The History of England - From the Accession of Henry III. to the Death of Edward III. (1216-1377)
by T.F. Tout
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All was ready for war. The interview at Coblenz was the deathblow to the papal diplomacy, and the sluggish Philip awaited in the Vermandois the expected attack of the Anglo-imperial armies. Yet the best part of a year was still to elapse before lances were crossed in earnest. The lords of the empire had no real care for the cause of Edward. They were delighted to take his presents, to pledge themselves to support him, and to insist upon the regular payment of the subsidies he had promised. But John of Brabant was more intent on winning Mechlin than on invading France, and even William of Avesnes was embarrassed by the ties which bound him to Philip, his uncle, even more than to Edward, his brother-in-law. They contented themselves with taking Edward's money and giving him little save promises in return. It became evident that an imperial vicar would be obeyed even less than an emperor. Every week of delay was dangerous to Edward, who had exhausted his resources in the pompous pageantry of his Rhenish journey, and in magnificent housekeeping in Brabant. It was then Edward's interest, as it had previously been Philip's, to bring matters to a crisis. That he failed to do this must be ascribed to the lukewarmness of his allies, the poverty of his exchequer, and, above all, to the still active diplomacy of Benedict XII.

The cardinal legates appeared in Brabant, but their tone was different from that which they had taken in the previous spring in England. Profoundly irritated by the alliance of Edward and Louis, Benedict lectured the English king on the iniquity of his courses. The empire was vacant; the Coblenz grant was therefore of no effect; if Edward persisted in acting as vicar of the schismatic, he would be excommunicated. Benedict stood revealed as the partisan of France. It was in vain that Edward offered peace if France gave up the Scots and made full restitution of Gascony. Benedict ordered his legates to refuse to discuss the latter proposal, and, as the Gascon question lay at the root of the whole matter, an amicable settlement became more impossible than ever. Edward hotly defended his right to make what alliances he chose with his wife's kinsmen, and bitterly denounced the employment of the wealth of the Church in equipping the armies of his enemies. Though the cardinals, Peter and Bertrand, remained in Edward's camp, they might, for all practical purposes, as well have been at Avignon. The papal diplomacy had failed.

Edward employed the leisure forced upon him by these events in elaborating his claim to the French throne. His lawyers ransacked both Roman jurisprudence and feudal custom that they might lay before the pope and Christendom plausible reasons for their master's pretensions. They advanced pleas of an even bolder character. Was not the right of Edward to the French throne the same as that of Jesus Christ to the succession of David? The Virgin Mary, incapable of the succession on her own behalf, was yet able to transmit her rights to her Son. These contentions, sacred and profane, did not touch the vital issue. It was not the dynastic question that brought about the war, though, war being inevitable, Edward might well, as he himself said, use his claim as a buckler to protect himself from his enemies. The fundamental difference between the two nations lay in the impossible position of Edward in Gascony. He could not abandon his ancient patrimony, and Philip could not give up that policy of gradually absorbing the great fiefs which the French kings had carried on since the days of St. Louis. The support given to the Scots, the Anglo-imperial alliance, the growing national animosity of the two peoples, the rivalry of English and French merchants and sailors, all these and many similar causes were but secondary.[1] At this stage the claim to the French throne, though immensely complicating the situation, and interposing formidable technical obstacles to the conduct of negotiations, loomed larger in talk than in acts. It was only in 1340, when Edward saw in his pretensions the best way of commanding the allegiance of Philip's sworn vassals, that the question of the French title became a serious matter.

[1] Deprez, Les Preliminaires de la Guerre de Cent Am, pp. 400-406, admirably elucidates the situation.

On which side did the responsibility for the war rest? National prejudices have complicated the question. English historians have seen in the aggression of Philip in Gascony, his intervention in Scottish affairs, and the buccaneering exploits of the Norman mariners, reasons adequate to provoke the patience even of a peace-loving monarch. French writers, unable to deny these facts, have insisted upon the slowness of Philip to requite provocation, his servile deference to papal authority, his willingness to negotiate, and his dislike to take offence even at the denial of his right to the crown which he wore. Either king seems hesitating and reluctant when looked at from one point of view, and pertinaciously aggressive when regarded from the opposite standpoint. It is safer to conclude that the war was inevitable than to endeavour to apportion the blame which is so equally to be divided between the two monarchs. The modern eye singles out Edward's baseless claim and makes him the aggressor, but there was little, as the best French historians admit, in Edward's pretension that shocked the idea of justice in those days. Moreover this view, held too absolutely, is confuted by the secondary position taken by the claim during the negotiations which preceded hostilities. If in the conduct of the preliminaries we may assign to Edward the credit of superior insight, more resolute policy, and a more clearly perceived goal, the intellectual superiority, which he possessed over his rival, was hardly balanced by any special moral obliquity on his part; though to Philip, with all his weakness, must always be given the sympathy provoked by the defence of his land against the foreign invader. It is useless to refine the issue further. The situation had become impossible, and fighting was the only way out of the difficulty. When in the late summer of 1339 the curtain was rung down on the long-drawn-out diplomatic comedy, Edward had not yet finally assumed that title of King of France, which made an inevitable strife irreconcilable, and so prolonged hostilities that the struggle became the Hundred Years' War.



In the late summer of 1339 Edward III. was at last able to take the offensive against France. During the negotiations England strained every effort to provide her absent sovereign with men and money, but neither the troops nor the supplies were adequate. The army which assembled in September in the neighbourhood of Brussels consisted largely of imperial vassals, hired by the English King, and clamorous for the regular payment of their wages. Already Edward told his ministers that, had not "a good friend in Flanders" advanced him a large sum, he would have been obliged to return with shame to England. As it was, enough was raised to set the unwieldy host in motion, and on September 20 he marched from Valenciennes, and thence advanced into the bishopric of Cambrai, whose lord, though an imperial vassal, had declared for France and the papacy.

The rolling uplands of the Cambresis were devastated with fire and sword. One night an English baron took the Cardinal Bertrand, who with his comrade Peter still accompanied Edward's host, to the summit of a high tower, whence they could witness the flaming homesteads and villages of the fertile and populous district. In that woeful spectacle the churchman saw the futility of his last two years of constant labour, and fell in a swoon to the ground. But the confederates could do little more than devastate the open country. Cambrai itself was besieged to no purpose, and Edward pressed on to the invasion of France. On October g he spent his first night on French soil at the abbey of Mont Saint-Martin. He learnt how slender was the tie which bound his foreign allies to him, for his brother-in-law, William of Hainault, refused to serve, except on imperial soil, against his uncle Philip VI. Consoled for this defection by the arrival of the sluggish Duke of Brabant and of the Elector of Brandenburg, the eldest son of the emperor, Edward marched through the Vermandois, the Soissonais, and the Laonnais, burning and devastating, without meeting any serious resistance. Philip of Valois timidly held aloof in the neighbourhood of Peronne.

By the middle of October, when Edward was near St. Quentin on the Oise, the Duke of Brabant suggested the expediency of seeking out winter quarters. The slow-moving host was almost in mutiny, when the master crossbowman of the King of France brought a challenge from his lord. "Let the King of England," ran the message, "seek out a field favourable for a pitched battle, where there is neither wood, nor marsh, nor river." Edward cheerfully accepted a day for the combat, and chose his ground higher up the Oise valley, among the green meadowlands and hedgerows of the Thierache. The appointed day passed by, and the French came not. At last, when Edward almost despaired of a meeting, he was told that the French were arrayed at Buironfosse, on the plateau between the Oise and the upper Sambre, and that Philip was ready to fight the next day, Saturday, October 23. Edward once more chose a suitable field of action in a plain between La Flamangrie and Buironfosse, a league and a half from the French. "On the Saturday," wrote Edward to his son in England, "we were in the field, a full quarter of an hour before dawn, and took up our position in a fitting place to fight. In the early morning some of the enemy's scouts were taken, and they told us that his advanced guard was in battle array and coming out towards us. The news having come to our host, our allies, though they had hitherto borne themselves somewhat sluggishly, were in truth of such loyal intent that never were folk of such goodwill to fight. In the meantime one of our scouts, a knight of Germany, was taken, and he showed all our array to the enemy. Thereupon the foe withdrew his van, gave orders to encamp, made trenches around him, and cut down large trees in order to prevent us from approaching him. We tarried all day on foot in order of battle, until towards evening it seemed to our allies that we had waited long enough. And at vespers we mounted our horses and went near to Avesnes, and made him to know that we would await him there all the Sunday. On the Monday morning we had news that the lord Philip had withdrawn. And so would our allies no longer afterwards abide."

Thus ended the inglorious campaign of the Thierache. Edward returned to Brussels "like a fox to his hole," and each side denounced the other for failing to keep the appointed tryst. The chivalry of the fourteenth century saw something ignoble in the sluggishness of Philip; but no modern soldier would blame him for his inactivity. Without striking a blow, he obtained the object of his campaign, for the enemy abandoned French territory. Had Edward been fully confident of victory, he could easily have forced a battle by advancing on Buironfosse; but he preferred to run the risk of a fiasco rather than abandon the defensive tactics on which he relied. Thus, even from the chivalrous point of view, he was by no means blameless. From the material standpoint, his first French campaign was a failure. It left its only mark on the devastated countryside, the beggared peasantry, the desolated churches and monasteries, the farmsteads and villages burnt to ashes.

