The Leading Facts of English History
by D.H. Montgomery
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239. Use of Cannon, 1346; Chivalry.

At Cre'cy (S238) small cannon appear to have been used for the first time in field warfare, though gunpowder was probably known to the English friar, Roger Bacon (S208), a hundred years before. The object of the cannon was to frighten and annoy the horses of the French cavalry. They were laughed at as ingenious toys; but in the course of the next two centuries those toys revolutionized warfare (S270) and made the steel-clad knight little more than a tradition and a name.

In its day, however, knighthood (S153) did the world a good service. Chivalry aimed to make the profession of arms a noble instead of a brutal calling. It gave it somewhat of a religious character.

It taught the warrior the worth of honor, truthfulness, and courtesy, as well as valor,—qualities which still survive in the best type of the modern gentleman. We owe, therefore, no small debt to that military brotherhood of the past, and may join the English poet in his epitaph on the order:

"The Knights are dust, Their good swords rust; Their souls are with the saints, we trust."[1]

[1] Coleridge; see Scott's "Ivanhoe."

240. Edward III takes Calais, 1347.

King Edward now marched against Calais. He was particularly anxious to take the place: first, because it was a favorite resort of desperate pirates; secondly, because such a fortified port on the Strait of Dover, within sight of the chalk cliffs of England, would give him at all times "an open doorway into France."

After besieging it for nearly a year, the garrison was starved into submission and prepared to open the gates. Edward was so exasperated with the stubborn resistance the town had made, that he resolved to put the entire population to the sword. But at last he consented to spare them, on condition that six of the chief men should give themselves up to be hanged. A meeting was called, and St. Pierre, the wealthiest citizen of the place, volunteered, with five others, to go forth and die. Bareheaded, barefooted, with halters round their necks, they silently went out, carrying the keys of the city. When they appeared before the English King, he ordered the executioner, who was standing by, to seize them and carry out the sentence forthwith. But Queen Philippa (S236), who had accompanied her husband, now fell on her knees before him, and with tears begged that they might be forgiven. For a long time Edward was inexorable, but finally, unable to resist her entreaties, he granted her request, and the men who had dared to face death for others found life both for themselves and their fellow citizens.[1] Calais now became an English town and the English kept it for more than two hundred years (S373). This gave them the power to invade France whenever it seemed for their interest to do so.

[1] Froissart's "Chronicles."

241. Victory of Poitiers (1356).

After a long truce, war again broke out. Philip VI had died, and his son, John II, now sat on the French throne. Edward, during this campaign, ravaged northern France. The next year his son, the Black Prince (S238), marched from Bordeaux into the heart of the country.

Reaching Poitiers with a force of ten thousand men, he found himself nearly surrounded by a French army of sixty thousand. The Prince so placed his troops amidst the narrow lanes and vineyards, that the enemy could not attack him with their full strength. Again the English archers gained the day (S238), and King John himself was taken prisoner and carried in triumph to England. (See map facing p. 128.)

242. Peace of Bre'tigny, 1360.

The victory of Poitiers was followed by another truce; then war began again. Edward intended besieging Paris, but was forced to retire to obtain provisions for his troops. Negotiations were now opened by the French. While these great negotiations were going on, a terrible thunderstorm destroyed great numbers of men and horses in Edward's camp.

Edward, believing it a sign of the displeasure of Heaven against his expedition, fell on his knees, and within sight of the Cathedral of Chartres vowed to make peace. A treaty was accordingly signed at Bre'tigny near by. By it, Edward renounced his claim to Normandy and the French crown. But notwithstanding that fact, all English sovereigns insisted on retaining the title of "King of France" down to a late period of the reign of George III. France, on the other hand, acknowledged the right of England, in full sovereignty, to the country south of the Loire, together with Calais, and agreed to pay an enormous ransom in pure gold for the restoration of King John.

243. Effects of the French Wars in England.

The great gain to England from these wars was not in the territory conquered, but in the new feeling of unity they aroused among all classes. The memory of the brave deeds achieved in those fierce contests on a foreign soil never faded out. The glory of the Black Prince (SS238, 241), whose rusted helmet and dented shield still hang above his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral,[1] became one with the glory of the plain bowmen, whose names are found only in country churchyards.

[1] This is probably the oldest armor of the king in Great Britain. See Stothard's "Monumental Effigies."

Henceforth, whatever lingering feeling of jealousy and hatred had remained in England, between the Norman and the Englishman (S192), now gradually melted away. An honest, patriotic pride made both feel that at last they had become a united and homogeneous people.

The second effect of the wars was political. In order to carry them on, the King had to apply constantly to Parliament for money (SS217, 220). Each time that body granted a supply, they insisted on some reform which increased their strength, and brought the Crown more and more under the influence of the nation. (See Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p. xii, S13.)

The it came to be clearly understood that though the King held the sword, the people held the purse; and that the ruler who made the greatest concessions got the largest grants.

It was also in this reign that the House of Commons (SS213, 217, 262), which now sat as a separate body, obtained the important power of impeaching, or bringing to trial before the upper House, any of the King's ministers or council who should be accused of misgovernment (1376). (See S247, and Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p. xii, S13.)

About this time, also, statutes were passed which forbade appeals from the King's courts of justice to that of the Pope,[1] who was then a Frenchman, and was believed to be under French political influence. Furthermore, all foreign Church officials were prohibited from asking or taking money from the English Church, or interfering in any way with its management.[2]

[1] First Statute of Provisors (1351) and of Praemunire (1353) (S265). The first Statute of Praemunire did not mention the Pope or the Court of Rome by name; the second, or Great Statute of Praemunire of 1393, expressly mentioned them in the strongest terms. See Constitutionals Documents in the Appendix, p. xxxii. [2] Statute of Provisors (1351), and see S265.

244. The Black Death, or Plague, 1349.

Shortly after the first campaign in France, a frightful pestilence broke out in London, which swept over the country, destroying upwards of half the population. The disease, which was known as the Black Death, had already traversed Europe, where it had proved equally fatal.

"How many amiable young persons," said a noted writer of that period, "breakfasted with their friends in the morning, who, when evening came, supped with their ancestors!" In Bristol and some other English cities, the mortality was so great that the living were hardly able to bury the dead; so that all business, and for a time even war, came to a standstill.

245. Effect of the Plague on Labor, 1349.

After the pestilence had subsided, it was impossible to find laborers enough to till the soil and shear the sheep. Those who were free now demanded higher wages, while the villeins, or serfs (S113), and slaves left their masters and roamed about the country asking for pay for their work, like freemen.

It was a general agricultural strike, which lasted over thirty years. It marks the beginning of that contest between capital and labor which had such an important influence on the next reign, and which, after a lapse of more than five hundred years, is not yet satisfactorily adjusted.

Parliament endeavored to restore order. It passed laws forbidding any freeman to ask more for a day's work than before the plague. It gave the master the right to punish a serf who persisted in running away, by branding him on the forehead with the letter F, for "fugitive." But legislation was in vain; the movement had begun, and statutes of Parliament could no more stop it than they could stop the rolling of the ocean tide. It continued to go on until it reached its climax in the peasant insurrection led by Wat Tyler, under Edward's successor, Richard II (S251).

246. Beginning of English Literature, 1369-1377.

During Edward's reign the first work in English prose may have been written. It was a volume of travels by Sir John Mandeville, who had journeyed in the East for over thirty years. On his return he wrote an account of what he had heard and seen, first in Latin, that the learned might read it; next in French, that the nobles might read it; and lastly he, or some unknown person, translated it into English for the common people. He dedicated the work to the King.

Perhaps the most interesting and wonderful thing in it was the statement of his belief that the world is a globe, and that a ship may sail round it "above and beneath,"—an assertion which probably seemed to many who read it then as less credible than any of the marvelous stories in which his book abounds.

William Langland was writing rude verses (1369) about his "vision of Piers the Plowman," contrasting "the wealth and woe" of the world, and so helping forward that democratic outbreak which was soon to take place among those who knew the woe and wanted the wealth. John Wycliffe (S254), a lecturer at Oxford, attacked the rich and indolent churchmen in a series of tracts and sermons, while Chaucer, who had fought on the fields of France, was preparing to bring forth the first great poem in our language (S253).

247. The "Good Parliament" (1376); Edward's Death.

The "Good Parliament" (1376) attempted to carry through important reforms. It impeached (for the first time in English history)[1] certain prominent men for fraud (S243). But in the end its work failed for want of a leader. The King's last days were far from happy. His son, the Black Prince (S238), had died, and Edward fell entirely into the hands of selfish favorites and ambitious schemers like John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Perhaps the worst one of this corrupt "ring" was a woman named Alice Perrers, who, after Queen Philippa was no more (S240), got almost absolute control of the King. She stayed with him until his last sickness. When his eyes began to glaze in death, she plucked the rings from his unresisting hands, and fled from the palace.

