CHAPTER XIX. THE LOSS OF NORMANDY

The death of Richard raised a question of succession new in the history of England since the Norman Conquest. The right of primogeniture, the strict succession of the eldest born, carrying with it the right of the son of a deceased elder brother to stand in the place of his father, the principle which was in the end to prevail, had only begun to establish itself. The drift of feeling was undoubtedly towards it, but this appeared strongly in the present crisis only in the northwestern corner of the Angevin dominions in France, where it was supported by still stronger influences. The feudal law had recognized, and still recognized, many different principles of succession, and the prevailing feeling in England and Normandy is no doubt correctly represented in an incident recorded by the biographer of William Marshal. On receiving the news of Richard's death at Rouen, William went at once to consult with the archbishop and to agree on whom they would support as heir. The archbishop inclined at first to Arthur, the son and representative of John's elder brother, Geoffrey, but William declared that the brother stood nearer to his father and to his brother than the grandson, or nephew, and the archbishop yielded the point without discussion. Neither in England nor in Normandy did there appear the slightest disposition to support the claims of Arthur, or to question the right of John, though possibly there would have been more inclination to do so if the age of the two candidates had been reversed, for Arthur was only twelve, while John was past thirty.

Neither of the interested parties, however, was in the least disposed to waive any claims which he possessed. John had had trouble with Richard during the previous winter on a suspicion of treasonable correspondence with Philip and because he thought his income was too scanty, and he was in Britanny, even at the court of Arthur, when the news of Richard's death reached him. He at once took horse with a few attendants and rode to Chinon, where the king's treasure was kept, and this was given up without demur on his demand by Robert of Turnharn, the keeper. Certain barons who were there and the officers of Richard's household also recognized his right, on his taking the oath which they demanded, that he would execute his brother's will, and that he would preserve inviolate the rightful customs of former times and the just laws of lands and people. From Chinon John set out for Normandy, but barely escaped capture on the way, for Arthur's party had not been idle in the meantime. His mother with a force from Britanny had brought him with all speed to Angers, where he was joyfully received. William des Roches, the greatest baron of the country and Richard's seneschal of Anjou, had declared for him at the head of a powerful body of barons, who probably saw in a weak minority a better chance of establishing that local freedom from control for which they had always striven than under another Angevin king. At Le Mans Arthur was also accepted with enthusiasm as count a few hours after a cold reception of John and his hasty departure.

There Constance and her son were met by the king of France, who, as soon as God had favoured him by the removal of Richard, - so the French regarded the matter, - seized the county of Evreux and pushed his conquests almost to Le Mans. Arthur did homage to Philip for the counties of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine; Tours received the young count as Angers and Le Mans had done; Philip's right of feudal wardship was admitted, and Arthur was taken to Paris under his secure protection, secure for his own designs and against those of John. Philip could hardly do otherwise than recognize the rights of Arthur. It was perhaps the most favourable opportunity that had ever occurred to accomplish the traditional policy of the Capetians of splitting apart the dominions of the rival Norman or Angevin house. That policy, so long and so consistently followed by Philip almost from his accession to the death of Arthur, in the support in turn of young Henry, Richard, John, and Arthur against the reigning king, was destined indeed never to be realized in the form in which it had been cherished in the past; but the devotion of a part of the Angevin empire to the cause of Arthur was a factor of no small value in the vastly greater success which Philip won, greater than any earlier king had ever dreamed of, greater than Philip himself had dared to hope for till the moment of its accomplishment.