Abbildungen der Seite

him immediately to Rome, in order to solicit the confirmation of his election. The vanity of Reginald prevailed over his prudence; and he no sooner arrived in Flanders, than he revealed to every one the purpose of his journey, which was immediately known in England. The king was enraged at the novelty and temerity of the attempt, in filling so important an office without his knowledge or consenti The suffragan bishops of Canterbury, who were accustomed to concur in the choice of their primate, were no less displeased at the exclusion given them in this election. The senior monks of Christ-church were injured by the irregular proceedings of their juniors. The juniors themselves, ashamed of their conduct, and disgusted with the levity of Reginald, who had broken his engagements with them, were willing to set aside his election ; and all men concurred in the design of remedying the false measure which had been taken. But as John knew that this affair would be canvassed before a superior tribunal, where the interposition of royal authority of bestowing ecclesiastical benefices was very invidious; where even the cause of suffragan bishops was not so favourable as that of monks ; he determined to make the new election entirely unexceptionable. He submitted the affair wholly to the canons of Christ-church, and departing from the right claimed by his predecessors, ventured no farther than to inform them privately, that they would do him an acceptable service if they chose John de Gray, bishop of Norwich, for their primate. The election of that prelate was accordingly made without a contradictory vote ; and the king, to obviate all contests, endeavoured to persuade the suffragan bishops not to insist on their claim of concurring in the election. But those prelates persevering in their pretensions, sent an agent to maintain their cause before Innocent : while the king, and the convent of Christ-church, dispatched twelve monks of that order to support, before the game tribunal, the election of the bishop of Norwich.

Thus there lay three different claims before the pope, whom all parties allowed to be the supremo arbiter in the contest. The claim of the suffragans, being so opposite to the usual maxims of the papal court, was soon set aside. The election of Reginald was so obviously fraudulent and irregular, that there was no possibility of defending it. But Innocent maintained, that though this election was null and invalid, it ought previously to have been declared such by the sovereign pontiff, before the monks could proceed to a new election ; and that the choice of the bishop of Norwich was of course as uncanonical as that of his competitor. Advantage was therefore taken of this subtlety for introducing a precedent, by which the see of Canterbury, the most important dignity in the church after the papal throne, should ever after be at the disposal of the court of Rome.

While the pope maintained so many fierce contests, in order to wrest from princes the right of granting investitures, and to exclude laymen from all authority in conferring ecclesiastical benefices, he was supported by the united influence of the clergy, who, aspiring to independence, fought, with all the ardour of ambition, and all the zeal of superstition, under his sacred banners. But no sooner was this point, after a great effusion of blood and convulsions of many states, established in some tolerable degree, than the victorious leader, as is usual, turned his arms against his own community, and aspired to centre all power in his person. By the invention of reserves, provisions, commendams, and other devices, the pope gradually assumed the right of filliug vacant benefices ; and the plenitude of his apostolic power, which was not subject to any limitations, supplied all defects of title in the person on whom he bestowed preferment. The canons which regulated elections were purposely rendered intricate and involved. Frequent disputes arose among candidates ; appeals were every day carried to Rome. The Apostolic See, besides reaping pecuniary advantages from these contests, ofteu exercised the power


of setting aside both the litigants, and on pretence of appeasing faction, nominated a third person, who might be more acceptable to the contending parties.

The present controversy about the election to the See of Canterbury, afforded Innocent an opportunity of claiming this right; and he failed not to perceive and avail himself of the advantage. He sent for the twelve monks deputed by the convent to maintain the cause of the bishop of Norwich ; and commanded them, under the penalty of excommunication, to choose for their primate, cardinal Langton, an Englishman by birth, but educated in France, and connected by his interest and attachinents with the See of Rome. In vain did the monks represent, that they had received from their convent no authority for this purpose ; that an election, without a previous writ from the king, would be deemed highly irregular ; and that they were merely agents for another person, whose right they had no power or pretence to abandon. None of them had the courage to persevere in this opposition, except one, Elias de Brantefield; all the rest, overcome by the menaces and authority of the pope, complied with his orders, and made the election required of them.

