CHARTER OF WILLIAM I TO THE CITIZENS OF LONDON.
CHARTER OF WILLIAM I GRANTING LANDS TO DEORMAN.
London and the Kingdom
A HISTORY—DERIVED MAINLY FROM THE ARCHIVES AT GUILDHALL IN THE CUSTODY OF THE CORPORATION OF THE CITY OF LONDON.
By REGINALD R. SHARPE, D.C.L., RECORDS CLERK IN THE OFFICE OF THE TOWN CLERK OF THE CITY OF LONDON; EDITOR OF "CALENDAR OF WILLS ENROLLED IN THE COURT OF HUSTING," ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
PRINTED BY ORDER OF THE CORPORATION UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE LIBRARY COMMITTEE.
London LONGMANS, GREEN & Co. AND NEW YORK: 15 EAST 16TH STREET.
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Of the numerous works that have been written on London, by which I mean more especially the City of London, few have been devoted to an adequate, if indeed any, consideration of its political importance in the history of the Kingdom. The history of the City is so many-sided that writers have to be content with the study of some particular phase or some special epoch. Thus we have those who have concentrated their efforts to evolving out of the remote past the municipal organization of the City. Their task has been to unfold the origin and institution of the Mayoralty and Shrievalty of London, the division of the City into wards with Aldermen at their head, the development of the various trade and craft guilds, and the respective powers and duties of the Courts of Aldermen and Common Council, and of the Livery of London assembled in their Common Hall. Others have devoted themselves to the study of the ecclesiastical and monastic side of the City's history—its Cathedral, its religious houses, and hundred and more parish churches, which occupied so large an extent of the City's area. The ecclesiastical importance of the City, however, is too often ignored. "We are prone," writes Bishop Stubbs, "in examining into the municipal and mercantile history of London, to forget that it was a very great ecclesiastical centre." Others, again, have confined themselves to depicting the every-day life of the City burgess, his social condition, his commercial pursuits, his amusements; whilst others have been content to perpetuate the memory of streets and houses long since lost to the eye, and thus to keep alive an interest in scenes and places which otherwise would be forgotten.
The political aspect of the City's history has rarely been touched by writers, and yet its geographical position combined with the innate courage and enterprise of its citizens served to give it no small political power and no insignificant place in the history of the Kingdom. This being the case, the Corporation resolved to fill the void, and in view of the year 1889 being the 700th Anniversary of the Mayoralty of London—according to popular tradition—instructed the Library Committee to prepare a work showing "the pre-eminent position occupied by the City of London and the important function it exercised in the shaping and making of England."
It is in accordance with these instructions that this and succeeding volumes have been compiled. As the title of the work has been taken from a chapter in Mr. Loftie's book on London ("Historic Towns" series, chap. ix), so its main features are delineated in that chapter. "It would be interesting"—writes Mr. Loftie—"to go over all the recorded instances in which the City of London interfered directly in the affairs of the Kingdom. Such a survey would be the history of England as seen from the windows of the Guildhall." No words could better describe the character of the work now submitted to the public. It has been compiled mainly from the City's own archives. The City has been allowed to tell its own story. If, therefore, its pages should appear to be too much taken up with accounts of loans advanced by the City to impecunious monarchs or with wearisome repetition of calls for troops to be raised in the City for foreign service, it is because the City's records of the day are chiefly if not wholly concerned with these matters. If, on the other hand, an event which may be rightly deemed of national importance be here omitted, it is because the citizens were little affected thereby, and the City's records are almost, if not altogether, silent on the subject.
The work does not affect to be a critical history so much as a chronique pour servir, to which the historical student may have recourse in order to learn what was the attitude taken up by the citizens of London at important crises in the nation's history. He will there see how, in the contest between Stephen and the Empress Matilda, the City of London held as it were the balance; how it helped to overthrow the tyranny of Longchamp, and to wrest from the reluctant John the Great Charter of our liberties; how it was with men and money supplied by the City that Edward III and Henry V were enabled to conquer France, and how in after years the London trained bands raised the siege of Gloucester and turned the tide of the Civil War in favour of Parliament. He will not fail to note the significant fact that before Monk put into execution his plan for restoring Charles II to the Crown, the taciturn general—little given to opening his mind to anyone—deemed it advisable to take up his abode in the City in order to first test the feelings of the inhabitants as to whether the Restoration would be acceptable to them or not. He will see that the citizens of London have at times been bold of speech even in the presence of their sovereign when the cause of justice and the liberty of the subject were at stake, and that they did not hesitate to suffer for their opinions; that, "at many of the most critical periods of our history, the influence of London and its Lord Mayors has turned the scale in favour of those liberties of which we are so justly proud"; and that had the entreaties of the City been listened to by the King and his ministers, the American Colonies would never have been lost to England.
There are two Appendices to the work; one comprising copies from the City's Records of letters, early proclamations and documents of special interest to which reference is made in the text; the other consisting of a more complete list of the City's representatives in Parliament from the earliest times than has yet been printed, supplemented as it has been by returns to writs recorded in the City's archives and (apparently) no where else. The returns for the City in the Blue Books published in 1878 and 1879 are very imperfect.
R. R. S.
THE GUILDHALL, LONDON, April, 1894.
PREFACE. CHAPTER I. THE PORT OF LONDON. THE CITY NOT IN DEMESNE. THE ROMAN OCCUPATION. THE SAXONS IN ENGLAND. THE BISHOP OF LONDON. THE DANES IN LONDON. ALFRED "RESTORES" LONDON. THE FRITH-GILD OF THE CITY. THE FIRST PAYMENT OF DANEGELT. LONDON SUBMITS TO SWEYN. CNUT EXPELLED BY ETHELRED. THE LAWS OF ETHELRED. THE "LITHSMEN" OF LONDON. LONDON THE CAPITAL. EARL GODWINE AND THE CITIZENS. CHAPTER II. THE NORMAN CONQUEROR. LONDON SUBMITS TO WILLIAM. WILLIAM'S CHARTER TO THE CITY. THE "DOOMSDAY" BOOK. THE ELECTION OF HENRY I. HENRY'S CHARTER TO THE CITY. THE SHERIFF-WICK OF MIDDLESEX. LONDON'S ELECTION OF STEPHEN. THE EMPRESS MATILDA. LONDON AND THE SYNOD AT WINCHESTER. THE EMPRESS MATILDA IN LONDON. LONDON HOLDS THE BALANCE. CHAPTER III. FITZ-STEPHEN'S DESCRIPTION OF LONDON CHARTER OF HENRY II TO THE CITY. THE REVOLT OF THE BARONS RICHARD I AND HIS CHANCELLOR. THE CITY AND ITS "COMMUNE." SUBSTITUTION OF MAYOR FOR PORT-REEVE. CHRONICLE OF ARNALD FITZ-THEDMAR. THE CITY'S CLAIM AT CORONATION BANQUETS. INSURRECTION UNDER LONGBEARD. THE GOLDEN BULL. FITZ-WALTER THE CITY'S CASTELLAIN. LONDON AND THE GREAT CHARTER. DEATH OF KING JOHN. CHAPTER IV. THE TREATY OF LAMBETH. TUMULT RAISED BY CONSTANTINE. THE KINGDOM OVER-RUN BY FOREIGNERS. TAKEN INTO THE KING'S HAND. LONDON SUPPORTS THE BARONS. THE CITY AT THE MERCY OF THE KING. ORGANIZATION OF CRAFT GUILDS. THE MISE OF AMIENS. SIMON DE MONTFORT'S PARLIAMENT. THE BATTLE OF EVESHAM AND ITS RESULTS. THE FATE OF FITZ-THOMAS, MAYOR. THE MAYORALTY RESTORED. WALTER HERVY RE-ELECTED MAYOR. CHAPTER V. FITZ-THEDMAR'S PREJUDICE AGAINST HERVY. CHARGES AGAINST WALTER HERVY. THE RESULTS OF HERVY'S POLICY. INTERRUPTION OF TRADE WITH FLANDERS. FLEMINGS EXPELLED FROM ENGLAND. ARRIVAL OF EDWARD I IN ENGLAND. THE MURDER OF LAURENCE DUKET. THE ITER AT THE TOWER. THE EXPULSION OF THE JEWS. DEATH OF QUEEN ELEANOR. THE KING IN DIFFICULTIES. RISING OF THE SCOTS UNDER WALLACE. DEATH OF EDWARD I. CHAPTER VI. THE ORDAINERS AND THEIR