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King Richard I was the spoilt child of his mother Eleanor. Brought up in the civil wars of south-west France, he was a stranger to his own country, and spent less  than a year in it as king. He knew nothing of statesmanship and constitutional legislation, but only cared for the excitements of war, the sports of chivalry, and the songs of the troubadours. Crowned in Westminster Abbey on September 3, 1189, he set to work to plunder and persecute the Jews, from whom he exacted money for the crusade. For the same purpose he sold offices, civil and ecclesiastical, in a reckless manner. His bastard brother Geoffrey obtained for £3000 the archbishopric of York, as Henry II had desired, and Bishop Hugh of Durham paid £10,000 for the county of Northumberland. Richard said himself that he would have sold London if he could have found a purchaser. He sold the suzerainty of Scotland for ten thousand marks, and threw the castles of Roxburgh and Berwick into the bargain. In this way he amassed an enormous treasure, which he proceeded to squander. He gave as recklessly as he acquired, and his brother, John, and his mother, Eleanor, were recipients of his inconsiderate bounty. Having appointed William Longchamp, bishop of Ely, chancellor and justiciar of the kingdom, and made peace with King Philip of France, be left for the third crusade in June 1190, joining Philip at Messina. In Cyprus, he married Berengaria of Navarre.

William of Ely, a Norman of humble birth, exercised his office with great severity, and was opposed by John, who hoped to receive the crown in case Richard should not return, which was very likely, whereas William favored the claims of Arthur of Brittany, son of Geoffrey, who was certainly the rightful heir. With the help of Geoffrey of York, Hugh of Durham, and the citizens of London, William was driven from his position and forced into France, where he appealed to the pope. His place was taken by Walter of Coûtances, archbishop of Rouen. The events of the third crusade have been already narrated, the capture of Acre and the return of Philip to France, the conquest of Jaffa and Ascalon, the march on Jerusalem, and the truce with Saladin for three years, during which the Christians were to have free access to the Holy Sepulchre. On his return, Richard was captured by the duke of Austria and imprisoned by the Emperor Henry VI, in 1193.

When the news of this event reached England, John endeavored to secure the kingdom with the help of Philip of France. Eleanor kept England true to Richard, but Philip took advantage of Richard’s imprisonment to gain Gisors by treachery, and to get into his hands Aumale, the Vexin, and, indeed, the whole country as far as Dieppe. At length, Richard was set free by the payment of a large sum of money, and by the influence of his mother, and of Hubert Walter, who was now justiciar, came back to England. Walter was an excellent ruler, who laid the foundations of a future Parliament, by making the juries the representatives of the counties and giving them certain political powers.

Richard returned to his country in March 1194, and was received with joy by the people. John went to France, in order to secure the French possessions of the crown, with the help of Philip. Richard prepared for war. William of Ely was recalled from exile. John, frightened at Richard’s power, threw himself at his brother's feet and received pardon. Bertrand de Born, the troubadour poet, says :


“The merry time is back again,

When motley tents bedeck the plain;

When walls are stormed by warriors bold,

And captives languish in the hold;

When lance and banner fill the field,

The horse, the helmet, and the shield."


War raged from the Seine to the Garonne. The death of Henry VI directed Richard’s attention to Germany, as he was anxious to gain the imperial crown for his nephew Otto. The pope made peace between the two kings. But in January 1199, Richard was wounded at Chaluz, in a quarrel with Guidomar of Limoges. He died a few days later at Limoges, at the age of 42, and was buried there, leaving John as his heir, for he had no children. He was every inch a knight, tall and well made, with fair hair, very strong and courageous, deserving the name of “Lion Heart”, fond of art, music, and poetry. Chateau Gaillard (“the saucy castle”), which he built for the defence of Normandy, remains his characteristic monument. He was renowned for his generosity. His reign gave opportunity for the growth of liberty in the towns, especially in the city of London.

John, supported by the last will of Richard and the influence of Eleanor, was crowned in Westminster Abbey on May 29, 1199. but the rightful heir to the throne was his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, the son of his elder brother Geoffrey. Philip Augustus, king of France, supported his claims; and the two kings were also divided on German questions, John supporting his nephew Otto, Philip the Hohenstauffens. Peace was, however, made between them in May 1200, when Blanche of Castile was betrothed to Philip’s son Louis, and Arthur was compelled to do homage to his uncle for the possession of Brittany. At the close of the same year, John divorced his wife Hadwisa of Gloucester and married Isabella of Angouleme. Arthur still continued to assert his rights, and, in 1203, besieged the castle of Mirebeau, where Queen Eleanor was lying ill. But he was captured, and afterwards murdered by John's contrivance. His murder gave Philip a handle against John. He was summoned to be tried by his peers at Paris, and, when he did not come, was condemned to lose his French possessions by contumacy. Chateau Gaillard was taken, and Caen, Coûtances, Bayeux, Lisieux, and Avranches were compelled to submit. Rouen held out longer, but finally surrendered.

Thus Normandy came back to France three hundred years after it had been conquered by Rollo. The Plantagenet possessions soon followed. In the summer of 1205, Hubert de Burgh surrendered Chinon, and soon all the country between the Loire and the Garonne —Anjou, Maine, and Touraine came into the hands of Philip.