Edward seemed ruined both in reputation and purse. He had exhausted his resources in meeting the extravagant demands of his allies, and their help had profited him nothing at all. Yet his inexhaustible energy opened up a surer means of foreign assistance than had been supplied by the unruly vassals of Louis of Bavaria. At the moment when the imperial alliance was tried and found wanting, the way was opened up for close friendship between Edward and the Flemish cities. In earlier years the chivalrous devotion of Louis of Nevers to his overlord had secured the political dependence of Flanders upon the King of France. If the action of their count made the Flemings the tools of French policy, their commercial necessities bound them to England by chains forged by nature itself. Alone of the lands of northern and western Europe, Flanders was not a self-sufficing economic community.[1] Its great ports and weaving towns depended for their customers on foreign markets, and the raw material of their staple manufacture was mainly derived from England. When in 1337 Edward prohibited the export of wool to Flanders, his action at once brought about the same result that the cessation of the supplies of American cotton would cause in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire. A wool famine, like the Lancashire cotton famine of 1862-65, plunged Ghent, Ypres, and Bruges into grievous distress. The starving weavers wandered through the farms begging their bread, and, when charity at home proved inadequate, they exposed their rags and their misery in the chief cities of northern France. Even wealthy merchants felt the pinch of the crisis which ruined the small craftsmen.

[1] See for this Pirenne, Histoire de Belgique, vols. i. and ii., and Lamprecht, Deutsche Geschichte, iii., 304-324, and iv., 134-142.

A common desire to avoid calamity bound together the warring classes and rival districts of Flanders, as they had never been united before. Bruges and Ypres had borne the brunt of earlier struggles, and had not even yet recovered from the exhaustion of the wars of the early years of the century. Their exhaustion left the way open to Ghent, where the old patricians and the rich merchants, the weavers and the fullers, forgot their ancient rivalries and worked together to remedy the crisis. A wealthy landholder and merchant-prince of Ghent, James van Artevelde, made himself the spokesman of all classes of that great manufacturing city. He was no demagogue nor artisan, though his eloquence and force had wonderful power over the impressionable craftsmen of the trading guilds. He was no Netherlandish patriot, as some moderns have imagined, though he was anxious to unite Flanders with her neighbour states, on the broad basis of their identity of economic and political interests. A man of Ghent, above all things, his policy was to save the imperilled industries of his native town, and to make it the centre of a new movement for the vindication of commercial liberty against feudal domination. By the winter of 1337 this rich capitalist allied himself with the turbulent democracy of the weavers' guilds, and put himself at the head of affairs. Early in 1338 he began to negotiate with Edward III., and his loans to the distressed monarch had the result of removing the embargo on English wool. The famished craftsmen hailed the enemy of their class as a god who had come down from heaven for their salvation.

Louis of Nevers and Philip of Valois took the alarm. Seeing in the ascendency of Artevelde the certainty that Flanders would join the English alliance, they left no stone unturned to avoid so dire a calamity. Artevelde, conscious of the narrow basis of his own authority, was prudent enough to be moderate. Instead of pressing the English alliance to a conclusion, he accepted the suggestion of Philip VI., that Flanders should remain neutral. Louis of Nevers hated the notion; but in June, 1338, Edward and Philip agreed to recognise Flemish neutrality, and he was forced to acquiesce in it. Both monarchs promised to avoid Flemish territory, and offered free commercial relations between Flanders and their respective dominions.

Artevelde and the men of Ghent were the real masters of Flanders. They kept their count in scarcely veiled captivity, forcing him to wear the Flemish colours and to profess acceptance of the policy that he disliked. In such circumstances the neutrality of Flanders could not last long. Both Edward and Artevelde regarded it simply as a step towards a declared alliance. Before long Philip became uneasy, and lavished concession on concession to keep the dominant party true to its promises. He gave up the degrading conditions which since the treaty of Athis had secured the subjection of Flanders. But Edward could offer more than his rival. He proposed to the count and the "good towns" of Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres that, in return for their alliance, he would aid them to win back the towns of Lille, Douai, Bethune, and Tournai, which the French king had usurped from the Flemings, as well as the county of Artois, which had been separated from Flanders since the days of Philip Augustus. He also offered ample commercial privileges, the establishment of the staple of wool at Bruges as well as at Antwerp, free trade for Flemish cloth with the English markets, and a good and fixed money which was to be legal tender in Flanders, Brabant, France, and England. The Flemings demanded in return that Edward, by formally assuming the title of King of France, should stand to them as their liege lord, and thus free themselves and their count from the ecclesiastical penalties and dishonour involved in their waging war against a king of France. Late in 1339, these terms were mutually accepted, and Count Louis avoided further humiliations by flight into France.

In January, 1340, Edward entered Flemish territory and was magnificently entertained in the abbey of Saint Bavon at Ghent. "The three towns of Flanders," declared Artevelde to his guest, "are ready to recognise you as their sovereign lord, provided that you engage yourself to defend them." The deputies of the three towns took oaths to Edward as their suzerain, and thereupon Edward was proclaimed King of France with much ceremony in the Friday market of Ghent. A new great seal was fashioned and new royal arms assumed, in which the lilies of France were quartered with the leopards of England. The new regnal year of Edward, which began on January 25, was styled the fourteenth of his reign in England, and the first of his reign in France. Urgent affairs called Edward back to his kingdom, but his debts to the Flemings were already so heavy that they only consented to his departure on his pledging himself to return before Michaelmas day, and on his leaving as hostages his queen, his two sons, and two earls. At last, on February 20, he crossed over from Sluys to Orwell. He had been absent from home for nearly a year and a half.

From February 21 to June 22, 1340, Edward remained in England. During that period, formal treaties with the Flemings confirmed the hasty negotiations of Ghent. Benedict XII, still pursued Edward with remonstrances. He warned the English king to have no trust in allies like the Flemings, who had shamefully driven away their natural lords and whose faithlessness and inconstancy were by-words. He told him that his strength was not enough to conquer France, and reproached him with calling himself king of a land of which he possessed nothing. Somewhat inconsistently, he offered his mediation between Edward and Philip. But Philip was only less weary than Edward of the self-seeking pontiff. Benedict was forced to drink the cup of humiliation, for after the rejection of his mediation, he was confronted with a proposal that the schismatic Bavarian should arbitrate between the two crowns. Meanwhile, after many delays, Edward embarked a gallant army on a fleet of 200 ships, and on June 22 a favourable west wind bore them from the Orwell towards Flanders. On arriving next day off Blankenberghe, he learned that a formidable French squadron was anchored in the mouth of the Zwyn, and that he could only land in Flanders as the reward of victory.

From the outbreak of hostilities in 1337, there had been a good deal of fighting by sea, and in the first stages of warfare the advantage lay with the French. Since the days of Edward I., and Philip the Fair, the maritime energies of the two countries had developed at an almost equal rate, and the parallel growth had been marked by bitter rivalry between the seamen of the two nations. The Normans had taken the leading share in this expansion of the French navy.[1] They welcomed the outbreak of war with enthusiasm, as giving them a chance of measuring their forces with their hated foes. Alone among the provinces of France, Normandy seems already to have experienced that intense national bitterness against the English which was soon to spread to all the rest of the country. Not content with the vigorous war of corsairs which had inflicted so much mischief on our southern coast and on English shipping, the Normans formed bold designs of a new Norman Conquest of England, and in return for the permanent establishment of the local estates of Normandy, agreed with Philip and his son John, who bore the title of Duke of Normandy, to equip a large fleet and army, with which England was to be invaded in the summer of 1339. Normandy, which monopolised the glory, was to monopolise the spoil. If England were conquered, Duke John, like Duke William before him, was to be King of England as well as Duke of Normandy. Thus the aggressions of Edward in France were to be answered by Norman aggressions in England.[2]

[1] C. de la Ronciere, Hist, de la Marine Francaise; of. Nicolas, Hist, of the Royal Navy.

[2] See on this subject A. Coville, Les Etats de Normandie, pp. 41-52 (1894).

Nothing came of this grandiose project, though the burning ruins of Southampton, the capture of the great Christopher, which had borne Edward in 1338 to Antwerp, and the occupation of the Channel Islands—the last remnants of the old duchy still under English rule—showed that the Normans were in earnest. The chief result of their energy was the equipment of the strongest French fleet that had ever been seen in the Channel. Though a few Genoese galleys under Barbavera and a few great Spanish ships swelled the number of the armada, 160 of the 200 ships that formed the fleet were Norman.[1] Of the two Frenchmen in command, one, Hugh Quieret, was a Picard knight, but the other, the more popular, was Nicholas Behuchet, a Norman of humble birth, then a knight and the chief confidant of Philip VI. Quieret and Behuchet had long challenged the command of the narrow seas. But for their error of dividing their forces and preferring a piratical war of reprisals, they might have cut off communications between England and the Netherlands. They had learnt wisdom by experience, and their ships were massed in Zwyn harbour to prevent the passage of Edward to his new allies.

[1] S. Luce, La Marine normande a l'Ecluse, in La France pendant la Guerre de Cent Ans, 3-31.

The coast-line between Blankenberghe and the mouth of the Scheldt was strangely different in the fourteenth century from what it is at present.[1] The sandy flats, through which the Zwyn now trickles to the sea, formed a large open harbour, accessible to the biggest ships then known. It was protected on the north by the island of Cadzand, the scene of Manny's exploit in 1337, while at its head stood the town of Sluys, so called from the locks, or sluices, that regulated the waters of the ship canal, which bore to the great mart of Bruges the merchantmen of every land. It was in this harbour that Edward, on arriving off Blankenberghe, first spied the fleet of Quieret and Behuchet. He anchored at sea for the night, and on the afternoon of June 24, the anniversary of Bannockburn, he bore down on the French, having the sun, the tide, and the wind in his favour. On his approach Barbavera urged that the French should take to the open sea; but Quieret and Behuchet preferred to fight in the harbour. As an unsatisfactory compromise, however, the French moved a mile or so towards the enemy. Then they lashed their ships together and awaited attack.

[1] For this see Professor Tait's inset map of the district in Oxford Historical Atlas, plate lvi.