WORK. RICHER DE REFHAM, MAYOR. THE FALL OF GAVESTON. THE CITIZENS RESIST A TALLIAGE. DISSENSION IN THE CITY. PROCEEDINGS AT THE ITER OF 1321. CLAIMS PUT FORWARD BY THE CITY. CONTINUATION OF THE ITER. HAMO DE CHIGWELL, MAYOR. MILITARY SERVICE OF LONDONERS. ESCAPE OF MORTIMER FROM THE TOWER. THE CITY LOST TO EDWARD II. MURDER OF BISHOP STAPLETON. DEATH OF THE KING. CHAPTER VII. THE CITY MARKET MONOPOLY. THE CORONATION STONE. JOHN DE GRANTHAM ELECTED MAYOR. THE KING AND THE EARL OF LANCASTER. TRIAL OF HAMO DE CHIGWELL. LONDON MERCHANTS AND THE STAPLES. A NEW TAX ON WOOL. RICHARD DE BETOYNE, MAYOR OF THE STAPLE. BETOYNE'S CONDUCT AT YORK APPROVED. EXPIRATION OF TREATY OF NORTHAMPTON. THE KING'S MONOPOLY OF WOOL. THE CITY PREPARES TO DEFEND ITSELF. THE BATTLE OF SLUYS. CHAPTER VIII. THE KING'S UNEXPECTED RETURN, 30 NOV., 1340. THE CITY'S RIGHT TO VARY CUSTOMS. EDWARD AGAIN SETS SAIL FOR FRANCE. SURRENDER OF CALAIS. THE BLACK DEATH. THE BATTLE OF POITIERS. THE PEACE OF BRETIGNY. RENEWAL OF THE WAR WITH FRANCE. ASSESSMENT ON CITY PARISHES. PROCEEDINGS OF THE GOOD PARLIAMENT. THE COMMON COUNCIL CHOSEN FROM THE GUILDS. THE CITY AND THE DUKE OF LANCASTER. THE MAYOR AND ALDERMEN REMOVED. CHAPTER IX. RICHARD THE "LONDONERS' KING." JOHN PHILIPOT. A CITY LOAN OF L5,000. THE POLL-TAX AND PEASANTS' REVOLT. REFORMS UNDER JOHN DE NORTHAMPTON. NICHOLAS EXTON, ALDERMAN, DEPOSED. PROCEEDINGS AGAINST JOHN DE NORTHAMPTON. NORTHAMPTON CONFINED IN TINTAGEL CASTLE. THE BOOK CALLED "JUBILEE." EFFORTS TO OBTAIN NORTHAMPTON'S RELEASE. DISAFFECTION TOWARDS THE KING. THE LORDS APPELLANT IN THE CITY. RE-APPEARANCE OF NORTHAMPTON. THE CITY REFUSES A LOAN TO RICHARD. FARRINGDON WARD—WITHIN AND WITHOUT. CHAPTER X. DOUBTFUL REPORTS AS TO THE LATE KING'S DEATH. THE STATUTE OF HERESY. RICHARD WHITTINGTON, MAYOR. THE MAYOR'S PRECEDENCE IN THE CITY. BATTLE OF AGINCOURT. MORE CITY LOANS. HENRY'S CONQUEST OF NORMANDY. THE TREATY OF TROVES. DEATH OF KING HENRY V. CHAPTER XI. RIVAL CLAIMS OF BEDFORD AND GLOUCESTER. RELIEF OF ORLEANS. CORONATION OF HENRY VI. THE KING'S RETURN FROM FRANCE. CALAIS APPEALS TO LONDON. THE PENANCE OF ELEANOR COBHAM. CAPTURE AND DEATH OF CADE. RIVALRY BETWEEN YORK ANS SOMERSET. THE DUKE OF YORK NOMINATED PROTECTOR. A GENERAL RECONCILIATION AT ST. PAUL'S. COMMISSIONS OF ARRAY. THE CITY AND THE YORKISTS. THE DUKE OF YORK CLAIMS THE CROWN. LONDON FORSAKEN BY HENRY. CHAPTER XII. CHARTERS OF EDWARD IV TO THE CITY. RENEWAL OF THE CIVIL WAR. HENRY VI RESTORED TO THE CROWN. THE "BASTARD" FAUCONBERG. RESTORATION OF EDWARD IV. ACCESSION OF EDWARD V. THE CITY AND THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER. CORONATION OF RICHARD III. BOLD SPEECH OF THE CITIZENS. VISIT OF HENRY VII TO THE CITY. THE PERKIN WARBECK CONSPIRACY. DEFEAT AND CAPTURE OF WARBECK. THE MARRIAGE OF PRINCE ARTHUR. THE CITY'S CONTROL OVER THE COMPANIES. MARRIAGE OF THE PRINCESS MARY. LAST DAYS OF HENRY VII. CHAPTER XIII. PROCEEDINGS AGAINST EMPSON AND DUDLEY. CORONATION OF HENRY VIII. SOLDIERS FURNISHED BY THE CITY. EDUCATION IN THE CITY. DEAN COLLET AND ST. PAUL'S SCHOOL. PROVINCIAL SCHOOLS FOUNDED BY CITIZENS. THE CITY BEFORE THE STAR CHAMBER. EVIL—MAY-DAY. THE CITY OBTAINS THE KING'S PARDON. AN EPIDEMIC IN THE CITY. RECEPTION OF CARDINAL CAMPEGGIO. THE EMPEROR CHARLES VISITS THE CITY. TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF BUCKINGHAM. LIVERY COMPANIES TO SURRENDER THEIR PLATE. PARLIAMENT THREATENED BY WOLSEY. LONDON AND THE KINGDOM. DIPLOMATIC INTRIGUE. THE AMICABLE LOAN. A TRUCE WITH FRANCE. PAUL WYTHYPOL, MERCHANT-TAILOR. THE FALL OF WOLSEY. CHAPTER XIV. THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND THE CLERGY. TITHES PAYABLE IN THE CITY. THE CITY AND THE GREAT BEAM. ANNE BOLEYN AND THE CITY. THE COMMISSIONERS AND THE CHARTERHOUSE. EXECUTION OF FISHER AND MORE. THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE. JANE SEYMOUR—ANNE OF CLEVES. THE DISSOLUTION OF RELIGIOUS HOUSES. RELIGIOUS HOUSES FOSTERED BY THE CITY. INSTITUTION OF PARISH REGISTERS. THE CITY AND THE DISSOLVED HOUSES. PRECAUTIONS AGAINST INFECTIOUS DISEASES. RENEWAL OF WAR WITH FRANCE. A BENEVOLENCE RAISED IN THE CITY. MORE LEVIES TO BE RAISED IN THE CITY. ENFORCEMENT OF UNIFORMITY. THE CITY AS GOVERNORS OF ROYAL HOSPITALS. FUNERAL OF HENRY THE EIGHTH. CHAPTER XV. THE CORONATION OF EDWARD VI. THE REFORMATION. SUPERSTITIOUS USES. SPOLIATION OF THE CHURCHES. THE TUNING OF THE PULPITS. CRANMER AT ST. PAUL'S. KETS REBELLION. THE CITY OPPOSED TO THE PROTECTOR. THE PROTECTOR LODGED IN THE TOWER. THE KING ENTERTAINED BY SHERIFF YORK. THE BOROUGH OF SOUTHWARK. THE WARD OF BRIDGE WITHOUT. UNPOPULARITY OF WARWICK. THE FALL OF SOMERSET. THE CITY AND THE ROYAL HOSPITALS. ALDERMAN DOBBS AND CHRIST'S HOSPITAL. CHAPTER XVI. NORTHUMBERLAND'S CONSPIRACY, 1553. MARY PROCLAIMED QUEEN IN THE CITY. THE MASS RESTORED. CORONATION OF QUEEN MARY. WYATT'S REBELLION. QUEEN MARY AT THE GUILDHALL. SUPPRESSION OF THE REBELLION. MEN AND MONEY DEMANDED OF THE CITY. THE QUEEN'S MARRIAGE. RECONCILIATION WITH THE POPE. THE MARIAN PERSECUTION. FOREIGNERS IN THE CITY. DECLARATION OF WAR WITH FRANCE. SOLDIERS FURNISHED BY THE CITY. THE LOSS OF CALAIS. DEATH OF MARY. CHAPTER XVII. CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH. RESTORATION OF THE PRAYER BOOK. THE WAR WITH FRANCE. THE LOSS OF HAVRE OR NEWHAVEN. THE RESTORATION OF ST. PAUL'S. THE INCEPTION OF THE ROYAL EXCHANGE. SIR THOMAS GRESHAM. THE ROYAL EXCHANGE COMPLETED. INSURANCE BUSINESS AT ROYAL EXCHANGE. GRESHAM COLLEGE. THE CITY FLOODED WIH POLITICAL REFUGEES. THE FIRST PUBLIC LOTTERY. SEIZURE OF SPANISH VESSELS. THE DUKE OF ALVA'S ENVOY IN THE CITY. MEASURES OF RETALIATION AGAINST SPAIN. THE RISING IN THE NORTH. THE BATTLE OF LEPANTO. FURTHER CALLS FOR MONEY AND MEN. COUNT CASIMIR ENTERTAINED BY GRESHAM. CHAPTER XVIII. PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. JESUITS IN THE CITY. SPECIAL PREACHERS FOR THE CITY. PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. THE FALL OF ANTWERP. THE BABINGTON CONSPIRACY. PREPARATIONS TO MEET THE ARMADA. THE ADVENT OF THE ARMADA. RICHARD TOMSON AND HIS EXPLOIT. THANKSGIVING SERVICE AT ST. PAUL'S. THE CAMP AT TILBURY. THE CITY AND DISBANDED SOLDIERS. THE CITY AND THE EARL OF ESSEX. PRIVATEERING AGAINST SPAIN. ALDERMAN SIR JOHN SPENCER. THE CAPTURE OF CADIZ. THE CITY REFUSES FURTHER SUPPLIES. THE TYRONE REBELLION. INSURRECTION OF EARL OF ESSEX. MOUNTJOY IN IRELAND. THE LAST DAYS OF ELIZABETH.
The wealth and importance of the City of London are due to a variety of causes, of which its geographical position must certainly be esteemed not the least. The value of such a noble river as the Thames was scarcely over-estimated by the citizens when, as the story goes, they expressed to King James their comparative indifference to his threatened removal of himself, his court and parliament, from London, if only their river remained to them. The mouth of the Thames is the most convenient port on the westernmost boundary of the European seaboard, and ships would often run in to replenish their tanks with the sweet water for which it was once famous.(1)
After the fall of the Western Empire (A.D. 476), commercial enterprise sprang up among the free towns of Italy. The carrying trade of the world's merchandise became centred for a time in Venice, and that town led the way in spreading the principles of commerce along the shores of the Mediterranean, being closely followed by Genoa, Florence, and Pisa. The tide, which then set westward, and continued its course beyond the Pillars of Hercules, was met in later years by another stream of commerce from the shores of the Baltic.(2) Small wonder, then, if the City of London was quick to profit by the continuous stream of traffic passing and repassing its very door, and vindicated its title to be called—as the Venerable Bede had in very early days called it the Emporium of the World.(3)
But if London's prosperity were solely due to its geographical position, we should look for the same unrivalled pre-eminence in commerce in towns like Liverpool or Bristol, which possess similar local advantages; whilst, if royal favour or court gaieties could make cities great, we should have surely expected Winchester, Warwick, York, or Stafford to have outstripped London in political and commercial greatness, for these were the residences of the rulers of Mercia, Northumbria, and Wessex, and the scenes of witena-gemots long before London could boast of similar favours. Yet none of these equals London in extent, population, wealth, or political importance.
