Ex-Classics Home Page

Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 54. PAPAL GREED AND CORRUPTION


    I come now something likewise to touch briefly of the pope's dispensations, provisions, exactions, contributions, and extortions in England in this king's days; for to discourse all, it is not one book will hold it.

    Simon Montfort, earl of Leicester, had married Eleanor, the king's sister, and daughter of King John, who, by report of stories, had taken the mantle and ring. Wherefore the king, and his brother Richard, earl of Exeter, were greatly offended with the marriage; which the Earl Simon seeing, made a hand of money, and posting over to Rome, after he had talked a few words in Pope Innocent's ear, the marriage was good enough; and letters were sent to Otho, the pope's legate here, to give sentence solemnly with the earl. Notwithstanding, the Dominic friars, and other of the like religious fraternity, withstood that sentence of the pope stoutly, saying that the pope's Holiness was therein deceived, and souls in danger; that Christ was jealous over his wife; and that it could not be any wise possible, that a woman which had vowed marriage with Christ could afterward marry with any other, &c.

    As there was nothing so hard in the wide worid wherewith the pope would not dispense for money, so by the said dispensations much mischief was wrought abroad. For by reason thereof the people, trusting upon the pope's dispensation, little regarded what they did, what they promised, or what they sware; as well appeared by this King Henry the Third; who being a great exactor of the poor commons, as ever was any king before him or since, and thinking thereby to win the people sooner to his devotion, most faithfully promised them once or twice, and thereto bound himself with a solemn oath, both before the clergy and laity, to grant unto them the old liberties and customs, as well of Magna Charta as Charta de Foresta, perpetually to be observed. Whereupon a quindecim was granted to the king. But after the payment was sure, the king, trusting by the pope's dispensation for a little money to be discharged of his oath and covenant, went from that he had promised and sworn before.

    In like manner the said king another time, being in need of money, signed himself with the cross, pretending and swearing deeply, in the face of the whole parliament, that he would himself personally fight in the Holy Land against the Saracens. But as soon as the money was taken, small care was had for performance of his oath, being so put in the head by certain about him, that he needed not to pass of that perjury, forasmuch as the pope, for a hundred pounds or two, would quickly discharge him thereof.

    Out of the same corrupt spring of these popish dispensations have proceeded also many other foul absurdities. For where many young men were in those days which enjoyed benefices, and were no priests, and when by the procurement of Robert Grosthead, bishop of Lincoln, the said young men should be forced, whether they would or not, to enter orders; they, laying their purses together, sent to Rome, and obtained of the pope a dispensation to remain still as they were, that is, to have the fruits of benefices to find them at school or university, and yet themselves neither ministers to take charge, nor yielding any service for their profits taken; besides innumerable heaps of enormities more, proceeding of the pope's dispensations, as dispensing one man to have sundry bishopries, to encroach pluralities of benefices, to make children parsons, to legitimate bastards, with such other like; the particulars whereof, for brevity sake, I do omit to further opportunity.

    Although these emoluments, thus rising daily to the pope's purse by simony and bribery, by elections and dispensatious, might seem sufficient to satisfy his greedy appetite; yet so unsatiable was the avarice of that see, that he, not yet contented here with, over and besides all this, sent every where almost some legate or other into this realm to take for his advantage. Insomuch that during all this king's time the realm was never lightly without some of the pope's leaguers, with all violence exacting and extorting continual provisions, contributions, and sums of money to be levied out of cells, abbeys, priories, fruits of benefices, and bishoprics, and also laymen's purses, to the miserable impoverishing both of the clergy and temporalty, as hereunder followeth.

    First, after Pandulphus, was sent into this realm Cardinal Otho, procured by the king without the assent of his nobles, to the intent to assist him in certain affairs he had to do. At receiving of which legate great preparation was made; many rich and precious gifts in scarlet, in plate, in jewels, in money and palfreys, were given him. Whom the king also himself went as far as the sea-side to receive, bowing down his head in low courtesy to the cardinal's knees; to whom also the bishop of Winchester for his part gave, towards keeping of his house, fifty fat oxen, a hundred seams of wheat, and eight great vessels of pure wine. This legate, at his first coming, beginneth first to bestow such benefices as he found vacant upon them whom he brought with him, without respect whether they were meet or unmeet.

    After this, the pope, hearing how the nobles and commons of the realm began to stomach the cardinal for his excessive procurations and exactions, sent for him home; but the king, by reason he stood in fear of his nobles, and thought to have a stay by the cardinal against all occurrents, entreated him to stay while he wrote to the pope to obtain further licence for him to tarry; and so he did, not without some English money ye may be sure.

    In this mean time of vacation, Otho, thinking to lose no time, but to gather also some crumbs in Scotland, made as though he would set things there in order, which were in the Church of Scotland to be reformed, and so cometh to the king of Scots, being then in York with King Henry, to have leave to enter. Unto whom the king thus made answer, that he never saw, to his remembrance, any pope's legate in his land, neither was there any such need (God he praised) for such to be sent for. Matters there were well enough, and needed no help of his. And as he could never learn, neither in the days of his father, or any his predecessors, that any such entrance to any legate was granted; so he for his part would not now begin. But yet, notwithstanding, forasmuch as I hear (said he) that you are a good man, this I tell you before, that if you will needs adventure in, do it warily, and take heed to yourself, lest it happen to you otherwise than I would wish; for they be a savage and unruly people, given much to murder and shedding blood, whom I myself am scarce able to bridle; so that if they fall upon you, I shall not be able to help you. And how they also invaded me, and sought to expel me from my kingdom, ye heard of late. And therefore I warn you before, take heed betime what you think best to do. After the cardinal heard the king speak these words, he plucked in his horns, and durst proceed no further, but kept him still by the side of King Henry. Notwithstanding, shortly after, the same legate, coming to the borders of Scotland, there called the bishops to him; and so, when he had well filled his bags, came back again.

    It was not long after, but licence came from Pope Gregory to his legate Otho, for his longer abode here in the realm, (as welcome as water in the ship,) with new authority also to proceed in the pope's affairs. Who first showing to the bishops and the clergy his letters of longer tarrying, required of them, forasmuch as no man, said he, warreth of his own charges, to be supported with new procurations; which was, to have of every able church four marks; and where one church was not able to reach thereto, that other churches should join withal to make the said money. Notwithstanding the bishops a great while stood in the denial thereof.

