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Reign of Richard I. Part 2 page 2


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It has been already related that, before the departure of Richard for the Holy Land, he had sold the chief justiciar-ship of the kingdom to Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham, whose authority he afterwards curtailed by appointing other justiciaries, among whom was William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely. Longchamp, who also held the chancellorship, and the custody of the Tower of London, was the favourite of Richard, and he soon secured into his own hands the entire government of the country. The king, who had the greatest confidence in his loyalty and ability, issued letters patent, directing the people to obey him as their sovereign; and, by the authority of the Pope, the chancellor was also appointed legate of England and Ireland. Thus doubly armed with spiritual and temporal power, the rule of Longchamp was absolute throughout the kingdom.

Pudsey, however, had paid for the justiciarship, and was by no means disposed to see his privileges swept away without making an effort at resistance. He accordingly laid his complaint before the king, and Richard, in reply, sent him letters, authorising him to share with Longchamp the authority which was his due. Armed with these, Pudsey made his appearance in London with great ceremony, but the barons of the kingdom assembled there refused to permit him to take his seat among them. After having in vain insisted upon the king's authority which he carried with him, the discomfited bishop proceeded in search of the chancellor, who was still with his troops in the north. When the two prelates met, Longchamp approached his brother of Durham with a smiling countenance and courteous demeanour, expressed himself ready to obey the commands of the king, and invited Pudsey to an entertainment on that day se'nnight in the castle of Tickhill. The Bishop of Durham, who possessed either more good faith or less shrewdness than is usual with statesmen in that or any other age, accepted the invitation; and as soon as he had passed the gates of the castle, Longchamp placed his hand upon his shoulder and arrested him, saying that, as sure as the king lived, the bishop should not leave that place until he liad surrendered, not only his claim to power, but all the castles in his possession. "This," said he, "is not bishop arresting bishop, but chancellor arresting chancellor," Pudsey was accordingly imprisoned, and was not released until he had fulfilled the required conditions.

The power of Longchamp was now employed to the utmost to raise money for the king's necessities, and to further his own schemes of aggrandisement. Among the chroniclers are several who speak in strong terms of his avarice and tyranny, while there is only one (Peter of Blois.) whose description of him is favourable. That one, however, was an impartial witness, and an authority whose words carry considerable weight. We are told that such was the rapacity of the chancellor that not a knight could keep his baldric, not a woman her bracelet, not a noble his ring, not a Jew his hoards of gold or merchandise (Matthew Paris,). He used his power to enrich his relations and friends, placing them in the highest and most profitable posts under government, and entrusting to them the custody of towns and castles, which he took from those who had previously held them. He passed through the country with all the pomp and parade of royalty, attended by more than a thousand horsemen; and it is related that whenever he stopped to lodge for the night, a three years' income was not enough to defray the expenses of his train for a single day. His taste for luxury was further ministered to by minstrels and jugglers, whom he invited from France, and who sang their strains of flattery in the public places, proclaiming that the chancellor had not his like in the world.

There is an evident air of exaggeration about these statements, and many of them were to be referred to men as disaffected towards the king as towards his chancellor. If Longchamp reduced the country to poverty by his exactions, it is most likely that he was impelled to obtain the money by the demands of Richard: we shall presently see, however, that the national wealth was by no means exhausted by the burdens - heavy as they were - which it sustained. The loyalty of Longchamp has never been doubted, and there is no reason to believe that his government was generally tyrannous or unjust.

The nobles viewed the increasing power of the chancellor with feelings of envy; and Earl John, the brother of Richard, who had long entertained designs upon the throne, perceived that his chances of success were small indeed so long as a man devoted to the king retained the supreme power in the realm. Some of the turbulent barons, to whom Longchamp had given cause of offence, attached themselves to John, and encouraged him in his ambitious schemes. While Richard was in Sicily he received letters from his brother containing various accusations against the chancellor of tyranny and misgovernment. It appears that these letters produced their effect, and that the king sent a reply directing that, if the accusations were proved to be true, Walter, Archbishop of Rouen, with Geoffrey Fitz-Peter and William Mareschal, should be appointed to the chief justiciarships, and that in any case they should be associated with Longchamp in the direction of affairs. Richard, however, was well aware of the treacherous disposition of his brother, and reflection satisfied him that the chancellor was more worthy of confidence than those who accused him. Before the departure of the fleet from Messina, the king sent letters to his subjects confirming the authority of Longchamp, and directing that implicit obedience should be rendered to him.

