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Sweet Lands of Liberty

By D Fowler


Volume V


Part 9 – Arthur’s Church and Counter-Reformation


After Archbishop of Canterbury Hubert Walter’s death in July, 1205 – after a long illness which helped make possible Arthur’s split with the Pope – Arthur sought a very short term solution. He accepted the choice of one Reginald by monks, but also sought to have a Waldensian. He was advised not to push things too fast – Scotland and Wales needed to be kept on his side, he was told.


Pope Innocent III, in an attempt to mend the breach, suggested Stephen Langdon, who would become the Bishop of Paris in 1208. Arthur refused.


Once the threat from Otto was gone, Arthur waited a while longer before choosing Durand of Huesca as Archbishop in early 1209. There was great skepticism and even some animosity toward Arthur for choosing a non-Englishman. However, in a series of speeches to the townsfolk at London and elsewhere, he explained his reasoning:


“I know the Catholic Church is not the true Christian Church, they are concerned too much with the things of the world, and do not teach sound doctrine. However, I am not a churchman myself. I require a theologian who is able to remake the Church of England into what it should be – a national church that is not just representing the nation, but which truly represents God’s work on Earth.”


The controversy was one of several that would dot Arthur’s reign – he was great, but not a perfect King. However, this controversy likely showed that people simply expected him to be too much like the Dark Ages Arthur of legend, who they felt would not have needed outside help. For 15 years, Arnaud served as an excellent archbishop, and developed the Anglican Church into a model one which spread far and wide.


Some suggest that Arnaud and his followers might have been won to Catholicism, but for the animosity the increasingly powerful Waldensians had built up, especially with the martyrdom of their leader, Waldo. One basis for this is that under Arnaud’s leadership, there continued to be a hierarchy, while Waldo’s original teachings had led to numerous independent churches in the places where they were allowed by nobles, and to independent lay preachers elsewhere.


The methods, however, were assuredly not all Catholic. He abolished confessionals, instructing priests in how to be “proper ministers of God’s Word.” He also established a system of education so that those who wished could become elders in the church. Arnaud also insisted that the Church’s duty be to provide for the poor and to promote good works among the people; this was to be the primary role of the elders.(1) The churches remained in a hierarchy, with the King of England the nominal head, but with the Archbishop of Canterbury as the real head. The King could give non-binding advice on selections, and then would choose between any number of people the electors selected as the next Archbishop. If no ideas were submitted – which he knew was likely the first time or two, before a sufficiently knowledgeable Englishman could serve – the King could appoint one, with the approval of the governing council. King Arthur also decreed that the reigning monarch in England must always be an Anglican.


There were growing pains, of course, as the Archbishop and King sought to ensure that, in Arthur II’s words, “Right always triumphs.” Waldensians from elsewhere would still end up appointed for longer than he expected. In fact, one of Pietro II of Savoy’s sons would one day be Archbishop of Canterbury.(2) However, this was seen as one other way in which power was being given to the people.


The Pope realized changes needed to be made. At the Fourth Lateran Council, which he called in 1210, he launched what some called the “Counter Reformation.” This council mandating that clergy could no longer participate in the “trial by ordeal” – while he wouldn’t go so far as to agree with the Waldensians and Anglicans that it should be outlawed, this did, in essence, outlaw it in Catholic nations. He also mandated that an education system be put in place, so priests could read and actually learn to preach; part of what was making the Waldensians, and now the Anglicans, so popular was that they were able to reach the masses.


In addition, it reiterated the call for Crusades against the Cathars, but it was less harsh in its call for ones against the Waldensians. Innocent III realized that he’d miscalculated, as the martyrdom of Waldo had ignited a firestorm which had caused the Waldensians to be much more vigilant. Now, he would see if preaching did the trick, as well as alliances with powerful Catholic families, as well those who were just starting to grow in power. The Hapsburgs, for instance, seemed to have potential. And, Eleanor of Brittany, wife of the future Louis VIII of France, seemed much more pliant than Arthur, though the Pope still had concerns, even about that marriage.


It would be up to a successor of Innocent III’s to call for the Inquisition against the Waldensians, as well as against others. But, people were starting to get a taste of freedom, and especially with Arthur’s reforms, not only was the Reformation here to stay, they were one step ahead of Catholics in various areas.




Part 10 – As the Byzantine World Turns


While England and Savoy continued to grow, the return of the Komeneos family to rule in Constantinople was heralded. However, it, too, featured an uneasy peace.


In the last episode of As the Byzantine World Turns, Alexios, son of Isaac II, had been unsuccessful in his attempt to side with Bulgaria in exchange for being placed back on the Byzantine throne. However, Alexios III was continuing to spend lavishly, even as his military was being besieged at Adrianople.


An unknown general, upset that Alexios III seemed to be paying so little heed to the dangers faced in the east or west, got word that Alexios Komeneos had broken his land off from the Byzantines, with help of troops from Tamar of Georgia. As the war continued to go badly for Alexios III, Alexios Komeneos was invited to seize power, being the grandson of the last Komeneos ruler.


Michael Komeneos Duokas, related to the emperor Isaac and the current Alexios III – who personally killed Isaac after the attempted revolt by Isaac’s son – also offered his services. When Alexios III was poisoned, his son-in-law, Theodore, proclaimed himself emperor.


Alexios Komnenos chose to play the sides off each other, then led the Georgian soldiers into battle in Bulgaria. They finally won back Adrianople in 1206, intensifying the brief civil war when a number of generals, glad that someone had finally beaten the Bulgars, switched to his side.  With the support of Georgia, Alexios finally won, and was crowned Alexios IV Komenos in 1208.


He quickly announced a change in plans, shifting attention to the east, supposedly prompting the following query from Bulgarian officials: “Now, before we negotiate with you, are you sure there are no more people who will claim to be Emperor and try to negotiate a different treaty with us?” Of course, this could be a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, as the Bulgarian emperor had recently been assassinated.


In the treaty, Bulgarian independence was assured, and they and the Byzantines would focus attention on Serbian lands, with Alexios IV Komnenos using this as a means to buy himself protection in the West. The Sultanate of Rum, which occupied much of Anatolia, would be his chief concern, as would helping any Crusader states if and when the treasury was restored. However, he knew he had a long road ahead, and he wanted to make sure the province of Trebizond was protected. As one of the stops on the Silk Road, he felt it was the key to restoring Byzantine riches.


Some wonder if – had the emperor of Bulgaria not been killed – this treaty would have been made. The man who did become emperor wasn’t as intent on conquest as he was on just being emperor. By the time the murdered emperor’s son became emperor, any chance – however slim it had been – for capturing Constantinople was past. Of course, they probably couldn’t have taken the city in 1203-5, unless someone else helped. The next real threat to the city would come later.


Onto Volume VI




(1) TTL’s Anglicans are a cross between OTL’s Presbyterianism, Anglicans, and even the Salvation Army, a nod to the preaching of helping the poor. 

(2) One of Thomas’s sons was appointed OTL, too; and, this is the same person, with the same wife, just a different name, so they will have the same kids.


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