John was a man without character, for whom it was impossible to feel respect. His Norman nobles had deserted him, and it was difficult for his English vassals to remain faithful to him. He was soon to find a more with the formidable antagonist in Pope Innocent III. The dispute arose about the appointment to the see of Canterbury, which had become vacant by the death of Hubert Walter. On the death of Hubert, the younger monks elected Reginald, their sub-prior, as archbishop, whereas the king nominated John de Grey, bishop of Norwich, who was elected by the senior monks. The bishops of the province also put forward their claims to elect their metropolitan, and the decision of the question came to Pope Innocent III. The pope hesitated for a long time, and at length determined that the right of appointment belonged to the monks, and not to the suffragan bishops or the king. But he said that the sub-prior, Reginald, had been elected irregularly, and ordered the chapter to choose Stephen Langton, a man of excellent character and profound learning. The king became very angry, and refused to acknowledge Langton; but the pope consecrated him at Viterbo and gave him the pallium on June 17, 1207.

When John heard of what had happened at Viterbo, he was beside himself with rage. He drove the monks of Canterbury out of their cells, and confiscated their property. Seventy monks and one hundred lay brothers sought refuge in Flanders at St. Bertin and other monasteries. The bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester thereupon received orders to rebuke the king, and, if this produced no effect, to place the country under an interdict. John swore by the teeth of God that he would drive the bishops and all the clergy out of his kingdom and confiscate their property, and, if the pope sent messengers to England, he would send them back without eyes or noses. On March 28, 1208, the three bishops issued the interdict, and then fled the kingdom. The churches were closed, no bells rang, no masses were celebrated, no children were baptized, no dying were anointed, no dead were buried in consecrated earth. Many bishops and other ecclesiastics left the kingdom, and their property was confiscated, only those of Norwich, Durham, and Winchester remaining faithful to the king. In the following year, the pope issued a ban against the king himself.

Shunned in his own country, John betook himself to Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and Wales. He also renewed relations with his nephew, the Emperor Otto IV. In the meantime, he treated England with the utmost severity. The bishops of London and Ely went to Rome, and stirred the pope to action. He looked about for assistance. No one was so fit to execute his purpose as Philip Augustus of France. The danger was not great. Wales was in rebellion. England ready for revolt.

Frederic II had crossed the Alps to wrest the imperial crown from Otto. Raymond of Toulouse, John's brother-in-law, was nearing his fall. So Innocent III declared John deposed from his throne and all his subjects absolved from their allegiance, and offered the crown of England and Ireland to Philip, as a reward for his fidelity. On April 8, 1213, the French king summoned a meeting of notables at Soissons, and received from them general support. Only Ferrand of Portugal, count of Flanders, dissented, and with Rainald, count of Boulogne, and other princes of the Netherlands, allied with John and Otto IV. At Easter, 1213, all Europe was in movement. But, before John marched in defence of the Welfs, he thought it prudent to become reconciled with the pope, and on May 13, 1213, he swore on the gospels submission to the pope. He promised to receive Langton as archbishop of Canterbury, and on May 15 he placed the crowns of England and Ireland in John the hands of Pandulf, the pope’s nuncio, and received them back as the pope’s vassal, promising to pay a yearly tribute of a thousand marks into the pope’s coffers. John was absolved from excommunication, and Philip was told that he must stop his warlike operations. John was now able to send a fleet to Flanders under his bastard brother William Longsword, who destroyed most of the French fleet at Damme.

We now approach the period of the Great Charter. On August 4, 1213, a council was held at St. Alban's by Geoffrey FitzPeter and Peter des Roches, at which proclamation was made of the restoration of good and the abolition of bad laws, and, on August 25, at a council held at St. Paul's, Stephen Langton read the charter of Henry I to the assembled barons. At this time, Geoffrey FitzPeter died, and Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester, became justiciar. Although John was reconciled with the pope, this did not prevent him from taking part with Raimond of Toulouse and Otto IV, who were both excommunicated. He himself sailed to La Rochelle, while William Longsword joined Otto, Ferrand, and Rainald in the Netherlands. The great battle of Bouvines, which we have before described as one of the decisive battles of the world, took place on July 27, 1214, and the French cavalry gained a victory over the forces of the allied nations of Germany, England, and the Netherlands. John had to surrender, in the treaty of Chinon, his western territory in France from the Seine to the Garonne, and retained only Aquitaine and the harbour of La Rochelle.

John was now entirely at the mercy of the barons. He attempted to form a party for himself by promising freedom of election of the bishops to the church, taking the vow of a crusade, and appealing to the pope.

But the barons collected an army and forced him to sign the Great Charter at Runnymede, a large meadow by the side of the Thames, near Staines, with an island in the stream, where the king is supposed to have pitched his tent. Magna Charta (the Great Charter), as it was called, was signed at Rurnrnymede on June 15, 1215. It was a statement of the rights of the English barons. The king was expected to keep the law, and the charter stated what the law was, but it was entirely feudal in character. It was a statement to which Englishmen could appeal in their struggle for liberty against the king. Its principal provisions were as follows :—The church was promised freedom, especially with regard to the election of bishops. Feudal abuses, as to reliefs, wardships, marriages, and collection of debts, were remedied. No aids or scutages were to be collected unless by consent of the common council of the realm, except in certain cases. The common council was to consist of the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and greater barons, summoned individually, and of the lesser barons summoned through the sheriffs. For justice, the court of common pleas was to sit in some fixed place; judges were to ride the circuit four times a year; justice was not to be refused or sold; no freeman was to be punished without trial by his peers, or against the law of the land. In commerce, merchants were to go and come freely, weights and measures to be uniform, and all rivers to be open to navigation. London and all other towns were to have their ancient liberties and customs. Besides these provisions, the forest laws were to be reformed, the exactions of the crown with regard to purveyance limited, the foreign mercenaries dismissed, and a body of twenty-five barons, including the mayor of London, was to see that the charter was observed.

