation at the end of August of the excommunication by name of the leading rebels. About the same time the Pope, as over-lord of England, annulled the Charter and forbade its observance under penalty of excommunication. Shortly afterwards the legate and the Bishop of Winchester, as Innocent’s commissioners, suspended the archbishop from his functions. His heart could not be in this holy war, and, with most of the other bishops, he was glad to leave the country to attend the great council which was gathering at the Lateran.

After his first acquiescence the king, needless to say, had shown no desire for a settlement. He avoided all opportunities of arbitration, and kept to the south coast. Foreign mercenaries were gathering and he had only to await their arrival. He established himself at Dover and prepared his plans against the rebels, who had made London their headquarters. His rapid success is one of the most remarkable episodes in English history, a striking commentary on the poverty of leadership and military enterprise among the feudal gentry of England. In those days of elaborate sieges and mercenary troops, warfare had become a profession, and the barons in London had neither the inclination nor the ability to plan a campaign or face John’s foreign soldiers. Many of them had seen service in France, but none had experience of leadership sufficient to cope with such men as Faukes de Breaute and the Earl of Salisbury, or with the demonic energy of John in his fits of vigour. They wasted their time in London, efficient only in hate, while the king overran the whole country and cooped them up in the City and a few eastern fortresses. Until the arrival of Louis of France at the end of May 1216, the country west of Watling Street was practically untouched by the war; while on the other side of it John did as he pleased. The one notable incident of the war was the heroic defence of Rochester in November by William d’ Aubigny of Belvoir, and after its surrender on St Andrew’s day baronial castles fell like ninepins. London was invested from Windsor, Hertford, Berkhamsted, and Bedford, the last of which had been taken by Faukes de Breauté, and while Faukes and his colleagues proceeded against one fortress after another in East Anglia and Essex, the king secured the whole of the North. Belvoir and Pontefract fell without a struggle; the northerners who were not in London sought the protection of Alexander, who was punished for his raids into Northumberland by the destruction of Berwick and the ravaging of the eastern Lowlands. In March John was back again in the South, and hemmed in London still more closely by the capture of Colchester and the castle of the Earl of Oxford at Hedingham. By this time the rebellion was practically confined to London, strong in the protection of its walls and the Tower, and in the spirit of its citizens. The Pope had declared the city to be under an interdict and had ratified the excommunication by name of the rebel leaders.

If the barons could not wage war, they could pursue negotiations. The Thames and the eastern ports were open, and from the outset intercourse between London and the court of the King of France was continuous. The rebels early approached Louis, the son of Philip Augustus, offering him the throne in return for aid. The enterprise was a hazardous one and Louis matured his plans deliberately. But at least three contingents of French knights were sent to England during the winter and early spring of 1215-16. Some of them were employed, not without signs of racial friction, to strengthen the baronial garrisons in the neighbourhood. Philip waited for the arrival of a papal legate, Guala, before reaching a final decision, for he realised that he must make out a strong case for intervention in the face of papal disapproval. The discussion took place in a great assembly at Melun at the end of April. Louis, it was decided, was to make the attempt on his own behalf, but with his father’s approval. He would claim the English throne as the husband of Blanche of Castile, the grand-daughter of Henry II, against a king who had forfeited his rights, firstly, by the murder of Arthur, for which he had been condemned in the French court, secondly, by granting away his kingdom to the Pope without the consent of his vassals. In the view of most modern scholars the first reason for forfeiture has little or no historical validity, and it is clear that the second has even less. But, in spite of the legate’s protests, the argument served, and by the third week in May Louis was in Kent. A great storm had dispersed, the fleet which John had collected to protect the south-eastern coast, and the king, unwilling to pit his foreign mercenaries against their fellows, withdrew to Winchester. The legate landed about the same time to play a political role which was to become increasingly important in what he regarded as a papal fief.

It would be unprofitable to describe the events of the next six months. Louis’ arrival was sufficient to restore the confidence of the opposition but insufficient to prevent general disorder. At first his success was striking. He retook Rochester and occupied Winchester. Insurgents who had begun parleys with John renewed the attack, and John was at last deserted by the Earls of Arundel and Warenne, whose lands were in danger, and, for a time, even by the Earl of Salisbury and William of Aumale. But the military position soon reached a deadlock. John had reorganised his forces in the south-western counties and left them sufficiently strong to enable him to harry the northern midlands. Apart from fugitive successes at Exeter and Worcester, Louis’ efforts were con­fined to the south-east, and the efforts of the northern and East Anglian barons to haphazard local attacks. Alexander of Scotland braved the risks of a journey to join the invader, to whom he did homage, but gave little effective help, and was kept in check in the north by Robert of Vieuxpont in Westmorland and Cumberland, and Hugh of Balliol and Philip of Ulecot at Durham. In the midlands the great royal castles Windsor, Nottingham, Newark stood firm, and when John died at Newark, Hubert de Burgh was still holding Dover, “the Key of England”, against the prolonged siege by Louis. The king’s last days were spent in an orgy of reckless ferocity in the fenlands and Lincolnshire. His energy was still as great as ever, but his self-control had gone. At Lynn he was seized with an acute attack of dysentery, and, a sick man, insisted on crossing the Wash without waiting for the tide to recede. Although he managed to struggle to the Cistercian abbey of Swineshead, his baggage-train and treasure were lost in the quicksands. He died at Newark on 19 October 1216, after making an edifying will on a dignified deathbed; and his body was taken for burial to Worcester to lie under the protection of St Wulfstan. The leadership against the excommunicated invaders and rebels came to the more temperate and capable hands of the legate and the Marshal.

They faced a country full of disorder, in which the only signs of capacity, if we except the conduct of Hubert de Burgh at Dover, were shown by isolated confederacies of knights or burgesses and by mercenary captains who had no ideas beyond the maintenance of the strongholds entrusted to them and the satisfaction of their desires. The administration had broken down, the records of the Exchequer, including the Charter of Liberties, were in the possession of Louis. The last audit of the reign, recorded on the Pipe Roll of 16 John, began in the autumn of 1214, and the last royal mandate to the barons of the Exchequer was issued on 3 September 1215, just before hostilities began. It is unlikely that there was anyone to act upon it. The efficient treasurer, William of Ely, seems to have ceased duty a month earlier. During the war, the King’s Wardrobe took the place of the Exchequer. Corfe Castle, which is mentioned as a royal treasury in 1212, seems to have become the repository of such records and revenue as were not immediately required. But what local dues were collected were generally paid to the nearest magnate who had any claim to authority.

Few kings have left their mark on English history as John did. He was never a nonentity; his vices were the exaggerated vices of his virile race. Distorted recollections of him were passed on for centuries in places which he had visited with his attentions, and later writers found no story about him too extravagant for belief. He left several illegitimate children, of whom two, Richard and Oliver, distinguished themselves in the civil war, and another, Joan, was the wife of Llywelyn of Wales. By his vigorous and passionate wife, Isabella of Angouleme, whom he had stolen from Hugh, son of Hugh IX, Count of La Marche, he had five children. In 1216 Henry, the eldest of these, was only nine years of age; he and Richard, King of the Romans, are inseparable from later English history; so is Eleanor, the youngest, the wife of Simon de Montfort. The others died young, but not too young to be, one an Empress, the other a queen. Their mother in due course married her former lover, Hugh; and their undisciplined sons were destined to be occasions of strife after they found a refuge at the court of their half­brother in England.