DECLINE OF EMPIRE AND PAPACY

CHAPTER XV.

ENGLAND: EDWARD III AND RICHARD II

 

On 24 January 1327 the son of Edward II, a boy not yet fourteen years old, was proclaimed king, in accordance with the decision of the Parliament which had met at Westminster on 7 January. His reign as Edward III was reckoned to begin on 25 January, but the real power lay in the hands of his mother Isabella and Mortimer her paramour, and so remained for nearly four years. The first period of the reign turns, therefore, on Mortimer, though he had no place in the Council of Regency.

The revolution had been easy because almost every influential person promptly deserted Edward II. Mortimer and Isabella, with their personal following and their mercenaries from Hainault, had taken the initiative, but the whole baronage gave its support. Only five prelates, including the Archbishop of York, had remained faithful to the king, and only two prominent officials, the chancellor and the controller of the wardrobe and the chamber. The constitution of the Council of Regency reflected this state of public opinion; it cannot be considered as packed with Mortimer’s creatures. Consisting of four prelates, four carls, and six barons, it was presided over by Lancaster, and contained the young king’s uncles, Norfolk and Kent, and the two archbishops. Orleton, Bishop of Hereford, and John Stratford, Bishop of Winchester, were the other episcopal members, and in Orleton at least Mortimer had a representative of his interests. The proceedings of the Parliament were open to little criticism. It secured, as a natural result of the revolution, a reversal of the proceedings against Thomas of Lancaster and his party, with restitution; it also asked for a confirmation of the proceedings against the Despensers, and for steps to procure the canonisation of Earl Thomas and Archbishop Winchelsea. The long list of grievances concerning abuses in the late king’s dealings with the Church, and his feudal, military, and judicial rights, was answered in detail; the Charters were confirmed; and most, but not all, of the requests received favourable replies. The lavish provision for Isabella, said by the chroniclers to leave the king hardly one-third of his revenue, be­trayed the triumph of a faction, whilst generous charters rewarded the Londoners for their support in the crisis of the preceding autumn.

Two urgent problems called for the attention of the new government. It was only by their handling of these that Mortimer and Isabella did anything to redeem the shameful behaviour by which they had attained power. The uncertainty of their position in England, Edward II being still alive, helped them to recognise the actual situation in France and Scotland, and without delay they proceeded to seek a peaceful settlement in France based on the status quo. The status quo was extremely un­favourable to English claims. The treaty, signed 31 March 1327, provided for a war indemnity payable by England, left Charles IV in possession of what he had occupied in 1324, and reduced the English possessions to a strip of coastland with Bordeaux as its centre and some disconnected fragments insecurely held in Gascony. When a year later, on 31 January 1328, Charles IV died leaving his widow pregnant, Edward III claimed the regency of France as heir presumptive, maintaining that his mother could transmit a claim which she could not herself use. The claimant by the male line, Philip of Valois, was, however, made first regent and then, when Charles IV’s child proved to be a girl, king. To Philip, on 6 June 1329, after some show of reluctance by Isabella, Edward did homage; but whether the homage was liege homage or not, and whether it was for the lands claimed by Edward or only for those actually held, were questions in dispute between the parties.

By a similar recognition of humiliating facts, Mortimer and Isabella secured peace with Scotland, but not until the way of war had been tried. The Scots were not unwilling to fight, and the English were not yet prepared to allow Bruce the title of king. A scrambling summer campaign in 1327, on the English side of the border, failed to produce a pitched battle where the English superiority in numbers might have told; it merely exposed the northern counties to ravaging. With tears of boyish disappointment over the failure of his first campaign Edward had to return. The continuance of the raids convinced the government that they could no longer hold out against Scottish desires, and they made the “shameful treaty” named from Northampton, where it was ratified in Parliament in May 1328. England recognised Bruce as king of a completely independent Scotland, and the restoration of lands in each country to subjects of the other who had been wrongfully dispossessed was promised in vague terms productive of future troubles. The betrothal of Bruce’s son David, aged four, to Joan, Edward’s sister, aged seven, sealed the alliance of the two States. Edward himself appears to have shared the popular feeling of dislike for this unpalatable, but useful settlement. Bruce died on 7 June in the following year, and the boy David began his uneasy reign.

Not merely the unpopularity of its concessions in foreign policy, but also internal divisions were weakening the government. The coalition which had overthrown Edward II was breaking up. Though the Lancas­trian party had reaped some profit in lands and offices, they found them­selves gradually ousted from influence. Lancaster, though nominally head of the Regency Council, was not allowed personal dealing with the king; Stratford was kept out of office; the old cleavage between the baronial party and the party in power at court began to reappear. From the autumn of 1328 Mortimer had to meet recurring challenges to his authority. Meanwhile he was making his personal position more com­manding. He had an enormous patrimony, and had made such additions to it that he came near to complete supremacy in Wales and the March. He was justice of Wales for life. He had large interests in Ireland and the Midlands. By the marriage of his daughters he made more alliances. In October 1328 at the Parliament of Salisbury his unique power was recognised: he received the new title of Earl of the March of Wales, the like of which, complained the chronicler, had not been heard in England before. But at this same Parliament appeared also signs of serious oppo­sition to Mortimer. Lancaster would not attend it; the archbishops and Stratford left it; and there was sympathy for them among the barons.

Mortimer had failed to keep a party together. There was constant change in the offices of State. Orleton had left the Treasury in pursuit of personal advancement at Avignon, and on the death of Reynolds efforts to get the see of Canterbury for Burghersh, Orleton’s successor at the Treasury, met with no success. Meopham, who was not a partisan of Mortimer, became archbishop. On 2 January 1329 a meeting summoned by Lancaster in London and representative of the opposition to Mortimer called for the assertion of the authority of the Council of Regency and for the end of Mortimer’s control of the king.

Mortimer accepted the challenge, and won the first round. He ravaged Lancaster’s Leicester estates; and Lancaster, deserted by Norfolk and Kent, made his peace by submitting to a fine of half his estate. Mortimer pressed his advantage with vigour. Blindness made Lancaster a less dangerous enemy, and Kent he destroyed by a stratagem. Kent was an unstable man. He had put some faith in the rumours that Edward II was still living, and had (it seems) played with designs which brought him under suspicion of treason. Maltravers, who had the most shameful reason for knowing that Edward II was dead, was used as a decoy, and after confession Kent was executed on 19 March 1330.

It was the king himself who was to play the decisive part. He was now approaching the age of eighteen. Two years before, on 24 January 1328, he had married Philippa, daughter of the Count of Hainault who had assisted Isabella in 1326. On 15 June 1330 was born Edward of Woodstock, his heir. The indignity of submitting to Mortimer’s yoke became more apparent as that yoke grew more hateful. Edward had already gathered a few personal adherents in an inner circle, and had opened private negotiations with Pope John XXII. A plot, to which the king was privy, took effect at Nottingham on 19 October 1330 as a Great Council was being held. A party of young nobles, led by Edward’s confidant William Montague, broke into the royal apartments by stratagem at midnight. Mortimer was arrested, and Edward announced his intention of riding for himself. Isabella could not save her lover. At a Parliament in Westminster a month later the lords condemned Mortimer without a hearing, and he suffered ignominious execution. He was charged with compassing the deaths of Edward II and Kent, estranging Edward II and Isabella, appropriating royal power and property, and injuring Lancaster. Condemnation was also pronounced against the principal agents in the late king’s murder, but only one was brought to justice. Isabella was made to live on her original dower, but she retained her freedom and did not die till 1358.

For the first ten years of his personal rule Edward’s main concern was with Scotland. Difficulties arising from the land settlement promised in 1328 gave an occasion, and perhaps a reason, for disturbing the unpopular Treaty of Northampton. The story will be told elsewhere. Here it is sufficient to notice that, despite the crushing defeats of the Scottish nationalists by the young Balliol at Dupplin Moor (12 August 1332) and by Edward at Halidon Hill (19 July 1333), Edward’s hold on Scotland was even more insecure than his grandfather’s had been. The Scottish campaigns had great importance as a school for future warfare. It has often been pointed out that the tactics of Dupplin Moor and Halidon Hill—the use of archers in open order on the wings—prepared the way for English victories by similar tactics on the continent in the later part of the reign. The great size of the armies used in Scotland has attracted less attention. In 1336, the year in which he penetrated as far north, as Forres and Kinloss, Edward had in Scotland an army which surpassed in size any continental expeditionary force, except that which made the Crecy-Calais campaign. A great part of these armies was raised by a few magnates and was composed of their knights and followers organised independently of the king’s forces. Similar procedure was followed in raising and organising the armies for the French war. Convenient as the method was at the moment for Edward, the armed factions of Richard’s reign and the Wars of the Roses revealed how perilous a legacy he had bequeathed to his successors.

The relations of England and Scotland after the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War form a commentary on the misfortunes brought on Scotland by the alliance with France. The capture of the Scottish king, David, at Neville’s Cross a few months after the battle of Crecy provided Edward with large sums by way of ransom. The childless David was personally disposed to favour an agreement with England, but plans for the union of the two crowns in the English line after his death came to nothing. Alike in pitched battles and in victorious raids, Edward had proved that he could defeat the Scots with ease, but a series of worthless treaties promising homage stood as witness that he could not conquer Scotland. He was to go on to prove that the same was true of France.

The reign of Edward III is sometimes said to have less importance in constitutional history than its length would make us expect. Certainly it was less crowded with constitutional crises than the reigns of his father and his grandson, and it has not taken the same place as Edward I’s in the classical statement of constitutional development. This absence of dramatic incident is due mainly to the personal character and behaviour of Edward III himself. He has indeed his place in that line of English medieval kings which has been described (perhaps with a touch of harshness) as “an almost uninterrupted succession of champions of personal power, passionate and lustful men, who loved domination, strife, war, and the chase”. But though Edward loved his own way and had an exalted notion of what was due to him as king, though we may acquit him of any conscious “acceptance of the theory of parliamentary institutions,” he was fonder of the chase and war than of political domination; and his reign shews a long-drawn tendency to sacrifice the one for the other. In some ways Edward, who began to reign as a boy, never grew up. To the very end of his life he retained that boyish charm and graciousness of manner which enabled him in a personal interview to reconcile, at least for the moment, almost any adversaries and to persuade those who came to criticise his doings that in fact all was well. But he retained more than this: he retained too a certain youthful petulance and short-sightedness, a readiness to sacrifice the future for the present, to give almost any price for what at the moment he passionately desired. He was able, agile, strong-willed; on occasion he was violent and overbearing and unjust; he had no scruple about going back on his word, if he had promised for his own advantage what it was inconvenient to perform; but he was not of the stuff that tyrants are made of. He did not care enough about politics for that. The immense prestige of his victories in France, and genuine admiration for a king who so nearly fulfilled their own ideal of what a knightly gentleman should be, made it difficult for a baronage that shared his tastes and views to oppose him. The chase, the tournament, the dis­play of the court, the pomp of war, the pride of life—these were the things that he valued most. In order to get these he would say and do almost anything, and would leave the future to take care of itself. It is this attitude to the business of a fourteenth-century king which explains the long years of smooth working with his ministers and his Parliaments, the occasional constitutional crises, and the very different place that the commons held at the end of his reign from that which they had held at the beginning.

Although, therefore, it is true that in the fifty years of his reign Edward had for the most part his own way and neither baronage nor Parliament gave him much trouble, it is also true that his reign did not permanently strengthen the monarchy as an institution in its relation to its old rival the baronage. On the contrary the baronage had made the beginnings of a working alliance with the social classes that had been lately called to the Great Council of the nation and that were increasing in political as they increased in economic importance. Such success as Edward had was due to personal agility and prestige, to transient rather than to lasting causes. He had not erected a strong household service which could carry on the government independent of the baronage. He had allowed the growth of new Parliamentary procedure which, though it caused him no embarrassment, might be in future a useful instrument in the hands of the opponents of the Crown. With these general con­siderations in mind we may examine the course of domestic politics in the several sections of his reign.

The first period begins with Edward’s assumption of power, and ends with the outbreak of serious hostilities with France in 1338. Edward had not freed himself from Mortimer and his mother to put himself under another yoke. He plainly wished to rule for himself, through ministers responsible to himself and chosen by himself, as his successful predecessors had ruled; and for him, as for them, the principal obstacle to this programme was the opinion of the barons that they were the natural advisers of the king, and that he was doing wrong when he did not follow their advice.

In this period the Stratford brothers were the ministers on whom Edward chiefly relied: John, who followed Meopham as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1333, and Robert, Bishop of Chichester. They were at once representatives of the Lancastrian interest and examples of the official clerical class who rose from moderate circumstances by efficient service. Edward worked tactfully. He did not offend the great barons who had been pleased by the fall of Mortimer, but as time passed he strengthened the element of the familiares in the administration. Towards the end of this period there were signs that the household administration was regaining some of the importance which it had not had since the days of Edward II. The rise of Kilsby, an uncompromising supporter of the policy of government by the king’s servants, to the office of Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1338 was evidence of the direction of Edward’s intentions.

In these years Parliament met frequently, more often twice than once a year. Its main public business was to grant money. It did this readily. The country was prospering, and the Scottish war had general support. These Parliaments were not always, nor indeed usually, held at Westminster. The conduct of the war carried the court and central government to York for a great part of the years 1332-38. It was the Hundred Years’ War which made Westminster the administrative capital of England. From 1337 to 1377 Parliament met steadily at Westminster.

The opening of the Hundred Years’ War affected domestic politics in several ways. In the first place it took the king out of England. This not only removed his personal influence, which always made for smooth working, but, still more important, it made necessary a second centre of administration, one which could follow the king abroad. Hence came the difficult problem of relating the government outside England with the government at Westminster. In the second place the war called for a vastly augmented revenue, especially in the early years when Edward was negotiating in the Netherlands and Germany an expensive series of alliances. In the king’s opinion the chief business of the home government was to provide funds which would be at the disposal of the administration accompanying him. The policy of the king and the permanent officials found expression in the Ordinances made at Walton in Suffolk on 12 July 1338, four days before Edward sailed for the Netherlands. The more public departments, the Treasury and the Chancery, were subordinated to the household authorities. That personal rule towards which for some years Edward had been working seemed now at hand. It was the triumph of the views of “the high curialist party” over those of the Lancastrian baronage at a moment when national politics made reasonable an over­hauling of the governmental machine. Kilsby was in charge of both the Great and the Privy Seal out of England.