The king returned to Windsor in great disgust, brooding over plans of vengeance. He tried to collect a new army, and had recourse to the pope. The nobles met at Oxford and Northampton, and sought assistance from France. They offered to acknowledge Philip’s son Louis, who had married John's niece, Blanche of Castile, as king of England. But the barons were defeated at Rochester, and Innocent used all the artillery of the church to assist John. In January 1216, the king marched northwards, to put down the rebellion. Fire and desolation marked his advance. William Longsword did the same for the south, and Savary de Mauleon for the east. By March, nearly all England, except London, was in the king’s hands. But Louis landed in England on May 21,1216, and entered London on June 2. Then, on July 16, Innocent III died, and John followed him to the grave on October 19, at the age of 49. John was small, ugly, corpulent, and immoral. He murdered his nephew and lost his possessions in France. He justified in his career the nick­name, early given to him, of Lackland. He was one of the worst of the English kings. It is not to his credit that his career incidentally assisted commerce both at home and abroad, and that his intolerable tyranny favored the development of law and order.


Dante, when he introduces us to Henry III of England, in Purgatory, calls him the king of the simple life, and gives us a pleasant idea of him. This is a contrast to the English historians, who represent him as vain, extravagant, and false, hated and despised. The probability is that Dante was right, that Henry was greater than his contemporaries believed him to be, and that Englishmen regarded him too much from their own point of view. He is admitted, even by them, to have been pious and personally courageous. He reigned for fifty-six years, one of the longest reigns in English history, from 1216 to 1272, covering nearly the whole of the thirteenth century, which is regarded by some historians as the most brilliant period of modern times. His reign falls naturally into four divisions—the first of eleven years (1216-1227), before he came of age; the second of thirty-one years (1227-1258), called the period of his misgovernment; the third of seven years (1258-1265), the period of revolution and civil war; and the fourth of seven years (1265-1272), ending with his death.

A few days after King John had been buried in the cathedral of Worcester, Henry, then nine years of age, was proclaimed king in the abbey church of Gloucester, and was crowned by the papal legate, Cardinal Gualo, after he had taken the oath and acknowledged the pope as suzerain. His ministers were William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, who was regent and represented the English party; Gualo, the papal legate; Peter des Roches, who favored the foreign party; and Hubert de Burgh, who was justiciar. The Great Charter was reissued, omitting, among others, the clauses which made the consent of the great council necessary for taxation, and established a council of twenty-five. A foreign prince was in England, acknowledged as king by many of the barons, but, now that the hated John was dead, the strength of the king's party grew every day. On May 20, 1217, Louis was defeated in the battle of Lincoln, and three hundred of his adherents were made prisoners. Shortly afterwards followed the battle of Sandwich, in which Eustace the Monk, with sixty ships, was defeated by Hubert de Burgh with forty. By the treaty of Lambeth, Louis received 10,000 marks and returned to France.

On May 17, 1220, Henry, now a boy of thirteen, was crowned again at Westminster by Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury. Langton had been sent back to England by Pope Honorius III, and before that took place William Marshall had died and been succeededas regent by Hubert de Burgh, the justiciar, and Gualo had made way himself for Pandulf, a more tyrannical and overbearing character, while Peter des Roches was the king’s guardian. Also the foundation-stone had been laid of a new abbey at Westminster, and the bones of Becket had been placed in a gorgeous shrine, so that a new epoch seemed to be opening for England. Discontent and dissension still continued, but Langton and de Burgh worked hard for order and good government. Langton obtained a promise from the pope that, during his life, no foreign legate should reside in England, and Pandulf left the country. And, in 1224, Fulke de Breauté, the leader of John’s foreign mercenaries, who had acquired for himself great wealth and position, was defeated by de Burgh and driven from the kingdom. In the same year Louis VIII became king of France, and war between him and the English naturally broke out, lasting two years, but leaving Henry in possession of Gascony.

In 1227, at the age of twenty, Henry became of age. The government was wisely administered by Hubert de Burgh, the great justiciar. Peter des Roches went on a crusade for four years, and even the death of Stephen Langton in 1228 did not produce much mischief, except that, in the year following, a demand of a tax of one tenth on all personal property was made by the pope and was consented to by the clergy. But in 1232 des Roches returned from the crusade, persuaded Henry to dismiss de Burgh as being too powerful, took his place, and proceeded to fill the offices of state with foreigners from his own country of Poitou.