We must therefore look for other causes of London's pre-eminence, and among these, we may reckon the fact that the City has never been subject to any over-lord except the king. It never formed a portion of the king's demesne (dominium), but has ever been held by its burgesses as tenants in capite by burgage (free socage) tenure. Other towns like Bristol, Plymouth, Beverley, or Durham, were subject to over-lords, ecclesiastical or lay, in the person of archbishop, bishop, abbot, baron or peer of the realm, who kept in their own hands many of the privileges which in the more favoured City of London were enjoyed by the municipal authorities.
In the early part of the twelfth century, the town of Leicester, for instance, was divided into four parts, one of which was in the king's demesne, whilst the rest were held by three distinct over-lords. In course of time, the whole of the shares fell into the hands of Count Robert of Meulan, who left the town in demesne to the Earls of Leicester and his descendants; and to this day the borough bears on its shield the arms of the Bellomonts.(4) The town of Birmingham is said, in like manner, to bear the arms of the barons of that name; the town of Cardiff, those of the De Clares; and Manchester, those of the Byrons. Instances might be multiplied. But the arms of the City of London and of free boroughs, like Winchester, Oxford, and Exeter, are referable to no over-lord, although the borough of Southwark still bears traces in its heraldic shield of its former ecclesiastical connection.
The influence of an over-lord for good or evil, over those subject to his authority, was immense. Take for instance, Sheffield, which was subject, in the reign of Elizabeth, to the Earl of Shrewsbury. The cutlery trade, even in those days, was the main-stay of the town, and yet the earl could make and unmake the rules and ordinances which governed the Cutlers' Company, and could claim one half of the fines imposed on its members.(5)
When, during the reign of Charles II, nearly every municipal borough in the kingdom was forced to surrender its charter to the king, the citizens of Durham surrendered theirs to the Bishop, who, to the intense horror of a contemporary writer, reserved to himself and his successors in the See the power of approving and confirming the mayor, aldermen, recorder, and common council of that city.(6)
The commercial greatness of London can be traced back to the time of the Roman occupation of Britain. From being little more than a stockaded fort, situate at a point on the river's bank which admitted of an easy passage by ferry across to Southwark, London prospered under the protection afforded to its traders by the presence of the Roman legions, but it never in those days became the capital of the province. Although a flourishing centre of commerce in the middle of the first century of the Christian era, it was not deemed of sufficient importance by Suetonius, the Roman general, to run the risk of defending against Boadicea,(7) and although thought worthy of the title of Augusta—a name bestowed only on towns of exceptional standing—the Romans did not hesitate to leave both town and province to their fate as soon as danger threatened them nearer home.
For military no less than for commercial purposes—and the Roman occupation of Britain was mainly a military one—good roads were essential, and these the Romans excelled in making. It is remarkable that in the Itinerary of Antoninus Pius, London figures either as the starting point or as the terminus to nearly one-half of the routes described in the portion relating to Britain.(8) The name of one and only one of these Roman highways survives in the city at the present day, and then only in its Teutonic and not Roman form—the Watling or "Wathelinga" Street, the street which led from Kent through the city of London to Chester and York, and thence by two branches to Carlisle and the neighbourhood of Newcastle. The Ermin Street, another Roman road with a Teutonic name, led from London to Lincoln, with branches to Doncaster and York, but its name no longer survives in the city.
The same reasons that led the Romans to establish good roads throughout the country led them also to erect a bridge across the river from London to Southwark, and in later years to enclose the city with a wall. To the building of the bridge, which probably took place in the early years of the Roman occupation, London owed much of its youthful prosperity; whenever any accident happened to the bridge the damage was always promptly repaired. Not so with the walls of the city. They were allowed to fall into decay until the prudence and military genius of the great Alfred caused them to be repaired as a bulwark against the onslaughts of the Danes.
"Britain had been occupied by the Romans, but had not become Roman,"(9) and the scanty and superficial civilization which the Britons had received from the Roman occupation was obliterated by the calamities which followed the northern invasions of the fifth and following centuries. A Christian city, as Augusta had probably been, not a vestige of a Christian church of the Roman period has come down to us.(10) It quickly lapsed into paganism. Its very name disappears, and with it the names of its streets, its traditions and its customs. Its inhabitants forgot the Latin tongue, and the memories of 400 years were clean wiped out. There remains to us of the present day nothing to remind us of London under the Roman empire, save a fragment of a wall, a milestone, a few coins and statuettes, and some articles of personal ornament or domestic use—little more in fact, than what may be seen in the Museum attached to the Guildhall Library. The long subjection to Roman rule had one disastrous effect. It enervated the people and left them powerless to cope with those enemies who, as soon as the iron hand of the Roman legions was removed, came forth from their hiding places to harry the land.
Thus it was that when the Picts and Scots again broke loose from their northern fastnesses and threatened London as they had done before (A.D. 368), they once more appealed for aid to the Roman emperor, by whose assistance the marauders had formerly been driven back. But times were different in 446 to what they had been in 368. The Roman empire was itself threatened with an invasion of the Goths, and the emperor had his hands too full to allow him to lend a favourable ear to the "groans of the Britons."(11)
Compelled to seek assistance elsewhere, the Britons invited a tribe of warriors, ever ready to let their services for hire, from the North Sea, to lend them their aid. The foreigners came in answer to the invitation, they saw, they conquered; and then they refused to leave an island the fertility of which they appreciated no less than they despised the slothfulness of its inhabitants.(12) They turned their weapons against their employers, and utterly routed them at Crayford, driving them to take refuge within the walls of London.
"A.D. 457 (456). This year Hengist and AEsc [Eric or Ash] his son fought against the Britons at a place called Creegan-Ford [Crayford] and there slew four thousand men, and the Britons then forsook Kent, and in great terror fled to London."(13) So runs the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, and this is the sole piece of information concerning London it vouchsafes us for one hundred and fifty years following the departure of the Romans. The information, scant as it is, serves to show that London had not quite become a deserted city, nor had yet been devastated as others had been by the enemy. Its walls still served to afford shelter to the terrified refugees.
When next we read of her, she is in the possession of the East Saxons. How they came there is a matter for conjecture. It is possible that with the whole of the surrounding counties in the hands of the enemy, the Londoners were driven from their city to seek means of subsistence elsewhere, and that when the East Saxons took possession of it, they found houses and streets deserted. Little relishing a life within a town, they probably did not make a long stay, and, on their departure, the former inhabitants returned and the city slowly recovered its wonted appearance, as the country around became more settled.
Christianity in the country had revived, and London was now to receive its first bishop. It is the year 604. "This year," writes the chronicler, "Augustine hallowed two bishops, Mellitus and Justus; Mellitus he sent to preach baptism to the East Saxons, whose king was called Seberht, son of Ricula, the sister of Ethelbert whom Ethelbert had there set as king. And Ethelbert gave to Mellitus a bishop's see at London." This passage is remarkable for two reasons:—(1) as shewing us that London was at this time situate in Essex, the kingdom of the East Saxons, and (2) that Seberht was but a roi faineant, enjoying no real independence in spite of his dignity as ruler of the East Saxons and nominal master of London, his uncle Ethelbert, king of the Cantii, exercising a hegemony over "all the nations of the English as far as the Humber." (14)
Hence it is that London is spoken of by some as being the metropolis of the East Saxons,(15) and by others as being the principal city of the Cantii;(16) the fact being that, though locally situate in Essex, it was deemed the political capital of that kingdom which for the time being happened to be paramount.
After the death of Seberht, the Londoners became dissatisfied with their bishop and drove him out. Mellitus became in course of time Archbishop of Canterbury, whilst the Londoners again relapsed into paganism.(17) Not only was the erection of a cathedral in the city due to Ethelbert, but it was also at his instigation, if not with his treasure, that Seberht, the "wealthy sub-king of London," was, as is believed, induced to found the Abbey of Westminster.(18)
When the Saxon kingdoms became united under Egbert and he became rex totius Britanniae (A.D. 827), London began to take a more prominent place among the cities of the kingdom, notwithstanding its having been three times destroyed by fire between 674 and 801.(19) It became more often the seat of the royal residence, and the scene of witena-gemots; nevertheless it was not the seat of government, much less the capital. Then and for a long time to come it had a formidable rival in Winchester, the chief town of Egbert's own kingdom of Wessex. To Winchester that king proceeded in triumph after completing the union of the Saxon kingdoms, and thither he summoned his vassals to hear himself proclaimed their overlord. From Winchester, Alfred, too, promulgated his new code of Wessex law—a part of the famous Domboc, a copy of which is said to have been at one time preserved among the archives of the City of London(20)—and the Easter gemot, no matter where the other gemots of the year were held, was nearly always held at Winchester. When it came to a question of trade regulation, then London took precedence of Winchester. "Let one measure and one weight pass, such as is observed at London and at Winchester,"(21) enacted King Edgar, whose system of legislation was marked with so much success that "Edgar's Law" was referred to by posterity as to the old constitution of the realm.
In the meantime, the country had been invaded by a fresh enemy, and the same atrocities which the Briton had suffered at the hands of the Saxon, the Saxon was made to suffer at the hands of the Dane. London suffered with the rest of the kingdom. In 839 we read of a "great slaughter" there;(22) in 851 the city was in the hands of the enemy, and continued to remain at the mercy of the Danes, so much so, in fact, that in 872 we find the Danish army taking up winter quarters within its walls, as in a city that was their own.(23)
It was now, when the clouds were darkest, that Alfred, brother of King Ethelred, appeared on the scene, and after more than one signal success by land and sea, concluded the treaty of Wedmore (A.D. 878)(24) by which a vast tract of land bounded by an imaginary line drawn from the Thames along the river Lea to Bedford, and thence along the Roman Watling Street to the Welsh border, was ceded to the enemy under the name of Danelagh. The treaty, although it curtailed the Kingdom of Wessex, and left London itself at the mercy of the Danes, was followed by a period of comparative tranquillity, which allowed Alfred time to make preparations for a fresh struggle that was to wrest from the enemy the land they had won.
