The Magna Carta Project

Ten Letters on Anglo-Papal Diplomacy, July-September 1215

October 2015, by Professor Nicholas Vincent

Innocent III

Innocent III, from the later thirteenth-century wall paintings of Subiaco

The following letters reveal the progress of Anglo-papal negotiations through the summer of 1215. They show the Pope invariably favouring the King's cause, leading first of all, on 7 July, to papal commands for a sentence of excommunication against rebels and conspirators (no.1), accusing Langton and his fellow bishops of a failure to punish rebellion and threatening them with suspension from episcopal office should they fail to publish the Pope's sentence. At the same time, again in early July and having learned disquieting reports of the the part taken by Langton and his suffragans in the negotiations of the previous spring, the Pope moved to forbid the bishops from excessive interference in lay affairs (no.2). These papal initiatives of early July seem also to have included an attempt to secure peace between England and Wales (below no.2n.). They were made in direct response to letters from King to Pope, issued at Odiham on 29 May, reporting on the wrongdoing of barons and bishops, and requesting the Pope's assistance and protection.1 As yet, however, they reveal no direct knowledge on the Pope's behalf either of the seizure of London (on 17 May, a detail not referred to in the King's letters of 29 May) or of the meeting at Runnymede. That London had fallen to the rebels must surely have been made known to the Pope. The fact that this news was deliberately suppressed in the King's letters of 29 May, to which the Pope's own letters were a response, may nonetheless explain why no mention of London occurs in the Pope's letters of 7 July.

Allowing for a delay of five and a half weeks between the sending of the King's letters on 29 May, and the Pope's reply on 7 July, we might conjecture that the Pope's letters would themselves have reached England by mid August. Support for this comes from the Crowland chronicler, who claims that the Pope's letters of 7 July, empowering the bishop of Winchester and his fellow commissioners to excommunicate the rebels, were first publicized at the council held by Archbishop Langton at Oxford, after 16 August. Further confirmation here comes from a royal gift to (unnamed) papal envoys, on 17 August.2 It was at this Oxford council of mid August that Langton seems to have encouraged his former pupil, the bishop of Rochester, to appeal to Rome against any diminution of the rights of the church of Canterbury, especially with respect to Rochester Castle.3

In the meantime, Runnymede and Magna Carta had come and gone. When did the King first communicate news of Magna Carta to Rome? Fears that he would seek papal annulment of the June settlement are apparent in the texts both of the Articles of the Barons and of Magna Carta itself. Even so, there is no certain evidence of communication between the King and Rome between mid June and 9 July, when the King authorized an increase in the pension of Peter Saracen, one of the principal go-betweens in Anglo-papal diplomacy.4 The chroniclers claim that news of Magna Carta was carried to Rome either by Master Pandulf or by the chancellor, Richard Marsh.5 But both men remained in England until at least September 1215. In all likelihood it was Peter Saracen who first brought Magna Carta to the Pope's attention, perhaps in the aftermath of the council held at Oxford around 20 July. Here the King was clearly anxious to display his compliance with papal instructions over the outstanding question of dower owed to his sister-in-law, Queen Berengaria, widow of Richard I.6

Etsi karissimus

Etsi karissimus, BL Cotton MS Cleopatra E I, ff.155-156

Assuming that Peter Saracen left England in the second or third week of July, this would once again suggest a delay of four or five weeks betwen the dispatch of letters from England and the Pope's response.7 Set out in letters of 24 August, issued at Anagni, this took the form of the bull 'Etsi karissimus' (below no.4). A detailed report of Anglo-papal negotiations over the past few years, this deals in particular with events since March 1215, with the Pope's request for arbitration, with the King's favourable response to this in early May, including judgement by a committee of peers, and thereafter with the disobedience of the barons that had resulted in the seizure of London and the settlement made at Runnymede: a settlement that the Pope now definitevely quashed. The focus of this letter is upon the contumacy and disobedience of the King's subjects, even though one suspects that Magna Carta itself was chiefly alarming to the Pope as a result of its securities clause, placing the King under the suspervision of the twenty-five barons and forbidding any appeal: 'And we will seek to obtain nothing from anyone, in our own person or through someone else, whereby any of these grants or liberties may be revoked or diminished, and if any such thing be obtained, let it be void and invalid, and we will never make use of it, in our own person or through someone else', itself a toned-down version of the promise inserted in the Articles of the Barons that 'the king is to give security, through bonds of the archbishop and bishops and Master Pandulf, that he will never seek to obtain from the pope the revocation or diminution of any of these agreements, and if he does obtain any such, it shall be regarded as null and void and never to be used '. Etsi karissimus' is one of the most famous documents associated with Magna Carta. Yet mystery still surrounds its publication in England.

On 5 September, at Dover, the Pope's commissioners at last published the papal sentence of 7 July (below no.5), pronouncing excommunication against the rebels, placing the city of London under interdict, and demanding that Langton and his fellow bishops enforce this sentence under pain of suspension from episcopal office. Shortly afterwards, for his continued prevarication, the Pope's commissioners pronounced Langton suspended and delated to Rome for sentence in the general council to be held there after 1 November.8 These sentences delivered at Dover in turn paved the way to the reopening of hostilities between King and barons. On 5 September, the same day that the commissioners published their sentence of excommunication, royal letters refer to England once again being in a state of war.9 Thereafter, with hostilities reopened, there was a wholesale confiscation of rebel property, the outbreak of unrest across the country, and from the end of September the rebel seizure of Rochester and the King's subsequent siege. On 13 September, at Dover, the King authorized further letters to the Pope, appointing proctors to represent him at the papal court, apparently acting here in accordance with the papal request of 7 July (below no.2) that the King send a mission to Rome sufficiently powerful to represent his case before the forthcoming general council.

What, however, of the Pope's letters of 24 August, quashing Magna Carta, or his other letters of the same day (no.5), directed to the barons and demanding their obedience to the King? Allowing for an average journey time of four to five weeks between England and Rome, we might expect that these would have arrived in England shortly after 20 September, certainly before the King lay siege to Rochester in early October. Copies of them were made onto the dorse of a membrane of the chancery Close Roll covering the period 2-22 September, and in due course a further copy found its way to Roger of Wendover and the chroniclers of St Albans. Thereafter, there is no further evidence for Anglo-papal exchanges before 6 November, when the King authorized a pension in favour of the papal notary, Master Rayner, shortly before opening negotiations with the baronial leaders at Erith, between London and Rochester.10 Even so, if the Pope's letters of 24 August arrived in September, no record of their delivery survives. It seems that by the time of their publication they were already more a historic curiosity than a political bombshell. Magna Carta, here officially condemned, had already been repudiated, by King, Church and barons, some days or even weeks before the arrival of the papal sentence.

Seal of Stephen Langton

Seal of Stephen Langton

One other issue clouded relations between Langton and the Pope. As early as 13 May, the King had licenced an embassy to Rome from the chapter of York seeking the election of a new archbishop.11 It is possible that Simon Langton, the archbishop's brother, took part in this. Certainly, the Pope later reported a promise made by Simon, in person at the papal curia, that he would not himself seek promotion as archbishop.12 Licence from the King for an election to take place was granted on 18 June, amidst the negotiations at Runnymede.13 It was this, apparently, that resulted in an attempt to promote Simon as archbishop of York, as pair to his brother Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury. News of this had reached Rome by 20 August, perhaps carried by the same embassy that brought the Pope the text of Magna Carta. The Pope's response was to quash Simon's promotion and to declare him ineligible for any future episcopal promotion should it be proved that he had actively broken the terms of his promise to the Pope over York.

As for the texts of the ten letters supplied below, half of them (nos.6-10) have never before been translated. Where translations already exist, by Cheney and Semple (nos.1-5), I have checked and revised, in particular toning down the rather too precise vocabularly with which Cheney and Semple were inclined to refer to the crusade. Each of these letters has its own particular significance. We might note, for example, the use made in the Pope's letters of 7 July (below no.1) of Gratian's Decretum, involving in a sentence not only the active members of a conspiracy but those suspected of secret sympathy, in this instance clearly thinking of those English bishops who had failed to punish rebellion. As in other papal letters concerning the English rebellion, the Pope's overriding obsession here seems to have lain with the crusade and the dangers posed to it by any delay in King John fulfilling his crusader vows. Hence the extraordinary violence of the Pope's language, accusing the English bishops of being 'worse than Saracens'.

The second letter, one of two preserved in a digest of the contents of the lost papal register for the year 17 Innocent III (below no.2), serves as a reminder of quite how much information on English affairs this lost register may have contained. With its opening denunciation of clerical trespasses against the lay forum, it neatly inverts the rhetoric of those, including both Stephen Langton and Langton's role model, Thomas Becket, who had sought to exclude the laity from intruding upon clerical affairs. As such, it also demonstrates the lengths to which, in defence of the papal lordship over England and his cherished plans for crusade, Innocent III was prepared to compromise his own fundamental political principles.

The career of Master Simon Langton has long deserved fuller treatment.14 His interventions at York (below no.3), taken together with his enthusiastic support of rebellion and the Capetian invasion of England, help to explain why, despite his evident talents, he was destined never to advance beyond the office of archdeacon. As for the Pope's letters declaring Magna Carta null and void (below no.4), not only were these carefully preserved as a sealed original in the King's own archives, but they set out the circumstances in which it was the Pope, rather than the King or barons, who first introduced into negotiations the idea of judgement 'by peers acting in accordance with the laws and customs of the realm'.15 They are remarkable, likewise, both for their reference to the crusader privileges under which the King hoped to obtain protection, and to the 'violence and fear' ('vim et metum'), 'sufficient to daunt even the most courageous of men', that had been brought to bear in persuading the King to grant Magna Carta and that thus rendered the charter itself, as the outcome of compulsion, null and void. This same 'violence and fear' ('vim et metum') are referred to in the Pope's letters to the barons of England (no.5), urging them voluntarily to abandon the settlement reached at Runnymede and to seek a more reasonable accomodation that neither injured nor the King nor allowed the continuation of evil customs and oppressions. As in the Pope's letters annulling Magna Carta, the barons here stand accused of acting both as judges and executors of justice in their suit against the King. Both letters (nos.4-5) quote the liturgical formula 'He who desires not the death of a sinner' (derived from Ezekiel 18:32 and 33:11), already employed in letters of the Pope to King John and the English bishops in the summer of 1213, arranging an end to the interdict and the dispatch of the papal legate Nicholas of Tusculum.16

Philip Augustus and Henry II

Detail of a miniature of Philip Augustus and John's father, Henry II, taking the cross. BL Royal 16 G VI f.344v