Had Edward been of a different temperament or cared less about the immediate prosecution of the war, a dangerous situation might have followed his unsuccessful attempt to carry out the Walton Ordinances. As it was, the failure of the home administration to send adequate supplies (its authority being in leading-strings and its desire to make the scheme work perhaps not very great) led Edward to modify the arrangements made at Walton and to restore real power to Stratford and the public departments. But when Stratford met Parliament in October 1339 to seek supplies, it shewed for the first time in the reign a disposition to make conditions first. Again in January 1340 it persisted in the same mood. Edward, after his unsuccessful Thiérache campaign, left sureties with his foreign creditors, and returned to deal with Parliament for himself. In March 1340 he won success by his usual method: he accepted the conditions made by Parliament and secured an enlarged grant. The conditions were embodied in the four Statutes of 13401. The episode marked the triumph of the baronage, lay and clerical, over the policy of the household. But Archbishop Stratford, unwilling to work in the new circumstances despite recent events, resigned the Great Seal, and his brother, the Bishop of Chichester, succeeded him. Despite the victory at Sluys, which Edward won on his way back to the Netherlands on 24 June 1340, his campaign on land was not a success, and he had again antici­pated his revenue. He arranged an unsatisfactory truce, and suddenly returned to England on 30 November 1340 to put an end to the government which had forced him to modify the Walton Ordinances and to accept the four Statutes, and yet failed to give him adequate financial support. Against the archbishop he shewed vindictive bitterness: “I believe he wished me to be betrayed and killed”, he complained in a characteristically petulant letter to the Pope.

The great officers and judges were dismissed. Many were arrested, but most were reinstated later. The chancellor, Robert Stratford, and the treasurer, Northburgh, escaped because of their clerical status. Edward, vowing that he would now have ministers amenable to his own courts, appointed laymen in their places: Sir Robert Bourchier on 14 December became the first lay chancellor, and Sir Robert Parving, chief justice of the King’s Bench, treasurer. Too much can be made of this change as an anti-clerical movement; Kilsby, himself a clerk, was one of Edward’s advisers; but the king, who on other occasions shewed himself glad to have a blow at the clergy, seems to have used lay jealousy in his attempt to humble the archbishop and his circle.

The archbishop had fled to Canterbury on the king’s return, and was modelling himself on Becket. In this there was a certain appropriateness, for Stratford’s early career was at least as full of selfish ambition as Becket’s. A violent campaign to win public opinion followed. The archbishop delivered sermons, and excommunicated breakers of the Great Charter; Edward addressed to the bishops and chapters of the Canterbury province the Libellus Famosus, an unworthy tirade mixing mere abuse of the archbishop with more serious charges of failure in public duty. Stratford refused to go to Flanders as security for the king’s debts, and claimed that only in full Parliament he should be called on to meet any charges. Edward had appointed a commission to investigate the minister’s conduct. On 23 April 1341 Parliament met. The lords spiritual and temporal took the view that none of their number should be tried or bound to answer except in full Parliament and before their peers. This view was embodied in a statute. Stratford’s personal career in politics was ended, but it is noticeable that the king comes to rely more and more on the hereditary counsellors of the Crown, who seem to be forming a definite body, the peerage.

Nor was this the only episode of constitutional importance. The audit of accounts and the nomination of the chief ministers in Parliament were demanded as a condition of a grant. The importance of these demands was shewn by Edward’s reluctance and delay in conceding them and by the fact that he was not content merely to disregard them in practice as he usually did when he had promised what he did not like; he definitely revoked the “pretended statute” of the last Parliament by letters close on 1 October 1341, and even had it repealed by the next Parliament in April 1343.

The period of stress now ended, and there was no repetition of it while Edward personally had control of the government. He did not attempt to revive the household system independent of the great magnates, but turned again to episcopal ministers of the type that he had used in the first part of his reign. “The anti-clerical movement, artificially fomented by ambitious ecclesiastics for their own purposes, died a natural death”. Kilsby disappeared from home politics.

The chief offices of State returned to clerical holders in 1345. In the Chancery Offord, Dean of Lincoln (1345—49), Thoresby (1349-56), and Edington (1356-63), and in the Treasury Edington (1345-56) and Sheppey (1356-60) maintained a steady tradition. Bishops of this type, who had the wider interests of their sees as well as their court duties, did not alienate the secular lords. There was no repetition of the dis­harmony between the government at home and the king’s officers abroad, and if Parliament shewed signs of a desire for peace in the ’fifties, it found the cost of the war less than in 1338 or 1345. Edington, who was in office high and low from 1335 to 1363 almost without a break, has been called by Dr Tout the typical minister of this period whose special merit it was to reconcile the royal and the public interest. To him England owed much for his helping to make the tradition of a civil service which would obey indifferently whatever faction was in power at the time.

The Treaty of Brétigny, the high-water mark of Edward’s success, ended a distinct period of the reign. It was a period filled by active, and on the whole successful, war with France. The first visitation of the Black Death divided it sharply into two parts, holding up the war, Parliaments, and much other public and private activity for the greater part of three years.

The Black Death was a variety of the contagious bubonic plague which has visited Europe with severity on several occasions. In the fourteenth century it was believed to have come from the East, and to have been carried by ship from the Crimea. It reached England probably in August 1348. From Weymouth, where it was first reported, it spread through the southern and western counties. It appeared in London in the late autumn and was at its height there till Whitsuntide 1349. In the course of 1349 it covered all the central counties of England, and raged in Wales. It reached Scotland in 1350, when it was already dying down in England. Ireland suffered in 1349 and 1350. The most familiar sign of the disease was the appearance of hard, dry swellings that might be as large as a hen’s egg, especially under the arm, in the groin, or on the neck. Smaller pustules sometimes appeared all over the body; and in the most deadly form of the disease livid patches marked the back and chest, and there was vomiting of blood. Death usually occurred within three days, and might come much earlier. If the swellings broke there was a chance of recovery. The first visitation of the Black Death carried off especially the young and those in middle life. As was to be expected from sanitary conditions, the magnates suffered less than the poor. Among the secular and the regular clergy the death rate seems to have been extremely high. Safe generalisation about the numbers or the proportion of the population destroyed is impossible until local records have been more thoroughly examined, but even when allowance has been made for panic exaggeration and for the looseness of fourteenth-century statistics, an estimate near one-third of the population of England has commended itself to many whose opinion deserves respect. It is needless to picture, and it would be difficult to exaggerate, the immediate devastation of the plague. Its more remote and permanent results will be best considered in connexion with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. When the plague died down in England at the end of 1349 it did not completely disappear, but broke out at inter­vals with various degrees of violence. There were three or four such revivals before the end of the fourteenth century.

In this central period of the reign Parliament was used less frequently than in the earlier period. It met on an average less than once a year. For this the Black Death was partly responsible, but a process of differentiation was going on. Parliament was not now merely a reinforced sitting of the Great Council, meeting as often, or almost as often, as the Great Council. It was beginning to be something distinct. The one was summoned by the Great Seal, the other by the Privy Seal; and the king was calling the Great Council more often without the commons. As the bodies were beginning to be more distinguishable, so were their labours. From about the middle of the reign it may be said that statutes, the work of Parliament and more permanent in character, were felt by contemporaries to be different from ordinances, the more temporary work of the Council. There was as yet, however, no clearly defined difference.

That process of differentiation which separated statute and ordinance can be traced too in the more precise definition going on in the middle of the fourteenth century in the courts. The older courts were losing their administrative functions and settling down to the more regularised de­cision of cases according to the rules of common law. The Exchequer, which had lost some of its political importance as it became more differentiated from the Council, received a sort of compensation in 1357 by the creation of a statutory Court of Exchequer Chamber to which appeals of error should go. The King’s Bench was becoming, as the Court of Common Pleas had become before it, a court of common law, losing the power which it had earned over from the Council of inventing new procedures. The Chancery too, as it lost its general oversight through the development of separate organisations for the other courts and through the tendency of the household to supplement it politically, developed a jurisdiction of its own under Edward III. In 1349 the king definitely announced his intention of referring to it questions which he had formerly decided in person. Common law and equity themselves were being distinguished, though the same court might administer each.

The years in which these distinctions of function were becoming clearer were not unnaturally years productive of some very important legislation. The nation was more and more conscious that it had common problems calling for a common treatment. Beside the Statutes of Provisors and Praemunire1, dating from this period, were the Statutes of Labourers and Treasons, and some of the most famous of the many statutes of the staple. The object of the Statute of Treasons was partly to protect the financial interests of the magnates against the king; for the lands of traitors, of whomsoever held, became the king’s in perpetuity, whereas the lands of felons returned in due time to the lord. It was also perhaps partly due to a desire to prevent the growth in England of the Civil Law doctrine of lèse-majesté. Edward in 1352 consented to embody in this statute re­quests which he had refused previously; but, although it provided that doubtful cases should come before Parliament, the statute did not put an end to the definition of treason by common law.

The multifarious regulations of the staple illustrate the manner in which the central government was coming to control and direct more and more of the activities of the king’s subjects. In the fourteenth century the export of English wool was at the height of its importance, though the development of the native cloth industry which was to reduce its importance was also a feature of the period. Attempts have been made to see a fully developed economic policy behind the shifting devices and tortuous courses of the king. A policy of “plenty,” in the interests of the consumer, has been attributed to Edward III and contrasted with the beginnings of a mercantilist policy of “power” under Richard II. Justi­fication for such opinions is hard to find. The actions of Edward with regard to commerce seem to have been opportunist in detail, though dominated by simple motives. For Edward the export wool trade had unique importance in two ways: diplomatically, it was a lever by which to force Flanders into co-operation with him against France; financially, a tax on the export of wool was a mainstay of his revenue. The rapidly changing treatment of the trade revealed, therefore, the diplomatic situation or the financial needs of the moment, and in these an explanation of it is to be sought. According as Edward had more or less to hope at any particular juncture from Flemish politicians, a little group of English capitalists, the small merchants, or the general trading community, he prohibited the export of wool, or he established a monopoly and a staple at Antwerp or Bruges or Calais, or he established staples in England and forbade English merchants to export staple produce.

In the earlier years of the French war there was a possibility that by forcing the export trade into a particular channel, securing a whole, or a partial, royal monopoly, and bargaining about the control of it with groups of merchants in merchant assemblies, the king might establish a method of taxing wool independently of Parliament. From this danger England escaped partly because of the king’s continuous breaches of faith with the merchants, but still more because of the growing realisation of a divergence of interest between the little group of capitalists and the mass of the smaller traders. The former were in a sufficiently large way of business to benefit by the manipulation of rigid staple rules; they had, moreover, sufficient capital to make it worth the king’s while to barter with them; they could offer substantial cash advances in return for commercial privileges. The smaller men could take no part in bargains on so large a scale; they had more to gain from less restricted trade. Their interest drove them against the great merchants to make common cause with the general mass of wool-growers and the public represented by the commons. The “free trade” settlement of 1351 represented, therefore, not a royal policy of plenty, but the desire of the commons to prevent the king from repeating his manipulation of the trade to the advantage of himself and a group of merchants who could pay him for their privileges. The abandon­ment of the Bruges staple and the establishment in 1353 of staples in England showed that, since the Bruges staple was losing its political significance, the king thought it well to conciliate general English opinion rather than the group of great English exporters on whose resources and trustfulness he had drawn very heavily. From this time the division in the merchant interest put an end to any danger that a strong estate of merchants might challenge the commons for the control of commercial revenue. The king, however, did not cease to balance one set of interests against another, and the commons did not make it worth his while to bargain with them alone. In 1363 he renewed the staple that had been established temporarily at Calais in 1348, and at Calais it remained with certain interruptions till the end of the century and beyond, which is evidence of its suitability for traders. The rival advantages of staples at Middelburg and in England were much canvassed and sometimes tried in the reign of Richard II; but Richard’s policy vacillated greatly too.

The decade which followed the Treaty of Bretigny has likewise some marked characteristics. It began with the second visitation of the Black Death and closed with the third, which carried off Queen Philippa in 1369. Edward was still under her beneficent influence, and comparatively active in State affairs. There was peace with France till 1369, though the war between the rival claimants in Brittany provided employment for the soldiers of England and France. In internal politics, too, the peace continued under a series of clerical ministers similar to those who had immediately preceded them. Langham was treasurer from 1360 to 1363, Barnet 1363-69, Brantingham 1369-71. Langham followed Edington at the Chancery from 1363 to 1367, and Wykeham from 1367 to 1371. In one sense the career of Wykeham was a triumph for the household system. He was of low, if not servile, origin; he had neither academic nor ecclesiastical backing; but he rose by diligence in the king’s private service, especially as an organiser and financier for building, to be Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1363 and in effect prime minister. Besides attaining the highest influence in the State, he amassed benefices to an extent remark­able even for that age, and followed Edington as Bishop of Winchester. To churchman and noble he appeared as a thrusting, ill-qualified creature of the Crown; but the development in his character reveals part of the secret by which Edward maintained harmony between the official and the baronial party. As he achieved promotion, Wykeham adapted his views to his circumstances. His liberal foundations of Winchester College and New College, Oxford, indicate the inherent or acquired princeliness of his mind, and at the end of his life this self-made man stood as the chosen representative of the temporal and spiritual aristocracy in opposition to the new court party supported by the king’s son, John of Gaunt.

The first years of peace saw a serious attempt to carry out administrative reforms and perhaps to produce a national balance-sheet. Despite the cessation of the war the king was far from being able to live of his own. Parliament continued to meet almost once a year, and grants, though not excessive, were regular. The sums received as ransoms were considerable. About one-third of the three million gold crowns due for King John of France had been paid when he died. But the ministers were administrators rather than statesmen, and when French use of the disaffection in Aquitaine produced a situation in France demanding active policy they proved unequal to their task. The problem would indeed have taxed the resources of minds greater than Wykeham’s, and the last crisis of the reign, in many ways reminiscent of that of 1341, followed.

These years, 1360-69, produced further notable legislation. In 1361 came more labour regulations. In 1362 Parliament was opened for the first time by a speech in English; the use of English instead of French was ordered in law-courts because French was “too little known in the realm,” and the king had observed elsewhere the advantages of administering law in the vulgar tongue. This statute remained an aspiration for some time. In the same year a limitation of the commission of purveyors was ordered, and a scale of charges for spiritual services was authorised to prevent undue charges on account of the scarcity of clergy since the plague. In 1363 among many attempts to regulate prices an attempt (repealed two years later) was made to control the dress of persons with income under £1000 per annum. In 1365, as noted elsewhere, the Statutes of Provisors and Praemunire were confirmed and enlarged.

In this decade much progress was made with what has sometimes been regarded as an original scheme of Edward III for amassing English estates and dignities in the royal family by discreet marriages. It may be doubted if it was either original or a scheme. Other English kings had acted similarly; Edward had a large family; and he pursued his usual opportunist policy probably without much thought of the wisdom or unwisdom of his action. The dying out of many of the great baronial families led to the accumulation of great estates in comparatively few houses, and gave to Edward’s action a sinister importance. Edward, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales, and Earl of Chester, married in 1361 his cousin Joan of Kent, daughter and heiress of the murdered earl. In the next year Edward III created the principality of Aquitaine and conferred it on his eldest son, at once providing for him and giving a show of independence to the Gascons. The king’s second son died as a child. Lionel, the third, in 1342 married Elizabeth de Burgh, only daughter and heiress of one of the chief Anglo-Norman houses in Ireland and heiress also of part of the Gloucester estates. In 1362 he was created Duke of Clarence. When his wife died he returned from Ireland in 1368 to marry into the wealthy Visconti family just before his own death. His only child, Philippa, married the Earl of March, great-grandson of the traitor, and so to the March inheritance was added not only that of Clarence but an interest in the succession to the Crown; for after the Black Prince and his son came Philippa. John of Gaunt in 1359 married Blanche, who inherited the duchy of Lancaster, and in 1362 the title Duke of Lancaster was revived for him. His son Henry, the future Henry IV, about 1380 married one of the Bohun heiresses, and in 1376 Edward III’s youngest son, Thomas of Woodstock, married the other Bohun heiress. By these marriages the earldoms of Hereford, Essex, and Northampton came into the royal family. Edmund of Langley, the only other surviving son of Edward III, married Isabella, younger sister of Gaunt’s second wife, Constance of Castile; he became Duke of York, and the union of his descendants with those of Lionel gave the house of York wider estates and an augmented claim on the Crown. The houses of Lancaster and Mortimer, which had ruined Edward II, were in new forms finally to ruin the English medieval monarchy; but it would be fantastic to lay the responsibility for these later developments on Edward III.

