HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE, VOLUME II
JOHN RICHARD GREEN, M.A. Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford
THE CHARTER, 1216-1307 THE PARLIAMENT, 1307-1400
First Edition, Demy 8vo, November 1877; Reprinted December 1877, 1881, 1885, 1890. Eversley Edition, 1895. London MacMillan and Co. and New York 1895
Book III—The Charter—1216-1307
Chapter II—Henry the Third—1216-1232
Chapter III—The Barons' War—1232-1272
Chapter IV—Edward the First—1272-1307
Book IV—The Parliament—1307-1461
Authorities for Book IV
Chapter I—Edward II—1307-1327
Chapter II—Edward the Third—1327-1347
Chapter III—The Peasant Revolt—1347-1381
Chapter IV—Richard the Second—1381-1400
LIST OF MAPS
Scotland in 1290 (v2-map-1.jpg)
France at the Treaty of Bretigny (v2-map-2.jpg)
BOOK III THE CHARTER 1216-1307
CHAPTER II HENRY THE THIRD 1216-1232
[Sidenote: William Marshal]
The death of John changed the whole face of English affairs. His son, Henry of Winchester, was but nine years old, and the pity which was stirred by the child's helplessness was aided by a sense of injustice in burthening him with the iniquity of his father. At his death John had driven from his side even the most loyal of his barons; but William Marshal had clung to him to the last, and with him was Gualo, the Legate of Innocent's successor, Honorius the Third. The position of Gualo as representative of the Papal overlord of the realm was of the highest importance, and his action showed the real attitude of Rome towards English freedom. The boy-king was hardly crowned at Gloucester when Legate and Earl issued in his name the very Charter against which his father had died fighting. Only the clauses which regulated taxation and the summoning of parliament were as yet declared to be suspended. The choice of William Marshal as "governor of King and kingdom" gave weight to this step; and its effect was seen when the contest was renewed in 1217. Lewis was at first successful in the eastern counties, but the political reaction was aided by jealousies which broke out between the English and French nobles in his force, and the first drew gradually away from him. So general was the defection that at the opening of summer William Marshal felt himself strong enough for a blow at his foes. Lewis himself was investing Dover, and a joint army of French and English barons under the Count of Perche and Robert Fitz-Walter was besieging Lincoln, when gathering troops rapidly from the royal castles the regent marched to the relief of the latter town. Cooped up in its narrow streets and attacked at once by the Earl and the garrison, the barons fled in utter rout; the Count of Perche fell on the field, Robert Fitz-Walter was taken prisoner. Lewis at once retreated on London and called for aid from France. But a more terrible defeat crushed his remaining hopes. A small English fleet which set sail from Dover under Hubert de Burgh fell boldly on the reinforcements which were crossing under escort of Eustace the Monk, a well-known freebooter of the Channel. Some incidents of the fight light up for us the naval warfare of the time. From the decks of the English vessels bowmen poured their arrows into the crowded transports, others hurled quicklime into their enemies' faces, while the more active vessels crashed with their armed prows into the sides of the French ships. The skill of the mariners of the Cinque Ports turned the day against the larger forces of their opponents, and the fleet of Eustace was utterly destroyed. The royal army at once closed upon London, but resistance was really at an end. By a treaty concluded at Lambeth in September Lewis promised to withdraw from England on payment of a sum which he claimed as debt; his adherents were restored to their possessions, the liberties of London and other towns confirmed, and the prisoners on either side set at liberty. A fresh issue of the Charter, though in its modified form, proclaimed yet more clearly the temper and policy of the Earl Marshal.
[Sidenote: Hubert de Burgh]
His death at the opening of 1219, after a year spent in giving order to the realm, brought no change in the system he had adopted. The control of affairs passed into the hands of a new legate, Pandulf, of Stephen Langton who had just returned forgiven from Rome, and of the Justiciar, Hubert de Burgh. It was a time of transition, and the temper of the Justiciar was eminently transitional. Bred in the school of Henry the Second, Hubert had little sympathy with national freedom, and though resolute to maintain the Charter he can have had small love for it; his conception of good government, like that of his master, lay in a wise personal administration, in the preservation of order and law. But he combined with this a thoroughly English desire for national independence, a hatred of foreigners, and a reluctance to waste English blood and treasure in Continental struggles. Able as he proved himself, his task was one of no common difficulty. He was hampered by the constant interference of Rome. A Papal legate resided at the English court, and claimed a share in the administration of the realm as the representative of its overlord and as guardian of the young sovereign. A foreign party too had still a footing in the kingdom, for William Marshal had been unable to rid himself of men like Peter des Roches or Faukes de Breaute, who had fought on the royal side in the struggle against Lewis. Hubert had to deal too with the anarchy which that struggle left behind it. From the time of the Conquest the centre of England had been covered with the domains of great houses, whose longings were for feudal independence and whose spirit of revolt had been held in check partly by the stern rule of the kings and partly by the rise of a baronage sprung from the Court and settled for the most part in the North. The oppression of John united both the earlier and these newer houses in the struggle for the Charter. But the character of each remained unchanged, and the close of the struggle saw the feudal party break out in their old lawlessness and defiance of the Crown.
[Sidenote: Order restored]
For a time the anarchy of Stephen's days seemed to revive. But the Justiciar was resolute to crush it, and he was backed by the strenuous efforts of Stephen Langton. A new and solemn coronation of the young king in 1220 was followed by a demand for the restoration of the royal castles which had been seized by the barons and foreigners. The Earl of Chester, the head of the feudal baronage, though he rose in armed rebellion, quailed before the march of Hubert and the Primate's threats of excommunication. A more formidable foe remained in the Frenchman, Faukes de Breaute, the sheriff of six counties, with six royal castles in his hands, and allied both with the rebel barons and Llewelyn of Wales. But in 1224 his castle of Bedford was besieged for two months; and on its surrender the stern justice of Hubert hung the twenty-four knights and their retainers who formed the garrison before its walls. The blow was effectual; the royal castles were surrendered by the barons, and the land was once more at peace. Freed from foreign soldiery, the country was freed also from the presence of the foreign legate. Langton wrested a promise from Rome that so long as he lived no future legate should be sent to England, and with Pandulf's resignation in 1221 the direct interference of the Papacy in the government of the realm came to an end. But even these services of the Primate were small compared with his services to English freedom. Throughout his life the Charter was the first object of his care. The omission of the articles which restricted the royal power over taxation in the Charter which was published at Henry's accession in 1216 was doubtless due to the Archbishop's absence and disgrace at Rome. The suppression of disorder seems to have revived the older spirit of resistance among the royal ministers; for when Langton demanded a fresh confirmation of the Charter in Parliament at London William Brewer, one of the King's councillors, protested that it had been extorted by force and was without legal validity. "If you loved the King, William," the Primate burst out in anger, "you would not throw a stumbling-block in the way of the peace of the realm." The young king was cowed by the Archbishop's wrath, and promised observance of the Charter. But it may have been their consciousness of such a temper among the royal councillors that made Langton and the baronage demand two years later a fresh promulgation of the Charter as the price of a subsidy, and Henry's assent established the principle, so fruitful of constitutional results, that redress of wrongs precedes a grant to the Crown.
[Sidenote: State of the Church]
These repeated sanctions of the Charter and the government of the realm year after year in accordance with its provisions were gradually bringing the new freedom home to the mass of Englishmen. But the sense of liberty was at this time quickened and intensified by a religious movement which stirred English society to its depths. Never had the priesthood wielded such boundless power over Christendom as in the days of Innocent the Third and his immediate successors. But its religious hold on the people was loosening day by day. The old reverence for the Papacy was fading away before the universal resentment at its political ambition, its lavish use of interdict and excommunication for purely secular ends, its degradation of the most sacred sentences into means of financial extortion. In Italy the struggle that was opening between Rome and Frederick the Second disclosed a spirit of scepticism which among the Epicurean poets of Florence denied the immortality of the soul and attacked the very foundations of the faith itself. In Southern Gaul, Languedoc and Provence had embraced the heresy of the Albigenses and thrown off all allegiance to the Papacy. Even in England, though there were no signs as yet of religious revolt, and though the political action of Rome had been in the main on the side of freedom, there was a spirit of resistance to its interference with national concerns which broke out in the struggle against John. "The Pope has no part in secular matters," had been the reply of London to the interdict of Innocent. And within the English Church itself there was much to call for reform. Its attitude in the strife for the Charter as well as the after work of the Primate had made it more popular than ever; but its spiritual energy was less than its political. The disuse of preaching, the decline of the monastic orders into rich landowners, the non-residence and ignorance of the parish priests, lowered the religious influence of the clergy. The abuses of the time foiled even the energy of such men as Bishop Grosseteste of Lincoln. His constitutions forbid the clergy to haunt taverns, to gamble, to share in drinking bouts, to mix in the riot and debauchery of the life of the baronage. But such prohibitions witness to the prevalence of the evils they denounce. Bishops and deans were still withdrawn from their ecclesiastical duties to act as ministers, judges, or ambassadors. Benefices were heaped in hundreds at a time on royal favourites like John Mansel. Abbeys absorbed the tithes of parishes and then served them by half-starved vicars, while exemptions purchased from Rome shielded the scandalous lives of canons and monks from all episcopal discipline. And behind all this was a group of secular statesmen and scholars, the successors of such critics as Walter Map, waging indeed no open warfare with the Church, but noting with bitter sarcasm its abuses and its faults.