Scriptural quotations also abound in the sixth letter below, issued in the names of the papal commissioners, threatening Langton and his suffagans with suspension from office should they fail to enforce the Pope's sentence of excommunication against the rebels. This letter, surviving as an original at Canterbury Cathedral, was first noticed in the 1870s but only properly published in 1929 by F.M. Powicke. It marks a crucial turning point in relations between King John and the rebels, signalling the outbreak of the second stage of the civil war and an end to the peace obtained at Runnymede. The letter is remarkable for nowhere referring to Magna Carta, a settlement of which the Pope was still ignorant when his letters of 7 July were dispatched, and one that Peter des Roches and his fellow commissioners clearly hoped to consign to oblivion. Instead des Roches and his companions refer to a 'triplex forma pacis', almost certainly a lost papal proposal communicated to England in the spring of 1215, that the barons are said to have rejected.17 The commisioners appear to have been particularly anxious to prey upon Innocent's concern for the crusade, making repeated reference to John's privileges as crusader and the damage done to the enterprise by his enemies in England. Of the clerks hereby excommunicated by name, William archdeacon of Hereford was a brother and close adherant of the leading rebel, Robert fitz Walter; John of Ferriby (Yorks. E.R.), a clerk of the rebel Eustace de Vescy.18 Osbert of Seamer (Yorks. N.R.) is almost certainly the Osbert, chaplain of Richard de Percy, who in March 1215, together with John of Ferriby, acted as representative of the rebel barons in Rome.19 The excommunication of bishop Giles of Hereford was further referred to in letters of Pope Honorius III, issued in 1216, noting that the chapter of Hereford had petitioned that bishop Giles had merely been threatened with excommunication by the bishop of Winchester and Pandulf (as bishop-elect of Norwich), but had then made his peace and died, before the sentence was enforced.20

The remaining four letters (nos.7-10) offer varying forms of credence for the King's representatives dispatched to the Lateran Council due to meet on 1 November 1215. The first (no.7) is significant for its claim that it was the King's submission to papal lordship, as long ago as 1213, that first inspired the earls and barons to rebel, 'as they publicly declare'. This was a remark intended to link King and Pope in common opposition to the rebels whilst at the same time emphasising the Pope's responsibilities towards the King as his feudal dependent. This letter also supplies the fullest list of the King's envoys: seven clergy (the archbishops of Bordeaux and Dublin, Richard Marsh the chancellor, Hugh abbot of Beaulieu, Master Peter Russignol (precentor of York and a close familiar of Peter des Roches bishop of Winchester), H. the archdeacon (probably Hubert archdeacon of Airaines) and the Fleming, Master Robert de Airaines canon of York), and two laymen (John Marshal and Geoffrey Lutterell).21 Here they are referred to without collective title, merely as trusted messengers of the King. Elsewhere (no.9) they are referred to collectively as 'nuncios'. In a subsequent letter (no.8) only the archbishops of Bordeaux and Dublin, Richard Marshal, and the two laymen, John Marshal and Geoffrey Lutterell, were afforded full proctorial authority, granted 'free administration' and the cautio 'judicatum solvi' (a bond promising that judgement debt would be paid, and an interesting instance of Roman law terminology introduced to the work of the English royal chancery).22 Even here, the King's proctors were expected to act in concert with Master Pandulf, the papal familiar, whose dispatch to Rome is notified to the Pope in the last of our letters (no.10), couched in particularly flowery terms, themselves intended both as flattery and as an appropriate confirmation of the vital role that the Pope was now expected to play in English politics.

Already by 1215, papal diplomacy was both age-old and well-oiled with platitudes. Candour in papal letters is generally outweighed by rhetorical flourishes. Even so, the letters set down below offer crucial insight into a third party involved in negotiations between King and barons. Pope Innocent III was hardly the 'Leader of Europe' portrayed both in his own propaganda and by his modern biographers. Nonetheless, his part in the negotiations over Magna Carta was a significant one.




1. Letters of Pope Innocent (III) informing P(eter) bishop of Winchester, (Simon) abbot of Reading and Pandulph papal subdeacon that King John deserves the protection customarily afforded to a crusader. The archbishop and his suffragans having ignored previous papal mandates, ordering them to discipline those who conspire against the king, the pope hereby empowers (Peter, Simon and Pandulph) to excommunicate such conspirators; empowering them also to suspend any bishop who refuses to enforce this sentence. Ferentino, 7 July 1215

B = Canterbury Cathedral Archives Chartae Antiquae M247, recited in letters by the three papal commissioners (below no.6), 5 September 1215.

Pd (from B) Selected Letters of Pope Innocent III concerning England (1198-1216), ed. C.R. Cheney and W. H. Semple (London, 1953), 207-9 no.80; (calendar) Letters of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) concerning England and Wales: a calendar with an appendix of texts, ed. C. R. Cheney and M. G. Cheney, (Oxford, 1967), 169-70 no.1016; (from B) F.M. Powicke, 'The Bull "Miramur Plurimum" and a Letter to Archbishop Stephen Langton, 5 September 1215', English Historical Review, xliv (1929), 90-3; English Episcopal Acta IX: Winchester 1205-1238 (Oxford, 1994), no.100; (calendar from B) Fifth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscript (London, 1877-8), appendix, p.454; Potthast no.4992. Also preserved in a careless and incomplete form by Wendover, Flores Historiarum, ed. H.O. Coxe, (4 vols., London, 1842), iii, 336-8, whence Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Luard, ii, 627-8; Conventiones, Litterae etc., or Rymer’s Foedera, 1066-1383, ed. A. Clarke et al., vol. 1, part i (London, 1816), 138.

Canterbury Cathedral Chartae Antiquae M247

Canterbury Cathedral Chartae Antiquae M247. Letters of Pope Innocent III informing Peter des Roches that King John deserves the projection of a crusader.

Innocentius episcopus seruus seruorum Dei venerabili fratri .. Winton' episcopo et dilectis filiis .. abbati de Rading' et Pand(ulfo) subd(iacono) et famil(iari) nostro salutem et apostolicam benedictionem. Mirari cogimur et moueri quod cum k(arissi)m(u)s in Cristo fil(ius) noster I(ohannes) rex Angl(ie) illustris sup(ra) spem Deo et ecclesie satisfecerit et presertim venerabili fratri nostro S(tephano) Cant' archiepiscopo sancte Rom(ane) ecclesie cardinali et coepiscopis eius, quidam eorum minus quam oportuerit et decuerit ad sancte crucis negotium, apostolice sedis mandatum, et fidelitatis prestite iuramentum debitum habentes respectum, nullum ei contra perturbatores regni, quod ad Romanam ecclesiam ratione dominii pertinere dinoscitur, prestiterunt auxilium vel fauorem, quasi conscii ne dicamus socii coniurationis inique, quia non caret scrupulo societatis occulte qui manifesto facinori desinit obuiare (Decretum, I.83.3, 86.3, II.2.7, 55). Ecce qualiter patrimonium ecclesie Rom(ane) pontifices prefati defendunt, qualiter crucesignatos tuentur, immo qualiter se opponunt hiis qui destruere moliuntur negotium crucifixi, peiores proculdubio Saracenis, cum illum nitantur a regno depellere de quo precipue sperabatur quod deberet succurrere Terre Sancte. Sed forte non sine c(aus)a ille rex regum, cuius ipse rex obsequio se deuouit, permisit huiusmodi scandalum an(te) quam iter peregrinationis arriperet suscitari, ut fideles ab infidelibus discernantur et cogitationes occulte de multorum cordibus reuelentur (cf. Luke 2:35), singulis secundum sua merita recepturis nisi peruersi preuenerint humili satisfactione vindictam. Nam et si dictus rex remissus esset aut tepidus in hac parte, nos non dimitteremus tantam nequitiam incorrectam, cum sciamus per Dei gratiam et possimus huiusmodi presumptionis audaciam castigare. Unde ne talium insolentia non solum in periculum regni Angl(ie) verum etiam in pernitiem aliorum regnorum et maxime in subuersionem totius negotii crucifixi valeat preualere, nos ex parte omnipotentis Dei patris et filii et spiritus sancti, auctoritate quoque beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli ac nostra, omnes huiusmodi perturbatores reg(is) ac regni Angl(ie) cum complicibus et fautoribus suis excommunicationis vinculo innodamus et terras eorum ecclesiastico subicimus interdicto, prefatis archiepiscopo et coep(iscop)is suis in virtute obedientie districtissime iniungentes quatinus utramque sententiam singulis diebus dominicis et festiuis, pulsatis campanis et extinctis candelis, per totam Angliam sollempniter publicare procurent, donec satisfecerint dicto regi de dampnis et iniuriis irrogatis et ad eius obsequium humiliter reuertantur, uniuersis insuper eiusdem reg(is) vassallis in remissionem peccaminum ex parte nostra firmiter iniungentes ut contra peruersores huiusmodi prefato regi oportunum tribuant consilium et iuuamen. Siquis autem ipsorum hoc nostrum preceptum neglexerit adimplere, sciat se ab officio pontificali suspensum et subiectorum sibi obedientiam esse subtractam, quia iustum est ut inferiores ei nequaquam obediant qui suo superiori obedire contempnit. Ne igitur mandatum nostrum tergiuersatione cuiusquam valeat impediri, executionem omnium predictorum cum ceteris que ad hoc negotium pertinuerint vob(is) duximus committendam, per apostolica vob(is) scripta precipiendo mandantes quatinus omni appellatione postposita procedatis sicut videritis expedire. Quod si non omnes hiis exequendis potueritis interesse, duo vestrum ea nichilominus exequantur. Dat' Ferentin', non' Iulii, pontificatus nostri anno octauodecimo.


