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V.: THE ANGLO-NORMANS AND THE ENGLISH BY RACE. - Augustin Thierry, History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, vol. 2 
History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, translated from the seventh Paris edition, by William Hazlitt (London: H.G. Bohn, 1856). In 2 volumes. Vol. 2.
Part of: History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, 2 vols.
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THE ANGLO-NORMANS AND THE ENGLISH BY RACE.
Poitevin courtiers in England—Alliance between the Saxons and Normans—League of the barons against king John—Magna Charta—Expulsion of the foreigners—Louis of France called in by the Anglo-Norman barons—Retreat of the French—Return of the Poitevins—Second insurrection of the Anglo-Norman barons—Simon de Montfort—His popularity—Language of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy—State of the higher classes of England—Impressment of aitisans—Labourers—State of the land—Peasants or cottagers in England—Great fermentation among the peasants—Political writings circulated in the country districts—Insurrection of the peasants—The insurgents march upon London—Their first demand—Their conduct in London—Their interview with Richard II.—The insurgents quit London—Wat Tyler and John Ball—Murder of Wat Tyler—The king deceives the insurgents—Dispersion and terror of the insurgents—Alarm of the gentry throughout England—Proclamation of Richard II.—Termination of the peasants’ insurrection—Things remain in their former state—Individual enfranchisements—Separation of the parliament into two chambers—Position of the commons in the parliament—French the language of the court and the nobility—French literature in England—Revival of English poetry—Character of the new English language—The Norman idiom becomes extinct in England—Dissolution of the Norman society—Remnant of the distinction between the two races.
After the conquest of Anjou and Poitou by king Philip-Augustus, many men of these two countries, and even those who had conspired against the Anglo-Norman domination, conspired against the French, and allied themselves with king John. This monarch gave them no efficacious aid; all he could do for those who had exposed themselves to persecution on the part of the king of France, by intriguing or taking up arms against him, was to give them an asylum and a welcome in England. Thither repaired, from necessity or from choice, a great number of these emigrants, intellectual, adroit, insinuating men, like all the southern Gauls, and better fitted to please a king than the Normans, generally more slow-witted and of less pliant temperament.1 The Poitevins, accordingly, speedily attained infinite favour at the court of England, and even supplanted the old aristocracy in the good graces of king John. He distributed among them all the offices and fiefs at his disposal, and even, under various pretexts, deprived several rich Normans of their posts in favour of these new comers. He married them to the heiresses who were under his wardship, according to the feudal law, and made them guardians of rich orphans under age.1
The preference thus manifested by the king for foreigners, whose ever-increasing avidity drove him to greater exactions than all his predecessors had committed, and to usurp unprecedented powers over persons and property, indisposed all the Anglo-Normans towards him. The new courtiers, feeling the precariousness of their position, hastened to amass all they could, and made demand upon demand. In the exercise of their public functions, they were more eager for gain than had been any former functionaries; and, by their daily vexations, rendered themselves as odious to the Saxon citizens and serfs as they already were to the nobles of Norman origin. They levied on the domains the king had given them more aids and taxes than any lord had ever demanded, and exercised more rigorously the right of toll on the bridges and highroads, seizing the horses and goods of the merchants, and only paying them, says an old historian, in tallages and mockery.2 Thus they harassed, at once and almost equally, the two races of men who inhabited England, and who, since their violent approximation, had not as yet experienced any one suffering, or sympathy, or aversion, in common.
The hatred to the Poitevins and the other favourites of the king, brought together, for the first time, two classes of men, hitherto, as a general rule, standing apart from each other. Here we may date the birth of a new national spirit, common to all born on English soil. All, in fact, without distinction of origin, are termed natives, by the cotemporary authors, who, echoing the popular rumour, impute to king John the design of expelling, if not of exterminating the people of England, and giving their estates to foreigners.3 These exaggerated alarms were, perhaps, even more strongly felt by English burghers and farmers than by the lords and barons of Norman race, who yet were alone really interested in destroying the foreign influence, and in forcing king John to revert to his old friends and countrymen.
Thus, in the commencement of his reign, John was in a position closely resembling that of the Saxon king Edward, on his return from Normandy.1 He menaced the rich and noble of England, or, at least, gave them reason to think themselves menaced, with a sort of conquest, operated, without apparent violence, in favour of foreigners, whose presence wounded, at the same time, their national pride and their interests.2 Under these circumstances, the barons of England adopted against the courtiers from Poitou and Guienne, and against the king who preferred them to his old liegemen, the same course that the Anglo-Saxons had adopted against Edward and his Norman favourites—that of revolt and war. After having signified to John, as their ultimatum, a charter of Henry I., determining the limits of the royal prerogative, on his refusal to keep within the legal limits that his predecessors had recognised, the barons solemnly renounced their oath of fealty, and defied the king, the manner at this period of declaring mortal war. They elected for their chief, Robert Fitz-Walter, who took the title of Marshal of the army of God and of holy church, and acted, in this insurrection, the part played by the Saxon Godwin, in that of 1052.3
Fear of the gradual operation, in favour of Poitevin priests, of the ecclesiastical deprivations with which the Norman conquest had, at one blow, struck the entire clergy of English race, and at the same time, a sort of patriotic enthusiasm, added the Anglo-Norman bishops and priests to the party of the barons against king John, though this king was then in high favour with the pope. He had renewed to the holy see the public profession of vassalage made by Henry II. after the murder of Thomas Beket; but this act of humility, far from being as useful to the cause of John as it had been to that of his father, only served to bring down upon him public contempt, and the reproaches even of the clergy, who felt themselves endangered in their dearest interests, the stability of their offices and possessions. Abandoned by the Anglo-Normans, king John had not, like Henry I., the art of raising in his favour the English by origin, who, besides, no longer constituted a national body capable of aiding, en masse, either party. The burghers and serfs immediately depending on the barons, were far more numerous than those of the king; and, as to the inhabitants of the great towns, though they enjoyed privileges and franchises granted by the royal power, yet a natural sympathy drew them to that side which comprehended the majority of their countrymen. The city of London declared itself for those who unfurled their banners against the foreign favourites, and the king suddenly found himself left with no other supporters of his cause, than men born out of England, Poitevins, Gascons, and Flemings, commanded by Savari de Mauléon, Geoffroy de Bouteville, and Gautier de Buck.1
John, alarmed at seeing in his adversaries’ ranks all the zealous asserters of the independence of the country, whether as sons of the conquerors or as native English, subscribed the conditions required by the revolted barons. The conference took place in a large meadow called Runnymede, between Staines and Windsor, where both armies encamped; the demands of the insurgents having been discussed, were drawn up in a charter, which John confirmed by his seal. The special object of this charter was to deprive the king of that branch of his power by means of which he had fostered and enriched men of foreign birth at the expense of the Anglo-Normans. The population of English race was not forgotten in the treaty of peace which its allies of the other race formed with the king. Repeatedly, during the civil war, the old popular demand for the good laws of king Edward had figured in the manifestoes, which claimed, in the name of the English barons, the maintenance of the feudal liberties;2 but it was not, as under Henry I., the Saxon laws which the charter of the Norman king guaranteed to the descendants of the Saxons. It would seem, on the contrary, that they who drew up this memorable act, desired formally to abolish the distinction between the two races, and to have in England merely various classes of one people, all, to the very lowest, entitled to justice and protection from the common law of the land.
The charter of king John, since called Magna Charta,1 secured the rights of liberty and property of the classes of
John, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Earl of Anjou, to the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Justiciaries of the Forests, Sheriffs, Governors, and Officers, and to all Bailiffs, and others his faithful subjects, greeting. Know ye, that we, in the presence of God, and for the health of our soul, and the souls of all our ancestors and heirs, and to the honour of God and the exaltation of his Holy Church, and amendment of our Kingdom, by advice of our venerable Fathers, Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Henry, Archbishop of Dublin, William, Bishop of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelin of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, Benedict of Rochester, Bishops, and Master Pandulph, the Pope’s Sub-Deacon and ancient Servant, Brother Aymeric, Master of the Temple in England, and the Noble Persons, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, William, Earl of Salisbury, William, Earl of Warren, William, Earl of Arundel, Alan de Galoway, Constable of Scotland, Warin Fitz Gerald, Peter Fitz Herbert, and Hubert de Burgh, Seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Albiney, Robert de Roppell, John Marshall, John Fitz Hugh, and others our liege men, have, in the first place, granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed, for us and our heirs for ever:
Norman origin, and at the same time established the right of the classes of Saxon origin to enjoy the ancient customs so favourable to them. It guaranteed their municipal franchises to the city of London and to all the towns of the kingdom; it modified the royal and seigneural statute-labour on the repair of castles, roads, and bridges; it gave special protection to merchants and traders, and, in suits against peasants, it prohibited the seizure of their crops or agricultural implements.
The principal article, if not as to ultimate results, at least in reference to the interests of the moment, was that by which the king promised to send out of the kingdom all the foreigners whom he had invited or received, and all his foreign troops. This article seems to have been received with great joy by all the people of England, without distinction of origin; perhaps, indeed, the English by race attached higher importance to it than to all the rest. That hatred of foreign domination which for a century and a half past had vainly fermented in men’s souls, impotent against the order of things established by the Norman conquest, was let loose against the new comers whom king John had enriched and laden with honours. From the moment in which their expulsion was legally pronounced, every Saxon lent his aid to execute the decree; the more noted foreigners were besieged in their houses, and upon their retreat their domains were pillaged.1 The peasants stopped on the roads all whom public report, right or wrong, indicated as foreigners. They called upon them to pronounce some English words, or, at all events, a sentence of the mixed language employed by the nobles in conversing with the inferior population; and when the suspected person was convicted of inability to speak either Saxon or Anglo-Norman, or to pronounce these languages with the accent of southern Gaul, he was maltreated, despoiled, and imprisoned without scruple, whether knight, priest, or monk. “It was a sad thing,” says a contemporary author, “for the friends of the foreigners to see their confusion, and the ignominy with which they were overwhelmed.”1
After having, against his will, and in bad faith, signed the charter, king John retired to the Isle of Wight, to await in security the occasion to resume the war. He solicited of the pope and obtained a dispensation from the oath he had sworn to the barons, and the excommunication of those who remained in arms to enforce his observance of his word. But no bishop in England consenting to promulgate this sentence, it remained without effect. The king, with what money he had left, hired a fresh body of Brabançons, who found means to land on the southern coast, and who, by their skill and military discipline, gained at first some advantages over the irregular army of the confederate barons and burghers. Thereupon, the former, fearing to lose all the fruit of their victory, resolved, like the king, to obtain foreign aid: they addressed themselves to Philip-Augustus, and offered to give his son Louis the crown of England, if he would come to them at the head of a good army. The treaty was concluded; and young Louis arrived in England with forces enough to counterbalance those of king John.