The English, unable to break the serried mass of their enemies, feigned a retreat, whereupon the Normans unlashed their ships and hurried in pursuit into the open water. At once the English turned and met them. The battle began when the English admiral, Robert Morley, lay alongside the Christopher, which, after its capture, had been taken into the enemy's service. Soon the ships of both fleets were closely grappled together in a fierce hand-to-hand fight which lasted until after nightfall. The desperate eagerness of the combatants strangely contrasted with the slackness of the campaign in the Thierache. "This battle," says Froissart, "was right fierce and horrible, for battles by sea are more dangerous and fiercer than battles by land, for at sea there is no retreat nor fleeing; there is no remedy but to fight and abide fortune, and every man to show his prowess." In the end the English won an overwhelming victory, which was completed next morning after more hard fighting. During the night Barbavera and his Genoese put to sea and escaped, but the magnificent Norman fleet was in the hands of the victor. The English loss was small, though it included Thomas of Monthermer, a son of Joan of Acre, and Edward himself was wounded in the thigh. The Norman force was almost annihilated. Quieret fell mortally wounded into Edward's hands; Behuchet was captured unhurt. A later Norman legend tells how Behuchet, when brought before the English king, answered some taunt by boxing the king's ears, whereupon the angry monarch hanged him forthwith from the mast of his ship.[1] But the tradition is unsupported by English authorities, and, with all his faults, Edward was not the man to deal thus with a captive knight who had fought his best. Master at last of the sea, Edward landed at Sluys amidst the rejoicings of the Flemings, and made his way to Ghent, where he greeted his wife, and first saw his infant son John, born during his absence, to whom Artevelde stood as godfather.

[1] Luce, Le Soufflet de l'Ecluse, in La Frame pendant la Guerre de Cent Ans, 2nd serie, pp. 3-15.

Edward's military fame was established over all Europe, and, says the Flemish writer, John van Klerk, "all who spoke the German tongue rejoiced at the defeat of the French". Yet the victory at Sluys was the prelude to a land campaign as ineffective as the raid into the Thierache. Eager to restore their lost lands to the Flemings, Edward made the mistake of dividing his army. He sent Robert of Artois to effect the reconquest of Artois, while he himself besieged Tournai, which was then in French hands. Robert's attempt to win back the lands of his ancestors was a sorry failure. Defeated outside Saint Omer, he was unable even to invest that town. Almost equally unsuccessful was Edward's siege of Tournai, which resisted with such energy that he was soon at the end of his resources. At last, in despair, Edward challenged Philip VI. to decide their claim to France by single combat. The Valois answered that he would gladly do so if, in the event of his winning, he might obtain Edward's kingdom. In the same spirit of caution, Philip tarried half-way between Saint Omer and Tournai, watching both armies and afraid to strike at either. The armies wore themselves out in this game of waiting until the widowed Countess of Hainault, then abbess of the Cistercian nuns of Fontenelles, was moved by the desolation of the country to intervene between the two kings. The mother of the Queen of England and the sister of the King of France, she succeeded not only by reason of her prayers, but through the refusal of the Duke of Brabant, the Count of Hainault, and the other imperial vassals to remain longer at the war. On September 25, 1340, a truce was signed at the solitary chapel of Esplechin, situated in the open country a little south of Tournai. By it hostilities between both kings and their respective allies were suspended, until midsummer day, 1341. Each king was to enjoy the lands actually in his possession, and commerce was to be carried on as if peace had been made. The most significant clause of the truce was that by which both kings pledged themselves that they "procure not that any innovation be done by the Church of Rome, or by others of Holy Church on either of the said kings. And if our most holy father the pope will do that, the two kings shall prevent it, so far as in them lies."

The truce of Esplechin, renewed until 1345, put an end to the first, or Netherlandish, period of the Hundred Years' War. The imperial alliance, which had failed Edward, was soon to be solemnly dissolved. Early in 1341, Louis of Bavaria revoked Edward's vicariate, and announced his intention of becoming henceforth the friend of his uncle, the King of France. This alliance between Philip and Louis completed the discomfiture of Benedict XII. In 1342 he died, and his successor was Peter Roger, the sometime Archbishop of Rouen, who assumed the title of Clement VI. By persuading Brabant and Hainault to be neutral between France and England, the new pontiff broke up the last remnant of the Anglo-imperial alliance. Even Flanders and England became estranged. Artevelde, who found it a hard matter to govern Flanders after the truce, would willingly have supported Edward. But Edward had henceforth less need of Artevelde than Artevelde had of him. In 1345 Edward again appeared at Sluys and had an interview with him, and then returned to his own country without setting foot on Flemish soil. Artevelde soon afterwards met his death in a popular tumult. His family fled to England, where they lived on a pension from Edward. This was the end of the Anglo-Flemish alliance.

After the treaty of Esplechin, Edward returned to Ghent. The conclusion of military operations was a signal to all his creditors to clamour for immediate settlement of their debts. Neither subsidies nor wool came from England, though the king wrote in piteous terms to his council. Edward was convinced that the real cause of his failure was the remissness of the home government, and resolved to wreak his vengeance on his ministers. He was encouraged to this effect by Bishop Burghersh, who still remembered his old feuds with Archbishop Stratford, and may well have believed that the archbishop, who had a financier's dread of war, had wilfully ruined his rival's diplomacy. But Edward dared not openly return to England, for his Flemish creditors regarded his personal presence as the best security for his debts. He was therefore reduced to the pitiful expedient of running away from them. One day he rode out of Ghent on the pretext of taking exercise, and hurried secretly and without escort to Sluys. Thence he took ship for England, and, after a tempestuous voyage of three days and nights, sailed up the Thames, and landed at the Tower on November 30, 1340, after nightfall. At cockcrow next morning, he summoned his ministers before him, denounced them as false traitors and drove them all from office. The judges were thrown into prison, and with them some of the leading merchants, including William de la Pole of Hull. A special commission, like that of 1289, scrutinised the acts of the royal officials throughout the kingdom, and exacted heavy fines from the many who were found wanting. Nothing but fear of provoking the wrath of the Church prevented Edward from consigning to prison the dismissed chancellor, Robert Stratford, Bishop of Chichester, and the late treasurer, Roger Northburgh, Bishop of Coventry. Their successors were lay knights, the new chancellor, Sir Robert Bourchier, being the first keeper of the great seal who was not a clerk.

Earlier in the year the king had quarrelled with Archbishop Stratford, who resigned the chancellorship. But before Edward sailed from Orwell in June there had been a partial reconciliation, and the king left Stratford president of the council during his absence. When his brother and colleagues were dismissed, the archbishop was at Charing. Conscious that he was the chief object of Edward's vengeance, he at once took sanctuary with the monks of his cathedral. Every effort was made to drag him from his refuge. Some Louvain merchants, to whom he had bound himself for the king's debts, demanded that he should be surrendered to their custody until the money was paid. He was summoned to court and afterwards to parliament. But he prudently remained safe within the walls of Christ Church, and preached a course of sermons to the monks, in which he compared himself to St. Thomas of Canterbury, and hinted at the danger of his incurring his prototype's fate. Edward replied to this challenge by a lengthy pamphlet, called the libellus famosus. The violence and unmeasured terms of the tractate suggest the hand of Bishop Orleton, Stratford's lifelong foe, who had by Burghersh's recent death become the most prominent of the courtly prelates. The archbishop was declared to be the sole cause of the king's failures. He had left Edward without funds, and in trusting to him the king had leant on a broken reed. Stratford justified himself in another sermon in which he invited inquiry and demanded trial by his peers.

Edward so far relented as to issue letters of safe-conduct enabling the archbishop to attend the parliament summoned for April 23, 1341. But when Stratford took his place, the king refused to meet him, and ordered him to answer in the exchequer the complaints brought against him. The lords upheld the primate's cause, and declared that in no circumstances could a peer of parliament be brought to trial elsewhere than in full parliament. Edward's fury abated when he saw that he would get no grant unless he gave way. He restored Stratford to his favour, and acceded to his request that he should answer in parliament and not in the exchequer. The childish controversy ended with the personal victory of the primate and the formal re-assertion of the important principle of trial by peers. But not even then was Edward able to get a subsidy. He was further forced to embody in the statute of the year the doctrines that auditors of the accounts of the royal officers should be elected in parliament, and that all ministers should be chosen by the king, after consultation with his estates, and should resign their offices at each meeting of parliament and be prepared to answer all complaints before it.

Thus the fallen minister brought the estates the greatest triumph over the prerogative won during Edward's reign. Before long Edward was magnanimous enough to resume friendly relations with him, but he was never suffered to take a prominent part in politics. He died in 1348, after spending his later years in the business of his see. It was a strange irony of fate that this worldly and politic ecclesiastic should have perforce become the champion of the rights of the Church and the liberties of the nation. His victory established a remarkable solidarity between the high ecclesiastical party and the popular opposition, which was to last nearly as long as the century. Disgust at this alliance moved Edward to take up the anti-clerical attitude which henceforth marks the policy of the crown until the accession of the house of Lancaster.

The victory of the estates of 1341 was too complete to last. For a medieval king to hand over the business of government to a nominated ministry was in substance a return to the state of things in 1258 or 1312. Edward was not the sort of man to endure the thraldom that his father and great-grandfather had both found intolerable. Even at the moment of sealing the statute, he and his ministers protested that they were not bound to observe laws contrary to the constitution of the realm. Five months later, on October 1, 1341, the king issued letters, revoking the laws of the previous session. "We have never," he impudently declared, "really given our consent to the aforesaid pretended statute. But inasmuch as our rejecting it would have dissolved parliament in confusion, without any business having been transacted, and so all our affairs would have been ruined, we dissembled, as was our duty, and allowed the pretended statute to be sealed." For more than two years he did not venture to face a parliament, but the next gathering of the estates in April, 1343, repealed the offensive acts of 1341. Parliament was so reluctant to ratify the king's high-handed action, that he did not venture to ask it for any extraordinary grant of money. The only other important act of this parliament was a petition from lords and commons, urging the king to check the claims of a French pope, friendly to the "tyrant of France," to exercise ever-increasing rights of patronage over English benefices. The anti-clerical tide was still flowing.