Innocent, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his venerable brother the bishop of Winchester, and to his beloved sons (Simon) abbot of Reading and Pandulf subdeacon and familiar, greeting and apostolic benediction. We are moved to express surprise and annoyance that, whereas our most dearly beloved son in Christ, J(ohn) illustrious King of England, has beyond expectation made amends to God and the Church and especially to our venerable brother S(tephen), archbishop of Canterbury and cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and to his fellow bishops, some of them, showing less due respect than was proper or seemly for the business of the holy cross, for the mandate of the apostolic see or for the oath of fealty they had taken, have afforded him neither help nor favour against the disturbers of the realm that as is known belongs, by right of feudal lordship, to the Roman Church, so that they appear as accomplices (even if we scruple at naming them as partners) in a wicked conspiracy, since he who fails to oppose open crime is suspected of secret sympathy (Decretum, I.83.3, 86.3, II.2.7, 55). See how these bishops defend the patrimony of the Roman Church! See how they protect those signed with the cross! See, moreover, how they oppose those working to destroy the business of the crucified one! They are undoubtedly worse than Saracens, for they are striving to deprive the realm of one who, it was particularly hoped, should bring aid to the Holy Land. But perhaps it was not without purpose that the King of Kings, to whose service the King (John) has devoted himself, allowed this offence to occur, before the King could set out on his pilgrimage, so that the faithful might be distinguished from the unfaithful and 'the secret thoughts of many hearts be revealed' (Luke 2:35). For every man will receive according to his merits, unless the perverts forestall punishment by humble amends. For even if the King were remiss or luke-warm in that business (of the cross), we would not leave such great wickedness unrebuked. For by God's grace we know how to (and have the power to) punish such shameless presumption. Lest, therefore, their insolence should endanger the kingdom of England, ruin other kingdoms, and, above all, overthrow the whole business of the crucified one, we excommunicate all such disturbers of the King and the realm together with their accomplices and supporters, acting here on behalf of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and by the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, and we lay their lands under ecclesiastical interdict, most strictly charging the aforesaid archbishop and his fellow bishops, in virtue of their obedience, to have both these sentences solemnly published throughout England every Sunday and feast day, with the tolling of bells and with candles extinguished, until having made amends to the King for the losses and wrongs inflicted on him, they are humbly restored to his service. And, on our own behalf, you are strictly to enjoin all the King's vassals, as they hope to have their sins remitted, to give the King timely counsel and support against these perverts. If any of the bishops should neglect to fulfill this our precept, he should know that he is suspended from episcopal office and that the obedience of those subject to him is withdrawn. For it is just that inferiors should not obey one who scorns to obey his own superior. That our mandate may not be impeded by any man's evasion, we have chosen to entrust you with the execution of all the above instructions together with consequential details, and by apostolic letter we charge and command you that, disregarding all appeal, you proceed as you consider expedient. If you cannot all take part in discharging this business, let two of you discharge it notwithstanding. Given at Ferentino, 7 July, in the 18th year of our pontificate.




2. Letters of Pope Innocent III commanding commissioners (perhaps the same three commissioners as in no.1 above) to prevent clerical interference in the lay forum and to ensure that the King sends appropriate proctors to the forthcoming General Council, in which the Pope will rule on disputes already under discussion. [?c.7 July 1215]

B = Paris, BN ms. Latin 11867 fo.37v, s.xiii.

Pd (from B) K. Hampe, 'Aus verlorenen Registerbänden der Päpste Innocenz III. und Innocent IV', Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschictsforschung, xxiii (1902), 556-7; Selected Letters of Innocent III, ed. Cheney and Semple, 205-6 no.79; (calendar) Letters of Innocent III, ed. Cheney and Cheney, 170-1 no.1020, and cf. ibid. 171, 273 no.1021, letters from the same source, address now lost, but probably to the abbot of Reading and Master Pandulf, commanding them to enforce a truce made as legate by (Nicholas) bishop of Tusculum between the English and the Welsh ('Cum per venerabilem fratrem nostrum Tusculanum episcopum dum in partibus Anglicanis legationis officio fungeretur inter Anglicos et Wallenses treuge sint inite ac iuramento firmate, discretioni vestre per apostolica scripta mandamus quatinus eas auctoritate nostra faciatis inuiolabiliter obseruari, contradictores si qui fuerint vel rebelles monitione premissa per censuram ecclesiasticam appellatione postposita compescentes. Tu denique, filii abbas, etc').

Sicud volumus ut iura clericorum laici non usurpent, ita velle debemus ne clerici iura sibi vendicent laicorum, sed illud 'Omnia quecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines et vos facite illis' (Matthew 7:12) adiligenter studeant obseruarea. Quocirca dilectioni vestre per apostolica scripta mandamus quatinus placita que ad seculare spectant iudicium, ad ecclesiasticam trahi prohibeatis examen, ut 'Que sunt Cesaris Cesari et que sunt Dei Deo' (Matthew 22:21) recta bdistributioneb reddantur. De quibus autem est mota contentio vel dubitatio est suborta, in proximo generali concilio quid de cetero sit seruandum intendimus prouide diffinire, unde sine quodlibet preiudicio interim oberseruetur quid hactenus est obtentum. Nos enim sublimitati regie per nostras litteras intimamus ut super hiis procuratores ydoneos ad idem concilium studeat destinare qui partem suam quantum poterunt de iure defendant. Quod si non omnes, tu eam, cfraterc episcope. Vos denique, et frater episcope et dfilid abbas etc.


Just as we desire that the laity should not usurp the rights of the clergy, so we ought to desire that the clergy should not claim the rights of the laity <but should diligently strive to obey the command> 'All things whatever you wish that men should do to you, do you even to them' (Matthew 7:12). Wherefore, by apostolic letter we command you to prevent pleas which belong to the civil judgment from being brought for ecclesiastical examination, so that by a just division 'Unto Caesar may be rendered the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's' (Matthew 22:21). As regards matters already disputed or subject to doubt, we intend to define carefully at the forthcoming general council what should be done henceforward in such cases, and so for the meantime the existing practice should be continued, without prejudice. We are informing his Majesty the King by our letters to make sure of sending to the council suitable proctors in these matters who will exert themselves to support his case by right. If you cannot all take part in discharging this business, do you, brother bishop, <discharge it notwithstanding>. And finally, brother bishop and son, abbot etc.




3. Letters of Pope Innocent III to the chapter of York, complaining against the presumption of Master Simon Langton who, contrary to promises made before the Pope, is alleged to have sought election as archbishop of York. The Pope commands that the chapter send proctors to the General Council, to arrive before 1 December (1215) to secure a new election, meanwhile declaring Master Simon, should the allegations against him prove true, from all future promotion as bishop. Anagni, 20 August 1215

B = TNA C 54/12 (Close Roll 17 John) m.22d, on the dorse of a membrane whose face covers the period 2 September - 22 September 1215.  C = TNA C 54/13 (Ibid.) m.20d.

Pd (from B) RLC, i, 269, with further copies preserved by Roger of Wendover, Flores, ed. Coxe, iii, 339, whence Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Luard, ii, 629 (misdated to 13 September 1216, whence Potthast no.4995); (from B, noting variants from the copies by Wendover and Paris) Cheney and Semple, Selected Letters of Innocent III, 210-11 no.81; (calendar from B) Letters of Innocent III, ed. Cheney and Cheney, 170 no.1017. There is one significant change here to Cheney and Semple's translation, where Cheney and Semple read 'quo vobis est de premissis' rather than the manuscript's 'quod nobis est de premissis'.

Cum magister Simon de Langeton'

TNA C 54/12 (Close Roll 17 John) m.22d, Letter of Pope Innocent III to the chapter of York

Inn(ocentius) episcopus seruus seruorum Dei dilectis filiis capitulo Ebor' salutem et apostolicam b(e)n(edictionem). Cum magister Simon de Langeton', cum quibusdam aliis canonicis Eborac' in nostra nuper esset presencia constitutus, nos ei viua voce firmiter interdiximus ne ad optinendum archiepiscopatum Ebor' intenderet, quia id certis ex causis minime pateremur, et ipse quidem quantum enob(is)e expressit fhuicf annuit reuerenter. Unde mirari cogimur et moueri si geligi se consensit aut eiam procurauit, et certe vix credimus quodg adeo ipsum ambicio excecauerit ut, cum sciret se post nostram prohibicionem et suam promissionem expressam eligi de iure non posse, htali prestitisseh electioni consensum, quam nullo alio contradicente, nos iirritami jhaberemus propter hoc quod nob(is) est de premissis certissime manifestum, presertimj ne hac occ(asi)one fieret in Angl(ia) 'error nouissimus peior priore' (Matthew 27:64). kNe igiturk Ebor' ecclesia diucius maneat viduata pastore, de communi fratrum nostrorum consilio, per apostolica vob(is) lscriptal mandamus et in virtute obediencie districte precipimus quatinus, electione huiusmodi non obstante, cum insolencias et machinaciones huiusmodi sustinere mnolimus sic(ut) utique nonm debemus, omni occasione ac tergiuersacione cessantibus, aliquos ex vob(is) cum communi nomniumn potestate ad instans concilium destinetis, qui saltem usque ad kalendas oDecembr(is)o nostro se conspectui representent, personam idoneam cum nostro electuri vel postulaturi consilio in pastorem. Alioquin ex tunc nos ipsi curabimus de idoneo vob(is) presule prouidere, contradictores si qui fuerint vel rebelles per districcionem canonicam grauiter punituri. Si vero prefatus Simon electioni de se facte consensit, nos in penam sue presumpcionis statuimus ut ineligibil(is) fiat, ne decetero absque dispensacione sed(is) apostolice speciali ad pontificalem eligi ppossitp dignitatem. Dat' qAnagn', xiii. k(a)l' Sept(embris)q, pont(ificatus) nostri anno roctauodecimor.


Innocent, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons the chapter of York, greeting and apostolic benediction. When Master Simon Langton with certain other canons of York recently appeared before us, by word of mouth we strictly forbade him to seek the archbishopric of York, because we would, for certain reasons, not allow it, and as far as he expressed himself to us, he respectfully assented to this. Hence we are moved to express surprise and annoyance if he has consented to be elected, or even procured such a thing. And indeed, we scarcely believe him so blinded by ambition that, knowing from our prohibition and his own express promise such an election to be legally impossible, he should have given his consent to such an election which, even if otherwise unopposed, we would hold to be invalid for the reason made unmistakably clear to us, as above, and particularly lest in England because of this 'the last error should be worse than the first' (Matthew 27:64). Wherefore, that the church of York may no longer remain without a pastor, acting on the general advice of our brethren, we command you by apostolic letter and in virtue of your obedience we strictly charge you that, disregarding all quibbling and evasion, and setting aside this election (for such insolence and intrigues we should not and will not tolerate), you send to the forthcoming council some of your number with communal power to represent you all, who should appear before us at least by the 1st December, in order to elect or postulate with our advice a suitable person to be your pastor. Otherwise, after that date, we will ourselves take care to provide a suitable prelate for you, and we intend by canonical penalty to punish severely any who object or rebel. If the aforesaid Simon has consented to his election, we decree as penalty for his presumption that he be ruled ineligible, that is, incapable in future of being elected to the episcopate without special dispensation from the apostolic see. Given at Anagni, 20 August, in the 18th year of our pontificate.




4. Letters of Pope Innocent III recounting the negotiations between Pope, King and barons, and in response to the barons' defiance of the King and his papal privileges, declaring null and void the settlement extorted from King John. Anagni, 24 August 1215

A = BL ms. Cotton Cleopatra E i fo.155. Approx. 498 x 455 + 36mm. Sealed sur double queue, lead papal bulla (i.e. seal) on red and yellow silk cords. The pope’s name Innocentius written in capitals, the whole composed in a standard papal chancery hand. No endorsement. At the bottom right hand corner of the plica or fold the letters .JG. (as a contemporary papal chancery mark). From the king’s own archive. Still stored in the royal Exchequer in the 1320s, assumed thereafter purloined by, or for, Sir Robert Cotton, as part of Cotton’s wider haul of Magna Carta materials from the royal archives.  B = TNA C 54/12 (Close Roll 17 John) m.22d, on the dorse of a membrane whose face covers the period 2 September - 22 September 1215.  C = TNA C 54/13 (Ibid.) m.20d.