When John learnt that his brother was on his way to Acre, he took active measures for bringing his schemes into operation. Various disputes took place between him and the chancellor, and before long an occurrence took place which led to an open rupture between them, Gerald of Camville, a Norman baron, and one of the adherents of John, held the custody of Lincoln Castle, which he had purchased from the king. Longchamp - who, it is said, desired to give this office to one of his friends - summoned Camville to surrender the keys of the castle; but the baron refused compliance, saying that he was Earl John's liegeman, and that he would not relinquish his possessions, except at the command of his lord. Longchamp then appeared before Lincoln with an army, and drove out Camville, who appealed to John for justice. The prince, who desired nothing better than such an opportunity, attacked the royal fortresses of Nottingham and Tickhill, carried them with little or no opposition, and, planting his standard on the walls, sent a messenger to Longchamp to the effect that, unless immediate restitution were made for the injury to Gerald of Camville, he would revenge it with a rod of iron. The chancellor, who possessed little courage or military talent, entered into a negotiation, by the terms of which the castles of Nottingham and Tickhill remained in the hands of John, and that of Lincoln was restored to Camville. Other of the royal castles, which had hitherto remained exclusively in the power of the chancellor, were committed into the custody of different barons, to be retained until the return of Richard from the Holy Land, or, in the event of his death, to be delivered up to John, It was well known that the king had appointed his young nephew Arthur as his heir, but the chancellor was now forced to set aside the commands of his royal master, and at a council of the kingdom, the barons, headed by Long-champ, took the oath of fealty to John, acknowledging him heir to the crown in case the king died without issue.

These important concessions satisfied John only for a short time, and an opportunity soon presented itself for pushing his demands still further. Geoffrey, the son of Henry II. by Fair Rosamond, had been appointed to the archbishopric of York during his father's lifetime, but his consecration had been delayed until the year 1191, when the necessary permission was received from the court of Rome, and he was consecrated by the Archbishop of Tours. As soon as the ceremony was concluded, he prepared to take possession of his benefice, notwithstanding the oath which had been exacted from him that he would not return to England. The chancellor having been apprised of his intention, sent a message to him forbidding him to cross the Channel, and at the same time directed the sheriffs to arrest him should he attempt to land. Geoffrey despised the prohibition; and, having landed at Dover in disguise, took shelter in a monastery. His retreat was soon discovered, and the soldiers of the king broke into the church and seized the archbishop at the foot of the altar, while he was engaged in the celebration of the mass. A good deal of unnecessary violence seems to have been used, and Geoffrey was dragged through the streets to Dover Castle, where he was imprisoned.

The peculiar circumstances of this arrest, and the indignity thus inflicted upon a prelate of the Church, excited the popular feeling strongly against the government, and John, satisfied that he would be supported by the people, openly espoused the cause of his half-brother, and peremptorily ordered the chancellor to release him. Longchamp dared not resist the popular voice; he asserted that he had given no orders for the violence which had been used, and directed that the archbishop should be set at liberty, and suffered to go to London. An alliance, whose basis seems to have been self-interest rather than mutual esteem, was formed between the two half-brothers, and John, supported by the Archbishop of Rouen, boldly proceeded to London, summoned the great council of the barons of the kingdom, and called upon the chancellor to appear before it and defend his conduct. Longchamp not only refused to do so, but forbade the barons to assemble, declaring that the object of John was to usurp the crown. The council, however, was held at London Bridge, on the Thames, and the barons summoned Longchamp, who was then at Windsor Castle, to appear before them. The chancellor, on the contrary, collected all the men-at-arms who were with him, and marched from Windsor to London; but the adherents of John, who met him at the gates, attacked and defeated his escort; and finding himself also opposed by the citizens, he was compelled to take refuge in the Tower.

