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Northern and Western Europe: the British Isles; Denmark, Sweden, Norway; France; Spain; the Byzantine Empire. page 2

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It was the sense of shame caused by this ignominious surrender, due entirely to the king's useless obstinacy, that finally banded the Church, the barons, and the people against the sovereign. At a great meeting held at St. Paul's Cathedral, Stephen Langton produced a copy of the Charter granted by Henry I., and the barons resolved that John should be forced to renew the undertakings of that document. They had already refused to follow him on an expedition to France, and the king, in his rage and despair, formed a league against Philip Augustus, including the count of Flanders and Otto IV. of Germany, who had a rival in the field as emperor and had been excommunicated by Innocent. The united forces, John's mercenaries and his allies, were completely defeated, in 1214, by Philip at Bouvines, a few miles south-east of Lille, then in Flanders, and John returned in a miserable plight to England. The barons met in arms in London, and in June, 1215, compelled the king to sign the Great Charter of English liberties, securing the personal and political and financial rights of the clergy, the nobles, and the commons. The main point of modern interest was the financial clause which settled that no tax should be laid on knights or barons except with consent of the Great Council, the only parliament of that time, which had succeeded the Witenagemot ("meeting of wise men") or Witan of early England, and was, like that body, composed of barons, bishops, and abbots, with no representative or elective character. Nevertheless, that body stood for the whole people, and the clause in the Charter involved the principle of "no taxation without consent of the taxed." The provisions of the Charter were often violated, but never allowed to become obsolete, being kept constantly to the front by the practice of the barons and the House of Commons, in compelling sovereigns - notably Henry III., Edward I., Edward HI., Richard II., and Henry IV. - to solemnly ratify and confirm the document, before grants of money to the Crown were voted. The right of trial by jury for serious offences was involved in another clause. The immediate sequel was civil war. Innocent III., well pleased with John's submission to the Papacy, declared the Charter null and void, as signed on compulsion, and a French party among the barons pronounced the crown forfeited by John, offering it to Louis, son of Philip. That foreign prince came over with an army, landing at Dover in May, 1216, but Dover Castle was held for the king, by Hubert de Burgh, while John, with an army of foreign mercenaries, sped through the country wreaking vengeance on the barons who, after the signing of the Charter, had imprudently disbanded their men. The sudden death of the wicked king, from fever, in October, 1216, was a deliverance from a position of great difficulty and danger for the English people.

The new king, John's eldest son, was Henry III. (1216-1272), only nine years of age, and rule was in the hands of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, and Hubert de Burgh, the "Justiciar." These able and vigorous men drove out the French, Pembroke routing the land-forces at Lincoln, and De Burgh destroying the fleet off Dover. After Pembroke's death in 1219, the Justiciar kept good order, until Henry assumed power in 1227, forcing the barons and foreign leaders of John's mercenaries to give up the castles which they held. Henry III. was a man of mild, weak character, and as such most mischievous to the country in what he permitted to be done. Devoted to learning and the arts, subservient to the Pope, dependent on the foreign favourites of himself and his wife Eleanor, greedy natives of Poitou and of her native Provence, he violated the Charter by exactions on his own behalf, and allowed the Popes to plunder the Church by perpetual imposts under various pretences. Hubert de Burgh, last of the "Justiciars," now succeeded by "Chancellors" as chief ministers, had to make way for the Poitevin, Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester. This man was, however, got rid of in 1234, after two years of chief rule, through the influence of the good Edmund Rich, a worthy successor of Stephen Langton in the archbishopric. A chief supporter of the clergy against Papal injustice was the admirable Robert Grosseteste, the learned and patriotic bishop of Lincoln, an intimate friend of two-other excellent men, Adam Marsh (or de Marisco), a Franciscan friar, and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, a Frenchman by birth, but a thorough Englishman in character. These three men, bishop, baron, arid friar, were devoted to the common purpose of Social and ecclesiastical reform, firmly united against Papal and regal oppression. It was through Adam Marsh that the earl became Well known to the reforming party among the burgesses of the towns, who were his strong supporters against the king. Of the French possessions of the Crown, only Aquitaine and Gascony remained, and Henry's exactions -were largely due to the needs of his useless warfare in those territories against France. In 1258 a revolt of the barons, without present warfare, led to the passing of the Provisions of Oxford, in a parliament held at that city, and the government passed into the hands of a committee of nobles. In 1264 civil war began, and the king and his son Prince Edward were defeated at the battle of Lewes. Under the influence of De Montfort, a parliament met in which were present the original of the ''county members" of the House of Commons, in the-persons Of four knights from each shire, sitting with the barons and-higher Clergy (bishops and greater abbots). In the following year, 1265, the first form of the existing House of Commons appeared in the presence of representatives of the cities and boroughs, being two chosen by the burgesses of each of certain towns. It was in 1295, under Edward I., that this became legal and settled.