[Sidenote: The Friars]
To bring the world back again within the pale of the Church was the aim of two religious orders which sprang suddenly to life at the opening of the thirteenth century. The zeal of the Spaniard Dominic was roused at the sight of the lordly prelates who sought by fire and sword to win the Albigensian heretics to the faith. "Zeal," he cried, "must be met by zeal, lowliness by lowliness, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching lies by preaching truth." His fiery ardour and rigid orthodoxy were seconded by the mystical piety, the imaginative enthusiasm of Francis of Assisi. The life of Francis falls like a stream of tender light across the darkness of the time. In the frescoes of Giotto or the verse of Dante we see him take Poverty for his bride. He strips himself of all, he flings his very clothes at his father's feet, that he may be one with Nature and God. His passionate verse claims the moon for his sister and the sun for his brother, he calls on his brother the Wind, and his sister the Water. His last faint cry was a "Welcome, Sister Death!" Strangely as the two men differed from each other, their aim was the same—to convert the heathen, to extirpate heresy, to reconcile knowledge with orthodoxy, above all to carry the Gospel to the poor. The work was to be done by an utter reversal of the older monasticism, by seeking personal salvation in effort for the salvation of their fellow-men, by exchanging the solitary of the cloister for the preacher, the monk for the "brother" or friar. To force the new "brethren" into entire dependence on those among whom they laboured their vow of Poverty was turned into a stern reality; the "Begging Friars" were to subsist solely on alms, they might possess neither money nor lands, the very houses in which they lived were to be held in trust for them by others. The tide of popular enthusiasm which welcomed their appearance swept before it the reluctance of Rome, the jealousy of the older orders, the opposition of the parochial priesthood. Thousands of brethren gathered in a few years round Francis and Dominic; and the begging preachers, clad in coarse frock of serge with a girdle of rope round their waist, wandered barefooted as missionaries over Asia, battled with heresy in Italy and Gaul, lectured in the Universities, and preached and toiled among the poor.
[Sidenote: The Friars and the Towns]
To the towns especially the coming of the Friars was a religious revolution. They had been left for the most part to the worst and most ignorant of the clergy, the mass-priest, whose sole subsistence lay in his fees. Burgher and artizan were left to spell out what religious instruction they might from the gorgeous ceremonies of the Church's ritual or the scriptural pictures and sculptures which were graven on the walls of its minsters. We can hardly wonder at the burst of enthusiasm which welcomed the itinerant preacher whose fervid appeal, coarse wit, and familiar story brought religion into the fair and the market place. In England, where the Black Friars of Dominic arrived in 1221, the Grey Friars of Francis in 1224, both were received with the same delight. As the older orders had chosen the country, the Friars chose the town. They had hardly landed at Dover before they made straight for London and Oxford. In their ignorance of the road the first two Grey Brothers lost their way in the woods between Oxford and Baldon, and fearful of night and of the floods turned aside to a grange of the monks of Abingdon. Their ragged clothes and foreign gestures, as they prayed for hospitality, led the porter to take them for jongleurs, the jesters and jugglers of the day, and the news of this break in the monotony of their lives brought prior, sacrist, and cellarer to the door to welcome them and witness their tricks. The disappointment was too much for the temper of the monks, and the brothers were kicked roughly from the gate to find their night's lodging under a tree. But the welcome of the townsmen made up everywhere for the ill-will and opposition of both clergy and monks. The work of the Friars was physical as well as moral. The rapid progress of population within the boroughs had outstripped the sanitary regulations of the Middle Ages, and fever or plague or the more terrible scourge of leprosy festered in the wretched hovels of the suburbs. It was to haunts such as these that Francis had pointed his disciples, and the Grey Brethren at once fixed themselves in the meanest and poorest quarters of each town. Their first work lay in the noisome lazar-houses; it was amongst the lepers that they commonly chose the site of their homes. At London they settled in the shambles of Newgate; at Oxford they made their way to the swampy ground between its walls and the streams of Thames. Huts of mud and timber, as mean as the huts around them, rose within the rough fence and ditch that bounded the Friary. The order of Francis made a hard fight against the taste for sumptuous buildings and for greater personal comfort which characterized the time. "I did not enter into religion to build walls," protested an English provincial when the brethren pressed for a larger house; and Albert of Pisa ordered a stone cloister which the burgesses of Southampton had built for them to be razed to the ground. "You need no little mountains to lift your heads to heaven," was his scornful reply to a claim for pillows. None but the sick went shod. An Oxford Friar found a pair of shoes one morning, and wore them at matins. At night he dreamed that robbers leapt on him in a dangerous pass between Gloucester and Oxford with, shouts of "Kill, kill!" "I am a friar," shrieked the terror-stricken brother. "You lie," was the instant answer, "for you go shod." The Friar lifted up his foot in disproof, but the shoe was there. In an agony of repentance he woke and flung the pair out of window.
[Sidenote: Revival of Theology]
It was with less success that the order struggled against the passion of the time for knowledge. Their vow of poverty, rigidly interpreted as it was by their founders, would have denied them the possession of books or materials for study. "I am your breviary, I am your breviary," Francis cried passionately to a novice who asked for a psalter. When the news of a great doctor's reception was brought to him at Paris, his countenance fell. "I am afraid, my son," he replied, "that such doctors will be the destruction of my vineyard. They are the true doctors who with the meekness of wisdom show forth good works for the edification of their neighbours." One kind of knowledge indeed their work almost forced on them. The popularity of their preaching soon led them to the deeper study of theology; within a short time after their establishment in England we find as many as thirty readers or lecturers appointed at Hereford, Leicester, Bristol, and other places, and a regular succession of teachers provided at each University. The Oxford Dominicans lectured on theology in the nave of their new church while philosophy was taught in the cloister. The first provincial of the Grey Friars built a school in their Oxford house and persuaded Grosseteste to lecture there. His influence after his promotion to the see of Lincoln was steadily exerted to secure theological study among the Friars, as well as their establishment in the University; and in this work he was ably seconded by his scholar, Adam Marsh, or de Marisco, under whom the Franciscan school at Oxford attained a reputation throughout Christendom. Lyons, Paris, and Koln borrowed from it their professors: it was through its influence indeed that Oxford rose to a position hardly inferior to that of Paris itself as a centre of scholasticism. But the result of this powerful impulse was soon seen to be fatal to the wider intellectual activity which had till now characterized the Universities. Theology in its scholastic form resumed its supremacy in the schools. Its only efficient rivals were practical studies such as medicine and law. The last, as he was by far the greatest, instance of the freer and wider culture which had been the glory of the last century, was Roger Bacon, and no name better illustrates the rapidity and completeness with which it passed away.
