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The History of England from the Accession of Henry III. to the Death of Edward III. (1216-1377)
England During The Latter Years Of Edward III
by Tout, T.F. (M.A.)


Never was Edward's glory so high as in the years immediately succeeding the treaty of Calais. The unspeakable misery of France heightened his magnificence by the strength of the contrast. At eight-and-forty he retained the vigour and energy of his younger days, though surrounded by a band of grown-up sons. In 1362 the king celebrated his jubilee, or his fiftieth birthday, amidst feasts of unexampled splendour. Not less magnificent were the festivities that attended the visits of the three kings, of France, Cyprus, and Scotland, in 1364.

Of the glories of these years we have detailed accounts from an eye-witness a writer competent, above all other men of his time, to set down in courtly and happy phrase the wonders that delighted his eyes. In 1361, John Froissart, an adventurous young clerk from Valenciennes, sought out a career for himself in the household of his countrywoman, Queen Philippa, bearing with him as his credentials a draft of a verse chronicle which was his first attempt at historical composition. He came to England at the right moment. The older generation of historians had laid down their pens towards the conclusion of the great war, and had left no worthy successors. The new-comer was soon to surpass them, not in precision and sobriety, but in wealth of detail, in literary charm, and in genial appreciation of the externals of his age. He recorded with an eye-witness's precision of colour, though with utter indifference to exactness, the tournaments and fetes, the banquets and the largesses of the noble lords and ladies of the most brilliant court in Christendom. He celebrated the courtesy of the knightly class, their devotion to their word of honour, the liberality with which captive foreigners was allowed to share in their sports and pleasures, and the implicit loyalty with which nearly all the many captive knights repaid the trust placed on their word. To him Edward was the most glorious of kings, and Philippa, his patroness, the most beautiful, liberal, pious, and charitable of queens. For nine years he enjoyed the queen's bounty, and described with loyal partiality the exploits of English knights. With the death of his patroness and the beginning of England's misfortunes, the light-minded adventurer sought another master in the French-loving Wenceslaus of Brabant. The first edition of his chronicle, compiled when under the spell of the English court, contrasts strongly with the second version written at Brussels at the instigation of the Luxemburg duke of Brabant.

Even Froissart saw that all was not well in England. The common people seemed to him proud, cruel, disloyal, and suspicious. Their delight was in battle and slaughter, and they hated the foreigner with a fierce hatred which had no counterpart in the cosmopolitan knightly class. They were the terror of their lords and delighted in keeping their kings under restraint. The Londoners were the most mighty of the English and could do more than all the rest of England. Other writers tell the same tale. The same fierce patriotism that Froissart notes glows through the rude battle songs in which Lawrence Minot sang the early victories of Edward from Halidon Hill to the taking of Guînes, and inspired Geoffrey le Baker to repeat with absolute confidence every malicious story which gossip told to the discredit of the French king and his people. It was under the influence of this spirit that the steps were taken, which we have already recorded, to extend the use of English, notably in the law courts. Yet the old bilingual habit clave long to the English. Despite the statute of 1362, the lawyers continued to employ the French tongue, until it crystallised into the jargon of the later Year Books or of Littleton's Tenures. Under Edward III, however, French remained the living speech of many Englishmen. John Gower wrote in French the earliest of his long poems. But he is a thorough Englishman for all that. He writes in French, but, as he says, he writes for England.1
1 "O gentile Engleterre, a toi j'escrits," Mirour de l'Omme, in John Gower's Works, i., 378, ed. G.C. MaCaulay, to whom belongs the credit of recovering this long lost work.
It was characteristic of the patriotic movement of the reign of Edward III, that a new courtly literature in the English language rivalled the French vernacular literature which as yet had by no means ceased to produce fruit. The new type begins with the anonymous poems, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," and the "Pearl". While Froissart was the chief literary figure at the English court during the ten years after the treaty of Calais, his place was occupied in the concluding decade of the reign by Geoffrey Chaucer, the first great poet of the English literary revival. The son of a substantial London vintner, Chaucer spent his youth as a page in the household of Lionel of Antwerp, from which he was transferred to the service of Edward himself. He took part in more than one of Edward's French campaigns, and served in diplomatic missions to Italy, Flanders, and elsewhere. His early poems reflect the modes and metres of the current French tradition in an English dress, and only reach sustained importance in his lament on the death of the Duchess Blanche of Lancaster, written about 1370. It is significant that the favourite poet of the king's declining years was no clerk but a layman, and that the Tuscan mission of 1373, which perhaps first introduced him to the treasures of Italian poetry, was undertaken in the king's service. Thorough Englishman as Chaucer was, he had his eyes open to every movement of European culture. His higher and later style begins with his study of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Though he wrote for Englishmen in their own tongue, his fame was celebrated by the French poet, Eustace Deschamps, as the "great translator" who had sown the flowers of French poesy in the realm of Aeneas and Brut the Trojan. His broad geniality stood in strong contrast to the savage patriotism of Minot. In becoming national, English vernacular art did not become insular. Chaucer wrote in the tongue of the southern midlands, the region wherein were situated his native London, the two universities, the habitual residences of the court, the chief seats of parliaments and councils, and the most frequented marts of commerce. For the first time a standard English language came into being, largely displacing for literary purposes the local dialects which had hitherto been the natural vehicles of writing in their respective districts. The Yorkshireman, Wycliffe, the westcountryman, Langland, adopted before the end of the reign the tongue of the capital for their literary language in preference to the speech of their native shires. The language of the extreme south, the descendant of the tongue of the West Saxon court, became the dialect of peasants and artisans. That a continuous life was reserved for the idiom of the north country, was due to its becoming the speech of a free Scotland, the language in which Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, commemorated for the court of the first Stewart king the exploits of Robert Bruce and the Scottish war of independence. The unity of England thus found another notable expression in the oneness of the popular speech. And the evolution of the northern dialect into the "Scottish" of a separate kingdom showed that, if England were united, English-speaking Britain remained divided.

