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The History of England From the Norman Conquest to the Death of John
The Loss Of Normandy
by Adams, George Burton


The death of Richard raised a question of succession new in the history of England since the Norman Conquest. The right of primogeniture, the strict succession of the eldest born, carrying with it the right of the son of a deceased elder brother to stand in the place of his father, the principle which was in the end to prevail, had only begun to establish itself. The drift of feeling was undoubtedly towards it, but this appeared strongly in the present crisis only in the northwestern corner of the Angevin dominions in France, where it was supported by still stronger influences. The feudal law had recognized, and still recognized, many different principles of succession, and the prevailing feeling in England and Normandy is no doubt correctly represented in an incident recorded by the biographer of William Marshal. On receiving the news of Richard's death at Rouen, William went at once to consult with the archbishop and to agree on whom they would support as heir. The archbishop inclined at first to Arthur, the son and representative of John's elder brother, Geoffrey, but William declared that the brother stood nearer to his father and to his brother than the grandson, or nephew, and the archbishop yielded the point without discussion. Neither in England nor in Normandy did there appear the slightest disposition to support the claims of Arthur, or to question the right of John, though possibly there would have been more inclination to do so if the age of the two candidates had been reversed, for Arthur was only twelve, while John was past thirty.

Neither of the interested parties, however, was in the least disposed to waive any claims which he possessed. John had had trouble with Richard during the previous winter on a suspicion of treasonable correspondence with Philip and because he thought his income was too scanty, and he was in Britanny, even at the court of Arthur, when the news of Richard's death reached him. He at once took horse with a few attendants and rode to Chinon, where the king's treasure was kept, and this was given up without demur on his demand by Robert of Turnharn, the keeper. Certain barons who were there and the officers of Richard's household also recognized his right, on his taking the oath which they demanded, that he would execute his brother's will, and that he would preserve inviolate the rightful customs of former times and the just laws of lands and people. From Chinon John set out for Normandy, but barely escaped capture on the way, for Arthur's party had not been idle in the meantime. His mother with a force from Britanny had brought him with all speed to Angers, where he was joyfully received. William des Roches, the greatest baron of the country and Richard's seneschal of Anjou, had declared for him at the head of a powerful body of barons, who probably saw in a weak minority a better chance of establishing that local freedom from control for which they had always striven than under another Angevin king. At Le Mans Arthur was also accepted with enthusiasm as count a few hours after a cold reception of John and his hasty departure.

There Constance and her son were met by the king of France, who, as soon as God had favoured him by the removal of Richard,--so the French regarded the matter,--seized the county of Evreux and pushed his conquests almost to Le Mans. Arthur did homage to Philip for the counties of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine; Tours received the young count as Angers and Le Mans had done; Philip's right of feudal wardship was admitted, and Arthur was taken to Paris under his secure protection, secure for his own designs and against those of John. Philip could hardly do otherwise than recognize the rights of Arthur. It was perhaps the most favourable opportunity that had ever occurred to accomplish the traditional policy of the Capetians of splitting apart the dominions of the rival Norman or Angevin house. That policy, so long and so consistently followed by Philip almost from his accession to the death of Arthur, in the support in turn of young Henry, Richard, John, and Arthur against the reigning king, was destined indeed never to be realized in the form in which it had been cherished in the past; but the devotion of a part of the Angevin empire to the cause of Arthur was a factor of no small value in the vastly greater success which Philip won, greater than any earlier king had ever dreamed of, greater than Philip himself had dared to hope for till the moment of its accomplishment.

