53. MORE DISSENSIONS ABOUT ECCLESIASTICAL APPOINTMENTS
In reading the histories of these times, any good heart would lament and rue to see the miserable captivity of the people, what they suffered under this thraldom of the bishop of Rome, whereof part hath been showed before, more (God willing) shall follow hereafter, and some part presently I mind to express.
And first to begin with the elections of the bishops, abbots, deans, and priors within this realm, it cannot be told what mass of money grew to the pope's coffers thereby, especially in this king's days; forasmuch as in his time lightly no election happened, either of archbishop, bishop, abbot, or any room of dignity, but when the convent or chapter had chosen one to their mind, the king, who had married a stranger, and sought therefore to prefer strangers, would set up another. By reason whereof, when the other part was fain to appeal to Rome, and there to plead the case, no small rivers of English money, besides expenses and travel by the way, went flowing to the pope's see. And although the election went never so clear, yet the new elect must needs respect the holy father with some gentle reward, and further by his oath was bound every three years, either in his own person or by another, to visit limina apostolorum.
So in the house of St. Albans, when John Herford was elected abbot, their public election was not enough; but, for the confirmation of the same, the monks were fain to send Reinold the physician, and Nicholas a monk, to Rome with a sufficient bag of money, through the mediation whereof the election might stand, and the new abbot was sworn every third year by himself or another to visit the doorsills of the apostles.
Another such-like contention happened between the king and the monks of Winchester, about the election of William Rale, whom the monks had chosen, but the king refused, willing to place a stranger, and therefore sent to Rome his messengers, Theobald, a monk of Westminster, and Master Alexander, a lawyer, with no small sum of money to evacuate the election of the foresaid William Bale; commanding, moreover, that the gates of Winchester should be shut against him, and that no man should be so hardy there to receive him in the house. Whereupon the said W. being excluded, after he laid his curse upon the whole city of Win chester, made his repair to Rome; where, for eight hundred marks being promised to the pope, his bishopric (spite of the king's heart) was confirmed, and he received.
After the death of Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, ye heard before how the monks had elected Walter, a monk of Canterbury. But the king, to stop that election, sent up his proctors, M. Alexander Stanes, and M. Henry Sandford, bishop of Rochester, to the pope, to evacuate that election, and to place Richard, chancellor of Lincoln. Which proctors perceiving at first how hard and unwilling the pope and cardinals were thereunto, and considering how all things might be bought for money, rather than the king should fail of his purpose, they promised on the king's behalf to the pope, for maintaining his wars against Frederic the emperor, a disme or tenth part of all the movables in the realm of England and of Ireland. At the contemplation of which money the pope eftsoons, thinking to pass with the king, began to pick quarrels with the aforesaid Walter, for not answering rightly to his questions about Christ's descending to hell, making of Christs body on the altar, the weeping of Rachel for her children, she being dead before, about the sentence of excommunication, and certain causes of matrimony. His answers whereunto, when they were not to the pope's mind, be was therefore put back, and the king's man preferred, which cost the whole realm of England and Ireland the tenth part of their movable goods, by reason whereof what money was raised to the pope's ecclesiastical treasury I leave to the estimation of the reAder, A.D. 1229.
And yet, for all this, the said Richard, the costly archbishop of Canterbury, within less than two years after, falling out with the king about the castle and lordship of Tunbridge, went and complained of him to the pope. In the traverse whereof it cost the king a great piece of money besides, and yet missed he his purpose. In the which journey the said archbishop, in his return homeward, by the way departed, A.D. 1231.
Of the like dissension ye heard before between the king and the convent of Durham, for not choosing M. Lucas, the king's chaplain, whom the king offered to be their bishop. About the suit whereof, when much money was bestowed on both sides well favouredly, the pope, defeating them both, admitted neither M. William nor M. Lucas, but ordained the bishop of Sarum to be their bishop, A.D. 1228.
Between the monks of Coventry and the canons of Litchfield rose another like quarrel, which of them should have the superior voice in choosing their bishop. In which suit, after much money bestowed in the court of Rome, the pope, to requalify again each part with some retribution for their money received, took this order indifferently between them, that each part by course should have the choosing of their bishop, A.D. 1228.