Edward’s reign covers a critical period in the history of the local machinery by which peace was maintained and justice administered. The practice of specially commissioning magnates and gentry with responsi­bility for their own counties was continued. The classes which had operated the local machinery of feudalism were now enlisted to operate the newer local machinery of the central government. Many experiments were made, but in the course of the reign what had been originally the police functions of the custodes pacts developed into the judicial functions of the justices of the peace. From the beginning to the end of Edward III’s reign the commissions of the peace varied considerably from time to time, sometimes giving power to hear and determine felonies and trespasses, sometimes withholding it. The commons appear to have been on the whole more anxious to see the powers included in the commissions extended than the Crown was to extend them; they failed, however, to secure the nomination of the justices in Parliament. The various statutes which have been represented as decisive in creating or modifying the office did little but sanction what experiment had already proved useful; but the commissions which followed the parliamentary resolutions of 1380 gathered up results of half a century of experiment and served as a standard for the future.

Edward’s reign, if it produced in proportion to its length few constitu­tional crises, was equally barren of dramatic ecclesiastical events. To this several factors contributed. During most of the reign the Papacy was at Avignon, and at a time when English relations with France were almost continuously unfriendly this circumstance made England peculiarly jealous of papal influence. Edward’s personal inclinations accorded well with the state of the public mind. Never particularly devout, he seems to have welcomed limitations on papal or clerical influence. His policy, unlike that of some of his predecessors and successors, was not dictated or coloured by undue consideration of ecclesiastical interests. He is indeed rather remarkable for showing practically no conscious desire to co-operate with papal policy. Most of his ministers were churchmen, but this had no particular significance at a time when, though there was an increasing number of qualified laymen in the routine offices of administration, clerks still greatly outnumbered the laymen fit for the highest State responsibilities. What was of some significance was that at two periods Edward broke away, apparently with no reluctance, from the tradition of employing clerical ministers in the highest places. He was acutely aware, and he shewed that he was aware, that, efficient as clerical ministers might be in ordinary circumstances, they were always liable to be influenced in a crisis by their second allegiance and by loyalty to the interests of their order. To speak of anti-clericalism in Edward’s mind or policy would be anachronistic, but to emphasise the predominantly “lay” temper of the king is justifiable. This appears whether his relations with the Papacy or with the Church in England are considered.

When in 1330 Edward assumed control of English policy he found Pope John XXH engaged in his conflict with the Emperor Lewis, and until Lewis’ death in 1347 the hope of obtaining French help against him and the fear that a disagreement between the French and English kings might be serviceable to Lewis had a not insignificant part in framing papal policy. Immediate interest, as well as higher motives, therefore led the Popes, both before and during the war, to intervene frequently for the sake of friendly relations between England and France. After Edward had admitted in 1331 that his homage to Philip was liege homage, while as yet his thought was on the conquest of Scotland, he played with the notion of an alliance with France, to be sealed by the marriage of his son and Philip’s daughter, and to be consecrated by co-operation in a crusade. But insoluble difficulties in Gascony and Edward’s irritation over Philip’s intervention in Scotland nullified Philip’s crusading idealism and papal policy alike. As England and France drifted into war, Edward, as a natural result, turned to Lewis, who had married his wife’s sister. The alliance of Edward with Lewis and Lewis’ Low German vassals in 1337, and the appearance of Edward and Lewis together at Coblenz in 1338, threatened what the Papacy had most feared. Edward received vigorous warnings against the danger of alliance with a deposed and schismatic prince; but, though Edward got little help from Lewis against France and Lewis got none from Edward against the Papacy, the incident provided a dramatic example of the cavalier manner in which Edward treated papal attempts to intervene in his affairs. In 1345 he behaved to the cardinals sent by Clement VI to discuss peace with a scant courtesy that savoured of contempt; and ten years later the Black Prince was only imitating his father in his contemptuous attitude to Innocent VI’s peace proposals.

Appointments in the Church in England presented many opportunities for negotiation between the Popes and the king. The chapters, the Pope, and the king continued to compete or co-operate in appointments, and the chances of each party’s victory in cases of disagreement continued to depend on the personalities concerned and the actual circumstances of the king and the Pope at the time of each election. That the king could by no means always get his way a number of appointments showed. The weakness of Edward II at the end of his reign had been indicated by the promotion of Orleton to Hereford. His further promo­tion to Worcester in 1328 and the failure of Burghersh in the same year to secure the archbishopric of Canterbury illustrated the limitations of the influence of the English government. The most remarkable example of a defiance of the king’s wishes was provided in 1340, when Edward’s confidence in the rule of Stratford was ending. On the death of Melton, Edward struggled hard to get his favourite confidential clerk, Kilsby, made Archbishop of York and as a preliminary appointed him to a prebend. But the chapter elected de la Zouche, the dean, who had been Stratford’s colleague as treasurer. Though Edward wrote to Avignon and every effort was made to keep out de la Zouche, yet after two years’ agitation the new Pope Clement VI induced Edward to receive de la Zouche in 1342.

Such opposition by the papal Court was not usual. Clement’s own reign indeed corresponded with part of that central period of Edward’s when it was the king’s definite policy to secure high ecclesiastical promotion for his ministers. From 1345 to 1355 each keeper of the Privy Seal became an archbishop or bishop of an eminent see. The intervention of the papal Court in English promotions was by no means wholly deplorable, though it was so steadily denounced in Parliament. Innocent VI and Urban V, perhaps less complaisant than Clement VI, tried to put occasional obstacles in the way of ignorant business men whom Edward nominated for episcopal office. The cases of Stretton and the diocese of Lichfield in 1360, and Buckingham and Lincoln in 1363, showed how ineffective the papal protest was likely to be. The legislation about Provisors in the later part of Edward’s reign had the practical effect of putting the king in an improved position for arguing such matters with the Pope.

As a natural result of his policy and predilections Edward’s reign was not remarkable for eminent churchmen—saints, scholars, or ecclesiastical statesmen—in the highest offices of the Church. The Archbishops of Canterbury made a commonplace series, certainly not distinguished by zeal for the spiritual duties of their office and, except for Stratford, not notable as servants of the State. The one great name is Bradwardine; but he was not the first choice of the king, and the Black Death carried him off before he had time to shew his quality as primate. The see of York had fewer, but better, occupants in Edward’s reign: Melton (1317-40), who dared to speak against the deposition of Edward II, and was treasurer after Mortimer’s fall; de la Zouche (1342-52), who shared command at Neville’s Cross; and Thoresby (1352-73), whose long, vigorous, and devoted rule was one of the brightest parts of the Church history of the century. Though the primacy and many other bishoprics went to members of the official class of royal servants, representatives of the great noble families filled other sees. The magnates as well as the familiares had their hold on the Church, and some prelates represented both.

Edward’s legislation on Provisions is famous, but was not unprepared for. In 1343 the commons protested against the increasing use of English patronage by the Pope, a custom which among its other evil results sent money to the king’s enemies. The “Statute of Carlisle” of 1307 was read, and at the king’s suggestion a petition was sent to Clement VI. This asked for an end of reservations, provisions, and collations by which strangers unable to minister to the people drew rich revenues from England. No answer was made, and the practice continued. So did the complaints: Edward wrote to the Pope, and from time to time ordered bulls to be seized at the ports before they were put into operation. The commons still pressed for attention to the evil and for the making of a permanent statute to effect what the temporary ordinances sometimes prescribed. In 1351 the desire took definite form in the first Statute of Provisors. This ordered the observance of the rights of canonical electors and of patrons; all persons using papal provisions were to be imprisoned and the provisions declared null; to the king was made over the patronage of the canonical electors affected. The object was to prevent the Pope from usurping the rights of spiritual patrons who would not avail themselves of the protection for patronage rights offered by the king’s courts. Nominally affording protection to canonical electors, it had in fact no such effect. By increasing the legal powers of the king it put him in a more favourable position for bargaining about appointments with the Pope; and a common history of appointments was that the king nominated and the Pope provided the same person, the chapter duly electing him. This strengthening of the king’s position was one of the many ways in which the ecclesiastical events of this reign foreshadowed Tudor policy.

Two years later, in 1353, another subject of constant complaint was dealt with by the so-called first Statute of Praemunire. In 1344 and 1347 the commons had petitioned about the matter. This ordinance of 1353 was not at first enrolled as a statute, probably because the body which decreed it was not a full Parliament as a full Parliament was now understood. Outlawry and forfeiture were threatened against all who should have recourse to foreign courts for matters cognisable in the king’s courts. The papal court, though not named, was aimed at. In 1365 these two laws concerning benefices and legal actions were reasserted by another Statute of Praemunire. Lay patrons were now included and the court of Rome was mentioned explicitly. The prelates assented, “saving the rights of their order.”

In the later part of the reign interest passed mainly to the financial side of the relationship with the Papacy. From the time of John’s submission a thousand marks a year had been due from England and Ireland. Payment had been irregular. In 1365 Urban pointed out in very moderate terms that since 1333 Edward had paid nothing; the Popes had not pressed him in the time of his wars, but he had now come to peace and the Church had need of defence of its Italian estates. Urban therefore asked for payment. There was no threat. Edward consulted Parliament. The lords spiritual and temporal agreed that “neither John nor any other person could place the realm under such subjection without their con­sent”; the commons concurred; and the whole Parliament declared that John had broken his coronation oath. The lay estates said that they would resist any attempt of the Pope to make good his claim. This answer was sent to Avignon, but it neither set the question at rest for ever nor introduced Wyclif into politics, as has sometimes been supposed.

Gregory XI was elected in 1370, and in the early part of his reign the struggle reopened. A papal collector, Garnier, arrived in England in October 1371, and it was significant that he was made in February to swear that he would not act against the interests of the realm nor export money. In the next year Parliament renewed its complaints about pro­visions, which nothing had been able to stop. Edward had sent a deputation to Avignon to discuss this and other matters, but it returned with no definite answer. Gregory was in particular need of money for his Italian wars, especially against the Visconti of Milan, and on 2 February 1373 demanded 100,000 florins from the English clergy. The difficulty was that the king was also in great need, and the urgency of finding a modus vivendi brought this perennial discussion to a more defi­nite issue than usual. Both king and Pope were active, but the clergy jibbed at voting the royal tax unless the king would help to protect them from papal demands. Courtenay, Bishop of Hereford, was particularly loud in his complaints. On 11 March 1374 Edward asked for a conference with papal representatives at Bruges or Calais to deal with all matters in dispute; until it had been held no proceedings should be taken against his subjects. On 6 March he had ordered a return to be made before 16 April of all benefices held by aliens with a statement whether they were resident or not. The returns, said to have filled “several sheets of paper,” were at least a useful weapon in controversy. It was in these circumstances that Gregory, not unnaturally, renewed the demand for tribute.

On 21 May 1374 a Great Council of prelates and barons met at West­minster to consider the Pope’s claim to tallage the English clergy on the ground that, as vicar of Christ and lord spiritual, he was also “general lord of all temporals” and in particular was lord of England on account of John’s action. A Durham monk who had been on the Avignon deputation put the papal case. Mardisley, a Franciscan who became Provincial Minister, backed by an Augustinian, presented on the other side the full Franciscan argument that our Lord had no temporal dominion and gave His apostles none; the claims of Boniface VIII had done harm to the Church. The archbishops and clergy were in a difficult position, but finally agreed that they would be well pleased not to see the Pope such lord in England. The barons, it appears, returned answer to the claim on John’s action similar to that made in 1366. We may have an echo of the debate in the statements which Wyclif put into the mouths of seven lords (especially the seventh lord) in his Determinatio de Dominio.

As the place for conference Gregory XI had named Bruges. The Bishop of London had made a vain journey thither in the winter of 1373-74, and Langham, now a cardinal, had headed an embassy to England. On 26 July 1374 the famous commission headed by Gilbert, Bishop of Bangor, and containing Wyclif, was appointed. This commission has been regarded too often as an isolated negotiation. Like others it effected little. By September it had returned and broken up. Edward levied a tenth on the English benefices held by cardinals in April 1375; and in August a second commission went out to carry on the discussions which had never been definitely abandoned. On 1 September 1375 Gregory, in six bulls addressed to Edward, outlined the proposed concordat. It amounted to an abandonment of papal claims so far as these would disturb the status quo in the English Church, but it secured nothing for England for the future. Nothing was done to ensure the freedom of the chapters, because neither party sincerely wished it. Even so the concordat was not settled in 1375. The old system in fact continued. Papal aggression, foreign clergy, and the corruptions of the sinful city of Avignon were to appear among the complaints of the Good Parliament in 1376. It was not until his jubilee that, on 15 February 1377, Edward published verbal promises from the Pope. Gregory promised to allow free elections, to abstain from reservations and demands for first fruits, and to be moderate in granting provisions and expectations and in giving preferment to foreigners. Mean­while he obtained a subsidy of 60,000 florins, with a promise of 40,000 more if peace should be made between England and France. No real change had been made except perhaps in public opinion about the Papacy. John of Gaunt, too, who was now definitely in control, had added nothing to his reputation, and had no claim on the gratitude of the English clergy.

The outbreak of war with France raised the problem of dealing with the “alien” priories dependent on foreign superiors and making payments to mother houses abroad. Edward III followed the plan used by his grand­father. The monks in such priories were not disturbed, but the Crown took over their revenues and paid them a maintenance allowance. In 1337 bishops were required to make returns of “alien” priories in their dioceses, and the long continuance of the war had the effect of ultimately breaking most of the connexions between the houses in England and the parent houses in France.

A stormy period, which closed the long reign, began in 1371. Personal changes prepared the way for the end of the political peace which had endured at home since 1343. Edward himself came to count for less and less. The death of Philippa in 1369 left him a prey to his lust. He fell under the influence of one of the queen’s maids, Alice Perrers, who at the end of his life is said to have interfered shamelessly in the conduct of business and the administration of justice. The Black Prince returned in 1371 from his inglorious rule in Aquitaine a sick man, though only just turned forty. His younger brother Gaunt, therefore, became the most prominent public figure and acquired great influence over the king.