From Le Mans John went direct to Rouen. The barons of Normandy had decided to support him, and on April 25 he was invested with the insignia of the duchy by the archbishop, Walter of Coutances, taking the usual oath to respect the rights of Church and people. His careless and irreverent conduct during the ceremony displeased the clergy, as his refusal to receive the communion on Easter day, a week before, had offended Bishop Hugh of Lincoln, who came a part of the way with him from Chinon. As the lance, the special symbol of investiture, was placed in his hand, he turned to make some jocular remark to his boon companions who were laughing and chattering behind him, and carelessly let it fall, an incident doubtless considered at the time of evil omen, and easily interpreted after the event as a presage of the loss of the duchy. From Normandy John sent over to England to assist the justiciar, Geoffrey Fitz Peter, in taking measures to secure his succession, two of the most influential men of the land, William Marshal and Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been in Normandy since the death of Richard, while he himself remained a month longer on the continent, to check, if possible, the current in favour of Arthur. He took Le Mans and destroyed its walls in punishment, and sent a force to aid his mother in Aquitaine; but the threatening attitude of Philip made it impossible for him to accomplish very much. No slight influence on the side of John was the strong support and vigorous action in his favour of that remarkable woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, then about eighty years of age. She seems never to have cared for her grandson Arthur, and for this his mother was probably responsible. Constance appears to have been a somewhat difficult person, and what was doubtless still more important, she had never identified herself with the interests of her husband's house, but had always remained in full sympathy with the separatist tendencies and independent desires of her own Britanny.63 She had no right to count on any help from Eleanor in carrying out her ambitions, and Aquitaine was held as securely for John by his mother as Normandy was by the decision of its leading barons.

In England, although no movement in favour of Arthur is perceptible, there was some fear of civil strife, perhaps only of that disorder which was apt to break out on the death of the king, as it did indeed in this case, and many castles were put in order for defence. What disorder there was soon put down by the representatives of the king, whom John had appointed, and who took the fealty of the barons and towns to him. On the part of a considerable number of the barons--the names that are recorded are those of old historic families, Beaumont, Ferrers, Mowbray, De Lacy, the Earls of Clare and Chester--there was found to be opposition to taking the oath of fealty on the ground of injustice committed by the administration. Whether these complaints were personal to each baron, as the language has been taken to mean, or complaints of injustice in individual cases wrought by the general policy of the government, as the number of cases implies, it is hardly possible to say. The probability is that both explanations are true. Certainly the old baronage could easily find grounds enough of complaint in the constitutional policy steadily followed by the government of the first two Angevin kings. The crisis was wisely handled by the three able men whom John had appointed to represent him. They called an assembly of the doubtful barons at Northampton and gave to each one a promise that he should have his right (jus suum). In return for these promises the oaths were taken, but the incident was as ominous of another kind of trouble as the dropping of the lance at Rouen. We can hardly understand the reign of John unless we remember that at its very beginning men were learning to watch the legality of the king's actions and to demand that he respect the limitations which the law placed on his arbitrary will.

On May 25, John landed in England, and on the 27th, Ascension day, he was crowned in Westminster by the Archbishop of Canterbury before a large assembly of barons and bishops. The coronation followed the regular order, and no dissenting voice made itself heard, though a rather unusual display of force seems to have been thought necessary. Two authorities, both years later and both untrustworthy, refer to a speech delivered during the ceremony by the archbishop, in which he emphasized the fact that the English crown was elective and not hereditary. Did not these authorities seem to be clearly independent of one another we should forthwith reject their testimony, but as it is we must admit some slight chance that such a speech was made. One of these accounts, in giving what purports to be the actual speech of Hubert Walter, though it must have been composed by the writer himself, states a reason for it which could not possibly have been entertained at the time.64 The other gives as its reason the disputed succession, but makes the archbishop refer not to the right of Arthur, but to that of the queen of Castile, a reference which must also be untrue.65 If such a speech was made, it had reference unquestionably to the case of Arthur, and it must be taken as a sign of the influence which this case certainly had on the development, in the minds of some at least, of something more like the modern understanding of the meaning of election, and as a prelude to the great movement which characterizes the thirteenth century, the rapid growth of ideas which may now without too great violence be called constitutional. If such a speech was made we may be sure also that it was not made without the consent of John, and that it contained nothing displeasing to him. One of his first acts as king was to make Hubert Walter his chancellor, and apparently the first document issued by the new king and chancellor puts prominently forward John's hereditary right, and states the share of clergy and people in his accession in peculiar and vague language.66

