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The book, which is here presented to the public, was origin- 
ally composed as a dissertation sent in to compete for a fellow- 
ship at Trinity College, Cambridge. Its object is to give a 
general picture of English society, politics, and religion at 
a certain stage in their progress, and to recount the leading 
and characteristic events of a brief period in our country's 
history. That period, which represents, as far as England 
is concerned, the meeting point of the mediaeval and the 
modern, is of peculiar interest and importance. As the book 
is now addressed to the general reader, and not to students 
alone, I have felt obliged to omit here and there the discussion 
of historical problems which, though of interest to students, 
throw little or no light on the period as a whole. For a 
similar reason I have given my quotations from ' Piers Plow- 
man ' and Wycliffe in modern English ; though I have not 
ventured to take the same liberty with Chaucer, whose very 
spelling is sacred to literature. The Notes and Appendices 
are not intended to contain information of importance to the 
general reader, but are adduced as proofs of statements in the 
text, and are intended for the historical critic. For, notwith- 
standing its wider and more popular aim, I venture to hope 
that the book may claim to be a serious contribution to 
history. ■ It is based on original authorities, and many of 
these authorities have been now for the first time unearthed 
in the Public Eecord Office and British Museum. 

While this volume was in course of prepa-ration for the 


press, I had the pleasure of reading the new and important 
work on the Peasants' Eising by M. Andre Eeville and the suc- 
cessor of his labours, M. Petit-Dutaillis. It is needless for 
me to say how greatly I admire the work of one whose 
premature death has inflicted a blow on two nations, and with 
what interest I read the introduction by M. Petit-Dutaillis, 
so full of matter and so full of thought. I have adopted 
several new facts from their work ; in all such cases I have 
acknowledged the debt by a reference in the Notes. But I was 
already acquainted with the bulk of the valuable documents 
published in their Appendix. The events of the rebels' admis- 
sion into London, the risings in Yorkshire and the West, had 
been already described in my book while it was still a college 
dissertation, before M. Eeville's work appeared. In such 
cases I have left the text as it stood, and have also left my old 
references to the documents in the Eecord Office, but have 
added in brackets the page of M. Eeville's book where they 
can be found by the student ; thus — C.E.E., 488, Eex. 6 (Eev. 
190). In absolutely every case where I have altered or 
added to the text in consequence of M. Eeville's book, I 
have put a reference in the Notes, not in brackets. Thus — 
Eev., 251. 

I acknowledge my debt to the Wyclif Society, to Professor 
Skeat, Mr. Matthew, Bishop Stubbs, and (however much, we 
may differ) to Dr. Gasquet. There is besides a whole army 
of able scholars and editors whose publications have made it 
possible to attempt a history of the Age of Wycliffe. Although 
I have not in quite every case adopted the advice given, I wish 
to thank my friends Dr. Cunningham, Mr Stanley Leathes, 
and Dr. Verrall of Trinity and Mr. Whitney of King's College, 
Cambridge, for many valuable suggestions and corrections. 

Last, but not least, I must thank Mr. Edgar Powell, It 
is not only that I used his ' Eising in East Anglia ' without 
any need to consult the original manuscripts on which his 
story rested. It is he, the person best fitted to do so by his 


experience in the documents of the Peasants' Rising, who 
hunted out and transcribed for me at the Eecord Office that 
considerable mass of unprinted matter on which much of the 
present work is based. It is my hope that in the course of the 
next year we shall publish a small volume of these materials. 
It would contain trials of the rebels of 1381 passed over by 
M. Eeville, the trial of John of Northampton, documents 
relating to the early Lollards, and various matters that will, I 
believe, be of permanent value to historians ; the references to 
these original documents in the Public Eecord Office will be 
found in the footnotes and appendices to the present volume. 
Finally, I must say a word as to the period covered by the 
book, for the ' Age of Wycliffe ' is a vague term. I have 
restricted the political history to the years 1376 to 1385, 
because they form a separate epoch in secular affairs. On the 
other hand, I have found it impossible to make any break in 
the history of the Lollards until Eichard's death (end of 
Chapter VIIL). I have besides added an additional Chapter 
(Chapter IX.), briefly relating their fortunes down to the year 
1520. Without this continuation the Age of Wycliffe would 
lose half its meaning, and remarks occurring in various parts 
of the book would remain unjustified. 


Teinity College, Cambkidge 
February, 1899. 





Decay of Mediaeval Institutions 1 

Eenewal of the war, 1369 2 

Fall of the Episcopal Ministry, 1371 4 

Loss of our possessions in France, 1372-6 7 

Abuse of power by John of Gaunt 's party 9-12 

POLITICS, 1376-1377 '" 

The Good Parliament assembles, April 1376 13 

The House of Commons • 14 

The House of Lords 16 

Proceedings of the Good Parliament 20 

Death and Character of the Black Prince 26 

Alice Perrers 28 

John of Gaunt undoes the work of the Good Parliament . . . 30 

The Packed Parliament, Jan. 1377 36 

John of Gaimt, Wycliffe and Church property 38 

Wycliffe's trial at St. Paul's, Feb. 1377 43^. 

The Londoners riot against John of traunt 46 

Last days of his supremacy 49 

Edward the Third dies, June 1377 51 


England's" Mediaeval Sea-power ; its decline 62 

ijawlessness throughout the coimtry ; lords and retainers . . . 57 

Social position and political policy of the gentry . . . . 66 

Accession of Richard the Second ; John of Gaunt retires . . . 69 




Policy of the Good Parliament renewed, Oct. 1377 . , . .73 
John of Gaunt partially recovers power, Feb. 1378 . . . . 75 

Degradation of the Papacy ; Avignon 75 

Wycliffe's popularity in 1377 80 

Failure of the Papal attack on WycHfife, March 1378 ... 85 

Outrage in Westminster Abbey, 1378 87 

Question of Sanctuary ; Wycliffe and the Parliament of Gloucester, 

Oct. 1378 92 

Maladministration and discontent 1379-80 98-103 



The Church in the Age of Wycliffe 104 

The Bishops 106 

Ecclesiastical Courts ; their corruption 112, 

Foreigners in English benefices ; simony 117 

Appropriation and non-residence 121 

Parsons and their grievances 123 

The Pulpit and the Bible in the Fourteenth Century . , . 127 

f Medifeval ideas of pardon for sin 131 

•Pilgrimage . . 133 

Sale of pardons and charms ; the Pope and Bishops responsible . . 135 

Corruption of the Confessional 139 

'Wyclifi"e's new theory of absolution 141-2 


RELIGION (continued) 

The friars ; their influence 143 

The unbeneficed clergy ; their employments . . . . . 153 

"The monks ; their isolation 156 

Antagonism of the towns to religious bodies . . . . . 163 

The way prepared for Henry the Eighth 164 

Danger of the ecclesiastical power to society . .... 167 

Wycliffe and his new religion 169-82 


THE peasants' RISING OF 1381 

The history of labour 183 

The Manorial system ; its decay 184 

The Black Death and the Statutes of Labourers 187 




The labourers' illegal struggle for higher wages .... 188 

The serfs' illegal struggle for freedom 191 

Eeligious influences foster rebellion 195 

Eelation of Wycliffe to social problems 198 

The organisers of the rebellion . , . . . . . , 202 

The Poll Tax 204 

Outbreak of the rebellion, May-June 207 

The authorities offer no resistance 213 

*- Characteristics of the rebellion ; its area 214 

' The Eebels outside London, June 12 223 

The Eebels inside London, June 13-15 229 

The Tower and Mile End, June 13-14 233 

"- Smithfield. London recovered from the Eebels, June 15 . . 239 

" Bishop Spencer puts down the Eising in East Anglia, June 17-21 . 245 

"-The King puts down the Eising in the Home Counties, June-Aug. . 246 

'.John of Gaunt and Percy, June ^ 249 

■ The rebelhon revives in places, September 250 

- Eesults of the Eising 252-5 


Politics after the Peasants' Eising 

Anne of Bohemia, 1381-2 ...... 

Flanders and Philip van Artevelde, 1382 . 

England fails to support Philip ; Eosbec 

Papal Crusade to Flanders preached in England 

Parliament patronises the Crusade ; its failure, 1383 , 

Eichard the Second forms a party, 1383-5 

Violence of parties at Salisbury, 1384 .... 

London politics ; Mayoralty of John of Northampton 
Violent conduct of Eichard ^'. ..... . 

The invasion of Scotland, 1385 ; scenes in the English camp 
Eichard alienates the Commons . . . . 

. 256 

. 260 

. 262 

. 266 

. 268 

. 270 

. 273 

. 276 

. 278 

. 283 

. 284 



Eeaction against Wycliffe in high quarters, 1382 . . . , 291 

The ' Council of the Earthquake,' May 1382 293 

Oxford in the Middle Ages 295 

Character of the Undergraduates 296 

Quarrels of Seculars and Eegulars 297 

Wycliffe's alliance with the Seculars, 1381 ..... 299 




The Primate interferes ; Oxford resists, June 1382 , . . . 301 

The King supports the Primate 304 

Triumphal entry of the Bishops into Oxford, Nov. 1882 . . . 307 

The House of Commons saves LoUardry in the country districts . 310 

Material on which the Lollards worked 312 

Wychffe at Lutterworth, 1382-4 313 

The Lollards of Leicestershire 314 

The LoUards of the Western Counties 322 

The Lollards of the Capital 327 

Proceedings of the Lollards in Parliament, 1395 .... 327 

Eichard rescues the Church 329 

The Age of Wycliffe ; temporary failure 331-2 



The struggle embittered under Henry the Fourth . . . . 333 

The first martyrs. Purvey and Badby at the stake .... 334 

Oldcastle and his rebellion, 1414 336 

Patronage of the gentry withdrawn 389 

Persecution and martyrdom; LoUardry spreads to new districts, 

1420-60 341 

Bishop Pecock ; obscurantist policy of the Church authorities . . 344 

Increase of martyrdoms under Henry the Seventh . . . . 347 

LoUardry becomes Lutheranism, 1520 349 

Service done to England by Wycliffe and the Lollards . . . 350 

Freedom of thought in England 352 

Note 353-4 

Appendix 355-70 

Index 371 


Map to illustrate the events of June 12-15, 1881 . . to face p. 228 

Area of the Risings of 1381 ,,254 

LoUardry in England and Scotland „ 352 


Ap. . . . . = Appendix. 

K. S = Rolls Series. 

Wals. . . . = Thomas Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, E. S. 

Knighton . . . = Chronieon Henrici Knighton, E. S. 

Chron. Ang. . . = Chronieon Anglia3, E. S. 

Fasc. Z. . . . = Fasciculi Zizaniorum, E. S. 

Pol. Poems . . = Wright's Political Songs and Poems, E. S. 

Cont. Eulog. . . = Eulogium Historiarum, vol. iii., the ' Continuatio 

Eulogii,' E. S. 
Higden . . . = Polychronicon Eanulphi Higden, E. S. Vol. ix. is a 

Franciscana . . = Monumenta Franciseana, Brewer's volume, E. S. 

Lechler . . . = Lechler'sWycliffe and his Precursors, Englished., 1878. 

De Bias. . . . = De Blasphemi4, Wyclif Society Publications. 

De Ecc. . . . = De Ecclesi^ „ „ „ 

Pol. Works . . = Polemical Works ,, „ „ 

Sermones . . . = Sermones ,, „ „ 

S. E. W. . . . = Select English Works of WycUf, by Thomas Arnold, 

Oxford, 1869-71. 
Matt, . . . = The English Works of Wyclif hitherto unprinted, 

edited by F. D. Matthew, 1880, for the E. E. T. S. 

E. E. T. S. . . = Early English Text Society. 

Wilkin . . . = Wilkin's ConciHa, ed. 1737°. 

Gibson . . . - Gibson's Codex, ed. 1713. 

Hist. Ang. Ecc. . = Historia Anglicana Ecclesiastica, Harpsfield, ed. 1622. 

Lyndwood . . = Lyndwood's Provinciale, ed. 1679. 

Foxe . . . = Foxe's Acts and Monuments, ed. 1837, Catley. 

0. E. B, . . . = Old English Bible, Dr. Gasquet, 1897. 

C. of B. . . = Child of Bristow (from Harleian MS.) printed in Eetro- 

spective Eeview, 1854, vol. ii., pp. 198-208. 

Cutts' : . . = Cutts' Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages. 

Test. Vet. . . = Testamenta Vetusta, Nicolas. 

P. PI. . . . = Piers Plowman. Eeferences to Piers Plowman always 
refer to Professor Skeat's three Parallel texts,A,B,or C. 

Erasmus . . . = Erasmus' and Melancthon's Letters, ed. 1642. 


Mon. Eve. 

Stubbs or St. 

Eot. Pari. . 


Bl. B. 

Eamsay . 
Dugdale . 
Chron. of London 

Vox Clam. 
Conf. Am. 

: Vita Eicardi II. by an Evesham monk. It is always 
referred to as ' Mon. Eve. ' in Bishop Stubbs' foot- 
notes, so I have kept this abbreviation. 

Bishop Stubbs' Constitutional History of England, 
edition of 1891. 

EoUs of Parliament ; Eotuli Parliamentarii. 

Eymer's Foedera, vol. iii. = vol. iii., part 2, ed. 1830 ; 
vol. iv. = vol. iv., ed. 1869. 

Dr. Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and 
Commerce, Early and Middle Ages, ed. 1890. 

Professor Ashley's Economic History. 

Gross' Select Coroners' EoUs, Selden Soc. 

Blue Book of 1878, Eeturn of Members of Parliament, 
part i. 1213-1702. 

Lancaster and York, Sir James Eamsay. 

Dugdale's Baronage, ed. 1675. 

Chronicle of London, 1089-1483, 15th century 
chronicle, printed 1837. 

Gower's Vox Clamantis, ed. Coxe. 1850. 

Gower's Confessio Amantis, ed. 1857, Eeinhold Pauli. 

Froissart, English translation by Thomas Johnes, 
ed. 1804. 

P. E. 0. . . . = Public Eecord Office. 

C. E. E. . . . = Coram Eege Eolls, P. E. 0. 

Anc. Ind. . . . = Ancient Indictments, P. E. 0. 

H. E. . . . = Historical Eeview, English, vol. xiii., pp. 609-22, 

July 1898. A chronicle relating to the Peasants' 

E6v = Le Soul^vement des Travailleurs d'Angleterre en 1381. 

Andre Eeville, 1898. 
Arch. Kent. . . = Proceedings of the Kent Archeological Society, or 

Archeologia Kantiana. 
Page . . . = Die Umwandlung der Frohndienste in Geldrenten. 

Thomas Walker Page. (Inaugural Dissertation zur 

Erlangung der Doctorwiirde an der Universitat zu 

Cambridge Manor . = Professor Maitland's Article on the History of a 

Cambridge Manor, English Historical Eeview, vol. ix. 
Powell . . . - Eising in East Anglia, E. Powell, Cambridge, 1896. 
Eogers . . . = History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Thorold 








The reader who has turned to a history of Chaucer's times 
in hope of finding record of the healthy national life sug- 
gested by the picture of the jolly poet's companions on the 
Canterbury pilgrimage, will be disappointed that no aspect of 
politics or of society reproduces the cheerful impression he 
had received. But if his zeal for letters or antiquity has 
carried him through some cantos of Piers Plowman's gloomy 
and powerful utterances against the same generation, he will 
be less surprised to find that the chief feature is the decay 
of those institutions and ideas that had governed mediaeval 
England throughout the Plantagenet epoch, and the collapse 
of the old methods, industrial, social, military, governmental 
and religious. Yet the gloom of the period is not unrelieved ; 
historical dulness does not brood , over it as it often broods 
over periods of national decline. [The personalities of Wycliffe 
and Chaucer adorn and humanise the story. . The most spon- 
taneous and general uprising of the working classes that 
ever took place in England, gives to the labour-question that 
picturesqueness and reality, which are too often lacking in 
the most important chapters of national development. Above 


all, efforts are made towards new possibilities, social political 
and religious. Though Medisevalism is sick almost to death, 
the ideas of the modern world are forming in the greatest 
minds of the day. 

In spite, however, of the general decay, in spii' of these 
attempts at change and reconstruction, the succeediii : century 
saw mediaeval institutions bolstered up and the oeation of 
modern England postponed. The diseases that wer*' destroy- 
ing England in the reign of Eichard the Second /ere still 
eating at her heart in the reign of Eichard tloo Third. 
The problems that beset her were but laid aside i utler the 
Lancastrians, to be solved under the Tudors. Oolv in the 
light of later history do we perceive in full th<it. ihe age 
of Wycliffe holds a great place in the progress of oii country, 
that its efforts were not futile and that its great infn did not 
live in vain. 

The first sign of general decadence was the down ' '11, in the 
later years of Edward the Third, of the military and ii. vsl power 
that had been erected in the great days of Crecy .id Sluys. 
When in the year 1360 the Treaty of Bretigny m;', ;8 over to 
the English Crown a third of the country which wf^ ow know 
as France, English seamanship was as supreme ir, Western 
waters as English arms on the Western contint ) . From 
Corunna to Eotterdam no harbour-master dared r pilfer or 
annoy the traders who brought the English wool, o foreign 
craft dared board the vessels that sailed beneath the cross 
of St. George. From the border where Christendo i lay en- 
camped against Islam in the shadow of the Sierra r evada, to 
the utmost Bohemian forests, there had been found r o chivalry 
able to contend with the archers of England. Our i obles and 
gentlemen were the governors of Southern France, he cruel 
taskmasters of broad and fertile provinces. 'I r itnessed,' 
says Froissart, ' the haughtiness of the English who are 
affable to no other nation than their own ; no gentlemen of 
Gascony or Aquitaine . . . could obtain office or ap- ointment 
in their own country ; for the English said they w( e neither 
on a level with them nor worthy of their socif /, which 
made the Gascons very indignant.' Had such high mounding 


phrases then been in fashion, the Continental peoples had 
reason enough to talk of * the supremacy of the Anglo- 
Saxons.' This supremacy, which had sprung up in twenty 
years, was destined to perish with even greater rapidity. 

The affairs of Spain were the immediate cause of Conti- 
nental revolt against our domination. In 1369 King Henry of 
Castile, having been restored to his throne by French arms 
in the face of English opposition, entered into a naval alliance 
with France, which secured to the confederates ihe mastery 
of the Bay of Biscay and the Channel. Our importance in 
the councils of Europe, the prosperity of our commerce and our 
military hold over France, depended on our naval superiority, 
and that superiority was a thing of the past when the fleets of 
Castile and France together were in active hostility against us.^ 
Our position in Aquitaine was at the same moment being under- 
mined, although the veteran Black Prince himself was the 
governor. Even among his English soldiers, whose organisa- 
tion and obedience on the field of battle left nothing to be 
desired, the state of perpetual discipline proper to an army of 
occupation was altogether wanting. The regiments, or ' com- 
panies ' as they were called, were many of them officered by 
soldiers of fortune whose patriotism was the patriotism of Sir 
Dugald Dalgetty ; men who had not scrupled, when active 
employment was wanting in the English service, to follow Du 
Guesclin over the Pyrenees and help the French to turn the 
ally of England off the throne of Castile. The only means by 
which Prince Edward could have held these men in hand, was 
pay more regular than the treasury of Aquitaine could afford. 
In order to satisfy his soldiers, he oppressed his subjects with 
heavy taxes, the method most effectual to remind them of their 
French nationality, and to prepare the way for Charles the 
Fifth as Liberator. When at last the ' companies,' to obtain 
compensation for their arrears, began to make unauthorised 
raids into the territory of the French King, the opportunity 
most desired by that wily monarch had arrived. He 
had now justification for opening the war. In the spring 
of 1369 his armies invaded the isolated English possession 
of Ponthieu in the north of France, and acquired it almost 

1 Feed., iii. 869. 

B 2 


without striking a blow. The loss of the province must be 
laid to the account of the ministers who had failed to garri- 
son it during the winter. They had been guilty of acting 
with similar ignorance and over-confidence in the affairs of 
Aquitaine. Instead of sending out money to Prince Edward 
that would have enabled him to keep his army in hand, they 
had insisted on fining his high-spirited captains for irregu- 
larities that would have been better checked by the payment 
of arrears. The enemies of the ministry ascribed the un- 
authorised violations of French territory that had brought on 
the war, to the mutinous spirit engendered among the English 
'companies' by these acts of petty persecution.^ For two 
years after the seizure of Ponthieu, the war continued without 
any other striking event. 

The Parliament of February 1371, which called the incompe- 
tent ministers to account, marks the commencement of those 
political movements and party combinations which continued 
throughout the next fifteen years. As long as Edward the 
Third had been in the vigour of life, he had himself carried on 
the administration and decided questions of policy, while his 
son acted as generalissimo abroad. But now that the King had 
fallen into dotage, and the Black Prince had returned from 
Gascony sick of an incurable disease which did not permit 
him to take a large part in public affairs, a fierce competition 
arose among the great nobles to secure a larger share in the 
government than any had previously enjoyed. Although 
the Duke of Lancaster and the Earls of Pembroke and Cam- 
bridge had been since the outbreak of the war entrusted with the 
command of various armies in France, the ministry at West- 
minster was still composed, as it had been from time imme- 
morial, of Bishops who were dependent solely on the King, 
and who were bound to the great lords by no ties of interest 
or party. William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, was 
Chancellor, and Thomas Brantingham, Bishop of Exeter, was 
Treasurer of England. The Duke and the Earls were often 
consulted by the King on matters of policy, so that the 
Chancellor and Treasurer had not that monopoly of the royal 
confidence enjoyed by cabinet ministers of to-day. But the 

' Chron. Aug., Ixxv-vi. 


persons who held these offices excluded the great lords not 
only from the ordinary administration, but from most of the 
patronage of the country, and it was for the purpose of securing 
these offices for their own adherents that a coterie of lords 
made use of Parliament in 1371. As Lancaster was in France, 
the Earl of Pembroke, a young nobleman of twenty-three, led 
the opposition in the Upper Chamber.^ 

The House of Commons that met in 1371 was no less 
hostile to the bishop ministers, though for different and less 
personal reasons. In the first place, it was rightly considered 
that the opening of hostilities had been mismanaged, that 
there had been no counterbalancing success in the last two 
years, and that the Bishops had not the knowledge and energy 
requisite for the successful conduct of a war. They were in 
fact regarded much as Lord Aberdeen's Ministry was regarded 
in 1855. Their unpopularity was increased by the dislike 
of the Church and its privileges and consequent distrust of 
all its members, deeply rooted in the lay mind. This feeling 
found expression in the request presented by Lords and Com- 
mons together to the King, demanding the total exclusion of 
all clergy from the civil service. This would have indeed been 
a sweeping reform, for at that time most ' clerks ' were ' clergy.' 
The King rejected the petition, as he did not feel called upon 
to remodel the whole public service in its lower as well as its 
higher branches. But since the dislike of the present clerical 
ministry to which this demand had given voice could not be 
completely ignored, the Bishops holding the higher offices were 
removed, and were succeeded in their posts by law officers 
of the crown and laymen distinguished for public service. 
Some at least of these new ministers were honest and 
capable men, destined to win the admiration even of the 
bitterest partisans of the Church party.^ But they had no 
independent prestige and position of their own on which to 
withstand the malpractices that the great nobles soon intro- 
duced into the public service. They were but the nominees of 
those lords who had plotted the overthrow of the Bishops.^ 
The House of Commons, carried away by just resentment at 
the misconduct of the war by the episcopal ministry, had en- 

' Wals., i. 314. 2 jii^_ ii. 68, on Scrope. ^ See Ap. 


trusted the government to persons even less capable of guarding 
the interests of the country. WilHam of Wykeham had been, 
it was afterwards asserted, corrupt in an underhand way, 
but he was certainly not ©penly oppressive and extortionate. 
It was no improvement to give the nation over to the tender 
mercies of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. 

Besides the change of ministry, attacks were made in this 
Parliament on the enormous Church endowments which paid 
so little towards the heavy expenses of the war, and the 
budget of the year was drawn up so as to fall heavily on 
ecclesiastical property. A sum of 50,000Z. was required. It was 
assumed that there were forty thousand parishes in England, 
and that if each should pay on the average 22s. 8d., the 
requisite amount would be raised. Towards this tax all lands 
that had passed into Mortmain since Edward the First were 
now forced to contribute, and at the same time the tax voted 
by the clergy in convocation was extorted from small livings 
hitherto exempted. In these proceedings we see the begin- 
ning of that organised political movement for disendowment 
of the Church and abolition of her privileges which was the 
one point of sympathy between the House of Commons and 
the Duke of Lancaster, and formed the chief connection of 
Wycliffe with political parties.^ , 

The Parliament broke up, and the lay ministers took 
over the government. The hopes of the nation were soon 
damped. In the first place, the budget had been hopelessly 
miscalculated. There were not forty thousand, but only nine 
thousand parishes in England. The ludicrousness of the 
mistake throws a lurid light on statistical knowledge in the 
Middle Ages. That the assembled Estates of a great country 
should agree in solemn conclave that there were forty thousand 
parishes in the realm when there were only nine thousand, 
would scarcely command our belief if it were not written in 
the Book of the Eolls of Parliament. Probably the outgoing 
ministers, since each knew approximately the number of 
parishes in his diocese, had some suspicion of the truth, but 
did not feel bound to communicate their knowledge to rivals 

' Bot. Pari., ii. 303-4 ; Wals., i. 312-5 ; Fasc. Z., Introd. xxi. 

1372 DISASTBE 7 

who claimed to be introducing a new era of intelligence 
and reform. When the mistake was found out, part of the 
members of the late Parliament were hastily summoned 
together in June, to raise the average quota of the villages 
from 22>. Sd. to 116s.^ 

As to the conduct of the war, men's hopes were even more 
bitterly disappointed. Catastrophe followed catastrophe in 
bewildering succession. In 1372, the young Earl of Pem- 
broke, who had led the proceedings of the Parliament the 
year before, was sent out as governor of Aquitaine with a great 
army and a rich treasure to carry on the war. His fleet was 
surrounded off Rochelle by a greatly superior force of French 
and Spanish, and after two days of hand-to-hand fighting, 
the English were overpowered by numbers and captured to a 
man.^ The clerical party saw in it the hand of God against 
the despoilers of His Church,^ but the nation saw in it the 
death-blow of its sea-power, .and of its dominion in France. 
In 1373 Poitou was lost, and a splendid* English army under 
the Duke of Lancaster was almost destroyed by a march 
through France, which can be compared in character to 
Napoleon's Eussian campaign. Exhaustion, not defeat in 
the field, sapped our resistance. In 1374 John of Gaunt 
returned to England to raise troops and supplies, but finding 
the country unable to furnish any more, left our garrisons in 
Aquitaine unsuccoured. By the end of the year they had 
nearly all surrendered to the French general.* After the loss 
of Aquitaine the character of the war was entirely changed. 
As we no longer had large tracts of territory to defend, it was 
no longer necessary to keep great armies permanently in the 
field. Our operations were confined to garrisoning Calais, 
Brest, Bordeaux, and a few smaller fortresses on the coast, 
which were useful bases for fitful incursions into French 
territory — ' noble ports and entries whence to grieve the 
adversary.'-^ The Duke of Brittany's strongholds were also 
garrisoned by our troops, and his struggle against his feudal 

» Rot. Pari., ii. 304 ; Bl. B. 1878, p. 185. 

'^ Proiss., vol. ii. chaps, xxxiv-vi. * Wals., i. 314. 

* Longman's Ed. III., ii. 233-4 ; Mr. Oman, in Social England, ii, 178. 

* Bot. Pari., iii. 34, 36. 


superior the French King was kept aHve by our aid. These 
very limited operations, though less absurdly out of proportion 
to our resources than the attempt to hold a third of France, 
were still a strain on our finances which proved unendurable 
to the taxpayer and prevented the revival of prosperity. 
Further, the command of the sea being lost, the Spanish 
and French fleets made continual descents on the English 
coast towns, with results fatal to our shipping and commerce. 
This miserable state of things continued for ten years more, 
before we could learn to swallow our pride and submit to 
treat with the enemy. The decline in trade, the heavy war 
taxation, the failure and disgrace of the English arms and 
policy, are conditions which continue without relief throughout 
the period covered by the ensuing chapters. Such conditions 
add bitterness to party strife, and lie underneath much of 
the political, social and religious agitation. Hard times and 
national disgrace have often aided men to reconsider an 
unthinking acceptance of the institutions of their country 
and the intellectual beliefs of their age. 

Probably the new ministers were not more to blame for 
these disasters than the Bishops whom they had succeeded. 
England had undertaken a task beyond her strength. The 
loss of the land was inevitable from exhaustion of men and 
money and from the loss of the sea. The loss of the sea 
appears to have been the result not of mismanagement only, 
but of real inferiority in maritime power. At the battle of 
Eochelle (1372), a defeat almost as signal as the victory of 
Sluys thirty years before, the capture of Pembroke's ships 
was only the assertion of a superiority already recognised. 
The House of Commons had already called attention to 
the decay of the mercantile marine from economic causes 
prior to the war,^ and as the fighting fleet was at that time 
composed of merchant ships seized for the King's service, 
the decline of the marine was tantamount to the decline 
of the navy. 

But although the faults of the ministers were not the sole 
cause of the disasters that befel their country, there was gross 

» Bot. Pari., ii. 306, sec. 31 ; ii. 311 and iii. 5, sec. 17. 

1371-76 THE DUKE 9 

corruption in the military and civil services, which hastened the 
downfall. Prince Edward lay slowly dying, unable to administer 
a^lfairs. Next to him, his brother John of Gaunt was far the 
greatest subject in the land. By a fortunate accumulation of 
titles and estates, he stood in rank and wealth far above the 
other nobles. His superiority over them all was recognised 
by the title of Duke, then borne by no other Englishman save 
the Prince of Wales. But the personal influence of John of 
Oaunt over the King was the chief reason of his complete 
supremacy in England, a supremacy which as long as Edward 
lived was only broken during the session of the Good Par- 
liament. The King, as a patriotic statesman complained, 
was governed ' by the counsel of one man only.' ^ He was 
dotingly submissive to his favourite son, and even consented 
to be on terms of intimacy with such dependents of the 
House of Lancaster as Lord Latimer and Sir Kichard Stury.^ 
A more disreputable influence was exercised over the once 
glorious dictator of Europe, who now in dishonourable old 
age practised the vice which puts princes most easily into the 
hands of intriguing politicians. Alice Perrers, the King's 
mistress, was in close league with John of Gaunt. 

As long as Edward lived, the only danger against which 
the Duke had to guard came at the season of year which 
brought together to Westminster the representatives of a 
people easily incensed by bad government, and those nobles 
who were his natural rivals or personal enemies. The 
Parliament of 1373, however, passed off very successfully for 
those in power ; partly because they succeeded in putting an 
■entirely false colour on the military events of the year. While 
the remnants of the splendid army which the Duke had led 
across France were perishing of cold and hunger in the 
Auvergne, the Chancellor had the face to declare that, ' by 
their good and noble government and deeds of arms,' our 
generals had ' done great damage and destruction to the enemy 
over there.' ^ His demand for money was generously answered 
by a grant of taxes for the next two years."* Although grants 

1 O. E. B., p. 78. 

2 Wals., i. 320 ; Chron. Ang., 76, 87, 102-3 ; Eot. Pari, ii. 823, ' privez 
-entour le roi.' 

» Bot. Pari, ii. 313. " Ibid. ii. 317. 


had often before been made to cover as long a period, the use 
made of this hberahty by the ministers was unusual. It had 
always been understood that the Houses should be called to- 
gether every year, or every two years at utmost ; but Parlia- 
ment was now left in abeyance till 1376.^ Thus released from 
criticism, John of Gaunt's friends were for two years and a 
half absolute masters of England. His return to England in 
April 1374 facilitated the establishment of a system of official 
robbery, carried on for the benefit, not of a class or a party, 
but of a clique of his personal adherents. 

The Duke was at the head of a small, but well-organised 
hierarchy of knaves, who made a science of extorting money 
from the public by a variety of ingenious methods. The 
three most active members of the Eoyal Council at this time 
were Lord Latimer, the confidant of the Duke and the King ; 
Lord Neville, Latimer's son-in-law and heir, bound also by 
indenture to serve John of Gaunt in peace and war with a 
regiment of retainers ; ^ and Eichard Lyons, one of the 
wealthiest London merchants, the financier of the unscrupu- 
lous gang. The Duke, who would, in the language of another 
age and another hemisphere, have been known as the ' political 
boss,' secured to them complete control of the Privy Council 
board, where, accordingly, most of the ' big deals ' were made. 
The commerce of the country centred on the depot at Calais^ 
through which all the wool and cloth exported had to pass, 
to be there taxed by the home government before it left 
the English lines. Eichard Lyons got leave from Lord 
Latimer and his other confederates on the Privy Council 
to carry his own wool direct to other ports on the Con- 
tinent ; he also obtained similar licenses to avoid the taxation 
and competition of the Calais mart, for a number of other 
merchants who presumably bought them from him at a hand- 
some figure. At another time, when his friends appointed 
him farmer of the customs of Calais, he took the opportunity 
to levy a higher duty than that authorised by Parliament. 
When called to account for thus robbing the merchants of 

' SeeAp. 

"^ Nicolas, Historic Peerage, Nevill; Test. Vet., 108; Chron. Aug., 80; 
Dugdale, 296. 

1371-76 THE DUKE'S FEIENDS 11 

England, he openly pleaded that, although it was true he had 
taken some of the surplus for himself, he had had the ' com- 
mand of the King and his counsel to do so.' Both Lyons 
and Lord Neville found a very profitable form of investment 
in the government debts. Taking advantage of the state of 
national credit, they bought up some of the King's debts from 
his despairing creditors at an immense discount. They then 
took advantage of their position on the council board to pay 
themselves out of the impoverished exchequer to the full 
amount of the original liability. Public sentiment was scarcely 
less shocked by another commercial transaction in which 
Lyons and Lord Latimer embarked their fortunes. To make 
a ' corner ' in any kind of merchandise, especially victuals, 
was, in the Middle Ages, not only immoral but illegal. 
Nevertheless the regulations against enhanced prices were 
grossly violated by the great merchant and the great lord, who 
were accused of ' buying up all the merchandise that came 
into England and setting prices at their own pleasure, where- 
upon they made such a scarcity in this land of things saleable 
that the common sort of people could scantily live.' ^ 

Besides these arch-thieves, there were sharks and depen- 
dents who received or bought concessions and privileges from 
the King's councillors, and abused them to the full. One man 
was made Mayor of Calais, another controller of customs 
at Yarmouth ; both imitated those to whom they owed their 
nomination, by exacting illegal dues. A London merchant 
obtained through the agency of Richard Lyons a monopoly 
in the sale of wine in the capital, and, in the absence of all 
competition, raised the prices beyond the limit set by the 
regulations of the city.^ Prom top to bottom the system was 
all one structure, of which the Duke of Lancaster was the key- 
stone. All depended on his supremacy at head-quarters. In 
return he exacted requisitions from Latimer, Lyons and the 
rest, who were, in fact, little more than his sponges.-^ The 
Chancellor and Treasurer appear to have had no hand in these 
transactions. In the autumn of 1375 Lord Scrope resigned 

' Rot. Pari., ii. 323-5 ; Chron. Ang., 79. 

2 Eot. Pari., ii. 330, sec. 47 ; ii. 327-8, sees. 31 and 33. 

' Chron. Aug., 79. 


the Treasurership in disgust at what he saw going on around 
him.^ His successor in the Treasurership was Sir Eobert Aston ; 
Knyvet had succeeded Thorpe as Chancellor, in 1372. But 
as, in the day of vengeance, neither the new Treasurer nor 
the new Chancellor was removed from office or otherwise 
called to account by the indignant Commons, it seems clear 
that John of Gaunt and his clique had overborne the regular 
ministers rather than acted with their concurrence. 

* For date of his resignation, see Charter Roll Signatures, MS. Record 
Office ; for reason, see Bot. Pari., ii. 323, sec. 17, and 326, sec. 27. 



POLITICS, 1376-1377 


During the reigns of the later Plantagenets, one principle of 
the Constitution was more fully appreciated and more 
rigorously obeyed than in the days of the Tudor and Stuart 
dynasties. Not Eichard the Second in the wildest fit of his in- 
solence, or John of Gaunt in the haughtiest pride of his power, 
ever dared to impose unauthorised taxes on the subject without 
the consent of the Estates of the Eealm. In the early 
summer of 1376 an empty exchequer at length compelled the 
Privy Council to summon the Good Parliament, with mis- 
givings akin to those with which the ministers of Charles 
the First, under the same compulsion, summoned together a 
greater assembly, and called down on themselves a more 
terrible retribution. During the last week of April, London 
and Westminster were alive with preparations. In the 
Abbey the monks prepared their Chapter-house for the use 
of the Commons ; in the streets of the city long trains of 
retainers and gentlemen clattered past admiring throngs, up 
to the doors of private mansions where the great nobles 
held their courts. The knights of the shires took up 
their quarters with friends, or in the public inns that even 
then were famous for their comfort, while the representatives 
of a hundred cities of England were entertained and awed by 
the unrivalled hospitality of the burghers of London. Hosts 
and guests. Lords and Commons, were during these days busily 
engaged in plotting a combined attack of all classes on the 

14 POLITICS 1376-7 

clique who had mismanaged the affairs of the nation 
without regard to the interest of the few or the many, of the 
high or the low. It may be well to pause here and examine 
who were the parties concerned in the most famous of 
mediaeval Parliaments. 

The protagonists of the scene that was opening were the 
members of the House of Commons. Thirty-seven counties of 
England sent up two members each, and about one hundred 
cities and towns enjoyed the same privilege. But because 
there were two hundred borough-members and only seventy- 
four knights of the shires, it did not follow that the will of 
the former preponderated in the assembly. The necessity 
of proportional representation never occurred to the makers 
of the English Parliamentary system, and it was only in the 
days of the Stuarts, when decisions came to lie with the 
actual majority, that the numerical weakness of the country 
members became a real grievance. In unsophisticated 
early times, when power went rather by the handling 
of sword-hilts than by the counting of heads, the knights 
stood for more in the political world than the peaceful 
burghers. The towns of England, though important and 
respected, were not the armed and aggressive communes of 
France, or the free cities of the Empire. Few would have 
been willing to fight for any political object except their own 
privileges and commerce, as they showed in the Wars of the 
Eoses. The towns were not only less military, but less rich 
in men and resources than the country. The population of 
rural England was still several times as great as that of all 
the towns together. It is not therefore surprising to find that 
for all purely political purposes the seventy-four knights of 
the shire were the real House of Commons. The borough 
members sent up petitions which influenced the economic 
policy of the Government in questions of finance, commerce 
and taxation, and in all matters which directly concerned the 
towns ; but they considered State affairs as outside their 
province. The overturning and setting up of ministries, the 
hattles with the Court or the Lords, were almost entirely the 
work of the county representatives. The chroniclers of the 
time, when describing any political move of the Lower House, 


spoke only of the ' knights,' and when ministers wished to pack 
a parhament, their only care was to manage the returns from 
the counties.' 

But there was one marked exception to the political insig- 
nificance of the towns. The merchant princes of London 
were among the greatest men of the land. Eichard Lyons 
and John of Northampton, Walworth, Brembre and Philpot 
were of the utmost importance to the parties to which they 
respectively adhered. Their wealth made them indispensable 
to an almost bankrupt government, and, as rulers of London, 
they had at their command a force formidable in itself, and 
still more formidable on account of its location. What the 
national guard and the mob of Paris were to Versailles in 
1789, that the militia of the wards and the apprentices of 
London were to Westminster in 1376. More than once in 
this period the government was obliged to modify its policy, 
because it had no regular army round the Court to enforce its 
will on the city. During the Good Parliament, the House of 
Commons sat protected from John of Gaunt by the armed 
force of London, just as two and a half centuries later it was 
similarly protected from Charles the First. If the knights had 
been roughly handled, a formidable array would have poured 
out of London Gates into the precincts of Westminster, and 
it was thought at the time that this consideration withheld 
the Duke from using violence.^ 

The House of Commons was not at this time a battle- 
ground of parties ; it was itself a party.^ There were many 
good reasons why the members should be of one mind. The 
upper middle classes who sent them to Westminster were 
at this time struggling for existence against economic distress, 
which they attributed partly to oppression and misgovern- 
ment by the nobles, partly to the rebellious attitude of the 
peasants, partly to the privilege and extortion of an over- 
grown Church. The key to their political action during the 
period may be found in the petitions, mostly refused, that 
are appended in long lists to the proceedings of every 
Parliament recounted in the Eolls. From these, several 
distinct motives for the policy of the Commons can be 

' See Ap. 2 chron. Aug., 74-5. 3 See Ap. 

16 POLITICS 1376-7 

made out. First tliey desired that the central Government 
should cease to be corrupt, and that the money wrung from 
the public at a time of general distress should be honestly 
spent for public purposes, and not appropriated by a small 
clique. Secondly, they desired that local order should be 
kept, especially in the country districts, where the anarchical 
elements that got the upper hand in the next century during 
the Wars of the KoseF, were already at work. The lawless 
retainers of the nobles and the bands of discontented 
peasants on strike were equally offensive to the small gentry 
and yeomen. Next the Commons required that the war 
should be efficiently conducted to an honourable, if not a suc- 
cessful, end. They asked not for peace but for better conduct 
of the war. In spite of the losses inflicted by the enemy's 
fleet on the coast districts, in spite of the pressure of taxation 
on the inland counties, we never find a petition of the Lower 
House for peace. In this matter the nation showed more 
spirit than good sense. If the hopeless war had been brought 
to a close before Edward the Third's death, instead of ten years 
later, the country would have been spared much misery ; but 
it was not unnatural that the memory of Crecy and Poitiers 
should induce the Commons to attribute the disasters of the 
war to no other cause than the undoubted corruption and in- 
efficiency of the ministers. Although these considerations 
united to throw the Commons into strong opposition to John 
of Gaunt and his friends, there was one question on which 
they sympathised to some degree with his policy. The desire 
to reform and tax the Church was shared by laymen of both 
parties. Even the Commons of the Good Parliament, after 
acting with the Bishops against the Duke for two months 
of session, sent up a score of petitions against ecclesiastical 

The House of Lords, unlike the House of Commons, was 
not a party in the State, but a battleground of parties, and 
still more of personal interests and ambitions. It is im- 
possible to say how far affairs in the Upper House were 
decided by taking the opinion of the hundred and odd lesser 
peers, how far by agreement between the leaders alone. There 

> Eot Pari, ii. 333, pet. xv., pp. 337-340, pets, xliv-lvi., p. 342, pet. lix. 

1376-7 THE LOEDS 17 

were a dozen great men, all of whom were either earls by 
birth or destined shortly to become so by creation ; their 
mutual hostilities and friendships were an important factor 
in the history of these years. At the assembly of the Good 
Parliament the question which each of these men had to 
decide, was whether he would support the friends or the 
enemies of the House of Lancaster. Now it so happened that 
the Duke had temporarily alienated all the great nobles by the 
policy he had lately pursued of excluding them all from the 
councils of the King. Lord Latimer was by no means one of 
the higher peers, yet he was the highest in rank and power 
who had lately been permitted to share the profits of office 
and corruption. The complaint ran that ' nobles and prelates 
who come to the Court for necessary business ' were not 
allowed an audience, but were ' forced to remain outside in 
the courtyard among the poor,' and be ' catechised by people 
not really sent them by the King.' ^ It was for reasons such 
as these that the Earls of Warwick, Arundel and Stafford, and 
Henry Percy, afterwards Earl of Northumberland, joined the 
Commons against John of Gaunt. They were not opposed to' 
him on any ground of principle, for he afterwards succeeded ' 
in securing their adhesion or neutrality by the coarsest bribes. 
But in April 1376 he stood alone on his defence, because he 
had sought to stand alone in his power. The Duke had besides 
mortal enemies whom no concession would have conciliated. 
The whole Courtenay family, the Earl of Devon and all his 
sons, of whom the chief was the Bishop of London, were special 
objects of his hatred. The Earl of March was another con- 
sistent and life-long enemy. The Prince of Wales was known 
to be dying, and his boy Eichard might die or might, it was 
darkly whispered, be set aside. It was considered possible 
that the Duke might play the part of King John to Eichard's 
Prince Arthur."^ But supposing Eichard out of the way, the 

' O. E. B., 77. 

^ Bot. Pari., ii. 330, sec. 50, and iii. 5, sees. 13-14. 


Edwabd III. 


Edward, Black Prince 



Lionel of Clarence 


John of Gaunt 

Bichard II. 

Philippa = Earl of March 

Henry IV. 

18 POLITICS 1376-7 

Earl of March was still the rightful heir, so that the hostility 
of the Earl and Duke was accentuated by the thought of future 
possibilities of which no one liked to talk above his breath. 
It was the fear that John of Gaunt might become King of 
England that made the timid among his enemies afraid to 
incense him, and- the bold ten times more eager to cripple 
a power that might some day attempt to seize the throne. 

