ENGLAND DURING RICHARD'S REIGN
THE domestic history of England in the years 1190-1193 may appear, by comparison with the Crusade a dull and trivial subject. Lofty aims, such as dignified the pettiest skirmish and lent a tragic significance to the most sordid squabble in the Holy Land, are wholly wanting here. In the strife between the friends of John and Richard we only find a wooden loyalty to the absent on the one side, and on the other the vacillating ambition of a clumsy traitor. But historical events often possess an interest independent of the personal motives in which they have their source; the plots of John and his supporters are not without significance in the story of constitutional development. In the confusion which these plots produced the iron bands of Angevin despotism began to crack and part. The Great Council, forced to act upon its own responsibility, conceived a novel sense of independence. The first city of the kingdom seized the opportunity to claim the right of self-government, and acquired, with the free institutions, the free spirit of the continental communes. Finally the Church revived the old and often defeated demand for free and canonical elections. Of these movements the last completely failed while the others turned out to be premature anticipations of the future. But the movements are still a sign of life. The spirit of liberty was growing up again in every class of English society.
Significance of the English events of the reign
The rule of the Chancellor was universally unpopular. He kept a finer household than beseemed the grandson of a villein, and religious houses complained that a visit of one night from him crippled their revenues for the next three years. The commons jeered at his dwarfish frame, his halting gait, his ape-like countenance; and bitterly resented the contempt for all things English which found expression in his favourite saying that, rather than