CHAPTER XVI. HENRY OUTGENERALLED
To such an offer in these circumstances there was but one reply to make, and a king like Henry could never have been for a moment in doubt as to what it should be. His case was very different from his grandfather's when a similar offer was made to him. Not merely did the responsibility of a far larger dominion rest on him, with greater dangers within and without to be watched and overcome, but a still more important consideration was the fact that there was no one of his sons in whose hands his authority could be securely left. His departure would be the signal for a new and disastrous civil war, and we may believe that the character of his sons was a deciding reason with the king. But such an offer, made in such a way, and backed by the religious motives so strong in that age, could not be lightly declined. A great council of the kingdom was summoned to meet in London about the middle of March to consider the offer and the answer to be made. The king of Scotland and his brother David, and the prelates and barons of England, debated the question, and advised Henry not to abandon the duties which rested upon him at home. It is interesting to notice that the obligations which the coronation oath had imposed on the king were called to mind as determining what he ought to do, though probably no more was meant by this than that the appeal which the Church was making in favour of the crusade was balanced by the duty which he had assumed before the Church and under its sanction to govern well his hereditary kingdom. Apparently the patriarch was told that a consultation with the king of France was necessary, and shortly after they all crossed into Normandy. Before the meeting of the council in London Baldwin IV had closed his unhappy reign and was succeeded by his nephew Baldwin V, a child who never reached his majority. In France the embassy succeeded no better. At a conference between the kings the promise was made of ample aid in men and money, but the great hope with which the envoys had started, that they might bring back with them the king of England, or at least one of his sons, to lead the Christian cause in Palestine, was disappointed; and Heraclius set out on his return not merely deeply grieved, but angry with Henry for his refusal to undertake what he believed to be his obvious religious duty.
Between the meeting of the council in London and the crossing into Normandy, Henry had taken steps to carry out an earlier plan of his in regard to his son John. He seems now to have made up his mind that Richard could never be induced to give up Aquitaine or any part of it, and he returned to his earlier idea of a kingdom of Ireland. Immediately after the council he knighted John at Windsor and sent him to take possession of the island, not yet as king but as lord (dominus). On April 25 he landed at Waterford, coming, it is said, with sixty ships and a large force of men-at-arms and foot-soldiers. John was at the time nearly nineteen years old, of an age when men were then expected to have reached maturity, and the prospect of success lay fair before him; but he managed in less than six months to prove conclusively that he was, as yet at least, totally unfit to rule a state. The native chieftains who had accepted his father's government came in to signify their obedience, but he twitched their long beards and made sport before his attendants of their uncouth manners and dress, and allowed them to go home with anger in their hearts to stir up opposition to his rule. The Archbishop of Dublin and the barons who were most faithful to his father offered him their homage and support, but he neglected their counsels and even disregarded their rights. The military force he had brought over, ample to guard the conquests already made, or even to increase them, he dissipated in useless undertakings, and kept without their pay that he might spend the money on his own amusements, until they abandoned him in numbers, and even went over to his Irish enemies. In a few months he found himself confronted with too many difficulties, and gave up his post, returning to his father with reasons for his failure that put the blame on others and covered up his own defects. Not long afterwards died Pope Lucius III, who had steadily refused to renew, or to put into legal form, the permission which Alexander III had granted to crown one of Henry's sons king of Ireland; and to his successor, Urban III, new application was at once made in the special interest of John, and this time with success. The pope is said even to have sent a crown made of peacock's feathers intertwined with gold as a sign of his confirmation of the title.
John was, however, never actually crowned king of Ireland, and indeed it is probable that he never revisited the island. In the summer of the next year, 1186, news came, in the words of a contemporary, "that a certain Irishman had cut off the head of Hugh of Lacy." Henry is said to have rejoiced at the news, for, though he had never found it possible to get along for any length of time without the help of Hugh of Lacy in Ireland, he had always looked upon his measures and success with suspicion. Now he ordered John to go over at once and seize into his hand Hugh's land and castles, but John did not leave England. At the end of the year legates to Ireland arrived in England from the pope, one object of whose mission was to crown the king of Ireland, but Henry was by this time so deeply interested in questions that had arisen between himself and the king of France because of the death of his son Geoffrey, the Count of Britanny, that he could not give his attention to Ireland, and with the legates he crossed to Normandy instead, having sent John over in advance.