Pd (from A) Foedera, 135, whence Charles Bémont, Chartes de libertés anglaises (Paris 1892), 41–4 no.6; Potthast no.4990; (from A) Cheney and Semple, Selected Letters of Innocent III, 212–16 no.82; (calendar from A) Letters of Pope Innocent III, ed. Cheney and Cheney, 170 no.1018 (noting its inclusion both in the list of titles to the lost papal register 18 Innocent III, and in Bishop Walter Stapledon's inventory of the royal archives, 1323); J. E. Sayers, Original Papal Documents in England and Wales from the Accession of Pope Innocent III to the Death of Pope Benedict XI (1198–1304) (Oxford 1999), 31–2 no.58; (calendar from B) RLC, i, 269. The letter is also recited by Wendover, Flores, ed. Coxe, iii, 323, whence Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Luard, ii, 616.

BL Cotton MS Cleopatra E I f.155

BL Cotton MS Cleopatra E I f.155. Letters of Innocent III recounting the negotiations between Pope,King and Barons.

Innocentius episcopus seruus seruorum Dei uniuersis Cristi fidelibus hanc paginam inspecturis salutem et apostolicam ben(edictionem). Etsi k(arissi)m(u)s in Cristo filius noster I(ohannes) rex Anglorum illustris Deum et ecclesiam vehementer offenderit, unde nos eum excommunicationis vinculo innodauimus et regnum eius ecclesiastico subiecimus interdicto, ipse tamen, illo misericorditer inspirante qui non vult mortem peccatoris sed ut conuertatur et viuat (cf. Ezekiel 33:11), tandem reuersus ad cor, Deo et ecclesie humiliter satisfecit in tantum quod non solum recompensationem pro dampnis et restitutionem exhibuit de ablatis, verum etiam plenariam libertatem contulit ecclesie Anglican(e). Quinimmo utraque sententia relaxata regnum suum tam Anglie quam Ybernie beato Petro et ecclesie Roman(e) concessit, recipiens illud a nobis in feudum sub annuo censu mille marcarum, fidelitatis nobis inde prestito iuramento, sicut per priuilegium eius apparet aurea bulla munitum. Adhuc autem omnipotenti Deo amplius placere desiderans, signum viuifice crucis reuerenter assumpsit, profecturus in subsidium terre sancte ad quod se magnifice preparabat. Sed humani generis inimicus qui semper consueuit bonis actibus inuidere, suis callidis artibus aduersus eum barones Anglie concitauit ita ut ordine peruerso in illum insurgerent, postquam conuersus ecclesie satisfecit, qui assistebant eidem quando ecclesiam offendabat. Orta siquidem inter eos dissensionis materia, cum plures dies statuti fuissent ad tractandum de pace utrinque, interim sollempnes nuntii ad nostram fuerunt presentiam destinati, cum quibus habito diligenti tractatu, post plenam deliberationem scripsimus per eosdem .. archiepiscopo et episcopis Anglican(is), precipiendo mandantes ut ad reformandum inter utrosque veram et plenam concordiam diligens impenderent studium et operam efficacem, omnes coniurationes et conspirationes, sique fuerant forte presumpte a tempore suborte discordie inter regnum et sacerdotium, apostolica denunciantes auctoritate cassatas et per excommunicationis sententiam inhibentes ne talia decetero presumerentur a quoquam, magnates et nobiles Anglie monendo prudenter et eis efficaciter iniungendo ut per manifesta deuotionis et humilitatis inditia ipsum regem sibi placare studerent, ac deinde, siquid ab eo ducerent postulandum, non insolenter sed humiliter implorarent, regalem ei conseruantes honorem et exhibentes seruitia consueta que ipsi et predecessores eorum sibi et suis predecessoribus impenderunt, cum eis ipse rex non deberet absque iuditio spoliari, ut sic quod intenderent possent facilius obtinere. Nos enim eundem regem per litteras nostra rogauimus et monuimus, et per prefatos archiepiscopum et episcopos nichilominus rogari et moneri mandauimus, in remissionem sibi peccaminum iniungentes quatinus predictos magnates et nobiles benigne tractaret et iustas petitiones eorum clementer admitteret, ut et ipsi congaudendo cognoscerent eum in meliorem statum diuina gratia esse mutatum, ac per hoc ipsi et heredes eorum sibi et heredibus suis deberent promptius et deuotius famulari, plena eis in veniendo, morando et recedendo securitate concessa, ita quod, si forte nequiret inter eos concordia prouenire, in curia sua per pares eorum secundum leges et consuetudines regni suborta dissensio sopiretur. Verum, ante quam nuntii cum hoc prouido et iusto mandato rediiseent, illi, iuramento fidelitatis omnino contempto, cum, et si rex eos iniuste grauasset, ipsi tam(en) non debuissent sic agere contra eum ut in causa sua iidem iudices et exequutores existerent, vassali contra d(omi)n(u)m et milites contra regem publice coniurantes, non solum cum aliis sed cum eius manifestissimis inimicis, presumpserunt contra eum arma mouere, occupantes et deuastantes terras ipsius, ita quod ciuitatem quoque Londonien(sem), que sedes est regni, proditorie sibi traditam inuaserunt. Interim autem, prefatis nuntiis reuertentibus, rex obtulit eis secundum formam mandati nostri iustitie plenitudinem exhibere, quam ipsi omnino spernentes ceperunt manus extendere ad peiora. Unde rex ipse ad audientiam nostram appelans, obtulit eis exhibere iustitiam coram nobis, ad quos huius cause iuditium ratione dominii pertinebat, quod ipsi sunt penitus aspernati. Deinde optulit illis ut tam ab ipso quam illis eligerentur quatuor viri prudentes qui una nobiscum subortam inter eos discordiam terminarent, promittens quod ante omnia reuocaret uniuersos abusus quicumque fuissent in Angliam suo tempore introducti, sed nec hoc illi dignati sunt acceptare. Tandem rex illis proposuit quod, cum regni dominium ad Roman(am) ecclesiam pertineret, ipse nec poterat nec debebat absque nostro spetiali mandato quicquam de illo in nostrum preiuditium immutare, unde rursus ad nostram audientiam appellauit, se ipsum ac regnum cum omni honore ac iure suo apostolice protectioni supponens, sed cum nullo modo proficeret, postulauit ab archiepiscopo et episcopis ut ipsi nostrum exequerentur mandatum, ius ecclesie Roman(e) defenderent, ac tuerentur eundem, secundum formam priuilegii crucesignatis indulti. Porro, cum ipsi nichil horum facere voluissent, videns se omni pene consilio et auxilio destitutum, quicquid illi ausi sunt petere non est ausus ipse negare. Unde conpulsus est per vim et metum, qui cadere poterat in virum etiam constantissimum, compositionem inhire cum ipsis non solum vilem et turpem, verum etiam illicitam et iniquam, in nimiam diminutionem et derogationem sui iuris pariter et honoris. Quia vero nobis a domino dictum est in proph(et)a 'Constitui te super gentes et regna ut euellas et destruas et hedefices et plantes' (Jeremiah 1:10), itemque per alium, 'Dissolue colligationes impietatis, solue fasciculos deprimentes' (Isaiah 58:6), nos tante malignitatis audatiam dissimulare nolentes, in apostolice sedis contemptum, regalis iuris dispendium, Anglican(e) gentis opprobrium et graue periculum tocius negotii crucifixi, quod utique immineret, nisi per auctoritatem nostram reuocarentur omnino que a tanto principe crucesignato taliter sunt extorta, etiam ipso volente illa seruari, ex parte Dei omnipotentis, patris et filii et spiritus sancti, auctoritate quoque beatorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum eius ac nostra, de communi fratrum nostrorum consilio, compositionem huiusmodi reprobamus penitus et dampnamus, sub interminatione anathematis prohibentes ne dictus rex eam obseruare presumat, aut barones cum complicibus suis ipsam exigant obseruari, tam cartam quam obligationes seu cautiones quecumque pro ipsa vel de ipsa sunt facte, irritantes penitus et cassantes ut nullo unquam tempore aliquam habeant firmitatem. Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam cassationis et prohibitionis infringere vel ei ausu temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attemptare presumpserit, indignationem omnipotentis Dei et beatorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum eius se nouerit incursurum. Dat' Anagnie, viiii. k(a)l' Septembr(is), pontificatus nostri anno octauodecimo.


