Reassessing Innocent III’s involvement in England between 1205 and 1215
LE3 .A278 2018
Bachelor of Arts
History & Classics
Innocent III’s involvement in England is often discussed in the context of the pontiff’s infamous entanglement with Magna Carta and the events which led up to it. This includes the dispute over the election of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the interdict which followed thereafter. His involvement in the events preceding Magna Carta, the Great Interdict and the Canterbury Dispute, resulted in the King of England, John I, submitting the kingdoms of England and Ireland, as well as a large sum of money, to the papacy. Later, after John signed Magna Carta, Innocent III declared the document null and void. On initial assessment of the pontiff’s involvement in these affairs, it is tempting to draw the conclusion that Innocent III’s motives were tied up in a desire to become a feudal overlord and disempower the secular leaders of Europe. However, this initial assessment does not consider Innocent’s motives in full. By looking at Innocent III’s involvement in the Canterbury Dispute, the Great Interdict, and Magna Carta, and by closely examining the narrative of each event, the pontiff’s motivations for his interference can be more easily grasped. Furthermore, the pontiff’s motivations can then be understood, not in terms of secular interference, but instead as reasonable and just judgements on matters that the pontiff was invited to preside over. There are many sources available from this period and each help uncover the narrative. Perhaps the most valuable of these sources are the letters of Innocent’s own papal office and King John’s court, some of which are only available in the original Latin text. Together, these letters offer insight into some of Innocent’s thoughts as he presided over these three events.
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