Though the commons had sometimes, as in 1354, shown a desire for a peaceful settlement with France, Parliament had not been unwilling to see the war renewed in 1369, and had voted supplies. But failure to renew the successes of the past and a fear of invasion shook the hold of the ministers. In 1371, when Wykeham asked for financial support, a storm broke which has been compared with that of 1341. The lay estates petitioned that, inasmuch as churchmen could not be brought to account for their actions—language like Edward’s own in 1341—laymen should replace them in the offices of chancellor, treasurer, barons of the exchequer, clerk of the Privy Seal, and other great positions. Edward agreed: Wykeham and Brantingham resigned; laymen replaced them. Sir Robert Thorpe, chief justice of the court of Common Pleas, became chancellor, and Sir Richard le Scrope treasurer. A subsidy was then voted. To re­present this as anti-clericalism may well be an exaggeration. The desire for vigour in the conduct of the war was at least as prominent as distrust of the episcopal ministers, and there were cross-currents in clerical opinion itself. The articles urging increased taxation of prelates and the endowed Orders submitted by friars to this Parliament indicate that. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Parliament of 1371 definitely wished to end the rule of clerical ministers of the sort who had held office for many years and that the king at least acquiesced in this wish. Lay control, too, was more complete and lasted longer than in 1341. This change was unlike the earlier in being due to public opinion in Parliament, not to the petulance of the king. At a time when the bias of papal policy was believed to have been French, lay ministers, who were less likely to take any account of papal desires, had an obvious advantage over clerics. Feeling certainly ran high in these years between laymen and clerics; the difficulty of raising money for the war led to increasingly serious discussions about the possibility of heavier taxation of ecclesiastical property. The interest taken by politicians in the academic teaching of Wyclif concerning property is in itself evidence of the direction of government opinion; here was a schoolman who might justify theoretically what was desired for practical reasons. It is important not to antedate here the clash between Wykeham and Gaunt. Sir John Hastings is represented as the leader of the attack on the ministry; Gaunt was in Aquitaine. Moreover, in 1371, though dismissed, Wykeham was not disgraced. Nor is it necessary to assume that the miscalculation of the number of parishes in connexion with the raising of the grant was due directly to lay incompetence. It is, however, of interest to find the next Parliament attacking the lawyers and by statute forbidding them to act as knights of the shires. Lawyers, it was thought, used their position in Parliament to press for private petitions affecting their individual clients rather than for public petitions in the interest of the common good. Lawyers were the only alternatives to clerical ministers, and public opinion appeared to be hostile to both official classes.

The new lay ministry could contrive no more success than Wykeham’s. In 1372 Pembroke failed at Rochelle; the king’s projected expedition came to nothing; Poitou was falling away. In 1373 Gaunt, with the best equipped force sent to France since the war began, could only march uselessly from Calais to Bordeaux. In November 1373, Parliament voted money only after a committee of lords had conferred with the commons, a device for common action which became a regular part of parliamentary procedure. This was the last Parliament till 1376; the intervening years were filled by fruitless negotiations at Bruges for peace and for a settle­ment of outstanding questions with the Papacy. Gaunt was now in charge, and the last years of Edward were not merely inglorious, but full of scandals. Perrers, the king’s mistress, Lord Latimer, the chamberlain, and Lord Neville, the steward of the household, working corruptly with financiers like Richard Lyons, brought discredit on the new household administration, and roused a new opposition among the magnates. Wykeham and Courtenay led this opposition. The Black Prince and the Earl of March, who began to figure as the regular opponent of Gaunt, were said to sympathise with it.

The “Good Parliament,” the longest and best reported Parliament hitherto held, met on 28 April 1376. The magnates, lay and clerical, attacked the court administration in the familiar manner, but the attack was remarkable because the commons were now active and prominent in supporting, and almost acting for, the lords. A committee of lords con­sulted with the commons, who had chosen Sir Peter de la Mare, the steward of the Earl of March, to speak for them officially when the whole Parliament sat together. Through him the commons denounced Latimer, Lyons, and others of the courtier officials. When it became clear that nothing else would content Parliament, they were removed from court and condemned to imprisonment. Perrers too was banished from the king. The traditional remedy for bad government, additions to the ordinary council of the king, to “afforce” it, was pressed for, and by the advice of Parliament Edward chose nine lords to be a permanent part of the council. Six or four of them were to be present for all business. March, Wykeham, and Courtenay were among the nine, but not Gaunt, who grew steadily more opposed to the critics of the ministers. By providing that the chancellor, the treasurer, and the keeper of the Privy Seal should not be prevented from carrying out the duties of their offices the king partly nullified the concession. The death of the Black Prince on 8 June gave another occasion for an exhibition of distrust in Gaunt; his suggestion that the question of the succession should be considered was countered by the demand of the Parliament to see Richard. That he was the heir there was no doubt, but whether the two-year-old son of the Earl of March stood next after him was an open question.

The Good Parliament, though most of its work was undone, had permanent importance. The commons had taken a prominent part in a well-considered attack on the administration; their accredited spokesman had emerged as one of the most prominent men in the Parliament; and in denouncing offenders to the lords they had set precedents of importance in the history of the process of impeachment.

The immediately important fact was that the administration had not been changed. The great ministers remained in office, and Gaunt, definitely alienated from the magnates’ opposition party, had no rival in personal influence at court. He must indeed be regarded as the ruler of England. The courtiers who had suffered, including Perrers, returned. The triumph was driven home by the imprisonment of de la Mare, the banishing of Wykeham from court, and the seizure of his temporalities on charges relating to the period before 1371. March was forced out of the office of marshal, and was succeeded by Henry Percy, who left the opposition forthwith.

The next Parliament met in January 1377. Just before its meeting the lay ministers gave way for two bishops: Houghton, of St David’s, became chancellor and Wakefield, of Worcester, treasurer. Whether or no Gaunt influenced the election of the commons, their temper was different from that of their predecessors. Instead of March’s steward, they elected Hungerford, the steward of Gaunt’s lands in Wales and the South. But although the commons gave little trouble, the magnates were less obliging. Convocation, led by Courtenay, would grant no aid till Wyke­ham, despite his banishment, had taken his place with the king’s acqui­escence. Courtenay also attacked Gaunt through Wyclif, and the rioters in London on 20 February 1377 by attacking Gaunt’s and Percy’s residences shewed the government’s unpopularity. Gaunt, however, kept the reins until Edward died on 21 June; and though Wykeham recovered his temporalities three days before the king’s death he had to conciliate Perrers, it is said, in order to do so.

Richard II

The reign of Richard II was held to begin on the very day when Edward III died; in this way was sounded that note of an inherent royal right which was to be heard often through the reign. In many respects the new reign did not open a new epoch. The change from the senility of Edward to the minority of Richard made no change in the main matter: no controlling personality was on the throne. The more general conditions abroad and at home which had governed the last years of Edward also continued. Abroad, the war with France, unsatisfactorily renewed in 1369, dragged on unsatisfactorily with temporary interruptions and truces till 18 June 1389. In that year a three years’ truce heralded continuous peace. At home Gaunt continued after the deaths of his brother and his father, as he had done during their illnesses, to be the dominating personality. For some years indeed the political problem may be stated in the terms of his varying control of the government. The main influence competing with his for control was that of the Black Prince’s household now headed by the Princess of Wales, Joan. Her position of vantage, as permanently in touch with the young king, was partly neutralised by her not very strong character. There is a danger throughout the reign of representing the transitions as too sharply marked. Gaunt had not had such complete control before Edward’s death as has sometimes been made out, nor was he eclipsed totally by his nephew’s accession or by the Peasants’ Revolt. The departure of Gaunt for the “voyage of Spain” in July 1386, when Richard was approaching the age of twenty, rather than the Peasants’ Revolt, is therefore a convenient point at which to end a first division of the reign.

Some general observations may be made before examining this period. Richard, beginning to reign when he was ten, was four years younger than his grandfather had been when he came to the throne. In other ways also Richard was placed more unhappily. He found the country in a false position with respect to the war. Public opinion had not yet learned to distinguish between winning battles and conquering a State; it insisted on the continuance of campaigns from which no government could win credit, but which served only to make taxation necessary and to keep England in frequent fear and in occasional danger of the horrors of a French invasion. The government was, then, during the whole of this first period faced by an insoluble problem, and when Richard came to rule for himself he had to make the unpopular peace. He could not, like his grandfather, benefit by a peace that others had made whilst he won popularity by ending their power. To complicate the traditional opposi­tion between the court party and the magnates there was an incalculable factor in Gaunt’s immense influence. The king’s other uncles, Edmund of Langley, later Duke of York, and Thomas of Woodstock, later Duke of Gloucester, were as yet of less account. York indeed was almost wholly given up to the passion for field sports so characteristic of the royal house, and was always a feeble figure in politics. Thomas of Woodstock came to prominence as leader of the magnates only after Gaunt had left for Spain.

But Richard’s worst handicap was his own temperament. Of ability, of moral worth, and of attractive qualities he was by no means destitute. He proved able to carry out political schemes, to strike hard and effectively, and to shew little cruelty or malice in his triumph; but though sometimes capable of self-control, he was at other times incapable of it, and he had the harsh, pedantic manner of the doctrinaire who neither knows nor cares to know the wisdom of the man of the world, who is not concerned to conciliate general opinion but only to cherish friends and to crush foes, who is not content to get his own way unless he also appears to have got it. Richard seems to have seen life too sharply coloured and to have taken too little account of the indifference and lazy good humour of most men. The result was that, whereas Edward ruled a kingdom as if he were in charge of a hunting party, Richard too often postured as if he were the tragic hero of a melodrama. But this was not all. The king and his circle had imbibed high notions of indefeasible royal authority. Similar notions were held also by Charles V of France, and the source of them was probably among the students of Roman Law who had advised Philip the Fair. Formulated in the early part of the century by anti-papal controversialists, these doctrines had become by Richard’s time the familiar mental environment of royal officials. Talk of prerogative and regalie was then not accidental or a mere flourish. It was the appropriate language of a country and a generation which was producing De Officio Regis. Richard’s rather beautiful, delicate features, with a hint of both weakness and violence, are a not unfaithful index of some sides of his character. He had, like two other unfortunate English kings, Henry III and Charles I, a love of beautiful things and something of the artistic temperament. Like theirs, his career illustrated the inadequacy of cultured taste and private virtue as an equipment for public duty. Nevertheless his love of books, his connexion with Gower, Chaucer, and Froissart, and his rebuilding of Westminster Hall do not deserve to be entirely forgotten.

Something must be said of Gaunt, a man of only thirty-seven when his nephew became king. Gaunt appears to have been a rather ordinary man, made important by his wealth and position. He had not his elder brother’s military ability, but it must be remembered that he entered the war after the French had learnt not to present to the English the chance of such victories as Poitiers. He was not, however, as negligible a figure as York nor was he as unpleasant as Gloucester. His morality, his religion, his romantic pursuit of his Spanish claims, and his final abandonment of them in consideration of a marriage for his daughter and cash payments for himself shew him to have been a typical man of his age. Too much has been made of his connexion with Wyclif. His sympathy with Wyclif’s teaching about State rights over ecclesiastical property was not peculiar to himself nor incompatible with orthodoxy. The court party and the Princess of Wales took an attitude not very different. Too much may be made also of his interest in the succession to the crown. For a great part of the central period of his life, at a time when the rules of succession were debatable, he stood with only delicate boys between him and the throne. His raising of the question on the death of the Black Prince was not necessarily sinister; and when Richard later was believed to have intended Mortimer to be his heir Gaunt accepted the situation. In an atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion, and in a position which made him inevitably a target for rumours, Gaunt bore himself on the whole with credit and restraint. At the end of his life, when the factiousness of the opposition of Gloucester had declared itself, he supported the king loyally and effectively. He had no reason to imagine that the king would behave as outrageously as he did to Hereford; he was no longer irritated by the obstacles in the way of getting national support for his Spanish adventure; and it is likely that he deserves no little credit for the quiet of the years that followed his return from Spain.

The machinery of government set up on Richard’s accession was in accordance with precedent. A council of twelve was chosen by the Great Council of magnates on 17 July, the day after the coronation. It was not strictly speaking a Council of Regency, for the king was supposed to rule. Its composition shewed that the plan was to conciliate the various interests. The court circle—Gaunt’s following and that of the Black Prince alike—and the magnates of the aristocratic opposition were represented. The household of the Black Prince was perhaps predominant, and as time passed Gaunt’s power tended to decline. Even before the council was formed, the reconciliation of Gaunt with the Londoners and with Wykeham, and the release of Peter de la Mare, shewed that the concordat between Gaunt and the Princess of Wales was effective. Burley, a soldier-follower of the Black Prince, controlled the inner circle of the king’s servants.

This method of government by a continual council to advise the great officers of State lasted only till 1380. It was not a great success. The expeditions made each year in France or Brittany cost money and brought no credit. English fortunes went steadily back; the sea was unsafe; the coasts were ravaged. Parliament met frequently, once a year at least. Though it voted money fairly freely, it profited by the weakness of the government to advance its claims. The first Parliament, with de la Mare again as Speaker, secured a promise that no law ordained in Parliament should be repealed without Parliament and that during the king’s youth the ministers should be elected in Parliament. The lords, however, did not support the commons in their further request that the king’s house­hold staff should also be nominated in Parliament, and this was not granted. Constant changes of chancellors indicated the instability of the government, but Parliament had no constructive policy except to call for committees to investigate abuses and check the spending of revenue. By 1380 the commons, weary of voting money for an unsuccessful government, asked that Parliament rather than the council should have more direct control of the principal officers of State, and by a novel proposal included knights and burgesses in the commission to investigate the administration.

The continuity of problems and of policy from the last years of Edward’s reign was illustrated by the Parliament held at Gloucester in October 1378. It marks perhaps the moment when the suspicion of the court rose highest in the minds of churchmen. Clerical opinion had been inflamed by a more flagrant breach of sanctuary than had occurred since the days of St Thomas of Canterbury. Two Englishmen, Hawley and Shakell, in 1367 at the battle of Najera had captured the Count of Denia, and eleven years later, his ransom being unpaid, were still holding his son as hostage. Fearing to lose their money when the King of Aragon was thought to be making representations to the English government on behalf of the count, they hid their hostage and were thrown into the Tower for concealing him. Breaking loose, they took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. The lieutenant of the Tower, Boxhill, at the order of the council went to arrest them. He took Shakell, but Hawley resisted violently. As Boxhill’s men tried to drag Hawley from the altar during Mass he was killed and a sacristan was mortally wounded. The abbey was closed; Sudbury denounced the greater excommunication against all concerned; Courtenay three times a week published the excommunication, and ignored a royal request to cease. Not unnaturally blame fell on Gaunt, for, though he was away on the St Malo expedition, his Spanish interests were known. London was much moved and Westminster was no place for a Parliament. When it met at Gloucester, the archbishop demanded satisfaction for the outrage. Wyclif, though condemned by papal bull in the preceding year, was introduced among other doctors of theology and law to defend the king and to shew that sanctuary might be an abuse of God’s law. This indicated the atti­tude of the circle of the Princess of Wales as well as Gaunt’s, but was not likely to appease clerical suspicion. The clerical chancellor, Houghton of St David’s, resigned; and the height of the feeling of suspicion of the court at this time shewed itself by the persistent rumours (whether with foundation or not) that sweeping measures of confiscation or taxation of Church property formed part of the government’s programme. It was said even that secret statutes were made without the knowledge of the bishops. Whatever may have been discussed in court circles, no campaign against ecclesiastical privilege followed and no conclusion of the sacrilege controversy was reached. Next year sanctuary for felony was confirmed, but protection of debtors was withdrawn. This Parliament recognised Urban VI as the true Pope.

