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When Richard I. set out on his crusade, he left the government of England in the hands of William Longchamp, as Chancellor. This man made himself most unpopular by his tyrannical acts, and John, the King’s brother, for purposes of his own, joined the malcontents. Longchamp attempted to gain the support of London, and at a meeting of citizens in the Guildhall he denounced Johan as aiming at the crown, and prayed them to uphold the King. The citizens, however, received John with welcome, and he was given to understand that he would receive the support of the City on certain terms, to which, of course, he agreed. This “commune,” which was granted by John and the barons, was the first public recognition of the citizens of London as a body corporate.
John, with almost all the bishops and barons of England in attendance on him, entered London on that day (October 7, 1191), and on the following day John and the Archbishop of Rouen and all the bishops and barons, and with them the 23 citizens of London, met in St. Paul’s church, and accused the chancellor of many things, especially with regard to the injuries which he had wrought to the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Durham, and his son Henry. Moreover the colleagues of the chancellor, whom the King had associated with him in the government of the country, accused him of many crimes, saying that he had performed everything without their counsel and consent. Then the Archbishop of Rouen and William Marshall showed to the assembly the King’s letter, by which it was ordered that if the chancellor did any foolish thing to the harm of the King or the realms, the said Archbishop of Rouen was to be appointed in his stead. . . . Therefore John the King’s brother, and all the bishops and barons and the citizens of London, decided that the chancellor should be deposed form the government of the kingdom. . . . John and the Archbishop of Rouen, and all the bishops and barons of the kingdom who were present, granted to the citizens of London their commune, and swore that they would guard it and the liberties of the city of London, as long as it pleased the King; and the citizens of London and the bishops and barons swore allegiance to King Richard, and to John the King’s brother, and undertook to accept John as their lord and King, if the King died without issue.
On that day was granted and confirmed the commune of London, to which the barons of the whole kingdom and the bishops of every diocese gave their consent. On that occasion for the first time London realized that the kingdom was without a king, by this conspiracy which neither Richard himself nor his father Henry would have allowed to take place for a million marks. A commune puffs up the people, threatens the kingdom, and weakens the priesthood.