Sweet Lands of Liberty
By D Fowler
Part 7 – The Crowning of the Legend
Arthur was the first child king in England since Ethelred the Unready. He was crowned once John was defeated the first time, in 1198. It was a hurried affair, because of the situation with John. However, with John defeated, the Pope decided a more formal crowning should occur, and a coronation was set for a High Holy Day late in 1201.
Arthur had spent this time learning more negotiating skills, and especially learning English. His experiences with the common people, and with the Waldensians, would shape his views for the rest of his life. He felt more at home with them, and would often venture into London to speak with them. Barons, too, who wanted some degree of freedom were promised a Parliament “when it becomes feasible.” They were cautioned not to push the young king too hard. They didn’t – they just kept reminding him that he was “the chosen one, to renew England to its glory days.”
Feeling obvious pressure as his coronation neared, he agreed to go by Arthur II. He was once heard, at this time, to joke to one of the barons, “I shall have round tables of knights, of barons, and of anyone else who will participate.”
He soaked up the English language, as people soaked up the concept that they were witnessing history and legend mixing. He was uncertain about some of the legend part – he once is reported to have asked his mother, “Do they really expect me to be this good? I cannot approach the level some are saying.”
“Do not worry,” his mother replied. “Simply remember what Waldo taught – that with God, all things are possible. Let Him guide you, and you shall do well.”
As the crowning day came, Arthur II was still uncertain about what to say. The young teen had grown used to speaking to people one on one, but in a large crowd like this, it was quite foreboding. He decided to sprinkle some of the Arthur legend into it, but add his own flare. Because, an important lesson in that legend was one that he wanted his people to see, too – so the terrors of having to flee would never be felt again.
With incredible pomp, huge throngs of spectators watched as the King of England was crowned. He then stepped to the podium, as King Arthur II, and began to speak:
“My countrymen; we stand as a new generation, at the dawn of a new century, destined to do great things. But one thing I ask all of you, is that you be willing to attempt them yourselves, too. In this, my beloved nation, I dare not say that I could even come close to the celebrated King whose name I bear with honor. But this I can say – that we can come close, if you will each dedicate yourselves to this faithful cause, that right must never be determined by might!... And so, in the spirit of that cause, I tell you, my people, ask not what your countryman can do for you; ask what you can do for your countryman….We are all in this together, in this wonderful land, where freedom to do right shall ring everywhere.”
He spoke for a while longer, finishing with a flourish. “We must endeavor to keep together. So that we may unite the sides of this fabulous fortress, built by nature, and live peacefully; a happy breed of men, in this little world. For after one king, who barely set foot in this place, and another who sought only to take all that is yours, through the banner of Might, I freely dedicate myself to reign among you, under the banner of Right, caring for my subjects as a father for his children, ensuring that Might may no longer make Right, but that the forces of tyranny shall be forsaken, and that Right shall forever triumph in this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this…England!”(1)
With his final words, the crowd roared its approval. “Finally,” one person said, “a king who will serve England, and bring us peace.”
There would be generally be peace, but first, there would be great problems with the Church, as it quickly became – to the people – the force of Might which this Arthur would have to vanquish. What he would do would change European history as much as, if not more than, the Waldensians.
(1) After all, it’s not like John F. Kennedy or Shakespeare will need those words in this TL – nor will another person whose words Arthur will use in the next part :-).
Part 8 – Brothers in the Breach – England and Savoy
Arthur had ordered a large navy to be built upon his arrival in England in 1198. He’d heard of the success of the Venetians, and felt it made sense for an island.
Arthur II met with barons, his regent – who still helped in some matters – and other advisors in the first years after his coronation. Henry I of England had established a set of rules, which Arthur agreed to continue. However, he wanted control for himself, too. Therefore, he decided to organize a Parliament that would allow the barons to be represented, as well as allowing others to be, yet which wouldn’t take away too much of his own power. The barons, on the other hand, demanded that certain rights be given to freemen, such as the right of habeas corpus. King Arthur also banned the trial by ordeal in this agreement, setting up a fairer system of justice, with the help of others. After much maneuvering, in March of 1204, an agreement was reached.
When the Pope heard of this, he quickly sent word to Arthur annulling it, and also stating that the Church had the sole right to try people. Arthur – in the same blunt, somewhat curt manner in which he’d made his “every bathroom in the realm” declaration earlier – hurried off the following: “Your Excellency, please allow me to remind you, with all due respect, that England is a free realm and shall do as she pleases. We are not your vassal, nor shall we ever be.” The Pope was angry, but he had other problems, too.
With Arthur and the Pope already at odds, in 1206, he learned that the Pope – for the umpteenth time - was demanding that the Count of Savoy start arresting the local Waldensians. Arthur sent troops to assist, with Pietro II being urged to “be bold.”