The entire conformity of language which then existed between the French and the Anglo-Norman barons necessarily modified, with the latter, the distrust and dislike ever inspired by a foreign chief; but it was different with the mass of the people, who, in reference to language, had no more affinity with the French than with the Poitevins. This dissonance, combined with the spirit of jealousy which speedily manifested itself between the Normans and their auxiliaries, rendered the support of the king of France more prejudicial than useful to the barons. Germs of dissolution were beginning to develop themselves in this party, when king John died, laden with the hatred and contempt of the entire population of England, without distinction of race or condition, actuated by which, the historians of the period, ecclesiastics though they be, give king John no credit for his constant submission to the holy see: in the history of his life they spare him no injurious epithet; and, after relating his death, they compose or transcribe epitaphs, such as these: “Who weeps, or has wept, the death of king John? hell, with all its foulness, is sullied by the soul of John.”1
Louis, son of Philip-Augustus, assumed, by the consent of the barons, the title of king of England; but the French who accompanied him soon conducted themselves as in a conquered country. The greater the resistance of the English to their vexations, the more harsh and grasping did they become. The accusation, so fatal to king John, was made against Louis of France: it was said that, in concert with his father, he had formed the project of exterminating or banishing all the rich and noble of England, and of replacing them by foreigners. Aroused by national interests, all parties united in favour of prince Henry, son of John, and the French, left alone, or nearly so, accepted a capitulation which gave them their lives, on condition of their immediate departure.
The kingdom of England having thus reverted to an Anglo-Norman, the charter of John was confirmed, and another, called the Forest Charter,1 giving the right of the chace to
Edward, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Guyan, to all to whom these presents shall come, sendeth greeting. We have seen the Charter of the Lord Henry our father, sometime King of England, concerning the Forest, in these words:
“Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and of Guyan, &c. as in the beginning of the Great Charter. the possessors of estates, was granted by Henry III. to the men of Norman race. But ere many years had elapsed, the new king, son of a Poitevin woman, who had again married in her own country, sent for and welcomed his uterine brothers, and many other men, who came, as in the time of king John, to seek their fortune in England. Family affection, and the easy, agreeable humour of the new Poitevin emigrants, had the same influence upon Henry III. as upon his predecessor; the great offices of the court, and the civil, military and ecclesiastical dignities, were once more heaped upon men born abroad. After the Poitevins flocked in the Provençals, because king Henry had married a daughter of the count of Provence; and after them, came Savoyards, Piedmontese, and Italians, distant relations or protégés of the queen, all attracted by the hope of wealth and advancement. Most of them attained their object, and the alarm of a new invasion of foreigners spread as rapidly and excited as much indignation as in the preceding reign. In the public complaints on the subject, the terms formerly employed by the Saxon writers, after the conquest, were repeated; it was said that, to obtain favour and fortune in England, it was only necessary not to be English.1
A Poitevin, named Pierre Desroches, the favourite minister and confident of the king, when he was called upon to observe the charter of king John and the laws of England, was wont to reply: “I am no Englishman, to know aught of these charters or these laws.”1 The confederation of the barons and burghers was renewed in an assembly held in London, at which the principal citizens swore to will all that the barons should will, and to adhere firmly to their laws. Shortly afterwards, most of the bishops, earls, barons, and knights of England, having held a council at Oxford, leagued together for the execution of the charters and the expulsion of the foreigners, by a solemn treaty, drawn up in French, and containing the following passage: “We make known to all, that we have sworn upon the holy gospel, and are bound together by this oath, and promise in good faith that each and all of us will aid one another against all men; and if any go counter to this, we shall hold him our mortal foe.”2
Singularly enough, the army assembled on this occasion to destroy the foreign influence, was commanded by a foreigner, Simon de Montfort, a Frenchman by birth, and brother-in-law of the king.3 His father had acquired great military reputation and immense wealth in the crusades against the Albigenses, and he himself was not deficient either in talent or in political skill. As is almost ever the case with men who throw themselves into a party from which their interest and position would seem naturally to exclude them, he displayed more activity and determination in the struggle against Henry III. than the Norman Robert Fitz-Walter had shown in the first civil war. A stranger to the Anglo-Norman aristocracy, he seems to have had much less repugnance than they to fraternize with men of English descent; and it was he who, for the first time since the conquest, summoned the commons to deliberate on public affairs, with the bishops, barons, and knights of England.
War thus commenced once more between the men born on English soil, and the foreigners who held offices and lordships there. The Poitevins and the Provençals were those whose expulsion was most ardently pursued. It was more peculiarly against the near relations of the king and queen, such as Guillaume de Valence and Pierre de Savoie, that the hatred of all classes of the population was directed;1 for the native English embraced with renewed ardour the cause of the barons, and a singular monument of this alliance subsists in a popular ballad on the taking of Richard, the king’s brother, and emperor elect of Germany. This ballad is the first historical document that exhibits the mixture of the Saxon and French languages, though the mixture, as yet, is but a sort of patchwork, and not a regular fusion, like that which later gave birth to modern English.2
After several victories gained over the king’s party, Simon de Montfort was killed in a battle, and the ancient patriotic superstition of the people was awakened in his favour. As an enemy to the foreigner, and, in the words of a contemporary, defender of the rights of legitimate property, he was honoured with the same title that popular gratitude had assigned to those who, in the time of the Norman invasion, sacrificed themselves in the defence of the country. Like them, Simon received the title of defender of the native people; it was denounced as false and wicked to call him traitor and rebel;3 and, in common with Thomas Beket, he was proclaimed saint and martyr.4 The leader of the army of the barons against Henry III. was the last man in whose favour was manifested this disposition to confound together the two enthusiasms of religion and of politics; a disposition peculiar to the English race, and which was not shared by the Anglo-Normans; for although Simon de Montfort had done far more for them than for the citizens and serfs of England, they did not sanction the beatification accorded him by the latter, and left the poor country people to visit alone the tomb of the new martyr, and seek miracles there.1 Such miracles were not wanting, as we learn from various legends; but as the aristocracy gave no encouragement to the popular superstition, the miracles were soon lost sight of.2
Notwithstanding the esteem which Simon de Montfort had manifested towards the men of Saxon origin, an enormous distance still separated them from the sons of the Normans. The chief chaplain of the army of the barons, Robert Grosse-Tête, bishop of Lincoln, one of the most ardent promoters of the war against the king, reckoned but two languages in England, Latin for the learned, and French for the unlearned; it was in the latter tongue that, in his old age, he wrote books of piety for the use of the laity, neglecting altogether the English language and those who spoke it.3 The poets of the same period, even the English by birth, composed their verses in French when they sought honour and profit from them. It was only the singers of ballads and romances for the burghers and peasants, who used the pure English, or the mixed Anglo-French language, that was the ordinary means of communication between the higher and lower classes. This intermediate idiom, the gradual formation of which was a necessary result of the conquest, was at first current in the towns where the two races were more mingled together, and where the inequality of conditions was less than in the country. Here it insensibly replaced the Saxon tongue, which, now only spoken by the poorest and rudest classes of the nation, fell as much beneath the new Anglo-Norman idiom as this was beneath the French, the language of the court, of the baronage, and of all who had any pretensions to refinement of manners.4
The rich citizens of the great towns, and more especially those of London, sought, from interest or vanity, by Frenchisizing their language more or less skilfully, to imitate the nobles and approach nearer to them; they thus early acquired the habit of saluting each other by the title of sire, and even of styling themselves barons.
The citizens of Dover, Romney, Sandwich, Hythe, and Hastings, towns of extensive commerce, which were then, as they still are, called the cinque ports, or the five ports of England par excellence, assumed, in imitation of the Londoners, the title of Norman nobility, using it corporately in their municipal acts, and individually in their private relations. But the genuine Norman barons considered this pretension outrecuidente. “It is enough to make one sick,” they said, “to hear a villein call himself a baron.”1 When the sons of the citizens arranged a tournament of their own, in some field of the suburbs, the seigneurs would send their valets and grooms to disperse them, with the intimation that skilled feats of arms did not appertain to rustics, and mealmen, and soap-sellers, such as they.2
Despite this indignation of the sons of the conquerors at the resistless movement which tended to approximate to them the richest portion of the conquered population, this movement was sensibly manifested during the fourteenth century, in the towns upon which royal charters had conferred the right of substituting magistrates of their own election for the seigneural viscounts and bailiffs. In these corporate towns, the burghers, strong in their municipal organization, commanded far more respect than the inhabitants of the petty towns and hamlets, which remained immediately subject to royal authority; but a long time elapsed ere that authority paid to the citizens individually the same consideration and respect as to the body of which they were members. The magistrates of the city of London, under the reign of Edward III., admitted to the royal feasts, already participated in that respect for established authority which distinguished the Anglo-Norman race; but the same king who entertained, at the third table from his own, the lord mayor and aldermen, treated almost as a serf of the conquest every London citizen, who, neither knight nor squire, exercised any trade or mechanical art. If, for example, he desired to embellish his palace, or to signalize himself by decorating a church, instead of engaging the best painters of the city to come and work for a given sum, he issued to his master-architect an order in the following terms: “Know, that we have charged our friend, William of Walsingham, to take from our city of London as many painters as he shall need, to set them to work in our pay, and to keep them as long as they are needed; if any be refractory, let him be arrested and kept in one of our prisons, there to abide until further orders.”1 Again, if the king conceived a fancy for music and singing after his dinner, he, in like manner, sent forth officers of his palace to bring before him the best players and singers they could find, in London or the suburbs, without any reference whatever to their own inclinations.2 And thus, too, on the eve of departure for the French wars, we find king Edward requiring from his chief engineer twelve hundred stoneballs for his war-machines, and authorising him to take stonemasons and other artisans, wherever he could find them, to labour in the quarries, under penalty of imprisonment.3
Such was still, at the end of the fourteenth century, the condition of those whom several historians of the time call the villains of London: and as to the country villains, whom the Normans, Frenchisizing the old Saxon names, called bondes, cotiers, or cotagers, their personal sufferings were far greater than those of the burghers, and without any compensation; for they had no magistrates of their own choice, and among themselves there was no one to whom they gave the title of sire or lord.4 Unlike the inhabitants of the towns, their servitude was aggravated by the regularisation of their relations with the seigneurs of the manors to which they belonged; the ancient right of conquest was subdivided into a host of rights, less violent in appearance, but which involved the class of men subject to them in numberless shackles. Travellers of the fourteenth century express their astonishment at the multitude of serfs they saw in England, and at the extreme hardness of their condition in that country,5 compared with what it was on the continent, and even in France. The word bondage conveyed, at this period, the last degree of social misery; yet this word, to which the conquest had communicated such a meaning, was merely a simple derivative from the Anglo-Danish bond, which, before the invasion of the Normans, signified a free cultivator and father of a family living in the country; and it is in this sense that it was joined with the Saxon word hus, to indicate a head of a house, husbond, or husband, in modern English orthography.1
Towards the year 1381, all those in England who were called bonds, that is to say, all the cultivators, were serfs of body and goods, obliged to pay heavy aids for the small portion of land which supported their family, and unable to quit this portion of land without the consent of the lords, whose tillage, gardening, and cartage of every kind, they were compelled to perform gratuitously. The lord might sell them with their house, their oxen, their tools, their children, and their posterity, as is thus expressed in the deeds: “Know that I have sold such a one, my naif (nativum meum), and all his progeny, born or to be born.”2 Resentment of the misery caused by the oppression of the noble families, combined with an almost entire oblivion of the events which had elevated these families, whose members no longer distinguished themselves by the name of Normans, but by the term gentlemen, had led the peasants of England to contemplate the idea of the injustice of servitude in itself, independently of its historical origin.