These rumours made the Black Prince the most anxious 
of all to disarm the man who might hinder his son's 
succession. He had, indeed, every motive for hostility to the 
Duke. On the bed of sickness where he had been stretched 
since his return from France in 1370, his mental sufferings 
must have been as acute as his physical. Accustomed to lead 
his countrymen to victory, he lay there helpless, and heard 
month after month how our armies were allowed to waste 
away, how our fortresses were lost — sold, men said — by the 
Duke and his subordinates. Stories of their corruption 
and extortion at home reached him daily. He knew 
how they led his father as they wished, and degraded 
that foolish and sensual old man in the eyes of the nation. 
One week of health, and he could have resumed his old 
ascendency over the King and the government of the land ; 
but he was doomed to lie still and pine away. Last of all, 
there was this whisper of a conspiracy against his child's suc- 
cession. All his feelings as a patriot, as a son, as a father, 
combined to produce an intense feeling of hatred against John 
of Gaunt. When the Good Parliament met, he was unable to 
take his seat in the House of Lords, but from his sick bed at 
Kennington Palace, near Lambeth, he could exert influence 
over the political crisis. He was still the heir-apparent ; 
he might still, if only for a short while, outlive his father ; he 
was still the greatest general of the age ; he was still the 
darling of the nation. The friendly feeling he expressed 
towards the action of the Commons in the Good Parliament 
was a strong inducement to John of Gamit to bow to the 

The Bishops were always an important element in the 
House of Lords, the more so as their action there was con- 
sistently directed towards definite objects. One of these was 

1376-7 THE BISHOPS 19 

to keep all that the Church had got, and to get as much more 
as should be from time to time possible. It was an age in 
which to defend the Church was becoming necessary, and to 
apologise for her difficult ; so the Bishops braced themselves for 
the task, and stood by each other shoulder to shoulder, stoutly 
resisting every proposal of reform. Secondly, as they had 
long been accustomed to fill the great offices of state, they 
could not see themselves deprived of administrative power^' 
without an effort to regain it. Both as Church defenders and 
as seekers after secular office, they were forced to be the 
enemies of the Duke of Lancaster. William of Wykeham was 
the chief representative of the office-holding Bishops whom 
the Duke and his partisans ha(^,ejected in 1371. His career 
had been typical of that union of Church and State in the 
persons of the Bishops, which men had now begun to call in 
question. His parents had been poor, and he had depended 
on charity for his education,^ but in reward for his services to 
the King as overseer and diplomatist, he had climbed from 
place to place in the Church, the one institution in the land 
where the poor could be raised high without causing jealousy 
or surprise. It was this democratic aspect of the Church 
which rendered her a comparatively good element in politics. 
Only three out of the whole bench were at this time men 
of great family. The Bishops who became ministers of the 
Crown felt their responsibility more than they would have 
done if they had been younger sons of great lords. 

The three Bishops who were of noble birth rose rapidly, 
and possessed an influence strong out of all proportion to 
their numbers. Neville had lately been made Archbishop 
of York ; Courtenay of London, and Arundel of Ely were 
destined in turn to fill the throne of Canterbury. Courtenay, 
already as Bishop of London the second man in the Church, 
was a younger son of the Earl of Devon, and possessed in 
full the violent temper and overbearing manners of a great 
noble. Fierce opposition to John of Gaunt and hatred of 
all heretics were his two leading motives in politics and 

The Primate, Simon Sudbury, was a man of very different 

' Lowth's Life of Wykeham, pp. 9-10 and 13, ed. 1758. 


20 POLITICS 1376-7 

character. He was no aristocrat, but a humble and peaceable 
servant of the Church, who yet had the rare sense to know 
that she was open to criticism. He never would take the 
lead in the persecution of heresy. Similarly in politics, if 
Courtenay wanted any steps taken against the Duke of 
Lancaster, he had to force the hand of his kindly and lethargic 
chief. Another leader of the Bishops in their opposition to 
the existing ministry was Brunton of Eochester, a man who 
differed as much from Sudbury as from Courtenay. A fire of 
moral indignation burnt in his heart, which blazed out in his 
sermons when he attacked the social abuses of his age with 
an impetuosity and courage worthy of Hugh Latimer. Even 
when these abuses took a political form, he spared not his 
voice for fear of any man, and his pulpit eloquence was now 
directed against the adherents of John of Gaunt. ' Our 
modern rulers,' he cried, ' those overthrowers of truth and 
justice, wishing to raise their lords to the altars ^ as they know 
how, have proclaimed the coward a hero, the weak man strong, 
the fool a wise man, the adulterer and pursuer of luxury a 
man chaste and holy. And in order to turn all interests to 
their advantage, they encourage their King in notorious 
crimes, whilst, so as to be seen by all coming to Court, they 
set up the idol of worldly fear in order to prevent anyone, of 
whatsoever rank or condition he may be, from daring to stand 
up against, or castigate, the evil doers.' ^ Some of the lesser 
Bishops, however, were not so violently hostile to the Duke. 
Ealph Erghum of Salisbury served him in the administration 
of his Duchy of Lancaster and adhered to his party in the 
State ; several others afterwards fell under suspicion of lend- 
ing him temporary support, where the interests of the Church 
were not directly threatened. 

The Abbots who were summoned to Parliament took no 
more part in politics than the isolated institutions over which 
they presided took in the life of the country in general. 

On April 29, the Chancellor Knyvet addressed both 
Houses assembled in the Painted Chamber, and asked for a 

' Viz. ' to be worshipped.' " 0. E. B., 72. 

April 1376 LOED PEECY 21 

grant of taxes, in the manner customary, whereupon the 
Commons retired as usual to the Chapter House of the Abbey 
to consider the demand. They were determined to withhold 
supplies until they had called the Privy Council to account, 
but they knew that in order to do this they must associate 
strong protectors with their action. Making use of a pre- 
cedent set in the last Parliament, they asked that certain 
lords should sit in the Chapter House with them, and take 
part in their consultations. The request was granted, and 
they proceeded to choose for themselves four Bishops, four 
Lords, and four Earls. Among the Bishops whom they chose 
were Courtenay of London and Spencer of Norwich, fearless 
and violent, alike as champions of the Church and as enemies 
of the Duke ; Spencer had lately been robbed of an advowson 
by the King's favourites.^ The chief among the four lords 
whom they chose was Lord Henry Percy, the hereditary vice- 
roy of the wild borderlands of the kingdom, destined to be 
known to posterity as the hero of Chevy Chase, the Earl of 
Northumberland in Shakespeare's ' Henry IV.,' and the father 
of Harry Hotspur. In reality, he much more closely resembled 
the calculating politician of the play, who takes care to be 
absent from Shrewsbury Field, than the romantic hero of the 
ballad in the famous Cheviot fight, at which, indeed, as a 
matter of historical fact, he was not present.^ Like the Earls 
of Argyle in the seventeenth century, he lived a double life, 
one of warfare among his wild retainers and enemies at home, 
another of party intrigue at the capital, where his feudal 
power in the North helped to win him a high place in the 
councils of the State. Throughout his life the part he played 
at Westminster was that of a proud but calculating and am- 
bitious man, determined to make his power felt and to have 
his family recognised as one of the greatest in England. In 
the spring of 1376 it was his cue to bring John of Gaunt to 
terms by showing how formidable an antagonist he could be. 

> Bot.'Parl., ii. 330, sec. 48. 

^ He is the ' Earl Percy ' of the ' more mocTern ballad of Chevy Chase ' in 
Percy's Beligues. The ancient ballad of ' Chevy Chase ' speaks of ' Lord Percy,' 
which might mean either Hotspur or his father. The ballad of the ' Battle of 
Otterburne ' agrees with Froissart and the truth, that it was Hotspur and not 
his father, the Earl, who fought the Scotch at Otterburne. 

22 POLITICS 1376-7 

The Commons also asked for four Earls — Suffolk, a man 
usually of little importance in politics ; March, the Duke's 
most powerful and constant enemy ; lastly, Warwick and 
Stafford, who succeeded, like several other noblemen on this 
occasion, in running with the hare and hunting with the 
hounds. But however equivocal the conduct of one or two 
members of the committee afterwards proved to be, all the 
Bishops, Earls and Lords when first appointed pledged them- 
selves to support the Commons and were all regarded as 
champions of the cause. ' The knights,' says the chronicler, 
' made them swear to be of their counsels ; nor was it difficult 
to extort this oath from them, since each and every one of 
them loved most ardently the honour of the King, the weal 
of the realm, and the peace of the people.' ^ 

Even when thus strengthened by the patronage of the 
great, it was with no light heart that the Commons entered 
upon the task of impeaching the Privy Councillors.^ It was 
not hard to guess that they were taking the responsibility 
on to their own shoulders ; that when the tide began to turn, 
half their noble supporters would desert them and the other 
half retire to the country, leaving the leaders of the Commons 
to the vengeance of the Court. They were aware that their 
course was new, hazardous, and doubtful. The prerogative of 
the Commons to impeach great offenders at the bar of the 
Lords, afterwards so often and so famously employed, was 
devised as a new thing by this Good Parliament. Hitherto 
the Lower House had fought with the King for the right 
of granting and withholding taxes. That right had now 
been admitted, and it was accordingly employed as the 
means of overhauling the administration and government 
of the country, and of calling the servants of the Crown to 

As the Commons had a policy and a purpose of their own 
independent of their patrons, it was only natural that their 
leader should be, not Percy or March, but one of their own 
number. Such a man was found in Peter de la Mare, one of 
the two knights who represented the county of Hereford. He 

> Chro",i. Ang., 68-70 ; Bot. Pari, ii. 322. - Chron. Aug., 70-2. 

Apeil 1376 THE SPEAKEE 23 

was seneschal to the Earl of March/ a connection which 
intensified the animosity of his relations to the House of 
Lancaster without serving to protect him from the Duke's 
vengeance. He was a man fearless of consequences in an 
age of violence, one whose spirit imprisonment could not 
bend nor threats overpower, and who long continued in 
faithful service to the Commons. He was now for the first 
time elected to the honourable and dangerous ofiice of Speaker. 
As in those days the communications with the King and 
Lords were the most important and arduous part of the 
business of the Lower House, the Speaker who ' spoke ' for 
his brother members before the princes of the land had 
need to be the foremost and best politician among the 
knights. He was not merely an officer of highest dignity 
and an honoured judge between contending parties, for he 
was himself the leader of the party of the Commons. 
Peter de la Mare fulfilled the combined functions of Pym 
and Lenthall. 

As a result of debates in the Chapter House among them- 
selves and the Lords whom they had associated with their 
counsels, the Commons determined to display the standard of 
revolt, and fixed on a method of attack. When they appeared 
in full Parliament with the Speaker at their head, the plan 
they had formed in secret was unfolded in public. Peter de la 
Mare's first duty was to answer the demand for money made 
by the Chancellor. To have made the grant would have been 
to invite instant dissolution, but the Speaker not only refused 
the money until the grievances of the nation were satisfied, 
but took the financial position as the text for a sermon 
on the required reforms. He declared that the reason 
why the King was impoverished was because his advisers 
absorbed his income themselves ; that if it were not for the 
' privy friends of the King,' the treasury would still be full, and 
that therefore to grant further taxes until the administration 
had been reformed would do no good either to King or kingdom. 
He proceeded to enumerate the principal ways by which the 
nation had been robbed, and requested the King to fix a time 
to hear these charges brought home against the guilty. Such 

' Chron. Aug., 108. 

24 POLITICS 1376-7 

was the request of Peter de la Mare before the Estates of the 
Eealm,^ and, for the time, there was no one to gainsay him. 
That night, according to the report of his enemies, the Duke 
of Lancaster held consultation with his friends and deter- 
mined to bow to the storm. Hoping to save himself by a 
temporary desertion of his subordinates, whom it was proposed 
to impeach, he next morning appeared among the members of 
the House of Commons, addressed them personally with en- 
couraging and friendly words, and declared himself ready to 
correct whatever abuses they pointed out.^ 

The impeachment was commenced. Kichard Lyons, the 
great London merchant who had turned his place on the 
Privy Council to such advantage, was accused by the Commons' 
Speaker, and found guilty by the Lords, of the various 
financial and commercial frauds which he had committed. 
He endeavoured to save himself by a judicious distribution of 
the masses of wealth which by these malpractices he had 
accumulated. A barrel filled with gold was sent across the 
Thames to the Palace of Kennington, where the Black Prince 
lay dying, but the bribe was refused with contumely. In 
other quarters, it was said, his offers were better received, and 
this was the only reason why he escaped the capital punish- 
ment for which the public voice clamoured. He was con- 
demned to a heavy fine, deprived of the franchise of London, 
and committed to prison at the King's pleasure.^ 

But the central interest of Parliament, the real test of 
the strength of parties, was the trial of Lord Latimer, the 
biggest game at which the Commons dared to fly. Besides 
the financial peculations of which he had been guilty at 
home, he was charged by Peter de la Mare with the more 
serious treachery of receiving money from the national enemy 
in return for the betrayal of two strongholds in the north 
of France, named St. Sauveur and Becherel. As sufficient 
evidence could not be produced to secure judgment on the 
question, the sale of these fortresses must remain for ever one 
of the unsolved mysteries of the past. The circumstances of 
the trial, as related by a chronicler hostile to the accused, are 

' Rot. Pari., ii. 323. 2 Qhron. Aug., 74-6. 

3 Ibid. 79, 392, and Ixx ; Wals., i. 321 ; Rot. Pari., ii. 323-4. 

1376 A DAEK STOEY 25 

these. A messenger from Kochelle arrived in London with 
letters for the King, which, it was supposed, contained proofs 
of Latimer's understanding with the French. They were 
seized before they reached their destination, and the bearer 
was hidden away in prison. News of this reached Lord Percy, 
who at once laid a statement before Parliament ; but when the 
messenger was ordered to appear at the bar, he could not be 
found. It was whispered that he had been murdered, and 
men recalled the fate of the King of Navarre's messenger, 
who had a few years before been found strangled in prison, 
when in the custody of Lord Latimer. Such reports, whether 
true or not, got wind, and roused the populace to such acts of 
violence as throughout this period play the part of our modern 
indignation meetings. In wild suspicion of all the great men, 
many of whom they rightly thought to be playing a double 
part, the City mob threatened to burn to the ground the 
palaces of all the Earls that lay in and about London, unless 
the man was forthcoming. As usual the effervescence of 
the prentices acted as a wholesome tonic to the politicians. 
The messenger was at once produced. When, however, he 
appeared at the bar of the Lords, he had nothing to say 
against the accused peer. Thomas de Katrington, the 
governor of St. Sauveur, who had surrendered the fortress at 
the orders of Lord Latimer, and was the other chief witness 
on whom the prosecution depended, disappointed the Com- 
mons by similar silence. It was loudly declared that they 
had both been bribed, and certainly, if the messenger from 
Eochelle had really been in Lord Latimer's hands some days, 
there were a thousand ways in which he could have been 
silenced. It is, on the other hand, impossible to condemn 
even Lord Latimer solely on the hearsay of his enemies 
reported by a prejudiced chronicler.^ Only this is certain : 
that he was condemned, not on these charges of treason, but 
on the ground of his financial peculations, of which no doubt 
could exist. ^ The Duke thought it necessary, in view of the 
popular feeling, to pronounce sentence himself against the 
man who had trusted to him in committing the frauds ; he 
was condemned by the Lords to prison, he was deprived of 

' Chron. Aug., 81-6. ^ Eot. Pari, ii. 326, sec. 28. 

26 POLITICS 1376-7 

all his perquisites and offices at the petition of the Commons 
to the King, and his name was struck off the Privy Council. 
But it was rather a political disgrace than a judicial sentence 
of great severity ; for his goods were not confiscated, and his 
imprisonment was relaxed for bail. 

The sentences on Lyons and Lord Latimer were followed 
by the impeachment and condemnation of their subordinates. 
Lord Neville was removed from the Privy Council Board, Sir 
Eichard Stury was dismissed from about the King's person, 
and the merchants Elj^s, Peachy and Bury were forced to 
disgorge the results of those speculations on which they had 
entered under the patronage of Lyons and at the expense 
of the public.^ It was while these finishing touches were 
being given to the work of punishment, that the great 
supporter of the Commons was removed. The Prince of 
Wales, who had for six years been stretched on a bed of agony 
and weakness, had suffered a further relapse that spring, had 
sunk fast during the time of the impeachments, and was at 
length released from his misery in the early days of July. 
The prospect of deliverance from physical pain did not 
take away from him the bitterness of death. If ever a man 
died disappointed, it was the Black Prince. After tasting in 
early youth all the joys that fame, victory and power can 
bestow, he had seen the world slip from under his hand as he 
came to manhood, and was now dying at the prime of 
life with all his hopes unattained and all the work of 
his early triumphs undone. The memories of Crecy and 
Poitiers were like a dream or a legend in the face of the sordid 
realities of the present. It was now thirty years since, as a 
boy of sixteen, he had fought and won under his father's eye 
the great victory that first established the supremacy of the 
English arms. It was twenty years since, brought to bay 
behind the vineyards of Poitiers with a handful of English 
gentlemen and archers, he had destroyed the chivalry of 
France and led her King a captive to London, In those 
days there was no future that seemed too brilliant for him, 
the expectancy and rose of the fair State.' Yet since those 

1 Bot. Pari, ii. 327-30 ; Chron. Ang., 80, 87, 392 ; Wals., i. 321. 


glorious days life had been nothing to him but labour and 
sorrow. Now that he was leaving it himself, he had not even 
the satisfaction of hoping that his country and his son would 
see better times, for he knew the character of the men ta 
whose tender mercies they would be committed. It is not, 
therefore, surprising to find that he lay in fierce humour on 
his deathbed, refusing all pretence of forgiveness to his 
enemies of the Lancastrian faction. When on the last day 
the doors of the chamber were left open for all to enter and 
see him dying, Sir Eichard Stury, it was said, came to make 
his peace. But the sight of him only roused in the Prince a 
sense of the injustice of the Fates. ' Come, Eichard,' he said, 
* come and look on what you have long desired to see.' ' God. 
pay you according to your deserts,' he replied to the man's 
protestations ; ' leave me, and let me see your face no more.' A 
few hours later he made a more Christian ending.^ As there 
was no room on the mound where his ancestors were buried 
in Westminster Abbey for any other tomb save that of his 
father, his body was carried to Canterbury, as he had himself 
requested.^ There he lies, as it were in sullen exile and mute 
protestation against the degeneracy of his house, far from the 
father whose folly he had vainly tried to correct, and the son 
whose doom he might foresee, but could not avert. 

It was not without meaning that a cry of lamentation rose 
throughout the country on the news of his death.^ We must 
not indeed attribute to him virtues he did not possess. He 
had in the French wars committed acts of violence and cruelty 
that shocked even his own generation. But the massacre 
at Limoges seems to have been a spasmodic outbreak of 
wickedness not akin to his general character. Bishop 
Brunton of Eochester, a man as critical of his contemporaries 
as Langland or Wycliffe, speaks in high praise, not only 
of his wisdom, but of his goodness ; not only of his courtesy 
to the great, but of his kindness to the poor as landlord and 
master. But whatever his character as a man, he could 
prol)ably, as a King, have saved England from the violence of 

' Chron. Aug., 88-92. ^ Stanley's Westminster Abbey (2nd ed.), 146-8. 

=* Chron. Aug., 91, 92 ; Wals., i. 321 ; Wycliffe, Pol. Works, ii. 417-8 ; 
Bishop Brunton, 0. E. B., 98-100. 

28 POLITICS 1376-7 

political parties and from the civil wars with which the cen- 
tury closed, for these troubles came to a head only because 
Eichard the Second was but a boy at the beginning and a fool 
at the end of his reign. Such evils could have been averted by 
an experienced and popular monarch. But the Black Prince, 
although he might have given an appearance of peace to the 
political world, could not have cut off the evils of society at 
their root, by destroying the power of the nobles and breaking 
up their private armies of retainers. He might, like Henry 
the Fifth, have given a superficial appearance of prosperity 
for a time ; but the deluge which passed over England in 
the next century could only have been postponed, not 

Although the death of the Black Prince removed a security 
for the permanence of the work of the Good Parliament after 
the session was over, the Commons, as long as they remained 
assembled at Westminster, were able to continue their under- 
taking and defy the Duke. They instantly took steps to 
ensure the succession of Eichard, whom they compelled the 
King to produce in Parliament and to acknowledge as heir.' 
The Duke, determined at least to obtain the reversion of the 
Crown in case of his nephew's early death, appeared in the 
Chapter House among the assembled Commons, and boldly 
asked them to provide for such a case by passing a Salic 
law which would have excluded the Earl of March. ^ 
As the latter was sitting with the Commons as one of the 
associated Lords, he was presumably present when the request 
was made ; there is small wonder that it was refused. The 
relations of the Duke and the Earl were henceforth of no 
friendly character. The succession of one would have been 
the death-warrant of the other. Civil war was a practical 
certainty if Eichard the Second died young. 

The last prosecution was that of Alice Perrers. Very little 
is known of this lady. She appears to have been of gentle 
birth, although her enemies tried to prove the opposite. 
Ever since 1366 she had been receiving grants of land and 
money from her royal lover, till at last in 1373 the King gave 
her his own and his late wife's jewels, to the general scandal 

' Rot. Pari, ii. 330, sec. 50. ^ Chron. Ang., 92. 


of decent people. Her influence was used with Edward in 
favour of his younger son the Duke, and against the Black 
Prince. She was in the habit of attending the law courts to 
support her friends and overawe the judges like any other 
great n6ble, and she possessed herself of money and lands 
by fair means or foul.^ She had turned the Abbot of 
St. Alban's out of a manor, and so won for herself the 
undying hostility of the principal chronicles of the time 
which emanated from that monastery. She had better 
have had one estate less and kept their good report.^ 
An order was now passed in the Good Parliament forbid- 
ding women, in particular Alice, to appear in court in 
support of causes. She was also accused to the King, probably 
with truth, of being already married.^ The King affected to 
be greatly shocked at the discovery, but would allow no 
extreme measures to be taken. The further proceedings 
against her were of a nature suited to the superstition of the 
age. As it was supposed she was in league with a wizard, 
who by magic arts kept up the old man's infatuation for her, 
John Kentwood, member for Berks, and John de la Mare, 
member for Wiltshire, introduced themselves into the 
magician's house in disguise, and effected his arrest. The 
Duke was forced by public opinion to take measures against 
Alice. He called her before the Lords, where she was made 
to swear not to approach the King again, under penalty of 
banishment and confiscation of goods. The Bishops had 
orders to excommunicate her if she broke this oath ; but she 
was allowed to remain in England and in possession of her 
ill-gotten wealth.* 

It was now time to provide some better government for 
the ensuing year. It had not been found possible to attack 
John of Gaunt directly. He had acted as the spokesman of 
the Lords throughout the Parliament, he had himself con- 
demned Lord Latimer, and summoned Alice Perrers to the 
bar. He was still the greatest man in England, and would, 
unless strong measures were taken beforehand, recover the 

1 Diet, of Nat. Biog. ; Feed., iii. 989 ; Rot. Pari., ii. 329 ; Ghron. Ana., 96. 

2 Qesta Abhatum St. Alb. (E.S.), iii- 229-30. 

3 Chron. Aug., 97 ; Diet, of Nat. Biog. * See Ap. 

30 POLITICS 137G-7 

King's ear and the government of the country as soon as 
Parliament was dissolved. Indeed, since the Prince's death, 
he had already begun to show something of his wonted 
insolence. The knights of the shire justly complained that 
Lyons and Lord Latimer were living in luxury at home, 
feasting their partisans, as if they were victorious generals 
rather than convicted criminals awaiting further trial for 
other offences. But all that the Duke would consent to do 
was to remove the musicians from their feasts.^ At these 
wassailings there is little doubt the favourites told each other 
across the table, that a good time was coming for all who 
served the House of Lancaster, when the sour-faced knights 
had gone home to look after their granges and fishponds. A 
scheme was therefore drawn up and passed by the Good 
Parliament before the close of the session, to supplant the Duke 
in the government of the King and kingdom. Councillors were 
chosen for Edward, by whose advice he was to act. Several 
of them were always to be with him, and all communica- 
tions with the King on matters of policy were to be made 
by two or more of their body. The members were chosen 
by the Commons ; none of them were friends of the late 
favourites, some were the Duke's worst enemies, and most 
had taken an active part in the impeachments. The principal 
persons on the Council were the Earl of March, Lord Percy, 
the Primate Sudbury, Courtenay Bishop of London, and 
William of Wykeham, the leader of the Bishops' Ministry 
turned out in 1371. If these men could have maintained the 
position assigned them by Parliament, John of Gaunt's power 
would have come to an end.^ 

But it was not destined to die yet. The last proceeding 
of the members of the Good Parliament, after voting in July 
the money-grant which they had refused in April, was to 
attend on the King where he lay sick in his manor of Eltham 
on the borders of Kent. The object of this attendance was to 
hear the royal answers vouchsafed to the mass of petitions 
sent up in the course of the session. The Commons heard with 
disgust that the great majority had been refused or left without 

' Chron. Aug., 93-4. 
2 Rot. Pari., ii. 322 ; Chron. Aug., Ixviii. See Ap. 


reply, among others those specially directed against John of 
Gaunt and the corrupt practices of the late Privy Council. 
It appears from the tone of these replies to the Commons' 
petitions that, in spite of the newly appointed body of King's 
advisers, the Duke had always kept or already recovered the 
royal confidence. The Commons asked that none of the 
impeached should be pardoned ; the King replied that ' he 
would do his will as seemed good to him.' They asked that 
those who had been found guilty of peculation should not be 
employed again in the public service ; they were put aside by 
a bare promise that such cases should be tried by the King 
and his Council. After hearing these unsatisfactory replies, 
nothing remained for the members but to ride home each to 
his shire or borough, with mixed feelings of joy over the good 
work done and forebodings as to its permanence.^ 

Even if John of Gaunt did not inspire these replies 
to the petitions, as there is good reason to suspect he did, 
he was soon completely reinstated at Court and in power. 
He induced the King to recall Lord Latimer as a first 
step. This was in itself a defiance of the late Parliament, 
but it was followed by an act still more decided. The 
Council appointed by the Commons to govern the King 
and kingdom was without further ceremony dissolved.^ 
This very questionable exercise of royal prerogative by an 
old man stretched on his sick-bed could not have been 
carried through if all the members of the Council had 
stood together ; for they included the most powerful Bishops 
and barons in the kingdom, and were supported by public 
feeling. John of Gaant, however, had undermined the 
loyalty of several to their colleagues and to the nation. 
Lord Percy, the chief of the opposition in the late Parliament, 
and next to March the greatest peer on the Council, was 
brought over to the Lancastrian side, became the confidant of 
the Duke, and obtained the chief share of the spoils. It is 
probable that the Earls of Arundel and Stafford also 
acquiesced in the Duke's usurpation of the power delegated to 
them in Parliament, for they did not scruple to appear six 

' Rot. Pari., ii. 322, sec. 9, 333 pet. xiv., 355 pet. cxxx, 356 pet. cxxxiii. 
* Chron. Aug., 102-3 ; Wals., i. 322. 

32 POLITICS 1376-7 

months later as his supporters. The Duke had been isolated 
from all the great lords before the Good Parliament. He 
took care not to be so again. 

But there were some members of the late Council who 
were too honest or too implacable to be conciliated. One of 
these was the Earl of March. The Duke ordered him to cross 
the sea to Calais in pursuance of of&cial duties. The Earl, 
fearing that treachery and assassination would be devised 
against him when on the high seas or shut up in the little 
station of Calais, refused to go. He preferred to resign his 
post as Marshal of England, which was handed over, as 
an earnest of further promotion, to the renegade Lord 

The Earl's Seneschal, Peter de la Mare, the hero of the 
Commons, was seized by those whom he had brought to 
justice, and flung into prison, without trial, at Nottingham 
Castle. It was even reported that the Duke would have 
taken his life, had not his new ally. Lord Percy, inter- 
vened.^ Percy's influence was no doubt of a moderating 
character. He could not for very shame consent to butcher 
in the autumn the colleagues with whom he had worked 
in the summer. The shrewd Northerner knew well enough 
that his interest might soon require him to desert the 
cause of Lancaster, as he had deserted the cause of 
England, and he shrank from incurring unnecessary odium 
with the popular party whom he might once more wish to 
lead. It is not therefore surprising to find that, unblushing 
as was the violence used against the constitution and the 
expressed will of the Commons, no blood was shed during 
these months of reaction. 

Another chronicler, less prejudiced against John of Gaunt, 
though generally less well informed, asserts that it was the 
Duke himself who saved De la Mare from the death meditated 
against him by Alice Perrers.^ The flimsy nature of the 
securities against this woman's return had already become 
evident. She had not been sent out of the country, but 
she had sworn to keep away from Court. As soon as 
her friends returned to power, she resumed her place by 

» Ckron. Aug., 108. ^ Ihid. 105. ^ j^^^_ 392-3. 


the King. The Bishops, who had undertaken in Parliament 
to excommunicate her if she broke her oath, allowed her to 
return uncensured. Sudbury, whose special duty it was to 
denounce her, was not the man to take so bold a step of his 
own initiative ; while Courtenay, whose conduct was never 
tinged with cowardice or irresolution, had probably not yet 
discovered how necessary it was to force the hand of his 
superior, if the Church was to take decided action. Sir 
Eichard Stury, who had had the remarkable interview with 
the dying Prince, also returned to the King. Under such 
influences Edward declared the Good Parliament to be no 
Parliament.^ As all its acts were cancelled, the Statute-book 
bears no trace of the greatest assembly of the period. These 
events demonstrate how powerless the Commons were to 
provide for the government of England, except during those 
months of each year in which they were actually sitting. 
It was necessary for them, if they were to impress their 
policy permanently on the administration, to be in alliance 
either with the King or with a combination of the greater 
lords. In the Black Prince they might have found such a 
King ; in Henry the Fourth and his son their ideal was 
realised, and an understanding between Crown and Commons 
effected. But an unselfish and patriotic group of nobles, 
on whom they could rely, they never found. The Earls 
had gone with the tide of the Good Parliament, but now 
March alone stood firm in the day of trouble. Percy, Arundel, 
Stafford, all proved false or timid. It was the want of 
political principle on the part of the nobility that destroyed 
mediaeval Parliamentary government, and plunged England 
into the Wars of the Eoses, where the power of the nobles 
perished as it deserved. 

Although the Duke's friends were again in power, they 
still stood publicly convicted of corruption and misgovern- 
ment. As it was impossible to clear themselves of this 
charge, they not unnaturally sought to convict their enemies 
of similar misconduct, and so divide the opprobrium. It was 

> Ckro7i. Aug., 103-5 ; Wals., i. 322. 


34 POLITICS 1376-7 

always John of Gaunt's object to accentuate the ever-existing 
quarrel between the Commons and the Church, who were now 
in temporary alliance against him. If he could show that the 
Episcopal ministers who had been turned out by the Parlia- 
ment of 1371 had been as corrupt as their successors, Lord 
Latimer and Eichard Lyons, he would at once raise the feeling 
of the laity against the Church and cover his own faults 
behind those of his adversaries. A great Council sat in 
October and November 1376, before which the Bishop of 
Winchester was tried on charges of corruption and mis- 
management during his Chancellorship ten years back. The 
Bishop, who had taken a chief part in the prosecution of Lord 
Latimer,^ and had been one of the Council of State elected 
by the Commons to supersede the Duke, was particularly 
obnoxious to those in power, and proportionately popular in 
the country. Detailed charges were now brought against him 
of peculation and public robbery, which, if they had been 
proved, would have put him on a level of rascality with the 
worst victims of the Good Parliament. The evidence that we 
possess about the conduct and result of the trial is so dubious 
and obscure that the question of his guilt must remain unde- 
cided. By standing on his episcopal privileges he prevented 
judgment against his person, but as ' many points had been 
proved against him which he could not deny, the lords of the 
Council, with the King's assent, seized and took away his 
temporalities to the King's pleasure. And they hunted the 
said Bishop from place to place both by letters and by writs, 
so that no man could succour him throughout his diocese, 
neither could he, neither durst he rest in any place ; and 
therefore he then brake up his household and scattered his 
men and dismissed them, for he could no longer govern and 
maintain them, sending also to Oxford, where upon alms and 
for God's sake he found sixty scholars, that they should 
depart and remove every one to their friends, for he could 
no longer help or find them ; and so they all departed 
in great sorrow and discomfort, weeping and with simple 
cheer.' ^ 

' Chron. Aug., Ixxii. 
2 Ibid. Ixxiv-lxxx ; Fosd., iv. 12-15 ; Chron. Ang., p. 106. 


Whatever things were or were not proved against William 
of Wykeham, his enemies did not succeed in turning public 
opinion against him. Whatever he had done had been done 
nearly ten years back, and the Lancastrian party only now 
revived the past in order to divert attention from their own 
later misdeeds. Popular sympathy coupled together, as 
martyrs of the popular cause, Wykeham, wandering homeless 
through his bishopric like Lear through his kingdom, and the 
Speaker of the House of Commons, fast in the dungeons 
of Nottingham Castle.^ The Bishops, during the next few 
months, rose to a height of popularity with the Londoners 
which they never attained again. Church questions were tem- 
porarily forgotten in political agitation against the tyranny 
and injustice of the Duke. The old King took his full share 
in the unpopularity of his ambitious son. Edward the Third 
had dismissed the Council elected by Parliament and destroyed 
the work of the Commons. His disreputable connection with 
Alice Perrers had become odious by the political'use that lady 
made of her influence. The feelings of anger and dislike with 
which his subjects iregarded their once glorious and popular 
monarch are recorded in a contemporary work of great in- 
terest. William Langland, the Malvern poet, had in 1362 
brought out the first edition of ' Piers Plowman.' The success 
of that extraordinary and fascinating work, and the wide 
diffusion of its ideas and imagery among the lower and middle 
classes, may be compared to the success of another work 
very similar in spirit, ' The Pilgrim's Progress ' of Bunyan. 
Langland spent the rest of his life in bringing out one edition 
after another, with many new cantos and fresh passages. 
Among other incidents added about 1377, we find a fable, 
comparing the Commons to an assembly of mice and rats who 
are consulting how to bell the cat, the old King Edward, who 
is at perpetual war with them. But the poet warns the 
Commons that even worse times will come when the old cat 
dies, and the kitten, Eichard the Second, is King ; for there 
will then be no one to keep order, and the horrors of anarchy 
will be let loose on the land.^ 

Before leaving London for Christmas festivities in the 

1 Chron. Aug., 126. "- P. PI., B, Prol., 145-207. 

D 2 


36 y POLITICS 1376-7 


country, the Duke and his new ally, Lord Percy, had held 

deep consultations over the plan of action to be adopted.^ 
The meagre grant of the Commons had been duly collected in 
September, and money had again to be demanded of a fresh 
Parliament. They determined on making certain concessions 
to public opinion, in view of the necessity of holding a Parlia- 
ment in January. In the first place, the Treasury and Chan- 
cery were put into the hands of two Bishops.^ The mere fact 
of bringing churchmen into the ministry at all, was a sign of 
weakness, a reversal of the principle laid down in 1371, a 
peace offering to Convocation, which assembled at St. Paul's 
a few weeks later. An attempt was also made to eradi- 
cate from the popular mind the impression that those in 
power were disloyal to the young Prince Eichard. The con- 
fiscated temporalities of the Bishopric of Winchester were 
made over to him, and the King was induced to allow his 
grandson and heir to open the Parliament, which he himself 
was too ill to attend.^ 

Besides a few cheap concessions, the ministers took more 
effectual measures to prevent a repetition of the scenes 
of last summer. The knights and gentry of the counties 
were the class of whom the present Government had most 
cause to be afraid. But the Crown had always a check on 
their action. The sheriff of each shire was an officer 
appointed by the ministers at Westminster. Now the lack of 
any clearly defined statute law about the election and return 
of members of the Commons enabled the sheriff either to 
summon only such electors as he thought fit, or to return his 
own nominee as duly elected when no election had taken 
place.'* In January 1377, John of Gaunt and his allies suc- 
ceeded in tampering with the returns so effectually that a 
House of Commons was sent up of a very different political 
complexion from the last. The statement of the chronicler, 
which reflects the general opinion of the time and is more 
than confirmed by other evidence, runs as follows : ' The 
Duke had obtained knights of the counties of his own choosing. 

' Gliron. Aug., 109. "' Feed., iii. 1069. 

3 Ibid. iii. 1070, 1075 ; Bot. Pari, ii. 361. 
* St., iii. 427-37 ; Bot. Pari., ii. 355. 


For all who in the last Parliament had played the man for 
the common weal, he procured, so far as he could, to be 
removed, so that there were not of them in this Parliament 
more than twelve, whom the Duke was not able to remove 
because the counties for which they were elected refused to 
choose others.' ^ 

On January 27 this packed Parliament met. The tone of 
the majority was soon tested by the question of choosing 
a Speaker. Sir Thomas Hungerford, the new member for 
Wiltshire, the Duke's seneschal, was elected. This proceeding 
seems to have aroused in the minds of the few veterans of 
the last assembly the thought of their old chief, Peter de la 
Mare, now lying in Nottingham Castle. They challenged his 
illegal imprisonment, and demanded his trial ; but their voices 
were overborne by the majority, and they were forced to be 
silent. Alarmed, possibly, by this attempted revolt, the 
Duke determined to crush all further murmurs on the part of 
the minority by associating with the sessions of the Commons 
a committee of Lords from his own party. He thus turned 
against the independence of the Lower House the very means 
which it had used so successfully for its own protection the 
year before. Percy, Warwick and Stafford had shared the 
counsels of the Commons in the Good Parliament as asso- 
ciated Lords ; they now were not ashamed to appear in 
the Chapter House, in the same capacity, but in the opposite 

On February 3, about a week after the opening of Parlia- 
ment at Westminster, Convocation had met at St. Paul's in 
London. The Bishops had seats in this assembly in their 
spiritual capacity, as well as in the House of Lords, where 
they sat in virtue of the baronies attached to their bishoprics. 
Yet here, where they stood on their own ground and among 
their own people, they showed less political energy than 
in the House of Lords. Convocation always voted the 
money demanded of it with little remonstrance or delay ; 
unlike the Commons, the clergy seldom withheld the grant in 

* Chron. Aug., 112. There were really only eight knights of the last 
Parliament re-elected. Bl. B., 193-7. 

■^ Chron. Ang., 112-3 ; BoL Pari, ii. 363-4. 

38 POLITICS 1376-7 

order to bring forward grievances. They knew that the 
Church was so unpopular and her riches so envied, that they 
must consent to heavy taxation as the only alternative to 
wholesale confiscation. But in this one Parliament of 
February 1377, the popular sympathy was so strongly with 
them in their resistance to the common enemy, John of 
Gaunt, that they took the unusual step of refusing supplies 
till grievances were redressed. The grievance that especially 
concerned the Church was the persecution of William of 
Wykeham. The Bishops positively refused to proceed with 
business till he appeared among them. Although he had 
received a summons to Convocation, he had been prohibited 
by the King from coming to London, an injunction which he 
could not venture to disobey without special orders from the 
Primate. To issue such a mandate in the face of the royal 
authority and the displeasure of the Lancastrian party was 
the last thing that Sudbury would have done if left to himself, 
but such pressure was put upon him by Courtenay, backed 
by the other Bishops, that he finally consented to summon 
Wykeham, in order that the proceedings might begin. The 
late comer was received among his colleagues with ever}^ sign 
of respect and rejoicing, and a petition was sent ujj by Convo- 
cation remonstrating against the usage he had received. The 
cry of the populace was still that he had not had a full trial, 
a complaint which was partly admitted by his adversaries 
when the King promised him a day in the Hilary term 
on which his case should be again heard.^ Unfortunately 
the promise was never kept, and a curtain of doubt must 
hang for ever round the guilt or innocence of this famous 

Encouraged by this success, the Bishops took another step, 
which amounted in its political aspect to a defiance of John of 
Gaunt. They summoned John WyclifTe to appear before them 
at St. Paul's to answer the charge of heresy. 

The Pope had no hand in this first attack on his great 
enemy .^ The English Bishops were acting entirely on their 
own initiative, to defend the Church in England against a 

> St., ii. 458, note 5 ; Foed., iii, 1069 ; Chron. Aug., 114 ; Rot. Pari., 
ii. 373, sec. 85. - See Ap. 


political movement to confiscate her property. This movement, 
in its primary stage of discontent at the wealth and abuses of 
the Church, may be traced farther back in the history of the 
century, but it had been for the first time brought into the 
region of practical politics by the support of John of Gaunt 
and his party. In 1371 the lines on which the struggle was 
to be fought had been laid down. The Bishops had been then 
turned out of lay office on the ground that they were church- 
men, the Church had been heavily taxed, and bold words had 
passed among the Lords, declaring the right of those whose 
ancestors had enriched her to take back their charity when 
she abused it.^ The nobility and gentry had a certain natural 
right to the endowments if any scheme of confiscation was 
carried out. The enormous wealth of religious bodies at this 
period was the result of a custom which had been in use for 
many centuries, and was still in vogue in Wycliffe's day, 
of bequeathing land or money to monasteries, churches, and 
chapels, to secure the repetition of masses for the soul of the 
donor. The wills of the period ^ show that numbers of lords 
and gentlemen, even at the height of the Lollard move- 
ment, died leaving something to the clergy for the good 
of their souls. Not only, therefore, was the memory of 
many grants to the Church quite fresh, but the process of en- 
dowment was still going on actively. In case of disendowment, 
an Earl or a Knight would of course put in his claim for lands 
or money of which he had been deprived by his grandfather's 
piety or his father's fears of purgatory. Even to the most 
democratic supporters of secularisation, this scheme was the 
only one that suggested itself as possible. ' Take their lands, 
ye lords,' wrote the high-souled and visionary author of ' Piers 
Plowman.' ^ Wycliffe himself saw no other plan except the 
restitution of the endowments to the classes that had enriched 
the Church, but he hoped that such a restitution would relieve 
the pressure of taxation on the poor.^ The idea of using the 
original endowments immediately for public objects, such as 

* Fasc. Z., xxi. 

^ Test. Vet. ; Test. Ebor. (Camden) ; Inquisitiones ad quod damnum, 
Calendar. •'' P. PI, C, xviii. 227. 

* Fasc. Z., 268 ; Trialogus, iv. cap. xix ; De Bias., 56, 198-9, 270-1. 

40 POLITICS 1376-7 

education, occurred to no one at this period. In all the 
literature on this great subject it is impossible to find a pro- 
posal to endow schools or colleges out of the property of the 
Church. Even two centuries later, John Knox was told by the 
Eegent Murray that such a scheme was a ' devout imagination,' 
and if John Wycliffe had made the suggestion to the Duke of 
Lancaster, it would have seemed still more absurd to him. 
But, although there was no proposal to devote the money 
directly to public ends, the Eeformers argued that the 
State would be as much benefited as the Church, if some of 
the vast wealth of the ecclesiastics passed into the hands 
of lay proprietors. ' Secular lordships, that clerks have full 
falsely against God's law and spend them so wickedly, shulden 
be given by the King and witty (wise) lords to poor gentlemen, 
that wolden justly govern the people, and maintain the land 
against enemies. And then might our land be stronger by 
many thousand men of arms than it is now, without any new 
cost of lords, or tallage of the poor commons, and be discharged 
of great heavy rent, and wicked customs brought up by 
covetous clerks, and of many talliages and extorsions, by 
which they be now cruelly pilled and robbed.' ^ 

There was much truth in this argument. The clergy had 
an undue quantity of the wealth and land of the country in 
their hands. It was difficult to tax any of it fully ; for the 
Papal Court was carrying on a rival system of taxation on 
Church lands, which made it impossible that they should 
pay their full duty to the State. The wealth of the friars 
might not be taxed at all. Meanwhile the spiritual courts, by 
extorting money from the laity, rendered still poorer the only 
part of the population that was fully taxable. It is not, there- 
fore to be wondered at, that when bad times and war-taxation 
began to bring general distress on all classes, the grievances 
of the State against the Church should come to the front. 

But there is a weakness in Wycliffe's proposal. If, as he 
suggests, the ' King and witty lords ' were to distribute ecclesi- 
astical property among lay proprietors, ' witty lords,' such as 
John of Gaunt and Lord Percy, would be far more likely to keep 
the monastic and episcopal estates for themselves than to give 

' S. E. W., iii. 216-7. 


them to ' poor gentlemen.' If there had been any secmity 
that the class of ' poor gentlemen ' and knights would have 
been endowed and strengthened by the scheme, nothing could 
have been better for English society as it then was. But un- 
fortunately the political machinery at Westminster made it 
almost certain that the nobles, who alone were strong enough 
to touch the Church, were strong enough also to take the lion's 
share of the spoils. The estates of the House of Lancaster 
and those of a dozen other great princes and nobles would 
have been doubled, and the troubles through which England 
passed with such difficulty in the next century would have 
been proportionately increased. If there was any evil that 
was as great a danger to England as the preponderating power 
of the clergy, it was the preponderating power of the nobility. 
If either had been much increased, even at the expense of the 
other, the Tudors might have found it impossible to save the 
Commons from the social bondage under which they laboured 
in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 

Although it is not likely that all these arguments occurred 
to men's minds at the time, it was clearly a suspicious cir- 
cumstance that John of Gaunt had made the scheme of 
disendowment peculiarly his own. It appears to have been 
his design, in these last months of Edward the Third's reign, to 
establish his party firmly at Westminster by methods however 
violent and unpopular, and then to regain popular esteem as 
the champion of the laity against the clergy.^ The distribu- 
tion of even a small fraction of the Church lands would have 
bound many to his party, and the mere prospect of it had 
probably had some effect already. Such, it appears, was his 
ambition ; the plan was never actually put forward in the 
shape of bills before Parliament, but it has come down to us 
through the evidence of the monastic chroniclers on one side 
and Wycliffe on the other. The policy is not unlike that 
attributed by their enemies to the great Whig lords at the 
close of the Stuart period, when they were accused of the 
attempt to erect their personal supremacy on the ruins of 
the Established Church. 

Lord Percy had fully entered into this part of the Duke's 

' Ghron. Aug., 115. ' Interea non .... laboravit.' 

42 POLITICS 1376-7 


plan. These two men were now the rulers of England, and, 
durmg the months of their supremacy, they lent their patron- 
age to Wycliffe. From its purely political aspect, the alliance 
was much like that of Oxford and Bolingbroke with Swift. In 
each case a pair of ambitious politicians wished to persuade 
the nation that a certain policy was desirable, and in each 
case they used for this purpose a man supreme in the arts of 
persuasion and debate. In the days of Edward the Third theo- 
logical argument in Latin and popular preaching in English 
were weapons as uniquely formidable as pamphleteering in the 
days of Queen Anne. If Swift carried the art of pamphleteer- 
ing to perfection, I Wy cliffe was at once the greatest schoolman 
and the greatest English preacher of his day. By the subtle 
but wearisome methods of late mediaeval dialectic, he was able 
to recommend to the Oxford students new views on religion 
and society, which must in reality have grown up in his 
mind by a process more like intuition ; nor was he less for- 
midable when in the pulpit he preached to all classes the 
doctrines which he had first put into shape for the learned. 
Such, viewed as a political force, was John Wycliffe, and 
as such he was, for a few years, patronised by these states- 
men, who had approached some of his conclusions from a 
very different standpoint and with far less disinterested 

Wycliffe had some years before published in his ' De 
Dominio Civili ' an elaborate scholastic argument for the 
secularisation of Church property. His light was not hid 
under a bushel, for he was aclmowledged to be the greatest 
theological scholar and thinker in a centre of learning and 
thought which has no parallel in importance to-day. Men 
went to and from Oxford and carried with them from the 
lecture-room to the country the ideas which moulded religion, 
politics, and society. There were indeed two Universities, but 
there was only one Oxford ; and at this time Wycliffe reigned 
there supreme. From there his opinions had emanated over 
the country, and from there John of Gaunt and Lord Percy 
invited him up to London to preach for the cause of disen- 
dowment in the churches of the City.^ 

' Chron. Aug., 116-7. 