248. Summary.

During this reign the following events deserve especial notice:

1. The acknowledgment of the independence of Scotland. 2. The establishment of the manufacture of fine woolens in England. 3. The beginning of the Hundred Years' War, with the victories of Cre'cy and Poitiers, the Peace of Bre'tigny, and their social and political results in England. 4. The Black Death and its results on labor. 5. Parliament enacts important laws for securing greater independence to the English Church. 6. The rise of modern literature, represented by the works of Mandeville, Langland, and the early writings of Wycliffe and Chaucer.

Richard II—1377-1399

249. England at Richard's Accession.

The death of the Black Prince (SS238, 241, 247) left his son Richard heir to the crown. As he was but eleven years old, Parliament provided that the government during his minority should be carried on by a council; but John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (S247), speedily got the control of affairs.

He was an unprincipled man, who wasted the nation's money, opposed reform, and was especially hated by the laboring classes. The times were critical. War had again broken out with both Scotland and France, the French fleet was raiding the English coast, the national treasury had no money to pay its troops, and the government debt was rapidly accumulating.

250. The New Tax; the Tyler and Ball Insurrection (1381).

In order to raise money, the government resolved to levy a new form of tax,—a poll or head tax,—which had been tried on a small scale during the last year of the previous reign. The apttempt had been made to assess it on all classes, from laborers to lords.

The imposition was now renewed in a much more oppressive form. Not only every laborer, but every member of a laborer's family above the age of fifteen, was required to pay what twould be eequal to the wages of an able-bodied man for at least several days' work.[1]

[1] The tax on laborers and their families varied from four to twelve pence each, the assessor having instructions to collect the latter sum, if possible. The wages of a day laborer were then about a penny, so that the smallest tax for a family of three would represent the entire pay for nearly a fortnight's labor. See Pearson's "England in the Fourteenth Century."

We have already seen that, owing to the ravages of the Black Death, and the strikes which followed, the country was on the verge of revolt (SS244, 245). This new tax was the spark that caused the explosion. The money was roughly demanded in every poor man's cottage, and its collection caused the greatest distress. In attempting to enforce payment, a brutal collector shamefully insulted the young daughter of a workman named Wat Tyler. The indignant father, hearing the girl's cry for help, snatched up a hammer, and rushing in, struck the ruffian dead on the spot.

Tyler then collected a multitude of discontented laborers on Blackheath Common, near London, with the determination of attacking the city and overthrowing the government.

John Ball, a fanatical priest, harangued the gathering, now sixty thousand strong, using by way of a text lines which were at that time familiar to every workingman:

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

"Good people," he cried, "things will never go well in England so long as goods be not in common, and so long as there be villeins (S113) and gentlemen. They call us slaves, and beat us if we are slow to do their bidding, but God has now given us the day to shake off our bondage."

251. The Great Uprising of the Laboring Class, 1381.

Twenty years before, there had been similar outbreaks in Flanders and in France. This, therefore, was not an isolated instance of insurrection, but rather part of a general uprising. The rebellion begun by Tyler and Ball (S250) spread through the southern and eastern counties of England, taking different forms in different districts. It was violent in St. Albans, where the peasants, and farm laborers generally, rose against the exactions of the abbot, but it reached its greatest height in London.

For three weeks the mob held possession of the capital. They pillaged and then burned John of Gaunt's palace (SS247, 249). They seized and beheaded the Lord Chancellor and the chief collector of the odious poll tax (S250). They destroyed all the law papers they could lay hands on, and ended by murdering a number of lawyers; for the rioters believed that the members of that profession spent their time forging the chains which held the laboring class in subjection.

252. Demans of the Rebels; End of the Rebellion.

The insurrectionists demanded of the King that villeinage (S113) should be abolished, and that the rent of agricultural lands should be fixed by Parliament at a uniform rate in money. They also insisted that trade should be free, and that a general unconditional pardon should be granted to all who had taken part in the rebellion.

Richard promised redress; but while negotiations were going on, Walworth, mayor of London, struck down Wat Tyler with his dagger, and with his death the whole movement collapsed almost as suddenly as it arose. Parliament now began a series of merciless executions, and refused to consider any of the claims to which Richard had shown a disposition to listen. In their punishment of the rebels, the House of Commons vied with the Lords in severity, few showing any sympathy with the efforts of the peasants to obtain their freedom from feudal bondage.

The uprising, however, was not in vain, for by it the old restrictions were in some degree loosened, so that in the course of the next century and a half, villeinage (S113) was gradually abolished, and the English laborer acquired that greatest yet most perilous of all rights, the complete ownership of himself.[1]

[1] In Scotland, villeinage lasted much longer, and as late as 1774, in the reign of George III, men working in coal and salt mines were held in a species of slavery, which was finally abolished the following year.

So long as he was a serf, the peasant could claim assistance from his master in sickness and old age; in attaining independence he had to risk the danger of pauperism, which began with it,—this possibility being part of the price which man must everywhere pay for the inestimable privilege of freedom.

253. The New Movement in Literature, 1390 (?).

The same spirit which demanded emancipation on the part of the working classes showed itself in literature. We have already seen (S246) how, in the previous reign, Langland, in his poem of "Piers Plowman," gave bold utterance to the growing discontent of the times in his declaration that the rich and great destroyed the poor.

In a different spirit, Chaucer, "the morning star of English song," now began (1390?) to write his "Canterbury Tales," a series of stories in verse, supposed to be told by a merry band of pilgrims on their way from the Tabard Inn in Southwark, London, to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury (S170).

There is little of Langland's complaint in Chaucer, for he was generally a favorite at court, seeing mainly the bright side of life, and sure of his yearly allowance of money and daily pitcher of wine from the royal bounty. Yet, with all his mirth, there is a vein of playful satire in his description of men and things. His pictures of jolly monks and easy-going churchmen, with his lines addressed to his purse as his "saviour, as down in this world here," show that he saw beneath the surface of things. He too was thinking, at least at times, of the manifold evils of poverty and of that danger springing from religious indifference which poor Langland had taken so much to heart.

254. Wycliffe; the First Complete English Bible, 1378.

But the real reformer of that day was John Wycliffe, rector of Lutterworth in Leicestershire and lecturer at Oxford (S246). He boldly attacked the religious and the political corruption of the age. The "Begging Friars," who had once done such good work (S208), had now grown too rich and lazy to be of further use.

Wycliffe, whose emaciated form concealed an unconquerable energy and dauntless courage, organized a new band of brothers known as "Poor Priests." They took up and pushed forward the reforms the friars had dropped. Clothed in red sackcloth cloaks, barefooted, with staff in hand, they went about from town to town[1] preaching "God's law," and demanding that Church and State bring themselves into harmony with it.

[1] Compare Chaucer's "A good man ther was of religioun, That was a poure persone [parson] of a town." Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales" (479)

The only complete Bible then in use was the Latin version. The people could not read a line of it, and many priests were almost as ignorant of its contents. To carry on the revival which he had begun, Wycliffe now began to translate the entire Scriptures into English, 1378. When the great work was finished it was copied and circulated by the "Poor Priests."

But the cost of such a book in manuscript—for the printing press had not yet come into existence—was so high that only the rich could buy the complete volume. Many, however, who had no money would give a load of farm produce for a few favorite chapters.

In this way Wycliffe's Bible was spread throughout the country among all classes. Later, when persecution began, men hid these precious copies and read them with locked doors at night, or met in the forests to hear them expounded by preachers who went about at the peril of their lives. These things led Wycliffe's enemies to complain "that common men and women who could read were better acquainted with the Scriptures than the most learned and intelligent of the clergy."

255. The Lollards; Wycliffe's Remains burned.

The followers of Wycliffe were nicknamed Lollards, a word of uncertain meaning but apparantly used as an expression of contempt. From having been religious reformers denouncing the wealth and greed of a corrupt Church, they seem, in some cases, to have degenerated into socialists or communists. This latter class demanded, like John Ball (S250), —who may have been one of their number,—that all property should be equally divided, and that all rank should be abolished.

This fact should be borne in mind with reference to the subsequent efforts made by the government to suppress the movement. In the eyes of the Church, the Lollards were heretics; in the judgment of many moderate men, they were destructionists and anarchists, as unreasonable and as dangerous as the "dynamiters" of to-day.

More than forty years after Wycliffe's death (1384), a decree of the Church council of Constance[1] ordered the reformer's body to be dug up and burned (1428). But his influence had not only permeated England, but had passed to the Continent, and was preparing the way for that greater movement which Luther was to inaugurate in the sixteenth century.

[1] Constance, in southern Germany. This council (1415) sentenced John Huss and Jerome of Prague, both of whom may be considered Wycliffites, to the stake.

