The History of England from the Accession of Henry III. To the Death of Edward III. (1216-1377)

By T. F. Tout | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV.

POLITICAL RETROGRESSION AND NATIONAL PROGRESS.

THE ten years from 1248 to 1258 saw the continuance of the misgovernment, discontent, and futile opposition which have already been sufficiently illustrated. The history of those years must be sought not so much in the relations of the king and his English subjects as in Gascony, in Wales, in the crusading revival, and in the culmination of the struggle of papacy and empire. In each of these fields the course of events reacted sharply upon the domestic affairs of England, until at last the failures of Henry's foreign policy gave unity and determination to the party of opposition whose first organised success, in 1258, ushered in the Barons' War.

The relations between England and France remained anomalous. Formal peace was impossible, since France would yield nothing, and the English king still claimed Normandy and Aquitaine. Yet neither Henry nor Louis had any wish for war. They had married sisters : they were personally friendly, and were both lovers of peace. In such circumstances it was not hard to arrange truces from time to time, so that from I243 to the end of the reign there were no open hostilities. In 1248 the friendly feeling of the two courts was particularly strong. Louis was on the eve of departure for the crusade and many English nobles had taken the cross. Henry, who was himself contemplating a crusade, was of no mind to avail himself of his kinsman's absence to disturb his realm.

The French could afford to pass over Henry's neglect to do homage, for Gascony seemed likely to emancipate itself from the yoke of its English dukes without any prompting from Paris. After the failure of 1243, a limited amount of territory between the Dordogne and the Pyrenees alone acknowledged Henry.

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