Trouble with London—in itself a sign of a weak government—was to be a constantly recurring feature of the reign. It had broken out against Gaunt in 1377, when a threat to city liberties coincided with Gaunt’s support of Wyclif against Courtenay. It was renewed later in the contest of John of Northampton and Nicholas Brember for the mayoralty; and towards the end of his reign Richard was personally involved in undignified quarrels with the city.

It was this government more directly in touch with Parliament after the breakdown of the council system that provoked the Peasants’ Revolt; for financial needs, though they did not cause that attack on ecclesiastical property which had been feared, led to the use of a new kind of taxation. In the last year of Edward’s life a poll tax of a groat a head had been given to the king by Parliament and Convocation, and in 1379 a graduated poll tax varying from ten marks from the Duke of Lancaster to a groat from the poor was voted. This produced only half what was expected, but provided some record of the tax-paying population. In 1380 a new variant was tried: three groats per head from all over fifteen, the wealthier to help the poor in each district, provided that none paid more than J?1 or less than a groat for man and wife. The graduation was made only in­side individual districts; in a poor district the poor got no relief. The collection would have been difficult in any circumstances, but the govern­ment’s urgent need of cash made it more so. In the winter and spring of 1380-81 one set of authorities after another received instructions to expedite payment; they were more effective in producing confusion. Two-thirds of the tax was due by 27 January and the balance by Whitsuntide, but the disappointing results and the immediate necessities led the government to demand that final accounts should be made by 22 April. The attempts at evasion were gross, but the behaviour of the government was stupid; and it is significant that the revolting districts were almost the same as those for which special commissions of inspectors were appointed in March and May.

Beginning of the Peasants’ Revolt

The Peasants’ Revolt has a unique place in English history. Risings and riots occurred at almost the same time in all the south-eastern part of England, and in some isolated regions as far distant from the principal areas as the Wirral and Yorkshire. The risings, though marked by some common characteristics, have the appearance of being rather the spon­taneous and sympathetic responses to the same general causes than a closely organised movement definitely directed towards one end. They did not synchronise very exactly, and they did not throw up one leader or a uniform programme. Yet, at least in some of the regions affected, mys­terious semi-allegorical messages, often in verse, passed through the countryside as signals that the time for action had come. Breaking out at the end of May, the revolt reached its height when rebel hordes from Essex and Kent occupied London for four days in mid-June, but the crisis was over there before the corresponding risings had reached their acutest stages farther afield. The main outline is tolerably clear, but many details are not yet beyond dispute.

In Essex in May 1381 there were troubles about the collection of the poll tax, and at the very end of the month three villages on the Thames- side resisted the authorities by force. When the chief justice of the Com­mon Pleas went down to punish the rioters, he went without adequate force to command the situation. He escaped, but clerks and jurors were murdered. Then in the first week of June riots occurred throughout the county. These the government could not easily suppress, because in north Kent, which had easy communication across the Thames with Essex, a rising had also begun. Armed rebels moving from Dartford entered Rochester on 6 June and plundered the castle. On 10 June Canterbury was occupied and the prison opened. The leader of the rebels, Wat Tyler—it is uncertain whether he was originally from Essex or Kent—maintained some sort of order, and was perhaps an ex-soldier. He had the spiritual support of John Ball, a priest released from the archbishop’s prison. Ball had preached in a semi-political manner against social inequalities and wickedness in high places in Church and State for some twenty years, and had frequently been in trouble with his ecclesiastical superiors. On 11 June the host set out for London, and on the next day reached Blackheath. It repeated its earlier actions by releasing prisoners at the Marshalsea and the King’s Bench prison and by sacking the archbishop’s manor house at Lambeth. At the same time rebels from Essex were approaching London. Walworth, the mayor, prepared to defend the city, and, had he been adequately supported, could have kept the rebels outside. But there was strange indecision and lack of plan in the royal council gathered at the Tower for safety, and there was definite treachery in the city government itself. On the 13th the king with Sudbury and others of the council made an indecisive attempt to parley with the rebels from a barge off the Rotherhithe bank, but it came to nothing. By the connivance of certain aldermen the drawbridge on London Bridge was let down for the men from Kent, and Aldgate was opened for the men from Essex. The rebels found many sympathisers in London. These joined them in opening prisons and in sacking the Temple, the palace of the Savoy, and the Priory of St John’s, hated for their connexion with lawyers, Gaunt, and the treasurer, Hales, respectively.

The policy that prevailed in the Tower was to try to disperse the rebels by concessions rather than to resist them by force, and, on Friday 14 June, Richard with a group of courtiers met a body of the rebels by appoint­ment at Mile End. What they asked was granted: villeinage and feudal services to be abolished throughout the realm; land held by villein tenure to be held at a rent of 4d. an acre as freehold; monopolies and restrictions on buying to be ended. An amnesty for the rebels and punishment of such ministers and others as could be proved traitors were also promised. Charters confirming these concessions to particular localities were at once drawn up. But before the meeting at Mile End was over those whom the rebels regarded as traitors met their end. Sudbury and Hales had remained at the Tower, and by accident or design the protection there was inadequate. Rebels broke in. They dragged Sudbury from the chapel and beheaded him with Hales on Tower Hill. It was as a politician that Sudbury was murdered, though a monastic chronicler saw in his death a judgment on one who had been too lax towards heretics. So far there had been little bloodshed, but other murders now followed. There was a massacre of Flemings, and among other victims was Lyons. Anarchy reigned in the city.

It was, therefore, at considerable personal risk that Richard resumed negotiations next morning at Smithfield. Tyler, it seems, increased his demands, and showed scant respect for the king and his party. Walworth struck Tyler, wounding him mortally. Then Richard, helped for once by his dramatic instincts, did precisely the right thing, and showed that, though only a boy of fourteen, he was no unworthy son of the boy who had won his spurs at Crecy, and no unworthy grandson of that other boy who had rid England of his mother’s paramour. Riding forward to the rebels, as they were still wavering and confused by their leader’s fall, he offered himself as their chief and captain, promising what they sought and calling them to follow him. While he led them north to the open fields of Clerkenwell, Walworth returned to the city. Despite the efforts of disloyal aldermen, he brought out to the king a substantial band of sol­diers and citizens determined to end the anarchy. Without bloodshed the rebels dispersed. The Essex men went home. The Kentish men were led through London to London Bridge. The sequence and interpretation of the incidents of the Rising still present mysteries, in particular the unguarded state of the Tower and precisely what took place at the inter­views with the rebels. But the general attitude of the Kent and Essex men is clear. They shewed no disloyalty to Richard personally, but besides political dissatisfaction with his advisers, Gaunt, Sudbury, and Hales, there were radical social demands: an end of villeinage and partial disendowment of the Church.

Risings in the neighbouring counties followed quickly on the success of the Essex and Kentish men in London: in East Anglia on 12 June; in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire on 14 June; in some districts farther afield even later. In Cambridgeshire and East Anglia the rebels were particularly bitter and violent. Generally the local gentry put up little or no resistance, but from 18 June the government began to organise repression and the restoration of order. By the end of the month the situation was well in hand. Sporadic disturbances continued for some months. The Bishop of Norwich alone shewed fight from the first, and in a regular battle defeated Litster, “the king of the commons”, who had established himself in rude state in Norwich. The suppression of the revolt followed the course of law in the ordinary courts, and, though severe, it did not provide displays of the brutality which had followed the Jacquerie.

The causes and the consequences of the revolt, in particular its relation with the Black Death, have been and still are the subjects of controversy. Until detailed evidence from the manors is known in bulk, and not merely in selections, it is impossible to generalise with confidence or justification. The one thing that seems certain is that there was great unevenness of agricultural and social development both before and after 1349. No general formula is to be looked for. It appears that villein services, though in many districts being commuted gradually, had not disappeared, as used to be thought, before the Black Death. On the contrary, in much of the south-east of England in particular (where the revolt was mainly centred) they formed a very important part of manorial life and economy on many estates, both lay and ecclesiastical. The Black Death violently disturbed the relations existing between the land and the population living on it, relations which in so far as they had been hitherto modified by the evolu­tion of the manor and the development of commerce and industry had been modified gradually. Labour, whether rendered in the form of villein services or free and paid for in cash, became suddenly much more valuable. For work which had been done previously by hired labour landlords were asked to pay perhaps twice as much as before the pestilence, while to get the same number of days work done by feudal service they had now to press much harder on the smaller population that remained. The im­mediate result of the Black Death was, therefore, a not unnatural attempt to regulate the price of labour. This attempt was neither so unfair nor so ineffective as it has sometimes been represented. An Ordinance of 18 June 1349 forbade labourers to receive, or employers to give, wages higher than those paid in 1346 or the immediately preceding years. All men and women under sixty having no means of support might be compelled to work at these rates. Food prices were to be reasonable. The first Parliament after the pestilence on 9 February 1351 gave greater precision to the arrangement by fixing a definite tariff of wages for different occu­pations. After some preliminary experiments combining the duties of enforcing the Statute of Labourers with those of the guardians of the peace, came a period (1352-59) when justices of labourers were ap­pointed by distinct commissions; but a little before a general review of the office of the guardians of the peace in 1361 the justices of labourers were superseded, and in the end the justices of the peace took over their duties. The statutes were enforced vigorously, and, though they could not prevent a rise in wages, probably moderated it. In themselves they are evidence of the break-up of the manorial system. The lord did not rely on his own court; even for the problems of his own land he was coming to rely rather on agents of the central government commissioned to maintain a national policy. Competition among the lords for the services of free labourers and runaway villeins was mainly responsible for the comparative failure of the statutes. The persistent efforts to put them into force, clamoured for in almost every Parliament, had perhaps their main effect in adding to that widespread sense of grievance which provoked the Peasants’ Revolt.

In other ways the lords tried to meet the new situation. As there had been before the Black Death some commutation of services, so there had been some landholding for rent; and in the half century after the Black Death the leasing of land for money rents increased. Sheep farming also increased, but it is doubtful if the Black Death had much immediate effect in greatly increasing the amount of land dealt with in these ways. After momentary disorganisation the old system continued in many manors, and then was gradually changed in the same direction as it had already been changing before the Black Death came. The Black Death by its first and later visitations helped to accelerate the change. It made the villeins at once more anxious and more able to throw off such services as remained.

The changes that had come over rural England since the Black Death, partly as a result of it and partly independent of it, provided, then, a considerable grievance for many who found conditions altering less quickly than they desired. It is most significant that on the social and economic side the demands of the rebels were not to be rid of new wrongs; they frankly called for a change from the old to a better state of things. This open desire to break with the past—an unusual thing in the Middle Ages—showed itself also on the Continent in similar risings of artisans and peasants in the fourteenth century. In England it was provoked mainly by the Statutes of Labourers. But the political reasons for the revolt, repre­sented sometimes as the mere occasion, were effective causes too. The Black Death was not the only disaster which had happened in the middle of the fourteenth century; the government was to pay for twelve years of unsuccessful war since 1369, a crushing burden to be borne by a population that was perhaps something like two-thirds of what it had been when Edward III began the war. The poll tax set the pile of discontents ablaze, but it added to the pile too. The later stages of the revolt gave an opportunity for mere looters, and in particular districts, as at St Albans, particular grievances, urban or rural, were worked off. In its earlier stages, however, the revolt was not wild communism, but a concrete demand for the im­provement of rural conditions and a protest against the ministers of the Crown. That it had any direct connexion with Wyclif is a hypothesis lacking evidence and in itself unlikely.

There is little to be said for the old opinion that, though Parliament annulled the concessions made to the rebels in London, the villeins got what they wanted as a result of the revolt. They wanted an immediate end of some parts of the manorial system where it still existed, but the manorial system which had been gradually dissolving before the revolt continued to dissolve gradually after it. The main importance of the revolt is as an indication of what already existed in England, not as a cause of future things. The rebels had indeed no policy and no worthy leader. They had grievances and desires, and the weakness of the govern­ment gave them an opportunity to make a demonstration.

The rising of 1381, dramatic as it was, produced no sudden change in economic or political life. The period of feeble government, hampered by the French war, continued. The king was treated as a minor still, and Gaunt had still a varying amount of power in determining policy. His plans for a loan to enable him to conduct war in Spain and Portugal began to be considered, and this became his main preoccupation. Courtenay had succeeded Sudbury as chancellor as well as Archbishop of Canterbury, but he was soon followed at the chancery by Scrope, a friend of Gaunt. On 20 January 1382 Richard married Anne, sister of Wenceslas, King of the Romans. For Richard personally it was a happy marriage, though it did not fulfil the hopes of the politicians and bring Wenceslas into the war against the French. For Europe its importance lay in the new fostering of communication between England and Bohemia and the introduction of Wyclif’s writings to the Bohemian Church.

The five years 1381-86 continued to be full of Parliaments. Two were summoned most years. War schemes also continued to illustrate the incompetence of the administration and the divided mind of the nation. The enthusiastic unity in following a strong lead from a king who knew his own mind—that was gone. The ministers were uncertain whether to conduct the war by the way of Flanders or by the way of Portugal. In Flanders, until his death in November 1382, Artevelde was resisting Count Louis whom the French supported; in Portugal it seemed possible that the national resistance to the Castilian claim to the Portuguese crown could be made to serve Gaunt’s ambitions in Castile. For each campaign crusading privileges were offered, since both Louis and the Castilians supported the Pope of Avignon. These privileges served not only to attract recruits but also to ease the financing of the campaign. The commons preferred the nearer and cheaper campaign, and, despite opposition from Lancaster and other lords, the way of Flanders was chosen. Despenser, Bishop of Norwich, in the summer of 1383 headed an army which went too late to be effective, and came back covered with dishonour yet lucky to have suffered no greater disaster. Impeachment and temporary loss of his possessions punished the bishop, and Wyclif’s tract Cruciata showed that there was at least some revulsion against this shameless use of the crusading motive.

In 1384 the discords at home continued: magnates against the court, the commons against the lords, Gaunt against Northumberland, John of Northampton against Brember. De la Pole, who had been appointed with Arundel governor of the king’s person in 1381, was now chancellor. He pressed the commons for an expression of opinion about the desirability of peace, even at the price of Richard doing homage for his possessions; and drew from them a general expression in favour of a peace policy, though they shewed extreme reluctance to take responsibility for definitely advising it. Peace was now the policy of the court. A truce for nine months was arranged at Leulighen, but as yet no permanent settlement could be arranged, because neither side would abandon its extreme claims. A group of the king’s intimate counsellors began to appear more prominently. Among them was Vere, the young Earl of Oxford, and attacks on the court by Arundel, who had been dismissed from his governorship in 1383, roused Richard to a display of violent passion.