Tradition says that the ashes of his corpse were thrown into the brook flowing near the parsonage of Lutterworth, the object being to utterly destroy and obliterate the remains of the arch-heretic. Fuller says: "This brook did conveeey his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow sea, and that into the wide ocean. And so the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which is now dispersed all the world over."[2]

[2] Thomas Fuller's "Church History of Britain." Compare also Wordsworth's "Sonnet to Wycliffe," and the lines, attributed to an unknown writer of Wycliffe's time: "The Avon to the Severn runs, The Severn to the sea; And Wycliffe's dust shall spread abroad, Wide as the waters be."

256. Richard's Misgovernment; the "Merciless Parliament."

Richard had the spirit of a tyrant. He declared "that he alone could change and frame the laws of the kingdom."[3] His reign was unpopular with all classes. The people hated him for his extravagance; the clergy, for failing to put down the Wycliffites (SS254, 255), with the doctrines of whose founder he was believed to sympathize; while the nobles disliked his injustice and favoritism.

[3] W. Stubb's "Constitutional History of England," II, 505.

In the "Merciless Parliament" (1388) the "Lords Appellant," that is, the noblemen who accused Richard's counselors of treason, put to death all of the King's ministers that they could lay hands on. Later, that Parliament attempted some political reforms, which were partially successful. But the King soon regained his power, and took summary vengeance (1397) on the "Lords Appellant." Two influential men were left, Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, whom he had found no opportunity to punish. After a time they openly quarreled, and accused each other of treason.

A challenge passed between them, and they prepared to fight the matter out in the King's presence; but when the day arrived, the King banished both of them from England (1398). Shortly after they had left the country Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, died. Contrary to all law, Richard now seized and appropriated the estate, which belonged by right to the banished nobleman.

257. Richard deposed and murdered. (1399).

When Bolingbroke, now by his father's death Duke of Lancaster, heard of the outrage, he raised a small force and returned to England, demanding the restitution of his lands.

Finding that the powerful family of the Percies were willing to aid him, and that many of the common people desired a change of government, the Duke boldly claimed the crown, on the ground that Richard had forfeited it by his tyranny, and that he stood next in succession through his descent from Henry III. But in reality Henry Bolingbroke had no claim save that given by right of conquest, since the boy Edmund Mortimer held the direct title to the crown.[1]

[1] See Genealogical Table, under No. 3 and 4, p. 140

The King now fell into Henry's hands, and events moved rapidly to a crisis. Richard had rebuilt Westminster Hall (S156). The first Parliament which assembled there deposed him on the ground that he was "altogether insufficient and unworthy," and they gave the throne to the victorious Duke of Lancaster. Shakespeare represents the fallen monarch saying in his humiliation:

"With mine own tears I wash away my balm,[2] With mine own hand I give away my crown."

[2] "Richard II," Act IV, scene i. The balm was the sacred oil used in anointing the King at his coronation.

After his deposition Richard was confined in Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire, where he found, like his unfortunate ancestory, Edward II (S233), "that in the cases of princes there is but a step from the prison to the grave." His death did not take place, however, until after Henry's accession.[1] Most historians condemn Richard as an unscrupulous tyrant. Froissart, who wrote in his time, says that he ruled "fiercely," and that no one in England dared "speak against anything the King did." A recent writer thinks he may have been insane, and declares that whether he "was mad or not, he, at all events acted like a madman." But another authority defends him, saying that Richard was not a despot at heart, but used despotic means hoping to effect much-needed reforms.[2]

[1] Henry of Lancaster was the son of John of Gaunt, who was the fourth son of Edward III; but there were descendents of that King's THIRD son (Lionel, Duke of Clarence) living, who, of course, had a prior claim, as the following table shows:

Edward III [Direct descendant of Henry III] 1 2 3 4 5 - Edward, the William, d. Lionel, Duke John of Gaunt, Edmund Black Prince in childhood. of Clarence Duke of Lancaster Duke of York Richard II Philippa, m. Henry Bollinger Edmund Mortimer Duke of Lancaster, afterward Roger Mortimer Henry IV d. 1398-1399 Edmund Mortimer (heir presumptive to the crown after Richard II)

[2] See Gardiner, Stubbs, and the "Dictionary of English History."

258. Summary.

Richard II's reign comprised:

1. The peasant revolt under Wat Tyler, whic hled eventually to the emancipation of the villeins, or farm laborers. 2. Wycliffe's reformation movement and his complete translation of the Latin Bible, with the rise of the Lollards. 3. The publication of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," the first great English poem. 4. The deposition of the King, and the transfer of the crown by Parliament to Henry, Duke of Lancaster.

General Reference Summary of the Angevin, or Plantegenet, Period (1154-1399)

I. Government. II. Religion. III. Military Affairs. IV. Literature, Learning, and Art. V. General Industry and Commerce. VI. Mode of Life, Manners, and Customs.

I. Government

259. Judicial Reforms.

In 1164 Henry II undertook, by a series of statutes called the Constitutions of Clarendon, to bring the Church under the common law of the land, but was only temporarily successful. By subsequent statutes he reorganized the administration of justice, and laid the foundation of trial by jury.

260. Town Charters.

Under Richard I many towns secured charters giving them the control of their own affairs in great measure. In this way municipal self-government arose, and a prosperous and intelligent class of merchants and artisans grew up who eventually obtained important political influence in the management of national affairs.

261. Magna Carta, or the Great National Charter.

This pledge, extotrted from King John in 1215, put a check to he arbitrary power of the sovereign, and guaranteed the rights of all classes, from the serf and the townsman to the bishop and baron (S199). It consisted originally of sixty-three articles, founded mainly on the first royal charter (that of Henry I), given in 1100 (S135).

Magna Carta was not a statement of principles, but a series of specific remedies for specific abuses, which may be summarized as follows:

1. The Church to be free from royal interference, especially in the election of bishops. 2. No taxes except the regular feudal dues (S150) to be levied, except by the consent of the Great Council, or Parliament. 3. The Court of Common Pleas (see p. 73, not 1) not to follow the King, but to remain stationary at Westminster. Justice to be neither sold, denied or delayed. No man to be imprisoned, outlawed, punished, or otherwissssse molested, save by the judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. The necessary implements of all freemen, and the farming tools of villeins, or farm laborers (S113), to be exempt from seizure. 4. Weights and measures to be kept uniform throughout the realm. All merchants to have the right to enter and leave the kingdom without paying exorbitant tolls for the privilege. 5. Forest laws to be justly enforced. 6. The charter to be carried out by twenty-five barons together with the mayor of London.

This document marks the beginning of a written constitution, and it proved of the highest value henceforth in securing good government. It was confirmed thirty-seven times by subsequent kings and parliaments, the confirmation of this and previous charters by Edward I in 1297 being of especial importance.

262. Rise of the House of Commons.

In 1265, under Henry III, through the influence of Simon de Montfort, two representatives from each city and borough, or town, together with two knights of the shire, or country gentlemen, were summoned to meet with the Lords and Clergy in the Great Council, or Parliament; but the House of Commons did not become a permanent body until the Model Parliament of 1295 was summoned. From that time the body of the people began to have a permanent voice in making the laws.

Later in the period the knights of the shire joined the representatives from the towns in forming a distinct body in Parliament, sitting by themselves under the name of the House of Commons. They asserted their right to assent to legislation, and (1376) they exercised hte right of impeaching before the House of Lords government officers guilty of misuse of power. Somewhat later (1407) they obtained the sole right to originate "Money Bills," that is, grants or appropriations of money for public purposes or for the King's use.

263. New Class of Barons.

Under Henry III other influential men of the realm, aside from the barons, who were tenants in chief, began to be summoned to the King's council. These were called "barons by writ." Later (under Richard II), barons were created by open letters bearing the royal seal, and were called "barons by patent."[1]

[1] This is the modern method of raising a subject (e.g. the poet, Alfred Tennyson) to the peerage. It marks the fact that from the thirteenth century the ownership of land was no longer considered a necessary condition of nobility; and that the peerage was gradually developing into the five degrees, which were completed in 1440, in the following ascending order: barons, viscounts, earls, marquises, dukes.

264. Land Laws.

During this period important laws (De Donis, or Entail, and Quia Emptores) respecting land were passed, which had the effect of keeping estates in families, and also of preventing their possessors from evading their feudal duties to the King. At the same time the Statute of Mortmain (a restriction on the acquisition of land by the Church, which was exempt from paying certain feudal dues) was imposed to prevent the King's revenue from being diminished.

II. Religion

265. Restriction of Papal Power.

During the Angevin period the popes endeavored to introduce the canon law (a body of ordinances consisting mainly of the decisions of Church councils and popes) into England, with the view of making it supreme; but the Parliament of Merton refused to accept it, saying, "We will not change the laws of England."