Wycliffe made the best use of this opportunity. He 
formed a body of su^jporters among the citizens of the capital, 
and among the nobility of the Court he found ready listeners.^ 
He passed from church to church in London and the neigh- 
bourhood, preaching everywhere what laymen had long been 
thinking, but had never yet heard proclaimed with such 
boldness, or defended with such learning and subtlety. It 
was impossible for the Bishops and clergy of all England, 
assembled in the city for Convocation, to allow their authority 
to be defied with such publicity, while they sat still and 
debated of other matters. Least of all was it possible for so 
proud and fierce a man as Courtenay to hear himself and his 
order attacked in his own diocese, and in his own churches, 
by an unauthorised priest from Oxford. Again Archbishop 
Sudbury attempted to avoid action ; again his hand was 
forced by his subordinates.^ He reluctantly consented to 
summon Wycliffe before him at St. Paul's. 

On February 19 the Bishops assembled in the Lady 
Chapel behind the altar and waited for the accused to appear. 
The London mob crowded the whole length of the aisle, up 
which the prisoner had to pass from the main entrance. 
The personal feelings of the Londoners towards Wycliffe were 
not those of aversion, and a year later, they broke in on 
such another tribunal to rescue him from the Bishops. But 
London was now thinking not of Wycliffe, but of John of 
Gaunt. The political existence of the great city was that 
week in fearful danger. The ministers had, in the name of 
the King, introduced into Parliament then sitting at West- 
minster a bill framed to take the government of London 
out of the hands of the Mayor and put it into the hands of 
the King's Marshal, who was at present represented by Lord 
Percy. The measure was in the hands of Percy himself, and 
of Thomas of Woodstock, the younger brother and friend of 
John of Gaunt, who had just come of age, and now, for the 
-first time, appeared in the political arena .^ If the bill had 
been passed, if, which was far more difficult, it had been 
enforced, the lives and liberties of the citizens would have 
been at the mercy of the ministers, the support of London 
' Chron. Aug., 116. ^ Ibid. 117. ' Ibid. 120-1. 

44 POLITICS 1376-7 

would have been removed for ever from the House of 
Commons, and the dread of London from the evildoers at the 
Court of Westminster. It may be presumed that citizens that 
day were thinking of matters that concerned them more 
nearly than the merits of the prisoner and his judges. 

Wycliffe arrived at the door of the great Cathedral and 
moved slowly up the crowded aisle which boasted to be the 
longest in Christendom. Four friars from Oxford, each re- 
presenting one of their four orders, came with him to defend 
his doctrines. But the prisoner was not supported by logic 
and learning alone. By his side walked the great Duke ; in 
front strode the King's Marshal, the Northern lord who 
proposed to administer border-law in the streets of London. 
With all the pride of a Percy, he pushed the merchants and 
prentices to right and left, to make room for his patron and 
his strange friend. Considering the circumstances of the 
case, and the violence which the Londoners so often displayed, 
it is more wonderful that the noblemen returned to West- 
minster alive, than that the mob forgot for the time their 
favour to Wycliffe and his doctrine. Courtenay, Bishop of 
London, who appears to have been in the aisle as the proces- 
sion moved up it, angrily rebuked Lord Percy for mishand- 
ling his flock, declaring that he would never have admitted 
them into the church if he had known that they were 
going to behave in this manner. The Duke answered that 
they would do as they pleased, whether the Bishop liked it 
or not. 

They had now reached the Lady Chapel where the con- 
clave was sitting. The Duke and Lord took chairs for them- 
selves, and Percy bade Wycliffe be seated : ' Since you have 
much to reply, you will need all the softer seat.' Courtenay, 
whose hot blood had been already stirred by the insolence the 
men had shown at their entry, cried out that the suggestion 
was impertinent, and that the accused should stand to give 
his answers. The two nobles swore that he should sit ; 
Courtenay, taking the proceedings out of the hands of Arch- 
bishop Sudbury, who was glad enough to sit quiet, insisted 
that the prisoner should stand. The Duke, finding he could 
not carry the point, broke out into abuse and threats. He 

Feb. 1377 EIOT IN ST. PAUL'S 45 

would bring down the pride of all the Bishops of England ; 
Courtenay need not trust in his parents the Earl and Countess 
of Devon, for they would have enough to do to take care of 
themselves. The Bishop made the obvious answer that he 
trusted in God and not in his high connections. The Duke, it 
was afterwards asserted, muttered to his attendants some 
threat of dragging him out by the hair of his head. The 
next moment the Londoners had broken in on the proceedings 
with wild cries of vengeance, and a general melee ensued 
between the citizens and the Duke's guard. The assembly 
broke up in confusion, and the prisoner was carried off by his 
supporters, whether in triumph or in retreat it was hard to 
tell. Of Wycliffe's share in the proceedings it can only be ^ 
asserted that he made no noticeable interference, and that he ,' 
lost no popularity in London on account of the events of that 
day. What he thought of it all we can never even guess. 
Whether he had wished the Duke to accompany him must 
remain a mystery. He does not mention the scene in any of 
his works, though he speaks much of his later persecutions. 
In the roaring crowd of infuriated lords, bishops and citizens, 
he stood silent, and stands silent still, ^ 

The next day the principal Londoners met together to 
consider their position. It was necessary to decide on some 
course of action, for the quarrel between Court and City had 
been accentuated by the disgraceful scene in St. Paul's, and 
the bill for the destruction of their liberties was being rapidly 
pushed through the subservient Houses of Parliament. 
Suddenly Lord Bryan and Lord Fitzwalter, the latter one of 
the Duke's supporters among the lesser peers, intruded them- 
selves into the conclave of anxious citizens. So high did 
feeling run that the mob, watching the proceedings of the 
Council, could scarcely be restrained from tearing the new 
comers to pieces. It soon appeared, however, that the two Lords 
had come on a friendly mission. They were themselves 
citizens of London holding large property within its liberties, 
and Fitzwalter was unwilling to see his rights trampled under 
foot, even by his own leader, John of Gaunt. They had come 
to warn the meeting that Lord Percy, without waiting for the 

' Chron. Aug., 118-21. 

46 POLITICS 1376-7 

passage of the bill, had already assumed the functions of 
magistrate in London by imprisoning a man in the official 
residence of the Marshal. The principal citizens, snatching 
up their arms, rushed to the house, broke in the doors, released 
the prisoner, flung the stocks in which he had been fastened 
into the middle of the streets, and made them into a bonfire. 
Lord Percy was sought under every bed, and in every corner 
and closet in his house. If he had been found he would never 
have lived to be made immortal by Border poetry, but 
would have perished miserably at the hands of mechanics and 

Fortunately he was dining with the Duke in another house 
in the city. A messenger, wild with fear and haste, burst in on 
the feasters and told them to fly for their lives. As they leapt up, 
John of Gaunt struck his knee severely against the table. They 
hurried down to the river, took boat and crossed to Kenning- 
ton Palace, where the Black Prince had died, and where his 
widow still kept house. She received them as refugees, as 
indeed they were. Nothing but fear of death could have 
driven the Duke to take shelter with the widow of the Black 

They had done well to cross the river ; no place on the 
north bank was safe. The mob, now quite beyond the re- 
straint of the principal citizens who had begun the riot, but 
who repudiated its later developments, swept out of the city 
gates to the Savoy. This residence, the most magnificent 
belonging to any subject in the land, had been enlarged and 
beautified by successive generations of the Earls and Dukes of 
Lancaster. It stood amid green lawns running down to the 
banks of the Thames, and pleasure-gardens then famous for 
their roses, and still remembered because Chaucer loved them 
and drew from them soft inspiration. If it could have sur- 
vived the hand of violence, this beautiful palace might to-day 
be one of the finest monuments of the life and art of the 
Middle Ages. Unfortunately it was situated half-way between 
Westminster and London, in a position peculiarly exposed to 
.attack from the city. Here the rioters, not knowing that he 
had escaped across the river, hoped to find and kill John of 
<Taunt and to burn his mansion over him. Meeting on their 

Feb. 1377 MOEE EIOTING 47 

way a priest who was foolish enough to revile Peter de la 
Mare as a traitor, they beat the unfortunate man to death. 
News of the uproar was brought to the Bishop of London, who 
instantly rose from dinner and hastened after them. He 
overtook them in time, and induced them to relinquish their 
purpose, so giving to the Savoy another four years of pre- 
carious existence, till a more famous riot finally levelled it to 
the ground. The mob contented itself with parading the 
streets of London, insulting those of the Duke's supporters 
whom they met, and reversing his arms which were hung up 
over a shop in Cheapside. His retainers, who had formerly 
been seen swaggering and hectoring about the streets under 
the protection of his badge, now plucked the dangerous symbol 
from their necks and hid it in their sleeves.^ _,_ 

A riot, before the days of mass meetings and resolutions, 
was a useful, almost a legitimate, mode of expressing public 
feeling. The chronicler, who is distinctly a partisan of the 
popular cause, sees nothing abnormal or even censurable in 
the violence of the mob, and considers it quite a matter of 
course that they intended to kill the Duke and Lord Percy if 
they had been fortunate enough to lay hands on them. The 
Londoners had thus successfully proclaimed their determina- 
tion to protect their liberties, and had shown the force at the;-^' 
command. The Government had none on the spot to set 
against them. There was no standing army, and the police, 
such as it was, was municipal. The Duke for a week or two 
had to submit. The obnoxious bill before Parliament was 
never heard of again, and a deputation sent by the citizens 
was politely received by the King. When introduced into the 
royal presence, they complained bitterly of the attack on 
their liberties, and asserted that as no serious injury had 
been actually done by the rioters to any of the Duke's per- 
sonal attendants, he had no just ground of complaint. No 
one on either side mentioned the case of the priest who 
had been beaten to death. As he had not been wearing the 
Duke's livery and had no patron to maintain his quarrel, his 
fate was a matter of small concern. The King promised that 
the liberties of the city should henceforth be respected, and 

' Loftie's Memorials of the Savoy ; Chron. Aug., 121-6 and 397. 

48 POLITICS 1376-7 

the deputies withdrew in high good humoar from the presence. 
In the ante-chamber they met John of Gaunt, with whom 
they exchanged some courteous words. 

Peeling, however, still ran high on both sides. Lampoons 
and verses against the Duke were posted about the city. He 
requested the Bishops still assembled for Convocation to 
excommunicate the authors. The prelates hesitated, fearing 
that the Londoners might use the same violence against them 
as they had shown against the nobles. The more respectable 
citizens, however, desirous to appease authority and to dis- 
sociate themselves from the acts of the mob, encouraged 
them to issue the excommunications, which did the anony- 
mous authors small harm. This incident showed how little 
John of Gaunt gave heed to the essence of Wycliffe's teaching, 
for one of the points of doctrine on which the reformer at this 
time laid most stress was the wickedness and the spiritual 
inefl&cacy of excommunication when used for political pur- 
poses. But the Duke cared for none of these things.^ 

At the end of February, the remaining business of 
Parliament, which had been adjourned during these events, 
was rapidly wound up. The Houses were dissolved, and a 
few days later Convocation separated. During the next 
month the Lancastrian Government recovered itself, and so 
far re-established its position against the Londoners that the 
King again summoned the Mayor and Sheriffs before him to 
answer for the late disturbances. The Archbishop, the Duke 
and many other lords were in the presence-chamber where 
the accused were heard. Sir Kobert Aston, lately Treasurer, 
and now Chamberlain, spoke on behalf of his master, the 
Duke, and upbraided the citizens for the riot. Their reply 
throws an interesting light on the London of the time. They 
pleaded that it was impossible for them to check the excesses 
of the mob, as the common people, having no money or 
houses of their own to forfeit, were easily stirred to riot as 
they had nothing to lose. There can be little doubt that this 
refers to the apprentices, whose social and legal status answers 
perfectly to this description. In the more violent and tragical 
riots four years later, we are told expressly by a contemporary 

> Chron. Ang., 127-130. 


chronicler that the apprentices took no small part in the 
disturbance.' On this occasion, however, the responsible 
governors of the city had been less opposed to the rioting 
than they proved in 1381. They had themselves led the 
attack on Lord Percy's house to release the prisoner, in itself 
a perfectly justifiable action, but the beginning of all the more 
questionable proceedings of the mob that day. It was not, 
therefore, without reason that their plea of innocence was 
considered insufficient. The Mayor and Sheriffs were deprived 
of their posts, but the city was allowed at once to elect new 
officers in their place. The protest of the London mob had 
so far succeeded that the ministers did not again attempt to 
deprive the city of the right to elect its own rulers. The 
new Mayor whom they chose was Sir Nicolas Brembre, a 
strong opponent of John of Gaunt. The Duke further re- 
quired, by way of reparation for the reversal of his arms in 
Cheapside, that a pillar to support them should be erected 
there in marble ' well and comely metalled to continue for all 
time.' To this the citizens would not agree, but the new 
officers consented to organise, in honour of the Duke, a pro- 
cession to St. Paul's bearing tapers of wax. The commonalty, 
however, made no offering towards the candles and took no 
part in the solemnity. The Duke was angry at the paltriness 
of the proceedings, which, there is reason to suspect, the 
Londoners made purposely ridiculous. Here the quarrel 
rested till the death of the King.^ 

The spring months of '77 passed away without any 
stirring events. The supremacy of the Duke and those who , 
now belonged to his party was secure, but secure only so long- 
as the King lived. John of Gaunt made the most of his 
opportunity while it lasted. In February he induced his 
father to revive for his benefit the Jura Eegalia of the County 
Palatine of Lancaster, which had lapsed to the Crown on the 
death of the last Duke. The King's Council had long ago 
declared that these great privileges and revenues could not 
be held by a subject without ' great loss and disinheritance 
of the King.' Yet Edward now gave them back to the X 
powerful rival whose greatness endangered young Eichard's \ 

' Knighton, ii. 135-6. ^ Chron. Ang., 131-4, Ixviii-lxix. i 

50/ POLITICS 1376-7 

. V' 
f^uccession.' Indeed, there was never more to be quiet in the 
land till the great House of Lancaster had finally overthrown 
the elder branch of the Plantagenet dynasty (1399). The 
infatuated fondness of Edward the Third for John of Gaunt, 
the revenues and powers that he willingly surrendered to 
him, served to hasten the event. 

In June the old man sank at last. Two days before his 
death, the temporalities of the see of Winchester were restored 
to William of Wykeham, a sign of the change of political 
atmosphere now so imminent.^ On the 21st Edward the 
Third died. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 
Confessor's mound, among the tombs of the Plantagenet Kings. 
^During the first half of his long reign there had been 
a period of national glory and prosperity, to which we are 
accustomed to look back with pride as the first appearance 
of a homogeneous English people on the stage of Continental 
history. In the last twenty years of his life it became 
apparent that England was not strong enough in men and 
money to occupy permanently the first place in Europe. Her 
fleets and commerce were driven off the seas, her armies no 
longer attempted to maintain her continental empire. If it 
is not just to put all the blame for the catastrophes of his 
later years on Edward's head, neither is it just to the English 
people to attribute all the earlier successes solely to his 
vigorous personality. His policy, in so far as it recognised 
the importance of sea-power and commerce, had been good ; 
in so far as it revived the dream of a continental empire, it 
was fraught with terrible and far-reaching disaster. It may be 
doubted how much the individuality of Edward the Third 
had been responsible for either the one side of his policy or 
the other. Both were inevitable in the stage of experience 
Englishmen had then reached, and the nation approved 
equally of the war by sea and of the war by land.'*-*^ 

The student of his later years must admit that Edward was 
weak and foolish in allowing himself to become the tool of a 
set of politicians who stand convicted of more corruption than 
was, even at that time, customary or tolerable in public life. 

' Charters of Duchy of Lancaster, Hardy, 32-4 and 62-70 ; Thirtieth 
Report of Deputy Keeper of Public Records, p. iv. ^ See Ap. 

JraB 1377 ' LE EOI EST MOET ' 51 

He became an instrument of bad men rather than an active 
instigator of evil. ' If the truth were once told the King,' 
said the blunt Bishop of Eochester, ' he is so yielding and 
easily led that he would by no means suffer such things to go 
unchecked in the realm.' ^ When he died he had lost his 
people's love. There was no outburst of grief throughout the . 
country when men heard that his long and famous reign had I 
closed at last. There was only sullen fear for the future of a | 
land where a boy was king. 

' O.E. B., 73. 






The period that is ushered in by the accession of Richard the 
Second, and that culminates in the portentous disaster of the 
Peasants' Eising, is one of great activity on the part of 
the Lower House. Before entering on a detailed account of 
the history of these years, it will be well to consider more 
particularly than in the last chapter what were the aims and 
what the difficulties of the Commons. They were engaged in 
seeking a remedy for certain social evils closely connected 
with the political miscarriage. Government could not be 
reformed until society had been remodelled. The Commons 
failed to amend either the one or the other. Both the local 
and central machinery of mediaeval England fell into the 
weltering ruin of the Wars of the Eoses, whence a new 
society emerged under the Tudor Kings. 

One of the chief subjects of complaint and petition by the 
Commons at this period is the state of the navy and the 
mercantile marine. 

In the days of the early Plantagenets the shipping of 
these islands consisted of little more than coasting vessels 
and fishing-boats. The trade with the Continent was carried 
on in foreign bottoms, and the English were known to the 
merchants of Italy, Flanders, and North Germany as an 
agricultural and pastoral people whose wool and other raw 
material were well worth the fetching.^ In the early years of 

' Cunningham, 181 


Edward the Third an economic change that had no doubt been 
long in process, was brought to notice by political and military 
events. Much of the wool that had been previously exported 
in a raw state to feed the looms of Bruges and Ghent, was 
now worked into cloth on this side of the Channel, and 
carried across in vessels owned by enterprising merchants of 
London and Bristol and manned by English-speaking crews. 
To support this new and promising development of national 
undertaking, Edward the Third and his Parliaments entered on 
a deliberate course of economic legislation, backed by military 
and diplomatic activity. The French wars and Flemish 
alliances were conceived by the government and approved by 
the nation largely for industrial and commercial ends. In 
1340 this policy triumphed at Sluys, when the English mer- 
chant navy sank a rival flotilla from the French ports. It 
triumphed again at Crecy and Poitiers (1346-1356), for these 
battles enabled Edward to realise his dream of erecting a 
great empire, held together by trade across the Channel 
and the Bay of Biscay.^ It is idle to speak of Alfred as the 
founder of the British navy. He lost the whole east coast- 
line of England to the Danes, and it was only these Danes, 
against whom he was constantly fighting, who introduced a 
little maritime enterprise among his lethargic Saxon subjects. 
For hundreds of years after Alfred the English were the 
landlubbers of Europe. It was not till the reign of Edward 
the Third that we seriously took to the sea, and made a national 
effort to establish our commercial and naval position in the 
teeth of rivals. Thenceforward, although times of depression 
and defeat alternated with periods of success, we never ceased 
to be a sea-going people, to have a parliamentary commercial 
policy, and to be known and feared on the Continent as trade 
rivals in all the Northern seas. 

But although Edward the Third had a naval policy, he had 
not a royal navy. For our generation, which sometimes spends 
on its war-ships in a year of peace two hundred times as many 
pounds as then covered all royal expenditure in a year of 
war, it may be hard to realise that there was then practically 
no such thing as a navy distinct from a mercantile marine. 

' Cunningham, 245-50. 


When hostilities hroke out two admirals were appointed, one 
to guard the North Sea and one the Channel, with commis- 
sions enabling them to press into their service all the ships 
and men they required. Each admiral went down to the 
coast assigned to him, laid an embargo on all vessels in the 
parts under his command, and proceeded to select the best 
merchant ships and the likeliest seamen for the formation of 
an improvised fleet. While this mobilisation, often a slow 
and mismanaged process, was going forward, no ship might 
leave port. Trade was at a standstill. Ships ready for some 
adventure to Flanders or Iceland, rotted in dock for six months 
together, and the most seaworthy vessels were sure to pay the 
penalty of their fitness by being seized to fight the King's 
battles. At last a motley crowd of several hundred barques 
of all sizes and shapes would be got together at Portsmouth 
or Gravesend, and sail out with the admiral's flag trailing 
from the tallest merchantman, in quest of the Spanish 
galleys off the Cornish coast or the Scotch pirates off Hull.^ 

Clumsy as this method was, it answered after a fashion. 
The navies of other lands were enlisted on much the same 
terms, and the material from which our admirals selected their 
ships and men was warlike enough, though without discipline 
or organisation. The merchant- sailor of those days was a 
man of blood from his youth up. There was little or no law 
on the sea save that of the strongest. Every vessel was liable 
to become a pirate if she met with craft that sailed under some 
foreign flag, or perhaps only hailed from some rival English 
port. While the primitive cannon carried by the larger ships 
were not formidable, the crew of the smallest were armed with 
swords and axes, so that by dash and pluck any skipper 
might do great things for himself and his town. Questions of 
right of trade were sometimes made the subjects of inter- 
national treaty, but as often left to settle themselves by ruder 
means. To keep the ' open door ' at some exclusive port of 
Scandinavia or the Hanse League, it was necessary to send 
two or three good merchant ships armed to the teeth and 
determined to get their cargoes landed and sold at whatever 
cost of lives. On such terms as these the sea was a school of 

' SeeAp. 


hardihood and daring, though scarcely of nice morality. In 
this lawless state of society, English seamanship and commerce 
continued to struggle for the next two centuries, learning by 
deeds of valour and ferocity, now all long forgotten, those 
qualities which immortalised the splendid pirates who, in the 
days of Hawkins and Drake, founded modern England on the 

Chaucer's Shipman from Devonshire is a good apprentice 
of this school. 

Of nice conscience took he no kepe. 

If that he faught and had the higher hand, 

By water he sent hem home to every land.^ 

But of his craft to reken well his tides, 

His stremes and his strandes him besides. 

His herberwe, his mone and his lodemanage.^ 

Ther was non swiche, from Hull unto Carthage. 

Hardy he was and wise I undertake : 

With many a tempest hadde his herd be shake. 

He knew wel alle the havens, as they were, 

Fro Gotland, to the Cape de finistere, 

And every creke in Bretagne and in Spaine. 

With such sturdy customers to man them, the fleets hastily 
impressed by the admirals for more regular warfare had won 
the day at Sluys, and held the Channel and the Bay of Biscay 
until the Treaty of Bretigny (1340-1360). The system was bad, 
but as long as it was successful it was endured. When, how- 
ever, the war was renewed in 1366, our naval supremacy 
could no longer be maintained against the formidable alliance 
of the French and Spanish seamen. It was then that the 
hardships of the system of impressment were fully felt, and 
that the bitter complaint of the maritime population was 
heard in the petitions of Parliament. While the incompetent 
admirals kept every ship in port for months together in their 
bungling efforts to get together a fleet, the enemy's ships were 
sweeping the sea, burning the fishing villages and port-towns, 
and slaughtering the inhabitants of the seaboard. The con- 
sequent decay of the marine was obvious and undeniable. 
• There used,' said Speaker de la Mare with some exaggeration, 

' Cunningham, passim ; Social England, ii. 42-7 and 182-94. 

^ Viz. he drowned them. ^ His harbourage, his moon and his pilotage. 


' to be more ships in one port than now are in the whole 
kingdom.' The sea-going population who lived along the 
Cornish creeks complained in Parliament that, as their able- 
bodied men had been carried off to serve in the navy, resis- 
tance could no longer be made to the raids of a cruel and 
destructive enemy. They requested that, in return for the 
men taken by the government, a force should be sent down 
to protect Cornwall.^ 

This call on the central authorities to defend the coast was 
unusual and ominous. In ordinary times local resources had 
proved quite sujfficient to repel the incursions of the enemy. 
Whenever the French fleet was seen from the cliffs, beacon- 
fires, lighted on the neighbouring hill-tops, soon called to- 
gether a sufficient company of peasantry and gentlemen to 
prevent the foreigner doing any serious mischief by a landing. 
The only protection for the Thames itself was a stringent 
order to the inhabitants of Kent and Essex, when they saw 
the beacons lighted, to run down with ' their best array of 
arms to the said river to save both the towns and the navy 
in the ports.' ^ The most highly organised forces used for 
coast defence were the military retainers of great lords or 
churchmen whose estates lay near the sea. The Abbot of 
Battle more than once headed the resistance of the men of 
Sussex to foreign invasion ; and the Commons petitioned that, 
for the safety of the people in those parts, the lords should be 
compelled to dwell on their estates by the sea.^ In this way 
almost the whole burden of coast defence was thrown on those 
unfortunate districts which suffered from the raids of the 
enemy, just as the burden of naval warfare was thrown on the 
merchant service. It is not surprising that the maritime towns 
and ports, bearing the whole brunt and expense of the war by 
sea and land, failed to endure the strain in bad times. In the 
early years of Eichard the Second, not only the Channel, but 
many of the ports along the south coast, fell into the hands of 
the French and Spaniards. The Commons, in great alarm, 
petitioned the government to take extraordinary measures for 
the defence of the sea-board by central authority, voted taxes 

' Rot. Pari., ii. 307, 311, 320, and iii. 5, 42, 46, 86, 138, 146, 162 ; 
Foed., iv. 16 ; Wals., i. 370 ; Mon. Eve., 6. 

2 Feed., iv. 3-4, 17. ^ Wals., i. 341, 439 ; Mon. Eve., p. 2 ; Rot. Pari., ii. 334. 


for this purpose, and complained when the money was em- 
ployed in garrisoning our few remaining castles in France.^ 

The series of petitions presented in Parliament, from which 
this gloomy picture of naval and commercial decline has been 
drawn, emanated from the borough members. While leaving 
affairs of State to the knights of the shire, they were loud 
enough in complaints that concerned the immediate interests 
of their class, and they had long been accustomed to influence 
and sometimes to dictate the economic legislation of the 
government. The petitions that concern rural life and insti- 
tutions may, on the other hand, be supposed to represent the 
feelings of the knights of the shires. 

One of the questions that most vexed the smaller land- 
owners, was the appointment of the sheriff of the county. This 
officer, chosen by the Crown from among the gentry of the 
district, was the link between Westminster and the country- 
side. He had once carried on almost all the King's business 
in the shire, and though many of his powers had since been 
delegated to the Justices of the Peace or to the King's 
Judges on circuit, he still remained the most important 
local officer. In the Good Parliament, and during the suc- 
ceeding decade, the Commons again and again petitioned 
that all sheriffs might be removed at the end of every year. 
The objection of the knights of the shire to the long tenure 
of office by the same man was double. In the first place, as 
the sheriffdom was expensive and ruinous to men of small 
means, the knights felt sorry for persons of their own rank 
and class who were burdened with it several years together. 
Secondly, prolonged power tempted sheriffs of small estate, 
who had much to gain and little to forfeit, to practise extortion 
on their neighbours, to the ' great disease and oppression of the 
counties.' ^ Eeal as was the grievance, the remedy proposed 
by the Commons was crude. To force the King to find an 
entirely new set of sheriffs every year would have been, as the 
Chancellor said in reply to the petition, inconvenient. The 
solution of the difficulty came rather by the delegation of the 
sheriff's powers to the Justices of the Peace, a process already 
begun and gradually completed in the course of the next two 

1 Bot. Pari., iii. 34. ^ jj,^,^, ii_ 334-5, 357, iii. 62, 96, 174, 201. 


centuries, to the great increase of the comfort and power of 
the country gentlemen. Under the Tudors, the Crown learnt 
to repose entire confidence in this class, of which, in Plan- 
tagenet times, it was alwaj^s suspicious and distrustful. Nor 
was this confidence misplaced, for when, instead of a sherifi" 
acting as factotum, a bench of Justices of the Peace represented 
and upheld the power of the Crown, the knights and gentry 
served Elizabeth and her unfortunate successors with a pas- 
sionate loyalty that they had never felt before. 

In days long gone by, under the Norman Kings and Henry 
the Second, the sheriffs had been powerful barons and prelates, 
by whose help the Crown kept the more turbulent members of 
their own class in order. It was through their agency that 
England had been saved from feudal anarchy, and the King's 
peace established. In the reign of Eichard the Second England 
was again drifting towards anarchy, but there was no longer any 
such class of great barons who could be trusted to serve the 
government faithfully as sheriffs. The office was now usually 
filled by a man of small wealth and of social position scarcely 
above the middle class, who often made himself an object of 
suspicion to the gentry, who should have been his chief sup- 
porters against the forces of anarchy. Such a man could 
not be expected to keep the King's peace effectively, or to 
take active measures against the great lords. But while the 
old government by sheriffs, which had sufficed to suppress 
feudalism, was fast becoming ineffective, a new evil, the 
' maintenance ' of retainers, demanded new remedies. 

The practice was not strictly feudal. The retainer was 
bound to his lord by contract for wages, and not by services 
implied in his tenure of land. The basis was no longer old 
feudal loyalty, but the cash nexus. During the closing years 
of the fourteenth and the whole of the fifteenth century, it was 
the custom of all great lords, and even of some prelates of the 
Church, to maintain their importance in society by hiring 
little armies of retainers, who lived at the expense, wore the 
livery, and fought the battles of their employer. The prac- 
tice was in close connection with the military system of the 
government. The King, having no regular army, hired 
regiments for his wars from the nobles, who themselves 


enlisted and maintained the soldiers under their private 
banners.^ In intervals of peace, or in years when there was 
no invasion of France, these military brokers did not always 
discharge their forces, but engaged them on more questionable 
private quarrels at home. It would be wrong to suppose that 
all retainers were bravoes and swashbucklers. Many of them 
were professional soldiers who fought our battles in France. 
The heroes of Crecy and of Agincourt, the ' stout yeomen 
whose limbs were made in England,' were most of them 
' retainers ' employed by great lords who were paid by the 
King to bring them into the field. Chaucer's 'very parfit, 
gentle knight,' who adorns the first page of the ' Canterbury 
Tales,' has returned from letting out his services abroad, and 
is the sort of person to enter into a similar contract with some 
noble at home. Although many of his calling had a worse 
reputation, Chaucer's selection of him to represent the profes- 
sion shows that there were many respectable members of society 
in the ranks of these soldiers of fortune. The evil of the system, 
was the use to which they were too often put by their employers, 
when not engaged in fighting the battles of their country. 

Although seignorial justice administered by barons in their 
private courts now played a very small part in the judicial 
system of the country, the judges, sheriffs and juries of the 
royal tribunals were often so effectively terrorised by the 
hired retainers of some local magnate that the result was very 
much the same as in the bad old feudal days of King Stephen. 
' Maintenance ' was the act of maintaining the cause of a 
dependent in the King's Court by a display of force calculated 
to influence the decision. Any fellow wearing the livery and 
receiving the pay of a nobleman such as the Earl of Warwick, 
could, with comparative safety, rob the barns and stables of a 
neighbouring manor-house or appropriate a farm belonging to 
a citizen of Stratford-on-Avon, for he would be supported at 
the assizes by two hundred stout fellows wearing the bear-and- 
ragged-staff in their caps. But he would look in vain for the 
maintenance of his lord if he ventured to carry off corn from 
the miller of Kenilworth ; for the miller was a tenant of 
the Duke of Lancaster, one of the few noblemen who kept a 

' SeeAp. 


greater establishment than even the Earl of Warwick could 
afford. The practice of maintenance had come in at least thirty 
years before the reign of Eichard the Second, when great armies 
of retainers were enlisted for the French war.^ It had been 
growing ever since, and continued to grow, until in the 
fifteenth century it was said to be impossible to get justice at 
all without the support of a lord and his following.^ 

Sometimes, indeed, the retainers were little better than 
professed banditti, and preferred to defy rather than to 
pervert the course of law. In Cheshire, Lancashire and 
other franchised places where special local privilege rendered 
the course of royal justice even more difficult than in the rest 
of England, gentlemen robbers lived in safety, and issued 
forth at the head of squadrons of cavalry to rob and plunder 
the midland counties. They murdered men or held them 
to ransom. They carried off girls to the counties where no 
constable could follow, married them there by force, and 
extorted extravagant dowries from the unfortunate parents. 
But it was not always necessary for violent men to retire 
with their spoil to a distant asylum. They often turned 
their next-door neighbours out of house and lands, settled 
there themselves, and gave their victims to understand 
that if they sued in court they would have their throats cut. 
Such constant assaults on life and property would have passed 
without remark in Northumberland, where peace and security 
had never been known ; but to the inhabitants of the midlands 
it was a new and shocking change for the worse, of which they 
complained bitterly but ineffectually through the mouths of 
their parliamentary representatives. The Good Parliament 
spoke of such disorders as having lately risen anew. It 
was not unnatural that in the later days of the war, when 
nearly all our fighting men had been driven back into 
England, there should be worse breaches of the peace than 
any known when plunder and license could be more easily 
obtained across the Channel.^ 

The originators of these mischiefs, whether lords and 

' Stats, of Realm, 20 Ed. III., 4, 5. 

2 Eot. Pari., hi. 42 ; P. PL, A, iv. 41-2 ; S. E. W., iii. 322. 

^ Bot Pari, ii. 351, iii. 42, 81, 201. 



earls honoured in court and council-chamber, or broken men 
whom the sheriff's officers would have hanged on the nearest 
tree, sheltered their armies of retainers in strongholds of 
size and splendour varying in proportion to their wealth or 
respectability. The feudal donjons, behind whose massive 
walls the Bohuns and Bigods had bidden defiance to the 
Norman Kings, had long since been levelled to the ground or 
converted into royal castles ; it was even illegal to build a 
private fortification. But there were numerous ways in which 
this inconvenient law could be evaded. The most usual was 
to obtain a license from the King to castellate an existing 
manor-house, a permission which was sometimes construed 
into leave to build an entirely new castle. It was by a liberal 
interpretation of a grant of this nature from Eichard the Second, 
that Sir Edward Dalyngruge, who had made his fortune as a 
captain in the French wars, built in 1386 the splendid castle 
of Bodiham out of the spoils he had acquired in Brittany and 
Aquitaine. It still stands in almost complete preservation in 
a beautiful valley on the borders of Kent and Sussex, bearing 
witness to the high state of perfection to which military 
architecture had been brought in that age. Few who look up 
at its sheer walls, loopholed bastions, and overhanging battle- 
ments, among which there is no gable, or other sign of 
domestic architecture, would guess that it was a residence 
built by an English country gentleman on his retirement from 
service in the wars. Similar places were erected by other 
captains out of the plunder of French cities and chateaux, and 
on the model of strongholds taken and lost in France.^ 
Even gentlemen of more peaceable habits and disposition, 
who did not obtain leave to castellate their manor-houses, 
built them four-square and surrounded them by a moat, as 
secluded halls in the bye-ways of England still testify. This 
precaution was rather proof that those who built them lived ^ 
in dangerous times than that they necessarily meditated evil 
against their neighbours. 

But the great nobles built on a more generous scale. John 
of Gaunt's own castle of Kenilworth, the ancestral stronghold , 

> Bodiham Castle, by F. Graham Ticehurst, pp. 14-17 ; Scrope and 
Grosvenor Roll, ii. 22-24. 


-of Simon de Montfort, to whose estates and influence the Dukes 
of Lancaster had succeeded, had in the days of the Barons' 
War consisted of a single square Norman keep. Its splendid 
mass still towers above all the buildings of later ages that stand 
around. Once it had resisted the victors of Evesham during 
a six months' siege, but it was no longer defensible against 
the artillery of a later age ; cannon could not be properly 
mounted on its walls. Nor was its barbarous grandeur 
adapted for the civilised palace of so great a man as John of 
Gaunt. The Duke erected a new suite of buildings, contain- 
ing a banqueting hall which is perhaps the most beautiful and 
delicate piece of domestic architecture in England, but took 
care to protect it at each end by a strong projecting tower 
suitable to carry cannon. Besides Kenilworth, he possessed 
more than a score of other castles, including such famous 
holds as Pontefract, Dunstanborough, Leicester, Pevensey, 
Monmouth, and Lancaster itself. The rest bear less famous 
names, but the ruins of such a one as Tickhill show that they 
were strong fortifications, enclosing large areas. No other 
private person besides the Duke possessed so many strong- 
holds. His rival, the Earl of March, had about ten, the Earls 
of Warwick and Stafford only two or three apiece.^ Lord 
Percy occupied many royal castles along the Border, in his 
■capacity as King's lieutenant against the Scotch. 

In such places as these, the lords kept up their great 
establishments. When they travelled they often moved their 
miniature court and army with them. A nobleman's suite ^ 
was a better school of manners than of morals. Wycliffe, 
though he directed most of his energy towards attacking the 
Church, and never openly sought a breach with the secular 
lords, could not refrain from rebuking the trains which they 
carried with] them. They are 'Proud Lucifer's children, 
extortioners, robbers and rievers.' ' They destroy their poor 
neighbours, and make their house a den of thieves.' The 
reformer thought these establishments had a bad influence on 
other classes by setting the fashion. ' Now cometh example 
of pride, gluttony and harlotry from lords' courts to the 

' Calendar, Inquisitiones post mortein, sub Lancaster, March, WarwicL", 
Stafford ; Hardy's Charters of Duchy of Lancaster, 26-8. 


commons.' ^ This was probably true, but their influence may 
also have had another and a better side to it. The households 
of the noblemen were the chief means by which foreign 
inventions, luxuries and polish were taught to the knights and 
country gentlemen of old England. We know how bucolic 
were those country squires of the seventeenth century who 
had no connection with the great world, and we can thereby 
distantly conjecture what the corresponding class in the 
fourteenth century resembled. Chivalry perhaps gave a 
superficial polish lacking to seventeenth-century society, but 
the rules and manners of chivalry were only taught and 
practised in the trains of the great lords. The domestic life 
of an independent country gentleman in his moated manor- 
house was more simple than elegant. When, however, a 
knight retired from the service of a lord, he imitated in his 
own establishment the habits he had learned in higher circles. 
Eichard the Second's reign thus became the period of introducing 
luxury in dress and food ; it was the age of ' sleeves that slod 
upon the earth,' of toe-points so long that the wearer could 
not kneel to say his prayers, and now, for the first time in 
our country, gentlemen's families retired from the great hall 
where they used to feed in patriarchal community with their 
household, to eat their more fashionable meals in private.^ 
The tribute and plunder of France that were poured into 
England during the successful part of the hundred years 
war, revolutionised the primitive economy of the feudal house- 
hold, just as the tribute and plunder of the Mediterranean 
overturned among the Eomans the austere simplicity of 
Camillus and Cato. Luxury is not an unmixed evil. Com- 
merce grows, refinement spreads by the very means most 
regretted and abhorred by moralists. The merchants of the 
towns rejoiced to supply the lords' courts with every new 
fashion and requirement. By their very magnificence and 
outlay the nobles were helping the rise of the commercial 
democracy -jv^hich was to take their place. 

It may well be asked on what basis of law this system of 
retainers, with its multifarious effects on society, was per- 

1 Matt. 243 and 207. 
2 Eic. Redeless, iii. 153 and 234 ; P. PL, B, x. 92-100. 


mitted to exist. It appears that the practice of keeping re- 
tainers was perfectly legal. Even those ' statutes of liveries ' 
which were directed against its abuse, especially against 
private war and maintenance of causes in courts, recognised 
the right of a lord to enlist men ' for peace and for war by 
indenture.' The new laws attempted to prevent prelates and 
esquires from enlisting retainers, but this only amounted to 
creating a monopoly in favour of lords and knights.^ In 
spite of all legislation, robbery, maintenance and the other 
evils of the system continued unchecked. It was in vain 
that the Commons induced the King to promise that no man 
should ride fully armed through the country, but that ' lances 
be taken away and broken.' ^ Lord Neville rode at the head 
of twenty men-at-arms and twenty mounted archers arrayed 
in the Duke of Lancaster's livery.^ He would have been a 
bold sheriff who offered to ' take away their lances and break 

The reason of the helplessness of the government to 
enforce the law is not far to seek. The King was powerless 
to act against the great nobles, because his only military 
resources were the resources commanded by the nobles them- 
selves. His army consisted, not of Life Guards and regi- 
ments of the Line, but of numerous small bodies of archers 
and men-at-arms belonging to earls, dukes, knights, and 
professional soldiers of fortune, hired by the government for 
a greater or less time. Such troops might do well for the 
French war, and might rally round the throne on an occasion 
like the Peasants' Eising, when all the upper classes were 
threatened by a common danger. But they could scarcely be 
^sed to suppress themselves, or to hang the employers whose 
badges they wore on their coats, and whose pay jingled in 
their pockets. Once indeed, in 1378, the Commons insisted 
on a special commission being sent into the country to 
restore order. The commission had of course to consist of 
great lords and their retainers. The country found their 
yoke heavier than the law-breakers they were sent to suppress, 
and the Commons next year asked that the commissioners 

> Stats, of Realm, 13 E. II. 3, and 1 E. 11. 4, 7. - Rot. Pari, iii. 164. 
» Dugdale, p. 296. 


might be recalled, as the King's subjects were being brought 
into ' serfage to the said Seigneurs and commissioners and 
their retinues.' ^ 

A very similar story is told in ' Piers Plowman,' where 
' Peace ' comes to Parliament with a petition against ' Wrong,' 
who, in his capacity of King's officer, has broken into the 
farm, ravished the women, carried off the horses, taken the 
wheat from the granary, and left in payment a tally on the 
King's exchequer. ' Peace ' complains that he has been 
unable to get the law of him, for ' he maintaineth his men 
to murder mine own.' " Such were the King's officers as 
known in the country districts. They were really ambitious 
lords using the King's name to acquire wealth for themselves. 
These evils were partly the result of the bankruptcy of the 
government. The King could not change the military 
system, because he could not hire men to take the place of 
the nobles' retainers. He had to accept the aid of his lords 
for the French wars very much on their own terms. Some- 
times he could not pay them the full price of the services 
of the men they brought into the field, and could not there- 
fore venture to offend them.-^ In the bankrupt state of the 
exchequer, an understanding between the nobility and the 
government was necessary if the war was to be carried on at 
all. This at once prevented any serious effort to break up the 
bands of retainers throughout the country, and enabled the 
great lords to claim as their natural right a large share in 
the general administration. An apologist for Eichard the 
Second might claim with some show of truth that he fought 
and fell in the effort to free the King's counsels from the thral- 
dom of this intrusive and domineering aristocracy. But in 
the period with which this chapter deals, Eichard was but a boy. 
The nobles would during his minority have conducted the 
government of the country exactly as they pleased but for two 
checks : they were divided among themselves by the quarrels 
and rival interests of the great families, and they met with 
staunch resistance from the members of the House of 

' Rot. Pari, iii. 42, 65 ; Stats, of Realm, 2 E. II. 6. 

2 P. PL, A, iv. 34-48. ^ E.g. Rot. Pari, iii. 122, sec. 3. 


It is impossible to understand the political relations of the 
two Houses of Parliament apart from the social relations of 
the country gentlemen to the nobles. It may be asked why 
the Commons, being many of them knights trained to arms, 
never tried their military strength against the retainers, in 
an attempt to break up these bands of petty tyrants. The 
reason is plain. A country gentleman was frequently 
bound by ties of affection or interest to some noble, fought 
under his banner, lived in his castle, and often commanded 
companies of his men. Even Peter de la Mare was attached 
to the household of the Earl of March as his lordship's 
seneschal. Military training was only obtainable in the 
service of private persons. There was no efficient system of 
county militia. The more independent a man was, the less 
military he became. A large part of the class represented by 
the knights of the shire in the House of Commons consisted 
of gentlemen free indeed from the patronage of any noble, 
but wholly ignorant of the use of arms. The Franklin of 
Chaucer's ' Canterbury Pilgrimage ' is a small but independent 
landowner, not, like his companion the Knight, trained to war, 
but essentially a man of peace. His larder is well stocked, 
and his hospitality is profuse : — 

Withouten bake mete never was his hous, 
Of fish and flesh and that so plenteous 
It snowed in his hous of mete and drihke. 
Ful many a fat partich hadde he in mewe 
And many a breme and many kice in stewe.^ 

He is a hearty liver, almost a sot. His education is a negli- 
gible quantity, for he has not been brought up either in the 
school of chivalry or in the school of the Church. ' But 
sires,' he says when his turn comes round to tell a tale. 

At my beginning first I you beseche 

Have me excused of my rude speche. 

I learned never rhetoric certain; 

Thing that I speke, it mote be bare and plain. 

He nevertheless takes an important part in affairs : — 

At sessions ther was he lord and sire. 
A sheriffe had he been and a countour, 

Pike in fish-pond. 


and he has represented the county at Westminster ' ful often 
time ' as ' Knight of the Shire.' It was probably such men, 
even more than the knights trained to arms, who felt that the 
interest of the Commons was opposed to that of the Lords. 
The Knight and the Franklin are the two principal types 
of men representing the counties in the Lower House. As 
the yeomen also took part in the elections, their wishes 
probably influenced the policy of the members elected. The 
interests of the yeomen must have been in some cases those 
of the peasantry, in others those of the gentlemen, but in 
none those of the Lords. 

