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Seventh of France; but that she was an ambitious and high-spirited person is sufficiently proved by her conduct to her second husband, against whom she joined her sons in rebellion. Of Constance we know little, for certainly Holinshed's account of Elinor's opinion of her is of no authority. Nor does it appear that these two princesses ever met. According to Shakspeare, Elinor was conscious of the weakness of her son's title. “King John. Our strong possession and our right, for us.
“Eli. Your strong possession much more than your right;
Or else it must go wrong with you and me: So much my conscience whispers in your ear; Which none but Heaven, and you, and I, shall hear.” But when arguing in public, she cited a will of Richard Coeur de Lion :“ Eli. Thou unadvised scold, I can produce A will that bars the title of thy son.” There is contemporary authority for the dying declaration of Richard in favour of John, though he had formerly declared Arthur his heir. The character of Constance (who was now about forty or forty-five years old) was not entirely unsuspected; after the death of Geoffrey, she had been married, as we are told, by her father-in-law, Henry, to Ralph, Earl of Chester; but she was divorced from this earl at the persuasion, as some say,” of the profligate John, who himself “haunted” her ; she afterwards married, as we shall see, a third husband. The dramatist has passed over some vicissitudes in the life of Arthur, previous to the marriage of Blanche, which might perhaps have produced interesting scenes. Although Philip, in his fruitless negociation with John, had demanded Anjou and other provinces for Arthur, he made use of his auxiliary force in a way more conducive to his own interests than to those of the young prince. Having taken one of Arthur's towns, he razed the fortifications; this so offended Arthur's general, La Roches, that he advised the prince to make a peace with his uncle, to whom he fled from Paris,* “ though the same served but to small purpose.” Some towns were, in consequence of this treaty, given up to John ; “but in the night following, upon some mistrust and suspicion, gathered in the observation of the covenants on King John's behalf, both the said Arthur, with his mother Constance, the Viscount of Touars, and divers others, fled away secretly from the king, and got them to the city of Angers, where the mother of the said Arthur, refusing her former husband the Earl of Chester, married herself to the Lord Guy de Touars, brother to the said viscount, by the Pope's dispensation.” John went to England; and it was now that Arthur and his mother had, in truth, quarrelled, as well with Philip as with John, that the two kings came to the agreement which excited, according to Shakspeare, the indignation of Constance, so forcibly represented in the play. “Finally, upon the Ascension-day, in the second year of his reign, they came eftsoons to a communication between the towns of Vernon and Lisle Dandelu, where finally they concluded an agreement with a marriage to be had betwixt Lewis, the son of King Philip, and the Lady Blanche, daughter to Alphonso, King of Castile, the eighth of that name, and niece to King John by his sister Elinor.” In the play John gives a very liberal dowry to the Princess Blanche, whom by a poetical licence he brings into France. She was, in fact, in her own country when betrothed, and the queen-mother went to fetch her. “K. John. Then do I give Volquessen, Touraine, Maine, Poictiers, and Anjou, these five provinces, With her to thee; and this addition more, Full thirty thousand marks of English coin.”f
* Act i. Sc. 1. t Hoveden, p. 791.
Both kings were aware that this arrangement would not be acceptable to Constance.
* Hol. 278. Anno 1199. + Act ii. Sc 2.
“K. Philip. And, by my faith, this league that we have made
Will give her sadness very little cure.
“K. John. We will heal up all,
This representation of the marriage settlements is not borne out by history; John did not give up the five provinces, but only “the city of Evreux, and some other towns, being those (according to Holinshed) which the King of France had taken from him in the war. The King of England likewise did homage to the French King for Brittany, and again received homage for the same country, and for the county of Richmond, of his nephew Arthur.” Holinshed says that this peace was displeasing to many. and especially to the Earl of Flanders;+ but says nothing of any protest on the part of Arthur or Constance. I need not say that
• Hol. p. 279; Hoveden, p. 814. Daru (i. 406), notices the treaty as an abandonment of Arthur and Constance, but he does not represent its terms differently.
t He had been an ally of John, who now agreed that he should hold of the King of France.
the grief and indignation of Constance furnish some of Shakspeare's finest scenes. Arthur he represents as endeavouring to pacify his mother:
“Arth. I do beseech you, madam, be content.”
The young prince, however, as we shall afterwards hear, was not by any means of the unambitious disposition which would be inferred from this attempt to moderate the anger of his mother.
From this time the confusion of facts and dates is almost insurmountable. But I would here observe, that no ancient chronicle, or modern writer, is entirely to be depended upon. What we call the Chronicles (such as Holinshed's) were, for the most part, written long after the events related, and are less to be depended upon than even modern historians. And the same remark applies to the more ancient histories not contemporaneous with the events—as, in the present case, that of Matthew Paris; though it may perhaps be averred that such histories are founded upon contemporary annals kept in the monasteries. Contemporary historians we have for only a part of King John's time.*
Immediately after the conclusion of these preliminaries of peace and marriage contract, Shakspeare brings Pandulph, the Pope's legate, reproving John for refusing to admit Stephen Langton as
* See Lingard, iii. 10.