The Statute of Mortmain was also passed (SS226, 264) and other measures (Statutes of Provisors and Statute of Praemunire) (S243), which forbade the Pope from taking the appointment of bishops and other ecclesiastics out of the hands of the clergy; and which prohibited any appeal from the King's Court to the Papal Court. Furthermore, many hundreds of parishes, formerly filled by foreigners who could not speak English, were now given to native priests, and the sending of money out of the country to support foreign ecclesiastics was in great measure stopped.

During the Crusades two religious military orders had been established, called the Knights Hospitalers and the Knights Templars. The object of the former was, originally, to provide entertainment for pilgrims going to Jerusalem; that of the latter, to protect them. Both had extensive possessions in England. In 1312 the order of Templars was broken up on a charge of heresy and evil life, and their property in England given to the Knights Hospitalers, who were also called Knights of St. John.

266. Reform.

The Mendicant or "Begging Friars" began a reformatory movement in the Church and accomplished much good. This was followed by Wycliffe's attack on religious abuses, by his complete translation of the Bible, with the revival carried on by the "Poor Priests," and by the rise of the Lollards. Eventually severe laws were passed against the Lollards, partly because of their heretical opinions, and partly because they became in a measure identified with socialistic and communistic efforts to destroy rank and equalize property.

III. Military Affairs

267. Scutage.

By a tax called scutage, or shield money, levied on all knights who refused to serve the King in foreign wars, Henry II obtained the means to hire soldiers. By a law reviving the national militia, composed of freemen below the rank of knights, the King made himself in a considerable measure independent of the barons with respect to raising troops.

268. Armor; Heraldry.

The linked or mail armor now began to be superseded by that made of pieces of steel joined together so as to fit the body. This, when it was finally perfected, was called plate armor, and was both heavier and stronger than mail.

With the introduction of plate armor and the closed helmet it became the custom for each knight to wear a device, called a crest, on his helmet, and also to have one called a coat of arms (because originally worn on a loose coat over the armor).

The coat of arms served to distinguish the wearer from the others, and was of practical use not only to the followers of a great lord, who thus knew him at a glance, but it served in time of battle to prevent the confusion of friend and foe. Eventually, coats of arms became hereditary, and the descent, and to some extent the history, of a family can be traced by them. In this way heraldry may often prove helpful in gaining knowledge of men and events.

269. Chivalry; Tournaments.

The profession of arms was regulated by certain rules, by which each knight solemnly bound himself to serve the cause of religion and the King, and to be true, brace, and courteous to those of his own rank, to protect ladies (women of gentle birth), and succor all persons in distress. Under Edward III the system of knighthood and chivalry reached its culmination and began to decline.

One of the grotesque features of the attack of France was an expedition of English knights with one eye bandaged; this half-bling company having vowed to partially renounce their sight until they did some glorious deed. The chief amusement of the nobles and knights was the tournament, a mock combat fought on horseback, in full armor, which sometimes ended in a real battle. At these entertainments a lady was chosen queen, who gave prizes to the victors.

270. The Use of the Long Bow; Introduction of Cannon; Wars.

The common weapon of the yeomen, or foot soldiers, was the long bow. It was made of yew-tree wood, and was the height of the user. Armed with this weapon, the English soldiers proved themselves irresistable in the French wars, the French having no native archers of any account.

Roger Bacon is supposed to have known the properties of gunpowder as early as 1250, but no practical use was made of the discovery until the battle of Cre'cy, 1346, when a few very small cannon are said to have been employed by the English against the enemy's cavalry. Later, cannon were used to throw heavy stones in besieging castles. Still later, rude handguns came slowly into use. From this period kings gradually began to realize the full meaning of the harmless-looking black grains, with whose flash and noise the Oxford monk had amused himself.

The chief wars of the time were the contests between the kings and the barons, Richard I's Crusade, John's war with France, resulting in the loss of Normandy, Edward I's conquest of Wales and temporary subjugation of Scotland, and the beginning of the Hundred Years' War with France under Edward III.

The navy of this period was made up of small, one-masted vessels, seldom carrying more than a hundred and fifty fighting men. As the mariner's compass had now come into general use, these vessels could, if occasion required, make voyages of considerable length.

IV. Literature, Learning, and Art

271. Education.

In 1264 Walter de Merton founded the first college at Oxford, an institution which has ever since borne his name, and which really originated the English college system. During the reign of Edward III, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, gave a decided impulse to higher education by the establishment, at his own expense, of Winchester College, the first great public school founded in England. Later, he built and endowed New College at Oxford to supplement it.

In Merton's and Wykeham's institutions young men of small means were instructed, and in great measure supported, without charge. They were brought together under one roof, require to conform to proper discipline, and taught by the best teachers of the day. In this way a general feeling of emulation was roused, and at the same time a fraternal spirit cultivated, which had a strong influence in favor of a broader and deeper intellectual culture than the monastic schools at Oxford and elsewhere had encouraged.

272. Literature.

The most prominent historical work was that by Matthew Paris, a monk of St. Alban's, written in Latin, based largely on earlier chronicles, and covering the period from the Norman Conquest, 1066, to his death, in 1259. It is a work of much value, and was continued by writers of the same abbey.

The first English prose work was a volume of travels by Sir John Mandeville, dedicated to Edward III. It was followed by Wycliffe's translation of the Bible into English from the Latin version, and by Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," the first great English poem.

273. Architecture.

Edward I and his successors began to build structures combining the palace with the stronghold.[1] Conway and Carnavon Castles in Wales, Warwich Castle, Warwickshire, and a great part of Windsor Castle on the Thames, twenty-three miles west of London, are magnificent examples; the last is still occupied as a royal residence.

[1] The characteristic features of the Edwardian castles are double surrounding walls, with numerous protecting towers, and the omission of the square Norman keep.

In churches, the massive architecture of the Normans, with its heavy columns and round arches, was followed by the Early English style or the first period of the Gothic, with pointed arches, slender, clustered columns, and tapering spires. Salisbury Cathedral is the grandest example of the Early English style.

Later, the Decorated Style was adopted. It was characterized by broader windows, highly ornamented to correspond with the elaborate decoration within, which gave this style its name; this is seen to advantage in Exeter Cathedral, York Minster, and Merton College Chapel at Oxford.

V. General Industry and Commerce

274. Fairs; Guilds.

The domestic trade of the country was largely carried on during this period by great fairs held at stated times by royal license. Bunyan, in "Pilgrim's Progress," gives a vivid picture of one of these centers of trade and dissipation, under the name of "Vanity Fair." Though it represents the great fair of Sturbridge, near Cambridge, as he saw it in the seventeenth century, yet it undoubtably describes similar gatherings in the time of the Plantagenets.

In all large towns the merchants had formed associations for mutual protection and the advancement of trade, called merchant guilds. Artisans now instituted similar societies, under the name of craft guilds. For a long time the merchant guilds endeavored to shut out the craft guilds,—the men, as they said, "with dirty hands and blue nails,"—from having any part in the government of the towns. But eventually the latter got their full share, and in some cases, as in London, became the more influential party of the two. There they still survive under the name of the "City Companies."

275. The Wool Trade.

Under Edward III a flourishing trade in wool grew up between England and Flanders. The manufacture of fine woolen goods was also greatly extended in England. All commerce at this period was limited to certain market towns called "staples."

To these places produce and all other goods for export had to be carried in order that the government might collect duty on them before they were sent out of the country. If an Englishman carried goods abroad and sold them in the open market without first paying a tax to the Crown, he was liable to the punishment of death. Imports also paid duties.

276. The Great Strike.

The scarcity of laborers caused by the ravages of the Black Death caused a general strike for higher wages on the part of free workingmen, and also induced thousands of villeins to run away from their masters, in order to get work on their own account. The general uprising which a heavy poll tax caused among the villeins (S150), or farm laborers, and other workingmen, though suppressed at the time, led to the ultimate emancipation of the villeins by a gradual process extending through many generations.

VI. Mode of Life, Manners, and Customs

277. Dress; Furniture.

During most of this period great luxury in dress prevailed among the rich and noble. Silks, velvets, scarlet cloth, and cloth of gold were worn by both men and women. At one time the lords and gallants at court wore shoes with points curled up like rams' horns and fastened to the knee with silver chains.

Attempts were made by the government to abolish this and other ridiculous fashions, and also to regulate the cost of dress according to the rank and means of the wearer; but the effort met with small success. Even the rich at this time had but little furniture in their houses, and chairs were almost unknown. The floors of houses were strewn with rushes, which, as they were rarely changed, became horribly filthy, and were a prolific cause of sickness.