The Danes, like the Angles and the Jutes before them, set little store by fortifications and walled towns, preferring always to defend themselves by combat in open field, and the Roman wall of the City was allowed to fall still further into decay. In the eyes of Alfred on the other hand, London, with its surrounding wall, was a place of the first importance, and one to be acquired and kept at all hazards. At length he achieved the object of his ambition and succeeded in driving out the Danes, (A.D. 883 or 884).(25)
Whilst the enemy directed their attention to further conquests in France and Belgium, Alfred bent his energies towards repairing the City walls and building a citadel for his defence—"the germ of that tower which was to be first the dwelling place of Kings, and then the scene of the martyrdom of their victims."(26) To his foresight in this respect was it due that the city of London was never again taken by open assault, but successfully repelled all attacks whilst the surrounding country was often devastated.
Nor did Alfred confine his attention solely to strengthening the city against attacks of enemies without or to making it more habitable. He also laid the foundation of an internal Government analagous to that established in the Shires. Under the year A.D. 886, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle(27) records that "King AElfred restored London; and all the Anglo race turned to him that were not in bondage of the Danish men; and he then committed the burgh to "the keeping of the aldorman AEthelred." In course of time the analogy between shire and city organization became more close. Where the former had its Shiremote, the latter had its Folkmote, meeting in St. Paul's Churchyard by summons of the great bell. The County Court found its co-relative in the Husting Court of the City; the Hundred Court in the City Wardmote.(28)
For the next ten years Alfred busied himself founding a navy and establishing order in different parts of the country, but in 896 he was compelled to hasten to London from the west of England to assist in the repulse of another attack of the Danes. Two years before (894) the Danes had threatened London, having established a fortification at Beamfleate or South Benfleet, in Essex, whence they harried the surrounding country. The Londoners on that occasion joined that part of the army which Alfred had left behind in an attack upon the fort, which they not only succeeded in taking, but they "took all that there was within, as well money as women and children, and brought all to London; and all the ships they either broke in pieces or burned, or brought to London or to Rochester."(29) Nor was this all: Hasting's wife and his two sons had been made prisoners, but were chivalrously restored by Alfred.
The Danes, however, were not to be daunted by defeat nor moved from their purpose by the generous conduct of Alfred. In 896 they again appeared. This time they erected a work on the sea, twenty miles above London. Alfred made a reconnaissance and closed up the river so that they found it impossible to bring out their ships.(30) They therefore abandoned their vessels and escaped across country, and "the men of London" writes the chronicler, "brought away the ships, and all those which they could not bring off they broke up, and those that were stalworth they brought into London."(31)
The principle of each man becoming responsible to the Government for the good behaviour of the neighbour, involved in the system of frankpledge which Alfred established throughout the whole of his kingdom, subject to his rule, was carried a step further by the citizens of London at a later date. Under Athelstan (A.D. 925-940) we find them banding together and forming an association for mutual defence of life and property, and thus assisting the executive in the maintenance of law and order. A complete code of ordinances, regulating this "frith" or peace gild, as it was called, drawn up by the bishops and reeves of the burgh, and confirmed by the members on oath, is still preserved to us.(32)
The enactments are chiefly directed against thieves, the measures to be taken to bring them to justice, and the penalties to be imposed on them, the formation of a common fund for the pursuit of thieves, and for making good to members any loss they may have sustained. So far, the gild undertook duties of a public character, such as are found incorporated among other laws of the kingdom, but it had, incidentally, also its social and religious side. When the ruling members met in their gild-hall,(33) which they did once a month, "if they could and had leisure," they enjoyed a refection with ale-drinking or "byt-filling."
Some writers see in the "frith-gild" of Athelstan's day, nothing more than a mere "friendly society," meeting together once a month, to drink their beer and consult about matters of mutual insurance and other topics of more or less social and religious character.(34) But there is evidence to show that the tie which united members of a "frith-gild" was stronger and more solemn than any which binds the members of a friendly society or voluntary association. The punishment of one who was guilty of breaking his "frith" was practically banishment or death. Such a one, in Athelstan's time, was ordered to abjure the country, which probably meant no more than that he was to leave his burgh or perhaps the shire in which he dwelt, but if ever he returned, he might be treated as a thief taken "hand-habbende" or one taken with stolen goods upon him, in other words, "with the mainour."(35) A thief so taken might lawfully be killed by the first man who met him, and the slayer was, according to the code of the "frith-gild," "to be twelve pence the better for the deed."(36) Under these circumstances, it is more reasonable to suppose, that the "frith-gild" was not so much a voluntary association as one imposed upon members of the community by some public authority.(37)
The commercial supremacy of London, not only over Winchester but over every other town in the kingdom, now becomes more distinct, for when Athelstan appointed moneyers or minters throughout the country, he assigned eight (the largest number of all) to London, whilst for Winchester he appointed only six, other towns being provided with but one or at most two.(38) The king, moreover, showed his predilection for London by erecting a mansion house for himself within the city's walls.
The encouragement which Athelstan gave to commercial enterprise by enacting, that any merchant who undertook successfully three voyages across the high seas at his own cost (if not in his own vessel) should rank as a thane,(39) must have affected the London burgess more than those of any other town.
Under Ethelred II, surnamed the "Unready" or "redeless" from his indifference to the "rede" or council of his advisers, the city would again have fallen into the hands of the Danes, but for the personal courage displayed by its inhabitants and the protection which, by Alfred's foresight, the walls were able to afford them. In 994, Olaf and Sweyn sailed up the Thames with a large fleet and threatened to burn London. Obstinate fighting took place, but the enemy, we are told, "sustained more harm and evil than they ever deemed that any townsman could do to them, for the Holy Mother of God, on that day, manifested her mercy to the townsmen and delivered them from their foes."(40)
Matters might not have been so bad had not the king already committed the fatal error of attempting to secure peace by buying off the enemy. In 991, he had, with the consent of his witan, raised the sum of L10,000 with which he had bribed the Danish host. This was the origin of the tax known as Danegelt, which in after years became one of the chief financial resources of the Crown and continued almost uninterruptedly down to the reign of Henry II. The effect of the bribe was naturally enough to induce the enemy to make further depredations whenever in want of money; and accordingly, a Danish fleet threatened London the very next year (992) and again in 994. On this last occasion, the same wretched expedient was resorted to, and the Danes were again bought off.
Nor was cowardice the only charge of which Ethelred was guilty. To this must be added treachery and murder. In the year 1002, when he married the daughter of the Duke of Normandy, hoping thereby to win the Duke's friendship and to close the harbours on the French coast against Sweyn, Ethelred issued secret orders for a massacre of all Danes found in England. In this massacre, which took place on the Festival of St. Brice (13th Nov.), perished Gunhild, sister of Sweyn. Under these circumstances, it can scarcely be wondered at, that thenceforth the Danish invasions became more frequent, more systematic, and more extensive than ever.
For four years they continued their depredations "cruelly marking every shire in Wessex with burning and with harrying." Then they were again bought off with a sum of L36,000, and two years' respite (1007-8) was gained.(41) It was a respite and no more. As soon as they had spent their money, they came again, and in 1009 made several assaults on London—"They often fought against the town of London, but to God be praise that it yet stands sound, and they have ever fared ill."(42) Every year they struck deeper into the heart of the country, and carried their plundering expeditions from Wessex into Mercia and East Anglia.
In 1011 Canterbury was taken and sacked, Alphage, the Archbishop, being made prisoner, and carried away by the Danish fleet to Greenwich. Finding it impossible to extort a ransom, they brutally murdered him (19th May, 1012), in one of their drunken moods, pelting him in their open court or "husting" with bones and skulls of oxen.(43) The worthy prelate's corpse was allowed to be removed to London where it was reverently interred in St. Paul's. A few years later, Cnut caused it to be transferred with due solemnity to the Archbishop's own metropolitan church of Canterbury.
In the following year, Sweyn was so successful in reducing the Northumbrians and the inhabitants of the five boroughs,(44) as well as the towns of Winchester and Oxford, taking hostages from each as he went, that he thought he might venture once more to attack London itself; hoping for better success than had attended him on previous occasions. He was the more anxious to capture London, because Ethelred himself was there, but he again met with such determined resistance, and so many of his followers were drowned in the Thames that for the fourth time he had to beat a retreat.(45)
Leaving London for a while, Sweyn proceeded to conquer that part of England which still held out against him, and having accomplished his purpose, was again preparing to attack the one city which had baffled all his attempts to capture, when the Londoners themselves, finding further opposition hopeless, offered their submission and left Ethelred to take care of himself.(46) This he did by betaking himself to Normandy, where he remained until Sweyn's death in the following year (3rd Feb., 1014).
Upon this event taking place, the crews of the Danish fleet assumed the right of disposing of the English crown, and elected Sweyn's son, Cnut, to be king. The English, however, compelled as they had been by superior strength to submit to the father, were in no mood to accept without a struggle the sovereignty of his son. The whole of the Witan at once declared in favour of sending for Ethelred, with the assurance "that no lord was dearer than their natural lord," if only he would promise to govern them more justly than before.(47) Ethelred sent word by Edmund his son that "he would be to them a kind lord, and amend all the things which they eschewed, and all the things should be forgiven which had been done or said to him, on condition that they all, unanimously and without treachery, would turn to him." Pledges were given and taken on either side, and thenceforth a Danish king was to be looked upon as an outlaw.(48)
When Ethelred arrived in England, he was accompanied according to an Icelandic Saga,(49) by King Olaf, of Norway, who assisted him in expelling the Danes from Southwark, and gaining an entrance into the city. The manner in which this was carried out, is thus described. A small knot of Danes occupied a stronghold in the City, whilst others were in possession of Southwark. Between the two lay London Bridge—a wooden bridge, "so broad that two waggons could pass each other upon it"—fortified by barricades, towers, and parapets, and manned by Danes. Ethelred was naturally very anxious to get possession of the bridge, and a meeting of chiefs was summoned to consult how it could be done. Olaf promised to lay his fleet alongside the bridge if the English would do the same. This was agreed upon. Having covered in the decks of the vessels with a wooden roof to protect the crew and fighting men, Olaf succeeded in rowing light up to the bridge and laying cables round its piers. This done, he caused his ships to head down stream and the crews to row their hardest. The result was that the piles were loosened and the bridge, heavily weighted by the Danes who were fighting upon it, gave way. Many were thrown into the river, whilst others made good their retreat to Southwark, which was soon afterwards stormed and taken. This incident in connection with Ethelred's return formed the subject of more than one Scandinavian poem, of which the following may serve as a specimen:—
"London Bridge is broken down— Gold is won and bright renown. Shields resounding, War-horns sounding, Hildur shouting in the din! Arrows singing, Mail-coats ringing— Odin makes our Olaf win!"