Other arts indicate the same tendency. Even in the thirteenth century English Gothic architecture differentiated itself pretty completely from its models in the Isle de France. The early fourteenth century, the age of the so-called "decorated style," suggests in some ways a falling back to the French types, though the prosperity of England and the desolation of France make the English examples of fourteenth century building the more numerous and splendid. The occasional tendency of the later "flowing" decorated towards "flamboyant" forms, to be seen in some of the churches of Northamptonshire, marks the culminating point of this fresh approximation of French and English architecture. But the division between the two countries brought about by war was illustrated before the end of the reign in the growth of the most local of our medieval architectural types, that "perpendicular" style which is so strikingly different from the "flamboyant" art of the neighbouring kingdom. This specially English style begins early in the reign of Edward III, when the cult of the murdered Edward of Carnarvon gave to the monks of St. Peter's, Gloucester, the means to recast the massive columns and gloomy arcades of the eastern portions of their romanesque abbey church after the lighter and brighter patterns in which Gloucester set the fashion to all southern Britain. In the buildings of the later years of Edward's reign the old "flowing decorated" and the newer and stiffer "perpendicular" grew up side by side. If the two seem almost combined in the church of Edington, in Wiltshire, the foundation dedicated in 1361 for his native village by Edward's chancellor, Bishop Edington of Winchester, the triumph of the perpendicular is assured in the new choir which Archbishop Thoresby began for York Minster, and in the reconstruction of the Norman cathedral of Winchester begun by Bishop Edington, and completed when his greater successor, William of Wykeham, carried out in a more drastic way the device already adopted at Gloucester of recasing the ancient structure so as to suit modern tastes. The full triumph of the new style is apparent in Wykeham's twin foundations at Winchester and Oxford. The separation of feeling between England and Scotland is now seen in architecture as well as in language. When the perpendicular fashion was carrying all before it in the southern realm, the Scottish builders erected their churches after the flamboyant type of their French allies. Thus while the twelfth and thirteenth century structures of the northern and southern kingdoms are practically indistinguishable, the differences between the two nations, which had arisen from the Edwardian policy of conquest, expressed themselves ultimately in the striking contrast between the flamboyant of Melrose or St. Giles' and the perpendicular of Winchester or Windsor.

English patriotism, which had asserted itself in the literature and art of the people long before it dominated courtly circles, continued to express itself in more popular forms than even those of the poems of Chaucer. The older fashions of instructing the people were still in vogue in the early part of Edward's reign. Richard Rolle, the hermit of Hampole, whose Prick of Conscience and vernacular paraphrases of the Bible illustrate the older didactic literature, was carried off in his Yorkshire cell in the year of the Black Death. The cycles of miracle plays, which edified and amused the townsfolk of Chester and York, crystallised into a permanent shape early in this reign, and were set forth with ever-increasing elaborateness by an age bent on pageantry and amusement. The vernacular sermons and popular manuals of devotion increased in numbers and copiousness. In this the time of the Black Death is, as in other aspects of our story, a deep dividing line.

The note of increasing strain and stress is fully expressed in the earlier forms of The Vision of Piers Plowman, which were composed before the death of Edward III. Its author, William Langland, a clerk in minor orders, debarred by marriage from a clerical career, came from the Mortimer estates in the march of Wales: but his life was mainly spent in London, and he wrote in the tongue of the city of his adoption. The first form of the poem is dated 1362, the year of the second visitation of the Black Death, while the troubles of the end of the reign perhaps inspired the fuller edition which saw the light in 1377. It is a commonplace to contrast the gloomy pictures drawn by Langland with the highly coloured pictures of contemporary society for which Chaucer was gathering his materials. Yet this contrast may be pressed too far. Though Langland had a keen eye to those miseries of the poor which are always with us, the impression of the time gathered from his writings is not so much one of material suffering, as of social unrest and discontent. The poor ploughman, who cannot get meat, still has his cheese, curds, and cream, his loaf of beans and bran, his leeks and cabbage, his cow, calf, and cart mare.1 The very beggar demanded "bread of clean wheat" and "beer of the best and brownest," while the landless labourer despised "night-old cabbage," "penny-ale," and bacon, and asked for fresh meat and fish freshly fried.2 There is plenty of rough comfort and coarse enjoyment in the England through which "Long Will" stalked moodily, idle, hopeless, and in himself exemplifying many of the evils which he condemned. The England of Langland is bitter, discontented, and sullen. It is the popular answer to the class prejudice and reckless greed of the lords and gentry. Langland's own attitude towards the more comfortable classes is much that of the self-assertive and mutinous Londoner whom Froissart looked upon with such bitter prejudice. He boasts that he was loath to do reverence to lords and ladies, or to those clad in furs with pendants of silver, and refuses to greet "sergeants" with a "God save you". Every class of society is flagellated in his scathing criticisms. He is no revolutionist with a new gospel of reform, but, though content to accept the old traditions, he is the ruthless denouncer of abuses, and is thoroughly filled with the spirit which, four years after the second recension of his book, found expression in the Peasants Revolt of 1381. With all the archaism of his diction and metre, Langland, even more than Chaucer, reflects the modernity of his age.
1 Vision of Piers Plowman, i.,220, ed. Skeat.

