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Title: History of the English People, Volume II (of 8) - The Charter, 1216-1307; The Parliament, 1307-1400
Author: Green, John Richard, 1837-1883
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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VOLUME II (OF 8)***


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HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE, VOLUME II

by

JOHN RICHARD GREEN, M.A.
Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford

THE CHARTER, 1216-1307
THE PARLIAMENT, 1307-1400



_First Edition, Demy 8vo, November_ 1877;
_Reprinted December_ 1877, 1881, 1885, 1890.
_Eversley Edition,_ 1895.
London MacMillan and Co. and New York 1895



CONTENTS

    Volume II

        Book III--The Charter--1216-1307

            Chapter II--Henry the Third--1216-1232

            Chapter III--The Barons' War--1232-1272

            Chapter IV--Edward the First--1272-1307

        Book IV--The Parliament--1307-1461

            Authorities for Book IV

            Chapter I--Edward II--1307-1327

            Chapter II--Edward the Third--1327-1347

            Chapter III--The Peasant Revolt--1347-1381

            Chapter IV--Richard the Second--1381-1400


LIST OF MAPS

    Scotland in 1290 (v2-map-1.jpg)

    France at the Treaty of Bretigny (v2-map-2.jpg)



VOLUME II


BOOK III
THE CHARTER
1216-1307


CHAPTER II
HENRY THE THIRD
1216-1232



[Sidenote: William Marshal]

The death of John changed the whole face of English affairs. His son, Henry
of Winchester, was but nine years old, and the pity which was stirred by
the child's helplessness was aided by a sense of injustice in burthening
him with the iniquity of his father. At his death John had driven from his
side even the most loyal of his barons; but William Marshal had clung to
him to the last, and with him was Gualo, the Legate of Innocent's
successor, Honorius the Third. The position of Gualo as representative of
the Papal overlord of the realm was of the highest importance, and his
action showed the real attitude of Rome towards English freedom. The
boy-king was hardly crowned at Gloucester when Legate and Earl issued in
his name the very Charter against which his father had died fighting. Only
the clauses which regulated taxation and the summoning of parliament were
as yet declared to be suspended. The choice of William Marshal as "governor
of King and kingdom" gave weight to this step; and its effect was seen when
the contest was renewed in 1217. Lewis was at first successful in the
eastern counties, but the political reaction was aided by jealousies which
broke out between the English and French nobles in his force, and the first
drew gradually away from him. So general was the defection that at the
opening of summer William Marshal felt himself strong enough for a blow at
his foes. Lewis himself was investing Dover, and a joint army of French and
English barons under the Count of Perche and Robert Fitz-Walter was
besieging Lincoln, when gathering troops rapidly from the royal castles the
regent marched to the relief of the latter town. Cooped up in its narrow
streets and attacked at once by the Earl and the garrison, the barons fled
in utter rout; the Count of Perche fell on the field, Robert Fitz-Walter
was taken prisoner. Lewis at once retreated on London and called for aid
from France. But a more terrible defeat crushed his remaining hopes. A
small English fleet which set sail from Dover under Hubert de Burgh fell
boldly on the reinforcements which were crossing under escort of Eustace
the Monk, a well-known freebooter of the Channel. Some incidents of the
fight light up for us the naval warfare of the time. From the decks of the
English vessels bowmen poured their arrows into the crowded transports,
others hurled quicklime into their enemies' faces, while the more active
vessels crashed with their armed prows into the sides of the French ships.
The skill of the mariners of the Cinque Ports turned the day against the
larger forces of their opponents, and the fleet of Eustace was utterly
destroyed. The royal army at once closed upon London, but resistance was
really at an end. By a treaty concluded at Lambeth in September Lewis
promised to withdraw from England on payment of a sum which he claimed as
debt; his adherents were restored to their possessions, the liberties of
London and other towns confirmed, and the prisoners on either side set at
liberty. A fresh issue of the Charter, though in its modified form,
proclaimed yet more clearly the temper and policy of the Earl Marshal.


[Sidenote: Hubert de Burgh]

His death at the opening of 1219, after a year spent in giving order to the
realm, brought no change in the system he had adopted. The control of
affairs passed into the hands of a new legate, Pandulf, of Stephen Langton
who had just returned forgiven from Rome, and of the Justiciar, Hubert de
Burgh. It was a time of transition, and the temper of the Justiciar was
eminently transitional. Bred in the school of Henry the Second, Hubert had
little sympathy with national freedom, and though resolute to maintain the
Charter he can have had small love for it; his conception of good
government, like that of his master, lay in a wise personal administration,
in the preservation of order and law. But he combined with this a
thoroughly English desire for national independence, a hatred of
foreigners, and a reluctance to waste English blood and treasure in
Continental struggles. Able as he proved himself, his task was one of no
common difficulty. He was hampered by the constant interference of Rome. A
Papal legate resided at the English court, and claimed a share in the
administration of the realm as the representative of its overlord and as
guardian of the young sovereign. A foreign party too had still a footing in
the kingdom, for William Marshal had been unable to rid himself of men like
Peter des Roches or Faukes de Breauté, who had fought on the royal side in
the struggle against Lewis. Hubert had to deal too with the anarchy which
that struggle left behind it. From the time of the Conquest the centre of
England had been covered with the domains of great houses, whose longings
were for feudal independence and whose spirit of revolt had been held in
check partly by the stern rule of the kings and partly by the rise of a
baronage sprung from the Court and settled for the most part in the North.
The oppression of John united both the earlier and these newer houses in
the struggle for the Charter. But the character of each remained unchanged,
and the close of the struggle saw the feudal party break out in their old
lawlessness and defiance of the Crown.


[Sidenote: Order restored]

For a time the anarchy of Stephen's days seemed to revive. But the
Justiciar was resolute to crush it, and he was backed by the strenuous
efforts of Stephen Langton. A new and solemn coronation of the young king
in 1220 was followed by a demand for the restoration of the royal castles
which had been seized by the barons and foreigners. The Earl of Chester,
the head of the feudal baronage, though he rose in armed rebellion, quailed
before the march of Hubert and the Primate's threats of excommunication. A
more formidable foe remained in the Frenchman, Faukes de Breauté, the
sheriff of six counties, with six royal castles in his hands, and allied
both with the rebel barons and Llewelyn of Wales. But in 1224 his castle of
Bedford was besieged for two months; and on its surrender the stern justice
of Hubert hung the twenty-four knights and their retainers who formed the
garrison before its walls. The blow was effectual; the royal castles were
surrendered by the barons, and the land was once more at peace. Freed from
foreign soldiery, the country was freed also from the presence of the
foreign legate. Langton wrested a promise from Rome that so long as he
lived no future legate should be sent to England, and with Pandulf's
resignation in 1221 the direct interference of the Papacy in the government
of the realm came to an end. But even these services of the Primate were
small compared with his services to English freedom. Throughout his life
the Charter was the first object of his care. The omission of the articles
which restricted the royal power over taxation in the Charter which was
published at Henry's accession in 1216 was doubtless due to the
Archbishop's absence and disgrace at Rome. The suppression of disorder
seems to have revived the older spirit of resistance among the royal
ministers; for when Langton demanded a fresh confirmation of the Charter in
Parliament at London William Brewer, one of the King's councillors,
protested that it had been extorted by force and was without legal
validity. "If you loved the King, William," the Primate burst out in anger,
"you would not throw a stumbling-block in the way of the peace of the
realm." The young king was cowed by the Archbishop's wrath, and promised
observance of the Charter. But it may have been their consciousness of such
a temper among the royal councillors that made Langton and the baronage
demand two years later a fresh promulgation of the Charter as the price of
a subsidy, and Henry's assent established the principle, so fruitful of
constitutional results, that redress of wrongs precedes a grant to the
Crown.


[Sidenote: State of the Church]

These repeated sanctions of the Charter and the government of the realm
year after year in accordance with its provisions were gradually bringing
the new freedom home to the mass of Englishmen. But the sense of liberty
was at this time quickened and intensified by a religious movement which
stirred English society to its depths. Never had the priesthood wielded
such boundless power over Christendom as in the days of Innocent the Third
and his immediate successors. But its religious hold on the people was
loosening day by day. The old reverence for the Papacy was fading away
before the universal resentment at its political ambition, its lavish use
of interdict and excommunication for purely secular ends, its degradation
of the most sacred sentences into means of financial extortion. In Italy
the struggle that was opening between Rome and Frederick the Second
disclosed a spirit of scepticism which among the Epicurean poets of
Florence denied the immortality of the soul and attacked the very
foundations of the faith itself. In Southern Gaul, Languedoc and Provence
had embraced the heresy of the Albigenses and thrown off all allegiance to
the Papacy. Even in England, though there were no signs as yet of religious
revolt, and though the political action of Rome had been in the main on the
side of freedom, there was a spirit of resistance to its interference with
national concerns which broke out in the struggle against John. "The Pope
has no part in secular matters," had been the reply of London to the
interdict of Innocent. And within the English Church itself there was much
to call for reform. Its attitude in the strife for the Charter as well as
the after work of the Primate had made it more popular than ever; but its
spiritual energy was less than its political. The disuse of preaching, the
decline of the monastic orders into rich landowners, the non-residence and
ignorance of the parish priests, lowered the religious influence of the
clergy. The abuses of the time foiled even the energy of such men as Bishop
Grosseteste of Lincoln. His constitutions forbid the clergy to haunt
taverns, to gamble, to share in drinking bouts, to mix in the riot and
debauchery of the life of the baronage. But such prohibitions witness to
the prevalence of the evils they denounce. Bishops and deans were still
withdrawn from their ecclesiastical duties to act as ministers, judges, or
ambassadors. Benefices were heaped in hundreds at a time on royal
favourites like John Mansel. Abbeys absorbed the tithes of parishes and
then served them by half-starved vicars, while exemptions purchased from
Rome shielded the scandalous lives of canons and monks from all episcopal
discipline. And behind all this was a group of secular statesmen and
scholars, the successors of such critics as Walter Map, waging indeed no
open warfare with the Church, but noting with bitter sarcasm its abuses and
its faults.


[Sidenote: The Friars]

To bring the world back again within the pale of the Church was the aim of
two religious orders which sprang suddenly to life at the opening of the
thirteenth century. The zeal of the Spaniard Dominic was roused at the
sight of the lordly prelates who sought by fire and sword to win the
Albigensian heretics to the faith. "Zeal," he cried, "must be met by zeal,
lowliness by lowliness, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching lies by
preaching truth." His fiery ardour and rigid orthodoxy were seconded by the
mystical piety, the imaginative enthusiasm of Francis of Assisi. The life
of Francis falls like a stream of tender light across the darkness of the
time. In the frescoes of Giotto or the verse of Dante we see him take
Poverty for his bride. He strips himself of all, he flings his very clothes
at his father's feet, that he may be one with Nature and God. His
passionate verse claims the moon for his sister and the sun for his
brother, he calls on his brother the Wind, and his sister the Water. His
last faint cry was a "Welcome, Sister Death!" Strangely as the two men
differed from each other, their aim was the same--to convert the heathen,
to extirpate heresy, to reconcile knowledge with orthodoxy, above all to
carry the Gospel to the poor. The work was to be done by an utter reversal
of the older monasticism, by seeking personal salvation in effort for the
salvation of their fellow-men, by exchanging the solitary of the cloister
for the preacher, the monk for the "brother" or friar. To force the new
"brethren" into entire dependence on those among whom they laboured their
vow of Poverty was turned into a stern reality; the "Begging Friars" were
to subsist solely on alms, they might possess neither money nor lands, the
very houses in which they lived were to be held in trust for them by
others. The tide of popular enthusiasm which welcomed their appearance
swept before it the reluctance of Rome, the jealousy of the older orders,
the opposition of the parochial priesthood. Thousands of brethren gathered
in a few years round Francis and Dominic; and the begging preachers, clad
in coarse frock of serge with a girdle of rope round their waist, wandered
barefooted as missionaries over Asia, battled with heresy in Italy and
Gaul, lectured in the Universities, and preached and toiled among the poor.


[Sidenote: The Friars and the Towns]

To the towns especially the coming of the Friars was a religious
revolution. They had been left for the most part to the worst and most
ignorant of the clergy, the mass-priest, whose sole subsistence lay in his
fees. Burgher and artizan were left to spell out what religious instruction
they might from the gorgeous ceremonies of the Church's ritual or the
scriptural pictures and sculptures which were graven on the walls of its
minsters. We can hardly wonder at the burst of enthusiasm which welcomed
the itinerant preacher whose fervid appeal, coarse wit, and familiar story
brought religion into the fair and the market place. In England, where the
Black Friars of Dominic arrived in 1221, the Grey Friars of Francis in
1224, both were received with the same delight. As the older orders had
chosen the country, the Friars chose the town. They had hardly landed at
Dover before they made straight for London and Oxford. In their ignorance
of the road the first two Grey Brothers lost their way in the woods between
Oxford and Baldon, and fearful of night and of the floods turned aside to a
grange of the monks of Abingdon. Their ragged clothes and foreign gestures,
as they prayed for hospitality, led the porter to take them for jongleurs,
the jesters and jugglers of the day, and the news of this break in the
monotony of their lives brought prior, sacrist, and cellarer to the door to
welcome them and witness their tricks. The disappointment was too much for
the temper of the monks, and the brothers were kicked roughly from the gate
to find their night's lodging under a tree. But the welcome of the townsmen
made up everywhere for the ill-will and opposition of both clergy and
monks. The work of the Friars was physical as well as moral. The rapid
progress of population within the boroughs had outstripped the sanitary
regulations of the Middle Ages, and fever or plague or the more terrible
scourge of leprosy festered in the wretched hovels of the suburbs. It was
to haunts such as these that Francis had pointed his disciples, and the
Grey Brethren at once fixed themselves in the meanest and poorest quarters
of each town. Their first work lay in the noisome lazar-houses; it was
amongst the lepers that they commonly chose the site of their homes. At
London they settled in the shambles of Newgate; at Oxford they made their
way to the swampy ground between its walls and the streams of Thames. Huts
of mud and timber, as mean as the huts around them, rose within the rough
fence and ditch that bounded the Friary. The order of Francis made a hard
fight against the taste for sumptuous buildings and for greater personal
comfort which characterized the time. "I did not enter into religion to
build walls," protested an English provincial when the brethren pressed for
a larger house; and Albert of Pisa ordered a stone cloister which the
burgesses of Southampton had built for them to be razed to the ground. "You
need no little mountains to lift your heads to heaven," was his scornful
reply to a claim for pillows. None but the sick went shod. An Oxford Friar
found a pair of shoes one morning, and wore them at matins. At night he
dreamed that robbers leapt on him in a dangerous pass between Gloucester
and Oxford with, shouts of "Kill, kill!" "I am a friar," shrieked the
terror-stricken brother. "You lie," was the instant answer, "for you go
shod." The Friar lifted up his foot in disproof, but the shoe was there. In
an agony of repentance he woke and flung the pair out of window.


[Sidenote: Revival of Theology]

It was with less success that the order struggled against the passion of
the time for knowledge. Their vow of poverty, rigidly interpreted as it was
by their founders, would have denied them the possession of books or
materials for study. "I am your breviary, I am your breviary," Francis
cried passionately to a novice who asked for a psalter. When the news of a
great doctor's reception was brought to him at Paris, his countenance fell.
"I am afraid, my son," he replied, "that such doctors will be the
destruction of my vineyard. They are the true doctors who with the meekness
of wisdom show forth good works for the edification of their neighbours."
One kind of knowledge indeed their work almost forced on them. The
popularity of their preaching soon led them to the deeper study of
theology; within a short time after their establishment in England we find
as many as thirty readers or lecturers appointed at Hereford, Leicester,
Bristol, and other places, and a regular succession of teachers provided at
each University. The Oxford Dominicans lectured on theology in the nave of
their new church while philosophy was taught in the cloister. The first
provincial of the Grey Friars built a school in their Oxford house and
persuaded Grosseteste to lecture there. His influence after his promotion
to the see of Lincoln was steadily exerted to secure theological study
among the Friars, as well as their establishment in the University; and in
this work he was ably seconded by his scholar, Adam Marsh, or de Marisco,
under whom the Franciscan school at Oxford attained a reputation throughout
Christendom. Lyons, Paris, and Koln borrowed from it their professors: it
was through its influence indeed that Oxford rose to a position hardly
inferior to that of Paris itself as a centre of scholasticism. But the
result of this powerful impulse was soon seen to be fatal to the wider
intellectual activity which had till now characterized the Universities.
Theology in its scholastic form resumed its supremacy in the schools. Its
only efficient rivals were practical studies such as medicine and law. The
last, as he was by far the greatest, instance of the freer and wider
culture which had been the glory of the last century, was Roger Bacon, and
no name better illustrates the rapidity and completeness with which it
passed away.


[Sidenote: Roger Bacon]

Roger Bacon was the child of royalist parents who were driven into exile
and reduced to poverty by the civil wars. From Oxford, where he studied
under Edmund of Abingdon to whom he owed his introduction to the works of
Aristotle, he passed to the University of Paris, and spent his whole
heritage there in costly studies and experiments. "From my youth up," he
writes, "I have laboured at the sciences and tongues. I have sought the
friendship of all men among the Latins who had any reputation for
knowledge. I have caused youths to be instructed in languages, geometry,
arithmetic, the construction of tables and instruments, and many needful
things besides." The difficulties in the way of such studies as he had
resolved to pursue were immense. He was without instruments or means of
experiment. "Without mathematical instruments no science can be mastered,"
he complains afterwards, "and these instruments are not to be found among
the Latins, nor could they be made for two or three hundred pounds.
Besides, better tables are indispensably necessary, tables on which the
motions of the heavens are certified from the beginning to the end of the
world without daily labour, but these tables are worth a king's ransom and
could not be made without a vast expense. I have often attempted the
composition of such tables, but could not finish them through failure of
means and the folly of those whom I had to employ." Books were difficult
and sometimes even impossible to procure. "The scientific works of
Aristotle, of Avicenna, of Seneca, of Cicero, and other ancients cannot be
had without great cost; their principal works have not been translated into
Latin, and copies of others are not to be found in ordinary libraries or
elsewhere. The admirable books of Cicero de Republica are not to be found
anywhere, so far as I can hear, though I have made anxious enquiry for them
in different parts of the world, and by various messengers. I could never
find the works of Seneca, though I made diligent search for them during
twenty years and more. And so it is with many more most useful books
connected with the science of morals." It is only words like these of his
own that bring home to us the keen thirst for knowledge, the patience, the
energy of Roger Bacon. He returned as a teacher to Oxford, and a touching
record of his devotion to those whom he taught remains in the story of John
of London, a boy of fifteen, whose ability raised him above the general
level of his pupils. "When he came to me as a poor boy," says Bacon in
recommending him to the Pope, "I caused him to be nurtured and instructed
for the love of God, especially since for aptitude and innocence I have
never found so towardly a youth. Five or six years ago I caused him to be
taught in languages, mathematics, and optics, and I have gratuitously
instructed him with my own lips since the time that I received your
mandate. There is no one at Paris who knows so much of the root of
philosophy, though he has not produced the branches, flowers, and fruit
because of his youth, and because he has had no experience in teaching. But
he has the means of surpassing all the Latins if he live to grow old and
goes on as he has begun."

The pride with which he refers to his system of instruction was justified
by the wide extension which he gave to scientific teaching in Oxford. It is
probably of himself that he speaks when he tells us that "the science of
optics has not hitherto been lectured on at Paris or elsewhere among the
Latins, save twice at Oxford." It was a science on which he had laboured
for ten years. But his teaching seems to have fallen on a barren soil. From
the moment when the Friars settled in the Universities scholasticism
absorbed the whole mental energy of the student world. The temper of the
age was against scientific or philosophical studies. The older enthusiasm
for knowledge was dying down; the study of law was the one source of
promotion, whether in Church or state; philosophy was discredited,
literature in its purer forms became almost extinct. After forty years of
incessant study, Bacon found himself in his own words "unheard, forgotten,
buried." He seems at one time to have been wealthy, but his wealth was
gone. "During the twenty years that I have specially laboured in the
attainment of wisdom, abandoning the path of common men, I have spent on
these pursuits more than two thousand pounds, not to mention the cost of
books, experiments, instruments, tables, the acquisition of languages, and
the like. Add to all this the sacrifices I have made to procure the
friendship of the wise and to obtain well-instructed assistants." Ruined
and baffled in his hopes, Bacon listened to the counsels of his friend
Grosseteste and renounced the world. He became a friar of the order of St.
Francis, an order where books and study were looked upon as hindrances to
the work which it had specially undertaken, that of preaching among the
masses of the poor. He had written little. So far was he from attempting to
write that his new superiors prohibited him from publishing anything under
pain of forfeiture of the book and penance of bread and water. But we can
see the craving of his mind, the passionate instinct of creation which
marks the man of genius, in the joy with which he seized a strange
opportunity that suddenly opened before him. "Some few chapters on
different subjects, written at the entreaty of friends," seem to have got
abroad, and were brought by one of the Pope's chaplains under the notice of
Clement the Fourth. The Pope at once invited Bacon to write. But
difficulties stood in his way. Materials, transcription, and other expenses
for such a work as he projected would cost at least, £60, and the Pope sent
not a penny. Bacon begged help from his family, but they were ruined like
himself. No one would lend to a mendicant friar, and when his friends
raised the money he needed it was by pawning their goods in the hope of
repayment from Clement. Nor was this all; the work itself, abstruse and
scientific as was its subject, had to be treated in a clear and popular
form to gain the Papal ear. But difficulties which would have crushed
another man only roused Roger Bacon to an almost superhuman energy. By the
close of 1267 the work was done. The "greater work," itself in modern form
a closely-printed folio, with its successive summaries and appendices in
the "lesser" and the "third" works (which make a good octavo more), were
produced and forwarded to the Pope within fifteen months.


[Sidenote: The Opus Majus]

No trace of this fiery haste remains in the book itself. The "Opus Majus"
is alike wonderful in plan and detail. Bacon's main purpose, in the words
of Dr. Whewell, is "to urge the necessity of a reform in the mode of
philosophizing, to set forth the reasons why knowledge had not made a
greater progress, to draw back attention to sources of knowledge which had
been unwisely neglected, to discover other sources which were yet wholly
unknown, and to animate men to the undertaking by a prospect of the vast
advantages which it offered." The developement of his scheme is on the
largest scale; he gathers together the whole knowledge of his time on every
branch of science which it possessed, and as he passes them in review he
suggests improvements in nearly all. His labours, both here and in his
after works, in the field of grammar and philology, his perseverance in
insisting on the necessity of correct texts, of an accurate knowledge of
languages, of an exact interpretation, are hardly less remarkable than his
scientific investigations. From grammar he passes to mathematics, from
mathematics to experimental philosophy. Under the name of mathematics
indeed was included all the physical science of the time. "The neglect of
it for nearly thirty or forty years," pleads Bacon passionately, "hath
nearly destroyed the entire studies of Latin Christendom. For he who knows
not mathematics cannot know any other sciences; and what is more, he cannot
discover his own ignorance or find its proper remedies." Geography,
chronology, arithmetic, music, are brought into something of scientific
form, and like rapid sketches are given of the question of climate,
hydrography, geography, and astrology. The subject of optics, his own
especial study, is treated with greater fulness; he enters into the
question of the anatomy of the eye besides discussing problems which lie
more strictly within the province of optical science. In a word, the
"Greater Work," to borrow the phrase of Dr. Whewell, is "at once the
Encyclopedia and the Novum Organum of the thirteenth century." The whole of
the after-works of Roger Bacon--and treatise after treatise has of late
been disentombed from our libraries--are but developements in detail of the
magnificent conception he laid before Clement. Such a work was its own
great reward.

From the world around Roger Bacon could look for and found small
recognition. No word of acknowledgement seems to have reached its author
from the Pope. If we may credit a more recent story, his writings only
gained him a prison from his order. "Unheard, forgotten, buried," the old
man died as he had lived, and it has been reserved for later ages to roll
away the obscurity that had gathered round his memory, and to place first
in the great roll of modern science the name of Roger Bacon.


[Sidenote: Scholasticism]

The failure of Bacon shows the overpowering strength of the drift towards
the practical studies, and above all towards theology in its scholastic
guise. Aristotle, who had been so long held at bay as the most dangerous
foe of mediæval faith, was now turned by the adoption of his logical method
in the discussion and definition of theological dogma into its unexpected
ally. It was this very method that led to "that unprofitable subtlety and
curiosity" which Lord Bacon notes as the vice of the scholastic philosophy.
But "certain it is"--to continue the same great thinker's comment on the
Friars--"that if these schoolmen to their great thirst of truth and
unwearied travel of wit had joined variety of reading and contemplation,
they had proved excellent lights to the great advancement of all learning
and knowledge." What, amidst all their errors, they undoubtedly did was to
insist on the necessity of rigid demonstration and a more exact use of
words, to introduce a clear and methodical treatment of all subjects into
discussion, and above all to substitute an appeal to reason for
unquestioning obedience to authority. It was by this critical tendency, by
the new clearness and precision which scholasticism gave to enquiry, that
in spite of the trivial questions with which it often concerned itself it
trained the human mind through the next two centuries to a temper which
fitted it to profit by the great disclosure of knowledge that brought about
the Renascence. And it is to the same spirit of fearless enquiry as well as
to the strong popular sympathies which their very constitution necessitated
that we must attribute the influence which the Friars undoubtedly exerted
in the coming struggle between the people and the Crown. Their position is
clearly and strongly marked throughout the whole contest. The University of
Oxford, which soon fell under the direction of their teaching, stood first
in its resistance to Papal exactions and its claim of English liberty. The
classes in the towns, on whom the influence of the Friars told most
directly, were steady supporters of freedom throughout the Barons' Wars.


[Sidenote: Its Political Influence]

Politically indeed the teaching of the schoolmen was of immense value, for
it set on a religious basis and gave an intellectual form to the
constitutional theory of the relations between king and people which was
slowly emerging from the struggle with the Crown. In assuming the
responsibility of a Christian king to God for the good government of his
realm, in surrounding the pledges whether of ruler or ruled with religious
sanctions, the mediæval Church entered its protest against any personal
despotism. The schoolmen pushed further still to the doctrine of a contract
between king and people; and their trenchant logic made short work of the
royal claims to irresponsible power and unquestioning obedience. "He who
would be in truth a king," ran a poem which embodies their teaching at this
time in pungent verse--"he is a 'free king' indeed if he rightly rule
himself and his realm. All things are lawful to him for the government of
his realm, but nothing is lawful to him for its destruction. It is one
thing to rule according to a king's duty, another to destroy a kingdom by
resisting the law." "Let the community of the realm advise, and let it be
known what the generality, to whom their laws are best known, think on the
matter. They who are ruled by the laws know those laws best; they who make
daily trial of them are best acquainted with them; and since it is their
own affairs which are at stake they will take the more care and will act
with an eye to their own peace." "It concerns the community to see what
sort of men ought justly to be chosen for the weal of the realm." The
constitutional restrictions on the royal authority, the right of the whole
nation to deliberate and decide on its own affairs and to have a voice in
the selection of the administrators of government, had never been so
clearly stated before. But the importance of the Friar's work lay in this,
that the work of the scholar was supplemented by that of the popular
preacher. The theory of government wrought out in cell and lecture-room was
carried over the length and breadth of the land by the mendicant brother,
begging his way from town to town, chatting with farmer or housewife at the
cottage door, and setting up his portable pulpit in village green or
market-place. His open-air sermons, ranging from impassioned devotion to
coarse story and homely mother wit, became the journals as well as the
homilies of the day; political and social questions found place in them
side by side with spiritual matters; and the rudest countryman learned his
tale of a king's oppression or a patriot's hopes as he listened to the
rambling, passionate, humorous discourse of the begging friar.


[Sidenote: Henry the Third]

Never had there been more need of such a political education of the whole
people than at the moment we have reached. For the triumph of the Charter,
the constitutional government of Governor and Justiciar, had rested mainly
on the helplessness of the king. As boy or youth, Henry the Third had bowed
to the control of William Marshal or Langton or Hubert de Burgh. But he was
now grown to manhood, and his character was from this hour to tell on the
events of his reign. From the cruelty, the lust, the impiety of his father
the young king was absolutely free. There was a geniality, a vivacity, a
refinement in his temper which won a personal affection for him even in his
worst days from some who bitterly censured his rule. The Abbey-church of
Westminster, with which he replaced the ruder minster of the Confessor,
remains a monument of his artistic taste. He was a patron and friend of men
of letters, and himself skilled in the "gay science" of the troubadour. But
of the political capacity which was the characteristic of his house he had
little or none. Profuse, changeable, false from sheer meanness of spirit,
impulsive alike in good and ill, unbridled in temper and tongue, reckless
in insult and wit, Henry's delight was in the display of an empty and
prodigal magnificence, his one notion of government was a dream of
arbitrary power. But frivolous as the king's mood was, he clung with a weak
man's obstinacy to a distinct line of policy; and this was the policy not
of Hubert or Langton but of John. He cherished the hope of recovering his
heritage across the sea. He believed in the absolute power of the Crown;
and looked on the pledges of the Great Charter as promises which force had
wrested from the king and which force could wrest back again. France was
telling more and more on English opinion; and the claim which the French
kings were advancing to a divine and absolute power gave a sanction in
Henry's mind to the claim of absolute authority which was still maintained
by his favourite advisers in the royal council. Above all he clung to the
alliance with the Papacy. Henry was personally devout; and his devotion
only bound him the more firmly to his father's system of friendship with
Rome. Gratitude and self-interest alike bound him to the Papal See. Rome
had saved him from ruin as a child; its legate had set the crown on his
head; its threats and excommunications had foiled Lewis and built up again
a royal party. Above all it was Rome which could alone free him from his
oath to the Charter, and which could alone defend him if like his father he
had to front the baronage in arms.


[Sidenote: England and Rome]

His temper was now to influence the whole system of government. In 1227
Henry declared himself of age; and though Hubert still remained Justiciar
every year saw him more powerless in his struggle with the tendencies of
the king. The death of Stephen Langton in 1228 was a yet heavier blow to
English freedom. In persuading Rome to withdraw her Legate the Primate had
averted a conflict between the national desire for self-government and the
Papal claims of overlordship. But his death gave the signal for a more
serious struggle, for it was in the oppression of the Church of England by
the Popes through the reign of Henry that the little rift first opened
which was destined to widen into the gulf that parted the one from the
other at the Reformation. In the mediæval theory of the Papacy, as Innocent
and his successors held it, Christendom, as a spiritual realm of which the
Popes were the head, took the feudal form of the secular realms which lay
within its pale. The Pope was its sovereign, the Bishops were his barons,
and the clergy were his under vassals. As the king demanded aids and
subsidies in case of need from his liegemen, so in the theory of Rome might
the head of the Church demand aid in need from the priesthood. And at this
moment the need of the Popes was sore. Rome had plunged into her desperate
conflict with the Emperor, Frederick the Second, and was looking everywhere
for the means of recruiting her drained exchequer. On England she believed
herself to have more than a spiritual claim for support. She regarded the
kingdom as a vassal kingdom, and as bound to aid its overlord. It was only
by the promise of a heavy subsidy that Henry in 1229 could buy the Papal
confirmation of Langton's successor. But the baronage was of other mind
than Henry as to this claim of overlordship, and the demand of an aid to
Rome from the laity was at once rejected by them. Her spiritual claim over
the allegiance of the clergy however remained to fall back upon, and the
clergy were in the Pope's hand. Gregory the Ninth had already claimed for
the Papal See a right of nomination to some prebends in each cathedral
church; he now demanded a tithe of all the moveables of the priesthood, and
a threat of excommunication silenced their murmurs. Exaction followed
exaction as the needs of the Papal treasury grew greater. The very rights
of lay patrons were set aside, and under the name of "reserves"
presentations to English benefices were sold in the Papal market, while
Italian clergy were quartered on the best livings of the Church.


[Sidenote: Fall of Hubert de Burgh]

The general indignation at last found vent in a wide conspiracy. In 1231
letters from "the whole body of those who prefer to die rather than be
ruined by the Romans" were scattered over the kingdom by armed men; tithes
gathered for the Pope or the foreign priests were seized and given to the
poor; the Papal collectors were beaten and their bulls trodden under foot.
The remonstrances of Rome only made clearer the national character of the
movement; but as enquiry went on the hand of the Justiciar himself was seen
to have been at work. Sheriffs had stood idly by while violence was done;
royal letters had been shown by the rioters as approving their acts; and
the Pope openly laid the charge of the outbreak on the secret connivance of
Hubert de Burgh. No charge could have been more fatal to Hubert in the mind
of the king. But he was already in full collision with the Justiciar on
other grounds. Henry was eager to vindicate his right to the great heritage
his father had lost: the Gascons, who still clung to him, not because they
loved England but because they hated France, spurred him to war; and in
1229 a secret invitation came from the Norman barons. But while Hubert held
power no serious effort was made to carry on a foreign strife. The Norman
call was rejected through his influence, and when a great armament gathered
at Portsmouth for a campaign in Poitou it dispersed for want of transport
and supplies. The young king drew his sword and rushed madly on the
Justiciar, charging him with treason and corruption by the gold of France.
But the quarrel was appeased and the expedition deferred for the year. In
1230 Henry actually took the field in Britanny and Poitou, but the failure
of the campaign was again laid at the door of Hubert whose opposition was
said to have prevented a decisive engagement. It was at this moment that
the Papal accusation filled up the measure of Henry's wrath against his
minister. In the summer of 1232 he was deprived of his office of Justiciar,
and dragged from a chapel at Brentwood where threats of death had driven
him to take sanctuary. A smith who was ordered to shackle him stoutly
refused. "I will die any death," he said, "before I put iron on the man who
freed England from the stranger and saved Dover from France." The
remonstrances of the Bishop of London forced the king to replace Hubert in
sanctuary, but hunger compelled him to surrender; he was thrown a prisoner
into the Tower, and though soon released he remained powerless in the
realm. His fall left England without a check to the rule of Henry himself.



CHAPTER III
THE BARON'S WAR
1232-1272



[Sidenote: The Aliens]

Once master of his realm, Henry the Third was quick to declare his plan of
government. The two great checks on a merely personal rule lay as yet in
the authority of the great ministers of State and in the national character
of the administrative body which had been built up by Henry the Second.
Both of these checks Henry at once set himself to remove. He would be his
own minister. The Justiciar ceased to be the Lieutenant-General of the king
and dwindled into a presiding judge of the law-courts. The Chancellor had
grown into a great officer of State, and in 1226 this office had been
conferred on the Bishop of Chichester by the advice and consent of the
Great Council. But Henry succeeded in wresting the seal from him and naming
to this as to other offices at his pleasure. His policy was to entrust all
high posts of government to mere clerks of the royal chapel; trained
administrators, but wholly dependent on the royal will. He found equally
dependent agents of administration by surrounding himself with foreigners.
The return of Peter des Roches to the royal councils was the first sign of
the new system; and hosts of hungry Poitevins and Bretons were summoned
over to occupy the royal castles and fill the judicial and administrative
posts about the Court. The king's marriage in 1236 to Eleanor of Provence
was followed by the arrival in England of the new queen's uncles. The
"Savoy," as his house in the Strand was named, still recalls Peter of Savoy
who arrived five years later to take for a while the chief place at Henry's
council-board; another brother, Boniface, was consecrated on Archbishop
Edmund's death to the highest post in the realm save the Crown itself, the
Archbishoprick of Canterbury. The young Primate, like his brother, brought
with him foreign fashions strange enough to English folk. His armed
retainers pillaged the markets. His own archiepiscopal fist felled to the
ground the prior of St. Bartholomew-by-Smithfield who opposed his
visitation. London was roused by the outrage; on the king's refusal to do
justice a noisy crowd of citizens surrounded the Primate's house at Lambeth
with cries of vengeance, and the "handsome archbishop," as his followers
styled him, was glad to escape over sea. This brood of Provençals was
followed in 1243 by the arrival of the Poitevin relatives of John's queen,
Isabella of Angoulême. Aymer was made Bishop of Winchester; William of
Valence received at a later time the earldom of Pembroke. Even the king's
jester was a Poitevin. Hundreds of their dependants followed these great
nobles to find a fortune in the English realm. The Poitevin lords brought
in their train a bevy of ladies in search of husbands, and three English
earls who were in royal wardship were wedded by the king to foreigners. The
whole machinery of administration passed into the hands of men who were
ignorant and contemptuous of the principles of English government or
English law. Their rule was a mere anarchy; the very retainers of the royal
household turned robbers and pillaged foreign merchants in the precincts of
the Court; corruption invaded the judicature; at the close of this period
of misrule Henry de Bath, a justiciary, was proved to have openly taken
bribes and to have adjudged to himself disputed estates.


[Sidenote: Henry and the Baronage]

That misgovernment of this kind should have gone on unchecked in defiance
of the provisions of the Charter was owing to the disunion and sluggishness
of the English baronage. On the first arrival of the foreigners Richard,
the Earl Marshal, a son of the great Regent, stood forth as their leader to
demand the expulsion of the strangers from the royal Council. Though
deserted by the bulk of the nobles he defeated the foreign troops sent
against him and forced the king to treat for peace. But at this critical
moment the Earl was drawn by an intrigue of Peter des Roches to Ireland; he
fell in a petty skirmish, and the barons were left without a head. The
interposition of a new primate, Edmund of Abingdon, forced the king to
dismiss Peter from court; but there was no real change of system, and the
remonstrances of the Archbishop and of Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of
Lincoln, remained fruitless. In the long interval of misrule the financial
straits of the king forced him to heap exaction on exaction. The Forest
Laws were used as a means of extortion, sees and abbeys were kept vacant,
loans were wrested from lords and prelates, the Court itself lived at free
quarters wherever it moved. Supplies of this kind however were utterly
insufficient to defray the cost of the king's prodigality. A sixth of the
royal revenue was wasted in pensions to foreign favourites. The debts of
the Crown amounted to four times its annual income. Henry was forced to
appeal for aid to the great Council of the realm, and aid was granted in
1237 on promise of control in its expenditure and on condition that the
king confirmed the Charter. But Charter and promise were alike disregarded;
and in 1242 the resentment of the barons expressed itself in a determined
protest and a refusal of further subsidies. In spite of their refusal
however Henry gathered money enough for a costly expedition for the
recovery of Poitou. The attempt ended in failure and shame. At Taillebourg
the king's force fled in disgraceful rout before the French as far as
Saintes, and only the sudden illness of Lewis the Ninth and a disease which
scattered his army saved Bordeaux from the conquerors. The treasury was
utterly drained, and Henry was driven in 1244 to make a fresh appeal with
his own mouth to the baronage. But the barons had now rallied to a plan of
action, and we can hardly fail to attribute their union to the man who
appears at their head. This was the Earl of Leicester, Simon of Montfort.


[Sidenote: Simon of Montfort]

Simon was the son of another Simon of Montfort, whose name had become
memorable for his ruthless crusade against the Albigensian heretics in
Southern Gaul, and who had inherited the Earldom of Leicester through his
mother, a sister and co-heiress of the last Earl of the house of Beaumont.
But as Simon's tendencies were for the most part French John had kept the
revenues of the earldom in his own hands, and on his death the claim of his
elder son, Amaury, was met by the refusal of Henry the Third to accept a
divided allegiance. The refusal marks the rapid growth of that sentiment of
nationality which the loss of Normandy had brought home. Amaury chose to
remain French, and by a family arrangement with the king's sanction the
honour of Leicester passed in 1231 to his younger brother Simon. His choice
made Simon an Englishman, but his foreign blood still moved the jealousy of
the barons, and this jealousy was quickened by a secret match in 1238 with
Eleanor, the king's sister and widow of the second William Marshal. The
match formed probably part of a policy which Henry pursued throughout his
reign of bringing the great earldoms into closer connexion with the Crown.
That of Chester had fallen to the king through the extinction of the family
of its earls; Cornwall was held by his brother, Richard; Salisbury by his
cousin. Simon's marriage linked the Earldom of Leicester to the royal
house. But it at once brought Simon into conflict with the nobles and the
Church. The baronage, justly indignant that such a step should have been
taken without their consent, for the queen still remained childless and
Eleanor's children by one whom they looked on as a stranger promised to be
heirs of the Crown, rose in a revolt which failed only through the
desertion of their head, Earl Richard of Cornwall, who was satisfied with
Earl Simon's withdrawal from the Royal Council. The censures of the Church
on Eleanor's breach of a vow of chaste widowhood which she had made at her
first husband's death were averted with hardly less difficulty by a journey
to Rome. It was after a year of trouble that Simon returned to England to
reap as it seemed the fruits of his high alliance. He was now formally made
Earl of Leicester and re-entered the Royal Council. But it is probable that
he still found there the old jealousy which had forced from him a pledge of
retirement after his marriage; and that his enemies now succeeded in
winning over the king. In a few months, at any rate, he found the
changeable king alienated from him, he was driven by a burst of royal
passion from the realm, and was forced to spend seven months in France.


[Sidenote: Simon's early action]

Henry's anger passed as quickly as it had risen, and in the spring of 1240
the Earl was again received with honour at court. It was from this moment
however that his position changed. As yet it had been that of a foreigner,
confounded in the eyes of the nation at large with the Poitevins and
Provençals who swarmed about the court. But in the years of retirement
which followed Simon's return to England his whole attitude was reversed.
There was as yet no quarrel with the king: he followed him in a campaign
across the Channel, and shared in his defeat at Saintes. But he was a
friend of Grosseteste and a patron of the Friars, and became at last known
as a steady opponent of the misrule about him. When prelates and barons
chose twelve representatives to confer with Henry in 1244 Simon stood with
Earl Richard of Cornwall at the head of them. A definite plan of reform
disclosed his hand. The confirmation of the Charter was to be followed by
the election of Justiciar, Chancellor, Treasurer, in the Great Council. Nor
was this restoration of a responsible ministry enough; a perpetual Council
was to attend the king and devise further reforms. The plan broke against
Henry's resistance and a Papal prohibition; but from this time the Earl
took his stand in the front rank of the patriot leaders. The struggle of
the following years was chiefly with the exactions of the Papacy, and Simon
was one of the first to sign the protest which the Parliament in 1246
addressed to the court of Rome. He was present at the Lent Parliament of
1248, and we can hardly doubt that he shared in its bold rebuke of the
king's misrule and its renewed demand for the appointment of the higher
officers of state by the Council. It was probably a sense of the danger of
leaving at home such a centre of all efforts after reform that brought
Henry to send him in the autumn of 1248 as Seneschal of Gascony to save for
the Crown the last of its provinces over sea.


[Sidenote: Simon in Gascony]

Threatened by France and by Navarre without as well as by revolt within,
the loss of Gascony seemed close at hand; but in a few months the stern
rule of the new Seneschal had quelled every open foe within or without its
bounds. To bring the province to order proved a longer and a harder task.
Its nobles were like the robber-nobles of the Rhine: "they rode the country
by night," wrote the Earl, "like thieves, in parties of twenty or thirty or
forty," and gathered in leagues against the Seneschal, who set himself to
exact their dues to the Crown and to shield merchant and husbandman from
their violence. For four years Earl Simon steadily warred down these robber
bands, storming castles where there was need, and bridling the wilder
country with a chain of forts. Hard as the task was, his real difficulty
lay at home. Henry sent neither money nor men; and the Earl had to raise
both from his own resources, while the men whom he was fighting found
friends in Henry's council-chamber. Again and again Simon was recalled to
answer charges of tyranny and extortion made by the Gascon nobles and
pressed by his enemies at home on the king. Henry's feeble and impulsive
temper left him open to pressure like this; and though each absence of the
Earl from the province was a signal for fresh outbreaks of disorder which
only his presence repressed, the deputies of its nobles were still admitted
to the council-table and commissions sent over to report on the Seneschal's
administration. The strife came to a head in 1252, when the commissioners
reported that stern as Simon's rule had been the case was one in which
sternness was needful. The English barons supported Simon, and in the face
of their verdict Henry was powerless. But the king was now wholly with his
enemies; and his anger broke out in a violent altercation. The Earl offered
to resign his post if the money he had spent was repaid him, and appealed
to Henry's word. Henry hotly retorted that he was bound by no promise to a
false traitor. Simon at once gave Henry the lie; "and but that thou bearest
the name of king it had been a bad hour for thee when thou utteredst such a
word!" A formal reconciliation was brought about, and the Earl once more
returned to Gascony, but before winter had come he was forced to withdraw
to France. The greatness of his reputation was shown in an offer which its
nobles made him of the regency of their realm during the absence of King
Lewis from the land. But the offer was refused; and Henry, who had himself
undertaken the pacification of Gascony, was glad before the close of 1253
to recall its old ruler to do the work he had failed to do.


[Sidenote: Simon's temper]

The Earl's character had now thoroughly developed. He inherited the strict
and severe piety of his father; he was assiduous in his attendance on
religious services whether by night or day. In his correspondence with Adam
Marsh we see him finding patience under his Gascon troubles in a perusal of
the Book of Job. His life was pure and singularly temperate; he was noted
for his scant indulgence in meat, drink, or sleep. Socially he was cheerful
and pleasant in talk; but his natural temper was quick and ardent, his
sense of honour keen, his speech rapid and trenchant. His impatience of
contradiction, his fiery temper, were in fact the great stumbling-blocks in
his after career. His best friends marked honestly this fault, and it shows
the greatness of the man that he listened to their remonstrances. "Better
is a patient man," writes honest Friar Adam, "than a strong man, and he who
can rule his own temper than he who storms a city." But the one
characteristic which overmastered all was what men at that time called his
"constancy," the firm immoveable resolve which trampled even death under
foot in its loyalty to the right. The motto which Edward the First chose as
his device, "Keep troth," was far truer as the device of Earl Simon. We see
in his correspondence with what a clear discernment of its difficulties
both at home and abroad he "thought it unbecoming to decline the danger of
so great an exploit" as the reduction of Gascony to peace and order; but
once undertaken, he persevered in spite of the opposition he met with, the
failure of all support or funds from England, and the king's desertion of
his cause, till the work was done. There was the same steadiness of will
and purpose in his patriotism. The letters of Robert Grosseteste show how
early Simon had learned to sympathize with the Bishop in his resistance to
Rome, and at the crisis of the contest he offered him his own support and
that of his associates. But Robert passed away, and as the tide of
misgovernment mounted higher and higher the Earl silently trained himself
for the day of trial. The fruit of his self-discipline was seen when the
crisis came. While other men wavered and faltered and fell away, the
enthusiastic love of the people clung to the grave, stern soldier who
"stood like a pillar," unshaken by promise or threat or fear of death, by
the oath he had sworn.


[Sidenote: Matthew Paris]

While Simon had been warring with Gascon rebels affairs in England had been
going from bad to worse. The scourge of Papal taxation fell heavier on the
clergy. After vain appeals to Rome and to the king, Archbishop Edmund
retired to an exile of despair at Pontigny, and tax-gatherer after
tax-gatherer with powers of excommunication, suspension from orders, and
presentation to benefices, descended on the unhappy priesthood. The
wholesale pillage kindled a wide spirit of resistance. Oxford gave the
signal by hunting a Papal legate out of the city amid cries of "usurer" and
"simoniac" from the mob of students. Fulk Fitz-Warenne in the name of the
barons bade a Papal collector begone out of England. "If you tarry here
three days longer," he added, "you and your company shall be cut to
pieces." For a time Henry himself was swept away by the tide of national
indignation. Letters from the king, the nobles, and the prelates, protested
against the Papal exactions, and orders were given that no money should be
exported from the realm. But the threat of interdict soon drove Henry back
on a policy of spoliation in which he went hand in hand with Rome. The
temper which this oppression begot among even the most sober churchmen has
been preserved for us by an annalist whose pages glow with the new outburst
of patriotic feeling. Matthew Paris is the greatest, as he in reality is
the last, of our monastic historians. The school of St. Alban's survived
indeed till a far later time, but its writers dwindle into mere annalists
whose view is bounded by the abbey precincts and whose work is as
colourless as it is jejune. In Matthew the breadth and precision of the
narrative, the copiousness of his information on topics whether national or
European, the general fairness and justice of his comments, are only
surpassed by the patriotic fire and enthusiasm of the whole. He had
succeeded Roger of Wendover as chronicler at St. Alban's; and the Greater
Chronicle with an abridgement of it which long passed under the name of
Matthew of Westminster, a "History of the English," and the "Lives of the
Earlier Abbots," are only a few among the voluminous works which attest his
prodigious industry. He was an artist as well as an historian, and many of
the manuscripts which are preserved are illustrated by his own hand. A
large circle of correspondents--bishops like Grosseteste, ministers like
Hubert de Burgh, officials like Alexander de Swereford--furnished him with
minute accounts of political and ecclesiastical proceedings. Pilgrims from
the East and Papal agents brought news of foreign events to his scriptorium
at St. Alban's. He had access to and quotes largely from state documents,
charters, and exchequer rolls. The frequency of royal visits to the abbey
brought him a store of political intelligence, and Henry himself
contributed to the great chronicle which has preserved with so terrible a
faithfulness the memory of his weakness and misgovernment. On one solemn
feast-day the king recognized Matthew, and bidding him sit on the middle
step between the floor and the throne begged him to write the story of the
day's proceedings. While on a visit to St. Alban's he invited him to his
table and chamber, and enumerated by name two hundred and fifty of the
English baronies for his information. But all this royal patronage has left
little mark on his work. "The case," as Matthew says, "of historical
writers is hard, for if they tell the truth they provoke men, and if they
write what is false they offend God." With all the fulness of the school of
court historians, such as Benedict and Hoveden, to which in form he
belonged, Matthew Paris combines an independence and patriotism which is
strange to their pages. He denounces with the same unsparing energy the
oppression of the Papacy and of the king. His point of view is neither that
of a courtier nor of a churchman but of an Englishman, and the new national
tone of his chronicle is but the echo of a national sentiment which at last
bound nobles and yeomen and churchmen together into a people resolute to
wrest freedom from the Crown.


[Sidenote: Wales]

The nation was outraged like the Church. Two solemn confirmations of the
Charter failed to bring about any compliance with its provisions. In 1248,
in 1249, and again in 1255 the great Council fruitlessly renewed its demand
for a regular ministry, and the growing resolve of the nobles to enforce
good government was seen in their offer of a grant on condition that the
great officers of the Crown were appointed in the Council of the Baronage.
But Henry refused their offer with scorn and sold his plate to the citizens
of London to find payment for his household. A spirit of mutinous defiance
broke out on the failure of all legal remedy. When the Earl of Norfolk
refused him aid Henry answered with a threat. "I will send reapers and reap
your fields for you," he said. "And I will send you back the heads of your
reapers," replied the Earl. Hampered by the profusion of the court and the
refusal of supplies, the Crown was in fact penniless; and yet never was
money more wanted, for a trouble which had long pressed upon the English
kings had now grown to a height that called for decisive action. Even his
troubles at home could not blind Henry to the need of dealing with the
difficulty of Wales. Of the three Welsh states into which all that remained
unconquered of Britain had been broken by the victories of Deorham and
Chester, two had long ceased to exist. The country between the Clyde and
the Dee had been gradually absorbed by the conquests of Northumbria and the
growth of the Scot monarchy. West Wales, between the British Channel and
the estuary of the Severn, had yielded to the sword of Ecgberht. But a
fiercer resistance prolonged the independence of the great central portion
which alone in modern language preserves the name of Wales. Comprising in
itself the largest and most powerful of the British kingdoms, it was aided
in its struggle against Mercia by the weakness of its assailant, the
youngest and feeblest of the English states, as well as by an internal
warfare which distracted the energies of the invaders. But Mercia had no
sooner risen to supremacy among the English kingdoms than it took the work
of conquest vigorously in hand. Offa tore from Wales the border-land
between the Severn and the Wye; the raids of his successors carried fire
and sword into the heart of the country; and an acknowledgement of the
Mercian overlordship was wrested from the Welsh princes. On the fall of
Mercia this overlordship passed to the West-Saxon kings, and the Laws of
Howel Dda own the payment of a yearly tribute by "the prince of Aberffraw"
to "the King of London." The weakness of England during her long struggle
with the Danes revived the hopes of British independence; it was the
co-operation of the Welsh on which the northmen reckoned in their attack on
the house of Ecgberht. But with the fall of the Danelaw the British princes
were again brought to submission, and when in the midst of the Confessor's
reign the Welsh seized on a quarrel between the houses of Leofric and
Godwine to cross the border and carry their attacks into England itself,
the victories of Harold reasserted the English supremacy. Disembarking on
the coast his light-armed troops he penetrated to the heart of the
mountains, and the successors of the Welsh prince Gruffydd, whose head was
the trophy of the campaign, swore to observe the old fealty and render the
old tribute to the English Crown.


[Sidenote: Wales and the Normans]

A far more desperate struggle began when the wave of Norman conquest broke
on the Welsh frontier. A chain of great earldoms, settled by William along
the border-land, at once bridled the old marauding forays. From his county
palatine of Chester Hugh the Wolf harried Flintshire into a desert, Robert
of Belesme in his earldom of Shrewsbury "slew the Welsh," says a
chronicler, "like sheep, conquered them, enslaved them and flayed them with
nails of iron." The earldom of Gloucester curbed Britain along the lower
Severn. Backed by these greater baronies a horde of lesser adventurers
obtained the royal "licence to make conquest on the Welsh." Monmouth and
Abergavenny were seized and guarded by Norman castellans; Bernard of
Neufmarché won the lordship of Brecknock; Roger of Montgomery raised the
town and fortress in Powysland which still preserves his name. A great
rising of the whole people in the days of the second William won back some
of this Norman spoil. The new castle of Montgomery was burned, Brecknock
and Cardigan were cleared of the invaders, and the Welsh poured ravaging
over the English border. Twice the Red King carried his arms fruitlessly
among the mountains against enemies who took refuge in their fastnesses
till famine and hardship drove his broken host into retreat. The wiser
policy of Henry the First fell back on his father's system of gradual
conquest. A new tide of invasion flowed along the southern coast, where the
land was level and open and accessible from the sea. The attack was aided
by strife in the country itself. Robert Fitz-Hamo, the lord of Gloucester,
was summoned to his aid by a Welsh chieftain; and his defeat of Rhys ap
Tewdor, the last prince under whom Southern Wales was united, produced an
anarchy which enabled Robert to land safely on the coast of Glamorgan, to
conquer the country round, and to divide it among his soldiers. A force of
Flemings and Englishmen followed the Earl of Clare as he landed near
Milford Haven and pushing back the British inhabitants settled a "Little
England" in the present Pembrokeshire. A few daring adventurers accompanied
the Norman Lord of Kemeys into Cardigan, where land might be had for the
winning by any one who would "wage war on the Welsh."


