24th March 1208.

‘His works of piety [King John], were very many, as for his actions, he neither came to the crown by justice, nor held it with any honour, nor left it in peace.'(1)

In the Middle Ages, Kings, Popes, Bishops, Barons, and Monks of Canterbury Cathedral Priory, all sought a part in choosing the Archbishop.

The monks having a role, as the Archbishop was titular Abbot of the Canterbury Province. So it is not surprising that there were many disputes, the most dramatic between King John and Rome over the approval of Stephen Langton, Archbishop (1207-1228), after the death of Hubert Walter in 1205.

John favoured John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich. The monks selected Reginald the sub-Prior, but Rome quashed both and elected Cardinal Langton. The King’s representative refused to ratify the appointment, but Langton was consecrated in 1207.

However King John refused him entry resulting in a six year interdict from Today in 1208, by Pope Innocent III, and the Priory monks were forced into exile.

The consequences of this penalty resulted, amongst other things, of the banning of priests from administering most sacraments and the conducting of any Christian burial.

The Interdict was the beginning of a series of papal moves against King John which undermined the King’s power vis a vis the Papacy. The King’s Excommunication followed in November 1209.

In 1213 John broke an agreement with Innocent which meant the transfer of the Crown’s power to Rome, but managed to negotiate a reconciliation with the Pope, which was accepted in May 1213.

The outcome was that on June 1st 1213, Langton was installed as Archbishop of Canterbury which John was forced to accept, and later absolved from excommunication by Langton.

The weakness of John was now shown that he offered to surrender the Kingdom to the Papacy for a feudal service of 1000 marks, which secured the Pope’s support against John’s enemies, including Phillip II of France, who had notions of invading England.

John did pay some some compensation money, but this ceased in 1214 with 2/3 unpaid, which Innocent appears to have overlooked. On 21st April 1214 the Pope  acquired overlordship of England which deposed King John from feudal control of the country.

By offering the Pope to make England a fief of the Papacy and to do homage as his feudal lord, John attempted to drive a wedge between the secular and spiritual enemies. It was to be the final straw for Langton who foresaw unbridled exploitation by Rome. He now became an opposing force to the Pope.

Now the barons understandingly unhappy, drew together under Langton who was the architect of the Great Charter, which was forced upon John in August 24th 1215. However Pope Innocent now annulled the Magna Carta and later in 1215 England was again placed under an Interdict.

John’s troubles were to continue.

(1) Ref : Sir Richard Baker: A Chronology of the Kings of England.

Ref : amazing discoveries.org/Concessions that shamed the world.

Ref : bl.uk/treasures/magnacarta/timeline. Site Treasures in Full Magna Carta Timeline

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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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