For a short while after his return Ethelred displayed a spirit of patriotism and courage beyond any he had hitherto shown. He succeeded in surprising and defeating the Danes in that district of Lincolnshire known as Lindsey, and drove Cnut to take refuge in his ships, and eventually to sail away to Denmark.(50)
It was not long before he again appeared; he was then, however, to meet in the field Ethelred's son, Edmund, whose valour had gained for him the name of Ironside. This spirited youth, forming a striking contrast to the weak and pusillanimous character of his father, had collected a force to withstand the enemy, but the men refused to fight unless Ethelred came with them, and unless they had "the support of the citizens of London."(51) A message was therefore sent to him at London to take the field with such a force as he could gather. Father and son thereupon joined forces; but the king was in ill-health, and it wanted but a whisper of treachery to send him back to the security of London's walls. Thither, too, marched Cnut, but before he arrived Ethelred had died (23rd April, 1016).(52) The late king was buried in St. Paul's.(53)
The city of London had by this time attained a position higher than it had ever reached before. "We cannot as yet call it the capital of the kingdom, but its geographical position made one of the chief bulwarks of the land, and in no part of the realm do we find the inhabitants outdoing the patriotism and courage of its valiant citizens."(54) Under Edgar the foreign trade with the city had increased to such an extent that Ethelred, his son, deemed it time to draw up a code of laws to regulate the customs to be paid by the merchants of France and Flanders as well as by the "emperor's men," the fore-runners of those "easterling" merchants, who, from their headquarters in the Steel-yard at Dowgate, subsequently became known as merchants of the Steel-yard.(55)
Among the multitude of foreigners that in after-years thronged the streets of the city bartering pepper and spices from the far east, gloves and cloth, vinegar and wine, in exchange for the rural products of the country, might be seen the now much hated but afterwards much favoured Dane.(56) The Dane was again master of all England, except London, and Ethelred's kingdom, before the close of his reign, was confined within the narrow limits of the city's walls; "that true-hearted city was once more the bulwark of England, the centre of every patriotic hope, the special object of every hostile attack."(57)
At Ethelred's death the Witan who were in London united with the inhabitants of the city in choosing Edmund as his successor. This is the first recorded instance of the Londoners having taken a direct part in the election of a king. Cnut disputed Edmund's right to the crown, and proceeded to attack the city. He sailed up the Thames with his fleet, but being unable to pass the bridge, he dug a canal on the south side of the river, whereby he was enabled to carry his ships above bridge, and so invest the city along the whole length of the riverside. To complete the investment, and so prevent any of the inhabitants escaping either by land or water, he ditched the city round, so that none could pass in or out.(58)
This, as well as two other attempts made by Cnut within a few weeks of each other to capture London by siege, were frustrated by the determined opposition of the citizens.(59) "Almighty God saved it," as the chronicler piously remarks.(60)
Nor was Cnut more successful in the field, being worsted in no less than five pitched battles against Edmund, until by the treachery of Edmund's brother-in-law, Eadric, alderman of Mercia, he succeeded at last in vanquishing the English army on the memorable field of Assandun.(61)
After this Edmund reluctantly consented to a conference and a division of the kingdom. The meeting took place at Olney, and there it was agreed that Edmund should retain his crown, and rule over all England south of the Thames, together with East Anglia, Essex and London, whilst Cnut should enjoy the rest of the kingdom. "The citizens, beneath whose walls the power of Cnut and his father had been so often shattered, now made peace with the Danish host. As usual, money was paid to them, and they were allowed to winter as friends within the unconquered city."(62)
The partition of the kingdom between Edmund and Cnut had scarcely been agreed upon before the former unexpectedly died (30th Nov., 1016) and Cnut became master of London and king of all England. His rule was mild, beneficent and just, recognising no distinction between Dane and Englishman, and throughout his long reign of nearly twenty years the citizens of London enjoyed that perfect peace so necessary for the successful exercise of their commercial pursuits.
At the election of Cnut's successor which took place at Oxford in 1035, the Londoners again played an important part. This time, however, it was not the "burhwaru or burgesses" of the City who attended the gemot which had been summoned for the purpose of election, but "lithsmen" of London.
As to who these "lithsmen" were, and how they came to represent the City (if indeed they represented the City at all) on this important occasion much controversy has arisen. To some they appear as nothing more than the "nautic multitude" or "sea-faring men" of London.(63) On the other hand, there are those who hold that they were merchants who had achieved thane right under the provisions of Athelstan's day already mentioned;(64) whilst there are still others who are inclined to look upon them as so many commercial travellers who had made their way to Oxford by river in the ordinary course of business, and who happened by good fortune to have been in that city at the time of a great political crisis.(65) The truth probably lies somewhere between these extremes. The "lithsmen" may not themselves have been thanes, although they are recorded as having been at Oxford with almost all the thanes north of the Thames;(66) but that they were something more than mere watermen, such as we shall see joining with the apprentices of London at important political crises, and that they were acting more or less as representatives of the Londoners who had already acquired a predominant voice in such matters, seems beyond doubt.
During the next thirty years London took no prominent part in the affairs of the country, content if only allowed to have leisure to mind its own business. The desire for peace is the key-note to the action of the citizens of London at every important crisis. Without peace, commerce became paralyzed. Peace could be best secured by a strong government, and such a government, whether in the person of a king or protector could count upon their support. "For it they were ready to devote their money and their lives, for commerce, the child of opportunity, brought wealth; wealth power; and power led independence in its train." The quarrels of the half-brothers, Harold and Harthacnut, the attempt by one or both of the sons of Ethelred and Emma to recover their father's kingdom, and the question of the innocence or guilt of Earl Godwine in connection with the murder of one of them, affected the citizens of London only so far as such disturbances were likely to impede the traffic of the Thames or to make it dangerous for them to convey their merchandise along the highways of the country.
The payment of Danegelt at the accession of Harthacnut (A.D. 1040),(67) probably touched the feelings, as it certainly did the pockets, of the Londoners, more than any other event which happened during this period.
Upon the sudden death of Harthacnut (A.D. 1042), who died in a fit "as he stood at his drink,"(68) the choice of the whole nation fell on Edward, his half-brother—"before the king buried were, all folk chose Edward to king at London."(69) The share that the Londoners took in this particular election is not so clear as in other cases. Nevertheless, the importance of the citizens was daily growing, and by the time of the accession of Edward the Confessor, the City was recognised as the capital of the kingdom, the chief seat for the administration of the law, and the place where the king usually resided.(70)
In early Saxon times the witan had met in any town where the king happened at the time to be; and although theoretically every freeman had a right to attend its meetings, practically the citizens of the town wherein the gemot happened at the time to be held, enjoyed an advantage over freemen coming from a distance. Alfred ordained that the witan should meet in London for purposes of legislation twice a year.(71) Athelstan, Edmund and Edgar had held gemots in London, the last mentioned king holding a great gemot (mycel gemot) in St. Paul's Church in 973.
During the reign of Edward the Confessor, at least six meetings of the witan took place in London; the more important of these being held in 1051 and the following year. By the gemot of 1051, which partook of the nature of a court-martial, Earl Godwine was condemned to banishment; but before a twelve-month had elapsed, he was welcomed back at a great assembly or mycel gemot held in the open air without the walls of London.(72) The nation had become disatisfied owing to the king's increasing favour to Norman strangers, but the earl desired to learn how stood the City of London towards him, and for this purpose made a stay at Southwark. He was soon satisfied on this point. "The townsfolk of the great city were not a whit behind their brethren of Kent and Sussex in their zeal for the national cause. The spirit which had beaten back Swend and Cnut, the spirit which was in after times to make London ever the stronghold of English freedom, the spirit which made its citizens foremost in the patriot armies alike of the thirteenth and of the seventeenth centuries, was now as warm in the hearts of those gallant burghers as in any earlier or later age. With a voice all but unanimous, the citizens declared in favour of the deliverer; a few votes only, the votes, it may be, of strangers or of courtiers, were given against the emphatic resolution, that what the earl would the city would."(73) Having secured the favour of London his cause was secure. That the citizens heartily welcomed the earl, going forth in a body to meet him on his arrival, we learn also from another source;(74) although, one at least of the ancient chroniclers strongly hints that the favour of the citizens had been obtained by bribes and promises.(75) The earl's return was marked by decrees of outlawry against the king's foreign favourites, whose malign influence he had endeavoured formerly to counteract, and who had proved themselves strong enough to procure the banishment of himself and family.
The last gemot held under Edward was one specially summoned to meet at Westminster at the close of the year 1065, for the purpose of witnessing the dedication of the new abbey church which the king loved so well and to which his remains were so shortly afterwards to be carried.
He died at the opening of the year, and the same witan who had attended his obsequies elected Harold, the late Earl Godwine's son, as his successor. This election, however, was doomed to be overthrown by the powerful sword of William the Norman.
As soon as the news of Harold's coronation reached William of Normandy, he claimed the crown which Edward the Confessor had promised him. According to every principle of succession recognised in England, at the time, he had no right to the crown whatever. When the Norman invader landed at Pevensey, Harold was at York, having recently succeeded in defeating his brother Tostig, the deposed Earl of Northumbria, who, with the assistance of Harold Hardrada, had attacked the northern earls, Edwine and Morkere. On hearing of the Duke's landing, Harold hastened to London. A general muster of forces was there ordered, and Edwine and Morkere, who were bound to Harold by family tie—the King having married their sister—were bidden to march southward with the whole force of their earldoms. But neither gratitude for their late deliverance at the hands of their brother-in-law, nor family affection, could hurry the steps of these earls, and they arrived too late. The battle of Senlac, better known as the battle of Hastings, had been won and lost (14th Oct., 1066), the Norman was conqueror, and Harold had perished. For a second time within twelve months the English throne was vacant.(76)
The times were too critical to hold a formal gemot for the election of a successor to the throne; but the citizens of London and the sailors or "butsecarls" (whom it is difficult not to associate with the "lithsmen" of former days) showed a marked predilection in favour of Edgar the Atheling, grandson of Edmund Ironside, and the sole survivor of the old royal line. The Archbishop, too, as well as the northern earls, were in his favour, but the latter soon withdrew to their respective earldoms and left London and the Atheling to their fate.(77) Thus, "the patriotic zeal of the men of London was thwarted by the base secession of the northern traitors."