John had no mind to remain long in England, nor was there any reason why he should. The king of Scotland was making some trouble, demanding the cession of Cumberland and Northumberland, but it was possible to postpone for the present the decision of his claims. William Marshal was at last formally invested with the earldom of Pembroke and Geoffrey Fitz Peter with that of Essex. More important was a scutage, probably ordered at this time, of the unusual rate of two marks on the knight's fee, twenty shillings having been the previous limit as men remembered it. By June 20 John's business in England was done, and by July 1 he was again at Rouen to watch the course of events in the conflict still undecided. On that day a truce was made with Philip to last until the middle of August, and John began negotiations with the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne and with his nephew, Otto IV of Germany, in a search for allies, from whom he gained only promises. On the expiration of the truce Philip demanded the cession of the entire Vexin and the transfer to Arthur of Poitou, Anjou, Maine, and Touraine,--a demand which indicates his determination to go on with the war. For Poitou Philip had already received Eleanor's homage, and she in turn invested John with it as her vassal. In the beginning of the war which was now renewed Philip committed a serious error of policy, to which he was perhaps tempted by the steady drift of events in his favour since the death of Richard. Capturing the castle of Ballon in Maine he razed it to the ground. William des Roches, the leader of Arthur's cause, at once objected since the castle should belong to his lord, and protested to the king that this was contrary to their agreement, but Philip haughtily replied that he should do as he pleased with his conquests in spite of Arthur. This was too early a declaration of intentions, and William immediately made terms with John, carrying over to him Arthur and his mother and the city of Le Mans. A slight study of John's character ought to have shown to William that no dependence whatever could be placed on his promise in regard to a point which would seem to them both of the greatest importance. William took the risk, however, binding John by solemn oath that Arthur should be dealt with according to his counsel, a promise which was drawn up in formal charter. On the very day of his arrival, it is said, Arthur was told of John's intention to imprison him, and he fled away with his mother to Angers; but William des Roches remained for a time in John's service.

The year 1199 closed with a truce preliminary to a treaty of peace which was finally concluded on May 18. Philip II was at the moment in no condition to push the war. He was engaged in a desperate struggle with Innocent III and needed to postpone for the time being every other conflict. Earlier in his reign on a political question he had defied a pope, and with success; but Innocent III was a different pope, and on the present question Philip was wrong. In 1193 he had repudiated his second wife, Ingeborg of Denmark, the day after the marriage, and later married Agnes of Meran whom he had hitherto refused to give up at the demand of the Church. At the close of 1199 France was placed under an interdict until the king should yield, and it was in this situation that the treaty with John was agreed to. Philip for the moment abandoned his attempt against the Angevin empire. John was recognized as rightful heir of the French fiefs, and his homage was accepted for them all, including Britanny, for which Arthur then did homage to John. These concessions were not secured, however, without some sacrifices on the English side. John yielded to Philip all the conquests which had been made from Richard, and agreed to pay a relief of 20,000 marks for admission to his fiefs. The peace was to be sealed by the marriage of John's niece, the future great queen and regent of France, Blanche of Castile, to Philip's son Louis, and the county of Evreux was to be ceded as her dower. The aged but tireless Eleanor went to Spain to bring her granddaughter, and the marriage was celebrated four days after the signing of the treaty, Louis at the time being thirteen years old and Blanche twelve.

While his mother went to Spain for the young bride, John crossed to England to raise money for his relief. This was done by ordering a carucage at the rate of three shillings on the ploughland. The Cistercian order objected to paying the tax because of the general immunity which they enjoyed, and John in great anger commanded all the sheriffs to refuse them the protection of the courts and to let go free of punishment any who injured them, in effect to put them outside the law. This decree he afterwards modified at the request of Hubert Walter, but he refused an offer of a thousand marks for a confirmation of their charters and liberties, and returned to Normandy in the words quoted by the chronicler, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the servants of Christ."