Innocent, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all of Christ's faithful inspecting this letter, greetings and apostolic benediction. Although our most dear son in Christ, John illustrious King of the English, grievously offended God and the Church, in consequence of which we imposed sentence of excommunication upon him and put his kingdom under ecclesiastical interdict; yet, by the merciful inspiration of him who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live (cf. Ezekiel 33:11), the King at length returned to his senses, and humbly made such complete amends to God and the Church that he not only paid compensation for damages and restored property wrongfully seized, but also granted full liberty to the English church. Furthermore, on the relaxation of the two sentences (of excommunication and interdict), he granted his kingdom of England and of Ireland to St Peter and the Roman church, receiving it back from us as a fief under an annual payment of one thousand marks, having sworn an oath of fealty to us, as is apparent from his privilege furnished with a golden seal. Desiring still further to please almighty God, he reverently assumed the badge of the life-giving cross, intending to set out for the relief of the Holy Land, a project for which he was splendidly preparing. But the enemy of the human race, who has always hated good actions, by his cunning wiles stirred up against him the barons of England so that, with perverse inconsistency, those men who had supported him when he had offended the Church, rebelled against him after he had turned from his sin and made amends to the Church. A matter of dispute having arisen between them, and with several days having been fixed for the parties to discuss peace, formal envoys had meanwhile been sent to us. Having conferred diligently with them, and after full deliberation, we sent letters by them to the archbishop and the English bishops, charging and commanding them to devote earnest attention and effective effort to restoring a true and full agreement between the two sides. by apostolic authority denouncing as void all leagues and conspiracies that might have been formed after the outbreak of discord between regnum and sacerdotium and prohibiting, under sentence of excommunication, any attempt to form such leagues in future. They were prudently to admonish the magnates and nobles of England, and effectively to enjoin them, to strive to please the King by manifest proofs of devotion and humility, and then, if they should decide to make a demand of him, to implore it humbly and without insolence, maintaining his royal honour and rendering the customary services which they and their predecessors paid to him and his predecessors, since the King ought not to be deprived of these services without judgement, that in this way they might the more easily gain their object. For we in our letters, and equally through the aforesaid archbishop and bishops, asked and advised the King, enjoining it on him in remission of his sins, to treat these magnates and nobles kindly and to hear their just petitions graciously, so that they too might recognize with gladness how by divine grace he had experienced a change of heart, and that thereby they and their heirs should serve him and his heirs readily and devotedly. And we also asked him to grant them full safe conduct in coming, staying and returning, so that if they could not arrive at agreement, the dispute might be decided in his court by their peers according to the laws and customs of the realm. But before the envoys bearing this wise and just mandate had returned home, the barons threw over their oath of fealty although, even if the King had wrongfully oppressed them, they should not have proceeded against him by constituting themselves as both judges and executors in their own suit, yet, openly conspiring as vassals against their lord and as knights against their king, they leagued themselves not only with others but with his arch-enemies, and dared to make war on him, occupying and devastating his lands and even seizing the city of London, the seat of the realm, which had been treacherously betrayed to them. Meanwhile, the aforesaid envoys returned to England, and the King offered, in accordance with the terms of our mandate, to grant the barons full justice. This they altogether rejected and began to stretch forth their hands to deeds still worse. So the King, appealing to our tribunal, offered to grant them justice before us to whom the judgement of this suit belonged by reason of lordship. But this they utterly rejected. Then he offered them that four discreet men chosen by him and four more chosen by themselves should, together with us, end the dispute, promising that, before all else, he would repeal all abuses introduced into England in his time. But this too they would not deign to accept. Finally, the King declared to them that, since the lordship of the realm belonged to the Roman church, he neither could nor should make any change in it to our prejudice, without our special mandate. And so he again appealed to our tribunal, placing under apostolic protection both himself and his realm with all his honour and rights. But making no progress by any means, he asked the archbishop and the bishops to execute our mandate, to defend the rights of the Roman church, and to protect him in accordance with the form of the privilege granted to those signed with the cross. When the archbishop and bishops would not take any action, the King, seeing himself deprived of almost all counsel and help, did not dare to refuse what the barons had dared to demand. And so by such violence and fear as might affect the most courageous of men, he was forced to accept an agreement that is not only shameful and demeaning but also illicit and iniquitous, thereby lessening unduly and impairing his right and dignity. But because the Lord has told us by the prophet, 'I have set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root up and pull down, to build and to plant' (Jeremiah 1:10), and by another, 'Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress' (Isaiah 58:6), we refuse to ignore such shameless presumption, for thereby the apostolic see would be dishonoured, the King's rights injured, the English people shamed, and the whole business of the cross would be seriously endangered. And as this danger would be imminent if concessions, thus extorted from such a prince who has taken the cross, were not cancelled by our authority, even though he himself should choose to uphold them, on behalf of almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and by the authority of saints Peter and Paul his apostles, and by our own authority, acting on the general advice of our brethren, we utterly reject and condemn this settlement, commanding under threat of excommunication that the King should not dare to observe it, and that the barons and their associates should not require it to be observed, declaring the charter, with all undertakings and guarantees whether confirming it or resulting from it, to be null and void for ever. Wherefore, let no man infringe this letter of annulment and prohibition, or presume to oppose it. If anyone should presume to do so, let him know that he will incur the anger of almighty God and of saints Peter and Paul, his apostles. Given at Anagni, 24 August, in the 18th year of our pontificate. 




5. Letters of Pope Innocent III to the barons of England, chastising them for their rebellion, informing them of the King's appeal to Rome, commanding them to renounce the settlement forced upon the King (Magna Carta) and to send proctors to the general council to seek a proper settlement from the Pope. Anagni, 24 August 1215

B = TNA C 54/12 (Close Roll 17 John) m.22d, on the dorse of a membrane whose face covers the period 2 September - 22 September 1215.  C = TNA C 54/13 (Ibid.) m.20d.

Pd (from B) Foedera, 136; (calendar from B) RLC, i, 269; (from B) Cheney and Semple, Selected Letters of Innocent III, 217-19 no.83; (calendar) Letters of Innocent III, ed. Cheney and Cheney, 170 no.1019; Potthast no.4991. The letter is also recited by Wendover, Flores, ed. Coxe, iii, 327, whence Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Luard, ii, 619

TNA C 54/12 (Close Roll 17 John) m.22d. Letters of Pope Innocent III to the barons of England, chastising them for their rebellion.

Innoc(entius) episcopus seruus seruorum Dei nobilibus viris baronibus Angl(ie) sp(iritu)m consilii sanioris. Utinam in persecucione quam temere commouistis aduersus dominum vestrum regem attendissetis prudencius fidelitatis prestite iuramentum, ius apostolice sed(is), nostre prouisionis mandatum, et priuilegium cruce signatis indultum, quia proculdubio non sic processissetis ad factum quod omnes pene qui audiunt quasi facinus detestantur, presertim cum in c(aus)a ipsa vos iudices et executores feceritis, eodem rege parato in curia sua vob(is) per pares vestros secundum consuetudines et leges regni iusticie plenitudinem exhibere, vel coram nob(is) ad quos huius cause iudicium r(aci)one dominii pertinebat, aut etiam coram arbitris eligendis hinc inde una nobiscum in ipso negocio processuris. Unde cum nichil horum dignati fueritis acceptare, ad nostram audienciam appellauit, se ipsum ac regnum cum omni honore ac iure suo apostolice protectioni supponens, puplice protestando quod cum eiusdem regni dominium ad Rom(anam) ecclesiam pertineret ipse nec poterat nec debebat quicquam de illo in nostrum preiudicium immutare. Cum igitur illa composicio qualisqual(is), ad quam per vim et metum induxistis eundem, non solum sit vilis et turpis verum etiam illicita et iniqua, ut merito sit ab omnibus reprobanda maxime propter modum, nos qui tam regi quam regno tenemur et spiritualiter et temporaliter prouidere, per apostolica vob(is) scripta precipiendo mandamus et recta fide consulimus quatinus facientes de necessitate virtutem renuncietis composicioni huiusmodi per vos ipsos et satisfaciatis eidem ac suis de dampnis et iniuriis irrogatis, ut idem rex per manifesta deuocionis et humilitatis indicia placatus a vob(is) per se ipsum benigne concedat quicquid de iure fuerit concedendum, ad quod etiam nos ipsum efficaciter inducemus q(uonia)m sic(ut) nolumus quod ipse rex suo iure priuetur, ita volumus ut ipse a grauamine vestro desistat, ne per consuetudines prauas aut exactiones iniquas sub nostro dominio regnum Angl(ie) opprimatur, eritque firmum et stabile in perpetuum quod tali modo fuerit ordinatum. Inspiret igitur vob(is) ille qui neminem vult perire (cf. Ezekiel 33:11) ut acquiescatis humiliter nostris salubribus consiliis et mandatis, ne si secus egeritis in eum incidatis necessitatis articulum quem tandem euadere sine multo grauamine non possitis. Q(uonia)m, ut de ceteris taceamus, nulla ratione dissimulare possemus graue periculum tocius negocii crucifixi, quod utique immineret nisi per auctoritatem nostram reuocarentur omnino que a tanto principe cruce signato taliter sunt extorta, etiam ipso volente illa seruari. Quare dum apud nos archiepiscopus et episcopi Angl(ie) presentes extiterint in concilio generali quod ad expediend(um) crucis negocium principalius intendimus celebrare, procuratores idoneos ad nostram presentiam destinetis, secure vos nostro beneplacito committentes, quia nos ea fauente Domino statuemus per que, grauaminibus et abusibus de regno Angl(ie) prorsus exclusis, rex suo sit iure ac honore contentus et tam clerus quam populus uniuersus debita pace ac libertate letetur. Dat' Anagn', viii. k(a)l' Sept(embris), pont(ificatus) nostri anno xviii.


Innocent, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the noble men the barons of England, a spirit of sounder understanding. Would that in the persecution you have recklessly moved against your lord the King you had prudently considered the oath of fealty you gave, the rights of the apostolic see, the mandate containing our ordinance, and the privilege granted to those signed with the cross, for you would certainly not have proceeded to an action which almost all who hear of it abominate as a crime, especially as you have constituted yourselves in this suit both judges and executors, though the King was ready to grant you full justice in his court by your peers according to the customs and laws of the kingdom, or before us to whom the judgement of this suit belonged by right of lordship, or even before arbitrators, chosen by each side, who together with us would arrive at a settlement. Hence, as you did not deign to accept any of these procedures he has appealed to our tribunal, placing himself and his realm, with all his honour and right, under apostolic protection, and publicly proclaiming that, as the lordship of the realm belonged to the Roman church, he neither could nor ought to make any change in it to our prejudice. Since, therefore, the settlement, whatever the terms, is one which you induced him to accept by force and fear, and is not only demeaning and shameful but also illicit and iniquitous, so that it deserves to be universally rejected, and most of all for the method used, we, who are bound to provide both spiritually and temporally for the King and the realm, direct and command you by apostolic authority, and in honest faith advise you, to make a virtue of necessity and voluntarily to renounce this settlement, making amends to the King and his people for the damages and injuries inflicted on them, so that the King, appeased by manifest proofs of devotion and humility, may of himself graciously concede to you all that by right ought to be conceded, a course to which we also will effectively urge him. For, while we do not wish the King to be deprived of his right, on the other hand we do wish him to stop injuring you, so that under our lordship the kingdom of England may not be oppressed by evil customs or unjust extortions, and a settlement of the kind we suggest will always be sure and stable in perpetuity. May He, therefore, who desires not that any should perish (cf. Ezekiel 33:11), inspire you to concur humbly in our salutary counsels and commands, lest if you act otherwise you should fall into a dire strait from which you could ultimately escape only with much injury. For, to pass over other matters in silence, what we could not possibly ignore is the grave danger to the whole business of the crucified one; a danger that would be near if the concessions thus wrested from such a prince who has taken the cross were not entirely revoked by our authority, even though he should wish to have them upheld. So, at the time when the archbishop and the bishops of England will be attending the general council which we intend to hold chiefly to expedite the business of the cross, you are to send fit proctors to appear before us, confidently entrusting yourselves to our good pleasure. For, with God's favour, we shall make a settlement that, entirely sweeping away injuries and abuses from the kingdom of England, will leave the King satisfied with his right and dignity, and cause both the clergy and the whole people to rejoice in the peace and freedom that are their due. Given at Anagni, 24 August, in the 18th year of our pontificate.




