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History of the English People - Book III The Charter, 1204-1307
Edward the First 1272-1307
by Green, John Richard (M.A.)

Edward's Temper Influence of Chivalry
Influence of Legality His Moral Grandeur
His Political Genius Constitutional Aspect of his Reign
The Earlier Finance Indirect Taxation
Welsh Campaign Judicial Reforms
Equitable Jurisdiction Law and the Baronage
Edward and the Baronage Edward and the Church
Conquest of Wales New Legislation
"Quia Emptores" The Crown and the Jews
Popular Hatred of the Jews The Jewish Defiance
Expulsion of the Jews Scotland
Scotch and English Crowns The Scotch Succession
Edward and Scotland The French Attack
The Great Council Greater and Lesser Barons
Constitutional Influence of Finance     Knights of the Shire
Boroughs and the Crown Burgesses in Parliament
Reluctance to attend Parliament and the Clergy
Parliament at Westminster Conquest of Scotland
Confirmation of the Charters Revolt of Scotland
Wallace Second Conquest of Scotland
Rising of Bruce  

Edward's Temper

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


Influence of Chivalry

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


Influence of Legality

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


His Moral Grandeur

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


His Political Genius

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


Constitutional Aspect of his Reign

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


The Earlier Finance

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


Indirect Taxation

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


Welsh Campaign

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


Judicial Reforms

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

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


Equitable Jurisdiction

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


Law and the Baronage

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


Edward and the Baronage

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


Edward and the Church

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


Conquest of Wales

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


New Legislation

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


"Quia Emptores"

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


The Crown and the Jews

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


Popular Hatred of the Jews

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


The Jewish Defiance

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


Expulsion of the Jews

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

Scotland in 1290



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


Scotch and English Crowns

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


The Scotch Succession

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


Edward and Scotland

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


The French Attack

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


The Great Council

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


Greater and Lesser Barons

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


Constitutional Influence of Finance

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

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


Knights of the Shire

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


Boroughs and the Crown

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


Burgesses in Parliament

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


Reluctance to attend

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


Parliament and the Clergy

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


Parliament at Westminster

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


Conquest of Scotland

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

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


Confirmation of the Charters

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


Revolt of Scotland

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



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


Second Conquest of Scotland

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


Rising of Bruce

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


Terms Defined

Referenced Works