    Besides, he assembled together all the black monks of St. Benedict's order, giving to them strict orders, which shortly after for money he released to them again.

    Moreover, by the said Otho, and the pope's other exactions, with special bulls directed down for the same, collation of benefices being taken out of the hands of the patrons, were given to light and vile runnagates, coming from Italy and other places, such as pleased the pope and his legate to bestow them upon, to the great prejudice of the ancient liberty and right of the true patrons thereof. Whereupon the earls, and barons, and nobles of the realm addressed letters to Pope Gregory by Sir Robert Twing, knight, for redress of such wrongs and injuries; who otherwise should be forced, they said, to invocate the succour of their king, who both was able, and was no less willing, according to his duty, theytrusted, to reform such enormities, and to defend the liberties of his realm.

    Not long after the same, in the year of our Lord 1240, came a new precept from Pope Gregory, by Peter Rubeus, the pope's nuncio, to the aforesaid Otho, that all beneficed men of the clergy, as well in England as in France, should pay to the pope the fifth part of their revenues. Whereupon, when the clergymen made their complaint to the king, seeking to be relieved by him, the king answered them again, that he neither would nor durst stand against the pope in any case, and so without all hope of succour sent them away. Then were the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and prelates of the church commanded to assemble together at Reading, there to hear the pope's pleasure and commandment concerning the payment of this fifth part, where in the end thus the matter concluded, that the prelates desired a further time to be given them to advise upon the matter: and for that season the assembly brake up. Notwithstanding at last, after many excuses and exceptions laid in by the clergy; first, that because the money was gathered to fight against the emperor, they ought not to contribute their money, contrary to the liberties of the church. Item, for somuch as they had paid a tenth not long before unto the pope, upon condition that no more such payments should be required of them, much less now the fifth part should be exacted of them, because an action twice done maketh a custom. Item, seeing they had oftentimes to repair unto the court of Rome, if they should give this money against the emperor, it would turn to their danger coming through his land. Item, seeing their king had many enemies, against whom they must needs relieve the king with their money, they could not so do if the realm were thus impoverished. &c. All which excuses; with divers other more notwithstanding, they were compelled at length to conform themselves to the pope's good pleasure, through the example given of Edmund, archbishop of Canterbury; who, to obtain his purpose against the monks of Canterbury, (with whom he was then in strife,) began first to yield to the legates eight hundred marks for his part, whereby the rest also were fain to follow after.

    Furthermore, the same year the pope agreed so with the people of Rome, that if they would aid him against Frederic the emperor, whatever benefices were to be given in England, the same should he at their arbitrement to he bestowed upon their children. Whereupon commandment was sent to the aforesaid Edmund, archbishop, to the bishops of Lincoln and Sarum, that all the collations of benefices within the realm should he suspended, till provision were made for three hundrod children of the citizens of Rome to be first served. Upon the which so miserable request, the said Edmund, archbishop of Canterbury, for sorrow to see the church so oppressed, departed the realm, and so continued in France, and died at Pontigny. Which Edmund was afterward made a saint, and canonized by Pope Innocent the Fourth.

    This done, then went Peter Rubeus, the pope's nuncio, and Ruffinus, into Scotland, from whence they brought with them three thousand pounds to the pope's use about All-hallow-tide the same year. At which time moreover cometh another harpy from the pope to England, named Mumelius, bringing with him three and twenty Romans here into the realm to be beneficed. Thus, what by the king on the one side, and what by the cardinal Otho, Peter Rubeus, Ruffinus, and Mumelius, on the other side, poor England was in a wretched case.

    Another pretty practice of the pope to prowl for money was this: The aforesaid Peter Rubeus, coming into religious houses and into their chapters, caused them to contribute to the pope's Holiness, by the example of this bishop, and that abbot, pretending that he and he, of their own voluntary devotion, had given so much and so much, and so seduced them. Also the pope craftily suborned certain friars, authorized with full indulgence, that whosoever had vowed to fight in the Holy Land, and was disposed to be released of his vow, needed not to repair to Rome for absolution; but paying so much money as his charges would come to going thither, he resorting to the said friars might he assoiled at home.

    This passed in the year 1240. Now all these troubles laid together were enough to vex the meekest prince in the world; whereto, by way of access to the king's further molestation, he had much ado with the prelates and clergymen of his realm, who were always tampering with his title, especially in their assemblies and councils; to whom the king, to restrain them from that presumption, did both send and write, as appeareth by this evidence of record. The king sent Geoffrey Langley to the archbishop of York, and to other bishops, purposed to meet at Oxford, to appeal for him, lest, in the said council there called, they should presume to ordain something against his crown and dignity. This was done in the year of our Lord 1241. In which year also came a commandment apostolical to the house of Peterborough, that they at the pope's contemplation must needs grant him some benefice lying in their donation, the fruits whereof were worth at least a hundred pounds, and if it were more it should be the better welcome; so that they should be as the farmers, and he to receive the profits. In fine, the convent excused themselves by the abbot being then not at home. The abbot, when he came home, excused himself by the king being the patron and founder of the house. The king, being grieved with the unreasonable ravening of these Romanists, utterly forbade any such example to be given. But what happened? The abbot, being therefore accused to the pope by one of the legates, and coming up about four years after, in the time of Pope Innocent, to the Council of Lyons, was so rated and reviled, and so shamefully thrust out of the pope's court, that for sorrow he fell sick upon the same, and there died.

    In the time of which Council of Lyons, Pope Innocent the Fourth (forsomuch as the instrument or obligation whereby the realm of England stood tributary to the pope was thought to be burned in the pope's chamber a little before) brought forth either the same or another chart like unto it, where unto he straitly charged and commanded every English bishop, being there present at the council, severally to set to his hand and seal. Which unreasonable petition of the pope, albeit it went sore against the hearts of the bishops, yet (see in what miserable subjection the pope had all the bishops under him) none of them durst otherwise do but accomplish the pope's request therein, both to their own shame, and prejudice to the public freedom of the realm. Amongst which bishops, the longest that held out, and last that put to his seal, was the bishop of London. Which act, when the king and the nobility understood, they were mightily and worthily therewith all offended.