In the southern counties, whose population was more numerous, and especially in Kent, the inhabitants of which had preserved a vague tradition of a treaty concluded between themselves and William the Conqueror for the maintenance of their ancient rights and liberties,3 great symptoms of popular agitation appeared in the commencement of the reign of Richard II. It was a time of excessive expense with the court and all the gentlemen, on account of the wars in France, which all attended at their own cost, and wherein each vied with the other in the magnificence of his train and his armour. The proprietors of the lordships and manors overwhelmed their farmers and serfs with taxes and exactions, alleging, for every fresh demand, the necessity of going to fight the French on their own ground, in order to prevent their making a descent upon England. But the peasants said: “We are taxed to aid the knights and squires of the country to defend their heritages; we are their slaves, the sheep from whom they shear the wool; all things considered, if England were conquered, we should lose much less than they.”1
These and similar thoughts, murmuringly exchanged on the road, when the serfs of the same or of neighbouring domains met each other on their return from labour, became, after awhile, the theme of earnest speeches, pronounced in a sort of clubs, where they collected in the evening.2 Some of the orators were priests, and they derived from the Bible their arguments against the social order of the period. “Good people,” they said, “things may not go on in England, and shall not, until there be no more villains or gentlemen among us, but we be all equal, and the lords no more masters than we. Where is their greater worth, that they should hold us in serfage? We all come from the same father and mother, Adam and Eve. They are clothed in fine velvet and satin, lined with ermine and minever; they have meat, and spices, and good wines; we, the refuse of the straw, and for drink, water. They have ease and fine mansions, we pain and hard labour, the rain and the wind, in the open fields.” Hereupon the whole assembly would exclaim tumultuously: “There shall be no more serfs; we will no longer be treated as beasts; if we work for the lords, it shall be for pay.”3 These meetings, held in many parts of Kent and Essex, were secretly organized, and sent deputies into the neighbouring counties to seek the counsel and aid of men of the same class and opinion.4 A great association was thus formed for the purpose of forcing the gentlemen to renounce their privileges. A remarkable feature of the confederation is, that written pamphlets, in the form of letters, were circulated throughout the villages, recommending to the associates, in mysterious and proverbial terms, perseverance and discretion. These productions, several of which have been preserved by a contemporary author, are written in a purer English, that is to say, less mixed up with French, than are other pieces of the same period, destined for the amusement of the rich citizens. Except as facts, however, these pamphlets of the fourteenth century have nothing curious about them; the most significant of them is a letter addressed to the country people by a priest, named John Ball, which contains the following passages: “John Ball greeteth you all well, and doth give you to understand he hath rung your bell. Now right and might, will and skill; God speed every idle one; stand manfully together in truth and helping. If the end be well, then is all well.”1 Notwithstanding the distance which then separated the condition of the peasants from that of the citizens, and more especially from that of the London citizens, the latter, it would appear, entered into close communication with the serfs of Essex, and even promised to open the gates of the city to them, and to admit them without opposition, if they would come in a body to make their demands to king Richard.2 This king had just entered his sixteenth year, and the peasants, full of simple good faith, and a conviction in the justice of their cause, imagined that he would enfranchise them all in a legal manner, without their needing to resort to violence. It was the constant theme of their conversations: “Let us go to the king, who is young, and show him our servitude; let us go together, and when he shall see us, he will grant us his grace of his own accord; if not, we will use other means.”3 The association formed round London was rapidly extending, when an unforeseen incident, in compelling the associates to act before they had attained sufficient strength and organization, destroyed their hopes, and left to the progress of European civilization the gradual abolition of servitude in England.
In the year 1381, the necessities of the government, arising from the prosecution of the war and the luxury of the court, occasioned the levy of a poll-tax of twelvepence for every person, of whatever station, who had passed the age of fifteen. The collection of this tax not having produced as much as had been expected, commissioners were sent to inquire into the subject. In their examination of the noble and rich, they were courteous and considerate, but towards the lower classes they were excessively rigorous and insolent. In several villages of Essex, they went so far as an attempt to ascertain the age of young girls in an indecent manner. The indignation caused by these outrages created an insurrection, headed by a tiler, named Walter, or familiarly Wat, and surnamed, from his trade, Tyler. This movement created others, in Sussex, Bedfordshire, and Kent, of which the priest, John Ball, and one Jack Straw were appointed leaders.1 The three chiefs and their band, augmented on its march by all the labourers and serfs it met, proceeded towards London “to see the king,” said the simpler among the insurgents, who expected everything from the mere interview. They marched, armed with iron-tipped staves, and rusty swords and axes, in disorder, but not furious, singing political songs, two verses of which have been preserved:
They plundered no one on their way, but, on the contrary, paid scrupulously for all they needed.2 The Kentish men went first to Canterbury to seize the archbishop, who was also chancellor of England; not finding him there, they continued their march, destroying the houses of the courtiers and those of the lawyers who had conducted suits brought against serfs by the nobles. They also carried off several persons whom they kept as hostages; among others a knight and his two sons; they halted on Blackheath, where they entrenched themselves in a kind of camp. They then proposed to the knight whom they had brought with them, to go as messenger from them to the king, who on the news of the insurrection had withdrawn to the Tower of London. The knight dared not refuse; taking a boat, he proceeded to the Tower, and kneeling before the king: “Most dread lord,” he said, “deign to receive without displeasure the message I am fain to bring; for, dear lord, it is by force I come.” “Deliver your message,” answered the king; “I will hold you excused.” “Sire, the commons of your kingdom intreat you to come and speak with them; they will see no one but yourself; have no fear for your safety, for they will do you no evil, and will always hold you their king; they will show you, they say, many things it is necessary for you to know, and which they have not charged me to tell you; but, dear lord, deign to give me an answer, that they may know I have been with you, for they hold my children as hostages.” The king having consulted with his advisers, said “that if on the following morning the peasants would come as far as Rotherhithe, he would meet them, and speak with them.” This answer greatly delighted them. They passed the night in the open air as well as they could, for they were nearly sixty thousand in number, and most of them fasted, for want of food.1
Next day, the 12th of June, the king heard mass in the Tower; and then, despite the entreaties of the archbishop of Canterbury, who urged him not to compromise himself with shoeless vagabonds,2 he proceeded in a barge, accompanied by some knights, to the opposite shore, where about ten thousand men from the camp at Blackheath had collected. When they saw the barge approach, “they,” says Froissart, “set up shouts and cries as if all the devils from hell had come in their company,” which so terrified the king’s escort that they intreated him not to land, and kept the barge at a distance from the bank. “What would you have?” said the king to the insurgents: “I am here to speak with you.” “Land, and we will show you more readily what we would have.” The earl of Salisbury, answering for the king, said: “Sirs, you are not in fit order for the king to come to you;” and the barge returned to the Tower. The insurgents went back to Blackheath, to tell their fellows what had occurred, and there was now but one cry among them: “To London, to London, let us march upon London.”3
They marched accordingly to London, destroying several manor-houses on their way, but without plundering them of anything: arrived at London-bridge, they found the gates closed; they demanded admission, and urged the keepers not to drive them to use violence. The mayor, William Walworth, a man of English origin, as his name indicates, wishing to ingratiate himself with the king and the gentry, was at first resolved to keep the gates shut, and to post armed men on the bridge to stop the peasants; but the citizens, especially those of the middle and lower classes, so decidedly opposed this project, that he was fain to renounce it. “Why,” said they, “why are we not to admit these good folk? they are our people, and whatever they do is for us.”1 The gate was opened, and the insurgents, over-running the city, distributed themselves among the houses in search of food, which every one readily gave them, from good will or from fear.
Those who were first satisfied, hastened to the palace of the duke of Lancaster, called the Savoy, and set fire to it, out of hatred to this lord, the king’s uncle, who had recently taken an active part in the administration of public affairs. They burned all his valuable furniture, without appropriating a single article; and threw into the flames one of their party whom they detected carrying something away.2 Actuated by the same sentiment of political vengeance, unmixed with other passion, they put to death, with a fantastic mockery of judicial forms, several of the king’s officers. They did no harm to men of the citizen and trading class, whatever their opinions, except to the Lombards and Flemings, who conducted the banks in London, under the protection of the court, and several of whom, as farmers of the taxes, had rendered themselves accomplices in the oppression of the poor. In the evening, they assembled in great numbers in Saint Catherine’s-square, near the Tower, saying they would not leave the place until the king had granted them what they required; they passed the night here, from time to time sending forth loud shouts, which terrified the king and the lords in the Tower. The latter held counsel with the mayor of London as to the best course to be pursued in so pressing a danger: the mayor, who had deeply compromised himself with the insurgents, was for violent measures. He said nothing could be easier than to defeat, by a direct attack with regular forces, a set of people, running in disorder about the streets, and scarce one in ten of whom was well armed. His advice was not followed, the king preferring the counsel of those who said: “If you can appease these people by good words, it were best and most profitable; for if we begin a thing we cannot achieve, we shall never regain our ground.”1
In the morning, the insurgents who had passed the night in St. Catherine’s-square, set themselves in motion, and declared that unless the king came to them forthwith, they would take the Tower by assault, and put to death all that were within it. The king sent word that if they would remove to Mile-end, he would meet them there without fail, and shortly after their departure he accordingly followed them, accompanied by his two brothers, by the earls of Salisbury, Warwick, and Oxford, and by several other barons. As soon as they had quitted the Tower, those insurgents who had remained in the city entered it by force, and running from chamber to chamber, seized the archbishop of Canterbury, the king’s treasurer, and two other persons, whom they decapitated, and then stuck their heads upon pikes. The main body of the insurgents, numbering fifty thousand men, was assembled at Mile-end when the king arrived. At sight of the armed peasants, his two brothers and several barons were alarmed, and left him, but he, young as he was, boldly advanced, and addressing the rioters in the English tongue, said: “Good people, I am your king and sire; what want you? what would you have from me?” Those who were within hearing of what he said, answered: “We would have you free us for ever, us, our children, and our goods, so that we be no longer called serfs or held in serfage.” “Be it so,” said the king; “return to your houses, by villages, as you came, and only leave behind you two or three men of each place. I will have forthwith written, and sealed with my seal, letters which they shall carry with them, and which shall freely secure unto you all you ask, and I forgive you all you have done hitherto; but you must return every one of you to your houses, as I have said.”2
The simple people heard this speech of the young king with great joy, not imagining for a moment that he could deceive them; they promised to depart separately, and did so, quitting London by different roads. During the whole day, more than thirty clerks of the royal chancery were occupied in writing and sealing letters of enfranchisement and pardon, which they gave to the deputies of the insurgents, who departed immediately upon receiving them. These letters were in Latin, and ran thus:
“Know that, of our special grace, we have enfranchised all our lieges and subjects of the county of Kent, and of the other counties of the kingdom, and discharged and acquitted all and several of them from all bondage and serfage.
“And that, moreover, we have pardoned these said lieges and subjects their offences against us, in marching to and fro in various places, with armed men, archers, and others, as an armed force, with banners and pennons displayed.”1
The chiefs, and especially Wat Tyler and John Ball, more clear-sighted than the rest, had not the same confidence in the king’s words and charter. They did all they could to stay the departure and dispersion of the men who had followed them, and succeeded in collecting several thousand men, with whom they remained in London, declaring that they would not quit it until they had obtained more explicit concessions, and securities for such concessions.