6. Letters of P(eter) bishop of Winchester, (Simon) abbot of Reading and Pandulph papal subdeacon addressed to S(tephen) archbishop of Canterbury and his suffragans, reciting letters of Pope Innocent III (above no.1). The three commissioners accordingly inform the archbishop of Canterbury that nine named individuals and others have defied the king, refused to enforce a threefold form of peace ('triplex forma pacis'), and occupied and armed the city of London with the assistance of various of its citizens, to the great prejudice of the king and in contempt of mother church. The commissioners therefore pronounce excommunication and interdict against the conspirators, and quash any new customs or grants of land unlicenced by the king; denouncing in particular the city and citizens of London, G(iles) bishop of Hereford, W(illiam fitz Walter) his archdeacon, Alexander the clerk, Osbert of Seamer chaplain, J(ohn) de Ferriby clerk. R. chaplain of Robert fitz Walter and all who disturb the realm or impede the king's privileges as crusader. Dover, 5 September 1215

A = Canterbury Cathedral Archives Chartae Antiquae M247. Approx. 275 X 285 + 15 mm. Sealed sur double queue, slits for three tags, tags and seals missing. Written in a distinctive Italianite hand, most likely by a clerk attached to the household of Pandulf.

Pd (from A) F.M. Powicke, 'The Bull "Miramur Plurimum" and a Letter to Archbishop Stephen Langton, 5 September 1215', English Historical Review, xliv (1929), 90-3; English Episcopal Acta IX: Winchester 1205-1238 (Oxford 1994), no.100; (calendar from B) Fifth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscript (London 1877-8), appendix, p.454. The papal letters (above no.1), but not their recital by the commissioners, also preserved in a careless and incomplete form by Wendover, Flores, ed. Coxe, iii, 336-8, whence Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Luard, ii, 627-8.

Venerabilibus in Cristo patribus domino S(tephano) Dei gratia Cant' archiepiscopo tocius Angl(ie) primati et sancte Rom(ane) ecclesie card(inali) et suffragan(eis) eius, P(etrus) eadem gratia Winton' episcopus, .. abbas de Rading' et Pand(ulfus) domini pape subd(iaconus) et famil(iaris) salutem et debitum honorem. Litteras domini p(a)p(e) recepimus in hac forma: [RECITES THE TEXT OF no.1 ABOVE]. Certi quoque sumus quod dominus p(a)p(a) vob(is) plures litteras monitorias et preceptorias destinauit pro domino I(ohanne) Angl(ie) rege illustri contra perturbatores regie dignitatis, et utinam earum efficaciam rei euidentia loqueretur. Notorium enim est quod nobiles viri Robertus filius Walteri, qui exercitus Dei se nominat marescallum, comes Winton', com(es) de Clara, com(es) Gloucestr', Eustac(ius) de Vescy, Ricc(ardus) de Percy, I(ohannes) constabularius Cestr', W(illelmus) de Abbeny, W(illelmus) de Mombray et multi alii complices et fautores ipsorum, coniurationibus et conspirationibus illicitis contra dignitatem regiam colligati, contra ipsum regem et pacem regni, quod est patrimonium beati Petri, arma mouere nequiter presumpserunt, et contra triplicem formam pacis, quarum quelibet honesta et rationabil(is) erat et a viris D(eu)m timentibus merito acceptanda, ipsum d(omi)n(u)m suum contemptibiliter diffidarunt, fidelitatis sibi prestite vinculo dissoluto. Ciuitatem quoque London', corone pariter et regni sui caput, fraudulentis machinationibus occuparunt, contempta forma pacis quam dominus p(a)p(a) presentibus et consentientibus eorum nuntiis prouiderat obseruandam, quibus ipsi ciues non sine reatu periurii consenserunt, ciuitatem ipsam contra dominum suum regem et suos nequiter munientes et quos fideles ipsi regi nouerant penis corporalibus et pecuniariis prout grauius poterant punientes, unde quidam ipsorum, licet crucesignati petentes iustitiam, optinere nullatenus potuerunt. Ideoque predictis ciuibus cum aliis reg(is) hostibus coniuratis domino regi dignitates regie sunt subtracte cum ipsi, quod inauditum est, terras donent, consuetudines regni approbatas euacuent, noua iura constituant et que a rege domino suo de consilio magnatum qui tunc erant eius familiares prouide ordinata fuerant dissipent et immutent, et ita cum nemo tam nefariis eorum ausibus contradicat nec ad sancte crucis negotium nec ad apostolice sedis mandatum siue ad fidelitatis prestite iuramentum respectus debitus adhibetur, prout dominus p(a)p(a) conqueritur in suorum continentia mandatorum. Propter quod rex catholicus et tam Ihesu Cristo quam ecclesie illius sanguine rubricate deuotus, in quantum ipsi possunt regia spoliatus est dignitate et contemptibilis clericis factis et laicis, quia sedis apostolice super se et terram suam presidium inuocauit, ut possit dominus p(a)p(a) vere dicere cum propheta 'Filios enutriui et exaltaui, ipsi autem spreuerunt me' (Isaiah 1:2). Cum plerique simplices c(aus)am predictorum, vel ut dicamus verius inimicorum, eo fauorabiliorem existiment quo prelatos Angl(ie) conspiciunt aut manifeste sibi assistere aut contemptis mandatis apostolicis in eis ausus nefarios non punire. Cum igitur faciente prodolor malitia subditorum, inde pericula fortius inualescant, un(de) ad sedanda illa dominus p(a)p(a) interponit sollicitius partes suas, ne nos quibus super hiis dominus p(a)p(a) executionem mandatorum suorum specialiter demandauit, qui dudum expectauimus pacem et non venit, quesiuimus bona et ecce turbatio (Jeremiah 14:19), si ultra tacuerimus, in periculum animarum et ordinum incidamus, predictos nobiles domini reg(is) et regni turbatores et hostes et omnes eorum consiliarios, complices et fautores denuntiamus auctoritate apostolica excommunicationis vinculo innodatos et terras eorum interdicto subiectas, vob(is) eadem auctoritate firmiter precipiendo mandantes quatinus utramque sententiam singulis dominicis et festiuis diebus, extinctis candelis et pulsatis campanis, denuntietis publice, et faciatis singuli vestrum per proprias dioceses in singulis parrochialibus ecclesiis secundum formam prescriptam firmiter obseruari. Coniurationes quoque et conspirationes seu confederationes omnes contra predictum regem factas auctoritate apostolica denuntiamus omnino cassatas. Constitutiones etiam vel assisas seu infeudationes vel donationes terrarum per eos vel per eorum aliquos factas, seu iudicia si qua sunt ab eis vel eorum aliquibus sine reg(is) auctoritate presumpta vel si qua faciant in futurum, auctoritate sedis apostolice in irritum reuocamus, omnes illos excommunicationis sententie specialiter supponentes qui aliquibus predictorum usi fuerint vel utentur vel in aliquibus possessionibus, libertatibus aut liberis consuetudinibus occasione seu auctoritate tali ius sibi presumpserint vendicare. Quibus utique sententiis ciuitatem et ciues London' inuoluimus tanto expressius et seorsum ab aliis quanto excessas ipsorum mag(is) detestabilis reperitur, qui cum essent peculiaris eius populus (Deuteronomy 7:6) et in corona sua quasi lapides pretiosi fulgerent (Ps. (Gr.) 20:4), conuersi sunt in arcum prauum (Ps. 77:57) et de fidelibus persecutores effecti. Interdictum vero sub hac forma precipimus obseruari, ut nullum omnino sacramentum ecclesiasticum celebretur in terris omnium predictorum vel ubi presentes extiterint preter bapt(ismu)m paruulorum et viaticum in extremis. Specialiter autem E(gidium) dictum Hereforden' episcopum et W(illelmum filium Walteri) archidiac(onum) suum, Alexandrum clericum, Osbertum de Samara capellanum, I(ohannem) de Fereby clericum et R. capellanum dicti Roberti fil(ii) Walteri qui sine superioris mandato ausus fuit Cristum Domini pollutis labiis diffidare, auctoritate apostolica propter manifestos eorum excessus quos in prefatum regem crucesignatum et beati Petri patrimonium commiserunt simili sententie duximus supponendos, et tamdiu hanc et alias predictas sententias firmiter obseruari precipimus donec de dampnis et iniuriis irrogatis et de tanta contumacia tam ecclesie Rom(ane) quam ipsi regi satisfecerint competenter et sic promouere studuerint negotium crucifixi sicut illos constat idem negotium in illata guerra predicto regi et eius sociis crucesignatis contra concessum sibi priuilegium disturbasse. Simili quoque sententia innodamus omnes qui dicto regi in regno suo denegant, subtrahunt et minuunt iura sua. Ne igitur que premissa sunt tergiuersatione aliqua remaneant inexpleta, vob(is) ex parte domini pape districte precipimus quatinus circa obseruantiam predictorum talem diligentiam, vigilantiam et sollicitudinem apponatis, ne propter absentiam seu negligentiam alicuius, quod absit, aliqua de premissis suo defraudentur effectu. Dat' apud Douer', non(as) Sept(embris), pontificatus domini Innoc(entii) iii. p(a)p(e) anno octauodecimo, regni vero domini I(ohannis) reg(is) Angl(ie) anno xvii°.