278. The Streets; Amusements; Profanity.

The streets of London and other cities were rarely more than twelve or fifteen feet wide. They were neither paved nor lighted. Pools of stagnant water and heaps of refuse abounded. There was no sewage. The only scavengers were the crows. The houses were of timber and plaster, with projecting stories, and destructive fires were common. The chief amusements were hunting and hawking, contests at archery, and tournaments. Plays were acted by amateur companies on stages on wheels, which could be moved from street to street.

The subjects continued to be drawn in large measure from the Bible and from legends of the saints. They served to instruct men in Scripture history, in an age when few could read. The instruction was not, however, always taken to heart, as profane swearing was so common that an Englishman was called on the Continent by his favorite oath, which the French regarded as a sort of national name before that of "John Bull" came into use.


"God's most dreaded instrument, In working out a pure intent, Is man—arrayed for mutual slaughter." Wordsworth

The Self-Destruction of Feudalism

Baron against Baron

The Houses of Lancaster and York (1399-1485)

House of Lancaster (the Red Rose) House of York (the White Rose) Henry IV, 1399-1413 Edward IV, 1461-1483 Henry V, 1413-1422 +Edward V, 1483 *Henry VI, 1422-1461 Richard III, 1483-1485

[1] Reference Books on this Period will be found in the Classified List of Books in the Appendix. The pronunciation of names will be found in the Index. The Leading Dates stand unenclosed; all others are in parentheses. *Henry VI, deposed 1461; reinstated for a short time in 1470. +Edward V, never crowned.

279. Henry IV's Accession.

Richard II left no children. The nearest heir to the kingdom by right of birth was the boy Edmund Mortimer, a descendant of Richard's uncle Lionel, Duke of Clarence.[2] Henry ignored Mortimer's claim, and standing before Richard's empty throne in Westminster Hall (S257), boldly demanded the crown for himself.[3]

[2] See Genealogical Table on page 140. [3] "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I, Henry of Lancaster, challenge this realm of England and the Crown, with all the members and the appurtenances, as that I am descended by right line of blood, coming from the good King Henry III, and through that right that God of his grace hath sent me, with help of kin and of all my friends to recover it, the which realm was in point to be undone by default of government and undoing of the good laws."

The nation had suffered so much from the misgovernment of those who had ruled during the minority of Richard, and later by Richard himself, that they wanted no more boy kings. Parliament, therefore, set aside the direct line of descent and accepted Henry. But the air was full of tumultuous passion. The Lords were divided in their allegiance, some stood by the former King, others by the new one. No loess than forty noblemen challenged each other to fight, and civil war seemed imminent.[1]

[1] J.F. Bright's "History of England," I, 276.

280. Conspiracy in favor of Richard.

The new King had hardly seated himself on the throne when a conspiracy was discovered, having for its object he release and restoration of Richard, still a prisoner in Pontefract Castle. The plot was easily crushed. A month later Richard was found dead (S257).

Henry had his body brought up to London and exposed to public view in St. Paul's Cathedral, in order that not only the people, but all would-be conspirators might now see that Richard's hands could never again wield the scepter.

There was, however, one man at least who refused to be convinced. Owen Glendower, a Welshman, whom the late King had befriended, declared that Richard was still living, and that the corpse exhibited was not his body. Glendower prepared to maintain his belief by arms. King Henry mustered a force with the intention of invading Wales and crushing the rebel on his own ground; but a succession of terrible tempests ensued.

The English soldiers got the idea that Glendower raised these storms, for as an old chronicle declares: "Through art magike he [Glendower] caused such foule weather of winds, tempest, raine, snow, and haile to be raised for the annoiance of the King's armie, that the like had not beene heard of."[2] For this reason the troops became disheartened, and the King was obliged to postpone the expedition.

[2] Holinshed's "Chronicle."

281. Rovolt of the Percies; Bold Step of the House of Commons, 1407.

The powerful Percy family had been active in helping Henry to obtain the throne,[3] and had spent large sums in defending the North against invasions from Scotland.[4] They expected a royal reward for these services, and were sorely disappointed because they did not get it. As young Henry Percy said of the King:

"My father, and my uncle, and myself, Did give him that same royalty he wears; And,—when he was not six-and-twenty strong, Sick in the world's regard, wretched and low, A poor, unminded outlaw sneaking home,— My father gave him welcome to the shore: . . . . . . . . Swore him assistance and perform'd it too."[1]

[3] Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and his son, Sir Henry Percy, or "Hotspur" (S257). [4] See the "Ballad of Chevy Chase." [1] Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Part I, Act IV, scene iii.

But the truth is, King Henry had little to give except promises. Parliament voted money cautiously, limiting its supplies to specific purposes. Men of wealth, feeling anxious about the issue of the King's usurpation,—for such many regarded it,—were afraid to lend him what he required.

In 1406 the House of Commons (SS213, 217) took a very decisive step. It demanded and obtained first, the exclusive right of originating all "Money Bills," or in other words, of making all grants of money which the King asked for. This practically gave the people the control of the nation's purse.[2] Secondly, the Commons demanded and obtained from the King that he should not in any way interfere with the right to deliberate what action they should take in regard to making such grants of money. Besides being held in check by the House of Commons, the King was hampered by a council whose advice he had pledged himself to follow. For these reasons Henry's position was in every way precarious.

[2] This right of originating "Money Bills" had been claimed as early as the reign of Richard II, but was not fully and formally recognized until 1407. See Taswell-Langmead's "English Constitutional History," p. 260, and Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p. xii, S13.

He had no clear title to the throne, and he had no means to buy military support. In addition to these difficulties, he had made an enemy of Sir Henry Percy. He had refused to ransom his brother-in-law, a Mortimer,[3] whom Glendower had captured, but whom the King wished well out of the way with others of that name.

[3] Sir Edmund Mortimer: He was uncle to the Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, who was heir to the crown. See Bailey's "Succession to the English Crown."

Young Percy proved a dangerous foe. His hot temper and impetuous daring had got for him the title of the "Hotspur of the North." He was so fond of fighting that Shakespeare speaks of him as "he that kills me osme six or seven dozen of scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, Fie upon this quite life! I want work."[1] This "fire eater," with his father, his uncle (the Earl of Worcester), the Scotch Earl of Douglas, and, last of all, Owen Glendower, now formed an alliance to force Henry to give up the throne.

[1] Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Part I, Act II, scene iv.

282. Battle of Shrewsbury (1403).

At Shrewsbury, on the edge of Wales, the armies of the King and of the revolutionists met. A number of Henry's enemies had sworn to single him out in battle. The plot was divulged, and it is said that thirteen knights arrayed themselves in armor resembling the King's in order to mislead the assailants. The whole thirteen perished on that bloody field, where fat Sir John Falstaff vowed he fought on Henry's behalf "a long hour by Shrewsbury clock."[2]

[2] Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Part I, Act V, scene iv.

283. Persecution of the Lollards; Statute of Heresy; the First Martyr (1401).

Thus far Henry had spent much time in crushing rebels, but he had also given part of it to burning heretics. To gain the favor of the clergy, and so render his throne more secure, the King favored the passage of a Statute of Heresy. The Lords and bishops passed such a law (to which the House of Commons seems to have assented).[3] It punished the Lollards (S255) and also all others who dissented from the essential doctrines of Rome with death.

[3] See Stubb's "Constitutional History of England," III, 32.

William Sawtrey, a London clergyman, was the first victim under the new law (1401). He had declared that he would not worship "the cross on which Christ suffered, but only Christ himself who had suffered on the cross." He had also openly denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the sacramental bread is miraculously changed into the actual body of the Saviour. For these and minor heresies he was burned at Smithfield, in London, in the presence of a great multitude.

Some years later a second martyrdom took place. But as the English people would not allow torture to be used in the case of the Knights Templars in the reign of Edward II (S265), so but very few of them seem to have believed that by committing the body to the flames they could burn error out of the soul.

The Lollards, indeed, were still cast into prison, as some of the extreme and communistic part of them doubtless deserved to be (S255), but we hear of no more being put to cruel deaths during Henry's reign, though later, the utmost rigor of the law was again to some extent enforced.

284. Henry's Last Days.

Toward the close of his life the King seems to have thought of reviving the Crusades for the conquest of Jerusalem (S182), where, according to tradition, an old prediction declared that he should die. But his Jerusalem was nearer than that of Palestine. While praying at the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey (S66), he was seized with mortal illness. His attendants carried him into a room near by.

When he recovered consciousness, and inquired where he was, he was told that the apartment was called the Jerusalem Chamber. "Praise be to God," he exclaimed, "then here I die!" There he breathed his last, saying to his son, young Prince Henry:

"God knows, my son, By what by-paths and indirect crook'd ways, I met this crown; and I myself know well How troublesome it sat upon my head; To thee it shall descend with better quiet, Better opinion, better confirmation; For all the soil of the achievement[1] goes With me into the earth."

[1] "Soil of achievement": stain or blame by which the crown was won. Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Part II, Act IV, scene iv.