Their firmness produced its effect upon the lords of the court, who, not venturing as yet to employ force, advised the king to have an interview with the chiefs of the revolt in Smithfield. The peasants, having received this notification, repaired thither to await the king, who came, escorted by the mayor and aldermen of London, and by several courtiers and knights. He drew up his horse at a certain distance from the insurgents, and sent an officer to say that he was present, and that the leader who was to speak for them might advance. “That leader am I,” answered Wat Tyler, and heedless of the danger to which he exposed himself, he ordered his men not to move hand or foot until he should give them a signal, and then rode boldly up to the king, approaching him so near that his horse’s head touched the flank of Richard’s steed. Without any obsequious forms, he proceeded explicitly to demand certain rights, the natural result of the enfranchisement of the people, namely, the right of buying and selling freely in towns and out of towns, and that right of hunting in all forests, parks, and commons, and of fishing in all waters, which the men of English race had lost at the conquest.1
The king hesitated to reply; and, meantime, Wat Tyler, whether from impatience, or to show by his gestures that he was not intimidated, played with a short sword he had in his hand, and tossed it to and fro.2 The mayor of London, William Walworth, who rode beside the king, thinking that Wat Tyler menaced Richard, or simply carried away by passion, struck the insurgent a blow on the head with his mace, and knocked him from his horse. The king’s suite surrounded him, to conceal for a moment what was passing; and a squire of Norman birth, named Philpot,3 dismounting, thrust his sword into Tyler’s heart and killed him. The insurgents, perceiving that their chief was no longer on horseback, set themselves in motion, exclaiming: “They have slain our captain! let us kill them all!” And those who had bows, bent them to shoot upon the king and his train.4
King Richard displayed extraordinary courage. He quitted his attendants, saying, “Remain, and let none follow me;” and then advanced alone towards the peasants, forming in battle array, whom he thus addressed: “My lieges, what are you doing? what want you? you have no other captain than I. Tyler was a traitor; I am your king, and will be your captain and guide; remain at peace, follow me into the fields, and I will give you what you ask.”5
Astonishment at this proceeding, and the impression ever produced on the masses by him who possesses the sovereign power, induced the main body of the insurgents to follow the king, as it were, by a mechanical instinct. While Richard withdrew, talking with them, the mayor hastened into the city, rung the alarm-bell, and had it cried through the streets: “They are killing the king! they are killing the king!” As the insurgents had quitted the city, the English and foreign gentlemen, and the rich citizens, who sided with the nobles, and who had remained in arms in their houses with their people, fearful of pillage, all came forth, and, several thousand in number, the majority being on horseback and completely armed, hastened towards the open fields about Islington, whither the insurgents were marching in disorder, expecting no attack. As soon as the king saw them approach, he galloped up to them, and joining their ranks, ordered an attack upon the peasants, who, taken by surprise and seized with a panic terror, fled in every direction, most of them throwing down their arms. Great carnage was made of them, and many of the fugitives, re-entering London, concealed themselves in the houses of their friends.1
The armed men who, at so little risk, had routed them, returned in triumph, and the young king went to receive the felicitations of his mother, who said to him: “Hola, fair son, I have this day undergone much pain and fear for you!” “Certes, madam, I can well believe it,” answered the king; “but you may now rejoice, and thank God, whom we may justly praise, seeing that I have this day recovered my kingdom of England and my inheritance which I had lost.” Knights were made on this occasion, as in the great battles of the period, and the first whom Richard II. honoured with this distinction were the mayor Walworth and the squire Philpot, who had assassinated Wat Tyler. The same day, a proclamation was made, from street to street, in the king’s name, ordering all who were not natives of London, or who had not lived there a complete year, to depart without delay; and setting forth that if any stranger was found therein the next morning, he should lose his head as a traitor to the king and kingdom.2 The insurgents who had not yet quitted the city, hereupon dispersed in every direction. John Ball and Jack Straw, knowing they should be seized if they showed themselves, remained in concealment, but they were soon discovered and taken before the royal officers, who had them beheaded and quartered. This intelligence spread around London, stayed in its march a second body of revolted serfs, who, advancing from the remoter counties, had been longer on their road; intimidated with the fate of their brethren, they turned back and dispersed.1
Meantime, all the counties of England were in agitation. Around Norwich, the great landholders, gentlemen, and knights hid themselves; several earls and barons, assembled at Plymouth for an expedition to Portugal, fearing an attack from the peasants of the neighbourhood, went on board their ships, and although the weather was stormy, anchored out at sea. In the northern counties, ten thousand men rose, and the duke of Lancaster, who was then conducting a war on the borders of Scotland, hastened to conclude a truce with the Scots, and sought refuge in their country. But the turn of affairs in London soon revived the courage of the gentry in all parts; they took the field against the peasants, who were ill armed and without any place of retreat, while the assailants had their castles, wherein, the drawbridge once raised, they were secure. The royal chancery wrote, in great haste, to the castellans of cities, towns and boroughs, to guard well their fortresses, and let no one enter, under pain of death. At the same time it was everywhere announced that the king would enfranchise under his royal seal all serfs who remained quiet, which greatly diminished the excitement and energy of the people, and gave them less interest in their chiefs. The latter were arrested in various places, without much effort being made to save them: all were artisans for the most part, with no other surname than the appellation of their trade, as Thomas Baker, Jack Miller, Jack Carter, and so on.2
The insurrection being completely at an end from the defeat of the insurgents, the imprisonment of the chiefs, and the relaxation of the moral bond which had united them, proclamation was made by sound of trumpet, in the towns and villages, in virtue of a letter addressed by the king to all his sheriffs, mayors and bailiffs of the kingdom, thus conceived:—
“Make proclamation, without delay, in every city, borough and market town, that all and every tenant, free or otherwise, do, without resistance, difficulty, or delay, the works, services, aids, and labour, to their lords due, according to ancient custom, and as they were wont to do before the late troubles in various counties of the kingdom;
“And rigorously prohibit them longer to delay the said services and works, or to demand, claim, or assert any liberty or privilege they did not enjoy before the said troubles.
“And whereas, at the instance and importunity of the insurgents, certain letters patent under our seal were granted to them, giving enfranchisement from all bondage and serfage to our lieges and subjects, as also, the pardon of the offences committed against us by the said lieges and subjects;
“And whereas the said letters were issued from our court, without due deliberation, and considering that the concession of the said letters manifestly tended to our great prejudice and to that of our crown, and to the expropriation of us, the prelates, lords, and barons of our realms, and of holy church;
“With the advice of our council, we, by these presents, revoke, cancel and annul the said letters, ordering further, that those who have in their possession our said charters of enfranchisement and pardon, remit and restore them to us and our council, by the fealty and allegiance they owe us, and under penalty of forfeiture of all they can forfeit to us.”1
Immediately after this proclamation, a body of horse traversed, in every direction, the counties inhabited by the insurgents who had obtained charters. A judge of the king’s bench, Robert Tresilyan, accompanied the soldiers, and made a circuit with them of every village, publishing on his way, that all who had letters of enfranchisement and pardon must surrender them to him without delay, under penalty of military execution upon the entire body of the inhabitants. All the charters brought to him were torn and burned before the people; but, not content with these measures, he sought out the first promoters of the insurrection, and put them to death with terrible tortures, hanging some, four times over, at the corners of the town, and drawing others and throwing their entrails into the fire, while themselves yet breathed.2 After this, the archbishop, bishops, abbots, and barons of the kingdom, with two knights from each shire, and two burgesses from each borough town, were convoked in parliament, by letters from king Richard.1 The king set forth to this assembly, the grounds of his provisional revocation of the charters of enfranchisement, adding that it was for them to decide whether the peasants were to be freed or not.
“God forbid,” answered the barons and knights, “we should subscribe to such charters. ’Twere better for us all to perish in one day; for of what use our lives, if we lose our heritages.”
The act of parliament ratifying the measures already taken, was drawn up in French, having probably been discussed in that language.2 We do not know what share the deputies of the towns took in the debate, or even whether they were present at it; for although they were convoked, in the same form as the knights of the shire, they often assembled separately, or only remained in the common chamber during the discussion of the taxes to be imposed on merchandise and commerce. However, whatever may have been the part taken in the parliament of 1381, by the borough-members, the affection of the commoner class towards the cause of the insurgents is beyond a doubt. In many a place did they repeat the words of the Londoners: “These are our people, and whatever they do, is for us.” All who, not being noble or gentle, censured the insurrection, were ill regarded by public opinion, and this opinion was so decided, that a contemporary poet, Gower, who had enriched himself by composing French verses for the court, deemed it an act of courage to publish a satire, in which the insurgents were ridiculed.3 He declares that this cause has numerous and important partisans, whose hatred may be dangerous, but that he will rather expose himself to the danger than abstain from speaking the truth. It will thus seem probable, that, if the rebellion, begun by peasants and shoeless vagabonds, had not been so soon quelled, persons of a higher class might have assumed the conduct of it, and, with better means of success, might have effected its object. Then indeed, ere long, as a contemporary historian expresses it, toute noblesse et gentillesse might have disappeared from England.1
Instead of this, matters remained in the order established by the conquest, and the serfs, after their defeat, continued to be treated in the terms of the proclamation, which said to them, “Villains you were and are, and in bondage you shall remain.”2
Notwithstanding the failure of the open attempt they had made, at once to free themselves from servitude and to destroy the distinction of condition which had succeeded the distinction of race, the natural movement tending gradually to render this distinction less marked, still continued, and individual enfranchisements, which had commenced long before this period, became more frequent. The idea of the injustice of servitude in itself, and, whatever its origin, ancient or recent, the grand idea, that had formed the bond of the conspiracy of 1381, and to which the instinct of liberty had elevated the peasants before it reached the gentry, at length came upon the latter.
In the moments when reflection becomes calmer and more profound, when the voice of interest or avarice is hushed before that of reason, in moments of domestic sorrow, of sickness, and of the peril of death, the nobles repented of possessing serfs, as of a thing not agreeable to God, who had created all men in his own image. Numerous acts of enfranchisement, drawn up in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, have this preamble: “As God, in the beginning, made all men free by nature, and afterwards human laws placed certain men under the yoke of servitude, we hold it to be a pious and meritorious thing in the eyes of God to deliver such persons as are subject to us in villainage, and to enfranchise them entirely from such services. Know then, that we have emancipated and delivered from all yoke of servitude, so and so, our naïfs of such a manor, themselves, and their children, born and to be born.”3
These acts, very frequent in the period we have referred to, and of which we find no instance in preceding centuries, indicate the birth of a new public spirit opposed to the violent results of the conquest, and which appears to have been developed, at once among the sons of the Normans and among the English, at the epoch, when from the minds of both had disappeared every distinct tradition of the historical origin of their respective position. Thus the great insurrection of the villains in 1381, would seem the last term of the series of Saxon revolts, and the first of another order of political movements. The rebellions of the peasants which afterwards broke out, had not the same character of simplicity in their motives, or of precision in their object. The conviction of the absolute injustice of servitude, and of the unlawfulness of the seigneural power, was not their sole moving cause; passing interests or opinions had more or less share in them. Jack Cade, who in 1448 acted the same part as Wat Tyler in 1381, did not, like the latter, put himself forward as simply the representative of the rights of the commons against the gentlemen; but, connecting his cause and the popular cause with the aristocratic factions which then divided England, he represented himself to be a member of the royal family, unjustly excluded from the throne. The influence of this imposture upon the minds of the people in the northern counties and in that same county of Kent, which, seventy years before, had taken for its captains, tilers, bakers, and carters, proves that a rapid fusion had been taking place between the political interests of the different classes of the nation, and that a particular order of ideas and of sympathies was no longer connected, in a fixed manner, with a particular social condition.