During the minority of Eichard the Second, the knights 
of the shire entered on a consistent policy of interference with 
the administration. Almost every Parliament they turned 
out ministers or elected fresh councils of state. Sometimes, 
as soon as they had gone home, their wise reforms were rudely 
set aside by John of Gaunt or other nobles ; sometimes the 
persons they themselves had chosen proved untrustworthy or 
incapable. But they insisted. Parliament after Parliament, 
on taking the affairs of the nation into their own hands and 
arranging for the next year's government. This resolute line 
of policy was a new development. Isolated instances of such 
interference by the Commons had occurred in 1341 and 1371, 
but the action had not been followed up, and Edward the 
Third had generally chosen his own ministers without ques- 
tion. In the Eolls of Parliament for the 'fifties and 'sixties, 
there is no mention of proceedings for the appointment and 
reappointment of councils and officers of state, such as occur 
so very frequently between 1377 and 1381. The new policy 
probably originated from a sense of power discovered by the 
striking events of the Good Parliament, which appear to 
have greatly impressed contemporaries. It was also due to 
the opportunity offered by the King's minority. If Eichard' s 
youth was the opening for the ambition of the Lords, it was 
also the opening for the claims of the Commons. In later 
years, when Eichard, having come of age, more and more took 
power into his own hands, the Commons interfered less and 
less in the choice of his ministers. A third and no less 
important cause is to be found in the ill-success of the war, 

F 2 


and the constant demand for money made on the people. As the 
country paid heavily every year, and no proportionate results 
were forthcoming, the taxpayer claimed a right to inquire 
into and direct the expenditure. To this claim the govern- 
ment had to give way, for it depended on the Lower House 
for its supplies. The parliamentary grant averaged 30,000L a 
year, out of a total receipt of 100,000/.^ 

This new policy developed by the Commons in Eichard 
the Second's early years was established on an apparently 
firm basis in the reigns of the Lancastrian Kings (1400-45). 
It then broke down altogether, owing to the action of the 
"nobility in the Wars of the Roses (1445-85). The system of 
retainers proved to be the ultimate fact in politics as well as 
society in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The real 
fighting power should reside in a class or classes large enough 
to represent approximately the interests of the nation, or else 
in a central government that has the interests of the nation 
at heart. But in these centuries, it resided, as we have 
shown, in a number of irresponsible individuals. 

Nevertheless the effort of the Commons at the close of 
the Middle Ages to take measures for the government of the 
country was not a meaningless failure. They at least pre- 
vented systematic corruption. We hear no more in Richard the 
Second's time of such organised public robbery as that for which 
the ministers had been brought to book in the Good Parliament. 
Above all, the idea of government hj the representatives of 
the Common^ was so strongly, impressed on the mind of the 
nation iij these unfortunate and weary years, that the recollec- 
tion was never forgotten, the idea was never abandoned. 
The establishment of the liberties of England in the seven- 
teenth century was largely the result of precedent. The 
traditions and aspirations of the Lower Hou'fee were now 
growing up in a very different state of society from that in 
which they ultimately triumphed. 

The death of Edward the Tliird ended the tyranny of John of 
Gaunt. He could no longer be so completely master of England 

' Sir J. Eamsay, Antiqiiary, iv. 208. 

Jtjsb 1377 ' VIVE LE EOI ' 69 

as he had been during the last few months of his father's 
reign. His aims and ambitions do not appear to have 
changed, but he had henceforth to adopt different means to 
obtain them. His place in the counsels of the new King 
would no longer be determined by the personal friendship of 
the monarch. For his position in the new state of things he 
had to trust to the need the government would feel, in a time 
of bankruptcy and invasion, for the support of the most 
powerful man in England, and to the distant possibility of 
his some day succeeding to the throne. As this was ground 
less secure than the complete confidence of the King, he had s 
henceforward to treat the political forces in the country with 
greater respect. He could no longer fly openly in the face of 
general opinion, persecute popular champions, tamper with 
the privileges of London, or repeal with contumely the Acts 
of Parliament. But his action in the last year of King 
Edward had already impressed men with suspicions that time 
could never efface. 

"When on June 21 Edward died at his manor of Shene, 
John of Gaunt lent his loyal support to the proceedings that 
ensured the succession of his nephew. Until Eichard was 
firmly seated, no one was strong enough to retaliate on the 
Duke, and his aid was readily accepted until after the coro- 
nation. The policy natural to that moment of crisis was the 
reconciliation of all parties under the new King. No time 
was lost in accomplishing this. The boy ruler began work at 
Shene on the day after his grandfather's death. The Earl of 
March and William of Wykeham had already returned to 
Court, and were present with John of^ Gaunt at the ceremony 
of the surrender of the Seals. ^ The same day a deputation 
from the city arrived at the manor. The King, standing by 
his grandfather's body, acted the part of peacemaker between 
the greatest city and the greatest lord in the dominions 
over which he had been so prematurely called to reign. At 
his instance John of Gaunt stepped up and embraced the 
members of the deputation one after another. A similar 
reconciliation took place between the Duke and William of 
Wykeham, prior to the formal issue of pardons for the benefit 

' Feed., iv. 1. 


of the Bishop.^ Peter de la Mare was at once released from 
Nottingham Castle. His journey to London through the 
towns and villages on the road was a triumphal procession, 
which the chronicler compares to the return of Thomas a 
Becket from exile. In London the citizens honoured him 
with costly presents, which it was their custom to offer to 
distinguished strangers, much as people now offer the freedom 
of a city.^ 

Although the King had meanwhile come to Westminster, 
it was not for some weeks that the mourning for his grand- 
father was ended, and the coronation ceremonies begun. At 
last, on July 15, the King made his triumphal entry into the 
city, where the Londoners welcomed with enthusiasm the 
return of royal favour in his person. The modesty and 
affability of the Duke and Lord Percy, as they rode in front of 
the King through the streets, were remarked by all, in contrast 
to their conduct at St. Paul's a few months back. Nothing 
could be more courteous than the way in which they requested 
the crowd to make way. Times were changed, and manners 
with them.^ 

Next morning the long rites and ceremonies of coronation 
took place in the Abbey, and were followed by a great banquet 
in "Westminster Hall, to which all the bishops, earls, and 
barons were invited. The crowd of onlookers was so great 
that the Duke as Seneschal and Lord Percy as Marshal had 
to ride up and down the Hall on great horses to make room 
for the servants bearing the dishes. A fountain running 
with wine played in the Palace grounds, and the King's subjects 
of all classes were invited to come and drink there undis- 
turbed.'* In the evening Richard created four new earls. 
The new Earl of Nottingham was a mere boy, the new Earl 
of Huntingdon was a Poitevin lord, rewarded by this barren 
title for his loyalty to our waning power in France. The 
other two creations were of much greater importance. The 
King's uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, the supporter of his 
brother, John of Gaunt, was made Earl of Buckingham, and 

' Wals., i. 330-1 ; Chron. Ang., 148-50 ; Fcad., iv. 14. 

'■^ Chron. Ang., 150-1 ; Wals., ii. 44, line 5. 

'^ Wals., i. 331. * Chron. Aug., 153-62. 


Lord Percy was raised to the earldom of Northumberland.^ 
From a purely selfish point of view, Percy had played his 
game well during the last year. He had forced politicians at 
Westminster to recognise his importance, and he this day 
realised a great part of his ambition. His brief alliance with 
John of Gaunt seems to have come to an end at this point or 
soon after. Except when his interest pointed in that direc- 
tion, he felt no more loyalty to the Duke than he did to the 
Commons, and the Lancastrian alliance was ceasing to be a 
profitable investment. 

These promotions were the last act of concession that the 
King and his advisers found it necessary to make to the 
Duke's party for some time to come. As the boy was now 
firm on the throne, it was safe to dispense with his uncle's 
assistance. Four days after his coronation, a Council was 
chosen from which John of Gaunt and the new Earls of 
Buckingham and Northumberland were excluded. Two of 
their supporters, Lord Latimer and the Bishop of Salisbury, 
were put on as a concession ; but, judging from the actions of 
the government, the real power on the Council must have 
lain with the Earl of March and Bishop Courtenay, backed 
by the influence of the Queen-mother over her son. The 
Duke, finding the position untenable, retired into private life 
at Kenilworth, leaving his rivals to learn by time and ex- 
perience how hard it was to defend the country against the 
enemy, if his powerful assistance was alienated. Before he 
left London he told the King that in case of need he could 
bring into the field a greater army than any other lord in the 
kingdom ; but he was careful to withhold all help till he could 
get his own terms. At present the government had no need 
of his services, and felt no fear of his displeasure. A 
humiliation was inflicted on him which showed that the late 
policy of heaping gifts on the House of Lancaster had come 
to an end. The castle of Hertford, which he had been 
fortifying and enlarging with a view, it is said, to making it 
his principal residence, was resumed by the new King, much 
to the delight of the monks of the neighbourhood, who were 

' Feed., iv. 9 ; Wals., i. 338 ; Froissart, ii. chap. Iviii. 


being forced to supply the workmen with timber from their 
estates. About the same time Earl Percy resigned the Lord 
Marshal's staff, which he had obtained as the price of treachery 
to the popular cause. His affairs in the North gave him 
convenient reason or excuse for withdrawing temporarily from 
the centre of politics. He retired to hibernate like the snake, 
and did not again appear until he had once more changed his 
coat to suit the season.^ 

— The difficulties that beset the new government were of an 
unusually pressing and formidable nature. It seemed not 
unlikely that the fire and sword which we had so long carried 
through France were coming back across the Channel to 
familiarise the cities and hamlets of England with the horrors 
of invasion. The combined French and Spanish fleets were 
cruising in the Channel unopposed. Rye, Dartmouth, Ply- 
mouth and other towns were taken and sacked. The Isle of 
Wight was occupied, and an army landed in Sussex which 
made itself master of several places and castles in the neigh- 
bourhood. The force was so large that it was expected they 
would march into the heart of the country ; but fortunately 
they preferred to remain within touch of their fleet. Their 
operations were of the nature of an occupation rather than of 
a raid, for they only retired before the winter storms, not 
because any force was sent against them. The capture of the 
Isle of Wight, the destruction of so many important and 
flourishing towns, and the long stay of a French force on the 
mainland of Sussex, were not events that could be lightly 
passed over. Such a disgrace had not been known for more 
than a generation. It was a decided failure on the part of 
the new government, and unless it could be retrieved, there 
was no doubt that those around the King would again be 
forced to call in John of Gaunt to their aid. During all these 
national calamities, instead of heading our fleet and our 
armies, he was ostentatiously employing himself in hunting 
and country sports at Kenilworth. Men shook their heads 
over the story of a French prisoner who declared that if the 
English had made John their King, the late invasion of our 
shores could not have taken place. His policy of sulking was 

' Wals., i. 339-40 ; Chron. Ang., 163-5 ; Fmd., iv. 10, the Council. 


already beginning to tell, and he could await the result with 

At the meeting of the Estates in the autumn of 1377 the 
Commons were in a strong position, owing to the disasters 
and bankruptcy to which the Government had to confess. 
The members came up to Westminster prepared to revive the 
aggressive policy of the Good Parliament. It was at this 
time the unfortunate custom of the electors to send up new 
men almost every year. Nothing could have so broken the 
continuity of parliamentary effort as this change of personnel. 
The election of persons experienced in ways and means at 
Westminster was particularly necessary during this period, 
for each fresh House of Commons, after its election, sat for a 
few weeks and was then dissolved, so that no man could learn 
his trade in the brief course of one Parliament. It was all 
the more desirable that the same person should be returned 
year after year. Yet, as the facts show,^ this was very far 
from being generally the case. The county members in the 
fourteenth century were knights or franklins who regarded 
parliamentary duties as a burden. If they consented to take 
their turn once and again at doing the business of the country 
at Westminster some spring or autumn, they insisted on going 
back to spend the rest of their lives in war abroad or local 
affairs at home. For this reason there did not exist a class 
of leaders of the Commons such as grew up in the days of the 
Stuarts, when the same Parliament sat for years together, and 
a member became a public man by profession. Peter de la 
Mare himself never served in more than three successive 
assemblies, and was returned only for half the Parlia- 
ments of the years 1376 to 1384. It is necessary to bear 
in mind this difference between the medieval and modern 
House of Commons. Yet in October 1377, so great was the 
eagerness of the country to renew the policy of the Good Par- 
liament, that, out of seventy-four knights of the shire elected, 
as many as twenty-three were veterans of that body.^^ 
Their old Speaker, Peter de la Mare, who, during the servile 

1 Mon. Eve., 3 ; Ghron. Aug., 151, 168-9 ; Wals., i. 340, 345 ; Nicolas, 
Hist, of Navy, ii. 262; Bot. Pari., iii. 70; Feed., iv. 11, 16-17; Froissart, 
ii. chap, lix. 2 Bl. B. » Bl. B. ; Wals., i. 343. 


Parliament of January, had been suffered to lie in Notting- 
ham Castle, was again in his seat as member for Hereford- 
shire. He was once more chosen to fill his old office and the 
part that he had so manfully played eighteen months before. 

The claims put forward in the Good Parliament were de- 
liberately and successfully revived. At the instance of the 
Commons a scheme of reform was carried out. A new Coun- 
cil was elected in Parliament. The list was based on the 
Council as it had been formed on Eichard's accession, but 
Lord Latimer's name was this time conspicuously absent. It 
was further conceded at the request of the Commons that the 
Chancellor and Treasurer should be chosen in Parliament, 
and for some years this promise was actually kept. Not content 
to leave the expenditure of the war taxes to councillors whom 
they had themselves helped to choose, the Commons insisted 
on the nomination of two responsible receivers of the taxes 
they were about to vote. The King appointed William 
Walworth and John Philpot, two well-known London mer- 
chants and enemies of John of Gaunt. At the request of the 
Lower House the Lords confiscated the property of Alice 
Perrers, thereby admitting an ordinance of the Good Parlia- 
ment to be valid in her case. Before the Houses broke up, 
the majesty of the Commons had been vindicated and their 
power re-established.^ 

The winter closed down in gloom, and spring returned 
bringing fresh anxiety. The government seems to have re- 
garded its prospects for the approaching year with a feeling 
akin to panic. In February it sent orders to the Mayor of 
Oxford to repair the walls and towers of the town ' in case our 
enemies the French invade the kingdom of England, which 
God avert, as has rarely happened.' ^ Probably the alarm 
was exaggerated, and such a precaution unnecessary. The 
occupation of part of Sussex in the preceding autumn had 
cost the French a greater effort than they were able easily to 
repeat. The expedition had been carried by a fleet of war 
galleys, and several ' cogs,' the first-class vessels of the period, 
which, it was rumoured, had cost fabulous sums to maintain.^ 

' Bot. Pari., iii. 5, 7, sec. 26; iii. 16, pets. viii. and ix. ; iii. 13-15, and 
Wals., i. 343. 

- Feed., iv. 30. ^ Nicolas, Boyal Navy, ii. 161 ; Wals., i. 345. 


If England was bankrupt, France was not rolling in wealth, 
in the middle of the Hundred Years' War. Though the re- 
covery of the sea by the English was impossible in the face of 
the allied French and Spanish fleets, and though the coasts 
were at the mercy of the enemy, there was probably no 
serious danger that hostile armies would force their way into 
the heart of the country. The furthest place inland which 
they ever reached was Lewes. 

Within a fortnight of their issuing this order to the 
Mayor of Oxford, the governors of England had come to 
terms with John of Gaunt. It was a great confession of 
weakness and a great triumph for the Duke. A Council, 
elected and supported by Parliament, and presided over by 
his bitterest enemies, was obliged to allow that it could not 
carry on the war without him. He was not a great general ; 
he was not playing Marlborough to their Harley and St. John. 
But he commanded such resources in men and money that his 
aid was indispensable to the kingdom in time of war, in spite 
of his unpopularity and his many powerful enemies. Before 
the end of February the Council had selected him to command 
an expedition to St. Malo. He accepted the post, but on his 
own conditions.^ So passed away another phase in political 
history. The attempt made by the rivals of the great Duke 
to govern the country without his participation had ended in 
failure, and he recovered, if not his old supremacy, at least 
some share of power. But during these first six months of 
Eichard's reign another and a more interesting series of 
events had been taking place. Church and State had again 
come into conflict. 

The position and prestige of the Papacy when it first came 
across the path of Wycliffe in the summer and autumn of 
1877 were of a very peculiar kind, arising from events that 
had astonished Europe between seventy and eighty years back. 
Philip the Fair, the most powerful of the mediaeval kings of 
France, who ruled in glory before the English came to divide 
and impoverish the kingdom, had entered into conflict with 

1 Wals., i. 367. 


Boniface the Eighth, the most powerful of those medigeval 
Popes who attempted to set the yoke of the Papacy on the 
necks of kings and princes (1300-1307). The weapons used 
in the mighty struggle that decided the fate of Europe were 
chicane, slander, bribery and assassination. After degrading 
itself and its adversary in the eyes of that and every succeed- 
ing age, the secular power emerged triumphant, to the 
undoubted advantage of mankind. Boniface the Eighth died 
from the effects of three days' captivity in the hands of the 
nobles of the Eoman Campagna in the pay of the King of 
France ; his successor perished suddenly after eating a 
questionable dish of figs. The choice of the next man to fill 
the hazardous situation took the Cardinals eleven months. 
The affair was finally arranged by a bargain between Philip 
and one of the candidates standing in the interest opposed to 
France. The King offered this man the votes of the French 
Cardinals to secure his election, on condition that he would 
reverse the policy of his predecessors and bring the Papacy 
into serfage to the French Crown. The mean and ambitious 
wretch consented, and the King wisely took his nephews as 
hostages. The election was carried, and Clement the Fifth 
came to live in France. Philip, who the year before had 
been to the Court of Eome what the King of Italy is to-day, 
an impious and unpardonable foe, went about in the odour 
of sanctity. He had devised and executed the grandiose 
plan, afterwards revived by Buonaparte and carried on by 
Napoleon the Third, of 'exploiting the infallibility,' ^ of en- 
listing the forces of the spiritual world in the service of 
French politicians. For the next seventy years of ' Babylonish 
captivity ' at Avignon, the degradation of the Papacy was 
complete. Clement the Fifth was forced to preside over a 
trial in which charges of hideous infamy were heaped on 
the memory of Boniface. But the living Popes and 
Cardinals of Avignon soon attained a reputation for de- 
bauchery and avarice as black as that of the dead pontiff. 
At their iniquitous Court, benefices in every country of Catho- 
lic Europe were put up for sale, and the income spent in 
licentious splendour. In the year in which Clement the 

' ' Exploiter I'mfaillibilite.' Michelet, ed. 1861, iii. 98. 


Sixth ascended the throne it was said that a hundred thou- 
sand clergy came to Avignon to trafl&c in simony.^ Petrarch, 
who grew up like a fair flower amid the fungus growth that 
surrounded the rotting trunk of the Papacy, learnt to speak of 
that Court with horror and shame, and retired to the pursuit 
of classical scholarship in Italy. The indignation felt by all 
honest men at such a state of things was accentuated in 
England by national jealousy, and the perception that the 
French had over-reached us and that the laugh was on their 
side. The Commons of the Good Parliament, in language 
which seems more suited to their successors in the days of the 
Gunpowder Plot than to pious Catholics, spoke in their petitions 
of the ' sinful city of Avenon.'^ 

For long the Popes seemed indifferent alike to the scandals 
of their Court and the ignominy of their servitude. John the 
Twenty-second, who dabbled in theology, favoured the world 
with some views of his own on the Beatific Vision. This sign 
of returning independence was promptly suppressed by the 
Paris theologians, and he was forced to recant.^ But as the 
century went on, his successors began to remember the ancient 
prestige and power of the office they held. They carried on 
diplomacy and war on their own account, restored their 
temporal power over the Eomagna and assailed Tuscany by 
the arms of Breton and English mercenaries. These devas- 
tating wars only served to alienate still further the hearts of 
the Italians, who began to regard the Pope as a cruel foreign 
conqueror. It became clear that, unless Italy was to be lost 
to Papal influence, the Pope must again become an Italian, 
and Eome must once more be made the emporium of the 
traffic in simony and superstition. In the winter of 1376-77 
Gregory the Eleventh set sail from Marseilles, landed near 
Civita Vecchia, and proceeded to the Eternal City. He found 
it a mass of ruins, in whose midst he once more pitched the 
camp of the Church. The Lateran Palace and the quarter 
round it, where his mighty predecessors had ruled the earth, 
were sunk in hopeless decay. That part of the city was left 
to shelter the murderous banditti that prowled like ghouls 

• Miclielet, iii. 415. '•' Rot. Pari., ii. 336-9, pets, xl-xlviii. 

* Sismondi, tome x. 80-8, Hist, des Frangais, ed. 1821-44. 



through the gigantic monuments of ancient Eome. The 
Vatican district round St. Peter's, on the other side of the 
river, hitherto an occasional residence only, was chosen as the 
permanent seat of the Papacy, partly on account of its prox- 
imity in time of danger to the vast Mausoleum of the Emperor 
Hadrian, then known and used as the fortress of St. Angelo. 
Opposite his new quarters, Gregory the Eleventh could still 
see across the Tiber the Campus Martins of antiquity, studded 
with the ruins of theatre and circus, destined too soon to 
be buried for ever by the squalid alleys of the Papal town. 
Before he had been many months in these strange sur- 
roundings, so different from Avignon, so different from any 
other spot on earth, Gregory was induced to interest himself 
in the danger to which the Church was exposed in England, 
and to issue bulls in condemnation of the teaching of John 

Although the English Church had never repudiated the 
authority of Eome, she had in the days of Henry the 
Third ventured to complain of Papal abuses, and, above all, of 
Papal taxation.^ As long as she was popular and respected 
in England she could afford to air her grievances against the 
Pope. But now that times had changed, danger drove the 
English prelates to shelter themselves behind the Papacy, in 
which, even in those days of its utter degradation, they found 
a strong moral support. England was not sufficiently strong 
and self-conj&dent to stand alone in completely repudiating 
the most fundamental idea of mediasval thought — the Euro- 
pean Catholicity of the Church. Of this idea the Vicar of 
Christ was the outward and visible sign. Behind him and 
his authority the English Bishops sought refuge in the day 
of trouble. Bishop Courtenay, the great defender of the 
Church at home, was also the great champion of the Papal 
claims. He knew, whether by reason or by instinct, that the 
place occupied by the Church of England in mediaeval life, 
long unpopular and now denounced by Wycliffe and threatened 
by politicians, must stand or fall with the power of the Pope. 

' For this account of the residence at Avignon, see Sismondi's Hist, des 
Franqais, tomes ix. x. xi ; Sismondi's Hist, des Repub. Italiennes, chaps. 48-9 ; 
Michelet, tome iii. ed. 1861. 

^ Maitland, Ganmi Law, passim, e.g. pp. 72-3. 


Nor was Wycliffe himself slower than Courtenay to recognise 
that fear of the anathemas of Eome was the chief sup- 
port of the ecclesiastical system as it then was. The Pope's 
ban did not imply spiritual censure only. He could still 
raise crusading armies to fight for his cause. England was 
already at war with the three principal nations of Western 
Europe, and was being worsted in the struggle. If the 
English government had at this crisis declared against the 
mediaeval Church system, seized part of the wealth of the 
English clergy, and deprived them of their most obnoxious 
privileges, the Pope could have stimulated the ardour of our 
enemies by preaching a crusade against a nation of heretics. 
Wycliffe foresaw that he would not only bring into the 
alliance other princes and commonwealths,^ but that he 
would encourage the clergy in England to resist the en- 
croachments of the State.^ If blessed by Eome, the Bishops 
and prelates were likely in such an emergency to prefer their 
Church to their country. All the difficulties and dangers 
which encountered Henry the Eighth from within and from 
without, when he effected the destruction of the old ecclesi- 
astical system, would have encountered Eichard the Second 
in a far more aggravated form. Alone, an unpopular Church 
might have been unable to resist the State ; supported by 
the Pope and Catholic Europe, she had little to fear from a 
government already so embarrassed. 

In 1376 Bishop Courtenay had come into contact with the 
government, in his support of the Papal claims. Pope Gregory 
the Eleventh, being at that time at war with Florence for his 
own private ends, had issued a bull of interdict against all 
Florentines the world over. The King of England, who had 
considerable dealings with their merchants, ventured to take 
those in his dominions under his special protection ; but in 
defiance of the royal mandate the Bishop of London published 
the Pope's bull at St. Paul's Cross and excommunicated all 
Florentines in the country. The King's Chancellor sum- 
moned Courtenay before him, and inquired why he had pub- 
lished the bull without the knowledge of the King and 
Council. ' Because the Pope ordered it,' replied the Bishop. 
' Fasc. Z., 264. ■' S. E. W., iii. 276, 



' Then choose,' answered the Chancellor, ' between suffering 
confiscation of your temporalities and recalling your words 
with your own mouth.' Finally, although the Bishop was 
spared this indignity, he was forced to recall the interdict by 
proxy.^ The story illustrates the relations of the English 
government to the Papacy. If either party had acted on 
his theory, if the King had invariably enforced the prohibition 
of Papal bulls, or if the Pope had objected to its occasional 
enforcement, the breach with Eome would have been brought 
on at this period. But it was not the habit in the Middle 
Ages to carry theory so far as to put it into practice. 

Such was the hostile attitude of the English government, 
and such the friendly attitude of the English Bishops towards 
the Papal claims, when Gregory returned from Avignon to 
Bome and commenced operations against Wycliffe. The 
attack on the reformer in February 1377, which culminated 
in the extraordinary scene in St. Paul's, had been set on foot 
by Courtenay and his colleagues without instigation or help 
from the Pope. It was probably the news of their failure, 
reaching the Vatican early in the spring, that induced Gregory 
to issue, in the latter part of May, a series of bulls to various 
authorities in England, ordering the arrest of Wycliffe. The 
heresies which the Pope imputed to the reformer were not so 
important from their doctrinal as from their political aspect. \/^ 
Although abstruse points of doctrine were involved, the interest 
of the accusation and defence was chiefly political. ''The 
heretic was standing for England against Eome, for the State 
against the Church.-^/The bull asserted that he had declared 
against the power of the Pope to bind and loose, and had 
maintained that excommunication when unjust had no real 
effect. He had pronounced it the duty of the State to secularise 
the property of the Church when she grew too rich, in order 
to purify her. He had said that any ordained priest had 
power to administer any of the Sacraments, several of which 
the Eoman Catholic Church reserves to Bishops alone. This 
doctrine was the point from which he started in his attack on 
the prelatic system. It contained the germ of Presbyterianism. 
The bulls at the same time cleverly attempted to render him 

' Cont. Eulog., 335 ; CJiron. Aug., 109-11. 


odious to his lay advocates by accusing him of doctrines sub- 
versive of State as well as Church. He was charged with 
declaring that the ' Saints are in actual possession of all 
things.' It was on this speculative basis that he had, in his 
earlier works, propounded a theory of communism, but he had 
always qualified it by admitting that it was impracticable, and 
had since let it drop as he became more engrossed by Church 

Such were the opinions for which he was arraigned by the 
Pope, and which he maintained during several months of con- 
troversy. The government and people of England were both 
on his side. He was never in his life so strong as he was in 
this year, when he stood as the national champion against 
the Papacy, and spoke the national feeling against the abuses 
of the Church at home. Men had not had time to see how 
far he was leading them, and were content with the general 
direction. In later years, when he expounded one by one the 
doctrines peculiar to later Protestantism, he formed a powerful 
sect, but he ceased to lead the nation or to enjoy the patronage 
of the government. The story of his year of triumph is 
quickly told. The bulls ordering his arrest arrived about the 
time of Edward's death. The early months of Eichard's reign 
were not a time for further troubling the waters, and it is 
probable that the unsettled state of the kingdom and the 
danger of invasion were causes why the Bishops refrained 
from acting on their orders when first received. But they 
soon had still better reasons for postponing action. The 
Commons who met in October 1377 to renew the policy of the 
Good Parliament, were furiously anti-papal. As the House 
was in this temper, Wycliffe appeared in person and presented 
to the members a defence of his heresies so technical, that it 
must have puzzled any honest knight of the shire who tried to 
understand it.^ The Bishops still maintained a masterl}:' 
inactivity. They did well to hesitate before beginning the 
prosecution, for the governors of the kingdom, as well as the 
Commons, were on Wycliffe's side. The disasters and diffi- 
culties of the year had brought prominently before all the 

■ Wals., i. 353-5. For Wycliffe's eommunism, see below, chap. vi. 
2 Fasc. Z., 245. 


evils of Papal taxation. As Parliament had pointed out, 
the French ecclesiastics holding benefices in England used 
their endowments against the English arms in France.^ But 
there was another scheme of national robbery more extensive 
still. The Pope claimed and exercised the power of taxing the 
Church in his own right. However great the distress of the 
country, the Papal collectors were always at work gathering 
great sums of money from the monastic and secular clergy. 
In this way the produce of English land was sent over- sea to 
pay for Gregory's wars in Tuscany and the Eomagna, while 
the English exchequer was necessitous, and the English shores 

Under these circumstances young Eichard's advisers 
seriously considered the policy of stopping the export of money 
to Eome. Wycliffe, though actually under the ban of the 
Pope's bulls, was requested by the King to draw up an answer 
to the question ' Whether the Eealm of England can legiti- 
mately, when the necessity of repelling invasion is imminent, 
withhold the treasure of the Eealm that it be not sent to foreign 
parts, although the Pope demand it under pain of censure 
and in virtue of obedience due to him.' Wycliffe used the 
opportunity to draw up a telling pamphlet in which he 
answered other questions beside the one asked. ' The Pope,' 
he said, ' cannot demand this treasure except by way of alms 
and by the rule of charity. But this claim of alms and all 
demand for the treasure of the realm ought to cease in this 
case of our present need. Since all charity begins at home, 
it would not be the work of charity, but of fatuity, to direct the 
alms of the realm abroad, when the realm itself lies in need of 
them.' The Pope's claim rested on the fact that the English 
Church was a part of the Catholic Church. Against this, 
Wycliffe urged the unity and self-dependence of England, lay 
and clerical, as one Commonwealth. ' The Eealm of England, 
in the words of Scripture, ought to be one body, and Clergy, 
Lords, and Commonalty members of that body,' holding from 
God the power of self-defence, and therefore the power to 
refuse Papal taxation if they thought right. Wycliffe goes on 
to strengthen his case by an argument which he would not 

' Rot. Pari., iii. 19, 22, 23. 


have used a few years later, when all his heresies were full 
blown. The rulers of England, he says, ought to consider 
that they injure their fathers in purgatory if they allow the 
money spent on masses for the dead to be sent to the Pope by 
way of taxation. The money ought either to be used for 
masses, or restored to the heirs of the donors, who would not 
then be defrauded. He cannot refrain from dragging into 
the question his proposals for disendowment. There may, he 
admits, be some danger that the Church of England will be 
corrupted by riches when the Papal collectors are no longer 
allowed to prey on her, but ' it is clear that for this there 
remains the remedy that the goods of the Church be prudently 
distributed to the glory of God, putting aside the avarice of 
Prelates and Princes.' Such was Wycliife's state-paper. A 
line at the end of the document records that ' here silence was 
imposed on him by our Lord the King with the Council of the 
Kingdom on these questions.' But the fact that while under 
the ban of the Pope's bulls he should have been consulted at 
all, shows how popular his doctrines had become with the 
heads of the nation.^ 

During all these months, in which the Bishops still 
delayed his prosecution, Wycliife was busy defending himself. 
He issued two papers, each containing a scholastic defence 
of the nineteen heresies condemned by the bulls.^ He also 
published anonymously ^ a general attack on the right of the 
Pope to condemn men at his pleasure ; he argued that 
such condemnations might be erroneous, and that in case 
of error the edicts had no binding power. He appealed to 
political common sense against any other construction of the 
Papal authority. ' If it were agreed,' he wrote, ' that whenever 
the Pope or his vicar pretends to bind or loose, he really binds 
or looses, how does the world stand ? For then if the Pope 
pretends that he binds by pains of eternal damnation whoever 
resists him in acquisition of goods moveable and immoveable, 
that man is so bound. And consequently it will be very easy 
for the Pope to acquire all the kingdoms of the world.''* 
Wycliffe had not yet declared for throwing off the authority of 

' Fasc. Z., 258-71. - Ihid. 245-57 ; Wals., i. 357-63. 

3 Fasc. Z., 481, note 1. ' Ibid. 489. 

G 2 


Eome altogether. He only wished to repudiate it when it 
was wrong. But he had already thrown over all respect for 
a bad Pope, such as he believed Gregory to be, or for Papal 
decrees which he considered fallacious. Next year, in ac- 
cordance with these views, he submitted his case to the new 
Pope, Urban the Sixth, in the hopes that a change for the 
better had come over the Papacy.^ It was some years yet 
before he denied that the Pope ever rightly had, or could have, 
power of any sort over the Church. 

It was not till close on Christmas that Sudbury and 
Courtenay ventured to act on their orders from Eome. On 
December 18 they began by calling on the Oxford authorities 
to produce the man whom the last few months had made so 
famous and formidable. The Oxonians were in a great strait. 
The bull that they had received from the Vatican some 
months back bade them arrest Wycliffe under pain of losing 
all privileges held from the Pope. Now there was not only a 
strong party on the reformer's side in the schools, but it was 
flatly against the common law of England to arrest a King's 
subject in obedience to a Papal bull. A chronicle of the time 
tells us how the University met the difficulty. ' So the 
friends of the said John Wycliffe, and John himself, took 
counsel in the Congregation of Eegents and non-Eegents, that 
they should not imprison a man of the King of England at 
the command of the Pope, lest they should seem to give the 
Pope lordship and regal power in England ; and since it was 
necessary to do something at the Pope's orders, as it seemed 
to the University on taking counsel, the Vice-Chancellor, a 
certain monk, asked Wycliffe and ordered him to stay in 
Black Hall and not go out, because he wished no one else to 
arrest him. Wycliffe agreed to do so, as he had sworn to 
the University to preserve its privileges.' ^ By this collusive 
imprisonment the Oxford authorities hoped to satisfy the 
incompatible claims of the Pope and the English government 
alike, to maintain their own dignity and to display their 
friendship to the accused. This year was the high-water 
mark of his general popularity with the various parties in 

' Fasc. Z,, 490 ; De Ecc, cap. xv. 352 ; Fasc. Z., xxxiii. note 2. 
2 Qont. Eulog. (E. S.), 348. 

Jait.-March 1378 WYCLIFFE'S SECOND TEIAL 85 

Oxford, as well as in England. The Chancellor, we are 
told, having taken the opinions of all the masters in theology, 
* for all and by the assent of all,' declared publicly in the 
schools that Wyclijffe's condemned propositions 'were true, 
though they sounded badly to the ear,' ^ 

Early in the year 1378, Wycliffe, encouraged by the 
courteous and sympathetic attitude of the University, appeared 
at Lambeth before Sudbury and Courtenay, sitting as Papal 
commissioners. Although he came into court this time with- 
out John of Gaunt at his side to ' maintain ' his case, his 
position was stronger than at the time of his riotous trial in 
St. Paul's the year before. Then the English Bishops had 
been acting within the acknowledged rights of the Church 
Courts within this country. Now the arrival of the bulls had 
raised a grave claim of Papal jurisdiction in England, which 
no one except the Bishops and their followers was willing 
to admit. Since last year the King's councillors had asked 
Wycliffe' s advice and constituted him their champion against 
the Pope ; they could not now for very shame abandon him 
to the enemy. Just before the trial began. Sir Lewis Clifford 
arrived at Lambeth with a message from the Queen-mother 
to the Bishops, forbidding them to take any decided measures 
against the prisoner. It was not John of Gaunt, but the 
widow of his rival the Black Prince, who thus interfered. Her 
late husband, whose memory made her so dear and honourable, 
Wycliffe regarded as a possible friend to Church reforms, 
had he but lived.^ Her message struck a damp into the 
hearts of the Papal commissioners. They were not absolutely 
forbidden to proceed with the examination, but they were 
absolutely forbidden to act on its results. Although the 
formalities of a trial were begun, there was no longer question 
of really sending Wycliffe to Eome. The monastic chronicler 
abuses the Bishops as time-servers and poltroons. What 
were the Queen's orders compared to those of the Vicar of 
Christ ? But although it was easy for the monks to chatter 
in the safe seclusion of the writing-room at St. Albans, in the 
real world outside even the valiant Courtenay shrank from 
fighting the Pope's battle against all England. Nothing, 

> Cont. Eulog., 348. - Pol. Works, ii. 417-8. 


indeed, was wanting to complete Wycliffe's triumph except a 
popular demonstration in his favour, and that was soon forth- 
coming. At an early stage of the trial a mob from the city 
broke into the Archbishop's chapel at Lambeth, where the 
session was being held, and interrupted the business with 
characteristic violence. ' In this way,' says the enraged 
chronicler, ' that slippery John WycliiTe deluded his inquisitors, 
mocked the Bishops, and escaped them by the favour and care 
of the Londoners, although all his propositions are clearly 
heretical and depraved.' ^ 

The government did not let the matter rest here. Although 
Wycliffe's imprisonment at Oxford had been merely nominal 
and collusive, the Vice-Chancellor had technically laid himself 
open to the charge of incarcerating one of the King's subjects 
at the orders of the Pope. Being already in bad odour with 
the government for other reasons, he was arrested and thrown 
into prison on this ground,^ Henceforth there could be no 
question of the nullity of the Pope's inquisitorial powers in 
England. Though Wycliffe's popularity in high quarters soon 
begaii to wane, the events of his trial at Lambeth had settled 
this question for good. When Church and State in the next 
generation suppressed heresy, they used the ecclesiastical 
Courts and the Statute law of the land together, but not the 
authority of Piome. The distinction may seem to some nice 
and unimportant. It may be said, persecution is persecution, 
by whatever tribunals it is inflicted. Nevertheless it was no 
small advantage for England that we succeeded in keeping 
out the Pope's Inquisitors, though we could not keep out his 
collectors and his pardon-mongers. The Papal Inquisition 
was not a mere name, but a terrible and active instrument of 
evil. It had destroyed the numerous and formidable rebellions 
of European intellect in the Middle Ages, and was at that 
moment engaged in its work of blood and cruelty among the 
Waldenses,^ who continued, down to the time when Milton 
immortalised their sufferings in a sonnet, to occupy in 
Christendom the position of the Armenians in Turkey. If 
Papal Inquisition had been permitted in England, the first 

1 Wals., i. 356. - Ccmt. Eiilog., 349. 

* Sismondi, Hist, des Frangais, tome xi. 212-18, sub. ann. 1875, ed. 


result would have been the suppression of Wycliffism before it 
had taken root. But by excluding foreign jurisdiction over 
heresy, the English took their fate as a nation into their own 
hands. Though in the course of years we made many mis- 
takes in the treatment of religious opinion, we have succeeded 
better by a vacillating course than if we had submitted 
ourselves to a merciless outside power whose policy of 
repression knew not change. With this one solid gain, 
Wycliffe's year of triumph ended. 

During the Spanish campaign of 1367, conducted by the 
Black Prince on behalf of Pedro the Cruel, there had been 
serving among the English troops two knights named Shakell 
and Haule. These gentlemen had the good fortune to make 
prisoner a Spanish grandee named the Count of Denia. By 
the law of arms then recognised in camps of chivalry, the 
Valuable prize belonged to the captors themselves and not to 
the King whom they served. The knights brought the Count 
home to England, but eventually allowed him to return to his 
country to raise his ransom, and took his little son in his stead 
as their guest and hostage. The redemption of prisoners of 
high rank was then a very important and expensive affair. A 
few years before, the English Government had paid away a 
tenth of the Parliamentary grant of taxes for the ransom of 
one man ; ^ the extortion of the money requisite to redeem 
the nobles captured at Poitiers had goaded the French pea- 
santry to the terrible outbreaks of the Jacquerie. The Count 
appears to have found great difficulty in raising the money 
from his estates in Spain, for when ten years had passed his 
son still remained unredeemed in the hands of the English 
knights. At the time of Richard's accession to the throne, 
some negotiations were set on foot between this country and 
Castile, which made the possession of the hostage of great 
importance to the English diplomats. An embassy was 
invited to England to negotiate his redemption or exchange.^ 
The government sent for the boy, but Shakell and Haule 

• Sir Hugh de Chatillon, 4,500Z. See Antiquary, i. 159. 
2 Feed., iv. 15 ; Co7tt. Eulog., 342 ; De Ecc, vii. 142. 


refused to give him up, and hid him from the King's officers, 
pleading their private right to the ransom. It is hard not to 
sympathise with them, for they had lived long years in the 
expectation of making their fortunes by the hostage, who 
by the irony of fate was to prove the cause of their undoing. 
On their refusal to surrender him, Lord Latimer and Sir 
Ealph Ferrers lodged in the Marshal's Court a claim on the 
prisoner in their own right.^ It seems highly probable that 
they were men of straw put up by the government, or by 
John of Gaunt, who was personally interested in the success of 
the war against Castile, to whose throne he laid claim by 
right of marriage. Believing their plea to be a mere ruse to 
take the prisoner from them, Haule and Shakell would not 
bring him into court. The Parliament of October 1377 took 
up the case and ordered them to produce him. In the face of 
the assembled Houses the two knights positively refused to 
obey, and were committed to the Tower in consequence by 
order of the whole Parliament.^ 

It is at this point in the story that an impartial judgment 
as to the rights and wrongs of the case may be best formed. 
The events that followed threw such a flood of religious and 
party prejudice into the eyes of contemporaries, that to one 
part of the nation Shakell and Haule ever afterwards appeared 
as contumacious rebels against the Crown, to the other part as 
victims of the ambition and cruelty of John of Gaunt. The 
unbiassed historian will perceive that, though they had a con- 
siderable grievance, the wrong had been done them by the 
State as a whole and not by the Duke of Lancaster alone. It 
was his enemies who began the persecution of the knights. 
The King's counsellors, who laid claim to the prisoner in 
August 1377,^ in the same month drove the Duke into retire- 
ment from public life. The Lords and Commons who im- 
prisoned the knights in the following October were opposed to 
the House of Lancaster, and succeeded in reviving the policy of 
the Good Parliament. It was, no doubt, intended to use the 
hostage for the benefit of the Duke's claim on the throne of 

1 Rot. Pari., iii. 10 ; English Chronicle (Camden, 1855), 1. 

2 Rot. Pari., iii. 10 and 386. 

=* The document 'Super Financia Comitis de Dene,' Fc&d., iv. 15, is dated 
August 4, 1377. 


Castile. But that claim had become a national quarrel, a war 
between England and Spain. It was undoubtedly an unwise 
war, but as the State chose to support it, Shakell and Haule 
could not plead that their prisoner was going to be used solely 
to further the private schemes of John of Gaunt. His 
surrender was demanded by the government for a national 
purpose. On their moral right to disobey the order, consider- 
ing the provocation they had received, different opinions may 
be formed, but at the time of their committal to the Tower, 
Parliament regarded them not as patriots, but as contumacious 

They lay in the Tower for nearly a year, resolutely con- 
cealing from the authorities the whereabouts of their young 
hostage, who for his part remained faithfully hidden out of 
loyalty to their cause. At last they abandoned all hope of 
obtaining justice from the government, and broke prison with 
violence, knocking down the gaoler in their escape.^ They 
fled straight to the refuge then open to every one demanded 
by the law — the Sanctuary of Holy Church — were received into 
Westminster Abbey, and lived there among the monks, waiting 
for times to change, or, as their enemies declared, planning to 
escape abroad and take the young Spaniard with them. On 
August 11, 1378, the Governor of the Tower, Sir Alan Buxhall, 
came to recover his prisoners in the teeth of Church privileges. 
He was accompanied by Lord Latimer and Sir Ealph Ferrers, 
the claimants in the Marshal's Court for the disputed right 
over the Spanish hostage. The party that went to make the 
arrest included, therefore, both officials from the Tower in per- 
formance of their duty, and private persons from the Court 
acting with the knowledge and support of the Duke.'^ They 
succeeded in arresting Shakell, after some parley, without any 
serious scandal.^ The rest of their task was less easy. Haule 
was in the Abbey Church itself, attending the mass which the 
monks were engaged in singing. The soldiers entered the 
nave and laid hands on him to drag him out of Sanctuary. 
He, being a courageous and hot-headed man, drew his sword 

» Cont. Eulocj., 342 ; De Ecc, cap. vii. 142. 