John was now in a position where he should have used every effort to strengthen himself against the next move of Philip, which he should have known was inevitable, and where, if ever, he might hope to do so. Instead of that, by a blunder in morals, in which John's greatest weakness lay, by an act of passion and perfidy, he gave his antagonist a better excuse than he could have hoped for when he was at last ready to renew the war. John had now been for more than ten years married to Isabel of Gloucester, and no children had been born of the marriage. In the situation of the Angevin house he may well have wished for a direct heir and have been ready to adopt the expedient common to sovereigns in such cases. At any rate about this time he procured from the Bishops of Normandy and Aquitaine a divorce, a formal annulling of the marriage on the ground of consanguinity, the question raised at the time of their marriage never, it would seem, having been settled by dispensation. Then he sent off an embassy to ask for a daughter of the king of Portugal. In the meantime he went on a progress through the French lands which had been secured to him by treaty with Philip, and met the beautiful Isabel, daughter of the Count of Angoulème, then twelve years of age, and determined to marry her out of hand. The fact that she was already betrothed to Hugh "the Brown," son and heir of his own vassal the Count of La Marche, and that she was then living in the household of her intended father-in-law, made no more difference to him than his own embassy to Portugal. It seems possible indeed that it was in the very castle of the Count of La Marche that the plan was formed. Isabel's father also did not hesitate in the choice of sons-in-law, and his daughter having been brought home, she was at once married to John. An act of this kind was a most flagrant violation of the feudal contract, nor was the moral blunder saved from being a political one by the fact that the injured house was that of the Lusignans, great barons and long turbulent and unruly vassals of Aquitaine. John had given them now a legal right of appeal to his suzerain and a moral justification of rebellion.

After his marriage John went back to England for the coronation of his queen, which took place on October 8. At Lincoln he received the homage of William of Scotland and made peace with the Cistercians, and then went on a progress through the north as far as Carlisle. In the meantime, as was to be expected, hostilities had begun with the family of the Count of La Marche, and the king sent out a summons to the barons of England to meet him at Portsmouth at Whitsuntide prepared for service abroad. On receipt of this notice the earls held a meeting at Leicester and by agreement replied to the king that they would not go over sea with him unless he restored to them their rights. There is no evidence in the single account we have of this incident that the earls intended to deny their liability to service abroad. It is probable they intended to take their position on the more secure principle that services due to the suzerain who violated the rights of his vassal were for the time being, at least, suspended. If this is so, the declaration of the earls is the first clear evidence we have that the barons of England were beginning to realize their legal right of resistance and to get sight of the great principle which was so soon to give birth to the constitution. The result of the opposition to John's summons we do not know, unless the statement which follows in the chronicle that the king was demanding the castles of the barons, and taking hostages if they retained them, was his answer to their demand. At any rate they appeared as required at Portsmouth ready for the campaign abroad, but John, instead of sending them over to France, took away the money which they had brought to spend in his service, and let them go home.

From the time of John's landing in Normandy, about June 1, 1201, until the same time the next year, he was occupied with negotiating rather than with fighting. Philip was not yet ready to take part himself in the war, but he kept a careful watch of events and made John constantly aware that he was not overlooking his conduct toward his vassals. Several interviews were held between the kings of a not unfriendly character; the treaty of the previous year was confirmed, and John was invited to Paris by Philip and entertained in the royal palace. It was at first proposed that the case between John and the Lusignans should be tried in his own court as Count of Poitou, but he insisted upon such conditions that the trial was refused. Meanwhile Philip's affairs were rapidly becoming settled and he was able to take up again his plans of conquest. The death of Agnes of Meran made possible a reconciliation with the Church, and the death of the Count of Champagne added the revenues of that great barony to his own through his wardship of the heir. In the spring of 1202 he was ready for action. The barons of Poitou had already lodged an appeal with him as overlord against the illegal acts of John. This gave him a legal opportunity without violating any existing treaty. After an interview with John on March 25, which left things as they were, a formal summons was issued citing John to appear before Philip's court and answer to any charges against him. He neither came nor properly excused himself, though he tried to avoid the difficulty. He alleged that as Duke of Normandy he could not be summoned to Paris for trial, and was answered that he had not been summoned as Duke of Normandy but as Count of Poitou. He demanded a safe conduct and was told that he could have one for his coming, but that his return would depend on the sentence of the court. He said that the king of England could not submit to such a trial, and was answered that the king of France could not lose his rights over a vassal because he happened to have acquired another dignity. Finally, John's legal rights of delay and excuse being exhausted, the court decreed that he should be deprived of all the fiefs which he held of France on the ground of failure of service. All the steps of this action from its beginning to its ending seem to have been perfectly regular, John being tried, of course, not on the appeal of the barons of Poitou which had led to the king's action, but for his refusal to obey the summons, and the severe sentence with which it closed was that which the law provided, though it was not often enforced in its extreme form, and probably would not have been in this case if John had been willing to submit.67

