During the summer, Leicester had been harassed with repeated solicitations for the release of the two princes, Edward and Henry.
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.
The earl was now in reality possessed of more extensive authority than Henry had ever enjoyed; but he soon discovered that to retain the object of his ambition would require the exertion of all his powers. The cause of the captive monarch was ardently espoused by foreign nations and by the sovereign pontiff. Adventurers from every province of France crowded to the royal standard which Queen Eleanor had erected at Damme in Flanders; and a numerous fleet assembled in the harbor to transport to England the thousands who had sworn to humble the pride of a disloyal and aspiring subject. To oppose them Leicester had summoned to the camp on Barham downs, not only the King’s military tenants, but the whole force of the nation, and, taking on himself the command of the fleet, cruised in the narrow seas to intercept the invaders. But the winds seemed to be leagued with the earl; the Queen’s army was detained for several weeks in the vicinity of Damme; and the mercenaries gradually disbanded themselves, when the short period for which they had contracted to serve was expired. At the same time the Pontiff had commissioned Guido, Cardinal Bishop of Sabina, to proceed to England, and take Henry under the papal protection; but, deterred by the hint of a conspiracy against his life from crossing the sea, he excommunicated the barons unless before the 1st of September they should restore the King to all his rights, and at the same time summoned four of the English prelates to appear before him at Boulogne. After much tergiversation these obeyed, but appealed from his jurisdiction to the equity of the Pope or a general council; and though they consented to bring back a sentence of excommunication against the King’s enemies, they willingly suffered it to be taken from them by the officers at Dover. Their appeal was approved by the convocation of the clergy, and Guido, after publishing the excommunication himself at Hesdin, returned to Rome, where he was elevated to the chair of St. Peter by the name of Clement IV.
During the summer, Leicester had been harassed with repeated solicitations for the release of the two princes, Edward and Henry. In the winter he pretended to acquiesce, and convoked a parliament to meet after Christmas for the avowed purpose of giving the sanction of the legislature to so important a measure. But the extraordinary manner in which this assembly was constituted provoked a suspicion that his real object was to consolidate and perpetuate his own power. Only those prelates and barons were summoned who were known to be attached to his party; and the deficiency was supplied by representatives from the counties, cities, and boroughs who, as they had been chosen through his influence, proved the obsequious ministers of his will. Several weeks were consumed in private negotiation with Henry and his son. Leicester was aware of the untamable spirit of Edward, nor would he consent that the Prince should exchange his confinement for the company of his father on any other terms than that he should still remain under the inspection of his keepers, and evince his gratitude for the indulgence by ceding to the earl and his heirs the county of Chester, the castle of Pec, and the town of Newcastle-under-Lyne; in exchange for which he should receive other lands of the same annual value. At length the terms were settled, and confirmed by the parliament, with every additional security which the jealousy of the faction could devise. It was enacted “by common consent of the King, his son Edward, the prelates, earls, barons, and commonalty of the realm,” that the charters and the ordinances should be inviolably observed; that neither the King nor the Prince should aggrieve the earl or his associates for their past conduct; that if they did, their vassals and subjects should be released from the obligation of fealty till full redress were obtained, and their abettors should be punished with exile and forfeiture; that the barons, whom the King had defied before the battle of Lewes, should renew their homage and fealty; but on the express condition that such homage and fealty should be no longer binding if he violated his promise; that the command of the royal castles should be taken from suspected persons and entrusted to officers of approved loyalty; that the Prince should not leave the realm for three years, under pain of disherison; that he should not choose his advisers and companions himself, but receive them from the council of state; that with his father’s consent he should put into the hands of the barons for five years, five royal castles, as securities for his behavior, and should deliver to Leicester the town and castle of Bristol in pledge till a full and legal transfer should be made of Chester, Pec, and Newcastle; that both Henry and Edward should swear to observe all these articles, and not to solicit any absolution from their oath, nor make any use of such absolution, if it were to be pronounced by the Pope; and lastly, that they should cause the present agreement “To be confirmed in the best manner that might be devised, in Ireland, in Gascony, by the King of Scotland, and in all lands subject to the King of England.”
These were terms which nothing but necessity could have extorted; and to add to their stability, they were for the most part embodied in the form of a writ, signed by the King, and sent to the sheriffs, with orders to publish them in the full court of each county twice every year.
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