    After what time Cardinal Otho was sent for by Pope Gregory in all haste to come to the general council, two other in his room here remained, whose names were Peter Rubeus, and Peter de Supino. Of whom the one, bearing himself for the pope's kinsman, brought out his bills and bulls, under the pope's authority, to such an abbot, or to such a prior, or to such and such a bishop, and so extorted from them a great quantity of gold and silver. The other, to wit, Peter de Supino, sailed to Ireland, from whence he brought with him a thousand and five hundred marks to the pope's use. All which money, notwithstanding gotten by both the collectors, in the carriage of it up to Rome, about the death of Pope Gregory, happened into the hands of Frederic the emperor, who caused it again to be restored, as near as he could, to them of whom it was taken.

    After these came in then Master Martin, a new merchant from the new Pope Innocent the Fourth, A.D. 1244, armed with full power to suspend all prelates in England from giving benefices, till the pope's kinsmen were first preferred. Neither would he take the fruits of any benefice, unless it were above the value of thirty marks. At his first coming he required of prelates, and especially of religious houses, to furnish him with horses and palfreys, such as were convenient for the pope's especial chaplain and legate to sit upon; also with plate, raiment, provision for his kitchen and cellar, &c., and such as denied or excused he suspended, as the abbot of Malmesbury, and the prior of Merton. All prebends that were void he sought out, and reserved them for the pope's behoof; among which was the golden prebend of Sarum, belonging to the chancellor of the choir, whom he preferred to the bishopric of Bath, and so seized upon the prebend being void, against the wills both of the bishop and the chapter. Moreover, he brought with him blanks in paper and parchment, signed in the pope's chamber with his stamp and seal, wherein he might afterward write to whom and what he would; requiring furthermore. of the king, in the pope's behalf, to help his Holiness with a contribution to be taxed amongst his clergy, at least of ten thousand marks. And to the end that the pope might win the king sooner to his devotion, he writeth in the king's behoof to the nobles and commons of the realm, that they should not fail, upon pain of his great curse, to confer such subsidy of money to the subvention of the king, as he then had demanded of them; but they stood stiff in not granting to him.

    While the insatiable avarice of the pope thus made no end in gathering riches and goods together in England, the nobles and barons, with the community as well of the clergy as the laity, weighing the miserable state of the realm, and, namely, of the church, which now neither had liberty left them to choose their own ministers, nor yet could enjoy their own livings, laid their heads together, and so exhibited an earnest intimation to the king, beseeching him to consider the pitiful affliction and oppression of his subjects under the pope's extortion, living in more thraldom than ever did the people of Israel under Pharaoh. Whereupon the king, beginning at last to look up, and to consider the injuries and wrongs received in this realm, through the avarice of the court of Rome, directeth to Pope Innocent the Fourth this letter in tenor as followeth:

    "To the most holy father in Christ, and lord, Innocent, by the grace of God chief bishop, Henry, by the same grace king of England, &c., greeting and kissings of his blessed feet. The more devout and obsequious the son showeth himself in obeying the father's will, the more favour and supportation doth he deserve to find at his father's hands again. This therefore I write, for that whereas both we and our realm have ever and in all things been hitherto at the devotion and commandment of your fatherhood; and that although, in some certain affairs of ours and of our kingdom, we have found your fatherly favour and grace sometimes propitious unto us, yet in some things again, as in provisions given and granted to your clerks of foreign nations, both we and our kingdom have felt no small detriment. By reason of which provisions the Church of England is so sore charged and burdened, that not only the patrons of churches, to whom the donations thereof do appertain, are defrauded of their right, but also many other good works of charity thereby do decay, for that such benefices. which have been mercifully bestowed upon religious houses to their sustentation, are now wasted and consumed by your provisions.

    "Wherefore, forasmuch as your see apostolic ought to be favourable to all that be petitioners to the same, so that no person be wronged in that which is his right, we thought therefore to be suitors to your fatherhood, most humbly beseeching your Holiness, that you will desist and surcease for a time from such provisions to be exacted. In the mean season, it may please your fatherhood, we beseech you, that our laws and liberties (which you may rightly repute none other but your own) you will receive to your tuition, to be conserved whole and sound, nor to suffer the same by any sinister suggestion in your court to be violated and infringed. Neither let your Holiness be any whit moved therefore with us, if in some such cases as these be we do or shall hereafter resist the tenor of your commandments; forsomuch as the complaints of such which daily call upon us do necessarily enforce us thereunto; which ought, by the charge of this our office and kingly dignity committed to us of Almighty God, to foresee that no man in that which is their right be injured, but truly to minister justice to every one in that which duly to him appertaineth." -- This letter was sent the eight and twen tieth year of the king's reign.

    A man would think that this so gentle and obedient letter of the king to the pope would have wrought some good effect in his apostolical breast, to withdraw his provisions, and to have tendered the king's so reasonable and honest request; but how little all this prevailed to stop his insatiable greediness, and intolerable extortions and oppressions, the sequel well declareth. For besides that shortly after the pope sent Master Martin with blanks, being bulled for contribution of ten thousand marks, in all haste to be paid also, even immediately upon the receiving of this letter, it followeth in mine author, that the said Pope Innocent the Fourth, after all this great submission of the king, and so manifold benefits and payments yearly out of his realm received, was not ashamed to take of David, prince of North Wales, five hundred marks by year, to set him against the king of England, and exempted him from his fealty and obediehee due to his own liege lord and king, to whom both he and all other Welchmen had sworn their subjection before, as by the seals and obligations, as well of that David himself, as other Welch lords in this behalf, doth appear.

    Neither did Master Martin in the mean while slip his business, in making up his market for the pope's money of ten thousand marks, but still was calling upon the prelates and clergy. Who, first excusing themselves by the absence of the king and the archbishop of Canterbury, afterward being called again by new letters, made their answer by the dean of Paul's, their prolocutor:

    First, that the poverty of the realm would not suffer them to consent thereto.

    Item, whereas they had given before a contribution to Cardinal Otho for paying of the pope's debts, and knew the said money to be employed to no such end as it was demanded for, more cause they had now to misdoubt, lest this contribution in his hands, which was a much more inferior messenger than the cardinal, would come to the same or a worse effect.

    Item, if they should now agree to a new contribution, they feared lest it would grow to a custom, seeing that one action twice done maketh a custom.

    Item, forasmuch as a general council is shortly looked for, where every prelate of the realm must needs bestow both his travel and expenses, and also his present to the pope, if the prelates now should be bound to this tax, they were not able to abide' this burden.

