England under the Normans and Angevins, 1066-1272

By H. W. C. Davis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE CHARTER AND THE STRUGGLE WITH THE FOREIGNER

THE friendly mediation of Innocent III. did something, the exhaustion of France after her supreme effort of defence conduced still more, to give John the opportunity of retiring from the war upon comparatively favourable terms. By recognising the French conquests in Anjou, Brittany, and Poitou, he kept his title to Guienne and Gascony and obtained a truce until Easter, 1220. None the less he returned to England a disappointed and humiliated man, smarting under the consciousness that the failure was universally, and not altogether justly, ascribed to his incompetence. He was in no mood to adopt the conciliatory attitude which common prudence would have recommended. Again he demanded a scutage for the expenses of the war from those who had denied their liability to serve; and again the northern houses took the lead in a resistance which their bold example soon made universal.1 In a meeting at Bury St. Edmunds, whither they had repaired under colour of a pilgrimage, the leaders of the opposition took an oath upon the relics of the saint that John should have no peace from them until he had confirmed the charter of Henry I.2 At the Epiphany feast of 1215, when John was holding his court in London at the New Temple, they came before him in full armour to announce their ultimatum. He asked and obtained a truce

Outbreak of the Barons' War, 1215

____________________
1
On the question of foreign service we Norgate, John Lackland, p. 210. Round, Feudal England, p. 531, suggests a possible origin for the theory that foreign service was not compulsory. Innocent III. condemns the claim of the barons as contrary to law and custom, Foedera, i., 128. The question is dropped in Magna Carta: but the "Unknown Charter of Liberties," printed by Mr. Round ( E. H. R., viii., p. 288) represents the King as promising that he will not demand foreign service "nisi in Normanniam et Britanniam et hoc decenter". This may be a compromise suggested at some stage of the negotiations between King and barons.
2
This is confirmed by he Chronique des Ducs, p. 145, which, like Wendover, emphasises the demand for the Charter of Henry I. For the Edmundsbury meeting, supra, p. 372.

-374-

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