At about the same period, and under the influence of the same circumstances, the parliament of England took the form under which it has become celebrated in modern times, permanently separating into two assemblies, the one composed of the high clergy, the earls and barons, convoked by special letters from the king; the other of the petty feudatories or knights of the shire, and the burgesses of the towns, elected by their peers. This new combination, which brought together the merchants, almost all of them of English origin, and the feudal tenants, Normans by birth, or accounted such from the possession of their fiefs and their military titles, was a great step towards the destruction of the ancient distinction by race, and the establishment of an order of things wherein all the families should be classed solely by their political importance and territorial wealth. Still, notwithstanding the sort of equality which the meeting of the burgesses and knights in a chamber of their own seemed to establish between these two classes of men, that which had been heretofore inferior retained for awhile the token of its inferiority. It was present at the debates on political matters, on peace and war, taking no part in them, or withdrew altogether during these discussions, coming in merely to vote the taxes and subsidies demanded by the king from personal property.
The assessment of these imposts had, in former times, been the sole reason for summoning the burgesses of English race to the presence of the Anglo-Norman kings; the richer among them, as among the Jews, were rather ordered than invited to appear before their lord. They received the command to attend the king at London, and met him where they could find him—in his palace, in the open street, or in the suburbs on a hunting party. But the barons and knights whom the king assembled to counsel him, and to discuss with him the affairs which regarded the community, or, as it was then termed, the cominalté of the kingdom, were received in a very different manner, were treated with all dignity and honour. They found at court everything prepared for their reception: courtoisie, entertainments, knightly display, and royal pomp. After the fêtes, they had with the king, what the old writers call grave conferences on the state of the country;1 whilst the business of the deputies of towns was limited to the giving their adhesion, as briefly as possible, to the taxes propounded by the barons of the exchequer.
The habit gradually adopted by the kings of convoking the villains of their cities and boroughs, no longer in an irregular, casual manner, according to the wants of the moment, but at fixed and periodical times, when they held their court three times a year, made but slight difference in the ancient practice, in other respects, of which the reader has observed a striking instance in the time of Henry II. The forms employed in reference to the burgesses became, it is true, less contemptuous, when they were no longer summoned merely before the king, but were convoked in full parliament, among the prelates, barons, and knights. Yet the object of their admission into this assembly, where they occupied the lowest benches, was still a simple vote of money; and the taxes demanded from them still exceeded those required from the clergy and landholders, even when the assessment was a general one. For example, when the knights granted a twentieth or fifteenth of their revenues, the grant made by the burgesses was a tenth or a seventh. This difference was always made, whether the deputies of towns assembled separately, in the place where parliament was held, whether they were convoked in another town, or whether they assembled with the knights of the shire, elected like themselves, while the high barons received their letters of summons personally from the king.1 The commons, accordingly, in the fifteenth century, were by no means eager to attend parliament, and the towns themselves, far from regarding their electorial privilege as a precious right, often solicited exemption from it. The collection of the public acts of England contains many petitions to this effect, with several royal charters in favour of particular towns, maliciously constrained, say these charters, to send men to parliament.2
The business of the knights and that of the burgesses, seated in the same chamber, differed according to their origin and social condition. The field of political discussion was boundless for the former; for the latter, it was limited to questions of imposts on commerce, on imports and exports. But the extension attained in the fifteenth century by commercial and financial measures, naturally augmented the parliamentary importance of the burgesses; they acquired by degrees, in monetary matters, a greater participation in public affairs than the titled portion of the lower chamber or even than the upper house. This revolution, the result of the general progress of industry and commerce, soon produced another; it banished from the lower chamber, called the house of the commonalty or commons, the French language, which the burgesses understood and spoke very imperfectly.
French was still, in England, at the end of the fifteenth century, the official language of all the political bodies; the king, the bishops, judges, earls, and barons spoke it, and it was the tongue which the children of the nobles acquired from the cradle.1 Preserved for three centuries and a half amidst a people who spoke another tongue, the language of the English aristocracy had remained far behind the progress made, at this same period, by the French of the continent.2 There was something antiquated and incorrect about it, certain phrases peculiar to the provincial dialect of Normandy; and the manner of pronouncing it, as far as we can judge from the orthography of the old acts, greatly resembled the accent of Lower Normandy. Moreover, this accent, brought into England, had acquired in the course of time a certain tinge of Saxon pronunciation. The speech of the Anglo-Normans differed from that of Normandy, by a stronger articulation of particular syllables, and, more especially, of the final consonants.
One cause of the rapid decline of the French language and poetry in England, was the total separation of this country from Normandy, in consequence of the conquest of the latter by Philip Augustus. The emigration of the literary men and poets of the langue d’oui to the court of the Anglo-Norman kings, became, after this event, less easy and less frequent. No longer sustained by the example and imitation of those who came from the continent to teach them the new forms of the beau langage, the Norman poets resident in England lost, during the thirteenth century, much of their former grace and facility. The nobles and courtiers delighted in poetry, but disdaining themselves to write verse or compose books, the trouveres who sang in royal and noble halls were fain to seek pupils among the sons of the traders and inferior clergy of English origin, and speaking English in their ordinary conversation. It was naturally more or less a matter of effort with these men to express their ideas and feelings in another language than that of their infancy, and this effort at once impeded the perfection of their works, and rendered them less numerous. From the end of the thirteenth century, most of those who, whether in the towns or in the cloister, felt a taste and talent for literature, sought to treat in the English language, the historical or imaginative subjects that had hitherto been only clothed in the Norman language.
A great many attempts of this kind appeared in succession during the first half of the fourteenth century. Some poets of this epoch, those chiefly who enjoyed or sought the favour of the higher classes of society, composed French verses; others, contenting themselves with the approbation of the middle classes, wrote for them in their own language; others, combining the two languages in one poem, alternated them by couplets, and sometimes even by verses.1 Gradually the scarcity of good French books composed in England became such, that the higher orders were obliged to obtain from France the romances or tales in verse with which they beguiled the long evenings, and the ballads which enlivened their banquets and courtly entertainments. But the war of rivalry which at the same period arose between France and England, inspiring the nobles of the two nations with a mutual aversion, lessened for the Anglo-Normans the attraction of the literature imported from France, and constrained the gentlemen, tenaciously delicate on the point of national honour, to content themselves with the perusal of the works of native authors. Those, indeed, who resided at London, and frequented the court, were still enabled to satisfy their taste for the poetry and language of their ancestors; but the lords and knights who lived on their estates, were fain, under penalty of utter ennui, to give admission to English story-tellers and ballad-singers, hitherto disdained as only fit to amuse the burghers and villains.2
These popular writers distinguished themselves from those who, at the same period, worked for the nobles, by an especial attachment to country people, farmers, millers, or innkeepers. The writers in the French tongue ordinarily treated this class of persons with supreme contempt, giving them no place whatever in their poetical narrations, whose personæ were all individuals of high degree, powerful barons and noble dames, damoiselles and gentle knights. The English poets, on the contrary, took for the subjects of their mery tales, plebeian adventures, such as those of Piers Ploughman, and historiettes, such as those we find occupying so large a space in the works of Chaucer. Another characteristic common to nearly all these poets, is a sort of national distaste for the language of the conquest:—
says one of them.1 Chaucer, one of the greatest wits of his time, slily contrasts the polished French of the court of France, with the antiquated and incorrect Anglo-Norman dialect, in drawing a portrait of an abbess of high degree:—
Bad as it was, the French of the English nobles had, at least, the advantage of being spoken and pronounced in an uniform manner, while the new English language, composed of Norman and Saxon words, and idioms promiscuously put together, varied from one county to another, and even from town to town.3 This language, which took its commencement in England from the first years of the conquest, was successively augmented with all the French barbarisms used by the English, and all the Saxon barbarisms used by the Normans, in their endeavours to understand one another. Every person, according to his fancy or the degree of his knowledge of the two idioms, borrowed phrases from them, and arbitrarily joined together the first words that came into his head. It was a general aim with people to introduce into their conversation as much French as they could remember, by way of imitating the great, and appearing themselves distinguished personages.1 This mania, which, according to an author of the fourteenth century, had taken possession even of the peasants, rendered it difficult to write the English of the period in a way to be generally understood. Notwithstanding the merit of his poems, Chaucer expresses a fear that the multiplicity of the provincial dialects will prevent their being appreciated, out of London, and prays God grant that his book may be understood by all who read it.2
Some years before this, a statute of Edward III. had, not ordered, as several historians say, but simply permitted causes to be pleaded in English before the civil tribunals. The constantly increasing multiplicity of commercial transactions and of suits arising out of them, had rendered this change more necessary under that reign than before, when parties to a suit, who did not understand French, were fain to remain in ignorance of the proceedings. But in the suits against gentlemen before the high court of parliament, which took cognizance of treason, or before the courts of chivalry, which decided affairs of honour, the ancient official language continued to be employed. And, further, the custom was retained in all the courts, of pronouncing sentence in French, and of drawing up the record in that language. In general, it was a habit with the lawyers, of every class, even while pleading in English, to introduce every moment French words and phrases, as Ah! sire, je vous jure; Ah! de par Dieu! A ce j’assente! and other exclamations, with which Chaucer never fails to interlard their discourse, when he introduces them in his works.
It was during the first half of the fifteenth century, that the English language, gradually coming more into favour as a literary language, ended by entirely superseding French, except with the great lords, who, ere they entirely abandoned the idiom of their ancestors, diverted themselves equally with works in both languages. The proof of the equality which the language of the commons had now attained, is furnished by the public acts, which from about the year 1400, are indifferently drawn up in French and in English. The first statute of the house of commons in the English language bears date 1425; we do not know whether the upper house retained beyond this period the idiom of the aristocracy and of the conquest, but, from the year 1450, we find no more French acts on the statute book of England. Some letters, however, written in French by the nobles, and a few French epitaphs, are posterior to this epoch. Certain passages of the historians prove also, that, towards the close of the fifteenth century, the kings of England and the lords of their court understood and spoke French perfectly well;”1 but this knowledge was now merely a personal accomplishment with them, and not a necessity. French was no longer the first language lisped by the children of the nobles; it simply became for them, in common with the ancient languages and the continental tongues, the object of voluntary study, and the complement to a good education.