A new leader was required for the English and constitutional party, and this was found in the person of Richard, earl of Pembroke, the son of the famous Dismissal of William. Henry was weak enough to attack him Hubert de with Flemish and Poitevin mercenaries, and a civil Burgh. war broke out, in which the feelings of the English were entirely against the king. But Richard, with the help of the Welsh, defeated the king’s troops; and in 1234, Edward Rich, archbishop of Canterbury, persuaded the king to dismiss des Roches, and his nephew Peter of Rivaulx. They went to Italy, and served the pope, but in 1239 des Roches returned to Winchester, and died there. Richard was killed by the treachery of a doctor in 1234, and Henry mourned bitterly at his death. But his brother, Gilbert Marshall, took his place; Hubert de Burgh regained his power, and was assisted by Sir Philip Basset, and the great Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, the friend of Simon de Montfort, and of the Franciscan and Dominican Friars. In 1236, Henry married Eleanor, the second daughter of Raimund Berengar of Provence, sister of the queen of France; and the Emperor Frederic II married Henry’s lovely sister, Isabella.

The fatal effects of the submission of John to the pope now began to appear. Pope Gregory IX, the successor of Honorius III, whose conduct towards Frederick II we have already described, began to treat England with similar severity. He filled the sees and benefices with foreigners, and appropriated the church revenues, so that his representatives in England were ill-treated and even killed, and his bulls trodden under foot. The needy brothers and friends of Queen Eleanor regarded England in a similar way, and our island was exposed to the ravages of foreigners. Among them were the four sons of the Count de la Marche, who had married the widowed Queen Mother, Isabella; and Richard, earl of Cornwall, the king’s brother, who had married the queen’s sister, Sancha, after his return from the crusades, and the great Simon de Montfort, the distinguished patriot, who had married Eleanor, the king’s sister, the widow of William Marshall, at this time seemed to side with the foreign and papal party. Matters became worse under Pope Innocent IV. In 1241, Boniface of Savoy, uncle of the queen, though utterly unfit for the post, was made archbishop of Canterbury. In 1242, Henry undertook an expedition to Poitou in alliance with his step-father. The French and English armies met at Taillebourg, but little fighting took place, as the English de- camped in the night. Henry returned to England with a number of Poitevins, but Poitou was lost. At the council of Lyons in 1245, the English nobles and people made a solemn complaint against papal exactions, and Grosseteste repeated it at Rome in 1250, the year of the death of the great Emperor Frederick II, the wonder of the world.

The necessities of the crown proved to be the beginnings of popular government. In 1254, the knights from each shire were summoned to meet for the purpose of levying and aid. As we have before seen, Henry accepted the crown of Sicily from the pope for his son Edmund, which led to great expense, and Richard of Cornwall was elected king of the Romans, which caused more. In 1257, Henry, already deeply in debt, demanded an aid for the conquest of Sicily, and this led to the revolution of which Simon de Montfort made himself the head, earning an undying name in the history of England.

In 1258, Henry consented to the summoning of a Parliament at Oxford, and to the appointment of twenty-four commissioners, barons and bishops, twelve chosen by himself and twelve by the barons, to inquire into the grievances of the kingdom. The Parliament which met at Oxford was called the Mad Parliament, and by it resolutions called the Provisions of Oxford were passed. They were six in number. The first established the commission of twenty-four, which has just been mentioned, the second appointed another commission of twenty-four to treat with the king, the third required a council of fifteen to be elected by four barons out of the first twenty-four to give the king advice, and the fourth established a body of twelve men to meet the council of fifteen at least three times a year, and this was to constitute a Parliament. The two last provisions determined that the castles of the king should be placed in the hands of Englishmen, and that the chief justice, the treasurer, the chancellor, and the sheriffs should hold office for one year only, and then give an account of themselves. In the following year, the provisions of Westminster were passed, to remedy the special grievances of the barons, the bad administration of justice in feudal as well as royal courts, and the excessive power of the sheriffs.

Henry was obliged to consent to the Provisions of Oxford, but turned for assistance to the king of France, Louis IX, and to the pope. He surrendered to Louis his empty claims to Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou, and did homage for what he possessed of Aquitaine. By the leave of the barons, he went to France, and spent six months in the Louvre and St. Denis. In April 1261, Pope Alexander IV issued a bull which condemned the Provisions of Oxford and released Henry from his of oath to preserve them, and this was confirmed by the next pope, Urban IV. In 1263, war broke out between the king and the barons under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, who was supported by the citizens of London. Matters were not improved by the fact that Louis, called in to arbitrate, by a decision called the Mise of Amiens, declared all the Provisions illegal, and that the pope countenanced this by a fresh bull. A battle took place at Lewes on May 14, 1264, in which the king was entirely defeated. The result of this was an arrangement called the Mise of Lewes, by which the matters in dispute were to be settled by fresh arbitration. The king was bound to confine himself to native councillors, and Prince Edward, the eldest son of the king, and his cousin Henry of Almaine, son of Richard, king of the Romans, were kept by the barons as hostages.

A Parliament was now summoned, which was composed of four knights from each shire, and a new constitution was drawn up. Three electors appointed a council of nine, The without whose advice the king could not act, and Parliament who should appoint the ministers of state. In 1265, the first regular Parliament met, which was composed of barons, bishops, and abbots, two knights from each shire, and two barons from certain towns, this being the first time that representatives of the shires and counties had sat together.

