Henry must have been too young to understand about Magna Carta when he swore to it, but it was the trouble of all his long reign to get him to observe it. It was not that he was wicked like his father— for he was very religious and kind-hearted—but he was too good-natured, and never could say No to anybody. Bad advisers got about him when he grew up, and persuaded him to let them take good Hubert de Burgh and imprison him. He had taken refuge in a church, but they dragged him out and took him to a blacksmith to have chains put on his feet; the smith however said he would never forge chains for the man who had saved his country from the French. De Burgh was afterwards set free, and died in peace and honor.
Henry was a builder of beautiful churches. Westminster Abbey, as it is now, was one. And he was so charitable to the poor that, when he had his children weighed, he gave their weight in gold and silver in alms. But he gave to everyone who asked, and so always wanted money; and sometimes his men could get nothing for the king and queen to eat, but by going and taking sheep and poultry from the poor farmers around; so that things were nearly as bad as under William Rufus—because the king was foolishly good-natured. The Pope was always sending for money, too; and the king tried to raise it in ways that, according to Magna Carta, he had sworn not to do. His foreign friends told him that if he minded Magna Carta he would be a poor creature—not like a king who might do all he pleased; and whenever he listened to them he broke the laws of Magna Carta. Then, when his barons complained and frightened him, he swore again to keep them; so that nobody could trust him, and his weakness was almost as bad for the kingdom as John’s wickedness. When they could bear it no longer, the barons all met him at the council which was called the Parliament, from a French word meaning talk. This time they came in armor, bringing all their fighting men, and declared that he had broken his word so often that they should appoint some of their own number to watch him, and hinder his doing anything against the laws he had sworn to observe, or from getting money from the people without their consent. He was very angry; but he was in their power, and had to submit to swear that so it should be; and Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who had married his sister, was appointed among the lords who were to keep watch over him. Henry could not bear this; he felt himself to be less than ever a king, and tried to break loose. He had never cared for his promises; but his brave son Edward, who was now grown up, cared a great deal: and they put the question to Louis, King of France, whether the king was bound by the oath he had made to be under Montfort and his council. This Louis was son to the one who had been driven back by Hubert de Burgh. He was one of the best men and kings that ever lived, and he tried to judge rightly; but he scarcely thought how much provocation Henry had given, when he said that subjects had no right to frighten their king, and so that Henry and Edward were not obliged to keep the oath.