The power of the two parties was now more equally balanced, and their mutual apprehensions inclined them to listen to the pacific exhortations of the bishops.
Continuing How The House of Commons Began in England,
our selection from The History of England, From the First Invasion by the Romans to the Accession of Henry VIII by John Lingard published in 1819. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in How The House of Commons Began in England.
Henry, however, persevered in his resolution. By repeated desertions the party of his enemies had been reduced to the two earls of Leicester and Gloucester, the grand justiciary, the Bishop of Worcester, and Hugh de Montfort, whose principal dependence was on the oath which the King and the nation had taken to observe the Provisions of Oxford. To this argument, it was replied that the same authority which enacted the law was competent to repeal it; and that an oath which should deprive the parliament of such right was in its own nature unjust and consequently invalid. For greater security, however, the King applied to Pope Alexander, who by several bulls released both him and the nation from their oaths, on the principle that the Provisions of Oxford were injurious to the State, and therefore incompatible with their previous obligations. These bulls Henry published, appointed a new justiciary and chancellor, removed the officers of his household, revoked to himself the custody of the royal castles, named new sheriffs in the counties, and by proclamation announced that he had resumed the exercise of the royal authority. This was followed by another proclamation to refute the false reports circulated by the barons.
The King, now finding himself at liberty, was induced to visit Louis of France; and Leicester embraced the opportunity to return to England and reorganize the association which had so lately been dissolved. His hopes of success were founded on the pride and imprudence of Prince Edward, who, untaught by experience, had called around him a guard of foreigners, and entrusted to their leaders the custody of his castles. Such conduct not only awakened the jealousy of the barons, but alienated the affections of the royalists. Henry, at his return, aware of the designs of his enemies, ordered the citizens of London, the inhabitants of the Cinque Ports, and the principal barons, and afterward all freemen throughout the kingdom, to swear fealty not only to himself but, in the event of his death, to his eldest son the Prince Edward. To the second oath the Earl of Gloucester objected. He was immediately joined at Oxford by his associates; and in a few days the Earl of Leicester appeared at their head. With the royal banner displayed before them, they took Gloucester, Worcester, and Bridgenorth; ravaged without mercy the lands of the royalists, the foreigners, and the natives who refused to join their ranks, and, augmenting their numbers as they advanced, directed their march toward London. In London, the aldermen and principal citizens were devoted to the King: the mayor and the populace openly declared for the barons. Henry was in possession of the Tower; and Edward, after taking by force one thousand marks out of the temple, hastened to throw himself into the castle of Windsor, the most magnificent palace, if we may believe a contemporary, then existing in Europe. The Queen attempted to follow her son by water; but the populace insulted her with the most opprobrious epithets, discharged volleys of filth into the royal barge, and prepared to sink it with large stones as it should pass beneath the bridge. The mayor at length took her under his protection and placed her in safety in the episcopal palace near St. Paul’s.
The King of the Romans now appeared again on the scene in the quality of mediator. The negotiation lasted three weeks: but Henry was compelled to yield to the increasing power of his adversaries; and it was agreed that the royal castles should once more be entrusted to the custody of the barons, the foreigners be again banished, and the Provisions of Oxford be confirmed, subject to such alterations as should be deemed proper by a committee appointed for that purpose. Henry returned to his palace at Westminster; new officers of state were selected; and the King’s concessions were notified to the conservators of the peace in the several counties.
The King now found himself sufficiently strong to take the field. He was disappointed in an attempt to obtain possession of Dover; but nearly succeeded in surprising the Earl of Leicester, who with a small body of forces had marched from Kenilworth to Southwark. Henry appeared on one side of the town, the Prince on the other; and the royalists had previously closed the gates of the city. So, imminent was the danger that the Earl, who had determined not to yield, advised his companions to assume the cross, and to prepare themselves for death by the offices of religion. But the opportunity was lost by a strict adherence to the custom of the times. A herald was sent to require him to surrender; and in the mean while the populace, acquainted with the danger of their favorite, burst open the gates and introduced him into the city.
The power of the two parties was now more equally balanced, and their mutual apprehensions inclined them to listen to the pacific exhortations of the bishops. It was agreed to refer every subject of dispute to the arbitration of the King of France; an expedient which had been proposed the last year by Henry, but rejected by Leicester. Louis accepted the honorable office, and summoned the parties to appear before him at Amiens. The King attended in person; the earl, who was detained at home in consequence of a real or pretended fall from his horse, had sent his attorneys. Both parties solemnly swore to abide by the decision of the French monarch. Louis heard the allegations and arguments of each, consulted his court, and pronounced judgment in favor of Henry. He annulled the Provisions of Oxford as destructive of the rights of the crown and injurious to the interests of the nation; ordered the royal castles to be restored; gave to the King the authority to appoint all the officers of the state and of his household, and to call to his council whomsoever he thought proper, whether native or foreigner; reinstated him in the same condition in which he was before the meeting of the “Mad Parliament,” and ordered that all offences committed by either party should be buried in oblivion. This award was soon afterward confirmed by Pope Urban; and the Archbishop of Canterbury received an order to excommunicate all who, in violation of their oaths, should refuse to submit to it.
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