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John
John
415

class against him. Both the Welsh princes and the Scottish king were believed to be on the baronial side; they had suffered from his oppression, and justice was secured for them. The mercenary leaders on whom he relied were to be deprived of the custody of the royal castles, and the bands of foreign soldiers in his pay were to be dismissed. The execution of the charter was entrusted to twenty-five barons, chosen by the baronage, who swore that if he violated it they would restrain him by force of arms. The charter was virtually a treaty between him and his subjects; he granted it 'on the understanding that he was to retain the allegiance of the nation' (Const. Hist. i. 530). Steps were taken to fulfil the provisions, which were to have immediate effect; John ordering that knights should be elected in each shire to inquire into evil customs, and that the mercenaries at Dover should be released; there was also a restoration of castles on both sides.

Meanwhile John was secretly raging, and his wrath being fanned by the taunts of his mercenary captains, he worked himself into a state of fury, gnashing his teeth, and gnawing straws and bits of stick. He plotted how he might get the better of the barons; he sent to the pope and Philip of France to beg their help, fortified his castles and garrisoned them with mercenaries. On 16 Aug. 1215 he refused to appear at a meeting of prelates and lords held at Brackley to complete the general restitution, declaring that since the peace he had been wronged in various ways, and that it was not safe for him to venture in such a gathering. At Brackley papal letters were produced directing the excommunication of his enemies and of disturbers of the peace. An attempt made by the bishops to persuade him to meet the barons failed, and he went to Sandwich, and remained there, at Dover, and at Canterbury until 9 Oct., securing the adherence of the Cinque ports, and collecting forces from abroad. The excommunication was published. Langton left England, and John seized the estates of the see, but failed to get possession of Rochester Castle. The baronage was divided, several magnates took the king's side; the remainder sought help from France, formally abjured their allegiance, and elected Louis, son of Philip, as king. War began, and on 11 Oct. John laid siege to Rochester Castle, arriving there in person two days later. The castle was surrendered on the 30th, and John wanted to hang all the garrison, but was prevented by his mercenary captain, Savaric de Mauleon. He wasted a large part of Kent, and his men stabled their horses in the choir of Rochester Cathedral. Although a fleet which was coming to his aid was shipwrecked, the taking of Rochester gave him much strength; he remained there until 6 Dec., and a fortnight later marched northward with part of his forces. He spent Christmas at Nottingham, overthrew the castles of the northern lords, marched as far as Berwick in the middle of January 1216, in order to curb the Scots, who had overrun Northumberland, renewed his ravages on his return southwards, and about the middle of March joined the rest of his forces, which had been engaged in plundering the eastern counties, and with them took Colchester. This 'was the highest point that his fortunes ever reached' (ib. ii. 11). Only two strongholds were left to the northern barons. In December the pope caused the rebel lords to be excommunicated by name; their cause seemed lost, and several of them made their peace with the king. The legate Gualo forbade Louis to invade England, but was answered by the pleas that John had forfeited his right to succeed by his rebellion against Richard, that he had therefore never been a rightful king, and that he had forfeited the crown first by the murder of Arthur, and again by surrendering it to the pope without the consent of his barons. Innocent disallowed similar pleas which the ambassadors of Philip laid before him (Matt. Paris, ii. 651-63).

On 27 Feb. some French lords landed at London with a large following and joined the rebel lords, and on 21 May Louis himself landed at Stonor, near Sandwich, in defiance of the papal prohibition. John, who had gone down to Dover on 26 April, and remained there or in the immediate neighbourhood watching the coast, left Folkestone in much distress and alarm on 20 May, and retreated to Winchester. Finding that Louis, who received the homages of the barons at London on 2 June, was likely to advance to Winchester, John left it on the 5th, setting the city on fire, and retired to his strongholds at Wareham and Corfe, where he remained from the 23rd to 17 July. Winchester was surrendered on 14 June, and some of the earls who had as yet adhered to John, and among them his father's son the Earl of Salisbury, deserted him. Louis rapidly gained many places, and received the homage of the northern barons and of the king of Scots. He turned his attention to the sieges of Dover and Windsor, which still held out for the king. John still had a few lords who remained faithful to him, and was supported besides by his foreign friends and mercenary captains; he left Corfe, and made a raid on the Welsh march, reaching Shrewsbury on 4 Aug.; he retook Worcester on the 16th,