2 English Chron. (Camden), 1 ; Wals., i. 377, 379 ; Chron. of London, 72. 

3 Wals., i. 377, ' astu.' 


on them, beat them back, and making use of their recoil to 
escape, turned and fled for his Hfe. His pursuers were close 
upon him, and after chasing him twice round the choir, 
headed him off and stabbed him to death on the spot. Per- 
haps the worst part of the bad story was that one of the 
attendants of the church, interfering to save him, was killed 
in the scuffle. The officers dragged the knight's body down 
the aisle and flung it out at the door.^ The grave to which 
the monks carried him may still be seen on the floor of Poet's 
Corner. The outrage seems to have aroused Sudbury, for 
once in his life, to bold and resolute action. He excommuni- 
cated the Governor of the Tower and all his aiders and 
abettors in the deed, adding a special clause to except the 
King, his mother and the Duke of Lancaster, a suggestive 
implication that tended rather to incriminate than to clear 
them. The government stood by their officers as firmly as 
the Primate by his clergy. The King ordered the reading 
of the excommunication to be stopped, and the church to be 
reconsecrated. The Abbot of Westminster, however, backed 
by the Bishops, refused to allow the place to be hallowed, 
and the monks' services ceased for a while. The King 
ordered the Abbot to appear before him, but he refused to 
come. Neither was Bishop Courtenay a man to remain in the 
background in such an emergency. Every holy day, in spite 
of the royal orders, he read the excommunication afresh at 
St. Paul's Cross, and did his best to stir up feeling against the 
Duke in London.^ The affair at Westminster had given rise 
to an open quarrel between Church and State which continued 
till the Parliament met in October, when the whole question 
of Sanctuary was brought up in all its issues before that 

The Parliament was held at Gloucester instead of London. 
The monastic chronicler declares that those who meditated 
an attack on Church privileges dared not hold this session 
in London, for fear that the citizens would rise to protect the 
Bishops and their cause.^ It may be well doubted whether 
the Londoners would have risen to defend any ecclesiastical 

1 Wals., i. 377-8 ; De Ecc, vii. 150 ; Bot. Pari., iii. 37, sec. 27. 

2 Wals., i. 379 ; Cont. Eulog., 342. ^ Wals., i. 380. 


privilege, especially that of Sanctuary, on which the proceed- 
ings of the Parliament were to turn. Past events had already 
shown, and coming events were soon to show again, that 
there was a strong Wycliffite and reforming party in the 
capital ; and it was to the recognised interest of all commer- 
cial men that the protection of fraudulent debtors in churches 
should cease. The real reason why Parliament could not be 
held at Westminster is clear enough. The Abbey was still 
unconsecrated. The Abbot and monks still defied the govern- 
ment. It would scarcely have been possible or decent to 
ask their leave to use the Chapter House for Parliamentary 
purposes. The position at Westminster would have been 
strained, though there would have been little to fear from 
London. Lords and Commons accordingly met at Gloucester 
in the Abbey of St. Peter's, to which was attached the mag- 
nificent edifice afterwards converted into the Cathedral by 
Henry the Eighth. It was felt that a great Parliamentary 
battle was impending between Church and State. Before the 
Houses had been sitting many days, Adam Houghton, Bishop 
of St. David's, resigned the Chancellorship. It was impossible 
for so stout a churchman to remain in office when the coun- 
sellors of the King were about to inaugurate a direct attack 
on Church privileges.^ He was succeeded by Lord Richard 
Scrope, an able and respected public servant. Scrope's duty 
was to appease the anger of the Commons at the unvarying 
ill-success that attended the war, in spite of the continued 
sacrifices of the taxpayer. He was able to point out that all 
last year's taxes had duly passed through the hands of Philpot 
and Walworth , as the House had ordained. The Commons 
demanded to be shown the accounts. The King ordered 
Walworth and Philpot to produce their papers, and publicly 
explain the items of expenditure. No serious exposure 
resulted from the inquiry — the money had been honestly, if 
not wisely, spent. The active inquisition of the Commons 
during these years prevented any such corruption as that 
which had prevailed before the Good Parliament.^ 

But the business which lends such particular interest to 
the proceedings at Gloucester was the discussion on the Eight 

* See Ap. 2 jiQf^ Pari., iii. 35 ; Antiquary, iv. 204. 


of Sanctuary. It had been raised by the violent sacrilege 
and murder in Westminster Abbey, which seemed to put the 
Church in the right and the State in the wrong. But the 
partisans of the State felt so strongly on the general question 
that they did not hesitate to raise it on the particular issue 
of the case of Shakell and Haule. While repudiating the 
homicide, the government maintained the right of the King's 
officers to make the arrest in church. The reason of the 
firm attitude adopted was that the right of Sanctuary had 
become a public nuisance that called aloud for remedy. Any 
criminal escaping from royal justice for felony or murder 
had only to reach the nearest church and he was perfectly 
safe. The King's officers could not touch him. The coroner 
might come as far as the door and bargain with him. If he 
confessed the crime, he was then entitled to ' abjure the 
realm ' — that is, to swear to go into perpetual banishment. 
If he refused to ' abjure,' the constables were forced to besiege 
him by sitting round the churchyard to cut off supplies, and 
so starve him out. Sometimes the criminal glided through 
their lines at night and so made good his escape.^ Sometimes 
he was reduced by siege to come to terms of ' abjuration ' with 
his pursuers. In that case he was dressed in a penitent's garb, 
a cross was placed in his hand, and thus attired he was let 
loose on the high road, under oath to go straight to the nearest 
port and take the next ship outward-bound. That was the 
most that the officers of justice could do to the vilest criminal 
when once he had taken Sanctuary. There was not even 
security that he would fulfil his oath and take himself out of 
the country. A clever thief would not find it hard to lose 
himself in the crowded alleys of the seaport to which he was 
sent, and there continue his trade. Even if he did go abroad, 
he would run little risk in returning to some other part of 
England where he could not be recognised.^ In the Middle 
Ages there was no detective system by which a thief once 
convicted would always be known again wherever he appeared. 
If he was caught he was hanged. Such was the simple 
theory of justice at that time. There was more to be said for 
it in the days when police supervision was impossible than in 

' Liber Alius, p. 82 ; Gross, 86-7. " See Ap. 


the comparatively civilised times when Bentham pleaded for 
milder punishments. It certainly was no corrective to the 
barbarity of the system to enable a felon to escape by taking 
Sanctuary. A practised thief or murderer premeditating a 
crime could calculate on the certainty of reaching some 
church before arrest, on the probability of breaking through 
the watch of the King's officers and so making his escape ; at 
the worst, his safety from the gallows was assured on the 
condition of carrying his trade to some other part of Christen- 
dom. Nothing more encouraged crime than this facility for 
escaping the law, and nothing could have more whetted the 
cruelty of the judges against the few victims whom they 
succeeded in securing. Bishop Brunton of Rochester, a wise 
and good man and a true social reformer, actually made it his 
complaint that too few people were executed. ' Tell me,' he 
says, ' why in England so many robberies remain unpunished, 
when in other countries murderers and thieves are commonly 
hanged. In England the land is inundated by homicides, so 
that the feet of men are swift to the shedding of blood.' ^ 

It has been suggested that the right of Sanctuary was 
continued for so many centuries because it was found to be a 
useful means of getting criminals transported out of the 
country. But it could have worked in this way only in 
cases of persons of sufficient position in England to be re- 
cognised wherever they reappeared. A man of noble family, 
guilty of crime, might prefer to stop abroad as a gentleman 
adventurer, rather than to walk in thievish ways in his own 
country, without name, property, or position. But the ordi- 
nary criminal of the lowest class, whom it is most necessary 
for society to supervise or to put down, w^as only ' moved 
on ' by this process to some other part of the island ; for 
there was nothing to make him keep the oath of abjuration.^ 
The enraged populace used sometimes to lynch these men as 
soon as they left the church and appeared on the high road with 
the cross and garb of the penitent.^ The practice of Sanctuary 
survived not because it was popular or useful, but because it 
was an old-established custom in an age when reform was the 

' O. E. B., 86 ; Rot. Pari., iii. 62, sec. 35. ^ Gross, 37. 

^ Ibid. 9 ; Stats, of Realm, 9 Ed. II. 10. 


exception, and the maintenance of rights was the rule. Also 
it was a privilege of the Church, as dear to her as were her 
other possessions. Until the power of that great institution 
was struck down once for all, nothing was to be won from her, 
for she would surrender nothing of her own accord.^ 

There was another abuse connected with Sanctuary. The 
Church protected not only criminals but fraudulent debtors. 
Men escaped with their money and goods to sacred ground 
and lived there till they had tired out their creditors' patience 
or found opportunity to escape. In the neighbourhood of 
London, men who had borrowed large sums of money from 
city merchants made a collusive donation of all their pro- 
perty to their friends, and ' fled to Westminster, St. Martin's 
or other such privileged places, and there lived till their 
creditors were forced to accept a small part of their debt only 
and remit the rest.' ^ The precincts of the Abbey, says Dean 
Stanley, were ' a vast cave of Adullam, for all the distressed 
and discontented in the Metropolis, who desired, according to 
the phrase of the time, to " take Westminster." ' ^ 

The imprisonment of genuinely bankrupt debtors has been 
abandoned by the State in the nineteenth century, and its folly 
was recognised by a few reformers in the fourteenth. Among 
the extravagances for which the Lollards were denounced was 
their proposal to abolish imprisonment for debt.^ But in the 
case of fraudulent debtors who had money to pay, it would have 
been well rigorously to enforce the law, for imprisonment at 
least forced them to pay their debts. Such persons were 
enticed by the immunities of Sanctuary to deliberately defraud 
their creditors. 

""^ As was only too usual at that time, such grievances were 
'often remedied by violence. Haule's death at Westminster 
was a notorious but not an exceptional case. In country 
parishes, too, refugees had their throats cut in the church.^ 
The lawlessness of all kinds produced by the privilege 
demanded immediate remedy. John of Gaunt intended 
beforehand to bring it up in the Parliament at Gloucester,^ 

' See Ap. - Rot. Pari., ii. 369, iii. 37. 

s Westminster Abbey (2nd ed.). p. 390 ; P. PL, B, xx. 282. 
* Matt., 211, 214 ; Fasc. Z., 337. = Wilkin, iii. 122. 

6 Wals., i. 380 De Ecc, 266. 


but the Archbishop forestalled him b}^ complaining on behalf 
of the Church. He claimed protection for the Abbey, and 
recounted the story of its late violation and of the horrible 
death of Haule. ' Certain of the Lords ' in answer raised the 
general question of the privilege of Sanctuary, and exposed 
the injury it caused to the general weal. They hoped 
' that nothing would be seized nor encroached on by the said 
clergy.' While admitting the right of the Church to protect 
crime, they called in question the legal warrant by which 
certain sanctuaries claimed also to protect debt and trespass. 
' And on this there came into Parliament doctors of Theology, 
and Civil law, and other clerks on behalf of the King, who in 
the presence of the Lords and all the Commons made argu- 
ment and proof against the prelates on the matter aforesaid 
by many colourable and strong reasons.' ^ One of these 
disputants was John Wycliffe. The paper he then read before 
the Estates has been fortunately preserved.'-^ It shows the 
lines on which the controversy ran in these discussions, and 
proves beyond doubt that the Duke of Lancaster headed this 
attack on ecclesiastical privilege. Speaking for his patron 
and his party, Wycliffe declared that he would not attempt to 
defend the abominable slaughter of Haule, although he 
pointed out that the knight himself had been the first to draw 
sword in the church.^ What he undertook to defend, was the 
action of the officers in entering the precincts to make the 
arrest. He tried to show that the privilege of Sanctuary was 
illegal, though it was probably as legal as long custom could 
make it.^ 

It is far more interesting to consider Wycliffe' s general 
arguments against the righteousness and expediency of 
Sanctuary. As is usual with him, he begins from the Bible. 
God established the cities of refuge for accidental homicide, 
not for wilful crime. Exodus xxi. 14 : ' If a man come 
presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with guile, 
thou shalt take him from mine altar that he may die.' '' The 
right of Sanctuary was a flagrant defiance of justice ; without 
justice the State could not stand. The argument of ' mercy ' 

» Rot. Pari, iii. 37, sees. 27-8. ^ Chaps, vii.-xvi. of De Ecc. 

» De Ecc, 150, 252, 266. * Ibid. 220-7, 229-31. « Ibid. 143. 


pleaded by the religious was hypocritical. It was not mercy 
to rob a creditor of his due.^ The clergy did not forgive men 
debts due to them."^ ' False piety and unjust pity are to be 
condemned.'^ He devotes much of his pamphlet to the 
consideration of the privilege from the point of view of the 
Church herself. Such rights as these, and the perpetual 
struggle for them, only served to make the clergy forgetful 
of the true service of God. It was his theory that they would 
be improved and spiritualised by the loss of their worldly 
goods. In the same way, he maintained, loss of worldly 
privileges would be no less beneficial. The experiment was 
tried at the time of the Eeformation, not wholly without 

In vain Wycliffe argued, in vain the Commons petitioned 
and the Lords hectored. From all the mountains of talk in the 
discussions at Gloucester there came forth the most absurd 
legislative mouse, in the shape of a statute passed at West- 
minster by the next Parliament in the spring of 1379. By 
this act the fraudulent debtor taking Sanctuary was to be 
summoned at the door of the church once a week for thirty- 
one days. If at the end of that time he refused to appear, 
judgment was to go against him by default, and his goods, 
even if they had been given away by collusion, might be 
seized for his creditors.* This mild measure, which was 
scarcely an interference with the right of Sanctuary itself, 
was accepted even by the staunchest adherents of the Church.'"' 
It only took effect in cases of fraudulent debtors, and even 
against them it proved but a partial and clumsy remedy. In 
1393 the burghers of Colchester complained that their Abbey 
still afforded protection to such persons,*^ and Westminster 
long remained the notorious asylum of men who brought with 
them their creditors' goods.^ As to Sanctuary for" crime and 
trespass, the statute of 1379 left the law as it had been. Yet 
this compromise, if such it can be called, appears to have 
allayed agitation against the privilege on the part of the King 
and Lords. It was not till Henry the Eighth's reign that 

» De Ecc, 232. ^ Ibid. 214-5. ^ Ibid. 261. 

* Stats, of Realm, 2 E. II. 2 ; Rot. Pari., iii. 62. « Wals., i. 391. 

« Cutts' Colchester, 150. ' Stanley's West. Abbey 2nd ed.), 391. 


Sanctuary was abolished in cases of murder, rape, and robbery 
with violence or on the highway. This was in 1540.^ In 
1623 it was abolished altogether,^ though for many years 
longer the privilege survived as an anomaly in the slums of 
Alsatia, its last and vilest stronghold. 

The original question of the hostage was compromised by 
the surrender of the young Spaniard to the King, and the 
release of the surviving knight, Shakell, who was given 500 
marks down and 100 marks a year for life.^ It is to be hoped 
that the poor fellow long lived to enjoy his pension and to 
abuse John of Gaunt. 

Wycliffe was far from contented with the miserably inade- 
quate statute of 1379, and was disgusted to find that it had 
been made the basis of a reconciliation between Church and 
State. He brought out a pamphlet, known as ' De Officio 
Regis,' in reference to the general issues raised by the late 
events. The Church, he said, should be under the supervision 
of the secular power. She had proved incapable of reform- 
ing herself. Her spiritual heads, the Bishops, Cardinals and 
Popes, refused to amend crying evils. Therefore, to save the 
efficiency of the Church, the State must be called in to act as 
guardian. The King should compel the Bishops to look to the 
state of the clergy in their diocese, and remove notoriously 
immoral and inefficient pastors. The King should enforce 
residence in all parishes, in this case also through the agency 
of the Bishops. The King should prevent the appointment 
of ignorant priests, and compel all clerks to study.'* This 
proposal is particularly interesting, because it foreshadows the 
peculiarity of the English Reformation under the Tudor s and 
Stuarts, which was carried out by the Crown, acting through 
its servants and nominees, the Bishops. Wycliffe no doubt 
had at one moment entertained hopes that such interference 
by the King's Council would follow the loud talk against eccle- 
siastical privilege at the Parliament of Gloucester. But as 
this feeling of animosity died down at Court, as Church and 
State became once more friends and allies, especially after 
the Peasants' Rising of 1381, he was forced to abandon this 

> Stats, of Realm, 32 H. VIII. 12. ^ ibid. 21 Jac. I. 286. 

3 Wals.,i. 411. 1 mark = 13s. 4dZ. * De Officio Regis, cap. vii. and jpassim. 



hope of immediate success. Yet he continued through life to 
preach the Erastian doctrine he had expounded. This im- 
plied a breach with the central idea of political science at the 
time, that Church and State were co-ordinate, and that neither 
could interfere with the internal affairs of the other. Such 
interference as there had actually been, was rather that of 
Church with State than of State with Church. The opposite" 
notion, that ordinances of the King's Council or Acts of 
Parliament should be ultimate sovereign authorities in 
spiritual affairs, was blasphemy to a mediaeval churchman. 
Another belief of his contemporaries to which Wycliffe did 
equal violence was that the ecclesiastical organisation should 
be international. It was no anomaly that a large pro- 
portion of holders of benefices in England should be Italians 
and French, although it had long been an application of logic 
distasteful to English clergy as well as laymen. Wycliffe's 
daring proposal in the ' De Officio Regis ' was for an English 
Church governed by the King and co-extensive with the 

The years 1379 and 1380 passed away without any striking 
event. They were years of germination, not of action. 
Wycliffe for a short while ceased to be either the centre of 
/politics or the object of persecution. During two quiet years 
of retirement at Oxford he thought out in his study, and 
began to teach in his lecture-room, the denial of the doctrine 
of Transubstantiation. So was brought into the world the 
greatest theological controversy that ever divided mankind. 
During these same two years nothing remarkable occurred in 
war or politics. As the military and naval power and the 
finances of England sank steadily year by year, each new 
Parliament with its remedies marked a stage of decline. 
Taxation ground down the people, and it seemed as if things 
might go on so for ever. But underneath, among the ignorant 
and unconsidered peasantry of the villages, was spreading 
the spirit of revolt. 

The Parliament which passed the Act modifying the right 
of Sanctuary for fraudulent debtors, met at Westminster in 
April 1379. It had important financial business to transact. 
The Chancellor, Scrope, confessed that the deficit was very 


serious. Money must be had, at all costs to the taxpayer. 
But the existing burdens were already beginning to be felt 
heavily, and the ordinary financial expedients were exhausted. 
The weight of taxation on exported wool, and on the particular 
lands and tenements subject to the usual tax known as the 
'fifteenth and tenth,' could not be fairly increased. Some 
more complete assessment of income or property was called 
for by the state of the finances. In 1377 there had been a 
poll-tax of fourpence a head. It was now suggested that 
another poll-tax, on this occasion graduated according to the 
wealth of each individual, should be levied. All persons and 
classes who escaped the usual system of taxation would then 
give their share. The clergy would at last be made to pay in 
proportion to their real possessions. The unknown wealth of 
the monasteries would be tapped by assessing each monk at a 
high figure.^ A poll-tax was popular with the upper classes, 
because the peasantry, who usually escaped direct payments 
to the State, would be made to help their richer neighbours. 
' The wealth of the kingdom is in the hands of the workmen 
and labourers ' was a saying that took the fancy of the lords, 
knights and burghers of Parliament.^ There was much justice 
in this plea for a new method of taxation to fall more gene- 
rally on all wealth. A poll-tax raised from all classes really 
capable of paying might have been a useful way out of 
England's difficulties. But, unfortunately, the Parliament 
taxed not only wealth, but poverty. The rulers of the country 
were, as usual, taking a leap in the dark. They had no 
statistics, they had no knowledge of the lower classes. They 
did not distinguish between those of the peasantry who could 
bear some slight taxes and those who could bear none at all. 
Although the richer were made to pay in proportion to their 
wealth, even the poorest was assessed at a groat. Labour 
disputes had for a generation disorganised the country, social 
discontent was rife, the government was unpopular, and the 
war a disgraceful failure. It was unwise to choose such a 
time as this to bring all the lower orders under direct taxation 
by the State. Whatever other causes helped to produce the 

' Wals., i. 392. - Cont. Eulog., 345. 

H 2 


Peasants' Eising, the poll-tax policy was one ; and whatever 
other effects the rising had, it certainly put a stop to this new 
financial expedient.^ 

Our ally the Duke of Brittany had been at Westminster 
for some time, keeping high festival Math King Eichard. 
Meanwhile the armies of his suzerain Charles the Fifth, led 
by Du Guesclin, the most famous warrior of the day, were 
tearing the unfortunate province of Brittany to pieces with a 
devastating war. At last, shamed by the repeated representa- 
tions and reproaches of his loyal subjects, he consented to 
return to his post. He left his pleasanter quarters in England 
on the distinct promise of Eichard and his Council that an 
expedition should be immediately sent to help him drive 
Du Guesclin out of Brittany.'- The money levied by the poll- 
tax was applied to the purpose : 50,000/., it had been calcu- 
lated, would be raised by this expedient, and a sum at least as 
great as that would be required to raise an efficient army. 
But again, it appeared, a fatal and ridiculous miscalculation 
had been made, such as had rendered the budget of 1371 use- 
less. The actual proceeds of the poll-tax amounted to 22,000/., 
less than half the sum on which they had reckoned. Such a 
force as could be raised with this money was put on board 
the fleet at Southampton, but not before one regiment had 
distinguished itself by violating a nunnery and harrying 
the countryside. It was December when the fleet sailed. A 
furious storm arose which drove back the greater part of it, 
and wrecked the remainder on the coast of Ireland. It is 
satisfactory to learn that the offending regiment and their 
brutal captain, Sir John Arundel, perished on the rocks. The 
remnant of the expedition got safely back to port, but was not 
sent out again. The Duke of Brittany never saw a single man 
of the promised reinforcement.' Meanwhile the King's advisers, 
as yet ignorant of the fate of this expedition, had summoned 
a new Parliament. In January 1380 the Houses met at 
Westminster. The season of the year, unusual and incon- 
venient for such an assembly, marked the critical circum- 
stances that necessitated it. Chancellor Scrope confessed the 

' Bot. Pari., iii. 57-8. ^ Froiss., ii. chaps, xciv. cv. 

3 Ibid. ii. cv. ; Wals., i. 418-25. 


miscalculation that had been made about the poll-tax.' All 
the money that had accrued from it had been sunk in the 
expedition to Brittany, and not a groat remained for other 
necessary expenses. The Commons alone could open the 
purse-strings of the taxpayers and save the kingdom from 
calamity. A few days later the news must have reached 
Westminster that the expedition for which all else had been 
sacrificed had returned shattered to Southampton, unable to 
face the winter gales. The Lower House at once' proceeded, 
in a most businesslike manner, to put an entirely new set of 
advisers and ministers around the King. At the dictation of 
the Speaker the Council of Eegency was broken up, while Lord 
Scrope, unable to retain the Chancellorship in which he had 
been so continually unsuccessful, was succeeded by Archbishop 

The Commons had won a great triumph. They had made 
a new government according to their fancy. Unfortunately it 
was no more successful than its predecessors in stemming the 
tide of disaster. The King's uncle, the Earl of Buckingham, 
was sent over to aid the Duke of Brittany with a large army. 
He landed at Calais and took a long march through France as 
far as Troyes before turning back to succour our ally. The 
reception of the English when they at last appeared at their 
destination was cold. They had come late, and the Bretons 
had suffered by their delay. Charles the Fifth of France had 
just died, and was succeeded by Charles the Sixth. ' Those 
who hated the father,' said the Duke of Brittany when he 
heard it, ' may love the son.' The English alliance, he saw, 
was a broken reed, and he at once took measures to get rid of 
our countrymen from his duchy.^ When this was finally 
accomplished, two years later,* our last alliance in France was 
gone. But we still held our forts on the coast, and intrigued arid 
fought in Flanders, where the rise of Philip van Artevelde 
afforded a chance of making the Flemish towns a basis of 
operations. For six years more, although the war taxation 
was so severe as to produce at one moment a grave social 
crisis, we refused to make terms. It was not the stupid blind- 

» Rot. Pari., iii. 73. - Ibid. iii. 73 ; Feed., iv. 75. 

^ Froiss., ii. cxi., cxii., cxvi., cxx ; Wals., i. 440-4, * Wals., ii. 47. 


iiess of a court or dynasty refusing to abandon claims in the 
face of facts. The whole nation was equally infatuated. The 
Commons would not ask for peace. If it is good that English- 
men should ' never know when they are beaten,' that blissful 
state of ignorance has been sometimes attended by disadvan- 
tages of a serious character. 

In November a Parliament was again summoned, this time 
to Northampton instead of Westminster. The floods were out 
and the ' perilous roads ' belated the lords and the great 
trains of attendants that they brought with them. It was 
some days before enough had straggled in to allow the com- 
mencement of business. The Chancellor, Archbishop Sudbury, 
who had been chosen at the beginning of the year to put our 
lame finances on their feet, had to tell as sad a tale as ever.^ 
The wages of the King's garrisons on the French coast were in 
arrear, and the troops on the point of deserting in consequence. 
The King was ' outrageously indebted,' his jewels were in 
pawn, and on the point of being forfeited. It was, in fact, a 
wet, miserable Parliament. The members grumbled at their 
uncomfortable and ill-provisioned quarters in the strange 
midland town,^ and gave vent to their temper in their policy. 
The Speaker declared for them that they wanted to know the 
exact sum necessary, and that it was to be reduced as far as 
possible, because the people were ' very poor and of feeble 
estate to bear any more burdens.' The King's ministers 
replied that 160,000/. would be needed. The Commons 
declared the sum to be outrageous and intolerable. After long 
deliberation they agreed that if the clergy would undertake to 
bear a third part of the charge, 100,000/. should be raised by 
a poll-tax. But two-thirds of that sum only should fall on 
the laity, for the clergy, they asserted, held a third part of 
the land of England.'^ The feeling against the Church ran 
high. The Commons petitioned that all the foreign monasteries 
should be instantly dissolved, and all foreign monks expelled.'* 
This request was refused, but the poll-tax was accepted, and a 
promise was made by the Bishops that Convocation would do 
its duty in that matter. The clergy, in fact, soon after voted 

' Rot. Pari., iii. 88. ^ Wals., i. 449. 

" Bot. Pari, iii. 89-90. * Ibid. iii. 96, pet. 20. 


their share.^ The Parliament-men dispersed in mid-winter, 
and the roads in every direction around Northampton were 
once more blocked with long cavalcades, slowly wending home 
to every corner of England. It is to be wondered whether any 
observant lord or knight, as he passed through the squalid 
villages that lined the highway, noticed an unusual insolence 
in the manners of the peasantry, saw crowds gathered around 
orators, or heard catchwords of revolt. The spirit of economic 
agitation had been remarked in England for the last thirty 
years and more, and it was now allied to the spirit of 
political rebellion. Whether they suspected it or not, the 
Parliament-men had fired a mine by the poll-tax which they 
had voted for the King's necessities. The country was on 
the eve of the Peasants' Rising. 

' Wilkin, iii. 150. 





It is impossible to write a history of any mediaeval period 
without dealing at considerable length with ecclesiastical 
affairs. The State in modern times covers much more of the 
nation's history than once it did. In the Middle Ages the 
Church administered whole sides of life which have since been 
put into the hands of the secular government, or left to the 
discretion of the individual. Every Englishman has now to 
subject himself to the laws of the State on certain matters ; 
in everything else he is his own master, unless he chooses 
also to bind himself voluntarily by the decisions of other 
societies. In the Middle Ages he was not only subjected to 
the laws of the State in its sphere, but to the laws of the 
Church in her sphere. He became as much an outlaw by 
disobedience to the one as by disobedience to the other. Until 
the latter part of the fourteenth century, this division of 
the national life had caused but little difficulty in England. 
In questions of marriage and testamentary succession, in the 
punishment of sins not cognisable by the law of the land, the 
Church had enforced standards of morality consonant with 
the ideas of the time, with such strictness or laxity as was 
acceptable to the conscience of the nation. Neither in 
intellectual matters had any one seriously questioned her 
teaching. Heresy was practically unknown in our island. 
But in the later years of the fourteenth century two move- 
ments came to the front, both tending in the same direction. 
One attack is directed against the temporal and political 


power of the clergy and tlie enforcement of moral discipline 
by the Ecclesiastical Courts. The other is directed against 
intellectual beliefs which the Church taught. These two 
currents of opinion, temporarily driven underground by 
coercive power, have since arisen and triumphed. They have 
in the course of time set the individual entirely free from any 
compulsory obedience to priests. 

There are therefore two reasons, one general and the other 
special, for treating ecclesiastical affairs at some length. In 
any mediseval period the Church is almost as important as 
the State. In this particular period the revolt began which 
has since become an accomplished revolution. The spirit of 
this revolt is written large on the literature of the period, and 
is found in the growing hostility of the laity to the clergy. 
But it would not perhaps attract so much attention from the 
modern historian, if it had not been formulated by the 
vigorous intellect of Wycliffe in a body of Protestant doctrine. 
He was a man suited for such a task. He was not a careful 
statesman, fit to gain some slow step of reform by repudiating 
all ideas not immediately acceptable to men. He had an 
eager hatred of what was wicked, and could never be kept 
from denouncing what he regarded as such. Similarly, in 
matters of belief he invariably exposed what he thought was 
false. These characteristics of the chief no doubt ensured 
the temporary failure of the party. Yet it may well be 
questioned whether they did not in the long run further the 
cause of resistance to Catholic orthodoxy. But although we 
can only estimate the real importance of the Wycliffite move- 
ment by considering it in relation to later events, we must 
examine the particular conditions that gave rise to its first 
appearance. It is indispensable to know the state of the 
Church in the fourteenth century and the character of the reli- 
gious instruction which she at that time gave to the nation, 
in order to understand Wycliffe and his doctrines. 

The Medigeval Church ^ was divided into two parts, the 

' In the attempt that I have made in this chapter to give some representa- 
tion of the state and influence of the Church at the end of the fourteenth 
century, I have relied very much, as will be seen by the authorities quoted, on 
the consensus of opinion of satirists and other writers of the period. I have 
indeed as far as possible trusted to the documents of more official and 


t-' regular, and the secular clergy. The regular clergy were those 
living under a rule, as canons, monks, and friars. The 
secular clergy consisted, not only of the higher and lower 
grades of priests and prelates with cure of souls, but of a vast 
army of ' clerks,' engaged in every manner of employment. 
But the division was not exclusive, for the regular clergy 
could hold rectories and other places usually belonging to 
seculars, and secular prelates could hold canonries. On the 
other hand, the secular clergy were under the jurisdiction of 
the Bishops ; while the regular clergy were not. The friars 
were entirely exempt from all authority save the Pope's, and 
were a continual thorn in the side of the secular clergy. The 
monasteries, too, were many of them free from the visitation of 
the Bishops, and all of them had their own organisation and 
officers independent of the rest of the Church. Like the friars, 
they looked to Eome for support, and the Pope was politic 
enough never to grant the episcopacy much power over 
monastic affairs ; thus the Papacy could safely rely on the 
support of the regular clergy. The Bishops were, in fact, 
responsible for the seculars only, but over them their power 
was nearly absolute, and their influence great, for good or for 

It was the characteristic of these Bishops that they were 
men of the world. With the exception of Brunton of 
Eochester, an enthusiast who abused his colleagues so fiercely 
that we must suppose he differed from most of them, the 
bench was composed of shrewd men of business, taking the 
institutions of Church and State as they found them, and 
carrying on the affairs of both on the traditional lines. 

- Wykeham, Courtenay, Spencer and Sudbury were four very 

responsible persons, but it is impossible to get much idea of the actual 
influence of an institution from official documents, for they only represent 
what the institution is meant to be and not what it is. As to the satirists, 
Mark Pattison has said a wise word about this kind of historical evidence. 
' Satire to be popular must exaggerate, but it must be an exaggeration of 
known and recognised facts. . . . Satire does not create the sentiment to 
which it appeals.' P. 104, Essays, vol. ii. (Nettleship's edition), ' Popular View 
of the Clergy.' Mark Pattison has also made a perfectly just remark about the 
satirists of this particular period in saying that they were ' not indiscriminate ' 
in their attacks, but singled out particular points in Church practice and 
government (p. 105). It is on the consensus of this discriminating opinion, 
including persons so different as Chaucer, Gower, Langland, Wycliffe, Bishops 
Brunton and FitzEalph, that I in part rely. 


different men, but this description applies to them all. The 
other Bishops are only names to us ; but we know the secular 
offices which they held, and we have the opinion of contem- 
poraries that worldliness was their characteristic, and avarice 
their vice. They are not accused, even by those whom they 
persecuted, of atrocious crime or of sinful life. Eespectability 
compassed them about. They were many of them hard- 
working men, but they worked hard, not at the visitation of 
their dioceses and the supervision of their spiritual courts, 
but at the administration of the country and at the royal 
finance and diplomacy. 

The method of appointment by the King rendered these 
characteristics inevitable. If the chapters of the cathedrals 
had been really free to elect whom they wished, the Bishops 
might have numbered among them men without experience or 
interests bej'^ond the sphere of the Church. If, on the other 
hand, the Pope had been able to appoint his candidates, he 
would have filled the English Episcopate with Cardinals from 
the churches of Eome and Avignon. He was, indeed, able to 
thrust his foreigners into the next greatest places in the 
Church. But the King would not allow him to denationalise 
the episcopal bench itself. Not a single Bishop of the period 
bears a foreign name. But, although the Pope could not 
appoint whom he liked, no Bishop could be appointed without 
his consent and co-operation. Of those who filled English 
sees in 1381, all had either been chosen in accordance with 
Papal provision or bull, or had been afterwards confirmed by 
the Pope,^ a process which was apparently considered essen- 
tial to the validity of an election.^ 

This practice was in contradiction to the law of England. 
The Statute of Provisors had forbidden the interference of the 
Pope in the elections. But although the nation that wel- 
comed the Act and the Parliament that passed it intended it 
to come into force, the King who consented to it had no such 
intention. Edward the Third, and Eichard after him, found 
that the easiest way to obtain the high places of the Church 
for their servants and friends was to act in alliance with 

' I have test'id every case. 
2 E.g. Moberly's Life of Wykeham, ed. 1893, pp. 61-72. 


Eome in this one matter. The Pope sent his bull to support 
the royal candidates for benefices or bishoprics. In return 
the King allowed the Pope to appoint his Cardinals to other 
places in the English Church. Neither party felt strong 
enough to act without the other. If the King had enforced 
the statute against provisions, the Pope would have lost his 
hold on the patronage. On the other hand, if the Pope's 
support had been withdrawn from the royal nominees, the 
Church in England might have ventured to reject them. In 
1360 the Black Prince and his father obtained a bishopric for 
a man unable even to read his letters, by persuading the Pope 
to approve the appointment, against his own better judgment 
and the will of the English Primate.^ 

The King's candidates were generally selected from his 
staff of civil servants, the ' clerks ' who had carried on the 
business of the country with success and honesty, and risen 
at Westminster by their talents and diligence. Hence, though 
the Bishops were likely to be neither fools nor knaves, they 
were still less likely to be saints. William of Wykeham, 
though perhaps above the average of his brother Bishops, is 
thoroughly typical of them. He rose by Court favour on 
account of his abilities and his public services. As his 
usefulness to the King increased, he was promoted from one 
benefice to another.^ His work was not to preach in the one 
rectory or sing in the many stalls that he held, but to build 
the King's castle at Windsor and to sum his accounts in the 
chambers of the Palace. Finally, he crowned his double 
career by becoming Chancellor of England and Bishop of 
Winchester in the course of one month. A diligent inquiry 
shows that, out of twenty-five persons who were Bishops in 
England or Wales between 1376 and 1386, as many as 
thirteen held high secular offices under the Crown, and several 
others played an important part in politics. Sometimes they 
were sent abroad as ambassadors to foreign Powers.^ Others 
had risen by favour, not of the King, but of one of his sons. 
The Bishop of Bath and Wells had been private chaplain to 

' Diet, of Nat. Biog., under Stretton. 
- Moberly's Life of Wykeham ; Neve's Fasti, passim. ^ Higden, ix. 24. 


the Black Prince, and had served him as Chancellor of 
Gascony.^ The Bishop of Salisbury was similarly attached 
to John of Gaunt, and served him as Chancellor of Lan- 

It was for services such as these that many of the English 
Bishops had risen to the bench, by the nomination of the 
King, but with the consent of the Pope. In a few cases, 
however, the Supreme Pontiff still ventured to assert his 
authority by nominating his own friends. He never thrust 
foreigners into the bishoprics ; there were many Englishmen 
at Avignon high in his favour whom their country could 
accept, but whom he could still trust to remember their 
patron. Archbishop Sudbury himself, the son of a poor 
Suffolk gentleman, had been sent abroad as a boy to work his 
way up the Church. Employed first as a household chaplain 
to Innocent the Sixth, he had become one of the Auditors of 
the Council, at Avignon. His great patron had then sent him 
back to England as Chancellor of Salisbury diocese. In 1361 
he had been made an English Bishop ; in 1375 Gregory the 
Thirteenth raised him to the Primacy.^ If the Pope had 
always used his patronage so harmlessly as in this case, his 
interference would have been less disliked. But his appoint- 
ments were sometimes more open to criticism. In 1370 the 
rich bishopric of Norwich became vacant. At the request of 
a soldier of fortune in his Italian army, he gave the see to 
the captain's brother, Henry Spencer, who had himself served 
in the wars of Italy. The new Bishop was consecrated on the 
spot and sent back to England to take charge of the diocese.'* 
It seems as if Spencer would have had a fairer field for his 
talents if he had confined himself to the profession of arms. 
In the Peasants' Eising of 1381 his brief and effective cam- 
paign in the Eastern Counties broke the back of the rebellion ; 
two years later he headed the English armies in Flanders. 
He always remained a strong partisan of the Papacy, as his 
patron had no doubt expected when he gave him the bishopric. 
But even Papal nominees, like Sudbury and Spencer, soon 

' Nicolas, Hist. Peerage, sub Bps. of Bath. ^ jg;ist, Ecc. Ang., 555. 

^ MS. Calendar of Lambeth Register, first pages of vol. Sudbury, 1375-81. 
* Godwin's Catalogue ; Hist. Ang. Ecc., 546 ; Froiss., ii. cap. 19i. 


became connected with English politics and held office under 
the English Crown. 

The close connection between the bench of Bishops and the 
royal ministry was not a new corruption that had lately crept 
into the Church. It was a tradition from the days of the 
Norman kings, when the first Williams and Henries trained 
and organised an effective bureaucracy. It had been of un- 
doubted service to the country for long generations, and in the 
fourteenth century the leaders of the clergy were still on a level 
with laymen as administrators and politicians, for they had 
been selected as Bishops on account of the qualities they dis- 
played in these secular capacities. But, although the system 
was valuable as a means of rewarding services to the State, 
it was a more questionable boon to the Church. The Bishops 
could not and did not give that attention to the state of 
their dioceses, and the conduct and teaching of their priests,' 
which was at this time so loudly called for. Those who were 
interested in the efficiency of the Church for the performance 
of her spiritual duties could not be blind to her shortcomings, 
and could not but be shocked at the very small extent to 
which these shortcomings troubled the Bishops. Wrapped up 
in their secular business, they were quite contented if all 
things proceeded on traditional and authorised lines. If the 
Pope approved indulgences, they were a legitimate piece of 
business. If rectories were empty, or filled with underpaid 
vicars, it had always been so. But to a man like Wycliffe, to 
whom the practice and teaching of religion were questions of 
life and death, such an attitude on the part of the prelacy 
seemed treason. He ascribed their indifference to their wealth, 
and to their secular employments. It was his object to spiritual- 
ise the Church by severing her connection with the State. 
' Caesarean clergy,' as he called all those who held secular 
dominion, were and must always be worldly men. As years 
went on, and he found that the prelates clung closer to their 
secular offices and their worldly schemes for money and 
power, he came to regard prelacy as too closely connected with 
these evils ever to be dissociated from them. His other specu- 
lations were already driving him towards Presbyterianism, 
and he came finally to the conclusion that the higher orders 


of prelates, to whicli the ' Csesarean clergy ' belonged, were 
both unnecessary and mjurious to the Church. But even 
before he had arrived at his later Presbyterian position, he 
always regarded with particular horror a clergyman holding 
secular office. It was one of his earliest doctrines, but as he 
grew older he only held it more and more strongly. When 
Archbishop Sudbury was murdered by the mob, in his double 
capacity of Primate and Chancellor, Wycliffe, much as he 
deprecated the act, could not refrain from remarking that the 
Archbishop died in sin, holding the most secular post in the 
kingdom.^ The violence of Wycliffe's language against the 
worldliness of the prelates was equalled by similar complaints 
of Bishop Brunton, as orthodox a Catholic as ever wore the 
mitre,^ The poet Gower, who wished for ecclesiastical reform 
on old Catholic lines, raised the same complaint that the 
Bishops served two masters, God and the world.^ 

While reformers of such very different types saw in the 
worldly avocations of churchmen a grave injury to religion, 
the system was being criticised by the laity from the layman's 
point of view. The monopolisation of all secretarial work by 
the clergy, and of the principal offices of State by the Bishops, 
necessary as it once was, would have become a serious check 
to progress if it had been perpetuated. The time was now 
come for some protest to be made. There were ready to 
hand intelligent and highly trained lawyers, like Knyvet, 
and gentlemen, like Serope, well capable of conducting the 
business of the country. It was by the help of this class of 
public servant that England afterwards rose to greatness, and 
by this class her affairs are still honourably conducted. The 
petition of the Commons against the tenure of office by the 
clergy was therefore not altogether a mistake. It was a step 
in the right direction, although it was found undesirable to 
sever the connection of the clergy with the public offices at 
one blow. The result of the petition of 1371 was that for 
some time laity alternated with clergy. Now a lav^^yer, now a 
bishop, now a knight held the Chancellor's Seal or the Trea- 
surer's staff. 

' De Officio Regis (1379), 27-9 ; Pol. Works, i. 243-4, 273-81 ; DeBlas., 194. 
2 O. E. B., 79-81. ^ Vox Clam., bk. iii. ; Conf. Am., Prologue, 32. 


One spiritual duty which the Bishops conspicuously 
neglected, with important consequences to the nation, was to 
administer justice in their Courts Christian. As might be 
expected, they themselves had not time to preside in person, 
but committed their powers to delegates. Before these tri- 
bunals came cases of marriage and divorce, clerical suits for 
arrears of tithe and other ecclesiastical dues, probate of wills 
and prosecution for sins punishable by the Church. There 
was apparently little complaint made of their jurisdiction in 
marriage and divorce. But the probate of wills, on the 
other hand, of which the ecclesiastics had the monopoly, was 
made a means of extortion on a large scale. The laity, in self- 
defence, attempted to secure fair terms for themselves by acts 
of Parliament and injunctions from the lay courts, but always 
in vain. The complaint continued loud until the grievance 
received drastic remedy at the hands of Henry the Eighth.^ 

The suits of clergy against laity for payment of arrears of 
tithe and other dues were all decided before Church tribunals. 
It was not to be expected that in such cases a clerical judge 
would be more impartial than the officials of the Administra- 
tive Courts of France and Germany, who to-day decide cases 
between government employes and ordinary citizens. Chaucer's 
energetic Archdeacon inflicts severe punishment in his court 
for refusal of tithe : — 

For smale tythes and for smal offringe, 
He made the peple pitously to singe. 

In bad times the strict demand for tithe pressed hard on 
the poor, and the odium of enforcing it in cases where it was 
a real hardship fell on these courts.^ But the feeling was 
often embittered on both sides by the objection that the laity 
often felt towards making payments to non-resident rectors, or 
to monasteries and Bishops who had appropriated the tithe 
of a parish. The movement for refusal of such dues was 
at this period a marked thing. It was a means of giving ex- 
pression to general discontent with the Church. The clergy 
complained that the King's Courts often supported the illegal 

' Bot. Pari., ii. 335, iii. 25 ; Pol. Poems, i. 323 ; Stats, of Realm, 15 Ed. 
III., i. 6 ; 4 H. V. 8 ; 21 H. VIII. 5. ^ j^jatt., 151. 


refusal of the laity to pay tithe, by placing injunctions and 
other hindrances in the way of its recover3%^ 

In all these cases of marriage, testament and ecclesiastical 
dues, the Church courts were acting simply as law courts. As 
such, they do not appear to have been more corrupt than the 
secular tribunals. Contemporaries divide their abuse equally 
between the two. It would have been Wycliffe's part to praise 
the lay lawyers and the lay courts at the expense of their 
traditional enemies and rivals, but he was too true a reformer 
to equivocate in this manner. He unsparingly denounced all 
lawyers and their procedure. Like the other writers of his 
day, he bore witness to their corruptions and extortions. They 
were, he said, the instrument of any villainy which great men 
wished to perpetrate. They helped them to oppress the poor, 
of whom Wycliffe was always a champion, sometimes to his 
cost."^ In ' Piers Plowman ' the lawyers fare no better : — 

Thou had bet meet a mist on Malvern Hills, 

Than get a mom of their mouth till money be them shewed. 

Langland's bitterest description of the evils of his time and 
the triumph of corruption is that ' law is grown lord.' The 
jurymen of the lay courts, or ' sisours ' as they were called, 
and the officers of the Church tribunals, he condemns together 
as ' sisours and summoners,' the bond servants of ' Lady Meed,' 
the enchantress.^ The lawyers and jurymen seem to have 
been notable for corruption in a corrupt age. The Commons 
stated that felons kept jurors to maintain them against honest 
men, much as a modern swindler is said in some countries to 
* keep ' a judge. Lollard writers declared that jurors would 
often forswear themselves ' for their dinner and a noble.' '* 

The Church courts, as law courts, were therefore no worse 
than the royal tribunals. They could have been reformed 
at least as easily as the Chancery Court. Indeed, after the 
Eef ormation there is no reason to think they were particularly 
corrupt ; the acts for regulating their extravagant fees were 
really enforced when once the independent status of the Church 
had been broken by the Tudors. Until the nineteenth century 

' Stats, of Realm, 1 E. II. 13. ^ Matt., 234-7. 

» P. PL, C, i. 163-4 ; A, iii. 279 ; C, xxii. 372. 
* Bot. Pari, iii. 140 ; Matt., 183 ; C. of B., 199. 


tlieir services in probate and divorce were retained as part of 
the machinery of the law. 

The inquisitorial power of the Church courts over morals 
was another matter. In this capacity they appear, not solely 
as tribunals to administer the law, but as the spiritual 
guides of the individual conscience. Their jurisdiction was 
connected with the doctrine of Absolution. Every Christian 
was expected to repent, to confess his sin to the priest, 
and to perform such penance as his confessor directed. By 
these three acts he became purged of his sins. But many 
men, whether they repented or not, neither confessed to 
priests nor submitted to punishment. Such sinners were 
summoned before the Ecclesiastical Courts, convicted of their 
sin by witness, and condemned to the penance proper to the 
case. In this capacity the tribunal was acting its part in the 
system of Absolution. The sins over which the courts had 
jurisdiction had therefore originally been punished by corporal 
penance, and in the thirteenth century the Church had for- 
bidden the courts to receive money in commutation. In the 
fourteenth century this rule, if it had ever been regularly 
enforced, was relaxed, and even the theory of those in authority 
was altered.^ Fines for sin were allowed. 

The change was a proof that the Church jurisdiction over 
sin was beginning to be out of place. Such jurisdiction had 
meaning and use in ages when the priest was the real moral 
authority. When the proudest of the Kings of England sub- 
mitted to be flogged by the monks of Canterbury before the 
tomb of Becket, his subjects might be expected to submit to 
the infliction of penance by Bishops' courts. Now times 
had changed. He would have been a bold priest who proposed 
to scourge John of Gaunt for the murder of the knight in 
"Westminster Abbey. Laymen such as those depicted in the 
' Canterbury Pilgrimage ' would be less willing than their 
ancestors to humiliate themselves at the sentence of ecclesias- 
tics whom they were accustomed to despise. Hence commu- 
tation of penance for fine may have arisen as much from the 
pride or self-respect of the laity as from the avarice of the 
clergy. However this may be, the change tended still further 

' SeeAp. 


to reduce the real spiritual authority of the courts in their 
interference with private life. Such interference became an 
absurdity when the officers of the Church treated sin as a 
means of filling her coffers, instead of regarding it as the great 
enemy with which she had for ever to contend. The Con- 
fessional was similarly corrupted. The friars more especially, 
treated their powers of confession and absolution as a means 
of getting money. The two instruments of the sacrament of 
penance — the courts and the confessional — being notoriously 
corrupt, became at this period the centre of much discussion 
and more abuse. Langland exposed and derided the practices 
of Summoners, Pardoners, and friar Confessors ; but he believed 
in penance and absolution, he wished to recall the Church to 
her old path of duty, and so to bring the laity back to the 
pious obedience of ages that had gone by for ever.^ Wycliffe 
was not content with Langland's proposal to return, which he 
saw to be impossible ; he disbelieved the theory of absolution 
by penance, and he disliked Church jurisdiction over sin. 
Chaucer, untroubled by speculation, recorded what he saw, 
and what the man in the street said ; so he gibbeted the 
Summoner, who hangs in the sight of all to this day. 