What business fell likewise between Edmund, archbishop of Canterbufy, and the monks of Rochester, about the election of Richard Wendour, to be their bishop! And what was the end? First, the archbishop was fain to travel himself to the pope, and so did the convent also send their proctors. Who, belike being better monied, weighed down the cause, so that the good archbishop in that cause against the monks, and partly in another cause against the earl of Arundel, was condemned of the pope in a thousand marks. Whereof the greatest part (no doubt) redounded to the pope's coffers, A.D. 1238.
After the returning of the said Edmund, archbishop of Canterbury, again from Rome, it chanced that the monks of Canterbury had elected their prior without his assent; for the which he did excommunicate the monks, and evacuate their election, Not long after this, the pope's exactors went about to extort from the churchmen the fifth part of their goods to the pope's use, fighting then against the emperor. This cruel exaction being a great while resisted by the prelates and clergy, at length the foresaid archbishop, thinking thereby to get the victory against the monks, was contented to grant to the said exaction, adding moreover of his own for an overplus eight hundred marks; whereupon the rest of the clergy was fain to follow after, and contribute to the pope's exactors, A.D. 1240.
In the church of Lincoln (whose see before the conquest was in Dorchester, and afterwards by William Rufus translated from thence to Lincoln) rose a grievous contention between Robert Grosthead, then bishop, and the canons of the cathedral church, about their visitation, whether the bishop should visit them or the dean; which matter, being put unto arbitrators, could not so be composed, before the bishop and the chapter, after their appeal made unto the pope, went both unto Rome, and there, after they had well wasted their purses, they received at length their answer, but paid full sweetly for it, A.D. 1239.
At what time the canons of Chichester had elected Robert Passelew to their bishop, at the king's request the archbishop, with certain other bishops, taking part against the king's chaplain, repelled him, and set up Richard Witch. Upon this, what sending and going there was unto Rome, and what money bestowed about the matter, as well of the king's part as of the bishops'!
Robert Grosthead, bishop of Lincoln, (of whom relation was made before,) having a great care how to bring the privilege orders of religious houses within his precinct under his subjection and discipline, went unto Rome, and there, with great labour and much effusion of money, (as the story saith,) procured of the pope a mandate, whereby all such religious orders were commanded to be under his power and obedience. Not long after the monks, not abiding that, (who could soon weigh down the bishop with money,) sent their factors to the pope, who with their golden eloquence so persuaded him, and stirred his affections in such sort, that soon they purchased to themselves freedom from their ordinary bishop. Whereof Robert Grosthead having intelligence made up to Rome, and there, complaining to the pope, declared how he was disappointed and confounded in his purpose, contrary to promises and assurance made to him before. Unto whom Pope Innocent, looking with a stern countenance, made this answer again, Brother, (said he,) what is that to thee? Thou hast delivered and discharged thine own soul. It hath pleased us to show favour unto them. Is thine eye ill, for that I am good? And thus was the bishop sent away with a flea in his ear, murmuring with himself, yet not so softly, but that the pope heard him say these words: O money, money, what canst not thou do in the court of Rome? Wherewith the pope, being somewhat pinched, gave this answer again: O ye Englishmen, Englishmen, of all men most wretched, for all your seeking is how ye may consume and devour one another, &c., A.D. 1250.
It happened moreover the same year, that the said Robert Grosthead excommunicated and deprived one Ranulph, a beneficed person in his diocess, being accused of incontinency, who, after the term of forty days, refusing to submit himself, the bishop wrote to the sheriff of Rutland to apprehend him as contumacious. Which sheriff, because he deferred or refused so to do, (bearing favour to the party,) and being therefore solemnly excommunicate by the bishop, uttered his complaint to the king. Whereat the king taking great displeasure with the bishop for excommunicating his sheriff, and not first making his complaint to him, sendeth forth with a substantial messenger, (Master Moneta,) such as he was sure would speed, unto Pope Innocent, by virtue of whose words the pope, easy to be entreated, sendeth down a proviso to the abbot of Westminster, charging that no prelate nor bishop in the realm of England should molest or enter action against any of the king's bailiffs or officers in such matters as to the king's jurisdiction appertained. And thus was the strife ended not without some help and heap of English money; so that no wind of any controversy here stirred in England, were it never so small, but it blew some profit for the pope's advantage, A.D. 1250.
In like manner no little treasure grew to the pope's coffers by the election of Boniface, the queen's uncle, a Frenchman, to be archbishop of Canterbury, A. D 1243, and of Ethelmare, the queen's brother, to be bishop of Winchester against the wills of the prior and convent there, A. D 1250, besides many such other escheats, which made England poor, and the pope rich.