Innocent, however, seeing a splendid chan.ce of asserting his authority, declared both the elections that had taken place invalid, the first because it had been clandestine, the second because it had been held under force majeure, and proceeded to nominate a friend of his ownCardinal Stephen Langton, an Englishman of proved capacity and blameless life, then resident in Rome.
King John was furious, and not without good reason; he refused to accept Langton, whom he declared (quite unjustly) to be a secret friend of Philip of France, and sequestrated the lands of the monks of Canterbury.
Not only did he agree to receive Stephen Langton as archbishop, to restore all the exiled clergy to their benefices, and to pay them handsome compensation for all their losses during the last five years, but be took the strange and ignominious step of declaring that he ceded his whole kingdom to the pope, to hold as his vassal.
Archbishop Langton, who on assuming possession of his see had shown at once that he was a patriotic English statesman, and not the mere delegate of the pope, besought his master to hold back, and, when he refused, threatened to renew the excommunication which had so lately been removed.
A great landmark in the constitutional history of England was reached when Langton assembled the leading barons, rehearsed to them the charter issued by Henry I.