To the venerable fathers in Christ S(tephen) by God's grace archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman church, and his suffragans, greeting and due honour from Peter by the same grace bishop of Winchester, (Simon) abbot of Reading and Pandulf subdeacon and familiar of the Pope. We have received letters of the lord Pope in this form: [RECITES THE TEXT OF no.1 ABOVE]. Although we are sure that the lord Pope has sent you many letters of advice and command on behalf of the illustrious King John, against the disturbers of royal dignity, would that their effect were more clear! For it is notorious that the noble men Robert fitz Walter, who calls himself 'Marshal of the army of God', (Saher de Quincy) earl of Winchester, (Richard) earl of Clare, (Geoffrey de Mandeville) earl of Gloucester, Eustace de Vescy, Richard de Percy, John (de Lacy) constable of Chester, William d'Aubigny, William de Mowbray and many others of their associates and supporters, leagued together in illicit plots and conspiracies against the royal dignity, have wickedly dared to take up arms against the said king and the peace of the realm, the patrimony of St Peter. Against the terms of that threefold form of peace, of which each part was decent and reasonable and deemed acceptable to those fearing God, they have contemptibly defied their lord, dissolving the fealty by which they were previously bound. Moreover, they have occupied the city of London, the very crown and head of the realm, using fraudulent means and spurning the form of peace that the lord Pope laid down in the presence and with the knowledge of their envoys. The citizens have consented to these things, not without an accusation of perjury, wickedly provisioning that city against their lord, the King, and his men, punishing those they know to be faithful to the King as harshly as they can by physical and monetary penalties, so that various of the King's men, although signed with the cross, can obtain none of the justice that they seek. The King has been deprived of his royal dignities by these citizens, conspiring with others of his enemies who, in a way never before heard of, grant away lands, abolish the approved customs of the realm, make new laws, and lay waste and alter those things that were properly ordained by the King, their lord, with the counsel of those magnates who in times past were his familiar counsellors. Since no-one speaks out against such evil presumptions, nobody observes with due respect the business of the holy cross, the command of the apostolic see, or their sworn oath of fealty, just as the lord Pope complains in his commands. As a result, the catholic King, devoted both to Jesus Christ and to his Church stained with Jesus Christ's blood, is despoiled of his dignity by contemptible means employed by both clerks and laymen in so far as these people can achieve, all because the King declared the authority of the apostolic see over both himself and his land. So may the Pope truly say with the prophet: 'I have brought up children and exalted them, but they have despised me' (Isaiah 1:2). Since many simple people judge the cause of these men (more truly described by us as enemies) more favourably, observing the prelates either openly granting them assistance or failing to punish their wicked presumptions, in contempt of apostolic commands. Unhappily, and since through the malice of the King's subject's worse dangers multiply, the Pope has all the more solicitously intervened to settle this matter, lest we, whom the lord Pope has specifically charged with the enforcement of his commands, and who have long awaited peace that did not come, seeking good and finding only unrest (Jeremiah 14:19), endanger our souls and our office if we any longer remain silent. We have therefore, by apostolic authority, denounced as excommunicate all the aforesaid nobles, disturbers and enemies of the lord King and the realm, together with all their counsellors, associates and supporters, subjecting their lands to a sentence of interdict. By the same authority we firmly command that you publicly proclaim each of these sentences every Sunday and feast day, with candles extinguished and bells rung, with each of you ensuring that these things are firmly observed throughout your dioceses in every parish church in the aforesaid form. By apostolic authority, we moreover denounce as entirely quashed all cabals, conspiracies or confederations made against the aforesaid king. We declare invalid, by apostolic authority, any constitutions, assizes, enfeofments or gifts of lands made by these people or any of them, and all their judgements if made by them or any of their number without the King's authority, or any such things to be done in future, placing especially under sentence of excommunication all those by whom these things occur or were done or who have presumed to subject any property, liberties or free customs to such law either by opportunity or by authority. We include the city and citizens of London in each of these sentences, expressly and distinct from all other parties, given that their excesses are considered especially hateful and that they who were his peculiar people (Deuteronomy 7:6) shining like precious stones in his crown (Ps. (Gr.) 20:4) have been turned aside as a crooked bow (Ps. (Gr.) 77:57), becoming persecutors of the faithful. We command an interdict to be observed in the following form, so that no ecclesiastical sacrament be celebrated in the lands of any of these people or where they are present, save for baptism of infants and last rites to those approaching death. By apostolic authority and on account of their manifest wrongdoings against the aforesaid King signed with the cross, and against the patrimony of St Peter, we specifically place under a similar sentence G(iles) called bishop of Hereford, and W(illiam fitz Walter) his archdeacon, Alexander the clerk, Osbert of Seamer chaplain, John of Ferriby clerk and R. the chaplain of the aforesaid Robert fitz Walter (who without any mandate from a superior, dared to defy with polluted lips the Christ of our Lord). We command that this and the other aforesaid sentences shall be observed until these people render proper satisfaction for the damages and injuries inflicted, and for such contumacy, both to the church of Rome and to the King himself, when they will so strive to promote the business of the crucified one just as they undertook to disturb that same business by the war raised against the aforesaid King and his companions signed with the cross, in contradiction of the privilege conferred upon the King. We place under a similar sentence all those who deny his rights to the King in his realm or who take away or reduce such rights. Lest the aforesaid things remain unfulfilled as the result of any evasion, we firmly command you, on the Pope's behalf, that you show such diligence, vigilance and care in the observation of the aforesaid things, lest by the absence or negligence of anyone (let it not be so!), any of the aforesaid things be deprived of its effect. Given at Dover, 5 September in the 18th year of the pontificate of the lord Pope Innocent III, the 17th year of the reign of the lord John King of England.




7. Letters of King John to the Pope, reporting that it was the King's submission to the Pope that first led to rebellion by earls and barons, appointing envoys to represent him before the Pope and submitting to whatever terms the Pope, with the assistance of these envoys, may determine. Dover, 13 September 1215

B = TNA C 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.16d.

Pd (from B) Foedera, 138; RLP, 182. Apparently in answer to the Pope's letters, above no.2

TNA C 66/14 m.16d

TNA C 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.16d. Letters of King John to the Pope, reporting that it was the King's submission to the Pope that first led to rebellion.

Reuerendo domino suo et patri sanctissimo I(nnocentio) Dei gratia summo pontifici I(ohannes) eadem gratia rex Angl(ie) etc salutem et debitam tanto domino ac patri reuerenciam. Cum comites et barones Angl(ie) nob(is) deuoti essent an(te)quam nos et nostram terram d(omi)nio vestro subicere curassemus, ex tunc in nos specialiter ob hoc sic(ut) puplice dicunt violenter insurgunt. Nos vero post Deum vos sp(eci)alem dominum et patronum habentes, defensionem nostram et tocius regni quod vestrum est esse credimus, vestre paternitati commissam, et nos quantum in nob(is) est curam et sollicitudinem istam vestre reseruamus d(omi)nacioni, deuocius supplicantes quatinus in negociis nostris, que vestra sunt, consilium et auxilium efficax apponatis prout melius videritis expedire. Latores presencium venerabiles patres W(illelmum) Burdegal' et H(enricum) Dublin' archiepiscopos, magistrum R(icardum) cancell(ariu)m nostrum, abb(at)em Belli Loci, magistrum P(etrum) Ebor' ecclesie precentorem et H. archid(iaconu)m et magistrum R(obertum) de Arenis canonic(um) Ebor' et nobiles viros I(ohannem) Marescallum et G(alfridum) Luterell' fideles nostros quos propter hoc ad pedes vestros transmittimus, benignius exaudientes. Nos enim super omnibus que ad nos et regnum nostrum pertinent vices nostras et auctoritatem sanctitati vestre committimus, ratum habituri et firmum quicquid inde cum consilio nunciorum nostrorum duxeritis ordinandum. T(este) me ipso apud Dour', xiii. die Sept(embris).


To his reverent lord and most holy father Innocent by God's grace high pontiff, John by the same grace King of England etc sends greetings and the reverence owed to such a lord and father. Since the earls and barons of England were loyal to us before we undertook to subject ourselves and our land to your lordship, it was specifically for this cause that they violently rose up against us, as they publicly declare. Since, after God, we hold you to be our special lord and protector, we believe that to you is committed the defense of ourselves and of the whole realm that itself is yours. We pledge this care and sollicitude to your lordship, in so far as we are able, devoutly pleading that, in so far as you consider best, you supply effective counsel and aid in our affairs, that are yours also. We have sent to you on this affair our faithful men, the bearers of these present letters, W(illiam) archbishop of Bordeaux and H(enry) archbishop of Dublin, Master R(ichard Marsh) our chancellor, (Hugh) abbot of Beaulieu, Master P(eter Russignol) precentor of York, H. the archdeacon and Master R(obert) de Araines canon of York, and the noble men J(ohn) Marshal and Geoffrey Lutterell, our faithful subjects, asking that you listen to them with benignity. We have entrusted to your holiness our care and authority over all things that pertain to ourselves and our realm, approving and confirming whatever you may decree in this affair with the counsel of our envoys. Witnessed myself at Dover, 13 September [1215].




8. Letters of King John to the Pope, excusing his failure to attend the Pope in person, appointing proctors to represent him with free authority to act in the interest of the King. [Dover, c.13 September 1215]

B = TNA C 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.15d.  

Pd (from B) Foedera, 139; RLP 182b

TNA C 66/14 m.15d.

TNAC 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.15d. Letters of King John to the Pope, excusing his failure to attend the Pope in person.

Domino pape etc. Erga sedem apostolicam habentes multa proponere et per Dei gratiam et vestram plurima inpetrare, coram vob(is) in propria persona nostra summo desiderio desiderauimus interesse, quia tam iuxta huius voluntatis nostre desiderium impediente locorum difficultate pariter et viarum, necnon perturbacione regni nostri quam ex inopinato patimur, coram presencia vestre sanctitatis in propria persona nostra conparere non possumus. Venerabiles patres nostros W(illelmum) Burdeg' et H(enricum) Dublin' archiepiscopos, magistrum R(icardum) de Mar(isco) cancell(ariu)m nostrum et nobiles viros I(ohannem) Mariscall' et G(alfridum) Luterell' presencium portitores ad sedem apostolicam destinamus quos ita procuratores constituimus in causis et negociis que siue de Angl(ia) siue aliunde habemus siue habu(er)imus in cur(ia) Rom(ana) expedienda, siue in agendo siue deffendendo, ac si singula singulariter expressa fuissent, non tam(en) illis generalem sed aministracionem liberam in omnibus concedentes, ratum habituri et gratum quicquid per iamdictos procuratores aut tres aut saltem duos eorum in vestra presencia factum erit. Promittimus eciam pro eis iudicat(um) solui si opus fuerit. Hoc ita sanctitati vestre significanda duximus ut eadem aduersariis nostris si qui in presencia vestra apparuerint intimentur. T(este) etc.


To the lord Pope. Having a great deal to propose and, by God's grace and your own, to seek from the apostolic see, we longed with great longing to visit you in person. But, putting aside this desire, we are unable to appear before your holiness in person, in part because of the inconvenience of the places and roads, in part on account of the unexpected disturbance of our realm from which we suffer. We are sending to the apostolic see the bearers of these present letters, our venerable fathers W(illiam) archbishop of Bordeaux and H(enry) archbishop of Dublin, Master R(ichard Marsh) our chancellor, and the noble men J(ohn) Marshal and G(eoffrey) Lutterell, whom we have appointed as proctors to expedite causes and negotiations we may or shall have in the Roman curia concerning England or other places, whether in proposing or defending. And though all of them are individually named, we grant them free rather than general administration in all things, confirming and accepting whatever may be done in all things before you by the aforesaid proctors, or by two or even two of them. We have promised moreover, on their behalf, a security that judgment debt will be paid (the cautio 'judicatum solvi'), should this be required. We are led to signify this your holiness, so that it may be made known to our enemies should any such appear in your presence. Witnessed etc.




9. Letters of King John to the Pope, in similar terms to no.8, but here naming a fuller list of nuncios, here granted credence. [Dover, c.13 September 1215]

B = TNA C 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.15d.

Pd (from B) RLP, 182b

TNA C 66/14 m.15d.

TNA C 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.15d. Letters of King John to the Pope, in similar terms to no.8.