Immediately afterwards John entered the city, and, on his promising to remain faithful to the king, was received with welcome. The people, though they were willing to join in deposing the chancellor, retained, almost without exception, the utmost loyalty to their brave sovereign, and they showed clearly that they would permit of no treason against his authority. The act contemplated by the barons involved very important consequences, and John, with the craft and caution peculiar to his character, determined to obtain the assent of the citizens of London, and thus to involve them in a portion of its responsibility. The suffrages of the people were taken in a manner which shows at once the rudeness of the times, and the unusual nature of such a proceeding. On the day fixed for the great assembly of the barons, the tocsin, or alarm bell, was rung, and when the citizens poured forth from their houses, they found heralds posted in the streets, who directed them to St. Paul's Church. When the people arrived there in a crowd, they found the chief men of the realm - barons and prelates - seated in council. These haughty nobles, chiefly of Norman descent, whose usual custom had been to treat the native English as mere serfs and inferior beings, now received the people with extraordinary courtesy, and invited them to take part in the proceedings. The debate which followed, being conducted in Norman-French, must have been unintelligible to the majority of the citizens; but they were shown the king's seal affixed to a letter, which was said to authorise the deposition of the chancellor in case he failed to conduct properly the duties of his office. When this letter had been read, the votes of the whole assembly were taken, and it was decreed by the voice of "the bishops, earls, and barons of the kingdom, and of the citizens of London," that the chancellor should be deprived of his office, and that John, the brother of the king, should be proclaimed "chief governor of the whole kingdom."

On the news of these transactions being conveyed to Longchamp, it is reported that he fell upon the floor insensible. It was evident that he had no longer any power to resist the pretensions of John: resistance, to have been of any avail, should have come sooner. The troops of his opponents having surrounded the Tower, the chancellor came out from the gates and offered to surrender. John, who thought it worth while to buy his adhesion or submission to the new authority, proposed to leave him in possession of the bishopric of Ely, and to give him the custody of three castles belonging to the crown. To the honour of Longchamp, he refused to accept gifts from such a source, or to resign of his own free will any of the powers entrusted to him by his sovereign. "I submit," he said, "only to the superior force which is brought against me." And with these words he gave the keys of the Tower into the hands of John. The barons, however, compelled him to take an oath that he would surrender the keys of the other royal fortresses, and his two brothers were detained as hostages for the performance of these conditions. The ex-chancellor himself was permitted to go at large; and it appears that he determined, rather than resign possession of the castles, to leave his brothers in danger, and to escape to Normandy. Having reached Canterbury, he stayed there for a few days, and then quitted the town in the disguise of a hawking-woman, having a bale of linen under his arm, and a yard-measure in his hand. In this strange costume, the ex-chancellor, who had been accustomed to travel with a retinue of 1,000 men-at-arms, took his way on foot to the sea-shore. Having to wait awhile for a vessel in which to embark, he sat down upon a stone, with his veil, or hood, drawn over his face. Some fishermen's wives who were passing by stopped and asked him the price of his cloth, but as he did not understand a word of English, he made no answer, much to the surprise of his questioners. Presently some other women came up to him, who also took an interest in his merchandise, and desired to know how he sold it. The prelate, who seems to have been keenly alive to the ludicrousness of his situation, burst out into a loud laugh, which 'stimulated the curiosity of the women, and they suddenly lifted his veil. Seeing under it "the dark and newly-shaven face of a man," (Roger of Hoveden.) they ran away in surprise and alarm, and soon brought back with them a number of men and women, who amused themselves by pulling the clothes of this strange person, and rolling him in the shingles. At length, after the ex-chancellor had tried in vain to make them understand who he was, they shut him up in a cellar, and he was compelled to make himself known to the authorities as the only way of regaining his liberty. He then gave up the keys of the royal castles, and was permitted to proceed to the Continent.

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Pictures for Reign of Richard I. Part 2 page 2

The Bishop of Salisbury
The Bishop of Salisbury >>>>
Richard Coeur-de-Lion surprised by the Austrian Soldiers
Richard Coeur-de-Lion surprised by the Austrian Soldiers >>>>
Longchamp and Hugh Pudsey
Longchamp and Hugh Pudsey >>>>
Richard Coeur-de-Lion before the Diet of the German Empire
Richard Coeur-de-Lion before the Diet of the German Empire >>>>
John kneeling for forgiveness before his brother Richard
John kneeling for forgiveness before his brother Richard >>>>

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