Before parliament met in 1343, the French war had been renewed on another pretext. A new source of trouble arose in a disputed succession to the duchy of Brittany. The duke John III., the grandson of John II. and Edward I.'s sister Beatrice, died in April, 1341. He left no legitimate children, and his succession was claimed by his half-brother, John of Montfort, and his niece Joan of Penthievre. Montfort, the son of Duke Arthur II. by his second wife, had inherited from his mother the Norman county of Montfort l'Amaury, which became her possession as the representative on the spindle side of the line of Simon de Montfort the Albigensian crusader. Joan was the daughter of Guy, John III.'s brother of the full blood, in whose favour the great county of Penthievre-Treguier, including the whole of the north coast of the duchy from the river of Morlaix to within a few miles of the Rance, had been dissociated from the demesne and reconstituted as an appanage.[1] The heiress of Penthievre thus ruled directly over nearly a sixth of Brittany, and her power was further strengthened by her marriage with Charles of Blois, who, though a younger son, enjoyed great influence as the sister's son of Philip VI., and also by reason of his simple, saintly, honourable, and martial character. The house of Penthievre not only stood to Brittany as the house of Lancaster stood to England, as the natural head of the higher nobility; it also enjoyed the favour and protection of the French king, who was ever anxious to find friends among the chief sub-tenants of his great vassals. Against so formidable an opponent John of Montfort could only secure his rights by promptitude. Accordingly he made his way to Nantes and, receiving a warm welcome from his burgesses, proclaimed himself duke. Very few of the great feudatories threw in their lot with him. His strength was in the petty noblesse, the townsmen, and the enthusiasm of the Celtic population of La Bretagne bretonnante, which made Leon, Cornouailles, and Vannes the strongholds of his cause. Yet the Penthievre influence took with it the Breton-speaking inhabitants of the diocese of Treguier, and the piety of Charles made the clergy, and especially the friars, devoted to him.

[1] On the importance of Penthievre, see A. de la Borderie, La Geographie feodale de la Bretagne (1889), pp. 60-65.

The fight was not waged in Brittany only. Montfort had to contend against the general sentiment of the French nobility and the strong interest and affection which bound Philip VI. to uphold the claims of Charles of Blois. After a few months the parliament of Paris decided in favour of the king's nephew against Montfort. Charles's wife was the nearest heir of the deceased duke, and had therefore a prior claim over her uncle. Montfort urged in vain that the superior rights of the male, which had made the Count of Valois King of France, equally gave the Count of Montfort the duchy of Brittany. He had to fight for his duchy. John, Duke of Normandy, the heir of France, marched to Brittany with a strong force, to secure the establishment of his cousin in accordance with the decree of parliament. The union of the royal troops, with the levies of Penthievre and the great feudatories of Brittany, was too powerful a combination to withstand. Montfort was shut up in Nantes, was forced to capitulate, and sent prisoner to Paris. His place was taken by his wife, Joan of Flanders, a daughter of Louis of Nevers. This lady shewed "the heart of a man and of a lion," as Froissart says. Her efforts, however, did not prevail against her formidable enemies. Bit by bit she was driven from one stronghold to another, until at last she was closely besieged in Hennebont by Charles of Blois. Before that, she had recognised Edward as King of France, and offered him the homage of her husband and son. Edward III. readily took up the cause of Montfort. He recked little of the inconsistency involved in the prince, who claimed France through his mother, supporting in Brittany a duke, whose pretensions were based upon grounds similar to the claim advanced by Philip of Valois on the French throne. As in Flanders, he found two rival nations contending in the bosom of a single French fief. He at once supported the Celtic party in Brittany as he had supported the Flemish party in Flanders. Both his allies had the same enemies in feudalism, the French monarchy, and the pretensions of high clericalism. Afraid to renew the attack in France without allies, Edward welcomed the support of the Montfort party, as giving him a chance of renewing his assaults on his adversary of Valois. He invested Montfort with the earldom of Richmond, of which John III had died possessed. He sent Sir Walter Manny with a force sufficient to raise the siege of Hennebont. The heroic Joan of Flanders was almost at the end of her resources, when on an early June morning, in 1342, she espied the white sails of Manny's fleet working its way from the sea up the estuary of the Blavet, which bathes the walls of Hennebont. After the arrival of the English, Charles of Blois abandoned the siege in despair. For the rest of the year the war was waged on a more equal footing. In August Edward sent to Brest an additional force under William Bohun, Earl of Northampton, who attempted, though with little success, to invade the domains of the house of Penthievre. A hard-won victory against great odds near Morlaix was made memorable by Northampton's first applying the tactics of Halidon Hill to a pitched battle on the continent.[1] But the earl's troops were so few that they were forced to withdraw after their success into more friendly regions. Leon and Cornouailles then resumed allegiance to the house of Montfort. In the midst of the struggle Robert of Artois received a wound which soon ended his tempestuous career.

[1] Baker, p.76, gives the place, Knighton, ii., 25, the details. See also my note in Engl. Hist. Review, xix. (1904), 713-15.

Edward was eager to enter the field in person. Since his return to England in 1340, his only military experience had been a luckless winter campaign in the Lothians against King David. In October, 1342, he left the Duke of Cornwall as warden of England during his absence, and took ship at Sandwich for Brittany. He remained in the country until the early months of 1343, raiding the land from end to end, receiving many of the greater barons into his obedience, and striving in particular to conquer the regions included in the modern department of the Morbihan. There he besieged Vannes, the strongest and largest city of Brittany, says Froissart, after Nantes. The triumphs of his rival at last brought Philip VI. into Brittany. While Edward laboriously pursued the siege of Vannes, amidst the hardships of a wet and stormy winter, Philip watched his enemy from Ploermel, a few miles to the north. For a third time the situation of Buironfosse and Tournai was renewed. The rivals were within striking distance, but once more both Edward and Philip were afraid to strike. History still further repeated itself; for the cardinal-bishops of Palestrina and Frascati, sent by Clement VI. to end the struggle, travelled from camp to camp with talk of peace. The sufferings of both armies gave the kings a powerful reason for listening to their advances. At last, on January 19, 1343, a truce for nearly four years was signed at Malestroit, midway between Ploermel and Vannes, "in reverence of mother church, for the honour of the cardinals, and that the parties shall be able to declare their reasons before the pope, not for the purpose of rendering a judicial decision, but in order to make a better peace and treaty". Scotland and the Netherlands were included in the truce, and it was agreed that each belligerent should continue in the enjoyment of the territories which he held at the moment. Vannes, the immediate apple of discord, was put into the hands of the pope.

The spring of 1343 saw Edward back in England. The scene of interest shifted to the papal court at Avignon, where ambassadors from Edward and Philip appeared to declare their masters' rights. The protracted negotiations were lacking in reality. The English, distrusting Clement as a French partisan, did their best to complicate the situation by complaints against papal provisions in favour of aliens "not having knowledge of the tongue nor condition of those whose governance and care should belong to them". English indignation rose higher when, despite the terms of the truce and the promise of the cardinals, Montfort remained immured in his French prison, while Breton nobles of his faction were kidnapped and put to death by Philip. Clement declared himself against Edward's claims to the French throne, and, long before the negotiations had reached a formal conclusion, it was clear that nothing would come of them. At last in 1345 the English King denounced the truce and prepared to renew the war. His first concern was, necessarily finance, and he had already exhausted all his resources as a borrower. The financial difficulties, which had stayed his career in the Netherlands five years before, had reached their culmination. Stratford was avenged for the outrages of 1340, for Edward was in worse embarrassments than on that winter night when the glare of torches illuminated the sovereign's sudden return to the Tower. The king's Netherlandish, Rhenish, and Italian creditors would trust him no longer and vainly clamoured for the repayment of their advances. "We grieve," he was forced to reply to the Cologne magistrates, "nay, we blush, that we are unable to meet our obligations at the due time." Edward's anxiety to prepare for fresh campaigns made him careless as to his former obligations. His wholesale neglect to repay his debts drove the great banking houses of the Bardi and the Peruzzi into bankruptcy, and the failure of the English king's creditors plunged all Florence into deep distress. One good result came from the king's dishonour. The foreign sources of supply having dried up, Edward was forced to lean more exclusively upon his English subjects. A wealthy family of Hull merchants, recently transferred to London, became very flourishing. Its head, William de la Pole, who had financed every government scheme since the days of Mortimer, became a knight, a judge, a territorial magnate, and the first English merchant to found a baronial house. And as the credit of the English merchants was limited, Edward was forced more and more to rely upon parliamentary grants. The memory of the king's want of faith to the estates of 1341 had died away, and a parliament, which met in 1344, once more made Edward liberal contributions. Secure of his subjects' support, the frivolous king largely employed his resources in the chivalrous pageantry which stirred up the martial ardour of his barons and made the war popular. It was then that he resolved to set up a "round table" at Windsor after the fabled fashion of King Arthur. From this came the foundation of the Round Tower which Edward was to erect in his favourite abode, and the organised chivalry that was soon to culminate in the Order of the Garter. In the summer of 1345 Edward made that journey to Sluys, which has already been noted, and he held on ship-board his last interview with James van Artevelde. His immediate return to England showed that he had no mind to renew his Flemish alliances. In the same year the death of the queen's brother, William of Avesnes, established the rule of Louis of Bavaria in the three counties of Holland, Zealand, and Hainault in the right of his wife, Philippa's elder sister. Edward put in a claim on behalf of his queen, which further embittered his already uneasy relations with Louis, and led him to seek his field of combat anywhere rather than in the Netherlands. In Brittany the murder of the nobles of Montfort's faction had given an excuse for the renewal of partisan warfare as early as 1343, but Montfort was still under surveillance in France, even after his release from Philip's prison, and Joan of Flanders, the heroic defender of Hennebont, was hopelessly insane in England. At last in 1345 Montfort ventured to flee from France to England, where he did homage to Edward as King of France for the duchy which he claimed. He then went to Brittany, and there shortly afterwards died. The new Duke of Brittany, also named John, was a mere boy when he was thus robbed of both his parents' care, and his cause languished for want of a head. Edward took upon himself the whole direction of Brittany as tutor of the little duke. Northampton was once more sent thither, but for a time the war degenerated into sieges of castles and petty conflicts.

