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more than anything to foster made men look back on the scene between John and Pandulf as a national dishonor. We see little trace of such a feeling in the contemporary accounts of the time. All seem rather to have regarded it as a complete settlement of the difficulties in which king and kingdom were involved. As a political measure its success was immediate and complete. The French army at once broke up in impotent rage ; and when Philip turned on the enemy John had raised up for him in Flanders, 500 English ships under the Earl of Salisbury fell upon the fleet which accompanied the French army along the coast and utterly destroyed it. The league which John had so long matured at once disclosed itself. Otto, reënforcing his German army by the knighthood of Flanders and Boulogne as well as by a body of mercenaries in the pay of the English king, invaded France from the north. John called on his baronage to follow him oversea for an attack on Philip from the south
Their plea that he remained excommunicate was set aside by the arrival of Langton and his formal absolution of the king on a renewal of his coronation oath and a pledge to put away all evil customs. But the barons still stood aloof. They would serve at home, they said, but they refused to cross the sea. Those of the north took a more decided attitude of opposition. From this point, indeed, the northern barons began to play their part in our constitutional history. Lacies, Vescies, Percies, Stutevilles, Bruces, houses such as those of De Ros or De Vaux, all had sprung to greatness on the ruins of the Mowbrays and the great houses of the conquest, and had done service to the crown in its strife with the older feudatories. But loyal as was their tradition, they were English to the core; they had neither lands nor interest oversea, and they now declared themselves bound by no tenure to follow the king in foreign wars.
Furious at this check to his plans, John marched in arms northwards to bring these barons to submission. But he had now to reckon with a new antagonist in the justiciar, Geoffry FitzPeter. Geoffry had hitherto bent to the king's will ; but the political sagacity which he drew from the school of Henry the Second, in which he had been trained, showed him the need of concession, and his wealth, his wide kinship, and his experience of affairs gave his interposition a decisive weight. He seized on the political opportunity which was offered by the gathering of a council at St. Albans at the opening of August with the
purpose of assessing the damages done to the church. Besides the bishops and barons, a reeve and his four men were summoned to this council from each royal demesne, no doubt simply as witnesses of the sums due to the plundered clergy. Their presence, however, was of great import. It is the first instance which our history presents of the summons of such representatives to a national council, and the instance took fresh weight from the great matters which came to be discussed. In the king's name the justiciar promised good government for the time to come, and forbade all royal officers to practice extortion as they prized life and limb. The king's peace was pledged to those who had opposed him in the past; and observance of the laws of Henry the First was enjoined upon all within the realm.
But it was not in Geoffry Fitz-Peter that English freedom was to find its champion and the baronage their leader. From the moment of his landing in England Stephen Langton had taken up the constitutional position of the primate in upholding the old customs and rights of the realm against the personal despotism of the kings. As Anselm had withstood William the Red, as Theobald had withstood Stephen, so Langton prepared to withstand and rescue his country from the tyranny of John. He had already forced him to swear to observe the laws of Edward the Confessor, in other words the traditional liberties of the realm. When the baronage refused to sail for Poitou, he compelled the king to deal with them not by arms but by process of law. But the work which he now undertook was far greater and weightier than this. The pledges of Henry the First had long been forgotten when the justiciar brought them to light, but Langton saw the vast importance of such a precedent. At the close of the month he produced Henry's charter in a fresh gathering of barons at St. Paul's, and it was at once welcomed as a base for the needed reforms. From London Langton hastened to the king, whom he reached at Northampton on his way to attack the nobles of the north, and wrested from him a promise to bring his strife with them to legal judgment before assailing them in arms. With his allies gathering abroad John had doubtless no wish to be entangled in a long quarrel at home, and the archbishop's mediation allowed him to withdraw with seeming dignity. After a demonstration, therefore, at Durham, John marched hastily south again, and reached London in October. His justiciar at once laid before him the claims of the councils of St. Alban's and St. Paul's;
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but the death of Geoffry at this juncture freed him from the pressure which his minister was putting upon him. “Now, by God's feet,” cried John, “ I am for the first time king and lord of England,” and he intrusted the vacant justiciarship to a Poitevin, Peter des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester, whose temper was in harmony with his own. But the death of Geoffry only called the archbishop to the front, and Langton at once demanded the king's assent to the charter of Henry the First. In seizing on this charter as a basis for national action Langton showed a political ability of the highest order. The enthusiasm with which its recital was welcomed showed the sagacity with which the archbishop had chosen his ground. From that moment the baronage was no longer drawn together in secret conspiracies by a sense of common wrong or a vague longing for common deliverance: they were openly united in a definite claim of national freedom and national law.
