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Fearing that he would be threatened with papal support for a French invasion of England, in 1213 King John made peace with representatives of Pope Innocent III (1161–1216). At a meeting outside Dover, John placed England and Ireland under the lordship of Rome. From this time onwards, the Pope would be England’s feudal overlord, receiving an annual tribute of 1000 marks (£666). On 3 October 1213, at St Paul's Cathedral in London, these arrangements were confirmed by a royal charter bearing a golden seal, and by the King placing his hands between those of the papal legate as a token of his submission . The present letter is the solemn confirmation of these acts, issued by Innocent III on 21 April 1214. Deliberately intended as a demonstration of papal magnificence, it recites the King’s charter of the previous October. At the bottom, before the date and the papal lead seal (or bulla), appear the names and signatures of 14 cardinals assembled as witnesses, and the Pope’s own signature or ‘rota’ (a cross inscribed within two concentric circles). The Pope’s support for King John was to prove crucial during the rebellion that led to Magna Carta, forcing the rebel barons to devise means by which they could, in theory, prevent John from obtaining papal annulment of the settlement agreed at Runnymede.

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