While action was thus impracticable in the Netherlands, and ineffective in Brittany, Gascony became, for the first time during the struggle, the scene of military operations of the first rank. The storm of warfare had hitherto almost spared the patrimony of the English king in southern France. No great effort was made either by the French to capture the last bulwarks of the Aquitanian inheritance, or by Edward to extend his duchy to its ancient limits. Cut off from other fields of expansion, Edward threw his chief energies into the enlargement of his power in southern France. He won over many of those Gascon nobles, including the powerful lord of Albret, who had been alienated by his former indifference. All was ready for action, and in June, 1345, Henry of Grosmont, Earl of Derby, the eldest son of Henry of Lancaster, landed at Bayonne with a sufficient English force to encourage the lords of Gascony to rally round the ducal banner. Soon after his landing, the death of his blind father made Derby Earl of Lancaster. During the next eighteen months, the earl successfully led three raids into the heart of the enemies' territory.[1] The first, begun very soon after his landing, occupied the summer of 1345. Advancing from Libourne, the limit of the Anglo-Gascon power, Henry made his way up the Dordogne, a fleet of boats co-operating with his land forces. He took the important town of Bergerac, and thence, mounting the stream as far as Lalinde, he crossed the hills separating the Dordogne from the Isle, and unsuccessfully assaulted Perigueux. Thence he advanced still further, and captured the stronghold of Auberoche, dominating the rocky valley of the Auvezere. Leaving a garrison at Auberoche, Henry returned to his base, but upon his withdrawal the French closely besieged his conquest, and the earl made a sudden move to its relief. On October 21 he won a brisk battle outside the walls of Auberoche before the more sluggish part of his army had time to reach the scene of action. This famous exploit again established the Gascon duke in Perigord.

[1] For these campaigns, see Ribadieu, Les Campagnes du Comte de Derby en Guyenne, Saintonge et Poitou (1865).

Early in 1346 the victor of Auberoche led his forces up the Garonne valley. La Reole, lost since 1325, was taken in January, and thence Earl Henry marched to the capture of many a town and fortress on the Garonne and the lower Lot. His most important acquisition was Aiguillon, commanding the junction of the Lot and the Garonne, for its possession opened up the way for the reconquest of the Agenais, the rich fruit of the last campaign of Charles of Valois. Duke John of Normandy then appeared upon the scene, and Henry of Lancaster withdrew before him to the line of the Dordogne. Aiguillon stood a siege from April to August, when the Duke of Normandy, then at the end of his resources, solicited a truce. News having come to Lancaster at Bergerac that Edward had begun his memorable invasion of Normandy, he contemptuously rejected the proposal. Before long, Duke John raised the siege and hurried to his father's assistance. Thereupon Lancaster returned to the Garonne and revictualled Aiguillon. Immediately after he started on his third raid. This time he bent his steps northwards, and late in September was at Chateauneuf on the Charente, whence he threatened Angouleme, and finally obtained its surrender. Crossing the Charente, he entered French Saintonge, where the important town of Saint-Jean-d'Angely opened its gates and took oaths to Edward as duke and king. Then he boldly dashed into the heart of Poitou, marching by Lusignan to Poitiers. "We rode before the city," wrote Lancaster, "and summoned it, but they would do nothing. Thereupon on the Wednesday after Michaelmas we stormed the city, and all those within were taken or slain. And the lords that were within fled away on the other side, and we tarried full eight days. Thus we have made a fair raid, God be thanked, and are come again to Saint-Jean, whence we propose to return to Bordeaux." This exploit ended Lancaster's Gascon career. In January, 1347, he was back in England, having restored the reputation of his king in Gascony, and set an example of heroism soon to be emulated by his cousin, the Black Prince.

Edward resolved to take the field in person in the summer of 1346. Special efforts were made to equip the army, and lovers of ancient precedent were dismayed when the king called upon all men of property to equip archers, hobblers, or men-at-arms, according to their substance, that they might serve abroad at the king's wages. But the nation responded to the king's call, and a host of some 2,400 cavalry and 10,000 archers and other infantry collected at Portsmouth between Easter and the early summer.[1] There were the usual delays of a medieval muster, and it was not until July was well begun that Edward, having constituted his second son Lionel of Antwerp, a boy of six, as regent, took ship at Portsmouth with his eldest son, then sixteen years of age, and, since 1343, Prince of Wales as well as Duke of Cornwall. The destination of the army was a secret, but Edward's original idea seems to have been to join Henry of Lancaster in Gascony, though we may well believe that the resources of medieval transport were hardly adequate to convey so large a force for so great a distance. Moreover, a persistent series of south-westerly winds prohibited all attempts to round the Breton peninsula, while Godfrey of Harcourt, a Norman lord who had incurred the wrath of Philip VI. and had been driven into exile, persistently urged on Edward the superior attractions of his native coast. When the fleet set sail from Portsmouth, it was directed to follow in the admiral's track; and as soon as the open sea was gained, the ships were instructed to make their way to the Cotentin. On July 12 the English army reached Saint-Vaast de la Hougue, and spent five days in disembarking and ravaging the neighbourhood.[2] Immediately on landing, Edward dubbed the Prince of Wales a knight, along with other young nobles, one of whom was Roger Mortimer, the grandson and heir of the traitor Earl of March. At last, on July 18, the English army began to move by slow stages to the south. It met with little resistance, and plundered and burnt the rich countryside at its discretion. The English marvelled at the fertility of the country and the size and wealth of its towns. Barfleur was as big as Sandwich, Carentan reminded them of Leicester, Saint-Lo was the size of Lincoln, and Caen was more populous than any English city save London.

[1] On the details of this force, see Wrottesley, Crecy and Calais, in Collections for a History of Staffordshire, vol. xviii. (1897); cf. J.E. Morris in Engl. Hist. Review, xiv., 766-69.

[2] Besides the sources for this campaign mentioned in Sir E.M. Thompson, Chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker, pp. 252-57, the disregarded Acta bellicosa Edwardi, etc., published in Moisant, Le Prince Noir en Aquitaine, pp. 157-74, from a Corpus Christi Coll. Cambridge MS., should be mentioned. It has first been utilised in H. Pientout's valuable paper, La prise de Caen par Edouard III. en 1346, in Memoires de l'Academie de Caen (1904).

It was only at Caen that any real resistance was encountered. On July 26 Edward's soldiers entered the northern quarter of the town without opposition, to find the fortified enclosures of the two great abbeys of William the Conqueror and his queen undefended and desolate, the grand bourg, the populous quarter round the church of St. Peter open to them, and only the castle in the extreme north garrisoned. Caen was not a walled town, and the defenders preferred to limit themselves to holding the southern quarter, the Ile Saint-Jean, which lay between the district of St. Peter's and the river Orne, but was cut off from the rest by a branch of the Orne that ran just south of St. Peter's church. There was sharp fighting at the bridge which commanded access to the island; but the English archers prepared the way, and then the men-at-arms completed the work. After a determined conflict, the Island of St. John was captured, and its chief defenders, the Count of Eu, Constable of France, and the lord of Tancarville, the chamberlain, were taken prisoners. Meanwhile the English fleet, which had devastated the whole coast from Cherbourg to Ouistreham, arrived off the mouth of the Orne, laden with plunder and eager to get back home with its spoils. Edward thought it prudent to avoid a threatened mutiny by ordering the ships to recross the Channel, and take with them the captives and the loot which he had amassed at Caen. During a halt of five days at Caen, Edward discovered a copy of the agreement made between the Normans and King Philip for the invasion of England eight years before. This also he despatched to England, where it was read before the Londoners by the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to show that the aggression was not all on one side.

On July 31, Edward resumed his eastward march. At Lisieux, the next important stage, came the inevitable two cardinals with their inevitable proposals of mediation, which Edward put aside with scant civility. The army was soon once more on the move, and on August 7 struck the Seine at Elbeuf, a few miles higher up the river than Rouen. Here Edward was at last in touch with his enemy. During the English march through lower Normandy, Philip VI. had assembled a considerable army, with which he occupied the Norman capital. Nothing but the Seine and a few miles of country separated the two forces. But as at Buironfosse, at Tournai, and at Vannes, the French declined to attack, and Edward would not depart from his tradition of acting on the defensive. The English slowly made their way up the left bank of the Seine, avoiding the stronger castles and walled towns, and devastating the open country. The French followed them on the right bank, carefully watching their movements, and breaking all the bridges. So things went until, on August 13, Edward reached Poissy, a town within fifteen miles of the capital.