[Sidenote: The Welsh Revival]

It was at this moment, when the utter subjugation of the British race
seemed at hand, that a new outburst of energy rolled back the tide of
invasion and changed the fitful resistance of the separate Welsh provinces
into a national effort to regain independence. To all outer seeming Wales
had become utterly barbarous. Stripped of every vestige of the older Roman
civilization by ages of bitter warfare, of civil strife, of estrangement
from the general culture of Christendom, the unconquered Britons had sunk
into a mass of savage herdsmen, clad in the skins and fed by the milk of
the cattle they tended. Faithless, greedy, and revengeful, retaining no
higher political organization than that of the clan, their strength was
broken by ruthless feuds, and they were united only in battle or in raid
against the stranger. But in the heart of the wild people there still
lingered a spark of the poetic fire which had nerved it four hundred years
before through Aneurin and Llywarch Hen to its struggle with the earliest
Englishmen. At the hour of its lowest degradation the silence of Wales was
suddenly broken by a crowd of singers. The song of the twelfth century
burst forth, not from one bard or another, but from the nation at large.
The Welsh temper indeed was steeped in poetry. "In every house," says the
shrewd Gerald de Barri, "strangers who arrived in the morning were
entertained till eventide with the talk of maidens and the music of the
harp." A romantic literature, which was destined to leaven the fancy of
western Europe, had grown up among this wild people and found an admirable
means of utterance in its tongue. The Welsh language was as real a
developement of the old Celtic language heard by Cæsar as the Romance
tongues are developements of Cæsar's Latin, but at a far earlier date than
any other language of modern Europe it had attained to definite structure
and to settled literary form. No other mediæval literature shows at its
outset the same elaborate and completed organization as that of the Welsh.
But within these settled forms the Celtic fancy played with a startling
freedom. In one of the later poems Gwion the Little transforms himself into
a hare, a fish, a bird, a grain of wheat; but he is only the symbol of the
strange shapes in which the Celtic fancy embodies itself in the romantic
tales which reached their highest perfection in the legends of Arthur.


[Sidenote: The Welsh Poetry]

The gay extravagance of these "Mabinogion" flings defiance to all fact,
tradition, probability, and revels in the impossible and unreal. When
Arthur sails into the unknown world it is in a ship of glass. The "descent
into hell," as a Celtic poet paints it, shakes off the mediæval horror with
the mediæval reverence, and the knight who achieves the quest spends his
years of infernal durance in hunting and minstrelsy, and in converse with
fair women. The world of the Mabinogion is a world of pure phantasy, a new
earth of marvels and enchantments, of dark forests whose silence is broken
by the hermit's bell and sunny glades where the light plays on the hero's
armour. Each figure as it moves across the poet's canvas is bright with
glancing colour. "The maiden was clothed in a robe of flame-coloured silk,
and about her neck was a collar of ruddy gold in which were precious
emeralds and rubies. Her head was of brighter gold than the flower of the
broom, her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer were her
hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the wood-anemone amidst the
spray of the meadow fountain. The eye of the trained hawk, the glance of
the falcon, was not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy than the
breast of the white swan, her cheek was redder than the reddest roses."
Everywhere there is an Oriental profusion of gorgeous imagery, but the
gorgeousness is seldom oppressive. The sensibility of the Celtic temper, so
quick to perceive beauty, so eager in its thirst for life, its emotions,
its adventures, its sorrows, its joys, is tempered by a passionate
melancholy that expresses its revolt against the impossible, by an instinct
of what is noble, by a sentiment that discovers the weird charm of nature.
The wildest extravagance of the tale-teller is relieved by some graceful
play of pure fancy, some tender note of feeling, some magical touch of
beauty. As Kulwch's greyhounds bound from side to side of their master's
steed, they "sport round him like two sea-swallows." His spear is "swifter
than the fall of the dewdrop from the blade of reed-grass upon the earth
when the dew of June is at the heaviest." A subtle, observant love of
nature and natural beauty takes fresh colour from the passionate human
sentiment with which it is imbued. "I love the birds" sings Gwalchmai "and
their sweet voices in the lulling songs of the wood"; he watches at night
beside the fords "among the untrodden grass" to hear the nightingale and
watch the play of the sea-mew. Even patriotism takes the same picturesque
form. The Welsh poet hates the flat and sluggish land of the Saxon; as he
dwells on his own he tells of "its sea-coast and its mountains, its towns
on the forest border, its fair landscape, its dales, its waters, and its
valleys, its white sea-mews, its beauteous women." Here as everywhere the
sentiment of nature passes swiftly and subtly into the sentiment of a human
tenderness: "I love its fields clothed with tender trefoil" goes on the
song; "I love the marches of Merioneth where my head was pillowed on a
snow-white arm." In the Celtic love of woman there is little of the
Teutonic depth and earnestness, but in its stead a childlike spirit of
delicate enjoyment, a faint distant flush of passion like the rose-light of
dawn on a snowy mountain peak, a playful delight in beauty. "White is my
love as the apple-blossom, as the ocean's spray; her face shines like the
pearly dew on Eryri; the glow of her cheeks is like the light of sunset."
The buoyant and elastic temper of the French trouveur was spiritualized in
the Welsh singers by a more refined poetic feeling. "Whoso beheld her was
filled with her love. Four white trefoils sprang up wherever she trod." A
touch of pure fancy such as this removes its object out of the sphere of
passion into one of delight and reverence.


[Sidenote: The Bards]

It is strange to pass from the world of actual Welsh history into such a
world as this. But side by side with this wayward, fanciful stream of poesy
and romance ran a torrent of intenser song. The spirit of the earlier
bards, their joy in battle, their love of freedom, broke out anew in ode
after ode, in songs extravagant, monotonous, often prosaic, but fused into
poetry by the intense fire of patriotism which glowed within them. Every
fight, every hero had its verse. The names of older singers, of Taliesin,
Aneurin, and Llywarch Hen, were revived in bold forgeries to animate the
national resistance and to prophesy victory. It was in North Wales that the
spirit of patriotism received its strongest inspiration from this burst of
song. Again and again Henry the Second was driven to retreat from the
impregnable fastnesses where the "Lords of Snowdon," the princes of the
house of Gruffydd ap Conan, claimed supremacy over the whole of Wales. Once
in the pass of Consilt a cry arose that the king was slain, Henry of Essex
flung down the royal standard, and the king's desperate efforts could
hardly save his army from utter rout. The bitter satire of the Welsh
singers bade him knight his horse, since its speed had alone saved him from
capture. In a later campaign the invaders were met by storms of rain, and
forced to abandon their baggage in a headlong flight to Chester. The
greatest of the Welsh odes, that known to English readers in Gray's
translation as "The Triumph of Owen," is Gwalchmai's song of victory over
the repulse of an English fleet from Abermenai.


[Sidenote: Llewelyn ap Jorwerth]

The long reign of Llewelyn the son of Jorwerth seemed destined to realize
the hopes of his countrymen. The homage which he succeeded in extorting
from the whole of the Welsh chieftains during a reign which lasted from
1194 to 1246 placed him openly at the head of his race, and gave a new
character to its struggle with the English king. In consolidating his
authority within his own domains, and in the assertion of his lordship over
the princes of the south, Llewelyn ap Jorwerth aimed steadily at securing
the means of striking off the yoke of the Saxon. It was in vain that John
strove to buy his friendship by the hand of his natural daughter Johanna.
Fresh raids on the Marches forced the king to enter Wales in 1211; but
though his army reached Snowdon it fell back like its predecessors, starved
and broken before an enemy it could never reach. A second attack in the
same year had better success. The chieftains of South Wales were drawn from
their new allegiance to join the English forces, and Llewelyn, prisoned in
his fastnesses, was at last driven to submit. But the ink of the treaty was
hardly dry before Wales was again on fire; a common fear of the English
once more united its chieftains, and the war between John and his barons
soon removed all dread of a new invasion. Absolved from his allegiance to
an excommunicated king, and allied with the barons under Fitz-Walter--too
glad to enlist in their cause a prince who could hold in check the nobles
of the border country where the royalist cause was strongest--Llewelyn
seized his opportunity to reduce Shrewsbury, to annex Powys, the central
district of Wales where the English influence had always been powerful, to
clear the royal garrisons from Caermarthen and Cardigan, and to force even
the Flemings of Pembroke to do him homage.


[Sidenote: Llewelyn and the Bards]

England watched these efforts of the subject race with an anger still
mingled with contempt. "Who knows not," exclaims Matthew Paris as he dwells
on the new pretensions of the Welsh ruler, "who knows not that the Prince
of Wales is a petty vassal of the King of England?" But the temper of
Llewelyn's own people was far other than the temper of the English
chronicler. The hopes of Wales rose higher and higher with each triumph of
the Lord of Snowdon. His court was crowded with bardic singers. "He pours,"
sings one of them, "his gold into the lap of the bard as the ripe fruit
falls from the trees." Gold however was hardly needed to wake their
enthusiasm. Poet after poet sang of "the Devastator of England," the "Eagle
of men that loves not to lie nor sleep," "towering above the rest of men
with his long red lance," his "red helmet of battle crested with a fierce
wolf." "The sound of his coming is like the roar of the wave as it rushes
to the shore, that can neither be stayed nor hushed." Lesser bards strung
together Llewelyn's victories in rough jingle of rime and hounded him on to
the slaughter. "Be of good courage in the slaughter," sings Elidir, "cling
to thy work, destroy England, and plunder its multitudes." A fierce thirst
for blood runs through the abrupt, passionate verses of the court singers.
"Swansea, that tranquil town, was broken in heaps," bursts out a triumphant
bard; "St. Clears, with its bright white lands, it is not Saxons who hold
it now!" "In Swansea, the key of Lloegria, we made widows of all the
wives." "The dread Eagle is wont to lay corpses in rows, and to feast with
the leader of wolves and with hovering ravens glutted with flesh, butchers
with keen scent of carcases." "Better," closes the song, "better the grave
than the life of man who sighs when the horns call him forth, to the
squares of battle."


[Sidenote: The Welsh hopes]

But even in bardic verse Llewelyn rises high out of the mere mob of
chieftains who live by rapine, and boast as the Hirlas-horn passes from
hand to hand through the hall that "they take and give no quarter."
"Tender-hearted, wise, witty, ingenious," he was "the great Caesar" who was
to gather beneath his sway the broken fragments of the Celtic race.
Mysterious prophecies, the prophecies of Merlin the Wise which floated from
lip to lip and were heard even along the Seine and the Rhine, came home
again to nerve Wales to its last struggle with the stranger. Medrawd and
Arthur, men whispered, would appear once more on earth to fight over again
the fatal battle of Camlan in which the hero-king perished. The last
conqueror of the Celtic race, Cadwallon, still lived to combat for his
people. The supposed verses of Taliesin expressed the undying hope of a
restoration of the Cymry. "In their hands shall be all the land from
Britanny to Man: ... a rumour shall arise that the Germans are moving out
of Britain back again to their fatherland." Gathered up in the strange work
of Geoffry of Monmouth, these predictions had long been making a deep
impression not on Wales only but on its conquerors. It was to meet the
dreams of a yet living Arthur that the grave of the legendary hero-king at
Glastonbury was found and visited by Henry the Second. But neither trick
nor conquest could shake the firm faith of the Celt in the ultimate victory
of his race. "Think you," said Henry to a Welsh chieftain who joined his
host, "that your people of rebels can withstand my army?" "My people,"
replied the chieftain, "may be weakened by your might, and even in great
part destroyed, but unless the wrath of God be on the side of its foe it
will not perish utterly. Nor deem I that other race or other tongue will
answer for this corner of the world before the Judge of all at the last day
save this people and tongue of Wales." So ran the popular rime, "Their Lord
they will praise, their speech they shall keep, their land they shall
lose--except wild Wales."


[Sidenote: The Provisions of Oxford]

Faith and prophecy seemed justified by the growing strength of the British
people. The weakness and dissensions which characterized the reign of Henry
the Third enabled Llewelyn ap Jorwerth to preserve a practical independence
till the close of his life, when a fresh acknowledgement of the English
supremacy was wrested from him by Archbishop Edmund. But the triumphs of
his arms were renewed by Llewelyn the son of Gruffydd, who followed him in
1246. The raids of the new chieftain swept the border to the very gates of
Chester, while his conquest of Glamorgan seemed to bind the whole people
together in a power strong enough to meet any attack from the stranger. So
pressing was the danger that it called the king's eldest son, Edward, to
the field; but his first appearance in arms ended in a crushing defeat. The
defeat however remained unavenged. Henry's dreams were of mightier
enterprises than the reduction of the Welsh. The Popes were still fighting
their weary battle against the House of Hohenstaufen, and were offering its
kingdom of Sicily, which they regarded as a forfeited fief of the Holy See,
to any power that would aid them in the struggle. In 1254 it was offered to
the king's second son, Edmund. With imbecile pride Henry accepted the
offer, prepared to send an army across the Alps, and pledged England to
repay the sums which the Pope was borrowing for the purposes of his war. In
a Parliament at the opening of 1257 he demanded an aid and a tenth from the
clergy. A fresh demand was made in 1258. But the patience of the realm was
at last exhausted. Earl Simon had returned in 1253 from his government of
Gascony, and the fruit of his meditations during the four years of his
quiet stay at home, a quiet broken only by short embassies to France and
Scotland which showed there was as yet no open quarrel with Henry, was seen
in a league of the baronage and in their adoption of a new and startling
policy. The past half-century had shown both the strength and weakness of
the Charter: its strength as a rallying-point for the baronage and a
definite assertion of rights which the king could be made to acknowledge;
its weakness in providing no means for the enforcement of its own
stipulations. Henry had sworn again and again to observe the Charter and
his oath was no sooner taken than it was unscrupulously broken. The barons
had secured the freedom of the realm; the secret of their long patience
during the reign of Henry lay in the difficulty of securing its right
administration. It was this difficulty which Earl Simon was prepared to
solve when action was forced on him by the stir of the realm. A great
famine added to the sense of danger from Wales and from Scotland and to the
irritation at the new demands from both Henry and Rome with which the year
1258 opened. It was to arrange for a campaign against Wales that Henry
called a parliament in April. But the baronage appeared in arms with
Gloucester and Leicester at their head. The king was forced to consent to
the appointment of a committee of twenty-four to draw up terms for the
reform of the state. The Twenty-four again met the Parliament at Oxford in
June, and although half the committee consisted of royal ministers and
favourites it was impossible to resist the tide of popular feeling. Hugh
Bigod, one of the firmest adherents of the two Earls, was chosen as
Justiciar. The claim to elect this great officer was in fact the leading
point in the baronial policy. But further measures were needed to hold in
check such arbitrary misgovernment as had prevailed during the last twenty
years. By the "Provisions of Oxford" it was agreed that the Great Council
should assemble thrice in the year, whether summoned by the king or no; and
on each occasion "the Commonalty shall elect twelve honest men who shall
come to the Parliaments, and at other times when occasion shall be when the
King and his Council shall send for them, to treat of the wants of the king
and of his kingdom. And the Commonalty shall hold as established that which
these Twelve shall do." Three permanent committees of barons and prelates
were named to carry out the work of reform and administration. The reform
of the Church was left to the original Twenty-four; a second Twenty-four
negotiated the financial aids; a Permanent Council of Fifteen advised the
king in the ordinary work of government. The complexity of such an
arrangement was relieved by the fact that the members of each of these
committees were in great part the same persons. The Justiciar, Chancellor,
and the guardians of the king's castles swore to act only with the advice
and assent of the Permanent Council, and the first two great officers, with
the Treasurer, were to give account of their proceedings to it at the end
of the year. Sheriffs were to be appointed for a single year only, no doubt
by the Council, from among the chief tenants of the county, and no undue
fees were to be exacted for the administration of justice in their court.


[Sidenote: Government of the Barons]

A royal proclamation in the English tongue, the first in that tongue since
the Conquest which has reached us, ordered the observance of these
Provisions. The king was in fact helpless, and resistance came only from
the foreign favourites, who refused to surrender the castles and honours
which had been granted to them. But the Twenty-four were resolute in their
action; and an armed demonstration of the barons drove the foreigners in
flight over sea. The whole royal power was now in fact in the hands of the
committees appointed by the Great Council. But the measures of the barons
showed little of the wisdom and energy which the country had hoped for. In
October 1259 the knighthood complained that the barons had done nothing but
seek their own advantage in the recent changes. This protest produced the
Provisions of Westminster, which gave protection to tenants against their
feudal lords, regulated legal procedure in the feudal courts, appointed
four knights in each shire to watch the justice of the sheriffs, and made
other temporary enactments for the furtherance of justice. But these
Provisions brought little fruit, and a tendency to mere feudal privilege
showed itself in an exemption of all nobles and prelates from attendance at
the Sheriff's courts. Their foreign policy was more vigorous and
successful. All further payment to Rome, whether secular or ecclesiastical,
was prohibited, formal notice was given to the Pope of England's withdrawal
from the Sicilian enterprise, peace put an end to the incursions of the
Welsh, and negotiations on the footing of a formal abandonment of the
king's claim to Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou ended in
October 1259 in a peace with France.


[Sidenote: Simon and the Baronage]

This peace, the triumph of that English policy which had been struggling
ever since the days of Hubert de Burgh with the Continental policy of Henry
and his foreign advisers, was the work of the Earl of Leicester. The
revolution had doubtless been mainly Simon's doing. In the summer of 1258,
while the great change was going on, a thunderstorm drove the king as he
passed along the river to the house of the Bishop of Durham where the Earl
was then sojourning. Simon bade Henry take shelter with him and have no
fear of the storm. The king refused with petulant wit. "If I fear the
thunder, I fear you, Sir Earl, more than all the thunder in the world." But
Simon had probably small faith in the cumbrous system of government which
the Barons devised, and it was with reluctance that he was brought to swear
to the Provisions of Oxford which embodied it. With their home government
he had little to do, for from the autumn of 1258 to that of 1259 he was
chiefly busied in negotiation in France. But already his breach with
Gloucester and the bulk of his fellow councillors was marked. In the Lent
Parliament of 1259 he had reproached them, and Gloucester above all, with
faithlessness to their trust. "The things we are treating of," he cried,
"we have sworn to carry out. With such feeble and faithless men I care not
to have ought to do!" The peace with France was hardly signed when his
distrust of his colleagues was verified. Henry's withdrawal to the French
court at the close of the year for the formal signature of the treaty was
the signal for a reactionary movement. From France the king forbade the
summoning of a Lent Parliament in 1260 and announced his resumption of the
enterprise against Sicily. Both acts were distinct breaches of the
Provisions of Oxford, but Henry trusted to the divisions of the
Twenty-four. Gloucester was in open feud with Leicester; the Justiciar,
Hugh Bigod, resigned his office in the spring; and both of these leaders
drew cautiously to the king. Roger Mortimer and the Earls of Hereford and
Norfolk more openly espoused the royal cause, and in February 1260 Henry
had gained confidence enough to announce that as the barons had failed to
keep their part of the Provisions he should not keep his.


[Sidenote: The Counter Revolution]

Earl Simon almost alone remained unshaken. But his growing influence was
seen in the appointment of his supporter, Hugh Despenser, as Justiciar in
Bigod's place, while his strength was doubled by the accession of the
King's son Edward to his side. In the moment of the revolution Edward had
vehemently supported the party of the foreigners. But he had sworn to
observe the Provisions, and the fidelity to his pledge which remained
throughout his life the chief note of his temper at once showed itself.
Like Simon he protested against the faithlessness of the barons in the
carrying out of their reforms, and it was his strenuous support of the
petition of the knighthood that brought about the additional Provisions of
1259. He had been brought up with Earl Simon's sons, and with the Earl
himself his relations remained friendly even at the later time of their
fatal hostilities. But as yet he seems to have had no distrust of Simon's
purposes or policy. His adhesion to the Earl recalled Henry from France;
and the king was at once joined by Gloucester in London while Edward and
Simon remained without the walls. But the love of father and son proved too
strong to bear political severance, and Edward's reconciliation foiled the
Earl's plans. He withdrew to the Welsh border, where fresh troubles were
breaking out, while Henry prepared to deal his final blow at the government
which, tottering as it was, still held him in check. Rome had resented the
measures which had put an end to her extortions, and it was to Rome that
Henry looked for a formal absolution from his oath to observe the
Provisions. In June 1261 he produced a Bull annulling the Provisions and
freeing him from his oath in a Parliament at Winchester. The suddenness of
the blow forbade open protest and Henry quickly followed up his victory.
Hugh Bigod, who had surrendered the Tower and Dover in the spring,
surrendered the other castles he held in the autumn. Hugh Despenser was
deposed from the Justiciarship and a royalist, Philip Basset, appointed in
his place.


[Sidenote: Simon's rising]

The news of this counter-revolution reunited for a moment the barons.
Gloucester joined Earl Simon in calling an autumn Parliament at St.
Alban's, and in summoning to it three knights from every shire south of
Trent. But the union was a brief one. Gloucester consented to refer the
quarrel with the king to arbitration and the Earl of Leicester withdrew in
August to France. He saw that for the while there was no means of
withstanding Henry, even in his open defiance of the Provisions. Foreign
soldiers were brought into the land; the king won back again the
appointment of sheriffs. For eighteen months of this new rule Simon could
do nothing but wait. But his long absence lulled the old jealousies against
him. The confusion of the realm and a fresh outbreak of troubles in Wales
renewed the disgust at Henry's government, while his unswerving
faithfulness to the Provisions fixed the eyes of all Englishmen upon the
Earl as their natural leader. The death of Gloucester in the summer of 1262
removed the one barrier to action; and in the spring of 1263 Simon landed
again in England as the unquestioned head of the baronial party. What
immediately forced him to action was a march of Edward with a body of
foreign troops against Llewelyn, who was probably by this time in
communication if not in actual alliance with the Earl. The chief opponents
of Llewelyn among the Marcher Lords were ardent supporters of Henry's
misgovernment, and when a common hostility drew the Prince and Earl
together, the constitutional position of Llewelyn as an English noble gave
formal justification for co-operation with him. At Whitsuntide the barons
met Simon at Oxford and finally summoned Henry to observe the Provisions.
His refusal was met by an appeal to arms. Throughout the country the
younger nobles flocked to Simon's standard, and the young Earl of
Gloucester, Gilbert of Clare, became his warmest supporter. His rapid
movements foiled all opposition. While Henry vainly strove to raise money
and men, Simon swept the Welsh border, marched through Reading on Dover,
and finally appeared before London.


[Sidenote: Mise of Amiens]

The Earl's triumph was complete. Edward after a brief attempt at resistance
was forced to surrender Windsor and disband his foreign troops. The rising
of London in the cause of the barons left Henry helpless. But at the moment
of triumph the Earl saw himself anew forsaken. The bulk of the nobles again
drew towards the king; only six of the twelve barons who had formed the
patriot half of the committee of 1258, only four of the twelve
representatives of the community at that date, were now with the Earl. The
dread too of civil war gave strength to the cry for a compromise, and at
the end of the year it was agreed that the strife should be left to the
arbitration of the French king, Lewis the Ninth. But saint and just ruler
as he was, the royal power was in the conception of Lewis a divine thing,
which no human power could limit or fetter, and his decision, which was
given in January 1264, annulled the whole of the Provisions. Only the
Charters granted before the Provisions were to be observed. The appointment
and removal of all officers of state was to be wholly with the king, and he
was suffered to call aliens to his councils if he would. The Mise of Amiens
was at once confirmed by the Pope, and, crushing blow as it was, the barons
felt themselves bound by the award. It was only the exclusion of aliens--a
point which they had not purposed to submit to arbitration--which they
refused to concede. Luckily Henry was as inflexible on this point as on the
rest, and the mutual distrust prevented any real accommodation.


[Sidenote: Battle of Lewes]

But Henry had to reckon on more than the baronage. Deserted as he was by
the greater nobles, Simon was far from standing alone. Throughout the
recent struggle the new city governments of the craft-gilds, which were
known by the name of "Communes," had shown an enthusiastic devotion to his
cause. The queen was stopped in her attempt to escape from the Tower by an
angry mob, who drove her back with stones and foul words. When Henry
attempted to surprise Leicester in his quarters at Southwark, the Londoners
burst the gates which had been locked by the richer burghers against him,
and rescued him by a welcome into the city. The clergy and the universities
went in sympathy with the towns, and in spite of the taunts of the
royalists, who accused him of seeking allies against the nobility in the
common people, the popular enthusiasm gave a strength to the Earl which
sustained him even in this darkest hour of the struggle. He at once
resolved on resistance. The French award had luckily reserved the rights of
Englishmen to the liberties they had enjoyed before the Provisions of
Oxford, and it was easy for Simon to prove that the arbitrary power it gave
to the Crown was as contrary to the Charter as to the Provisions
themselves. London was the first to reject the decision; in March 1264 its
citizens mustered at the call of the town-bell at Saint Paul's, seized the
royal officials, and plundered the royal parks. But an army had already
mustered in great force at the king's summons, while Leicester found
himself deserted by the bulk of the baronage. Every day brought news of
ill. A detachment from Scotland joined Henry's forces. The younger De
Montfort was taken prisoner. Northampton was captured, the king raised the
siege of Rochester, and a rapid march of Earl Simon's only saved London
itself from a surprise by Edward. But, betrayed as he was, the Earl
remained firm to the cause. He would fight to the end, he said, even were
he and his sons left to fight alone. With an army reinforced by 15,000
Londoners, he marched in May to the relief of the Cinque Ports which were
now threatened by the king. Even on the march he was forsaken by many of
the nobles who followed him. Halting at Fletching in Sussex, a few miles
from Lewes, where the royal army was encamped, Earl Simon with the young
Earl of Gloucester offered the king compensation for all damage if he would
observe the Provisions. Henry's answer was one of defiance, and though
numbers were against him, the Earl resolved on battle. His skill as a
soldier reversed the advantages of the ground; marching at dawn on the 14th
of May he seized the heights eastward of the town, and moved down these
slopes to an attack. His men with white crosses on back and breast knelt in
prayer before the battle opened, and all but reached the town before their
approach was perceived. Edward however opened the fight by a furious charge
which broke the Londoners on Leicester's left. In the bitterness of his
hatred for the insult to his mother he pursued them for four miles,
slaughtering three thousand men. But he returned to find the battle lost.
Crowded in the narrow space between the heights and the river Ouse, a space
broken by marshes and by the long street of the town, the royalist centre
and left were crushed by Earl Simon. The Earl of Cornwall, now King of the
Romans, who, as the mocking song of the victors ran, "makede him a castel
of a mulne post" ("he weened that the mill-sails were mangonels" goes on
the sarcastic verse), was taken prisoner, and Henry himself captured.
Edward cut his way into the Priory only to join in his father's surrender.


[Sidenote: Simon's rule]

The victory of Lewes placed Earl Simon at the head of the state. "Now
England breathes in the hope of liberty," sang a poet of the time; "the
English were despised like dogs, but now they have lifted up their head and
their foes are vanquished." But the moderation of the terms agreed upon in
the Mise of Lewes, a convention between the king and his captors, shows
Simon's sense of the difficulties of his position. The question of the
Provisions was again to be submitted to arbitration; and a parliament in
June, to which four knights were summoned from every county, placed the
administration till this arbitration was complete in the hands of a new
council of nine to be nominated by the Earls of Leicester and Gloucester
and the patriotic Bishop of Chichester. Responsibility to the community was
provided for by the declaration of a right in the body of barons and
prelates to remove either of the Three Electors, who in turn could displace
or appoint the members of the Council. Such a constitution was of a
different order from the cumbrous and oligarchical committees of 1258. But
it had little time to work in. The plans for a fresh arbitration broke
down. Lewis refused to review his decision, and all schemes for setting
fresh judges between the king and his people were defeated by a formal
condemnation of the barons' cause issued by the Pope. Triumphant as he was
indeed Earl Simon's difficulties thickened every day. The queen with
Archbishop Boniface gathered an army in France for an invasion; Roger
Mortimer with the border barons was still in arms and only held in check by
Llewelyn. It was impossible to make binding terms with an imprisoned king,
yet to release Henry without terms was to renew the war. The imprisonment
too gave a shock to public feeling which thinned the Earl's ranks. In the
new Parliament which he called at the opening of 1265 the weakness of the
patriotic party among the baronage was shown in the fact that only
twenty-three earls and barons could be found to sit beside the hundred and
twenty ecclesiastics.


[Sidenote: Summons of the Commons]

But it was just this sense of his weakness which prompted the Earl to an
act that has done more than any incident of this struggle to immortalize
his name. Had the strife been simply a strife for power between the king
and the baronage the victory of either would have been equally fatal in its
results. The success of the one would have doomed England to a royal
despotism, that of the other to a feudal aristocracy. Fortunately for our
freedom the English baronage had been brought too low by the policy of the
kings to be able to withstand the crown single-handed. From the first
moment of the contest it had been forced to make its cause a national one.
The summons of two knights from each county, elected in its county court,
to a Parliament in 1254, even before the opening of the struggle, was a
recognition of the political weight of the country gentry which was
confirmed by the summons of four knights from every county to the
Parliament assembled after the battle of Lewes. The Provisions of Oxford,
in stipulating for attendance and counsel on the part of twelve delegates
of the "commonalty," gave the first indication of a yet wider appeal to the
people at large. But it was the weakness of his party among the baronage at
this great crisis which drove Earl Simon to a constitutional change of
mighty issue in our history. As before, he summoned two knights from every
county. But he created a new force in English politics when he summoned to
sit beside them two citizens from every borough. The attendance of
delegates from the towns had long been usual in the county courts when any
matter respecting their interests was in question; but it was the writ
issued by Earl Simon that first summoned the merchant and the trader to sit
beside the knight of the shire, the baron, and the bishop in the parliament
of the realm.


[Sidenote: Simon's difficulties]

It is only this great event however which enables us to understand the
large and prescient nature of Earl Simon's designs. Hardly a few months had
passed away since the victory of Lewes when the burghers took their seats
at Westminster, yet his government was tottering to its fall. We know
little of the Parliament's acts. It seems to have chosen Simon as Justiciar
and to have provided for Edward's liberation, though he was still to live
under surveillance at Hereford and to surrender his earldom of Chester to
Simon, who was thus able to communicate with his Welsh allies. The Earl met
the dangers from without with complete success. In September 1264 a general
muster of the national forces on Barham Down and a contrary wind put an end
to the projects of invasion entertained by the mercenaries whom the queen
had collected in Flanders; the threats of France died away into
negotiations; the Papal Legate was forbidden to cross the Channel, and his
bulls of excommunication were flung into the sea. But the difficulties at
home grew more formidable every day. The restraint upon Henry and Edward
jarred against the national feeling of loyalty, and estranged the mass of
Englishmen who always side with the weak. Small as the patriotic party
among the barons had been from the first, it grew smaller as dissensions
broke out over the spoils of victory. The Earl's justice and resolve to
secure the public peace told heavily against him. John Giffard left him
because he refused to allow him to exact ransom from a prisoner, contrary
to the agreement made after Lewes. A greater danger opened when the young
Earl of Gloucester, though enriched with the estates of the foreigners,
held himself aloof from the Justiciar, and resented Leicester's prohibition
of a tournament, his naming the wardens of the royal castles by his own
authority, his holding Edward's fortresses on the Welsh marches by his own
garrisons.


[Sidenote: Edward and Gloucester]

Gloucester's later conduct proves the wisdom of Leicester's precautions. In
the spring Parliament of 1265 he openly charged the Earl with violating the
Mise of Lewes, with tyranny, and with aiming at the crown. Before its close
he withdrew to his own lands in the west and secretly allied himself with
Roger Mortimer and the Marcher Barons. Earl Simon soon followed him to the
west, taking with him the king and Edward. He moved along the Severn,
securing its towns, advanced westward to Hereford, and was marching at the
end of May along bad roads into the heart of South Wales to attack the
fortresses of Earl Gilbert in Glamorgan when Edward suddenly made his
escape from Hereford and joined Gloucester at Ludlow. The moment had been
skilfully chosen, and Edward showed a rare ability in the movements by
which he took advantage of the Earl's position. Moving rapidly along the
Severn he seized Gloucester and the bridges across the river, destroyed the
ships by which Leicester strove to escape across the Channel to Bristol,
and cut him off altogether from England. By this movement too he placed
himself between the Earl and his son Simon, who was advancing from the east
to his father's relief. Turning rapidly on this second force Edward
surprised it at Kenilworth and drove it with heavy loss within the walls of
the castle. But the success was more than compensated by the opportunity
which his absence gave to the Earl of breaking the line of the Severn.
Taken by surprise and isolated as he was, Simon had been forced to seek for
aid and troops in an avowed alliance with Llewelyn, and it was with Welsh
reinforcements that he turned to the east. But the seizure of his ships and
of the bridges of the Severn held him a prisoner in Edward's grasp, and a
fierce attack drove him back, with broken and starving forces, into the
Welsh hills. In utter despair he struck northward to Hereford; but the
absence of Edward now enabled him on the 2nd of August to throw his troops
in boats across the Severn below Worcester. The news drew Edward quickly
back in a fruitless counter-march to the river, for the Earl had already
reached Evesham by a long night march on the morning of the 4th, while his
son, relieved in turn by Edward's counter-march, had pushed in the same
night to the little town of Alcester. The two armies were now but some ten
miles apart, and their junction seemed secured. But both were spent with
long marching, and while the Earl, listening reluctantly to the request of
the King who accompanied him, halted at Evesham for mass and dinner, the
army of the younger Simon halted for the same purpose at Alcester.


[Sidenote: Battle of Evesham]

"Those two dinners doleful were, alas!" sings Robert of Gloucester; for
through the same memorable night Edward was hurrying back from the Severn
by country cross-lanes to seize the fatal gap that lay between them. As
morning broke his army lay across the road that led northward from Evesham
to Alcester. Evesham lies in a loop of the river Avon where it bends to the
south; and a height on which Edward ranged his troops closed the one outlet
from it save across the river. But a force had been thrown over the river
under Mortimer to seize the bridges, and all retreat was thus finally cut
off. The approach of Edward's army called Simon to the front, and for the
moment he took it for his son's. Though the hope soon died away a touch of
soldierly pride moved him as he recognised in the orderly advance of his
enemies a proof of his own training. "By the arm of St. James," he cried,
"they come on in wise fashion, but it was from me that they learnt it." A
glance however satisfied him of the hopelessness of a struggle; it was
impossible for a handful of horsemen with a mob of half-armed Welshmen to
resist the disciplined knighthood of the royal army. "Let us commend our
souls to God," Simon said to the little group around him, "for our bodies
are the foe's." He bade Hugh Despenser and the rest of his comrades fly
from the field. "If he died," was the noble answer, "they had no will to
live." In three hours the butchery was over. The Welsh fled at the first
onset like sheep, and were cut ruthlessly down in the cornfields and
gardens where they sought refuge. The little group of knights around Simon
fought desperately, falling one by one till the Earl was left alone. So
terrible were his sword-strokes that he had all but gained the hill-top
when a lance-thrust brought his horse to the ground, but Simon still
rejected the summons to yield till a blow from behind felled him mortally
wounded to the ground. Then with a last cry of "It is God's grace," the
soul of the great patriot passed away.


[Sidenote: The Royalist reaction]

The triumphant blare of trumpets which welcomed the rescued king into
Evesham, "his men weeping for joy," rang out in bitter contrast to the
mourning of the realm. It sounded like the announcement of a reign of
terror. The rights and laws for which men had toiled and fought so long
seemed to have been swept away in an hour. Every town which had supported
Earl Simon was held to be at the king's mercy, its franchises to be
forfeited. The Charter of Lynn was annulled; London was marked out as the
special object of Henry's vengeance, and the farms and merchandise of its
citizens were seized as first-fruits of its plunder. The darkness which on
that fatal morning hid their books from the monks of Evesham as they sang
in choir was but a presage of the gloom which fell on the religious houses.
From Ramsey, from Evesham, from St. Alban's rose the same cry of havoc and
rapine. But the plunder of monk and burgess was little to the vast sentence
of confiscation which the mere fact of rebellion was held to have passed on
all the adherents of Earl Simon. To "disinherit" these of their lands was
to confiscate half the estates of the landed gentry of England; but the
hotter royalists declared them disinherited, and Henry was quick to lavish
their lands away on favourites and foreigners. The very chroniclers of
their party recall the pillage with shame. But all thought of resistance
lay hushed in a general terror. Even the younger Simon "saw no other rede"
than to release his prisoners. His army, after finishing its meal, was
again on its march to join the Earl when the news of his defeat met it,
heralded by a strange darkness that, rising suddenly in the north-west and
following as it were on Edward's track, served to shroud the mutilations
and horrors of the battle-field. The news was soon fatally confirmed. Simon
himself could see from afar his father's head borne off on a spear-point to
be mocked at Wigmore. But the pursuit streamed away southward and westward
through the streets of Tewkesbury, heaped with corpses of the panic-struck
Welshmen whom the townsmen slaughtered without pity; and there was no
attack as the little force fell back through the darkness and big
thunder-drops in despair upon Kenilworth. "I may hang up my axe," are the
bitter words which a poet attributes to their leader, "for feebly have I
gone"; and once within the castle he gave way to a wild sorrow, day after
day tasting neither meat nor drink.


[Sidenote: Edward]

He was roused into action again by news of the shameful indignities which
the Marcher Lords had offered to the body of the great Earl before whom
they had trembled so long. The knights around him broke out at the tidings
in a passionate burst of fury, and clamoured for the blood of Richard of
Cornwall and his son, who were prisoners in the castle. But Simon had
enough nobleness left to interpose. "To God and him alone was it owing"
Richard owned afterwards, "that I was snatched from death." The captives
were not only saved, but set free. A Parliament had been called at
Winchester at the opening of September, and its mere assembly promised an
end to the reign of utter lawlessness. A powerful party, too, was known to
exist in the royal camp which, hostile as it had shown itself to Earl
Simon, shared his love for English liberties, and the liberation of Richard
was sure to aid its efforts. At the head of this party stood the young Earl
of Gloucester, Gilbert of Clare, to whose action above all the Earl's
overthrow was due. And with Gilbert stood Edward himself. The passion for
law, the instinct of good government, which were to make his reign so
memorable in our history, had declared themselves from the first. He had
sided with the barons at the outset of their struggle with Henry; he had
striven to keep his father true to the Provisions of Oxford. It was only
when the figure of Earl Simon seemed to tower above that of Henry himself,
when the Crown seemed falling into bondage, that Edward passed to the royal
side; and now that the danger which he dreaded was over he returned to his
older attitude. In the first flush of victory, while the doom of Simon was
as yet unknown, Edward had stood alone in desiring his captivity against
the cry of the Marcher Lords for his blood. When all was done he wept over
the corpse of his cousin and playfellow, Henry de Montfort, and followed
the Earl's body to the tomb. But great as was Edward's position after the
victory of Evesham, his moderate counsels were as yet of little avail. His
efforts in fact were met by those of Henry's second son, Edmund, who had
received the lands and earldom of Earl Simon, and whom the dread of any
restoration of the house of De Montfort set at the head of the
ultra-royalists. Nor was any hope of moderation to be found in the
Parliament which met in September 1265. It met in the usual temper of a
restoration-Parliament to legalize the outrages of the previous month. The
prisoners who had been released from the dungeons of the barons poured into
Winchester to add fresh violence to the demands of the Marchers. The wives
of the captive loyalists and the widows of the slain were summoned to give
fresh impulse to the reaction. Their place of meeting added fuel to the
fiery passions of the throng, for Winchester was fresh from its pillage by
the younger Simon on his way to Kenilworth, and its stubborn loyalty must
have been fanned into a flame by the losses it had endured. In such an
assembly no voice of moderation could find a hearing. The four bishops who
favoured the national cause, the bishops of London and Lincoln, of
Worcester and Chichester, were excluded from it, and the heads of the
religious houses were summoned for the mere purpose of extortion. Its
measures were but a confirmation of the violence which had been wrought.
All grants made during the king's "captivity" were revoked. The house of De
Montfort was banished from the realm. The charter of London was annulled.
The adherents of Earl Simon were disinherited and seizin of their lands was
given to the king.


[Sidenote: Simon's Miracles]

Henry at once appointed commissioners to survey and take possession of his
spoil while he moved to Windsor to triumph in the humiliation of London.
Its mayor and forty of its chief citizens waited in the castle yard only to
be thrown into prison in spite of a safe-conduct, and Henry entered his
capital in triumph as into an enemy's city. The surrender of Dover came to
fill his cup of joy, for Richard and Amaury of Montfort had sailed with the
Earl's treasure to enlist foreign mercenaries, and it was by this port that
their force was destined to land. But a rising of the prisoners detained
there compelled its surrender in October, and the success of the royalists
seemed complete. In reality their difficulties were but beginning. Their
triumph over Earl Simon had been a triumph over the religious sentiment of
the time, and religion avenged itself in its own way. Everywhere the Earl's
death was looked upon as a martyrdom; and monk and friar united in praying
for the souls of the men who fell at Evesham as for soldiers of Christ. It
was soon whispered that heaven was attesting the sanctity of De Montfort by
miracles at his tomb. How great was the effect of this belief was seen in
the efforts of King and Pope to suppress the miracles, and in their
continuance not only through the reign of Edward the First but even in the
days of his successor. But its immediate result was a sudden revival of
hope. "Sighs are changed into songs of praise," breaks out a monk of the
time, "and the greatness of our former joy has come to life again!" Nor was
it in miracles alone that the "faithful," as they proudly styled
themselves, began to look for relief "from the oppression of the
malignants." A monk of St. Alban's who was penning a eulogy of Earl Simon
in the midst of this uproar saw the rise of a new spirit of resistance in
the streets of the little town. In dread of war it was guarded and strongly
closed with bolts and bars, and refused entrance to all strangers, and
above all to horsemen, who wished to pass through. The Constable of
Hertford, an old foe of the townsmen, boasted that spite of bolts and bars
he would enter the place and carry off four of the best villeins captive.
He contrived to make his way in; but as he loitered idly about a butcher
who passed by heard him ask his men how the wind stood. The butcher guessed
his design to burn the town, and felled him to the ground. The blow roused
the townsmen. They secured the Constable and his followers, struck off
their heads, and fixed them at the four corners of the borough.


[Sidenote: The Younger Simon]

The popular reaction gave fresh heart to the younger Simon. Quitting
Kenilworth, he joined in November John D'Eyvill and Baldewin Wake in the
Isle of Axholme where the Disinherited were gathering in arms. So fast did
horse and foot flow in to him that Edward himself hurried into Lincolnshire
to meet this new danger. He saw that the old strife was just breaking out
again. The garrison of Kenilworth scoured the country; the men of the
Cinque Ports, putting wives and children on board their barks, swept the
Channel and harried the coasts; while Llewelyn, who had brought about the
dissolution of Parliament by a raid upon Chester, butchered the forces sent
against him and was master of the border. The one thing needed to link the
forces of resistance together was a head, and such a head the appearance of
Simon at Axholme seemed to promise. But Edward was resolute in his plan of
conciliation. Arriving before the camp at the close of 1265, he at once
entered into negotiations with his cousin, and prevailed on him to quit the
island and appear before the king. Richard of Cornwall welcomed Simon at
the court, he presented him to Henry as the saviour of his life, and on his
promise to surrender Kenilworth Henry gave him the kiss of peace. In spite
of the opposition of Roger Mortimer and the Marcher Lords success seemed to
be crowning this bold stroke of the peace party when the Earl of Gloucester
interposed. Desirous as he was of peace, the blood of De Montfort lay
between him and the Earl's sons, and the safety of the one lay in the ruin
of the other. In the face of this danger Earl Gilbert threw his weight into
the scale of the ultra-royalists, and peace became impossible. The question
of restitution was shelved by a reference to arbitrators; and Simon,
detained in spite of a safe-conduct, moved in Henry's train at Christmas to
witness the surrender of Kenilworth which had been stipulated as the price
of his full reconciliation with the king. But hot blood was now stirred
again on both sides. The garrison replied to the royal summons by a refusal
to surrender. They had received ward of the castle, they said, not from
Simon but from the Countess, and to none but her would they give it up. The
refusal was not likely to make Simon's position an easier one. On his
return to London the award of the arbitrators bound him to quit the realm
and not to return save with the assent of king and baronage when all were
at peace. He remained for a while in free custody at London; but warnings
that he was doomed to lifelong imprisonment drove him to flight, and he
finally sought a refuge over sea.


[Sidenote: Ban of Kenilworth]

His escape set England again on fire. Llewelyn wasted the border; the
Cinque Ports held the sea; the garrison of Kenilworth pushed their raids as
far as Oxford; Baldewin Wake with a band of the Disinherited threw himself
into the woods and harried the eastern counties; Sir Adam Gurdon, a knight
of gigantic size and renowned prowess, wasted with a smaller party the
shires of the south. In almost every county bands of outlaws were seeking a
livelihood in rapine and devastation, while the royal treasury stood empty
and the enormous fine imposed upon London had been swept into the coffers
of French usurers. But a stronger hand than the king's was now at the head
of affairs, and Edward met his assailants with untiring energy. King
Richard's son, Henry of Almaine, was sent with a large force to the north;
Mortimer hurried to hold the Welsh border; Edmund was despatched to Warwick
to hold Kenilworth in check; while Edward himself marched at the opening of
March to the south. The Berkshire woods were soon cleared, and at
Whitsuntide Edward succeeded in dispersing Adam Gurdon's band and in
capturing its renowned leader in single combat. The last blow was already
given to the rising in the north, where Henry of Almaine surprised the
Disinherited at Chesterfield and took their leader, the Earl of Derby, in
his bed. Though Edmund had done little but hold the Kenilworth knights in
check, the submission of the rest of the country now enabled the royal army
to besiege it in force. But the king was penniless, and the Parliament
which he called to replenish his treasury in August showed the resolve of
the nation that the strife should cease. They would first establish peace,
if peace were possible, they said, and then answer the king's demand.
Twelve commissioners, with Earl Gilbert at their head, were appointed on
Henry's assent to arrange terms on reconciliation. They at once decided
that none should be utterly disinherited for their part in the troubles,
but that liberty of redemption should be left open to all. Furious at the
prospect of being forced to disgorge their spoil, Mortimer and the
ultra-royalists broke out in mad threats of violence, even against the life
of the Papal legate who had pressed for the reconciliation. But the power
of the ultra-royalists was over. The general resolve was not to be shaken
by the clamour of a faction, and Mortimer's rout at Brecknock by Llewelyn,
the one defeat that chequered the tide of success, had damaged that
leader's influence. Backed by Edward and Earl Gilbert, the legate met their
opposition with a threat of excommunication, and Mortimer withdrew sullenly
from the camp. Fresh trouble in the country and the seizure of the Isle of
Ely by a band of the Disinherited quickened the labours of the Twelve. At
the close of September they pronounced their award, restoring the lands to
all who made submission on a graduated scale of redemption, promising
indemnity for all wrong done during the troubles, and leaving the
restoration of the house of De Montfort to the royal will. But to these
provisions was added an emphatic demand that "the king fully keep and
observe those liberties of the Church, charters of liberties, and forest
charters, which he is expressly and by his own mouth bound to preserve and
keep." "Let the King," they add, "establish on a lasting foundation those
concessions which he has hitherto made of his own will and not on
compulsion, and those needful ordinances which have been devised by his
subjects and by his own good pleasure."


[Sidenote: Close of the Struggle]

With this Award the struggle came to an end. The garrison of Kenilworth
held out indeed till November, and the full benefit of the Ban was only
secured when Earl Gilbert in the opening of the following year suddenly
appeared in arms and occupied London. But the Earl was satisfied, the
Disinherited were at last driven from Ely, and Llewelyn was brought to
submission by the appearance of an army at Shrewsbury. All was over by the
close of 1267. His father's age and weakness, his own brilliant military
successes, left Edward practically in possession of the royal power; and
his influence at once made itself felt. There was no attempt to return to
the misrule of Henry's reign, to his projects of continental aggrandizement
or internal despotism. The constitutional system of government for which
the Barons had fought was finally adopted by the Crown, and the Parliament
of Marlborough which assembled in November 1267 renewed the provisions by
which the baronage had remedied the chief abuses of the time in their
Provisions of Oxford and Westminster. The appointment of all officers of
state indeed was jealously reserved to the crown. But the royal expenditure
was brought within bounds. Taxation was only imposed with the assent of the
Great Council. So utterly was the land at rest that Edward felt himself
free to take the cross in 1268 and to join the Crusade which was being
undertaken by St. Lewis of France. He reached Tunis only to find Lewis dead
and his enterprise a failure, wintered in Sicily, made his way to Acre in
the spring of 1271, and spent more than a year in exploits which want of
force prevented from growing into a serious campaign. He was already on his
way home when the death of Henry the Third in November 1272 called him to
the throne.



CHAPTER IV
EDWARD THE FIRST
1272-1307



[Sidenote: Edward's Temper]

In his own day and among his own subjects Edward the First was the object
of an almost boundless admiration. He was in the truest sense a national
king. At the moment when the last trace of foreign conquest passed away,
when the descendants of those who won and those who lost at Senlac blended
for ever into an English people, England saw in her ruler no stranger but
an Englishman. The national tradition returned in more than the golden hair
or the English name which linked him to our earlier kings. Edward's very
temper was English to the core. In good as in evil he stands out as the
typical representative of the race he ruled, like them wilful and
imperious, tenacious of his rights, indomitable in his pride, dogged,
stubborn, slow of apprehension, narrow in sympathy, but like them, too,
just in the main, unselfish, laborious, conscientious, haughtily observant
of truth and self-respect, temperate, reverent of duty, religious. It is
this oneness with the character of his people which parts the temper of
Edward from what had till now been the temper of his house. He inherited
indeed from the Angevins their fierce and passionate wrath; his
punishments, when he punished in anger, were without pity; and a priest who
ventured at a moment of storm into his presence with a remonstrance dropped
dead from sheer fright at his feet. But his nature had nothing of the hard
selfishness, the vindictive obstinacy which had so long characterized the
house of Anjou. His wrath passed as quickly as it gathered; and for the
most part his conduct was that of an impulsive, generous man, trustful,
averse from cruelty, prone to forgive. "No man ever asked mercy of me," he
said in his old age, "and was refused." The rough soldierly nobleness of
his nature broke out in incidents like that at Falkirk where he lay on the
bare ground among his men, or in his refusal during a Welsh campaign to
drink of the one cask of wine which had been saved from marauders. "It is I
who have brought you into this strait," he said to his thirsty
fellow-soldiers, "and I will have no advantage of you in meat or drink."
Beneath the stern imperiousness of his outer bearing lay in fact a strange
tenderness and sensitiveness to affection. Every subject throughout his
realm was drawn closer to the king who wept bitterly at the news of his
father's death though it gave him a crown, whose fiercest burst of
vengeance was called out by an insult to his mother, whose crosses rose as
memorials of his love and sorrow at every spot where his wife's bier
rested. "I loved her tenderly in her lifetime," wrote Edward to Eleanor's
friend, the Abbot of Cluny; "I do not cease to love her now she is dead."
And as it was with mother and wife, so it was with his people at large. All
the self-concentrated isolation of the foreign kings disappeared in Edward.
He was the first English ruler since the Conquest who loved his people with
a personal love and craved for their love back again. To his trust in them
we owe our Parliament, to his care for them the great statutes which stand
in the forefront of our laws. Even in his struggles with her England
understood a temper which was so perfectly her own, and the quarrels
between king and people during his reign are quarrels where, doggedly as
they fought, neither disputant doubted for a moment the worth or affection
of the other. Few scenes in our history are more touching than a scene
during the long contest over the Charter, when Edward stood face to face
with his people in Westminster Hall, and with a sudden burst of tears owned
himself frankly in the wrong.


[Sidenote: Influence of Chivalry]

But it was just this sensitiveness, this openness to outer impressions and
outer influences, that led to the strange contradictions which meet us in
Edward's career. His reign was a time in which a foreign, influence told
strongly on our manners, our literature, our national spirit, for the
sudden rise of France into a compact and organized monarchy was now making
its influence dominant in Western Europe. The "chivalry" so familiar to us
in the pages of Froissart, that picturesque mimicry of high sentiment, of
heroism, love, and courtesy before which all depth and reality of nobleness
disappeared to make room for the coarsest profligacy, the narrowest
caste-spirit, and a brutal indifference to human suffering, was specially
of French creation. There was a nobleness in Edward's nature from which the
baser influences of this chivalry fell away. His life was pure, his piety,
save when it stooped to the superstition of the time, manly and sincere,
while his high sense of duty saved him from the frivolous self-indulgence
of his successors. But he was far from being wholly free from the taint of
his age. His passionate desire was to be a model of the fashionable
chivalry of his day. His frame was that of a born soldier--tall,
deep-chested, long of limb, capable alike of endurance or action, and he
shared to the full his people's love of venture and hard fighting. When he
encountered Adam Gurdon after Evesham he forced him single-handed to beg
for mercy. At the opening of his reign he saved his life by sheer fighting
in a tournament at Challon. It was this love of adventure which lent itself
to the frivolous unreality of the new chivalry. His fame as a general
seemed a small thing to Edward when compared with his fame as a knight. At
his "Round Table of Kenilworth" a hundred lords and ladies, "clad all in
silk," renewed the faded glories of Arthur's Court. The false air of
romance which was soon to turn the gravest political resolutions into
outbursts of sentimental feeling appeared in his "Vow of the Swan," when
rising at the royal board he swore on the dish before him to avenge on
Scotland the murder of Comyn. Chivalry exerted on him a yet more fatal
influence in its narrowing of his sympathy to the noble class and in its
exclusion of the peasant and the craftsman from all claim to pity. "Knight
without reproach" as he was, he looked calmly on at the massacre of the
burghers of Berwick, and saw in William Wallace nothing but a common
robber.