The father of English poetry had an eye for what was 
humorous. He describes an energetic Archdeacon in charge 
of a court : — 

Whilom ther was dwelling in my conntree 

An Erchdeken, a man of heigh degree, 

That boldely dide execucioun, 

In punishing of fornicacion, 

Of wicchecraft, and eek of bauderye. 

Of diffamacioun (slander) and avoutrye (adultery), 

Of chirche-reves and of testaments, 

Of contractes, and of lakke of sacraments, 

And eek of many another maner cryme, 

Which nedeth nat rehersen at this tyme ; , 

Ofusure, and of symone also. 

But certes, lechours did he grettest wo. 

There were not wanting officials to bring up offenders. 
The vilest of mankind made fortunes by preying on the vices 
they were supposed to correct. The Summoner corresponded 

* P. PI., C, passtos, viii-ix ; C, xvii. 28-42. 

I 2 


to the blackmailer of to-day, wlio lives on the scandalous 
secrets he has discovered, except that the blackmailer carries 
on his private enterprises under the ban of the law, while the 
Summoner was a Church official. Chaucer's Archdeacon 

' hadde a Sumnour redy to his hond, 
A slyer boy was noon in Englelond ; 

si't of spies 

For snbtilty he hadde his espiallie, 

That taught him, where that him mighte availle. 

He coude spare of lechours oon or two 

To techen him to foure and twenty uio. 

This false theef, this Sompnour,' quod the Frere, 

' Had alwey baudes redy to his hond, 

As any hatik to lure in Englelond, 

That told him al the secree that they knewe ; 

His master laiew not always what he wan. 
Withouten mandement, a lewed man 

summon excommiuiucaiioii 

He coude somne on peyne of Cristescurs. 
And they were gladde for to fiUe his purs, 

at the ale-!iouse 

And make him grete festes atte nale. ■* 

And right as Judas hadde purses smale, 
And was a theef, right swiche a theef was he ; 
His maister hadde but half his duetee.' ^ 

The end of the story is that the devil carries off the 
Summoner while he is trying to blackmail an old woman 
for 12(?.2 

The officers who presided over the Bishops' courts, 
whether prelates or inferior clergy, were scarcely better than 
their satellites. | It was an age of very widely spread im- 
morality in all classes, so contemporaries said. Nobles and 
gentlemen were not ready to endure the annoyance and 
humiliation of doing penance for their sins, but were quite 
prepared to compound for them handsomely. The prelates 
were on their side ready to receive money for their courts. 
The convenience was equally great for the clergy ; many of 
them were unwilling to give up partners whom the rule of 
celibacy deprived of their legal status. To be able to buy off 

1 Friar's Tale. 2 ]2,id. ; see Ap. 


inquisition was particularly convenient for them.^ The lower 
classes, too, appear to have often preferred to incur fines 
rather than to discontinue their habits.^ But, as we should 
expect, penance was more frequently inflicted on the poor, 
who were not too proud to submit to it, and could less afford 
to be perpetually buying exemption.^ The wealthy not only 
paid fines instead of penance, but sometimes gave ailnually a 
lump sum to the more corrupt courts, to prevent inquiry. 
Through such depths was religion dragged in the transition 
from mediaeval to modern institutions. It was a despicable 
makeshift to avoid the enforcement of an outworn theory 
of Church jurisdiction, which was ceasing to have any basis 
in reality.* 

Between the Bishops and the parish priests stood the 
Archdeacon, Deans and Cathedral clergy. It was in the 
distribution of these places that there was the openest field 
for the pluralist, and the busiest work for the political jobber. 
It was out of this class of benefices that the Pope was 
rewarded for his complaisance in the matter of bishoprics. 
The foreigners he appointed were nearly all of them Cardinals. 
They never came near England, except when their master 
sent them over as his ambassadors or legates. They were 
many of them French, or had connections and interests in 
France, for the Papal Court did not leave Avignon until 1377. 
It was probably true that much of the money collected from 
their property in England was used over there against the 
English arms. This struck the imagination of Parliament 
as a reductio ad ahsurdtom.^ An attempt to restrain such 
appointments had been made during the first war by the Acts of 
Provisors. The Pope was thereby forbidden to make appoint- 
ments in England. The King, for reasons already alluded 
to, never enforced the statutes, and the money still streamed 
abroad to the Cardinals year by year. The Commons of the 
Good Parliament sent up a sheaf of angry petitions with the 
same unceasing but vain complaint. The King answered them 

1 Bot. Pari., ii. 313-4 ; P. PI, A, iii. 45-7. 

2 S. E. W., iii. 166. ^ 0. E. B., 90. 

* Bot. Pari, ii. 313-4, iii. 25 ; Chaucer, Prologue and Friar^s Tale ; 
DeBlas., 172-3 ; S. E. W., iii. 166 ; Matt., 85, 72, 249 ; Sermoms, ii. 151 ; Pol. 
Poems, i. 324. ^ Bot. Pari., iii. 19, pet. xxvii. 


with the usual promises, but nothing was done till 1379, when 
an Act was passed forbidding aliens to hold benefices in 
England, and punishing all who should farm for them the rent 
of their ecclesiastical estates. A second statute to the same 
effect was passed in 1383.^ But Eichard the Second and his 
council had no more intention of executing these Acts than 
his grandfather had of executing the Statutes of Provisors. 
He not only permitted the Pope to continue his appoint- 
ments of Cardinals, but sometimes confirmed them by royal 

At the price of these unpatriotic concessions the King 
secured the Papal acquiescence in his own nominations to 
bishoprics and benefices. He had besides another motive for 
keeping on good terms with the Court of Avignon. That 
Court was a centre not only of religion but of diplomacy. The 
support of the Pope was a high card in the game for the 
'- French Crown played between the Houses of Plantagenet and 
Valois. Edward had vainly negotiated for it when he first 
brought forward his famous claim.^ Throughout the peace, 
and during the second and more disastrous war, the goodwill 
or neutrality of Avignon was still of great importance to Eng- 
land. The Pope had much power in the districts which we 
ruled in the South of France. Their submission depended to 
some degree on his attitude.^ When in 1377 Gregory the 
Eleventh removed his Court to Eome, an opportunity was 
i--" created for restoring English influence in the Curia. But the 
i^ French Cardinals were not slow to elect a rival Pope. Europe 
was split into two diplomatic camps. The allies of France, 
including Spain, Naples and Scotland, recognised Clement the 
Seventh ; England, Portugal and the Northern nations re- 
cognised Urban the Sixth. 

Our footing at Piome or Avignon, on which such high value 
was set at Westminster, could only be preserved by forming 
an English party among the Cardinals, who had the ear of the 
Pope at home and acted as his ambassadors abroad. Such a 
party was maintained out of English benefices, which were 
the cheapest and most convenient bribes for the English 

' stats, of Bealm. 3 E. II. 3, 7 E. II. 11. ^ See Ap. 

3 Wals., i. 201-15. ' Calendar of Papal Registers, iv. 13Q2-70, passim. 


government to bestow.' But it is not possible to account in 
this way for all the Cardinals beneficed over here. The Pope 
had inserted many who were enemies of the King and king- 

Among the Archdeacons in English dioceses, the proportion 
of aliens to natives was one to three. Of the high Cathedral 
clergy, such as Deans, Chancellors and Treasurers of Cathedrals, 
we have a less complete record ; but, as far as our knowledge 
extends, the proportion is the same. Of the prebendal stalls, 
a very much smaller proportion was held by foreigners, pro- 
bably not one in sixteen.^ 

Nearly all these foreign Archdeacons and Cathedral clergy 
were Cardinals. But a large number of rectories and cures of 
souls throughout the country were held by another class of 
foreigners, less exalted in rank ; for the Cardinals, by virtue of 
the higher places they held themselves in England, had con- 
siderable patronage in their hand, which they bestowed on their 
fellow-countrymen. Still more frequently a foreigner became 
rector of a parish by virtue of being abbot or prior of the 
monastery to which the rectory belonged, for the proportion 
of aliens among the priors and abbots was very great. In 
some dioceses the number of rectories in foreign hands was 
considerable, while in the West of England there were very 

Such a system of absenteeism was a striking example of 
neglect of duty in favour of avarice, openly set by the heads 
of the Christian world. It was only too well followed by 
English churchmen. The Bishops, as Brunton of Rochester 
confessed, were ' only seeking for higher preferment, and 
aspiring to be translated to higher sees.' ^ Beneficed clergy of 
all ranks intrigued and struggled to increase their incomes by 
plurality. It was allowable to hold several benefices, provided 
that only one was a cure of souls. But leave to hold plurality 
of cures could, like everything else, be bought at Eome.-* 
There, an enormous traffic went on all the year round in 
English livings.'' Perhaps the worst result of the Papal 

' Foicl., ii. pt. 1, p. 97, ed. 1818 ; Wals., i. 260, lines 13-7 ; Stats, of Realm, 
7 E. II. cap. 12, proviso for Card, of Naples. 

2 Lists in Neve's Fasti. ^ See Ap. * 0. E. B., 73. 

* Gibson, ii. 51-2, appendix. '' Calendar of Papal Register, Petitions. 


power of ' providing ' to benefices was the encouragement it 
gave to Simony among the clergy of the national churches. 
' Lady Meed ' (bribery), as Langland says, ' is privy with the 
Pope ; provisors it knowen ; Sir Simonie and herself assealen 
the bulls. '^ Orders and places in the English Church could 
be obtained at Eome by persons quite unfit to fill them, 
persons who would have been refused in England.^ 

It is a remarkable fact that throughout the fourteenth 
century, in spite of the degradation of the Captivity at Avignon, 
the Pope succeeded in keeping English patronage in his hand. 
If the King and the Church had united to wrest it from him 
they must have succeeded ; for the laity, as represented by 
Parliament, were continually urging them to take strong 
measures. But the King preferred the short-sighted policy of 
securing his immediate ends by alliance with the Pope, and 
the Church was growing cold to all demands for reform. She 
was no longer led by such fiery saints as Grossetete and Hugh 
of Lincoln. Her modern Bishops had risen to the bench 
by the diligent accumulation of offices in Church and State. 
They were tolerant of all the ways and means by which they 
themselves had risen. They regarded the sale of benefices by 
the Pope, with the same affection with which guardsmen who 
had bought their way up the army regarded the Purchase 
system when it was first attacked. Who could expect the 
Primate or Spencer of Norwich to forget that they had 
obtained their promotion by personal suit at the Papal 
Palace ? Not only the Bishops, but most of the higher 
prelates and even the well-to-do rectors, who had risen by the 
methods of Simony then recognised, and might hope thereby 
to rise further, were naturally indifferent or opposed to any 
attack on the established system. It is not surprising that 
the reform movement found support only in the ranks of 
under-paid vicars or poor priests who had no benefices. The 
scapegoats of the system alone were hearty in its condemna- 
tion. The attack on Papal usurpations came from the laity 
headed by a few malcontents of the lower clergy. The 
officials only moved to suppress rebellion, and did nothing to 

' p. PL, A, iii. 142-3, and C, iii. 243 ; Vox Clam., bk. iii. caps. 12, 14. 
- Wilkin, iii. 364, sees. xxix. and xxxvii. 


redress grievances. Such conduct on the part of the ajUthori- 
ties extinguished the last chance of internal reform, and 
rendered inevitable the revolution that took place under the 
Tudor s. 

The most vital part of Church affairs must always be the 
relation of the individual parish clergyman to his flock. The 
higher ecclesiastical organisation is chiefly important for its 
effect on the ordinary priest. At this time it appeared to 
many observers that the influence of the Pope, the prelates, 
and the monasteries on parish work was extremely bad. 
Wycliffe came to hold this opinion so strongly that he desired 
to sweep away the Papacy, the whole hierarchy and the mon- 
astic establishments, and to leave the parish priest as little 
fettered by clerical superiors as he is in Scotland to-day. One 
of the points of the Wycliffite movement, which we have to 
consider in relation to the actualities of the time, is this 
objection to the other Church institutions as detrimental to the 
work of the pastors who taught the people. The question falls 
under two heads — the material damage done to the position of 
the parish clergy by the other foundations, and the spiritual 
influences and religious beliefs which the Papacy and the 
hierarchy encouraged. 

The material interests and social position of the parish 
clergy of England at this time suffered severely from the form 
of bondage known as ' appropriation.' By this word was 
meant that not the advowson only, but the parsonage itself, 
with its tithes and Church dues, belonged to a bishopric or 
other high benefice, or, more commonly still, to a monastery. 
The historical origin of ' appropriation ' takes us far back in 
history. The Anglo-Saxon lord of the manor seems to have 
had the right in early times of paying the tithe of the parish 
to whomsoever he pleased. Sometimes he paid it to the 
Bishop of the diocese, more often to the priest he was sup- 
porting in his parish.^ Soon after the Norman conquest, a 
great revival took place in the monastic world, and was 

' Earl Selborne's Defence of the Church of England, ed. 1888, 133-6. 


rewarded by a generous enthusiasm for the foundation and 
endowment of monasteries. Men seemed to think that all that 
was good in the Catholic Church would henceforth come, like 
Lanfranc and Anselm, from the cloister. The Norman barons 
and knights, who had stepped into the land and property of the 
Saxon thanes, were carried away by the contagious enthusiasm, 
or followed the prevailing fashion. As the race which they 
were succeeding had supplied the land with parish priests, so 
they supplied it with monks. It seemed that they exj)ected 
the monk to take the place of the priest. They found a special 
delight in ' appropriating ' to the monasteries the tithes with 
which their predecessors had endowed the parish clergyman. 
It was not till the enthusiasm of the movement was over that 
it was seen how fatal had been the policy. The monasteries 
proved to be only of temporary value in the religious life of the 
nation. But in the ardour of those early years the interest 
of the priest had been sacrificed to that of the monk. In many 
cases the monastery itself was rector now, and held all the 
tithe and church dues, merely allowing some small stipend to 
support a vicar. In other cases it had a greater or less part 
of the tithes, the rest belonging of right to the incumbent. 
The result was that the resident parish clergy were nearly 
always miserably poor ; the monks appointed such unedu- 
cated and inefficient men as would perform the duties for next 
to nothing ; not infrequentl}^ the livings were left actually 

But it was only in the fourteenth century that men rea- 
lised what mischief had been done. Then, at last the evil 
effects became fully apparent even to the Bishops ; to everyone, 
in fact, except the monasteries. But they had the tithe safe 
in their possession, and neither State nor Church could get it 
from them. The Bishops, as the champions of the ' secular ' 
clergy, complained continually of the selfish conduct of the 
' regulars ' in letting so much parish work go to ruin in order 
to swell the revenues of the cloister.^ But, loudly as they 
sometimes spoke out, the Bishops, with a short-sightedness 

' Ecclesiastica Taxafio, ed. 1804 ; MSS. Clerical Subsidies, Eecord Office ; 
Register of Worcester Priory (Camden Soc.) ; Stats, of Realm, 15 E. II. 6 ; 
"Wilkin, iii. 240-1, arts. 5 and 18. 

2 Gibson, ii. 33-5, appendix, ii. 748-9, ii. 755 ; Lyndwood, Const. Prov., 50. 


typical of the officialism of that period, continued to make 
' appropriations ' of rectories to any religious house which they 
wished to endow. ^ They had indeed little interest in attack- 
ing the system, for many parish churches were appropriated 
to cathedral clergy, especially to prebendal stalls. But to 
Wycliffe, always the friend of the parson as against either 
prelate or monk, the system seemed abomination ; so the 
Lollards took up the cause. ' They have parish churches 
apropered to worldly rich bishops and abbots that have many 

thousand marks more than enow And yet they do 

not the office of curates, neither in teaching or preaching or 
giving of sacraments, nor of receiving of poor men in the 
parish : but set (ten) an idiot for vicar or parish priest, that 
can not and may not do the office of a good curate, and yet 
the poor parish findeih him.' ^ 

The inadequate stipends of many parsons, reduced by 
' appropriations ' and by bad times, caused many of the less 
faithful to desert their ill-paid duties. ' It has come to our 
ears,' wrote Archbishop Sudbury, ' that rectors of our diocese 
scorn to keep due residence in their churches, and go to dwell 
in distant and perhaps unhonest places, without our license, 
and let their churches out to farm to persons less fitted. Lay 
persons with their wives and children sometimes dwell in their 
rectories, frequently keeping taverns and other foul and un- 
honest things in them.' ^ Although the Primate complained 
when this was done without his license, such licenses to let 
out the rectory to farm were easily obtained from the Bishops.^ 
To regard the cure of souls as a source of income only, was 
then recognised and even authorised. Many parsons, without 
leaving a vicar in charge, deserted their dull round of duties 
among an ignorant and half-savage peasantry, to live in the 
great cities or the mansions of the nobility. Here it was 
not hard for them to get employment as chantry priests to 
sing private masses ; with the money earned for such easier 
tasks they eked out the pittance received for parish duties 
which they were neglecting. As Langland wrote : — 

' See Ap. - S. E. W., iii. 215 ; Matt., 97, 116, 190, 223, 236. 

=* Wilkin, iii. 120. 

* MS. Calendar of Lambeth Register, Lambeth Library, passivi. 


Parsons and parish priests complained to the Bishop 

That their parishioners had been poor since the pestilence time, 

To have licence and leave in London to dwell, 

And sing there for simony, for silver is sweet.^ 

As the tithe and dues were partially or wholly alienated, 
the parish priest was in great need of a good stipend from the 
patron of the living. But Bishops and Parliaments combined 
to keep these stipends down by ordinances and statutes com- 
parable to the Statutes of Labourers. In 1354 Archbishop 
Islip limited these fees to seven marks a year as a maximum.^ 
Eight years later Parliament set a limit of six marks. The 
Black Death had made parish priests scarce, and like the 
labourers they took advantage of the scarcity to try to 
improve their social position.^ How low that position was is 
illustrated by the chronicler's remark that these limitations 
of their stipends ' forced many to steal.' * One is glad to find 
that the Act was no more successful than the Acts for keep- 
ing down other wages, since a statute of Henry the Fifth's 
reign complained that parsons refused to serve for less than 
ten, eleven, or even twelve marks. At this stage of the 
question Archbishop Chicheley supported them, declaring that 
no vicar ought to be allowed less than such a sum.'' Certainly 
his policy was wiser than that of his predecessors in the reign 
of Edward the Third, who strained at the gnat of poor par- 
sons' stipends, while they swallowed the camel of monastic and 
prelatic incomes. 

Such being the condition of the parish priest, it is not 
surprising to find him taking part in popular tumults and 
risings. When the serfs of the neighbouring villages stormed 
the monastery of St. Edmundsbury in 1327, in protest 
against the privileges and extortions by which it oppressed 
its neighbours, thirty-two parish priests were among the 
ringleaders who were convicted of a part in the riot.*"' Nothing 
could have more contributed to the convulsion of 1381 than 
the social status of those clergy with whom the peasantry 

» P. PI, C, i. 82-5. 2 Wilkin, iii. 30. 1 mark = 13s. id. 

^ 36 Ed. III. i. cap. 8, Stats, of Realm, see Preamble. ^ Wals., i. 297. 

^ 2 H. v. ii. 2, Stats, of Reahn ; Gibson's Codex, ii. 755. 

" Green's History of the Etiglish People, book iv. chap. iii. 


came into daily contact. Many of them had just such grievances 
against society as the men over whom they had influence. 
' The world was not their friend, nor the world's law.' The 
levelling principles, encouraged by some of the leading ideas of 
Christianity, appealed to many of them with terrible directness 
and with consequences still more terrible. 

Certainly the wealth of the Church was very badly dis- 
tributed. If everywhere the rector, instead of being an abbot, 
a prelate, or an absentee represented by a vicar, had been the 
resident parish priest, then the tithe, the salary from his 
patron, the dues and land belonging to his church, would in 
most cases have been amply sufficient to support him in very 
good circumstances. As it was, these endowments were used 
to swell the revenues of monasteries, chapters, bishops, and 
foreign churchmen, ' who had many thousand marks more 
than enow.' If the Church of England complains that at the 
time of the Pieformation her livings were reduced in value, 
that her poor parsons were robbed by a greedy nobility 
and an unscrupulous Court, it must be remembered that 
this was scarcely the aspect that then presented itself. The 
wealth of these livings, when they were great and valuable 
possessions, had been made the prizes of the most insatiable 
and the most useless members of society, while the vicars and 
curates were at least as ill-used, as ill-educated, and as ill-paid 
as they were after the Eeformation. When the State in the 
sixteenth century robbed the rich possessioners and appropri- 
ators, there was nothing in past history to encourage the 
idea that the money would ever be applied by the Church 
to its proper purpose of supporting the more useful and humble 
servants of the community. If an institution grows corrupt, 
it must expect to suffer. 

The laity were often unwilling to pay their Church dues to 
an absentee. The refusal of tithe and the intimidation of 
the courts where such cases were tried, had been a feature of 
the whole fourteenth century.^ Wycliffe gave the movement 
a fresh impulse. Tithe and all payments demanded from 
the parishioner were, he said, alms that might be withheld. 

' Gibson's Codex, ii. 718 ; Lyndwood, p. 42 of Const Prov. ; Stats, of 
Realm, 1 R. II. 13, 14. 


When there was a real consensus of all the parishioners to- 
gether, payment, he said, might be refused. He did not wish 
that ' each parishioner should, whenever he would, hold from 
his parson by his own judgment,' but he considered that the 
combination of a whole neighbourhood was a useful protest 
against a bad priest or the evils of appropriation.^ In this 
question, and this question only, Wycliffe definitely lays him- 
self open to the charge of instigating men to lawless action. 
There must sometimes have been unfortunate applications of 
this crude remedy. All will feel sympathy for Chaucer's 
poor parson, who thinks that it is not for him to ' cursen for 
his tithe,' and so prefers to go without it. On the other hand, 
it sometimes happened that the agitation to refuse payment 
was stirred up by the parson himself, who saw his pittance 
being swallowed by some absentee incumbent or some neigh- 
bouring monastery. During the riots of 1381 several cases 
occurred of parsons heading their parishioners' onslaught 
against those who had appropriated the tithe of the parish.^ 

One cause of frequent reproach against the parish clergy 
was the result of the bad laws framed for them by their 
superiors, rather than of their own peculiar wickedness. In 
the earlier middle ages the secular clergy had had wives. 
The Saxon priests had known no rule of celibacy. About the 
time of the Conquest, Hildebrand's dreaded decree began to 
find its way into England, and by the fourteenth century it 
had been a long-established rule that no priest should marry. 
But the old custom had never died out completely among the 
parish clergy, although their partners were now in the eye of 
the law mere concubines. The Church authorities were often 
bribed to neglect visitatiori and inquiry into such cases, and 
priests brought up their children without fear, if not without 
reproach.^ Sometimes, indeed, the law of celibacy drove the 
clergy into more irregular and less permanent unions ; * but 
in this age of vice and coarseness, when all writers agree that 
incontinence was the prevailing sin of the laity, it was the 

' S. E. W.,ui. 177 ; Matt., 132 ; S. E. W., iii. 309 ; Wilkin, iii. 241, art. 25. 

2 Eeville, Ap. ii. docs. 150-1, 200, 203 ; Gibson's Codex, ii. 936-7. 

3 Bot. Pari., ii. 313-4; S. E. W., iii. 163; P. PL, A, iii. 145-9; Lynd- 
wood, 92, Constitutiones Othobon. 

' Chaucer's Parson's Tale, 629-30, Skeat ; P. PI, C, vii. 366-7. 


friars, and not the parish priests, who were singled out as 
having a lower standard than even laymen. 

Any estimate of the value of the Church in England at 
this period must be largely determined by an appreciation 
of the religious ideas and beliefs which she actually pro- 
pagated. If it appears that the friars and prelates both used 
their influence to increase rather than diminish superstition, 
the radically Presbyterian attitude which the reformer and his 
followers adopted in the matter of Church organisation will 
not be hard to understand. Men do not construct theories of 
ecclesiastical government for their amusement, but arrive at 
them by a process of observation and practical experience. 

The character and quantity of religious instruction given 
by a parish priest to his flock must have depended to a very 
great degree on the priest himself, and in consequence varied 
greatly in different cases. He was expected to study the 
Latin Bible diligently himself, but to instruct the people in 
Church doctrine as exemplified by the Creed, the Ten Com- 
mandments, the Ave Maria, the Pater Noster ; the six works 
of mercy, the seven virtues and the seven deadly sins were 
also usual texts for the preacher. This was the curriculum 
laid down by the episcopal authority. In the next generation, 
when the Wycliffite movement was at death-grips with the 
Catholic Church, the Primate actually forbade discourses on 
any other text or subject.^ But it must be remembered that 
these topics were capable of almost indefinite expansion by 
the preacher. The art of getting from one subject to another 
completely different was highly developed in the Middle Ages. 
Within the pale of the Catholic Church the pulpit gave the 
greatest opportunity for the development of individual ideas, 
not to say heresies. It was because it was at once the freest, 
and, with the possible exception of the Confessional, the 
most potent religious influence, that Wycliffe chose the pulpit 
as the natural weapon of reformation, and laid such great 
stress on the necessity for more preaching, and again more 

> Wilkin, iii. 59 ; Gibson, i. 382-4 ; E. E. T. S., Beligious Pieces, Dan 
Gaytryge's Sermon. 


preaching. It was his avowed object to make people attach 
more importance to the pulpit than to the Sacraments.' The 
Church, on the other hand, both theoretically and for practical 
purposes of self-defence, laid more stress on the Sacraments 
which she administered ; she regarded preaching with more 
and more coolness as it became the special weapon of the 
reformer. These rival theories appeared in exactly the same 
form in the religious controversies of the sixteenth century, 
and for exactly the same reasons. The pulpit was the battery 
of the reformers, the Sacraments were the rock of the Church, 
in the time of Hugh Latimer as in the time of Wycliffe. But, 
although the reformers of the fourteenth century called for 
more preaching, they never stated, as has been sometimes 
supposed, that there was no preaching in the Church at the 
time. Wycliffe's only complaint was that the prelates diid 
not encourage it. Most parsons, within the limits set by 
individual ability and energy, preached to the people. 

Although their discourses were generally on the points 
and formulas of Church doctrine mentioned above, a well- 
instructed priest explained and enlarged his text by quotations 
from the Bible and the Fathers. Those sermons which have 
come down to us give proof of the preacher's great familiarity 
with the Bible, a familiarity not limited to the New Testament 
or to a few of the books of the Old, but extending all through 
the Scriptures.^ But this knowledge was the knowledge of 
the Latin, not of the English Bible — it was the knowledge 
of the priest who preached, not of the people who listened. 
The importance of this special training given to the 
better-educated priests of the later Middle Ages must not be 
under-estimated. It was their familiar knowledge of the Latin 
Vulgate that made it natural and possible for Wycliffe to 
claim for the Bible pre-eminence as a spiritual authority. 
The Lollard acceptance of this new criterion of truth was 
followed by the later Protestant reformers. The influence of 
the Bible on modern religion has been even greater than the 
influence of Greece on modern art ; but while Greece was re- 
discovered at the Eenaissance as a thing new even to the 

' Opus Evangelicum, i. 375 ; Pol. Works, i. 261. 

- Neal's MedicBval Sermons, 1856 ; Chaucer's Parson's Tale. 


learned, there was no such re-discovery of the Hebrew Scrip- 
tures. Although a sealed book to the masses, they had 
always been one of the principal text-books of the clergy and 
of the few scholars among the laity. In the mediaeval sermon 
equal reverence is shown for the Vulgate and for the Fathers. 
No point is held to be proved until it has been supported by 
quotations from both. In this traditional practice Wycliffe 
and his followers were contented to rest.^ They backed their 
arguments with passages from the Bible and the Fathers, 
with this important difference, that they regarded the former 
as the ultimate authority with which all Church tradition 
must agree, or else be of no value whatever. 

The priests' quotations and commentaries in the pulpit were 
not quite all the instruction in the Bible that the ordinary 
layman received. The history there recorded was taught, not 
out of the original, but in the form of separate tales, mixed 
up with later traditions and popular fables. Probably there 
was no distinction in the mind of the laymen between what 
we call ' Bible stories ' and much other matter. A literature 
of this sort existed in the vernacular both in prose and verse, 
but these manuals were of very little value as intellectual or 
spiritual training, compared to the original from which they 
were supposed to be drawn. An example from the ' Metrical 
Paraphrase of Genesis and Exodus ' will illustrate the charac- 
ter of this class of popular instruction. When Thermutis 
brought Moses before Pharaoh, 

this King became to him in heart mild, 
So very fair was this child ; 
And he took him on son's stead, 
And his crown on his head he did, 
And let it stand a stound ; 
The child it threw down to the ground, 
Hamon's likeness was thereon ; 
This crown is broken, this is misdone. 

The Bishop of Heliopolis, angry at the insult to the god, 
wants to kill Moses, but the King saves him, and gives him 
two burning coals, which he puts in his mouth.^ 

' W.'s works, passMW ; Apology for the Lollards, Camden See. 
2 E. E. T. S., Genesis and Exodus ; O. E. B., 110 ; E. E. T. S. publica- 
tions, passim. 


There were, however, parts of the Scriptures actually 
translated. The Psalms at least had been rendered into 
English. But hitherto no English translation of the whole 
Bible had been made. The Anglo-Saxon version, of which 
copies were transcribed as late as the twelfth century, was of 
small use in the fourteenth, when there were probably fewer 
people who understood the language of Alfred and Dunstan 
than there are to-day. French Bibles, however, were at the 
service of those of the upper class who could read them, and 
Wycliffe spoke with envy of such greater enlightenment. 
' Also the worthy realm of France, notwithstanding all let- 
tings, hath translated the Bible and the Gospels with other 
true sentences of doctors out of Latin into French. Why 
shoulden not Englishmen do so ? As lords in England have 
the Bible in French, so it were not against reason, that they 
hadden the same sentence in English.' These words were 
written some time in the later seventies.^ Before many years 
had gone by an English translation of the whole Bible was in 
existence. It is generally known as the Wycliffite Bible, and 
has been till quite lately universally attributed to the Ee- 
former. Whether he or another man was the author of that 
particular translation, he certainly translated some parts 
of the Scriptures, and used every means in his power 
to bring about the study of the Bible in English by all 
Englishmen. In this effort the friars were his continual 
opponents. The sort of religious influence that they exerted 
over the people, was more consonant with old Church tradi- 
tions than with the new religion based on each individual's 
interpretation of Scripture. They were, besides, the rivals of 
Wycliffe' s itinerant priests in every village and market town 
throughout the Midlands. As their enemies attempted to 
spread Scripture knowledge, the friars naturally attempted to 
suppress it. The Bishops, on the other hand, sometimes gave 
license to possess English Bibles. Yet, if the Bible was 
meant for everybody, why was leave to possess it required ? 
Even nuns might not have English versions, unless they ' had 
license thereto.' ^ Some rich and powerful men possessed 
translations of the Scriptures with the goodwill of the Church 

' Matt., 429-30. ^ g^e Ap. 


authorities. But it was otherwise with the poor and the 
heretical. We have positive proof that the Bishops denounced 
the dissemination of the English Bible among classes and 
persons prone to heresy, burnt copies of it, and cruelly perse- 
cuted Lollards on the charge of reading it.^ The high price of 
a large manuscript work, and the difficulty experienced by 
many laymen in reading, were also found to be very grave 
hindrances to the propagation of the book. These practical 
difficulties in the way of spreading a knowledge of the Scrip- 
tures, of which the opposition of the Church was only one, 
were no doubt a serious check to the success of Wycliffe's 
movement. He wished, as he and his followers continually 
repeated, to base religion on the Bible instead of on Catholic 
tradition.^ Until the Scriptures could be more generally 
studied. Catholic tradition was certain to maintain its place 
for want of a rival. 

If one thing in particular can be said to have prompted 
Wyclifte's violent denunciation of the Church authorities, 
Italian and English alike, it is the hatred he felt for the 
practices they encouraged in connection with their doctrine of 
the forgiveness of sins. Perhaps the most real change which 
has taken place in the ordinary Englishman's view of life is 
the complete abandonment of mediaeval ideas as to the pardon 
of sin. The pardon of sin was thought to turn on certain 
specific acts, which it was the duty and interest of the priest- 
hood to see performed. These acts can be roughly grouped 
under four heads : corporal penance ; pilgrimage, which in 
one aspect was a form of penance ; purchase, which was the 
commutation of penance ; and lastly, special masses for the 
dead, which differed from the other methods in being vicarious 
and post-mortem. Penance, as we have seen, was already at 
this time yielding to purchase, the sincere to the less sincere, 
a fact ominous of the decay of the whole system. But pil- 
grimages and masses for the dead were still fashionable and 
flourishing. Wycliffe's attack on them was made against a 
widely spread and popular system. 

> See below, p. 342. 

2 Matt., 255-62 ; S.E. W.,ni.3&2 ; Matt., 284-5; Polemical Works,\i.M)o; 
Matt., 33, 70, 266, 89, and 94 ; Opus EvangeMcicm,passi?n, e.g. i. 79, 368. ' God's 
Law ' = the Bible, e.g. S. E. W., iii. 234, line 24. 

K 2 



The most usual way of endowing the Church at this 
period was to establish a chantry or chapel, with priests 
specially attached to it to sing masses and say private prayers 
for the souls of deceased persons named in the bequest. 
Prayers for the dead were no new thing, but in the eleventh 
and twelfth centuries the foundation of monastic houses ab- 
sorbed most fresh endowments. The monks then undertook 
to say masses for the souls of their benefactors, and parish 
priests used to be similarly employed. But the movement 
for the endowment of monasteries was now on the wane, and 
the Church authorities had interfered with this employment 
of parsons, on the ground that it caused them to neglect their 
parochial duties.^ It thus became necessary to found special 
chantries and endow a separate class of priests for this pur- 
pose alone. All through the fourteenth century this new 
form of foundation grew apace, and after Wycliffe's day it 
increased rather than diminished. The chantries sometimes 
stood by themselves as separate colleges, sometimes they 
were inserted as chapels round the choir or in the walls of 
existing churches. These delicately carved relics of the last 
age of Catholicism may sometimes still be found adorning the 
ruder magnificence of a Norman or Early English cathedral, 
though shrines and chapels have disappeared wholesale in 
the stormy ages that loved Protestantism more than archi- 
tecture. Besides the regular chantry priests, great numbers 
of needy clerics lived by obtaining occasional employment to 
pray for souls. Gentlemen and merchants bequeathed money 
in their wills to buy prayers for their own future welfare, and 
the pious made presents for the benefit of dead relations. Even 
if these practices were made general by a desire to accord with 
the fashion, they sprang — at least in many cases — from the 
genuine belief of the day that dead friends and parents could 
be released from torture by money so spent on their behalf.^ 

Pilgrimage had, no doubt, several different attractions. 
We see it in Chaucer as a pleasant holiday excursion into the 
neighbouring county for tradespeople and professional men. 
The desire to travel afield and to see strange lands may well 

• Gibson, i. 549-50. 

2 C. of B. ; Test. Vet. ; Test. Ebor. ; Memorials of Bipon, i. 153-96. 


have been strong with many of our forefathers. Such a wish 
was gratified by pilgrimage to the shrines of Italy and the 
East. The pilgrim's mission gave a claim to hospitality, and 
perhaps afforded some little sanctity against violence, in days 
when the robber was better known on the road than the hotel- 
keeper. Many were the Englishmen who slept with the monks 
of St. Bernard on their route to the cities of the South. Even the 
Wife of Bath, in Chaucer's Prologue to the ' Tales,' had thrice 

ben at Jerusalem, 
She hadde passed many a strange streme ; 
At Eome she had been and at Boloine, 
In Galice at St. James, and at Coloine. 

Another motive for pilgrimage, as perennial as the craving 
for travel, is the desire to see the home of a great man that 
is dead, in default of seeing his face and hearing his voice. 
But the motive on which the priesthood, and in particular 
the guardians of the relics, laid stress, was the absolution 
and other spiritual graces obtainable by virtue of pilgrimage 
to particular shrines. Pilgrimage was often ordered by the 
priest as a form of penance to obtain absolution, and pardon 
for sins was granted by Papal bull to persons who should 
visit certain specified places.^ But it was to his own city 
that the Pope sought chiefly to attract visitors. In 1300 
Boniface the Eighth had held his famous jubilee, offering 
plenary indulgence to all who should that year make the 
pilgrimage to Eome.- The shrines of the Holy City after 
that never ceased to attract sinners, or those who desired 
license to sin. More than a generation after Wycliffe died, 
a remarkable advertisement was issued to attract pilgrims 
from our island. It is in the form of an English poem, 
entitled the ' Stations of Eome.' It calls attention to the 
Eoman pilgrimage as equal in value to the longer journeys 
to Jerusalem and Santiago, which alone rivalled it in the 
estimation of the pious. The preface runs as follows : — 

He that will his soul leech 

List to me, and I will you teach. 

Pardon is the soul's boot, 

At great Eome there is the root. 

Cutts, 162 ; Memorials of Ri;pon, i. 114. « Qutts, 168. 


The poem goes through every principal church and shrine at 
Eome with the regularity of Baedeker, but instead of men- 
tioning the sights of historical and artistic interest, it states 
the number of years' ^Dardon obtainable at each place. Thus 
St. Peter's has twenty-nine steps. When you go up or down, 
if you say a prayer you shall have seven years' pardon for 
every step. Inside there are seven principal altars — the 
Veronica, Our Lady's, St. Simon's, St. Andrew's, St. Gregory's, 
Pope Leo's, and that of the Holy Cross. At each of these the 
visitor can obtain seven years' pardon and seven Lents. At 
the high altar pardon is given for twenty years. If, how- 
ever, the traveller times his visit to the Holy City between 
Holy Thursday and Lammas, he obtains fourteen thousand 
years' pardon, but on the Day of Assumption of the Virgin 
only one thousand. The other shrines of the city are treated 
one by one with the same mathematical preciseness.^ 

Pilgrimage was often made vicariously. Money was left 
by dying persons in their wills, to pay pilgrims to go for them 
to the Holy Places in Italy and the East, or even to the local 
shrines in the neighbourhood of the testator.^ In Norfolk 
alone there were at least eight such places. Walsingham and 
Canterbury were the two principal centres in England, but 
Glastonbury, Durham, York, Norwich, St. Edmund sbury, 
and Westminster were well known to the pious. At these 
places went on the sale of relics to pilgrims, which Erasmus 
a hundred years later held up to the scorn of the world. 
Bound some of them, old pagan superstitions still lingered 
under a very thin veil. The ' good sword of Winfarthing ' 
was a precious relic that helped to recover stolen horses and 
to shorten the lives of refractory husbands. Some holy wells 
purified from unchastity, others granted the wishes of the 
drinker, after a suitable gift had been made to the priest in 
charge. Gifts laid on the shrines of St. Petronel saved from 
fever. The ratcatcher propitiated St. Gertrude ; St. Appol- 
lonia cured the toothache.-^ 

It is not wonderful that so pious a Catholic as Langland 

• See Ap. - Retrospective Bevieio, 18'28, ii. 311. 

* Cutis, 157-94 ; Jusserand's Vie Nomade, Text and Appendix, on 
Pilgrimages ; Retrospective Review, 1828, ii. 301-14 ; Fuller's Church History, 
331, ed. 1656. 


had small respect for pilgrims and pilgrimages. Just before 
the first appearance of ' Piers Plowman ' in the Vision that bears 
his name, the poet and his company meet a palmer loaded 
with the customary symbols and relics from half the shrines 
of Christendom. ' Knowest thou ought a saint men call 
Saint Truth ? Canst thou wissen us the way where that he 
dwelleth ? ' asks Langland. * Nay,' replies the pilgrim, ' so 
God glade me ! ' Truth is not the sort of saint that palmers 
go to seek.^ 

Even for the most superstitious and degraded of those who 
travelled to Eome on these errands there was some element of 
real penance in the act of pilgrimage. But in the mere hawk- 
ing and sale of pardons for sin by the ecclesiastical authorities 
to those who sat at home, we reach the lowest depth to which 
religion can be dragged. The Papal Court was the centre 
whence pardons and indulgences were sent out. But the 
English Episcopate must share the blame with the Pope. 
Instead of withstanding and denouncing his emissaries when 
they came on such missions, instead of warning the people 
against Pardoners and their wares, they encouraged the sale, 
and made what profit they could out of it themselves. It 
cannot be pleaded in their excuse that every one then believed 
in the pardons. Enough believers were found to make the 
sale go merrily, but the representatives of what was best in 
that age saw through the absurdity with as clear an eye as 
Luther. Not only did Wycliffe wage war upon it, but Chaucer 
the worldly-wise man, and Langland the Catholic enthusiast, 
hated the sale of indulgences with all the force of intellectual 
scorn and moral indignation. What some of the middle 
classes thought of it, may be seen by mine Host's unprintable 
reply to the Pardoner of the ' Canterbury Tales,' when he 
offers to sell his wares to his fellow-pilgrims. But the Bishops 
and the Church authorities, instead of leading the nation, held 
it back. It was left to the heretic priest and the layman to 
point out the spiritual road on which the nation was destined 
to travel. 

A Pardoner was a Papal agent who travelled through 
England selling indulgences and relics on behalf of his 

' P. PL, A, vi. 23 ; also C, i. 47-55. 


master. With the Summoner in the Canterbury Pilgrim- 

" ' rode 

ther rood a gentil Pardoner 
Of Kouncival, his freend and his compeer, 
That streight was comen fro the Court of Eome ; 

His walet lay biform him in his lappe, 
brim-ful hot 

Bret-ful of pardotm come from Rome al hoot. 

A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot. 

But of his craft, fro Berwick into Ware, 
Ne was ther swich another pardoner. 

hag pillow-case 

For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer 

Our Lady's veil 
Which that, he seyde, was our lady veyle ; 

cross tnade of latten set with jewels 
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones 

And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. 

these found 

But with thise relikes, whail that he fond 

A poor parson living up-country 
A porre person dwelling up-on lond, 

Up-on a day he gat him more moneye 
Than that the person gat in monthes twey, 
And thus with feigned flatterye and japes 
He made the person and the peple apes. 

So speaks Chaucer.^ Langland has left a very similar 
description of a Pardoner at work in a village : — 

There preached a pardoner as if he a priest were, 
And brought forth a bull with a bishop's seals. 
And said that he could absolve them all 
Of breaking their fasts and of breaking their vows. 
Ignorant men loved him well and liked his words. 
Came and kneeled to kiss his bulls. 

Were the bishop blessed or worth both his ears 
His seal should not be sent to deceive the people. 

In another passage Langland breaks out against the 
prelacy for abuse of its spiritual power in the following 
spirited lines : — 

' Prologue to Canterbury Tales, 


Idolatry ye suffer in sundry places many, 

And boxes are set forth bounden with iron, 

To receive the ToU paid through untrue sacrifice. 

In remembrance of miracles much wax is hung on the shrines. 

All the world wot well this could not be true. 

But because it is profitable to you purseward, you prelates 

Ignorant men in misbelief to live and to die.' 

The English prelates as well as the Pope found it to their 
interest to encourage these ' misbeliefs.' St. Peter's was not 
the first nor the only church built by the proceeds of indul- 
gences. In 1396, for instance, the Chapter of York, needing 
money to complete their cathedral, obtained from the Pope 
indulgences which they sold in their diocese ; the proceeds of 
the sale were to be applied to the building. We have their 
letter to the provincial clergy of the Archdeaconry of Kich- 
mond. They write that they are sending down from York their 
beloved friend John Beryngton, ' of whose faithfulness and in- 
dustry we have full confidence in the Lord, to publish and ex- 
plain the said indulgences and others, conceded by other 
prelates in this part.' Such cases were common at this period.^ 

The Pardoner who came down with letters from the Church 
authorities often used the position thus obtained to earn a 
penny for himself as dealer in magic and spells. Chaucer's 
Pardoner describes how 

First I pronounce whennes that I come. 
And than my bulles shewe I, alle and somme. 
That no man be so bold, ne preest ne clerk, 
Me to destourbe of Criste's holy werk. 
And after that than telle I forth my tales, 
Bulles of Popes and of Cardinales, 
Of Patriarkes and bishoppes I shewe ; 

latten a shoulder hone 
Than have I in latoun a sholder boon 
which belonged to the sheep of a holy Jew 
Which that was of an holy Jewe's shepe. 

' Good men,' seye I, ' tak of my wordes kepe ; 
If that this boon be wasshe in any welle. 
If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe sweUe, 

' P. PI, C, i. lines 66-77, and 96-102 ; also B, vii. 649, and A, viii. 170 
et seq. 2 ggg Ap. 


Tak water of that well, and wash his tonge, 

And it is hoole anon. 
Heer is a initeyn eek, that ye raay see. 
He that his hond will putte in this miteyu, 
He shal have multiplying of his greyn, 
Whan he hath sowen, be it whete or otes, 
Provided that he give vne 'pence or groats 
So that he offre pens or elles grotes.' ' 

The Pope and the prelates were not perhaps responsible 
for the worst tricks that the Pardoners played on the people, 
any more than they were responsible for all that the Sum- 
moners did in summoning to the Church Courts. But in both 
cases they were responsible for the system, and for the en- 
couragement of beliefs on which it was based. The}'- could not 
have made a more cruel misuse of power than they did, by 
thus sending vile quacks with official letters of introduction 
round the up-country villages, to deceive a simple and ignorant 
peasantry, who knew no reason for rejecting anything that 
came to them from the great world beyond their ken. The 
coarsest superstitions, that were rejected in the towns with 
rude laughter, were palmed off on the unfortunate rustic by 
the agents of the Pope and the Bishops. 

