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History of the English People - Book IV The Parliament--1307-1461
Authorities for Book IV
by Green, John Richard (M.A.)


For Edward the Second we have three important contemporaries: Thomas de la More, Trokelowe's Annals, and the life by a monk of Malmesbury printed by Hearne. The sympathies of the first are with the King, those of the last two with the Barons. Murimuth's short Chronicle is also contemporary. John Barbour's "Bruce," the great legendary storehouse for his hero's adventures, is historically worthless.

Important as it is, the reign of Edward the Third is by no means fortunate in its annalists. The concluding part of the Chronicle of Walter of Hemingford or Heminburgh seems to have been jotted down as news of the passing events reached its author: it ends at the battle of Crécy. Hearne has published another contemporary account, that of Robert of Avesbury, which closes in 1356. A third account by Knyghton, a canon of Leicester, will be found in the collection of Twysden. At the end of this century and the beginning of the next the annals which had been carried on in the Abbey of St. Albans were thrown together by Walsingham in the "Historia Anglicana" which bears his name, a compilation whose history may be found in the prefaces to the "Chronica Monasterii S. Albani" issued in the Rolls Series. An anonymous chronicler whose work is printed in the 22nd volume of the "Archæologia" has given us the story of the Good Parliament, another account is preserved in the "Chronica Angliæ from 1328 to 1388," published in the Rolls Series, and fresh light has been recently thrown on the time by the publication of a Chronicle by Adam of Usk which extends from 1377 to 1404. Fortunately the scantiness of historical narrative is compensated by the growing fulness and abundance of our State papers. Rymer's Foedera is rich in diplomatic and other documents for this period, and from this time we have a storehouse of political and social information in the Parliamentary Rolls.

For the French war itself our primary authority is the Chronicle of Jehan le Bel, a canon of the church of St. Lambert of Liége, who himself served in Edward's campaign against the Scots and spent the rest of his life at the court of John of Hainault. Up to the Treaty of Brétigny, where it closes, Froissart has done little more than copy this work, making however large additions from his own enquiries, especially in the Flemish and Breton campaigns and in the account of Crécy. Froissart was himself a Hainaulter of Valenciennes; he held a post in Queen Philippa's household from 1361 to 1369, and under this influence produced in 1373 the first edition of his well-known Chronicle. A later edition is far less English in tone, and a third version, begun by him in his old age after long absence from England, is distinctly French in its sympathies. Froissart's vivacity and picturesqueness blind us to the inaccuracy of his details; as an historical authority he is of little value. The "Fasciculi Zizaniorum" in the Rolls Series with the documents appended to it is a work of primary authority for the history of Wyclif and his followers: a selection from his English tracts has been made by Mr. T. Arnold for the University of Oxford, which has also published his "Trias." The version of the Bible that bears his name has been edited with a valuable preface by the Rev. J. Forshall and Sir F. Madden. William Langland's poem, "The Complaint of Piers the Ploughman" (edited by Mr. Skeat for the Early English Text Society), throws a flood of light on the social state of England after the Treaty of Brétigny.

The "Annals of Richard the Second and Henry the Fourth," now published by the Master of the Rolls, are our main authority for the period which follows Edward's death. They serve as the basis of the St. Albans compilation which bears the name of Walsingham, and from which the "Life of Richard" by a monk of Evesham is for the most part derived. The same violent Lancastrian sympathy runs through Walsingham and the fifth book of Knyghton's Chronicle. The French authorities on the other hand are vehemently on Richard's side. Froissart, who ends at this time, is supplemented by the metrical history of Creton ("Archæologia," vol. xx.), and by the "Chronique de la Traison et Mort de Richart" (English Historical Society), both works of French authors and published in France in the time of Henry the Fourth, probably with the aim of arousing French feeling against the House of Lancaster and the war-policy which it had revived. The popular feeling in England may be seen in "Political Songs from Edward III. to Richard III." (Rolls Series). A poem on "The Deposition of Richard II." which has been published by the Camden Society is now ascribed to William Langland.

With Henry the Fifth our historic materials become more abundant. We have the "Gesta Henrici Quinti" by Titus Livius, a chaplain in the royal army; a life by Elmham, prior of Lenton, simpler in style but identical in arrangement and facts with the former work; a biography by Robert Redman; a metrical chronicle by Elmham (published in Rolls Series in "Memorials of Henry the Fifth"); and the meagre chronicles of Hardyng and Otterbourne. The King's Norman campaigns may be studied in M. Puiseux's "Siége de Rouen" (Caen, 1867). The "Wars of the English in France" and Blondel's work "De Reductione Normanniæ" (both in Rolls Series) give ample information on the military side of this and the next reign. But with the accession of Henry the Sixth we again enter on a period of singular dearth in its historical authorities. The "Procès de Jeanne d'Arc" (published by the Société de l'Histoire de France) is the only real authority for her history. For English affairs we are reduced to the meagre accounts of William of Worcester, of the Continuator of the Crowland Chronicle, and of Fabyan. Fabyan is a London alderman with a strong bias in favour of the House of Lancaster, and his work is useful for London only. The Continuator is one of the best of his class; and though connected with the house of York, the date of his work, which appeared soon after Bosworth Field, makes him fairly impartial; but he is sketchy and deficient in information. The more copious narrative of Polydore Vergil is far superior to these in literary ability, but of later date, and strongly Lancastrian in tone. For the struggle between Edward and Warwick, the valuable narrative of "The Arrival of Edward the Fourth" (Camden Society) may be taken as the official account on the royal side. The Paston Letters are the first instance in English history of a family correspondence, and throw great light on the social condition of the time.

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