285. Summary.

At the outset of his reign Parliament showed its power by changing the succession and making Henry King instead of young Edmund Mortimer, the direct hereditary heir to the crown. Though successful in crushing rebellion, Henry was obliged to submit to the guidance of a council.

Furthermore, he was made more entirely dependent on Parliament, especially in the matter of supplies, than any previous King, for the House of Commons now got and held control of the nation's purse. For the first time in English history heresy was made punishable by death; yet such was the restraining influence of the people, that but two executions took place in Henry IV's reign.

Henry V—1413-1422

286. Lollard Outbreak at Henry's Accession.

Henry's youth had been wild and dissolute, but the weight of the crown sobered him. He cast off poor old "Jack Falstaff"[1] (S282) and his other roistering companions, and began his new duties in earnest.

[1] Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Part II, Act V, scene v, beginning, "I know thee not, old man."

Sir John Oldcastle, or Lord Cobham, was at this time the most influential man among the Lollards (SS255, 283). He was brought to trial and convicted of heresy. The penalty was death; but the King granted him a respite, in the hope that he might recant, and Oldcastle managed to escape from prison (1414).

Immediately after, a conspiracy was detected among the Lollards for seizing the government, destroying the chief monasteries in and about London, and raising Oldcastle to power. Henry attacked the rebels unawares, killed many, and took a large number of prisoners, who were executed on a double charge of heresy and treason. Several years afterwards Oldcastle was burned as a heretic.

287. Report that Richard II was alive.

A strange report now began to circulate. It was said that Richard II (S257) had been seen in Scotland, and that he was preparing to claim the throne which Henry's father had taken from him. To silence this seditious rumor, the King, it is said, exhumed Richard's body from its grave in the little village of Langley, Hertfordshire. At any rate, a dead body, reputed to be Richard's, was brought to London and propped up in a chair, so that all might see it.

In this manner the King and his court escorted the corpse in solemn procession to Westminster Abbey, where it was reinterred among the tombs of the English sovereigns. With it he buried once for all the troublesome falsehood which had kept up insurrection, and had made the deposed King more feared after death than he had ever been during life.

288. War with France (1415).

To divert the attention of the nation from dangerous home questions likely to cause new plots and fresh revolts (SS286, 287), Henry now determined to act on his father's dying counsel and pick a foreign quarrel. The old grudge against France, which began with the feuds of Duke William of Normandy before he conquered England, made a war with that country always popular. At this period the French were divided into fierce parties that hated each other even more, if possible, than they hated the English. This, of course, greatly increased the chances of Henry's success, as he might form an alliance with one of these factions.

The King believed it a good opportunity to get three things he wanted,—a wife, a fortune, and the French crown. The King of France and his most powerful rival, the Duke of Burgundy, had each a daughter. To make sure of one of them, Henry secretly proposed to both. After long and fruitless negotiations the French King declined to grant the enormous dowry which the English King demanded. The latter gladly interpreted this refusal as equivalent to a declaration of war.

289. The Great Battle of Agincourt, 1415.

Henry set to work with vigor, raised an army, and invaded France. He besieged Harfleur, near the mouth of the Seine, and took it; but his army suffered so much from sickness that, after leaving a garrison in the place, he resolved to move north, to the walled city of Calais. It will be remembered that the English had captured that city nearly seventy years before (S240), and Henry intended to wait there for reenforcements. (See map facing p. 128.)

After a long and perilous march he reached a little village about midway between Cre'cy and Calais. There he encountered the enemy in great force. Both sides prepared for battle. The French had fifty thousand troops to Henry's seven or eight thousand; but the latter had that determination which wins victories. He said to one of his nobles who regretted that he had not a larger force:

"No, my fair cousin; If we are marked to die, we are enough To do our country loss; and if we live, The fewer men, the greater share of honor."[1]

[1] Shakespeare's "Henry V," Act IV, scene iii.

A heavy rain had fallen during the night, and the plowed land over which the French must cross was so wet and miry that their heavily armed horsemen sank deep at every step. The English bowmen, on the other hand, being on foot, could move with ease. Henry ordered every archer to drive a stake, sharpened at both ends, into the ground before him. This was a substitute for the modern bayonet, and presented an almost impassable barrier to the French cavalry.

As at Cre'cy and Poitiers, the English bowmen gained the day (SS238, 241). The sharp stakes stopped the enemy's horses, and the blinding showers of arrows threw the splendidly armed knights into wild confusion. With a ringing cheer Henry's troops rushed forward.

"When down their bows they threw, And forth their swords they drew, And on the French they flew: No man was tardy. Arms from the shoulder sent; Scalps to the teeth they rent; Down the French peasants went: These ere men hardy."[2]

[2] These vigorous lines, from Drayton's "Ballad of Agincourt" (1606), if not quite true to the letter of history (since it is doubted whether any French peasants were on the field), are wholly true to its spirit.

When the fight was over, the King asked, "What is the name of that castle yonder?" He was told it was called Agincourt. "Then," said he, "from henceforth this shall be known as the battle of Agincourt." This decisive victory made the winner feel sure that he could now hold his throne in spite of all plots against him (S288).

290. Treaty of Troyes, 1420; Henry's Death.

Henry went back in triumph to England. Two years later, he again invaded France. His victorious course continued. By the Treaty of Troyes (1420) he gained all that he had planned to get. He obtained large sums of money, the French Princess Catharine in marriage, and the promise of the crown of France on the death of her father, Charles VI, who was then insane and feeble. Meantime Henry was to govern the French kingdom as regent.

Henry returned to England with the bride he had won by the sword, but he was soon recalled to France by a revolt against his power. He died there, leaving an infant son, Henry. Two months afterward Charles VI died, so that by the terms of the treaty Henry's son now inherited the French Crown.

291. Summary.

The one great event with which Henry V's name is connected is the conquest of France. It was hailed at the time as a glorious achievement. In honor of it his tomb in Westminster Abbey was surmounted by a statue of the King, having a head of solid silver. Eventually the head was stolen and never recovered; the wooden statue still remains. The theft was typical of Henry's short-lived victories abroad, for all the territory he had gained was soon destined to be hopelessly lost.

Henry VI (House of Lancaster, Red Rose)—1422-1461

292. Accession of Henry; Renewal of the French War.

The heir to all the vast dominions left by Henry V was proclaimed King of England and France when in his cradle, and crowned, while still a child, first in Westminster Abbey and then at Paris.

But the accession to the French possesions was merely an empty form, for as Prince Charles, the son of the late Charles VI of France, refused to abide by the Treaty of Troyes (S290) and give up the throne, war again broke out.

293. Siege of Orleans.

The Duke of Bedford[1] fought vigorously in Henry's behalf. In five years the English had got possession of most of the country north of the Loire. They now determined to make an effort to drive the French Prince south of that river. To accomplish this they must take the strongly fortified town of Orleans, which was situated on its banks. (See map facing p. 84.)

[1] During Henry's minority, John, Duke of Bedford, was Protector of the realm. When absent in France, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, acted for him.

Forts were accordingly built around the place, and cannon planted to batter down its walls (S239). Six month later, so much progress had been made in the siege, that it was plain the city could not hold out much longer. The fortunes of Prince Charles seemed to depend on the fate of Orleans. If it fell, nothing, apparently, could save France from yielding to her conqueror.

294. Joan of Arc, 1429-1431.

At this juncture Joan of Arc, a peasant girl of eighteen, came forward to inspire her despairing countrymen with fresh courage. She believed that Heaven had called her to drive the English from the land. The troops rallied round her. Clad in white armor, mounted on a white war horse, she saved Orleans; then she led the troops from victory to victory, until she saw Prince Charles triumphantly crowned in the Cathedral of Rheims. (See map facing p. 128.)

Her fortunes soon changed. Her own people basely abandoned her. The unworthy King Charles made no attempt to protect the "Maid of Orleans," and she fell into the hands of the infuriated English, who believed she was in league with the devil. In accordance with this belief Joan was tried for witchcraft and heresy at Rouen, and sentenced to the flames. She died (1431) as bravely as she had lived, saying in her last agonies that her celestial voices had not deceived her, and that through them she had saved France.

"God forgive us," exclaimed one of Henry's courtiers who was present, "we are lost! We have burned a saint!" It was the truth; and from the martyred girl's ashes a new spirit seemed to go forth to bless her ungrateful country. The heart of the French people was touched; they rose and drove the English invaders from the soil of France.

Before Henry VI reached his thirtieth year the Hundred Years' War with France, which Edward III had begun (S237), was ended (1453), and England had lost all of her possessions on the Continent, except a bare foothold at Calais, and that was destined to be lost a few generations later (S373).