The pardon of sins for money, which we have seen going 
^on under one form in the Ecclesiastical Courts, and under 
another in the sale of indulgences,^ was not unknown in the 
confessional. It was only another phase of the decline of real 
belief in absolution by confession and penance. The laity had 
not yet abandoned the form, although they had ceased to feel 
the spirit of that Sacrament. The husk was still left, the 
kernel was gone. The system had become, in fact, a super- 
stition. Men kept and paid confessors to assoil them of 
whatever sins they chose to commit. The demand for such 
accommodation was supplied by the friars, who met the lay- 
men half way. They successfully competed with the parish 
priests, who were more conscientious, or at any rate less for- 
ward to advertise their venality. The secular clergy main- 
tained that the parish priest was the proper confessor for 
every man, but the friars who perambulated the country had 

' Chaucer, Pardoner's Prologue. - See Ap. 


the Pope's leave to hear confessions and give absolution. 
The friar had a certain district allotted to him in the neigh- 
bourhood of his convent ; he was licensed, like the later Scotch 
' gaberlunzie,' to go the rounds of this district, and there 
to make what money he could. He had many advantages 
over the parson — sometimes greater learning, usually brighter 
wit, always later news and more general knowledge of the 
world outside the parish. But among the baser means which 
he used to attract the poor man's congregation to himself and 
to pocket the Church fees, was the readiness with which he 
sold absolution. 

He was an esy man to yeve penaunce, 

Ther as he wist to have a good pittaimce ; 

For unto a poore order for to yive 

Is signe that a man is wel y-shrive^ 

When people dare not confess to their priest, 

shame maketh them wend, 
And flee to the friars as false folk to Westmynster ; " 

they fly to the friars' confessional for refuge from their sins, 
as fraudulent debtors take sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. 

Twenty years before Wycliffe's attack was made, Fitz- 
Ealph Bishop of Armagh had laid a famous indictment 
of the four orders before the Pope at Avignon. It made a 
great stir at the time, but came to nothing, for the friars 
were under the Pope's special protection. The Bishop 
chiefly complained of their competition with his secular 
clergy in the matter of confession and absolution. He 
brought forward some curious statistics, which, even if 
exaggerated, give a curious picture of life in Ireland in the 
fourteenth century. ' I have,' he said, ' in my diocese of 
Armagh two thousand persons a year (as I think) who are 
excommunicated for wilful homicide, public robbery, arson 
and similar acts ; of whom scarcely forty in a year come to 
me or my parish priests for confession.'^ On this side 
St. George's Channel the state of society was somewhat less 
turbulent, but a like demand existed for the friars' easy 

' Chaucer, Prologue to Cant. Tales. 

2 P. PL, B, XX. 281 ; A, iii. 36-50, B ; xi. 53-4 ; Pol. Poems, ii. 46. 

" Brown's Fasciculus, ii. 468. 


terms of absolution. ' For commonly, if there be any cursed 
swearer, extortioner or adulterer, he will not be shriven at 
his own curate, but go to a flattering friar, that will assoil 
him falsely for a little money by year.' ^ 

The friars also undertook to share the merits of their 
order with sinners who could be persuaded to buy ' letters of 
fraternity.' They even gave out that any man or woman 
who put on a friar's dress at the hour of death could not be 
damned. Special prayers for souls said in a convent of 
mendicants were valued highly and bought at a price cor- 
respondingly high.^ 

Wycliffe developed, as to the forgiveness of sins, a theory 
entirely different from that held by the Church. He did not 
believe that either penance or confession was necessary. 
Confession, however, he held to be good and useful, provided 
it was voluntary and made to a suitable person ; best of all, 
it might be made in public as a sign of genuine repentance. 
But compulsory confession to a priest, who might be the 
most unsuitable of persons, he considered bad. It was no 
.-.-Irue Sacrament, and was quite unnecessary to absolution. 
Compulsory confession he declared to have been introduced 
into the Church by the Pope in later and more corrupt ages. 
He could find only voluntary confession among the acts 
of the Apostles. ' And this shrift thus brought in,' he writes, 
' seemeth to mar the church in belief. . . . Such many 
blasphemies against the belief are sown of Antichrist in this 
matter, for God that giveth grace and is in the soul assoileth 
and doth away sin. ... A priest should not say " I assoil," 
when he wot not if God assoil.' ^ 

Wycliffe fully realised how the confessional subjected 
men to the priesthood, and although he wished for efficient 
and influential Church ministers, he had clearly grasped 
the necessity for the emancipation of the lay conscience 
and intellect. He declared that in ordering compulsory eon- 

' S. E. W., iii. 394 ; Matt., 181 ; P. PVs Creed, E. E. T. S., lines 132-6 ; 

2 S. E. v., iii. 377, 420 ; Pol. Works, i. 35 ; De Bias., 209-10 ; Pol. 
Poems, i. 256-7, ii. 21, 29 ; P. PI, C, viii. 27, C, xxiii. 366-7, C, xiii. 9-10. ' 

3 Matt., 333, 328-9, 340-1 ; S. E. W., iii. 255 ; De Bias., caps. ix. x. xi. ; 
Sermones, iii. 67, iv. 56-7. 


fession, * Antichrist hath cast his cast to make all men 
subject to the Pope, and lead them after that him liketh. 
Lord, where is freedom of Christ, when men are casten in 
such bondage? Christ made his servants free, but Anti- 
christ hath made them bond again.' ^ / 
In the Pope's power to bind and loose he absolutely 
disbelieved. Indeed he converted the words on which rests 
the theory of the ' power of the keys ' into a statement of the 
responsibility of the individual for his own soul. ' " What 
thing that Peter bindeth upon earth shall be bound in 
heaven, and what thing he unbindeth upon earth shall be 
unbounden in heaven." And these words were not only said 
unto Peter but commonly to the Apostles, as the gospel 
telleth after, and in persons of the Apostles were they said to 
priests, and, as many men thinken, to all Christian men. 
For if man have mercy on his soul and unbind it, or bind it, 
God by his judgment in heaven judgeth the soul such. For 
each man that shall be damned shall be damned by his own 
guilt, and each man that is saved shall be saved by his own 
merit.' ^ By ' merit ' Wycliffe meant a man's actions as the 
result of the state of his soul ; he did not mean some particular 
belief without which there was no salvation.^ He made no 
narrow formula to exclude his enemies from- heaven, or to 
include his friends. He said that no man knew whether 
he or any other was saved or damned. He believed that, 
strictly speaking, every man was predestined to salvation or 
damnation, but he held that actions and not dogma were in 
this life the only test of his state.^ It is hard to say whether 
Luther and Wycliffe would have differed had they met. They 
both sought to replace the ceremonies of the Church of Eome ; 
but while one laid more stress on works that should prove 
faith, the other emphasised the necessity of a living faith which 
naturally implied works. Wycliffe would never have said 
that St. James's Epistle was of straw. His view of salvation 
is more large and charitable than that of many prophets, 
churches, and sects who have since taken part in the contro- 
versies that he foreshadowed. 

' Matt., 329. 2 s. E. W., i. 350. ^ Matt., 349. 

^ De Ecc, caps. i. v. vi. 


A point where he differed from later reformers was 
the belief in purgatory, which he retained to the end of 
his life.^ It was in no way inconsistent with his repudiation 
of masses for the dead, indulgences, and the ' merits of the 
Saints.' The latter doctrine he declared to be a ' blasphemy 
blabbered without ground.' - Although he attacked many 
superstitions connected with the conception of purgatory, 
that conception itself never appeared to him as anything but 

It is impossible to understand fully Wycliffe's position 
about pardons, sin-rents, and the abuse of the confessional, if 
we regard him as an intellectual leader only. His strong 
moral feeling made him one of the reprovers of the bad age in 
which he lived. He saw all classes of the laity indulging in 
every form of violence and vice. He thought that the sale of 
pardons and the venality of the friar confessors were actual 
encouragements of sin, and stood in the way of true re- 
pentance. In this opinion he was supported by Langland, 
the Jonah who was perpetually denouncing the sins of that 
generation : — 

For comfort of his confessor Contrition he left, 
That is sovereign salve for all kinds of sins.^ 

But Wycliffe's objections were the more deeply rooted of 
the two. He quarrelled with the very theory, not merely with 
the abuse, of the mediaeval religion. Deeds of a ceremonial 
nature seemed to him unsatisfactory and nugatory. No sacra- 
ment or ceremony could for him be the basis of the relations 
between the moral being and God. His attitude was not 
purely negative, and was furthest removed of all from that of 
the mere scoffer. He was the herald of the Puritan move- 
ment, not only in its repudiation of ceremonies, but in the 
stern individual morality which it substituted. Judging from 
the history of the early Lollards, he failed in instilling this 
spirit into his first disciples ; but his own works breathe of it, 
and his life bears witness to the dauntless courage of a man 
who believes in his own immediate relation to God. 

' S. E. W., i. 101 and 333, ii. 100, ill. 339 ; Sermoms, iv. 21 ; De Bias., 119. 
2 S. E. W., iii. 262. ' P. PI., C, xxiii. 371-2. 



BELIGION {continued) 


For the spread of religious instruction and the creation of 
religious enthusiasm, the four orders of friars were at this time 
the most active part of the Catholic Church. It was now 
a century and a half since the new foundations of St. Francis 
and St. Dominic had created the greatest revival that ever 
stirred the mediasval world. The first ardour of those great 
days had long since cooled. Wealth and power had produced 
in the mendicant orders some of their usual consequences. In 
true spiritual zeal, in purity of ideal, there had been a great 
falling off among the friars ; but there had been less decline in 
their activity, and in influence they were perhaps as strong 
as ever. Compared to the other parts of the Church, the 
mendicants still held their own in the competition for the 
patronage of the laity, though their motives in competing 
were less pure, and the means they employed more open to 
criticism than of old. The furious and bitter attacks directed 
against them by satirists and poets, Lollards and Bishops 
alike, all breathe fear and hatred, not contempt. Langland, 
Chaucer, Wycliffe, FitzEalph, were all for different reasons 
jealous of the influence exercised by the friars over their 
fellow-countrymen. Langland saw them corrupt the Catholic 
religion ; Chaucer saw them play on the folly and weakness of 
human nature ; Wycliffe saw them resist reformation with the 
ardour and success which the Jesuits afterwards displayed in 
the same cause ; FitzEalph saw his episcopal authority defied, 
and his parish churches emptied by a rival ministration as 


formidable as that of Wesley and Whitefield. All raised one 
fierce war-cry against the friars. All reiterated the same 
charges, and these charges were repeated by every anonymous 
satirist who has left us a verse on the subject. The portrait of 
the friar that has thus come down to us from so many sources, 
though a caricature, is uniform and consistent. Of one thing he 
is never accused : he is never taunted with living at home in 
his cloister and allowing souls to perish for want of food. The 
complaint is that he stuffs them only too effectually with 
garbage. The monk was despised by the reformer ; the friar 
was hated. 

The causes of this continued success are not far to seek. 
The mendicant orders were, in the mediaeval world, the insti- 
tution best fitted for propagandism. In the early Church the 
monk and the parish priest were the only religious influences. 
The monk had the advantage of learning, of learned society, 
and of perpetual contact with his superiors and equals. But he 
could not come into touch with the people as long as he con- 
tinued the life of the cloister. He was best fitted to deal with 
mankind, but from mankind he was rigidly excluded. The 
parish priest, on the other hand, was continually in contact 
with his flock ; but he was too often ignorant, and he was 
generally impoverished. Being in many cases a child of the 
soil like his parishioners, he knew of no other life save the 
life of the peasant, and of no other learning or religion save 
the traditional piet}'- of the countryside. The terrible isolation 
of rural life in the Middle Ages was one of the chief evils 
which the Church had to combat, but neither the monk nor 
the parish priest was perfectly fitted to cope with it. 

The orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis brought to the 
aid of civilisation not only the zeal they had from the 
beginning and the learning which they soon acquired, but an 
organisation which united the advantages of the monastic 
and secular clergy. The friar was brought up in the cloister, 
where he learned such wisdom as books and educated society 
can give. He lived the life of a cleric among clerics, gene- 
rally in or near some large city, where the newest ideas and 
latest reports circulated.^ From this centre he was sent out 

' Franciscana, Appendix viii. 


on beat to certain specified villages and towns ; these he con- 
tinually visited and re-visited, returning ever and again to 
his convent with the winnings of his tour, which went to the 
common purse. Thus it happened that when the monasteries 
had ceased to play an important part in the national life, 
when the parish priests were too often on a level with the 
peasantry to whom they ministered, the friars remained the 
chief religious influence throughout England. This influence 
they used, so their many enemies declared, chiefly to get 
money for the splendour of their banquets, the adornment of 
their convents, and the enrichment of their treasuries. The 
begging friar was loyal at least to his order. By every 
means arising from the credulity and superstition of those to 
whom he ministered, he collected alms and donations not for 
himself, but for the corporation of which he was a member. 
His energy was further stimulated by the rivalry of the four 
great orders among themselves. They all competed with each 
other on the same ground and with the same weapons. The 
dislike of the Franciscan for the Dominican, of the Dominican 
for the Augustinian, of the Augustinian for the Carmelite, was 
only equalled by the dislike of the parish priest for all four 
together.^ Although the chiefs might have a common policy 
in high quarters at London or Oxford, the rivalry of their 
subordinates on the scene of their missionary labours was 
inevitable. The friars, therefore, even after they had esta- 
blished their reputation, continued their ministry under 
all the stimulus which the voluntary system and severe com- 
petition can give. 

To suppose that during the last centuries of Catholicism 
in England the people were left by the Church without 
spiritual leadership, and with insufficient ministration, is to 
leave the mendicant orders out of account. To attribute the 
popularity of the Lollard sermons to the insufficient number 
of orthodox preachers, is to neglect Wycliffe's own statement 
that the friars understood and practised the art of popular 
preaching only too well.^ They knew how to make a dis- 

> P. PL's Creed, E. E. T. S. 

* Sermones, i. xvii, ii. 57-9 ; S. E. W., ii. 166 ; Polemical Worlcs, i. 97 
Trialogus, 365 ; Matt., 8, 16, 105. 



course on the seven deadly sins attractive, by telling a long 
story of a miser carried off by the devil, or a murderer 
detected in the act. The arts of sensationalism were their 
stock-in-trade. They were clever at organising those wax- 
work groups which still form in Southern Europe a side of 
Catholicism so attractive to the vulgar.^ Protected by the 
authority and license of the Pope, they carried off the con- 
gregations wholesale from the local clergy. They preached 
everywhere, they gathered money for the adornment of their 
own churches, they gave absolution in their own confes- 
sionals, they buried the dead in their own graveyards. Fees 
and pious offerings were lost to the curate and went to the 

But the main attraction that they had for the baser 
sort of men was the cheap price at which they granted 
j^-- absolution. A window erected in a Carmelite convent could 
secure easy shrift for the crimes of the great, a pair of old 
shoes and a dinner given to the Franciscan on his rounds 
could obtain heaven's pardon for the peasant. This was the 
charge repeated against them most frequently and with the 
strongest emphasis by all their critics. 

By such arts, often combined with qualities more admirable, 
the friars became the spiritual guides and the actual masters 
of many households. As might be expected, it was with 
women that their influence was paramount. In female life 
piety plays a larger part. The proportion of women to men 
among those who attend church will always be the pride and 
sorrow of the clergy. Where the personal influence of the 
priest is strong, it is strongest of all with women. So it was 
in the case of the friars. What Mr. Stiggins was to Mrs. 
Weller, that the friar was to the Wife of Chaucer's tale, and 
the part of Mr. Weller senior was often not wanted to complete 
the tragi-comedy.^ The father of English narrative poetry 
has left us an exquisite dialogue between the friar and 

' Franciscana, 606-7. 

2 Ibid. 605 ; Brown's Fasciculus, ii. 468 et seq. ; Langland, P. PL, B, 
text, xi. 53-80, and B, v. 136-52, C, vii. 118 et seq. ; Wycliffe, S. E. W., iii. 874 
and 380 ; Pol. Poems (R. S.), ii. 22-3, 33, 46. 

^ Brown's Fasciculus, ii. 479 ; Franciscana, 602-4 ; S. E. W., iii. 199 ; 
Matt., 10 ; Pol. Works, i. 36 ; P. PI, C, iv. 38 et seq. ; Knighton, ii. 198 ; Pol. 
Poems, ii. 48-9. 



the wife in his Summoner's Tale. Thomas, the husband, is 
lying ill in the room where the conversation takes place. 

Wife. ' Ey maister, welcome be ye by Seint John,' 
Sayde this wif, ' how fare ye hertily ? ' 
This frere arisetb up ful curtisly, 
And hire embraceth in his armes narwe, 

cliirpeth like a sparrow 
And kisseth hire swete, and chirketh as a sparwe 
Friar. "With his lippes : ' Dame,' quod he, ' right well 

As he that is your servant every del. 

I wol with Thomas speke a litel throw, 
These curates ben so negligent and slow 
To gropen tenderly a conscience.' 

Wife. ' Now by your faith, o dere sire,' quod she, 
Chideth him wel for Seint Charitee. 
He is ay angry as is a pissemire, 
Though that he have all that he can desire 

Friar. ' O Thomas, je vous die, Thomas, Thomas, 

This maketh the fiend, this must ben amended, 


Ire is a thing that high God hath defended, 

And thereof wol I speke a word or two.' 
Wife. ' Now maister,' quod the wife, ' er that I go 

What wol ye dine ? I wol go thereabout.' 
Friar. ' Now dame,' quod he, ' je vous die sans dotite, 

Have I nat of a capon but the liver. 

And of your white bread nat but a shiver. 

And after that a roasted pigges hed, — 

But I ne wold for me no beest were ded, — 

Than had I with you homely suflSsance. 

I am a man of littel sustenance.' 

Wife. ' Now sire,' quod she, ' but o wo^d ere I go, 
My child is ded within thise weekes two. 
Soon after that ye went out of this toun.' 
Friar. ' His deth saw I by revelation,' 

at the convent in our dormitory 
Sayde this frere, ' at home in our dortour, 
I dare wel sain that er than half an hour 
After his deth I saw him borne to blisse 



my vision 
In min avision, so God me wisse. 
So did our sextein and our fermerere, 
. That han ben true freres fifty yere, 
And up I rose, and all our convent, eke. 
With many a tere trilling on our cheke, 
Withouten noise and clattering of belles, 
Te Deum was our songe, and nothing else, 
Save that to Crist I made an orison, 
Thanking hini of my revelation. 

For, sire and dame, trusteth me right wel, 
Our orisons ben more effectuel, 
And more we seen of Criste's secree thinges 

Than borel folk although that they be Kinges.' 

It turns out in the sequel of the story that the husband is 
only biding his time to take vengeance on the intruder.^ 

The friars were as much in the confidence of great ladies • 
as of common people's wives.-^ Those among the laymen who 
were not themselves in the hands of these insinuating visitors, 
hated them with the hatred of righteous jealousy. It was in- 
evitable in the Middle Ages, when such an enormous propor- 
tion of the people was bound by religious vows of celibacy, 
and had at the same time the professional right of entry to 
families, that the peace of households should be frequently 
disturbed. Not only do Lollard writers concur with other 
satirists in charging the clergy with such offences, but the 
hero of a story of gallantry is generally a churchman, as, 
for instance, in the ' Canterbury Tales.' There can be little 
doubt that his experience in this matter helped to release the 
layman from a servile attitude of mind, towards the clergy in 
general and the friars in particular. The Eeformation, by 
reducing the number of clerics, abolishing compulsory celibacy, 
and removing opportunities of private intercourse afforded by 
the confessional, has completely removed a difficulty which 
was the perpetual curse of domestic life in the Middle Ages. 

Macaulay, in a well-known passage in his essay on Eanke's 
' Popes,' has noticed the great tactical superiority of the 

' Summoner's Tale. 

2 Matt., 10, 224 ; Pol. Works, i. 35, ' dominarum ; ' P. PI, B, v. 139-40 ; 
Pol. Poems, ii. 22, 84. 


Eoman over the Anglican Church, in making use of enthusiasm 
instead of driving it into dissent. The difference is in part 
due to a difference of organisation. The English Primate, 
being only the head of the episcopal system, is not in a 
position to create a rival to it. The Pope, on the other hand, 
is so far above the other Bishops that he can afford to govern 
and use a parallel organisation, such as that of the Jesuits. 
In the Middle Ages he did the same with the friars. In the 
eyes of the English Bishops they were sucecssful dissenters : 
they emptied the churches, they formed rival congregations. 
But in the eyes of the Italian Cardinals they were the Pope's 
own regiment of missionaries : they upheld his authority 
against Anglican murmurings, and they protected the Catholic 
faith against heretics. If the authority of Piome was thrown 
off by the English Church, the friars, being outside the 
episcopal jurisdiction, would become dissenters, and so would 
at once be suppressed. It could not be expected that the 
Bishops would allow the continued existence of such danger- 
ous rivals to the secular clergy. Nor was there anything to 
hope from the goodwill of the State, if the Pope's protection 
was rendered void. The friars were obnoxious to the secular 
government also, because one of the privileges which they held 
most tenaciously was that of complete exemption from taxes. 
They were not liegemen of the King, and their property, being 
by a fiction supposed to belong to the Pope, could not be 
touched by England.^ They knew that if the movement for 
separation from Eome took effect, there was an end, to their 
privileges, perhaps to their very existence, and their enemies 
already considered the abolition of "the four orders a possibility 
of the near future.^ 

Attached in this way to the power of the Pope by every 
interest and tradition, they were his most active agents in 
England. They sold his indulgences, privileges, and livings. 
They advertised themselves as ' better cheap than other pro- 
curators ' on account of their high favour at the Papal Court.^ 
When, therefore, Wycliffe advanced from criticism of the 
Papal action to denunciation of the Papal power, they felt 

» Wals., i. 323-4 ; S. E. W., iii. 384 ; Matt., 50. 

2 Franciscana, 605. =* S. E. W., iii. 400. 


their owii posifcion in England attacked by the most formidable 
antagonist that Oxford, that Europe, could supply. The 
chiefs of the Four Orders rallied to the defence of all Church 
institutions by Canon law established. 

It was a rally ; it was to some degree a change of policy. 
Strange as it may seem, the friars had been the early allies 
and friends of Wycliffe. Still in fiction, as formerly in fact, 
they were beggars, who were to hold no property ; they 
were to depend on the voluntary system in its most ex- 
aggerated form ; they were to live on the food which from 
day to day was given them by pious friends. Francis 
of Assisi had actually obeyed that hardest of all com- 
mands, ' Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor.' His 
early disciples obeyed it as readily as their founder. But 
times had changed. The friars now lived in great palaces 
where treasure lay stored, yet even in those magnificent halls 
the old idea that to be poor was blessed still held its place 
in theory. Evangelical poverty, the poverty that was recom- 
mended in the Gospel and practised by Christ and His 
Apostles, was the basis on which the friars still presumed to 
condemn the wealth of the Bishops and monks. Great contro- 
versies had raged round the question within the pale of the four 
orders. One section, known as the ' Spiritual ' Franciscans, 
had been persecuted by order of the Pope for holding the 
theory. These men, as a Wycliffite writer declared, were still 
in existence, and still subjected to persecution by their more 
worldly brethren.^ It is certain that a tendency to the theory 
of evangelical poverty existed among the orders, if it did not 
prevail there. Their attitude upon the question was still 
debated at their councils, but the decisions were indefinite 
and confusing.^ They still declared, it seems, that what they 
took from the pious was only by way of alms, and that all 
which they thus accumulated belonged not to themselves, 
but to the Pope. Money, the accursed thing, they would 
only touch with gloves on their hands.^ Such affectations 
made no difference to their real wealth, which daily increased 
in proportion to their influence. But it enabled them to 

» Matt., 51, line 10. 2 j)g Apostasid, 23. 

* Matt., 49 ; Pol. Poems, ii. 28 ; Pecock's Repressor, ii. 543. 


criticise the acknowledged possessions held by the rest of the 
Church. Their rivalry to Bishops and priests made them 
very willing to find any stone to fling at the secular clergy. 
There can, moreover, be little doubt that the orders still 
contained many enthusiasts who sincerely believed in the 
doctrine of evangelical poverty and who considered, like 
Wycliffe, that the Church had been poisoned by her 

In the early seventies, Wycliffe's main contention was for 
partial or complete disendowment of the English Church. His 
doctrinal heresies, his attack on the Papal power, had not 
then been developed. At his extraordinary trial at St. 
Paul's, when John of Gaunt and Percy appeared in court to 
support him, the presence of a representative from each of 
the four mendicant orders was scarcely less remarkable. 
They came to defend the ground which they held in common 
with the accused, the doctrine of evangelical poverty and its 
application in the disendowment of the ' possessionate ' clergy. 
It was the peculiar doctrine of the friars, exploited and 
brought into practical politics by Wycliffe. Probably no one 
expected, perhaps not even the reformer himself, that the 
Church would be deprived of all her possessions and reduced 
to rely altogether on alms and voluntary donation. It was 
characteristic of those times for partisans to ask far more 
than they expected to get ; to lay claim, on the ground of 
some theory, to infinite space when a nutshell was the real 
end in view. But undoubtedly some very considerable con- 
fiscation of ecclesiastical wealth was hourly looked for in 1377, 
and the doctrine of evangelical poverty was the theoretic 
basis for the proposal. 

Three years later the face of things had undergone a con- 
siderable change. John of Gaunt's supremacy was over, the 
attack on the property and privileges of the English Church 
had proved a fiasco. The weak and half-hearted character 
of the forces of attack, and the strength of the forces of resis- 
tance, had been made so apparent by the skirmish over the 
question of Sanctuary, that politicians altogether shrank from 
the larger question of disendowment. The position of Wycliffe 

' See Ap. 


was similarly altered. From a Church politician he was 
rapidly becoming a theological reformer. The Pope had 
issued bulls against him as a heretic, and had brought him 
to a second trial at Lambeth. Embittered by this assault, he 
had conceived an almost personal hatred for Gregory the 
Eleventh, and had commenced a series of violent counter- 
attacks. His quarrel with the Papacy was accompanied by 
u dangerous novelties. The friars naturally became alarmed. The 
cause of their late union with Wycliffe, the temporary pro- 
minence of the question of evangelical poverty, was gone. 
They found that their ally had incurred the censures of their 
master, and that he had replied to those censures with 
defiance and contumely. He was bringing into the world 
heresies without number, while the friars were the militia of 
orthodoxy. He was urging his friends to translate the Bible, 
and his fellow-countrymen to read it in English, while the 
friars had set their face against the propagation of biblical 
knowledge among the vulgar. Wandering preachers had 
begun to appear in the villages with versions of Wycliffe' s 
doctrines and to compete with the local influence of their 
enemies. The exact stages by which the quarrel pro- 
ceeded are unknown to us, but it was about 1379 that Wycliffe 
openly attacked the ideal of the mendicant's life as a false 
ideal, declared the taking of religious vows in a special order 
to be without basis in Scripture, and invited all monks and 
friars to return to the simple ' sect of Christ.' All these 
sources of quarrel had arisen before his heresy on the question 
of Transubstantiation gave his enemies a further handle against 
him.^ The reformer's friends within the pale of the four 
orders were persecuted ; some fled from their captivity, re- 
nounced the garb and became its most bitter opponents.^ 
The main body of the friars, eager to stamp out Lollardry 
wherever it appeared, were forced to prosecute their enemies 
before episcopal tribunals, and for this reason, if for none 
other, had to behave with more consideration to bishops. 
Wycliffe himself noticed that one effect of his attack was to 
heal the standing quarrel between the friars and the secular 
clergy. ' Our Bishops are said once to have hated the false 

' See Ap. - S. E. W., iii. 368 ; Mon. Eve., 80-1 ; Fraiwiscana, 591. 


friars like devils, when in the days of my Lord Bishop of 
Armagh (FitzKalph) they paid his costs in his suit against 
them. But now Herod . and Pilate, who before were enemies, 
have become friends.' ^ 

The beneficed clergy and the friars by no means composed 
the whole force of the Church. The clerks in minor orders 
were an important item. Their name was legion and their 
occupations were many. Part of them were engaged as 
teachers in the numerous grammar schools of the country. 
So little do we know of the educational world in which they 
lived, that the very existence of the mediaeval grammar 
school until quite lately escaped the notice of historians. 
The clerical influence was still so great among those who 
made their living by the pen, that the clerks employed by 
landowners and merchants were most of them ' clerks ' in the 
original sense of the word ; they were generally in holy orders. 
Their shaven crown marked them off from the laity, and the 
legal privileges which the priest enjoyed were theirs too. It 
is probable that this circumstance gave the Church, during 
the religious struggles, at least one supporter in every large 
household of the upper and middle classes. The ' clerk ' 
has gained by the secularisation of his employment, but at 
the time he must have felt that the Eeformation deprived him 
of certain immunities and of a particular status. 

Another large class of unbeneficed clergy were engaged in 
employments more akin to their sacred character. Lords, 
knights and ladies had their private chaplains, and there was 
a daily increasing demand for chantry priests to say masses 
for souls. A separate chapel or altar was usually assigned to 
them for their use, but they were often expected to assist in 
the choir-service of the whole church where their private 
employment lay.^ But the life must nevertheless have been 
easy, and, in proportion to the duties required, the profession 
was at least as well paid as that of the village clergyman. 
According to the statutes that attempted to regulate clerical 
wages, the yearly stipend of the chantry priest was only a 
little below that of his brother in charge of the parish, nor 
was there anything to prevent the ' annueller,' as he was 

' Fasc. Z., 284. - Lyndwood, 70 ; Cutts, 206. 


called, from taking more than one such employment for the 
same year. A good place in a chantry was considered prefer- 
able to heavy parish work.^ 

Besides those regularly engaged, clergy in minor orders 
could always be found about the great towns, waiting for 
employment of any sort. Without wife or child to work for, 
without rule or superior to obey, they contracted all the vices 
of the loafer. The shaven crown of the cleric protected their 
misdeeds from the severe laws of their country. ' The abuses 
of monastic life, great as they may occasionally have been,' 
says Bishop Stubbs, speaking of this state of things, ' sink 
into insignificance by the side of this evil, as an occasional 
crime tells against the moral condition of a nation less fatally 
than the prevalence of a low morality. The records of the 
spiritual court of the Middle Ages remain in such quantity 
and in such concord of testimony as to leave no doubt of the 
facts.' '^ 

Langland, himself a churchman of this class, but one who 
made a noble use of his life of leisure, is accused of laziness 
by the spiritual personages of his Vision, and in reply gives 
the following description and defence of the unemployed life 
and undeserved privileges of the lower clergy. The apology 
is perhaps ironical, for it is to be observed that ' Conscience ' 
remains unconvinced at the end : — 

' I live in London, and on London both, 

The tools I labour with and earn my livelihood 

Are Pater Noster and my primer, Placebo and Dirige 

And my psalter sometimes and my seven psalms. 

Thus I sing for the souls of such as me help 

And they that find me food promise, I trow, 

That I shall be welcome when I come now and then in a month, 

Sometimes with him, sometimes with her, and thus I beg 

Without bag or bottle except my belly. 

And also moreover, methinketh, sir Reason 

Men should constrain no clerk to do serving-men's work ; 

For by law of Leviticus that our Lord ordained, 

Clerks that are tonsured, of natural wisdom, 

Should neither toil nor sweat nor serve on inquests 

Nor fight in any vanguard nor grieve their foe, 

» 36 Ed. III., cap. 8, Stats, of Realm ; Wilkin, iii. 30 ; Cutts, 206. 
2 Stubbs, iii. 385, and 378-9 ; Vox Clam., bk. iii. cap. 22. 


For they are heirs of heaven all that are tonsured. 
And in choir and in churches, Christ's own ministers. 
It becometh clerks Christ for to serve, 
And knaves unshorn to cart and to work. 

Therefore rebuke me not, Eeason, I you pray ; 

For in my conscience I know what Christ wold that I wrought. 

Prayers of perfect man and penance discreet 

Is the dearest labour that pleases our Lord.' 

Quoth Conscience ' by Christ I can not see this holds ; 
It seems not perfectness in cities for to beg.' ' 

Wycliffe, though he did not attack this class with so much 
direct personal censure as he bestowed on the friars and pre- 
lates, argued with ever-increasing vehemence against the 
ideas that kept such large numbers of clerics afloat on society. 
The employment of clergy in secular business seemed to him 
an abomination. That a deacon should be paid to keep the 
accounts of a rich subject seemed to him as grave a scandal' 
as that a Bishop should be paid for the same purpose by the 
King.^ He wished to spiritualise the minds and lives of the 
ministers of religion, and he rightly judged that their present 
employments were not calculated to have that effect. The 
Catholic Church in the days of Hildebrand had aimed at a 
similar mark, and had, in pursuit of an ideal standard, cut 
them off from the duties and joys of family life by the law of 
celibacy. That law remained, with a train of attendant evils, 
but the worldliness of the clergy remained none the less, 
encouraged by secular employments ten times more than it 
would have been by family life. Wycliffe saw the double 
mistake. He had always protested against the engagement of 
God's servants in mundane affairs ; towards the end of his life 
he came to approve of their marriage, and his followers 
pressed on with fresh vigour the attack on celibacy which 
he began.^ 

While deprecating the employment of tonsured clerks in 
governmental departments and houses of business, the re- 
former struck another equally serious blow at minor orders 
of clergy, by attacking the Catholic ideal of a pious life. To 

1 P. PI., C, vi. 44-91. 2 Matt., 242. ^ ggg Ap. 


him, as to the Protestant nations of to-day, the entire devotion 
of a man's best years to acts of prayer and praise seemed a 
fatal misuse of the talents given by God. He waged open war 
with the central idea of that mediaeval piety which had 
fomided the monasteries, and was in his day founding the 
chantries. That idea we have heard expressed by Langiand 
in the words, ' Prayers of a perfect man and penance discreet, 
is the dearest labour that pleases our lord.' Wycliffe held 
that there were many labours dearer to God. His assertion 
of the superiority of an active over a devotional life was 
in that age a daring rebellion. It startled and scandalised 
churchmen ; for half the Church institutions were based on 
the assumption that prayer and praise were better than work 
in the world. It would not be hard to trace almost all his 
heresies to their root in this attitude of mind towards the acts 
of conventional piety, which formed the principal part of 
religion in his day. When another generation had passed, 
when men had had time to see what were the new ideas which 
Lollardry had brought into the world, then the indifference of 
the reformers to devotions hitherto considered all-important, 
was recognised by orthodox writers as the new monster with 
which the Church had to wage internecine war.^ The final 
victory of that monster brought with it the inevitable dis- 
appearance of the monks, of the chantry-priests and the 
armies of clergy without cure of souls. The fact that there 
has been no serious movement to re-establish them in 
England is a standing proof that the old idea has never re- 
covered ground to any considerable extent. 

Of one section of the Church we have as yet said little. 
The monasteries were, indeed, in no close contact, either of 
subordination, hostility, or alliance, with the rest of the religious 
world. The days of their greatness and popularity had gone 
by. The Princes of the earth no longer rode up to the Abbey 
door to beg an interview with some brother, renowned through 
Europe for his wisdom or his virtue. The King of England 
no longer sent for some saintly abbot, to implore him to take 
pity on the land and exchange the government of his House 
for the government of a great diocese. The cloister of 

' Waldensis, passim. 


Canterbury no longer rivalled the University of Paris in 
scholarship and in philosophy. The monks no longer, as in 
the days of the Barons' War, played a patriotic and formidable 
part in the politics of the country. The life of the monastery 
was cut off from the life of the nation. Narrowness of sym- 
pathy was the most serious fault of the monk. He had little 
interest in what went on outside the abbey close. He had 
nothing to care for or to work for, except the maintenance of 
the wealth and position of his House, His whole life was 
spent in its corridors and gardens, except when he was sent 
out in company with another brother to gather the rents of its 
distant estates, or to accompany the abbot on his occasional 
visit to London. He spent all his waking hours in company 
with several score of other men, as singly devoted as he was 
himself to the interests of the place, with nothing else to talk 
of but the superiority of their choir- singing to that of the 
neighbouring abbey, and with nothing else to wish but that 
their new chancel might be, when it was finished, the finest 
in the country-side. It is not wonderful that he was ready 
to fight to the death for the claims of his House against 
the demands of townspeople or peasants, to whom the old 
privileges of the monastery had, under changed conditions, 
become galling and vexatious. It is not wonderful that he 
developed a narrowness of mind which made him, in questions 
of local or national interest, a dead weight on society. 

But there was another side to the monk's life. He had 
leisure, he had been taught to read and write, he had at hand 
a library, compiled by the patient labour of long generations 
of copyists now sleeping under the flag- stones of the cloister. 
On one side of that cloister, screened off from disturbers, he 
spent many hours transcribing books, or teaching boys to read 
off well-thumbed manuscripts set apart for beginners. This 
was the most useful work of the later monasteries ; but it may ' 
be questioned whether the educational and literary product of 
the last two centuries of their existence was in any proportion 
to the great, sums of money and the thousands of able hands 
which they withdrew from a nation that was sorely deficient 
in money, and still more sorely deficient in population. The 
instruction of boys, intended for the Church, in the art of 


reading, was no doubt of value to society, and laid on those 
who afterwards broke up the abbeys the moral duty of 
founding new educational establishments on a more liberal 
basis, a duty which was notoriously ill fulfilled. But as the 
latest researches have shown, these monastic schools were, at 
most, an extremely small part of the educational system of the 
country, even as regards elementary teaching,^ 

The copying of manuscripts was also of great service to 
future generations. The invention of printing had not yet 
removed this demand. In the reign of Eichard the Second, 
large numbers of penmen were undoubtedly necessary, but 
transcriptions were not at this period made in monasteries 
alone. The monks had, indeed, originally developed, if not 
invented, the beautiful art of illumination ; but in the later 
fourteenth century, a very large proportion of copies were 
not made in the cloister. The exact amount of service 
rendered by the monasteries in this way could only be deter- 
mined by an extremely difficult investigation into the origin 
of all extant manuscripts. The question would have to be 
raised, what class of books did the monks of this period pre- 
serve for us ? Do we owe the works of chief interest, such as 
Chaucer, ' Piers Plowman ' and Froissart, to their well-spent 
leisure, or to professional transcribers ? 

In original work the monks of this age were certainly 
sterile. It might be expected, if we did not consider the 
narrowing influence of the life they led, that so many thousand 
persons, enjoying such full opportunities for literature, would 
among them produce some one work of real value. But the 
great names in that first age of English authorship are none 
' of them those of monks. ,, Chaucer was a layman, Langland a 
clerk in minor orders, Wycliffe an Oxford man ; even the 
theological opponents who arose against him were friars. The 
only native production of the monasteries were the Chronicles. 
These carried on the tradition of former centuries, that a 
great abbey should have a historiographer to note down, as 
they occurred, the affairs of the nation, and more particularly 

' See Mr. A. F. Leach's English Schools at the Reformation, 15-9 ; and 
article on Grammar Schools, by Eev. Hastings Eashdall, p. 12, lines 14-23, 
Harrow School. 


the affairs of the House. But no improvement was made on 
the chronicles of previous ages, although in the outside world 
Froissart was setting up a new and better standard. Wal- 
singham is no improvement on Matthew of Paris, and his view 
of the affairs of Church and State is far less interesting. The 
monastic chronicler had no ability to grasp the relative im- 
portance of events ; what is insignificant is told in detail, what 
is all-important is casually mentioned. To this rule there is 
indeed occasionally an exception ; to the absence of literary 
merit there is none. 

The monk was not habitually or even frequently a man of 
vicious life. The literature of the day has not more to say 
against him than against every one else. Although, when he 
was allowed outside the cloister wall on business or pleasure, 
he had not a good reputation, contemporaries supposed that 
the inner life of the monastery was respectable.' A certain 
relaxation of the very strict rules under which the inhabitants 
were nominally living was of course very general, and probably 
prevented more violent outbreaks. There was no strong 
ascetic movement going forward to fill the abbeys with furious 
self-torturing devotees such as had founded the harsh 
Carthusian order, such as were again to astonish Europe in 
the age of Ignatius Loyola. That the ordinary prior was fond 
of field sports, that the ordinary monk was fond of good food, 
is probably a safe generalisation.^ But few men are averse 
to these indulgences, although few, perhaps, had then such 
opportunities for enjoying them in return for so little exertion 
on their part. It was the uselessness, not the wickedness, of 
the monk's life that angered other men. Langland seems to 
have thought little positive harm of monastic society, but he 
looked forward with approval and certainty to the day when 
' the Abbot of Abingdon and all his issue for ever, shall have 
a knock of a King and incurable the wound.' ^ Neither was 
Wycliffe's attack on the monks so bitter, nor so loaded with 
charges of wickedness, as his attack on the friars. But he 
declared life in the world to be better than life in the cloister, 

» Compare P. PI., C, vii. 151-63 to P. PL, C, vi. 157-72 ; see Chaucer's 
Shipmavb's Tale for the monk abroad ; Cutts, 90. 

2 Monk in Chaucer's Cant. Tales ; P. PI., B, x. 305-12, and C, vi. 157-70 ; 
Vox Clam., bk. iv. cap. 2. ^ P. PI., B, x. 321-9. 


and more conformable to Christ's commands as recorded in 
the Gospel. He laid great stress on the enormous wealth 
locked up in the hands of the abbots, useless to the State and 
to society. Merchants and warriors, he said, sometimes 
cause great loss to the commonwealth, but they are also a 
source of great gain, whereas monks are a continual loss.^ 

If Henry the Eighth, instead of sedulously raking up 
dirty stories by royal commissions appointed for the pur- 
pose, had based his action solely on the general arguments 
that Wycliffe had long ago advanced, the dissolution of 
the monasteries would have stood for all time as a great act 
of national justice and common sense. If a King intends 
to disfrock all the monks of his kingdom, he must find 
reasons that will apply to all. The charge of vice could 
never, we will be ready to believe for the sake of human 
nature, be true of all or nearly all. On the other hand, 
the charges which Wycliffe advanced were universal in 
their application, for they were objections to the monastic 
system, as useless in the state of society to which England 
had attained. 

Notwithstanding their isolation, there were several ways 
in which the monasteries were brought into contact with the 
outside world. Their endowments were burdened with duties 
towards the poor, which, in the absence of all contradictory 
evidence in an age of satire, we may assume to have been 
performed in accordance with legal and traditional require- 
ments. Charity was then a religious duty, not a social 
science. This conception of it can still be found surviving 
in an Elizabethan play, where the heroine appeals to the 
groundlings with the cheap sentiment : ' It takes away the 
holy use of charity to examine wants.' ^ The perform- 
ance of this well-meaning but harmful injunction of the 
Catholic Church was specially confided to the monasteries. 
Those endowments, which maintained labourers in need of 
old age pensions as bedesmen, were indeed most beneficial to 
the community. But it can scarcely be doubted that the 
promiscuous doles, which attracted a daily crowd to the 
abbey, were the very worst remedy for a society so disorgan- 

» De Bias., 188-9 ; Pol. Works, i. 244-7. ^ Fletcher's Pilgrim, act i. scene i. 


ised as was England at that time, when a labour war had 
been in process for a generation, and the strikers were going 
round from village to village, plotting and preparing the great 
rebellion of 1381. 