The English advanced troops plundered up to the walls of Paris, whose citizens, watching in terror the flames that made lurid the western sky, implored their king to come to their help. From Saint-Denis Philip issued a challenge to Edward to meet him in the open field on a fixed day, Edward, however, was not to be tempted by such appeals to his chivalry. The day after Philip's message was sent, he repaired the bridge at Poissy, crossed the Seine, sent a stinging reply to Philip's letter, and moved rapidly northwards. Avoiding Pontoise, Beauvais, and other towns, he was soon within a few miles of the Somme. Long marching had fatigued his army, and he resolved to retreat to the Flemish frontier. The French soon followed him by a route some miles further towards the east. They reached the Somme earlier than the English, and were pouring into Amiens and Abbeville, while Edward's scouts were vainly seeking for an unguarded passage over the river. If the Somme could not be crossed, there was every chance of Edward's war-worn army being driven into a corner at Saint-Valery, between the broad and sandy estuary of the Somme and the open sea. When affairs had become thus critical, local guides revealed to the English a way across the estuary, where a white band of chalk, called the Blanche taque, cropping out of the sandy river bed, forms a hard, practicable ford from one bank of the river to the other. "Then," writes an official reporter, "the King of England and his host took that water of the Somme, where never man passed before without loss, and fought their enemies, and chased them right up to the gate of Abbeville." That night Edward and his troops slept on the outskirts of the forest of Crecy. After traversing this, they took up a strong position on the northern side of the wood on Saturday, August 26. There, in the heart of his grandmother's inheritance of Ponthieu, Edward elected to make a stand, and, for the first time in all their campaigning, Philip felt sufficient confidence to engage in an offensive battle against his rival.

Ponthieu is a land of low chalk downs, open fields, and dense woods, broken by valleys, through which the small streams that water it trickle down to the sea, and by the waterless depressions characteristic of a chalk country. The village of Crecy-en-Ponthieu is situated on the north bank of the little river Maye. Immediately to the east of the village, a lateral depression, running north and south, called the Vallee aux Clercs, falls down into the Maye valley, and is flanked with rolling downs, perhaps 150 to 200 feet in height. On the summit of the western slopes of this valley, Edward stationed his army. Its right was held by the first of the three traditional "battles," under the personal command of the young Prince of Wales. Its front and right flank were protected by the hill, while still further to the right lay Crecy village embowered in its trees, beyond which the dense forest formed an excellent protection from attack. The second of the English battles, under the Earls' of Northampton and Arundel, held the less formidable slopes of the upper portion of the Vallee aux Clercs, their left resting on the enclosures and woods of the village of Wadicourt. The third battle, commanded by the king himself, and stationed in the rear as a reserve, held the rolling upland plain, on the highest point of which was a windmill, commanding the whole field, in which Edward took up his quarters. The English men-at-arms left their horses in the rear. The archers of each of the two forward battles were thrown out at an angle on the flanks, so that the enemy, on approaching the serried mass of men-at-arms, had to encounter a severe discharge of arrows both from the right and the left. It was the tactics of Halidon hill, perfected by experience and for the first time applied on a large scale against a continental enemy. The credit of it may well be assigned to Northampton, fresh from the fight at Morlaix, where similar tactics had already won the day.

The English were in position early in the morning of Saturday, August 26, and employed their leisure in further strengthening their lines by digging shallow holes, like the pits at Bannockburn, in the hope of ensnaring the French cavalry, if they came to close quarters with the dismounted men-at-arms. The summer day had almost ended its course before the French army appeared. Philip and his men had passed the previous night at Abbeville, and had not only performed the long march from the capital of Ponthieu, but many of them, misled by bad information as to Edward's position, had made a weary detour to the north-west. It was not until the hour of vespers that the mass of the French host was marshalled in front of the village of Estrees on the eastward plateau beyond the Vallee aux Clercs. John of Hainault, who had become a thorough-going French partisan, advised Philip to delay battle until the following day. The French were tired; all the army had not yet come up; night would soon put an end to the combat; the evening sun, shining brightly after a violent summer storm, was blazing directly in the faces of the assailants. But the French nobles demanded an immediate advance. Confident in their numbers and prowess, they had already assured themselves of victory, and were quarrelling about the division of the captives they would make. Philip, too sympathetic with the feudal point of view to oppose his friends, ordered the advance.

The battle began by the French sending forward a strong force of Genoese crossbowmen, to prepare the way for the cavalry charge. But the long bows of the English outshot the obsolete and cumbrous weapons of the Genoese, whose strings had been wetted by the recent storm. The Italians descended into the valley, but were soon demoralised by seeing their comrades fall all round them, while their own bolts failed to reach the enemy. They were already in full retreat back up the slope, when the impatience of the French horsemen burst all bounds. The reckless cavalry charge swept right through the disordered ranks of the crossbowmen, whose groans and cries as they were trampled underfoot by the mail-clad steeds, inspired the rear ranks of the French with the vain belief that the English were hard pressed, and made them eager to join the fray. The charge, as disorderly and as badly directed as the fatal attack of Bannockburn, never reached the English ranks. Shot down right and left by archers, terrified by the fearful booming of three small cannon that the English had dragged about during their wanderings, the French line soon became a confused mob of furious horsemen on panic-stricken horses. With gallantry even more conspicuous than their want of discipline, the French made no less than fifteen attempts to penetrate the enemies' lines. At one point only did they get near their goal, and that was on the right battle where the Prince of Wales himself was in command. A timely reinforcement sent by King Edward relieved the pressure, and the French were soon in full retreat, protected, as the English boasted, from further attack by the rampart of dead that they left behind them. The darkness, which ended the struggle, forbade all pursuit. Next day the fight was renewed by fresh French forces, but a fog hampered their movements, and they fell easy victims to the English. Then the defeated force retreated to Abbeville. The English loss was insignificant, but the field was covered with the bravest and noblest of the French. Among those who perished on the side of Philip were Louis of Nevers, the chivalrous Count of Flanders, who had sacrificed everything save his honour on the altar of feudal duty, and the blind King John of Bohemia, whose end was as romantic and futile as his life. Both these princes left as their successors sons of very different stamp in Louis de Male, and Charles of Moravia. Charles, who had recently been set up as King of the Romans by the clerical party against Louis of Bavaria, was present at Crecy, but a prudent retreat saved him from his father's fate.

In the midst of the Norman campaign, Philip urgently besought David, King of Scots, to make a diversion in his favour. Since 1341 David, then a youth of seventeen, had been back in Scotland. Prolonged truces gave him little opportunity of trying his skill as a soldier, and his domestic rule was not particularly successful. The full effects of the Franco-Scottish alliance were revealed when, early in October, the Scottish king invaded the north of England, confident that, as all the fighting-men were in France, he would meet no more formidable opponents than monks, peasants, and shepherds. The five days' resistance of Lord Wake's border peel of Castleton in Liddesdale showed the baselessness of this imagination. At its capture on October 10, David put to death its gallant captain, a knight named Walter Selby. Then the Scots streamed over the hills into Upper Tynedale, and soon devastated Durham. Such of the border lords as were not with the king in France had now prepared for resistance. Beside the Nevilles, Percys, and other great houses of the north, the Archbishop of York, William de la Zouch, took a vigorous part in organising the local levies, and in a very short space of time a sufficient army assembled to make head against the invaders. From their muster at Richmond, the northern barons marched into the land of St. Cuthbert, many priests following their archbishop as of old their predecessors had followed Melton or Thurstan. On October 17 the forces joined battle at Neville's Cross, a wayside landmark on the Red hills, a rough and broken region sloping down to the Wear, immediately to the west of the city of Durham. Neither host was large in size, and each stood facing the other, with the archers at either wing, after the fashion that had become Scottish as well as English. For a time neither army was willing to begin. At last the English archers, irritated at the delay, advanced upon the Scots with showers of missiles. Then the struggle grew general and after a fierce hand-to-hand fight the English prevailed. David was taken prisoner and was lodged in the Tower, and many of the noblest of the Scots lay dead on the field. The diversion was a failure; the local levies had proved amply sufficient to cope with the enemy. In thus playing the game of the French king, David began a policy which, from Neville's Cross to Flodden, brought embarrassment to England and desolation to Scotland. It was the inevitable penalty of two independent and hostile states existing in one little island.

So war-worn were the victors of Crecy that all the profit they could win from the battle was the power to continue their march undisturbed to the sea coast. On September 4, Edward reached the walls of Calais, the last French town on the frontiers of Flanders, and the port whose corsairs had inflicted exceptional damage on English shipping during the whole of the war. With a keen eye to the military importance of the place, the King abandoned the easy course of returning with his troops to England, and at once sat down before Calais. It was an arduous and prolonged siege. Calais was girt by double walls and ditches of exceptional strength and was bravely defended by John de Vienne and a numerous garrison. Moreover the yielding soil of the sands and marshes around the town made it impossible for Edward to erect against the fortifications the cumbrous machines by which engineers then sought to batter down the walls of towns. The only method of taking the place was by starvation. At first Edward was not able to block every avenue of access to the beleaguered fortress. Winter came on; the troops demanded permission to go home; the sailors threatened mutiny, and the French were actively on the watch.

Amidst these troubles, Edward III showed a persistence worthy of his grandfather. He remained at the seat of war, transacting much of the business of government in the town of wooden huts which, growing up round the besiegers' lines, made the winter siege endurable. In the worst period of the year sufficient forces to man the trenches could only be secured by wholesale charters of pardon to felonious and offending soldiers, on condition that they did not withdraw from service without the king's licence, so long as Edward himself remained beyond the seas.[1] A parliament of magnates met in March, 1347, and granted an aid. Instead of summoning the commons, Edward preferred to raise his chief supplies by another loan of 20,000 sacks of wool from the merchants, by additional customs dues voted by a merchant assembly, and by considerable loans from ecclesiastics and religious houses. In April and May all England was alive with martial preparation, and gradually a force far transcending the Crecy army was gathered round the walls of Calais, while a great fleet held the sea and prohibited the access of French ships to the doomed garrison. Northampton, ever fertile in expedients, discovered that, even after the high seas were blocked, boats still crept into Calais port by hugging the shallow shore. He ran long jetties of piles from the coast line into deep water, and thus cut off the last means of communication and of supplies. By June the town was suffering severely from famine.