The sentence of his court Philip gladly accepted, and invaded Normandy about June 1, capturing place after place with almost no opposition from John. Arthur, now sixteen years old, he knighted, gave him the investiture of all the Angevin fiefs except Normandy, and betrothed him to his own daughter Mary. On August 1 occurred an event which promised at first a great success for John, but proved in its consequences a main cause of his failure, and led to the act of infamy by which he has ever since been most familiarly known. Arthur, hearing that his grandmother Eleanor was at the castle of Mirebeau in Poitou with a small force, laid siege to the castle to capture her as John's chief helper, and quickly carried the outer works. Eleanor had managed, however, to send off a messenger to her son at Le Mans, and John, calling on the fierce energy he at times displayed, covered the hundred miles between them in a day and a night, surprised the besiegers by his sudden attack, and captured their whole force. To England he wrote saying that the favour of God had worked with him wonderfully, and a man more likely to receive the favour of God might well think so. Besides Arthur, he captured Hugh of Lusignan the younger and his uncle Geoffrey, king Richard's faithful supporter in the Holy Land, with many of the revolted barons and, as he reported with probable exaggeration, two hundred knights and more. Philip, who was besieging Arques, on hearing the news, retired hastily to his own land and in revenge made a raid on Tours, which in his assault and John's recapture was almost totally destroyed by fire. The prisoners and booty were safely conveyed to Normandy, and Arthur was imprisoned at Falaise.

Instantly anxiety began to be felt by the friends of Arthur as to his fate. William des Roches, who was still in the service of John, went to the king with barons from Britanny and asked that his prisoner be given up to them. Notwithstanding the written promise and oath which John had given to follow the counsel of William in his treatment of Arthur, he refused this request. William left the king's presence to go into rebellion, and was joined by many of the barons of Britanny; at the end of October they got possession of Angers. It was a much more serious matter that during the autumn and winter extensive disaffection and even open treason began to show themselves among the barons of Normandy. What disposition should be made of Arthur was, no doubt, a subject of much debate in the king's mind, and very likely with his counsellors, during the months that followed the capture. John's lack of insight was on the moral side, not at all on the intellectual, and he no doubt saw clearly that so long as Arthur lived he never could be safe from the designs of Philip. On the other hand he probably did not believe that Philip would seriously attempt the unusual step of enforcing in full the sentence of the court against him, and underestimated both the danger of treason and the moral effect of the death of Arthur. What the fate of the young Count of Britanny really was no one has ever known. The most accurate statement of what we do know is that of an English chronicler68 who says that he was removed from Falaise to Rouen by John's order and that not long after he suddenly disappeared, and we may add that this disappearance must have been about the Easter of 1203. Many different stories were in circulation at the time or soon after, accounting for his death as natural, or accidental, or a murder, some of them in abundant detail, but in none of these can we have any confidence. The only detail of the history which seems historically probable is one we find in an especially trustworthy chronicler, which represents John as first intending to render Arthur incapable of ruling by mutilation and sending men to Falaise to carry out this plan.69 It was not done, though Arthur's custodian, Hubert de Burgh, thought it best to give out the report that it had been, and that the young man had died in consequence. The report roused such a storm of anger among the Bretons that Hubert speedily judged it necessary to try to quiet it by evidence that Arthur was still alive, and John is said not to have been angry that his orders had been disobeyed. It is certain, however, that he learned no wisdom from the result of this experiment, and that Arthur finally died either by his order or by his hand.

It is of some interest that in all the contemporary discussion of this case no one ever suggested that John was personally incapable of such a violation of his oath or of such a murder with his own hand. He is of all kings the one for whose character no man, of his own age or later, has ever had a good word. Historians have been found to speak highly of his intellectual or military abilities, but words have been exhausted to describe the meanness of his moral nature and his utter depravity. Fully as wicked as William Rufus, the worst of his predecessors, he makes on the reader of contemporary narratives the impression of a man far less apt to be swept off his feet by passion, of a cooler and more deliberate, of a meaner and smaller, a less respectable or pardonable lover of vice and worker of crimes. The case of Arthur exhibits one of his deepest traits, his utter falsity, the impossibility of binding him, his readiness to betray any interest or any man or woman, whenever tempted to it. The judgment of history on John has been one of terrible severity, but the unanimous opinion of contemporaries and posterity is not likely to be wrong, and the failure of personal knowledge and of later study to find redeeming features assures us of their absence. As to the murder of Arthur, it was a useless crime even if judged from the point of view of a Borgian policy merely, one from which John had in any case little to gain and of which his chief enemy was sure to reap the greatest advantage.