John could as yet only meet the claim by delay. His policy had still to wait for its fruits at Rome, his diplomacy to reap its harvest in Flanders, ere he could deal with England. From the hour of his submission to the papacy his one thought had been that of vengeance on the barons, who, as he held, had betrayed him; but vengeance was impossible till he should return a conqueror from the fields of France. It was a sense of this danger which nerved the baronage to their obstinate refusal to follow him oversea: but furious as he was at their resistance, the archbishop's interposition condemned John still to wait for the hour of his revenge. In the spring of 1214 he crossed with what forces he could gather to Poitou, rallied its nobles round him, passed the Loire in triumph, and won back again Angers, the home of his race. At the same time Otto and the Count of Flanders, their German and Flemish knighthood strengthened by reënforcements from Boulogne as well as by a body of English troops under the Earl of Salisbury, threatened France from the north. For the moment Philip seemed lost: and yet on the fortunes of Philip hung the fortunes of English freedom. But in this crisis of her fate, France was true to herself and her king. From every borough of Northern France the townsmen marched to his rescue, and the village priests led their flocks to battle with the church banners flying at their head. The two armies met at the close of July near the bridge of Bouvines, between Lille and Tournay, and from the first the day went against the allios. The Flemish knights were the first to fly; then the Germans in the center of the host were crushed by the overwhelming numbers of the French; last of all the English on the right of it were broken by a fierce onset of the Bishop of Beauvais, who charged, mace in hand, and struck the Earl of Salisbury to the ground. The news of this complete overthrow reached John in the midst of his triumphs in the south, and scattered his hopes to the winds. He was at once deserted by the Poitevin nobles ; and a hasty retreat alone enabled him to return in October, baffled and humiliated, to his island kingdom.
His return forced on the crisis to which events had so long been drifting. The victory at Bouvines gave strength to his opponents. The open resistance of the northern barons nerved the rest of their order to action. The great houses, who had cast away their older feudal traditions for a more national policy, were drawn by the crisis into close union with the families which had sprung from the ministers and councilors of the two Henries. To the first group belonged such men as Saher de Quinci, the Earl of Winchester, Geoffrey of Mandeville, Earl of Essex, the Earl of Clare, Fulk Fitz-Warin, William Mallet, the houses of Fitz-Alan and Gant. Among the
second group were Henry Bohun and Roger Bigod, the Earls • of Hereford and Norfolk, the younger William Marshal, and
Robert de Vere. Robert Fitz-Walter, who took the command of their united force, represented both parties equally, for he was sprung from the Norman house of Brionne, while the justiciar of Henry the Second, Richard de Lucy, had been his grandfather. Secretly, and on the pretext of pilgrimage, these nobles met at St. Edmundsbury, resolute to bear no longer with John's delays. If he refused to restore their liberties they swore to make war on him till he confirmed them by charter under the king's seal, and they parted to raise forces with the purpose of presenting their demands at Christmas. John, knowing nothing of the coming storm, pursued his policy of winning over the church by granting it freedom of election, while he imbittered still more the strife with his nobles by demanding scutage from the northern nobles who had refused to follow him to Poitou. But the barons were now ready to act, and early in January in the memorable year 1215 they appeared in arms to lay, as they had planned, their demands before the king.
John was taken by surprise. He asked for a truce till Easter tide, and spent the interval in fevered efforts to avoid the blow. Again he offered freedom to the church, and took vows as a Crusader, against whom war was a sacrilege, while he called for a general oath of allegiance and fealty from the whole body of his subjects. But month after month only showed the king the uselessness of further resistance. Though Pandulf was with him, his vassalage had as yet brought little fruit in the way of aid from Rome; the commissioners whom he sent to plead his cause at the shire courts brought back news that no man would help him against the charter that the barons claimed ; and his efforts to detach the clergy from the league of his opponents utterly failed. The nation was against the king He was far, indeed, from being utterly deserted. His ministers still clung to him, men such as Geoffrey de Lucy, Geoffrey de Furnival, Thomas Basset, and William Briwere, statesmen trained in the administrative school of his father and who, dissent as they might from John's mere oppression, still looked on the power of the crown as the one barrier against feudal anarchy: and beside them stood some of the great nobles of royal blood, his father's bastard Earl William of Salisbury, his cousin Earl William of Warenne, and Henry Earl of Cornwall, a grandson of Henry the First. With him too remained Ranulf, Earl of Chester, and the wisest and noblest of the barons, William Marshal the elder, Earl of Pembroke. William Marshal had shared in the rising of the younger Henry against Henry the Second, and stood by him as he died; he had shared in the overthrow of William Longchamp and in the outlawry of John. He was now an old man, firm, as we shall see in his after course, to recall the government to the path of freedom and law, but shrinking from a strife which might bring back the anarchy of Stephen's day, and looking for reforms rather in the bringing constitutional pressure to bear upon the king than in forcing them from him by arms.
But cling as such men might to John, they clung to him rather as mediators than adherents. Their sympathies went with the demands of the barons when the delay which had been granted was over, and the nobles again gathered in arms at Brackley, in Northamptonshire, to lay their claims before the king. Nothing marks more strongly the absolutely despotic idea of his sovereignty which John had formed than the passionate surprise which breaks out in his reply. Why do they not ask for my kingdom ?” he cried. “I will never grant such