After waiting awhile at Hastings for the country to make voluntary submission, and finding that homagers did not come in, William proceeded to make a further display of force. In this he betrayed no haste, but made his way through Kent in leisurely fashion, receiving on his way the submission of Winchester and Canterbury, using no more force than was absolutely necessary, and endeavouring to allay all fears, until at length he reached the suburbs of London.(78)
He had been astute enough to give out that he came not to claim a crown, but only a right to be put in nomination for it. To the mind of the Londoner, such quibbling failed to commend itself, and the citizens lost no time in putting their city into a posture of defence, determined not to surrender it without a blow.
Upon William's arrival in Southwark, the citizens sallied forth. They were, however, beaten back after a sharp skirmish, and compelled to seek shelter again within their city's walls. William hesitated to make a direct attack upon the city, but hoped by setting fire to Southwark to strike terror into the inhabitants and bring them to a voluntary surrender. He failed in his object; the city still held out, and William next resorted to diplomacy.
The ruling spirit within the city at that time was Ansgar or Esegar the "Staller" under whom, as Sheriff of Middlesex, the citizens had marched out to fight around the royal standard at Hastings. He had been carried wounded from the field, and was now borne hither and thither on a litter, encouraging the citizens to make a stout defence of their city. To him, it is said, William sent a private message from Berkhampstead, asking only that the Conqueror's right to the crown of England might be acknowledged and nothing more, the real power of the kingdom might remain with Ansgar if he so willed. Determined not to be outwitted by the Norman, Ansgar (so the story goes) summoned a meeting of the eldermen (natu majores) of the City—the forerunners of the later aldermen—and proposed a feigned submission which might stave off immediate danger. The proposal was accepted and a messenger despatched. William pretended to accept the terms offered, and at the same time so worked upon the messenger with fair promises and gifts that on his return he converted his fellow citizens and induced them by representations of the Conqueror's friendly intentions and of the hopelessness of resistance, to make their submission to him, and to throw over the young Atheling.
Whatever poetic tinge there may be about the story as told by Guy of Amiens, it is certain that the citizens came to the same resolution, in effect, as that described by the poet, nor could they well have done otherwise. The whole of the country for miles around London, had already tendered submission or been forced into it. The city had become completely isolated, and sooner or later its inhabitants must have been starved out. There was, moreover, a strong foreign element within its walls.(79) Norman followers of Edward the Confessor were ever at hand to counsel submission. London submitted, the citizens accepting the rule of the Norman Conqueror as they had formerly accepted that of Cnut the Dane, "from necessity." An embassy was despatched to Berkhampstead, comprising the Archbishop of York, the young Atheling, the earls Edwine and Morkere, and "all the best men of London," to render homage and give hostages,(80) and thus it was, that within three months of his landing, William was acknowledged as the lawfully elected King of England, and, as such, he crowned himself at Westminster, promising to govern the nation as well as any king before him if they would be faithful to him.
The conciliatory spirit of William towards the Londoners is seen in the favourable terms he was ready to concede them. Soon after his coronation— the precise date cannot be determined—he granted them a charter,(81) by which he clearly declared his purpose not to reduce the citizens to a state of dependent vassalage, but to establish them in all the rights and privileges they had hitherto enjoyed.
The charter, rendered into modern English, runs as follows:—
"William, King, greets William, Bishop, and Gosfregdh, Portreeve, and all the burgesses within London, French and English, friendly. And I give you to know that I will that ye be all those laws worthy that ye were in King Eadward's day.(82) And I will that every child be his father's heir after his father's day and I will not suffer that any man offer you any wrong. God keep you."
The terms of the charter are worthy of study. They are primarily remarkable as indicating that the City of London was, at the time, subject to a government which combined the secular authority of the port-reeve with the ecclesiastical authority of the bishop. It was said, indeed, to have been greatly due to the latter's intercession that the charter was granted at all, and, in this belief, the mayor and aldermen were long accustomed to pay a solemn visit to the bishop's tomb in St. Paul's church, there to hear a De profundis on the day when the new mayor took his oath of office before the Barons of the Exchequer.(83)
As regards the port-reeve—the port-gerefa, i.e., reeve of the port or town of London(84)—the nature and extent of his duties and authority, much uncertainty exists. Whilst, in many respects, his position in a borough was analogous no doubt to the shire-reeve or sheriff of a county, there were, on the other hand, duties belonging to and exercised by the one which were not exercised by the other. Thus, for instance, the port-reeve, unlike the sheriff, exercised no judicial functions in a criminal court, nor presided over court-leets in the city as the sheriff did in his county by turn, the latter being held independently by the alderman of each ward.(85)
(M57) (M58) (M59)
In the next place the charter brings prominently to our notice the fact that there was already existing within the City's walls a strong Norman element, existing side by side with the older English burgesses, which the Conqueror did well not to ignore. The descendants of the foreign merchants from France and Normandy, for whose protection Ethelred had legislated more than half a century before, had continued to carry on their commercial intercourse with the Londoners, and were looking forward to a freer interchange of merchandise now that the two countries were under one sovereign. Their expectation was justified. No sooner had London submitted to the Norman Conqueror than, we are told, "many of the citizens of Rouen and Caen passed over thither, preferring to be dwellers in that city, inasmuch as it was fitter for their trading, and better stored with the merchandise in which they were wont to traffic."(86) But by far the most important clause in the charter is that which places the citizens of London in the same position respecting the law of the land as they enjoyed in the days of their late king, Edward the Confessor. Here there is distinct evidence that the Conqueror had come "neither to destroy, nor to found, but to continue."(87) The charter granted nothing new; it only ratified and set the royal seal(88) to the rights and privileges of the citizens already in existence.
It is recorded that William granted another charter to the citizens of London, vesting in them the City and Sheriffwick of London, and this charter the citizens proffered as evidence of their rights over the cloister and church of St. Martin le Grand, when those rights were challenged in the reign of Henry VI.(89) This charter has since been lost.
The compact thus made between London and the Conqueror was faithfully kept by both parties. Having ascended the English throne by the aid of the citizens of London, William, unlike many of his successors, was careful not to infringe the terms of their charter, whilst the citizens on the other hand continued loyal to their accepted king, and lent him assistance to put down insurgents in other parts of the kingdom. The fortress which William erected within their city's walls did not disturb their equanimity. It was sufficient for them that, under the Conqueror's rule, the country was once more peaceful, so peaceful that, according to the chronicler, a young maiden could travel the length of England without being injured or robbed.(90)
The close of the reign of William the First witnessed the completion of "Doomsday," or survey of the kingdom, which he had ordered to be made for fiscal purposes. For some reason not explained, neither London nor Winchester—the two capitals, so to speak, of the kingdom—were included in this survey. It may be that the importance of these boroughs, their wealth and population, necessitated some special method of procedure; but this does not account for the omission of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland, and Durham, from the survey. We know that Winchester was afterwards surveyed, but no steps in the same direction were ever taken with respect to London. The survey was not effected without disturbances, owing to the inquisitorial power vested in the commissioners appointed to carry it out.
William died whilst on a visit to his duchy of Normandy, and "he who was before a powerful king, and lord of many a land, had then of all his land, only a portion of seven feet."(91) the same which, to this day, holds his mortal remains in the Abbey at Caen. He was succeeded by William his son. The death of the father and accession of his son was marked by fire, pestilence, and famine.(92)
A fire destroyed St. Paul's and the greater part of the City. Maurice, Bishop of London, at once set to work to rebuild the Cathedral on a larger and more magnificent scale, erecting the edifice upon arches in a manner little known in England at that time, but long practised in France. The Norman Conquest was already working for good. Not only the style of architecture, but the very stone used in re-building St. Paul's came from France, the famous quarries of Caen being utilised for the purpose.(93)
There was already in the city, one church built after the same manner, and on that account called St. Mary of Arches or "le Bow." The object of setting churches and other buildings upon vaults was to guard against fire. Whatever defence against fire this method of building may have afforded, it was certainly no defence against wind. In 1091, the roof of St. Mary-le-Bow was clean blown off, huge baulks of timber, 26 feet long, being driven into the ground with such force that scarce 4 feet of them could be seen.(94)
The reign of the new king was one of oppression. Nevertheless, he continued to secure that protection for life and property which his father had so successfully achieved, so that a man "who had confidence in himself" and was "aught," could travel the length and breadth of the land unhurt, "with his bosom full of gold."(95) He also had an eye for the protection of the city, and the advancement of its commerce, surrounding the Tower of London by a wall, and repairing the bridge which had been nearly washed away by a flood.(96)
On the 2nd August, 1100, the Red King met his death suddenly in the New Forest, and the next day was buried at Winchester. According to a previous agreement, the crown should have immediately devolved upon his brother Robert. Crowns, however, were not to be thus disposed of; they fell only to those ready and strong enough to seize them. Robert was far away on a crusade. His younger brother Henry was on the spot, and upon him fell the choice of such of the witan as happened to be in or near Winchester at the time of the late king's death.(97)
The two days that elapsed before his coronation at Westminster (5th August), the king-elect spent in London, where by his easy and eloquent manner, as well as by fair promises, he succeeded in winning the inhabitants over to his cause, to the rejection of the claims of Robert. The election, or perhaps we should rather say, the selection of Henry by the witan at Winchester, was thus approved and confirmed by the whole realm (regni universitas), in the city of London.
The choice was made however on one condition, viz.:—that Henry should restore to his subjects their ancient liberties and customs enjoyed in the days of Edward the Confessor.(98) The charter thus obtained served as an exemplar for the great charter of liberties which was to be subsequently wrung from King John.