[Sidenote: Roger Bacon]
Roger Bacon was the child of royalist parents who were driven into exile and reduced to poverty by the civil wars. From Oxford, where he studied under Edmund of Abingdon to whom he owed his introduction to the works of Aristotle, he passed to the University of Paris, and spent his whole heritage there in costly studies and experiments. "From my youth up," he writes, "I have laboured at the sciences and tongues. I have sought the friendship of all men among the Latins who had any reputation for knowledge. I have caused youths to be instructed in languages, geometry, arithmetic, the construction of tables and instruments, and many needful things besides." The difficulties in the way of such studies as he had resolved to pursue were immense. He was without instruments or means of experiment. "Without mathematical instruments no science can be mastered," he complains afterwards, "and these instruments are not to be found among the Latins, nor could they be made for two or three hundred pounds. Besides, better tables are indispensably necessary, tables on which the motions of the heavens are certified from the beginning to the end of the world without daily labour, but these tables are worth a king's ransom and could not be made without a vast expense. I have often attempted the composition of such tables, but could not finish them through failure of means and the folly of those whom I had to employ." Books were difficult and sometimes even impossible to procure. "The scientific works of Aristotle, of Avicenna, of Seneca, of Cicero, and other ancients cannot be had without great cost; their principal works have not been translated into Latin, and copies of others are not to be found in ordinary libraries or elsewhere. The admirable books of Cicero de Republica are not to be found anywhere, so far as I can hear, though I have made anxious enquiry for them in different parts of the world, and by various messengers. I could never find the works of Seneca, though I made diligent search for them during twenty years and more. And so it is with many more most useful books connected with the science of morals." It is only words like these of his own that bring home to us the keen thirst for knowledge, the patience, the energy of Roger Bacon. He returned as a teacher to Oxford, and a touching record of his devotion to those whom he taught remains in the story of John of London, a boy of fifteen, whose ability raised him above the general level of his pupils. "When he came to me as a poor boy," says Bacon in recommending him to the Pope, "I caused him to be nurtured and instructed for the love of God, especially since for aptitude and innocence I have never found so towardly a youth. Five or six years ago I caused him to be taught in languages, mathematics, and optics, and I have gratuitously instructed him with my own lips since the time that I received your mandate. There is no one at Paris who knows so much of the root of philosophy, though he has not produced the branches, flowers, and fruit because of his youth, and because he has had no experience in teaching. But he has the means of surpassing all the Latins if he live to grow old and goes on as he has begun."
The pride with which he refers to his system of instruction was justified by the wide extension which he gave to scientific teaching in Oxford. It is probably of himself that he speaks when he tells us that "the science of optics has not hitherto been lectured on at Paris or elsewhere among the Latins, save twice at Oxford." It was a science on which he had laboured for ten years. But his teaching seems to have fallen on a barren soil. From the moment when the Friars settled in the Universities scholasticism absorbed the whole mental energy of the student world. The temper of the age was against scientific or philosophical studies. The older enthusiasm for knowledge was dying down; the study of law was the one source of promotion, whether in Church or state; philosophy was discredited, literature in its purer forms became almost extinct. After forty years of incessant study, Bacon found himself in his own words "unheard, forgotten, buried." He seems at one time to have been wealthy, but his wealth was gone. "During the twenty years that I have specially laboured in the attainment of wisdom, abandoning the path of common men, I have spent on these pursuits more than two thousand pounds, not to mention the cost of books, experiments, instruments, tables, the acquisition of languages, and the like. Add to all this the sacrifices I have made to procure the friendship of the wise and to obtain well-instructed assistants." Ruined and baffled in his hopes, Bacon listened to the counsels of his friend Grosseteste and renounced the world. He became a friar of the order of St. Francis, an order where books and study were looked upon as hindrances to the work which it had specially undertaken, that of preaching among the masses of the poor. He had written little. So far was he from attempting to write that his new superiors prohibited him from publishing anything under pain of forfeiture of the book and penance of bread and water. But we can see the craving of his mind, the passionate instinct of creation which marks the man of genius, in the joy with which he seized a strange opportunity that suddenly opened before him. "Some few chapters on different subjects, written at the entreaty of friends," seem to have got abroad, and were brought by one of the Pope's chaplains under the notice of Clement the Fourth. The Pope at once invited Bacon to write. But difficulties stood in his way. Materials, transcription, and other expenses for such a work as he projected would cost at least, L60, and the Pope sent not a penny. Bacon begged help from his family, but they were ruined like himself. No one would lend to a mendicant friar, and when his friends raised the money he needed it was by pawning their goods in the hope of repayment from Clement. Nor was this all; the work itself, abstruse and scientific as was its subject, had to be treated in a clear and popular form to gain the Papal ear. But difficulties which would have crushed another man only roused Roger Bacon to an almost superhuman energy. By the close of 1267 the work was done. The "greater work," itself in modern form a closely-printed folio, with its successive summaries and appendices in the "lesser" and the "third" works (which make a good octavo more), were produced and forwarded to the Pope within fifteen months.
[Sidenote: The Opus Majus]
No trace of this fiery haste remains in the book itself. The "Opus Majus" is alike wonderful in plan and detail. Bacon's main purpose, in the words of Dr. Whewell, is "to urge the necessity of a reform in the mode of philosophizing, to set forth the reasons why knowledge had not made a greater progress, to draw back attention to sources of knowledge which had been unwisely neglected, to discover other sources which were yet wholly unknown, and to animate men to the undertaking by a prospect of the vast advantages which it offered." The developement of his scheme is on the largest scale; he gathers together the whole knowledge of his time on every branch of science which it possessed, and as he passes them in review he suggests improvements in nearly all. His labours, both here and in his after works, in the field of grammar and philology, his perseverance in insisting on the necessity of correct texts, of an accurate knowledge of languages, of an exact interpretation, are hardly less remarkable than his scientific investigations. From grammar he passes to mathematics, from mathematics to experimental philosophy. Under the name of mathematics indeed was included all the physical science of the time. "The neglect of it for nearly thirty or forty years," pleads Bacon passionately, "hath nearly destroyed the entire studies of Latin Christendom. For he who knows not mathematics cannot know any other sciences; and what is more, he cannot discover his own ignorance or find its proper remedies." Geography, chronology, arithmetic, music, are brought into something of scientific form, and like rapid sketches are given of the question of climate, hydrography, geography, and astrology. The subject of optics, his own especial study, is treated with greater fulness; he enters into the question of the anatomy of the eye besides discussing problems which lie more strictly within the province of optical science. In a word, the "Greater Work," to borrow the phrase of Dr. Whewell, is "at once the Encyclopedia and the Novum Organum of the thirteenth century." The whole of the after-works of Roger Bacon—and treatise after treatise has of late been disentombed from our libraries—are but developements in detail of the magnificent conception he laid before Clement. Such a work was its own great reward.
From the world around Roger Bacon could look for and found small recognition. No word of acknowledgement seems to have reached its author from the Pope. If we may credit a more recent story, his writings only gained him a prison from his order. "Unheard, forgotten, buried," the old man died as he had lived, and it has been reserved for later ages to roll away the obscurity that had gathered round his memory, and to place first in the great roll of modern science the name of Roger Bacon.
The failure of Bacon shows the overpowering strength of the drift towards the practical studies, and above all towards theology in its scholastic guise. Aristotle, who had been so long held at bay as the most dangerous foe of mediaeval faith, was now turned by the adoption of his logical method in the discussion and definition of theological dogma into its unexpected ally. It was this very method that led to "that unprofitable subtlety and curiosity" which Lord Bacon notes as the vice of the scholastic philosophy. But "certain it is"—to continue the same great thinker's comment on the Friars—"that if these schoolmen to their great thirst of truth and unwearied travel of wit had joined variety of reading and contemplation, they had proved excellent lights to the great advancement of all learning and knowledge." What, amidst all their errors, they undoubtedly did was to insist on the necessity of rigid demonstration and a more exact use of words, to introduce a clear and methodical treatment of all subjects into discussion, and above all to substitute an appeal to reason for unquestioning obedience to authority. It was by this critical tendency, by the new clearness and precision which scholasticism gave to enquiry, that in spite of the trivial questions with which it often concerned itself it trained the human mind through the next two centuries to a temper which fitted it to profit by the great disclosure of knowledge that brought about the Renascence. And it is to the same spirit of fearless enquiry as well as to the strong popular sympathies which their very constitution necessitated that we must attribute the influence which the Friars undoubtedly exerted in the coming struggle between the people and the Crown. Their position is clearly and strongly marked throughout the whole contest. The University of Oxford, which soon fell under the direction of their teaching, stood first in its resistance to Papal exactions and its claim of English liberty. The classes in the towns, on whom the influence of the Friars told most directly, were steady supporters of freedom throughout the Barons' Wars.