[Sidenote: Influence of Legality]

The French notion of chivalry had hardly more power over Edward's mind than
the French conception of kingship, feudality, and law. The rise of a lawyer
class was everywhere hardening customary into written rights, allegiance
into subjection, loose ties such as commendation into a definite vassalage.
But it was specially through French influence, the influence of St. Lewis
and his successors, that the imperial theories of the Roman Law were
brought to bear upon this natural tendency of the time. When the "sacred
majesty" of the Cæsars was transferred by a legal fiction to the royal head
of a feudal baronage every constitutional relation was changed. The
"defiance" by which a vassal renounced service to his lord became treason,
his after resistance "sacrilege." That Edward could appreciate what was
sound and noble in the legal spirit around him was shown in his reforms of
our judicature and our Parliament; but there was something as congenial to
his mind in its definiteness, its rigidity, its narrow technicalities. He
was never wilfully unjust, but he was too often captious in his justice,
fond of legal chicanery, prompt to take advantage of the letter of the law.
The high conception of royalty which he borrowed from St. Lewis united with
this legal turn of mind in the worst acts of his reign. Of rights or
liberties unregistered in charter or roll Edward would know nothing, while
his own good sense was overpowered by the majesty of his crown. It was
incredible to him that Scotland should revolt against a legal bargain which
made her national independence conditional on the terms extorted from a
claimant of her throne; nor could he view in any other light but as treason
the resistance of his own baronage to an arbitrary taxation which their
fathers had borne.


[Sidenote: His Moral Grandeur]

It is in the anomalies of such a character as this, in its strange mingling
of justice and wrong-doing, of grandeur and littleness, that we must look
for any fair explanation of much that has since been bitterly blamed in
Edward's conduct and policy. But what none of these anomalies can hide from
us is the height of moral temper which shows itself in the tenor of his
rule. Edward was every inch a king; but his notion of kingship was a lofty
and a noble one. He loved power; he believed in his sovereign rights and
clung to them with a stubborn tenacity. But his main end in clinging to
them was the welfare of his people. Nothing better proves the self-command
which he drew from the purpose he set before him than his freedom from the
common sin of great rulers--the lust of military glory. He was the first of
our kings since William the Conqueror who combined military genius with
political capacity; but of the warrior's temper, of the temper that finds
delight in war, he had little or none. His freedom from it was the more
remarkable that Edward was a great soldier. His strategy in the campaign
before Evesham marked him as a consummate general. Earl Simon was forced to
admire the skill of his advance on the fatal field, and the operations by
which he met the risings that followed it were a model of rapidity and
military grasp. In his Welsh campaigns he was soon to show a tenacity and
force of will which wrested victory out of the midst of defeat. He could
head a furious charge of horse as at Lewes, or organize a commissariat
which enabled him to move army after army across the harried Lowlands. In
his old age he was quick to discover the value of the English archery and
to employ it as a means of victory at Falkirk. But master as he was of the
art of war, and forced from time to time to show his mastery in great
campaigns, in no single instance was he the assailant. He fought only when
he was forced to fight; and when fighting was over he turned back quietly
to the work of administration and the making of laws.


[Sidenote: His Political Genius]

War in fact was with Edward simply a means of carrying out the ends of
statesmanship, and it was in the character of his statesmanship that his
real greatness made itself felt. His policy was an English policy; he was
firm to retain what was left of the French dominion of his race, but he
abandoned from the first all dreams of recovering the wider dominions which
his grandfather had lost. His mind was not on that side of the Channel, but
on this. He concentrated his energies on the consolidation and good
government of England itself. We can only fairly judge the annexation of
Wales or his attempt to annex Scotland if we look on his efforts in either
quarter as parts of the same scheme of national administration to which we
owe his final establishment of our judicature, our legislation, our
parliament. The character of his action was no doubt determined in great
part by the general mood of his age, an age whose special task and aim
seemed to be that of reducing to distinct form the principles which had
sprung into a new and vigorous life during the age which preceded it. As
the opening of the thirteenth century had been an age of founders,
creators, discoverers, so its close was an age of lawyers, of rulers such
as St. Lewis of France or Alfonso the Wise of Castille, organizers,
administrators, framers of laws and institutions. It was to this class that
Edward himself belonged. He had little of creative genius, of political
originality, but he possessed in a high degree the passion for order and
good government, the faculty of organization, and a love of law which broke
out even in the legal chicanery to which he sometimes stooped. In the
judicial reforms to which so much of his attention was directed he showed
himself, if not an "English Justinian," at any rate a clear-sighted and
judicious man of business, developing, reforming, bringing into a shape
which has borne the test of five centuries' experience the institutions of
his predecessors. If the excellence of a statesman's work is to be measured
by its duration and the faculty it has shown of adapting itself to the
growth and developement of a nation, then the work of Edward rises to the
highest standard of excellence. Our law courts preserve to this very day
the form which he gave them. Mighty as has been the growth of our
Parliament, it has grown on the lines which he laid down. The great roll of
English Statutes reaches back in unbroken series to the Statutes of Edward.
The routine of the first Henry, the administrative changes which had been
imposed on the nation by the clear head and imperious will of the second,
were transformed under Edward into a political organization with
carefully-defined limits, directed not by the king's will alone but by the
political impulse of the people at large. His social legislation was based
in the same fashion on principles which had already been brought into
practical working by Henry the Second. It was no doubt in great measure
owing to this practical sense of its financial and administrative value
rather than to any foresight of its political importance that we owe
Edward's organization of our Parliament. But if the institutions which we
commonly associate with his name owe their origin to others, they owe their
form and their perpetuity to him.


[Sidenote: Constitutional Aspect of his Reign]

The king's English policy, like his English name, was in fact the sign of a
new epoch. England was made. The long period of national formation had come
practically to an end. With the reign of Edward begins the constitutional
England in which we live. It is not that any chasm separates our history
before it from our history after it as the chasm of the Revolution divides
the history of France, for we have traced the rudiments of our constitution
to the first moment of the English settlement in Britain. But it is with
these as with our language. The tongue of Ælfred is the very tongue we
speak, but in spite of its identity with modern English it has to be
learned like the tongue of a stranger. On the other hand, the English of
Chaucer is almost as intelligible as our own. In the first the historian
and philologer can study the origin and developement of our national
speech, in the last a schoolboy can enjoy the story of Troilus and Cressida
or listen to the gay chat of the Canterbury Pilgrims. In precisely the same
way a knowledge of our earliest laws is indispensable for the right
understanding of later legislation, its origin and its developement, while
the principles of our Parliamentary system must necessarily be studied in
the Meetings of Wise Men before the Conquest or the Great Council of barons
after it. But the Parliaments which Edward gathered at the close of his
reign are not merely illustrative of the history of later Parliaments, they
are absolutely identical with those which still sit at St. Stephen's. At
the close of his reign King, Lords, Commons, the Courts of Justice, the
forms of public administration, the relations of Church and State, all
local divisions and provincial jurisdictions, in great measure the
framework of society itself, have taken the shape which they essentially
retain. In a word the long struggle of the constitution for actual
existence has come to an end. The contests which follow are not contests
that tell, like those that preceded them, on the actual fabric of our
institutions; they are simply stages in the rough discipline by which
England has learned and is still learning how best to use and how wisely to
develope the latent powers of its national life, how to adjust the balance
of its social and political forces, how to adapt its constitutional forms
to the varying conditions of the time.


[Sidenote: The Earlier Finance]

The news of his father's death found Edward at Capua in the opening of
1273; but the quiet of his realm under a regency of which Roger Mortimer
was the practical head left him free to move slowly homewards. Two of his
acts while thus journeying through Italy show that his mind was already
dwelling on the state of English finance and of English law. His visit to
the Pope at Orvieto was with a view of gaining permission to levy from the
clergy a tenth of their income for the three coming years, while he drew
from Bologna its most eminent jurist, Francesco Accursi, to aid in the task
of legal reform. At Paris he did homage to Philip the Third for his French
possessions, and then turning southward he devoted a year to the ordering
of Gascony. It was not till the summer of 1274 that the king reached
England. But he had already planned the work he had to do, and the measures
which he laid before the Parliament of 1275 were signs of the spirit in
which he was to set about it. The First Statute of Westminster was rather a
code than a statute. It contained no less than fifty-one clauses, and was
an attempt to summarize a number of previous enactments contained in the
Great Charter, the Provisions of Oxford, and the Statute of Marlborough, as
well as to embody some of the administrative measures of Henry the Second
and his son. But a more pressing need than that of a codification of the
law was the need of a reorganization of finance. While the necessities of
the Crown were growing with the widening of its range of administrative
action, the revenues of the Crown admitted of no corresponding expansion.
In the earliest times of our history the outgoings of the Crown were as
small as its income. All local expenses, whether for justice or road-making
or fortress-building, were paid by local funds; and the national "fyrd"
served at its own cost in the field. The produce of a king's private
estates with the provisions due to him from the public lands scattered over
each county, whether gathered by the king himself as he moved over his
realm, or as in later days fixed at a stated rate and collected by his
sheriff, were sufficient to defray the mere expenses of the Court. The
Danish wars gave the first shock to this simple system. To raise a ransom
which freed the land from the invader, the first land-tax, under the name
of the Danegeld, was laid on every hide of ground; and to this national
taxation the Norman kings added the feudal burthens of the new military
estates created by the Conquest, reliefs paid on inheritance, profits of
marriages and wardship, and the three feudal aids. But foreign warfare soon
exhausted these means of revenue; the barons and bishops in their Great
Council were called on at each emergency for a grant from their lands, and
at each grant a corresponding demand was made by the king as a landlord on
the towns, as lying for the most part in the royal demesne. The cessation
of Danegeld under Henry the Second and his levy of scutage made little
change in the general incidence of taxation: it still fell wholly on the
land, for even the townsmen paid as holders of their tenements. But a new
principle of taxation was disclosed in the tithe levied for a Crusade at
the close of Henry's reign. Land was no longer the only source of wealth.
The growth of national prosperity, of trade and commerce, was creating a
mass of personal property which offered irresistible temptations to the
Angevin financiers. The old revenue from landed property was restricted and
lessened by usage and compositions. Scutage was only due for foreign
campaigns: the feudal aids only on rare and stated occasions: and though
the fines from the shire-courts grew with the growth of society the dues
from the public lands were fixed and incapable of developement. But no
usage fettered the Crown in dealing with personal property, and its growth
in value promised a growing revenue. From the close of Henry the Second's
reign therefore this became the most common form of taxation. Grants of
from a seventh to a thirtieth of moveables, household-property, and stock
were demanded; and it was the necessity of procuring their assent to these
demands which enabled the baronage through the reign of Henry the Third to
bring a financial pressure to bear on the Crown.


[Sidenote: Indirect Taxation]

But in addition to these two forms of direct taxation indirect taxation
also was coming more and more to the front. The right of the king to grant
licences to bring goods into or to trade within the realm, a right
springing from the need for his protection felt by the strangers who came
there for purposes of traffic, laid the foundation of our taxes on imports.
Those on exports were only a part of the general system of taxing personal
property which we have already noticed. How tempting this source of revenue
was proving we see from a provision of the Great Charter which forbids the
levy of more than the ancient customs on merchants entering or leaving the
realm. Commerce was in fact growing with the growing wealth of the people.
The crowd of civil and ecclesiastical buildings which date from this period
shows the prosperity of the country. Christian architecture reached its
highest beauty in the opening of Edward's reign; a reign marked by the
completion of the abbey church of Westminster and of the cathedral church
at Salisbury. An English noble was proud to be styled "an incomparable
builder," while some traces of the art which was rising into life across
the Alps flowed in, it may be, with the Italian ecclesiastics whom the
Papacy forced on the English Church. The shrine of the Confessor at
Westminster, the mosaic pavement beside the altar of the abbey, the
paintings on the walls of its chapterhouse remind us of the schools which
were springing up under Giotto and the Pisans. But the wealth which this
art progress shows drew trade to English shores. England was as yet simply
an agricultural country. Gascony sent her wines; her linens were furnished
by the looms of Ghent and Liége; Genoese vessels brought to her fairs the
silks, the velvets, the glass of Italy. In the barks of the Hanse merchants
came fur and amber from the Baltic, herrings, pitch, timber, and naval
stores from the countries of the north. Spain sent us iron and war-horses.
Milan sent armour. The great Venetian merchant-galleys touched the southern
coasts and left in our ports the dates of Egypt, the figs and currants of
Greece, the silk of Sicily, the sugar of Cyprus and Crete, the spices of
the Eastern seas. Capital too came from abroad. The bankers of Florence and
Lucca were busy with loans to the court or vast contracts with the
wool-growers. The bankers of Cahors had already dealt a death-blow to the
usury of the Jew. Against all this England had few exports to set. The lead
supplied by the mines of Derbyshire, the salt of the Worcestershire
springs, the iron of the Weald, were almost wholly consumed at home. The
one metal export of any worth was that of tin from the tin-mines of
Cornwall. But the production of wool was fast becoming a main element of
the nation's wealth. Flanders, the great manufacturing country of the time,
lay fronting our eastern coast; and with this market close at hand the
pastures of England found more and more profit in the supply of wool. The
Cistercian order which possessed vast ranges of moorland in Yorkshire
became famous as wool-growers; and their wool had been seized for Richard's
ransom. The Florentine merchants were developing this trade by their
immense contracts; we find a single company of merchants contracting for
the purchase of the Cistercian wool throughout the year. It was after
counsel with the Italian bankers that Edward devised his scheme for drawing
a permanent revenue from this source. In the Parliament of 1275 he obtained
the grant of half a mark, or six shillings and eightpence, on each sack of
wool exported; and this grant, a grant memorable as forming the first legal
foundation of our customs-revenue, at once relieved the necessities of the
Crown.


[Sidenote: Welsh Campaign]

The grant of the wool tax enabled Edward in fact to deal with the great
difficulty of his realm. The troubles of the Barons' war, the need which
Earl Simon felt of Llewelyn's alliance to hold in check the Marcher Barons,
had all but shaken off from Wales the last traces of dependence. Even at
the close of the war the threat of an attack from the now united kingdom
only forced Llewelyn to submission on a practical acknowledgement of his
sovereignty. Although the title which Llewelyn ap Jorwerth claimed of
Prince of North Wales was recognized by the English court in the earlier
days of Henry the Third, it was withdrawn after 1229 and its claimant known
only as Prince of Aberffraw. But the loftier title of Prince of Wales which
Llewelyn ap Gruffydd assumed in 1256 was formally conceded to him in 1267,
and his right to receive homage from the other nobles of his principality
was formally sanctioned. Near however as he seemed to the final realization
of his aims, Llewelyn was still a vassal of the English Crown, and the
accession of Edward to the throne was at once followed by the demand of
homage. But the summons was fruitless; and the next two years were wasted
in as fruitless negotiation. The kingdom, however, was now well in hand.
The royal treasury was filled again, and in 1277 Edward marched on North
Wales. The fabric of Welsh greatness fell at a single blow. The chieftains
who had so lately sworn fealty to Llewelyn in the southern and central
parts of the country deserted him to join his English enemies in their
attack; an English fleet reduced Anglesea; and the Prince was cooped up in
his mountain fastnesses and forced to throw himself on Edward's mercy. With
characteristic moderation the conqueror contented himself with adding to
the English dominions the coast-district as far as Conway and with
providing that the title of Prince of Wales should cease at Llewelyn's
death. A heavy fine which he had incurred by his refusal to do homage was
remitted; and Eleanor, a daughter of Earl Simon of Montfort whom he had
sought as his wife but who had been arrested on her way to him, was wedded
to the Prince at Edward's court.


[Sidenote: Judicial Reforms]

For four years all was quiet across the Welsh Marches, and Edward was able
again to turn his attention to the work of internal reconstruction. It is
probably to this time, certainly to the earlier years of his reign, that we
may attribute his modification of our judicial system. The King's Court was
divided into three distinct tribunals, the Court of Exchequer which took
cognizance of all causes in which the royal revenue was concerned; the
Court of Common Pleas for suits between private persons; and the King's
Bench, which had jurisdiction in all matters that affected the sovereign as
well as in "pleas of the crown" or criminal causes expressly reserved for
his decision. Each court was now provided with a distinct staff of judges.

Of yet greater importance than this change, which was in effect but the
completion of a process of severance that had long been going on, was the
establishment of an equitable jurisdiction side by side with that of the
common law. In his reform of 1178 Henry the Second broke up the older
King's Court, which had till then served as the final Court of Appeal, by
the severance of the purely legal judges who had been gradually added to it
from the general body of his councillors. The judges thus severed from the
Council retained the name and the ordinary jurisdiction of "the King's
Court," but the mere fact of their severance changed in an essential way
the character of the justice they dispensed. The King in Council wielded a
power which was not only judicial but executive; his decisions though based
upon custom were not fettered by it, they wore the expressions of his will,
and it was as his will that they were carried out by officers of the Crown.
But the separate bench of judges had no longer this unlimited power at
their command. They had not the king's right as representative of the
community to make the law for the redress of a wrong. They professed simply
to declare what the existing law was, even if it was insufficient for the
full purpose of redress. The authority of their decision rested mainly on
their adhesion to ancient custom or as it was styled the "common law" which
had grown up in the past. They could enforce their decisions only by
directions to an independent officer, the sheriff, and here again their
right was soon rigidly bounded by set form and custom. These bonds in fact
became tighter every day, for their decisions were now beginning to be
reported, and the cases decided by one bench of judges became authorities
for their successors. It is plain that such a state of things has the
utmost value in many ways, whether in creating in men's minds that
impersonal notion of a sovereign law which exercises its imaginative force
on human action, or in furnishing by the accumulation and sacredness of
precedents a barrier against the invasion of arbitrary power. But it threw
a terrible obstacle in the way of the actual redress of wrong. The
increasing complexity of human action as civilization advanced outstripped
the efforts of the law. Sometimes ancient custom furnished no redress for a
wrong which sprang from modern circumstances. Sometimes the very pedantry
and inflexibility of the law itself became in individual cases the highest
injustice.


[Sidenote: Equitable Jurisdiction]

It was the consciousness of this that made men cling even from the first
moment of the independent existence of these courts to the judicial power
which still remained inherent in the Crown itself. If his courts fell short
in any matter the duty of the king to do justice to all still remained, and
it was this obligation which was recognized in the provision of Henry the
Second by which all cases in which his judges failed to do justice were
reserved for the special cognizance of the royal Council itself. To this
final jurisdiction of the King in Council Edward gave a wide developement.
His assembly of the ministers, the higher permanent officials, and the law
officers of the Crown for the first time reserved to itself in its judicial
capacity the correction of all breaches of the law which the lower courts
had failed to repress, whether from weakness, partiality, or corruption,
and especially of those lawless outbreaks of the more powerful baronage
which defied the common authority of the judges. Such powers were of course
capable of terrible abuse, and it shows what real need there was felt to be
for their exercise that though regarded with jealousy by Parliament the
jurisdiction of the royal Council appears to have been steadily put into
force through the two centuries which followed. In the reign of Henry the
Seventh it took legal and statutory form in the shape of the Court of Star
Chamber, and its powers are still exercised in our own day by the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council. But the same duty of the Crown to do
justice where its courts fell short of giving due redress for wrong
expressed itself in the jurisdiction of the Chancellor. This great officer
of State, who had perhaps originally acted only as President of the Council
when discharging its judicial functions, acquired at a very early date an
independent judicial position of the same nature. It is by remembering this
origin of the Court of Chancery that we understand the nature of the powers
it gradually acquired. All grievances of the subject, especially those
which sprang from the misconduct of government officials or of powerful
oppressors, fell within its cognizance as they fell within that of the
Royal Council, and to these were added disputes respecting the wardship of
infants, dower, rent-charges, or tithes. Its equitable jurisdiction sprang
from the defective nature and the technical and unbending rules of the
common law. As the Council had given redress in cases where law became
injustice, so the Court of Chancery interfered without regard to the rules
of procedure adopted by the common law courts on the petition of a party
for whose grievance the common law provided no adequate remedy. An
analogous extension of his powers enabled the Chancellor to afford relief
in cases of fraud, accident, or abuse of trust, and this side of his
jurisdiction was largely extended at a later time by the results of
legislation on the tenure of land by ecclesiastical bodies. The separate
powers of the Chancellor, whatever was the original date at which they were
first exercised, seem to have been thoroughly established under Edward the
First.


[Sidenote: Law and the Baronage]

What reconciled the nation to the exercise of powers such as these by the
Crown and its council was the need which was still to exist for centuries
of an effective means of bringing the baronage within the reach of the law.
Constitutionally the position of the English nobles had now become
established. A king could no longer make laws or levy taxes or even make
war without their assent. The nation reposed in them an unwavering trust,
for they were no longer the brutal foreigners from whose violence the
strong hand of a Norman ruler had been needed to protect his subjects; they
were as English as the peasant or the trader. They had won English liberty
by their swords, and the tradition of their order bound them to look on
themselves as its natural guardians. The close of the Barons' War solved
the problem which had so long troubled the realm, the problem how to ensure
the government of the realm in accordance with the provisions of the Great
Charter, by the transfer of the business of administration into the hands
of a standing committee of the greater barons and prelates, acting as chief
officers of state in conjunction with specially appointed ministers of the
Crown. The body thus composed was known as the Continual Council; and the
quiet government of the kingdom by this body in the long interval between
the death of Henry the Third and his son's return shows how effective this
rule of the nobles was. It is significant of the new relation which they
were to strive to establish between themselves and the Crown that in the
brief which announced Edward's accession the Council asserted that the new
monarch mounted his throne "by the will of the peers." But while the
political influence of the baronage as a leading element in the whole
nation thus steadily mounted, the personal and purely feudal power of each
individual baron on his own estates as steadily fell. The hold which the
Crown gained on every noble family by its rights of wardship and marriage,
the circuits of the royal judges, the ever-narrowing bounds within which
baronial justice saw itself circumscribed, the blow dealt by scutage at
their military power, the prompt intervention of the Council in their
feuds, lowered the nobles more and more to the common level of their fellow
subjects. Much yet remained to be done; for within the general body of the
baronage there existed side by side with the nobles whose aims were purely
national nobles who saw in the overthrow of the royal despotism simply a
chance of setting up again their feudal privileges; and different as the
English baronage, taken as a whole, was from a feudal _noblesse_ like that
of Germany or France there is in every military class a natural drift
towards violence and lawlessness. Throughout Edward's reign his strong hand
was needed to enforce order on warring nobles. Great earls, such as those
of Gloucester and Hereford, carried on private war; in Shropshire the Earl
of Arundel waged his feud with Fulk Fitz Warine. To the lesser and poorer
nobles the wealth of the trader, the long wain of goods as it passed along
the highway, remained a tempting prey. Once, under cover of a mock
tournament of monks against canons, a band of country gentlemen succeeded
in introducing themselves into the great merchant fair at Boston; at
nightfall every booth was on fire, the merchants robbed and slaughtered,
and the booty carried off to ships which lay ready at the quay. Streams of
gold and silver, ran the tale of popular horror, flowed melted down the
gutters to the sea; "all the money in England could hardly make good the
loss." Even at the close of Edward's reign lawless bands of
"trail-bastons," or club-men, maintained themselves by general outrage,
aided the country nobles in their feuds, and wrested money and goods from
the great tradesmen.


[Sidenote: Edward and the Baronage]

The king was strong enough to face and imprison the warring earls, to hang
the chiefs of the Boston marauders, and to suppress the outlaws by rigorous
commissions. But the repression of baronial outrage was only a part of
Edward's policy in relation to the Baronage. Here, as elsewhere, he had to
carry out the political policy of his house, a policy defined by the great
measures of Henry the Second, his institution of scutage, his general
assize of arms, his extension of the itinerant judicature of the royal
judges. Forced by the first to an exact discharge of their military duties
to the Crown, set by the second in the midst of a people trained equally
with the nobles to arms, their judicial tyranny curbed and subjected to the
king's justice by the third, the barons had been forced from their old
standpoint of an isolated class to the new and nobler position of a
people's leaders. Edward watched jealously over the ground which the Crown
had gained. Immediately after his landing he appointed a commission of
enquiry into the judicial franchises then existing, and on its report (of
which the existing "Hundred-Rolls" are the result) itinerant justices were
sent in 1278 to discover by what right these franchises were held. The
writs of "quo warranto" were roughly met here and there. Earl Warenne bared
a rusty sword and flung it on the justices' table. "This, sirs," he said,
"is my warrant. By the sword our fathers won their lands when they came
over with the Conqueror, and by the sword we will keep them." But the king
was far from limiting himself to the mere carrying out of the plans of
Henry the Second. Henry had aimed simply at lowering the power of the great
feudatories; Edward aimed rather at neutralizing their power by raising the
whole body of landowners to the same level. We shall see at a later time
the measures which were the issues of this policy, but in the very opening
of his reign a significant step pointed to the king's drift. In the summer
of 1278 a royal writ ordered all freeholders who held lands to the value of
twenty pounds to receive knighthood at the king's hands.


[Sidenote: Edward and the Church]

Acts as significant announced Edward's purpose of carrying out another side
of Henry's policy, that of limiting in the same way the independent
jurisdiction of the Church. He was resolute to force it to become
thoroughly national by bearing its due part of the common national
burthens, and to break its growing dependence upon Rome. But the
ecclesiastical body was jealous of its position as a power distinct from
the power of the Crown, and Edward's policy had hardly declared itself when
in 1279 Archbishop Peckham obtained a canon from the clergy by which copies
of the Great Charter, with its provisions in favour of the liberties of the
Church, were to be affixed to the doors of churches. The step was meant as
a defiant protest against all interference, and it was promptly forbidden.
An order issued by the Primate to the clergy to declare to their flocks the
sentences of excommunication directed against all who obtained royal writs
to obstruct suits in church courts, or who, whether royal officers or no,
neglected to enforce their sentences, was answered in a yet more emphatic
way. By falling into the "dead hand" or "mortmain" of the Church land
ceased to render its feudal services; and in 1279 the Statute "de
Religiosis," or as it is commonly called "of Mortmain," forbade any further
alienation of land to religious bodies in such wise that it should cease to
render its due service to the king. The restriction was probably no
beneficial one to the country at large, for Churchmen were the best
landlords, and it was soon evaded by the ingenuity of the clerical lawyers;
but it marked the growing jealousy of any attempt to set aside what was
national from serving the general need and profit of the nation. Its
immediate effect was to stir the clergy to a bitter resentment. But Edward
remained firm, and when the bishops proposed to restrict the royal courts
from dealing with cases of patronage or causes which touched the chattels
of Churchmen he met their proposals by an instant prohibition.


[Sidenote: Conquest of Wales]

The resentment of the clergy had soon the means of showing itself during a
new struggle with Wales. The persuasions of his brother David, who had
deserted him in the previous war but who deemed his desertion
insufficiently rewarded by an English lordship, roused Llewelyn to a fresh
revolt. A prophecy of Merlin was said to promise that when English money
became round a Prince of Wales should be crowned in London; and at this
moment a new coinage of copper money, coupled with a prohibition to break
the silver penny into halves and quarters, as had been commonly done, was
supposed to fulfil the prediction. In 1282 Edward marched in overpowering
strength into the heart of Wales. But Llewelyn held out in Snowdon with the
stubbornness of despair, and the rout of an English force which had crossed
into Anglesea prolonged the contest into the winter. The cost of the war
fell on the king's treasury. Edward had called for but one general grant
through the past eight years of his reign; but he was now forced to appeal
to his people, and by an expedient hitherto without precedent two
provincial Councils were called for this purpose. That for Southern England
met at Northampton, that for Northern at York; and clergy and laity were
summoned, though in separate session, to both. Two knights came from every
shire, two burgesses from every borough, while the bishops brought their
archdeacons, abbots, and the proctors of their cathedral clergy. The grant
of the laity was quick and liberal. But both at York and Northampton the
clergy showed their grudge at Edward's measures by long delays in supplying
his treasury. Pinched however as were his resources and terrible as were
the sufferings of his army through the winter Edward's firmness remained
unbroken; and rejecting all suggestions of retreat he issued orders for the
formation of a new army at Caermarthen to complete the circle of investment
round Llewelyn. But the war came suddenly to an end. The Prince sallied
from his mountain hold for a raid upon Radnorshire and fell in a petty
skirmish on the banks of the Wye. With him died the independence of his
race. After six months of flight his brother David was made prisoner; and a
Parliament summoned at Shrewsbury in the autumn of 1283, to which each
county again sent its two knights and twenty boroughs their two burgesses,
sentenced him to a traitor's death. The submission of the lesser chieftains
soon followed: and the country was secured by the building of strong
castles at Conway and Caernarvon, and the settlement of English barons on
the confiscated soil. The Statute of Wales which Edward promulgated at
Rhuddlan in 1284 proposed to introduce English law and the English
administration of justice and government into Wales. But little came of the
attempt; and it was not till the time of Henry the Eighth that the country
was actually incorporated with England and represented in the English
Parliament. What Edward had really done was to break the Welsh resistance.
The policy with which he followed up his victory (for the "massacre of the
bards" is a mere fable) accomplished its end, and though two later
rebellions and a ceaseless strife of the natives with the English towns in
their midst showed that the country was still far from being reconciled to
its conquest, it ceased to be any serious danger to England for a hundred
years.


[Sidenote: New Legislation]

From the work of conquest Edward again turned to the work of legislation.
In the midst of his struggle with Wales he had shown his care for the
commercial classes by a Statute of Merchants in 1283, which provided for
the registration of the debts of leaders and for their recovery by
distraint of the debtor's goods and the imprisonment of his person. The
close of the war saw two measures of even greater importance. The second
Statute of Westminster which appeared in 1285 is a code of the same sort as
the first, amending the Statutes of Mortmain, of Merton, and of Gloucester,
as well as the laws of dower and advowson, remodelling the system of
justices of assize, and curbing the abuses of manorial jurisdiction. In the
same year appeared the greatest of Edward's measures for the enforcement of
public order. The Statute of Winchester revived and reorganized the old
institutions of national police and national defence. It regulated the
action of the hundred, the duty of watch and ward, and the gathering of the
fyrd or militia of the realm as Henry the Second had moulded it into form
in his Assize of Arms. Every man was bound to hold himself in readiness,
duly armed, for the king's service in case of invasion or revolt, and to
pursue felons when hue and cry was made after them. Every district was held
responsible for crimes committed within its bounds; the gates of each town
were to be shut at nightfall; and all strangers were required to give an
account of themselves to the magistrates of any borough which they entered.
By a provision which illustrates at once the social and physical condition
of the country at the time all brushwood was ordered to be destroyed within
a space of two hundred feet on either side of the public highway as a
security for travellers against sudden attacks from robbers. To enforce the
observance of this act knights were appointed in every shire under the name
of Conservators of the Peace, a name which as the benefit of these local
magistrates was more sensibly felt and their powers were more largely
extended was changed into that which they still retain of Justices of the
Peace. So orderly however was the realm that Edward was able in 1286 to
pass over sea to his foreign dominions, and to spend the next three years
in reforming their government. But the want of his guiding hand was at last
felt; and the Parliament of 1289 refused a new tax till the king came home
again.


[Sidenote: "Quia Emptores"]

He returned to find the Earls of Gloucester and Hereford at war, and his
judges charged with violence and corruption. The two Earls were brought to
peace, and Earl Gilbert allied closely to the royal house by a marriage
with the king's daughter Johanna. After a careful investigation the
judicial abuses were recognized and amended. Two of the chief justices were
banished from the realm and their colleagues imprisoned and fined. But
these administrative measures were only preludes to a great legislative act
which appeared in 1290. The Third Statute of Westminster, or, to use the
name by which it is more commonly known, the Statute "Quia Emptores," is
one of those legislative efforts which mark the progress of a wide social
revolution in the country at large. The number of the greater barons was
diminishing every day, while the number of the country gentry and of the
more substantial yeomanry was increasing with the increase of the national
wealth. The increase showed itself in a growing desire to become
proprietors of land. Tenants of the barons received under-tenants on
condition of their rendering them similar services to those which they
themselves rendered to their lords; and the baronage, while duly receiving
the services in compensation for which they had originally granted their
lands in fee, saw with jealousy the feudal profits of these new
under-tenants, the profits of wardships or of reliefs and the like, in a
word the whole increase in the value of the estate consequent on its
subdivision and higher cultivation, passing into other hands than their
own. The purpose of the statute "Quia Emptores" was to check this process
by providing that in any case of alienation the sub-tenant should
henceforth hold, not of the tenant, but directly of the superior lord. But
its result was to promote instead of hindering the transfer and subdivision
of land. The tenant who was compelled before the passing of the statute to
retain in any case so much of the estate as enabled him to discharge his
feudal services to the overlord of whom he held it, was now enabled by a
process analogous to the modern sale of "tenant-right," to transfer both
land and services to new holders. However small the estates thus created
might be, the bulk were held directly of the Crown; and this class of
lesser gentry and freeholders grew steadily from this time in numbers and
importance.


[Sidenote: The Crown and the Jews]

The year which saw "Quia Emptores" saw a step which remains the great blot
upon Edward's reign. The work abroad had exhausted the royal treasury, and
he bought a grant from his Parliament by listening to their wishes in the
matter of the Jews. Jewish traders had followed William the Conqueror from
Normandy, and had been enabled by his protection to establish themselves in
separate quarters or "Jewries" in all larger English towns. The Jew had no
right or citizenship in the land. The Jewry in which he lived was exempt
from the common law. He was simply the king's chattel, and his life and
goods were at the king's mercy. But he was too valuable a possession to be
lightly thrown away. If the Jewish merchant had no standing-ground in the
local court the king enabled him to sue before a special justiciary; his
bonds were deposited for safety in a chamber of the royal palace at
Westminster; he was protected against the popular hatred in the free
exercise of his religion and allowed to build synagogues and to manage his
own ecclesiastical affairs by means of a chief rabbi. The royal protection
was dictated by no spirit of tolerance or mercy. To the kings the Jew was a
mere engine of finance. The wealth which he accumulated was wrung from him
whenever the crown had need, and torture and imprisonment were resorted to
when milder means failed. It was the gold of the Jew that filled the royal
treasury at the outbreak of war or of revolt. It was in the Hebrew coffers
that the foreign kings found strength, to hold their baronage at bay.


[Sidenote: Popular Hatred of the Jews]

That the presence of the Jew was, at least in the earlier years of his
settlement, beneficial to the nation at large there can be little doubt.
His arrival was the arrival of a capitalist; and heavy as was the usury he
necessarily exacted in the general insecurity of the time his loans gave an
impulse to industry. The century which followed the Conquest witnessed an
outburst of architectural energy which covered the land with castles and
cathedrals; but castle and cathedral alike owed their erection to the loans
of the Jew. His own example gave a new vigour to domestic architecture. The
buildings which, as at Lincoln and Bury St. Edmund's, still retain their
name of "Jews' Houses" were almost the first houses of stone which
superseded the mere hovels of the English burghers. Nor was their influence
simply industrial. Through their connexion with the Jewish schools in Spain
and the East they opened a way for the revival of physical sciences. A
Jewish medical school seems to have existed at Oxford; Roger Bacon himself
studied under English rabbis. But the general progress of civilization now
drew little help from the Jew, while the coming of the Cahorsine and
Italian bankers drove him from the field of commercial finance. He fell
back on the petty usury of loans to the poor, a trade necessarily
accompanied with much of extortion and which roused into fiercer life the
religious hatred against their race. Wild stories floated about of children
carried off to be circumcised or crucified, and a Lincoln boy who was found
slain in a Jewish house was canonized by popular reverence as "St. Hugh."
The first work of the Friars was to settle in the Jewish quarters and
attempt their conversion, but the popular fury rose too fast for these
gentler means of reconciliation. When the Franciscans saved seventy Jews
from hanging by their prayer to Henry the Third the populace angrily
refused the brethren alms.


[Sidenote: The Jewish Defiance]

But all this growing hate was met with a bold defiance. The picture which
is commonly drawn of the Jew as timid, silent, crouching under oppression,
however truly it may represent the general position of his race throughout
mediæval Europe, is far from being borne out by historical fact on this
side the Channel. In England the attitude of the Jew, almost to the very
end, was an attitude of proud and even insolent defiance. He knew that the
royal policy exempted him from the common taxation, the common justice, the
common obligations of Englishmen. Usurer, extortioner as the realm held him
to be, the royal justice would secure him the repayment of his bonds. A
royal commission visited with heavy penalties any outbreak of violence
against the king's "chattels." The Red King actually forbade the conversion
of a Jew to the Christian faith; it was a poor exchange, he said, that
would rid him of a valuable property and give him only a subject. We see in
such a case as that of Oxford the insolence that grew out of this
consciousness of the royal protection. Here as elsewhere the Jewry was a
town within a town, with its own language, its own religion and law, its
peculiar commerce, its peculiar dress. No city bailiff could penetrate into
the square of little alleys which lay behind the present Town Hall; the
Church itself was powerless to prevent a synagogue from rising in haughty
rivalry over against the cloister of St. Frideswide. Prior Philip of St.
Frideswide complains bitterly of a certain Hebrew who stood at his door as
the procession of the saint passed by, mocking at the miracles which were
said to be wrought at her shrine. Halting and then walking firmly on his
feet, showing his hands clenched as if with palsy and then flinging open
his fingers, the Jew claimed gifts and oblations from the crowd that
flocked to St. Frideswide's shrine on the ground that such recoveries of
life and limb were quite as real as any that Frideswide ever wrought.
Sickness and death in the prior's story avenge the saint on her blasphemer,
but no earthly power, ecclesiastical or civil, seems to have ventured to
deal with him. A more daring act of fanaticism showed the temper of the
Jews even at the close of Henry the Third's reign. As the usual procession
of scholars and citizens returned from St. Frideswide's on the Ascension
Day of 1268 a Jew suddenly burst from a group of his comrades in front of
the synagogue, and wrenching the crucifix from its bearer trod it under
foot. But even in presence of such an outrage as this the terror of the
Crown sheltered the Oxford Jews from any burst of popular vengeance. The
sentence of the king condemned them to set up a cross of marble on the spot
where the crime was committed, but even this sentence was in part remitted,
and a less offensive place was found for the cross in an open plot by
Merton College.


[Sidenote: Expulsion of the Jews]

Up to Edward's day indeed the royal protection had never wavered. Henry the
Second granted the Jews a right of burial outside every city where they
dwelt. Richard punished heavily a massacre of the Jews at York, and
organized a mixed court of Jews and Christians for the registration of
their contracts. John suffered none to plunder them save himself, though he
once wrested from them a sum equal to a year's revenue of his realm. The
troubles of the next reign brought in a harvest greater than even the royal
greed could reap; the Jews grew wealthy enough to acquire estates; and only
a burst of popular feeling prevented a legal decision which would have
enabled them to own freeholds. But the sack of Jewry after Jewry showed the
popular hatred during the Barons' war, and at its close fell on the Jews
the more terrible persecution of the law. To the cry against usury and the
religious fanaticism which threatened them was now added the jealousy with
which the nation that had grown up round the Charter regarded all
exceptional jurisdictions or exemptions from the common law and the common
burthens of the realm. As Edward looked on the privileges of the Church or
the baronage, so his people looked on the privileges of the Jews. The
growing weight of the Parliament told against them. Statute after statute
hemmed them in. They were forbidden to hold real property, to employ
Christian servants, to move through the streets without the two white
tablets of wool on their breasts which distinguished their race. They were
prohibited from building new synagogues or eating with Christians or acting
as physicians to them. Their trade, already crippled by the rivalry of the
bankers of Cahors, was annihilated by a royal order which bade them
renounce usury under pain of death. At last persecution could do no more,
and Edward, eager at the moment to find supplies for his treasury and
himself swayed by the fanaticism of his subjects, bought the grant of a
fifteenth from clergy and laity by consenting to drive the Jews from his
realm. No share of the enormities which accompanied this expulsion can fall
upon the king, for he not only suffered the fugitives to take their
personal wealth with them but punished with the halter those who plundered
them at sea. But the expulsion was none the less cruel. Of the sixteen
thousand who preferred exile to apostasy few reached the shores of France.
Many were wrecked, others robbed and flung overboard. One shipmaster turned
out a crew of wealthy merchants on to a sandbank and bade them call a new
Moses to save them from the sea.

[Illustration: Scotland in 1290 (v2-map-1t.jpg)]


[Sidenote: Scotland]

From the expulsion of the Jews, as from his nobler schemes of legal and
administrative reforms, Edward was suddenly called away to face complex
questions which awaited him in the North. At the moment which we have
reached the kingdom of the Scots was still an aggregate of four distinct
countries, each with its different people, its different tongue, its
different history. The old Pictish kingdom across the Firth of Forth, the
original Scot kingdom in Argyle, the district of Cumbria or Strathclyde,
and the Lowlands which stretched from the Firth of Forth to the English
border, had become united under the kings of the Scots; Pictland by
inheritance, Cumbria by a grant from the English king Eadmund, the Lowlands
by conquest, confirmed as English tradition alleged by a grant from Cnut.
The shadowy claim of dependence on the English Crown which dated from the
days when a Scotch king "commended" himself and his people to Ælfred's son
Eadward, a claim strengthened by the grant of Cumbria to Malcolm as a
"fellow worker" of the English sovereign "by sea and land," may have been
made more real through this last convention. But whatever change the
acquisition of the Lowlands made in the relation of the Scot kings to the
English sovereigns, it certainly affected in a very marked way their
relation both to England and to their own realm. Its first result was the
fixing of the royal residence in their new southern dominion at Edinburgh;
and the English civilization which surrounded them from the moment of this
settlement on what was purely English ground changed the Scot kings in all
but blood into Englishmen. The marriage of King Malcolm with Margaret, the
sister of Eadgar Ætheling, not only hastened this change but opened a way
to the English crown. Their children were regarded by a large party within
England as representatives of the older royal race and as claimants of the
throne, and this danger grew as William's devastation of the North not only
drove fresh multitudes of Englishmen to settle in the Lowlands but filled
the Scotch court with English nobles who fled thither for refuge. So
formidable indeed became the pretensions of the Scot kings that they forced
the ablest of our Norman sovereigns into a complete change of policy. The
Conqueror and William the Red had met the threats of the Scot sovereigns by
invasions which ended again and again in an illusory homage, but the
marriage of Henry the First with the Scottish Matilda robbed the claims of
the Scottish line of much of their force while it enabled him to draw their
kings into far closer relations with the Norman throne. King David not only
abandoned the ambitious dreams of his predecessors to place himself at the
head of his niece Matilda's party in her contest with Stephen, but as
Henry's brother-in-law he figured as the first noble of the English Court
and found English models and English support in the work of organization
which he attempted within his own dominions. As the marriage with Margaret
had changed Malcolm from a Celtic chieftain into an English king, so that
of Matilda brought about the conversion of David into a Norman and feudal
sovereign. His court was filled with Norman nobles from the South, such as
the Balliols and Bruces who were destined to play so great a part
afterwards but who now for the first time obtained fiefs in the Scottish
realm, and a feudal jurisprudence modelled on that of England was
introduced into the Lowlands.


[Sidenote: Scotch and English Crowns]

A fresh connexion between Scotland and the English sovereigns began with
the grant of lordships within England itself to the Scot kings or their
sons. The Earldom of Northumberland was held by David's son Henry, that of
Huntingdon by David, brother of William the Lion. Homage was sometimes
rendered, whether for these lordships, for the Lowlands, or for the whole
Scottish realm, but it was the capture of William the Lion during the
revolt of the English baronage which first suggested to the ambition of
Henry the Second the project of a closer dependence of Scotland on the
English Crown. To gain his freedom William consented to hold his kingdom of
Henry and his heirs. The prelates and lords of Scotland did homage to Henry
as to their direct lord, and a right of appeal in all Scotch causes was
allowed to the superior court of the English suzerain. From this bondage
however Scotland was freed by the prodigality of Richard who allowed her to
buy back the freedom she had forfeited. Both sides fell into their old
position, but both were ceasing gradually to remember the distinctions
between the various relations in which the Scot king stood for his
different provinces to the English Crown. Scotland had come to be thought
of as a single country; and the court of London transferred to the whole of
it those claims of direct feudal suzerainty which at most applied only to
Strathclyde, while the court of Edinburgh looked on the English Lowlands as
holding no closer relation to England than the Pictish lands beyond the
Forth. Any difficulties which arose were evaded by a legal compromise. The
Scot kings repeatedly did homage to the English sovereign but with a
reservation of rights which were prudently left unspecified. The English
king accepted the homage on the assumption that it was rendered to him as
overlord of the Scottish realm, and this assumption was neither granted nor
denied. For nearly a hundred years the relations of the two countries were
thus kept peaceful and friendly, and the death of Alexander the Third
seemed destined to remove even the necessity of protests by a closer union
of the two kingdoms. Alexander had wedded his only daughter to the King of
Norway, and after long negotiation the Scotch Parliament proposed the
marriage of Margaret, "The Maid of Norway," the girl who was the only issue
of this marriage and so heiress of the kingdom, with the son of Edward the
First. It was however carefully provided in the marriage treaty which was
concluded at Brigham in 1290 that Scotland should remain a separate and
free kingdom, and that its laws and customs should be preserved inviolate.
No military aid was to be claimed by the English king, no Scotch appeal to
be carried to an English court. But this project was abruptly frustrated by
the child's death during her voyage to Scotland in the following October,
and with the rise of claimant after claimant of the vacant throne Edward
was drawn into far other relations to the Scottish realm.


[Sidenote: The Scotch Succession]

Of the thirteen pretenders to the throne of Scotland only three could be
regarded as serious claimants. By the extinction of the line of William the
Lion the right of succession passed to the daughters of his brother David.
The claim of John Balliol, Lord of Galloway, rested on his descent from the
elder of these; that of Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale, on his descent
from the second; that of John Hastings, Lord of Abergavenny, on his descent
from the third. It is clear that at this crisis every one in Scotland or
out of it recognized some sort of overlordship in Edward, for the Norwegian
king, the Primate of St. Andrews, and seven of the Scotch Earls had already
appealed to him before Margaret's death; and her death was followed by the
consent both of the claimants and the Council of Regency to refer the
question of the succession to his decision in a Parliament at Norham. But
the overlordship which the Scots acknowledged was something far less direct
and definite than the superiority which Edward claimed at the opening of
this conference in May 1291. His claim was supported by excerpts from
monastic chronicles and by the slow advance of an English army; while the
Scotch lords, taken by surprise, found little help in the delay which was
granted them. At the opening of June therefore in common with nine of the
claimants they formally admitted Edward's direct suzerainty. To the nobles
in fact the concession must have seemed a small one, for like the principal
claimants they were for the most part Norman in blood, with estates in both
countries, and looking for honours and pensions from the English Court.
From the Commons who were gathered with the nobles at Norham no such
admission of Edward's claims could be extorted; but in Scotland, feudalized
as it had been by David, the Commons were as yet of little weight and their
opposition was quietly passed by. All the rights of a feudal suzerain were
at once assumed by the English king; he entered into the possession of the
country as into that of a disputed fief to be held by its overlord till the
dispute was settled, his peace was sworn throughout the land, its castles
delivered into his charge, while its bishops and nobles swore homage to him
directly as their lord superior. Scotland was thus reduced to the
subjection which she had experienced under Henry the Second; but the full
discussion which followed over the various claims to the throne showed that
while exacting to the full what he believed to be his right Edward desired
to do justice to the country itself. The body of commissioners which the
king named to report on the claims to the throne were mainly Scotch. A
proposal for the partition of the realm among the claimants was rejected as
contrary to Scotch law. On the report of the commissioners after a
twelvemonth's investigation in favour of Balliol as representative of the
elder branch at the close of the year 1292, his homage was accepted for the
whole kingdom of Scotland with a full acknowledgement of the services due
from him to its overlord. The castles were at once delivered to the new
monarch, and for a time there was peace.


[Sidenote: Edward and Scotland]

With the accession of Balliol and the rendering of his homage for the
Scottish realm the greatness of Edward reached its height. He was lord of
Britain as no English king had been before. The last traces of Welsh
independence were trodden under foot. The shadowy claims of supremacy over
Scotland were changed into a direct overlordship. Across the one sea Edward
was lord of Guienne, across the other of Ireland, and in England itself a
wise and generous policy had knit the whole nation round his throne. Firmly
as he still clung to prerogatives which the baronage were as firm not to
own, the main struggle for the Charter was over. Justice and good
government were secured. The personal despotism which John had striven to
build up, the imperial autocracy which had haunted the imagination of Henry
the Third, were alike set aside. The rule of Edward, vigorous and effective
as it was, was a rule of law, and of law enacted not by the royal will, but
by the common council of the realm. Never had English ruler reached a
greater height of power, nor was there any sign to warn the king of the
troubles which awaited him. France, jealous as it was of his greatness and
covetous of his Gascon possessions, he could hold at bay. Wales was growing
tranquil. Scotland gave few signs of discontent or restlessness in the
first year that followed the homage of its king. Under John Balliol it had
simply fallen back into the position of dependence which it held under
William the Lion; and Edward had no purpose of pushing further his rights
as suzerain than Henry the Second had done. One claim of the English Crown
indeed was soon a subject of dispute between the lawyers of the Scotch and
of the English Council boards. Edward would have granted as freely as
Balliol himself that though Scotland was a dependent kingdom it was far
from being an ordinary fief of the English Crown. By feudal custom a
distinction had always been held to exist between the relations of a
dependent king to a superior lord and those of a vassal noble to his
sovereign. At Balliol's homage indeed Edward had disclaimed any right to
the ordinary feudal incidents of a fief, those of wardship or marriage, and
in this disclaimer he was only repeating the reservations of the marriage
treaty of Brigham. There were other customs of the Scotch realm as
incontestable as these. Even after the treaty of Falaise the Scotch king
had not been held bound to attend the council of the English baronage, to
do service in English warfare, or to contribute on the part of his Scotch
realm to English aids. If no express acknowledgement of these rights had
been made by Edward, for some time after his acceptance of Balliol's homage
they were practically observed. The claim of independent justice was more
doubtful, as it was of higher import than these. The judicial independence
of Scotland had been expressly reserved in the marriage treaty. It was
certain that no appeal from a Scotch King's Court to that of his overlord
had been allowed since the days of William the Lion. But in the
jurisprudence of the feudal lawyers the right of ultimate appeal was the
test of sovereignty, and Edward regarded Balliol's homage as having placed
him precisely in the position of William the Lion and subjected his
decisions to those of his overlord. He was resolute therefore to assert the
supremacy of his court and to receive Scotch appeals.


[Sidenote: The French Attack]

Even here however the quarrel seemed likely to end only in legal bickering.
Balliol at first gave way, and it was not till 1293 that he alleged himself
forced by the resentment both of his Baronage and his people to take up an
attitude of resistance. While appearing therefore formally at Westminster
he refused to answer an appeal before the English courts save by advice of
his Council. But real as the resentment of his barons may have been, it was
not Scotland which really spurred Balliol to this defiance. His wounded
pride had made him the tool of a power beyond the sea. The keenness with
which France had watched every step of Edward's success in the north sprang
not merely from a natural jealousy of his greatness but from its bearing on
a great object of French ambition. One fragment of Eleanor's inheritance
still remained to her descendants, Guienne and Gascony, the fair lands
along the Garonne and the territory which stretched south of that river to
the Pyrenees. It was this territory that now tempted the greed of Philip
the Fair, and it was in feeding the strife between England and the Scotch
king that Philip saw an opening for winning it. French envoys therefore
brought promises of aid to the Scotch Court; and no sooner had these
intrigues moved Balliol to resent the claims of his overlord than Philip
found a pretext for open quarrel with Edward in the frays which went
constantly on in the Channel between the mariners of Normandy and those of
the Cinque Ports. They culminated at this moment in a great sea-fight which
proved fatal to eight thousand Frenchmen, and for this Philip haughtily
demanded redress. Edward saw at once the danger of his position. He did his
best to allay the storm by promise of satisfaction to France, and by
addressing threats of punishment to the English seamen. But Philip still
clung to his wrong, while the national passion which was to prove for a
hundred years to come strong enough to hold down the royal policy of peace
showed itself in a characteristic defiance with which the seamen of the
Cinque Ports met Edward's menaces. "Be the King's Council well advised,"
ran this remonstrance, "that if wrong or grievance be done them in any
fashion against right, they will sooner forsake wives, children, and all
that they have, and go seek through the seas where they shall think to make
their profit." In spite therefore of Edward's efforts the contest
continued, and Philip found in it an opportunity to cite the king before
his court at Paris for wrongs done to him as suzerain. It was hard for
Edward to dispute the summons without weakening the position which his own
sovereign courts had taken up towards the Scotch king, and in a final
effort to avert the conflict the king submitted to a legal decision of the
question, and to a formal cession of Guienne into Philip's hands for forty
days in acknowledgement of his supremacy. Bitter as the sacrifice must have
been it failed to win peace. The forty days had no sooner passed than
Philip refused to restore the fortresses which had been left in pledge. In
February 1294 he declared the English king contumacious, and in May
declared his fiefs forfeited to the French Crown. Edward was driven to take
up arms, but a revolt in Wales deferred the expedition to the following
year. No sooner however was it again taken in hand than it became clear
that a double danger had to be met. The summons which Edward addressed to
the Scotch barons to follow him in arms to Guienne was disregarded. It was
in truth, as we have seen, a breach of customary law, and was probably
meant to force Scotland into an open declaration of its connexion with
France. A second summons was followed by a more formal refusal. The
greatness of the danger threw Edward on England itself. For a war in
Guienne and the north he needed supplies; but he needed yet more the firm
support of his people in a struggle which, little as he foresaw its
ultimate results, would plainly be one of great difficulty and danger. In
1295 he called a Parliament to counsel with him on the affairs of the
realm, but with the large statesmanship which distinguished him he took
this occasion of giving the Parliament a shape and organization which has
left its assembly the most important event in English history.