2 Ibid., i., 222.
Even the universities were growing more national, for the war prevented Oxford students from seeking, after their English graduation, a wider career at Paris. William of Ockham, the last of the great English schoolmen that won fame in the European rather than in the English world, died about 1349 in the service of the Bavarian emperor. In the same year the plague swept away Thomas Bradwardine, the "profound doctor," at the moment of his elevation to the throne of Canterbury. Bradwardine, though a scholar of universal reputation, won his fame at Oxford without the supplementary course at Paris, and lived all his career in his native land. As an English university career became more self-sufficient, Oxford became the school of the politician and the man of affairs as much as of the pure student. The new tendency is illustrated by the careers of the brothers Stratford, both Oxford scholars, yet famous not for their writings but for lives devoted to the service of the State, though rewarded by the highest offices of the Church. His conspicuous position as a teacher of scholastic philosophy first brought John Wycliffe into academic prominence. But he soon won a wider fame as a preacher in London, an adviser of the court, an opponent of the "possessioner" monks, and of the forsworn friars, who, deserting apostolic poverty, vied with the monks in covetousness. His attacks on practical abuses in the Church marked him out as a politician as well as a philosopher. His earlier career ended in 1374, the year in which he first became the king's ambassador, not long after proceeding to the degree of doctor of divinity.1 His later struggles must be considered in the light of the political history of the concluding episodes of Edward's reign. In a few years we shall find the Oxford champion abandoning the Latin language of universal culture, and appealing to the people in homely English. With Wycliffe's entry upon his wider career, it is hardly too much to say that Oxford ceased to be merely a part of the cosmopolitan training ground of the schoolmen, and became in some fashion a national institution. Cambridge, too young and obscure in earlier ages to have rivalled Oxford, first began to enjoy an increasing reputation.
1 This was before Dec. 26, 1373. See Twemlow in Engl. Hist. Review, xv, (1900), 529-530.
Hitherto culture had been not only cosmopolitan but clerical. Every university student and nearly every professional man was a clerk. But education was becoming possible for laymen, and there were already lay professions outside the clerical caste. The wide cultivation and the vigorous literary output of laymen of letters like Chaucer and Cower are sufficient evidence of this. But the best proof is the complete differentiation of the common lawyers from the clergy. The inns of court of London became virtually a legal university, where highly trained men studied a juristic system, which was not the less purely English in spirit because its practitioners used the French tongue as their technical instrument. There were no longer lawyers in England who, like Bracton, strove to base the law of the land on the forms and methods of Roman jurisprudence. There were no longer kings, like Edward I., with Italian trained civilians at their court ready to translate the law of England into imperialist forms. The canonist still studied at Oxford or Cambridge, but his career was increasingly clerical, and the Church, unlike the State, was unable to nationalise itself, though the whole career of Wycliffe and the strenuous efforts of the kings and statesmen who passed the statutes of Provisors and Praemunire, showed that some of the English clergy, and many of the English laity, were willing to make the effort. English law, in divorcing itself from the universities and the clergy, became national as well as lay. There were no longer any Weylands who concealed their clerical beginnings, and hid away the subdeacon under the married knight and justice, the founder of a landowning family. The lawyers of Edward's reign were frankly laymen, marrying and giving in marriage, establishing new families that became as noble as any of the decaying baronial houses, and yet cherishing a corporate ideal and common spirit as lively and real as those of any monastery or clerical association.

In enumerating the many convergent tendencies which worked together in strengthening the national life, we must not forget the growing importance of commerce. Merchant princes like the Poles could rival the financial operations of Lombard or Tuscan, and climb into the baronial class. The proud and mutinous temper of the Londoners was largely due to their ever-increasing wealth. We are on the threshold of the careers of commercial magnates, like the Philpots and the Whittingtons. Even when Edward III. was still on the throne, a London mayor of no special note, John Pyel, could set up in his native Northamptonshire village of Irthlingborough a college and church of remarkable stateliness and dignity. The growth of the wool trade, and its gradual transfer to English hands, the development of the staple system, the rise of an English seaman class that knew all the havens of Europe, the beginnings of the English cloth manufacture, all indicate that English commerce was not only becoming more extensive, but was gradually emancipating itself from dependence on the foreigner. Thus before the end of Edward's reign England was an intensely national state, proudly conscious of itself, and haughtily contemptuous of the foreigner, with its own language, literature, style in art, law, universities, and even the beginnings of a movement towards the nationalisation of the Church. The cosmopolitanism of the earlier Middle Ages was everywhere on the wane. A modern nation had arisen out of the old world-state and world-spirit. In the England of Edward III., Chaucer, and Wycliffe, we have reached the consummation of the movement whose first beginnings we have traced in the early storms of the reign of Henry III. It is in the development of this tendency that the period from 1216 to 1377 possesses such unity as it has.

During the years of peace after the treaty of Calais, Edward III. completed the scheme for the establishment of his family begun with the grant of Aquitaine to the Black Prince. The state of the king's finances made it impossible for him to provide for numerous sons and daughters from the royal exchequer, and the system of appanages had seldom been popular or successful in England. Edward found an easier way of endowing his offspring by politic marriages that transferred to his sons the endowments and dignities of the great houses, which, in spite of lavish creations of new earldoms, were steadily dying out in the male line. Some of his daughters in the same way were married into baronial families whose attachment to the throne would, it was believed, be strengthened by intermarriage with the king's kin; while others, wedded to foreign princes, helped to widen the circle of continental alliances on which he never ceased to build large hopes. Collateral branches of the royal family were pressed into the same system, which was so systematically ordered that it has passed for a new departure in English history. This is, however, hardly the case. Many previous kings, notably Edward I., carried out a policy based upon similar lines, and only less conspicuous by reason of the smaller number of children that they had to provide for. The descendants of Henry III. and Edward I. in no wise kept true to the monarchical tradition, but rather gave distinction to the baronial opposition by ennobling it with royal alliances. But the martial and vigorous policy of Edward III. had at least the effect of reducing to inactivity the tradition of constitutional opposition which had been the common characteristic of successive generations of the royal house of Lancaster, the chief collateral branch of the royal family. Subsequent history will show that the Edwardian family settlement was as unsuccessful as that of his grandfather. The alliances which Edward built up brought neither solidarity to the royal house, nor strength to the crown, nor union to the baronage. But the working out of this, as of so many of the new developments of the later part of Edward's reign, can only be seen after his death.