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, was now regent and protector of England. Queen Eleanor did her best to find adherents for the disgraced king in France, and mercenaries were hired in Flanders, but the popular party forbade the pope’s legate, Cardinal Guido of Sabina, to land in England, and he was forced to return to Rome, where he became pope under the name of Clement IV. But the royal party received a powerful ally in Gilbert of Clare, earl of Gloucester, whose father had been a bitter enemy of Simon, and he was soon joined by others. The result was the battle of Evesham, fought on August 4, 1265, in which Simon was defeated and killed. Simon deserves the reputation which he has always had in the history of England. He was very religious, a friend of the friars, but a persecutor of the Jews. After his death he was reverenced by the people as a saint, and was regarded as “Simon the Righteous”, who, by his death, made England free. His great achievements were that he placed the administration of England in the hands of Englishmen, and that he conceived and executed the idea of a Parliament representing all classes and interests of the people.

The battle of Evesham was ruin to Montfort’s party. The city of London had to submit, and the countess of Leicester had to retire to France. Queen Eleanor returned in triumph to Windsor. The remaining adherents of Simon took refuge in the Castle of Kenilworth, but a civil war raged until, at last, by the influence of the legate and the earl of Gloucester, peace was arranged on terms which bear the name of the “Dictum de Kenilworth”, by which Henry was restored to his authority. An Royal amnesty was proclaimed to the rebels on payment  of a fine, the Provisions were annulled, but the authority of Magna Charta and the charter of the forest was established, and in the following year, 1267, the Statute of Marlborough re-enacted almost all the Provisions of Westminster.

In June 1268, Prince Edward and his brother, together with a hundred and fifty knights, took the cross from the hands of the papal legate. Henry III died on November 20, 1272. He was a pious, God-fearing man, who supported the clergy and led a pure life, but he was deficient in the qualities of a statesman, and was much influenced by those around him, so that he became uncertain in his policy and extravagant in his way of living, and often found himself in pecuniary difficulties. The simplicity of life attributed to him by Dante must refer rather to his personal character than to his public actions.

Prince Edward heard of his father’s death whilst he was staying with Prince Charles of Anjou in Sicily, on his return from the crusade. He did not hasten his return, but Edward passed through Italy and France, visiting Pope Gregory X, the learned doctors of Padua, and the rich merchants of Milan, and defeating the count of Châlons in a tournament in Burgundy. Indeed, he was not crowned at Westminster till August 1274. He is, perhaps, the greatest of our English kings. He knew that England required good laws and a strong administrator, but he knew that a powerful government could not exist without the cooperation of the whole country, and he carefully refrained from increasing his own power, which he might easily have done, at the expense of popular government. He adopted the position of a national king, that is, of a leader of the nation, depending on national support, but in Scotland he maintained the position of a feudal lord. Like Victor Emmanuel of Italy, the “Re Galantuomo”, he made “keep troth!” his guiding maxim. He was unselfish and truthful, hardworking, religious, and affectionate. His life was frugal and simple; he loved field sports, but at the same time was a patron of art and was fond of literature. His chief advisers were his chancellor, Robert Burnell, and Accursi, the Italian jurist of Bologna. In appearance he was tall and well made, and his long legs earned for him the appellation of “Long-shanks”.

Until the year 1290, he was chiefly engaged in conquering Wales, and passing some important legislation, the chief object of which was to remedy the abuses of feudalism. The Statute of Wales was passed in 1284. It introduced English laws, reformed the administration, and divided the territory of Llewellyn into counties, whilst it provided for the maintenance of some Welsh customs. It favored the building of castles and the settlement of English in many large towns.

Edward’s son was made Prince of Wales in 1301.

The legislation, although it had definite ends in view, was spread over the whole period. In 1275, the principle of customs was confirmed by a statute giving the crown half a mark on every sack of wool and a mark on each last of hides exported. The king also raised money by compelling persons holding land of twenty pounds a year and upwards to become knights and to pay the fees. In 1278 commissioners inquired by what title landowners held property or jurisdiction once belonging to the crown, and in this way many royal rights were recovered. In 1279, the important Statute of Mortmain forbade the grant of lands to corporations. In 1285, a second Statute of Westminster was passed, which was really a code of existing English law, a first statute having been passed in 1275. Besides, it added some important improvements, established and regulated the practice of entailing property, improved the system of itinerant judges, and ordered that people dwelling in the country should be answerable for robberies done in their district. The gates of towns were to be shut from sunset to sunrise, and other precautions taken against robbers and high­waymen; the Assize of Arms was revived, by which every man between the ages of fifteen and sixty was to have armour according to his rank, reviewed twice a year. In 1290 the important statute called Quia Emptores put an end to the splitting up of property by subinfeudation. In the same year, Edward banished the Jews from the kingdom, chiefly because of their practice of usury and their habit of clipping the coinage.

The second half of Edward’s reign, from 1290 to 1307, was taken up with trouble in Scotland, Wales, and France, and the perfecting of the English constitution. Scotland was at this time divided into Lothian, which was part of the old kingdom of Northumberland, and was settled mainly by Normans; Strathclyde, inhabited by British; and Greater Scotland in the north. In 1290, after the deaths of Alexander III and his little granddaughter, “The Maid of Norway”, there were three serious claimants to the Scottish crown—John Balliol, Robert Bruce, and John Hastings, all descended from David, earl of Huntingdon, who was the brother of William the Lion. Edward decided for John Balliol, but his insistence on his feudal rights as Balliol’s overlord produced constant friction, and when war broke out between Edward and Philip IV of  France, owing to the French occupation of Gascony, an alliance was formed between Scotland and France, and Balliol repudiated his allegiance. The troubles with Scotland and France made it necessary for the king to raise money, and for that purpose a model Parliament was summoned in 1295, consisting of spiritual lords, lay peers, representatives of the lower clergy, two knights elected from each county, and two representatives from each borough and from each city.