[Sidenote: Its Political Influence]
Politically indeed the teaching of the schoolmen was of immense value, for it set on a religious basis and gave an intellectual form to the constitutional theory of the relations between king and people which was slowly emerging from the struggle with the Crown. In assuming the responsibility of a Christian king to God for the good government of his realm, in surrounding the pledges whether of ruler or ruled with religious sanctions, the mediaeval Church entered its protest against any personal despotism. The schoolmen pushed further still to the doctrine of a contract between king and people; and their trenchant logic made short work of the royal claims to irresponsible power and unquestioning obedience. "He who would be in truth a king," ran a poem which embodies their teaching at this time in pungent verse—"he is a 'free king' indeed if he rightly rule himself and his realm. All things are lawful to him for the government of his realm, but nothing is lawful to him for its destruction. It is one thing to rule according to a king's duty, another to destroy a kingdom by resisting the law." "Let the community of the realm advise, and let it be known what the generality, to whom their laws are best known, think on the matter. They who are ruled by the laws know those laws best; they who make daily trial of them are best acquainted with them; and since it is their own affairs which are at stake they will take the more care and will act with an eye to their own peace." "It concerns the community to see what sort of men ought justly to be chosen for the weal of the realm." The constitutional restrictions on the royal authority, the right of the whole nation to deliberate and decide on its own affairs and to have a voice in the selection of the administrators of government, had never been so clearly stated before. But the importance of the Friar's work lay in this, that the work of the scholar was supplemented by that of the popular preacher. The theory of government wrought out in cell and lecture-room was carried over the length and breadth of the land by the mendicant brother, begging his way from town to town, chatting with farmer or housewife at the cottage door, and setting up his portable pulpit in village green or market-place. His open-air sermons, ranging from impassioned devotion to coarse story and homely mother wit, became the journals as well as the homilies of the day; political and social questions found place in them side by side with spiritual matters; and the rudest countryman learned his tale of a king's oppression or a patriot's hopes as he listened to the rambling, passionate, humorous discourse of the begging friar.
[Sidenote: Henry the Third]
Never had there been more need of such a political education of the whole people than at the moment we have reached. For the triumph of the Charter, the constitutional government of Governor and Justiciar, had rested mainly on the helplessness of the king. As boy or youth, Henry the Third had bowed to the control of William Marshal or Langton or Hubert de Burgh. But he was now grown to manhood, and his character was from this hour to tell on the events of his reign. From the cruelty, the lust, the impiety of his father the young king was absolutely free. There was a geniality, a vivacity, a refinement in his temper which won a personal affection for him even in his worst days from some who bitterly censured his rule. The Abbey-church of Westminster, with which he replaced the ruder minster of the Confessor, remains a monument of his artistic taste. He was a patron and friend of men of letters, and himself skilled in the "gay science" of the troubadour. But of the political capacity which was the characteristic of his house he had little or none. Profuse, changeable, false from sheer meanness of spirit, impulsive alike in good and ill, unbridled in temper and tongue, reckless in insult and wit, Henry's delight was in the display of an empty and prodigal magnificence, his one notion of government was a dream of arbitrary power. But frivolous as the king's mood was, he clung with a weak man's obstinacy to a distinct line of policy; and this was the policy not of Hubert or Langton but of John. He cherished the hope of recovering his heritage across the sea. He believed in the absolute power of the Crown; and looked on the pledges of the Great Charter as promises which force had wrested from the king and which force could wrest back again. France was telling more and more on English opinion; and the claim which the French kings were advancing to a divine and absolute power gave a sanction in Henry's mind to the claim of absolute authority which was still maintained by his favourite advisers in the royal council. Above all he clung to the alliance with the Papacy. Henry was personally devout; and his devotion only bound him the more firmly to his father's system of friendship with Rome. Gratitude and self-interest alike bound him to the Papal See. Rome had saved him from ruin as a child; its legate had set the crown on his head; its threats and excommunications had foiled Lewis and built up again a royal party. Above all it was Rome which could alone free him from his oath to the Charter, and which could alone defend him if like his father he had to front the baronage in arms.
[Sidenote: England and Rome]
His temper was now to influence the whole system of government. In 1227 Henry declared himself of age; and though Hubert still remained Justiciar every year saw him more powerless in his struggle with the tendencies of the king. The death of Stephen Langton in 1228 was a yet heavier blow to English freedom. In persuading Rome to withdraw her Legate the Primate had averted a conflict between the national desire for self-government and the Papal claims of overlordship. But his death gave the signal for a more serious struggle, for it was in the oppression of the Church of England by the Popes through the reign of Henry that the little rift first opened which was destined to widen into the gulf that parted the one from the other at the Reformation. In the mediaeval theory of the Papacy, as Innocent and his successors held it, Christendom, as a spiritual realm of which the Popes were the head, took the feudal form of the secular realms which lay within its pale. The Pope was its sovereign, the Bishops were his barons, and the clergy were his under vassals. As the king demanded aids and subsidies in case of need from his liegemen, so in the theory of Rome might the head of the Church demand aid in need from the priesthood. And at this moment the need of the Popes was sore. Rome had plunged into her desperate conflict with the Emperor, Frederick the Second, and was looking everywhere for the means of recruiting her drained exchequer. On England she believed herself to have more than a spiritual claim for support. She regarded the kingdom as a vassal kingdom, and as bound to aid its overlord. It was only by the promise of a heavy subsidy that Henry in 1229 could buy the Papal confirmation of Langton's successor. But the baronage was of other mind than Henry as to this claim of overlordship, and the demand of an aid to Rome from the laity was at once rejected by them. Her spiritual claim over the allegiance of the clergy however remained to fall back upon, and the clergy were in the Pope's hand. Gregory the Ninth had already claimed for the Papal See a right of nomination to some prebends in each cathedral church; he now demanded a tithe of all the moveables of the priesthood, and a threat of excommunication silenced their murmurs. Exaction followed exaction as the needs of the Papal treasury grew greater. The very rights of lay patrons were set aside, and under the name of "reserves" presentations to English benefices were sold in the Papal market, while Italian clergy were quartered on the best livings of the Church.
[Sidenote: Fall of Hubert de Burgh]
The general indignation at last found vent in a wide conspiracy. In 1231 letters from "the whole body of those who prefer to die rather than be ruined by the Romans" were scattered over the kingdom by armed men; tithes gathered for the Pope or the foreign priests were seized and given to the poor; the Papal collectors were beaten and their bulls trodden under foot. The remonstrances of Rome only made clearer the national character of the movement; but as enquiry went on the hand of the Justiciar himself was seen to have been at work. Sheriffs had stood idly by while violence was done; royal letters had been shown by the rioters as approving their acts; and the Pope openly laid the charge of the outbreak on the secret connivance of Hubert de Burgh. No charge could have been more fatal to Hubert in the mind of the king. But he was already in full collision with the Justiciar on other grounds. Henry was eager to vindicate his right to the great heritage his father had lost: the Gascons, who still clung to him, not because they loved England but because they hated France, spurred him to war; and in 1229 a secret invitation came from the Norman barons. But while Hubert held power no serious effort was made to carry on a foreign strife. The Norman call was rejected through his influence, and when a great armament gathered at Portsmouth for a campaign in Poitou it dispersed for want of transport and supplies. The young king drew his sword and rushed madly on the Justiciar, charging him with treason and corruption by the gold of France. But the quarrel was appeased and the expedition deferred for the year. In 1230 Henry actually took the field in Britanny and Poitou, but the failure of the campaign was again laid at the door of Hubert whose opposition was said to have prevented a decisive engagement. It was at this moment that the Papal accusation filled up the measure of Henry's wrath against his minister. In the summer of 1232 he was deprived of his office of Justiciar, and dragged from a chapel at Brentwood where threats of death had driven him to take sanctuary. A smith who was ordered to shackle him stoutly refused. "I will die any death," he said, "before I put iron on the man who freed England from the stranger and saved Dover from France." The remonstrances of the Bishop of London forced the king to replace Hubert in sanctuary, but hunger compelled him to surrender; he was thrown a prisoner into the Tower, and though soon released he remained powerless in the realm. His fall left England without a check to the rule of Henry himself.
CHAPTER III THE BARON'S WAR 1232-1272
[Sidenote: The Aliens]
Once master of his realm, Henry the Third was quick to declare his plan of government. The two great checks on a merely personal rule lay as yet in the authority of the great ministers of State and in the national character of the administrative body which had been built up by Henry the Second. Both of these checks Henry at once set himself to remove. He would be his own minister. The Justiciar ceased to be the Lieutenant-General of the king and dwindled into a presiding judge of the law-courts. The Chancellor had grown into a great officer of State, and in 1226 this office had been conferred on the Bishop of Chichester by the advice and consent of the Great Council. But Henry succeeded in wresting the seal from him and naming to this as to other offices at his pleasure. His policy was to entrust all high posts of government to mere clerks of the royal chapel; trained administrators, but wholly dependent on the royal will. He found equally dependent agents of administration by surrounding himself with foreigners. The return of Peter des Roches to the royal councils was the first sign of the new system; and hosts of hungry Poitevins and Bretons were summoned over to occupy the royal castles and fill the judicial and administrative posts about the Court. The king's marriage in 1236 to Eleanor of Provence was followed by the arrival in England of the new queen's uncles. The "Savoy," as his house in the Strand was named, still recalls Peter of Savoy who arrived five years later to take for a while the chief place at Henry's council-board; another brother, Boniface, was consecrated on Archbishop Edmund's death to the highest post in the realm save the Crown itself, the Archbishoprick of Canterbury. The young Primate, like his brother, brought with him foreign fashions strange enough to English folk. His armed retainers pillaged the markets. His own archiepiscopal fist felled to the ground the prior of St. Bartholomew-by-Smithfield who opposed his visitation. London was roused by the outrage; on the king's refusal to do justice a noisy crowd of citizens surrounded the Primate's house at Lambeth with cries of vengeance, and the "handsome archbishop," as his followers styled him, was glad to escape over sea. This brood of Provencals was followed in 1243 by the arrival of the Poitevin relatives of John's queen, Isabella of Angouleme. Aymer was made Bishop of Winchester; William of Valence received at a later time the earldom of Pembroke. Even the king's jester was a Poitevin. Hundreds of their dependants followed these great nobles to find a fortune in the English realm. The Poitevin lords brought in their train a bevy of ladies in search of husbands, and three English earls who were in royal wardship were wedded by the king to foreigners. The whole machinery of administration passed into the hands of men who were ignorant and contemptuous of the principles of English government or English law. Their rule was a mere anarchy; the very retainers of the royal household turned robbers and pillaged foreign merchants in the precincts of the Court; corruption invaded the judicature; at the close of this period of misrule Henry de Bath, a justiciary, was proved to have openly taken bribes and to have adjudged to himself disputed estates.