[1] See for this, Rotulus Normannice in Cal. Patent Rolls, 1345-48, especially PP. 473-526. For the vast force gathered later, see Wrottesley and Morris, U.S.

The French made a great effort, both by sea and land, to relieve Calais. On June 25 Northampton went out with his ships as far as the mouth of the Somme, where off Le Crotoy he won a naval victory which made the English command of the sea absolutely secure. A month later Philip, at the head of the land army, looked down upon the lines of Calais from the heights of Guines. The two cardinals made their usual efforts for a truce, but the English would not allow their prey to be snatched from them at the eleventh hour. Then Philip challenged the enemy to a pitched battle, and four knights on each side were appointed to select the place of combat. The French, however, were of no mind to risk another Crecy, and on the morning of July 31 the smoke of their burning camp told the English that once more Philip had shrunk from a meeting. Then at last the garrison opened its gates on August 3, 1347. The defenders were treated chivalrously by the victor, who admired their courage and endurance. But the mass of the population were removed from their homes, and numerous grants of houses and property made to Englishmen. Edward resolved to make his conquest an English town, and, from that time onwards, it became the fortress through which an English army might at any time be poured into France, and the warehouse from which the spinners and weavers of Flanders were to draw their supplies of raw wool. For more than two hundred years, English Calais retained all its military and most of its commercial importance. Later conquests enabled a ring of forts to be erected round it which strengthened its natural advantages.

Crecy, Neville's Cross, Aiguillon, and Calais did not exhaust the glories of this strenuous time. The war of the Breton succession, which Northampton had waged since 1345, was continued in 1346 by Thomas Dagworth, a knight appointed as his lieutenant on his withdrawal to join the army of Crecy and Calais. The Montfort star was still in the ascendant, and even the hereditary dominions of Joan of Penthievre were assailed. An English garrison was established at La Roche Derien, situated some four miles higher up the river Jaudy than the little open episcopal city of Treguier, and communicating by the river with the sea and with England. So troublesome did Montfort's garrison at La Roche become to the vassals of Penthievre, that in the summer of 1347 Charles of Blois collected an army, wherein nearly all the greatest feudal houses of Brittany were strongly represented, and sat down before La Roche. Dagworth, one of the ablest of English soldiers, was at Carhaix, in the heart of the central uplands, when he heard of the danger of the single English post within the lands of Penthievre. He at once hurried northwards, and on the night of June 19 rested at the abbey of Begard, about ten miles to the south of La Roche. From Begard two roads led to La Roche, one on each bank of the Jaudy. Thinking that Dagworth would pursue the shorter road on the left bank, Charles of Blois stationed a portion of his army at some distance from La Roche on that side of the Jaudy, while the rest remained with himself on the right bank before the walls of the town. Dagworth, however, chose the longer route, and before daybreak, on the morning of June 20, fell suddenly upon Charles. A fierce fight in the dark was ended after dawn in favour of Montfort by a timely sally of the beleaguered garrison. In the confusion Charles forgot to recall the division uselessly stationed beyond the Jaudy, and this error completed his ruin. Charles fought like a hero, and, after receiving seventeen wounds, yielded up his sword to a Breton lord rather than to the English commander. When his wounds were healed, Charles was sent to London, where he joined David of Scotland, the Count of Eu, and the Lord of Tancarville. It looked as if Montfort's triumph was secured.

In the midst of his successes Edward made a truce, yielding to the earnest request of the cardinals, "through his reverence to the apostolic see". The truce of Calais was signed on September 28, and included Scotland and Brittany as well as France within its scope. On October 12 Edward returned to his kingdom. Financial exhaustion, the need of repose, the unwillingness of his subjects to continue the combat, and the failure of the Flemish and Netherlandish alliances sufficiently explain this halt in the midst of victory. Yet from the military standpoint Edward's action, harmful everywhere to his partisans, was particularly fatal in Brittany, where most of Penthievre and nearly all upper Brittany were still obedient to Charles of Blois.[1] But Edward had embarked upon a course infinitely beyond his material resources. When a special effort could only give him the one town of Calais, how could he ever conquer all France?

[1] See on this A. de la Borderie, Hist. de Bretagne, iii., 507, et seq.



At the conclusion of the truce of Calais in 1347, Edward III and England were at the height of their military reputation. Perhaps the nation was in even a stronger position than the monarch. Edward had dissipated his resources in winning his successes, but the danger which faced the ruler had but slightly impaired the fortunes of his subjects. The country was in a sufficiently prosperous condition to bear its burdens without much real suffering. The widespread dislike of extraordinary taxation, which so often assumed the form of the familiar cry that the king must live of his own, had taken the shape of unwillingness to accept responsibility for the king's policy and a growing indisposition to meet his demands. But since the rule of Edward began, England enjoyed a prosperity so unbroken that far heavier burdens would hardly have brought about a diminution of the well-being which stood in glaring contrast to the desolation long inflicted by Edward's wars on France. A war waged exclusively on foreign soil did little harm to England, and offered careers whereby many an English adventurer was gaining a place among the landed classes. The simple archers and men-at-arms, who received high wages and good hopes of plunder in the king's foreign service, found in it a congenial and lucrative, if demoralising profession. In England, though wages were low, provisions were cheap and employment constant. The growth of the wool trade, then further stimulated by refugees from the "three towns of Flanders," against which Louis de Male was waging relentless war, was bringing comfort to many, and riches to a few. The maritime greatness of England that found its first results in the battle of Sluys was the fruit of a commercial activity on the sea which enabled English shipmen to deprive the Italians, Netherlanders, and Germans of the overwhelming share they had hitherto enjoyed of our foreign trade. The dark shadows of medieval life were indeed never absent from the picture; but medieval England seldom enjoyed greater wellbeing and tranquillity than during the first eighteen years of the personal rule of Edward III. One sign of the increasing attention paid to suppressing disorder was an act of 1344, which empowered the local conservators of the peace, already an element in the administrative machinery, to hear and determine felonies. A later act made this a part of their regular functions, and gave them the title of justices of the peace, thus setting up a means of maintaining local order so effective that the old machinery of the local courts gradually gave way to it.

A rude ending to this period of prosperity was brought about by the devastations of the pestilence known to modern readers as the Black Death, which since 1347 had decimated the Levant. This was the bubonic plague, almost as familiar in the east of to-day as in the mid-fourteenth century. It was brought along the chief commercial highways which bound the western world to the markets of the east. First introduced into the west at the great ports of the Mediterranean, Venice, Genoa, Marseilles, it spread over France and Italy by the early months of 1348. Avignon was a chief centre of the infection, and, amidst the desolation around him, Clement VI. strove with rare energy to give peace to a distracted world. The regions of western and northern France, which had felt the full force of the war, were among the worst sufferers. Aquitaine, too, was cruelly desolated, and among the victims was Edward III.'s daughter, Joan, who perished at Bordeaux on her way to Castile, as the bride of the prince afterwards infamous as Peter the Cruel. Early in August, 1348, the scourge crossed the channel, making its first appearance in England at Weymouth. Thence it spread northwards and westwards. Bristol was the first great English town to feel its ravages. Though the Gloucestershire men prohibited all intercourse between the infected port and their own villages, the plague was in no wise stayed by their precautions. The disease extended, by way of Gloucester and Oxford, to London, reaching the capital early in November, and continuing its ravages until the following Whitsuntide. When it had almost died out in London, it began, in the spring of 1349, to rage severely in East Anglia,[1] while in Lancashire the worst time seems to have been from the autumn of 1349 to the beginning of 1350.[2] Scotland was so long exempt that the Scots, proud of their immunity, were wont to swear "by the foul death of England". In 1350 they gathered together an army in Ettrick forest with the object of invading the plague-stricken border shires. But the pestilence fell upon the host assembled for the foray, and all war was stopped while Scotland was devastated from end to end. Ireland began to suffer in August, 1349, the disease being at first confined to the Englishry of the towns, though, after a time, it made its way also to the pure Irish.[3]

[1] A. Jessopp, The Black Death in East Anglia, in The Coming of the Friars and Other Essays(1889). For general details see F. Seebohm, The Black Death, in Fortnightly Review (1865 and 1866); J.E.T. Rogers, England before and after the Black Death, in Fortnightly Review (1866); F.A. Gasquet's Great Pestilence (1893); and C. Creighton, History of Epidemics in Britain, i., 114-207(1891).

[2] A.G. Little, The Black Death in Lancashire, in Engl. Hist. Review, v. (1890), 524-30

[3] See for Ireland, however, the vivid details in J. Clyn of Kilkenny, Annales Hibevnia: ad annum 1349, ed. R. Butler, Irish Archaological Soc. (1849).

The wild exaggerations of the chroniclers reflect the horror and desolation wrought by the epidemic. There died so many, we are told, that the survivors scarcely sufficed to bury the victims, and not one man in ten remained alive. The more moderate estimate of Froissart sets down the proportion dead of the plague as one in three throughout all Christendom, and some modern inquirers have rashly reckoned the mortality in England as amounting to a half or a third of the population. In truth, complete statistics are necessarily wanting, and if the records of the admissions of the clergy attest that, in certain dioceses, half the livings changed hands during the years of pestilence, it is not permissible to infer from that circumstance that there was a similar rate of mortality from the plague over the whole of the population. The sudden and overwhelming character of the disorder increased the universal terror. One day a man was healthy: within a few hours of the appearance of the fatal swelling, or of the dark livid marks which gave the plague its popular name, he was a corpse. The pestilence seemed to single out the young and robust as its prey, and to spare the aged and sick. The churchyards were soon overflowing, and special plague pits had to be dug where the dead were heaped up by the hundred. Comparatively few magnates died, but the poor, the religious, and the clergy were chief sufferers. The law courts ceased to hold regular sessions. When the people had partially recovered from the first visitations of the plague, others befel them which were scarcely less severe. The years 1362 and 1369 almost rivalled the horrors of 1348 and 1349.