John was inflamed with the utmost rage when he heard of this attempt of the court of Rome ; and he immediately vented his passion on the monks of Christchurch, whom he found inclined to support the election made by their fellows at Rome. He sent Fulke de Cantelupe and Henry de Cornhulle, two knights of his retinue, men of violent tempers and rude manners, to expel them the convent, and take possession of their revenues. These knights entered the monastery with drawn swords, commanded the prior and the monks to depart the kingdom, and menaced them, that in case of disobedience, they would instantly burn them with the convent. Innocent prognosticating, from the violence and imprudence of these measures,

that John would finally sink in the contest, persevered the more vigorously in his pretensions, and exhorted the king not to oppose God and the church any longer, nor to prosecute that cause for which the holy martyr St. Thomas had sacrificed his life, and which had exalted him equal to the highest saints in heaven. A clear hint to John to profit by the example of his father, and to remember the prejudices and established principles of his subjects, who bore a profound veneration to that martyr, and regarded his merits as the subject of their chief glory and exultation.

Innocent, finding that John was not sufficiently tamed to submission, sent three prelates, the bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester, to intimate that if he persevered in his disobedience, the sovereign pontiff would be obliged to lay the kingdom under an interdict. All the other prelates threw themselves on their knees before him, and entreated him, with tears in their eyes, to prevent the scandal of this sentence, by making a speedy submission to his spiritual father, by receiving from his hands the new-elected primate, and by restoring the monks of Christchurch to all their rights and possessions. He burst out into the most indecent invectives against the prelates ; swore by God's teeth, (his usual oath), that if the pope presumed to lay his kingdom under an interdict, he would send to him all the bishops and clergy in England, and would confiscate all their estates; and threatened, that if, thenceforth he caught any Romans in his dominions, he would put out their eyes, and cut off their noses, in order to set a mark upon them which might distinguish them froin all other nations. Amidst all this idle violence, John stood on such bad terms with his nobility, that he never dared to assemble the states of the kingdom, who, in so just a cause, would probably have adhered to any other monarch, and have defended with vigour the liberties of the nation against these palpable usurpations of the court of Rome. Innocent, therefore, perceiving


the king's weakness, fulminated at last the sentence of interdict, which he had for some time held suspended over him.

The sentence of interdict was at that time the great instrument of vengeance and policy employed by the court of Rome ; was denounced against sovereigns for the slightest offences; and made the guilt of one person involve the ruin of millions, even in their spiritual and eternal welfare. The execution of it was calculated to strike the senses in the highest degree, and to operate with irresistible force on the superstitious minds of the people. The nation was of a sudden deprived of all exterior exercise of its religion : the altars were despoiled of their ornaments : the crosses, the relics, the images, the statues of the saints, were laid on the ground; and, as if the air itself were profaned, and might poilute them by its contact, the priests carefully covered them up, even from their own approach and veneration. The use of bells entirely ceased in all the churches. The bells themselves were removed from the steeples, and laid on the ground with the other sacred utensils. Mass was celebrated with shut doors, and none but the priests were admitted to that holy institution. The laity partook of no religious rite, except baptism to new-born infants, and the communion to the dying. The dead were not interred in consecrated ground. They were thrown into ditches, or buried in common fields; and their obsequies were not attended with prayers or any hallowed ceremony. Marriages were celebrated in the church-yards ; and that every action in life might bear the marks of this dreadful situation, the people were prohibited the use of meat, as in Lent, or times of the highest penance ; were debarred from all pleasures and entertainments; and were forbidden even to salute each other ; or so much as to shave their beards, and give any decent attention to their person and apparel. Every circumstance carried symptoms of the deepest distress, and of the most immediate apprehension of divine vengeance and indignation.


HUME. The quarrel between the king and the see of Rome continued for some years ; and though many of the clergy, from the fear of punishment, obeyed the orders of John, and celebrated divine service, they complied with the utmost reluctance, and were regarded, both by themselves and the people, as men who betrayed their principles, and sacrificed their conscience to temporal regards and interests. During this violent situation, the king, in order to give a lustre to his government, attempted military expeditions against Scotland, against Ireland, against the Welch ; and he commonly prevailed, more from the weakness of his enemies, than from his own vigour or abilities. Meanwhile, the darıger to which his government stood continually exposed from the discontent of ecclesiastics, increased his natural propension to tyranny; and he seems to have ever wantonly disgusted all orders of men, especially his nobles, from whom alone he could reasonably expeet support and assistance. He dishonoured their families by his licentious amours ; he published edicts, prohibiting them from hunting feathered game, and thereby restrained them from their favourite amusement; he ordered all the hedges and fences near his forests to be levelled, that his deer might have more ready access into the fields for pasture ; and he continually loaded the nation with arbitrary impositions. Conscious of the general hatred which he had incurred, he required his nobility to give him hostages for security of their ailegiance; and they were obliged to put into his hands their sons, nephews, or near relations. When his messenger came with like orders to the castle of William de Braouse, a baron of great note, the lady of that nobleman replied, that she would never entrust her