Thus, about four centuries after the conquest of England by the Normans, disappeared the difference of language, which, in combination with the inequality of social condition, had marked the separation of the families descended from the one or the other race. This entire fusion of the two primitive idioms, a certain indication of the union of the races, was perhaps accelerated, in the fifteenth century, by the long and sanguinary civil war of the houses of York and Lancaster. In destroying a great number of noble families, in creating among them political hatred and hereditary rivalry, in obliging them to form party alliances with people of inferior condition, this war powerfully contributed to the dissolution of the aristocratic society which the conquest had founded. During well nigh a century, the mortality among the men who bore Norman names was immense, and their places were necessarily filled by their vassals, their servants, and the burghers of the other race. The numerous pretenders to the crown, and the kings created by one party and treated as usurpers by the other, in their earnestness to obtain friends, had no time to be nice in the choice, or to observe the old distinctions of birth and condition. The great territorial domains founded by the invasion, and perpetuated thus far in the Norman families, now passed into other hands, by confiscation or purchase, while the late possessors, expropriated or banished, sought a refuge and begged their bread in foreign courts, in France, in Burgundy, in Flanders, in all the countries whence their ancestors had departed for the conquest of England.1
We may assign the reign of Henry VII. as the epoch when the distinction of ranks ceased to correspond with that of races, as the commencement of the society now existing in England. This society, composed of new elements, has still in great measure retained the forms of the old; the Norman titles remain, and, very singularly, the surnames of several extinct families have themselves become titles, conferred by letters patent of the king, with that of earl or baron. The successor of Henry VII. was the last king who prefixed to his ordinances the old form, “Henry, eighth of the name since the conquest;”2 but up to the present day the kings of England preserve the custom of employing the old Norman language, when they sanction or reject legislative bills: Le roy le veult; le roy s’advisera, le roy remercie ses loyaux subjects, accepte leur benevolence, et aynsi le veult. These forms, which seem, after the lapse of seven hundred years, to connect English royalty with its foreign origin, have yet, ever since the fifteenth century been heard, year after year, in the English parliament, without revolting the feelings of any one. It is the same with the genealogies and titles that carry back the existence of certain noble families to the invasion of William the Bastard, and the great territorial properties to the division made at that epoch.
No popular tradition relative to the division of the inhabitants of England into two hostile peoples existing, and the distinction between the two elements of which their present language is formed having disappeared, no political passions connect themselves with these now forgotten facts. Normans and Saxons exist only in history; and as the latter fill the less brilliant part, the mass of English readers, little versed in the national antiquities, willingly deceive themselves as to their origin, and regard the sixty thousand companions of William the Conqueror as the common ancestors of all the people of England. Thus a London shopkeeper and a Yorkshire farmer say: “our Norman ancestors,” just as would a Percy, a Darcy, a Bagot, or a Byron. The Norman, Poitevin, or Gascon names are no longer exclusively, as in the fourteenth century, the tokens of rank, power, and great estates, and it were inconsistent with reason to apply to the present times the old verses quoted in the epigraph to this work. Yet a fact, certain in itself and readily verified, is, that of an equal number of family names, taken, on the one hand, from the class of nobles, of country squires, gentlemen, and, on the other, from the trading, artizan, and agricultural classes, the names of French aspect are found in far greater proportion among the former. Such is all that now remains of the ancient separation of the races, and only within this limit can we now repeat the words of the old chronicler of Gloucester:
Of the Normans be these high men, that be of this land,
[1 ] Matthew Paris, ii. 386.
[1 ] Musgrave, p. 389.
[2 ]Ib. p. 816.
[3 ] Venit ergo ad hoc omne hominum in Angham cum mulieribus et parvulis, ut, expulsis indigenis à regno et penitus exterminatis, ipsi jure perpetuo terram possiderent. (Mat. Paris, i. 269.)
[1 ] See Book III.
[2 ] Quod sæpius gravati videbant aliegenas suis bonis saginari. (Matth. Paris, ii. 445.)
[3 ] Matth. Paris, i. 254. See Book III.
[1 ] Matth. Paris, i. 268.—Et aliarum regionum transmarinarum omnes qui alienis inhiabant, vespertiliones et exules excommunicati, homicidæ quibus patria fuit exilium non refugium. (Ib.)
[2 ] Orta est discordia inter regem Angliæ et barones, hís exigentibus ab eo leges Edwardi et aliorum subsequentium regum libertates et liberas consuetudines. (Annales Waverleienses, apud Hist. Anglic. Script. Gale, ii. 180.)
[1 ] 1. That the church of England shall be free, and enjoy her right entire, and her liberties inviolable; and we will have them so observed, that it may appear from hence, that the freedom of elections, which was reckoned chief and indispensable to the English church, and which we granted and confirmed by our charter, and obtained the confirmation of, from pope Innocent III., before the discord between us and our barons, was granted of mere free will, which charter we shall observe, and we do will it to be faithfully observed by our heirs for ever. 2. We also grant to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and for our heirs for ever, all the underwritten liberties, to have and to hold, them and their heirs, of us and our heirs: If any of our earls, or barons, or others, who hold of us in chief by military service, shall die, and at the time of his death his heir shall be of full age, and owes a relief, he shall have his inheritance by the ancient relief; that is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl, for a whole earl’s barony, by a hundred pounds; the heir or heirs of a baron, for a whole barony, by a hundred pounds; the heir or heirs of a knight, for a whole knight’s fee, by a hundred shillings at most; and whoever oweth less shall give less, according to the ancient custom of fees. 3. But if the heir of any such shall be under age, and shall be in ward, when he comes of age, he shall have his inheritance without relief and without fine. 4. The warden of the land of such heir who shall be under age, shall not take of the land of such heir other than reasonable issues, reasonable customs, and reasonable services, and that without destruction and waste of the tenants or effects; and if we shall commit the guardianship of those lands to the sheriff, or any other who is answerable to us for the issues of the land, and if he shall make destruction and waste upon the ward lands, we will compel him to give satisfaction, and the land shall be committed to two lawful and discreet tenants of that fee, who shall be answerable for the issues to us, or to him to whom we shall assign them: and if we shall sell or give to any one the wardship of any such lands, and if he make destruction or waste upon them, he shall lose the wardship itself, which shall be committed to two lawful and discreet tenants of that fee, who shall in like manner be answerable to us as aforesaid. 5. But the warden, so long as he shall have the wardship of the land, shall keep up the houses, parks, warrens, ponds, mills, and other things pertaining to the land, out of the issues of the same land; and shall restore to the heir, when he comes of full age, his whole land, stocked with ploughs and carriages, according as the time of wainage shall require, and the issues of the land can reasonably bear. 6. Heirs shall be married without disparagement, so as that before matrimony shall be contracted, those who are nearest in blood to the heir, shall be made acquainted with it. 7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage and inheritance; nor shall she give any thing for her dower, or her marriage, or her inheritance, which her husband and she held at the day of his death; and she may remain in the mansion house of her husband forty days after his death, within which term her dower shall be assigned. 8. No widow shall be distrained to marry herself, so long as she has a mind to live without a husband; but yet she shall give security that she will not marry without our assent, if she hold of us; or without the consent of the lord of whom she holds, if she hold of another. 9. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall seize any land or rent for any debt, so long as there shall be chattels of the debtor upon the premises sufficient to pay the debt; nor shall the sureties of the debtor be distrained so long as the principal debtor has sufficient for the payment of the debt. 10. And if the principal debtor shall fail in the payment of the debt, not having wherewithal to pay it, then the sureties shall answer the debt; and if they will, they shall have the lands and rents of the debtor, until they shall be satisfied for the debt which they paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show himself acquitted thereof against the said sureties. 11. If any one have borrowed anything of the Jews, more or less, and die before the debt be satisfied, there shall be no interest paid for that debt, so long as the heir is under age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if the debt falls into our hands, we will only take the chattels mentioned in the charter of instrument. And if any one shall die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if the deceased left children under age, they shall have necessaries provided for them, according to the tenement or real estate of the deceased; and out of the residue the debt shall be paid, saving however the service of the lords. 12. No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our kingdom, unless by the common council of our kingdom; except for ransoming our person, making our eldest son a knight, and once for marrying our eldest daughter; and for these there shall be paid a reasonable aid. 13. In like manner it shall be concerning the aids of the city of London; and the city of London shall have all its ancient liberties and free customs, as well by land as by water: furthermore we will and grant, that all other cities and boroughs, and towns and ports, shall have all their liberties and free customs; and for holding the common council of the kingdom concerning the assessment of their aids, except in the three cases aforesaid. 14. And for the assessing of scutages, we shall cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and great barons of the realm, singly by our letters. And furthermore we shall cause to be summoned in general by our sheriffs and bailiffs, all others who hold of us in chief, at a certain day, that is to say, forty days before their meeting at least, and to a certain place; and in all letters of such summons we will declare the cause of such summons. And summons being thus made, the business of the day shall proceed on the day appointed, according to the advice of such as shall be present, although all that were summoned come not. 15. We will not for the future grant to any one, that he may take aid of his own free tenants; unless to ransom his body, and to make his eldest son a knight, and once to marry his eldest daughter; and for this there shall be only paid a reasonable aid. 16. No man shall be distrained to perform more service for a knight’s fee, or other free tenement, than is due from thence. 17. Common pleas shall not follow our court, but shall be holden in some certain place. 18. Trials upon the writs of novel disseisin, and of mort d’ancester, and of durrein presentment, shall not be taken but in their proper counties, and after this manner: we, or if we should be out of the realm, our chief justiciary, shall send two justiciaries through every county four times a year, who, with four knights, chosen out of every shire by the people, shall hold the said assizes, in the county, on the day, and at the place appointed. 19. And if any matters cannot be determined on the day appointed for holding the assizes in each county, so many of the knights and freeholders as have been at the assizes aforesaid, shall be appointed to decide them, as is necessary, according as there is more or less business. 20. A freeman shall not be amerced for a small fault, but according to the degree of the fault; and for a great crime according to the heinousness of it, saving to him his contenement; and after the same manner a merchant, saving to him his merchandize. And a villein (farmer) shall be amerced after the same manner, saving to him his wainage, if he falls under our mercy; and none of the aforesaid amerciaments shall be assessed but by the oath of honest men in the neighbourhood. 21. Earls and barons shall not be amerced, but by their peers, and according to the degree of the offence. 22. No ecclesiastical person shall be amerced for his lay tenement, but according to the proportion of the others aforesaid, and not according to the value of his ecclesiastical benefice. 23. Neither a town nor any tenant shall be distrained to make bridges over rivers, unless that anciently and of right they are bound to do it. 24. No sheriff, constable, coroner, or other our bailiffs, shall hold pleas of the crown. 25. All counties, hundreds, wapentakes, and tythings shall stand at the old ferm, without any increase; except in our demesne manors. 26. If any one holding of us a lay fee die, and the sheriff, or our bailiffs, show our letters patent of summons concerning the debt due to us from the deceased, it shall be lawful for the sheriff or our bailiff to attach and register the chattels of the deceased, found upon his lay-fee, to the value of the debt, by the view of lawful men, so as nothing be removed until our whole debt be paid; and the rest shall be left to the executors who are to fulfil the will of the deceased, and if there be nothing due from him to us, all the chattels shall remain to the deceased, saving to his wife and children their reasonable shares. 27. If any freeman shall die intestate, his chattels shall be distributed by the hands of his nearest relations and friends, by view of the church; saving to every one his debts which the deceased owed to him. 28. No constable or bailiff of ours shall take corn or other chattels of any man, unless he presently give him money for it, or hath respite of payment by the good-will of the seller. 29. No constable shall distrain any knight to give money for castle guard, if he himself will do it in his person, or by another able man, in case he cannot do it through any reasonable cause. And if we lead him or send him into the army, he shall be free from such guard for the time he shall be in the army by our command. 