Another charter was granted by the new king—a charter to the citizens of London—granted, as some have thought, soon after his accession, and by way of recognition of the services they had rendered him towards obtaining the crown. This however appears to be a mistake. There is reason for supposing that this charter was not granted until at least thirty years after he was seated on the throne.(99)
The chief features of the grant(100) were that the citizens were thenceforth to be allowed to hold Middlesex to farm at a rent of L300 a year, and to appoint from among themselves whom they would to be sheriff over it; they were further to be allowed to appoint their own justiciar to hold pleas of the crown, and no other justiciar should exercise authority over them; they were not to be forced to plead without the city's walls; they were to be exempt from scot and lot and of all payments in respect of Danegelt and murder; they were to be allowed to purge themselves after the English fashion of making oath and not after the Norman fashion by wager of battle; their goods were to be free of all manner of customs, toll, passage and lestage; their husting court might sit once a week; and lastly, they might resort to "withernam" or reprisal in cases where their goods had been unlawfully seized.
Touching the true import of this grant of Middlesex to the citizens at a yearly rent, with the right of appointing their own sheriff over it, no less than the identity of the justiciar whom they were to be allowed to choose for themselves for the purpose of hearing pleas of the crown within the city, much divergence of opinion exists. Some believe that the government of the city was hereby separated from that of the shire wherein it was situate, and that the right of appointing their own justiciar which the citizens obtained by this charter was the right of electing a sheriff for the city of London in the place of the non-elective ancient port-reeve. Others deny that the charter introduced the shire organization into the government of the city, and believe the justiciar and sheriff to have been distinct officials.(101) The latter appear to hold the more plausible view. Putting aside the so-called charter of William the First, granting to the citizens in express terms civitatem et vice-comitatum Londoniae, as wanting in corroboration, a solution of the difficulty may be found if we consider (1) that the city received a shire organization and became in itself to all intents and purposes a county as soon as it came to be governed by a port-reeve, if not as soon as an alderman had been set over it by Alfred; (2) that the duties of the shrievalty in respect of the county of the city of London were at this time performed either by a port-reeve or by one or more officers, known subsequently as sheriffs, and (3) that for the right of executing these duties no rent or ferm was ever demanded or paid.(102)
If this be a correct view of the matter, it would appear that the effect of Henry's grant of Middlesex to the citizens to farm, and of the appointment of a sheriff over it of their own choice, was not so much to render the city independent of the shire, as to make the shire subject to the city. It must be borne in mind that no sheriff (or sheriffs) has ever been elected by the citizens for Middlesex alone, the duties appertaining to the sheriff-wick of Middlesex having always been performed by the sheriffs of the city for the time being.(103) Hence it is that the shrievalty of London and Middlesex is often spoken of as the shrievalty of "London" alone, and the shrievalty of "Middlesex" alone (the same officers executing the duties of both shrievalties) and the firma of L300 paid for the shrievalty of Middlesex alone is sometimes described as the firma of "London," sometimes of "Middlesex," and sometimes of "London and Middlesex."(104)
The right of electing their own justiciar granted to the citizens by Henry resolves itself into little more than a confirmation of the right to elect their own sheriffs.(105) Just as sheriffs are known to have held pleas of the crown in the counties up to the time of the Great Charter (although their duties were modified by Henry I, and again by Henry II, when he appointed Justices in eyre) so in the city of London, no one, except the sheriffs of London could hold pleas of the crown, and an attempt made by the Barons in 1258 to introduce a justiciar into the Guildhall was persistently challenged by the citizens.(106)
Even those who stedfastly maintain that in the country the sheriff and justiciar grew up to be two distinct officers, the one representing local interest and the other imperial, are willing to allow that in the city of London such distinction was evanescent. The office of justiciar in the city was twice granted eo nomine to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, and it is twice mentioned as having been held by one named Gervase, who (there is reason to believe) is identical with Gervase de Cornhill, a Sheriff of London in 1155 and 1156; but the office became extinct at the accession of Henry II.(107)
The events which followed Henry's decease afford us another instance of the futility of all attempts at this early period to settle the succession to the crown before the throne was actually vacant. The King's nephew, Stephen of Blois, and the nobility of England had sworn to accept the King's daughter Matilda, wife of Geoffery of Anjou, as their sovereign on the death of her father; yet when that event took place in 1135, Stephen, in spite of his oath, claimed the crown as nearest male heir of the Conqueror's blood.(108)
There was no doubt of his popularity, whilst Matilda on the other hand injured her cause by marrying an Angevin. On the continent a bitter feud existed between Norman and Angevin; in England the Norman had steadily increased in favour, and England's crown was Stephen's if he had courage enough to seize it.
Landing on the Kentish coast, his first reception was far from encouraging. Canterbury and Dover, held by the Earl of Gloucester, refused to acknowledge him and closed their gates on his approach. Undismayed by these rebuffs, Stephen pushed on to London, where he was welcomed by every token of good will. The Londoners had been no party to the agreement to recognise Matilda as Henry's successor; they had become accustomed to exercising a right of sharing in the choice of a king who should reign over them, and they now chose Stephen. "It was their right, their special privilege," said they, "on the occasion of the king's decease, to provide another in his place."(109) There was no time to be lost, the country was in danger, Stephen was at hand, sent to them, as they believed, by the goodness of Providence. They could not do better than elect him: and elected he was by the assembled aldermen or eldermen (majores natu) of the City.
Such is the story of Stephen's election as given by the author of the "Gesta Stephani," one who wrote as an eye-witness of what took place, but whose statements cannot always be taken as those of an independent chronicler of events. Informal as this election may have been, it marks an important epoch in the annals of London. Thenceforth the city assumes a pre-eminent position and exercises a predominant influence in the public affairs of the kingdom.(110)
From London Stephen went down to Winchester, where he was heartily welcomed by his brother Henry, recently appointed papal legate. Next to London, it was important that Stephen should secure Winchester, and now that London had spoken, the citizens of Winchester no longer hesitated to throw in their lot with the king. Winchester secured, and Stephen put in possession of the royal castle and treasury, he returned to London, where all doubts as to the validity or invalidity of his election were set at rest by the ceremony of coronation (Dec. 1135).
In the spring of the following year (April 1136), a brilliant council of the clergy and magnates of the realm was held in London,(111) reminding one of the Easter courts of the days of the Conqueror which latterly had been shorn of much of their splendour. The occasion was one for introducing the new king to his subjects as well as for confirming the liberties of the church, and Stephen may have taken special care to surround it with exceptional splendour as a set off against the meagreness which had characterised the recent ceremony of his coronation.(112)
In the meanwhile the injured Matilda appealed to Rome, but only with the result that her rival received formal recognition from the Pope. Three years later (1139) she landed in England accompanied by her brother, the Earl of Gloucester. She soon obtained a following, more especially in the west; and Winchester—the seat of the royal residence of the queens of England since the time when Ethelred presented the city as a "morning gift" to his consort at their marriage—became her headquarters and rallying point for her supporters, whilst London served in the same way for Stephen.
After nine months of sieges and counter sieges, marches and counter marches, in which neither party could claim any decided success, Stephen, as was his wont, withdrew to London and shut himself up in the Tower, with only a single bishop, and he a foreigner, in his train. Whilst safe behind the walls of that stronghold, negotiations were opened between him and the empress for a peaceful settlement of their respective claims (May, 1140), Henry of Winchester acting as intermediary between the rival parties.(113) The negotiations ended without effecting the desired result.
Matters assumed an entirely different aspect when Stephen was made prisoner at Lincoln in the following year (2nd Feb., 1141). Henry of Winchester forsook his role of arbitrator, and entered into a formal compact with the empress who arrived before Winchester with the laurels of her recent success yet fresh, agreeing to receive her as "Lady of England," (Domina Angliae) and promising her the allegiance of himself and his followers so long as she would keep her oath and allow him a free hand in ecclesiastical matters.(114)
This compact was entered into on the 2nd March, and on the following day the empress was received with solemn pomp into Winchester Cathedral. It remained for the compact to be ratified. For this purpose an ecclesiastical synod was summoned to sit at Winchester on the 7th April. The day was spent by the legate holding informal communications with the bishops, abbots, and archdeacons who were in attendance, and who then for the first time in England's history claimed the right not only of consecration, but of election of the sovereign.(115)
On the 8th April, Henry in a long speech announced to the assembled clergy the result of the conclave of the previous day. He extolled the good government of the late king who before his death had caused fealty to be sworn to his daughter, the empress. The delay of the empress in coming to England (he said) had been the cause of Stephen's election. The latter had forfeited all claim to the crown by his bad government, and God's judgment had been pronounced against him. Lest therefore, the nation should suffer for want of a sovereign, he, as legate, had summoned them together, and by them the empress had been elected Lady of England. The speech was received with unanimous applause, those to whom the election did not commend itself being wise enough to hold their tongue.
But there was another element to be considered before Matilda's new title could be assured. What would the Londoners who had taken the initiative in setting Stephen on the throne, and still owed to them their allegiance, say to it? The legate had foreseen the difficulty that might arise if the citizens, whom he described as very princes of the realm, by reason of the greatness of their city (qui sunt quasi optimates pro magnitudine civitatis in Anglia), could not be won over. He had, therefore, sent a special safe conduct for their attendance, so he informed the meeting after the applause which followed his speech had died away, and he expected them to arrive on the following day. If they pleased they would adjourn till then.
The next day (9th April) the Londoners arrived, as the legate had foretold, and were ushered before the council. They had been sent, they said, by the so called "commune" of London; and their purpose was not to enter into debate, but only to beg for the release of their lord, the king.(116) The statement was supported by all the barons then present who had entered the commune of the city(117) and met with the approval of the archbishop and all the clergy in attendance. Their solicitations, however, proved of no avail. The legate replied with the same arguments he had used the day before, adding that it ill became the Londoners who were regarded as nobles (quasi proceres) in the land to foster those who had basely deserted their king on the field of battle, and who only curried favour with the citizens in order to fleece them of their money.