    Item, seeing it is alleged, that the mother church of Rome is so far in debt, reason and right it were that the mother so oppressed should be sustained of all her devout children meeting together in the ge neral council; whereas by helps of many more relief might come more than by one nation alone.

    Item, last of all, they alleged that, for fear of the emperor and his threatenings, they durst not consent to the said contribution.

    While these things were thus in talk between the pope's priests and the clergy of England, cometh in John Mariscal and other messengers from the king, commanding, in the king's name, that no bishop that held his baronage of the king should infief his lay fee to the court of Rome, which they owed only to

him, &c.

    Not long after this, in the year of our Lord 1245, the whole nobility of the realm, by general consent, and not without the king's knowledge also, caused all the ports by the sea-side to be laid, that no me senger with the pope's letters and bulls from Rome should be permitted to enter the realm, whereunto some were taken at Dover, and there stayed. Notwithstanding, when complaint thereof was brought to the king by Master Martin, the pope's legate, there was no remedy, but the king must needs cause these letters to be restored again and executed to the full effect.

    Then the king upon advice caused a view to be taken through every shire in England to what sum the whole revenues of the Romans and Italians amounted, which by the pope's authority went out of England; the whole sum whereof was found yearly to be threescore thousand marks, to the which sum the revenues of the whole crown of England did not extend.

    The nobles then, understanding the miserable oppression of the realm, being assembled together at Dunstable for certain causes, sent one Fulco, in the name of the whole nobility, unto Master Martin, the pope's merchant. with this message, that he without delay upon the same warning should prepare himself to be gone out of the realm, under pain of being cut all to pieces. At which message the legate being sore aghast, went straight to the king, to know whether his consent was to the same or not. Of whom, when he found little better comfort, he took his leave of the king, who bade him adieu in the devil's name, saith Matth. Paris; and thus was the realm rid of Master Martin.

    As soon as Pope Innocent had hereof intelligence by the complaint of his legate, he was in a mighty rage. And furthermore, remembering how the French king and the king of Arragon not long before had denied him entrance into their land, and being therefore in displeasure with them likewise, he began in great anger to knit his brows, and said, It is best that we fall in agreement with our prince, whereby we may the sooner bring under these little petty kings; and so, the great dragon being pacified, these little serpents we shall handle at our own pleasures as we list.

Illustration -- Lyons

    After this, immediately then followed the general Council of Lyons, to the which council the lords and states of the realm, with the consent of the commonalty, sent two bills; one containing a general supplication to the pope and the council, the other with the articles of such grievances which they desired to be redressed, whereof relation is made suffieiently before. The other bill of the supplication, because it is not before expressed, I thought here to exhibit for two causes: first, that men now in these days may see the pitiful blindness of those ignorant days, wherein our English nation here did so blindly humble themselves and stand to the pope's courtesy, whom rather they should have shaken off, as the Grecians did. Secondly, that the pride of the pope might the better appear in his colours, who so disdainfully rejected the humble suit of our lords and nobles, when they had much more cause to disdain rather and to stamp him under their feet. The tenor of the supplication was this.

The copy of the suppliccation written in the names of all the nobles and commons of England to Pope Innocent the Fourth, in the general Council at Lyons, A.D. 1245.

    "To the reverend father in Christ, Pope Innocent, chief bishop, the nobles, with the whole commonalty of the realm of England, sendeth commendation, with kissing of his blessed feet.

    "Our mother, the Church of Rome, we love with all our hearts, as our duty is, and covet the increase of her honour with so much affection as we may, as to whom we ought always to fly for refuge, whereby the grief lying upon the child, may find comfort at the mother's hand. Which succour the mother is bound so much the rather to impart to her child, how much more kind and beneficial she findeth him in relieving her necessity. Neither is it to the said our mother unknown how beneficial and bountiful a giver the realm of England hath been now of long time for the more amplifying of her exaltation, as appeared by your yearly subsidy, which we term by the name of Peter pence. Now the said church, not contented with this yearly subsidy, hath sent divers legates for other contributions, at divers and sundry times, to be taxed and levied out of the same realm; all which contributions and taxes notwithstanding have been lovingly and liberally granted.

    "Furthermore, neither is it unknown to your fatherhood, how our forefathers, like good catholics, both loving and fearing their Maker, for the souls' health, as well of themselves as of their progenitors and successors also, have founded monasteries, and largely have endowed the same, both with their own proper lands, and also patronages of benefices; whereby such religious persons, professing the first and chiefest perfection of holy religion in their monasteries, might with more peace and tranquillity occupy themselves devoutly in God's service, as to the order appertained; and also the clerks, presented by them into their benefices, might sustain the other exterior labours for them in that second order of religion, and so discharge and defend them from all hazards: so that the said religious monasteries cannot be defrauded of those their patronages and collations of henefices, but the same must touch us also very near, and work intolerable griefs unto our hearts.

    "And now see, we beseech you, which is lamentable to behold, what injuries we sustain by you and your predecessors, who, not considering those our subsidies and contributions above remembered, do suffer also your Italians and foreigners (which be out of number) to be possessed of our churches and benefices in England, pertaining to the right and patronage of those monasteries aforesaid; which foreigners, neither defending the said religious per sons, whom they ought to see to, nor yet having the language whereby they may instruct the flock, take no regard of their souls, but utterly leave them of wild wolves to be devoured. Wherefore it may truly be said of them, that they are no good shepherds; whereas neither they know their sheep, nor the sheep do know the voice of their shepherds; neither do they keep any hospitality, but only take up the rents of those benefices, carrying them out of the realm, wherewith our brethren, our nephews, and our kinsfolks might be sustained, who could and would dwell upon them, and employ such exercises of mercy and hospitality as their duty required. Whereof a great number now for mere necessity are laymen, and fain to fly out of the realm.

    "And now, to the intent more fully to certify you of the truth, ye shall understand that the said Italians and strangers, receiving of yearly rents out of England not so little as three thousand marks by year, besides other avails and excises deducted, do reap in the said our kingdom of England more emoluments of mere rents than doth the king himself, being both tutor of the Church and governor of the land.