To return to the affairs of Scotland. At Easter, 1296, an army was collected at Newcastle, consisting of 4000 horse and 30,000 foot soldiers, while a considerable fleet sailed to the Gironde under Edmund of Lancaster and Hugh of Lincoln. On April 27, the Scotch were entirely defeated at Dunbar. The coronation stone was carried off from Scone to Westminster. Balliol was deposed, and imprisoned in the Tower of London, and Earl Warenne was made governor of Scotland. But in Gascony, the English were entirely beaten, many nobles were taken prisoners, and a large part of the country was recovered by the crown of France. This was accompanied by troubles at home. The new pope, Boniface VIII, had issued, before the Scottish expedition, a bull, known as Clericis Laicos, forbidding the king to levy taxes on the clergy, or the clergy to pay them. Hence, in 1297, Archbishop Winchelsey refused to pay taxes. Edward replied by declaring the clergy outlaws, and Boniface, finding Philip IV also resolute, had to explain away his bull. But Edward had offended not only the clergy by his taxation, but also the barons by his popular reforms, Cand the merchants by his seizure of their wool. The constable of England, Bohun, earl of Hereford, and the marshal, Bigod, earl of Norfolk, refused to go to Gascony. Edward, ostensibly reconciled to the clergy, exacted an aid, and went to Flanders to gain assistance against the French. But Bohun and Bigod opposed the collection of the aid, and, supported by Archbishop Winchelsey, demanded a confirmation of the Great Charter and of the Forest Charter, and the addition of articles forbidding the exaction of taxes without the consent of Parliament.

The Scotch were encouraged by the ill success of Edward in Gascony and by the revolt of the English nobles, and they found a leader in William Wallace, who, from being the son of a humble gentleman, rose to become a national William hero. He was assisted by William Douglas, and Robert Bruce, the grandson of the pretender. In September 1297, Warenne was entirely defeated at Cambuskenneth. The news reached Edward in Flanders, so that he determined to make peace with Philip IV, and devote himself to the reduction of Scotland. He also satisfied his discontented nobles by issuing a document at Ghent, which is called the “Confirmation of the Charters”, that no of the “aids, tasks, or prises”, except those which were customary, should be exacted without the consent of Parliament. This is a great landmark in English history. Peace at home being thus secured, William Wallace was defeated at Falkirk in 1298. But the intervention of Philip IV and Boniface VIII hindered Edward’s advance. Philip's quarrel with Boniface, however, enabled Edward to flout the Pope’s pretensions to be lord of Scotland. He also strengthened his position by marrying Margaret, Philip’s sister, and betrothing his son, Edward, to Philip’s daughter, Isabella. Returning to Scotland, he forced Comyn and the chiefs of the national party to submit, but Wallace still held out. A price was set upon his head, and, in August 1305, he was betrayed and brought to England. He was tried, condemned for high treason, dragged to Smithfield at the tail of a horse, and executed. His head was cut off and exhibited on London Bridge, while various parts of his body were exposed at Newcastle, Berwick, Perth, and Aberdeen. The task of defending Scotland now fell to the charge of Robert Bruce. Betrayed by John Comyn, he murdered him in the Franciscan church at Dumfries on January 29, 1306, and was crowned king of Scotland at Scone in March. But before Edward could reach the Scottish frontier Bruce was defeated on June 26, 1306, at Methven, by Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, and had to fly for his life. Edward was preparing for a fourth expedition when he died at Burgh-on-Sands, near Carlisle, on July 7, 1307. He was the great lawgiver of the English nation; he called the English Parliament into existence, and gave it the control of taxation. He won for England a great position on the continent, but he secured the undying hatred of Scotland, which was not appeased for many years.


His son, Edward II, who reigned for twenty years (1307-1327) was a man of very different character. He was idle, fond of pleasure, extravagant, and obstinate. He had some refined and cultivated tastes, but he did not possess his father’s manliness of character or strength of intellect.

He was under the influence of unworthy favorites, the first of whom was Piers Gaveston, a Gascon knight, who had been banished by Edward I, but was recalled to the court on his death. In 1310, Parliament was obliged to appoint The Lords  Ordainers, the chief of whom was Archbishop Winchelsey, to regulate the royal house­hold and the government. Ordinances were published in 1311 by which the government was transferred from the king to the barons, who had the nomination of the great officers of state, and power over war and peace. Parliament was to be summoned every year. Edward recalled Gaveston, who had been banished under the Ordinances, but he was attacked by the barons, excommunicated by Winchelsey, besieged in Scarborough Castle, and executed on Blacklow Hill. The government of the barons was not a success. Bruce acquired great power in Scotland, and, in 1314, at the battle of Bannockburn, the English were entirely defeated, which led to the practical independence of Scotland, and to risings in Wales and Ireland against English rule. More powerful than the king, at this time, was Thomas of Lancaster, the largest landed proprietor in England, related to the royal houses of both England and France. He was the son of Edmund, brother of Edward I, who once had the opportunity of becoming king of Sicily, and of Blanche of Artois, granddaughter of Louis VIII. He had received from his father the earldoms of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby, and, owing to his marriage with a member of the family de Lacy, claimed the reversion of those of Lincoln and Salisbury. In 1316 he became president of the royal council, but the other barons would not submit to him, and civil war broke out.