Gaunt held a position of comparative isolation. He was on bad terms with the court, and during the Salisbury Parliament in the spring of 1384 occurred an incident which puzzled contemporaries and has not yet ceased to puzzle historians. An Irish Carmelite, Latimer, claimed to be able to reveal a plot by Gaunt against the life of the king. Richard after violent threats against his uncle was somewhat appeased. Before the charges could be cleared up the friar was tortured to death with peculiar brutality, still refusing to reveal the names of any who knew his secret. To estimate the significance of the incident is the more difficult because, though he was introduced to the king through Vere, the followers of Gaunt and the king were jointly responsible for his death. A few months later the parts were reversed: in February 1385 Gaunt charged Richard with worthless conduct and the court with attempts on his life. Even Courtenay spoke for Gaunt, and suffered from a violent outbreak of the king’s temper in consequence. One of the charges brought against Richard was a lack of spirit in not going personally to the wars, but his campaign against the Scots in 1385 brought him no credit. He found no organised opposition, and in less than a fortnight recrossed the Border, having done nothing but ravage and burn. The outrageous murder of the son of the Earl of Stafford, a young friend of the king, by the king’s half-brother John Holland, indicated the completely unsatisfactory and uncontrolled society in which Richard spent his youth.

It was during this Scottish campaign that there occurred in the Spanish Peninsula an event which was greatly to influence English affairs. In August 1385 the victory of the Portuguese at Aljubarrota delivered them from Castilian domination. This made possible the campaign by the way of Portugal which had previously been regarded as hopeless. Gaunt, at the end of 1385, secured parliamentary support for his darling scheme, and in the following July sailed with a considerable force. No sooner had Gaunt’s forces gone than a new threat of invasion, the last, scared England. But incompetence was by no means confined to the English side of the Channel, and nothing came of the grandiose French schemes.

The real significance of these wretched, confused years was the slow gathering around Richard, as he approached the age of twenty, of a new court party in opposition both to Gaunt and to the magnates. Its better side was shewn by the less frequent change of ministers. Segrave, an old officer of the Black Prince, was treasurer from 1381 to 1386 and de la Pole chancellor from 1383 to 1386. Both were good officials; de la Pole, created Earl of Suffolk, was perhaps the most competent of all Richard’s advisers. Even Vere was idle and incompetent rather than vicious; but Richard’s extravagant advancement of him to the “strange name” of Marquis of Dublin and the grant of all royal lands and authority in Ireland made him hated as a “favourite,” though he came of an old house. The factious divisions in the aristocratic opposition and the uncertain attitude of Gaunt, its natural leader, gave an opportunity for the strengthening of the new court party. In the years immediately preceding Gaunt’s departure, Richard began not merely to be truculent to the magnates personally, but to shew to the commons that he was not dis­posed to submit to new claims from Parliament. Parliament met less frequently, once only instead of twice in each of the years 1385 and 1386. In 1385, in reply to a request for a review of his household, Richard told the commons that his present servants satisfied him and that he would change them only when he pleased. He chose that moment to commit Ireland at great expense to Vere. The freer use after 1383 of the signet seal by the king’s “secretary” was also a sign that the new personal policy of the king was finding new forms of expressing itself along the traditional lines of administrative inventions. Richard’s intervention in London affairs points in the same direction.

Thus at the close of this first period, through the years of faction and weakness, a preparation for a change had come. That policy of compromise between all interests with which the reign had opened was ending. The great offices had been for some years in the hands—the not incompetent hands—of the court party. Gaunt, who had played a changing and often ineffective part, sometimes influential by alliance with the king or the magnates, sometimes in surly isolation from both, never to be relied on by either, had now ceased to try to control English politics, because he had got what he hoped the control of English politics would give him. His disappearance left the court face to face with the aristocratic party. Richard was trying to do what Edward III had done when he emerged from the period of tutelage. But the national situation and the personal factors were now less favourable. Edward’s easy-going policy had strengthened the force of the opposition, and the compromise which was to be reached after a time of stress in 1389 was to prove less permanent than that which had followed the stormy years 1340-41.

The period of struggle between Richard and his new court party and the magnates’ opposition may be taken as covering the time between July 1386, when Gaunt sailed, and 3 May 1389, when Richard dramatically, as his manner was, assumed full responsibility for the government. The removal of Gaunt left his two brothers naturally more prominent, but the temperamental ineffectiveness of York meant that in fact Gloucester took the lead. Himself only thirty, he was neither very wise nor very generous. He had, however, popularity: men remembered that he had revived the military reputation of the royal house by his remarkable, if rather useless, march from Calais through northern France to Brittany in 1380. Promi­nent in the party of magnates that he led were Gaunt’s son Henry of Derby, Arundel, personally alienated from the king, Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham. Among the prelates were Arundel’s brother, the Bishop of Ely, Brantingham, Courtenay, and Wykeham. The contest opened at once by a challenge to the court party in the Parliament of October 1386. From that time the opposition was open and articulate. Gloucester’s friends used Parliament as the best instrument for controlling the king, whilst the king spoke constantly of his prerogative as something beyond the control of any authority.

England was still nervous about the possibility of an invasion when Parliament met, and the chancellor Suffolk asked for a subsidy to enable the king to take the field in person. Instead of a subsidy came an attack from the commons on the ministers. Richard shewed fight. Having retired to Eltham, he made Vere Duke of Ireland, and, in the same tone as in 1385, bade Parliament mind its own business, declaring that he would not at its request dismiss a scullion. He reminded it that it might be dissolved. Parliament declined to proceed until Suffolk were dismissed and Richard should return to London. Instead of the forty commoners whom Richard had asked for to explain its demands, it sent Gloucester and Arundel. They asserted that an ancient statute made necessary annual Parliaments at which administration should be discussed. If the king kept away for forty days Parliament might dissolve itself. Richard threatened to appeal to the King of France if there were rebellion, and was threatened in turn with the fate of Edward II. This broke his opposition. He returned and changed his ministers, dismissing Suffolk and making Arundel’s brother, the Bishop of Ely, chancellor. Suffolk was impeached; but it was difficult to convict so good a public servant. He was found guilty of but three out of seven charges. Condemned to fine and imprisonment, he was in fact not severely treated. The prosecution was a political move; it was followed by the favourite device for controlling kings, a council to supervise all royal actions. This Commission consisted of eleven persons and included, beside rigid opponents of the court like Gloucester and Arundel, moderate men with official experience like Courtenay, Brantingham, and Wykeham. The Commission had unusually wide powers to regulate the royal house­hold and revenue and to control the administration. The king was forced to accept it in order to get a grant, but he secured a limitation of its powers to the year November 1386 to November 1387. He closed Parliament with an unusually explicit note of defiance declaring his intention that “for nothing done in that Parliament should any prejudice arise to himself or his crown or prerogative.”

He had, however, lost control for the present of the great offices of State. The Commission remained in authority at Westminster. Its mixed com­position might have induced him to try gradually to construct a new ministerial party inside and in touch with it. He chose to have as little as possible to do with it, and all he could do in the circumstances was to try to organise an opposition in the country based on his household officials and supported by the armed forces that he might hope to rely on from Cheshire, Wales, and Ireland. He left London on 9 February 1387, and until the eve of the expiry of the authority of the Commission moved round the midlands. He called no Parliament, but held several Councils, and secured his position by enrolling troops personally devoted to his cause. It became clear that, apart from such special forces, he could count on little general support. At a Shrewsbury council the sheriffs reported that the commons were on the side of the barons and would not fight against them, nor would they be willing to see the election of the knights tampered with in order to secure those friendly to the king. The judges were more helpful. On 25 August at Nottingham they gave written opinions in favour of Richard’s view of his prerogative and the Com­mission’s attempt to control it. Later they pleaded that they gave the opinions tinder pressure, and this seems likely. The opinions were not published, but kept for future use. Richard also made a bid for popularity in London by pardoning John of Northampton, and on 10 November 1387 entered a capital apparently loyal to him.

Seeing their danger as the period of the Commission’s authority drew to an end, Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick, the backbone of the Com­mission, became very active. They gathered with armed forces at Waltham, and on 14 November “appealed” five of the king’s most prominent supporters: Neville, Archbishop of York, the Duke of Ireland, Suffolk, Tresilian, and Brember. Richard, apparently to his surprise, found that in London he had no chance of opposing the appellants’ forces. The more moderate members of the Commission arranged for a meeting between the king and the appellants on 17 November. Richard had to agree to call a Parliament for 3 February to deal with the appeal. Meanwhile Suffolk and Neville fled abroad; Tresilian and Brember hid themselves; and the Duke of Ireland went to rouse Cheshire and the west to save the king. He tried to return to London by way of the Severn and the Cotswolds with the force he had raised. But when his force met the appellants’ force at Radcot Bridge on 20 December it made little resistance and dispersed. Vere fled to the Continent, where he died in 1392. Before Vere’s defeat Gloucester is said to have discussed deposing Richard, but to have found no support for this plan from Nottingham and Derby. With his army dispersed and the alternatives of deposition or surrender, Richard had no choice but to submit completely. Yet there is considerable uncertainty about the last week of December. There was much negotiation and a crisis that seems to have lasted for some days. Possibly the rival claims of Gloucester and Derby explain why Richard was not deposed or, if he was deposed, why he was restored after two or three days. He was made to withdraw writs that he had issued while his force was still in being under Vere, asking that knights in debatis modernis magis indifferentes should be chosen for the Parliament. Then a great number of his loyal household officers were removed, some being accused of treason, others simply banished from court. Richard had tried to defy the aristocratic opposition by force of arms, and he had failed utterly. He was to pay the price in full. The severity of the proceedings of 1388 compared with those of 1386 indicates the difference between the end of a political and of a military campaign between the magnates and the court. In Gloucester the triumphant opposition had a leader unusually persistent and even malicious.

The “merciless” Parliament met on 3 February, and sat with breaks till 4 June. No epithet was ever better earned: in most matters the Parliament shewed itself the willing agent of the appellants. A feature of the crisis was the care taken to appeal to public opinion against the king. After Gloucester had protested his loyalty to Richard, the articles of the appeal against the five members of the court party were read. They amounted to little more than a condemnation of recent policy; the five had misled the king and opposed the Commission. The king attempted to dispose of the articles by a legal opinion that they were not conform­able to civil law or to the law of the land. The Lords ruled, however, that the lords of Parliament were judges of such charges against peers, with the king’s assent, and according to the law and course of Parliament were bound neither by civil law nor by the usages of inferior courts, since other courts were only the executors of ancient laws and customs and of the ordinances of Parliament. This declaration was notable as an assertion of the sovereignty of Parliament against both the theory of the preroga­tive contained in the Nottingham judicial opinions and the view recently expressed by the lawyers of the sovereignty of law. It was also notable as another step in the definition of the claims of the House of Lords; the declaration contained its claim to be the supreme law-court, and fore­shadowed the method of bill of attainder. Found guilty of treason by an examination of the articles, Suffolk, Vere, Tresilian, and Brember were condemned to execution, Archbishop Neville to the loss of his temporalities and to further judgment. Tresilian and Brember were executed. The judges who had given opinions against the Commission were impeached, condemned to death, and banished to Ireland. Minor servants of the king suffered death.

Gloucester now began to lose his hold on his party; it wearied of vengeance before he did. Yet he secured the execution of Burley, despite the opposition of the king, York, Nottingham, and Derby, for he and Arundel and Warwick were the men ultimately in control. The Pope complaisantly translated Neville to St Andrews, a see, in fact, held by a schismatic supporter of the anti-Pope. He also rewarded or punished other bishops by suitable translations, as required—an interesting commentary on the legislation about provisors. The appellants received £20,000 for their services to the nation; the king, on request, renewed his coronation oath; and the Parliament ended after oaths had been taken from all in authority to prevent the disturbance of its work.

For eleven months England remained mainly under the control of the appellants’ party. The arrangements made in the “merciless” Parlia­ment had more effect than those of most Parliaments because they had behind them the sanction of military force. Once their opponents had been destroyed, the appellants shed no more blood. A short Parliament at Cambridge in the autumn made a grant for continuing the war, and re-enacted and enlarged the Statutes of Labourers in a sense that shewed some regard for the tenant farmer as well as the landlord, but none for the labourer. The plan of the later Acts of Settlement was sketched in an attempt to prevent the movement of labourers from their hundreds, except by the permission of justices of the peace. No one was to leave husbandry after the age of twelve. Impotent beggars were to be maintained in their own towns and parishes. The justices were to meet quarterly and to receive salaries. An attempt to abolish “liveries called cognizances” revealed, not for the first time, a division of interest between the great and the small landowners; compromise and postponement resulted. A statute was also made against Provisors,

The great officers carried on the government. Some useful reforms and reorganisations were made. The Chancery Ordinances of 1388-89 are at once a codification of practice and plan of reform; they indicate the steady growth of a trained lay bureaucracy with professional feeling. Its business was to administer, whoever might be in control, and it survived not only political changes in the great offices, but political revolutions too. The eclipse of the personal influence of the king meant the end of the use of signet letters. Yet the king’s household and chamber still contained some of his friends. He had never given way completely to the “merciless” Parliament about all appointments, and, as the storm abated, those who had dispersed began to come back to court. The change from Richard’s acquiescence in the rule of the magnates in 1388 to their acquiescence in his rule in 1389 was not, therefore, unprepared or altogether revolutionary. Many of the same men conducted the business of State in the same spirit before and after Richard’s assumption of power on 3 May 1389. Foreign policy provided an example of this. Under the appellants the war con­tinued against both France and Scotland: there were naval exploits by Arundel and the famous battle of Chevy Chase at Otterbourne. But the appellants in power continued the war unwillingly as Richard had done, and their negotiations for peace come into line with those which he had conducted in 1386 and would conduct again in 1389.