Edward's eldest son became, as we have seen, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales, and Earl of Chester even before he received Aquitaine. He was the first of the continuous line of English princes of Wales, for Edward III. never bore that title. The Black Prince's marriage with his cousin, Joan of Kent, was a love-match, and the estates of his bride were scarcely an important consideration to the lord of Wales and Cheshire. Yet the only child of the unlucky Edmund of Woodstock was no mean heiress, bringing with her the estates of her father's earldom of Kent, besides the inheritance of her mother's family, the Wakes of Liddell and Lincolnshire. The estates and earldom afterwards passed to Joan's son by a former husband, and the Holland earls of Kent formed a minor family connexion which closely supported the throne of Richard of Bordeaux. Though their paternal inheritance was that of Lancashire squires, the Hollands won a leading place in the history of the next generation.

Edward III.'s second son, William of Hatfield, died in infancy. For his third son, Lionel of Antwerp, when still in his childhood, Edward found the greatest heiress of her time, Elizabeth, the only daughter of William de Burgh, the sixth lord of Connaught and third Earl of Ulster, the representative of one of the chief Anglo-Norman houses in Ireland. Even before his marriage, Lionel was made Earl of Ulster, a title sunk after 1362 in the novel dignity of the duchy of Clarence. This title was chosen because Elizabeth de Burgh was a grand-daughter of Elizabeth of Clare, the sister of the last Clare Earl of Gloucester, and a share of the Gloucester inheritance passed through her to the young duke. His marriage gave Lionel a special relation to Ireland, where, however, his two lordships of Ulster and Connaught were largely in the hands of the native septs, and where the royal authority had never won back the ground lost during the vigorous onslaught of Edward Bruce on the English power. In 1342 the estates of Ireland forwarded to Edward a long statement of the shortcomings of the English administration of the island.1 No effective steps were taken to remedy those evils until, in 1361, Edward III. sent Lionel as governor to Ireland, declaring "that our Irish dominions have been reduced to such utter devastation and ruin that they may be totally lost, if our subjects there are not immediately succoured". Lionel's most famous achievement was the statute of Kilkenny. This law prohibited the intermixture of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland with the native Irish, which was rapidly undermining the basis of English rule and confounding Celts and Normans in a nation, ever divided indeed against itself, but united against the English. Lionel wearied of a task beyond his strength. His wife's early death lessened the ties which bound him to her land, and he went back to England declaring that he would never return to Ireland if he could help it. His succession as governor by a Fitzgerald showed that the plan of ruling Ireland through England was abandoned by Edward III. in favour of the cheaper but fatal policy of concealing the weakness of the English power by combining it with the strength of the strongest of the Anglo-Norman houses. Under this faulty system, the statute of Kilkenny became inoperative almost from its enactment.
1 Cal. of Close, Rolls, 1341-43, pp. 508-16.
The widowed Duke of Clarence made a second great marriage. The Visconti, tyrants of Milan, were willing to pay heavily for the privilege of intermarriage with the great reigning families of Europe, and neither Edward III. nor the French king could resist the temptation of alliance with a family that was able to endow its daughters so richly. Accordingly, the Duke of Clarence became in 1368 the husband of Violante Visconti, the daughter of Galeazzo, lord of Pavia, and the niece of Bernabò, signor of Milan, the bitter foe of the Avignon papacy. Five months later, Lionel was carried away by a sudden sickness, and thus the Visconti marriage brought little fruit to England. Lionel's only child, Philippa, the offspring of his first marriage, was married, just before her father's death, to Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, great-grandson of the traitor earl beheaded in 1330. Lionel's death added to the vast inheritance of the Mortimers and Joinvilles the lands and claims of Ulster and Clarence, and so Edward III.'s magnanimity in reviving the earldom of March after the disgrace of 1330 was rewarded by the devolution of its estates to his grand-daughter's child. The Earl of March was invested with a new political importance, for his wife was the nearest representative of Edward III, save for the dying Black Prince and his sickly son. The fierce blood and broad estates of the great marcher family continued to give importance to Philippa's descendants; and finally the house of Mortimer mounted the throne in the person of Edward IV.

The estates of Lancaster were annexed to the reigning branch of the royal house by the marriage in 1359 of John of Gaunt, Edward's third surviving son, with Blanche of Lancaster, the heiress of Duke Henry, who became, after her sister Maud's death, the sole inheritor of the duchy of Lancaster. In 1362 John, who had hitherto been Earl of Richmond, yielded up this dignity to the younger John of Montfort, its rightful heir, and was created Duke of Lancaster at the same time that Lionel was made Duke of Clarence. Ten years after her marriage Blanche died, leaving John a son, Henry of Derby, the future Henry IV., whose wedding, after his grandfather's death, to one of the Bohun co-heiresses brought part of the estates of another great house within the grasp of Edward III.'s descendants. Moreover, the other Bohun co-heiress became in 1376 the wife of Thomas of Woodstock, the youngest of Edward's sons, the Gloucester of the next reign. The three Bohun earldoms of Hereford, Essex, and Northampton were thus absorbed by the old king's children and grandchildren. John of Gaunt, like Lionel, lost his wife early and sought a second bride abroad. In 1372 he married Constance of Castile, a natural daughter of the deceased Peter the Cruel. Henceforth he was summoned to parliament as King of Castile and Leon as well as Duke of Lancaster, though it was not until the next reign that he took any actual steps to assert his claim.