[ocr errors]

son into the hands of one who had murdered his own nephew while in his custody." Her husband reproved her for the severity of this speech ; but, sensible of his danger, he immediately fled with his wife and son into Ireland, where he endeavoured to conceal himself. The king discovered the unhappy family in their retreat ; seized the wife and son whom he starved to death in prison ; and the baron himself narrowly escaped, by flying into France.

The court of Rome had artfully contrived a gradation of sentences ; by which she kept offenders in awe ; still afforded them an opportunity of preventing the next anathema by submission ; and, in case of their obstinacy, was able to refresh the horror of the people against them, by new denunciations of the wrath and vengeance of heaven.

As the sentence of interdict had not produced the desired effect on John, and his people, though extremely discontented, had hitherto been restrained from rising in open rebellion against him, he was soon to look for the sentence of excommunication; and he had reason to apprehend, that notwithstanding all his precautions, the most dangerous consequences might ensue from it. He was witness of the other scenes which at that very time were acting in Europe, and which displayed the unbounded and uncontrolled power of the Papacy. Innocent, far from being dismayed at his contests with the King of England, had excommunicated the emperor Otho, John's nephew; and soon brought that powerful and haughty prince to submit to his authority. He published a crusade against the Albigenses, a species of enthusiasts in the south of France, whom he denominated heretics ; because, like other enthusiasts, they neglected the rights of the church, and opposed the power and influence of the clergy: The people from all points of Europe, moved by their superstition and their passion for wars and adventures, flocked to his standard : Simon de Montfort, the general of the crieade, acquired to himself a sovereignty in these provinces : The count of Toulouse, who protected, or perhaps only tolerated the Albigenses, was stripped of his dominions: And these sectaries themselves, though the most innocent and inoffensive of mankind, were exterminated with all the circumstances of extreme violence and barbarity. Here were therefore both an army and a general, dangerous from their zeal and valour, who might be directed to act against John ; and Innocent, after keeping the thunder long suspended, gave at last authority to the bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester to fulminate the sentence of excommunication against him. These prelates obeyed ; though their brethren were deterred from publishing, as the pope required of them, the sentence in the several churches of their dioceses.

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

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

It was the common concern of all princes to oppose these exorbitant pretensions of the Roman pontiff, by which they themselves were rendered vassals, and vassals totally dependent of the papal crown : Yet even Philip, the most able monarch of the age, was seduced by present interest, and by the prospect of so tempting a prize, to accept the liberal offer of the pontiff, and thereby to ratify that authority which, if he ever opposed its boundless usurpations, might next day tumble him from the throne. He levied a great army; summoned all vassals of the crown to attend him at Rouen ; collected a fleet of 1700 vessels, great and small, in the sea-ports of Normandy and Picardy ; and partly from the zealous spirit of the age, partly from the personal regard universally paid him, prepared a force, which seemed equal to the reatness of the enterprise. The king, on the other hand, issued out writs, requiring the attendance of all his military tenants at Dover, and even of all ablebodied men, to defend the kingdom in this dangerous extremity. A great number appeared ; and he selected an army of 60,000 men ; a power invincible, had they been united in affection to their prince, and animated with a becoming zeal for the defence of their native country. But the people were swayed by superstition, and regarded their king with horror, as anathematised by papal censures : The barons, besides lying under the same prejudices, were all disgusted by his tyranny, and were, many of them, suspected of holding a secret correspondence with the enemy: And the incapacity and cowardice of the king himself, ill fitted to contend with those mighty difficulties, made men prognosticate the most fatal effects from the French invasion.

Pandolf, whom the pope had chosen for his legate, and appointed to head this important expedition, had, before he left Rome, applied for a secret conference with his master, and had asked him, whether, if the king of England in this desperate situation, were willing to submit to the apostolic see, the church should, without

« ZurückWeiter »