[Sidenote: The Great Council]

To realize its importance we must briefly review the changes by which the
Great Council of the Norman kings had been gradually transforming itself
into what was henceforth to be known as the English Parliament. Neither the
Meeting of the Wise Men before the Conquest nor the Great Council of the
Barons after it had been in any legal or formal way representative bodies.
The first theoretically included all free holders of land, but it shrank at
an early time into a gathering of earls, higher nobles, and bishops, with
the officers and thegns of the royal household. Little change was made in
the composition of this assembly by the Conquest, for the Great Council of
the Norman kings was supposed to include all tenants who held directly of
the Crown, the bishops and greater abbots (whose character as independent
spiritual members tended more and more to merge in their position as
barons), and the high officers of the Court. But though its composition
remained the same, the character of the assembly was essentially altered;
from a free gathering of "Wise Men" it sank to a Royal Court of feudal
vassals. Its functions too seem to have become almost nominal and its
powers to have been restricted to the sanctioning, without debate or
possibility of refusal, all grants demanded from it by the Crown. But
nominal as such a sanction might be, the "counsel and consent" of the Great
Council was necessary for the legal validity of every considerable fiscal
or political measure. Its existence therefore remained an effectual protest
against the imperial theories advanced by the lawyers of Henry the Second
which declared all legislative power to reside wholly in the sovereign. It
was in fact under Henry that these assemblies became more regular, and
their functions more important. The reforms which marked his reign were
issued in the Great Council, and even financial matters were suffered to be
debated there. But it was not till the grant of the Great Charter that the
powers of this assembly over taxation were formally recognized, and the
principle established that no burthen beyond the customary feudal aids
might be imposed "save by the Common Council of the Realm."


[Sidenote: Greater and Lesser Barons]

The same document first expressly regulated its form. In theory, as we have
seen, the Great Council consisted of all who held land directly of the
Crown. But the same causes which restricted attendance at the Witenagemot
to the greater nobles told on the actual composition of the Council of
Barons. While the attendance of the ordinary tenants in chief, the Knights
or "Lesser Barons" as they were called, was burthensome from its expense to
themselves, their numbers and their dependence on the higher nobles made
the assembly of these knights dangerous to the Crown. As early therefore as
the time of Henry the First we find a distinction recognized between the
"Greater Barons," of whom the Council was usually composed, and the "Lesser
Barons" who formed the bulk of the tenants of the Crown. But though the
attendance of the latter had become rare their right of attendance remained
intact. While enacting that the prelates and greater barons should be
summoned by special writs to each gathering of the Council a remarkable
provision of the Great Charter orders a general summons to be issued
through the Sheriff to all direct tenants of the Crown. The provision was
probably intended to rouse the lesser Baronage to the exercise of rights
which had practically passed into desuetude, but as the clause is omitted
in later issues of the Charter we may doubt whether the principle it
embodied ever received more than a very limited application. There are
traces of the attendance of a few of the lesser knighthood, gentry perhaps
of the neighbourhood where the assembly was held, in some of its meetings
under Henry the Third, but till a late period in the reign of his successor
the Great Council practically remained a gathering of the greater barons,
the prelates, and the high officers of the Crown.


[Sidenote: Constitutional Influence of Finance]

The change which the Great Charter had failed to accomplish was now however
brought about by the social circumstances of the time. One of the most
remarkable of these was a steady decrease in the number of the greater
nobles. The bulk of the earldoms had already lapsed to the Crown through
the extinction of the families of their possessors; of the greater
baronies, many had practically ceased to exist by their division among
female co-heiresses, many through the constant struggle of the poorer
nobles to rid themselves of their rank by a disclaimer so as to escape the
burthen of higher taxation and attendance in Parliament which it involved.
How far this diminution had gone we may see from the fact that hardly more
than a hundred barons sat in the earlier Councils of Edward's reign. But
while the number of those who actually exercised the privilege of assisting
in Parliament was rapidly diminishing, the numbers and wealth of the
"lesser baronage," whose right of attendance had become a mere
constitutional tradition, was as rapidly increasing. The long peace and
prosperity of the realm, the extension of its commerce and the increased
export of wool, were swelling the ranks and incomes of the country gentry
as well as of the freeholders and substantial yeomanry. We have already
noticed the effects of the increase of wealth in begetting a passion for
the possession of land which makes this reign so critical a period in the
history of the English freeholder; but the same tendency had to some extent
existed in the preceding century, and it was a consciousness of the growing
importance of this class of rural proprietors which induced the barons at
the moment of the Great Charter to make their fruitless attempt to induce
them to take part in the deliberations of the Great Council. But while the
barons desired their presence as an aid against the Crown, the Crown itself
desired it as a means of rendering taxation more efficient. So long as the
Great Council remained a mere assembly of magnates it was necessary for the
King's ministers to treat separately with the other orders of the state as
to the amount and assessment of their contributions. The grant made in the
Great Council was binding only on the barons and prelates who made it; but
before the aids of the boroughs, the Church, or the shires could reach the
royal treasury, a separate negotiation had to be conducted by the officers
of the Exchequer with the reeves of each town, the sheriff and shire-court
of each county, and the archdeacons of each diocese. Bargains of this sort
would be the more tedious and disappointing as the necessities of the Crown
increased in the later years of Edward, and it became a matter of fiscal
expediency to obtain the sanction of any proposed taxation through the
presence of these classes in the Great Council itself.

The effort however to revive the old personal attendance of the lesser
baronage which had broken down half a century before could hardly be
renewed at a time when the increase of their numbers made it more
impracticable than ever; but a means of escape from this difficulty was
fortunately suggested by the very nature of the court through which alone a
summons could be addressed to the landed knighthood. Amidst the many
judicial reforms of Henry or Edward the Shire Court remained unchanged. The
haunted mound or the immemorial oak round which the assembly gathered (for
the court was often held in the open air) were the relics of a time before
the free kingdom had sunk into a shire and its Meetings of the Wise into a
County Court. But save that the king's reeve had taken the place of the
king and that the Norman legislation had displaced the Bishop and set four
Coroners by the Sheriff's side, the gathering of the freeholders remained
much as of old. The local knighthood, the yeomanry, the husbandmen of the
county, were all represented in the crowd that gathered round the Sheriff,
as guarded by his liveried followers he published the king's writs,
announced his demand of aids, received the presentment of criminals and the
inquest of the local jurors, assessed the taxation of each district, or
listened solemnly to appeals for justice, civil and criminal, from all who
held themselves oppressed in the lesser courts of the hundred or the soke.
It was in the County Court alone that the Sheriff could legally summon the
lesser baronage to attend the Great Council, and it was in the actual
constitution of this assembly that the Crown found a solution of the
difficulty which we have stated. For the principle of representation by
which it was finally solved was coeval with the Shire Court itself. In all
cases of civil or criminal justice the twelve sworn assessors of the
Sheriff, as members of a class, though not formally deputed for that
purpose, practically represented the judicial opinion of the county at
large. From every hundred came groups of twelve sworn deputies, the
"jurors" through whom the presentments of the district were made to the
royal officer and with whom the assessment of its share in the general
taxation was arranged. The husbandmen on the outskirts of the crowd, clad
in the brown smock frock which still lingers in the garb of our carters and
ploughmen, were broken up into little knots of five, a reeve and four
assistants, each of which knots formed the representative of a rural
township. If in fact we regard the Shire Courts as lineally the descendants
of our earliest English Witenagemots, we may justly claim the principle of
parliamentary representation as among the oldest of our institutions.


[Sidenote: Knights of the Shire]

It was easy to give this principle a further extension by the choice of
representatives of the lesser barons in the shire courts to which they were
summoned; but it was only slowly and tentatively that this process was
applied to the reconstitution of the Great Council. As early as the close
of John's reign there are indications of the approaching change in the
summons of "four discreet knights" from every county. Fresh need of local
support was felt by both parties in the conflict of the succeeding reign,
and Henry and his barons alike summoned knights from each shire "to meet on
the common business of the realm." It was no doubt with the same purpose
that the writs of Earl Simon ordered the choice of knights in each shire
for his famous Parliament of 1265. Something like a continuous attendance
may be dated from the accession of Edward, but it was long before the
knights were regarded as more than local deputies for the assessment of
taxation or admitted to a share in the general business of the Great
Council. The statute "Quia Emptores," for instance, was passed in it before
the knights who had been summoned could attend. Their participation in the
deliberative power of Parliament, as well as their regular and continuous
attendance, dates only from the Parliament of 1295. But a far greater
constitutional change in their position had already taken place through the
extension of electoral rights to the freeholders at large. The one class
entitled to a seat in the Great Council was, as we have seen, that of the
lesser baronage; and it was of the lesser baronage alone that the knights
were in theory the representatives. But the necessity of holding their
election in the County Court rendered any restriction of the electoral body
physically impossible. The court was composed of the whole body of
freeholders, and no sheriff could distinguish the "aye, aye" of the yeoman
from the "aye, aye" of the lesser baron. From the first moment therefore of
their attendance we find the knights regarded not as mere representatives
of the baronage but as knights of the shire, and by this silent revolution
the whole body of the rural freeholders were admitted to a share in the
government of the realm.


[Sidenote: Boroughs and the Crown]

The financial difficulties of the Crown led to a far more radical
revolution in the admission into the Great Council of representatives from
the boroughs. The presence of knights from each shire was the recognition
of an older right, but no right of attendance or share in the national
"counsel and assent" could be pleaded for the burgesses of the towns. On
the other hand the rapid developement of their wealth made them every day
more important as elements in the national taxation. From all payment of
the dues or fines exacted by the king as the original lord of the soil on
which they had in most cases grown up the towns had long since freed
themselves by what was called the purchase of the "farm of the borough"; in
other words, by the commutation of these uncertain dues for a fixed sum
paid annually to the Crown and apportioned by their own magistrates among
the general body of the burghers. All that the king legally retained was
the right enjoyed by every great proprietor of levying a corresponding
taxation on his tenants in demesne under the name of "a free aid" whenever
a grant was made for the national necessities by the barons of the Great
Council. But the temptation of appropriating the growing wealth of the
mercantile class proved stronger than legal restrictions, and we find both
Henry the Third and his son assuming a right of imposing taxes at pleasure
and without any authority from the Council even over London itself. The
burgesses could refuse indeed the invitation to contribute to the "free
aids" demanded by the royal officers, but the suspension of their markets
or trading privileges brought them in the end to submission. Each of these
"free aids" however had to be extorted after a long wrangle between the
borough and the officers of the Exchequer; and if the towns were driven to
comply with what they considered an extortion they could generally force
the Crown by evasions and delays to a compromise and abatement of its
original demands.


[Sidenote: Burgesses in Parliament]

The same financial reasons therefore existed for desiring the presence of
borough representatives in the Great Council as existed in the case of the
shires; but it was the genius of Earl Simon which first broke through the
older constitutional tradition and summoned two burgesses from each town to
the Parliament of 1265. Time had indeed to pass before the large and
statesmanlike conception of the great patriot could meet with full
acceptance. Through the earlier part of Edward's reign we find a few
instances of the presence of representatives from the towns, but their
scanty numbers and the irregularity of their attendance show that they were
summoned rather to afford financial information to the Great Council than
as representatives in it of an Estate of the Realm. But every year pleaded
stronger and stronger for their inclusion, and in the Parliament of 1295
that of 1265 found itself at last reproduced. "It was from me that he
learnt it," Earl Simon had cried, as he recognized the military skill of
Edward's onset at Evesham; "it was from me that he learnt it," his spirit
might have exclaimed as he saw the king gathering at last two burgesses
"from every city, borough, and leading town" within his realm to sit side
by side with the knights, nobles, and barons of the Great Council. To the
Crown the change was from the first an advantageous one. The grants of
subsidies by the burgesses in Parliament proved more profitable than the
previous extortions of the Exchequer. The proportions of their grant
generally exceeded that of the other estates. Their representatives too
proved far more compliant with the royal will than the barons or knights of
the shire; only on one occasion during Edward's reign did the burgesses
waver from their general support of the Crown.


[Sidenote: Reluctance to attend]

It was easy indeed to control them, for the selection of boroughs to be
represented remained wholly in the king's hands, and their numbers could be
increased or diminished at the king's pleasure. The determination was left
to the sheriff, and at a hint from the royal Council a sheriff of Wilts
would cut down the number of represented boroughs in his shire from eleven
to three, or a sheriff of Bucks declare he could find but a single borough,
that of Wycombe, within the bounds of his county. Nor was this exercise of
the prerogative hampered by any anxiety on the part of the towns to claim
representative privileges. It was hard to suspect that a power before which
the Crown would have to bow lay in the ranks of soberly-clad traders,
summoned only to assess the contributions of their boroughs, and whose
attendance was as difficult to secure as it seemed burthensome to
themselves and the towns who sent them. The mass of citizens took little or
no part in their choice, for they were elected in the county court by a few
of the principal burghers deputed for the purpose; but the cost of their
maintenance, the two shillings a day paid to the burgess by his town as
four were paid to the knight by his county, was a burden from which the
boroughs made desperate efforts to escape. Some persisted in making no
return to the sheriff. Some bought charters of exemption from the
troublesome privilege. Of the 165 who were summoned by Edward the First
more than a third ceased to send representatives after a single compliance
with the royal summons. During the whole time from the reign of Edward the
Third to the reign of Henry the Sixth the sheriff of Lancashire declined to
return the names of any boroughs at all within that county "on account of
their poverty." Nor were the representatives themselves more anxious to
appear than their boroughs to send them. The busy country squire and the
thrifty trader were equally reluctant to undergo the trouble and expense of
a journey to Westminster. Legal measures were often necessary to ensure
their presence. Writs still exist in abundance such as that by which Walter
le Rous is "held to bail in eight oxen and four cart-horses to come before
the King on the day specified" for attendance in Parliament. But in spite
of obstacles such as these the presence of representatives from the
boroughs may be regarded as continuous from the Parliament of 1295. As the
representation of the lesser barons had widened through a silent change
into that of the shire, so that of the boroughs--restricted in theory to
those in the royal demesne--seems practically from Edward's time to have
been extended to all who were in a condition to pay the cost of their
representatives' support. By a change as silent within the Parliament
itself the burgess, originally summoned to take part only in matters of
taxation, was at last admitted to a full share in the deliberations and
authority of the other orders of the State.


[Sidenote: Parliament and the Clergy]

The admission of the burgesses and knights of the shire to the assembly of
1295 completed the fabric of our representative constitution. The Great
Council of the Barons became the Parliament of the Realm. Every order of
the state found itself represented in this assembly, and took part in the
grant of supplies, the work of legislation, and in the end the control of
government. But though in all essential points the character of Parliament
has remained the same from that time to this, there were some remarkable
particulars in which the assembly of 1295 differed widely from the present
Parliament at St. Stephen's. Some of these differences, such as those which
sprang from the increased powers and changed relations of the different
orders among themselves, we shall have occasion to consider at a later
time. But a difference of a far more startling kind than these lay in the
presence of the clergy. If there is any part in the parliamentary scheme of
Edward the First which can be regarded as especially his own, it is his
project for the representation of the ecclesiastical order. The King had
twice at least summoned its "proctors" to Great Councils before 1295, but
it was then only that the complete representation of the Church was
definitely organized by the insertion of a clause in the writ which
summoned a bishop to Parliament requiring the personal attendance of all
archdeacons, deans, or priors of cathedral churches, of a proctor for each
cathedral chapter, and two for the clergy within his diocese. The clause is
repeated in the writs of the present day, but its practical effect was
foiled almost from the first by the resolute opposition of those to whom it
was addressed. What the towns failed in doing the clergy actually did. Even
when forced to comply with the royal summons, as they seem to have been
forced during Edward's reign, they sat jealously by themselves, and their
refusal to vote supplies in any but their own provincial assemblies, or
convocations, of Canterbury and York left the Crown without a motive for
insisting on their continued attendance. Their presence indeed, though
still at times granted on some solemn occasions, became so pure a formality
that by the end of the fifteenth century it had sunk wholly into desuetude.
In their anxiety to preserve their existence as an isolated and privileged
order the clergy flung away a power which, had they retained it, would have
ruinously hampered the healthy developement of the state. To take a single
instance, it is difficult to see how the great changes of the Reformation
could have been brought about had a good half of the House of Commons
consisted purely of churchmen, whose numbers would have been backed by the
weight of their property as possessors of a third of the landed estates of
the realm.


[Sidenote: Parliament at Westminster]

A hardly less important difference may be found in the gradual restriction
of the meetings of Parliament to Westminster. The names of Edward's
statutes remind us of its convocation at the most various quarters, at
Winchester, Acton Burnell, Northampton. It was at a later time that
Parliament became settled in the straggling village which had grown up in
the marshy swamp of the Isle of Thorns beside the palace whose embattled
pile towered over the Thames and the new Westminster which was still rising
in Edward's day on the site of the older church of the Confessor. It is
possible that, while contributing greatly to its constitutional importance,
this settlement of the Parliament may have helped to throw into the
background its character as a supreme court of appeal. The proclamation by
which it was called together invited "all who had any grace to demand of
the King in Parliament, or any plaint to make of matters which could not be
redressed or determined by ordinary course of law, or who had been in any
way aggrieved by any of the King's ministers or justices or sheriffs, or
their bailiffs, or any other officer, or have been unduly assessed, rated,
charged, or surcharged to aids, subsidies, or taxes," to deliver their
petitions to receivers who sat in the Great Hall of the Palace of
Westminster. The petitions were forwarded to the King's Council, and it was
probably the extension of the jurisdiction of that body and the rise of the
Court of Chancery which reduced this ancient right of the subject to the
formal election of "Triers of Petitions" at the opening of every new
Parliament by the House of Lords, a usage which is still continued. But it
must have been owing to some memory of the older custom that the subject
always looked for redress against injuries from the Crown or its ministers
to the Parliament of the realm.


[Sidenote: Conquest of Scotland]

The subsidies granted by the Parliament of 1295 furnished the king with the
means of warfare with both Scotland and France while they assured him of
the sympathy of his people in the contest. But from the first the
reluctance of Edward to enter on the double war was strongly marked. The
refusal of the Scotch baronage to obey his summons had been followed on
Balliol's part by two secret steps which made a struggle inevitable, by a
request to Rome for absolution from his oath of fealty and by a treaty of
alliance with Philip the Fair. As yet however no open breach had taken
place, and while Edward in 1296 summoned his knighthood to meet him in the
north he called a Parliament at Newcastle in the hope of bringing about an
accommodation with the Scot king. But all thought of accommodation was
roughly ended by the refusal of Balliol to attend the Parliament, by the
rout of a small body of English troops, and by the Scotch investment of
Carlisle. Taken as he was by surprise, Edward showed at once the vigour and
rapidity of his temper. His army marched upon Berwick. The town was a rich
and well-peopled one, and although a wooden stockade furnished its only
rampart the serried ranks of citizens behind it gave little hope of an easy
conquest. Their taunts indeed stung the king to the quick. As his engineers
threw up rough entrenchments for the besieging army the burghers bade him
wait till he won the town before he began digging round it. "Kynge Edward,"
they shouted, "waune thou havest Berwick, pike thee; waune thou havest
geten, dike thee." But the stockade was stormed with the loss of a single
knight, nearly eight thousand of the citizens were mown down in a ruthless
carnage, and a handful of Flemish traders who held the town-hall stoutly
against all assailants were burned alive in it. The massacre only ceased
when a procession of priests bore the host to the king's presence, praying
for mercy. Edward with a sudden and characteristic burst of tears called
off his troops; but the town was ruined for ever, and the greatest merchant
city of northern Britain sank from that time into a petty seaport.

At Berwick Edward received Balliol's formal defiance. "Has the fool done
this folly?" the king cried in haughty scorn; "if he will not come to us,
we will come to him." The terrible slaughter however had done its work, and
his march northward was a triumphal progress. Edinburgh, Stirling, and
Perth opened their gates, Bruce joined the English army, and Balliol
himself surrendered and passed without a blow from his throne to an English
prison. No further punishment however was exacted from the prostrate realm.
Edward simply treated it as a fief, and declared its forfeiture to be the
legal consequence of Balliol's treason. It lapsed in fact to its suzerain;
and its earls, barons, and gentry swore homage in Parliament at Berwick to
Edward as their king. The sacred stone on which its older sovereigns had
been installed, an oblong block of limestone which legend asserted to have
been the pillow of Jacob as angels ascended and descended upon him, was
removed from Scone and placed in Westminster by the shrine of the
Confessor. It was enclosed by Edward's order in a stately seat, which
became from that hour the coronation chair of English kings. To the king
himself the whole business must have seemed another and easier conquest of
Wales, and the mercy and just government which had followed his first
success followed his second also. The government of the new dependency was
entrusted to John of Warenne, Earl of Surrey, at the head of an English
Council of Regency. Pardon was freely extended to all who had resisted the
invasion, and order and public peace were rigidly enforced.


[Sidenote: Confirmation of the Charters]

But the triumph, rapid and complete as it was, had more than exhausted the
aids granted by the Parliament. The treasury was utterly drained. The
struggle indeed widened as every month went on; the costly fight with the
French in Gascony called for supplies, while Edward was planning a yet
costlier attack on northern France with the aid of Flanders. Need drove him
on his return from Scotland in 1297 to measures of tyrannical extortion
which seemed to recall the times of John. His first blow fell on the
Church. At the close of 1294 he had already demanded half their annual
income from the clergy, and so terrible was his wrath at their resistance
that the Dean of St. Paul's, who stood forth to remonstrate, dropped dead
of sheer terror at his feet. "If any oppose the King's demand," said a
royal envoy in the midst of the Convocation, "let him stand up that he may
be noted as an enemy to the King's peace." The outraged Churchmen fell back
on an untenable plea that their aid was due solely to Rome, and alleged the
bull of "Clericis Laicos," issued by Boniface the Eighth at this moment, a
bull which forbade the clergy to pay secular taxes from their
ecclesiastical revenues, as a ground for refusing to comply with further
taxation. In 1297 Archbishop Winchelsey refused on the ground of this bull
to make any grant, and Edward met his refusal by a general outlawry of the
whole order. The King's Courts were closed, and all justice denied to those
who refused the king aid. By their actual plea the clergy had put
themselves formally in the wrong, and the outlawry soon forced them to
submission; but their aid did little to recruit the exhausted treasury. The
pressure of the war steadily increased, and far wider measures of arbitrary
taxation were needful to equip an expedition which Edward prepared to lead
in person to Flanders. The country gentlemen were compelled to take up
knighthood or to compound for exemption from the burthensome honour, and
forced contributions of cattle and corn were demanded from the counties.
Edward no doubt purposed to pay honestly for these supplies, but his
exactions from the merchant class rested on a deliberate theory of his
royal rights. He looked on the customs as levied absolutely at his
pleasure, and the export duty on wool--now the staple produce of the
country--was raised to six times its former amount. Although he infringed
no positive provision of charter or statute in his action, it was plain
that his course really undid all that had been gained by the Barons' war.
But the blow had no sooner been struck than Edward found stout resistance
within his realm. The barons drew together and called a meeting for the
redress of their grievances. The two greatest of the English nobles,
Humfrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk,
placed themselves at the head of the opposition. The first was Constable,
the second Earl Marshal, and Edward bade them lead a force to Gascony as
his lieutenants while he himself sailed to Flanders. Their departure would
have left the Baronage without leaders, and the two earls availed
themselves of a plea that they were not bound to foreign service save in
attendance on the king to refuse obedience to the royal orders. "By God,
Sir Earl," swore the king to the Earl Marshal, "you shall either go or
hang!" "By God, Sir King," was the cool reply, "I will neither go nor
hang!" Both parties separated in bitter anger; the king to seize fresh
wool, to outlaw the clergy, and to call an army to his aid; the barons to
gather in arms, backed by the excommunication of the Primate. But the
strife went no further than words. Ere the Parliament he had convened could
meet, Edward had discovered his own powerlessness; Winchelsey offered his
mediation; and Edward confirmed the Great Charter and the Charter of
Forests as the price of a grant from the clergy and a subsidy from the
Commons. With one of those sudden revulsions of feeling of which his nature
was capable the king stood before his people in Westminster Hall and owned
with a burst of tears that he had taken their substance without due warrant
of law. His passionate appeal to their loyalty wrested a reluctant assent
to the prosecution, of the war, and in August Edward sailed for Flanders,
leaving his son regent of the realm. But the crisis had taught the need of
further securities against the royal power, and as Edward was about to
embark the barons demanded his acceptance of additional articles to the
Charter, expressly renouncing his right of taxing the nation without its
own consent. The king sailed without complying, but Winchelsey joined the
two earls and the citizens of London in forbidding any levy of supplies
till the Great Charter with these clauses was again confirmed, and the
trouble in Scotland as well as the still pending strife with France left
Edward helpless in the barons' hands. The Great Charter and the Charter of
the Forests were solemnly confirmed by him at Ghent in November; and formal
pardon was issued to the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk.


[Sidenote: Revolt of Scotland]

The confirmation of the Charter, the renunciation of any right to the
exactions by which the people were aggrieved, the pledge that the king
would no more take "such aids, tasks, and prizes but by common assent of
the realm," the promise not to impose on wool any heavy customs or
"maltôte" without the same assent, was the close of the great struggle
which had begun at Runnymede. The clauses so soon removed from the Great
Charter were now restored; and, evade them as they might, the kings were
never able to free themselves from the obligation to seek aid solely from
the general consent of their subjects. It was Scotland which had won this
victory for English freedom. At the moment when Edward and the earls stood
face to face the king saw his work in the north suddenly undone. Both the
justice and injustice of the new rule proved fatal to it. The wrath of the
Scots, already kindled by the intrusion of English priests into Scotch
livings and by the grant of lands across the border to English barons, was
fanned to fury by the strict administration of law and the repression of
feuds and cattle-lifting. The disbanding too of troops, which was caused by
the penury of the royal exchequer, united with the licence of the soldiery
who remained to quicken the national sense of wrong. The disgraceful
submission of their leaders brought the people themselves to the front. In
spite of a hundred years of peace the farmer of Fife or the Lowlands and
the artizan of the towns remained stout-hearted Northumbrian Englishmen.
They had never consented to Edward's supremacy, and their blood rose
against the insolent rule of the stranger. The genius of an outlaw knight,
William Wallace, saw in their smouldering discontent a hope of freedom for
his country, and his daring raids on outlying parties of the English
soldiery roused the country at last into revolt.


[Sidenote: Wallace]

Of Wallace himself, of his life or temper, we know little or nothing; the
very traditions of his gigantic stature and enormous strength are dim and
unhistorical. But the instinct of the Scotch people has guided it aright in
choosing him for its national hero. He was the first to assert freedom as a
national birthright, and amidst the despair of nobles and priests to call
the people itself to arms. At the head of an army drawn principally from
the coast districts north of the Tay, which were inhabited by a population
of the same blood as that of the Lowlands, Wallace in September 1297
encamped near Stirling, the pass between the north and the south, and
awaited the English advance. It was here that he was found by the English
army. The offers of John of Warenne were scornfully rejected: "We have
come," said the Scottish leader, "not to make peace, but to free our
country." The position of Wallace behind a loop of Forth was in fact chosen
with consummate skill. The one bridge which crossed the river was only
broad enough to admit two horsemen abreast; and though the English army had
been passing from daybreak but half its force was across at noon when
Wallace closed on it and cut it after a short combat to pieces in sight of
its comrades. The retreat of the Earl of Surrey over the border left
Wallace head of the country he had freed, and for a few months he acted as
"Guardian of the Realm" in Balliol's name, and headed a wild foray into
Northumberland in which the barbarous cruelties of his men left a bitter
hatred behind them which was to wreak its vengeance in the later bloodshed
of the war. His reduction of Stirling Castle at last called Edward to the
field. In the spring of 1298 the king's diplomacy had at last wrung a truce
for two years from Philip the Fair; and he at once returned to England to
face the troubles in Scotland. Marching northward with a larger host than
had ever followed his banner, he was enabled by treachery to surprise
Wallace as he fell back to avoid an engagement, and to force him on the
twenty-second of July to battle near Falkirk. The Scotch force consisted
almost wholly of foot, and Wallace drew up his spearmen in four great
hollow circles or squares, the outer ranks kneeling and the whole supported
by bowmen within, while a small force of horse were drawn up as a reserve
in the rear. It was the formation of Waterloo, the first appearance in our
history since the day of Senlac of "that unconquerable British infantry"
before which chivalry was destined to go down. For a moment it had all
Waterloo's success. "I have brought you to the ring, hop (dance) if you
can," are words of rough humour that reveal the very soul of the patriot
leader, and the serried ranks answered well to his appeal. The Bishop of
Durham who led the English van shrank wisely from the look of the squares.
"Back to your mass, Bishop," shouted the reckless knights behind him, but
the body of horse dashed itself vainly on the wall of spears. Terror spread
through the English army, and its Welsh auxiliaries drew off in a body from
the field. But the generalship of Wallace was met by that of the king.
Drawing his bowmen to the front, Edward riddled the Scottish ranks with
arrows and then hurled his cavalry afresh on the wavering line. In a moment
all was over, the maddened knights rode in and out of the broken ranks,
slaying without mercy. Thousands fell on the field, and Wallace himself
escaped with difficulty, followed by a handful of men.


[Sidenote: Second Conquest of Scotland]

But ruined as the cause of freedom seemed, his work was done. He had roused
Scotland into life, and even a defeat like Falkirk left her unconquered.
Edward remained master only of the ground he stood on: want of supplies
forced him at last to retreat; and in the summer of the following year,
1299, when Balliol, released from his English prison, withdrew into France,
a regency of the Scotch nobles under Robert Bruce and John Comyn continued
the struggle for independence. Troubles at home and danger from abroad
stayed Edward's hand. The barons still distrusted his sincerity, and though
at their demand he renewed the Confirmation in the spring of 1299, his
attempt to add an evasive clause saving the right of the Crown proved the
justice of their distrust. In spite of a fresh and unconditional renewal of
it a strife over the Forest Charter went on till the opening of 1301 when a
new gathering of the barons in arms with the support of Archbishop
Winchelsey wrested from him its full execution. What aided freedom within
was as of old the peril without. France was still menacing, and a claim
advanced by Pope Boniface the Eighth at its suggestion to the feudal
superiority over Scotland arrested a new advance of the king across the
border. A quarrel however which broke out between Philip le Bel and the
Papacy removed all obstacles. It enabled Edward to defy Boniface and to
wring from France a treaty in which Scotland was abandoned. In 1304 he
resumed the work of invasion, and again the nobles flung down their arms as
he marched to the North. Comyn, at the head of the Regency, acknowledged
his sovereignty, and the surrender of Stirling completed the conquest of
Scotland. But the triumph of Edward was only the prelude to the carrying
out of his designs for knitting the two countries together by a generosity
and wisdom which reveal the greatness of his statesmanship. A general
amnesty was extended to all who had shared in the resistance. Wallace, who
refused to avail himself of Edward's mercy, was captured and condemned to
death at Westminster on charges of treason, sacrilege, and robbery. The
head of the great patriot, crowned in mockery with a circlet of laurel, was
placed upon London Bridge. But the execution of Wallace was the one blot on
Edward's clemency. With a masterly boldness he entrusted the government of
the country to a council of Scotch nobles, many of whom were freshly
pardoned for their share in the war, and anticipated the policy of Cromwell
by allotting ten representatives to Scotland in the Common Parliament of
his realm. A Convocation was summoned at Perth for the election of these
representatives, and a great judicial scheme which was promulgated in this
assembly adopted the amended laws of King David as the base of a new
legislation, and divided the country for judicial purposes into four
districts, Lothian, Galloway, the Highlands, and the land between the
Highlands and the Forth, at the head of each of which were placed two
justiciaries, the one English and the other Scotch.


[Sidenote: Rising of Bruce]

With the conquest and settlement of Scotland the glory of Edward seemed
again complete. The bitterness of his humiliation at home indeed still
preyed upon him, and in measure after measure we see his purpose of
renewing the strife with the baronage. In 1303 he found a means of evading
his pledge to levy no new taxes on merchandise save by assent of the realm
in a consent of the foreign merchants, whether procured by royal pressure
or no, to purchase by stated payments certain privileges of trading. In
this "New Custom" lay the origin of our import duties. A formal absolution
from his promises which he obtained from Pope Clement the Fifth in 1305
showed that he looked on his triumph in the North as enabling him to reopen
the questions which he had yielded. But again Scotland stayed his hand.
Only four months had passed since its submission, and he was preparing for
a joint Parliament of the two nations at Carlisle, when the conquered
country suddenly sprang again to arms. Its new leader was Robert Bruce, a
grandson of one of the original claimants of the crown. The Norman house of
Bruce formed a part of the Yorkshire baronage, but it had acquired through
intermarriages the Earldom of Carrick and the Lordship of Annandale. Both
the claimant and his son had been pretty steadily on the English side in
the contest with Balliol and Wallace, and Robert had himself been trained
in the English court and stood high in the king's favour. But the
withdrawal of Balliol gave a new force to his claims upon the crown, and
the discovery of an intrigue which he had set on foot with the Bishop of
St. Andrews so roused Edward's jealousy that Bruce fled for his life across
the border. Early in 1306 he met Comyn, the Lord of Badenoch, to whose
treachery he attributed the disclosure of his plans, in the church of the
Grey Friars at Dumfries, and after the interchange of a few hot words
struck him with his dagger to the ground. It was an outrage that admitted
of no forgiveness, and Bruce for very safety was forced to assume the crown
six weeks after in the Abbey of Scone. The news roused Scotland again to
arms, and summoned Edward to a fresh contest with his unconquerable foe.
But the murder of Comyn had changed the king's mood to a terrible
pitilessness. He threatened death against all concerned in the outrage, and
exposed the Countess of Buchan, who had set the crown on Bruce's head, in a
cage or open chamber built for the purpose in one of the towers of Berwick.
At the solemn feast which celebrated his son's knighthood Edward vowed on
the swan which formed the chief dish at the banquet to devote the rest of
his days to exact vengeance from the murderer himself. But even at the
moment of the vow Bruce was already flying for his life to the western
islands. "Henceforth" he said to his wife at their coronation "thou art
Queen of Scotland and I King." "I fear" replied Mary Bruce "we are only
playing at royalty like children in their games." The play was soon turned
into bitter earnest. A small English force under Aymer de Valence sufficed
to rout the disorderly levies which gathered round the new monarch, and the
flight of Bruce left his followers at Edward's mercy. Noble after noble was
sent to the block. The Earl of Athole pleaded kindred with royalty. "His
only privilege," burst forth the king, "shall be that of being hanged on a
higher gallows than the rest." Knights and priests were strung up side by
side by the English justiciaries; while the wife and daughters of Robert
Bruce were flung into Edward's prisons. Bruce himself had offered to
capitulate to Prince Edward. But the offer only roused the old king to
fury. "Who is so bold," he cried, "as to treat with our traitors without
our knowledge?" and rising from his sick-bed he led his army northwards in
the summer of 1307 to complete the conquest. But the hand of death was upon
him, and in the very sight of Scotland the old man breathed his last at
Burgh-upon-Sands.



BOOK IV
THE PARLIAMENT
1307-1461


AUTHORITIES FOR BOOK IV


For Edward the Second we have three important contemporaries: Thomas de la
More, Trokelowe's Annals, and the life by a monk of Malmesbury printed by
Hearne. The sympathies of the first are with the King, those of the last
two with the Barons. Murimuth's short Chronicle is also contemporary. John
Barbour's "Bruce," the great legendary storehouse for his hero's
adventures, is historically worthless.

Important as it is, the reign of Edward the Third is by no means fortunate
in its annalists. The concluding part of the Chronicle of Walter of
Hemingford or Heminburgh seems to have been jotted down as news of the
passing events reached its author: it ends at the battle of Crécy. Hearne
has published another contemporary account, that of Robert of Avesbury,
which closes in 1356. A third account by Knyghton, a canon of Leicester,
will be found in the collection of Twysden. At the end of this century and
the beginning of the next the annals which had been carried on in the Abbey
of St. Albans were thrown together by Walsingham in the "Historia
Anglicana" which bears his name, a compilation whose history may be found
in the prefaces to the "Chronica Monasterii S. Albani" issued in the Rolls
Series. An anonymous chronicler whose work is printed in the 22nd volume of
the "Archæologia" has given us the story of the Good Parliament, another
account is preserved in the "Chronica Angliæ from 1328 to 1388," published
in the Rolls Series, and fresh light has been recently thrown on the time
by the publication of a Chronicle by Adam of Usk which extends from 1377 to
1404. Fortunately the scantiness of historical narrative is compensated by
the growing fulness and abundance of our State papers. Rymer's Foedera is
rich in diplomatic and other documents for this period, and from this time
we have a storehouse of political and social information in the
Parliamentary Rolls.

For the French war itself our primary authority is the Chronicle of Jehan
le Bel, a canon of the church of St. Lambert of Liége, who himself served
in Edward's campaign against the Scots and spent the rest of his life at
the court of John of Hainault. Up to the Treaty of Brétigny, where it
closes, Froissart has done little more than copy this work, making however
large additions from his own enquiries, especially in the Flemish and
Breton campaigns and in the account of Crécy. Froissart was himself a
Hainaulter of Valenciennes; he held a post in Queen Philippa's household
from 1361 to 1369, and under this influence produced in 1373 the first
edition of his well-known Chronicle. A later edition is far less English in
tone, and a third version, begun by him in his old age after long absence
from England, is distinctly French in its sympathies. Froissart's vivacity
and picturesqueness blind us to the inaccuracy of his details; as an
historical authority he is of little value. The "Fasciculi Zizaniorum" in
the Rolls Series with the documents appended to it is a work of primary
authority for the history of Wyclif and his followers: a selection from his
English tracts has been made by Mr. T. Arnold for the University of Oxford,
which has also published his "Trias." The version of the Bible that bears
his name has been edited with a valuable preface by the Rev. J. Forshall
and Sir F. Madden. William Langland's poem, "The Complaint of Piers the
Ploughman" (edited by Mr. Skeat for the Early English Text Society), throws
a flood of light on the social state of England after the Treaty of
Brétigny.

The "Annals of Richard the Second and Henry the Fourth," now published by
the Master of the Rolls, are our main authority for the period which
follows Edward's death. They serve as the basis of the St. Albans
compilation which bears the name of Walsingham, and from which the "Life of
Richard" by a monk of Evesham is for the most part derived. The same
violent Lancastrian sympathy runs through Walsingham and the fifth book of
Knyghton's Chronicle. The French authorities on the other hand are
vehemently on Richard's side. Froissart, who ends at this time, is
supplemented by the metrical history of Creton ("Archæologia," vol. xx.),
and by the "Chronique de la Traison et Mort de Richart" (English Historical
Society), both works of French authors and published in France in the time
of Henry the Fourth, probably with the aim of arousing French feeling
against the House of Lancaster and the war-policy which it had revived. The
popular feeling in England may be seen in "Political Songs from Edward III.
to Richard III." (Rolls Series). A poem on "The Deposition of Richard II."
which has been published by the Camden Society is now ascribed to William
Langland.

With Henry the Fifth our historic materials become more abundant. We have
the "Gesta Henrici Quinti" by Titus Livius, a chaplain in the royal army; a
life by Elmham, prior of Lenton, simpler in style but identical in
arrangement and facts with the former work; a biography by Robert Redman; a
metrical chronicle by Elmham (published in Rolls Series in "Memorials of
Henry the Fifth"); and the meagre chronicles of Hardyng and Otterbourne.
The King's Norman campaigns may be studied in M. Puiseux's "Siége de Rouen"
(Caen, 1867). The "Wars of the English in France" and Blondel's work "De
Reductione Normanniæ" (both in Rolls Series) give ample information on the
military side of this and the next reign. But with the accession of Henry
the Sixth we again enter on a period of singular dearth in its historical
authorities. The "Procès de Jeanne d'Arc" (published by the Société de
l'Histoire de France) is the only real authority for her history. For
English affairs we are reduced to the meagre accounts of William of
Worcester, of the Continuator of the Crowland Chronicle, and of Fabyan.
Fabyan is a London alderman with a strong bias in favour of the House of
Lancaster, and his work is useful for London only. The Continuator is one
of the best of his class; and though connected with the house of York, the
date of his work, which appeared soon after Bosworth Field, makes him
fairly impartial; but he is sketchy and deficient in information. The more
copious narrative of Polydore Vergil is far superior to these in literary
ability, but of later date, and strongly Lancastrian in tone. For the
struggle between Edward and Warwick, the valuable narrative of "The Arrival
of Edward the Fourth" (Camden Society) may be taken as the official account
on the royal side. The Paston Letters are the first instance in English
history of a family correspondence, and throw great light on the social
condition of the time.



CHAPTER I
EDWARD II
1307-1327



[Sidenote: Parliament and the Kings]

In his calling together the estates of the realm Edward the First
determined the course of English history. From the first moment of its
appearance the Parliament became the centre of English affairs. The hundred
years indeed which follow its assembly at Westminster saw its rise into a
power which checked and overawed the Crown.

Of the kings in whose reigns the Parliament gathered this mighty strength
not one was likely to look with indifference on the growth of a rival
authority, and the bulk of them were men who in other times would have
roughly checked it. What held their hand was the need of the Crown. The
century and a half that followed the gathering of the estates at
Westminster was a time of almost continual war, and of the financial
pressure that springs from war. It was indeed war that had gathered them.
In calling his Parliament Edward the First sought mainly an effective means
of procuring supplies for that policy of national consolidation which had
triumphed in Wales and which seemed to be triumphing in Scotland. But the
triumph in Scotland soon proved a delusive one, and the strife brought
wider strifes in its train. When Edward wrung from Balliol an
acknowledgement of his suzerainty he foresaw little of the war with France,
the war with Spain, the quarrel with the Papacy, the upgrowth of social, of
political, of religious revolution within England itself, of which that
acknowledgement was to be the prelude. But the thicker troubles gathered
round England the more the royal treasury was drained, and now that
arbitrary taxation was impossible the one means of filling it lay in a
summons of the Houses. The Crown was chained to the Parliament by a tie of
absolute need. From the first moment of parliamentary existence the life
and power of the estates assembled at Westminster hung on the question of
supplies. So long as war went on no ruler could dispense with the grants
which fed the war and which Parliament alone could afford. But it was
impossible to procure supplies save by redressing the grievances of which
Parliament complained and by granting the powers which Parliament demanded.
It was in vain that king after king, conscious that war bound them to the
Parliament, strove to rid themselves of the war. So far was the ambition of
our rulers from being the cause of the long struggle that, save in the one
case of Henry the Fifth, the desperate effort of every ruler was to arrive
at peace. Forced as they were to fight, their restless diplomacy strove to
draw from victory as from defeat a means of escape from the strife that was
enslaving the Crown. The royal Council, the royal favourites, were always
on the side of peace. But fortunately for English freedom peace was
impossible. The pride of the English people, the greed of France, foiled
every attempt at accommodation. The wisest ministers sacrificed themselves
in vain. King after king patched up truces which never grew into treaties,
and concluded marriages which brought fresh discord instead of peace. War
went ceaselessly on, and with the march of war went on the ceaseless growth
of the Parliament.


[Sidenote: Robert Bruce]

The death of Edward the First arrested only for a moment the advance of his
army to the north. The Earl of Pembroke led it across the border, and found
himself master of the country without a blow. Bruce's career became that of
a desperate adventurer, for even the Highland chiefs in whose fastnesses he
found shelter were bitterly hostile to one who claimed to be king of their
foes in the Lowlands. It was this adversity that transformed the murderer
of Comyn into the noble leader of a nation's cause. Strong and of
commanding presence, brave and genial in temper, Bruce bore the hardships
of his career with a courage and hopefulness that never failed. In the
legends that clustered round his name we see him listening in Highland
glens to the bay of the bloodhounds on his track, or holding a pass
single-handed against a crowd of savage clansmen. Sometimes the small band
which clung to him were forced to support themselves by hunting and
fishing, sometimes to break up for safety as their enemies tracked them to
their lair. Bruce himself had more than once to fling off his coat-of-mail
and scramble barefoot for very life up the crags. Little by little,
however, the dark sky cleared. The English pressure relaxed. James Douglas,
the darling of Scottish story, was the first of the Lowland Barons to rally
to the Bruce, and his daring gave heart to the king's cause. Once he
surprised his own house, which had been given to an Englishman, ate the
dinner which was prepared for its new owner, slew his captives, and tossed
their bodies on to a pile of wood at the castle gate. Then he staved in the
wine-vats that the wine might mingle with their blood, and set house and
wood-pile on fire.


[Sidenote: Edward the Second]

A ferocity like this degraded everywhere the work of freedom; but the
revival of the country went steadily on. Pembroke and the English forces
were in fact paralyzed by a strife which had broken out in England between
the new king and his baronage. The moral purpose which had raised his
father to grandeur was wholly wanting in Edward the Second; he was showy,
idle, and stubborn in temper; but he was far from being destitute of the
intellectual quickness which seemed inborn in the Plantagenets. He had no
love for his father, but he had seen him in the later years of his reign
struggling against the pressure of the baronage, evading his pledges as to
taxation, and procuring absolution from his promise to observe the clauses
added to the Charter. The son's purpose was the same, that of throwing off
what he looked on as the yoke of the baronage; but the means by which he
designed to bring about his purpose was the choice of a minister wholly
dependent on the Crown. We have already noticed the change by which the
"clerks of the King's chapel," who had been the ministers of arbitrary
government under the Norman and Angevin sovereigns, had been quietly
superseded by the prelates and lords of the Continual Council. At the close
of the late reign a direct demand on the part of the barons to nominate the
great officers of state had been curtly rejected, but the royal choice had
been practically limited in the selection of its ministers to the class of
prelates and nobles, and however closely connected with royalty they might
be such officers always to a great extent shared the feelings and opinions
of their order. The aim of the young king seems to have been to undo the
change which had been silently brought about, and to imitate the policy of
the contemporary sovereigns of France by choosing as his ministers men of
an inferior position, wholly dependent on the Crown for their power, and
representatives of nothing but the policy and interests of their master.
Piers Gaveston, a foreigner sprung from a family of Guienne, had been his
friend and companion during his father's reign, at the close of which he
had been banished from the realm for his share in intrigues which divided
Edward from his son. At the accession of the new king he was at once
recalled, created Earl of Cornwall, and placed at the head of the
administration. When Edward crossed the sea to wed Isabella of France, the
daughter of Philip the Fair, a marriage planned by his father to provide
against any further intervention of France in his difficulties with
Scotland, the new minister was left as Regent in his room. The offence
given by this rapid promotion was embittered by his personal temper. Gay,
genial, thriftless, Gaveston showed in his first acts the quickness and
audacity of Southern Gaul. The older ministers were dismissed, all claims
of precedence or inheritance were set aside in the distribution of offices
at the coronation, while taunts and defiances goaded the proud baronage to
fury. The favourite was a fine soldier, and his lance unhorsed his
opponents in tourney after tourney. His reckless wit flung nicknames about
the Court, the Earl of Lancaster was "the Actor," Pembroke "the Jew,"
Warwick "the Black Dog." But taunt and defiance broke helplessly against
the iron mass of the baronage. After a few months of power the formal
demand of the Parliament for his dismissal could not be resisted, and in
May 1308 Gaveston was formally banished from the realm.


[Sidenote: Thomas of Lancaster]

But Edward was far from abandoning his favourite. In Ireland he was
unfettered by the baronage, and here Gaveston found a refuge as the King's
Lieutenant while Edward sought to obtain his recall by the intervention of
France and the Papacy. But the financial pressure of the Scotch war again
brought the king and his Parliament together in the spring of 1309. It was
only by conceding the rights which his father had sought to establish of
imposing import duties on the merchants by their own assent that he
procured a subsidy. The firmness of the baronage sprang from their having
found a head. In no point had the policy of Henry the Third more utterly
broken down than in his attempt to weaken the power of the nobles by
filling the great earldoms with kinsmen of the royal house. He had made
Simon of Montfort his brother-in-law only to furnish a leader to the nation
in the Barons' war. In loading his second son, Edmund Crouchback, with
honours and estates he raised a family to greatness which overawed the
Crown. Edmund had been created Earl of Lancaster; after Evesham he had
received the forfeited Earldom of Leicester; he had been made Earl of Derby
on the extinction of the house of Ferrers. His son, Thomas of Lancaster,
was the son-in-law of Henry de Lacy, and was soon to add to these lordships
the Earldom of Lincoln. And to the weight of these great baronies was added
his royal blood. The father of Thomas had been a titular king of Sicily.
His mother was dowager queen of Navarre. His half-sister by the mother's
side was wife of the French king Philip le Bel and mother of the English
queen Isabella. He was himself a grandson of Henry the Third and not far
from the succession to the throne. Had Earl Thomas been a wiser and a
nobler man, his adhesion to the cause of the baronage might have guided the
king into a really national policy. As it was his weight proved
irresistible. When Edward at the close of the Parliament recalled Gaveston
the Earl of Lancaster withdrew from the royal Council, and a Parliament
which met in the spring of 1310 resolved that the affairs of the realm
should be entrusted for a year to a body of twenty-one "Ordainers" with
Archbishop Winchelsey at their head.


[Sidenote: Edward and the Ordainers]

Edward with Gaveston withdrew sullenly to the North. A triumph in Scotland
would have given him strength to baffle the Ordainers, but he had little of
his father's military skill, the wasted country made it hard to keep an
army together, and after a fruitless campaign he fell back to his southern
realm to meet the Parliament of 1311 and the "Ordinances" which the
twenty-one laid before it. By this long and important statute Gaveston was
banished, other advisers were driven from the Council, and the Florentine
bankers whose loans had enabled Edward to hold the baronage at bay sent out
of the realm. The customs duties imposed by Edward the First were declared
to be illegal. Its administrative provisions showed the relations which the
barons sought to establish between the new Parliament and the Crown.
Parliaments were to be called every year, and in these assemblies the
king's servants were to be brought, if need were, to justice. The great
officers of state were to be appointed with the counsel and consent of the
baronage, and to be sworn in Parliament. The same consent of the barons in
Parliament was to be needful ere the king could declare war or absent
himself from the realm. As the Ordinances show, the baronage still looked
on Parliament rather as a political organization of the nobles than as a
gathering of the three Estates of the realm. The lower clergy pass
unnoticed; the Commons are regarded as mere taxpayers whose part was still
confined to the presentation of petitions of grievances and the grant of
money. But even in this imperfect fashion the Parliament was a real
representation of the country. The barons no longer depended for their
force on the rise of some active leader, or gathered in exceptional
assemblies to wrest reforms from the Crown by threat of war. Their action
was made regular and legal. Even if the Commons took little part in forming
decisions, their force when formed hung on the assent of the knights and
burgesses to them; and the grant which alone could purchase from the Crown
the concessions which the Baronage demanded lay absolutely within the
control of the Third Estate. It was this which made the king's struggles so
fruitless. He assented to the Ordinances, and then withdrawing to the North
recalled Gaveston and annulled them. But Winchelsey excommunicated the
favourite, and the barons, gathering in arms, besieged him in Scarborough.
His surrender in May 1312 ended the strife. The "Black Dog" of Warwick had
sworn that the favourite should feel his teeth; and Gaveston flung himself
in vain at the feet of the Earl of Lancaster, praying for pity "from his
gentle lord." In defiance of the terms of his capitulation he was beheaded
on Blacklow Hill.


[Sidenote: Bannockburn]

The king's burst of grief was as fruitless as his threats of vengeance; a
feigned submission of the conquerors completed the royal humiliation, and
the barons knelt before Edward in Westminster Hall to receive a pardon
which seemed the deathblow of the royal power. But if Edward was powerless
to conquer the baronage he could still by evading the observance of the
Ordinances throw the whole realm into confusion. The two years that follow
Gaveston's death are among the darkest in our history. A terrible
succession of famines intensified the suffering which sprang from the utter
absence of all rule as dissension raged between the barons and the king. At
last a common peril drew both parties together. The Scots had profited by
the English troubles, and Bruce's "harrying of Buchan" after his defeat of
its Earl, who had joined the English army, fairly turned the tide of
success in his favour. Edinburgh, Roxburgh, Perth, and most of the Scotch
fortresses fell one by one into King Robert's hands. The clergy met in
council and owned him as their lawful lord. Gradually the Scotch barons who
still held to the English cause were coerced into submission, and Bruce
found himself strong enough to invest Stirling, the last and the most
important of the Scotch fortresses which held out for Edward. Stirling was
in fact the key of Scotland, and its danger roused England out of its civil
strife to an effort for the recovery of its prey. At the close of 1313
Edward recognized the Ordinances, and a liberal grant from the Parliament
enabled him to take the field. Lancaster indeed still held aloof on the
ground that the king had not sought the assent of Parliament to the war,
but thirty thousand men followed Edward to the North, and a host of wild
marauders were summoned from Ireland and Wales. The army which Bruce
gathered to oppose this inroad was formed almost wholly of footmen, and was
stationed to the south of Stirling on a rising ground flanked by a little
brook, the Bannockburn, which gave its name to the engagement. The battle
took place on the twenty-fourth of June 1314. Again two systems of warfare
were brought face to face as they had been brought at Falkirk, for Robert
like Wallace drew up his forces in hollow squares or circles of spearmen.
The English were dispirited at the very outset by the failure of an attempt
to relieve Stirling and by the issue of a single combat between Bruce and
Henry de Bohun, a knight who bore down upon him as he was riding peacefully
along the front of his army. Robert was mounted on a small hackney and held
only a light battle-axe in his hand, but warding off his opponent's spear
he cleft his skull with so terrible a blow that the handle of his axe was
shattered in his grasp. At the opening of the battle the English archers
were thrown forward to rake the Scottish squares, but they were without
support and were easily dispersed by a handful of horse whom Bruce held in
reserve for the purpose. The body of men-at-arms next flung themselves on
the Scottish front, but their charge was embarrassed by the narrow space
along which the line was forced to move, and the steady resistance of the
squares soon threw the knighthood into disorder. "The horses that were
stickit," says an exulting Scotch writer, "rushed and reeled right rudely."
In the moment of failure the sight of a body of camp-followers, whom they
mistook for reinforcements to the enemy, spread panic through the English
host. It broke in a headlong rout. Its thousands of brilliant horsemen were
soon floundering in pits which guarded the level ground to Bruce's left, or
riding in wild haste for the border. Few however were fortunate enough to
reach it. Edward himself, with a body of five hundred knights, succeeded in
escaping to Dunbar and the sea. But the flower of his knighthood fell into
the hands of the victors, while the Irishry and the footmen were ruthlessly
cut down by the country folk as they fled. For centuries to come the rich
plunder of the English camp left its traces on the treasure-rolls and the
vestment-rolls of castle and abbey throughout the Lowlands.