John's next younger brother, Edmund of Langley, Earl of Cambridge in 1368 married Isabella, Constance of Castile's younger sister. He was the future Duke of York, and as the only one of Edward III.'s sons who did not marry an English heiress, was the most scantily endowed of them all. The union of his descendants with those of Lionel of Clarence gave the house of York a territorial importance which was, as we have seen, mainly derived from the Mortimer inheritance. Thus the two lines of descendants of Edward III. which had most future significance were those which represented through heiresses the rival houses of Lancaster and March. The history of the next century shows that the rivalry was only made more formidable by the connexion of both these lines with the royal family. In this, the most striking triumph of the Edwardian policy, is also the most signal indication of its failure. From it arose the factions of York and Lancaster.

The legislation of the years of peace, from 1360 to 1369, is largely anti-papal and economic, and is so intimately connected with the laws of the preceding period that it has been dealt with in an earlier chapter. But however anti-papal, and therefore anti-clerical, some of Edward's laws were, his government was still mainly controlled by great ecclesiastical statesmen. Simon Langham, though a Benedictine monk, had as chancellor demanded in 1366 the opinion of the estates as to the unlawfulness of the Roman tribute, and the clerical estate, if it did not help forward the anti-Roman legislation, was content to stand aside, and let it take effect without protest. Shortly after taking part in the movement against papal tribute, Langham was removed from the see of Ely to that of Canterbury in succession to Islip. His conversion into a purely monastic college of his predecessor's mixed foundation for seculars and regulars in Canterbury Hall, Oxford, showed a bias which might have been expected in a former abbot of Westminster, while his willingness to follow in the footsteps of Kilwardby, and exchange his archbishopric for the dignity of a cardinal and residence at Avignon showed that he was a papalist as well as an English patriot. His successor as primate, appointed in 1369 by papal provision, was William Whittlesea, a nephew of Archbishop Islip, whose weak health and colourless character made of little account his five years' tenure of the metropolitical dignity. With Canterbury in such feeble hands, the leadership in the Church and primacy in the councils of the crown passed to stronger men: such as John Thoresby, Archbishop of York till 1373; Thomas Brantingham, treasurer from 1369 to 1371, and Bishop of Exeter from 1370 to 1394; and above all to Edward's old servant, William of Wykeham, chancellor from 1367 to 1371, and Bishop of Winchester, in succession to Edington, from 1367 until 1404. Wykeham was a strenuous and hard-working servant of the crown, a vigorous and careful ruler of his diocese, a mighty pluralist, a magnificent builder, and the most bountiful and original of all the pious founders of his age. "Everything," says Froissart, "was done through him and without him nothing was done."1
1 Froissart, Chroniques, ed. Luce, viii., 101.
The year of the breach of the treaty of Calais was also marked by the third great visitation of the Black Death, and the death of Queen Philippa. Parliament cordially welcomed the resumption by Edward of the title of King of France, and made liberal subsidies for the prosecution of the campaign. Disappointment was all the more bitter when each campaign ended in disaster, and in the parliament of February, 1371, the storm burst. The circumstances of the ministerial crisis of 1341 were almost exactly renewed. As on the previous occasion, the state was in the hands of great ecclesiastics, whose conservative methods were thought inadequate for circumstances so perilous. John Hastings, second Earl of Pembroke of his house, a gallant young warrior and the intended son-in-law of the king, made himself the spokesman of the anti-clerical courtiers, probably with the good-will of the king. At Pembroke's instigation the earls, barons, and commons drew up a petition that, "inasmuch as the government of the realm has long been in the hands of the men of Holy Church, who in no case can be brought to account for their acts, whereby great mischief has happened in times past and may happen in times to come, may it therefore please the king that laymen of his own realm be elected to replace them, and that none but laymen henceforth be chancellor, treasurer, barons of the exchequer, clerk of privy seal, or other great officers of the realm ".1 Edward fell in with this request. Wykeham quitted the chancery, and Brantingham the treasury. Of their lay successors the new chancellor, Sir Robert Thorpe, chief-justice of the court of common pleas, was a close friend of the Earl of Pembroke, while the new treasurer, Sir Richard le Scrope of Bolton, a Yorkshire warrior, represented the interests of John of Gaunt, whose long absences abroad did not prevent his ultimately becoming a strong supporter of the lay policy. A subsidy of £50,000 and a statute that no new tax should be laid on wool without parliamentary assent concluded the work of this parliament.
1 Rot. Pad., ii., 304.
The lay ministers did not prove as efficient as their clerical predecessors. Want of acquaintance with administrative routine led them to assess the parliamentary grant so badly that an irregular reassembling of part of the estates was necessary, when it was found that the ministers had ludicrously over-estimated the number of parishes in England among which the grant of £50,000 had been equally divided. Meanwhile the French war was proceeding worse than before. Thorpe died in 1372, and another lay chief-justice, Sir John Knyvett, succeeded him in the chancery. Pembroke, as we have seen, was taken prisoner to Santander within a few weeks of Thorpe's death. Fresh taxation was made necessary by every fresh defeat, and the clergy, who looked upon the misfortunes of the anti-clerical earl as God's punishment for his enmity to Holy Church, had their revenge against their lawyer supplanters, for the parliament of 1372 petitioned that lawyers, who used their position in parliament to advance their clients' affairs, should not be eligible for election as knights of the shire. Next year, the discontent of the estates came to a head after the failure of John of Gaunt's march from Calais to Bordeaux. The commons, by that time definitely organised as an independent house, answered the demand for fresh supplies by requesting the lords to appoint a committee of their number to confer with them on the state of the realm. The composition of the committee was not one that favoured the existing administration, and, guided by men like William of Wykeham, it made only a limited and conditional grant, which was strictly appropriated to the payment of the expenses of the war. The anti-clerical party was still strong enough to send up denunciations of papal assumptions, and the anxiety to adjust the relations between the papacy and the crown led to some abortive negotiations with the legates of Gregory XI at Bruges in 1374, which were mainly memorable for the appearance of John Wycliffe as one of the royal commissioners. Disgust at the attitude of the commons may well have postponed the next parliament for nearly three years. But the truce of Bruges made frequent parliaments less necessary.