“For eight years Richard governed England as, to all appearance, a constitutional and popular king.” The eight years which followed Richard’s assumption of power on 3 May 1389 have sometimes been so sharply differentiated from the period preceding them that the difficulty of relating them to the rest of Richard’s reign has been artificially increased. Was Richard shamming a belief in “constitutional” government in order to lull his enemies into a carelessness that would bring them to their death? Or was he truly a changed man? Or was Gaunt the miracle­ worker? The task of choosing one of several improbable solutions to the problem would disappear if it should seem that the problem had been overstated. There was less change in Richard personally than has been often said. It is not impossible to trace a thread of consistency in his character and actions throughout his reign. Moody, violent, with melodramatic tastes, and a high notion of his prerogative, he pursued in a somewhat new style the old policy of the kings of England. He tried to get his own way, but he used different methods at different times according to his mood and the circumstances of the moment. The real problem of these years is not so much the conduct of Richard—that grew out of the past not unnaturally—but the conduct of Gloucester and his colleagues, especially Arundel. That Richard should wish to take on his responsibilities when the crisis of 1388 was comfortably over, and that for some years with little provocation he should not act outrageously, was not in itself very surprising; but that the men who had acted so violently and so cruelly in 1388 should be edged out of power and should make so little resistance needs explaining. Perhaps they were less wanton than at times they have been pictured. Having destroyed their enemies, they were content to help the king to rule, especially since, in more normal times, they could no longer count on the universal dereliction of the king and his circle. For English public life could not continue indefinitely a mere duel between the king and the three principal appellants. Appeals to public opinion made by both sides indicate that no policy was hopeless which could convince people of influence that it was reasonable and deserved a trial. It was not unreasonable in the fourteenth century that a king of twenty-two should rule as well as reign, and so when Richard asked the chancellor and treasurer to resign and appointed two veterans, Wykeham and Brantingham, in their places no revolution followed. So supported, he felt strong enough to dismiss Gloucester and Arundel from the council, and to replace Arundel as admiral by his own half-brother Holland. He also recast the judicial bench. But since he punished no one for the acts of the recent administration and called back no one who had been banished by the “merciless” Parliament, but postponed the collection of part of the last subsidy and raised salaries, there was no case for resistance. The dramatic seizure of power on 3 May 1389 was meant to impress public opinion, but it was not unprepared for— the king had already a hold on the officials—and it was followed by no reversal of policy.

The Commission of 1386, by which his earlier attempt at personal rule had been upset, had always contained two elements: aristocratic magnates and conservative ecclesiastics with a knowledge of official life. There was the possibility of a cleavage. In 1386 Richard had not taken advantage of it. In 1389, perhaps having learnt something, he did so. His exhibition of displeasure with Gloucester and Arundel was not unnatural, nor perhaps unwise; but he put the ecclesiastical appellants into office, and tried to win Nottingham and Derby. Gaunt returned six months after Richard had assumed power. He had been urged to do so by the king, and his presence helped to give stability to the new rule. Gaunt had satisfied his continental ambitions. For the rest of his life he played a dignified and useful part in strengthening the government and, if favour­able chroniclers are to be believed, in influencing his nephew’s mind. In 1390 he was made Duke of Guienne and at last brought about a definite cessation of hostilities in France. Most important of all, his return in itself destroyed much of Gloucester’s importance, just as his departure had thrust Gloucester forward as leader of the magnates. Gloucester and Arundel in a few months reappeared in the council. Gloucester, still very popular, was used by Richard in important work, and Arundel’s brother in 1391 succeeded Wykeham as chancellor. He held office for five years, and then in 1396 he followed Courtenay at Canterbury. He seems to have had not only office, but the king’s confidence. Richard, now maturer, was building up an official party, but it had a wider base than in the days of Suffolk and Vere.

Yet he was the same king with the same weaknesses. His passionate grief at the death of Queen Anne in 1394 and his violence in striking Arundel to the ground in Westminster Abbey at her funeral shewed his old unbalanced temperament. He had not abated his opinion about his prerogative, and did not pretend that he had done so. At the first Parliament which met after he had resumed power the chancellor, treasurer, and council resigned to give Parliament an opportunity of judging them. Parliament having judged them satisfactory, the king reappointed them, but he stated that he did not regard this as a precedent limiting his freedom to remove and appoint at pleasure. Still more significant was the declaration of the Parliament of 1391 that “our lord the king should be as free in his royal dignity as any of his predecessors, despite any statute to the contrary, notably those in the days of Edward II, and that if any such statute had that effect under Edward II it should be annulled.” His old spirit was shewn in his renewed quarrel with London in 1392, when he removed the administration to York and Nottingham, suspended the liberties of the city, imprisoned the mayor and sheriffs, and restored all on payment of a fine.

The council, too, which had been prominent before 3 May 1389 did not cease to be so. Parliament was meeting less frequently and the small working council of ministers was becoming a place for administrative decisions rather than consultation. This small council really ruled England. On occasion it resisted the personal wishes of the king, who did not always attend it. Parliament, now sharply differentiated from an enlarged council, produced some notable legislation: in 1390 a more stringent Statute of Provisors; in 1393, in response to papal opposition to that statute, the “second” Statute of Praemunire. In 1390, alleging many complaints in Parliament, Richard made an ordinance in council designed to end the practice by which “maintainers” of other men’s quarrels perverted the course of justice. Such maintenance was encouraged by the undue grant of livery by magnates: the circumstances in which livery might be granted were therefore narrowly restricted. In 1393 Parliament legislated on the same subject. The most notable achievement of these years was the peace with France. This made the general situation easier, and in itself would almost account for the success of the government, the lighter taxation, and the less frequent Parliaments. The treaty also opened a way for more ambitious action by Richard.

The years were not entirely without troubles. There was disorder in the north, mixed, it was thought, with the ambitions and jealousies of the great magnates towards one another and the king. Partly as a result of this, the old dislike of Gaunt and Arundel flared out in a violent quarrel in 1394. Arundel’s real grievance was the close alliance of the house of Lancaster and the king, and several events went to strengthen this. On the death of his second wife Constance in 1394, Gaunt married his mistress Catherine Swynford, and Richard recognised her children as legitimate members of the royal family. The death of Derby’s wife removed a personal link between him and Gloucester, who had married another of the Bohun sisters. Signs were not wanting that Gloucester and Arundel, the unbending remains of the appellants, would not hold indefinitely to the compromise that had marked politics since 1389. Gloucester, appointed in 1392 as lieutenant in Ireland, had had his authority at once recalled.

Meanwhile Richard was moving in the direction of more personal exercise of power. The death of Anne removed a good influence from him. His experiences in Ireland and his friendship with France encouraged him. From August 1394 till May 1395 Richard was in Ireland. This was Richard’s first considerable experience of military life, for conditions in Ireland made his journey from Waterford to Dublin “of the nature of a campaign rather than a royal progress.” His companions, except Gloucester, were his loyal friends. He saw no considerable fighting, but the possibility of the use of forces drawn from Ireland, Wales, Cheshire, and the west had a larger place henceforth in royal schemes. The Parliament held in Richard’s absence probably marked the high-tide of Lollard influence on public opinion. A petition, supported by several prominent members, was presented, and was published by being fixed to the doors of St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. The petition represented the most radical criticism of the clergy and rites of the Roman Church which Wyclif had uttered in the Trialogus, but it was expressed in a manner even more uncompromising than his. The Lollards were now beginning to organise themselves as a sect with ministers specially ordained.

Richard sealed the new friendship with France by his marriage on 12 March 1396 with the seven-year-old daughter of Charles VI. The marriage was his own policy, and was not altogether popular. It left open the question of the succession. Richard’s thoughts had turned to France since the death of Anne. He still played with the notion of getting French help against rebels if need arose. He had blurted out the suggestion to Gloucester in 1386, and it reappeared in the stipulation made in the preliminary negotiations early in 1396 that the French king should support Richard with all his power against any of his subjects.

But it was not upon France that Richard principally depended. His position at home was much improved. Gloucester alone of the royal magnates was hostile to the peace. Gaunt was held by new ties. The ministers were competent and trustworthy. Gilbert (1389-91), Waltham (1391-95), and Walden (1395-98) succeeded one another at the Treasury. Arundel was chancellor 1391-96. He was followed by Stafford, who had proved his worth as keeper of the Privy Seal. Longer tenure of office was in itself a sign of the strength of the government. The king had also in Bushy, Bagot, and Green representatives of the class of knights devoted to court interests. Bushy was especially valuable as a Speaker who was adept at managing the commons. Richard was spending considerably in organising military support for himself. He had, like the magnates, his own livery and badge of the white hart, and the followers of his household were attached to him by personal ties. The next step in improving his control was to be dramatic, but it was not out of harmony with the policy of recent years. Gloucester, though he had now only Arundel and Warwick to support him, had not grown less offensive to the king; and every year made it less necessary to endure him.

When, in January 1397, Parliament met, it was three years since Richard had had dealings with it, the last having met during his Irish visit. In this Parliament the issue became clearer: Richard saw at once how great his power now was and how at the same time it was definitely limited by certain obstacles. The next step was to remove the obstacles. It was in doing this that Richard passed from seeking to build a strong royal power without breach of precedent to something that approached a royal revolution.

On the one side Parliament was submissive. The commons had included in their rather familiar grievances against the administration one which roused the king’s special fury: the cost of his household swollen by bishops and ladies. In response to Richard’s enquiry, the Speaker, Bushy, named Haxey as responsible for submitting this complaint to the commons1. The commons apologised for their interference in the household, and the lords resolved that it was treason to excite the commons to reform any­thing touching the person, government, or regality of the sovereign. Haxey was condemned for treason, but was pardoned. Richard had made his point. His announcement that as “emperor of the realm” he had legitimated the Beauforts sounded the same note of prerogative. With the assent of Parliament he restored the justices banished to Ireland in 1388, but his confirmation of the other acts of the “merciless” Parliament shewed that he recognised the need of proceeding slowly.

For by its successful opposition to his foreign policy this Parliament had shewed not less clearly the limits to his power. As a sign of his friendship with France, he had promised to send Rutland and Nottingham on an ill-conceived expedition against the Visconti. Now, though he made a personal appeal and used rather wild language about his freedom and his intentions, he could get no support, and dropped his request for a subsidy. Later it was said that there had been plots against the king, but the opposition in itself was a reason for removing the king’s opponents. Besides the check in the Parliament and Gloucester’s constant hostility to the royal foreign policy, Richard had to suffer from his reproaches when, in accordance with treaty obligations, Brest was evacuated on 12 June. Gloucester and Arundel refused also to attend the council.

In July Richard struck decisively. He invited Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick to a banquet at the chancellor’s house on the 10th. Warwick alone came, and was arrested. Gloucester pleaded ill-health. Arundel without an excuse retired to Reigate. This did not save them. Gloucester on the next day was compelled to come to London, and was sent to Calais. Arundel was induced by his brother to surrender to the king. These arrests were made on the advice of eight lords: Nottingham, Huntingdon, Kent, Rutland, Somerset, Salisbury, Despenser, Scrope. They represented the younger elements in the king’s party. Several were kinsmen of Richard; almost all had been promoted in his reign. Gaunt, York, and Derby were said to have approved the arrests. The reason given for them was the extortions and misdeeds to be laid bare in Parliament.

The procedure of 1388 was not unnaturally followed. The eight lords “appealed” Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick. In the Parliament which met on 17 September, the opposition had no leaders, lay or clerical; but by this time only very determined opposition would have sufficed to check the king. He made use of his military preparations. His Cheshire archers and white hart retainers were summoned. Only his friends were allowed to bring their armed supporters. Parliament met in an open wooden building, a temporary shelter necessary perhaps because of rebuilding at Westminster, but one that conveniently left the archers in sight. Bushy produced from the commons exactly what was wanted, and in fourteen days Richard’s opponents were destroyed. The act appointing the Com­mission of 1386 and the pardons of 1388 were repealed, pardons being given afresh to those who were now on the king’s side. The eight lords then made their charges. Arundel, unmannerly to the last, was executed. Warwick was banished to the Isle of Man. Gloucester, it was announced, had already died before Parliament met after making a confession at Calais, but he was nevertheless condemned. There is little room for doubt that he was murdered. To make a clean sweep, even Archbishop Arundel, as one of the appellants of 1388, was condemned to exile. Walden, the treasurer, succeeded him at Canterbury, and Arundel, like Neville, was translated to St Andrews. In the lavish bestowal of honours on his friends Richard raised Nottingham and Derby to be Dukes of Norfolk and Hereford. Parliament was adjourned to meet at Shrewsbury on 27 January 1398.

Was Richard satisfied? If not, how much farther would he go? In a conversation in December, if Hereford’s word could be believed, Norfolk stated his fear that in the end Gaunt and Hereford and himself would suffer, as the king had not forgotten or forgiven the original appellants. The matter is obscure. Hereford had been away crusading in the Baltic and visiting Jerusalem in the critical years, and had not hitherto had the confidence of Richard to the same extent as Norfolk. He laid the matter before Parliament in circumstances which did no credit to his good faith.

At Shrewsbury there was carried out what Stafford in his opening speech pronounced to be the object of the Parliament: to make one ruler, not many. The acts of the “merciless” Parliament were repealed as trenching on the prerogative. The Nottingham opinion of the judges became good law. By an unprecedented act the customs on wool were given to the king for life, and any attempt to undo any of the work of that Parliament was included in a new definition of treason. Not so great a breach of precedent as has sometimes been represented was made, how­ever, when Parliament referred certain petitions to a committee of eighteen of its members, giving the committee power to determine them and also to deal with the charges laid against Norfolk by Hereford.

For a year and a half Richard ruled England with the powers given him at Shrewsbury. There was no constitutional revolution, and it is still possible to trace development in his policy. Richard had so effective a control over the ordinary machinery of State that he had no need to dis­turb or attack the public services or to invent new instruments of autocracy. There was no conflict between the public and private officers; the signet did not now challenge the seals. This is not to say that Richard’s rule was popular. It was not. He tried to enforce his will on the local adminis­tration by complaisant sheriffs; there were complaints about the undue use of prerogative courts; and above all there was financial oppression. Despite peace, Richard’s court cost more than Edward III’s, and, despite the Shrewsbury grant, he had to have recourse to loans, fines, blank charters, and the like. This alarmed the middle as well as the noble classes. Behind all stood his army, held to him by personal rather than by official ties. It at least kept order in these months, and perhaps it helped to prevent the king from realising the slenderness of the foundations of his authority.

The parliamentary committee met on 19 March to settle petitions, and on 29 April, augmented by magnates, considered the charges against Norfolk. Trial by combat on 16 September was ordered, since, though Norfolk made some admissions, the evidence was held to be insufficient for a judgment. In the most melodramatic scene of his reign Richard stopped the contest as it was on the point of beginning at Coventry in crowded lists. Two hours later he announced that, “by the full advice and assent of Parliament,” he banished Norfolk for life and Hereford for ten years. Norfolk had confessed some matters which might nourish troubles in future; Hereford’s absence was needed for the peace and tranquillity of the realm. Norfolk’s property, except £1000 a year, was confiscated. The sentence on Norfolk proclaimed the injustice of that on Hereford. The fact was that Richard now stood face to face with the house of Lancaster. He was still placating Gaunt; by a very flagrant manoeuvre Buckingham, for thirty-five years Bishop of Lincoln, had been translated to Lichfield to make a vacancy for Henry Beaufort, a mere youth; and Richard thought to be rid of Hereford before a schism in his party occurred. It was a crazy act, but it was the inevitable result of the deserved triumph of an unbalanced king over a factious and unworthy opposition. Richard had no capacity for strong rule; he feared to be left in England with the house of Lancaster. The strength of his position at the moment was shewn by the obedience of Norfolk and Hereford; but the death of Gaunt at the age of 58 on 3 February 1399 presented a problem which required greater political ability than Richard’s for its solution.