[Sidenote: Fall of Lancaster]

Bannockburn left Bruce the master of Scotland: but terrible as the blow was
England could not humble herself to relinquish her claim on the Scottish
crown. Edward was eager indeed for a truce, but with equal firmness Bruce
refused all negotiation while the royal title was withheld from him and
steadily pushed on the recovery of his southern dominions. His progress was
unhindered. Bannockburn left Edward powerless, and Lancaster at the head of
the Ordainers became supreme. But it was still impossible to trust the king
or to act with him, and in the dead-lock of both parties the Scots
plundered as they would. Their ravages in the North brought shame on
England such as it had never known. At last Bruce's capture of Berwick in
the spring of 1318 forced the king to give way. The Ordinances were
formally accepted, an amnesty granted, and a small number of peers
belonging to the barons' party added to the great officers of state. Had a
statesman been at the head of the baronage the weakness of Edward might
have now been turned to good purpose. But the character of the Earl of
Lancaster seems to have fallen far beneath the greatness of his position.
Distrustful of his cousin, yet himself incapable of governing, he stood
sullenly aloof from the royal Council and the royal armies, and Edward was
able to lay his failure in recovering Berwick during the campaign of 1319
to the Earl's charge. His influence over the country was sensibly weakened;
and in this weakness the new advisers on whom the king was leaning saw a
hope of destroying his power. These were a younger and elder Hugh Le
Despenser, son and grandson of the Justiciar who had fallen beside Earl
Simon at Evesham. Greedy and ambitious as they may have been, they were
able men, and their policy was of a higher stamp than the wilful defiance
of Gaveston. It lay, if we may gather it from the faint indications which
remain, in a frank recognition of the power of the three Estates as opposed
to the separate action of the baronage. The rise of the younger Hugh, on
whom the king bestowed the county of Glamorgan with the hand of one of its
coheiresses, a daughter of Earl Gilbert of Gloucester, was rapid enough to
excite general jealousy; and in 1321 Lancaster found little difficulty in
extorting by force of arms his exile from the kingdom. But the tide of
popular sympathy was already wavering, and it was turned to the royal cause
by an insult offered to the queen, against whom Lady Badlesmere closed the
doors of Ledes Castle. The unexpected energy shown by Edward in avenging
this insult gave fresh strength to his cause. At the opening of 1322 he
found himself strong enough to recall Despenser, and when Lancaster
convoked the baronage to force him again into exile, the weakness of their
party was shown by some negotiations into which the Earl entered with the
Scots and by his precipitate retreat to the north on the advance of the
royal army. At Boroughbridge his forces were arrested and dispersed, and
Thomas himself, brought captive before Edward at Pontefract, was tried and
condemned to death as a traitor. "Have mercy on me, King of Heaven," cried
Lancaster, as, mounted on a grey pony without a bridle, he was hurried to
execution, "for my earthly king has forsaken me." His death was followed by
that of a number of his adherents and by the captivity of others; while a
Parliament at York annulled the proceedings against the Despensers and
repealed the Ordinances.


[Sidenote: The Despensers]

It is to this Parliament however, and perhaps to the victorious confidence
of the royalists, that we owe the famous provision which reveals the policy
of the Despensers, the provision that all laws concerning "the estate of
our Lord the King and his heirs or for the estate of the realm and the
people shall be treated, accorded, and established in Parliaments by our
Lord the King and by the consent of the prelates, earls, barons, and
commonalty of the realm according as hath been hitherto accustomed." It
would seem from the tenor of this remarkable enactment that much of the
sudden revulsion of popular feeling had been owing to the assumption of all
legislative action by the baronage alone. The same policy was seen in a
reissue in the form of a royal Ordinance of some of the most beneficial
provisions of the Ordinances which had been formally repealed. But the
arrogance of the Despensers gave new offence; and the utter failure of a
fresh campaign against Scotland again weakened the Crown. The barbarous
forays in which the borderers under Earl Douglas were wasting
Northumberland woke a general indignation; and a grant from the Parliament
at York enabled Edward to march with a great army to the North. But Bruce
as of old declined an engagement till the wasted Lowlands starved the
invaders into a ruinous retreat. The failure forced England in the spring
of 1323 to stoop to a truce for thirteen years, in the negotiation of which
Bruce was suffered to take the royal title. We see in this act of the
Despensers the first of a series of such attempts by which minister after
minister strove to free the Crown from the bondage under which the
war-pressure laid it to the growing power of Parliament; but it ended, as
these after attempts ended, only in the ruin of the counsellors who planned
it. The pride of the country had been roused by the struggle, and the
humiliation of such a truce robbed the Crown of its temporary popularity.
It led the way to the sudden catastrophe which closed this disastrous
reign.


[Sidenote: Isabella]

In his struggle with the Scots Edward, like his father, had been hampered
not only by internal divisions but by the harassing intervention of France.
The rising under Bruce had been backed by French aid as well as by a
revival of the old quarrel over Guienne, and on the accession of Charles
the Fourth in 1322 a demand of homage for Ponthieu and Gascony called
Edward over sea. But the Despensers dared not let him quit the realm, and a
fresh dispute as to the right of possession in the Agénois brought about
the seizure of the bulk of Gascony by a sudden attack on the part of the
French. The quarrel verged upon open war, and to close it Edward's queen,
Isabella, a sister of the French king, undertook in 1325 to revisit her
home and bring about a treaty of peace between the two countries. Isabella
hated the Despensers; she was alienated from her husband; but hatred and
alienation were as yet jealously concealed. At the close of the year the
terms of peace seemed to be arranged; and though declining to cross the
sea, Edward evaded the difficulty created by the demand for personal homage
by investing his son with the Duchies of Aquitaine and Gascony, and
despatching him to join his mother at Paris. The boy did homage to King
Charles for the two Duchies, the question of the Agénois being reserved for
legal decision, and Edward at once recalled his wife and son to England.
Neither threats nor prayers however could induce either wife or child to
return to his court. Roger Mortimer, the most powerful of the Marcher
barons and a deadly foe to the Despensers, had taken refuge in France; and
his influence over the queen made her the centre of a vast conspiracy. With
the young Edward in her hands she was able to procure soldiers from the
Count of Hainault by promising her son's hand to his daughter; the Italian
bankers supplied funds; and after a year's preparation the Queen set sail
in the autumn of 1326. A secret conspiracy of the baronage was revealed
when the primate and nobles hurried to her standard on her landing at
Orwell. Deserted by all and repulsed by the citizens of London whose aid he
implored, the king fled hastily to the west and embarked with the
Despensers for Lundy Island, which Despenser had fortified as a possible
refuge; but contrary winds flung him again on the Welsh coast, where he
fell into the hands of Earl Henry of Lancaster, the brother of the Earl
whom they had slain. The younger Despenser, who accompanied him, was at
once hung on a gibbet fifty feet high, and the king placed in ward at
Kenilworth till his fate could be decided by a Parliament summoned for that
purpose at Westminster in January 1327.


[Sidenote: Deposition of Edward]

The peers who assembled fearlessly revived the constitutional usage of the
earlier English freedom, and asserted their right to depose a king who had
proved himself unworthy to rule. Not a voice was raised in Edward's behalf,
and only four prelates protested when the young Prince was proclaimed king
by acclamation and presented as their sovereign to the multitudes without.
The revolution took legal form in a bill which charged the captive monarch
with indolence, incapacity, the loss of Scotland, the violation of his
coronation oath and oppression of the Church and baronage; and on the
approval of this it was resolved that the reign of Edward of Caernarvon had
ceased and that the crown had passed to his son, Edward of Windsor. A
deputation of the Parliament proceeded to Kenilworth to procure the assent
of the discrowned king to his own deposition, and Edward "clad in a plain
black gown" bowed quietly to his fate. Sir William Trussel at once
addressed him in words which better than any other mark the nature of the
step which the Parliament had taken. "I, William Trussel, proctor of the
earls, barons, and others, having for this full and sufficient power, do
render and give back to you, Edward, once King of England, the homage and
fealty of the persons named in my procuracy; and acquit and discharge them
thereof in the best manner that law and custom will give. And I now make
protestation in their name that they will no longer be in your fealty and
allegiance, nor claim to hold anything of you as king, but will account you
hereafter as a private person, without any manner of royal dignity." A
significant act followed these emphatic words. Sir Thomas Blount, the
steward of the household, broke his staff of office, a ceremony used only
at a king's death, and declared that all persons engaged in the royal
service were discharged. The act of Blount was only an omen of the fate
which awaited the miserable king. In the following September he was
murdered in Berkeley Castle.



CHAPTER II
EDWARD THE THIRD
1327-1347



[Sidenote: Estate of the Commons]

The deposition of Edward the Second proclaimed to the world the power which
the English Parliament had gained. In thirty years from their first
assembly at Westminster the Estates had wrested from the Crown the last
relic of arbitrary taxation, had forced on it new ministers and a new
system of government, had claimed a right of confirming the choice of its
councillors and of punishing their misconduct, and had established the
principle that redress of grievances precedes a grant of supply. Nor had
the time been less important in the internal growth of Parliament. Step by
step the practical sense of the Houses themselves completed the work of
Edward by bringing about change after change in its composition. The very
division into a House of Lords and a House of Commons formed no part of the
original plan of Edward the First; in the earlier Parliaments each of the
four orders of clergy, barons, knights, and burgesses met, deliberated, and
made their grants apart from each other. This isolation however of the
Estates soon showed signs of breaking down. Though the clergy held steadily
aloof from any real union with its fellow-orders, the knights of the shire
were drawn by the similarity of their social position into a close
connexion with the lords. They seem in fact to have been soon admitted by
the baronage to an almost equal position with themselves, whether as
legislators or counsellors of the Crown. The burgesses on the other hand
took little part at first in Parliamentary proceedings, save in those which
related to the taxation of their class. But their position was raised by
the strifes of the reign of Edward the Second when their aid was needed by
the baronage in its struggle with the Crown; and their right to share fully
in all legislative action was asserted in the statute of 1322. From this
moment no proceedings can have been considered as formally legislative save
those conducted in full Parliament of all the estates. In subjects of
public policy however the barons were still regarded as the sole advisers
of the Crown, though the knights of the shire were sometimes consulted with
them. But the barons and knighthood were not fated to be drawn into a
single body whose weight would have given an aristocratic impress to the
constitution. Gradually, through causes with which we are imperfectly
acquainted, the knights of the shire drifted from their older connexion
with the baronage into so close and intimate a union with the
representatives of the towns that at the opening of the reign of Edward the
Third the two orders are found grouped formally together, under the name of
"The Commons." It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this
change. Had Parliament remained broken up into its four orders of clergy,
barons, knights, and citizens, its power would have been neutralized at
every great crisis by the jealousies and difficulty of co-operation among
its component parts. A permanent union of the knighthood and the baronage
on the other hand would have converted Parliament into the mere
representative of an aristocratic caste, and would have robbed it of the
strength which it has drawn from its connexion with the great body of the
commercial classes. The new attitude of the knighthood, their social
connexion as landed gentry with the baronage, their political union with
the burgesses, really welded the three orders into one, and gave that unity
of feeling and action to our Parliament on which its power has ever since
mainly depended.


[Sidenote: Scotch War]

The weight of the two Houses was seen in their settlement of the new
government by the nomination of a Council with Earl Henry of Lancaster at
its head. The Council had at once to meet fresh difficulties in the North.
The truce so recently made ceased legally with Edward's deposition; and the
withdrawal of his royal title in further offers of peace warned Bruce of
the new temper of the English rulers. Troops gathered on either side, and
the English Council sought to pave the way for an attack by dividing
Scotland against itself. Edward Balliol, a son of the former king John, was
solemnly received as a vassal-king of Scotland at the English court. Robert
was disabled by leprosy from taking the field in person, but the insult
roused him to hurl his marauders again over the border under Douglas and
Sir Thomas Randolph. The Scotch army has been painted for us by an
eye-witness whose description is embodied in the work of Jehan le Bel. "It
consisted of four thousand men-at-arms, knights, and esquires, well
mounted, besides twenty thousand men bold and hardy, armed after the manner
of their country, and mounted upon little hackneys that are never tied up
or dressed, but turned immediately after the day's march to pasture on the
heath or in the fields.... They bring no carriages with them on account of
the mountains they have to pass in Northumberland, neither do they carry
with them any provisions of bread or wine, for their habits of sobriety are
such in time of war that they will live for a long time on flesh
half-sodden without bread, and drink the river water without wine. They
have therefore no occasion for pots or pans, for they dress the flesh of
the cattle in their skins after they have flayed them, and being sure to
find plenty of them in the country which they invade they carry none with
them. Under the flaps of his saddle each man carries a broad piece of
metal, behind him a little bag of oatmeal: when they have eaten too much of
the sodden flesh and their stomach appears weak and empty, they set this
plate over the fire, knead the meal with water, and when the plate is hot
put a little of the paste upon it in a thin cake like a biscuit, which they
eat to warm their stomachs. It is therefore no wonder that they perform a
longer day's march than other soldiers." Though twenty thousand horsemen
and forty thousand foot marched under their boy-king to protect the border,
the English troops were utterly helpless against such a foe as this. At one
time the whole army lost its way in the border wastes: at another all
traces of the enemy disappeared, and an offer of knighthood and a hundred
marks was made to any who could tell where the Scots were encamped. But
when they were found their position behind the Wear proved unassailable,
and after a bold sally on the English camp Douglas foiled an attempt at
intercepting him by a clever retreat. The English levies broke hopelessly
up, and a fresh foray into Northumberland forced the English Court in 1328
to submit to peace. By the treaty of Northampton which was solemnly
confirmed by Parliament in September the independence of Scotland was
recognized, and Robert Bruce owned as its king. Edward formally abandoned
his claim of feudal superiority over Scotland; while Bruce promised to make
compensation for the damage done in the North, to marry his son David to
Edward's sister Joan, and to restore their forfeited estates to those
nobles who had sided with the English king.


[Sidenote: Fall of Mortimer]

But the pride of England had been too much roused by the struggle with the
Scots to bear this defeat easily, and the first result of the treaty of
Northampton was the overthrow of the government which concluded it. This
result was hastened by the pride of Roger Mortimer, who was now created
Earl of March, and who had made himself supreme through his influence over
Isabella and his exclusion of the rest of the nobles from all practical
share in the administration of the realm. The first efforts to shake
Roger's power were unsuccessful. The Earl of Lancaster stood, like his
brother, at the head of the baronage; the parliamentary settlement at
Edward's accession had placed him first in the royal Council; and it was to
him that the task of defying Mortimer naturally fell. At the close of 1328
therefore Earl Henry formed a league with the Archbishop of Canterbury and
with the young king's uncles, the Earls of Norfolk and Kent, to bring
Mortimer to account for the peace with Scotland and the usurpation of the
government as well as for the late king's murder, a murder which had been
the work of his private partizans and which had profoundly shocked the
general conscience. But the young king clave firmly to his mother, the
Earls of Norfolk and Kent deserted to Mortimer, and powerful as it seemed
the league broke up without result. A feeling of insecurity however spurred
the Earl of March to a bold stroke at his opponents. The Earl of Kent, who
was persuaded that his brother, Edward the Second, still lived a prisoner
in Corfe Castle, was arrested on a charge of conspiracy to restore him to
the throne, tried before a Parliament filled with Mortimer's adherents, and
sent to the block. But the death of a prince of the royal blood roused the
young king to resentment at the greed and arrogance of a minister who
treated Edward himself as little more than a state-prisoner. A few months
after his uncle's execution the king entered the Council chamber in
Nottingham Castle with a force which he had introduced through a secret
passage in the rock on which it stands, and arrested Mortimer with his own
hands. A Parliament which was at once summoned condemned the Earl of March
to a traitor's death, and in November 1330 he was beheaded at Tyburn, while
the queen-mother was sent for the rest of her life into confinement at
Castle Rising.


[Sidenote: Edward and France]

Young as he was, and he had only reached his eighteenth year, Edward at
once assumed the control of affairs. His first care was to restore good
order throughout the country, which under the late government had fallen
into ruin, and to free his hands by a peace with France for further
enterprises in the North. A formal peace had been concluded by Isabella
after her husband's fall; but the death of Charles the Fourth soon brought
about new jealousies between the two courts. The three sons of Philip the
Fair had followed him on the throne in succession, but all had now died
without male issue, and Isabella, as Philip's daughter, claimed the crown
for her son. The claim in any case was a hard one to make out. Though her
brothers had left no sons, they had left daughters, and if female
succession were admitted these daughters of Philip's sons would precede a
son of Philip's daughter. Isabella met this difficulty by a contention that
though females could transmit the right of succession they could not
themselves possess it, and that her son, as the nearest living male
descendant of Philip the Fair, and born in the lifetime of the king from
whom he claimed, could claim in preference to females who were related to
Philip in as near a degree. But the bulk of French jurists asserted that
only male succession gave right to the French throne. On such a theory the
right inheritable from Philip the Fair was exhausted; and the crown passed
to the son of Philip's younger brother, Charles of Valois, who in fact
peacefully mounted the throne as Philip the Sixth. Purely formal as the
claim which Isabella advanced seems to have been, it revived the irritation
between the two courts, and though Edward's obedience to a summons which
Philip addressed to him to do homage for Aquitaine brought about an
agreement that both parties should restore the gains they had made since
the last treaty the agreement was never carried out. Fresh threats of war
ended in the conclusion of a new treaty of peace, but the question whether
liege or simple homage was due for the duchies remained unsettled when the
fall of Mortimer gave the young king full mastery of affairs. His action
was rapid and decisive. Clad as a merchant, and with but fifteen horsemen
at his back, Edward suddenly made his appearance in 1331 at the French
court and did homage as fully as Philip required. The question of the
Agénois remained unsettled, though the English Parliament insisted that its
decision should rest with negotiation and not with war, but on all other
points a complete peace was made; and the young king rode back with his
hands free for an attack which he was planning on the North.


[Sidenote: New Scotch War]

The provisions of the Treaty of Northampton for the restitution of estates
had never been fully carried out. Till this was done the English court held
that the rights of feudal superiority over Scotland which it had yielded in
the treaty remained in force; and at this moment an opening seemed to
present itself for again asserting these rights with success. Fortune
seemed at last to have veered to the English side. The death of Robert
Bruce only a year after the Treaty of Northampton left the Scottish throne
to his son David, a child of but eight years old. The death of the king was
followed by the loss of Randolph and Douglas; and the internal difficulties
of the realm broke out in civil strife. To the great barons on either side
the border the late peace involved serious losses, for many of the Scotch
houses held large estates in England as many of the English lords held
large estates in Scotland, and although the treaty had provided for their
claims they had in each case been practically set aside. It is this
discontent of the barons at the new settlement which explains the sudden
success of Edward Balliol in a snatch which he made at the Scottish throne.
Balliol's design was known at the English court, where he had found shelter
for some years; and Edward, whether sincerely or no, forbade his barons
from joining him and posted troops on the border to hinder his crossing it.
But Balliol found little difficulty in making his attack by sea. He sailed
from England at the head of a body of nobles who claimed estates in the
North, landed in August 1332 on the shores of Fife, and after repulsing
with immense loss an army which attacked him near Perth was crowned at
Scone two months after his landing, while David Bruce fled helplessly to
France. Edward had given no open aid to this enterprise, but the crisis
tempted his ambition, and he demanded and obtained from Balliol an
acknowledgement of the English suzerainty. The acknowledgement however was
fatal to Balliol himself. Surprised at Annan by a party of Scottish nobles,
their sudden attack drove him in December over the border after a reign of
but five months; and Berwick, which he had agreed to surrender to Edward,
was strongly garrisoned against an English attack. The sudden breakdown of
his vassal-king left Edward face to face with a new Scotch war. The
Parliament which he summoned to advise on the enforcement of his claim
showed no wish to plunge again into the contest and met him only with
evasions and delays. But Edward had gone too far to withdraw. In March 1333
he appeared before Berwick, and besieged the town. A Scotch army under the
regent, Sir Archibald Douglas, brother to the famous Sir James, advanced to
its relief in July and attacked a covering force which was encamped on the
strong position of Halidon Hill. The English bowmen however vindicated the
fame they had first won at Falkirk and were soon to crown in the victory of
Crécy. The Scotch only struggled through the marsh which covered the
English front to be riddled with a storm of arrows and to break in utter
rout. The battle decided the fate of Berwick. From that time the town has
remained English territory. It was in fact the one part of Edward's
conquests which was preserved in the end by the English crown. But fragment
as it was, it was always viewed legally as representing the realm of which
it once formed a part. As Scotland, it had its chancellor, chamberlain, and
other officers of State: and the peculiar heading of Acts of Parliament
enacted for England "and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed" still preserves
the memory of its peculiar position. But the victory did more than give
Berwick to England. The defeat of Douglas was followed by the submission of
a large part of the Scotch nobles, by the flight of the boy-king David, and
by the return of Balliol unopposed to the throne. Edward exacted a heavy
price for his aid. All Scotland south of the Firth of Forth was ceded to
England, and Balliol did homage as vassal-king for the rest.


[Sidenote: Scotland freed]

It was at the moment of this submission that the young king reached the
climax of his success. A king at fourteen, a father at seventeen, he had
carried out at eighteen a political revolution in the overthrow of
Mortimer, and restored at twenty-two the ruined work of his grandfather.
The northern frontier was carried to its old line under the Northumbrian
kings. His kingdom within was peaceful and orderly; and the strife with
France seemed at an end. During the next three years Edward persisted in
the line of policy he had adopted, retaining his hold over Southern
Scotland, aiding his sub-king Balliol in campaign after campaign against
the despairing efforts of the nobles who still adhered to the house of
Bruce, a party who were now headed by Robert the Steward of Scotland and by
Earl Randolph of Moray. His perseverance was all but crowned with success,
when Scotland was again saved by the intervention of France. The successes
of Edward roused anew the jealousy of the French court. David Bruce found a
refuge with Philip; French ships appeared off the Scotch coast and brought
aid to the patriot nobles; and the old legal questions about the Agénois
and Aquitaine were mooted afresh by the French council. For a time Edward
staved off the contest by repeated embassies; but his refusal to accept
Philip as a mediator between England and the Scots stirred France to
threats of war. In 1335 fleets gathered on its coast; descents were made on
the English shores; and troops and galleys were hired in Italy and the
north for an invasion of England. The mere threat of war saved Scotland.
Edward's forces there were drawn to the south to meet the looked-for attack
from across the Channel; and the patriot party freed from their pressure at
once drew together again. The actual declaration of war against France at
the close of 1337 was the knell of Balliol's greatness; he found himself
without an adherent and withdrew two years later to the court of Edward,
while David returned to his kingdom in 1342 and won back the chief
fastnesses of the Lowlands. From that moment the freedom of Scotland was
secured. From a war of conquest and patriotic resistance the struggle died
into a petty strife between two angry neighbours, which became a mere
episode in the larger contest which it had stirred between England and
France.


[Sidenote: The Hundred Years War]

Whether in its national or in its European bearings it is difficult to
overestimate the importance of the contest which was now to open between
these two nations. To England it brought a social, a religious, and in the
end a political revolution. The Peasant Revolt, Lollardry, and the New
Monarchy were direct issues of the Hundred Years War. With it began the
military renown of England; with it opened her struggle for the mastery of
the seas. The pride begotten by great victories and a sudden revelation of
warlike prowess roused the country not only to a new ambition, a new
resolve to assert itself as a European power, but to a repudiation of the
claims of the Papacy and an assertion of the ecclesiastical independence
both of Church and Crown which paved the way for and gave its ultimate form
to the English Reformation. The peculiar shape which English warfare
assumed, the triumph of the yeoman and archer over noble and knight, gave
new force to the political advance of the Commons. On the other hand the
misery of the war produced the first great open feud between labour and
capital. The glory of Crécy or Poitiers was dearly bought by the upgrowth
of English pauperism. The warlike temper nursed on foreign fields begot at
home a new turbulence and scorn of law, woke a new feudal spirit in the
baronage, and sowed in the revolution which placed a new house on the
throne the seeds of that fatal strife over the succession which troubled
England to the days of Elizabeth. Nor was the contest of less import in the
history of France. If it struck her for the moment from her height of
pride, it raised her in the end to the front rank among the states of
Europe. It carried her boundaries to the Rhone and the Pyrenees. It wrecked
alike the feudal power of her _noblesse_ and the hopes of constitutional
liberty which might have sprung from the emancipation of the peasant or the
action of the burgher. It founded a royal despotism which reached its
height in Richelieu and finally plunged France into the gulf of the
Revolution.


[Sidenote: The Imperial Alliance]

Of these mighty issues little could be foreseen at the moment when Philip
and Edward declared war. But from the very first the war took European
dimensions. The young king saw clearly the greater strength of France. The
weakness of the Empire, the captivity of the Papacy at Avignon, left her
without a rival among European powers. The French chivalry was the envy of
the world, and its military fame had just been heightened by a victory over
the Flemish communes at Cassel. In numbers, in wealth, the French people
far surpassed their neighbours over the Channel. England can hardly have
counted more than four millions of inhabitants, France boasted of twenty.
The clinging of our kings to their foreign dominions is explained by the
fact that their subjects in Gascony, Aquitaine, and Poitou must have
equalled in number their subjects in England. There was the same
disproportion in the wealth of the two countries and, as men held then, in
their military resources. Edward could bring only eight thousand
men-at-arms to the field. Philip, while a third of his force was busy
elsewhere, could appear at the head of forty thousand. Of the revolution in
warfare which was to reverse this superiority, to make the footman rather
than the horseman the strength of an army, the world and even the English
king, in spite of Falkirk and Halidon, as yet recked little. Edward's whole
energy was bent on meeting the strength of France by a coalition of powers
against her, and his plans were helped by the dread which the great
feudatories of the empire who lay nearest to him, the Duke of Brabant, the
Counts of Hainault and Gelders, the Markgrave of Juliers, felt of French
annexation. They listened willingly enough to his offers. Sixty thousand
crowns purchased the alliance of Brabant. Lesser subsidies bought that of
the two counts and the Markgrave. The king's work was helped indeed by his
domestic relations. The Count of Hainault was Edward's father-in-law; he
was also the father-in-law of the Count of Gelders. But the marriage of a
third of the Count's daughters brought the English king a more important
ally. She was wedded to the Emperor, Lewis of Bavaria, and the connexion
that thus existed between the English and Imperial Courts facilitated the
negotiations which ended in a formal alliance.


[Sidenote: Its Relation to the Papacy]

But the league had a more solid ground. The Emperor, like Edward, had his
strife with France. His strife sprang from the new position of the Papacy.
The removal of the Popes to Avignon which followed on the quarrel of
Boniface the Eighth with Philip le Bel and the subjection to the French
court which resulted from it affected the whole state of European politics.
In the ever-recurring contest between the Papacy and the Empire France had
of old been the lieutenant of the Roman See. But with the settlement at
Avignon the relation changed, and the Pope became the lieutenant of France.
Instead of the Papacy using the French kings in its war of ideas against
the Empire the French kings used the Papacy as an instrument in their
political rivalry with the Emperors. But if the position of the Pope drew
Lewis to the side of England, it had much to do with drawing Edward to the
side of Lewis. It was this that made the alliance, fruitless as it proved
in a military sense, so memorable in its religious results. Hitherto
England had been mainly on the side of the Popes in their strife against
the Emperors. Now that the Pope had become a tool in the hands of a power
which was to be its great enemy, the country was driven to close alliances
with the Empire and to an evergrowing alienation from the Roman See. In
Scotch affairs the hostility of the Popes had been steady and vexatious
ever since Edward the First's time, and from the moment that this fresh
struggle commenced they again showed their French partizanship. When Lewis
made a last appeal for peace, Philip of Valois made Benedict XII. lay down
as a condition that the Emperor should form no alliance with an enemy of
France. The quarrel of both England and Germany with the Papacy at once
grew ripe. The German Diet met to declare that the Imperial power came from
God alone, and that the choice of an Emperor needed no Papal confirmation,
while Benedict replied by a formal excommunication of Lewis. England on the
other hand entered on a religious revolution when she stood hand in hand
with an excommunicated power. It was significant that though worship ceased
in Flanders on the Pope's interdict, the English priests who were brought
over set the interdict at nought.


[Sidenote: Failure of the Alliance]

The negotiation of this alliance occupied the whole of 1337; it ended in a
promise of the Emperor on payment of 3000 gold florins to furnish two
thousand men-at-arms. In the opening of 1338 an attack of Philip on the
Agénois forced Edward into open war. His profuse expenditure however
brought little fruit. Though Edward crossed to Antwerp in the summer, the
year was spent in negotiations with the princes of the Lower Rhine and in
an interview with the Emperor at Coblentz, where Lewis appointed him
Vicar-General of the Emperor for all territories on the left bank of the
Rhine. The occupation of Cambray, an Imperial fief, by the French king gave
a formal ground for calling the princes of this district to Edward's
standard. But already the great alliance showed signs of yielding. Edward,
uneasy at his connexion with an Emperor under the ban of the Church and
harassed by vehement remonstrances from the Pope, entered again into
negotiations with France in the winter of 1338; and Lewis, alarmed in his
turn, listened to fresh overtures from Benedict, who held out vague hopes
of reconciliation while he threatened a renewed excommunication if Lewis
persisted in invading France. The non-arrival of the English subsidy
decided the Emperor to take no personal part in the war, and the attitude
of Lewis told on the temper of Edward's German allies. Though all joined
him in the summer of 1339 on his formal summons of them as Vicar-General of
the Empire, and his army when it appeared before Cambray numbered forty
thousand men, their ardour cooled as the town held out. Philip approached
it from the south, and on Edward's announcing his resolve to cross the
river and attack him he was at once deserted by the two border princes who
had most to lose from a contest with France, the Counts of Hainault and
Namur. But the king was still full of hope. He pushed forward to the
country round St. Quentin between the head waters of the Somme and the Oise
with the purpose of forcing a decisive engagement. But he found Philip
strongly encamped, and declaring their supplies exhausted his allies at
once called for a retreat. It was in vain that Edward moved slowly for a
week along the French border. Philip's position was too strongly guarded by
marshes and entrenchments to be attacked, and at last the allies would stay
no longer. At the news that the French king had withdrawn to the south the
whole army in turn fell back upon Brussels.


[Sidenote: England and the Papacy]

The failure of the campaign dispelled the hopes which Edward had drawn from
his alliance with the Empire. With the exhaustion of his subsidies the
princes of the Low Countries became inactive. The Duke of Brabant became
cooler in his friendship. The Emperor himself, still looking to an
accommodation with the Pope and justly jealous of Edward's own intrigues at
Avignon, wavered and at last fell away. But though the alliance ended in
disappointment it had given a new impulse to the grudge against the Papacy
which began with its extortions in the reign of Henry the Third. The hold
of Rome on the loyalty of England was sensibly weakening. Their transfer
from the Eternal City to Avignon robbed the Popes of half the awe which
they had inspired among Englishmen. Not only did it bring them nearer and
more into the light of common day, but it dwarfed them into mere agents of
French policy. The old bitterness at their exactions was revived by the
greed to which they were driven through their costly efforts to impose a
French and Papal Emperor on Germany as well as to secure themselves in
their new capital on the Rhone. The mighty building, half fortress, half
palace, which still awes the traveller at Avignon has played its part in
our history. Its erection was to the rise of Lollardry what the erection of
St. Peter's was to the rise of Lutheranism. Its massive walls, its stately
chapel, its chambers glowing with the frescoes of Simone Memmi, the garden
which covered its roof with a strange verdure, called year by year for
fresh supplies of gold; and for this as for the wider and costlier schemes
of Papal policy gold could be got only by pressing harder and harder on the
national churches the worst claims of the Papal court, by demands of
first-fruits and annates from rectory and bishoprick, by pretensions to the
right of bestowing all benefices which were in ecclesiastical patronage and
by the sale of these presentations, by the direct taxation of the clergy,
by the intrusion of foreign priests into English livings, by opening a mart
for the disposal of pardons, dispensations, and indulgences, and by
encouraging appeals from every ecclesiastical jurisdiction to the Papal
court. No grievance was more bitterly felt than this grievance of appeals.
Cases of the most trifling importance were called for decision out of the
realm to a tribunal whose delays were proverbial and whose fees were
enormous. The envoy of an Oxford College which sought only a formal licence
to turn a vicarage into a rectory had not only to bear the expense and toil
of a journey which then occupied some eighteen days but was kept dangling
at Avignon for three-and-twenty weeks. Humiliating and vexatious however as
these appeals were, they were but one among the means of extortion which
the Papal court multiplied as its needs grew greater. The protest of a
later Parliament, exaggerated as its statements no doubt are, shows the
extent of the national irritation, if not of the grievances which produced
it. It asserted that the taxes levied by the Pope amounted to five times
the amount of those levied by the king; that by reservations during the
life of actual holders the Pope disposed of the same bishoprick four or
five times over, receiving each time the first-fruits. "The brokers of the
sinful city of Rome promote for money unlearned and unworthy caitiffs to
benefices to the value of a thousand marks, while the poor and learned
hardly obtain one of twenty. So decays sound learning. They present aliens
who neither see nor care to see their parishioners, despise God's services,
convey away the treasure of the realm, and are worse than Jews or Saracens.
The Pope's revenue from England alone is larger than that of any prince in
Christendom. God gave his sheep to be pastured, not to be shaven and
shorn." At the close of this reign indeed the deaneries of Lichfield,
Salisbury, and York, the archdeaconry of Canterbury, which was reputed the
wealthiest English benefice, together with a host of prebends and
preferments, were held by Italian cardinals and priests, while the Pope's
collector from his office in London sent twenty thousand marks a year to
the Papal treasury.


[Sidenote: Protest of the Parliament]

But the greed of the Popes was no new grievance, though the increase of
these exactions since the removal to Avignon gave it a new force. What
alienated England most was their connexion with and dependence on France.
From the first outset of the troubles in the North their attitude had been
one of hostility to the English projects. France was too useful a supporter
of the Papal court to find much difficulty in inducing it to aid in
hampering the growth of English greatness. Boniface the Eighth released
Balliol from his oath of fealty, and forbade Edward to attack Scotland on
the ground that it was a fief of the Roman See. His intervention was met by
a solemn and emphatic protest from the English Parliament; but it none the
less formed a terrible obstacle in Edward's way. The obstacle was at last
removed by the quarrel of Boniface with Philip the Fair; but the end of
this quarrel only threw the Papacy more completely into the hands of
France. Though Avignon remained imperial soil, the removal of the Popes to
this city on the verge of their dominions made them mere tools of the
French kings. Much no doubt of the endless negotiation which the Papal
court carried on with Edward the Third in his strife with Philip of Valois
was an honest struggle for peace. But to England it seemed the mere
interference of a dependant on behalf of "our enemy of France." The people
scorned a "French Pope," and threatened Papal legates with stoning when
they landed on English shores. The alliance of Edward with an
excommunicated Emperor, the bold defiance with which English priests said
mass in Flanders when an interdict reduced the Flemish priests to silence,
were significant tokens of the new attitude which England was taking up in
the face of Popes who were leagued with its enemy. The old quarrel over
ecclesiastical wrongs was renewed in a formal and decisive way. In 1343 the
Commons petitioned for the redress of the grievance of Papal appointments
to vacant livings in despite of the rights of patrons or the Crown; and
Edward formally complained to the Pope of his appointing "foreigners, most
of them suspicious persons, who do not reside on their benefices, who do
not know the faces of the flocks entrusted to them, who do not understand
their language, but, neglecting the cure of souls, seek as hirelings only
their worldly hire." In yet sharper words the king rebuked the Papal greed.
"The successor of the Apostles was set over the Lord's sheep to feed and
not to shear them." The Parliament declared "that they neither could nor
would tolerate such things any longer"; and the general irritation moved
slowly towards those statutes of Provisors and Praemunire which heralded
the policy of Henry the Eighth.


[Sidenote: Flanders]

But for the moment the strife with the Papacy was set aside in the efforts
which were needed for a new struggle with France. The campaign of 1339 had
not only ended in failure, it had dispelled the trust of Edward in an
Imperial alliance. But as this hope faded away a fresh hope dawned on the
king from another quarter. Flanders, still bleeding from the defeat of its
burghers by the French knighthood, was his natural ally. England was the
great wool-producing country of the west, but few woollen fabrics were
woven in England. The number of weavers' gilds shows that the trade was
gradually extending, and at the very outset of his reign Edward had taken
steps for its encouragement. He invited Flemish weavers to settle in his
country, and took the new immigrants, who chose the eastern counties for
the seat of their trade, under his royal protection. But English
manufactures were still in their infancy and nine-tenths of the English
wool went to the looms of Bruges or of Ghent. We may see the rapid growth
of this export trade in the fact that the king received in a single year
more than £30,000 from duties levied on wool alone. The woolsack which
forms the Chancellor's seat in the House of Lords is said to witness to the
importance which the government attached to this new source of wealth. A
stoppage of this export threw half the population of the great Flemish
towns out of work, and the irritation caused in Flanders by the
interruption which this trade sustained through the piracies that Philip's
ships were carrying on in the Channel showed how effective the threat of
such a stoppage would be in securing their alliance. Nor was this the only
ground for hoping for aid from the Flemish towns. Their democratic spirit
jostled roughly with the feudalism of France. If their counts clung to the
French monarchy, the towns themselves, proud of their immense population,
their thriving industry, their vast wealth, drew more and more to
independence. Jacques van Arteveldt, a great brewer of Ghent, wielded the
chief influence in their councils, and his aim was to build up a
confederacy which might hold France in check along her northern border.


[Sidenote: The Flemish Alliance]

His plans had as yet brought no help from the Flemish towns, but at the
close of 1339 they set aside their neutrality for open aid. The great plan
of Federation which Van Arteveldt had been devising as a check on the
aggression of France was carried out in a treaty concluded between Edward,
the Duke of Brabant, the cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Louvain, Ghent,
Bruges, Ypres, and seven others. By this remarkable treaty it was provided
that war should be begun and ended only by mutual consent, free commerce be
encouraged between Flanders and Brabant, and no change made in their
commercial arrangements save with the consent of the whole league. By a
subsequent treaty the Flemish towns owned Edward as King of France, and
declared war against Philip of Valois. But their voice was decisive on the
course of the campaign which opened in 1340. As Philip held the Upper
Scheldt by the occupation of Cambray, so he held the Lower Scheldt by that
of Tournay, a fortress which broke the line of commerce between Flanders
and Brabant. It was a condition of the Flemish alliance therefore that the
war should open with the capture of Tournay. It was only at the cost of a
fight however that Edward could now cross the Channel to undertake the
siege. France was as superior in force at sea as on land; and a fleet of
two hundred vessels gathered at Sluys to intercept him. But the fine
seamanship of the English sailors justified the courage of their king in
attacking this fleet with far smaller forces; the French ships were utterly
destroyed and twenty thousand Frenchmen slain in the encounter. It was with
the lustre of this great victory about him that Edward marched upon
Tournay. Its siege however proved as fruitless as that of Cambray in the
preceding year, and after two months of investment his vast army of one
hundred thousand men broke up without either capturing the town or bringing
Philip when he approached it to an engagement. Want of money forced Edward
to a truce for a year, and he returned beggared and embittered to England.


[Sidenote: Edward's distress]

He had been worsted in war as in diplomacy. One naval victory alone
redeemed years of failure and expense. Guienne was all but lost, England
was suffering from the terrible taxation, from the ruin of commerce, from
the ravages of her coast. Five years of constant reverses were hard blows
for a king of twenty-eight who had been glorious and successful at
twenty-three. His financial difficulties indeed were enormous. It was in
vain that, availing himself of an Act which forbade the exportation of wool
"till by the King and his Council it is otherwise provided," he turned for
the time the wool-trade into a royal monopoly and became the sole wool
exporter, buying at £3 and selling at £20 the sack. The campaign of 1339
brought with it a crushing debt: that of 1340 proved yet more costly.
Edward attributed his failure to the slackness of his ministers in sending
money and supplies, and this to their silent opposition to the war. But
wroth as he was on his return, a short struggle between the ministers and
the king ended in a reconciliation, and preparations for renewed
hostilities went on. Abroad indeed nothing could be done. The Emperor
finally withdrew from Edward's friendship. A new Pope, Clement the Sixth,
proved even more French in sentiment than his predecessor. Flanders alone
held true of all England's foreign allies. Edward was powerless to attack
Philip in the realm he claimed for his own; what strength he could gather
was needed to prevent the utter ruin of the English cause in Scotland on
the return of David Bruce. Edward's soldiers had been driven from the open
country and confined to the fortresses of the Lowlands. Even these were at
last reft away. Perth was taken by siege, and the king was too late to
prevent the surrender of Stirling. Edinburgh was captured by a stratagem.
Only Roxburgh and Berwick were saved by a truce which Edward was driven to
conclude with the Scots.


[Sidenote: Progress of Parliament]

But with the difficulties of the Crown the weight of the two Houses made
itself more and more sensibly felt. The almost incessant warfare which had
gone on since the accession of Edward the Third consolidated and developed
the power which they had gained from the dissensions of his father's reign.
The need of continual grants brought about an assembly of Parliament year
by year, and the subsidies that were accorded to the king showed the
potency of the financial engine which the Crown could now bring into play.
In a single year the Parliament granted twenty thousand sacks, or half the
wool of the realm. Two years later the Commons voted an aid of thirty
thousand sacks. In 1339 the barons granted the tenth sheep and fleece and
lamb. The clergy granted two tenths in one year, and a tenth for three
years in the next. But with each supply some step was made to greater
political influence. In his earlier years Edward showed no jealousy of the
Parliament. His policy was to make the struggle with France a national one
by winning for it the sympathy of the people at large; and with this view
he not only published in the County Courts the efforts he had made for
peace, but appealed again and again for the sanction and advice of
Parliament in his enterprise. In 1331 he asked the Estates whether they
would prefer negotiation or war: in 1338 he declared that his expedition to
Flanders was made by the assent of the Lords and at the prayer of the
Commons. The part of the last in public affairs grew greater in spite of
their own efforts to remain obscure. From the opening of the reign a crowd
of enactments for the regulation of trade, whether wise or unwise, shows
the influence of the burgesses. But the final division of Parliament into
two Houses, a change which was completed by 1341, necessarily increased the
weight of the Commons. The humble trader who shrank from counselling the
Crown in great matters of policy gathered courage as he found himself
sitting side by side with the knights of the shire. It was at the moment
when this great change was being brought about that the disasters of the
war spurred the Parliament to greater activity. The enormous grants of 1340
were bought by the king's assent to statutes which provided remedies for
grievances of which the Commons complained. The most important of these put
an end to the attempts which Edward had made like his grandfather to deal
with the merchant class apart from the Houses. No charge or aid was
henceforth to be made save by the common assent of the Estates assembled in
Parliament. The progress of the next year was yet more important. The
strife of the king with his ministers, the foremost of whom was Archbishop
Stratford, ended in the Primate's refusal to make answer to the royal
charges save in full Parliament, and in the assent of the king to a
resolution of the Lords that none of their number, whether ministers of the
Crown or no, should be brought to trial elsewhere than before his peers.
The Commons demanded and obtained the appointment of commissioners elected
in Parliament to audit the grants already made. Finally it was enacted that
at each Parliament the ministers should hold themselves accountable for all
grievances; that on any vacancy the king should take counsel with his lords
as to the choice of the new minister; and that, when chosen, each minister
should be sworn in Parliament.


[Sidenote: Close of the truce]

At the moment which we have reached therefore the position of the
Parliament had become far more important than at Edward's accession. Its
form was settled. The third estate had gained a fuller parliamentary power.
The principle of ministerial responsibility to the Houses had been
established by formal statute. But the jealousy of Edward was at last
completely roused, and from this moment he looked on the new power as a
rival to his own. The Parliament of 1341 had no sooner broken up than he
revoked by Letters Patent the statutes it had passed as done in prejudice
of his prerogative and only assented to for the time to prevent worse
confusion. The regular assembly of the estates was suddenly interrupted,
and two years passed without a Parliament. It was only the continual
presence of war which from this time drove Edward to summon the Houses at
all. Though the truce still held good between England and France a quarrel
of succession to the Duchy of Britanny which broke out in 1341 and called
Philip to the support of one claimant, his cousin Charles of Blois, and
Edward to the support of a rival claimant, John of Montfort, dragged on
year after year. In Flanders things went ill for the English cause. The
dissensions between the great and the smaller towns, and in the greater
towns themselves between the weavers and fullers, dissensions which had
taxed the genius of Van Arteveldt through the nine years of his wonderful
rule, broke out in 1345 into a revolt at Ghent in which the great statesman
was slain. With him fell a design for the deposition of the Count of
Flanders and the reception of the Prince of Wales in his stead which he was
ardently pressing, and whose political results might have been immense.
Deputies were at once sent to England to excuse Van Arteveldt's murder and
to promise loyalty to Edward; but the king's difficulties had now reached
their height. His loans from the Florentine bankers amounted to half a
million. His claim on the French crown found not a single adherent save
among the burghers of the Flemish towns. The overtures which he made for
peace were contemptuously rejected, and the expiration of the truce in 1345
found him again face to face with France.


[Sidenote: Edward marches on Paris]

But it was perhaps this breakdown of all foreign hope that contributed to
Edward's success in the fresh outbreak of war. The war opened in Guienne,
and Henry of Lancaster, who was now known as the Earl of Derby, and who
with the Hainaulter Sir Walter Maunay took the command in that quarter, at
once showed the abilities of a great general. The course of the Garonne was
cleared by his capture of La Réole and Aiguillon, that of the Dordogne by
the reduction of Bergerac, and a way opened for the reconquest of Poitou by
the capture of Angoulême. These unexpected successes roused Philip to
strenuous efforts, and a hundred thousand men gathered under his son, John,
Duke of Normandy, for the subjugation of the South. Angoulême was won back,
and Aiguillon besieged when Edward sailed to the aid of his hard-pressed
lieutenant. It was with an army of thirty thousand men, half English, half
Irish and Welsh, that he commenced a march which was to change the whole
face of the war. His aim was simple. Flanders was still true to Edward's
cause, and while Derby was pressing on in the south a Flemish army besieged
Bouvines and threatened France from the north. The king had at first
proposed to land in Guienne and relieve the forces in the south; but
suddenly changing his design he disembarked at La Hogue and advanced
through Normandy. By this skilful movement Edward not only relieved Derby
but threatened Paris, and left himself able to co-operate with either his
own army in the south or the Flemings in the north. Normandy was totally
without defence, and after the sack of Caen, which was then one of the
wealthiest towns in France, Edward marched upon the Seine. His march
threatened Rouen and Paris, and its strategical value was seen by the
sudden panic of the French king. Philip was wholly taken by surprise. He
attempted to arrest Edward's march by an offer to restore the Duchy of
Aquitaine as Edward the Second had held it, but the offer was fruitless.
Philip was forced to call his son to the rescue. John at once raised the
siege of Aiguillon, and the French army moved rapidly to the north, its
withdrawal enabling Derby to capture Poitiers and make himself thorough
master of the south. But John was too distant from Paris for his forces to
avail Philip in his emergency, for Edward, finding the bridges on the Lower
Seine broken, pushed straight on Paris, rebuilt the bridge of Poissy, and
threatened the capital.


[Sidenote: Crécy]

At this crisis however France found an unexpected help in a body of German
knights. The long strife between Lewis of Bavaria and the Papacy had ended
at last in Clement's carrying out his sentence of deposition by the
nomination and coronation as emperor of Charles of Luxemburg, a son of King
John of Bohemia, the well-known Charles IV. of the Golden Bull. But against
this Papal assumption of a right to bestow the German Crown Germany rose as
one man. Not a town opened its gates to the Papal claimant, and driven to
seek help and refuge from Philip of Valois he found himself at this moment
on the eastern frontier of France with his father and 500 knights. Hurrying
to Paris this German force formed the nucleus of an army which assembled at
St. Denys; and which was soon reinforced by 15,000 Genoese cross-bowmen who
had been hired from among the soldiers of the Lord of Monaco on the sunny
Riviera and arrived at this hour of need. With this host rapidly gathering
in his front Edward abandoned his march on Paris, which had already served
its purpose in relieving Derby, and threw himself across the Seine to carry
out the second part of his programme by a junction with the Flemings at
Gravelines and a campaign in the north. But the rivers in his path were
carefully guarded, and it was only by surprising the ford of Blanche-Taque
on the Somme that the king escaped the necessity of surrendering to the
vast host which was now hastening in pursuit. His communications however
were no sooner secured than he halted on the twenty-sixth of August at the
little village of Crécy in Ponthieu and resolved to give battle. Half of
his army, which had been greatly reduced in strength by his rapid marches,
consisted of light-armed footmen from Ireland and Wales; the bulk of the
remainder was composed of English bowmen. The king ordered his men-at-arms
to dismount, and drew up his forces on a low rise sloping gently to the
south-east, with a deep ditch covering its front, and its flanks protected
by woods and a little brook. From a windmill on the summit of this rise
Edward could overlook the whole field of battle. Immediately beneath him
lay his reserve, while at the base of the slope was placed the main body of
the army in two divisions, that to the right commanded by the young Prince
of Wales, Edward "the Black Prince," as he was called, that to the left by
the Earl of Northampton. A small ditch protected the English front, and
behind it the bowmen were drawn up "in the form of a harrow" with small
bombards between them "which with fire threw little iron balls to frighten
the horses," the first instance known of the use of artillery in
field-warfare.

The halt of the English army took Philip by surprise, and he attempted for
a time to check the advance of his army. But the attempt was fruitless and
the disorderly host rolled on to the English front. The sight of his
enemies indeed stirred Philip's own blood to fury, "for he hated them." The
fight began at vespers. The Genoese cross-bowmen were ordered to open the
attack, but the men were weary with their march, a sudden storm wetted and
rendered useless their bowstrings, and the loud shouts with which they
leapt forward to the encounter were met with dogged silence in the English
ranks. Their first arrow-flight however brought a terrible reply. So rapid
was the English shot "that it seemed as if it snowed." "Kill me these
scoundrels," shouted Philip, as the Genoese fell back; and his men-at-arms
plunged butchering into their broken ranks while the Counts of Aleniçon and
Flanders at the head of the French knighthood fell hotly on the Prince's
line. For an instant his small force seemed lost, and he called his father
to support him. But Edward refused to send him aid. "Is he dead, or
unhorsed, or so wounded that he cannot help himself?" he asked the envoy.
"No, sir," was the reply, "but he is in a hard passage of arms, and sorely
needs your help." "Return to those that sent you," said the king, "and bid
them not send to me again so long as my son lives! Let the boy win his
spurs, for, if God so order it, I will that the day may be his and that the
honour may be with him and them to whom I have given it in charge." Edward
could see in fact from his higher ground that all went well. The English
bowmen and men-at-arms held their ground stoutly while the Welshmen stabbed
the French horses in the melly and brought knight after knight to the
ground. Soon the French host was wavering in a fatal confusion. "You are my
vassals, my friends," cried the blind John of Bohemia to the German nobles
around him, "I pray and beseech you to lead me so far into the fight that I
may strike one good blow with this sword of mine!" Linking their bridles
together, the little company plunged into the thick of the combat to fall
as their fellows were falling. The battle went steadily against the French.
At last Philip himself hurried from the field, and the defeat became a
rout. Twelve hundred knights and thirty thousand foot-men--a number equal
to the whole English force--lay dead upon the ground.