The truce brought John of Gaunt back to England, and the rivalry between him and his elder brother, which had begun during their last joint campaigns in France, crystallised into definite parties the discordant tendencies that had been well marked since the crisis of 1371. The old king was a mere pawn in the game. His health had been broken by the debauchery and frivolity to which he had abandoned himself after the death of Queen Philippa. He was now entirely under the influence of Alice Perrers, a Hertfordshire squire's daughter, whose venality, greed, and shamelessness made her the fit tool for the self-seeking ring of courtiers. John of Gaunt sought her support as the best means of withdrawing the old king from the influence of the Prince of Wales, and the lay ministers were glad to maintain themselves in their tottering power by means of such powerful allies. Prominent among their party were courtier nobles--such as the chamberlain, Lord Latimer, and the steward of the household, Lord Neville of Raby,--and rich London financiers, chief among whom was Richard Lyons, men who made exorbitant profits out of the necessities of the administration. Faction sought to appear more respectable by professions of zeal for reform. The cry against papal encroachments was extended to a denunciation of the wealth and power of the clergy. John Wycliffe was called from his Oxford classrooms to expound the close connexion between dominion and grace, and to teach from London pulpits that the ungodly bishop or priest has no right to the temporal possessions given him on trust for the discharge of his high mission.1
1 Until recently all historians have dated the beginning of Wycliffe's political career from 1366, but J. Loserth has proved that 1374, the date of the last demand for the Roman tribute, to be the right year. See his Studien zur Kirchen-politik Englands im 14ten Jahrhundert, in Sitzungsberichte der Académie der Wissenschaften in Wien, philos. histor. classe, cxxxvi., 1897, and, more briefly, in Engl. Hist. Review, xi. (1896), 319-328.
A vigorous opposition to the dominant faction was formed. At its head was the Black Prince. Hardly less important and much more active than the dying hero of Poitiers was Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, the husband of Philippa of Clarence, and the father of the little Roger Mortimer whom nothing but the uncertain lives of the Prince of Wales and the sickly Richard of Bordeaux separated from the English throne. Hereditary antagonism accentuated incompatibility of personal interests. The ancient feuds of the houses of Mortimer and Lancaster still lived on in the hostility of their representatives. The understanding between the Prince of Wales and the Earl of March seems to have been complete. They had as their most powerful supporters the outraged dignitaries of the Church, who saw themselves kept out of office and threatened in their temporalities by the dominant faction. William of Wykeham, who had been the guardian of the Earl of March during his long minority, was the most experienced and wary of the clerical opposition to the lawyers and courtiers of the Lancaster faction. He had an eager and enthusiastic backer in the young and high-born Bishop of London, William Courtenay, the son of the Earl of Devon, and through his mother, Margaret Bohun, a great-grandson of Edward I. Office and descent combined to make Bishop Courtenay the custodian of the constitutional tradition, which was equally strong among the great baronial houses of ancient descent and such highly placed ecclesiastics as were zealous for the nation as well as for their order. His support was the more necessary since Simon of Sudbury, who in 1375 succeeded Whittlesea on the throne of St. Augustine, was a weak and time-serving politician.

The storm, which had long been brewing, burst at last in the parliament of April, 1376. Of the acts of this memorable assembly, famous as the Good Parliament, and of the other concluding troubles of the reign we are fortunate in possessing not only copious official records, but a minute and highly dramatic account from the pen of a St. Alban's monk, who, alone of the monastic chroniclers of his age, represented the spirit which, in the days of Matthew Paris, made the great Hertfordshire abbey so famous a school of historiography.1
1 Chron. Angliæ, 1328-88, ed. E.M. Thompson (Rolls Ser.). Compare Mr. S. Armitage-Smith's John of Gaunt for an unfavourable estimate of its value.
The Good Parliament showed from the beginning a strong animosity against the courtiers. The time was not yet come when the commons could take the initiative, or supply leaders from its own ranks, and even among the commons capacity was unequally divided. Authority and influence were exclusively with the knights of the shire, and the citizens and burgesses were content to allow the country gentry to speak and act in their name. The knights of the shire demanded that, in accordance with the precedent of 1373, a committee of magnates should be associated with them in determining the policy to be adopted. The lords spiritual and temporal were as eager as the knights to attack the government, and a committee, of which the leading spirits included the Earl of March and the Bishop of London, supplied the element of direction and initiation in which the commons were lacking. The resolution which prevailed was shown by the estates agreeing to make no grant until grievances had been redressed, and by the choice of Sir Peter de la Mare as spokesman of the commons before the king. Sir Peter was elected, we are told, because he possessed abundant wisdom and eloquence, and enough boldness to say what was in his mind, regardless of the good-will of the great. Perhaps a further and more weighty reason was that he was steward of the Earl of March. He was the first person to hold an office indistinguishable in all essentials from that of the later Speaker. Under his guidance the commons worked out an elaborate policy of revenge and reform. The contempt with which John of Gaunt and the courtiers had at first regarded their action, gave place to fear. The duke found it prudent to stand aside, while a clean sweep of the administration was made.