Richard faced the problem of the future of the Lancaster estates with the folly of one whose head was turned by a mixture of success and suspicion. He falsified the Rolls of Parliament so as to make it appear that the Shewsbury committee, so far from having been limited to the two definite objects which it had achieved, had authority also to terminate all other matters and things named in the king’s presence in accordance with what seemed best to them. On 18 March 1399 the committee revoked the patent by which, on his banishment, Hereford had been allowed to appoint an attorney to receive any inheritance coming to him. Richard took possession of the Lancastrian estates. This act made loyalty impossible for Hereford, whatever he might have wished. It was the more foolish inasmuch as some months earlier Roger, Earl of March, had been killed in Ireland, and his six-year-old son now stood alone between Hereford and the throne. By his injustice to Hereford Richard had given to the opposition what it had not had since Gaunt returned from Spain to eclipse Gloucester—a leader.

For Richard to leave England at such a moment shewed his total failure to understand public opinion. Yet in May he left London for Ireland to avenge Roger’s death and to restore royal authority. He left the incompetent York in charge as regent, and took his army with him. Its removal was the sign for an outbreak of disorder. On 29 May Richard left Milford Haven; early in July Henry of Lancaster, with Archbishop Arundel and a small party, landed in Yorkshire. Declaring that he sought only his own inheritance, he was warmly received in northern England. The regent with some delay tried to raise a force through the sheriffs, but failed, and the regency government in its flight west towards Bristol to meet the king was cut off by the forces of Lancaster coming south by way of the Severn valley. York made his peace, and three of Richard’s immediate agents, including Bushy, were beheaded on 30 July after Bristol had fallen into Lancaster’s hands. Richard himself, who had only had time to struggle from Waterford to Dublin, left Ireland on 27 July and landed in South Wales. A part of his army he had sent to North Wales from Dublin; the rest accompanied him. His behaviour did nothing to save a lost cause. Finding little promise of support in South Wales, he disbanded his army, and made his way along the coast to join his forces in North Wales and Cheshire. Lancaster also went north by Shrewsbury, and was at Chester on 9 August. The incompetence of Salisbury, the vigour of Henry, and rumours of Richard’s death had sufficed to make the loyalist forces disperse. When Richard arrived he found only a tiny band with Salisbury at Conway. His handling of such troops as had been at his disposal when in Ireland he first heard of Henry’s landing had proved most unfortunate, and it is possible that both in Ireland and in South Wales his advisers were treacherous rather than foolish.

There seems no reason to doubt that in what followed he was tricked into putting himself into Henry’s hands. The Lancastrian story was that at Conway he willingly agreed to resign on condition that his life was spared, but the true account appears to be that Henry offered fair terms, proposing that he should be hereditary steward of England whilst Richard remained king. Archbishop Arundel and Northumberland are said to have sworn on the host to the terms, which after some hesitation Richard accepted. Henry then met Richard at Flint, and from that moment the king was treated as a captive. None of his later acts was the act of a free man. By 16 August he was at Chester, and on 19 August Parliament was summoned for 30 September. It was announced in Richard’s name that the Duke of Lancaster had come to redress defects in the government of England. Richard’s attempt to escape at Lichfield failed, and reaching London on 1 September he went to the Tower. On 29 September he executed a deed of abdication, absolving his subjects from obedience and acknowledging that he was not worthy to govern. That this was wrung from him and that he claimed in vain to appear before Parliament is, however, more worthy of credence than the account of his cheerful de­meanour and ready acceptance of his fate. When Parliament received the abdication there was some protest that it was not the king’s free act and that he was entitled to a hearing, but the Lancastrian majority overruled the objection. To remove suspicion, a list of thirty-three counts of indictment against him was read. This dealt with his injustices to individuals, notably the Arundels, Warwick, Gloucester, and Lancaster, with general abuses, and more particularly with exaltations of the prerogative since his resistance to the parliamentary commission of 1386. Sentence of deposition followed. Then Henry of Lancaster claimed the throne in a statement of his rights by descent, conquest, and election. The statement was ambiguous and perhaps inconsistent, but appropriate enough to his own character, the situation, and the genius of what we may begin to call the English constitution. There was general assent, and the two archbishops enthroned Henry.

On 23 October the lords, in the new king’s first Parliament, resolved on the secret imprisonment of Richard for the rest of his life. He was taken at once into the country, and a rising of the appellants of 1397 in January 1400 led to such treatment of him that before the end of February his corpse was taken from Pontefract to London and exhibited in St Paul’s before burial. The brutal prophecy that Richard might suffer his great-grandfather’s fate had been fulfilled almost to the letter in circumstances almost as squalid, if slightly less revolting.

Though it is not possible to regard the events of 1399 as the seventeenth-century Whigs regarded them, and though the significance of the reign of Richard II is still far from clear, certain developments and decisions of capital importance in the constitutional and social history of England can be traced in the period that separated his deposition from that of Edward II.

In the first place it was in this period that there emerged and definitely established itself Parliament, in which two houses were crystallising and gaining distinct constitutions and powers. When Edward III came to the throne the elements which were to go to the final composition of Parliament had indeed been assembled. His predecessors had wished to make use of the new social forces, as well as the old, for the support of their policies, and they had called to their Great Council beside the lay and clerical magnates the representatives of the lesser gentry, the lower clergy, and the towns. But as yet the Great Council was one assembly. Its competence for business did not come to an end if certain elements in it had not been summoned or had gone home. No one had an incontrovertible right to be summoned either by individual writ or otherwise; and, though the Statute of York in 1322 may have shown the importance placed on the presence of the commons on certain occasions, there was as yet no clear distinction drawn between statutes made when they were present and ordinances made when they were not.

By the end of the century, however, a process of definition and differ­entiation had proceeded so far as to disintegrate this variable Great Council. As previously it had thrown off judicial courts without losing all its judicial powers, so now it threw off Parliament without ceasing to be competent to deal with some of the financial, legislative, and judicial business which normally came before the fuller assembly. By the end of Richard Il’s reign there are to be distinguished, first, a small efficient body of ministers, in part administrative experts, meeting almost daily, directing the day to day government of the kingdom; second, the Great Council of the magnates, summoned under the Privy Seal; and third, Parliament, summoned under the Great Seal. Parliament is still an aspect of the Council, and is in theory and for some purposes one assembly, but its two parts are fairly sharply defined. The lords temporal and spiritual, summoned by individual writ, are well on the way to establishing a right to be considered as a special class in society; they claim that they have a right to be summoned, that they can be judged only by those who have the same right, and that (so far as laymen are concerned) these rights are hereditary. The old moral claim of the magnates that they are the natural counsellors of the king is crystallising into legal privilege. The commons came into existence as a mere appendage. Only when they met with the lords were they in Parliament, though the separate estates of which they were composed might withdraw to discuss the business laid by the king before Parliament. A decisive development began when the knights of the shire and the representatives of the towns consulted not apart, but together. This habit grew up between the years 1332 and 1339; and in this union was the foundation of the bicameral system. The English commons made one strong representative house, not several weaker estates sharply divided by class feeling and less capable of effective action. The social standing of the knights made it not unnatural for the commons to consult with representatives of the magnates before presenting petitions or re­turning answers to the king. The election of a speaker to represent them when they returned to the king and the lords with the result of their deliberations was a sign, however informal, of some corporate consciousness and organisation.

If by the end of the century the form of Parliament in two houses was thus distinguishable from the Council, so were its powers. The presentation of private petitions still formed a large part of its activities, but the common, public petition was becoming more important. Parliament was trying, too, to secure that its petitions should be put into effect in the form in which they were made without modification. It was in fact maintaining that all important legislation should require its consent and take the form of statute. The struggle of 1340 had put a very general control of taxation in the hands of Parliament, and though the king not infre­quently evaded this control, it was recognised as evasion. The constant demands for money for the war gave Parliaments many opportunities for bargaining with the king, and after 1340 they often put forward griev­ances to be redressed as a condition of making a grant. They earmarked grants for specific purposes. They appointed commissioners to enquire into the way in which grants had been spent. Already in the early part of the century the lower clergy had withdrawn to Convocation, for all but exceptional occasions. There they voted their own taxes, but Parliament so commonly made its grants conditional upon corresponding action by Convocation that Archbishop Courtenay protested against this destruction of the liberty of the clergy. The king’s making statutes by assenting to the petitions of the clergy, like his making private bargains with assemblies of merchants, Parliament regarded with hostility. Yet there were effective, irregular ways of taxation and legislation, and even if Parliament were used, it was easily made the convenient instrument of the king or the magnates. It was very much open to their influence and leadership, and on occasion could be packed or overawed by armed forces.

The influence of Parliament over national policy was less clear and less direct than its influence in legislation and finance. It often shewed reluctance in committing itself to the responsibility of advising the king even when he asked it. But, on the other hand, the beginning of the practice of impeaching unpopular ministers and the demand that the principal officers of State, the council, the king’s household, or even minor administrative officials like the justices of the peace, should be nominated in Parliament indicated an interest in controlling the agents by whom policy was determined and executed. These claims met with less success than the claims to control finance and legislation.

The growth of Parliament was but one feature of fourteenth-century England. Beside Parliament the monarchy continued to develop a body of professional administrators, attached to the court and taking instruc­tions from it alone. By these men, whose whole career was in the service of the Crown, rather than by independent magnates, the king preferred to be advised, and through them he preferred to give effect to his decisions. From them came reforms in administration, and imperceptibly they came to be responsible for more and more of the government that had once been carried out by feudal machinery. The machinery of the central government was so comparatively competent and powerful that the smaller gentry came to rely on it rather than on the feudal courts, as, for example, in the wages crisis following the Black Death. The greater lords saw that their object should be to capture, not to destroy or frustrate it. We can, then, begin to discern the features of the secular State of Tudor times. As yet it was manned for the most part, at least in high offices, by churchmen; but there was a considerable and increasing society of professional lay clerks. There were signs that the State would separate itself from the Church in personnel as it was already doing in its conception of its functions. Church revenues, like churchmen, were used indirectly for national services. There was talk of direct appropriation of some Church property. The State had in fact endowed itself with power which might be used to subject the Church, if it should suit the king’s purpose and public opinion to do so. For the present it suited neither, but the begin­nings of an independent secular administration on the one side and the doctrines of the divine right of monarchy on the other formed a double basis for a challenge of the position of the Church in medieval society.

But if the practice of fourteenth-century Parliaments foreshadowed seventeenth-century claims, and if fourteenth-century administration foreshadowed the sixteenth-century State, this was not the whole of the matter. Neither the king’s administration nor the Parliament was yet to have the decisive influence in English affairs. Though feudal methods of local government might be increasingly inadequate, the way was not clear for parliamentary or monarchical rule from the centre. The magnates were still the most effective part of public opinion and their “displeasure was like a sentence of death.” The great estates were amassed by a few families. The average number of barons summoned had sunk from 74 in Edward II’s time to 43 in Edward III’s. Nor was the development of effective profes­sional administration confined to the king’s court. The greater magnates too had household services, not so much modelled on the king’s as called into being for similar purposes in similar circumstances. Moreover many of the forces employed in the Scottish and French wars, and later turned loose on England, were not in any full sense the king’s forces. The magnates raised them, and often continued to control them. Men trained in war, wearing their master’s livery, with no ties but his wages and no aim but his pleasure, were in effect so many private standing armies. In these many of the lesser gentry served as knights, and the possession of such forces enabled the magnates not merely to overawe but rather to control and use their smaller neighbours for their own purposes, to pervert the judicial machinery of the State, and to pack Parliament itself. In Edward III’s time the evil was partly undeveloped and partly hidden, but Richard II had to face it. He saw no means of controlling the new bastard feudalism except by exalting his regalie against its local influence and by imitating its methods, if possible, on a larger scale. His love of ceremony was not mere bombast; it expressed the new doctrine of monarchy based on Roman Law. In Cornwall, Wales, Cheshire, and perhaps Ireland there was a base for a private royal estate. The badge of the white hart and the use of the Cheshire archers were the only practical response to the danger that Richard could make. At the end he made a bid for annexing the Lancastrian estates to the Crown, but personal factors modified the plan and in the event Henry annexed the Crown to the Lancastrian estates. Henry V’s victories postponed the evil day, as Edward III’s had done, but Henry VI had to face in an exaggerated form the evils that had destroyed Richard II. Meanwhile, however, the full machinery of Parliament which the fourteenth century had elaborated had definitely established itself as part of the constitution of the State.

The danger from which the events of 1399 saved England was, then, scarcely a present danger; for if it checked a too impetuous king, it did nothing to check the more deep-seated evils of the new feudalism. Eng­land was in the end to be saved from those evils by an alliance of the monarchy and the lesser gentry, by a Crown exalted on doctrines of regalie and the spoils of the Church, such as the fourteenth-century kings seemed at times to be feeling after. Had Richard II succeeded as Charles V of France succeeded, it is indeed possible that the English Parliament would have collapsed beneath royal authority. From such an event the revolution of 1399 may have saved England. But this is doubtful speculation. What is clear is that the end of the fourteenth century found monarchy, magnates, and Parliament vigorous and active, but with their final posi­tions in the constitution still to be decided.

The England of Edward III and Richard II is not seen truly if it is seen only or chiefly as a country of warfare, pestilence, and rebellion. The narrative of these things must occupy the chronicler, but beside the highly coloured story of catastrophe and distress, which almost inevitably looms too large, there is another side of English life more sober, but not less important. This spendthrift age, for all its tinsel, false glitter, and war neurosis, has to its credit achievements in literature second only to the greatest, if to them. It was the age of Rolle and Wyclif, Langland and Gower, Froissart and Chaucer. It was an age that told men abundantly about its doings and its thoughts, its pieties and its frivolities, its am­bitions and its regrets, its hopes for the future and its judgments on itself. In the works of Langland and Chaucer—to name only the greatest—we have the authentic voices of the two chief sections of the English people. In Langland we have, it seems, the voice of the poor parson of the town, making articulate the conscience, the pathos, the indignation of the plain godly men who paid in their labour and their lives the monstrous price of pomp and war, revolted by the injustice, the callousness, the hypocrisy of the powerful in Church and State, but at heart conservative, lovers of old ways, suspicious of the new age, untouched by any foreign influences, the permanent substratum of English life. It is a voice from the very depth of the English countryside and the crooked little towns that hide there. In Chaucer, in sharpest contrast, we have the voice of the fashionable go-ahead world, of the society that did the king’s business and made his court brilliant. This was the society that moulded and used the men for whom Langland spoke. It was a society where the number of educated laymen was increasing, a society secular in its temper and cosmopolitan in its outlook. Its culture and its language, its codes and its interests owed hardly less to France and Italy than to English tradition. In its vivacity, in its humour, in its combination of kindliness and cynicism, as in its occasional shallowness, it represents a civilisation that was already ripe and waiting for a change. The society for which Chaucer spoke, by virtue of its close touch with France, had forced on England a full share in West European culture. England was to be a part of that West European society of nations which, as Byzantine civilisation was slowly extinguished in blood and misery, was to continue and to expand the priceless traditions of Mediterranean life.

 

 

CHAPTER XVI

WYCLIF