    "Furthermore, whereas at the first creation of your papacy we were in good hope, and yet are, that by means of your fatherly goodness we should enjoy our franchises, and free collation of our benefices and donatives, to be reduced again to the former state; now cometh another grievance, which we cannot but signify unto you, pressing us above measure, which we receive by Master Martin; who, entering late into our land, without leave of our king, with greater power than ever was seen before in any legate, although he beareth not the state and show of a legate, yet he hath doubled the doings of a legate, charging us every day with new mandates, and so most extremely hath oppressed us; first, in bestowing and giving away our benefices, if any were above thirty marks, as soon as they were vacant, to Italian persons.

    "Secondly, after the decease of the said Italians, unknown to the patrons, he hath intruded other Italians therein, whereby the true patrons have been spoiled and defrauded of their right.

    "Thirdly, the said Master Martin yet also ceaseth not to assign and confer such benefices still unto the like persons; and some he reserveth to the donation of the apostolic see; and extorteth moreover from religious houses immoderate pensions, excommunicating and interdicting whosoever dare gainsay him.

    "Wherefore, forasmuch as the said Master Martin hath so far extended his jurisdiction, to the great perturbation of the whole realm, and no less derogation to our king's privilege, to whom it hath been fully granted by the see apostolic, that no legate should have to do in his land but such as he by special letters did send for; with most humble devotion we beseech you, that as a good father will always be ready to support his child, so your fatherhood will reach forth your hand of compassion to relieve us your humble children from these grievous oppressions.

    "And although our lord and king, being a catholic prince, and wholly given to his devotions and service of Christ Jesus our Lord, so that be respecteth not the health of his own body, will fear and reverence the see apostolic, and, as a devout son of the Church of Rome, desireth nothing more than to advance the estate and honour of the same; yet we which travail in his affairs, bearing the heat and burden of the day, and whose duty, together with him, is to tender the preservation of the public wealth, neither can patiently suffer such oppressions, so detestable to God and man, and grievances intolerable, neither by God's grace will suffer them, through the means of your godly remedy, which we well hope and trust of you speedily to obtain. And thus may it please your fatherhood, we beseech you, to accept this our supplication, who in so doing shall worthily deserve of all the lords and nobles, with the whole commonalty of the realm of England, condign and special thanks accordingly."

    This supplication being sent by the hands of Sir H. Bigot, knight, and W. de Powick, esquire, Henry de la Mare, with other knights and gentlemen, after it was there opened and read, Pope Innocent, first keeping silence, deferred to make answer thereunto, making haste to proceed in his detestable excommunication and curse against the good Emperor Frederic. The which curse being done, and the English ambassadors waiting still for their answer, the pope then told them that they should not have their request fulfilled. Whereat the Englishmen, departing in great anger, sware with terrible oaths, that they would never more suffer any tribute, or fruits of any benefices, namely, whereof the noblemen were patrons, to be paid to that insatiable and greedy court of Rome, worthy to be detested in all worlds.

    The pope hearing these words, albeit making then no answer, thought to watch his time, and did. First, incontinent upon the same, during the said council, he caused every bishop of England to put his hand and seal to the obligation made by King John for the pope's tribute, as is above specified; threatening moreover, and saying, that if he had once brought down the emperor Frederic, he would bridle the insolent pride of England well enough.

    But here, by occasion of this Council at Lyons, that the reader may see upon what slippery uncertainty and variableness the state of the king did depend, it is material here to interlace the form of a letter sent by Henry the Third to the prelates of his land, before they were transported over sea to Lyons; wherein may be gathered, that the king doubted they would be shoving and heaving at his royalty; and therefore directed these letters unto them otherwise to prepare their affections; the tenor whereof followeth.

A letter of charge to the prelates of England, purposed to assemble in the Council at Lyons, that they should ordain nothing, &c. to their king's prejudice.

    "The king to the archbishops, bishops, and to all other prelates of his land of England, appointed to meet at a Council at Lyons, greeting. You are (as you know) bound unto us by oath, whereby you ought to keep all the fealty that you can unto us in all things, concerning our royal dignity and crown. Wherefore we command you upon the fealty and allegiance wherein you are firmly bound unto us, enjoining that you do your uttermost endeavour as well to get as to keep, and also to defend, the right of us and our kingdom. And that neither to the prejudice of us, or of the same kingdom, nor yet against us or our rights, which our predecessors and we by ancient and approved custom have used, you presume to procure or attempt any thing in your Couucil at Lyons; nor that you give assent to any that shall procure or ordain aught in this case. upon your oath aforesaid, and the loss of your temporalties, which you hold of us. Wherefore in this behalf so behave yourselves, that, for our good dealing and virtue of thankfulness, we may rather specially commend you, than for the contrary by you attempted (which God forbid) we reprove your unthankfulness, and reserve vengeance for you in due time. Witness myself, &c., the nine and twentieth year of our reign."

    In like sort wrote he to the archbishops and bishops, &c. of Ireland and Gascony.

    After this council ended, in the beginning of the next year following, A.D. 1246, Pope Innocent came to Cluniack, where was then appointed a secret meeting or colloquy between the pope and Louis the French king, who was then preparing his voyage to Jerusalem, in which colloquy the pope sought all means to persuade the French king, in revengement of his injury, to war contra regulum, as he termed him, that is, against the weak and feeble king of England, either to drive him utterly from his kingdom, or else to damnify him, whereby he should be constrained, whether he would or no, to stoop to the pope's will and obedience wherein he also would assist him with all the authority he could. Nevertheless the French king to this would not agree; first, for the consanguinity that was between them (for their two queens were sisters). Also for the truce that they had taken. Thirdly, for fear of the emperor, lest he should take his part. Item, for that it could not he without the much spilling of Christian blood. And lastly, because he was preparing his voyage to the Holy Land, where his coming was already looked for. And thus the French king, denying the pope's bloody request, refused not only to enter war against the king and the realm of England, but also shortly after concluded with him longer truce, A.D. 1246.

    Straight upon the neck of this followed then the exaction of Boniface, archbishop of Canterbury, that he had bought of the pope; which was to have the first year's fruits of all benefices and spiritual livings in England for the space of seven years together, until the sum should come to ten thousand marks. Whereat the king first was greatly grieved. But in conclusion he was fain at last to agree with the archbishop; and so the money was gathered.

    Over and besides all other exactions wherewith the pope miserably oppressed the Church of England, this also is not to be silenced, how the pope, sending down his letters from the see apostolic, charged and commanded the prelates to find him some ten, some five, and some fifteen able men, well furnished with horse and harness, for one whole year, to fight in the pope's wars. And lest the king should have knowledge thereof, it was enjoined them under pain of excommunication, that they should reveal it to none, but to keep it in secret only to themselves.