Pietro II was in the middle of a very successful reign. He wasn’t quite ready yet to declare that his was a Waldensian state, or that he was a Waldensian himself. However, if England would declare itself in open rebellion, he would, too. With Otto – a Papal supporter - having taken over from Philip as Holy Roman Emperor, Petro II knew he would need outside support. He also knew he needed French neutrality, if not support.
This was the midpoint of what some later historians call the Fourteen Years’ War, but it was an important turning point. The Waldensians had been very successful in the last few years, and now, the Holy Roman Emperor was on the Pope’s side. Ironically, this would later put Frederick II on the side of the Waldensians.
The Waldensians, unlike the Cathars, however, were peaceful. They wanted to keep peace, and had taught this to Pietro II. Waldo, sensing a chance to buy some time, volunteered that if enemy troops came to attack Savoy, he would give himself up in exchange for the nation.
Meanwhile, things were heating up between Arthur and the Pope. Some complained that he was a “brash young king who was about to get England into a major war.” Others said he was just continuing the legacy from the first Arthur. Either way, late in 1205, he called the Pope’s bluff, and declared his nation, and the church, ‘separate and distinct” from the Catholic Church, at the same time offering to allow Catholics to worship freely, just as they were allowed to do in Savoy.
Emperor Otto was furious. He quickly sought to raise money to finance a Crusade. A proposed debate between Durand of Huesca, a Spanish Waldensian, and a Papal delegate was canceled; the Pope demanded Waldo himself appear to argue his case. Despite urgings to the contrary, Waldo chose to. “If the Lord wills that I be a martyr in the hands of the Church, why should I complain? He has supported me all these years, and brought us into a land of liberty. He will ensure that the Gospel gets spread.”
It was a trick, as his friends feared. Waldo was taken to Rome in chains, and quickly tried for heresy. Some of his last words as the flame rose would be prophetic – “Rome shall never quench this fire!” – after which he called out, “Lord, open Europe’s eyes!”
It was true. By giving them a martyr, Rome energized them. They would still be peaceful, but they would also be ready, with defenses procured thanks to their increased wealth from what might have been, and more nobles throughout Europe willing to support them.
When Arthur was told of Waldo’s martyrdom, he ordered his ships to be ready to fight any incoming fleet. He also instructed every civilian in the realm to defend England with “every fiber of your being, upholding the mantle of Right over Might.”
When he learned that a fleet was coming, he proclaimed to his countrymen on a summer day in 1207:
“My countrymen, we await, potentially, battles which shall determine the course of Christian civilization! However, be assured that no matter what happens here, the ultimate victory of Right over Might shall occur! For we shall fight the forces of tyranny in Europe, with increasing confidence each day! We shall fight them on the seas, and on the shores! We shall fight them in the streets, and in our homes! We shall fight them in the hills! We shall never surrender!”
Because Otto had so quickly organized a fleet in his – and the Pope’s - haste to defeat England, it was a rather shoddy one. Philip II of France had his own troops dogging Otto’s forces, and by the time a few troops did end up on England’s shores, they were quickly vanquished. Philip had entered the fray against Otto – in part based on the treaty Arthur had signed wit him years earlier, but made it clear that he still supported the Pope; he just wished a different Emperor was on the throne. He actively supported Frederick II.
It’s been said that Otto’s attempt to invade England, with Philip opposing him, was doomed to failure. “He’d have been better off invading on Sea Lions,” one chronicler quipped, leading to the alternate history notion that something imposible could only be done “with the help of Alien Sea Lions.”
Otto had originally been supported by King John. This is why some refer to this as the Fourteen Years’ War, because Philip II helping Arthur to claim the throne in 1198 could be said to be the start; Philip had supported the other claimant, who had been killed in battle later. Now, 9 years later, Otto had no more friends left except the Pope.
An incident involving the Cathars caused a Crusade to be called against them the next year. But, even the Pope recognized his kings had to have time to recoup their losses. He also thought the Waldensians might wither away with Waldo’s death; especially when they saw the brutality which would be used against the Cathars starting in 1208, after the murder of a Papal delegate.
Out of support, Otto lost to Frederick II, who would be crowned the new Holy Roman Emperor in 1210. Otto wouldn’t have lasted more than a few years longer anyway, but with his attempt at England, the loss was complete.
There was still some skirmishing with the Guelphs, the side in the Empire that supported the Pope, but Frederick II became Holy Roman Emperor, and managed to convince the Pope to make peace with the Waldensians and with England – for now, anyway. The Pope was still opposed to the lands, especially Savoy, which was in the Holy Roman Empire. However, Frederick II was quite liberal for his time in some areas. He also recognized that Savoy was a strong state, which would be hard to take. The Cathars were hard enough to defeat.