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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/420

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John
John
414

15 Feb. 1214 landed at Rochelle, which still belonged to him, at the head of a large force. Having gained some trifling successes in the neighbourhood of Rochelle, he was soon joined by several Poitevins, and in May 1214 attacked the possessions of Geoffrey de Lusignan. The Lusignans, Hugh le Brun, count of La Marche, the Count of Eu, and Geoffrey, his ancient enemies, made a treaty of alliance with him at Partenay, and he promised his daughter Joan in marriage to Hugh's eldest son. Thus reinforced, and having regained part of Poitou, he advanced into Anjou, where he took Beaufort, Ancenis, and on 17 June Angers. On the 19th he formed the siege of Roche-aux-Moins, a strong fortress which commanded the road between Angers and Nantes. It was obstinately defended. The siege is said to have lasted three weeks, though it probably ended on 3 July (comp. William of Armorica with Hardy, Itinerary). Louis, Philip's eldest son, advanced to its relief, and when he was within about a day's march John, finding that the Poitevin lords would not fight, and believing that he was betrayed, broke up his camp, and, leaving his siege train behind him, retreated in disorder across the Loire, and on the 9th again took up his quarters at Rochelle. Louis quickly regained the places in Anjou which John had taken. On the 27th the combined forces of the emperor, the English under Salisbury, the Flemish, the Lorrainers, and the other allies were defeated by Philip at the decisive battle of Bouvines on the river Margne, and the confederacy which threatened France on the north-east was crushed. The defeat reduced John to utter impotence. On the approach of Philip his allies openly deserted him, and made their peace with the French king, who about 14 Sept. granted John a truce for five years. John returned to England on 15 Nov. completely discredited. During his absence the interdict had been removed on 29 June, and the barons had held a meeting at St. Edmunds, at which they swore that, unless the king granted a charter of liberties on the lines of the charter of Henry I, they would resort to arms. They determined to make their demands after Christmas, and meanwhile to prepare for resistance. John, who had spent on the war in Flanders forty thousand marks wrung from the Cistercians, demanded a scutage from the lords who had not helped him in his late expedition. Some agreed, but the northern lords refused to pay, and the matter was deferred. He attempted to break the alliance between the prelates and nobles by granting a charter on 21 Nov. providing for canonical elections, but the device failed.

After holding his Christmas court hurriedly at Worcester, John went to London and lodged at the Temple, where, on 6 Jan. 1215, the barons who had met at St. Edmunds came to him in arms and demanded certain liberties. Alarmed at their steadfast manner he requested that the matter might stand over until after the first Sunday after Easter (26 April), and as he unwillingly consented that the archbishop, the Bishop of Ely, and William Marshall should bind themselves that he should then give them satisfaction, the barons agreed. In order to strengthen himself, he again published the charter to the church, and offered privileges to the barons, caused an oath of fealty and homage to be taken throughout England, on 4 March took the crusaders' cross at London, and sent word to the pope that a revolt was being plotted. Innocent exhorted him to listen to all just demands, and at the same time wrote to the archbishop forbidding plots against the king. In Easter week the northern lords assembled at Stamford, and a general gathering was held at Brackley in Northamptonshire, on the expiration of the truce. John sent to ask their demands, and they sent him a schedule of them, adding that if he did not grant them they would make war upon him. John indignantly refused, declaring that to grant what they asked would make him a slave. They defied him, chose Robert FitzWalter for their captain, with the title of marshal of the army of God and of holy church, threatened some royal castles, and marched to London. John left the city on the 9th and went to Windsor, and on the 24th the barons were welcomed by the London citizens. Risings against the king's officers broke out in Devonshire and Northamptonshire, the barons besieged the Tower, and the northern party seized Lincoln. Meanwhile John went into Wiltshire, and remained there quietly until the middle of May, and at the end of the month moved to Windsor Castle. During this time he sent abroad for mercenaries, and complained to the pope; his party dwindled rapidly, and fearing lest the barons should become masters of his castles he promised to grant their demands. A conference was arranged for 9 June 1215 and put off to the 15th, when John met the barons at Runnymede, between Staines and Windsor. He was attended by Archbishop Stephen and several bishops, by Pandulf and a few lay nobles. The barons presented their articles, and John set his seal to the Great Charter (Magna Carta) which was framed upon them (Select Charters, pp. 281-98). In the charter the liberties of all classes alike were carefully guarded. His tyranny had set the men of every