In 1317 Robert Bruce was defeated, and his brother slain at Dundalk, and English rule was established in Ireland; but in 1318 he captured Berwick.

The place of Gaveston was now taken by the two Hugh Dispensers, father and son, who became favorites of the king. The English nobles took up arms against them,  and they were banished, but divisions among the barons gave the king his opportunity, and in 1322 they were recalled. Lancaster and his supporters, Clifford and Hereford, were defeated at Boroughbridge, and Lancaster, the possessor of five earldoms, was beheaded at Pomfret. He was not a better man than Edward, but he was regarded as a martyr by the people, and was reverenced as a saint. Edward had the good sense to throw himself upon the support of Parliament, and to declare that what concerned the whole nation should be treated of by a Parliament fully representative of the nation. During the remaining four years of his reign, however, England was ruled by the Dispensers.

A truce was made with Scotland, and, in 1324, Charles IV, the new king of France, summoned Edward to do homage to him under pain of the forfeiture of his estates. Queen Isabella went to France instead, and Prince Edward did homage in the place of his father, the King. But Isabella and her lover Mortimer formed a conspiracy against the king, and returned to England in September 1326. In January 1327, Edward was deposed, and his son was proclaimed king in his place. Edward, rejected by his wife and son, was carried about from castle to castle, and was, at last, killed in a barbarous manner at Berkeley Castle, on September 27, 1327. He was not a bad man, but he was weak, and he did not succeed in securing the support of either barons, clergy, or people, and thus he fell.


His son, Edward III, reigned for fifty years (1327-1377). He was not a very great king, and was far inferior to his grand­father; but by his bravery, self-assertion, and magnificence he gained a distinguished name in English history, and has probably a greater reputation than he deserved. He was responsible for the war with France, which was unjust in its origin, and did the country much harm. But he took care to be on good terms with his Parliaments, and assisted the constitutional development of his country. He fostered English commerce and manufactures, and attempted to establish a powerful commercial union, which was to include the south of France, England, and the Netherlands. His long reign may be divided into four parts—first, the regency, which lasted three years (1327-1330); then the troubles with Scotland, from 1331 to 1336 ; then the war with France, from 1337 to 1360; and lastly, the constitutional struggle, which darkened the last seventeen years of his reign, from 1361 to 1377.

The first act of Edward’s reign was to put an end to the war with Scotland, by acknowledging its independence under King Robert Bruce. This was effected by the treaty of Northampton, which was concluded in March 1328. Bruce died in the following year, and was buried in the abbey church of Dunfermline. His heart was to be taken by James Douglas to Jerusalem, but on the way Douglas was killed by the Moors at Granada : the heart, however, was saved and buried in Melrose Abbey. Bruce was succeeded by his son, David, a child of eight years old, who was crowned and anointed in Scone. Mortimer and Isabella meanwhile misgoverned England, but in 1330, Edward, who was already the father of a son by his Dutch wife, determined to take the government into his own hands. Mortimer was hanged at Tyburn, and Queen Isabella was confined for the rest of her life at Castle Rising. Peace reigned in England, but, in 1332, Edward Balliol rose against Bruce, defeated his troops, and was crowned in Perth as a vassal of the English crown. The Scotch did not approve of this, and asserted their independence, but they were defeated on Battle of July 18, 1333, at the battle of Halidon Hill, in  which Bamockbum was avenged. The flower of the Scottish chivalry, the Regent Douglas, the earls of Ross, Lennox, Carrick, and Sutherland, were among the slain, which are said to have numbered 30,000. Berwick was taken; David Bruce, and his wife Johanna, Edward's sister, fled to Holland; Balliol was recognized as king. But Balliol had soon to retire to Berwick, whilst the heads of the national party, Moray and William Douglas of Liddesdale, made an alliance with France. This led to a border war between Scotland and England, which lasted for a long time.

Parliamentary government now received a further development by the division of Parliament into two houses. The knights of the shire first deliberated apart from the lords and then with the burgesses, so that, by 1341, the division into two houses was complete. The division of the House of Parliament into two houses, instead of three, as in France, was favorable to the unity of the realm. The knights of the shire were connected by birth with the nobles, but their interests lay with the people, and by sitting in the lower house they prevented the severance of classes, and the union of the clergy and the nobles against the people.