Soon after Easter Philip again took the field, still ignorant of the fate of Arthur, as official acts show him to have been some months later. Place after place fell into his hands with no serious check and no active opposition on the part of John, some opening their gates on his approach, and none offering an obstinate resistance. The listless conduct of John during the loss of Normandy is not easy to explain. The only suggestion of explanation in the contemporary historians is that of the general prevalence of treason in the duchy, which made it impossible for the king to know whom to trust and difficult to organize a sufficient defence to the advance of Philip, and undoubtedly this factor in the case should receive more emphasis than it has usually been given. Other kings had had to contend with extensive treason on the part of the Norman barons, but never in quite the same circumstances and probably never of quite the same spirit. Treason now was a different thing from that of mere feudal barons in their alliance with Louis VII in the reign of Henry I. It might be still feudal in form, but its immediate and permanent results were likely to be very different. It was no temporary defection to be overcome by some stroke of policy or by the next turn of the wheel. It was joining the cause of Philip Augustus and the France which he had done so much already to create; it was being absorbed in the expansion of a great nation to which the duchy naturally belonged, and coming under the influence of rapidly forming ideals of nationality, possibly even induced by them more or less consciously felt. This may have been treason in form, but in real truth it was a natural and inevitable current, and from it there was no return. John may have felt something of this. Its spirit may have been in the atmosphere, and its effect would be paralyzing. Still we find it impossible to believe that Henry I in the same circumstances would have done no more than John did to stem the tide. He seemed careless and inert. He showed none of the energy of action or clearness of mind which he sometimes exhibits. Men came to him with the news of Philip's repeated successes, and he said, "Let him go on, I shall recover one day everything he is taking now"; though what he was depending on for this result never appears. Perhaps he recognized the truth of what, according to one account, William Marshal told him to his face, that he had made too many enemies by his personal conduct,70 and so he did not dare to trust any one; but we are tempted after all explanation to believe there was in the case something of that moral breakdown in dangerous crises which at times comes to men of John's character.

By the end of August Philip was ready for the siege of the Château-Gaillard, Richard's great fortress, the key to Rouen and so to the duchy. John seems to have made one attempt soon after to raise the siege, but with no very large forces, and the effort failed; it may even have led to the capture of the fort on the island in the river and the town of Les Andelys by the French. Philip then drew his lines round the main fortress and settled down to a long blockade. The castle was commanded by Roger de Lacy, a baron faithful to John, and one who could be trusted not to give up his charge so long as any further defence was possible. He was well furnished with supplies, but as the siege went on he found himself obliged, following a practice not infrequent in the middle ages, to turn out of the castle, to starve between the lines, some hundreds of useless mouths of the inhabitants of Les Andelys, who had sought refuge there on the capture of the town by the French. Philip finally allowed them to pass his lines. Chateau-Gaillard was at last taken not by the blockade, but by a series of assaults extending through about two weeks and closing with the capture of the third or inner ward and keep on March 6, 1204, an instance of the fact of which the history of medieval times contains abundant proof, that the siege appliances of the age were sufficient for the taking of the strongest fortress unless it were in a situation inaccessible to them. In the meantime John, seeing the hopelessness of defending Normandy with the resources left him there, and even, it is said, fearing treasonable designs against his person, had quitted the duchy in what proved to be a final abandonment and crossed to England on December 5. He landed with no good feeling towards the English barons whom he accused of leaving him at the mercy of his enemies, and he ordered at once a tax of one-seventh of the personal property of clergy and laymen alike. This was followed by a scutage at the rate of two marks on the knight's fee, determined on at a great council held at Oxford early in January. But, notwithstanding these taxes and other ways of raising money, John seems to have been embarrassed in his measures of defence by a lack of funds, while Philip was furnished with plenty to reinforce the victories of his arms with purchased support where necessary, and to attract John's mercenaries into his service.

