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Unformatted text preview: istory of England, vol. 1 [Back to Table of Contents] XI JOHN
Accession of the king — His marriage — War with France — Murder of Arthur, duke of Britanny — The king expelled from all the French provinces — The king’s quarrel with the court of Rome — Cardinal Langton appointed archbishop of Canterbury — Interdict of the kingdom — Excommunication of the king — The king’s submission to the pope — Discontents of the barons — Insurrection of the barons — Magna Charta — Renewal of the civil wars — Prince Lewis called over — Death — and character of the king The noble and free genius of the ancients, which made the 1199. Accession of government of a single person be always regarded as a species of the king. tyranny and usurpation, and kept them from forming any conception of a legal and regular monarchy, had rendered them entirely ignorant both of the rights of primogeniture and a representation in succession; inventions so necessary for preserving order in the lines of princes, for obviating the evils of civil discord and of usurpation, and for begetting moderation in that species of government, by giving security to the ruling sovereign. These innovations arose from the feudal law; which, first introducing the right of primogeniture, made such a distinction between the families of the elder and younger brothers, that the son of the former was thought entitled to succeed to his grandfather, preferably to his uncles, though nearer allied to the deceased monarch. But though this progress of ideas was natural, it was gradual. In the age of which we treat, the practice of representation was indeed introduced, but not thoroughly established; and the minds of men fluctuated between opposite principles. Richard, when he entered on the holy war, declared his nephew, Arthur duke of Britanny, his successor; and by a formal deed, he set aside, in his favour, the title of his brother John, who was younger than Geoffrey, the father of that prince.e But John so little acquiesced in that destination, that, when he gained the ascendant in the English ministry, by expelling Longchamp, the chancellor and great justiciary, he engaged all the English barons to swear, that they would maintain his right of succession; and Richard, on his return, took no steps towards restoring or securing the order which he had at first established. He was even careful, by his last will, to declare his brother John heir to all his dominions;f whether, that he now thought Arthur, who was only twelve years of age, incapable of asserting his claim against John’s faction, or was influenced by Eleanor, the queen-mother, who hated Constantia, mother of the young duke, and who dreaded the credit which that princess would naturally acquire if her son should mount the throne. The authority of a testament was great in that age, even where the succession of a kingdom was concerned; and John had reason to hope, that this title, joined to his plausible right in other respects, would ensure him the s...
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- Spring '08