[Sidenote: Henry and the Baronage]
That misgovernment of this kind should have gone on unchecked in defiance of the provisions of the Charter was owing to the disunion and sluggishness of the English baronage. On the first arrival of the foreigners Richard, the Earl Marshal, a son of the great Regent, stood forth as their leader to demand the expulsion of the strangers from the royal Council. Though deserted by the bulk of the nobles he defeated the foreign troops sent against him and forced the king to treat for peace. But at this critical moment the Earl was drawn by an intrigue of Peter des Roches to Ireland; he fell in a petty skirmish, and the barons were left without a head. The interposition of a new primate, Edmund of Abingdon, forced the king to dismiss Peter from court; but there was no real change of system, and the remonstrances of the Archbishop and of Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln, remained fruitless. In the long interval of misrule the financial straits of the king forced him to heap exaction on exaction. The Forest Laws were used as a means of extortion, sees and abbeys were kept vacant, loans were wrested from lords and prelates, the Court itself lived at free quarters wherever it moved. Supplies of this kind however were utterly insufficient to defray the cost of the king's prodigality. A sixth of the royal revenue was wasted in pensions to foreign favourites. The debts of the Crown amounted to four times its annual income. Henry was forced to appeal for aid to the great Council of the realm, and aid was granted in 1237 on promise of control in its expenditure and on condition that the king confirmed the Charter. But Charter and promise were alike disregarded; and in 1242 the resentment of the barons expressed itself in a determined protest and a refusal of further subsidies. In spite of their refusal however Henry gathered money enough for a costly expedition for the recovery of Poitou. The attempt ended in failure and shame. At Taillebourg the king's force fled in disgraceful rout before the French as far as Saintes, and only the sudden illness of Lewis the Ninth and a disease which scattered his army saved Bordeaux from the conquerors. The treasury was utterly drained, and Henry was driven in 1244 to make a fresh appeal with his own mouth to the baronage. But the barons had now rallied to a plan of action, and we can hardly fail to attribute their union to the man who appears at their head. This was the Earl of Leicester, Simon of Montfort.
[Sidenote: Simon of Montfort]
Simon was the son of another Simon of Montfort, whose name had become memorable for his ruthless crusade against the Albigensian heretics in Southern Gaul, and who had inherited the Earldom of Leicester through his mother, a sister and co-heiress of the last Earl of the house of Beaumont. But as Simon's tendencies were for the most part French John had kept the revenues of the earldom in his own hands, and on his death the claim of his elder son, Amaury, was met by the refusal of Henry the Third to accept a divided allegiance. The refusal marks the rapid growth of that sentiment of nationality which the loss of Normandy had brought home. Amaury chose to remain French, and by a family arrangement with the king's sanction the honour of Leicester passed in 1231 to his younger brother Simon. His choice made Simon an Englishman, but his foreign blood still moved the jealousy of the barons, and this jealousy was quickened by a secret match in 1238 with Eleanor, the king's sister and widow of the second William Marshal. The match formed probably part of a policy which Henry pursued throughout his reign of bringing the great earldoms into closer connexion with the Crown. That of Chester had fallen to the king through the extinction of the family of its earls; Cornwall was held by his brother, Richard; Salisbury by his cousin. Simon's marriage linked the Earldom of Leicester to the royal house. But it at once brought Simon into conflict with the nobles and the Church. The baronage, justly indignant that such a step should have been taken without their consent, for the queen still remained childless and Eleanor's children by one whom they looked on as a stranger promised to be heirs of the Crown, rose in a revolt which failed only through the desertion of their head, Earl Richard of Cornwall, who was satisfied with Earl Simon's withdrawal from the Royal Council. The censures of the Church on Eleanor's breach of a vow of chaste widowhood which she had made at her first husband's death were averted with hardly less difficulty by a journey to Rome. It was after a year of trouble that Simon returned to England to reap as it seemed the fruits of his high alliance. He was now formally made Earl of Leicester and re-entered the Royal Council. But it is probable that he still found there the old jealousy which had forced from him a pledge of retirement after his marriage; and that his enemies now succeeded in winning over the king. In a few months, at any rate, he found the changeable king alienated from him, he was driven by a burst of royal passion from the realm, and was forced to spend seven months in France.
[Sidenote: Simon's early action]
Henry's anger passed as quickly as it had risen, and in the spring of 1240 the Earl was again received with honour at court. It was from this moment however that his position changed. As yet it had been that of a foreigner, confounded in the eyes of the nation at large with the Poitevins and Provencals who swarmed about the court. But in the years of retirement which followed Simon's return to England his whole attitude was reversed. There was as yet no quarrel with the king: he followed him in a campaign across the Channel, and shared in his defeat at Saintes. But he was a friend of Grosseteste and a patron of the Friars, and became at last known as a steady opponent of the misrule about him. When prelates and barons chose twelve representatives to confer with Henry in 1244 Simon stood with Earl Richard of Cornwall at the head of them. A definite plan of reform disclosed his hand. The confirmation of the Charter was to be followed by the election of Justiciar, Chancellor, Treasurer, in the Great Council. Nor was this restoration of a responsible ministry enough; a perpetual Council was to attend the king and devise further reforms. The plan broke against Henry's resistance and a Papal prohibition; but from this time the Earl took his stand in the front rank of the patriot leaders. The struggle of the following years was chiefly with the exactions of the Papacy, and Simon was one of the first to sign the protest which the Parliament in 1246 addressed to the court of Rome. He was present at the Lent Parliament of 1248, and we can hardly doubt that he shared in its bold rebuke of the king's misrule and its renewed demand for the appointment of the higher officers of state by the Council. It was probably a sense of the danger of leaving at home such a centre of all efforts after reform that brought Henry to send him in the autumn of 1248 as Seneschal of Gascony to save for the Crown the last of its provinces over sea.
[Sidenote: Simon in Gascony]
Threatened by France and by Navarre without as well as by revolt within, the loss of Gascony seemed close at hand; but in a few months the stern rule of the new Seneschal had quelled every open foe within or without its bounds. To bring the province to order proved a longer and a harder task. Its nobles were like the robber-nobles of the Rhine: "they rode the country by night," wrote the Earl, "like thieves, in parties of twenty or thirty or forty," and gathered in leagues against the Seneschal, who set himself to exact their dues to the Crown and to shield merchant and husbandman from their violence. For four years Earl Simon steadily warred down these robber bands, storming castles where there was need, and bridling the wilder country with a chain of forts. Hard as the task was, his real difficulty lay at home. Henry sent neither money nor men; and the Earl had to raise both from his own resources, while the men whom he was fighting found friends in Henry's council-chamber. Again and again Simon was recalled to answer charges of tyranny and extortion made by the Gascon nobles and pressed by his enemies at home on the king. Henry's feeble and impulsive temper left him open to pressure like this; and though each absence of the Earl from the province was a signal for fresh outbreaks of disorder which only his presence repressed, the deputies of its nobles were still admitted to the council-table and commissions sent over to report on the Seneschal's administration. The strife came to a head in 1252, when the commissioners reported that stern as Simon's rule had been the case was one in which sternness was needful. The English barons supported Simon, and in the face of their verdict Henry was powerless. But the king was now wholly with his enemies; and his anger broke out in a violent altercation. The Earl offered to resign his post if the money he had spent was repaid him, and appealed to Henry's word. Henry hotly retorted that he was bound by no promise to a false traitor. Simon at once gave Henry the lie; "and but that thou bearest the name of king it had been a bad hour for thee when thou utteredst such a word!" A formal reconciliation was brought about, and the Earl once more returned to Gascony, but before winter had come he was forced to withdraw to France. The greatness of his reputation was shown in an offer which its nobles made him of the regency of their realm during the absence of King Lewis from the land. But the offer was refused; and Henry, who had himself undertaken the pacification of Gascony, was glad before the close of 1253 to recall its old ruler to do the work he had failed to do.