What is called the Hundred Years’ War, between France and England, broke out in 1337. It arose from the help given by the French king to Bruce against Balliol, from his seizure of certain English lands in Guienne, and d from his interference in the wool trade between England and Flanders. Edward had, as allies, Robert of Artois, a vassal of Philip, who had been banished from France; the famous James von Arteveld, the brewer of Ghent; the Emperor Louis IV, the Bavarian, who was at enmity with the pope, and the princes of the empire in Brabant, Guelders, Juliers, and Cologne. Philip was assisted by the count of Flanders and the Scots. In 1340, Edward took the title of king of France, to which he had no right whatever. It was based upon the principle that, although the Salic Law forbade a woman to reign in France, it did not prevent a woman from passing on her claim to her son, provided such a son was born in the lifetime of his grandfather. Thus, Edward HI. was the grandson of Philip IV, the elder son of Philip III, while Philip VI was the son of Charles of Valois, who was the younger son. In this year was fought the battle of Sluys, in which the English obtained command of the Battles of sea, after which a truce was made between the Sluys and two countries. The next great event of the war was the battle of Crecy in 1346, in which the victory was due to the efficiency of the English archers and the great good discipline of the English soldiers, as compared to the feudal levies of Philip—in other words, to the steadfastness and tenacity of the English, compared with the lighter and less solid character of the French. When Napoleon saw that he was defeated at Waterloo, he said, with a sigh, “It has always been the same since Crecy”. In the same year, the Scotch were defeated at Neville's Cross, and David Bruce was taken prisoner. When Calais was taken in August 1347, Edward III stood at the height of his power. In this year he founded the Order of the Garter, the first order of chivalry in the world, whose only rival was the Golden Fleece—its rival no longer. But just at this time occurred the terrible calamity of the Black Death, which killed a large part of the population of England and produced important economic results. Owing to the scarcity of laborers, and to the large profits to be derived from the trade in wool, sheep farming was introduced on a large scale, and the system of leasehold farming began. Landowners could not afford to pay laborers to work their estates, and therefore broke them up into holdings, which they stocked and let out to tenants for rent.

Meanwhile a war of succession was raging in Brittany, which was decided in favor of the English; Count Charles of Blois, Philip's nephew, was defeated and imprisoned in the Tower. A Spanish fleet, which took advantage of the war between France and England to attempt piratical excesses, was defeated at Winchelsea in the summer of 1350.

During these years, several important statutes were passed. The Statute of Laborers (1351) forbade laborers to receive higher wages than had been paid them before the Black Death. The Statute of Provisors protected the patrons of livings against the encroachments of the pope. The Statute of Treasons (1352) defined the crime of treason, the heavy penalties of which had hitherto been inflicted with excessive frequency. Henceforward some act designed against the king or his heir, or their wives, or the king’s eldest daughter, or one of certain specified minor offences had to be proved. The first Statute of Praemunire (1353) forbade the prosecution of suits in foreign courts, such as the pope’s. In the same year the Act of the Staples settled the number and site of the staple towns to which the wool export was restricted, and confirmed the privileges of the merchants.

In 1355 the war with France was renewed. The Black Prince wasted the south of France from Bordeaux to Narbonne, but, on the other hand, the Scotch, who were allies of the French, captured Berwick. This was avenged in the following year by the “Burnt Candlemas”, a name given to the devastation of the country round that border city by Edward III, and by the great battle of Poitiers, in which King John of France was taken prisoner.

In 1357, peace was made with Scotland, and King David was released from prison, and in 1360 the peace of Bretigny put an end, for a time, to the war with France. In this treaty the king of England renounced all claims to the throne of France and to the Plantagenet possessions north of the Loire, comprising Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Normandy. The French king ceded to Edward the duchy of Aquitaine, Ponthieu, and Calais in full sovereignty, and was released on promising to pay a heavy ransom, which was of great service to the exhausted coffers of the English crown.

After the peace of Bretigny, the war with France slumbered for nine years, but the time was occupied with important events, both foreign and domestic. In 1361, Edward the Black Prince, the hero of Poitiers and the darling of the English people, was married to Johanna of Kent. In 1362, Parliament enacted that no subsidy should be granted by merchants on the exportation of wool without the consent of Parliament, and the exportation of manufactured wool, as well as of butter and cheese and similar commodities, was forbidden. It was also ordered that the English language should take the place of Norman-French in the law courts.

In 1366, Parliament repudiated the papal claims to tribute admitted by John in 1213. In Ireland the Statute of Kilkenny forbade English colonists in Ireland to intermarry with the Irish or to act as foster parents or sponsors to Irish children, or to adopt the Irish language, dress, or laws. All these provisions showed the growing strength of the national consciousness and confirmed the principle of “England for the English”. The Black Prince reigned in Gascony, and, in 1267, undertook an expedition to help Pedro the Cruel, king of Castile, against Henry of Trastamare, who was helped by the French. He won an important victory in the battle of Navaretta, and Pedro was restored to the throne. But war cannot be conducted without expense, and the Gascons complained at having to pay for an enterprise in which they had no concern. In 1369, they appealed to the king of France, and the Hundred Years' War broke out again. The Constable du Guesclin now became the hero of France, and the English had to give way. In 1375, a truce was made which left only Calais, Cherbourg, Brest, Bayonne, and Bordeaux in English hands.

The year 1376 is memorable in the history of our country for both good and ill. The Black Prince, a worthy successor of Edward I, was in favor of popular government and opposed to the autocratic spirit of his uncle, John of Gaunt. By his influence, the Good Parliament, as it is called, established the principle of impeachment, by which Parliament for centuries controlled the king’s ministers. The ministers of the king and others who are accused of high treason are accused by the Commons and tried before the Lords. In this manner, Lyons and Lord Latimer and Alice Ferrers were found guilty and were punished. But, just at the moment when the Black Prince had set this seal to his reputation, he died, after a lingering illness, from the fever which he had contracted in the south of France. He died on June 8, 1376, and was followed to the grave, on June 21, 1377, by his father, Edward III, who was succeeded by his grandson, Richard II, a child ten years old. This year was also made memorable by the return of the pope from Avignon to Rome, and by the trial of the reformer John Wycliffe at Saint Paul's before Archbishop Sudbury.