295. Henry VI's Character and Marriage.

When Henry became of age he proved to be but the shadow of a King. His health and character were alike feeble. At twenty-five he married the beautiful and unfortunate French Princess, Margaret of Anjou, who was by far the better man of the two. When years of disaster came, this dauntless "Queen of tears" headed councils, led armies, and ruled both King and kingdom.

296. Poverty of the Crown and Wealth of the Nobles.

One cause of the weakness of the government was its poverty. The revenues of the Crown had been greatly diminished by gifts and grants to favorites. The King was obliged to pawn his jewels and the silver plate from his table to pay his wedding expenses; and it is said on high authority[1] that the royal couple were sometimes in actual want of a dinner.

[1] Fortescue, on the "Government of England" (Plummer).

On the other hand, the Earl of Warwick and other great lords had made fortunes out of the French wars,[2] and lived in regal splendor. This Earl, it is said, had at his different castles and his city mansion in London upwards of thirty thousand men in his service. Their livery, or uniform, a bright red jacket with the Warwick arms—a bear erect holding a ragged staff—embroidered on it in white, was seen, known, and feared throughout the country.

[2] First, by furnishing troops to the government, the feudal system having now so far decayed that many soldiers had to be hired; secondly, by the plunder of French cities; thirdly, by ransoms obtained from noblemen taken prisoners.

Backed by such forces it was easy for the Earl and other powerful lords to overawe kings, parliaments, and courts. Between the heads of the great houses quarrels were constantly breaking out. The safety of the people was endanged by these feuds, which became more and more violent, and often ended in bloodshed and murer.

297. Disfranchisement of the Common People, 1430.

With the growth of power on the part of the nobles, there was also imposed for the first time a restriction on the right of the people to vote for members of Parliament. Up to this period all freemen might take part in the election of representatives chosen by the counties to sit in the House of Commons.

A law was now passed forbidding any one to vote at these elections unless he was a resident of the county and possessed of landed property yielding an annual income of forty shillings (S200).[1] Subsequently it was further enacted that no county candidate should be eligible unless he was a man of means and social standing.

[1] The income required by the statute was forty shillings, which, says Freeman, we may fairly call forty pounds of our present money. See E.A. Freeman's "Growth of the English Constitution," p. 97.

These two measures were blows against the free self-government of the nation, since their manifest tendency was to make the House of Commons represent the property rather than the people of the country (S319). (See, too, Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p. xiii, S14.)

298. Cade's Rebellion (1450).

A formidable rebellion broke out in Kent (1450), then, as now, one of the most independent and democratic counties in England. The leader was Jack Cade, who called himself by the popular name of Mortimer (S257, note 1, and S279). He claimed to be cousin to Richard, Duke of York, a nephew of that Edmund Mortimer, now dead, whom Henry IV had unjustly deprived of his succession to the crown.

Cade, who was a mere adventurer, was quite likely used as a tool by plotters much higher than himself. By putting him forward they could judge whether the country was ready for a revolution and change of sovereigns.

Wat Tyler's rebellion, seventy years before (S250), was almost purely social in its character, having for its object the emancipation of the enslaved laboring classes. Cade's insurrection was, on the contrary, almost wholly political. His chief complaint was that the people were not allowed their free choice in the election of representatives, but were forced by the nobility to choose candidates they did not want. Other grievances for which reform was demanded were excessive taxastion and the rapacity of the evil counselors who controlled the King.

Cade entered London with a body of twenty thousand men under strict discipline. Many of the citizens sympathized with Cade's projects of reform, and were ready to give him a welcome. He took formal possession of the place by striking his sword on London Stone,—a Roman monument still standing, which then marked the center of the ancient capital,—saying, as Shakespeare reports him, "Now is Mortimer lord of this city."[1]

After three days of riot and the murder of the King's treasurer, the rebellion came to an end through a general pardon. Cade, however, endeavored to raise a new insurrection in the south, but was shortly after captured, and died of his wounds.

[1] "Now is Mortimer lord of this city, and here, sitting upon London Stone, I charge and command that, at the city's cost, this conduit runs nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign; and now it shall be treason for any man to call me other than Lord Mortimer." —Shakerspeare's "Henry VI," Part II, Act IV, scene vi. It is noticeable that the great dramatist expresses no sympathy in this play with the cause of the people. In fact he ridicules Cade and his movement. In the same spirit he does not mention the Great Charter in his "King John," while in his "Richard II" he passes over Wat Tyler without a word. Perhaps the explanation may be found in the fact that Shakespeare lived in an age when England was threatened by both open and secret enemies. The need of his time was a strong, steady hand at the helm; it was no season for reform or change of any sort; on this account he may have thought it his duty to be silent in regard to democratic risings and demands in the past (S313, note 2).

299. Wars of the Roses, 1455-1485.

The real significance of Cade's insurrection is that it showed the widespread feeling of discontent caused by misgovernment, and that it served as an introduction to the long and dreary period of civil strife known as the Wars of the Roses.

So long as the English nobles had France for a fighting ground, French cities to plunder, and French captives to hold for heavy ransoms, they were content to let matters go on quietly at home. But that day was over. Through the bad management, if not through the positive treachery, of Edmund, Duke of Somerset, the French conquests had been lost. Henry VI, a weak king, at times insane, sat on the English throne (S295), while Richard, Duke of York, a really able man and a descendant of the Mortimers (see table, p. 161), was, as many believed, unlawfully excluded from it.

This fact in itself would have furnished a plausible pretext for hostilities, even as far back as Cade's rising. But the birth of a son[2] to Henry (1453) probably gave the signal for the outbreak, since it cut off all hopes which Richard's friends may have had of his peaceful succession.

[2] Prince Edward. See Genealogical Table, p. 161, under Henry VI.

300. The Scene in the Temple Garden.

Shakespeare represents the smoldering feud between the rival houses of Lancaster and York (both of whom it should be remembered were descendants of Edward III)[1] as breaking into an angry quarrel in the Temple Garden, London, when Richard, Duke of York, says:

"Let him that is a true-born gentleman, And stands upon the honor of his birth, If he suppose that I have pleaded truth, From off this brier pluck a white rose with me."[2]

To this challenge John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset,[3] a descendant of the house of Lancaster, who has just accused Richard of being the dishonored son of a traitor, replies:

"Let him that is no coward, nor no flatterer, But dare maintain the party of the truth, Pluch a red rose from off this thorn with me."

A little later on the Earl of Warwick rejoins:

"This brawl to-day, Grown to this faction in the Temple-garden, Shall send, between the red rose and the white, A thousand souls to death and deadly night."[4]

[1] Table showing the descendants of Edward III, with reference to the claims of Lancaster and York to the crown:

Edward III Lionel, Duke of John of Gaunt, Duke of Edmund, Duke of Clarence (3d son) Lancaster (4th son) York (5th son) - Philippa Richard, Earl of Henry IV +John, Earl Cambridge, m. of Somerset Anne Mortimer Henry V Edmund Anne Mortimer - Mortimer m. Richard, Prince Edward, (Earl of Earl of b. 1453; killed John, Edmund, March) Cambridge (s. at battle of Duke of Duke of d. 1424 of Edmund, Tewkesbury, Somerset, Somerset Duke of York) 1471 d. 1448 *Richard, Duke of York Edward IV (1461-1483)

*Inherited the title of Duke of York from his father's brother, Edward, Duke of York, who died without issue. Richard' father, the Earl of Cambridge, had forfeited his title and estates by treason, but Parliament had so far limited the sentence that his son was not thereby debarred from inheriting his uncle's rank and fortune. Richard, Duke of York, now represented the direct hereditary line of succession to the crown, while Henry VI and his son represented that established by Parliament through the acceptance of Henry IV (S279). +John, Earl of Somerset, was an illegitimate half brother of Henry IV's, but was, in 1397, declared legitimate by act of Parliament and a papal decree.

[2] Shakespeare's "Henry VI," Part I, Act II, scene iv. [3] John, Duke of Somerset, died 1448. He was brother of Edmund, Duke of Somerset, who was slain at St. Albans, 1455. [4] Shakespeare's "Henry VI," Part I, Act II, scene iv.

301. The Real Object of the Wars of the Roses.

The wars, however, did not directly originate in this quarrel, but rather in the strife for power between Edmund, Duke of Somerset (John's brother), and Richard, Duke of York. Each desired to get the control of the government, though at first neither appears to have openly aimed at the crown.

During King Henry's attack of insanity (1453) Richard was appointed Protector of the realm, and shortly afterward the Duke of Somerset, the King's particular favorite and chief adviser, was cast into prison on the double charge of having culpably lost Normandy and embezzled public moneys.

When Henry recovered (1455), he released Somerset and restored him to office. Richard protested, and raising an army in the north, marched toward London. He met the royalist forces at St. Albans; a battle ensued, and Somerset was slain.