[Sidenote: Simon's temper]
The Earl's character had now thoroughly developed. He inherited the strict and severe piety of his father; he was assiduous in his attendance on religious services whether by night or day. In his correspondence with Adam Marsh we see him finding patience under his Gascon troubles in a perusal of the Book of Job. His life was pure and singularly temperate; he was noted for his scant indulgence in meat, drink, or sleep. Socially he was cheerful and pleasant in talk; but his natural temper was quick and ardent, his sense of honour keen, his speech rapid and trenchant. His impatience of contradiction, his fiery temper, were in fact the great stumbling-blocks in his after career. His best friends marked honestly this fault, and it shows the greatness of the man that he listened to their remonstrances. "Better is a patient man," writes honest Friar Adam, "than a strong man, and he who can rule his own temper than he who storms a city." But the one characteristic which overmastered all was what men at that time called his "constancy," the firm immoveable resolve which trampled even death under foot in its loyalty to the right. The motto which Edward the First chose as his device, "Keep troth," was far truer as the device of Earl Simon. We see in his correspondence with what a clear discernment of its difficulties both at home and abroad he "thought it unbecoming to decline the danger of so great an exploit" as the reduction of Gascony to peace and order; but once undertaken, he persevered in spite of the opposition he met with, the failure of all support or funds from England, and the king's desertion of his cause, till the work was done. There was the same steadiness of will and purpose in his patriotism. The letters of Robert Grosseteste show how early Simon had learned to sympathize with the Bishop in his resistance to Rome, and at the crisis of the contest he offered him his own support and that of his associates. But Robert passed away, and as the tide of misgovernment mounted higher and higher the Earl silently trained himself for the day of trial. The fruit of his self-discipline was seen when the crisis came. While other men wavered and faltered and fell away, the enthusiastic love of the people clung to the grave, stern soldier who "stood like a pillar," unshaken by promise or threat or fear of death, by the oath he had sworn.
[Sidenote: Matthew Paris]
While Simon had been warring with Gascon rebels affairs in England had been going from bad to worse. The scourge of Papal taxation fell heavier on the clergy. After vain appeals to Rome and to the king, Archbishop Edmund retired to an exile of despair at Pontigny, and tax-gatherer after tax-gatherer with powers of excommunication, suspension from orders, and presentation to benefices, descended on the unhappy priesthood. The wholesale pillage kindled a wide spirit of resistance. Oxford gave the signal by hunting a Papal legate out of the city amid cries of "usurer" and "simoniac" from the mob of students. Fulk Fitz-Warenne in the name of the barons bade a Papal collector begone out of England. "If you tarry here three days longer," he added, "you and your company shall be cut to pieces." For a time Henry himself was swept away by the tide of national indignation. Letters from the king, the nobles, and the prelates, protested against the Papal exactions, and orders were given that no money should be exported from the realm. But the threat of interdict soon drove Henry back on a policy of spoliation in which he went hand in hand with Rome. The temper which this oppression begot among even the most sober churchmen has been preserved for us by an annalist whose pages glow with the new outburst of patriotic feeling. Matthew Paris is the greatest, as he in reality is the last, of our monastic historians. The school of St. Alban's survived indeed till a far later time, but its writers dwindle into mere annalists whose view is bounded by the abbey precincts and whose work is as colourless as it is jejune. In Matthew the breadth and precision of the narrative, the copiousness of his information on topics whether national or European, the general fairness and justice of his comments, are only surpassed by the patriotic fire and enthusiasm of the whole. He had succeeded Roger of Wendover as chronicler at St. Alban's; and the Greater Chronicle with an abridgement of it which long passed under the name of Matthew of Westminster, a "History of the English," and the "Lives of the Earlier Abbots," are only a few among the voluminous works which attest his prodigious industry. He was an artist as well as an historian, and many of the manuscripts which are preserved are illustrated by his own hand. A large circle of correspondents—bishops like Grosseteste, ministers like Hubert de Burgh, officials like Alexander de Swereford—furnished him with minute accounts of political and ecclesiastical proceedings. Pilgrims from the East and Papal agents brought news of foreign events to his scriptorium at St. Alban's. He had access to and quotes largely from state documents, charters, and exchequer rolls. The frequency of royal visits to the abbey brought him a store of political intelligence, and Henry himself contributed to the great chronicle which has preserved with so terrible a faithfulness the memory of his weakness and misgovernment. On one solemn feast-day the king recognized Matthew, and bidding him sit on the middle step between the floor and the throne begged him to write the story of the day's proceedings. While on a visit to St. Alban's he invited him to his table and chamber, and enumerated by name two hundred and fifty of the English baronies for his information. But all this royal patronage has left little mark on his work. "The case," as Matthew says, "of historical writers is hard, for if they tell the truth they provoke men, and if they write what is false they offend God." With all the fulness of the school of court historians, such as Benedict and Hoveden, to which in form he belonged, Matthew Paris combines an independence and patriotism which is strange to their pages. He denounces with the same unsparing energy the oppression of the Papacy and of the king. His point of view is neither that of a courtier nor of a churchman but of an Englishman, and the new national tone of his chronicle is but the echo of a national sentiment which at last bound nobles and yeomen and churchmen together into a people resolute to wrest freedom from the Crown.
The nation was outraged like the Church. Two solemn confirmations of the Charter failed to bring about any compliance with its provisions. In 1248, in 1249, and again in 1255 the great Council fruitlessly renewed its demand for a regular ministry, and the growing resolve of the nobles to enforce good government was seen in their offer of a grant on condition that the great officers of the Crown were appointed in the Council of the Baronage. But Henry refused their offer with scorn and sold his plate to the citizens of London to find payment for his household. A spirit of mutinous defiance broke out on the failure of all legal remedy. When the Earl of Norfolk refused him aid Henry answered with a threat. "I will send reapers and reap your fields for you," he said. "And I will send you back the heads of your reapers," replied the Earl. Hampered by the profusion of the court and the refusal of supplies, the Crown was in fact penniless; and yet never was money more wanted, for a trouble which had long pressed upon the English kings had now grown to a height that called for decisive action. Even his troubles at home could not blind Henry to the need of dealing with the difficulty of Wales. Of the three Welsh states into which all that remained unconquered of Britain had been broken by the victories of Deorham and Chester, two had long ceased to exist. The country between the Clyde and the Dee had been gradually absorbed by the conquests of Northumbria and the growth of the Scot monarchy. West Wales, between the British Channel and the estuary of the Severn, had yielded to the sword of Ecgberht. But a fiercer resistance prolonged the independence of the great central portion which alone in modern language preserves the name of Wales. Comprising in itself the largest and most powerful of the British kingdoms, it was aided in its struggle against Mercia by the weakness of its assailant, the youngest and feeblest of the English states, as well as by an internal warfare which distracted the energies of the invaders. But Mercia had no sooner risen to supremacy among the English kingdoms than it took the work of conquest vigorously in hand. Offa tore from Wales the border-land between the Severn and the Wye; the raids of his successors carried fire and sword into the heart of the country; and an acknowledgement of the Mercian overlordship was wrested from the Welsh princes. On the fall of Mercia this overlordship passed to the West-Saxon kings, and the Laws of Howel Dda own the payment of a yearly tribute by "the prince of Aberffraw" to "the King of London." The weakness of England during her long struggle with the Danes revived the hopes of British independence; it was the co-operation of the Welsh on which the northmen reckoned in their attack on the house of Ecgberht. But with the fall of the Danelaw the British princes were again brought to submission, and when in the midst of the Confessor's reign the Welsh seized on a quarrel between the houses of Leofric and Godwine to cross the border and carry their attacks into England itself, the victories of Harold reasserted the English supremacy. Disembarking on the coast his light-armed troops he penetrated to the heart of the mountains, and the successors of the Welsh prince Gruffydd, whose head was the trophy of the campaign, swore to observe the old fealty and render the old tribute to the English Crown.