[Sidenote: The Yeoman]

"God has punished us for our sins," cries the chronicler of St. Denys in a
passion of bewildered grief as he tells the rout of the great host which he
had seen mustering beneath his abbey walls. But the fall of France was
hardly so sudden or so incomprehensible as the ruin at a single blow of a
system of warfare, and with it of the political and social fabric which had
risen out of that system. Feudalism rested on the superiority of the
horseman to the footman, of the mounted noble to the unmounted churl. The
real fighting power of a feudal army lay in its knighthood, in the baronage
and landowners who took the field, each with his group of esquires and
mounted men-at-arms. A host of footmen followed them, but they were ill
armed, ill disciplined, and seldom called on to play any decisive part on
the actual battle-field. In France, and especially at the moment we have
reached, the contrast between the efficiency of these two elements of
warfare was more striking than elsewhere. Nowhere was the chivalry so
splendid, nowhere was the general misery and oppression of the poor more
terribly expressed in the worthlessness of the mob of footmen who were
driven by their lords to the camp. In England, on the other hand, the
failure of feudalism to win a complete hold on the country was seen in the
persistence of the older national institutions which based its defence on
the general levy of its freemen. If the foreign kings added to this a
system of warlike organization grounded on the service due from its
military tenants to the Crown, they were far from regarding this as
superseding the national "fyrd." The Assize of Arms, the Statute of
Winchester, show with what care the fyrd was held in a state of efficiency.
Its force indeed as an engine of war was fast rising between the age of
Henry the Second and that of Edward the Third. The social changes on which
we have already dwelt, the facilities given to alienation and the
subdivision of lands, the transition of the serf into a copyholder and of
the copyholder by redemption of his services into a freeholder, the rise of
a new class of "farmers" as the lords ceased to till their demesne by means
of bailiffs and adopted the practice of leasing it at a rent or "farm" to
one of the customary tenants, the general increase of wealth which was
telling on the social position even of those who still remained in
villenage, undid more and more the earlier process which had degraded the
free ceorl of the English Conquest into the villein of the Norman Conquest,
and covered the land with a population of yeomen, some freeholders, some
with services that every day became less weighty and already left them
virtually free.


[Sidenote: The Bow]

Such men, proud of their right to justice and an equal law, called by
attendance in the county court to a share in the judicial, the financial,
and the political life of the realm, were of a temper to make soldiers of a
different sort from the wretched serfs who followed the feudal lords of the
Continent; and they were equipped with a weapon which as they wielded it
was enough of itself to make a revolution in the art of war. The bow,
identified as it became with English warfare, was the weapon not of
Englishmen but of their Norman conquerors. It was the Norman arrow-flight
that decided the day of Senlac. But in the organization of the national
army it had been assigned as the weapon of the poorer freeholders who were
liable to serve at the king's summons; and we see how closely it had become
associated with them in the picture of Chaucer's yeoman. "In his hand he
bore a mighty bow." Its might lay not only in the range of the heavy
war-shaft, a range we are told of four hundred yards, but in its force. The
English archer, taught from very childhood "how to draw, how to lay his
body to the bow," his skill quickened by incessant practice and constant
rivalry with his fellows, raised the bow into a terrible engine of war.
Thrown out along the front in a loose order that alone showed their vigour
and self-dependence, the bowmen faced and riddled the splendid line of
knighthood as it charged upon them. The galled horses "reeled right
rudely." Their riders found even the steel of Milan a poor defence against
the grey-goose shaft. Gradually the bow dictated the very tactics of an
English battle. If the mass of cavalry still plunged forward, the screen of
archers broke to right and left and the men-at-arms who lay in reserve
behind them made short work of the broken and disordered horsemen, while
the light troops from Wales and Ireland flinging themselves into the melly
with their long knives and darts brought steed after steed to the ground.
It was this new military engine that Edward the Third carried to the fields
of France. His armies were practically bodies of hired soldiery, for the
short period of feudal service was insufficient for foreign campaigns, and
yeoman and baron were alike drawn by a high rate of pay. An archer's daily
wages equalled some five shillings of our present money. Such payment when
coupled with the hope of plunder was enough to draw yeomen from thorpe and
farm; and though the royal treasury was drained as it had never been
drained before the English king saw himself after the day of Crécy the
master of a force without rival in the stress of war.


[Sidenote: Siege of Calais]

To England her success was the beginning of a career of military glory,
which fatal as it was destined to prove to the higher sentiments and
interests of the nation gave it a warlike energy such as it had never known
before. Victory followed victory. A few months after Crécy a Scotch army
marched over the border and faced on the seventeenth of October an English
force at Neville's Cross. But it was soon broken by the arrow-flight of the
English archers, and the Scotch king David Bruce was taken prisoner. The
withdrawal of the French from the Garonne enabled Henry of Derby to recover
Poitou. Edward meanwhile with a decision which marks his military capacity
marched from the field of Crécy to form the siege of Calais. No measure
could have been more popular with the English merchant class, for Calais
was a great pirate-haven and in a single year twenty-two privateers from
its port had swept the Channel. But Edward was guided by weightier
considerations than this. In spite of his victory at Sluys the superiority
of France at sea had been a constant embarrassment. From this difficulty
the capture of Calais would do much to deliver him, for Dover and Calais
together bridled the Channel. Nor was this all. Not only would the
possession of the town give Edward a base of operations against France, but
it afforded an easy means of communication with the only sure allies of
England, the towns of Flanders. Flanders seemed at this moment to be
wavering. Its Count had fallen at Crécy, but his son Lewis le Mâle, though
his sympathies were as French as his father's, was received in November by
his subjects with the invariable loyalty which they showed to their rulers;
and his own efforts to detach them from England were seconded by the
influence of the Duke of Brabant. But with Edward close at hand beneath the
walls of Calais the Flemish towns stood true. They prayed the young Count
to marry Edward's daughter, imprisoned him on his refusal, and on his
escape to the French Court in the spring of 1347 they threw themselves
heartily into the English cause. A hundred thousand Flemings advanced to
Cassel and ravaged the French frontier.

The danger of Calais roused Philip from the panic which had followed his
defeat, and with a vast army he advanced to the north. But Edward's lines
were impregnable. The French king failed in another attempt to dislodge the
Flemings, and was at last driven to retreat without a blow. Hopeless of
further succour, the town after a year's siege was starved into surrender
in August 1347. Mercy was granted to the garrison and the people on
condition that six of the citizens gave themselves into the English king's
hands. "On them," said Edward with a burst of bitter hatred, "I will do my
will." At the sound of the town bell, Jehan le Bel tells us, the folk of
Calais gathered round the bearer of these terms, "desiring to hear their
good news, for they were all mad with hunger. When the said knight told
them his news, then began they to weep and cry so loudly that it was great
pity. Then stood up the wealthiest burgess of the town, Master Eustache de
St. Pierre by name, and spake thus before all: 'My masters, great grief and
mishap it were for all to leave such a people as this is to die by famine
or otherwise; and great charity and grace would he win from our Lord who
could defend them from dying. For me, I have great hope in the Lord that if
I can save this people by my death I shall have pardon for my faults,
wherefore will I be the first of the six, and of my own will put myself
barefoot in my shirt and with a halter round my neck in the mercy of King
Edward.'" The list of devoted men was soon made up, and the victims were
led before the king. "All the host assembled together; there was great
press, and many bade hang them openly, and many wept for pity. The noble
King came with his train of counts and barons to the place, and the Queen
followed him, though great with child, to see what there would be. The six
citizens knelt down at once before the King, and Master Eustache spake
thus:--'Gentle King, here we be six who have been of the old bourgeoisie of
Calais and great merchants; we bring you the keys of the town and castle of
Calais, and render them to you at your pleasure. We set ourselves in such
wise as you see purely at your will, to save the remnant of the people that
has suffered much pain. So may you have pity and mercy on us for your high
nobleness' sake.' Certes there was then in that place neither lord nor
knight that wept not for pity, nor who could speak for pity; but the King
had his heart so hardened by wrath that for a long while he could not
reply; than he commanded to cut off their heads. All the knights and lords
prayed him with tears, as much as they could, to have pity on them, but he
would not hear. Then spoke the gentle knight, Master Walter de Maunay, and
said, 'Ha, gentle sire! bridle your wrath; you have the renown and good
fame of all gentleness; do not a thing whereby men can speak any villany of
you! If you have no pity, all men will say that you have a heart full of
all cruelty to put these good citizens to death that of their own will are
come to render themselves to you to save the remnant of the people.' At
this point the King changed countenance with wrath, and said 'Hold your
peace, Master Walter! it shall be none otherwise. Call the headsman. They
of Calais have made so many of my men die, that they must die themselves!'
Then did the noble Queen of England a deed of noble lowliness, seeing she
was great with child, and wept so tenderly for pity that she could no
longer stand upright; therefore she cast herself on her knees before her
lord the King and spake on this wise: 'Ah, gentle sire, from the day that I
passed over sea in great peril, as you know, I have asked for nothing: now
pray I and beseech you, with folded hands, for the love of our Lady's Son
to have mercy upon them.' The gentle King waited a while before speaking,
and looked on the Queen as she knelt before him bitterly weeping. Then
began his heart to soften a little, and he said, 'Lady, I would rather you
had been otherwhere; you pray so tenderly that I dare not refuse you; and
though I do it against my will, nevertheless take them, I give them to
you.' Then took he the six citizens by the halters and delivered them to
the Queen, and released from death all those of Calais for the love of her;
and the good lady bade them clothe the six burgesses and make them good
cheer."



CHAPTER III
THE PEASANT REVOLT
1347-1381



[Sidenote: Edward the Third]

Still in the vigour of manhood, for he was but thirty-five, Edward the
Third stood at the height of his renown. He had won the greatest victory of
his age. France, till now the first of European states, was broken and
dashed from her pride of place at a single blow. The kingdom seemed to lie
at Edward's mercy, for Guienne was recovered, Flanders was wholly on his
side, and Britanny, where the capture of Charles of Blois secured the
success of his rival and the English party which supported him, opened the
road to Paris. At home his government was popular, and Scotland, the one
enemy he had to dread, was bridled by the capture of her king. How great
his renown was in Europe was seen in 1347, when on the death of Lewis of
Bavaria the electors offered him the Imperial Crown. Edward was in truth a
general of a high order, and he had shown himself as consummate a
strategist in the campaign as a tactician in the field. But to the world
about him he was even more illustrious as the foremost representative of
the showy chivalry of his day. He loved the pomp of tournaments; he revived
the Round Table of the fabled Arthur; he celebrated his victories by the
creation of a new order of knighthood. He had varied the sterner operations
of the siege of Calais by a hand-to-hand combat with one of the bravest of
the French knights. A naval picture of Froissart sketches Edward for us as
he sailed to meet a Spanish fleet which was sweeping the narrow seas. We
see the king sitting on deck in his jacket of black velvet, his head
covered by a black beaver hat "which became him well," and calling on Sir
John Chandos to troll out the songs he had brought with him from Germany,
till the Spanish ships heave in sight and a furious fight begins which ends
in a victory that leaves Edward "King of the Seas."

But beneath all this glitter of chivalry lay the subtle, busy diplomatist.
None of our kings was so restless a negotiator. From the first hour of
Edward's rule the threads of his diplomacy ran over Europe in almost
inextricable confusion. And to all who dealt with him he was equally false
and tricky. Emperor was played off against Pope and Pope against Emperor,
the friendship of the Flemish towns was adroitly used to put a pressure on
their counts, the national wrath against the exactions of the Roman See was
employed to bridle the French sympathies of the court of Avignon, and when
the statutes which it produced had served their purpose they were set aside
for a bargain in which King and Pope shared the plunder of the Church
between them. His temper was as false in his dealings with his people as in
his dealings with the European powers. Edward aired to country and
parliament his English patriotism. "Above all other lands and realms," he
made his chancellor say, "the King had most tenderly at heart his land of
England, a land more full of delight and honour and profit to him than any
other." His manners were popular; he donned on occasion the livery of a
city gild; he dined with a London merchant. His perpetual parliaments, his
appeals to them and to the country at large for counsel and aid, seemed to
promise a ruler who was absolutely one at heart with the people he ruled.
But when once Edward passed from sheer carelessness and gratification at
the new source of wealth which the Parliament opened to a sense of what its
power really was becoming, he showed himself as jealous of freedom as any
king that had gone before him. He sold his assent to its demands for heavy
subsidies, and when he had pocketed the money coolly declared the statutes
he had sanctioned null and void. The constitutional progress which was made
during his reign was due to his absorption in showy schemes of foreign
ambition, to his preference for war and diplomatic intrigue over the sober
business of civil administration. The same shallowness of temper, the same
showiness and falsehood, ran through his personal character. The king who
was a model of chivalry in his dealings with knight and noble showed
himself a brutal savage to the burgesses of Calais. Even the courtesy to
his Queen which throws its halo over the story of their deliverance went
hand in hand with a constant disloyalty to her. When once Philippa was dead
his profligacy threw all shame aside. He paraded a mistress as Queen of
Beauty through the streets of London, and set her in pomp over tournaments
as the Lady of the Sun. The nobles were quick to follow their lord's
example. "In those days," writes a chronicler of the time, "arose a rumour
and clamour among the people that wherever there was a tournament there
came a great concourse of ladies, of the most costly and beautiful but not
of the best in the kingdom, sometimes forty and fifty in number, as if they
were a part of the tournament, ladies clad in diverse and wonderful male
apparel, in parti-coloured tunics, with short caps and bands wound
cord-wise round their heads, and girdles bound with gold and silver, and
daggers in pouches across their body. And thus they rode on choice coursers
to the place of tourney; and so spent and wasted their goods and vexed
their bodies with scurrilous wantonness that the murmurs of the people
sounded everywhere. But they neither feared God nor blushed at the chaste
voice of the people."


[Sidenote: The Black Death]

The "chaste voice of the people" was soon to grow into the stern moral
protest of the Lollards, but for the moment all murmurs were hushed by the
king's success. The truce which followed the capture of Calais seemed a
mere rest in the career of victories which opened before Edward. England
was drunk with her glory and with the hope of plunder. The cloths of Caen
had been brought after the sack of that town to London. "There was no
woman," says Walsingham, "who had not got garments, furs, feather-beds, and
utensils from the spoils of Calais and other foreign cities." The court
revelled in gorgeous tournaments and luxury of dress; and the establishment
in 1346 of the Order of the Garter which found its home in the new castle
that Edward was raising at Windsor marked the highest reach of the spurious
"Chivalry" of the day. But it was at this moment of triumph that the whole
colour of Edward's reign suddenly changed. The most terrible plague the
world has ever witnessed advanced from the East, and after devastating
Europe from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Baltic swooped at the
close of 1348 upon Britain. The traditions of its destructiveness and the
panic-struck words of the statutes passed after its visitation have been
amply justified by modern research. Of the three or four millions who then
formed the population of England more than one-half were swept away in its
repeated visitations. Its ravages were fiercest in the greater towns where
filthy and undrained streets afforded a constant haunt to leprosy and
fever. In the burial-ground which the piety of Sir Walter Maunay purchased
for the citizens of London, a spot whose site was afterwards marked by the
Charter House, more than fifty thousand corpses are said to have been
interred. Thousands of people perished at Norwich, while in Bristol the
living were hardly able to bury the dead. But the Black Death fell on the
villages almost as fiercely as on the towns. More than one-half of the
priests of Yorkshire are known to have perished; in the diocese of Norwich
two-thirds of the parishes changed their incumbents. The whole organization
of labour was thrown out of gear. The scarcity of hands produced by the
terrible mortality made it difficult for villeins to perform the services
due for their lands, and only a temporary abandonment of half the rent by
the landowners induced the farmers of their demesnes to refrain from the
abandonment of their farms. For a time cultivation became impossible. "The
sheep and cattle strayed through the fields and corn," says a contemporary,
"and there were none left who could drive them." Even when the first burst
of panic was over, the sudden rise of wages consequent on the enormous
diminution in the supply of labour, though accompanied by a corresponding
rise in the price of food, rudely disturbed the course of industrial
employments. Harvests rotted on the ground and fields were left untilled
not merely from scarcity of hands but from the strife which now for the
first time revealed itself between capital and labour.


[Sidenote: Its Social Results]

Nowhere was the effect of the Black Death so keenly felt as in its bearing
on the social revolution which had been steadily going on for a century
past throughout the country. At the moment we have reached the lord of a
manor had been reduced over a large part of England to the position of a
modern landlord, receiving a rental in money from his tenants and supplying
their place in the cultivation of his demesne lands by paid labourers. He
was driven by the progress of enfranchisement to rely for the purposes of
cultivation on the supply of hired labour, and hitherto this supply had
been abundant and cheap. But with the ravages of the Black Death and the
decrease of population labour at once became scarce and dear. There was a
general rise of wages, and the farmers of the country as well as the
wealthier craftsmen of the town saw themselves threatened with ruin by what
seemed to their age the extravagant demands of the labour class. Meanwhile
the country was torn with riot and disorder. An outbreak of lawless
self-indulgence which followed everywhere in the wake of the plague told
especially upon the "landless men," workers wandering in search of work who
found themselves for the first time masters of the labour market; and the
wandering labourer or artizan turned easily into the "sturdy beggar," or
the bandit of the woods. A summary redress for these evils was at once
provided by the Crown in a royal proclamation. "Because a great part of the
people," runs this ordinance, "and principally of labourers and servants,
is dead of the plague, some, seeing the need of their lords and the
scarcity of servants, are unwilling to serve unless they receive excessive
wages, and others are rather begging in idleness than supporting themselves
by labour, we have ordained that any able-bodied man or woman, of
whatsoever condition, free or serf, under sixty years of age, not living of
merchandise nor following a trade nor having of his own wherewithal to
live, either his own land with the culture of which he could occupy
himself, and not serving another, shall if so required serve another for
such wages as was the custom in the twentieth year of our reign or five or
six years before."


[Sidenote: Statute of Labourers]

It was the failure of this ordinance to effect its ends which brought about
at the close of 1349 the passing of the Statute of Labourers. "Every man or
woman," runs this famous provision, "of whatsoever condition, free or bond,
able in body, and within the age of threescore years, ... and not having of
his own whereof he may live, nor land of his own about the tillage of which
he may occupy himself, and not serving any other, shall be bound to serve
the employer who shall require him to do so, and shall take only the wages
which were accustomed to be taken in the neighbourhood where he is bound to
serve" two years before the plague began. A refusal to obey was punished by
imprisonment. But sterner measures were soon found to be necessary. Not
only was the price of labour fixed by the Parliament of 1351 but the labour
class was once more tied to the soil. The labourer was forbidden to quit
the parish where he lived in search of better paid employment; if he
disobeyed he became a "fugitive," and subject to imprisonment at the hands
of justices of the peace. To enforce such a law literally must have been
impossible, for corn rose to so high a price that a day's labour at the old
wages would not have purchased wheat enough for a man's support. But the
landowners did not flinch from the attempt. The repeated re-enactment of
the law shows the difficulty of applying it and the stubbornness of the
struggle which it brought about. The fines and forfeitures which were
levied for infractions of its provisions formed a large source of royal
revenue, but so ineffectual were the original penalties that the runaway
labourer was at last ordered to be branded with a hot iron on the forehead,
while the harbouring of serfs in towns was rigorously put down. Nor was it
merely the existing class of free labourers which was attacked by this
reactionary movement. The increase of their numbers by a commutation of
labour services for money payments was suddenly checked, and the ingenuity
of the lawyers who were employed as stewards of each manor was exercised in
striving to restore to the landowners that customary labour whose loss was
now severely felt. Manumissions and exemptions which had passed without
question were cancelled on grounds of informality, and labour services from
which they held themselves freed by redemption were again demanded from the
villeins. The attempt was the more galling that the cause had to be pleaded
in the manor-court itself, and to be decided by the very officer whose
interest it was to give judgement in favour of his lord. We can see the
growth of a fierce spirit of resistance through the statutes which strove
in vain to repress it. In the towns, where the system of forced labour was
applied with even more rigour than in the country, strikes and combinations
became frequent among the lower craftsmen. In the country the free
labourers found allies in the villeins whose freedom from manorial service
was questioned. These were often men of position and substance, and
throughout the eastern counties the gatherings of "fugitive serfs" were
supported by an organized resistance and by large contributions of money on
the part of the wealthier tenantry.


[Sidenote: Renewal of the War]

With plague, famine, and social strife in the land, it was no time for
reaping the fruits even of such a victory as Crécy. Luckily for England the
pestilence had fallen as heavily on her foe as on herself. A common
suffering and exhaustion forced both countries to a truce, and though
desultory fighting went on along the Breton and Aquitanian borders, the
peace which was thus secured lasted with brief intervals of fighting for
seven years. It was not till 1355 that the failure of a last effort to turn
the truce into a final peace again drove Edward into war. The campaign
opened with a brilliant prospect of success. Charles the Bad, King of
Navarre, held as a prince of descent from the house of Valois large fiefs
in Normandy; and a quarrel springing suddenly up between him and John, who
had now succeeded his father Philip on the throne of France, Charles
offered to put his fortresses into Edward's hands. Master of Cherbourg,
Avranches, Pontaudemer, Evreux and Meulan, Mantes, Mortain, Pontoise,
Charles held in his hands the keys of France; and Edward grasped at the
opportunity of delivering a crushing blow. Three armies were prepared to
act in Normandy, Britanny, and Guienne. But the first two, with Edward and
Henry of Derby, who had been raised to the dukedom of Lancaster, at their
head, were detained by contrary winds, and Charles, despairing of their
arrival, made peace with John. Edward made his way to Calais to meet the
tidings of this desertion and to be called back to England by news of a
recapture of Berwick by the Scots. But his hopes of Norman co-operation
were revived in 1356. The treachery of John, his seizure of the King of
Navarre, and his execution of the Count of Harcourt who was looked upon as
the adviser of Charles in his policy of intrigue, stirred a general rising
throughout Normandy. Edward at once despatched troops under the Duke of
Lancaster to its support. But the insurgents were soon forced to fall back.
Conscious of the danger to which an English occupation of Normandy would
expose him, John hastened with a large army to the west, drove Lancaster to
Cherbourg, took Evreux, and besieged Breteuil.


[Sidenote: The Black Prince]

Here however his progress was suddenly checked by news from the south. The
Black Prince, as the hero of Crécy was called, had landed in Guienne during
the preceding year and won a disgraceful success. Unable to pay his troops,
he staved off their demands by a campaign of sheer pillage. While plague
and war and the anarchy which sprang up under the weak government of John
were bringing ruin on the northern and central provinces of France, the
south remained prosperous and at peace. The young prince led his army of
freebooters up the Garonne into "what was before one of the fat countries
of the world, the people good and simple, who did not know what war was;
indeed no war had been waged against them till the Prince came. The English
and Gascons found the country full and gay, the rooms adorned with carpets
and draperies, the caskets and chests full of fair jewels. But nothing was
safe from these robbers. They, and especially the Gascons, who are very
greedy, carried off everything." Glutted by the sack of Carcassonne and
Narbonne the plunderers fell back to Bordeaux, "their horses so laden with
spoil that they could hardly move." Worthier work awaited the Black Prince
in the following year. In the plan of campaign for 1356 it had been
arranged that he should march upon the Loire, and there unite with a force
under the Duke of Lancaster which was to land in Britanny and push rapidly
into the heart of France. Delays however hindered the Prince from starting
from Bordeaux till July, and when his march brought him to the Loire the
plan of campaign had already broken down. The outbreak in Normandy had
tempted the English Council to divert the force under Lancaster from
Britanny to that province; and the Duke was now at Cherbourg, hard pressed
by the French army under John. But if its original purpose was foiled, the
march of the Black Prince on the Loire served still more effectively the
English cause. His advance pointed straight upon Paris, and again as in the
Crécy campaign John was forced to leave all for the protection of the
capital. Hasty marches brought the king to the Loire while Prince Edward
still lay at Vierzon on the Cher. Unconscious of John's designs, he wasted
some days in the capture of Romorantin while the French troops were
crossing the Loire along its course from Orleans to Tours and John with the
advance was hurrying through Loches upon Poitiers in pursuit, as he
supposed, of the retreating Englishmen. But the movement of the French
army, near as it was, was unknown in the English camp; and when the news of
it forced the Black Prince to order a retreat the enemy was already far
ahead of him. Edward reached the fields north of Poitiers to find his line
of retreat cut off and a French army of sixty thousand men interposed
between his forces and Bordeaux.

If the Prince had shown little ability in his management of the campaign,
he showed tactical skill in the fight which was now forced on him. On the
nineteenth of September he took a strong position in the fields of
Maupertuis, where his front was covered by thick hedges and approachable
only by a deep and narrow lane which ran between vineyards. The vineyards
and hedges he lined with bowmen, and drew up his small body of men-at-arms
at the point where the lane opened upon the higher plain on which he was
himself encamped. Edward's force numbered only eight thousand men, and the
danger was great enough to force him to offer in exchange for a free
retreat the surrender of his prisoners and of the places he had taken, with
an oath not to fight against France for seven years to come. His offers
however were rejected, and the battle opened with a charge of three hundred
French knights up the narrow lane. But the lane was soon choked with men
and horses, while the front ranks of the advancing army fell back before a
galling fire of arrows from the hedgerows. In this moment of confusion a
body of English horsemen, posted unseen by their opponents on a hill to the
right, charged suddenly on the French flank, and the Prince watching the
disorder which was caused by the repulse and surprise fell boldly on their
front. The steady shot of the English archers completed the panic produced
by this sudden attack. The first French line was driven in, and on its rout
the second, a force of sixteen thousand men, at once broke in wild terror
and fled from the field. John still held his ground with the knights of the
reserve, whom he had unwisely ordered to dismount from their horses, till a
charge of the Black Prince with two thousand lances threw this last body
into confusion. The French king was taken, desperately fighting; and when
his army poured back at noon in utter rout to the gates of Poitiers eight
thousand of their number had fallen on the field, three thousand in the
flight, and two thousand men-at-arms, with a crowd of nobles, were taken
prisoners. The royal captive entered London in triumph, mounted on a big
white charger, while the Prince rode by his side on a little black hackney
to the palace of the Savoy, which was chosen as John's dwelling, and a
truce for two years seemed to give healing-time to France.


[Sidenote: Edward and the Scots]

With the Scots Edward the Third had less good fortune. Recalled from Calais
by their seizure of Berwick, the king induced Balliol to resign into his
hands his shadowy sovereignty, and in the spring of 1356 marched upon
Edinburgh with an overpowering army, harrying and burning as he marched.
But the Scots refused an engagement, a fleet sent with provisions was
beaten off by a storm, and the famine-stricken army was forced to fall
rapidly back on the border in a disastrous retreat. The trial convinced
Edward that the conquest of Scotland was impossible, and by a rapid change
of policy which marks the man he resolved to seek the friendship of the
country he had wasted so long. David Bruce was released on promise of
ransom, a truce concluded for ten years, and the prohibition of trade
between the two kingdoms put an end to. But the fulness of this
reconciliation screened a dexterous intrigue. David was childless, and
Edward availed himself of the difficulty which the young king experienced
in finding means of providing the sum demanded for his ransom to bring him
over to a proposal which would have united the two countries for ever. The
scheme however was carefully concealed; and it was not till 1363 that David
proposed to his Parliament to set aside on his death the claims of the
Steward of Scotland to his crown, and to choose Edward's third son, Lionel,
Duke of Clarence, as his successor. Though the proposal was scornfully
rejected, negotiations were still carried on between the two kings for the
realization of this project, and were probably only put an end to by the
calamities of Edward's later years.

[Illustration: France at the Treaty of Bretigny (v2-map-2t.jpg)]


[Sidenote: Peace of Brétigny]

In France misery and misgovernment seemed to be doing Edward's work more
effectively than arms. The miserable country found no rest in itself. Its
routed soldiery turned into free companies of bandits, while the lords
captured at Crécy or Poitiers procured the sums needed for their ransom by
extortion from the peasantry. The reforms demanded by the States-General
which met in this agony of France were frustrated by the treachery of the
Regent, John's eldest son Charles, Duke of Normandy, till Paris, impatient
of his weakness and misrule, rose in arms against the Crown. The peasants
too, driven mad by oppression and famine, rose in wild insurrection,
butchering their lords and firing their castles over the whole face of
France. Paris and the Jacquerie, as this peasant rising was called, were at
last crushed by treachery and the sword: and, exhausted as it was, France
still backed the Regent in rejecting a treaty of peace by which John in
1359 proposed to buy his release. By this treaty Maine, Touraine, and
Poitou in the south, Normandy, Guisnes, Ponthieu, and Calais in the west
were ceded to the English king. On its rejection Edward in 1360 poured
ravaging over the wasted land. Famine however proved its best defence. "I
could not believe," said Petrarch of this time, "that this was the same
France which I had seen so rich and flourishing. Nothing presented itself
to my eyes but a fearful solitude, an utter poverty, land uncultivated,
houses in ruins. Even the neighbourhood of Paris showed everywhere marks of
desolation and conflagration. The streets are deserted, the roads overgrown
with weeds, the whole is a vast solitude." The utter desolation forced
Edward to carry with him an immense train of provisions, and thousands of
baggage waggons with mills, ovens, forges, and fishing-boats, formed a long
train which streamed for six miles behind his army. After a fruitless
attempt upon Reims he forced the Duke of Burgundy to conclude a treaty with
him by pushing forward to Tonnerre, and then descending the Seine appeared
with his army before Paris. But the wasted country forbade a siege, and
Edward after summoning the town in vain was forced to fall back for
subsistence on the Loire. It was during this march that the Duke of
Normandy's envoys overtook him with proposals of peace. The misery of the
land had at last bent Charles to submission, and in May a treaty was
concluded at Brétigny, a small place to the eastward of Chartres. By this
treaty the English king waived his claims on the crown of France and on the
Duchy of Normandy. On the other hand, his Duchy of Aquitaine, which
included Gascony, Guienne, Poitou, and Saintonge, the Limousin and the
Angoumois, Périgord and the counties of Bigorre and Rouergue, was not only
restored but freed from its obligations as a French fief and granted in
full sovereignty with Ponthieu, Edward's heritage from the second wife of
Edward the First, as well as with Guisnes and his new conquest of Calais.


[Sidenote: Misery of England]

The Peace of Brétigny set its seal upon Edward's glory. But within England
itself the misery of the people was deepening every hour. Men believed the
world to be ending, and the judgement day to be near. A few months after
the Peace came a fresh swoop of the Black Death, carrying off the Duke of
Lancaster. The repressive measures of Parliament and the landowners only
widened the social chasm which parted employer from employed. We can see
the growth of a fierce spirit of resistance both to the reactionary efforts
which were being made to bring back labour services and to the enactments
which again bound labour to the soil in statutes which strove in vain to
repress the strikes and combinations which became frequent in the towns and
the more formidable gatherings of villeins and "fugitive serfs" in the
country at large. A statute of later date throws light on the nature of the
resistance of the last. It tells us that "villeins and holders of land in
villeinage withdrew their customs and services from their lords, having
attached themselves to other persons who maintained and abetted them, and
who under colour of exemplifications from Domesday of the manors and
villages where they dwelt claimed to be quit of all manner of services
either of their body or of their lands, and would suffer no distress or
other course of justice to be taken against them; the villeins aiding their
maintainers by threatening the officers of their lords with peril to life
and limb as well by open assemblies as by confederacies to support each
other." It would seem not only as if the villein was striving to resist the
reactionary tendency of the lords of manors to regain his labour service
but that in the general overturning of social institutions the copyholder
was struggling to make himself a freeholder, and the farmer to be
recognized as proprietor of the demesne he held on lease.


[Sidenote: John Ball]

A more terrible outcome of the general suffering was seen in a new revolt
against the whole system of social inequality which had till then passed
unquestioned as the divine order of the world. The Peace was hardly signed
when the cry of the poor found a terrible utterance in the words of "a mad
priest of Kent" as the courtly Froissart calls him, who for twenty years to
come found audience for his sermons in spite of interdict and imprisonment
in the stout yeomen who gathered round him in the churchyards of Kent.
"Mad" as the landowners held him to be, it was in the preaching of John
Ball that England first listened to a declaration of the natural equality
and rights of man. "Good people," cried the preacher, "things will never be
well in England so long as goods be not in common, and so long as there be
villeins and gentlemen. By what right are they whom we call lords greater
folk than we? On what grounds have they deserved it? Why do they hold us in
serfage? If we all came of the same father and mother, of Adam and Eve, how
can they say or prove that they are better than we, if it be not that they
make us gain for them by our toil what they spend in their pride? They are
clothed in velvet and warm in their furs and their ermines, while we are
covered with rags. They have wine and spices and fair bread; and we
oat-cake and straw, and water to drink. They have leisure and fine houses;
we have pain and labour, the rain and the wind in the fields. And yet it is
of us and of our toil that these men hold their state." It was the tyranny
of property that then as ever roused the defiance of socialism. A spirit
fatal to the whole system of the Middle Ages breathed in the popular rime
which condensed the levelling doctrine of John Ball:

                      "When Adam delved and Eve span,
                       Who was then the gentleman?"


[Sidenote: William Langland]

More impressive, because of the very restraint and moderation of its tone,
is the poem in which William Langland began at the same moment to embody
with a terrible fidelity all the darker and sterner aspects of the time,
its social revolt, its moral and religious awakening, the misery of the
poor, the selfishness and corruption of the rich. Nothing brings more
vividly home to us the social chasm which in the fourteenth century severed
the rich from the poor than the contrast between his "Complaint of Piers
the Ploughman" and the "Canterbury Tales." The world of wealth and ease and
laughter through which the courtly Chaucer moves with, eyes downcast as in
a pleasant dream is a far-off world of wrong and of ungodliness to the
gaunt poet of the poor. Born probably in Shropshire, where he had been put
to school and received minor orders as a clerk, "Long Will," as Langland
was nicknamed from his tall stature, found his way at an early age to
London, and earned a miserable livelihood there by singing "placebos" and
"diriges" in the stately funerals of his day. Men took the moody clerk for
a madman; his bitter poverty quickened the defiant pride that made him
loth, as he tells us, to bow to the gay lords and dames who rode decked in
silver and minivere along the Cheap or to exchange a "God save you" with
the law sergeants as he passed their new house in the Temple. His world is
the world of the poor; he dwells on the poor man's life, on his hunger and
toil, his rough revelry and his despair, with the narrow intensity of a man
who has no outlook beyond it. The narrowness, the misery, the monotony of
the life he paints reflect themselves in his verse. It is only here and
there that a love of nature or a grim earnestness of wrath quickens his
rime into poetry; there is not a gleam of the bright human sympathy of
Chaucer, of his fresh delight in the gaiety, the tenderness, the daring of
the world about him, of his picturesque sense of even its coarsest
contrasts, of his delicate irony, of his courtly wit. The cumbrous
allegory, the tedious platitudes, the rimed texts from Scripture which form
the staple of Langland's work, are only broken here and there by phrases of
a shrewd common sense, by bitter outbursts, by pictures of a broad
Hogarthian humour. What chains one to the poem is its deep undertone of
sadness: the world is out of joint, and the gaunt rimer who stalks silently
along the Strand has no faith in his power to put it right.


[Sidenote: Piers Ploughman]

Londoner as he is, Will's fancy flies far from the sin and suffering of the
great city to a May-morning in the Malvern Hills. "I was weary forwandered
and went me to rest under a broad bank by a burn side, and as I lay and
leaned and looked in the water I slumbered in a sleeping, it sweyved
(sounded) so merry." Just as Chaucer gathers the typical figures of the
world he saw into his pilgrim train, so the dreamer gathers into a wide
field his army of traders and chafferers, of hermits and solitaries, of
minstrels, "japers and jinglers," bidders and beggars, ploughmen that "in
setting and in sowing swonken (toil) full hard," pilgrims "with their
wenches after," weavers and labourers, burgess and bondman, lawyer and
scrivener, court-haunting bishops, friars, and pardoners "parting the
silver" with the parish priest. Their pilgrimage is not to Canterbury but
to Truth; their guide to Truth neither clerk nor priest but Peterkin the
Ploughman, whom they find ploughing in his field. He it is who bids the
knight no more wrest gifts from his tenant nor misdo with the poor. "Though
he be thine underling here, well may hap in heaven that he be worthier set
and with more bliss than thou.... For in charnel at church churles be evil
to know, or a knight from a knave there." The gospel of equality is backed
by the gospel of labour. The aim of the Ploughman is to work, and to make
the world work with him. He warns the labourer as he warns the knight.
Hunger is God's instrument in bringing the idlest to toil, and Hunger waits
to work her will on the idler and the waster. On the eve of the great
struggle between wealth and labour, Langland stands alone in his fairness
to both, in his shrewd political and religious common sense. In the face of
the popular hatred which was to gather round John of Gaunt, he paints the
Duke in a famous apologue as the cat who, greedy as she might be, at any
rate keeps the noble rats from utterly devouring the mice of the people.
Though the poet is loyal to the Church, he proclaims a righteous life to be
better than a host of indulgences, and God sends His pardon to Piers when
priests dispute it. But he sings as a man conscious of his loneliness and
without hope. It is only in a dream that he sees Corruption, "Lady Mede,"
brought to trial, and the world repenting at the preaching of Reason. In
the waking life reason finds no listeners. The poet himself is looked
upon--he tells us bitterly--as a madman. There is a terrible despair in the
close of his later poem, where the triumph of Christ is only followed by
the reign of Antichrist; where Contrition slumbers amidst the revel of
Death and Sin; and Conscience, hard beset by Pride and Sloth, rouses
himself with a last effort, and seizing his pilgrim staff, wanders over the
world to find Piers Ploughman.


[Sidenote: Præmunire]

The strife indeed which Langland would have averted raged only the fiercer
as the dark years went by. If the Statutes of Labourers were powerless for
their immediate ends, either in reducing the actual rate of wages or in
restricting the mass of floating labour to definite areas of employment,
they proved effective in sowing hatred between employer and employed,
between rich and poor. But this social rift was not the only rift which was
opening amidst the distress and misery of the time. The close of William
Langland's poem is the prophecy of a religious revolution; and the way for
such a revolution was being paved by the growing bitterness of strife
between England and the Papacy. In spite of the sharp protests from king
and parliament the need for money at Avignon was too great to allow any
relaxation in the Papal claims. Almost on the eve of Crécy Edward took the
decisive step of forbidding the entry into England of any Papal bulls or
documents interfering with the rights of presentation belonging to private
patrons. But the tenacity of Rome was far from loosening its grasp on this
source of revenue for all Edward's protests. Crécy however gave a new
boldness to the action of the State, and a Statute of Provisors was passed
by the Parliament in 1351 which again asserted the rights of the English
Church and enacted that all who infringed them by the introduction of Papal
"provisors" should suffer imprisonment. But resistance to provisors only
brought fresh vexations. The patrons who withstood a Papal nominee in the
name of the law were summoned to defend themselves in the Papal Court. From
that moment the supremacy of the Papal law over the law of the land became
a great question in which the lesser question of provisors merged. The
pretension of the Court of Avignon was met in 1353 by a statute which
forbade any questioning of judgements rendered in the King's Courts or any
prosecution of a suit in foreign courts under pain of outlawry, perpetual
imprisonment, or banishment from the land. It was this act of Præmunire--as
it came in after renewals to be called--which furnished so terrible a
weapon to the Tudors in their later strife with Rome. But the Papacy paid
little heed to these warnings, and its obstinacy in still receiving suits
and appeals in defiance of this statute roused the pride of a conquering
people. England was still fresh from her glory at Brétigny when Edward
appealed to the Parliament of 1365. Complaints, he said, were constantly
being made by his subjects to the Pope as to matters which were cognizable
in the King's Courts. The practice of provisors was thus maintained in the
teeth of the laws, and "the laws, usages, ancient customs, and franchises
of his kingdom were thereby much hindered, the King's crown degraded, and
his person defamed." The king's appeal was hotly met. "Biting words," which
it was thought wise to suppress, were used in the debate which followed,
and the statutes against provisors and appeals were solemnly confirmed.


[Sidenote: Wyclif]

What gave point to this challenge was the assent of the prelates to the
proceedings of the Parliament; and the pride of Urban V. at once met it by
a counter-defiance. He demanded with threats the payment of the annual sum
of a thousand marks promised by King John in acknowledgement of the
suzerainty of the See of Rome. The insult roused the temper of the realm.
The king laid the demand before Parliament, and both houses replied that
"neither King John nor any king could put himself, his kingdom, nor his
people under subjection save with their accord or assent." John's
submission had been made "without their assent and against his coronation
oath" and they pledged themselves, should the Pope attempt to enforce his
claim, to resist him with all their power. Even Urban shrank from
imperilling the Papacy by any further demands, and the claim to a Papal
lordship over England was never again heard of. But the struggle had
brought to the front a man who was destined to give a far wider scope and
significance to this resistance to Rome than any as yet dreamed of. Nothing
is more remarkable than the contrast between the obscurity of John Wyclif's
earlier life and the fulness and vividness of our knowledge of him during
the twenty years which preceded its close. Born in the earlier part of the
fourteenth century, he had already passed middle age when he was appointed
to the mastership of Balliol College in the University of Oxford and
recognized as first among the schoolmen of his day. Of all the scholastic
doctors those of England had been throughout the keenest and most daring in
philosophical speculation. A reckless audacity and love of novelty was the
common note of Bacon, Duns Scotus, and Ockham, as against the sober and
more disciplined learning of the Parisian schoolmen, Albert and Thomas
Aquinas. The decay of the University of Paris during the English wars was
transferring her intellectual supremacy to Oxford, and in Oxford Wyclif
stood without a rival. From his predecessor, Bradwardine, whose work as a
scholastic teacher he carried on in the speculative treatises he published
during this period, he inherited the tendency to a predestinarian
Augustinianism which formed the groundwork of his later theological revolt.
His debt to Ockham revealed itself in his earliest efforts at Church
reform. Undismayed by the thunder and excommunications of the Church,
Ockham had supported the Emperor Lewis of Bavaria in his recent struggle,
and he had not shrunk in his enthusiasm for the Empire from attacking the
foundations of the Papal supremacy or from asserting the rights of the
civil power. The spare, emaciated frame of Wyclif, weakened by study and
asceticism, hardly promised a reformer who would carry on the stormy work
of Ockham; but within this frail form lay a temper quick and restless, an
immense energy, an immovable conviction, an unconquerable pride. The
personal charm which ever accompanies real greatness only deepened the
influence he derived from the spotless purity of his life. As yet indeed
even Wyclif himself can hardly have suspected the immense range of his
intellectual power. It was only the struggle that lay before him which
revealed in the dry and subtle schoolman the founder of our later English
prose, a master of popular invective, of irony, of persuasion, a dexterous
politician, an audacious partizan, the organizer of a religious order, the
unsparing assailant of abuses, the boldest and most indefatigable of
controversialists, the first Reformer who dared, when deserted and alone,
to question and deny the creed of the Christendom around him, to break
through the tradition of the past, and with his last breath to assert the
freedom of religious thought against the dogmas of the Papacy.


[Sidenote: "De Dominio Divino."]

At the moment of the quarrel with Pope Urban however Wyclif was far from
having advanced to such a position as this. As the most prominent of
English scholars it was natural that he should come forward in defence of
the independence and freedom of the English Church; and he published a
formal refutation of the claims advanced by the Papacy to deal at its will
with church property in the form of a report of the Parliamentary debates
which we have described. As yet his quarrel was not with the doctrines of
Rome but with its practices; and it was on the principles of Ockham that he
defended the Parliament's refusal of the "tribute" which was claimed by
Urban. But his treatise on "The Kingdom of God," "De Dominio Divino," which
can hardly have been written later than 1368, shows the breadth of the
ground he was even now prepared to take up. In this, the most famous of his
works, Wyclif bases his argument on a distinct ideal of society. All
authority, to use his own expression, is "founded in grace." Dominion in
the highest sense is in God alone; it is God who as the suzerain of the
universe deals out His rule in fief to rulers in their various stations on
tenure of their obedience to Himself. It was easy to object that in such a
case "dominion" could never exist, since mortal sin is a breach of such a
tenure and all men sin. But, as Wyclif urged it, the theory is a purely
ideal one. In actual practice he distinguishes between dominion and power,
power which the wicked may have by God's permission, and to which the
Christian must submit from motives of obedience to God. In his own
scholastic phrase, so strangely perverted afterwards, here on earth "God
must obey the devil." But whether in the ideal or practical view of the
matter all power and dominion was of God. It was granted by Him not to one
person, His Vicar on earth, as the Papacy alleged, but to all. The king was
as truly God's Vicar as the Pope. The royal power was as sacred as the
ecclesiastical, and as complete over temporal things, even over the
temporalities of the Church, as that of the Church over spiritual things.
So far as the question of Church and State therefore was concerned the
distinction between the ideal and practical view of "dominion" was of
little account. Wyclif's application of the theory to the individual
conscience was of far higher and wider importance. Obedient as each
Christian might be to king or priest, he himself as a possessor of
"dominion" held immediately of God. The throne of God Himself was the
tribunal of personal appeal. What the Reformers of the sixteenth century
attempted to do by their theory of Justification by Faith Wyclif attempted
to do by his theory of Dominion, a theory which in establishing a direct
relation between man and God swept away the whole basis of a mediating
priesthood, the very foundation on which the mediaeval church was built.


[Sidenote: England and Aquitaine]

As yet the full bearing of these doctrines was little seen. But the social
and religious excitement which we have described was quickened by the
renewal of the war, and the general suffering and discontent gathered
bitterness when the success which had flushed England with a new and
warlike pride passed into a long series of disasters in which men forgot
the glories of Crécy and Poitiers. Triumph as it seemed, the treaty of
Brétigny was really fatal to Edward's cause in the south of France. By the
cession of Aquitaine to him in full sovereignty the traditional claim on
which his strength rested lost its force. The people of the south had clung
to their Duke, even though their Duke was a foreign ruler. They had
stubbornly resisted incorporation with Northern France. While preserving
however their traditional fealty to the descendants of Eleanor they still
clung to the equally traditional suzerainty of the kings of France. But the
treaty of Brétigny not only severed them from the realm of France, it
subjected them to the realm of England. Edward ceased to be their
hereditary Duke, he became simply an English king ruling Aquitaine as an
English dominion. If the Southerners loved the North-French little, they
loved the English less, and the treaty which thus changed their whole
position was followed by a quick revulsion of feeling from the Garonne to
the Pyrenees. The Gascon nobles declared that John had no right to transfer
their fealty to another and to sever them from the realm of France. The
city of Rochelle prayed the French king not to release it from its fealty
to him. "We will obey the English with our lips," said its citizens, "but
our hearts shall never be moved towards them." Edward strove to meet this
passion for local independence, this hatred of being ruled from London, by
sending the Black Prince to Bordeaux and investing him in 1362 with the
Duchy of Aquitaine. But the new Duke held his Duchy as a fief from the
English king, and the grievance of the Southerners was left untouched.
Charles V. who succeeded his father John in 1364 silently prepared to reap
this harvest of discontent. Patient, wary, unscrupulous, he was hardly
crowned before he put an end to the war which had gone on without a pause
in Britanny by accepting homage from the claimant whom France had hitherto
opposed. Through Bertrand du Guesclin, a fine soldier whom his sagacity had
discovered, he forced the king of Navarre to a peace which closed the
fighting in Normandy. A more formidable difficulty in the way of
pacification and order lay in the Free Companies, a union of marauders whom
the disbanding of both armies after the peace had set free to harry the
wasted land and whom the king's military resources were insufficient to
cope with. It was the stroke by which Charles cleared his realm of these
scourges which forced on a new struggle with the English in the south.


[Sidenote: Pedro the Cruel]

In the judgement of the English court the friendship of Castille was of the
first importance for the security of Aquitaine. Spain was the strongest
naval power of the western world, and not only would the ports of Guienne
be closed but its communication with England would be at once cut off by
the appearance of a joint French and Spanish fleet in the Channel. It was
with satisfaction therefore that Edward saw the growth of a bitter
hostility between Charles and the Castilian king, Pedro the Cruel, through
the murder of his wife, Blanche of Bourbon, the French king's
sister-in-law. Henry of Trastamara, a bastard son of Pedro's father Alfonso
the Eleventh, had long been a refugee at the French court, and soon after
the treaty of Brétigny Charles in his desire to revenge this murder on
Pedro gave Henry aid in an attempt on the Castilian throne. It was
impossible for England to look on with indifference while a dependant of
the French king became master of Castille; and in 1362 a treaty offensive
and defensive was concluded between Pedro and Edward the Third. The time
was not come for open war; but the subtle policy of Charles saw in this
strife across the Pyrenees an opportunity both of detaching Castille from
the English cause and of ridding himself of the Free Companies. With
characteristic caution he dexterously held himself in the background while
he made use of the Pope, who had been threatened by the Free Companies in
his palace at Avignon and was as anxious to get rid of them as himself.
Pedro's cruelty, misgovernment, and alliance with the Moslem of Cordova
served as grounds for a crusade which was proclaimed by Pope Urban; and Du
Guesclin, who was placed at the head of the expedition, found in the Papal
treasury and in the hope of booty from an unravaged land means of gathering
the marauders round his standard. As soon as these Crusaders crossed the
Ebro Pedro was deserted by his subjects, and in 1366 Henry of Trastamara
saw himself crowned without a struggle at Burgos as king of Castille. Pedro
with his two daughters fled for shelter to Bordeaux and claimed the aid
promised in the treaty. The lords of Aquitaine shrank from fighting for
such a cause, but in spite of their protests and the reluctance of the
English council to embark in so distant a struggle Edward held that he had
no choice save to replace his ally, for to leave Henry seated on the throne
was to leave Aquitaine to be crushed between France and Castille.


[Sidenote: Charles the Fifth]

The after course of the war proved that in his anticipations of the fatal
result of a combination of the two powers Edward was right, but his policy
jarred not only against the universal craving for rest, but against the
moral sense of the world. The Black Prince however proceeded to carry out
his father's design in the teeth of the general opposition. His call to
arms robbed Henry of the aid of those English Companies who had marched
till now with the rest of the crusaders, but who returned at once to the
standard of the Prince; the passes of Navarre were opened with gold, and in
the beginning of 1367 the English army crossed the Pyrenees. Advancing to
the Ebro the Prince offered battle at Navarete with an army already reduced
by famine and disease in its terrible winter march, and Henry with double
his numbers at once attacked him. But in spite of the obstinate courage of
the Castilian troops the discipline and skill of the English soldiers once
more turned the wavering day into a victory. Du Guesclin was taken, Henry
fled across the Pyrenees, and Pedro was again seated on his throne. The pay
however which he had promised was delayed; and the Prince, whose army had
been thinned by disease to a fifth of its numbers and whose strength never
recovered from the hardships of this campaign, fell back sick and beggared
to Aquitaine. He had hardly returned when his work was undone. In 1368
Henry reentered Castille; its towns threw open their gates; a general
rising chased Pedro from the throne, and a final battle in the spring of
1369 saw his utter overthrow. His murder by Henry's hand left the bastard
undisputed master of Castille. Meanwhile the Black Prince, sick and
disheartened, was hampered at Bordeaux by the expenses of the campaign
which Pedro had left unpaid. To defray his debt he was driven in 1368 to
lay a hearth-tax on Aquitaine, and the tax served as a pretext for an
outbreak of the long-hoarded discontent. Charles was now ready for open
action. He had won over the most powerful among the Gascon nobles, and
their influence secured the rejection of the tax in a Parliament of the
province which met at Bordeaux. The Prince, pressed by debt, persisted
against the counsel of his wisest advisers in exacting it; and the lords of
Aquitaine at once appealed to the king of France. Such an appeal was a
breach of the treaty of Brétigny in which the French king had renounced his
sovereignty over the south; but Charles had craftily delayed year after
year the formal execution of the renunciations stipulated in the treaty,
and he was still able to treat it as not binding on him. The success of
Henry of Trastamara decided him to take immediate action, and in 1369 he
summoned the Black Prince as Duke of Aquitaine to meet the appeal of the
Gascon lords in his court.


[Sidenote: Renewal of the War]

The Prince was maddened by the summons. "I will come," he replied, "but
with helmet on head, and with sixty thousand men at my back." War however
had hardly been declared when the ability with which Charles had laid his
plans was seen in his seizure of Ponthieu and in a rising of the whole
country south of the Garonne. Du Gueselin returned in 1370 from Spain to
throw life into the French attack. Two armies entered Guienne from the
east; and a hundred castles with La Réole and Limoges threw open their
gates to Du Guesclin. But the march of an English army from Calais upon
Paris recalled him from the south to guard the capital at a moment when the
English leader advanced to recover Limoges, and the Black Prince borne in a
litter to its walls stormed the town and sullied by a merciless massacre of
its inhabitants the fame of his earlier exploits. Sickness however recalled
him home in the spring of 1371; and the war, protracted by the caution of
Charles who forbade his armies to engage, did little but exhaust the energy
and treasure of England. As yet indeed the French attack had made small
impression on the south, where the English troops stoutly held their ground
against Du Guesclin's inroads. But the protracted war drained Edward's
resources, while the diplomacy of Charles was busy in rousing fresh dangers
from Scotland and Castille. It was in vain that Edward looked for allies to
the Flemish towns. The male line of the Counts of Flanders ended in Count
Louis le Mâle; and the marriage of his daughter Margaret with Philip, Duke
of Burgundy, a younger brother of the French king, secured Charles from
attack along his northern border. In Scotland the death of David Bruce put
an end to Edward's schemes for a reunion of the two kingdoms; and his
successor, Robert the Steward, renewed in 1371 the alliance with France.


[Sidenote: Loss of Aquitaine]

Castille was a yet more serious danger; and an effort which Edward made to
neutralize its attack only forced Henry of Trastamara to fling his whole
weight into the struggle. The two daughters of Pedro had remained since
their father's flight at Bordeaux. The elder of these was now wedded to
John of Gaunt, Edward's fourth son, whom he had created Duke of Lancaster
on his previous marriage with Blanche, a daughter of Henry of Lancaster and
the heiress of that house, while the younger was wedded to Edward's fifth
son, the Earl of Cambridge. Edward's aim was that of raising again the
party of King Pedro and giving Henry of Trastamara work to do at home which
would hinder his interposition in the war of Guienne. It was with this view
that John of Gaunt on his marriage took the title of king of Castille. But
no adherent of Pedro's cause stirred in Spain, and Henry replied to the
challenge by sending a Spanish fleet to the Channel. A decisive victory
which this fleet won over an English convoy off Rochelle proved a fatal
blow to the English cause. It wrested from Edward the mastery of the seas,
and cut off all communication between England and Guienne. Charles was at
once roused to new exertions. Poitou, Saintonge, and the Angoumois yielded
to his general Du Guesclin; and Rochelle was surrendered by its citizens in
1372. The next year saw a desperate attempt to restore the fortune of the
English arms. A great army under John of Gaunt penetrated into the heart of
France. But it found no foe to engage. Charles had forbidden any fighting.
"If a storm rages over the land," said the king coolly, "it disperses of
itself; and so will it be with the English." Winter in fact overtook the
Duke of Lancaster in the mountains of Auvergne, and a mere fragment of his
host reached Bordeaux. The failure of this attack was the signal for a
general defection, and ere the summer of 1374 had closed the two towns of
Bordeaux and Bayonne were all that remained of the English possessions in
Southern France. Even these were only saved by the exhaustion of the
conquerors. The treasury of Charles was as utterly drained as the treasury
of Edward; and the kings were forced to a truce.