    The pope yet notwithstanding, partly being laboured by suitors, partly of his own mind thinking good somewhat to give to the king and people of England, as fathers are wont to give something to their babes to play withal to keep them still, sent down this releasement to the king, that hereafter, whensoever any of the pope's nephews or of his cardinals were to be beneficed in any church of England, either he or the cardinals should first make the king privy thereto, and instantly crave his good will in obtaining the procuration, or else the same to stand in no effect. Howbeit all this seemed to be done but of a policy to get the king's favour, whereby he might be suffered more freely to pass with greater exactions, as afterward appeared.

    For when the aforesaid Pope Innocent the Fourth had knowledge at the same time of certain rich clerks leaving great substance of money, which died intestate, as of one Robert Hailes, archdeacon of Lincoln, which died leaving thousands of marks and much plate behind him, all which, because no will was made, came to temporal men's hands; also of Master Almarike, archdeacon of Bedford, being found worth a great substance when he died; and likewise of another, John Hotosp, archdeacon of Northampton, who died suddenly intestate, leaving behind him five thousand marks, and thirty standing pieces of plate, with other infinite jewels besides; he sent forth upon the same a statute to be proclaimed in England, that whatsoever ecclesiastical person henceforth should decease in England intestate, that is, without making his will, all his goods should redound to the pope's use.

    Furthermore, the pope, not yet satisfied with all this, addresseth new letters to the bishop of Winchester, and to W., bishop of Norwich, for gathering up amongst the clergy and religious houses in England six thousand marks to the behoof of the holy mother church, without any excuse or delay, by virtue of obedience. Which tallage being greatly grudged of the clergy, when it came to the king's ear, he eftsoons directeth contrary letters to all the prelates and every one of them, commanding them, upon forfeiting their temporalities to the king, that no such subsidy money should be gathered or transported out of the realm. But the pope again hearing hereof, in great anger writeth to the prelates of England, that this collection of money, upon pain of excommunication and suspension, should be provided, and brought to the new temple in London, by the feast of the Assumption next ensuing.

    And furthermore, forasmuch as he perceived the king to go about to withstand his proceedings, taking thereat great disdain, he was about the same time to interdict the whole land. To whom then one of his cardinals, called Johan. Anglicus, an Englishman born, speaking for the realm of England, desired his fatherhood for God's cause to mitigate his moody ire, and with the bridle of temperance to assuage the passion of his mind; which, said he, to tell you plain, is here stirred up too much without cause. Your fatherhood, quoth he, may consider that these days be evil. First, the Holy Land lieth in great perils to be lost. All the Greek church is departed from us. Frederic the emperor is against us, the mightiest prince this day in all Christendom. Both you and we, which are the peers of the church, are banished from the papal see, thrust out of Rome, yea, excluded out of all Italy. Hungary, with all coasts bordering about it, looketh for nothing but utter subversion by the Tartarians. Germany is wasted and afflicted with inward wars and tumults. Spain is fierce and cruel against us, even to the cutting out of the bishops' tongues. France by us is so impoverished, that it is brought to beggary, which also conspireth against us. Miserable England, being so often plagued by our manifold injuries, even much like to Balaam's ass, beaten and bounced with spurs and staves, beginneth at length to speak and complain of her intolerable griefs and burdens, being so wearied and damnified, that she may seem past all recovery; and we, after the manner of Ishmael, hating of men, provoke all men to hate us, &c.

    Notwithstanding these words of Johannes Anglicus, his cardinal, the pope's choleric passion could not yet be appeased, but forthwith he sendeth commandment with full authority to the bishop of Worcester, that in case the king would not speedily surcease his rebellion against his apostolical proceedings, he would interdict his land. So that, in conclusion, the king, for all his stout enterprise, was fain to relent at last, and the pope had his money, A.D. 1246.

    Ye heard before of the Greek churches under the empire of Constantinople, how they sequestered themselves from the company of the Romish church. Insomuch that Germanus. the patriarch of Constantinople, and the archbishop of Antioch, did excommunicate the bishop of Rome. And after the said Germanus, another bishop of Constantinople, at the Council of Lyons, protested, that whereas before were thirty suffragans belonging to that province, now there were not three that held with the Church of Rome. And this breach, albeit it chiefly burst out in the time of Pope Gregory the Ninth, A.D. 1230, to open war and bloodshed, yet the same had begun, and so continued long before, in such sort, as in the time of Pope Innocent the Third, if any priest had said mass in their churches, they would wash the altar afterward; as appeareth by the Acts of the Lateran Council, cap. iv. Wherefore Pope Innocent now, (as his other predecessors had done before,) hearing an old grudge against those churches of the Greeks, and neither willing by conference to try with them, nor able by learning to match with them, thought by force of arms to subdue them, and sent the provincial of the Grey Friars, with other associates of the same order, into England with his precept authentical, containing in it these articles.

    "1. That the said provincial, or his friars, should inquire upon all usurers being alive; and of all such evil-gotten goods, gained per usurariam pravitatem, should make attachment for the use and preparation for this war against the Greeks, excommunicating all them by district censures of the church that repugned against it.

    "2. That all they which took the badge of the cross, for the recovery of the said empire of the Greeks, or with goods and cattle would help sufficiently unto the same, should be absolved of all their sins.

    "3. Item, that all the goods left in the testaments of them that were departed, being gotten by usury, should be taken up to the subsidy of the empire aforesaid, and whosoever repugned against the same should be excommunicated.

    "4. Item, that such goods as in the testaments of the dead were left, or which should be left three next years to come, for restitution of such goods as the dead had evil gotten, they should take up for the subsidy of the empire aforesaid, excommunicating, &c.

    "5. Item, such goods as were left to be distributed in godly uses, after the arbitrement of executors, by the wills of the dead, or were not in their wills deputed to any certain places or persons named, nor yet were bestowed by the said executors to the foresaid uses, they should collect to the use and subsidy aforesaid, and give certificate to the see apostolic of the quantity thereof, excommunicating all repugners and rebellers against the same.

    "6. Item, that they should diligently inquire of such men's goods evil gotten or evil come by as were alive, and them they should attach for the subsidy aforesaid, in case the party, which ought to be satisfied for those goods evil gotten, could not be found, giving certificate thereof, and excommunicating, &c.

