Thus the English nation grew united, while the French provinces were brought into closer dependence on their own king. In fact, Philip Augustus, by clever use now of the commons, now of the nobles, succeeded in dominating both. Following his example his successors managed for many centuries to remain “lords of France” with a security and absoluteness of power which no English king, no German emperor, was ever again to attain.
In Germany the death of Barbarossa left his throne to a short-lived evil son and then to an infant grandson, Frederick II. Other claimants to the realm sprang up, the great lords asserted and fully established their right to elect what emperor they pleased. Through this right they made themselves strong, their ruler weak, and so feudalism persisted in Germany while it was fading in France and England. Private war continued, baron fought against baron, confusion and anarchy prevailed more and more, and in the march of civilization Germany was left behind. She lagged for centuries in the rear of her neighbors, staring after them, despising, envying, scarce comprehending. It is only within the last hundred and fifty years that Germany has reasserted her ancient place among the foremost of the nations.
We have said that the only place where Barbarossa failed was in his Italian wars. These were waged against democracy and against the popes. Southern Italy was at this time a kingdom, in Central Italy lay the papal states, and north of these were all the independent cities. Assuming the democratic leadership of the cities, the popes acquired a strong temporal power. The growth of this we have traced through earlier periods; it reached its culmination under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). He almost succeeded to the emperors as the acknowledged ruler of Europe.
Secured from martial invasion by the strength of the federated cities, as well as by the spiritual dominion which he wielded, Innocent extended his authority over all men and all affairs. He ordered unlucky King John to accept a certain archbishop for England; and when John refused, England was laid under an “interdict,” that is, no church services could be held there, not even to shrive the dying or bury the dead. For a while John was scornful, but at length his accumulating troubles forced him to kneel submissively to the Pope, surrender his crown, and receive it back as a vassal of the papacy under obligation to pay heavy tribute. By the same weapon of an interdict Innocent forced the mighty Philip Augustus to take back a wife whom he had divorced without papal consent. And in Germany Innocent twice secured the creation of an emperor of his own choice, the second being the child, Frederick II, who had been brought up under the Pope’s own guardianship.