After the fall of Chateau-Gaillard events drew rapidly to a close. John tried the experiment of an embassy headed by Hubert Walter and William Marshal to see if a peace could be arranged, but Philip naturally set his terms so high that nothing was to be lost by going on with the war, however disastrous it might prove. He demanded the release of Arthur, or, if he were not living, of his sister Eleanor, with the cession to either of them of the whole continental possessions of the Angevins. In the interview Philip made known the policy that he proposed to follow in regard to the English barons who had possessions in Normandy, for he offered to guarantee to William Marshal and his colleague, the Earl of Leicester, their Norman lands if they would do him homage. Philip's wisdom in dealing with his conquests, leaving untouched the possessions and rights of those who submitted, rewarding with gifts and office those who proved faithful, made easy the incorporation of these new territories in the royal domain. By the end of May nearly all the duchy was in the hands of the French, the chief towns making hardly a show of resistance, but opening their gates readily on the offer of favourable terms. For Rouen, which was reserved to the last, the question was a more serious one, bound as it was to England by commercial interests and likely to suffer injury if the connexion were broken. Philip granted the city a truce of thirty days on the understanding that it should be surrendered if the English did not raise the siege within that time. The messengers sent to the king in England returned with no promise of help, and on June 24 Philip entered the capital of Normandy.

With the loss of Normandy nothing remained to John but his mother's inheritance, and against this Philip next turned. Queen Eleanor, eighty-two years of age, had closed her marvellous career on April 1, and no question of her rights stood in the way of the absorption of all Aquitaine in France. The conquest of Touraine and Poitou was almost as easy as that of Normandy, except the castles of Chinon and Loches which held out for a year, and the cities of Niort, Thouars, and La Rochelle. But beyond the bounds of the county of Poitou Philip made no progress. In Gascony proper where feudal independence of the old type still survived the barons had no difficulty in perceiving that Philip Augustus was much less the sort of king they wished than the distant sovereign of England. No local movement in his favour or national sympathy prepared the way for an easy conquest, nor was any serious attempt at invasion made. Most of the inheritance of Eleanor remained to her son, though not through any effort of his, and the French advance stopped at the capture of the castles of Loches and Chinon in the summer of 1205. John had not remained in inactivity in England all this time, however, without some impatience? but efforts to raise sufficient money for any considerable undertaking or to carry abroad the feudal levies of the country had all failed. At the end of May, 1205, he did collect at Portchester what is described as a very great fleet and a splendid army to cross to the continent, but Hubert Walter and William Marshal, supported by others of the barons, opposed the expedition so vigorously and with so many arguments that the king finally yielded to their opposition though with great reluctance.

The great duchy founded three hundred years before on the colonization of the Northmen, always one of the mightiest of the feudal states of France, all the dominions which the counts of Anjou had struggled to bring together through so many generations, the disputed claims on Maine and Britanny recognized now for a long time as going with Normandy, a part even of the splendid possessions of the dukes of Aquitaine;--all these in little more than two years Philip had transferred from the possession of the king of England to his own, and all except Britanny to the royal domain. If we consider the resources with which he began to reign, we must pronounce it an achievement equalled by few kings. For the king of England it was a corresponding loss in prestige and brilliancy of position. John has been made to bear the responsibility of this disaster, and morally with justice; but it must not be forgotten that, as the modern nations were beginning to take shape and to become conscious of themselves, the connexion with England would be felt to be unnatural, and that it was certain to be broken. For England the loss of these possessions was no disaster; it was indeed as great a blessing as to France. The chief gain was that it cut off many diverting interests from the barons of England, just at a time when they were learning to be jealous of their rights at home and were about to enter upon a struggle with the king to compel him to regard the law in his government of the country, a struggle which determined the whole future history of the nation.

Footnotes

[63] See Walter of Coventry, ii. 196.

[64] Matth. Paris, ii. 455.

[65] Rymer, Foedera, i. 140.

[66] Rymer, Foedera, i. 75.

[67] But see Guilhiermoz, Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Chartes, lx. (1899), 45-85, whose argument is, however, not convincing.

[68] Roger of Wendover, iii. 170.

[69] Ralph of Coggeshall, 139-141.

[70] L'Histoire de Guillaume la Maréchal, ll. 12737-12741.

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