30. No sheriff or bailiff of ours, or any other, shall take horses or carts of any freeman for carriage, but by the good-will of the said freeman. 31. Neither shall we nor our bailiffs take any man’s timber for our castles, or other uses; unless by the consent of the owner of the timber. 32. We will retain the lands of those convicted of felony only one year and a day, and then they shall be delivered to the lord of the fee. 33. All wears for the time to come, shall be put down in the rivers of Thames and Medway, and throughout all England, except upon the sea coast. 34. The writ which is called præcipe, for the future, shall not be made out to any one of any tenement, whereby a freeman may lose his court. 35. There shall be one measure of wine and one of ale, through our whole realm; and one measure of corn, that is to say, the London quarter; and one breadth of dyed cloth and russets, and haberjeets, that is to say, two ells within the lists; as to weights, they shall be as the measures. 36. From henceforward nothing shall be given or taken, for a writ of inquisition of life or limb, but it shall be granted gratis, and not denied. 37. If any one hold of us by fee-farm, or by socage, or by burgage, and hold lands of any other by military service, we will not have the wardship of the heir or land, which is of another man’s fee, by reason of what he holds of us by fee-farm, socage, or burgage; nor will we have the wardship of the fee-farm, socage, or burgage, unless the fee-farm was bound to perform military service. We will not have the wardship of an heir, not of any land which he holds of another by military service, by reason of any petty serjeantry he holds of us, as by the service of giving us knives, arrows, and the like. 38. No bailiff, for the future, shall put any man to his law upon his single word, without credible witnesses to prove it. 39. No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or banished, or any ways destroyed, nor will we pass upon him, or commit him to prison, unless by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. 40. We will sell to no man, we will deny to no man, right or justice. 41. All merchants shall have safe and secure conduct, to go out of, and to come into England, and to stay there, and to pass as well by land as by water, for buying and selling by the ancient and allowed customs, without any evil tolls; except in time of war, or when they are of any nation at war with us. And if there be found any such in our land, in the beginning of the war, they shall be attached, without damage to their bodies or goods, until it be known unto us, or our chief justiciary, how our merchants are treated in the nation at war with us; and if ours be safe there, the others shall be safe in our dominions. 42. It shall be lawful for the time to come, for any one to go out of our kingdom, and return safely and securely, by land or by water, saving his allegiance to us; unless in time of war, by some short space, for the common benefit of the realm, except prisoners and outlaws, according to the law of the land, and people in war with us, and merchants who shall be in such condition as is above mentioned. 43. If any man hold of any escheat, as of the honour of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our hands, and are baronies, and die, his heir shall give no other relief, and perform no other service to us, than he would to the baron, if the barony were in possession of the baron; we will hold it after the same manner as the baron held it. 44. Those men who dwell without the forest, from henceforth shall not come before our justiciaries of the forest, upon common summons, but such as are impleaded, or are pledges for any that were attached for something concerning the forest. 45. We will not make any justiciaries, constables, sheriffs, or bailiffs, but such as are knowing in the law of the realm, and are disposed duly to observe it. 46. All barons who are founders of abbeys, and have charter of the kings of England for the advowson, or are entitled to it by ancient tenure, may have the custody of them, when vacant, as they ought to have. 47. All woods that have been taken into the forests in our time, shall forthwith be laid out again, unless they were our demesne woods; and the same shall be done with the rivers that have been taken or fenced in by us during our reign. 48. All evil customs concerning forests, warrens, foresters and warreners, sheriffs and their officers, rivers and their keepers, shall forthwith be inquired into in each county, by twelve knights sworn of the same shire, chosen by creditable persons of the same county, and upon oath; and within forty days after the said inquest, be utterly abolished, so as never to be restored: so as we are first acquainted therewith, or our justiciary, if we should not be in England. 49. We will immediately give up all hostages and writings, delivered unto us by our English subjects, as securities for their keeping the peace, and yielding us faithful service. 50. We will entirely remove from our bailiwicks the relations of Gerard de Atheyes, so that for the future they shall have no bailiwick in England: we will also remove Engelard de Cygony, Andrew Peter, and Gyon, from the chancery; Gyon de Cygony, Geoffrey de Martyn and his brothers; Philip Mark, and his brothers, and his nephew, Geoffrey, and their whole retinue. 51. As soon as peace is restored, we will send out of the kingdom all foreign soldiers, cross-bowmen, and stipendiaries, who are come with horses and arms to the prejudice of our people. 52. If any one has been dispossessed or deprived by us, without the legal judgment of his peers, of his lands, castles, liberties, or right, we will forthwith restore them to him; and if any dispute arise upon this head, let the matter be decided by the five-and twenty barons hereafter mentioned, for the preservation of the peace. As for all those things of which any person has, without the legal judgment of his peers, been dispossessed or deprived, either by king Henry, our father, or our brother, king Richard, and which we have in our hands, or are possessed by others, and we are bound to warrant and make good, we shall have a respite till the term usually allowed the croises; excepting those things about which there is a plea depending, or whereof an inquest hath been made, by our order, before we undertook the crusade, but when we return from our pilgrimage, or if we do not perform it, we will immediately cause full justice to be administered therein. 53. The same respite we shall have (and in the same manner about administering justice, de-afforesting the forests, or letting them continue) for disafforesting the forests, which Henry, our father, and our brother Richard, have afforested; and for the wardship of the lands which are in another’s fee, in the same manner as we have hitherto enjoyed those wardships, by reason of a fee held of us by knight’s service; and for the abbeys founded in any other fee than our own, in which the lord of the fee says he has a right; and when we return from our pilgrimage, or if we should not perform it, we will immediately do full justice to all the complainants in this behalf. 54. No man shall be taken or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman, for the death of any other person than her husband. 55. All unjust and illegal fines made with us, and all amerciaments imposed unjustly and contrary to the law of the land, shall be entirely forgiven, or else be left to the decision of the five-and-twenty barons hereafter mentioned for the preservation of the peace, or of the major part of them, together with the aforesaid Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and others whom he shall think fit to take along with him; and if he cannot be present, the business shall notwithstanding go on without him; but so that if one or more of the aforesaid five-and-twenty barons be plaintiffs in the same cause, they shall be set aside as to what concerns this particular affair, and others be chosen in their room, out of the said five-and-twenty, and sworn by the rest to decide the matter. 56. If we have disseised or dispossessed the Welsh, of any lands, liberties, or other things, without the legal judgment of their peers, either in England or in Wales, they shall be immediately restored to them; and if any dispute arise upon this head, the matter shall be determined in the marche by the judgment of their peers; for tenements in England according to the law of England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, for tenements of the marche according to the law of the marche; the same shall the Welsh do to us and our subjects. 57. As for all those things of which a Welshman hath, without the legal judgment of his peers, been disseised or deprived of by king Henry, our father, or our brother king Richard, and which we either have in our hands, or others are possessed of, and we are obliged to warrant it, we shall have a respite till the time generally allowed the croises; excepting those things about which a suit is depending, or whereof an inquest has been made by our order, before we undertook the crusade: but when we return, or if we stay at home without performing our pilgrimage, we will immediately do them full justice, according to the laws of the Welsh and of the parts before mentioned. 58. We will without delay dismiss the son of Llewellin, and all the Welsh hostages, and release them from the engagements they have entered into with us for the preservation of the peace. 59. We shalltreat with Alexander, king of Scots, concerning the restoring his sisters and hostages, and his right and liberties, in the same form and manner as we shall do to the rest of our barons of England; unless by the charters which we have from his father, William, late king of Scots, it ought to be otherwise; and this shall be left to the determination of his peers in our court. 60. All the aforesaid customs and liberties, which we have granted to be holden in our kingdom, as much as it belongs to us, towards our people of our kingdom, as well clergy as laity, shall observe, as far as they are concerned, towards their dependents. 61. And whereas, for the honour of God and the amendment of our kingdom, and for quieting the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, we have granted all these things aforesaid; willing to render them firm and lasting (for ever), we do give and grant our subjects the underwritten security, namely, that the barons may choose five-and-twenty barons of the kingdom, whom they think convenient; who shall take care with all their might, to hold and observe, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted them, and by this our present charter confirmed; so that if we, our justiciary, our bailiffs, or any of our officers, shall in any circumstance fail in the performance of them, towards any person, or shall break through any of these articles of peace and security, and the offence be notified to four barons chosen out of the five-and-twenty before mentioned, the said four barons shall repair to us, or our justiciary, if we are out of the realm, and laying open the grievance, shall petition to have it redressed without delay: and if it be not redressed by us, or if we should chance to be out of the realm, if it should not be redressed by our justiciary, within forty days, reckoning from the time it has been notified to us, or to our justiciary, (if we should be out of the realm,) the four barons aforesaid shall lay the cause before the rest of the five-and-twenty barons; and the said five-and-twenty barons, together with the community of the whole kingdom, shall distrain and distress us all the ways possible, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, and in other manner they can, till the grievance is redressed according to their pleasure; saving harmless our own person, and the person of our queen and children; and when it is redressed, they shall obey us as before. And any person whatsoever in the kingdom, may swear that he will obey the orders of the five-and-twenty barons aforesaid, in the execution of the premises; and that he will distress us, jointly with them, to the utmost utmost his power; and we give public and free liberty to any one that shall please to swear to them, and never shall hinder any person from taking the same oath. 62. As for all those of our subjects who will not, of their own accord, swear to join the five-and-twenty barons in distraining and distressing us, we will issue orders to make them take the same oath as aforesaid. And if any one of the five-and-twenty barons die, or goes out of the kingdom, or is hindered any other way from carrying the things aforesaid into execution, the rest of the said five-and-twenty barons may choose another in his room, at their discretion, who shall be sworn in like manner as the rest. In all things that are committed to the execution of these five-and-twenty barons, if, when they are all assembled together, they should happen to disagree about any matter, and some of them, when summoned, will not, or cannot, come, whatever is agreed upon, or enjoined, by the major part of those that are present, shall be reputed as firm and valid as if all the five-and-twenty had given their consent; and the aforesaid five-and-twenty shall swear, that all the premises they shall faithfully observe, and cause with all their power to be observed. And we will not, by ourselves, or by any other, procure any thing whereby any of these concessions and liberties may be revoked or lessened; and if any such thing be obtained, let it be null and void; neither shall we ever make use of it, either by our selves or any other. And all the ill-will, anger, and malice, that hath arisen between us and our subjects, of the clergy and laity, from the first breaking out of the dissension between us, we do fully remit and forgive: moreover all trespasses occasioned by the said dissension, from Easter in the 15th year of our reign, till the restoration of peace and tranquillity, we hereby entirely remit to all, both clergy and laity, and as far as in us lies, do fully forgive. We have, moreover, granted them our letters patent testimonial of Stephen, lord archbishop of Canterbury, Henry, land archbishop of Dublin, and the bishops aforesaid, as also of master Pandulph for the security and concessions aforesaid. 63. Wherefore we will and firmly enjoin, that the church of England be free, and that all the men in our kingdom have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights, and concessions, truly and peaceably, freely and quietly, fully and wholly to themselves and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and places, for ever, as is aforesaid. It is also sworn, as well on our part as on the part of the barons, that all the things aforesaid shall faithfully and sincerely be observed. Given under our hand, in the presence of the witnesses above-named, and many others, in the meadow called Runingmede between Windsor and Staines, the 15th day of June, in the 17th year of our reign.