    "7. Item, that the said provincial, or his friars, should have full power to absolve those that were excommunicated, which wittingly had done any fraud touching the collection aforesaid, so that the said persons did make due satisfaction to the deputies aforesaid."

    What man having eyes is so blind which seeth not these execrable dealings of the pope to be such, as would cause any nation in the world to do as the wise Grecians did, and perpetually to renounce the pope, and well to consider the usurped authority of that see not to be of God? But such was the rude dulness then of miserable England, for lack of learning and godly knowledge, that they, feeling what burdens were laid upon them, yet would play still the ass of Balaam, or else the horse of Æsop, which, receiving the bridle once in his mouth, could afterward neither abide his own misery, nor yet recover liberty. And so it fared with England under the pope's thraldom, as partly by these stories above hath been declared, partly by other in like case following is to be seen.

    For so it followeth in the history of the said Matth. Paris, how the pope, taking more courage by his former abused boldness, and perceiving what a tame ass he had to ride upon, ceased not thus, but directed a new precept the same year, 1246, to the prelates of England, commanding by the authority apostolic, that all beneficed men in the realm of England, which were resident upon their benefices, should yield to the pope the third part of their goods, and they which were not resident should give the one half of their goods, and that for the space of three years together, with terrible comminations to all them that did resist; and ever with this clause withal, non obstante, which was like a key that opened all locks. Which sum, cast together, was found to amount to sixty thousand pounds; which sum of money could scarce be found in all England to pay for King Richard's ransom. The execution of this precept was committed to the bishop of London, who, conferring about the matter with his brethren in the church of Paul's, as they were busily consulting together, and bewailing the importable burden of this contribution, which was impossible for them to sustain, suddenly cometh in certain messengers from the king, Sir John Lexinton, knight, and Laurence Martin, the king's chaplain, straitly in the king's name forbidding them in any case to consent to this contribution, which should be greatly to the prejudice and desolation of the whole realm.

    This being done about the first day of December in the year above said, shortly after, in the beginning of the next year, 1247, about February, the king called a parliament, where by common advice it was agreed, that certain ambassadors should be sent to Rome, to make manifest to the court of Rome the exceeding grievances of the realm, delivering, moreover, these letters to the pope, in the name both of the temporalty and also of the clergy, as here followeth.

Another letter sent to Pope Innocent the Fourth, in the names of the whole clergy and commonalty of England, A.D. 1247.

    "To the most holy father in Christ, and Lord Innocent, by God's providence chief bishop, the whole commonalty, both of the clergy and laity, with in the province of Canterbury, sendeth devout kissings of his blessed feet. Like as the Church of England, since it hath first received the catholic faith, hath always showed herself faithful and devout in adhering to God, and to our holy mother the Church of Rome, studying with all kind of service to please and to serve the same, and thinking never otherwise to do, but rather to continue and increase as she hath begun; even so now the same church, most humbly prostrate before the feet of your Holiness, entirely beseecheth your clemency to accept her petition, in sparing this imposition of money, which so manifold ways, for the subvention of other nations; by the commandment of your Holiness, is laid upon us; considering that not only it is insupportable, but also impossible, which is enjoined us. For although our country sometimes yieldeth forth fruit for the necessary sustentation of the in habitants, yet it bringeth forth neither gold nor silver, neither were able to bring forth of long time so much as now-a-days is required. Which also being burdened and overcharged of late days with another such-like imposition, but not so great as this, is not able any whit to answer unto that which is exacted.

    "Furthermore, besides this commandment of your Holiness, there is required of the clergy a subsidy for our temporal king, whose necessities neither possibly we can, nor honestly we ought, to forsake, whereby he may both withstand the invasion of the enemy, and maintain the right of his patrimony, and also recover again that hath been lost. In consideration whereof, we have directed the bearers hereof to the presence of your Holiness with our humble supplication, to explain to you the dangers and inconveniences which are like to ensue upon the premises, which by no means we are able to sustain, although notwithstanding we know ourselves by all bonds of charity to be obliged to your devotion and obedience. And because our general community hath no seal proper, we have signed therefore these presents with the public seal of the city of London," &c.

    The like letters were sent also unto the cardinals, to the same effect. The pope, understanding these things, and perceiving that there was no striving against such a general consent, and yet loth to forego his sweet harvest, which he was wont to reap in England, craftily devised to send this answer again unto the king, much like to the same which he sent before, which was, That although the pope in time past, upon his own will and pleasure, to the insupportable grievance of the realm of England, hath every where, and without respect, through the whole land made his provisions in giving their benefices unto his Italians, yet now, the Lord be praised, that tempest, said he, is overblown; so that hereafter, if the pope shall grant his provision for any of his nephews or of his cardinals, they shall come first and make their instant suit unto the king, without all enforcement, so that it shall stand wholly in the king's free arbitrement to do herein what he thinketh good, &c.

    This answer of the pope, albeit it was but a subtle shift for the time, yet neither did he long stand to that he had thus promised to the king. For shortly after, and within few days upon the same, and in the time also of the said parliament holden at Winchester, the pope sent two English friars into the realm, whose names were John and Alexander, with full authority, after the largest sort, for new contributions. Who first pretending lowly submission to the king, while they had leave granted to range about the realm, afterward, coming to the bishops and rich abbots, showed themselves forth in their full authority, in such sort as they became rather tyrants than extortioners.

    Among others, coming to Robert, bishop of Lincoln, who of all other bare a special mind to the order of Observants, these two friars, as proud as Lucifer, bringing forth the terrible mandate with the pope's bulls, required and eke commanded, under the pope's mighty curse, to have the gathering in his diocess of six thousand marks. Likewise of the abbot of St. Albans they required four hundred marks, under great penalty, and that in short time to be paid.

    The bishop, although well liking before that order of those friars, yet seeing the impudent behaviour and more impudent request of those merchants, thus answered to them again; that this exaction, saving the pope's authority, was never heard of before, and neither was honest, nor yet possible to be performed; and, moreover, was such as did not only concern him, but the whole public state of the clergy, and of the whole realm in general; and therefore it should be absurdly and rashly done of him to give them answer herein, before the king and the rest of the council, with others to whom the matter generally did appertain, were made privy thereunto, &c., and so for that time he shook them off.