During the next thirty years the war raged with more or less fury between the parties of the Red Rose (Lancaster) and the White Rose (York). The first maintained that Parliament had the right to choose whatever king it saw fit, as in Henry IV's case (S279); the second insisted that the succession should be determined by strict hereditary descent, as represented in the claim of Richard.[2]

[2] See Genealogical Table, p. 161.

But beneath the surface the contest was not for principle, but for place and spoils. The great nobles, who during the French wars (S288) had pillaged abroad, now pillaged each other; and as England was neither big enough nor rich enough to satisfy the greed of all of them, the struggle gradually became a war of mutual extermination.

It was, to a certain extent, a sectional war. Eastern England, then the wealthiest and most progressive part of the country, had strongly supported Wycliffe in his reforms (S254). It now espoused the side of Richard, Duke of York, who was believed to be friendly to religious liberty, while the western counties fought for the cause of Lancaster and the Church.

302. The First Battles (1455-1460).

We have already seen (S301) that the first blood was shed at St. Albans (1455), where the Yorkists, after half an hour's fighting, gained a complete victory. A similar result followed at Bloreheath, Staffordshire (1459). In a third battle, at Northampton, the Yorkists were again successful (1460). Henry was taken prisoner, and Queen Margaret fled with the young Prince Edward to Scotland. Richard now demanded the crown. (See map facing p. 172.)

Henry answered with unexpected spirit: "My father was King, his father also was King. I have worn the crown forty years from my cradle; you have all sworn fealty to me as your sovereign, and your fathers did the like to my fathers. How, then, can my claim be disputed?" After a long controversy, a compromise was effected. Henry agreed that if he were left in peaceable possession of the throne during his life, Richard or his heirs should succeed him.

303. Battles of Wakefield and Towton (1460-1461).

But Queen Margaret refused to see her son, Prince Edward, thus tamely set aside. She raised an army and attacked the Yorkists. Richard, Duke of York, whose forces were inferior to hers, had entrenched himself in Sandal Castle near Wakefield, Yorkshire. Day after day Margaret went up under the walls and dared him to come out.

At length, stung by her taunts, the Duke sallied from his strongold, and the battle of Wakefield was fought (1460). Margaret was victorious. Richard was slain, and the Queen, in mockery of his claims to sovereignty, cut off his head, decked it with a paper crown, and set it up over the chief gate of the city of York. Fortune now changed. The next year (1461) the Lacastrians were defeated with great slaughter at Towton, Yorkshire. The light spring snow was crimsoned with the blood of thirty thousand slain, and the way strewn with corpses for ten miles up to the walls of York.

The Earl of Warwick (S296), henceforth popularly known as "King Maker," now place Edward, eldest son of the late Duke of York, on the throne, with the title of Edward IV (S300, table). Henry and Margaret fled to Scotland. The new government summoned them to appear, and as they failed to answer, proclaimed them traitors.

Four years later Henry was taken prisoner and sent to the Tower of London (S305). He may have been happier there than battling for his throne. He was not born to reign, but rather, as Shakespeare makes him say, to lead a shepherd's life, watching his flocks, until the peacefully flowing years should—

"Bring white hairs unto a quiet grave."[1]

[1] See Henry's soliloquy on the field of Towton, beginning, "O God! methinks it were a happy life To be no better than a homely swain." Shakespeare's "Henry VI," Part III, Act II, scene v

304. Summary.

The history of the peiod is one of loss to England. The brilliant French conquests of Henry V (SS289, 290) slipped from the nerveless hands of his son, leaving France practically independent. The people's power to vote had been restricted (S297). The House of Commons had ceased to be democratic even in a moderate degree. Its members were all property holders elected by property holders (S297). Cade's rebellion was the sign of political discontent and the forerunner of civil war (S298).

The contests of the parties of the Red and White Roses drenched England's fair fields with the best blood of her own sons. The reign ends with King Henry in prison, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward fugitives, and the Yorkist, Edward IV, placed on the throne by the help of the powerful Earl of Warwick (S296).

Edward IV (House of York, White Rose)—1461-1483

305. Continuation of the War; Barnet; Death of Henry; Tewkesbury (1471).

During the whole of Edward IV's reign (S303) the war went on with varying success, but unvarying ferocity, until at last neither side would ask or give quarter. Some years after the accession of the new sovereign, the Earl of Warwick (S296) quarreled with him, thrust him from the throne, and restored Henry VI (S303).

But a few months later, at the battle of Barnet, near London (1471), Warwick, who was "the last of the great barons," was killed, and Henry, who had been led back to the Tower of London again (S303), died one of those "conveniently sudden deaths" which were then so common.

The heroic Queen Margaret (SS295, 303), however, would not give up the contest in behalf of her son's claim to the crown. But fate was against her. A few weeks after the battle of Barnet her army was utterly defeated at Tewkesbury (1471), her son Edward slain, and the Queen herself taken prisoner. (See map facing p. 172.)

She was eventually released on the payment of a large ransom, and returned to France, where she died broken-hearted in her native Anjou, prophesying that the contest would go on until the Red Rose, representing her party, should get a still deeper dye from the blood of her enemies.

306. The Introduction of Printing, 1477.

But an event was at hand of greater importance than any question of crowns or parties, though then none was wise enough to see its real significance. William Caxton, a London merchant, had learned the new art of printing with movable type[1] at Bruges in Flanders (now Belgium). When he returned to his native country, he set up a small press within the grounds of Westminster Abbey.

[1] The first printing in Europe was done in the early part of the fifteenth century from wooden blocks on which the words were cut. Movable types were invented about 1450.

There, at the sign of a shield bearing a red "pale," or band, he advertised his wares as "good chepe." He was not only printer, but translator and editor. King Edward gave him some royal patronage. His Majesty was willing to pay liberally for work which was not long before the clergy in France had condemned as a black art emanating from the devil. Many, too, of the English clergy regarded it with no very friendly eye, since it threatened to destroy the copying trade, of which the monks had well-nigh a monopoly (S154).

The first printed book which Caxton is known to have published in England was a small volume entitled "The Sayings of the Philosophers," 1477.[1] This venture was followed in due time by Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" (S253), and whatever other poetry, history, or classics seemed worthy of preservation; making in all nearly a hundred distinct works comprising more than eighteen thousand volumes.

[1] "The dictes or sayengis of the philosophres, enprynted by me william Caxton at westmestre, the year of our lord MCCCCLxxvii."

Up to this time a book of any kind was a luxury, laboriously "written by the few for the few"; but from this date literature of all sorts was destined to multiply and fill the earth with many leaves and some good fruit.

Caxton's patrons, though few, were choice, and when one of them, the Earl of Worcester, was beheaded in the wars, Caxton said, "The ax did then cut off more learning than was left in all the heads of the surviving lords." Towards the close of the nineteenth century a memorial window was placed in St. Margaret's Church within the abbey grounds, as a tribute to the man who, while England was red with slaughter, introduced "the art preservative of all arts," and preservative of liberty no less[1] (S322).

[1] "Lord! taught by thee, when Caxton bade His silent words forever speak; A grave for tyrants then was made, Then crack'd the chain which yet shall break." Ebenezer Elliott, "Hymn for the Printers' Gathering at Sheffield," 1833

307. King Edward's Character.

The King, however, cared more for his pleasures than for literature or the welfare of the nation. His chief aim was to beg, borrow, or extort money to waste in dissipation. The loans which he forced his subjects to grant, and which were seldom, if ever, repaid, went under the name of "benevolences." But it is safe to say that those who furnished them were in no very benevolent frame of mind at the time.

Exception may perhaps be made of the rich and elderly widow, who was so pleased with the King's handsome face that she willingly handed him a 20 pounds (a large sum in those days); and when the jovial monarch gallantly kissed her out of gratitude for her generosity, she at once, like a true and loyal subject, doubled the donation. Edward's course of life was not conducive to length of days, even if the times had favored a long reign. He died early, leaving a son, Prince Edward, to succeed him.

308. Summary.

The reign was marked by the continuation of the Wars of the Roses, the death of King Henry VI and of his son, with the return of Queen Margaret to France. The most important event outside of the war was the introduction of the printing press into England by William Caxton.

Edward V (House of York, White Rose)—1483

309. Gloucester appointed Protector.

Prince Edward, heir to the throne, was a lad of twelve (S307). His position was naturally full of peril. It became much more so, from the fact that his ambitious and unscrupulous uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had been appointed Lord Protector of the realm until the boy should become of age. Richard protected his young nephew as a wolf would protect a lamb.

He met the Prince coming up to London from Ludlow Castle, Shropshire, attended by his half brother, Sir Richard Grey, and his uncle, Lord Rivers. Under the pretext that Edward would be safer in the Tower of London than at Westminster Palace, Richard sent the Prince there, and soon found means for having his kinsmen, Grey and Rivers, executed.

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