In order to complete this statement, we note that in 1322, under Edward II., an Act ordained that the Commons must take part in all future legislation, and in-1341 the Commons sat apart from the Barons or Lords, and henceforth there was a Parliament of two Houses. In 1354, also, under Edward III., the petitions of the Commons for changes in the law, with the assent of the Lords, ceased to be liable to alteration by the sovereign, and the present form of statutes or Acts of Parliament thus arose. Under Plantagenet kings, in days when there was no standing army to coerce the people, we see thoroughly established the following restraints on royal authority: that the king, without Parliament, could make no law, nor raise money legally by taxation; and that the House of Commons could impeach, i.e. accuse as criminals before the Lords, as the highest judicial body in the realm, any evil counsellors (ministers) of the sovereign, and, on proof of the case, ensure their removal and punishment. It is here that we have the enormous difference, as regards popular control of the Crown, between England and all foreign nations of the later mediaeval period. Under feudal influences, in those other countries, the national assemblies, representing the different classes of freemen - the nobles, the clergy, and the commons, or general body of citizens in the towns - which had arisen in western and central Europe, lost all power. The monarchs became absolute, partly through taking advantage of quarrels between the nobles and the commons, and, when they became the heads of standing armies of trained men, instead of a mere feudal militia, they were able to defy popular opinion. The firm maintenance in England, on the whole, of the constitutional right of withholding money, combined with the, insular position which rendered a standing force less needful to prevent invasion, made political liberty abide here, when it had vanished from France and Germany and Spain, and in some measure from the northern Teutonic countries or Scandinavia. The power of Parliament in this country was signally shown in 1327 and 1399, when it was used to dethrone and replace sovereigns.

Of Ireland and Scotland during this period there is little to record. In 1158 Adrian IV. (Nicholas Breakspear, the only Englishman that ever filled the Papal chair) issued a bull empowering Henry II. to conquer Ireland for the Papal See, in the interests of law order, and civilisation. In 1166 some nobles of South Wales ,Robert Fitz-Stephen and Richard de Clare, earl of Pembroke, surnamed Strongbow, went over with a force of knights, men-at-arms, and Welsh archers, and easily routed any natives that opposed them Dublin was taken by surprise, Wexford and Waterford by storm. Pembroke, marrying Eva, daughter of an Irish ruler, became "king of Leinster," and in 1171 Henry II. went over and received homage from many of the Irish chiefs. This conquest of Ireland was scarcely more than nominal. The Anglo-Normans held the territory near Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Cork, and Drogheda, under the name, in later times, of "the English Pale," or the Pale, meaning district, enclosed land. Beyond these limits the tribal warfare went on, and the nobles within the Pale passed their time in ill-treating the natives and English colonists, and in quarrelling with each other. In their new surroundings, the so-called conquerors degenerated into Irish ways, and became half-wild themselves, and inclined to repudiate English rule. King John, in a campaign which he carried on with much skill in 1210, forced the barons back to allegiance, and his departure was succeeded by incessant warfare between the Irish and the "men of the Pale." In Scotland David I. (1124-1153) established feudal rule, and was himself, as earl of Huntingdon in England, a vassal of the English sovereign. We have seen him fighting and beaten in 1138, when he invaded the north of England on behalf of his niece Matilda's claim against the usurper Stephen. David was a great supporter of the Church, and founded, amongst many abbeys, those of Holyrood and Melrose. William the Lion (1165-1214), who reigned longer than any Scottish king, has also been seen in his contest against Henry II. The two countries were connected, in a way, by the marriage of his son Alexander II. (1214-1249) with Joanna, sister of Henry III. of England. Under Alexander III. (1249-1286) there was warfare with Haco of Norway, a powerful sovereign, for possession of the Hebrides, a matter which was victoriously settled for Scotland by the battle of Largs in Ayrshire. Under this sovereign, the country was brought, to a large extent, under feudal law, and into a fair condition of prosperity and civilisation. There was no fixed capital, but there were palaces at towns called "Royal Burghs," including Edinburgh, Stirling, Scone, Aberdeen, and Inverness. These places, and others of the same class, had special privileges, and became, with wealth obtained by trading, centres of democratic influence against the turbulent and lawless barons who were, for hundreds of years, the pest of Scotland. The Church had, by the 13th century, been established in a form akin to that of England in ritual and organisation, with 13 dioceses, and cathedral, parochial, and monastic systems.