    Furthermore, as touching the abbot of St. Albans, when he also alleged the same causes, he pretended moreover that he would appeal, and so did, to the pope and his cardinals. Whereupon immediately was sent down from Pope Innocent another legate, called Johannes Anglicus, an English friar and cardinal, who, bringing down a new special precept to the aforesaid abbot, cited him either to appear at London the morrow after St. Giles's day, or to disburse to the use of the pope the aforesaid four hundred marks. By reason whereof the abbot was driven to send his proctors again, with a new supplication, to the pope at Lyons; who in the end, through great instance of monied friends, agreed with the abbot for two hundred marks, besides his other charges borne, and so was that matter compounded little to the abbot's profit.

    To recite ali damages and grievances received by the bishop of Rome in this realm of England, neither is any history sufficiently able to comprehend, nor, if it were, scarcely is there any that would believe it. Notwithstanding, to those above declared, this one I thought to commit likewise to memory, to the intent that they which now live in this age may behold and wonder in themselves to see into what miserable slavery, passing all measure, not only the subjects, but kings also of this realm were brought, under the intolerable yoke of the pope's tyranny, which in those days neither durst any man cast off, nor yet was able to abide. As by this example ensuing, with infinite others like to the same, may appear.

    In the year of our Lord 1248, after that Pope Innocent the Fourth had taken such order in the realm, that all prelates of the church were suspended from collation of any benefice, before the pope's kinsfolks and clerks of Italy had been first provided for, it happened upon the same, that the abbot of Abington had a commandment from the pope to bestow some benefice of his church in all haste to a certain priest of Rome; which the abbot, as an obedient child unto his father the pope, was eager and ready to accomplish accordingly. But the Roman priest, not contented with such as fell next hand, would tarry his time, to have such as were principal and for his own appetite, having a special eye to the benefice of the church of St. Helen in Abington, which was then esteemed worth a hundred marks by year, besides other vails and commodities belonging to the same; the collation whereof the priest required by the authority apostolical to be granted unto him.

    As this passed on, it chanced at last the incumbent to die, and the benefice to he empty. Which eftsoons being known, the same day cometh a commandment, with great charge from the king to the abbot, to give the benefice to one Aethelmare, the king's brother by the mother's side, who at the same time was possessed with so many benefices, as the number and value thereof was unknown. The abbot here being in great perplexity, and not knowing what to do, whether to gratify his king or to obey the pope, took counsel with his friends; who, well advising of the matter, gave him counsel to prefer the brother of his prince and patron, so that the king would undertake to stand in his defence against the pope, rather than the Romish priest, whom always he should have lying there as a spy and watcher of him, and like a thorn ever in his eye; and so the king, assuring the abbot of his undoubted protection, and indemnity against all harms, the benefice was conferred forthwith to the king's brother.

    The Roman priest, not a little grieved thereat, speedeth himself in all haste to the bishop of Rome, certifying him what was done, and partly also (as the manner is of men) making it worse than it was. Upon whose complaint the pope eftsoons in great anger cited up the abbot personally to appear before him, to answer to the crime of disobedience. The abbot trusting upon the king's promise and protection, (which neither could help him in that case, neither durst oppose himself against the pope,) being both aged and sickly, was driven to travel up to the court of Rome, in great heaviness and bitterness of mind. Where in conclusion, after much vexation and bitter rebukes, besides great expenses, he was fain to satisfy the pope after his own will, compounding to give him yearly fifty marks in part of making him amends for his trespass of disobedience.

    To this also may be added another like fact of the pope, as outrageous as this, against the house of Binham. For when the benefice of Westle, in the diocess of Ely, was void by the death of the in cumbent, who was an Italian, and one of the pope's chamber, the donation of which benefice belonged to the priory of Binham, another Italian, which was a bastard and unlearned, born in the city of Genoa, called Heriggetto de Malchana de Valta, brought down the pope's letters to M. Berardo de Nympba, the pope's agent here in England, with strict charge and full authority, commanding him to see the said benefice to be conferred in any case to Heriggetto. Yea, and though the benefice had been given already, yet notwithstanding the possessor thereof should be displaced, and the said Heriggetto preferred; yea, also non obstante that the said pope himself had before given his grant to the king and realm of England, that one Italian should not succeed another in any benefice there; yet, for all that, the said Heriggetto upon pain of excommunication to be placed therein.

    And thus much hitherto of these matters, through the occasion of the east churches and the Grecians, to the intent all men that read these stories, and see the doings of this western bishop, may consider what just cause these Greeians had to seclude themselves from his subjection and communion. For what Christian communion is to be joined with him which so contrary to Christ and his gospel seeketh for worldly dominion, so cruelly persecuteth his brethren, so given to avarice, so greedy in getting, so injurious in oppressing, so insatiable in his exactions, so malicious in revenging, stirring up wars, depriving kings, deposing emperors, playing rex in the church of Christ, so erroneous in doctrine, so abominably abusing excommunication, so false of promise, so corrupt in life, so void of God's fear, and briefly, so far from all the parts of a true evangelical bishop? For what seemeth he to care for the souls of men, which setteth in benefices boys and outlandish Italians; and further, one Italian to succeed another, which neither did know the language of the flock, nor once would abide to see their faces? And who can blame the Grecians then for dissevering themselves from such an oppressor and giant against Christ.

    Whose wise example, if this realm had then followed, as they might, certes our predecessors had been rid of an infinite number of troubles, injuries, oppressions, wars, commotions, great travels and charges, besides the saving of innumerable thousands of pounds, which the said bishop full falsely hath raked and transported out of this realm of ours. But, not to exceed the bounds of my history, because my purpose is not to stand upon declamations, nor to dilate common-places, I will pass this over, leaving the judgment thereof to the further examination of the reader. For else if I listed to prosecute this argument so far as matter would lead me, and truth peradventure would require me to say, I durst not only say, but could well prove, the pope and court of Rome to be the only fountain and principal cause, I say not of much misery here in England, but of all the public calamities and notorious mischiefs which have happened these many years through all these west parts of Christendom, and especially of all the lamentable ruin of the church, which not only we, but the Grecians also, this day do suffer by the Turks and Saracens; as whoso ever well considereth by reading of histories the course of times, and vieweth withal the doings and acts passed by the said bishop of Rome, together with the blind leading of his doctrine, shall see good cause, not only to think, but also to witness the same.

Previous Next