Item domino pape omnia ut supra usque huc: Venerabiles patres nostros W(illelmum) Burdegal' et H(enricum) Dublin' archiepiscopos, magistrum R(icardum) de Mar(isco) cancell(ariu)m nostrum, abbatem Belliloci Reg(is), magistrum P(etrum) Ebor' ecclesie precentorem et H. archid(iaconu)m et magistrum R(obertum) de Aren' canonicum Ebor' et nobiles viros I(ohannem) Marescallum et G(alfridum) Luterell' fideles nostros pro negociis nostris que habemus vel habuerimus in curia Rom(ana) expedienda siue de Angl(ia) siue aliunde ad sedem apostolicam nuncios destinamus, quibus si placet apostolice serenitatis gratiam exhibentes, in hiis que ex parte nostra et pro nob(is) paternitati vestre proposuerint indubitanter credatis et eos in nostris iustis peticionibus clementer audire et paternaliter exaudire velitis. T(este) etc.


Again to the lord Pope, all as above until this point: We are sending to the apostolic see as nuncios our venerable fathers W(illiam) archbishop of Bordeaux and H(enry) archbishop of Dublin, Master R(ichard Marsh) our chancellor, (Hugh) abbot of Beaulieu, Master P(eter Russignol) precentor of York and H. archdeacon and Master R(obert) de Airaines canon of York and the noble men J(ohn) Marshal and G(eoffrey) Lutterell, send to the apostolic see asour faithful men, to expedite our affairs that we have or shall have in future in the Roman curia both concerning England and other places, to whom, should it please you, showing the grace of apostolic serenity, believing them, without doubt, in those things that they propose to you, our father, from us or on our behalf, benignly and in a fatherly way hearing and listerning to them in our just petitions. Witnessed etc.




10. Letters of King John to the Pope, thanking him for his support, despite the malice of the English bishops, and announcing the appointment of Pandulf, bishop-elect of Norwich, to inform the Pope in person of the condition of King and realm and to obtain the Pope's aid. [Dover, c.13 September 1215]

B = TNA C 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.15d.

Pd (from B) Foedera, 135 (misdated); RLP, 182b.

TNA C 66/14 m.15d.

TNA C 66/14 (Patent Roll 17 John) m.15d. Letters of King John to the Pope, thanking him for his support.

It(em) domino pape etc. In conspectu paternitatis vestre nos humiliamus ad grates multiplices prout melius scimus et possumus exhibendas pro cura et sollicitudine quam ad defensionem nostram et regni nostri Angl(ie) paterna vestra beniuolencia indesinenter apponit, licet duricia prelatorum Angl(ie) atque inobediencia maliciose impediant pie vestre prouisionis seffectums. Nos t(ame)n pro affectu sincero quem ad nos geritis clemencie vestre deuocius inclinamus, qui etsi ad presens a superbis et a maliuolis ad insipienciam s(ib)i censeatur inefficax, nob(is) erit, Domino concedente, ad tuicionem et pacem et inimicis nostris confusionem et terrorem inducet. Et licet dominus Pand(ulfus) fidel(is) subdiaconus vester, Norwic' electus, nob(is) prenecessarius esset in Angl(ia) utpote qui honorem ecclesie Romane ac nostrum et tocius regni nostri fideliter et deuote procurat, quia tamen nullo modo de statu nostro et regni paternitas vestra certificari poterit melius quam per ipsum, ad pedes vestros eundem destinamus inuitum, deuocius supplicantes quatinus per ipsum specialiter et per alios fideles nostros illate vob(is) in persona nostra iniurie veritate comperta, ad regimen regni nostri et nostre obseruanciam dignitatis paterne manum sollicitudinis apponatis prout excellens vestra discretio viderit expedire, quod per Dei gratiam laudabiliter facitis et fecestis, pro certo habentes quod p(os)t Deum personam vestram et auctoritatem apostolice sed(is) habemus tamicumt et singulare presidium et sub vestri confiducia patrocinii respiramus. T(este) etc.


Again to the lord Pope. We humble ourselves before you, our father, giving repeated thanks in so far as we are able and can better demonstrate, for the care and sollicitude that you, our benign father, ceaselessly extend in defense of us and our realm of England, albeit that the harshness and disobedience of the English bishops maliciously impede the implementation of your pious provision. We nonetheless resort more devoutly to your clemency, knowing the sincere affection that you bear towards us. If at present this is rendered ineffective by the proud and malevolent, with the Lord's permission, it will in future bring us support and peace, and amongst our enemies will give rise to confusion and fear. Although the lord Pandulf, your faithful subdeacon, bishop-elect of Norwich, is most useful to us in England, as he who faithfully and devoutly procured honour for the Roman church, for ourselves and for the whole of our realm, we are with reluctance sending him to you, since no-one else can better prove to you, our father, our condition and that of the realm. We devoutly request that, learning in truth from him in particular, and from others of our faithful men, of the injuries inflicted on you via our person, you stretch forth the hand of paternal sollicitude, as your preeminent discretion deems appropriate, so that, by God's grace, you may act both now and in future so as to earn praise. Know for certain that we hold you and the authority of the apstolic see, after God, as our friend and defender, dwelling under the benevolence of your protection. Witnessed etc.



amissing from B, conjecturally supplied by Hampe bdistribuicione B csuper B dfiliii B enob(is) B, verbis Wendover fhuic not in BC, supplied from Wendover gnot in Wendover hsi tali prestiterit Wendover iirritum B, irritam Wendover jsed Wendover kvel Wendover lWendover inserts precipiendo mnolumus nec Wendover nomni Wendover oNouembris Wendover pvaleat Wendover qIdibus Septembris Wendover rdecimoseptimo B, xviio. C, decimo octauo Wendover, octauodecimo supplied sB affectum, effectum supplied timicum B, amicum spplied


See N. Vincent, 'Feature of the Month: May 2015 - The Papal Letters of 19 March and their Reception in England (May 1215)', The Magna Carta Project ' no.7, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 24-30 May. For assistance with the present feature, I am indebted to Sophie Ambler, Felicity Hill, and John Hudson.


Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols. (London, 1872-73), ii, 223; RLC, i, 226, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 16-22 August.


King John’s Diary and Itinerary 16-22 August, also noting fears on behalf of the King that Langton was himself communicating with Rome, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 23-29 August for attempts by the King to prevent unlicenced atttendance at the Pope's forthcoming general council.


King John’s Diary and Itinerary Diary 5-11 July.


Wendover, in Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard, (7 vols., Rolls series, 1872–83), ii, 613; Walter of Coventry, ed. Stubbs, ii, 222, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 19-25 July.


King John’s Diary and Itinerary 19-25 July.


An alternative scenario might associate the communication of Magna Carta to Rome with an embassy by the former abbot of Thornton, authorized by the King on 3 August (King John’s and Itinerary 2-8 August). But the timing here is probably too narrow.


King John’s Diary and Itinerary 30 August-5 September, and 6-12 September.


RLC, i, 228, above; King John’s Diary and Itinerary 30 August-5 September.


RLP, 158b, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 1-6 November and 7-13 November.


RLP, 141, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 10-16 May.


Alternatively, the meeting between Simon and the Pope could have occurred in 1214, when Simon was one of those representing his brother, archbishop Stephen, in Rome, to press for the relaxation of the papal interdict and to complain against the activities of the papal legate, Nicholas of Tusculum: RC, 208b-9; E. Mercati, 'La Prima Relazione del Cardinale Nicolo de Romanis sulla sua Legazione in Inghilterra (1213)', Essays in History Presented to Reginald Lane Poole, ed. H.W.C. Davies (Oxford, 1927), 285-6.


RLP, 143b, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 14-20 June, the King's licence specifying that the chapter act in accordance with previously received written instructions from the Pope, themselves now lost ('secundum formam litterarum domini pape quas inde suscepitis'). For Simon's election, see also C.R. Cheney, Pope Innocent III and England, (Stuttgart, 1976), 162-5; Wendover, in Paris, Chronica Majora, ii, 628-9.


I have a long paper on this theme, written as long ago as 1994, and blessed by no less an authority than Jim Holt. It should one day see the light of day.


As noted in Vincent, ‘Papal Letters of 19 March’.


Migne, PL, ccxvi, cols.882-3 nos.79-81, whence The Letters of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) concerning England and Wales: a calendar with an appendix of texts, ed. C. R. Cheney and M. G. Cheney (Oxford, 1967), 153 nos.923, 925-6, from the collect for the 1st Sunday in Lent.


For commentary, see J.C. Holt, Magna Carta (2nd edn. (Cambridge, 1992), 370-75, 413-7; Cheney, Innocent III and England, 379-80, and for the 'triplex forma pacis' see also C.R. Cheney, 'Gervase, Abbot of Prémontré: A Medieval Letter Writer', in Cheney, Medieval Texts and Studies (Oxford, 1973), 253; The Letters and Charters of the Legate Guala Bicchieri, Papal Legate in England, 1216-1218, ed. N. Vincent, (Woodbridge, 1996), 113-14 no.144, and cf. Vincent, ' Papal Letters of 19 March’.


RLP, 101b; RLC, i, 146,165b, and for William fitz Walter, Le Neve, Fasti, viii (Hereford), 23-4.


Diplomatic Documents Preserved in the Public Record Office, ed. P. Chaplais, (London,1964), 28-30 no.19 (whence N. Vincent, 'Feature of the Month: January 2015 - The Conference at the New Temple, January 1215'The Magna Carta Project no.3), and for Osbert 'de Semar' as witness to a charter of Richard de Percy, see Oxford, Bodleian Library ms. Rawlinson B455 (Cartulary of St Leonard's York) fo.221v. In 1223-4, a Richard de Sammar', monk of Whitby, was admitted as master of the Benedictine nunnery at Stainfield, Lincs., with the assent of Richard de Percy, the house's patron: Rotuli Hugonis de Welles, episcopi Lincolniensis, AD MCIX-MCCXXV, ed. W.P.W. Phillimore and F.N. Davis, 3 vols, Canterbury and Yorks Society 1, 3-4 (1907-9), iii, 126-7. For various suggestions as to the identity of another of the excommunicates, Alexander the clerk, see Powicke 'The Bull "Miramur Plurimum"', 90 and references.


Calendar of Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain, ed. W.H. Bliss, i (1198-1304) (London, 1892), 40-41; Regesta Honorii Papae III, ed. P. Pressutti, 2 vols (Rome, 1888), i, no.28.


For Hubert the archdeacon and Master Robert of Airaines (Somme, cant. Molliens-Dreuil) acting as royal proctors, see Letters and Charters of the Legate Guala, ed. Vincent, no.40n; above King John's Diary and Itinerary 5-11 April. None of the archdeacons of the York diocese is named H. at this time.


I am indebted to John Hudson for discussion here.

Referenced in

John and the siege of Rochester: week five (The Itinerary of King John)

Feature of the Month