Charges were brought against the leading ministers of state, after a fashion in which the constitutional historian sees the beginnings of the process of the removal of great offenders by impeachment. Lord Latimer was the first victim. He had appropriated the king's money to his own uses; he had shown remissness and treachery during the last campaign in Brittany; he had taken bribes; he was, in a word, "useless to king and kingdom". His fate was promptly shared by Lyons, the London merchant, the accomplice of his frauds, who had availed himself of his court influence to make a "corner" in nearly all imported articles, to the impoverishment of the common people and the disorganisation of trade. Lord Neville, whose eager partisanship of Latimer had led him to insult Sir Peter de la Mare, was threatened with similar proceedings. Even Alice Perrers was attacked, though, says the chronicler, the natural affection of Englishmen for their king was so great that they were slow to molest the lady whom the king loved. However, Alice's unblushing interference with the course of justice, her appearance in the courts at Westminster, sitting on the judges' bench, clamouring for the condemnation of her enemies and the acquittal of her friends, roused the knights of the shire to action. An ordinance against women being allowed to practise in the law courts was made the pretext for her removal from court, and Alice, fearful that worse might happen, took oath that she would have no further dealings with the king. Meantime Latimer and Lyons were condemned to forfeiture and imprisonment.

In the midst of these proceedings the knights lost their strongest support by the death of the Black Prince on June 8. John of Gaunt at once went down to the house of commons, and boldly suggested that the English should follow the example of the French and allow no woman to become heiress of the kingdom. This was a direct assertion of his own claims to stand next to the throne after Richard of Bordeaux, and before Roger Mortimer. Alarmed at the blow thus levelled against their chief remaining champion, the knights courageously held to their position. "The king," said they, "though old is still healthy, and may outlive us all. Moreover he has an heir in the ten-year-old prince Richard. While these are alive there is no need to discuss the question of the succession." They completed the drawing up of the long list of petitions, whose grudging and partial acceptance by the crown made the roll of the parliament of 1376 memorable as asserting principles, if not as vindicating practical ends. They forced Lancaster to agree to a council of twelve peers nominated in parliament to act as a standing committee of advisers, without which the king might do nothing of any importance. After this revival of the methods of the Mad Parliament and the lords ordainers, the Good Parliament separated on July 6. It had sat longer than any previous parliament of which there is record. It had persevered to the end in the teeth of discouragements of all kinds, and, even after his brother's death, Duke John dared not lift up his hand against it so long as the session continued.

When the estates separated Lancaster threw off the mask. The king, sunk in extreme dotage, was entirely in the hands of his unscrupulous son. The old man was kept quiet by the return of Alice Perrers to court. She had sworn on the rood never to see the king again, but the prelates were "like dumb dogs unable to bark" against her; and no effort was made to prosecute her for perjury. Latimer and Lyons returned from their luxurious imprisonment in the Tower to their places at court. The duke roundly declared that the late parliament was no parliament at all. No statute was based upon its petitions, the council of twelve was rudely dissolved, and Sir Peter de la Mare was imprisoned in Nottingham castle. William of Wykeham was deprived of his temporalities, and the rumour spread that his disgrace was due to his possession of a state secret, revealed to him by the dying queen Philippa, that John of Gaunt was no true son of the royal pair but a changeling. So timid was the disgraced bishop that he vied with the weak primate in his subserviency to Alice. The Earl of March, who was marshal of England, was ordered to inspect the fortresses beyond sea, whereupon, fearing a plot to assassinate him, he resigned his office, "preferring," says a friend, "to lose his marshal's staff rather than his life". The powerful north-country lord, Henry Percy, who had hitherto acted with the opposition, was bribed by the office of marshal to join the Lancastrian party.