[Sidenote: Wales and the Normans]
A far more desperate struggle began when the wave of Norman conquest broke on the Welsh frontier. A chain of great earldoms, settled by William along the border-land, at once bridled the old marauding forays. From his county palatine of Chester Hugh the Wolf harried Flintshire into a desert, Robert of Belesme in his earldom of Shrewsbury "slew the Welsh," says a chronicler, "like sheep, conquered them, enslaved them and flayed them with nails of iron." The earldom of Gloucester curbed Britain along the lower Severn. Backed by these greater baronies a horde of lesser adventurers obtained the royal "licence to make conquest on the Welsh." Monmouth and Abergavenny were seized and guarded by Norman castellans; Bernard of Neufmarche won the lordship of Brecknock; Roger of Montgomery raised the town and fortress in Powysland which still preserves his name. A great rising of the whole people in the days of the second William won back some of this Norman spoil. The new castle of Montgomery was burned, Brecknock and Cardigan were cleared of the invaders, and the Welsh poured ravaging over the English border. Twice the Red King carried his arms fruitlessly among the mountains against enemies who took refuge in their fastnesses till famine and hardship drove his broken host into retreat. The wiser policy of Henry the First fell back on his father's system of gradual conquest. A new tide of invasion flowed along the southern coast, where the land was level and open and accessible from the sea. The attack was aided by strife in the country itself. Robert Fitz-Hamo, the lord of Gloucester, was summoned to his aid by a Welsh chieftain; and his defeat of Rhys ap Tewdor, the last prince under whom Southern Wales was united, produced an anarchy which enabled Robert to land safely on the coast of Glamorgan, to conquer the country round, and to divide it among his soldiers. A force of Flemings and Englishmen followed the Earl of Clare as he landed near Milford Haven and pushing back the British inhabitants settled a "Little England" in the present Pembrokeshire. A few daring adventurers accompanied the Norman Lord of Kemeys into Cardigan, where land might be had for the winning by any one who would "wage war on the Welsh."
[Sidenote: The Welsh Revival]
It was at this moment, when the utter subjugation of the British race seemed at hand, that a new outburst of energy rolled back the tide of invasion and changed the fitful resistance of the separate Welsh provinces into a national effort to regain independence. To all outer seeming Wales had become utterly barbarous. Stripped of every vestige of the older Roman civilization by ages of bitter warfare, of civil strife, of estrangement from the general culture of Christendom, the unconquered Britons had sunk into a mass of savage herdsmen, clad in the skins and fed by the milk of the cattle they tended. Faithless, greedy, and revengeful, retaining no higher political organization than that of the clan, their strength was broken by ruthless feuds, and they were united only in battle or in raid against the stranger. But in the heart of the wild people there still lingered a spark of the poetic fire which had nerved it four hundred years before through Aneurin and Llywarch Hen to its struggle with the earliest Englishmen. At the hour of its lowest degradation the silence of Wales was suddenly broken by a crowd of singers. The song of the twelfth century burst forth, not from one bard or another, but from the nation at large. The Welsh temper indeed was steeped in poetry. "In every house," says the shrewd Gerald de Barri, "strangers who arrived in the morning were entertained till eventide with the talk of maidens and the music of the harp." A romantic literature, which was destined to leaven the fancy of western Europe, had grown up among this wild people and found an admirable means of utterance in its tongue. The Welsh language was as real a developement of the old Celtic language heard by Caesar as the Romance tongues are developements of Caesar's Latin, but at a far earlier date than any other language of modern Europe it had attained to definite structure and to settled literary form. No other mediaeval literature shows at its outset the same elaborate and completed organization as that of the Welsh. But within these settled forms the Celtic fancy played with a startling freedom. In one of the later poems Gwion the Little transforms himself into a hare, a fish, a bird, a grain of wheat; but he is only the symbol of the strange shapes in which the Celtic fancy embodies itself in the romantic tales which reached their highest perfection in the legends of Arthur.
[Sidenote: The Welsh Poetry]
The gay extravagance of these "Mabinogion" flings defiance to all fact, tradition, probability, and revels in the impossible and unreal. When Arthur sails into the unknown world it is in a ship of glass. The "descent into hell," as a Celtic poet paints it, shakes off the mediaeval horror with the mediaeval reverence, and the knight who achieves the quest spends his years of infernal durance in hunting and minstrelsy, and in converse with fair women. The world of the Mabinogion is a world of pure phantasy, a new earth of marvels and enchantments, of dark forests whose silence is broken by the hermit's bell and sunny glades where the light plays on the hero's armour. Each figure as it moves across the poet's canvas is bright with glancing colour. "The maiden was clothed in a robe of flame-coloured silk, and about her neck was a collar of ruddy gold in which were precious emeralds and rubies. Her head was of brighter gold than the flower of the broom, her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer were her hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the wood-anemone amidst the spray of the meadow fountain. The eye of the trained hawk, the glance of the falcon, was not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy than the breast of the white swan, her cheek was redder than the reddest roses." Everywhere there is an Oriental profusion of gorgeous imagery, but the gorgeousness is seldom oppressive. The sensibility of the Celtic temper, so quick to perceive beauty, so eager in its thirst for life, its emotions, its adventures, its sorrows, its joys, is tempered by a passionate melancholy that expresses its revolt against the impossible, by an instinct of what is noble, by a sentiment that discovers the weird charm of nature. The wildest extravagance of the tale-teller is relieved by some graceful play of pure fancy, some tender note of feeling, some magical touch of beauty. As Kulwch's greyhounds bound from side to side of their master's steed, they "sport round him like two sea-swallows." His spear is "swifter than the fall of the dewdrop from the blade of reed-grass upon the earth when the dew of June is at the heaviest." A subtle, observant love of nature and natural beauty takes fresh colour from the passionate human sentiment with which it is imbued. "I love the birds" sings Gwalchmai "and their sweet voices in the lulling songs of the wood"; he watches at night beside the fords "among the untrodden grass" to hear the nightingale and watch the play of the sea-mew. Even patriotism takes the same picturesque form. The Welsh poet hates the flat and sluggish land of the Saxon; as he dwells on his own he tells of "its sea-coast and its mountains, its towns on the forest border, its fair landscape, its dales, its waters, and its valleys, its white sea-mews, its beauteous women." Here as everywhere the sentiment of nature passes swiftly and subtly into the sentiment of a human tenderness: "I love its fields clothed with tender trefoil" goes on the song; "I love the marches of Merioneth where my head was pillowed on a snow-white arm." In the Celtic love of woman there is little of the Teutonic depth and earnestness, but in its stead a childlike spirit of delicate enjoyment, a faint distant flush of passion like the rose-light of dawn on a snowy mountain peak, a playful delight in beauty. "White is my love as the apple-blossom, as the ocean's spray; her face shines like the pearly dew on Eryri; the glow of her cheeks is like the light of sunset." The buoyant and elastic temper of the French trouveur was spiritualized in the Welsh singers by a more refined poetic feeling. "Whoso beheld her was filled with her love. Four white trefoils sprang up wherever she trod." A touch of pure fancy such as this removes its object out of the sphere of passion into one of delight and reverence.
[Sidenote: The Bards]
It is strange to pass from the world of actual Welsh history into such a world as this. But side by side with this wayward, fanciful stream of poesy and romance ran a torrent of intenser song. The spirit of the earlier bards, their joy in battle, their love of freedom, broke out anew in ode after ode, in songs extravagant, monotonous, often prosaic, but fused into poetry by the intense fire of patriotism which glowed within them. Every fight, every hero had its verse. The names of older singers, of Taliesin, Aneurin, and Llywarch Hen, were revived in bold forgeries to animate the national resistance and to prophesy victory. It was in North Wales that the spirit of patriotism received its strongest inspiration from this burst of song. Again and again Henry the Second was driven to retreat from the impregnable fastnesses where the "Lords of Snowdon," the princes of the house of Gruffydd ap Conan, claimed supremacy over the whole of Wales. Once in the pass of Consilt a cry arose that the king was slain, Henry of Essex flung down the royal standard, and the king's desperate efforts could hardly save his army from utter rout. The bitter satire of the Welsh singers bade him knight his horse, since its speed had alone saved him from capture. In a later campaign the invaders were met by storms of rain, and forced to abandon their baggage in a headlong flight to Chester. The greatest of the Welsh odes, that known to English readers in Gray's translation as "The Triumph of Owen," is Gwalchmai's song of victory over the repulse of an English fleet from Abermenai.
