From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
On John's death the small group of loyalist barons and bishops was prompt to proclaim his young son Henry king. At its head was the stout old Earl Marshal, William of Pembroke, who accepted the office of Protector; supported by Ranulf of Chester, as well as by the Justiciar Hubert de Burgh and the legate Gualo, who represented the new Pope Honorius III.
The great Charter was reissued by the new government, but with a significant suspension of the clauses which forbade taxation except by consent of the Great Council. The rebels were at pause; uneasy and dissatisfied with the Dauphin and his French companions, but unwilling to submit to the loyalists.
Hostilities were suspended till the early summer of the next year, by which time there had been appreciable accessions to the king's party. The run-away fight known as the "Fair of Lincoln" turned the scale; and this was followed in August by the "victory of Hubert de Burgh in the Straits of Dover over a considerable fleet bringing French reinforcements for the Dauphin.
Louis saw that the struggle had become hopeless, and came to terms in September, An almost complete amnesty was granted to the rebels, the exception being in the severity displayed by the papal legate Gualo towards the clergy who had opposed the Crown in defiance of the papal commands - a severity which accentuated the disposition of the English clergy, to resent the exercise in England of control by Rome.
The Earl Marshal lived only eighteen months longer, ruling during that time with firmness and moderation. On his death the control passed to Hubert de Burgh and the Bishop of Winchester, Peter des Roches, a Poitevin like John's queen and her kinsfolk, who placed himself at the head of the foreign element which John—forced to depend on mercenaries—had brought into the country.
Gualo's successor Pandulph sought to enforce a papal supremacy, but retired in face of the combination of Hubert and Peter; while Stephen Langton persuaded the Pope to give up imposing foreign legates on the country.
The barons were leaderless, and for a time there was a struggle for power between the foreign party inspired by the bishop and the patriots represented by the justiciar, from which Hubert de Burgh emerged triumphant.
But in 1227 Henry III came of age and assumed the government. For five years Hubert remained his chief minister, bearing the burden of the young king's follies and doing his best to counteract or minimise their bad effects; while Peter des Roches intrigued to undermine his position.
In 1232 the intriguer in his turn achieved success; charges of maladministration and peculation were brought against Hubert which could not indeed be proved, but were not easy to disprove, and he was deprived of office and of most of his estates; though some of his strongest political adversaries interposed in his favour, and popular sentiment was all on the side of the stout old patriot.
Hubert de Burgh had striven honestly and loyally to restore what the misdeeds of John had destroyed—a strong central government on national lines. Not only were the Commons of England English, but the baronage of England had become at length definitely English also in the course of the last three generations.
The barons were resolved that the government of England should be English, not foreign, but they were by no means clearly bent on keeping it strong and centralised. For some twenty-five years after the fall of the last great justiciar it is impossible to discover anywhere acknowledged leaders, or a definite positive policy in the opposition to the Crown, or a definite plan for remedying the persistent misrule, mismanagement, and extravagance.
King John was a brutal and debauched tyrant, clever enough to have been a distinguished statesman and general had he not been the slave of his own passions and vices, which were ignoble without qualification. Henry was neither cruel nor debauched, and if he had recognised his own intellectual limitations and allowed himself to be guided by sensible and patriotic advisers, he would have been an eminently respectable monarch.
Unfortunately, although he was pious and a gentleman, he was obstinately determined to go his own way, which was invariably unwise; and like many other obstinate but shortsighted persons, he was generally managed by crafty intriguers who took advantage of his weaknesses to gain their I own ends.
But there was nothing so fatal as his persistent mistrust of all Englishmen, which led him habitually to repose his confidence in foreign advisers, and to place the administration in the hands of men who, whatever their merits, were detested as spoil-hunting aliens and were wholly un-EngIish in their sympathies.
In the first stage the alien domination was that of the Poitevins, the allies or proteges of Peter des Roches, But Henry's marriage in 1236 to Eleanor of Provence, whose mother was of the house of Savoy, brought an incursion of the young queen's Savoyard uncles and Provencal kinsmen, who had been disappointed of expected profits when Eleanor's sister married the king of France, Louis IX; and a few years later there was a fresh influx of Poitevins, sons and kinsfolk of Henry's mother, who had married again. To these alien swarms had to be added members of the French nobility who by descent or marriage discovered claims to territories in England.
This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.