Grave difficulties still beset the government, and in January, 1377, John of Gaunt had to face another parliament. Every precaution was taken to pack the commons with his partisans. Of the knights of the shire of the Good Parliament only eight were members of its successor,1 while in the place of the imprisoned De la Mare, Sir Thomas Hungerford, steward of the Duke of Lancaster, was chosen Speaker, on this occasion by that very name. A packed committee of lords was assigned to advise the commons. In these circumstances it was not difficult to procure the reversal of the acts against Alice Perrers and Latimer, and the grant of a poll tax of a groat a head. The only measure of conciliation was a general pardon, a pretext for which was found in the jubilee of the king's accession. From this William of Wykeham was expressly excepted.
1 Return of Members of Parliament, pt. i., 193-97; Chron. Angliæ, p. 112, understates the case.
The convocation of Canterbury proved less accommodating than the parliament. Under the able leadership of Bishop Courtenay, it took up the cause of the Bishop of Winchester, refused to join in a grant of money until he had taken his place in convocation, and, triumphing at last over the time-serving of Sudbury and the hesitation of Wykeham himself, persuaded the bishop to join their deliberations. Lancaster met the opposition of convocation by calling to his aid the Oxford doctor whom the clergy had already begun to look upon as the enemy of the privileges of their order. Wycliffe was not as yet under suspicion of direct dogmatic heresy. He had not yet clothed himself in the armour of his Balliol predecessor, Fitzralph, to wage war against the mendicant orders. But he had already formulated his theory that dominion was founded on grace, had declared that the pope had no right to excommunicate any one, or if he had that any simple priest could absolve the culprit from his sentence, and he had shown a hatred so bitter of clerical worldliness and clerical property that he was looked upon as the special enemy of the great land-holding prelates and of the "possessioner" monks, whose lands, he maintained, could be resumed by the representatives of the donors at their will. The strenuous advocate for reducing the clergy to apostolic poverty was not likely to find favour among the prelates. Wycliffe's only clerical supporters at this stage were the mendicant friars, from whose characteristic opinions as regards "evangelical poverty" he never at any time swerved.1 He was, however, eloquent and zealous, and he had a following. Fear either of Wycliffe or of his mendicant allies forced the bishops to take decisive action. Even Sudbury awoke, "as from deep sleep".2 The duke's dangerous supporter was summoned to answer before the bishops at St. Paul's.
1 Shirley (preface to Fasciculi Zizaniorum, Rolls Ser., p. xxvi.) thought that Wycliffe was "the sworn foe of the mendicants" in 1377, and E.M. Thompson's emphatic words repudiating the contrary statement of the St. Alban's writer, Chron. Anglice, p. liii., illustrate the view prevalent in England in 1874. Lechler's Wiclif und die Vorgeschichte der Reformation, published in 1873 proves that it was not until Wycliffe denied the doctrine of transubstantiation in 1379 or 1380 that the friars deserted him.

2 Chron. Anglice, p. 117.
On February 19, Wycliffe appeared in Courtenay's cathedral. Four mendicant doctors of divinity, chosen by Lancaster, came with him to defend him against the "possessioners," while the Duke of Lancaster himself, and Henry Percy, the new marshal, also accompanied him to overawe the bishops by their authority. The court was to be held in the lady chapel at the east end of the cathedral, and Wycliffe and his friends found some difficulty in making their way through the dense crowd that filled the spacious nave and aisles. Percy, irritated at the pressure of the throng, began to force it back in virtue of his office. Courtenay ordered that the marshal should exercise no authority in his cathedral. Thereupon Percy in a rage declared that he would act as marshal in the church, whether the bishop liked it or not. When the lady chapel was reached, there was further disputing as to whether Wycliffe should sit or stand, and Lancaster taunted Courtenay for trusting overmuch to the greatness of his family. When the bishop replied with equal spirit, John muttered: "I would liefer drag him out of his church by the hair of his head than put up with such insolence". The words were overheard, and the Londoners, who hated the duke, broke into open riot at this insult to their bishop. It was rumoured that the duke had come to St. Paul's, hot from an attack on the liberties of the city that very morning in parliament. The court broke up in wild confusion, and the riot spread from church to city. Next day Percy's house was pillaged, and John's palace of the Savoy attacked. The duke and the marshal were forced to seek the protection of their opponent, the Princess of Wales, at Kennington. The followers of Lancaster could only escape rough treatment by hiding away their lord's badges. The citizens cried that the Bishop of Winchester and Peter de la Mare should have a fair trial. At last the personal authority of Bishop Courtenay restored his unruly flock to order. The old king performed his last public act by soothing the spokesmen of the citizens with the pleasant words and easy grace of which he still was master. The Princess of Wales used her influence for peace, and matters were smoothed over.

At some risk of personal humiliation, Lancaster secured a substantial triumph. Convocation followed the lead of parliament and gave an ample subsidy. William of Wykeham purchased the restoration of his temporalities by an unworthy deference to Alice Perrers. Wycliffe remained powerful, flattered, and consulted, though his enemies had already drawn up secret articles against him, which they had forwarded to the papal curia. Perhaps in the rapidly declining health of the king all parties saw that their real interest lay in the postponement of a crisis.

In June Edward lay on his deathbed at Sheen. To the last his talk was all of hawking and hunting, and his mistress carefully kept from him all knowledge of his desperate condition. When he sank into his last lethargy, his courtiers deserted him, and Alice Perrers took to flight after robbing him of the very rings on his fingers. A simple priest, brought to the bedside by pity, performed for the half-conscious king the last offices of religion. Edward was just able to kiss the cross and murmur "Jesus have mercy". On June 21, 1377, he breathed his last.

With Edward's death we break off a narrative whose course is but half run. John of Gaunt's rule was not over; Wycliffe was advancing from discontent to revolt; Chaucer was yet to rise for a higher flight; Langland had not yet put his complaint into its permanent form; the French war was renewed almost on the day of Edward's death; popular irritation against bad government, and social and economic repression were still preparing for the revolt of 1381. With all its defects the age of Edward is preeminently a strong age. Greedy, self-seeking, rough, and violent it may be; its passions and rivalries combined to make futile the exercise of its strength; it sounded the revolutionary note of all abrupt ages of transition, and it ends in disaster and demoralisation at home and abroad. But government is not everything, and least of all in the Middle Ages when what was then thought vigorous government appears miserably weak to modern notions. The strong rule decayed with the failure of the king's personal vigour. The ministers of Edward's dotage could not hold France nor even keep England quiet. England had grown impatient of the rule of a despot, though she was not yet able to govern herself after a constitutional fashion. It is in the incompatibility of the political ideals of royal authority and constitutional control, not less than in the want of purpose of her ruler and in the factions of her nobles that the explanation of the period must be sought. The age of Edward III. has been alternatively decried and exalted. Both verdicts are true, but neither contains the whole truth. The explanation of both is to be found in the annals of a later age.

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