[Sidenote: The Social Strife]

Only fourteen years had gone by since the Treaty of Brétigny raised England
to a height of glory such as it had never known before. But the years had
been years of a shame and suffering which stung the people to madness.
Never had England fallen so low. Her conquests were lost, her shores
insulted, her commerce swept from the seas. Within she was drained by the
taxation and bloodshed of the war. Its popularity had wholly died away.
When the Commons were asked in 1354 whether they would assent to a treaty
of perpetual peace if they might have it, "the said Commons responded all,
and all together, 'Yes, yes!'" The population was thinned by the ravages of
pestilence, for till 1369, which saw its last visitation, the Black Death
returned again and again. The social strife too gathered bitterness with
every effort at repression. It was in vain that Parliament after Parliament
increased the severity of its laws. The demands of the Parliament of 1376
show how inoperative the previous Statutes of Labourers had proved. They
prayed that constables be directed to arrest all who infringed the Statute,
that no labourer should be allowed to take refuge in a town and become an
artizan if there were need of his service in the county from which he came,
and that the king would protect lords and employers against the threats of
death uttered by serfs who refused to serve. The reply of the Royal Council
shows that statesmen at any rate were beginning to feel that repression
might be pushed too far. The king refused to interfere by any further and
harsher provisions between employers and employed, and left cases of breach
of law to be dealt with in his ordinary courts of justice. On the one side
he forbade the threatening gatherings which were already common in the
country, but on the other he forbade the illegal exactions of the
employers. With such a reply however the proprietary class were hardly
likely to be content. Two years later the Parliament of Gloucester called
for a Fugitive-slave Law, which would have enabled lords to seize their
serfs in whatever county or town they found refuge, and in 1379 they prayed
that judges might be sent five times a year into every shire to enforce the
Statute of Labourers.


[Sidenote: Edward and the Parliament]

But the strife between employers and employed was not the only rift which
was opening in the social structure. Suffering and defeat had stripped off
the veil which hid from the nation the shallow and selfish temper of Edward
the Third. His profligacy was now bringing him to a premature old age. He
was sinking into the tool of his ministers and his mistresses. The glitter
and profusion of his court, his splendid tournaments, his feasts, his Table
Round, his new order of chivalry, the exquisite chapel of St. Stephen whose
frescoed walls were the glory of his palace at Westminster, the vast keep
which crowned the hill of Windsor, had ceased to throw their glamour round
a king who tricked his Parliament and swindled his creditors. Edward paid
no debts. He had ruined the wealthiest bankers of Florence by a cool act of
bankruptcy. The sturdier Flemish burghers only wrested payment from him by
holding his royal person as their security. His own subjects fared no
better than foreigners. The prerogative of "purveyance" by which the king
in his progresses through the country had the right of first purchase of
all that he needed at fair market price became a galling oppression in the
hands of a bankrupt king who was always moving from place to place. "When
men hear of your coming," Archbishop Islip wrote to Edward, "everybody at
once for sheer fear sets about hiding or eating or getting rid of their
geese and chickens or other possessions that they may not utterly lose them
through your arrival. The purveyors and servants of your court seize on men
and horses in the midst of their field work. They seize on the very
bullocks that are at plough or at sowing, and force them to work for two or
three days at a time without a penny of payment. It is no wonder that men
make dole and murmur at your approach, for, as the truth is in God, I
myself, whenever I hear a rumour of it, be I at home or in chapter or in
church or at study, nay if I am saying mass, even I in my own person
tremble in every limb." But these irregular exactions were little beside
the steady pressure of taxation. Even in the years of peace fifteenths and
tenths, subsidies on wool and subsidies on leather, were demanded and
obtained from Parliament; and with the outbreak of war the royal demands
became heavier and more frequent. As failure followed failure the expenses
of each campaign increased an ineffectual attempt to relieve Rochelle cost
nearly a million; the march of John of Gaunt through France utterly drained
the royal treasury. Nor were these legal supplies all that the king drew
from the nation. He had repudiated his pledge to abstain from arbitrary
taxation of imports and exports. He sold monopolies to the merchants in
exchange for increased customs. He wrested supplies from the clergy by
arrangements with the bishops or the Pope. There were signs that Edward was
longing to rid himself of the control of Parliament altogether. The power
of the Houses seemed indeed as high as ever; great statutes were passed.
Those of Provisors and Præmunire settled the relations of England to the
Roman Court. That of Treason in 1352 defined that crime and its penalties.
That of the Staples in 1353 regulated the conditions of foreign trade and
the privileges of the merchant gilds which conducted it. But side by side
with these exertions of influence we note a series of steady encroachments
by the Crown on the power of the Houses. If their petitions were granted,
they were often altered in the royal ordinance which professed to embody
them. A plan of demanding supplies for three years at once rendered the
annual assembly of Parliament less necessary. Its very existence was
threatened by the convocation in 1352 and 1353 of occasional councils with
but a single knight from every shire and a single burgess from a small
number of the greater towns, which acted as Parliament and granted
subsidies.


[Sidenote: The Baronage and the Church]

What aided Edward above all in eluding or defying the constitutional
restrictions on arbitrary taxation, as well as in these more insidious
attempts to displace the Parliament, was the lessening of the check which
the Baronage and the Church had till now supplied. The same causes which
had long been reducing the number of the greater lords who formed the upper
house went steadily on. Under Edward the Second little more than seventy
were commonly summoned to Parliament; little more than forty were summoned
under Edward the Third, and of these the bulk were now bound to the Crown,
partly by their employment on its service, partly by their interest in the
continuance of the war. The heads of the Baronage too were members of the
royal family. Edward had carried out on a far wider scale than before the
policy which had been more or less adhered to from the days of Henry the
Third, that of gathering up in the hands of the royal house all the greater
heritages of the land. The Black Prince was married to Joan of Kent, the
heiress of Edward the First's younger son, Earl Edmund of Woodstock. His
marriage with the heiress of the Earl of Ulster brought to the king's
second son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, a great part of the possessions of
the de Burghs. Later on the possessions of the house of Bohun passed by
like matches to his youngest son, Thomas of Woodstock, and to his grandson,
Henry of Lancaster. But the greatest English heritage fell to Edward's
third living son, John of Gaunt as he was called from his birth at Ghent
during his father's Flemish campaign. Originally created Earl of Richmond,
the death of his father-in-law, Henry of Lancaster, and of Henry's eldest
daughter, raised John in his wife's right to the Dukedom of Lancaster and
the Earldoms of Derby, Leicester, and Lincoln. But while the baronage were
thus bound to the Crown, they drifted more and more into an hostility with
the Church which in time disabled the clergy from acting as a check on it.
What rent the ruling classes in twain was the growing pressure of the war.
The nobles and knighthood of the country, already half ruined by the rise
in the labour market and the attitude of the peasantry, were pressed harder
than ever by the repeated subsidies which were called for by the
continuance of the struggle. In the hour of their distress they cast their
eyes greedily--as in the Norman and Angevin days--on the riches of the
Church. Never had her wealth been greater. Out of a population of some
three millions the ecclesiastics numbered between twenty and thirty
thousand. Wild tales of their riches floated about the country. They were
said to own in landed property alone more than a third of the soil, while
their "spiritualities" in dues and offerings amounted to twice the king's
revenue. Exaggerated as such statements were, the wealth of the Church was
really great; but even more galling to the nobles was its influence in the
royal councils. The feudal baronage, flushed with a new pride by its
victories at Crécy and Poitiers, looked with envy and wrath at the throng
of bishops around the council-board, and attributed to their love of peace
the errors and sluggishness which had caused, as they held, the disasters
of the war. To rob the Church of wealth and of power became the aim of a
great baronial party.


[Sidenote: Weakness of the Church]

The efforts of the baronage indeed would have been fruitless had the
spiritual power of the Church remained as of old. But the clergy were rent
by their own dissensions. The higher prelates were busy with the cares of
political office, and severed from the lower priesthood by the scandalous
inequality between the revenues of the wealthier ecclesiastics and the
"poor parson" of the country. A bitter hatred divided the secular clergy
from the regular; and this strife went fiercely on in the Universities.
Fitz-Ralf, the Chancellor of Oxford, attributed to the friars the decline
which was already being felt in the number of academical students, and the
University checked by statute their practice of admitting mere children
into their order. The clergy too at large shared in the discredit and
unpopularity of the Papacy. Though they suffered more than any other class
from the exactions of Avignon, they were bound more and more to the Papal
cause. The very statutes which would have protected them were practically
set aside by the treacherous diplomacy of the Crown. At home and abroad the
Roman See was too useful for the king to come to any actual breach with it.
However much Edward might echo the bold words of his Parliament, he shrank
from an open contest which would have added the Papacy to his many foes,
and which would at the same time have robbed him of his most effective
means of wresting aids from the English clergy by private arrangement with
the Roman court. Rome indeed was brought to waive its alleged right of
appointing foreigners to English livings. But a compromise was arranged
between the Pope and the Crown in which both united in the spoliation and
enslavement of the Church. The voice of chapters, of monks, of
ecclesiastical patrons, went henceforth for nothing in the election of
bishops or abbots or the nomination to livings in the gift of churchmen.
The Crown recommended those whom it chose to the Pope, and the Pope
nominated them to see or cure of souls. The treasuries of both King and
Pope profited by the arrangement; but we can hardly wonder that after a
betrayal such as this the clergy placed little trust in statutes or royal
protection, and bowed humbly before the claims of Rome.


[Sidenote: Its Worldliness]

But what weakened the clergy most was their severance from the general
sympathies of the nation, their selfishness, and the worldliness of their
temper. Immense as their wealth was, they bore as little as they could of
the common burthens of the realm. They were still resolute to assert their
exemption from the common justice of the land, though the mild punishments
of the bishops' courts carried as little dismay as ever into the mass of
disorderly clerks. But privileged as they thus held themselves against all
interference from the lay world without them, they carried on a ceaseless
interference with the affairs of this lay world through their control over
wills, contracts and divorces. No figure was better known or more hated
than the summoner who enforced the jurisdiction and levied the dues of
their courts. By their directly religious offices they penetrated into the
very heart of the social life about them. But powerful as they were, their
moral authority was fast passing away. The wealthier churchmen with their
curled hair and hanging sleeves aped the costume of the knightly society
from which they were drawn and to which they still really belonged. We see
the general impression of their worldliness in Chaucer's pictures of the
hunting monk and the courtly prioress with her love-motto on her brooch.
The older religious orders in fact had sunk into mere landowners, while the
enthusiasm of the friars had in great part died away and left a crowd of
impudent mendicants behind it. Wyclif could soon with general applause
denounce them as sturdy beggars, and declare that "the man who gives alms
to a begging friar is _ipso facto_ excommunicate."


[Sidenote: Advance of the Commons]

It was this weakness of the Baronage and the Church, and the consequent
withdrawal of both as represented in the temporal and spiritual Estates of
the Upper House from the active part which they had taken till now in
checking the Crown that brought the Lower House to the front. The Knight of
the Shire was now finally joined with the Burgess of the Town to form the
Third Estate of the realm: and this union of the trader and the country
gentleman gave a vigour and weight to the action of the Commons which their
House could never have acquired had it remained as elsewhere a mere
gathering of burgesses. But it was only slowly and under the pressure of
one necessity after another that the Commons took a growing part in public
affairs. Their primary business was with taxation, and here they stood firm
against the evasions by which the king still managed to baffle their
exclusive right of granting supplies by voluntary agreements with the
merchants of the Staple. Their steady pressure at last obtained in 1362 an
enactment that no subsidy should henceforth be set upon wool without assent
of Parliament, while Purveyance was restricted by a provision that payments
should be made for all things taken for the king's use in ready money. A
hardly less important advance was made by the change of Ordinances into
Statutes. Till this time, even when a petition of the Houses was granted,
the royal Council had reserved to itself the right of modifying its form in
the Ordinance which professed to embody it. It was under colour of this
right that so many of the provisions made in Parliament had hitherto been
evaded or set aside. But the Commons now met this abuse by a demand that on
the royal assent being given their petitions should be turned without
change into Statutes of the Realm and derive force of law from their entry
on the Rolls of Parliament. The same practical sense was seen in their
dealings with Edward's attempt to introduce occasional smaller councils
with parliamentary powers. Such an assembly in 1353 granted a subsidy on
wool. The Parliament which met in the following year might have challenged
its proceedings as null and void, but the Commons more wisely contented
themselves with a demand that the ordinances passed in the preceding
assembly should receive the sanction of the Three Estates. A precedent for
evil was thus turned into a precedent for good, and though irregular
gatherings of a like sort were for a while occasionally held they were soon
seen to be fruitless and discontinued. But the Commons long shrank from
meddling with purely administrative matters. When Edward in his anxiety to
shift from himself the responsibility of the war referred to them in 1354
for advice on one of the numerous propositions of peace, they referred him
to the lords of his Council. "Most dreaded lord," they replied, "as to this
war and the equipment needful for it we are so ignorant and simple that we
know not how nor have the power to devise. Wherefore we pray your Grace to
excuse us in this matter, and that it please you with the advice of the
great and wise persons of your Council to ordain what seems best for you
for the honour and profit of yourself and of your kingdom. And whatsoever
shall be thus ordained by assent and agreement on the part of you and your
Lords we readily assent to and will hold it firmly established."


[Sidenote: Baronage attacks the Church]

But humble as was their tone the growing power of the Commons showed itself
in significant changes. In 1363 the Chancellor opened Parliament with a
speech in English, no doubt as a tongue intelligible to the members of the
Lower House. From a petition in 1376 that knights of the shire may be
chosen by common election of the better folk of the shire and not merely
nominated by the sheriff without due election, as well as from an earlier
demand that the sheriffs themselves should be disqualified from serving in
Parliament during their term of office, we see that the Crown had already
begun not only to feel the pressure of the Commons but to meet it by
foisting royal nominees on the constituencies. Such an attempt at packing
the House would hardly have been resorted to had it not already proved too
strong for direct control. A further proof of its influence was seen in a
prayer of the Parliament that lawyers practising in the King's Courts might
no longer be eligible as knights of the shire. The petition marks the rise
of a consciousness that the House was now no mere gathering of local
representatives, but a national assembly, and that a seat in it could no
longer be confined to dwellers within the bounds of this county or that.
But it showed also a pressure for seats, a passing away of the old dread of
being returned as a representative and a new ambition to gain a place among
the members of the Commons. Whether they would or no indeed the Commons
were driven forward to a more direct interference with public affairs. From
the memorable statute of 1322 their right to take equal part in all matters
brought before Parliament had been incontestable, and their waiver of much
of this right faded away before the stress of time. Their assent was needed
to the great ecclesiastical statutes which regulated the relation of the
See of Rome to the realm. They naturally took a chief part in the enactment
and re-enactment of the Statute of Labourers. The Statute of the Staple,
with a host of smaller commercial and economical measures, was of their
origination. But it was not till an open breach took place between the
baronage and the prelates that their full weight was felt. In the
Parliament of 1371, on the resumption of the war, a noble taunted the
Church as an owl protected by the feathers which other birds had
contributed, and which they had a right to resume when a hawk's approach
threatened them. The worldly goods of the Church, the metaphor hinted, had
been bestowed on it for the common weal, and could be taken from it on the
coming of a common danger. The threat was followed by a prayer that the
chief offices of state, which had till now been held by the leading
bishops, might be placed in lay hands. The prayer was at once granted:
William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, resigned the Chancellorship,
another prelate the Treasury, to lay dependants of the great nobles; and
the panic of the clergy was seen in large grants which were voted by both
Convocations.


[Sidenote: John of Gaunt]

At the moment of their triumph the assailants of the Church found a leader
in John of Gaunt. The Duke of Lancaster now wielded the actual power of the
Crown. Edward himself was sinking into dotage. Of his sons the Black
Prince, who had never rallied from the hardships of his Spanish campaign,
was fast drawing to the grave; he had lost a second son by death in
childhood; the third, Lionel of Clarence, had died in 1368. It was his
fourth son therefore, John of Gaunt, to whom the royal power mainly fell.
By his marriage with the heiress of the house of Lancaster the Duke had
acquired lands and wealth, but he had no taste for the policy of the
Lancastrian house or for acting as leader of the barons in any
constitutional resistance to the Crown. His pride, already quickened by the
second match with Constance to which he owed his shadowy kingship of
Castille, drew him to the throne; and the fortune which placed the royal
power practically in his hands bound him only the more firmly to its cause.
Men held that his ambition looked to the Crown itself, for the approaching
death of Edward and the Prince of Wales left but a boy, Richard, the son of
the Black Prince, a child of but a few years old, and a girl, the daughter
of the Duke of Clarence, between John and the throne. But the Duke's
success fell short of his pride. In the campaign of 1373 he traversed
France without finding a foe and brought back nothing save a ruined army to
English shores. The peremptory tone in which money was demanded for the
cost of this fruitless march while the petitions of the Parliament were set
aside till it was granted roused the temper of the Commons. They
requested--it is the first instance of such a practice--a conference with
the lords, and while granting fresh subsidies prayed that the grant should
be spent only on the war. The resentment of the government at this advance
towards a control over the actual management of public affairs was seen in
the calling of no Parliament through the next two years. But the years were
disastrous both at home and abroad. The war went steadily against the
English arms. The long negotiations with the Pope which went on at Bruges
through 1375, and in which Wyclif took part as one of the royal
commissioners, ended in a compromise by which Rome yielded nothing. The
strife over the Statute of Labourers grew fiercer and fiercer, and a return
of the plague heightened the public distress. Edward was now wholly swayed
by Alice Perrers, and the Duke shared his power with the royal mistress.
But if we gather its tenor from the complaints of the succeeding Parliament
his administration was as weak as it was corrupt. The new lay ministers
lent themselves to gigantic frauds. The chamberlain, Lord Latimer, bought
up the royal debts and embezzled the public revenue. With Richard Lyons, a
merchant through whom the king negotiated with the gild of the Staple, he
reaped enormous profits by raising the price of imports and by lending to
the Crown at usurious rates of interest. When the empty treasury forced
them to call a Parliament the ministers tampered with the elections through
the sheriffs.


[Sidenote: The Good Parliament]

But the temper of the Parliament which met in 1376, and which gained from
after times the name of the Good Parliament, shows that these precautions
had utterly failed. Even their promise to pillage the Church had failed to
win for the Duke and his party the good will of the lesser gentry or the
wealthier burgesses who together formed the Commons. Projects of wide
constitutional and social change, of the humiliation and impoverishment of
an estate of the realm, were profoundly distasteful to men already
struggling with a social revolution on their own estates and in their own
workshops. But it was not merely its opposition to the projects of
Lancaster and his party among the baronage which won for this assembly the
name of the Good Parliament. Its action marked a new period in our
Parliamentary history, as it marked a new stage in the character of the
national opposition to the misrule of the Crown. Hitherto the task of
resistance had devolved on the baronage, and had been carried out through
risings of its feudal tenantry. But the misgovernment was now that of the
baronage or of a main part of the baronage itself in actual conjunction
with the Crown. Only in the power of the Commons lay any adequate means of
peaceful redress. The old reluctance of the Lower House to meddle with
matters of State was roughly swept away therefore by the pressure of the
time. The Black Prince, anxious to secure his child's succession by the
removal of John of Gaunt, the prelates with William of Wykeham at their
head, resolute again to take their place in the royal councils and to check
the projects of ecclesiastical spoliation put forward by their opponents,
alike found in it a body to oppose to the Duke's administration. Backed by
powers such as these, the action of the Commons showed none of their old
timidity or self-distrust. The presentation of a hundred and forty
petitions of grievances preluded a bold attack on the royal Council.
"Trusting in God, and standing with his followers before the nobles,
whereof the chief was John Duke of Lancaster, whose doings were ever
contrary," their speaker, Sir Peter de la Mare, denounced the
mis-management of the war, the oppressive taxation, and demanded an account
of the expenditure. "What do these base and ignoble knights attempt?" cried
John of Gaunt. "Do they think they be kings or princes of the land?" But
the movement was too strong to be stayed. Even the Duke was silenced by the
charges brought against the ministers. After a strict enquiry Latimer and
Lyons were alike thrown into prison, Alice Perrers was banished, and
several of the royal servants were driven from the Court. At this moment
the death of the Black Prince shook the power of the Parliament. But it
only heightened its resolve to secure the succession. His son, Richard of
Bordeaux, as he was called from the place of his birth, was now a child of
but ten years old; and it was known that doubts were whispered on the
legitimacy of his birth and claim. An early marriage of his mother Joan of
Kent, a granddaughter of Edward the First, with the Earl of Salisbury had
been annulled; but the Lancastrian party used this first match to throw
doubts on the validity of her subsequent union with the Black Prince and on
the right of Richard to the throne. The dread of Lancaster's ambition is
the first indication of the approach of what was from this time to grow
into the great difficulty of the realm, the question of the succession to
the Crown. From the death of Edward the Third to the death of Charles the
First no English sovereign felt himself secure from rival claimants of his
throne. As yet however the dread was a baseless one; the people were
heartily with the Prince and his child. The Duke's proposal that the
succession should be settled in case of Richard's death was rejected; and
the boy himself was brought into Parliament and acknowledged as heir of the
Crown.


[Sidenote: Wyclif and John of Gaunt]

To secure their work the Commons ended by obtaining the addition of nine
lords with William of Wykeham and two other prelates among them to the
royal Council. But the Parliament was no sooner dismissed than the Duke at
once resumed his power. His anger at the blow which had been dealt at his
projects was no doubt quickened by resentment at the sudden advance of the
Lower House. From the Commons who shrank even from giving counsel on
matters of state to the Commons who dealt with such matters as their
special business, who investigated royal accounts, who impeached royal
ministers, who dictated changes in the royal advisers, was an immense step.
But it was a step which the Duke believed could be retraced. His haughty
will flung aside all restraints of law. He dismissed the new lords and
prelates from the Council. He called back Alice Perrers and the disgraced
ministers. He declared the Good Parliament no parliament, and did not
suffer its petitions to be enrolled as statutes. He imprisoned Peter de la
Mare, and confiscated the possessions of William of Wykeham. His attack on
this prelate was an attack on the clergy at large, and the attack became
significant when the Duke gave his open patronage to the denunciations of
Church property which formed the favourite theme of John Wyclif. To Wyclif
such a prelate as Wykeham symbolized the evil which held down the Church.
His administrative ability, his political energy, his wealth and the
colleges at Winchester and at Oxford which it enabled him to raise before
his death, were all equally hateful. It was this wealth, this intermeddling
with worldly business, which the ascetic reformer looked upon as the curse
that robbed prelates and churchmen of that spiritual authority which could
alone meet the vice and suffering of the time. Whatever baser motives might
spur Lancaster and his party, their projects of spoliation must have seemed
to Wyclif projects of enfranchisement for the Church. Poor and powerless in
worldly matters, he held that she would have the wealth and might of heaven
at her command. Wyclif's theory of Church and State had led him long since
to contend that the property of the clergy might be seized and employed
like other property for national purposes. Such a theory might have been
left, as other daring theories of the schoolmen had been left, to the
disputation of the schools. But the clergy were bitterly galled when the
first among English teachers threw himself hotly on the side of the party
which threatened them with spoliation, and argued in favour of their
voluntary abandonment of all Church property and of a return to their
original poverty. They were roused to action when Wyclif came forward as
the theological bulwark of the Lancastrian party at a moment when the
clergy were freshly outraged by the overthrow of the bishops and the
plunder of Wykeham. They forced the king to cancel the sentence of
banishment from the precincts of the Court which had been directed against
the Bishop of Winchester by refusing any grant of supply in Convocation
till William of Wykeham took his seat in it. But in the prosecution of
Wyclif they resolved to return blow for blow. In February 1377 he was
summoned before Bishop Courtenay of London to answer for his heretical
propositions concerning the wealth of the Church.

The Duke of Lancaster accepted the challenge as really given to himself,
and stood by Wyclif's side in the Consistory Court at St. Paul's. But no
trial took place. Fierce words passed between the nobles and the prelate:
the Duke himself was said to have threatened to drag Courtenay out of the
church by the hair of his head; at last the London populace, to whom John
of Gaunt was hateful, burst in to their Bishop's rescue, and Wyclif's life
was saved with difficulty by the aid of the soldiery. But his boldness only
grew with the danger. A Papal bull which was procured by the bishops,
directing the University to condemn and arrest him, extorted from him a
bold defiance. In a defence circulated widely through the kingdom and laid
before Parliament, Wyclif broadly asserted that no man could be
excommunicated by the Pope "unless he were first excommunicated by
himself." He denied the right of the Church to exact or defend temporal
privileges by spiritual censures, declared that a Church might justly be
deprived by the king or lay lords of its property for defect of duty, and
defended the subjection of ecclesiastics to civil tribunals. It marks the
temper of the time and the growing severance between the Church and the
nation that, bold as the defiance was, it won the support of the people as
of the Crown. When Wyclif appeared at the close of the year in Lambeth
Chapel to answer the Archbishop's summons a message from the Court forbade
the primate to proceed and the Londoners broke in and dissolved the
session.


[Sidenote: Death of Edward the Third]

Meanwhile the Duke's unscrupulous tampering with elections had packed the
Parliament of 1377 with his adherents. The work of the Good Parliament was
undone, and the Commons petitioned for the restoration of all who had been
impeached by their predecessors. The needs of the treasury were met by a
novel form of taxation. To the earlier land-tax, to the tax on personality
which dated from the Saladin Tithe, to the customs duties which had grown
into importance in the last two reigns, was now added a tax which reached
every person in the realm, a poll-tax of a groat a head. In this tax were
sown the seeds of future trouble, but when the Parliament broke up in March
the Duke's power seemed completely secured. Hardly three months later it
was wholly undone. In June Edward the Third died in a dishonoured old age,
robbed on his death-bed even of his rings by the mistress to whom he clung,
and the accession of his grandson, Richard the Second, changed the whole
face of affairs. The Duke withdrew from Court, and sought a reconciliation
with the party opposed to him. The men of the Good Parliament surrounded
the new king, and a Parliament which assembled in October took vigorously
up its work. Peter de la Mare was released from prison and replaced in the
chair of the House of Commons. The action of the Lower House indeed was as
trenchant and comprehensive as that of the Good Parliament itself. In
petition after petition the Commons demanded the confirmation of older
rights and the removal of modern abuses. They complained of administrative
wrongs such as the practice of purveyance, of abuses of justice, of the
oppressions of officers of the exchequer and of the forest, of the ill
state of prisons, of the customs of "maintenance" and "livery" by which
lords extended their protection to shoals of disorderly persons and
overawed the courts by means of them. Amid ecclesiastical abuses they noted
the state of the Church courts, and the neglect of the laws of Provisors.
They demanded that the annual assembly of Parliament, which had now become
customary, should be defined by law, and that bills once sanctioned by the
Crown should be forthwith turned into statutes without further amendment or
change on the part of the royal Council. With even greater boldness they
laid hands on the administration itself. They not only demanded that the
evil counsellors of the last reign should be removed, and that the
treasurer of the subsidy on wool should account for its expenditure to the
lords, but that the royal Council should be named in Parliament, and chosen
from members of either estate of the realm. Though a similar request for
the nomination of the officers of the royal household was refused, their
main demand was granted. It was agreed that the great officers of state,
the chancellor, treasurer, and barons of exchequer should be named by the
lords in Parliament, and removed from their offices during the king's
"tender years" only on the advice of the lords. The pressure of the war,
which rendered the existing taxes insufficient, gave the House a fresh hold
on the Crown. While granting a new subsidy in the form of a land and
property tax, the Commons restricted its proceeds to the war, and assigned
two of their members, William Walworth and John Philpot, as a standing
committee to regulate its expenditure. The successor of this Parliament in
the following year demanded and obtained an account of the way in which the
subsidy had been spent.


[Sidenote: Discontent of the people]

The minority of the king, who was but eleven years old at his accession,
the weakness of the royal council amidst the strife of the baronial
factions, above all the disasters of the war without and the growing
anarchy within the realm itself, alone made possible this startling
assumption of the executive power by the Houses. The shame of defeat abroad
was being added to the misery and discomfort at home. The French war ran
its disastrous course. One English fleet was beaten by the Spaniards, a
second sunk by a storm; and a campaign in the heart of France ended, like
its predecessors, in disappointment and ruin. Meanwhile the strife between
employers and employed was kindling into civil war. The Parliament, drawn
as it was wholly from the proprietary classes, struggled as fiercely for
the mastery of the labourers as it struggled for the mastery of the Crown.
The Good Parliament had been as strenuous in demanding the enforcement of
the Statute of Labourers as any of its predecessors. In spite of statutes,
however, the market remained in the labourers' hands. The comfort of the
worker rose with his wages. Men who had "no land to live on but their hands
disdained to live on penny ale or bacon, and called for fresh flesh or
fish, fried or bake, and that hot and hotter for chilling of their maw."
But there were dark shades in this general prosperity of the labour class.
There were seasons of the year during which employment for the floating
mass of labour was hard to find. In the long interval between harvest-tide
and harvest-tide work and food were alike scarce in every homestead of the
time. Some lines of William Langland give us the picture of a farm of the
day. "I have no penny pullets for to buy, nor neither geese nor pigs, but
two green cheeses, a few curds and cream, and an oaten cake, and two loaves
of beans and bran baken for my children. I have no salt bacon nor no cooked
meat collops for to make, but I have parsley and leeks and many cabbage
plants, and eke a cow and a calf, and a cart-mare to draw afield my dung
while the drought lasteth, and by this livelihood we must all live till
Lammas-tide [August], and by that I hope to have harvest in my croft." But
it was not till Lammas-tide that high wages and the new corn bade "Hunger
go to sleep," and during the long spring and summer the free labourer and
the "waster that will not work but wander about, that will eat no bread but
the finest wheat, nor drink but of the best and brownest ale," was a source
of social and political danger. "He grieveth him against God and grudgeth
against Reason, and then curseth he the King and all his council after such
law to allow labourers to grieve." Such a smouldering mass of discontent as
this needed but a spark to burst into flame; and the spark was found in the
imposition of fresh taxation.


[Sidenote: The Poll-Tax]

If John of Gaunt was fallen from his old power he was still the leading
noble in the realm, and it is possible that dread of the encroachments of
the last Parliament on the executive power drew after a time even the new
advisers of the Crown closer to him. Whatever was the cause, he again came
to the front. But the supplies voted in the past year were wasted in his
hands. A fresh expedition against France under the Duke himself ended in
failure before the walls of St. Malo, while at home his brutal household
was outraging public order by the murder of a knight who had incurred
John's anger in the precincts of Westminster. So great was the resentment
of the Londoners at this act that it became needful to summon Parliament
elsewhere than to the capital; and in 1378 the Houses met at Gloucester.
The Duke succeeded in bringing the Lords to refuse those conferences with
the Commons which had given unity to the action of the late Parliament, but
he was foiled in an attack on the clerical privilege of sanctuary and in
the threats which his party still directed against Church property, while
the Commons forced the royal Council to lay before them the accounts of the
last subsidy and to appoint a commission to examine into the revenue of the
Crown. Unhappily the financial policy of the preceding year was persisted
in. The check before St. Malo had been somewhat redeemed by treaties with
Charles of Evreux and the Duke of Britanny which secured to England the
right of holding Cherbourg and Brest; but the cost of these treaties only
swelled the expenses of the war. The fresh supplies voted at Gloucester
proved insufficient for their purpose, and a Parliament in the spring of
1379 renewed the Poll-tax in a graduated form. But the proceeds of the tax
proved miserably inadequate, and when fresh debts beset the Crown in 1380 a
return was again made to the old system of subsidies. But these failed in
their turn; and at the close of the year the Parliament again fell back on
a severer Poll-tax. One of the attractions of the new mode of taxation
seems to have been that the clergy, who adopted it for themselves, paid in
this way a larger share of the burthens of the state; but the chief ground
for its adoption lay, no doubt, in its bringing within the net of the
tax-gatherer a class which had hitherto escaped him, men such as the free
labourer, the village smith, the village tiler. But few courses could have
been more dangerous. The Poll-tax not only brought the pressure of the war
home to every household; it goaded into action precisely the class which
was already seething with discontent. The strife between labour and capital
was going on as fiercely as ever in country and in town. The landlords were
claiming new services, or forcing men who looked on themselves as free to
prove they were no villeins by law. The free labourer was struggling
against the attempt to exact work from him at low wages. The wandering
workman was being seized and branded as a vagrant. The abbey towns were
struggling for freedom against the abbeys. The craftsmen within boroughs
were carrying on the same strife against employer and craft-gild. And all
this mass of discontent was being heightened and organized by agencies with
which the Government could not cope. The poorer villeins and the free
labourers had long since banded together in secret conspiracies which the
wealthier villeins supported with money. The return of soldiers from the
war threw over the land a host of broken men, skilled in arms, and ready to
take part in any rising. The begging friars, wandering and gossiping from
village to village and street to street, shared the passions of the class
from which they sprang. Priests like Ball openly preached the doctrines of
communism. And to these had been recently added a fresh agency, which could
hardly fail to stir a new excitement. With the practical ability which
marked his character, Wyclif set on foot about this time a body of poor
preachers to supply, as he held, the place of those wealthier clergy who
had lost their hold on the land. The coarse sermons, bare feet, and russet
dress of these "Simple Priests" moved the laughter of rector and canon, but
they proved a rapid and effective means of diffusing Wyclif's protests
against the wealth and sluggishness of the clergy, and we can hardly doubt
that in the general turmoil their denunciation of ecclesiastical wealth
passed often into more general denunciations of the proprietary classes.


[Sidenote: John Ball]

As the spring went by quaint rimes passed through the country, and served
as a summons to revolt. "John Ball," ran one, "greeteth you all, and doth
for to understand he hath rung your bell. Now right and might, will and
skill, God speed every dele." "Help truth," ran another, "and truth shall
help you! Now reigneth pride in price, and covetise is counted wise, and
lechery withouten shame, and gluttony withouten blame. Envy reigneth with
treason, and sloth is take in great season. God do bote, for now is tyme!"
We recognize Ball's hand in the yet more stirring missives of "Jack the
Miller" and "Jack the Carter." "Jack Miller asketh help to turn his mill
aright. He hath grounden small, small: the King's Son of Heaven he shall
pay for all. Look thy mill go aright with the four sailes, and the post
stand with steadfastness. With right and with might, with skill and with
will; let might help right, and skill go before will, and right before
might, so goeth our mill aright." "Jack Carter," ran the companion missive,
"prays you all that ye make a good end of that ye have begun, and do well,
and aye better and better: for at the even men heareth the day." "Falseness
and guile," sang Jack Trewman, "have reigned too long, and truth hath been
set under a lock, and falseness and guile reigneth in every stock. No man
may come truth to, but if he sing 'si dedero.' True love is away that was
so good, and clerks for wealth work them woe. God do bote, for now is
time." In the rude jingle of these lines began for England the literature
of political controversy: they are the first predecessors of the pamphlets
of Milton and of Burke. Rough as they are, they express clearly enough the
mingled passions which met in the revolt of the peasants: their longing for
a right rule, for plain and simple justice; their scorn of the immorality
of the nobles and the infamy of the court; their resentment at the
perversion of the law to the cause of oppression.


[Sidenote: The Peasant Rising]

From the eastern and midland counties the restlessness spread to all
England south of the Thames. But the grounds of discontent varied with
every district. The actual outbreak began on the 5th of June at Dartford,
where a tiler killed one of the collectors of the poll-tax in vengeance for
a brutal outrage on his daughter. The county at once rose in arms.
Canterbury, where "the whole town was of their mind," threw open its gates
to the insurgents who plundered the Archbishop's palace and dragged John
Ball from his prison. A hundred thousand Kentishmen gathered round Walter
Tyler of Essex and John Hales of Malling to march upon London. Their
grievance was mainly a political one. Villeinage was unknown in Kent. As
the peasants poured towards Blackheath indeed every lawyer who fell into
their hands was put to death; "not till all these were killed would the
land enjoy its old freedom again," the Kentishmen shouted as they fired the
houses of the stewards and flung the rolls of the manor-courts into the
flames. But this action can hardly have been due to anything more than
sympathy with the rest of the realm, the sympathy which induced the same
men when pilgrims from the north brought news that John of Gaunt was
setting free his bondmen to send to the Duke an offer to make him Lord and
King of England. Nor was their grievance a religious one. Lollardry can
have made little way among men whose grudge against the Archbishop of
Canterbury sprang from his discouragement of pilgrimages. Their discontent
was simply political; they demanded the suppression of the poll-tax and
better government; their aim was to slay the nobles and wealthier clergy,
to take the king into their own hands, and pass laws which should seem good
to the Commons of the realm. The whole population joined the Kentishmen as
they marched along, while the nobles were paralyzed with fear. The young
king--he was but a boy of sixteen--addressed them from a boat on the river;
but the refusal of his Council under the guidance of Archbishop Sudbury to
allow him to land kindled the peasants to fury, and with cries of "Treason"
the great mass rushed on London. On the 13th of June its gates were flung
open by the poorer artizans within the city, and the stately palace of John
of Gaunt at the Savoy, the new inn of the lawyers at the Temple, the houses
of the foreign merchants, were soon in a blaze. But the insurgents, as they
proudly boasted, were "seekers of truth and justice, not thieves or
robbers," and a plunderer found carrying off a silver vessel from the sack
of the Savoy was flung with his spoil into the flames. Another body of
insurgents encamped at the same time to the east of the city. In Essex and
the eastern counties the popular discontent was more social than political.
The demands of the peasants were that bondage should be abolished, that
tolls and imposts on trade should be done away with, that "no acre of land
which is held in bondage or villeinage be held at higher rate than
fourpence a year," in other words for a money commutation of all villein
services. Their rising had been even earlier than that of the Kentishmen.
Before Whitsuntide an attempt to levy the poll-tax gathered crowds of
peasants together, armed with clubs, rusty swords, and bows. The royal
commissioners who were sent to repress the tumult were driven from the
field, and the Essex men marched upon London on one side of the river as
the Kentishmen marched on the other. The evening of the thirteenth, the day
on which Tyler entered the city, saw them encamped without its walls at
Mile-end. At the same moment Highbury and the northern heights were
occupied by the men of Hertfordshire and the villeins of St. Albans, where
a strife between abbot and town had been going on since the days of Edward
the Second.


[Sidenote: Richard the Second]

The royal Council with the young king had taken refuge in the Tower, and
their aim seems to have been to divide the forces of the insurgents. On the
morning of the fourteenth therefore Richard rode from the Tower to Mile-end
to meet the Essex men. "I am your King and Lord, good people," the boy
began with a fearlessness which marked his bearing throughout the crisis,
"what will you?" "We will that you free us for ever," shouted the peasants,
"us and our lands; and that we be never named nor held for serfs!" "I grant
it," replied Richard; and he bade them go home, pledging himself at once to
issue charters of freedom and amnesty. A shout of joy welcomed the promise.
Throughout the day more than thirty clerks were busied writing letters of
pardon and emancipation, and with these the mass of the Essex men and the
men of Hertfordshire withdrew quietly to their homes. But while the king
was successful at Mile-end a terrible doom had fallen on the councillors he
left behind him. Richard had hardly quitted the Tower when the Kentishmen
who had spent the night within the city appeared at its gates. The general
terror was shown ludicrously enough when they burst in and taking the
panic-stricken knights of the royal household in rough horse-play by the
beard promised to be their equals and good comrades in the days to come.
But the horse-play changed into dreadful earnest when they found that
Richard had escaped their grasp, and the discovery of Archbishop Sudbury
and other ministers in the chapel changed their fury into a cry for blood.
The Primate was dragged from his sanctuary and beheaded. The same vengeance
was wreaked on the Treasurer and the Chief Commissioner for the levy of the
hated poll-tax, the merchant Richard Lyons who had been impeached by the
Good Parliament. Richard meanwhile had ridden round the northern wall of
the city to the Wardrobe near Blackfriars, and from this new refuge he
opened his negotiations with the Kentish insurgents. Many of these
dispersed at the news of the king's pledge to the men of Essex, but a body
of thirty thousand still surrounded Wat Tyler when Richard on the morning
of the fifteenth encountered that leader by a mere chance at Smithfield.
Hot words passed between his train and the peasant chieftain who advanced
to confer with the king, and a threat from Tyler brought on a brief
struggle in which the Mayor of London, William Walworth, struck him with
his dagger to the ground. "Kill! kill!" shouted the crowd: "they have slain
our captain!" But Richard faced the Kentishmen with the same cool courage
with which he faced the men of Essex. "What need ye, my masters?" cried the
boy-king as he rode boldly up to the front of the bowmen. "I am your
Captain and your King; follow me!" The hopes of the peasants centred in the
young sovereign; one aim of their rising had been to free him from the evil
counsellors who, as they believed, abused his youth; and at his word they
followed him with a touching loyalty and trust till he entered the Tower.
His mother welcomed him within its walls with tears of joy. "Rejoice and
praise God," Richard answered, "for I have recovered to-day my heritage
which was lost and the realm of England!" But he was compelled to give the
same pledge of freedom to the Kentishmen as at Mile-end, and it was only
after receiving his letters of pardon and emancipation that the yeomen
dispersed to their homes.


[Sidenote: The general revolt]

The revolt indeed was far from being at an end. As the news of the rising
ran through the country the discontent almost everywhere broke into flame.
There were outbreaks in every shire south of the Thames as far westward as
Devonshire. In the north tumults broke out at Beverley and Scarborough, and
Yorkshire and Lancashire made ready to rise. The eastern counties were in
one wild turmoil of revolt. At Cambridge the townsmen burned the charters
of the University and attacked the colleges. A body of peasants occupied
St. Albans. In Norfolk a Norwich artizan, called John the Litster or Dyer,
took the title of King of the Commons, and marching through the country at
the head of a mass of peasants compelled the nobles whom he captured to act
as his meat-tasters and to serve him on their knees during his repast. The
story of St. Edmundsbury shows us what was going on in Suffolk. Ever since
the accession of Edward the Third the townsmen and the villeins of their
lands around had been at war with the abbot and his monks. The old and more
oppressive servitude had long passed away, but the later abbots had set
themselves against the policy of concession and conciliation which had
brought about this advance towards freedom. The gates of the town were
still in the abbot's hands. He had succeeded in enforcing his claim to the
wardship of all orphans born within his domain. From claims such as these
the town could never feel itself safe so long as mysterious charters from
Pope or King, interpreted cunningly by the wit of the new lawyer class, lay
stored in the abbey archives. But the archives contained other and hardly
less formidable documents than these. Untroubled by the waste of war, the
religious houses profited more than any other landowners by the general
growth of wealth. They had become great proprietors, money-lenders to their
tenants, extortionate as the Jew whom they had banished from their land.
There were few townsmen of St. Edmund's who had not some bonds laid up in
the abbey registry. In 1327 one band of debtors had a covenant lying there
for the payment of five hundred marks and fifty casks of wine. Another
company of the wealthier burgesses were joint debtors on a bond for ten
thousand pounds. The new spirit of commercial activity joined with the
troubles of the time to throw the whole community into the abbot's hands.


[Sidenote: Saint Edmundsbury]

We can hardly wonder that riots, lawsuits, and royal commissions marked the
relation of the town and abbey under the first two Edwards. Under the third
came an open conflict. In 1327 the townsmen burst into the great house,
drove the monks into the choir, and dragged them thence to the town prison.
The abbey itself was sacked; chalices, missals, chasubles, tunicles, altar
frontals, the books of the library, the very vats and dishes of the
kitchen, all disappeared. The monks estimated their losses at ten thousand
pounds. But the townsmen aimed at higher booty than this. The monks were
brought back from prison to their own chapter-house, and the spoil of their
registry, papal bulls and royal charters, deeds and bonds and mortgages,
were laid before them. Amidst the wild threats of the mob they were forced
to execute a grant of perfect freedom and of a gild to the town as well as
of free release to their debtors. Then they were left masters of the ruined
house. But all control over town or land was gone. Through spring and
summer no rent or fine was paid. The bailiffs and other officers of the
abbey did not dare to show their faces in the streets. News came at last
that the abbot was in London, appealing for redress to the court, and the
whole county was at once on fire. A crowd of rustics, maddened at the
thought of revived claims of serfage, of interminable suits of law, poured
into the streets of the town. From thirty-two of the neighbouring villages
the priests marched at the head of their flocks as on a new crusade. The
wild mass of men, women, and children, twenty thousand in all, as men
guessed, rushed again on the abbey, and for four November days the work of
destruction went on unhindered. When gate, stables, granaries, kitchen,
infirmary, hostelry had gone up in flames, the multitude swept away to the
granges and barns of the abbey farms. Their plunder shows what vast
agricultural proprietors the monks had become. A thousand horses, a hundred
and twenty plough-oxen, two hundred cows, three hundred bullocks, three
hundred hogs, ten thousand sheep were driven off, and granges and barns
burned to the ground. It was judged afterwards that sixty thousand pounds
would hardly cover the loss.

Weak as was the government of Mortimer and Isabella, the appeal of the
abbot against this outrage was promptly heeded. A royal force quelled the
riot, thirty carts full of prisoners were despatched to Norwich;
twenty-four of the chief townsmen with thirty-two of the village priests
were convicted as aiders and abettors of the attack on the abbey, and
twenty were summarily hanged. Nearly two hundred persons remained under
sentence of outlawry, and for five weary years their case dragged on in the
King's Courts. At last matters ended in a ludicrous outrage. Irritated by
repeated breaches of promise on the abbot's part, the outlawed burgesses
seized him as he lay in his manor of Chevington, robbed and bound him, and
carried him off to London. There he was hurried from street to street lest
his hiding-place should be detected till opportunity offered for shipping
him off to Brabant. The Primate and the Pope levelled their
excommunications against the abbot's captors in vain, and though he was at
last discovered and brought home it was probably with some pledge of the
arrangement which followed in 1332. The enormous damages assessed by the
royal justices were remitted, the outlawry of the townsmen was reversed,
the prisoners were released. On the other hand the deeds which had been
stolen were again replaced in the archives of the abbey, and the charters
which had been extorted from the monks were formally cancelled.


[Sidenote: St. Edmundsbury in 1381]

The spirit of townsmen and villeins remained crushed by their failure, and
throughout the reign of Edward the Third the oppression against which they
had risen went on without a check. It was no longer the rough blow of sheer
force; it was the more delicate but more pitiless tyranny of the law. At
Richard's accession Prior John of Cambridge in the vacancy of the abbot was
in charge of the house. The prior was a man skilled in all the arts of his
day. In sweetness of voice, in knowledge of sacred song, his eulogists
pronounced him superior to Orpheus, to Nero, and to one yet more
illustrious in the Bury cloister though obscure to us, the Breton
Belgabred. John was "industrious and subtle," and subtlety and industry
found their scope in suit after suit with the burgesses and farmers around
him. "Faithfully he strove," says the monastic chronicler, "with the
villeins of Bury for the rights of his house." The townsmen he owned
specially as his "adversaries," but it was the rustics who were to show
what a hate he had won. On the fifteenth of June, the day of Wat Tyler's
fall, the howl of a great multitude round his manor-house at Mildenhall
broke roughly on the chauntings of Prior John. He strove to fly, but he was
betrayed by his own servants, judged in rude mockery of the law by villein
and bondsman, condemned and killed. The corpse lay naked in the open field
while the mob poured unresisted into Bury. Bearing the prior's head on a
lance before them through the streets, the frenzied throng at last reached
the gallows where the head of one of the royal judges, Sir John Cavendish,
was already impaled; and pressing the cold lips together in mockery of
their friendship set them side by side. Another head soon joined them. The
abbey gates were burst open, and the cloister filled with a maddened crowd,
howling for a new victim, John Lackenheath, the warder of the barony. Few
knew him as he stood among the group of trembling monks, but he courted
death with a contemptuous courage. "I am the man you seek," he said,
stepping forward; and in a minute, with a mighty roar of "Devil's son!
Monk! Traitor!" he was swept to the gallows, and his head hacked from his
shoulders. Then the crowd rolled back again to the abbey gate, and summoned
the monks before them. They told them that now for a long time they had
oppressed their fellows, the burgesses of Bury; wherefore they willed that
in the sight of the Commons they should forthwith surrender their bonds and
charters. The monks brought the parchments to the market-place; many which
were demanded they swore they could not find. A compromise was at last
patched up; and it was agreed that the charters should be surrendered till
the future abbot should confirm the liberties of the town. Then, unable to
do more, the crowd ebbed away.


[Sidenote: Close of the rising]

A scene less violent, but even more picturesque, went on the same day at
St. Albans. William Grindecobbe, the leader of its townsmen, returned with
one of the charters of emancipation which Richard had granted after his
interview at Mile-end to the men of Essex and Hertfordshire, and breaking
into the abbey precincts at the head of the burghers, forced the abbot to
deliver up the charters which bound the town in bondage to his house. But a
more striking proof of servitude than any charters could give remained in
the millstones which after a long suit at law had been adjudged to the
abbey and placed within its cloister as a triumphant witness that no
townsman might grind corn within the domain of the abbey save at the
abbot's mill. Bursting into the cloister, the burghers now tore the
mill-stones from the floor, and broke them into small pieces, "like blessed
bread in church," which each might carry off to show something of the day
when their freedom was won again. But it was hardly won when it was lost
anew. The quiet withdrawal and dispersion of the peasant armies with their
charters of emancipation gave courage to the nobles. Their panic passed
away. The warlike Bishop of Norwich fell lance in hand on Litster's camp,
and scattered the peasants of Norfolk at the first shock. Richard with an
army of forty thousand men marched in triumph through Kent and Essex, and
spread terror by the ruthlessness of his executions. At Waltham he was met
by the display of his own recent charters and a protest from the Essex men
that "they were so far as freedom went the peers of their lords." But they
were to learn the worth of a king's word. "Villeins you were," answered
Richard, "and villeins you are. In bondage you shall abide, and that not
your old bondage, but a worse!" The stubborn resistance which he met showed
that the temper of the people was not easily broken. The villagers of
Billericay threw themselves into the woods and fought two hard fights
before they were reduced to submission. It was only by threats of death
that verdicts of guilty could be wrung from Essex jurors when the leaders
of the revolt were brought before them. Grindecobbe was offered his life if
he would persuade his followers at St. Albans to restore the charters they
had wrung from the monks. He turned bravely to his fellow-townsmen and bade
them take no thought for his trouble. "If I die," he said, "I shall die for
the cause of the freedom we have won, counting myself happy to end my life
by such a martyrdom. Do then to-day as you would have done had I been
killed yesterday." But repression went pitilessly on, and through the
summer and the autumn seven thousand men are said to have perished on the
gallows or the field.



CHAPTER IV
RICHARD THE SECOND
1381-1400



[Sidenote: Results of the Peasant Revolt]

Terrible as were the measures of repression which followed the Peasant
Revolt, and violent as was the passion of reaction which raged among the
proprietary classes at its close, the end of the rising was in fact
secured. The words of Grindecobbe ere his death were a prophecy which time
fulfilled. Cancel charters of manumission as the council might, serfage was
henceforth a doomed and perishing thing. The dread of another outbreak hung
round the employer. The attempts to bring back obsolete services quietly
died away. The old process of enfranchisement went quietly on. During the
century and a half which followed the Peasant Revolt villeinage died out so
rapidly that it became a rare and antiquated thing. The class of small
freeholders sprang fast out of the wreck of it into numbers and importance.
In twenty years more they were in fact recognized as the basis of our
electoral system in every English county. The Labour Statutes proved as
ineffective as of old in enchaining labour or reducing its price. A hundred
years after the Black Death the wages of an English labourer was sufficient
to purchase twice the amount of the necessaries of life which could have
been obtained for the wages paid under Edward the Third. The incidental
descriptions of the life of the working classes which we find in Piers
Ploughman show that this increase of social comfort had been going on even
during the troubled period which preceded the outbreak of the peasants, and
it went on faster after the revolt was over. But inevitable as such a
progress was, every step of it was taken in the teeth of the wealthier
classes. Their temper indeed at the close of the rising was that of men
frenzied by panic and the taste of blood. They scouted all notion of
concession. The stubborn will of the conquered was met by as stubborn a
will in their conquerors. The royal Council showed its sense of the danger
of a mere policy of resistance by submitting the question of
enfranchisement to the Parliament which assembled in November 1381 with
words which suggested a compromise. "If you desire to enfranchise and set
at liberty the said serfs," ran the royal message, "by your common assent,
as the King has been informed that some of you desire, he will consent to
your prayer." But no thoughts of compromise influenced the landowners in
their reply. The king's grant and letters, the Parliament answered with
perfect truth, were legally null and void: their serfs were their goods,
and the king could not take their goods from them but by their own consent.
"And this consent," they ended, "we have never given and never will give,
were we all to die in one day." Their temper indeed expressed itself in
legislation which was a fit sequel to the Statutes of Labourers. They
forbade the child of any tiller of the soil to be apprenticed in a town.
They prayed the king to ordain "that no bondman nor bondwoman shall place
their children at school, as has been done, so as to advance their children
in the world by their going into the church." The new colleges which were
being founded at the Universities at this moment closed their gates upon
villeins.