The immediate effects of the calamity were overwhelming. At first the horror of the foul death effaced all other considerations from men's minds. There were not enough priests to absolve the dying, and special indulgences, with full liberty to choose confessors at discretion, were promulgated from Avignon and from many diocesan chanceries. The price of commodities fell for the moment, since there were few, we are told, who cared for riches amidst the general fear of death. The pestilence played such havoc with the labouring population that the beasts wandered untended in the pastures, and rich crops of corn stood rotting in the fields from lack of harvesters to gather them. There was the same lack of clergy as of labourers, and the priest, like the peasant, demanded a higher wage for his services by reason of the scarcity of labour. A mower was not to be had for less than a shilling a day with his food, and a chaplain, formerly glad to receive two marks and his board, demanded ten pounds, or ten marks at the least. Non-residence, neglect of cures, and other evils followed. As Langland wrote:—

Persones and parisch prestes - playneth to heore bisschops, That heore parisch hath ben pore - seththe the pestilence tyme, And asketh leue and lycence - at Londun to dwelle, To singe ther for simonye - for seluer is swete.[1]

The lack of clergy was in some measure compensated by the rush of candidates for orders. Some of these new clerks were men who had lost their wives by the plague; many of them were illiterate, or if they knew how to read their mass-book, could not understand it. The close social life of the monasteries proved particularly favourable to the spread of the disease; the number of monks and nuns declined considerably, and, since there was no great desire to embrace the religious profession, many houses remained half empty for generations.

[1] Vision of Piers Plowman, i., p. g, ed. Skeat.

No one in the Middle Ages believed in letting economic laws work out their natural results. If anything were amiss, it was the duty of kings and princes to set things right. Accordingly Edward and his council at once strove to remedy the lack of labourers by ordinances that harvesters and other workmen should not demand more wages than they had been in the habit of receiving, while the bishops, following the royal example, ordered chaplains and vicars to be content with their accustomed salaries. As soon as parliament ventured to assemble, the royal orders were embodied in the famous statute of labourers of 1351. This measure has been condemned as an attempt of a capitalist parliament to force poor men to work for their masters at wages far below the market rates. But it was no new thing to fix wages by authority, and the medieval conception was that a just and living wage should be settled by law, rather than left to accident. The statute provided that prices, like wages, should remain as they had been before the pestilence, so that, far from only regarding the interests of the employer, it attempted to maintain the old ratio between the rate of wages and the price of commodities. Moreover it sought to provide for the cultivation of the soil by enacting that the sturdy beggar, who, though able, refused to work, should be forced to put his hand to the plough. Futile as the statute of labourers was, it was not much more ineffective than most laws of the time. Though real efforts were made to carry it out, the chronic weakness of a medieval executive soon recoiled before the hopeless task of enforcing impossible laws on an unwilling population. Class prejudices only showed themselves in the stipulation that, while the employer was forbidden to pay the new rate of wages under pain of heavy fines, the labourers who refused, to work on the old terms were imprisoned and only released upon taking oath to accept their ancient wages. In effect, however, the king's arm was not long enough to reach either class. The labourers, says a chronicler, were so puffed up and quarrelsome that they would not observe the new enactment, and the master's alternative was either to see his crops perish unharvested, or to gratify the greedy desires of the workmen by violating the statute. While labourers could escape punishment through their numbers, the employer was more accessible to the royal officers.

Thus the labourers enjoyed the benefits of the scarcity of labour, while the employers suffered the full inconveniences of the change. Producers were to some extent recompensed by a great rise in prices, more especially in the case of those commodities into whose cost of production labour largely entered. For example the rise in the price of corn and meat was inconsiderable, while clothing, manufactured goods, and luxuries became extraordinarily dear. Of eatables fish rose most in value, because the fishermen had been swept away by the plague. Rents fell heavily. Landlords found that they could only retain their tenants by wholesale remissions. When farmers perished of the plague, it was often impossible to find others to take up their farms. It was even harder for lords, who farmed their own demesne, to provide themselves with the necessary labour. Hired labour could not be obtained except at ruinous rates. It was injudicious to press for the strict performance of villein services, lest the villein should turn recalcitrant and leave his holding. The lord preferred to commute his villein's service into a small payment. On the whole the best solution of the difficulty was for him to abandon the ancient custom of farming his demesne through his bailiffs, and to let out his lands on such rents as he could get to tenant farmers. Thus the feudal method of land tenure, which, since the previous century, had ceased to have much political significance, became economically ineffective, and began to give way to a system more like that which still obtains among us.

Struck by these undoubted results of the pestilence, some modern writers have persuaded themselves that the Black Death is the one great turning-point in the social and economic history of England, and that nearly all which makes modern England what it is, is due to the effects of this pestilence. A wider survey suggests the extreme improbability of a single visitation having such far-reaching consequences. Moreover the Black Death was not an English but a European calamity, and it is strange to imagine that the effects of the plague in England should have been so much deeper than in France or Germany, and so different. In the fourteenth century there was little that was distinctly insular in the conditions of England, as compared with those of the continent. A trouble common to both regions alike could hardly have been the starting-point of such differentiation between them as later ages undoubtedly witnessed. There was a French counterpart to the statute of labourers.

In truth the Black Death was no isolated phenomenon. There were already in the air the seeds of the decay of the ancient order, and those seeds fructified more rapidly in England by reason of the plague.[1] It is only because of the impetus which it gave to changes already in progress that the pestilence had in a fashion more lasting results in England than elsewhere. The last thirty years of the reign of Edward were an epoch of social upheaval and unrest contrasting strongly with the uneventful times that had preceded the Black Death. It is not right to regard the period as one of misery or severe distress. The war of classes, which was beginning, sprang not so much from material discomfort of the poor, as from what unsympathetic annalists called their greediness, their pride, and their wantonness. The wage-earner was master of the situation and did not hesitate to make his power felt. While the spread of manufactures, the rise of prices, and the opening out of wider markets still secured the prosperity of the shopkeeper, the merchant, or the artisan of the towns, the whole brunt of the social change fell upon the landed classes, and most heavily upon the ecclesiastics and especially upon the monks. Broken down by the heavy demands of the state, unable to share with the layman in the new avenues to wealth opened up by the expanding resources of the country, the monks saw the chief sources of their prosperity drying up. Their rents were shrinking and it became increasingly difficult to cultivate their lands. They never recovered their ancient welfare, and were already getting out of touch with the national life.

[1] See for this W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, vol. i., p. 330 ff. (ed. 4); T.W. Page, The End of Villainage in England (American Economic Association, 1900); and, above all, P. Vinogradoff in Engl. Hist. Review, xv. (1900), 774-781.

One immediate result of the plague was a renewed activity in founding religious houses. Upon the two plague pits west and east of the city of London, Sir Walter Manny set up his Charterhouse in Smithfield, and Edward III. his foundation for Cistercian nuns between Tower Hill and Aldgate. More characteristic of the times was the foundation of secular colleges, which were established either with mainly ecclesiastical objects or to encourage study at the universities. Both at Oxford and Cambridge there were more colleges set up in the first than in the second half of the fourteenth century; and it is noteworthy that several Cambridge colleges incorporated after the plague were founded with the avowed motive of filling up the gaps in the secular clergy occasioned by it. The riots between the Oxford townsmen and the clerks of the university on St. Scholastica's day, 1354, resulted in the victory of the former because of the recent diminution in the number of the scholars. Yet even as regards the monasteries, it is easy to exaggerate the effects of the plague. Five years after the Black Death, the Cistercians of the Lancashire abbey of Whalley boasted that they had added twenty monks to their convent, and were busy in enlarging their church.[1]

[1] Cal. Papal Registers, Petitions, i., 264. Professor Tait, however, informs me that the monks took a sanguine view of their numbers. After the plague of 1362, we know that they were not much more numerous than in the previous century.

Change was in the air in religion as well as in society. Along with democratic ideas filtering in with the exiles from the great Flemish cities, came a breath of that restless and unquiet spirit which soon awakened the concern of the inquisition in the Netherlands. There brotherhoods, some mystical and quietistic, others enthusiastic and fanatical, were growing in numbers and importance. Some of these bodies, Beguines, Beghards, and what not, were harmless enough, but the whole history of the Middle Ages bears testimony to the readiness with which religious excitement unchastened by discipline or direction, grew into dangerous heresy. The strangest of the new communities, the Flagellants, made its appearance in England immediately after the pestilence. In the autumn of 1349, some six score men crossed over from Holland and marched in procession through the open spaces of London, chanting doleful litanies in their own tongue. They wore nothing save a linen cloth that covered the lower part of their body, and on their heads hats marked with a red cross behind and before. Each of them bore in his right hand a scourge, with which he belaboured the naked back and shoulders of his comrade in the fore rank. Twice a day they repeated this mournful exercise, and even at other times were never seen in public but with cap on head and discipline in hand. Few Englishmen joined the Flagellants, but their appearance is not unworthy of notice as the first concrete evidence of the religious unrest which soon became more widespread. Before long the Yorkshireman, John Wycliffe, was studying arts at the little north-country foundation of the Balliols at Oxford, and John Ball, the Essex priest, was preaching his revolutionary socialism to the villeins. "We are all come," said he, "from one father and one mother, Adam and Eve. How can the gentry show that they are greater lords than we?"[1] In 1355 there were heretics in the diocese of York who maintained that it is impossible to merit eternal life by good works, and that original sin does not deserve damnation.[2]

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