Here an interruption took place. A messenger presented to the legate a paper from Stephen's queen to read to the council. Henry took the paper, and after scanning its contents, refused to communicate them to the meeting. The messenger, however, not to be thus foiled, himself made known the contents of the paper. These were, in effect, an exhortation by the queen to the clergy, and more especially to the legate himself, to restore Stephen to liberty. The legate, however, returned the same answer as before, and the meeting broke up, the Londoners promising to communicate the decision of the council to their brethren at home, and to do their best to obtain their support.
The next two months were occupied by the empress and her supporters in preparing the way for her admission into the city, the inhabitants of which, had as yet shown but little disposition towards her. But however great their inclination may have been to Stephen, they at length found themselves forced to transfer their allegiance and to offer, for a time at least, a politic submission to the empress. Accordingly, a deputation went out to meet her at St. Albans (May 1141), and arrange terms on which the city should surrender.(118)
More delay took place; and it was not until shortly before midsummer (1141), that she entered the city. Her stay was brief. She treated the inhabitants as vanquished foes,(119) extorted large sums of money,(120) and haughtily refused to observe the laws of Edward the Confessor they valued so much, preferring those of the late king, her father.(121)
The consequence was that, within a few days of her arrival in London, the inhabitants rose in revolt, drove her out of the city(122) and attacked the Tower, of which Geoffrey de Mandeville was constable, as his father William had been before him.(123)
This Geoffrey de Mandeville had been recently created Earl of Essex by Stephen, in the hope and expectation that the fortress over which Geoffrey was governor, would be held secure for the royal cause. The newly fledged earl, however, was one who ever fought for his own hand, and was ready to sell his fortress and sword to the highest bidder. The few days that the empress was in the city, afforded her an opportunity of risking a trial to win over the earl from his allegiance. To this end she offered to confirm him in his earldom and to continue him in his office of Constable of the Tower, conferred upon him by Stephen; in addition to which, she was ready to allow him to enjoy lands of the rent of L100 a year, a license to fortify his castles, and the posts of sheriff and justiciar throughout his earldom. The bait was too tempting for the earl not to accept; and a charter to the above effect was drawn up and executed.(124)
Scarcely had the fickle earl consented to throw in his lot with the empress before she had to flee the city. The departure of the empress was quickly followed by the arrival of her namesake, Matilda, the valiant queen of the captured Stephen; and again the earl proved false to his allegiance and actively supported the queen in concert with the citizens.(125)
With his aid(126) and the aid of the Londoners,(127) the queen was enabled to reduce Winchester and to effect the liberation of her husband by exchanging the Earl of Gloucester, brother of the empress, for the captured king.
After being solemnly crowned, for the second time,(128) at Canterbury, Stephen issued a second charter (about Christmas time, 1141),(129) to Geoffrey de Mandeville, confirming and augmenting the previous grant by the empress. Instead of sheriff and justiciar of his own county of Essex merely, he is now made sheriff and justiciar of London and Middlesex, as well as of Hertfordshire.
But even these great concessions failed to secure the earl's fidelity to the king. Again he broke away from his allegiance and planned a revolt in favour of the empress who recompensed him with still greater dignities and possessions than any yet bestowed. This second charter of the empress,(130) is remarkable for a clause in which she promises never to make terms with the Londoners without the earl's consent, "because they are his mortal foes."(131) But the plans of the earl were doomed to be frustrated. The empress, tired of the struggle, soon ceased to be dangerous, and eventually withdrew to the continent, and Stephen was left free to deal with the rebel earl alone. With the assistance of the Londoners, who throughout the long period of civil dissension, were generally to be found on the winning side, and held as it were the balance between the rival powers, Stephen managed after considerable bloodshed to capture the fortifications erected by the Earl at Farringdon.(132)
The earl was subsequently treacherously arrested and made to give up his castles. Thenceforth his life was that of a marauding freebooter, until, fatally wounded at the siege of Burwell, he expired in September, 1143.
Notwithstanding the absence of the empress and the death of the faithless earl, a desultory kind of war continued to be carried on for the next ten years on behalf of Henry of Anjou, son of the empress. In 1153 that prince arrived in England to fight his own battles and maintain his right to the crown, which the king had already attempted to transfer to the head of his own son Eustace. This attempt had been foiled by the refusal of the bishops, at the instigation of the pope, to perform the ceremony. The sudden death of Eustace made the king more ready to enter into negotiations for effecting a peaceful settlement.
A compromise was accordingly effected at Winchester,(133) whereby Stephen was to remain in undisputed possession of the throne for life, and after his death was to be succeeded by Henry. The news that at last an end had come to the troubles which for nineteen years had disturbed the country, was received with universal joy, and Henry, conducted to London by the king himself, was welcomed in a manner befitting one who was now the recognised heir to the crown.(134)
Both London and Winchester had been laid in ashes during Stephen's reign, the former by a conflagration—which took place in 1136, again destroying St. Paul's and extending from London Bridge to the church of St. Clement Danes—the latter by the burning missiles used in the conflict between Stephen and the empress in 1141. Winchester never recovered her position, and London was left without a rival. Fitz-Stephen, who wrote an account of the city as it stood in the reign of Henry II, describes it as holding its head higher than all others; its fame was wider known; its wealth and merchandise extended further than any other; it was the capital of the kingdom (regni Anglorum sedes).(135)
It was through the mediation of an intimate friend and fellow citizen of Fitz-Stephen that Archbishop Theobald had invited Henry of Anjou over from France in 1153. Thomas of London, better known as Thomas Becket, although of foreign descent, was born in the heart of the city, having first seen the light in the house of Gilbert, his father, some time Portreeve of London, situate in Cheapside on a site now occupied by the hall and chapel of the Mercers' Chapel. Having been ordained a deacon of the Church, he became in course of time clerk or chaplain to the archbishop. Vigorous and active as he was, Thomas soon made his influence felt, and it was owing to his suggestion (so it is said(136)) that the bishops had declined to be a party to the coronation of Eustace during Stephen's lifetime.
On the accession of Henry, Thomas passed from the service of the archbishop, then advanced in years, to the service of the young king. He was raised to the dignity of chancellor, and became one of the king's most trusted advisers. By their united efforts order was once again restored throughout the kingdom. The great barons, who had established themselves in castles erected without royal licence, were brought into subjection to the crown and compelled to pull down their walls. Upon the death of the archbishop, Thomas was appointed to the vacant See (1162). From that day forward the friendship between king and archbishop began to wane. Henry found that all his attempts to establish order in his kingdom were thwarted by exemptions claimed by the archbishop on behalf of the clergy. He found that allegiance to the Crown was divided with allegiance to the Pope, and this state of things was likely to continue so long as the archbishop lived. Becket's end is familiar to us all. His memory was long cherished by the citizens of London, who made many a pilgrimage to the scene of his martyrdom and left many an offering on his tomb in the cathedral of Canterbury. It is hard to say for which of the two, the father or the son, the citizens entertained the greater reverence. For many years after his death it was the custom for the Mayor of the City for the time being, upon entering into office, to meet the aldermen at the church of St. Thomas of Acon—a church which had been erected and endowed in honour of the murdered archbishop by his sister Agnes, wife of Thomas Fitz-Theobald of Helles(137)—and thence to proceed to the tomb of Gilbert Becket, the father, in St. Paul's churchyard, there to say a De profundis; after which both mayor and aldermen returned to the church of St. Thomas, and, each having made an offering of two pence, returned to his own home.(138) St. Thomas's Hospital, in Southwark, was originally dedicated to the murdered archbishop, but after its dissolution and subsequent restoration as one of the Royal Hospitals, its patron saint was no longer Thomas the Martyr, but Thomas the Apostle.
Whilst the king and his chancellor were busy settling the kingdom, establishing a uniform administration of justice and system of revenue, and not only renewing but extending the form of government which had been instituted by Henry I, the citizens of London, availing themselves of the security afforded by a strong government, redoubled their energy in following commercial pursuits and succeeded in raising the city, as Fitz-Stephen has told us, to a pitch of prosperity far exceeding that of any other city in the world.
They obtained a charter from Henry,(139) although of a more limited character than that granted to them by his grandfather. The later charter, for instance, although in the main lines following the older charter, makes no mention of Middlesex being let to ferm nor of any appointment of sheriff or justiciar being vested in the citizens. It appears as if Henry was determined to bring the citizens no less than the barons of the realm within more direct and immediate subservience to the crown. The concession made by the king's grandfather had been ignored by Stephen and the empress Matilda, each of whom in turn had granted the shrievalty of London and Middlesex to the Earl of Essex. For a time the appointment of sheriffs was lost to the citizens. Throughout the reigns of Henry II and his successor they were appointed by the crown. Richard's charter to the citizens makes no mention of the sheriffwick, nor is it mentioned in the first charter granted by John. When it was restored to the citizens (A.D. 1199), by John's second charter, the office of sheriff of London had lost much of its importance owing to the introduction of the communal system of municipal government under a mayor.
In the meantime the sheriffs of the counties, who had by reason of Henry's administrative reforms, risen to be officers of greater importance and wider jurisdiction, and who had taken advantage of their positions to oppress the people during the king's prolonged absence abroad, were also made to feel the power of the crown. A blow struck at the sheriffs was calculated to weaken the nobility and the larger landowners—the class from which it had been the custom hitherto to select these officers. Henry saw the advantage to be gained, and on his return to England in 1170 deposed most of the sheriffs and ordered a strict enquiry to be made, as to the extortions they had committed in his absence. Their places were filled for the most part by men of lower rank, and therefore likely to be more submissive. Some, however, were reinstated and became more cruel and extortionate than ever.(140)
The last fifteen years of Henry's life were full of domestic trouble. He had always found it an easier matter to rule his kingdom than his household. His sons were for ever thwarting his will and quarrelling with each other. It was his desire to secure the succession to the crown for his eldest son Henry, and to this end he had caused him to be crowned by the Archbishop of York (14th June, 1170), who was thereupon declared excommunicated by his brother of Canterbury. The son began to clamour for his inheritance whilst his father still lived, and appealed in 1173 to the French king, whose daughter he had married, to assist him in his unholy enterprise. Whilst Henry was engaged in defending his crown against his own son on the continent, the great barons of England rose in insurrection, and the king was obliged to hasten home, where he arrived in July, 1174. The rebellion was quickly put down, and the strife between king and nobles for a time ceased.