[Sidenote: Religious reaction]

The panic which produced this frenzied reaction against all projects of
social reform produced inevitably as frenzied a panic of reaction against
all plans for religious reform. Wyclif had been supported by the
Lancastrian party till the very eve of the Peasant Revolt. But with the
rising his whole work seemed suddenly undone. The quarrel between the
baronage and the Church on which his political action had as yet been
grounded was hushed in the presence of a common danger. His "poor
preachers" were looked upon as missionaries of socialism. The friars
charged Wyclif with being a "sower of strife, who by his serpentlike
instigation had set the serf against his lord," and though he tossed back
the charge with disdain he had to bear a suspicion which was justified by
the conduct of some of his followers. John Ball, who had figured in the
front rank of the revolt, was falsely-named as one of his adherents, and
was alleged to have denounced in his last hour the conspiracy of the
"Wyclifites." Wyclif's most prominent scholar, Nicholas Herford, was said
to have openly approved the brutal murder of Archbishop Sudbury. Whatever
belief such charges might gain, it is certain that from this moment all
plans for the reorganization of the Church were confounded in the general
odium which attached to the projects of the peasant leaders, and that any
hope of ecclesiastical reform at the hands of the baronage and the
Parliament was at an end. But even if the Peasant Revolt had not deprived
Wyclif of the support of the aristocratic party with whom he had hitherto
cooperated, their alliance must have been dissolved by the new theological
position which he had already taken up. Some months before the outbreak of
the insurrection he had by one memorable step passed from the position of a
reformer of the discipline and political relations of the Church to that of
a protester against its cardinal beliefs. If there was one doctrine upon
which the supremacy of the Mediæval Church rested, it was the doctrine of
Transubstantiation. It was by his exclusive right to the performance of the
miracle which was wrought in the mass that the lowliest priest was raised
high above princes. With the formal denial of the doctrine of
Transubstantiation which Wyclif issued in the spring of 1381 began that
great movement of religious revolt which ended more than a century after in
the establishment of religious freedom by severing the mass of the Teutonic
peoples from the general body of the Catholic Church. The act was the
bolder that he stood utterly alone. The University of Oxford, in which his
influence had been hitherto all-powerful, at once condemned him. John of
Gaunt enjoined him to be silent. Wyclif was presiding as Doctor of Divinity
over some disputations in the schools of the Augustinian Canons when his
academical condemnation was publicly read, but though startled for the
moment he at once challenged Chancellor or doctor to disprove the
conclusions at which he had arrived. The prohibition of the Duke of
Lancaster he met by an open avowal of his teaching, a confession which
closes proudly with the quiet words, "I believe that in the end the truth
will conquer."


[Sidenote: Rise of Lollardry]

For the moment his courage dispelled the panic around him. The University
responded to his appeal, and by displacing his opponents from office
tacitly adopted his cause. But Wyclif no longer looked for support to the
learned or wealthier classes on whom he had hitherto relied. He appealed,
and the appeal is memorable as the first of such a kind in our history, to
England at large. With an amazing industry he issued tract after tract in
the tongue of the people itself. The dry, syllogistic Latin, the abstruse
and involved argument which the great doctor had addressed to his academic
hearers, were suddenly flung aside, and by a transition which marks the
wonderful genius of the man the schoolman was transformed into the
pamphleteer. If Chaucer is the father of our later English poetry, Wyclif
is the father of our later English prose. The rough, clear, homely English
of his tracts, the speech of the ploughman and the trader of the day though
coloured with the picturesque phraseology of the Bible, is in its literary
use as distinctly a creation of his own as the style in which he embodied
it, the terse vehement sentences, the stinging sarcasms, the hard
antitheses which roused the dullest mind like a whip. Once fairly freed
from the trammels of unquestioning belief, Wyclif's mind worked fast in its
career of scepticism. Pardons, indulgences, absolutions, pilgrimages to the
shrines of the saints, worship of their images, worship of the saints
themselves, were successively denied. A formal appeal to the Bible as the
one ground of faith, coupled with an assertion of the right of every
instructed man to examine the Bible for himself, threatened the very
groundwork of the older dogmatism with ruin. Nor were these daring denials
confined to the small circle of scholars who still clung to him. The
"Simple Priests" were active in the diffusion of their master's doctrines,
and how rapid their progress must have been we may see from the
panic-struck exaggerations of their opponents. A few years later they
complained that the followers of Wyclif abounded everywhere and in all
classes, among the baronage, in the cities, among the peasantry of the
countryside, even in the monastic cell itself. "Every second man one meets
is a Lollard."


[Sidenote: Lollardry at Oxford]

"Lollard," a word which probably means "idle babbler," was the nickname of
scorn with which the orthodox Churchmen chose to insult their assailants.
But this rapid increase changed their scorn into vigorous action. In 1382
Courtenay, who had now become Archbishop, summoned a council at Blackfriars
and formally submitted twenty-four propositions drawn from Wyclif's works.
An earthquake in the midst of the proceedings terrified every prelate but
the resolute Primate; the expulsion of ill humours from the earth, he said,
was of good omen for the expulsion of ill humours from the Church; and the
condemnation was pronounced. Then the Archbishop turned fiercely upon
Oxford as the fount and centre of the new heresies. In an English sermon at
St. Frideswide's Nicholas Herford had asserted the truth of Wyclif's
doctrines, and Courtenay ordered the Chancellor to silence him and his
adherents on pain of being himself treated as a heretic. The Chancellor
fell back on the liberties of the University, and appointed as preacher
another Wyclifite, Repyngdon, who did not hesitate to style the Lollards
"holy priests," and to affirm that they were protected by John of Gaunt.
Party spirit meanwhile ran high among the students. The bulk of them sided
with the Lollard leaders, and a Carmelite, Peter Stokes, who had procured
the Archbishop's letters, cowered panic stricken in his chamber while the
Chancellor, protected by an escort of a hundred townsmen, listened
approvingly to Repyngdon's defiance. "I dare go no further," wrote the poor
Friar to the Archbishop, "for fear of death"; but he mustered courage at
last to descend into the schools where Repyngdon was now maintaining that
the clerical order was "better when it was but nine years old than now that
it has grown to a thousand years and more." The appearance however of
scholars in arms again drove Stokes to fly in despair to Lambeth, while a
new heretic in open Congregation maintained Wyclif's denial of
Transubstantiation. "There is no idolatry," cried William James, "save in
the Sacrament of the Altar." "You speak like a wise man," replied the
Chancellor, Robert Rygge. Courtenay however was not the man to bear
defiance tamely, and his summons to Lambeth wrested a submission from Rygge
which was only accepted on his pledge to suppress the Lollardism of the
University. "I dare not publish them, on fear of death," exclaimed the
Chancellor when Courtenay handed him his letters of condemnation. "Then is
your University an open _fautor_ of heretics," retorted the Primate, "if it
suffers not the Catholic truth to be proclaimed within its bounds." The
royal Council supported the Archbishop's injunction, but the publication of
the decrees at once set Oxford on fire. The scholars threatened death
against the friars, "crying that they wished to destroy the University."
The masters suspended Henry Crump from teaching as a troubler of the public
peace for calling the Lollards "heretics." The Crown however at last
stepped in to Courtenay's aid, and a royal writ ordered the instant
banishment of all favourers of Wyclif with the seizure and destruction of
all Lollard books on pain of forfeiture of the University's privileges. The
threat produced its effect. Herford and Repyngdon appealed in vain to John
of Gaunt for protection; the Duke himself denounced them as heretics
against the Sacrament of the Altar, and after much evasion they were forced
to make a formal submission. Within Oxford itself the suppression of
Lollardism was complete, but with the death of religious freedom all trace
of intellectual life suddenly disappears. The century which followed the
triumph of Courtenay is the most barren in its annals, nor was the sleep of
the University broken till the advent of the New Learning restored to it
some of the life and liberty which the Primate had so roughly trodden out.


[Sidenote: Wyclif's Bible]

Nothing marks more strongly the grandeur of Wyclif's position as the last
of the great schoolmen than the reluctance of so bold a man as Courtenay
even after his triumph over Oxford to take extreme measures against the
head of Lollardry. Wyclif, though summoned, had made no appearance before
the "Council of the Earthquake." "Pontius Pilate and Herod are made friends
to-day," was his bitter comment on the new union which proved to have
sprung up between the prelates and the monastic orders who had so long been
at variance with each other; "since they have made a heretic of Christ, it
is an easy inference for them to count simple Christians heretics." He
seems indeed to have been sick at the moment, but the announcement of the
final sentence roused him to life again. He petitioned the king and
Parliament that he might be allowed freely to prove the doctrines he had
put forth, and turning with characteristic energy to the attack of his
assailants, he asked that all religious vows might be suppressed, that
tithes might be diverted to the maintenance of the poor and the clergy
maintained by the free alms of their flocks, that the Statutes of Provisors
and Præmunire might be enforced against the Papacy, that Churchmen might be
declared incapable of secular offices, and imprisonment for excommunication
cease. Finally in the teeth of the council's condemnation he demanded that
the doctrine of the Eucharist which he advocated might be freely taught. If
he appeared in the following year before the convocation at Oxford it was
to perplex his opponents by a display of scholastic logic which permitted
him to retire without any retractation of his sacramental heresy. For the
time his opponents seemed satisfied with his expulsion from the University,
but in his retirement at Lutterworth he was forging during these troubled
years the great weapon which, wielded by other hands than his own, was to
produce so terrible an effect on the triumphant hierarchy. An earlier
translation of the Scriptures, in part of which he was aided by his scholar
Herford, was being revised and brought to the second form which is better
known as "Wyclif's Bible" when death drew near. The appeal of the prelates
to Rome was answered at last by a Brief ordering him to appear at the Papal
Court. His failing strength exhausted itself in a sarcastic reply which
explained that his refusal to comply with the summons simply sprang from
broken health. "I am always glad," ran the ironical answer, "to explain my
faith to any one, and above all to the Bishop of Rome; for I take it for
granted that if it be orthodox he will confirm it, if it be erroneous he
will correct it. I assume too that as chief Vicar of Christ upon earth the
Bishop of Rome is of all mortal men most bound to the law of Christ's
Gospel, for among the disciples of Christ a majority is not reckoned by
simply counting heads in the fashion of this world, but according to the
imitation of Christ on either side. Now Christ during His life upon earth
was of all men the poorest, casting from Him all worldly authority. I
deduce from these premisses as a simple counsel of my own that the Pope
should surrender all temporal authority to the civil power and advise his
clergy to do the same." The boldness of his words sprang perhaps from a
knowledge that his end was near. The terrible strain on energies enfeebled
by age and study had at last brought its inevitable result, and a stroke of
paralysis while Wyclif was hearing mass in his parish church of Lutterworth
was followed on the next day by his death.


[Sidenote: The Lollard movement]

The persecution of Courtenay deprived the religious reform of its more
learned adherents and of the support of the Universities. Wyclif's death
robbed it of its head at a moment when little had been done save a work of
destruction. From that moment Lollardism ceased to be in any sense an
organized movement and crumbled into a general spirit of revolt. All the
religious and social discontent of the times floated instinctively to this
new centre. The socialist dreams of the peasantry, the new and keener
spirit of personal morality, the hatred of the friars, the jealousy of the
great lords towards the prelacy, the fanaticism of the reforming zealot
were blended together in a common hostility to the Church and a common
resolve to substitute personal religion for its dogmatic and ecclesiastical
system. But it was this want of organization, this looseness and fluidity
of the new movement, that made it penetrate through every class of society.
Women as well as men became the preachers of the new sect. Lollardry had
its own schools, its own books; its pamphlets were passed everywhere from
hand to hand; scurrilous ballads which revived the old attacks of "Golias"
in the Angevin times upon the wealth and luxury of the clergy were sung at
every corner. Nobles like the Earl of Salisbury and at a later time Sir
John Oldcastle placed themselves openly at the head of the cause and threw
open their gates as a refuge for its missionaries. London in its hatred of
the clergy became fiercely Lollard, and defended a Lollard preacher who
ventured to advocate the new doctrines from the pulpit of St. Paul's. One
of its mayors, John of Northampton, showed the influence of the new
morality by the Puritan spirit in which he dealt with the morals of the
city. Compelled to act, as he said, by the remissness of the clergy who
connived for money at every kind of debauchery, he arrested the loose
women, cut off their hair, and carted them through the streets as objects
of public scorn. But the moral spirit of the new movement, though
infinitely its grander side, was less dangerous to the Church than its open
repudiation of the older doctrines and systems of Christendom. Out of the
floating mass of opinion which bore the name of Lollardry one faith
gradually evolved itself, a faith in the sole authority of the Bible as a
source of religious truth. The translation of Wyclif did its work.
Scripture, complains a canon of Leicester, "became a vulgar thing, and more
open to lay folk and women that knew how to read than it is wont to be to
clerks themselves." Consequences which Wyclif had perhaps shrunk from
drawing were boldly drawn by his disciples. The Church was declared to have
become apostate, its priesthood was denounced as no priesthood, its
sacraments as idolatry.


[Sidenote: Lollardry and the Church]

It was in vain that the clergy attempted to stifle the new movement by
their old weapon of persecution. The jealousy entertained by the baronage
and gentry of every pretension of the Church to secular power foiled its
efforts to make persecution effective. At the moment of the Peasant Revolt
Courtenay procured the enactment of a statute which commissioned the
sheriffs to seize all persons convicted before the bishops of preaching
heresy. But the statute was repealed in the next session, and the Commons
added to the bitterness of the blow by their protest that they considered
it "in nowise their interest to be more under the jurisdiction of the
prelates or more bound by them than their ancestors had been in times
past." Heresy indeed was still a felony by the common law, and if as yet we
meet with no instances of the punishment of heretics by the fire it was
because the threat of such a death was commonly followed by the recantation
of the Lollard. But the restriction of each bishop's jurisdiction within
the limits of his own diocese made it impossible to arrest the wandering
preachers of the new doctrine, and the civil punishment--even if it had
been sanctioned by public opinion--seems to have long fallen into
desuetude. Experience proved to the prelates that few sheriffs would arrest
on the mere warrant of an ecclesiastical officer, and that no royal court
would issue the writ "for the burning of a heretic" on a bishop's
requisition. But powerless as the efforts of the Church were for purposes
of repression, they were effective in rousing the temper of the Lollards
into a bitter fanaticism. The heretics delighted in outraging the religious
sense of their day. One Lollard gentleman took home the sacramental wafer
and lunched on it with wine and oysters. Another flung some images of the
saints into his cellar. The Lollard preachers stirred up riots by the
virulence of their preaching against the friars. But they directed even
fiercer invectives against the wealth and secularity of the great
Churchmen. In a formal petition which was laid before Parliament in 1395
they mingled denunciations of the riches of the clergy with an open
profession of disbelief in transubstantiation, priesthood, pilgrimages, and
image-worship, and a demand, which illustrates the strange medley of
opinions which jostled together in the new movement, that war might be
declared unchristian and that trades such as those of the goldsmith or the
armourer, which were contrary to apostolical poverty, might be banished
from the realm. They contended (and it is remarkable that a Parliament of
the next reign adopted the statement) that from the superfluous revenues of
the Church, if once they were applied to purposes of general utility, the
king might maintain fifteen earls, fifteen hundred knights, and six
thousand squires, besides endowing a hundred hospitals for the relief of
the poor.


[Sidenote: Disasters of the War]

The distress of the landowners, the general disorganization of the country,
in every part of which bands of marauders were openly defying the law, the
panic of the Church and of society at large as the projects of the Lollards
shaped themselves into more daring and revolutionary forms, added a fresh
keenness to the national discontent at the languid and inefficient
prosecution of the war. The junction of the French and Spanish fleets had
made them masters of the seas, and what fragments were left of Guienne lay
at their mercy. The royal Council strove to detach the House of Luxemburg
from, the French alliance by winning for Richard the hand of Anne, a
daughter of the late Emperor Charles the Fourth who had fled at Crécy, and
sister of King Wenzel of Bohemia who was now king of the Romans. But the
marriage remained without political result, save that the Lollard books
which were sent into their native country by the Bohemian servants of the
new queen stirred the preaching of John Huss and the Hussite wars. Nor was
English policy more successful in Flanders. Under Philip van Arteveldt, the
son of the leader of 1345, the Flemish towns again sought the friendship of
England against France, but at the close of 1382 the towns were defeated
and their leader slain in the great French victory of Rosbecque. An
expedition to Flanders in the following year under the warlike Bishop of
Norwich turned out a mere plunder-raid and ended in utter failure. A short
truce only gave France the leisure to prepare a counter-blow by the
despatch of a small but well-equipped force under John de Vienne to
Scotland in 1385. Thirty thousand Scots joined in the advance of this force
over the border: and though northern England rose with a desperate effort
and an English army penetrated as far as Edinburgh in the hope of bringing
the foe to battle, it was forced to fall back without an encounter.
Meanwhile France dealt a more terrible blow in the reduction of Ghent. The
one remaining market for English commerce was thus closed up, while the
forces which should have been employed in saving Ghent and in the
protection of the English shores against the threat of invasion were
squandered by John of Gaunt in a war which he was carrying on alone the
Spanish frontier in pursuit of the visionary crown which he claimed in his
wife's right. The enterprise showed that the Duke had now abandoned the
hope of directing affairs at home and was seeking a new sphere of activity
abroad. To drive him from the realm had been from the close of the Peasant
Revolt the steady purpose of the councillors who now surrounded the young
king, of his favourite Robert de Vere and his Chancellor Michael de la
Pole, who was raised in 1385 to the Earldom of Suffolk. The Duke's friends
were expelled from office; John of Northampton, the head of his adherents
among the Commons, was thrown into prison; the Duke himself was charged
with treason and threatened with arrest. In 1386 John of Gaunt abandoned
the struggle and sailed for Spain.


[Sidenote: Temper of the Court]

Richard himself took part in these measures against the Duke. He was now
twenty, handsome and golden-haired, with a temper capable of great actions
and sudden bursts of energy but indolent and unequal. The conception of
kingship in which he had been reared made him regard the constitutional
advance which had gone on during the war as an invasion of the rights of
his Crown. He looked on the nomination of the royal Council and the great
officers of state by the two Houses or the supervision of the royal
expenditure by the Commons as Infringements on the prerogative which only
the pressure of the war and the weakness of a minority had forced the Crown
to bow to. The judgement of his councillors was one with that of the king.
Vere was no mere royal favourite; he was a great noble and of ancient
lineage. Michael de la Pole was a man of large fortune and an old servant
of the Crown; he had taken part in the war for thirty years, and had been
admiral and captain of Calais. But neither were men to counsel the young
king wisely in his effort to obtain independence at once of Parliament and
of the great nobles. His first aim had been to break the pressure of the
royal house itself, and in his encounter with John of Gaunt he had proved
successful. But the departure of the Duke of Lancaster only called to the
front his brother and his son. Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester,
had inherited much of the lands and the influence of the old house of
Bohun. Round Henry, Earl of Derby, the son of John of Gaunt by Blanche of
Lancaster, the old Lancastrian party of constitutional opposition was once
more forming itself. The favour shown to the followers of Wyclif at the
Court threw on the side of this new opposition the bulk of the bishops and
Churchmen. Richard himself showed no sympathy with the Lollards, but the
action of her Bohemian servants shows the tendencies of his queen. Three
members of the royal Council were patrons of the Lollards, and the Earl of
Salisbury, a favourite with the king, was their avowed head. The Commons
displayed no hostility to the Lollards nor any zeal for the Church; but the
lukewarm prosecution of the war, the profuse expenditure of the Court, and
above all the manifest will of the king to free himself from Parliamentary
control, estranged the Lower House. Richard's haughty words told their own
tale. When the Parliament of 1385 called for an enquiry every year into the
royal household, the king replied he would enquire when he pleased. When it
prayed to know the names of the officers of state, he answered that he
would change them at his will.


[Sidenote: The Lords Appellant]

The burthen of such answers and of the policy they revealed fell on the
royal councillors, and the departure of John of Gaunt forced the new
opposition into vigorous action. The Parliament of 1386 called for the
removal of Suffolk. Richard replied that he would not for such a prayer
dismiss a turnspit of his kitchen. The Duke of Gloucester and Bishop
Arundel of Ely were sent by the Houses as their envoys, and warned the king
that should a ruler refuse to govern with the advice of his lords and by
mad counsels work out his private purposes it was lawful to depose him. The
threat secured Suffolk's removal; he was impeached for corruption and
maladministration, and condemned to forfeiture and imprisonment. It was
only by submitting to the nomination of a Continual Council, with the Duke
of Gloucester at its head, that Richard could obtain a grant of subsidies.
But the Houses were no sooner broken up than Suffolk was released, and in
1387 the young king rode through the country calling on the sheriffs to
raise men against the barons, and bidding them suffer no knight of the
shire to be returned for the next Parliament "save one whom the King and
his Council chose." The general ill-will foiled both his efforts: and he
was forced to take refuge in an opinion of five of the judges that the
Continual Council was unlawful, the sentence on Suffolk erroneous, and that
the Lords and Commons had no power to remove a king's servant. Gloucester
answered the challenge by taking up arms, and a general refusal to fight
for the king forced Richard once more to yield. A terrible vengeance was
taken on his supporters in the recent schemes. In the Parliament of 1388
Gloucester, with the four Earls of Derby, Arundel, Warwick, and Nottingham,
appealed on a charge of high treason Suffolk and De Vere, the Archbishop of
York, the Chief Justice Tresilian, and Sir Nicholas Bramber. The first two
fled, Suffolk to France, De Vere after a skirmish at Radcot Bridge to
Ireland; but the Archbishop was deprived of his see, Bramber beheaded, and
Tresilian hanged. The five judges were banished, and Sir Simon Burley with
three other members of the royal household sent to the block.


[Sidenote: Richard's Rule]

At the prayer of the "Wonderful Parliament," as some called this assembly,
or as others with more justice "The Merciless Parliament," it was provided
that all officers of state should henceforth be named in Parliament or by
the Continual Council. Gloucester remained at the head of the latter body,
but his power lasted hardly a year. In May 1389 Richard found himself
strong enough to break down the government by a word. Entering the Council
he suddenly asked his uncle how old he was. "Your highness," answered
Gloucester, "is in your twenty-fourth year!" "Then I am old enough to
manage my own affairs," said Richard coolly; "I have been longer under
guardianship than any ward in my realm. I thank you for your past services,
my lords, but I need them no more." The resolution was welcomed by the
whole country; and Richard justified the country's hopes by wielding his
new power with singular wisdom and success. He refused to recall De Vere or
the five judges. The intercession of John of Gaunt on his return from Spain
brought about a full reconciliation with the Lords Appellant. A truce was
concluded with France, and its renewal year after year enabled the king to
lighten the burthen of taxation. Richard announced his purpose to govern by
advice of Parliament; he soon restored the Lords Appellant to his Council,
and committed the chief offices of state to great Churchmen like Wykeham
and Arundel. A series of statutes showed the activity of the Houses. A
Statute of Provisors which re-enacted those of Edward the Third was passed
in 1390; the Statute of Præmunire, which punished the obtaining of bulls or
other instruments from Rome with forfeiture, in 1393. The lords were
bridled anew by a Statute of Maintenance, which forbade their violently
supporting other men's causes in courts of justice, and giving "livery" to
a host of retainers. The Statute of Uses in 1391, which rendered illegal
the devices which had been invented to frustrate that of Mortmain, showed
the same resolve to deal firmly with the Church. A reform of the staple and
other mercantile enactments proved the king's care for trade. Throughout
the legislation of these eight years we see the same tone of coolness and
moderation. Eager as he was to win the good-will of the Parliament and the
Church, Richard refused to bow to the panic of the landowners or to second
the persecution of the priesthood. The demands of the Parliament that
education should be denied to the sons of villeins was refused. Lollardry
as a social danger was held firmly at bay, and in 1387 the king ordered
Lollard books to be seized and brought before the Council. But the royal
officers showed little zeal in aiding the bishops to seize or punish the
heretical teachers.


[Sidenote: French and English]

It was in the period of peace which was won for the country by the wisdom
and decision of its young king that England listened to the voice of her
first great singer. The work of Chaucer marks the final settlement of the
English tongue. The close of the great movement towards national unity
which had been going on ever since the Conquest was shown in the middle of
the fourteenth century by the disuse, even amongst the nobler classes, of
the French tongue. In spite of the efforts of the grammar schools and of
the strength of fashion English won its way throughout the reign of Edward
the Third to its final triumph in that of his grandson. It was ordered to
be used in courts of law in 1362 "because the French tongue is much
unknown," and in the following year it was employed by the Chancellor in
opening Parliament. Bishops began to preach in English, and the English
tracts of Wyclif made it once more a literary tongue. We see the general
advance in two passages from writers of Edward's and Richard's reigns.
"Children in school," says Higden, a writer of the first period, "against
the usage and manner of all other nations be compelled for to leave their
own language and for to construe their lessons and their things in French,
and so they have since the Normans first came into England. Also
gentlemen's children be taught for to speak French from the time that they
be rocked in their cradle, and know how to speak and play with a child's
toy; and uplandish (or country) men will liken themselves to gentlemen, and
strive with, great busyness to speak French for to be more told of." "This
manner," adds John of Trevisa, Higden's translator in Richard's time, "was
much used before the first murrain (the Black Death of 1349), and is since
somewhat changed. For John Cornwal, a master of grammar, changed the lore
in grammar school and construing of French into English; and Richard
Pencrych learned this manner of teaching of him, as other men did of
Pencrych. So that now, the year of our Lord 1385 and of the second King
Richard after the Conquest nine, in all the grammar schools of England
children leaveth French, and construeth and learneth in English. Also
gentlemen have now much left for to teach their children French."


[Sidenote: Chaucer]

This drift towards a general use of the national tongue told powerfully on
literature. The influence of the French romances everywhere tended to make
French the one literary language at the opening of the fourteenth century,
and in England this influence had been backed by the French tone of the
court of Henry the Third and the three Edwards. But at the close of the
reign of Edward the Third the long French romances needed to be translated
even for knightly hearers. "Let clerks indite in Latin," says the author of
the "Testament of Love," "and let Frenchmen in their French also indite
their quaint terms, for it is kindly to their mouths; and let us show our
fantasies in such wordes as we learned of our mother's tongue." But the new
national life afforded nobler materials than "fantasies" now for English
literature. With the completion of the work of national unity had come the
completion of the work of national freedom. The vigour of English life
showed itself in the wide extension of commerce, in the progress of the
towns, and the upgrowth of a free yeomanry. It gave even nobler signs of
its activity in the spirit of national independence and moral earnestness
which awoke at the call of Wyclif. New forces of thought and feeling which
were destined to tell on every age of our later history broke their way
through the crust of feudalism in the socialist revolt of the Lollards, and
a sudden burst of military glory threw its glamour over the age of Crécy
and Poitiers. It is this new gladness of a great people which utters itself
in the verse of Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer was born about 1340, the son of a
London vintner who lived in Thames Street; and it was in London that the
bulk of his life was spent. His family, though not noble, seems to have
been of some importance, for from the opening of his career we find Chaucer
in close connexion with the Court. At sixteen he was made page to the wife
of Lionel of Clarence; at nineteen he first bore arms in the campaign of
1359. But he was luckless enough to be made prisoner; and from the time of
his release after the treaty of Brétigny he took no further share in the
military enterprises of his time. He seems again to have returned to
service about the Court, and it was now that his first poems made their
appearance, the "Compleynte to Pity" in 1368, and in 1369 the "Death of
Blanch the Duchesse," the wife of John of Gaunt who from this time at least
may be looked upon as his patron. It may have been to John's influence that
he owed his employment in seven diplomatic missions which were probably
connected with the financial straits of the Crown. Three of these, in 1372,
1374, and 1378, carried him to Italy. He visited Genoa and the brilliant
court of the Visconti at Milan; at Florence, where the memory of Dante, the
"great master" whom he commemorates so reverently in his verse, was still
living, he may have met Boccaccio; at Padua, like his own clerk of
Oxenford, he possibly caught the story of Griseldis from the lips of
Petrarca.


[Sidenote: His Early Poems]

It was these visits to Italy which gave us the Chaucer whom we know. From
that hour his work stands out in vivid contrast with the poetic literature
from the heart of which it sprang. The long French romances were the
product of an age of wealth and ease, of indolent curiosity, of a fanciful
and self-indulgent sentiment. Of the great passions which gave life to the
Middle Ages, that of religious enthusiasm had degenerated into the conceits
of Mariolatry, that of war into the extravagances of Chivalry. Love indeed
remained; it was the one theme of troubadour and trouveur; but it was a
love of refinement, of romantic follies, of scholastic discussions, of
sensuous enjoyment--a plaything rather than a passion. Nature had to
reflect the pleasant indolence of man; the song of the minstrel moved
through a perpetual May-time; the grass was ever green; the music of the
lark and the nightingale rang out from field and thicket. There was a gay
avoidance of all that is serious, moral, or reflective in man's life: life
was too amusing to be serious, too piquant, too sentimental, too full of
interest and gaiety and chat. It was an age of talk: "mirth is none," says
Chaucer's host, "to ride on by the way dumb as a stone "; and the Trouveur
aimed simply at being the most agreeable talker of his day. His romances,
his rimes of Sir Tristram, his Romance of the Rose, are full of colour and
fantasy, endless in detail, but with a sort of gorgeous idleness about
their very length, the minuteness of their description of outer things, the
vagueness of their touch when it passes to the subtler inner world.

It was with this literature that Chaucer had till now been familiar, and it
was this which he followed in his earlier work. But from the time of his
visits to Milan and Genoa his sympathies drew him not to the dying verse of
France but to the new and mighty upgrowth of poetry in Italy. Dante's eagle
looks at him from the sun. "Fraunces Petrark, the laureat poete," is to him
one "whose rethorique sweete enlumyned al Itail of poetrie." The "Troilus"
which he produced about 1382 is an enlarged English version of Boccaccio's
"Filostrato"; the Knight's Tale, whose first draft is of the same period,
bears slight traces of his Teseide. It was indeed the "Decameron" which
suggested the very form of the "Canterbury Tales," the earliest of which,
such as those of the Doctor, the Man of Law, the Clerk, the Prioress, the
Franklin, and the Squire, may probably be referred like the Parliament of
Foules and the House of Fame to this time of Chaucer's life. But even while
changing, as it were, the front of English poetry Chaucer preserves his own
distinct personality. If he quizzes in the rime of Sir Thopaz the wearisome
idleness of the French romance he retains all that was worth retaining of
the French temper, its rapidity and agility of movement, its lightness and
brilliancy of touch, its airy mockery, its gaiety and good humour, its
critical coolness and self-control. The French wit quickens in him more
than in any English writer the sturdy sense and shrewdness of our national
disposition, corrects its extravagance, and relieves its somewhat ponderous
morality. If on the other hand he echoes the joyous carelessness of the
Italian tale, he tempers it with the English seriousness. As he follows
Boccaccio all his changes are on the side of purity; and when the Troilus
of the Florentine ends with the old sneer at the changeableness of woman
Chaucer bids us "look Godward," and dwells on the unchangeableness of
Heaven.


[Sidenote: The Canterbury Tales]

The genius of Chaucer however was neither French nor Italian, whatever
element it might borrow from either literature, but English to the core;
and from the year 1384 all trace of foreign influence dies away. Chaucer
had now reached the climax of his poetic power. He was a busy, practical
worker, Comptroller of the Customs in 1374, of the Petty Customs in 1382, a
member of the Commons in the Parliament of 1386. The fall of the Duke of
Lancaster from power may have deprived him of employment for a time, but
from 1389 to 1391 he was Clerk of the Royal Works, busy with repairs and
building at Westminster, Windsor, and the Tower. His air indeed was that of
a student rather than of a man of the world. A single portrait has
preserved for us his forked beard, his dark-coloured dress, the knife and
pen-case at his girdle, and we may supplement this portrait by a few vivid
touches of his own. The sly, elvish face, the quick walk, the plump figure
and portly waist were those of a genial and humorous man; but men jested at
his silence, his abstraction, his love of study. "Thou lookest as thou
wouldest find an hare," laughs the host, "and ever on the ground I see thee
stare." He heard little of his neighbours' talk when office work in Thames
Street was over. "Thou goest home to thy own house anon, and also dumb as
any stone thou sittest at another book till fully dazed is thy look, and
livest thus as an heremite, although," he adds slyly, "thy abstinence is
lite," or little. But of this seeming abstraction from the world about him
there is not a trace in Chaucer's verse. We see there how keen his
observation was, how vivid and intense his sympathy with nature and the men
among whom he moved. "Farewell, my book," he cried as spring came after
winter and the lark's song roused him at dawn to spend hours gazing alone
on the daisy whose beauty he sang. But field and stream and flower and
bird, much as he loved them, were less to him than man. No poetry was over
more human than Chaucer's, none ever came more frankly and genially home to
men than his "Canterbury Tales."

It was the continuation and revision of this work which mainly occupied him
during the years from 1384 to 1391. Its best stories, those of the Miller,
the Reeve, the Cook, the Wife of Bath, the Merchant, the Friar, the Nun,
the Priest, and the Pardoner, are ascribed to this period, as well as the
Prologue. The framework which Chaucer chose--that of a pilgrimage from
London to Canterbury--not only enabled him to string these tales together,
but lent itself admirably to the peculiar characteristics of his poetic
temper, his dramatic versatility and the universality of his sympathy. His
tales cover the whole field of mediæval poetry; the legend of the priest,
the knightly romance, the wonder-tale of the traveller, the broad humour of
the fabliau, allegory and apologue, all are there. He finds a yet wider
scope for his genius in the persons who tell these stories, the thirty
pilgrims who start in the May morning from the Tabard in Southwark--thirty
distinct figures, representatives of every class of English society from
the noble to the ploughman. We see the "verray perfight gentil knight" in
cassock and coat of mail, with his curly-headed squire beside him, fresh as
the May morning, and behind them the brown-faced yeoman in his coat and
hood of green with a mighty bow in his hand. A group of ecclesiastics light
up for us the mediaeval church--the brawny hunt-loving monk, whose bridle
jingles as loud and clear as the chapel-bell--the wanton friar, first among
the beggars and harpers of the country-side--the poor parson, threadbare,
learned, and devout, ("Christ's lore and his apostles twelve he taught, and
first he followed it himself")--the summoner with his fiery face--the
pardoner with his wallet "bretfull of pardons, come from Rome all hot"--the
lively prioress with her courtly French lisp, her soft little red mouth,
and "Amor vincit omnia" graven on her brooch. Learning is there in the
portly person of the doctor of physic, rich with the profits of the
pestilence--the busy serjeant-of-law, "that ever seemed busier than he
was"--the hollow-cheeked clerk of Oxford with his love of books and short
sharp sentences that disguise a latent tenderness which breaks out at last
in the story of Griseldis. Around them crowd types of English industry: the
merchant; the franklin in whose house "it snowed of meat and drink"; the
sailor fresh from frays in the Channel; the buxom wife of Bath; the
broad-shouldered miller; the haberdasher, carpenter, weaver, dyer,
tapestry-maker, each in the livery of his craft; and last the honest
ploughman who would dyke and delve for the poor without hire. It is the
first time in English poetry that we are brought face to face not with
characters or allegories or reminiscences of the past, but with living and
breathing men, men distinct in temper and sentiment as in face or costume
or mode of speech; and with this distinctness of each maintained throughout
the story by a thousand shades of expression and action. It is the first
time, too, that we meet with the dramatic power which not only creates each
character but combines it with its fellows, which not only adjusts each
tale or jest to the temper of the person who utters it but fuses all into a
poetic unity. It is life in its largeness, its variety, its complexity,
which surrounds us in the "Canterbury Tales." In some of the stories
indeed, which were composed no doubt at an earlier time, there is the
tedium of the old romance or the pedantry of the schoolman; but taken as a
whole the poem is the work not of a man of letters but of a man of action.
Chaucer has received his training from war, courts, business, travel--a
training not of books but of life. And it is life that he loves--the
delicacy of its sentiment, the breadth of its farce, its laughter and its
tears, the tenderness of its Griseldis or the Smollett-like adventures of
the miller and the clerks. It is this largeness of heart, this wide
tolerance, which enables him to reflect man for us as none but Shakspere
has ever reflected him, and to do this with a pathos, a shrewd sense and
kindly humour, a freshness and joyousness of feeling, that even Shakspere
has not surpassed.


[Sidenote: The French Marriage]

The last ten years of Chaucer's life saw a few more tales added to the
Pilgrimage and a few poems to his work; but his power was lessening, and in
1400 he rested from his labours in his last home, a house in the garden of
St. Mary's Chapel at Westminster. His body rests within the Abbey church.
It was strange that such a voice should have awakened no echo in the
singers that follow, but the first burst of English song died as suddenly
in Chaucer as the hope and glory of his age. He died indeed at the moment
of a revolution which was the prelude to years of national discord and
national suffering. Whatever may have been the grounds of his action, the
rule of Richard the Second after his assumption of power had shown his
capacity for self-restraint. Parted by his own will from the counsellors of
his youth, calling to his service the Lords Appellant, reconciled alike
with the baronage and the Parliament, the young king promised to be among
the noblest and wisest rulers that England had seen. But the violent and
haughty temper which underlay this self-command showed itself from time to
time. The Earl of Arundel and his brother the bishop stood in the front
rank of the party which had coerced Richard in his early days; their
influence was great in the new government. But a strife between the Earl
and John of Gaunt revived the king's resentment at the past action of this
house; and at the funeral of Anne of Bohemia in 1394 a fancied slight
roused Richard to a burst of passion. He struck the Earl so violently that
the blow drew blood. But the quarrel was patched up, and the reconciliation
was followed by the elevation of Bishop Arundel to the vacant Primacy in
1396. In the preceding year Richard had crossed to Ireland and in a short
autumn campaign reduced its native chiefs again to submission. Fears of
Lollard disturbances soon recalled him, but these died at the king's
presence, and Richard was able to devote himself to the negotiation of a
marriage which was to be the turning-point of his reign. His policy
throughout the recent years had been a policy of peace. It was war which
rendered the Crown helpless before the Parliament, and peace was needful if
the work of constant progress was not to be undone. But the short truces,
renewed from time to time, which he had as yet secured were insufficient
for this purpose, for so long as war might break out in the coming year the
king hands were tied. The impossibility of renouncing the claim to the
French crown indeed made a formal peace impossible, but its ends might be
secured by a lengthened truce, and it was with a view to this that Richard
in 1396 wedded Isabella, the daughter of Charles the Sixth of France. The
bride was a mere child, but she brought with her a renewal of the truce for
five-and-twenty years.


[Sidenote: Change of Richard's temper]

The match was hardly concluded when the veil under which Richard had
shrouded his real temper began to be dropped. His craving for absolute
power, such as he witnessed in the Court of France, was probably
intensified from this moment by a mental disturbance which gathered
strength as the months went on. As if to preclude any revival of the war
Richard had surrendered Cherbourg to the king of Navarre and now gave back
Brest to the Duke of Britanny. He was said to have pledged himself at his
wedding to restore Calais to the king of France. But once freed from all
danger of such a struggle the whole character of his rule seemed to change.
His court became as crowded and profuse as his grandfather's. Money was
recklessly borrowed and as recklessly squandered. The king's pride became
insane, and it was fed with dreams of winning the Imperial crown through
the deposition of Wenzel of Bohemia. The councillors with whom he had acted
since his resumption of authority saw themselves powerless. John of Gaunt
indeed still retained influence over the king. It was the support of the
Duke of Lancaster after his return from his Spanish campaign which had
enabled Richard to hold in check the Duke of Gloucester and the party that
he led; and the anxiety of the young king to retain this support was seen
in his grant of Aquitaine to his uncle, and in the legitimation of the
Beauforts, John's children by a mistress, Catherine Swinford, whom he
married after the death of his second wife. The friendship of the Duke
brought with it the adhesion of one even more important, his son Henry, the
Earl of Derby. As heir through his mother, Blanche of Lancaster, to the
estates and influence of the Lancastrian house, Henry was the natural head
of a constitutional opposition, and his weight was increased by a marriage
with the heiress of the house of Bohun. He had taken a prominent part in
the overthrow of Suffolk and De Vere, and on the king's resumption of power
he had prudently withdrawn from the realm on a vow of Crusade, had touched
at Barbary, visited the Holy Sepulchre, and in 1390 sailed for Dantzig and
taken part in a campaign against the heathen Prussians with the Teutonic
Knights. Since his return he had silently followed in his father's track.
But the counsels of John of Gaunt were hardly wiser than of old; Arundel
had already denounced his influence as a hurtful one; and in the events
which were now to hurry quickly on he seems to have gone hand in hand with
the king.


[Sidenote: Richard's Tyranny]

A new uneasiness was seen in the Parliament of 1397, and the Commons prayed
for a redress of the profusion of the Court. Richard at once seized on the
opportunity for a struggle. He declared himself grieved that his subjects
should "take on themselves any ordinance or governance of the person of the
King or his hostel or of any persons of estate whom he might be pleased to
have in his company." The Commons were at once overawed; they owned that
the cognizance of such matters belonged wholly to the king, and gave up to
the Duke of Lancaster the name of the member, Sir Thomas Haxey, who had
brought forward this article of their prayer. The lords pronounced him a
traitor, and his life was only saved by the fact that he was a clergyman
and by the interposition of Archbishop Arundel. The Earl of Arundel and the
Duke of Gloucester at once withdrew from Court. They stood almost alone,
for of the royal house the Dukes of Lancaster and York with their sons the
Earls of Derby and Rutland were now with the king, and the old coadjutor of
Gloucester, the Earl of Nottingham, was in high favour with him. The Earl
of Warwick alone joined them, and he was included in a charge of conspiracy
which was followed by the arrest of the three. A fresh Parliament in
September was packed with royal partizans, and Richard moved boldly to his
end. The pardons of the Lords Appellant were revoked. Archbishop Arundel
was impeached and banished from the realm, he was transferred by the Pope
to the See of St. Andrews, and the Primacy given to Roger Walden. The Earl
of Arundel, accused before the Peers under John of Gaunt as High Steward,
was condemned and executed in a single day. Warwick, who owned the truth of
the charge, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment. The Duke of Gloucester
was saved from a trial by a sudden death in his prison at Calais. A new
Parliament at Shrewsbury in the opening of 1398 completed the king's work.
In three days it declared null the proceedings of the Parliament of 1388,
granted to the king a subsidy on wool and leather for his life, and
delegated its authority to a standing committee of eighteen members from
both Houses with power to continue their sittings even after the
dissolution of the Parliament and to "examine and determine all matters and
subjects which had been moved in the presence of the king with all the
dependencies thereof."


[Sidenote: Henry of Lancaster]

In a single year the whole colour of Richard's government had changed. He
had revenged himself on the men who had once held him down, and his revenge
was hardly taken before he disclosed a plan of absolute government. He had
used the Parliament to strike down the Primate as well as the greatest
nobles of the realm and to give him a revenue for life which enabled him to
get rid of Parliament itself, for the Permanent Committee which it named
were men devoted, as Richard held, to his cause. John of Gaunt was at its
head, and the rest of its lords were those who had backed the king in his
blow at Gloucester and the Arundels. Two however were excluded. In the
general distribution of rewards which followed Gloucester's overthrow the
Earl of Derby had been made Duke of Hereford, the Earl of Nottingham Duke
of Norfolk. But at the close of 1397 the two Dukes charged each other with
treasonable talk as they rode between Brentford and London, and the
Permanent Committee ordered the matter to be settled by a single combat. In
September 1398 the Dukes entered the lists; but Richard forbade the duel,
sentenced the Duke of Norfolk to banishment for life, and Henry of
Lancaster to exile for ten years. As Henry left London the streets were
crowded with people weeping for his fate; some followed him even to the
coast. But his withdrawal removed the last check on Richard's despotism. He
forced from every tenant of the Crown an oath to recognize the acts of his
Committee as valid, and to oppose any attempts to alter or revoke them.
Forced loans, the sale of charters of pardon to Gloucester's adherents, the
outlawry of seven counties at once on the plea that they had supported his
enemies and must purchase pardon, a reckless interference with the course
of justice, roused into new life the old discontent. Even this might have
been defied had not Richard set an able and unscrupulous leader at its
head. Leave had been given to Henry of Lancaster to receive his father's
inheritance on the death of John of Gaunt, in February 1399. But an
ordinance of the Continual Committee annulled this permission and Richard
seized the Lancastrian estates. Archbishop Arundel at once saw the chance
of dealing blow for blow. He hastened to Paris and pressed the Duke to
return to England, telling him how all men there looked for it, "especially
the Londoners, who loved him a hundred times more than they did the king."
For a while Henry remained buried in thought, "leaning on a window
overlooking a garden"; but Arundel's pressure at last prevailed, he made
his way secretly to Britanny, and with fifteen knights set sail from
Vannes.


[Sidenote: Ireland and the Pale]

What had really decided him was the opportunity offered by Richard's
absence from the realm. From the opening of his reign the king's attention
had been constantly drawn to his dependent lordship of Ireland. More than
two hundred years had passed away since the troubles which followed the
murder of Archbishop Thomas forced Henry the Second to leave his work of
conquest unfinished, and the opportunity for a complete reduction of the
island which had been lost then had never returned. When Henry quitted
Ireland indeed Leinster was wholly in English hands, Connaught bowed to a
nominal acknowledgement of the English overlordship, and for a while the
work of conquest seemed to go steadily on. John de Courcy penetrated into
Ulster and established himself at Downpatrick; and Henry planned the
establishment of his youngest son, John, as Lord of Ireland. But the levity
of the young prince, who mocked the rude dresses of the native chieftains
and plucked them in insult by the beard, soon forced his father to recall
him; and in the continental struggle which soon opened on the Angevin
kings, as in the constitutional struggle within England itself which
followed it, all serious purpose of completing the conquest of Ireland was
forgotten. Nothing indeed but the feuds and weakness of the Irish tribes
enabled the adventurers to hold the districts of Drogheda, Dublin, Wexford,
Waterford, and Cork, which formed what was thenceforth known as "the
English Pale." In all the history of Ireland no event has proved more
disastrous than this half-finished conquest. Had the Irish driven their
invaders into the sea, or the English succeeded in the complete reduction
of the island, the misery of its after ages might have been avoided. A
struggle such as that in which Scotland drove out its conquerors might have
produced a spirit of patriotism and national union which would have formed
a people out of the mass of warring clans. A conquest such as that in which
the Normans made England their own would have spread at any rate the law,
the order, the civilization of the conquering country over the length and
breadth of the conquered. Unhappily Ireland, while powerless to effect its
entire deliverance, was strong enough to hold its assailants partially at
bay. The country was broken into two halves whose conflict has never
ceased. So far from either giving elements of civilization or good
government to the other, conqueror and conquered reaped only degradation
from the ceaseless conflict. The native tribes lost whatever tendency to
union or social progress had survived the invasion of the Danes. Their
barbarism was intensified by their hatred of the more civilized intruders.
But these intruders themselves, penned within the narrow limits of the
Pale, brutalized by a merciless conflict, cut off from contact with the
refining influences of a larger world, sank rapidly to the level of the
barbarism about them: and the lawlessness, the ferocity, the narrowness of
feudalism broke out unchecked in this horde of adventurers who held the
land by their sword.


[Sidenote: English and Irish]

From the first the story of the English Pale was a story of degradation and
anarchy. It needed the stern vengeance of John, whose army stormed its
strongholds and drove its leading barons into exile, to preserve even their
fealty to the English Crown. John divided the Pale into counties and
ordered the observance of the English law; but the departure of his army
was the signal for a return of the disorder he had trampled under foot.
Between Englishmen and Irishmen went on a ceaseless and pitiless war. Every
Irishman without the Pale was counted by the English settlers an enemy and
a robber whose murder found no cognizance or punishment at the hands of the
law. Half the subsistence of the English barons was drawn from forays
across the border, and these forays were avenged by incursions of native
marauders which carried havoc at times to the very walls of Dublin. Within
the Pale itself the misery was hardly less. The English settlers were
harried and oppressed by their own baronage as much as by the Irish
marauders, while the feuds of the English lords wasted their strength and
prevented any effective combination either for common conquest or common
defence. So utter seemed their weakness that Robert Bruce saw in it an
opportunity for a counter-blow at his English assailants, and his victory
at Bannockburn was followed up by the despatch of a Scotch force to Ireland
with his brother Edward at its head. A general rising of the Irish welcomed
this deliverer; but the danger drove the barons of the Pale to a momentary
union, and in 1316 their valour was proved on the bloody field of Athenree
by the slaughter of eleven thousand of their foes and the almost complete
annihilation of the sept of the O'Connors. But with victory returned the
old anarchy and degradation. The barons of the Pale sank more and more into
Irish chieftains. The Fitz-Maurices, who became Earls of Desmond and whose
vast territory in Minister was erected into a County Palatine, adopted the
dress and manners of the natives around them. The rapid growth of this evil
was seen in the ruthless provisions by which Edward the Third strove to
check it in his Statute of Kilkenny. The Statute forbade the adoption of
the Irish language or name or dress by any man of English blood: it
enforced within the Pale the exclusive use of English law, and made the use
of the native or Brehon law, which was gaining ground, an act of treason;
it made treasonable any marriage of the Englishry with persons of Irish
race, or any adoption of English children by Irish foster-fathers.


[Sidenote: Richard in Ireland]

But stern as they were these provisions proved fruitless to check the
fusion of the two races, while the growing independence of the Lords of the
Pale threw off all but the semblance of obedience to the English
government. It was this which stirred Richard to a serious effort for the
conquest and organization of the island. In 1386 he granted the "entire
dominion" of Ireland with the title of its Duke to Robert de Vere on
condition of his carrying out its utter reduction. But the troubles of the
reign soon recalled De Vere, and it was not till the truce with France had
freed his hands that the king again took up his projects of conquest. In
1394 he landed with an army at Waterford, and received the general
submission of the native chieftains. But the Lords of the Pale held
sullenly aloof; and Richard had no sooner quitted the island than the Irish
in turn refused to carry out their promise of quitting Leinster, and
engaged in a fresh contest with the Earl of March, whom the king had
proclaimed as his heir and left behind him as his lieutenant in Ireland. In
the summer of 1398 March was beaten and slain in battle: and Richard
resolved to avenge his cousin's death and complete the work he had begun by
a fresh invasion. He felt no apprehension of danger. At home his triumph
seemed complete. The death of Norfolk, the exile of Henry of Lancaster,
left the baronage without heads for any rising. He ensured, as he believed,
the loyalty of the great houses by the hostages of their blood whom he
carried with him, at whose head was Henry of Lancaster's son, the future
Henry the Fifth. The refusal of the Percies, the Earl of Northumberland and
his son Henry Percy or Hotspur, to obey his summons might have warned him
that danger was brewing in the north. Richard however took little heed. He
banished the Percies, who withdrew into Scotland; and sailed for Ireland at
the end of May, leaving his uncle the Duke of York regent in his stead.


[Sidenote: Landing of Henry]

The opening of his campaign was indecisive, and it was not till fresh
reinforcements arrived at Dublin that the king could prepare for a march
into the heart of the island. But while he planned the conquest of Ireland
the news came that England was lost. Little more than a month had passed
after his departure when Henry of Lancaster entered the Humber and landed
at Ravenspur. He came, he said, to claim his heritage; and three of his
Yorkshire castles at once threw open their gates. The two great houses of
the north joined him at once. Ralph Neville, the Earl of Westmoreland, had
married his half-sister; the Percies came from their exile over the
Scottish border. As he pushed quickly to the south all resistance broke
down. The army which the Regent gathered refused to do hurt to the Duke;
London called him to her gates; and the royal Council could only march
hastily on Bristol in the hope of securing that port for the King's return.
But the town at once yielded to Henry's summons, the Regent submitted to
him, and with an army which grew at every step the Duke marched upon
Cheshire, where Richard's adherents were gathering in arms to meet the
king. Contrary winds had for a while kept Richard ignorant of his cousin's
progress, and even when the news reached him he was in a web of treachery.
The Duke of Albemarle, the son of the Regent Duke of York, was beside him,
and at his persuasion the King abandoned his first purpose of returning at
once, and sent the Earl of Salisbury to Conway while he himself waited to
gather his army and fleet. The six days he proposed to gather them in
became sixteen, and the delay proved fatal to his cause. As no news came of
Richard the Welshmen who flocked to Salisbury's camp dispersed on Henry's
advance to Chester. Henry was in fact master of the realm at the opening of
August when Richard at last sailed from Waterford and landed at Milford
Haven.


[Sidenote: Richard's capture]

Every road was blocked, and the news that all was lost told on the thirty
thousand men he brought with him. In a single day but six thousand
remained, and even these dispersed when it was found that the King had
ridden off disguised as a friar to join the force which he believed to be
awaiting him in North Wales with Salisbury at its head. He reached
Caernarvon only to find this force already disbanded, and throwing himself
into the castle despatched his kinsmen, the Dukes of Exeter and Surrey, to
Chester to negotiate with Henry of Lancaster. But they were detained there
while the Earl of Northumberland pushed forward with a picked body of men,
and securing the castles of the coast at last sought an interview with
Richard at Conway. The King's confidence was still unbroken. He threatened
to raise a force of Welshmen and to put Lancaster to death. Deserted as he
was indeed, a King was in himself a power, and only the treacherous pledges
of the Earl induced him to set aside his plans for a reconciliation to be
brought about in Parliament and to move from Conway on the promise of a
conference with Henry at Flint. But he had no sooner reached the town than
he found himself surrounded by Lancaster's forces. "I am betrayed," he
cried, as the view of his enemies burst on him from the hill; "there are
pennons and banners in the valley." But it was too late for retreat.
Richard was seized and brought before his cousin. "I am come before my
time," said Lancaster, "but I will show you the reason. Your people, my
lord, complain that for the space of twenty years you have ruled them
harshly: however, if it please God, I will help you to rule them better."
"Fair cousin," replied the King, "since it pleases you, it pleases me
well." Then, breaking in private into passionate regrets that he had ever
spared his cousin's life, he suffered himself to be carried a prisoner
along the road to London.

END OF VOL. II.





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