As regards Wales, William the Conqueror settled barons along the frontier, and Norman castles were built in the centre and south. Under his successor Rufus, a great rising of the people won back much of the conquered territory, and it was not until the next reign that any firm hold was obtained, when Normans and English settled in Pembroke and Glamorgan. The popular Bards, by their songs appealing to patriotic spirit, made a great stir at this time, and the Welsh were strongly roused thereby. Under Henry II, there was again a national gathering in arms, and the king's forces were repeatedly beaten by those of the "Lords of Snowdon," as certain chieftains in the north were styled. King John waged war in 1211 with success in South Wales, but all his work was undone when his energies were taxed in conflict with the English barons, and the Britons of the western region became united and free under a prince named Llewellyn, who ruled from 1194 to 1246- He had been a vassal to John, but the Papal excommunication of the king put an end to all allegiance, and the capture of Shrewsbury was followed by the expulsion of other royal garrisons in the south of the country Another Llewellyn, ruling from 1246 to 1283, conquered Glamorgan, and under Henry III. had the control of the country as "Prince of Wales," a title yielded to him on condition of formal vassalship to the English king.

In dealing with the Scandinavian kingdoms, we pass, for the sake of clearness, beyond the bounds of the period under review, and trace the history down to the close of the 14th century. In Denmark, under the feudal system, a powerful nobility arose, and the free people were reduced to the condition of serfs. Wademar I. (1157-1182) conquered the Wends of Pomerania and Mecklenburg, and added Norway to his dominions. His son and successor, Cnut VL, went beyond his father, in throwing off allegiance to the emperor Frederick I. (Barbarossa), and his brother, Waldemar II. (1202-1241), surnamed " the Conqueror," had great success in the earlier part of his reign, subduing so much of north Germany and the Wendish territory as to make the Baltic a kind of Danish sea. These conquests were, however, rapidly lost through the king's treacherous capture by a German vassal-prince, when he was forced to give up all territory south of the Elbe and in the Slav or Wendish land to the east. Papal power interfered to annul this involuntary renunciation, but Waldemar was unable to regain the territory, and of all his conquests there remained only the island of Rugen, with a few places on the mainland of Germany and Prussia. Great strife-followed his unwise division of the kingdom among his sons, and the country fell into a condition of weakness and misery. Before the middle of the 14th century, one of the kings made concessions to the nobles and the clergy which crippled the royal power for centuries. Ecclesiastics and their feudal tenants could only be tried in Church-courts, and the bishops were, as regarded offences, only under Papal jurisdiction. The property and persons of the clergy were freed from taxation. The nobles were not bound to follow the king to war beyond the limits of the realm, and the declaration of war itself depended on the consent of nobles and clergy. Legislation was based on the consent of every class in the national Diet or parliament, and the rights of all freemen against unjust imprisonment were secured. Under Waldemar III. (1340- 1375), some recovery of lost territory was made, but then came war with Sweden, the powerful Hanseatic League, and Other rivals, and in 1370 the League gained the concession of great commercial privileges. His grandson Olaf, already king of Norway in succession to his father Hakon or Haco, was a minor, and Denmark and Norway were well ruled under the regency of Margaret, his mother, who became queen of both countries, by election of the estates of the realms, on her young son's death in 1387. In the following year this able woman accepted the offer of the crown of Swedetij where the king had been deposed by his revolted subjects, and in 1397 the Union of Calmar brought the three countries into formal political connection.

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Pictures for Northern and Western Europe: the British Isles; Denmark, Sweden, Norway; France; Spain; the Byzantine Empire. page 2

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