[1 ] Matth. Paris, i. 383.
[1 ] Matth. Paris, i. 383.
[1 ] Script. rer. Anglic.—Matthew Paris, i. 288.
[1 ] “1. We will that all forests, which king Henry our grandfather afforested, shall be viewed by good and lawful men; and if he have made forest of any other wood more than of his own demesne, whereby the owner of the wood hath hurt, forthwith it shall be disafforested; and if he have made forest of his own wood, then it shall remain forest; saving the common of herbage, and of other things in the same forests, to them which before were accustomed to have the same. 2. Men that dwell out of the forest, from henceforth shall not come before the justicers of our forest by common summons, unless they be impleaded there, or be sureties for some others that were attached for the forest. 3. All woods which have been made forest by king Richard our uncle, or by king John our father, until our first coronation, shall be forthwith disafforested, unless it be our demesne wood. 4. All archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, and other our freeholders, which have their woods in forests, shall have their woods as they had them at the first coronation of king Henry our grandfather, so that they shall be quit for ever of all purprestures, wastes, and asserts, made in those woods after that time, until the beginning of the second year of our coronation; and those that from henceforth do make purpresture without our licence, or waste or assert in the same, shall answer unto us for the same wastes, purprestures, and asserts. 5. Our rangers shall go through the forest to make range, as it hath been accustomed at the time of the first coronation of king Henry our grandfather, and not otherwise. 6. The inquiry or view for lawing of dogs within our forest shall be made from henceforth when the range is made, that is to say, from three year to three year; and then it shall be done by the view and testimony of lawful men, and not otherwise; and he whose dog is not lawed, and so found, shall pay for his amerciament iii.s. And from henceforth no ox shall be taken for lawing of dogs; and such lawing shall be done by the assise commonly used, that is to say, that three claws of the fore foot shall be cut off by the skin. But from henceforth such lawing of dogs shall not be, but in places where it hath been accustomed from the time of the first coronation of the foresaid king Henry our grandfather. 7. No forester or bedel from henceforth shall make scotal, or gather garb, or oats, or any corn, lamb, or pig, nor shall make any gathering, but by the view [and oath] of the twelve rangers, when they shall make their range. So many foresters shall be assigned to the keeping of the forests, as reasonably shall seem sufficient for the keeping of the same. 8. No swanimote from henceforth shall be kept within this our realm, but thrice in the year, videlicet, the beginning of fifteen days afore Michaelmas, when that our gest-takers, or walkers of our woods come together to take agestment in our demesne woods, and about the feast of St. Martin, when that our gest-takers shall receive our pawnage: and to these two swanimotes shall come together our foresters, vierders, gest-takers, and none other, by distress. And the third swanimote shall be kept in the beginning of fifteen days before the feast of St. John Baptist, when that our gest-takers do meet to hunt our deer; and at this swanimote shall meet our foresters, vierders, and none other, by distress. Moreover, every forty days through the year our foresters and vierders shall meet to see the attachments of the forest, as well for greenhue, as for hunting, by the presentments of the same foresters, and before them attached. And the said swanimote shall not be kept but within the counties in which they have used to be kept. 9. Every freeman may agist his own wood within our forest at his pleasure, and shall take his pawnage. Also we do grant that every freeman may drive his swine freely without impediment through our demesne woods, to agist them in their own woods, or else where they will. And if the swine of any freeman lie one night within our forest, there shall be no occasion taken thereof whereby he may lose any thing of his own. 10. No man from henceforth shall lose either life or member for killing our deer: but if any man be taken, and convict for taking of our venison, he shall make a grievous fine, if he have anything whereof; and if he have nothing to lose, he shall be imprisoned a year and a day: and after the year and a day expired, if he can find sufficient sureties, he shall be delivered; and if not, he shall abjure the realm of England. 11. Whatsoever archbishop, bishop, earl or baron, coming to us at our commandment, passing by our forest, it shall be lawful for him to take and kill one or two of our deer, by view of our forester, if he be present; or else he shall cause one to blow an horn for him, that he seem not to steal our deer; and likewise they shall do returning from us, as it is afore said. 12. Every freeman from henceforth, without danger, shall make in his own wood, or in his land, or in his water, which he hath within our forest, mills, springs, pools, marl-pits, dikes, or earable ground, without inclosing that earable ground, so that it be not to the annoyance of any of his neighbours. 13. Every freeman shall have within his own woods, ayries of hawks, sparrow-hawks, faulcons, eagles, and herons; and shall have also the honey that is found within his woods. 14. No forester from henceforth, which is not forester in fee, paying to us ferm for his bailiwick, shall take any chimmage or toll within his bailiwick; but a forester in fee, paving us ferm for his bailiwick, shall take chimmage; that is to say, for carriage by cart the half year, ii.d. and for another half year, ii.d.; for an horse that beareth loads, every half year, an halfpenny; and by another half year, half a penny and but of those only that come as merchants through his bailiwick by licence to buy bushes, timber, bark, coal, and to sell it again at their pleasure; but for none other carriage by cart chimmage shall be taken; nor chimmage shall not be taken, but in such places, only where it hath been used to be. Those which bear upon their backs brushment, bark, or coal to sell, though it be their living, shall pay no chimmage to our foresters, except they take it within our demesne woods. 15. All that be outlawed for the forest only, since the time of king Henry our grandfather, until our first coronation, shall come to our peace without let, and shall find to us sureties, that from henceforth they shall not trespass unto us within our forest. 16. No constable, castellan, or any other, shall hold plea of forest, neither for greenhue nor hunting; but every forester in fee shall make attachments for pleas of forest as well for greenhue as hunting, and shall present them to the vierders of the provinces; and when they be enrolled and enclosed under the seals of the vierders, they shall be presented to our chief justicers of our forest, when they shall come into those parts to hold the pleas of the forest, and before them they shall be determined. And these liberties of the forest we have granted to all men, saving to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, and to other persons, as well spiritual as temporal, templars, hospitallers, their liberties and free customs, as well within the forest as without, and in warrens and other places, which they have had. All these liberties and customs, we, &c. as it followeth in the end of the Great Charter. And we do confirm and ratifie these gifts, &c. as in the end of the Great Charter specified, &c.
[1 ] Matt. Paris, ii. 911.
[1 ] See Guizot, Essais sur l’histoire de France, p. 422.
[2 ] Annales Monasterii Burtoniensis, apud rer. Anglic. Script. (Gale), p. 413.
[3 ] Matth. Paris., continuatio, ii. 992.
[1 ] Matt. Paris, p. 989.
[2 ] The burthen of the song runs thus:—
[3 ] Matth. Paris.
[4 ] Quod non minus occubuit Simon pro justa ratione legitimarum possessionum Angliæ, quam Thomas pro legitima ratione ecclesiarum Angliæ olim occubuerat. (Chron. de Mailros, apud rer. Anglic. Script. Gale, i. 238.)
[1 ] Propter justissimam causam indigenarum Angliæ quam manu susceperat defendendam, adire tumulum ejus. (Ib.)
[2 ] Sed numqued...Deus dereliquit Simon emsine miraculis? Non; et id circo deducamus miracula divinitus per ipsum facta. (Ib. p. 232.)
[3 ] Memoirs of the Society of An iquaries of London, xiii. 248.
[4 ] The Lord’s Prayer, in the reign of Henry II., did not contain a single Norman word.
[1 ] Rustici Londonienses qui se barones vocant ad nanseam (Script. rer. Anglic.)
[2 ] Matth. Paris.
[1 ] Rymer, Fœdera, iii. pars ii. p. 7.
[2 ]Ib. p. 156.
[3 ] Froissart, ii. cap. lxxiv. p. 133.
[4 ] At sessions ther was be lord and sire...(Chaucer, Canterbury Tales.)
[5 ] Froissart, ii. cap. lxxiv. p. 133.
[1 ] Quidam liber homo bondo. (Domesday Book, passim.)
[2 ] Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, passim.
[3 ] See vol. i. p. 162, and Appendix, No. IX.
[1 ] Froissart ii. cap. lxxiv—lxxix.
[2 ] Congregationes et conventicula illicita. (Rymer, iii., pars iii. p. 123.)
[3 ] Froissart, loc. sup. cit.
[4 ] H. Knyghton, ut sup. lib. v. col. 2633.
[1 ]Ib. col. 2367-8.
[2 ]Ib. col. 2364.
[3 ] Froissart, ii. lxxiv. p. 133.
[1 ] Knyghton, loc. sup. cit.
[2 ] Froissart, loc. sup. cit.
[1 ]Ib. cap. lxxvi, p. 137.
[2 ] Thom. Walsingham, Hist. Angl.; Camden, Anglica, &c. p. 248.
[3 ] Froissart, loc. sup. cit.
[1 ] Froissart, ut sup.
[2 ]Ib.—Proclamari fecerunt, sub œpæna decollationis, ne quis præsumeret aliquid vel aliqua ibidem reperta ad proprios usus servanda contingere. (Walsingham, ut sup. p. 249.)
[1 ] Froissart, ubi sup. p. 138.
[2 ]Ib. ii. cap. lxxvii. p. 139.
[1 ] Rymer, Fædera, iii. 124.
[1 ] In aquis et stagnis, piscariis et boscis et forestis feras capere, in campis lepores fugare...(Knyghton, ut sup. col. 2636, 7.)
[3 ] Other writers give the name Ralph Standish.
[4 ] Froissart, ut sup. p. 142.
[5 ] Walsingham, ut sup. p. 253.
[1 ] Froissart, ut sup. p. 142, 143.
[2 ] Walsingham, p. 254.
[1 ] Froissart, loc. sup. cit.
[2 ] Henric. Knyghton, col. 2637.
[1 ] Rymer, iii. pars iii. p. 124.
[2 ] Knyghton, col. 2643, 2644.
[1 ] Knyghton, col. 2643, 44.
[2 ] See Hallam’s Europe in the Middle Ages.
[3 ] It was written in Latin, and was entitled Vox clamantis.
[1 ] Froissart, ii. cap. clxxxviii. See Turner’s H. of the Anglo-Normans, vol. ii.
[2 ] Walsingham.
[3 ] Rymer, passim.
[1 ] Chron. Saxonicum, (Gibson) passim.
[1 ] Hallam, Europe in the Middle Ages.
[2 ] Rymer, Charta Edwardi III.
[1 ] Radulph. Hygden, Polychron., apud Rer. Anglic. Script., (Gale) 210.
[1 ] We find an instance of this in the prologue to a political poem written in the reign of Edward II., where the French and English verses follow each other and rhyme together, thus:
[2 ] Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
[3 ] Ranulph. Hygden, loc. sup. cit.
[1 ] See Rymer, Fædera. Dugdale, Monast. Anglic. Comines, Memoires.
[1 ] Comines, Mem., p. 97.
[2 ] Anno regnorum Henrici regis Angliæ et Franciæ octavi a conquestu octavo. (Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, p. 235.) The old acts of parliament in French give both the year of Christ and the year of the conquest: L’an d’el incarnacion, 1233, del conquest de Engleterre centisme sexante setime.