[Sidenote: Llewelyn ap Jorwerth]
The long reign of Llewelyn the son of Jorwerth seemed destined to realize the hopes of his countrymen. The homage which he succeeded in extorting from the whole of the Welsh chieftains during a reign which lasted from 1194 to 1246 placed him openly at the head of his race, and gave a new character to its struggle with the English king. In consolidating his authority within his own domains, and in the assertion of his lordship over the princes of the south, Llewelyn ap Jorwerth aimed steadily at securing the means of striking off the yoke of the Saxon. It was in vain that John strove to buy his friendship by the hand of his natural daughter Johanna. Fresh raids on the Marches forced the king to enter Wales in 1211; but though his army reached Snowdon it fell back like its predecessors, starved and broken before an enemy it could never reach. A second attack in the same year had better success. The chieftains of South Wales were drawn from their new allegiance to join the English forces, and Llewelyn, prisoned in his fastnesses, was at last driven to submit. But the ink of the treaty was hardly dry before Wales was again on fire; a common fear of the English once more united its chieftains, and the war between John and his barons soon removed all dread of a new invasion. Absolved from his allegiance to an excommunicated king, and allied with the barons under Fitz-Walter—too glad to enlist in their cause a prince who could hold in check the nobles of the border country where the royalist cause was strongest—Llewelyn seized his opportunity to reduce Shrewsbury, to annex Powys, the central district of Wales where the English influence had always been powerful, to clear the royal garrisons from Caermarthen and Cardigan, and to force even the Flemings of Pembroke to do him homage.
[Sidenote: Llewelyn and the Bards]
England watched these efforts of the subject race with an anger still mingled with contempt. "Who knows not," exclaims Matthew Paris as he dwells on the new pretensions of the Welsh ruler, "who knows not that the Prince of Wales is a petty vassal of the King of England?" But the temper of Llewelyn's own people was far other than the temper of the English chronicler. The hopes of Wales rose higher and higher with each triumph of the Lord of Snowdon. His court was crowded with bardic singers. "He pours," sings one of them, "his gold into the lap of the bard as the ripe fruit falls from the trees." Gold however was hardly needed to wake their enthusiasm. Poet after poet sang of "the Devastator of England," the "Eagle of men that loves not to lie nor sleep," "towering above the rest of men with his long red lance," his "red helmet of battle crested with a fierce wolf." "The sound of his coming is like the roar of the wave as it rushes to the shore, that can neither be stayed nor hushed." Lesser bards strung together Llewelyn's victories in rough jingle of rime and hounded him on to the slaughter. "Be of good courage in the slaughter," sings Elidir, "cling to thy work, destroy England, and plunder its multitudes." A fierce thirst for blood runs through the abrupt, passionate verses of the court singers. "Swansea, that tranquil town, was broken in heaps," bursts out a triumphant bard; "St. Clears, with its bright white lands, it is not Saxons who hold it now!" "In Swansea, the key of Lloegria, we made widows of all the wives." "The dread Eagle is wont to lay corpses in rows, and to feast with the leader of wolves and with hovering ravens glutted with flesh, butchers with keen scent of carcases." "Better," closes the song, "better the grave than the life of man who sighs when the horns call him forth, to the squares of battle."
[Sidenote: The Welsh hopes]
But even in bardic verse Llewelyn rises high out of the mere mob of chieftains who live by rapine, and boast as the Hirlas-horn passes from hand to hand through the hall that "they take and give no quarter." "Tender-hearted, wise, witty, ingenious," he was "the great Caesar" who was to gather beneath his sway the broken fragments of the Celtic race. Mysterious prophecies, the prophecies of Merlin the Wise which floated from lip to lip and were heard even along the Seine and the Rhine, came home again to nerve Wales to its last struggle with the stranger. Medrawd and Arthur, men whispered, would appear once more on earth to fight over again the fatal battle of Camlan in which the hero-king perished. The last conqueror of the Celtic race, Cadwallon, still lived to combat for his people. The supposed verses of Taliesin expressed the undying hope of a restoration of the Cymry. "In their hands shall be all the land from Britanny to Man: ... a rumour shall arise that the Germans are moving out of Britain back again to their fatherland." Gathered up in the strange work of Geoffry of Monmouth, these predictions had long been making a deep impression not on Wales only but on its conquerors. It was to meet the dreams of a yet living Arthur that the grave of the legendary hero-king at Glastonbury was found and visited by Henry the Second. But neither trick nor conquest could shake the firm faith of the Celt in the ultimate victory of his race. "Think you," said Henry to a Welsh chieftain who joined his host, "that your people of rebels can withstand my army?" "My people," replied the chieftain, "may be weakened by your might, and even in great part destroyed, but unless the wrath of God be on the side of its foe it will not perish utterly. Nor deem I that other race or other tongue will answer for this corner of the world before the Judge of all at the last day save this people and tongue of Wales." So ran the popular rime, "Their Lord they will praise, their speech they shall keep, their land they shall lose—except wild Wales."
[Sidenote: The Provisions of Oxford]
Faith and prophecy seemed justified by the growing strength of the British people. The weakness and dissensions which characterized the reign of Henry the Third enabled Llewelyn ap Jorwerth to preserve a practical independence till the close of his life, when a fresh acknowledgement of the English supremacy was wrested from him by Archbishop Edmund. But the triumphs of his arms were renewed by Llewelyn the son of Gruffydd, who followed him in 1246. The raids of the new chieftain swept the border to the very gates of Chester, while his conquest of Glamorgan seemed to bind the whole people together in a power strong enough to meet any attack from the stranger. So pressing was the danger that it called the king's eldest son, Edward, to the field; but his first appearance in arms ended in a crushing defeat. The defeat however remained unavenged. Henry's dreams were of mightier enterprises than the reduction of the Welsh. The Popes were still fighting their weary battle against the House of Hohenstaufen, and were offering its kingdom of Sicily, which they regarded as a forfeited fief of the Holy See, to any power that would aid them in the struggle. In 1254 it was offered to the king's second son, Edmund. With imbecile pride Henry accepted the offer, prepared to send an army across the Alps, and pledged England to repay the sums which the Pope was borrowing for the purposes of his war. In a Parliament at the opening of 1257 he demanded an aid and a tenth from the clergy. A fresh demand was made in 1258. But the patience of the realm was at last exhausted. Earl Simon had returned in 1253 from his government of Gascony, and the fruit of his meditations during the four years of his quiet stay at home, a quiet broken only by short embassies to France and Scotland which showed there was as yet no open quarrel with Henry, was seen in a league of the baronage and in their adoption of a new and startling policy. The past half-century had shown both the strength and weakness of the Charter: its strength as a rallying-point for the baronage and a definite assertion of rights which the king could be made to acknowledge; its weakness in providing no means for the enforcement of its own stipulations. Henry had sworn again and again to observe the Charter and his oath was no sooner taken than it was unscrupulously broken. The barons had secured the freedom of the realm; the secret of their long patience during the reign of Henry lay in the difficulty of securing its right administration. It was this difficulty which Earl Simon was prepared to solve when action was forced on him by the stir of the realm. A great famine added to the sense of danger from Wales and from Scotland and to the irritation at the new demands from both Henry and Rome with which the year 1258 opened. It was to arrange for a campaign against Wales that Henry called a parliament in April. But the baronage appeared in arms with Gloucester and Leicester at their head. The king was forced to consent to the appointment of a committee of twenty-four to draw up terms for the reform of the state. The Twenty-four again met the Parliament at Oxford in June, and although half the committee consisted of royal ministers and favourites it was impossible to resist the tide of popular feeling. Hugh Bigod, one of the firmest adherents of the two Earls, was chosen as Justiciar. The claim to elect this great officer was in fact the leading point in the baronial policy. But further measures were needed to hold in check such arbitrary misgovernment as had prevailed during the last twenty years. By the "Provisions of Oxford" it was agreed that the Great Council should assemble thrice in the year, whether summoned by the king or no; and on each occasion "the Commonalty shall elect twelve honest men who shall come to the Parliaments, and at other times when occasion shall be when the King and his Council shall send for them, to treat of the wants of the king and of his kingdom. And the Commonalty shall hold as established that which these Twelve shall do." Three permanent committees of barons and prelates were named to carry out the work of reform and administration. The reform of the Church was left to the original Twenty-four; a second Twenty-four negotiated the financial aids; a Permanent Council of Fifteen advised the king in the ordinary work of government. The complexity of such an arrangement was relieved by the fact that the members of each of these committees were in great part the same persons. The Justiciar, Chancellor, and the guardians of the king's castles swore to act only with the advice and assent of the Permanent Council, and the first two great officers, with the Treasurer, were to give account of their proceedings to it at the end of the year. Sheriffs were to be appointed for a single year only, no doubt by the Council, from among the chief tenants of the county, and no undue fees were to be exacted for the administration of justice in their court.