But it is false to suppose that, because the religious 
houses were bound to distribute alms liberally, they were 
popular with their neighbours and tenants. Monasteries, 
being corporate bodies, were more conservative and more 
tenacious of old rights than ordinary landlords, lay and 
clerical. The old manor system, based on villenage and the 
servitude of the tenants, generally lasted longer on estates 
belonging to the religious houses than on those managed 
by private persons. In the Peasants' Eising, great abbeys 
like Chester, Bury, and Peterborough were attacked with 
the fiercest hatred by their serfs. The chronicler of St. 
Albans himself tells what happened to his monastery in 
1381. The ' slaves ' and ' villeins ' of the abbey — that is 
to say, the inhabitants of the town that lay at its feet- 
formed the iniquitous design of becoming 'burghers' and 
' citizens.' The news of the success of the rebels in London 
gave them courage to make the attempt. Their friends in 
the capital extorted from the King, who was still in great 
terror of Wat Tyler's bands, a letter to the Abbot ordering 
him to grant the requisite charters to the ' burgesses and 
good men ' of St. Albans. Armed with this letter they burst 
into the monastery. After long hesitation and many shifts, 
the Abbot was forced by the rioters to grant them what they 
asked ; the obnoxious rights and monopolies were all 
surrendered; the townsfolk broke up and carried off in 
triumph the millstones which had been placed in the cloister 
to witness that none might grind his corn save at the abbey 
mill. But the despair of the monks and the joy of their 
neighbours were soon reversed. The Kentish rebels evacuated 
London, and the King went round with his army and his chief 
justice on a bloody assize. He came to the monastery in 
person, and judged the quarrel on the spot. All the old privi- 
leges were restored to the monks; their tenants, freeman 
and serf, were compelled to render their services as before ; 
fifteen of those who had striven not wisely but too well to 



raise St. Albans into a town of free citizens, were hanged in 
the sight of those whom they had sought to liberate. One 
night their friends removed their bodies and buried them in 
a distant spot. Such were the feelings of vengeance breathed 
by the upper classes in the reign of terror that followed the 
Eising, that a savage order came from the King, bidding the 
townspeople to replace the bodies with their own hands. If 
anything could elicit pity from a hard heart, it would be the 
sight of friends and relations hanging up again on the gibbet 
the rotting bodies of those who had died in the common 
cause. But in the monastery the incident caused pious 
satisfaction. ' This,' says the monk, ' was deservedly the foul 
office of men who usurped the name of " citizens " less justly 
than that of " hangmen," as they were called and became, 
by this deed incurring eternal ignominy.' The monks of St. 
Albans, judged out of their own mouth, knew nothing of 
Christian love, or even of common humanity, towards their 

The history of the great Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds is 
just the same. In 1327 events occurred which show that 
the Eising of 1381 was not without precedent. A local 
'jacquerie' took place on all the estates of the monastery. 
The merchants and townsfolk who lived under the abbey 
walls, uniting with the peasantry of the neighbouring villages 
headed by their parish priests, succeeded in effecting a social 
revolution. The town secured for itself the freedom and 
status of a gild, the peasantry were released from serfage. 
This state of things seems to have lasted for six months 
or more. Finally, on another outbreak of violence and 
rapine, the tardy vengeance of the central government de- 
scended on the rebels, several batches of ringleaders were 
executed, and the old rights of the House were restored. In 
1381, with slight modifications, the same series of events was 

In the cases of St. Albans and St. Edmundsbury, we 
find the Church resisting efforts of the rural serfs to secure 
personal freedom, and repressing the ambition of a large 

' Wals., i. 470-84, ii. 15-31, 35-41. 
Ibid. ii. 3-4 ; Green's History of the English People. 


market-town to become a city. But there were other con- 
tests going on at the same time, between similar ecclesiastical 
bodies and other cities in a higher state of development. The 
great town of Exeter had already begun its quarrel with the 
Cathedral, which developed sixty years later into one of the 
most famous law-suits of a litigious generation. The quarrel 
seems to have arisen from the dislike felt by the municipal 
magistrates of a rival jurisdiction within their walls, and 
the resulting inconveniences, rather than from any grave 
oppression of the citizens by the Cathedral. At Lynn and 
at Beading, however, the cause of quarrel was the Abbot's 
claim to appoint the municipal officers. Such a claim 
was a definite attempt to keep back the independent growth 
of these cities and to subject the mercantile class to 
the feudal rule of churchmen.^ It was a fortunate circum- 
stance that most towns in England belonged to the Crown. 
The Norman Kings had not been long in discovering that it 
was their interest to foster the growth of wealthy communities, 
and gain the sympathy of their rulers. They had handed 
on to the Plantagenets the tradition that when a town on 
royal domain asked for a charter of new privileges, the gift 
should be granted or sold. The quiet growth of the English 
boroughs, independent in local affairs, but loyal to the Crown 
and the central government, had been the result of this wise 
policy. There were no ' free cities ' like those which defied 
the German Emperor, no armed communes like those which 
Philip van Artevelde was then leading in rebellion against 
the Count of Flanders. Yet the prosperity and independence 
of English town-life was rapidly and freely maturing. On 
the other hand, those centres of commerce and industry, 
which had grown up round the walls of great abbeys and 
cathedrals, found that, though the Church was ready to nurse 
the child, she was not prepared to allow freedom to the man. 
It was not to the interest of the Abbot, as it had been to the 
interest of the King, to grant charters to towns that belonged 
to him. If the King granted the right of electing a mayor, he 

> Mrs. Green's Town Life m Fifteenth Cent, i. 301, 351-63, 368-81 ; 
Kitchin's Winchester (Historic Towns series) ; for Canterbury see Eot. Pari., 
iii. 53, pet. 11, and Cont. Eulog., 342. 

M 2 


secured a loyal corporation ; but if tlie Abbot granted a 
similar privilege, he only raised a more formidable rival at 
his doors. Tenacity of privilege was the marked feature of 
all sections of the Church in all matters, and this case formed 
no exception. 

There were three possible remedies for towns thus 
stunted in their growth — violence, law-suit, and legislation. 
Violence seems to have been the favourite expedient ; but 
it was of little use, because the party attacked could always 
call in the royal power. By law-suits, again, nothing 
could be done. Though law can serve to protect what has 
been already conceded, it cannot be used to obtain new 
privilege. However much the secular courts disliked the 
Church, they could not dispute the legality of her ancient and 
undoubted rights. The one remaining way by which remedy 
could be sought was to obtain new laws. But Parliament 
was not at that time an effective instrument for reform. To 
alter by legislation established rights of individuals and 
public bodies was no less unusual in the time of Eichard 
the Second than under the regime that was ended by the 
first Keform Bill and the Municipal Corporation Act. There 
were besides special difficulties in touching ecclesiastical 

So it came about that those towns which suffered from 
subjection to the Church were forced to wait. Instead of 
evolution in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, there was 
revolution in the sixteenth. Then, ' when temple and tower 
went to the ground,' it was a day of vengeance for the wrongs 
of ancestors, the settling of scores generations old. The un- 
necessary destruction of so many monastic buildings, the ruin 
of so many abbey-churches not inferior in size and splendour 
to cathedrals, though originated by the royal order, must in 
many cases have been a work of delight to the burghers. 
To-day the people of St. Edmundsbury stroll at evening 
through the town gardens which were once those of the 
abbey, and point with just pride to the beautiful towers that 
overshadow them. Little do they dream of the loathing, 
the rage, the despair, with which their ancestors looked up at 
those towers, the blind fury with which they stormed into 


those gardens, on more than one day of mad riot, the joy with 
which at last they possessed the gate of their enemies. 

Of the monasteries in the North of England, it is 
probable that most of this would be untrue. In the soli- 
tary vales of Yorkshire, the popularity of the great sheep- 
farming abbeys was natural and right. No town stood 
under the walls of Bolton or Kivaulx, and the peasantry 
seem to have liked the monks well, judging from the 
revolt that broke out when they were abolished by Henry 
the Eighth. But we know little or nothing of the North 
Country in Chaucer's day, except that the devil was sup- 
posed by Southerners to come from that part of the world.'"^ 
It may well be that in districts where society still recalled 
certain aspects of the twelfth century, the monasteries still 
resembled the monasteries of that bygone period in their 
serviceableness to man. But the manner in which the 
Southern counties rallied to the defence of the government 
that dissolved the abbeys, was no less remarkable than the 
rising of Lincolnshire and the North to overthrow it. Henry 
the Eighth had no regular army. He was saved by the willing 
help of the richer and more advanced part of his subjects. 

We have now completed a brief sketch of the principal 
sections of English churchmen. Formidable separately, the 
prestige that each derived from membership of the Catholic 
Church, the support that in the hour of real danger they 
afforded one another, rendered it impossible to reduce the 
power of any of these sections, until the laity were in a 
position to assert their mastery over all. The weapon of the 
clergy in every quarrel was excommunication. They used it 
freely to defend their privileges. It was a recognised law 
that invaders of the goods and liberties of the Church were to 
be cursed.^ Wycliffe, with his exalted notions of the purely 
spiritual position that the clergy ought to occupy, thought it 
wrong in them to call down the solemn curse of God for such 
mundane purposes.^ But many may think that it was a fair 

' Friar's Tale, Chaucer, lines 113-4. 

2 Gibson, ii. 1099-1100 ; S. E. W., iii. 268. 

3 De Dom. Civ., 277-8 ; Fasc. Z., 251-2 ; De Ecc, 156. 


measure of defence, on the part of an unarmed organisation, 
against those frequent acts of violence which bore crude 
testimony at this period to the feehngs that were arising 
against churchmen. In modern society, when everyone, 
clergy and layman alike, is protected by the State with 
impartiality and vigour, it would be as unnecessary as it 
would be futile for any spiritual body to attempt to defend 
itself by spiritual weapons of its own forging. But in days 
when the police system was tardy and inefficient, when every 
corporation was expected to defend its own rights, and every 
individual his own head, when the curses of the Church 
still affected the lives and disturbed the imaginations of men, 
it was at once necessary and possible for the clergy to act 
in their own defence. The real grievance was this, that 
the Church defended all her privileges and all her posses- 
sions with equal ardour, irrespective of their justice or utility. 
She took advantage of a strong position to refuse every 
demand for redress ; she adopted, towards all proposals 
of concession, the attitude of the French noblesse before the 
Eevolution. Whether it was the villeins of Bury or St. 
Albans, the citizens of Beading or Ljmn, demanding a new 
status at the hands of the monks, whether it was the King's 
Courts attempting to have clerics and Sanctuary men punished 
for their crimes, whether it was the laity complaining against 
the ruinous fees and heavy extortions of the spiritual courts, 
the Church was equally deaf in all questions where her own 
interests and her own income were concerned. 

One privilege, typical of many others, illustrates the 
relations of clerics to other Englishmen. It is that which 
is known as the ' benefit of clergy.' It had been wrung from 
the great founder of the Plantagenet monarchy, during that 
brief but all-important revulsion of feeling which was caused 
by the murder of Becket. In that moment of triumph and 
enthusiasm, when everything that the murdered man had 
requested was claimed as by Divine right, the Church secured 
for herself this famous privilege, which many of her sons had 
in Becket' s lifetime regarded as outrageous. Since that fatal 
day, long custom had made it an absolute right of every cleric 
to be exempted in cases of felony from the criminal law of the 


land. * Criminous clerks ' were withdrawn from the King's 
Courts by the Bishops' officers, and tried before the spiritual 
tribunals. In that friendly territory their fate was seldom 
severe. Acquittal was easy, but even condemnation only 
brought light penance or brief imprisonment. The inadequate 
punishment of crimes committed by this section of the com- 
munity rendered the members of it more criminal than they 
would have been, if they had always suffered for their mis- 
deeds. It must be remembered that not only those whom 
we should now call ' ministers of religion ' enjoyed this 
invidious privilege, but all the monks and all the friars, and 
that great army of hungry clerks, employed and unemployed, 
whose manner of life was often so questionable. 

Privileges such as these attracted great numbers into 
the Church, and bound all together with a corporate feeling 
which was a kind of patriotism. These privileges were de- 
fended and this spirit intensified by constitutional machinery 
parallel to that of the secular kingdom. The clergy had 
in Convocation a parliament of their own, where their 
right to grant taxes on ecclesiastical property, to present 
petitions and to air grievances, was never questioned. They 
had a set of spiritual courts, with their own officials and their 
own code of Canon law, as complete and independent as the 
secular tribunals, and with a province scarcely less wide and 

Although this independent constitutional position, and the 
peculiar privileges of the clergy, were based on the theory of a 
separate spiritual state, the Church, however illogically, was 
further strengthened by the secular employments of her 
members. She had a numerical majority in the House of 
Lords, and the large proportion of clergy among the King's 
ministers secured her position in a most effective manner. 
But as a power in the land, her endowments made her still 
more formidable.^ The accumulation of wealth by the Church 
had not yet reached its zenith. New endowments still flowed 
in with unceasing regularity. It had then scarcely occurred 
to the minds of the charitable and the public-spirited that 
they could find a vehicle for their beneficence in private 

' See Ip. 


institutions, or even in the State. The Church was almost 
invariably the medium of public benefaction, as well as the 
recipient of gifts and endowments for religious purposes. 
While she thus continued to draw in wealth, she never gave 
it out again. Her authorities had forbidden ecclesiastical 
persons to alienate Church property.^ Even when the 
Templars had forfeited their possessions, this principle had 
been strictly adhered to, and other religious bodies alone had 
gained by the spoliation.^ If the process of endowment went 
on much longer at the same pace in a country so impover- 
ished as England, the power of the priesthood might become 
a serious danger to the community. So at least thought 
some men at this period, especially those under Wy cliff e's 
influence. One of them expresses his fears of the clergy who 
openly declare ' that they should get out of the secular hands 
all the temporal lordship that they may, and in no case 
deliver none again. And therefore a gentleman asked a 
great Bishop of this land, " In case the clergy had all the 
temporal possessions, as they have now the more part, how 
shall the secular lords and knights live, and wherewith ? " 
.... And then he answered and said that " they should be 
clerks' soldiers and live by their wages." And certes this law 
of getting in of these temporalities and these other words of 
this Bishop ought to be taken heed to, for since they have 
now the more part of the temporal lordships and with that 
the spiritualities and the great movable treasures of the 
realm, they may lightly make a conquest.'^ Such language is 
exaggerated, but it is not merely the wild talk of a partisan. 
The poet Gower, much as he disliked the Lollards, was gravely 
alarmed at the voraciousness of the Church and the inalien- 
able character of the wealth that she daily acquired.'' When, 
seventy years before, the French King had violated the 
person of Boniface the Eighth, and set up his successor in 
Avignon, the imminent danger with which the Papacy had 
threatened the Crowns of Europe had come to an end. The 
temporal power of Eome had been struck down. But no such 
blow had been dealt to the temporal power of the clergy as a 

' Gibson, ii. 685 et seq. ^ Stats, of Realm, 17 Ed. II., stat. ii. 

3 Matt., 368-9. * Gower, Vox Clam., bk. iii., cap. 11, line 993 ct seq. 


whole. In our island the danger that she would become too 
strong for the State had not been removed by the partial 
decline of the Papal power. To the tradition of spiritual 
domination, going back to the beginning of the Christian 
world, the Church had now added wealth which was daily 
growing, political influence, and social privilege. The attacks 
made on her at this period seemed only to show the weakness 
of her assailants. The danger to the State was not imaginary 
but real. The fate which Wycliffe feared for his country 
actually overtook in later years Italy, Spain, and to some 
degree France, where the clergy seized the helm of govern- 
ment and crushed underfoot political life and individual 

Yet we may observe on the face of the fourteenth 
century, features which show that the spiritual domina- 
tion of the clergy was weaker than of old, however strong 
their political and social status had become. We have 
already noticed that the interference of the spiritual courts 
in domestic life had ceased to be a vital reality and was 
rapidly becoming a contemptible farce, probably more on 
account of the altered mental attitude of the laity than for 
any other reason. We have seen a no less significant pro- 
test raised against the monopoly of State offices by church- 
men. Above all, we have seen in the Wycliffite movement 
a direct attack on Church privileges and wealth, and a still 
more important attack on the doctrines which she taught and 
the religious usages which she inculcated. Her intellectual 
supremacy, now for the first time in our country seriously 
challenged, was the key to the position on which her worldly 
privileges depended. Wyclil^,_inu-^ite of some crudity of 
thought and utterance, was the only man of his age who saw 
deeply into the needs of the present and the possibilities of 
the future, arid his life lias had ah incalculable effect on 
the religion of England, and through religion on politics and 
society. We may take this opportunity to give a brief outline 
of his career. 

He was of North English parentage, and was born about 
1320 in the Eichmond district of Yorkshire. He was sent 
to Oxford, but when and how is unknown ; the attractions of 


an intellectual life kept him at the University, where he 
passed through many grades and offices, and took his share 
both in the teaching and administration of the place. He 
was once Master of Balliol ; he was perhaps Warden of 
Canterbury HalL His reputation as a theologian increased 
gradually, but until he was some fifty years of age it was 
an Oxford reputation only. It is impossible to say whether 
he resided all the year round, or all years together, at the 
University. From 1363 onwards he held livings in the 
country, though never more than one at a time.^ ^ In 1374 he 
finally received from the Crown the rectory of Lutterworth, 
with which his name is for ever connected. There he lived 
continuously after his expulsion from Oxford in 1382, there 
he wrote his later works and collected his friends and mission- 
aries. The Leicestershire village became the centre of a 
religious movement. Owing to the difficulty of ascertaining the 
exact dates of his different books and pamphlets, it would be 
hard to distinguish between those of his theories which issued 
from Oxford and thpse which first appeared at Lutterworth. 
There is no need in a general history of the times to attempt 
the difficult task of exact chronological division, such as 
would be necessary in a biography of Wycliffe. It is enough 
to know that his demand for disendowment preceded his 
purely doctrinal heresies, that his quarrel with the friars came 
to a head just before his denial of Transubstantiation in 1380, 
while his attack on the whole organisation and the most 
prominent doctrines of the Mediaeval Church is found in 
its fulness only in his later works. 

The method by which he arrived at his conclusions was 
in appearance the scholastic method then recognised. With- 
out such a basis his theories would have been treated with 
ridicule by all theologians, and he would have been as much 
out of place at Oxford as Voltaire in the Sorbonne. The system 
of argument, which makes his Latin writings unreadable in 
the nineteenth century, made them formidable in the four- 
teenth. Yet he was not, in the deepest sense, an academician. 
Instinct and feeling were the true guides of his mind, not the 

' Fasc. Z., p. xxxviii-ix. 


close reasoning by which he conceived that he was irresisti- 
bly led to inevitable conclusions. The doctrines of Protes- 
tantism, and the conception of a new relation between Church 
and State, were not really the deductions of any cut-and-dried 
dialectic. The one important inclination that he derive"cr 
from scholasticism was the tendency, shared with all mediaeval 
thinkers, to carry his theories to their furthest logical point. 
Hence he was rather a radical than a moderatei reformer. 
This uncompromising attitude of mind assigned to him his 
true function. He was not the leader of a political party 
trying to carry through the modicum of reform practical at 
the moment, but a private individual trying to spread new 
ideas and to begin a movement of thought which should bear 
fruit in ages to come. His later writings show that he had 
ceased to regard himself as a ' serious politician ; ' perhaps 
he was dimly av^are that he was something greater. He did 
well, both for himself and the world, to throw aside all hopes 
of immediate success and speak out the truth that was in 
him without counting the cost. But his greatest admirers 
must admit that in some cases his logic drove him to give 
unwise and impossible advice. Some will think his recom- 
mendatroh"' of complete disendowment and the voluntary 
system to be little better, and all will probably agree that 
his proposal to include the Universities in this scheme was 
unnecessary. But as they were then part of the Church, he 
did not see how it was consistent with his logic that they 
should continue to hold endowments of land and appropriated 
tithes.^ In the same way, he carried to an equally extrava- 
gant length his theory that the life of the priest should be 
purely spiritual. To spiritualise the occupations of the 
clergy was a very desirable reform at this time, but there was 
no need that Wycliffe should therefore wish to restrict their 
studies to theology. His objection to the attendance of clergy 
at lectures on law and physical science was, beyond doubt, 
a step in the wrong direction.^ He was confirmed in this _ 
error by his belief in the all-sufficiency of the Bible. ' This , 
lore that Christ taught us is enough for this life,' he says, 
* and other lore, and more, over this, would Christ that were 
1 Matt., 427 ; De Off. Past. ^ De Officio Regis, ch. vii. 176-8. 


suspended ' ^ Learned as he was himself, he affected to 
depreciate earthly learning. But while such extravagances 
detract somewhat from his greatness, as they certainly 
detracted from his usefulness, they cannot be held, as his 
enemies hold them, to be the principal part of his legacy 
to mankind. True genius nearly always pays the price of 
originality and inventive pov/er, in mistakes proportionately 

In his political ideas regarding the Church, Wycliffe was 
one of a school. Continental and English writers had already 
for a century been theorising against the secular power of eccle- 
siastics. The Papal Bull of 1377 had likened Wycliffe's early 
heresies to the ' perverse opinions and unlearned learning of 
Marsiglio of Padua of damned memory,' ^ who had demanded 
that the Church should be confined to her spiritual province, 
and had attacked the ' Caesarean clergy.' Wycliffe himself 
recognised Occam as his master,^ for his great fellow-country- 
man had more than fifty years back declared it the duty of 
priests to live in poverty, and had maintained with his pen 
the power of the secular State against the Pope. It was by 
the Spiritual Franciscans, ' those evangelical men,' as Wycliffe 
called them, ' very dear to God,' that the poverty ordered by 
the Gospel had been chiefly practised and preached as an 
example for the whole Church. On the other hand, it was to 
their enemy FitzEalph, Bishop of Armagh, that he owed his 
doctrine of ' Dominion.' •* Grossetete, the reforming Bishop 
of Lincoln, had in his day attacked pluralities and opposed the 
abuses of Papal power in England. Wyclifi'e not only spoke 
of him with respect and admiration, but again and again 
quoted his words and advanced his opinions as authoritative.*' 
But while these predecessors had dealt with one or two points 
only, Wycliffe dealt with religion as a whole. Besides the 
political proposals of Occam and Marsiglio, he sketched out a 
new religion which included their proposed changes as part 

' S. E. W., i. 310. "- Fasc. Z., 243. 

^ ' Ineeptor.' De Veritate Sanctce, Scriptures, cap. xiv., in Lechler, ii. 372. 

* See Matt., pp. xxxiii- iv ; Brown's Fasciculus, i. 237 ; Mr. Poole in Social 
England, ii. 163. 

^ De Givili Dominio, 385-94 ; De Officio Regis, 85 ; S. E. W., iii. 469, 489 ; 
O-pus Evangeliciim, i. 17. 


only of the new ideas respecting the relations of man to 

In this field of doctrine and religion he was himself the 
originator of a school. His authorities, his teachers, were not 
the thinkers of his own century, but the fathers of the early 
Church. Few, perhaps, oj his ideas were new in the sense 
that they had never before been conceived by man. Butmany. 
were absolutely new to his age. In those days there was no 
scientific knowledge of the past, and mere tradition can be 
soon altered. If the Catholic faith of the tenth century 
had been modified, no one in the fourteenth would have 
known that any such change had taken place. Even the 
memory of the Albigenses and their terrible fate seems to have 
vanished, or to have survived only as a tale that is told. 
They are not mentioned in Wycliffe's writings. He did not 
borrow his heresies from them, as the Hussites borrowed from 
him. Wycliffe's re-statements, if such they were, were there- 
fore to airmtents and purposes discoveries. The doctrine of 
Transubstantiation had not always been held by the Church, 
but it had been held for many generations when it was denied 
by Wycliffe. His declaration that his own view had been the 
orthodox fa,ith for ' the thousand years that Satan was bound,' ^ 
was of little meaning to the unlearned and the unimaginative. 

He developed this famous heresy in 1379 and 1380, during 
the latter part of his residence at Oxford. He had previously 
believed in the great miracle,^ but was led into his new 
position, he declares, by the metaphysical consideration of the 
impossibility of accidents existing without substance. This 
may well be true ; the terms are a philosophical way of stating 
the plain man's difficulties. But there were many other con- 
siderations, besides metaphysical arguments, which influenced 
his judgment. Transubstantiation was unsuited to the 
general character of his mind, which always found difficulty 
in attributing very high sacredness to particles of matter. 
Thus he complained that the orthodox view of the Eucharist 
was a cause of idolatry, that the people made the host their 
God.^ Ever since his day, the question has been the shibboleth 

' S. E. W., iii. 408. ^ j)^ Eucharistd, Introd. p. iv. 

» Ibid. 14, 315-8, 142-3 ; De Blaspliemid, 31. 


dividing off those who revolt against materialised objects of 
reverence and worship, from those to whomithe materialisation 
gives no offence. Neither was Wycliffe blind to the use made 
of the theory of Transubstantiation by the priests, and still 
more by the friars, to secure the veneration and obedience of 
those to whom they ministered.^ He declared that nothing 
was more horrible to him than the idea that every celebrating 
priest made the body of Christ ; ^ the Mass was a false miracle 
invented for mundane purposes.^ It is now acknowledged 
that the power of the clergy is strongest with those peoples 
who believe in Transubstantiation. Even in the fourteenth 
century the Church recognised that her position depended on 
the doctrine. 

Whether Wycliffe knew what a storm he was about to 
raise, it is impossible to say. At any rate the storm arose at 
once, and he never for an instant shrank from its fury. John 
of Gaunt hurried down in person to Oxford, and ordered him 
to be silent on the question.* Such vigorous action shows not 
only what importance the Duke attached to his ally, but the 
alarm with which he regarded heresy about the Mass. The 
way was now divided before Wycliffe, and he had to make his 
choice. By a sacrifice of principle he would have become the 
bond-slave of a discredited political party, but he would have 
remained at Oxford safe from all annoyance by the Church, 
under the patronage and occasionally in the employment of 
the State ; by doing the duty which lay before him without 
consideration of consequence, he sacrificed the Lancastrian 
alliance, he threw away the protection of the government, he 
put himself at the mercy of the Bishops, he was driven from 
Oxford ; he ceased to have an honoured position in high 
circles, to be spoken of with respect by great friends, and 
recognition by great enemies. The hopes and schemes of the 
last ten years vanished. By his refusal to obey the Duke he 
entered finally on the new life into which he had been 
gradually drifting for some time past, the life of the enthusiast 
who builds for the future and not for the present, with the 
arm of the spirit and not with the arm of the flesh. Such a 

' Opus Evangelicum, i. 102. '^ De Eucharistd, 15, 16. 

3 De Blasphemia, 26. * Fasc. Z., 114. 


choice was not so hard for Wycliffe as it has often proved for 
others. He was no sensitive Erasmus. Proud and ascetic, 
he had ever despised the things of this world. A man of war 
from his youth up, the truth was always more to him than 
peace. He refused to be silent on the dangerous subject, 
and John of Gaunt retired from Oxford baffled. It would be 
interesting to know what thoughts were uppermost in the 
Duke's mind as he rode out of the town after this memorable 

Although, in arguing against the orthodox view of the 
Eeal Presence, Wycliffe put forward forcibly and even crudely 
the evidence of the senses, and laid stress on the absurdity of 
a useless miracle performed many times a day, often by the 
lowest type of priest,^ he never went farther in his deprecia- 
tion of the Sacrament than the position generally known as 
Consubstantiation. The Eucharist always presented to him a 
mystery. He believed the body was in some manner present, 
though how he did not clearly know ; he was only certain 
that bread was present also.^ 

With regard to the other Sacraments, Wycliffe depreciated 
the importance then attached to them, though he made an 
exception in favour of Matrimony. He himself did not 
propose to reduce their number, although the change effected 
by the Protestants of a later age was in perfect accord with 
his principles. It is unnecessary again to point out how 
very different was his view of Penance, Extreme Unction and 
Holy Orders from that of the Catholic Church. We find, 
in Waldensis' confutation of Lollardry, that, as we should 
suppose from a perusal of Wycliffe's own works, the dis- 
tinguishing feature of the sect was a depreciation of the 
miraculous power of the Church Sacraments, and the pecu- 
liar saving qualities of ceremonies, prayers, and pardons. 
Wycliffe pointed out that there was another road to salvation^. 
— a godly life. He thought the religious world had been led 
astray, and in pursuit of formulas was forgetting the essence 
of Christianity. The direct relation of the individual to God 

' S. E. W., iii. 405; Trialogus, iv. 5; De Blasphemid, 26-30; De 
Eitcharistd et Poenitentia, p. 329 of the De EucTiaristd. 
2 De Eticharistd, passim, and Introduction. 


without these interventions, was the positive result of his 
negative criticism. This idea seems to form the basis of all 
his objections and of all his scepticism. This was the centre 
of a rather unsystematised crowd of thoughts which he threw 
out on the world, which have sometimes been regarded as 
detached and chaotic. 

The same principle appears in his attitude towards Church 
services. The degree to which a rite increased the real 
devotion of the people was, he declared, the test of its 
propriety.^ He found that intoning and elaborate singing 
took the mind off the meaning of the prayer.^ He quoted 
St. Augustme's dictum ' as oft as the song delighteth me 
more than that is songen, so oft I acknowledge I trespass 
grievously.' This became a favourite text with his followers.^ 
By the same standard, he judged that the splendid building 
and gaudy decoration of churches drew away the minds 
of the worshippers.^ In that age, whatever deterioration 
there might be in other spheres of ecclesiastical activity, 
the unbroken but progressive tradition of Gothic archi- 
tecture still continued to fill the country with achievements 
as noble as any that the art of man has accomplished. The 
simple magnificence of the Early English style was being 
gradually modified, so as to exhibit larger quantities of 
delicate tracery. At the same time the Church services, in 
the hands of armies of choristers and chantry priests, were 
being adorned by music more difficult and by intoning more 
elaborate than the old Gregorian chants. '^ 

But what were these new beauties to the class of men 
who find no reality of worship under such forms, and who 
require something altogether different by way of religion ? 
To their needs and thoughts Wycliffe gave expression in 
language which, compared to his language on some other sub- 
jects, is extremely moderate. But his demand was distinct, 
and it was founded on a want deeply felt by many of his 
countrymen. We are not surprised to find that the Lollards 
in the next generation found no comfort in the services of the 

• De Ecclesid, cap. ii. 45-6 ; S. E. W., iii. 203-28. 

2 Opus Evangelicum, i. 261. ^ Matt., 191 ; S. E. W., iii. 228, 480. 

■» Opus Evangelicum, i. 263. 

s S. E. W., iii. 203-28 ; Matt. 76-7 and 169. 


Church, and for lack of conventicles 'met in caves and 
woods.' ^ A distinctive character was thus given to the 
worship of the new English heretics ; it was a worship 
essentially Protestant, and did not depend for its performance 
on priest or Church. Although we have no account of the 
meetings of these first nonconformists, their character can 
be gathered from the writings of Wycliffe and his followers, 
who again and again insist on the greater importance of 
preaching and the smaller importance of ceremonies. Preach- 
ing, they declared, was the first duty of clergymen, and of 
more benefit to the laity than any Sacrament. The sermon 
was the special weapon of the early reformers ; it was the 
distinguishing mark of Wycliffe's Poor Priests. Their chief 
rivals in this art, as in everything else, were the friars, of 
whose sermons there were always enough and to spare. But 
Wycliffe accused the friars of preaching to amuse men and 
to win their money, making up for want of real earnestness 
by telling stories more popular than edifying. He wanted an 
entirely different class of preacher, one who should call people 
to repentance, and make the sermon the great instrument 
for reformation of life and manners. To Wycliffe preaching 
seemed the most effectual means by which to arouse men 
to a sense of their personal relation to God, and of the con- 
sequent importance of their every action. Absolution, masses, 
pardons, and penance commuted for money were so many 
ways of keeping all real feeling of responsibility out of the 
mind. ' To preach to edifying ' became the care of the 
Lollards, in the place of ceremonies and rituals.^ 

On the important questions of image worship and the 
cultus of saints, too indissolubly connected by the practice of 
the time to be considered separately, Wycliffe led the way 
with a caution and respect for usage akin to his moderation 
in the questions of confession and penance. Having been a 
devotedly religious man all his life, and having for the first 
forty years of it lived within the pale of orthodoxy, it was 
impossible that he should be altogether without sympathy for 

> Waldensis, caps. 143-7 ; S. E. W., iii. 486. 

2 Opus Evangelicum, i. 375 ; S. E. W., iii. 202, 376 ; Matt., 57, 110 ; Pol 
Works, i. 261. 



the forms of worship and the objects of adoration amongst 
which he had been brought up. He himself never looked 
forward to an iconoclastic crusade, such as naturally marked 
the final triumph of his principles in the sixteenth century. 
He never. positively demanded the removal of images. He 
said they were there to increase devotion to God, and were 
bad only in so far as they stood in the way of direct worship. 
They were a sign, and to be adored as such. In the same 
way, he never denounced prayers to Saints as necessarily 
wrong. If such v/orship increased true devotion, it was 
good. But he exposed the errors and the idolatry that 
actually resulted from Saint-worship and from the presence 
of images in church. He went so far as to pronounce it 
better to put a general trust in the prayers of Saints, than to 
pay individual honours to any of them.^ One of his chief 
quarrels with the orthodox was this depreciation of the value 
of ' special prayers.' ^ As to the personality of the Saints 
themselves, he refused to believe that canonisation at Rome 
either made or marred Sainthood. It was a ceremony of no 
account in God's eyes. A man was judged in heaven by his 
life and not by the opinion of the Pope or Cardinals. Many 
current legends and lives of the Saints were mere fables.^ 

He regarded the Virgin Mary in a spirit half way between 
the Mariolatry of his contemporaries and the fierce anger 
with which Knox threw her image into the waters as a 
' painted bred.' He has left us an interesting treatise 
entitled ' Ave Maria,' * in which he holds up her life as an 
example to all, and especially to women, in language full of 
sympathy and beauty. But he does not advise people to 
pray to her. He does not speak either in praise or con- 
demnation of the images of the Virgin, which then looked 
down from every church in the land. 

Although he did not generally indulge in tirades against 
idolatry, he mentions the mistaken worship of images as 
part of other superstitious practices attaching to the popular 

^ De Eucharistd, 317-8 ; De Ecc, 45-6 ; Ibid. 46 ; Trialogus, 235 ; 
Dialogus, 27-8. 

^ See Waldensis, chaps, i.-xxvii. 

8 De Ecc, 44 ; S. E. W., i. 332 ; Matt., 469 ; Dialogus, 20 and 28. 

' S. E. W., iii. 111-5. 


cultus of Saints ; he put it on the same footing as the foolish 
adoration of relics, the costly decoration of shrines, and the 
other ways in which pilgrims wasted their time and money. 
Wycliffe was not the first or only man of his time in England 
to be shocked by these practices. Langland, whose ' Piers 
Plowman ' was generally read among all classes ten or 
twenty years before the rise of Lollardry, had in that great 
work spoken even more severely of the popular religion, and 
used the word ' idolatry ' more freely than Wycliffe. Chaucer's 
gorge rose at the Pardoner and his relics of ' pigge's bones.' 
The impulse that Wycliffe gave was therefore welcome to 
many, and was eagerly followed by the Lollards, who soon 
became more distinctly iconoclastic than their founder, and 
regarded Saints, Saints' days and Saint-worship with a horror 
which he never expressed. But his other doctrines of the 
relations of man to God and of man to the Church, his new 
ideas of pardon and absolution, were the only effective engine 
for the destruction of those abuses and vulgarities, which 
Langland and Chaucer vainly deprecated. 

Against the persons and classes who lived by encouraging 
superstition, Wycliffe waged implacable war. He recognised 
that as long as the orders of friars existed in England, it 
would always be hard to fight against the practices and beliefs 
which they taught. His views on monks and on Bishops re- 
spectively were much the same. His objections to them all 
were founded on the belief that they were the real props of all 
he sought to destroy, the sworn enemies of all he sought to 
introduce. After his quarrel with the friars, he put these 
thoughts into a definite formula. All men, he declared, 
belonged, or ought to belong, to the ' sect of Christ,' and to 
that alone. The distinguishing mark of the members was the 
practice of Christian virtues in ordinary life, whether by 
priest or laymen. The body had therefore its rule, the Chris- 
tian code of morality. He found, he said, no warrant in 
Scripture to justify any man in binding himself by another 
code of religious rules, or becoming a member of any new 
sect. Yet that, he said, was what the monks and friars 
had done. They claimed to be ' the religious,' more dear to 
God than other men. But their rule was of earthly making, 


the work of Benedict or Francis, not of Christ ; there was 
really only one rule of life, and that was binding on all 
Christians equally. Eeligion did not consist in peculiar rites 
distinguishing some men from others.^ Wycliffe affected also 
to regard the worldly prelates and clergy, who held secular 
office and secular property, as another ' sect.' ^ The preten- 
sions and self-interest of the Church, and the intense party 
spirit actuating the authorities, gave a certain meaning to the 
word. A powerful and jealous organisation, dangerous to the 
State as well as fatal to individual freedom of religious prac- 
tice, was very far from that idea of the Church which Wycliffe 
thought he found in the histories of the early Christian com- 

His views on ordination and apostolic succession were, it 
is needless to say, heretical. He taught people to look to the 
real worth of a man, not to his position in the Church. ' For 
crown and cloth make no priest, nor the emperor's bishop with 
his words, but power that Christ giveth, and thus by life are 
priests known. And thus,' he adds in encouragement to his 
followers, ' Christenmen should not cease, for the dread of the 
fiend and for the power of his clerks, to sue and hold Christ's 
law. And well I wot that Church hath been many day ui 
growing, and some call it not Christ's Church but the Church 
of wicked spirits. And man may no better know antichrist's 
clerk than by this, that he loveth this church and hateth 
the Church of Christ.' ^ Such violence of language, if used 
against the pretensions of a religious organisation in modern 
theological controversy, would be condemned for bitterness and 
extravagance. But in the mouth of the proto-martyrs of free 
thought, raising the standard against a persecuting organisa- 
tion with the whole power of the world behind it, violence of 
language seems natural if not justifiable. The Church, in 
her anathemas, called them ' sons of eternal perdition,' and 
sought to take their lives. It is doubtful if a perfectly calm 
and dispassionate temper would have afforded any man the 
courage to head a forlorn hope against the Mediaeval Church. 
Wycliffe realised what he was doing, and did it as a duty, not 

' Pol. Works, passim ; S. E. W., iii. 431. 
2 Pol. Works, i. 242-3 ; 8. E. W., iii. 184. ^ Matt., 467. 



as an intellectual pastime. ^-There i^Z he. says, \ yery peace 

and false peace, and they be full diverse. Very peace is 
grounded in God, . . . false peace is grounded in rest with our 
enemies, when we assent to them without again-standing. 
And sword against such peace came Christ to send,' ^ True 
wisdom does not always, and certainly did not then, consist in 
universal sympathy and tolerance. The world is moved in the 
first instance by those who see one side of a question only, 
although the services of those who see both are indispensable 
for effecting a settlement. 

The Pope had no place in Wycliffe's free Church of all 
Christian men. ' If thou say that Christ's Church must have 
a head here in earth, sooth it is, for Christ is head, that must 
be here with his Church unto the day of doom.' ^ This com- 
plete repudiation of Papal authority was the last stage of a 
long process. Until the time of the schism he had done no 
more than state the fallibility of the Pope, and expose Papal 
deviations from the ' law of God.' ^ When in 1378 his enemy 
and persecutor Gregory the Eleventh died, he welcomed the 
accession of Urban the Sixth, and hoped to see in him a 
reforming head of Christendom.* He was soon disappointed. 
The anti-Pope Clement was set up at Avignon, and gods and 
men were edified by the spectacle of the two successors of St. 
Peter issuing excommunications and raising armies against 
each other. Then, and not till then, Wycliffe denied all Papal 
power over the Church. 

The positive basis which Wycliffe set up, in place of 
absolute Church authority, was the JBible. We find exactly 
the same devotion to the literal text in Wycliffe and his fol- 
lowers, as among the later Puritans. He even declared that 
it was our only ground for belief in Christ.^ Without this 
positive basis, the struggle against Eomanism could never 
have met with the partial success that eventually attended it. 

As for a new scheme of Church government, Wycliffe 
cannot be said to have put one forward. He pleaded for 
greater simplicity of organisation, greater freedom of the 
individual, and less crushing authority. As his object was to 

» S. E. W., i. 321. 2 j^4^. iii. 342. s j^jatt., xv. 

* De Ecc, 352, 358. ^ S. E. W., iii. 862, I disagree with note a. 


free those laymen and parsons who were of his way of think- 
ing from the control of the Pope and Bishops, he proposed 
to abolish the existing forms of Church government. But 
he never devised any other machinery, such as a presbytery, 
to take their place. The time had not come for definite 
schemes, such as were possible and necessary in the days of 
Luther, Calvin and Cranmer, for success was not even 
distantly in sight. The position of the Lollards was anoma- 
lous, standing half inside and half outside the Church. 

Such were the principal questions that Wycliffe, during 
the last few years of his life, forced on to the consideration 
of his countrymen, who had hitherto been famous among 
Europeans for their ready fidelity to all that the established 
authorities bade them believe. It must be said of Wycliffe, as 
he said of the Bishops, ' by his works must we know him,' for 
there is no other record of him left, except strings of abusive 
epithets from his enemies. Fortunately his written works, 
long preserved among the Hiissites of Bohemia after Church 
inquisition had destroyed them in England, have lately been 
edited by zealous and careful scholars, who have now set 
before us nearly as much knowledge of Wycliffe as we can 
ever hope to obtain. The want of any clear picture of his 
personality goes far to account for the small interest taken in 
a man of such extraordinary powers of mind, who has exerted 
so great an influence on the history of our country. It is 
probable that few will ever study his writings. The interest 
and meaning of his Latin books are obscured to the modern 
reader by the jargon of the mediaeval schools. His English 
pamphlets, written in the simple and vigorous language of 
that day, well repay study. But even these have a certain 
want of attractiveness, owing to the predominance of hard 
intellectual and moral qualities over the emotions. But 
although his writings tell us little about himself, we can read 
in their every line the severity which appeared also in his 
actions, and was certainly the characteristic of the man. 




The continuous history of political and religious development 
in England is at this point broken short by a great incident ; 
for such is the Peasants' Eising in its relation to the train of 
events and the growth and decay of institutions which we 
have traced in the preceding chapters. Its effect on ad- 
ministrative and parliamentary affairs was almost nothing, 
its effect on religion was only the casual reaction of events 
really extraneous to the quarrels of Bishop and reformer. 
But the Peasants' Eising, though only incidental to the rest of 
English affairs, is an organic part of the history of labour, 
and throws more light on the aspirations and qualities of 
the working class than any other record of mediaeval times. 
The work of trained scholars has of late years opened out new 
fields of inquiry into the past, has shown us from Manor 
Eolls and bailiffs' accounts the actual conditions under which 
the emancipation of the feudal serf took place — a story of 
profound importance and interest, but, taken by itself, not 
specially enlivening or attractive. The story of this great 
process in English civilisation is completed by the startling 
events of 1381, which give a human and spiritual interest to 
the economic facts of the period, showing the peasant as a 
man, half beast and half angel, not a mere item in the 
bailiffs' books. To all who have read the story of this 
terrible summer, a manorial roll of the fourteenth century 
becomes a record of real and stirring life, in which hope and 
despair, defiance and servile submission, surged up and 
sank and rose again during that long century of labour war. 
The dramatic interest of the Eising itself has always been 


recognised by historians. But it would need a poet to 
bring out its true depth of colour. The glamour and glare, 
so characteristic of the mightier French Eevolution, is set 
off against a dark background of mediaeval English gloom. 

When the fourteenth century opened, the agricultural 
system, which William the Conqueror's great census had 
found established throughout the country, was still in work- 
ing order, though its decay had already begun. The ' Mano- 
rial ' system, as it is generally called, was based on serfdom. 
The lord of the manor kept part of the tillage land to be 
worked by his bailiff for the supply of his own granaries, 
while the other part was cultivated in small patches by the 
peasants of the village. These men held their fields on a 
tenure which was, by custom if not by law, independent of 
the landlord's caprice ; they did not suffer from evictions.^ 
But their tenure, though safe, was heavily burdened ; they 
were not freemen of the land, but villeins or serfs ; they might 
not leave the estate ; they were bound to the soil ; they not 
only owed many feudal dues of various kinds to the lord, but 
were obliged to do service so many days in the year on the 
* demesne,' the land worked by the lord's bailiff. It was on 
these fixed services that the lord relied almost entirely for the 
cultivation of this demesne. On those days that were not 
claimed by the bailiff, the serf could work on his own patch 
of ground, out of which he had to support his family and pay 
the few money rents due to the lord. 

Such, in brief, was the basis on which society stood, such 
were the means by which the ground was tilled, during the 
feudal ages. The relation of the villein to the lord of 
the manor corresponded in idea to the feudal relation of 
the knight to the baron. The same personal dependence, the 
same debt of personal service as the condition of land-tenure, 
formed the basis of both. For many centuries it served England 
well. It was an organised system which prevented anarchy 
and perpetual social war. If it gave the lord rights, it gave 
the villein rights too. V He owed only certain fixed services; 
he was not a slave to do the lord's bidding at all hours and 

' Ashley, i. 1, 39. 


for any purpose. The system stood in the place of cultivation 
by slaves, the ' latifundia ' that ruined ancient Italy, even if 
it also stood in the place of free labour. 

In the later Middle Ages it gradually broke up, by a pro- 
cess that we can trace step by step. It broke up under the 
force of new economic conditions and under the force of new 
ideas, themselves partly produced by, partly producing these 
conditions. The Eising of 1381 sets it beyond doubt that the 
peasant had grasped the conception of complete personal 
liberty, that he held it degrading to perform forced labour, 
and that he considered freedom to be his right. 

It appears, however, from the Manor EoUs, that the com- 
mutation of the forced services of the villein for money rents 
paid to the lord, had begun more than a century before the 
Eising, probably long before there was among the peasants 
any widespread feeling of the hardship of serfdom. Economic 
pressure and purely financial considerations induced the 
landlords, in many cases, to work their demesne land by hired 
labour, instead of by the compulsory services of the villein. 
The change came slowly, in one department after another 
of agricultural life. Before the fourteenth century opened, 
the bailiffs had been forced to hire shepherds for the sheep, 
and wards for the pigs and cattle. The bond-slaves, who at 
the time of the Conquest had driven the swine to their pan- 
nage in the acorn forests, had, partly from the influence of 
Christian ideas on their masters, partly from their own in- 
tense desire to be free from the collar of abject slavery, been 
emancipated within about a hundred years of Hastings.^ 
But it was difficult to use the villein in place of Gurth the 
swineherd, who had been forced to guard his master's pro- 
perty all the year round ; for the villein owed services only 
on certain days of the week and the year, and during the days 
which were his own the lord's animals would be unguarded. 
So, first, the offices of herdsmen became regularly filled by 
hired labour.^ As time went on, the bailiffs began more and 
more to find that it was advantageous to have the ploughing 
done in the same way. The serf who was required to 

' Ashley, i. 1, 18 ; Archceologia, xxx. 218-23. ^ Page, 22. 


plough the demesne as his service due, was generally ex- 
pected to work with his own team of cattle and horses. These 
animals were often good enough for his own little patch, but 
did not meet the bailiff's requirements. Ploughing, besides, 
required more skill and energy than most other agricultural 
operations. Unwilling workmen, working neither for love nor 
money, with their light ploughs and scanty teams of weak- 
kneed oxen, required the constant superintendence of the 
bailiff, lest they should drive the furrow crooked or rest at 
every turn. They became a bad financial speculation for the 
landlord. Between 1300 and 1348 the movement, already 
begun in the previous century, went on apace, and the ser- 
vices of ploughing on the demesne were constantly commuted 
for money-rent paid in quittance to the lord.^ More slowly, 
but always steadily, the less skilled services of reaping, 
ditching and threshing were similarly commuted for cash- 
payments.^ With this money the bailiff hired labourers - to 
plough and till the demesne. These workmen were of two 
classes. First, the villein whose forced services had been 
wholly or partially commuted, but who still remained a serf, 
unfree and bound to the soil of the manor by the law of the 
land ; secondly, the free labourer whose legal position, as 
regards personal liberty, .corresponded to the farm servant of 
to-day. This class had greatly increased since the Conquest. 
Many villeins had worked their little holdings to such advan- 
tage that they had been able to purchase their freedom, while 
others had fled from servitude to outlawry in the wastes and 
woods that then divided district from district, whence in a 
new part of England they had emerged into a new career as 
free men.^ 
/ On a society thus slowly changing its character from one 
I of feudal relation to one of free contract, fell, in the middle of 
I Edward the Third's reign, the gigantic calamity of the Black 
*"i, Death. The number of those who perished in the unimagin- 
': able horrors of that year has been sometimes estimated at a 
third, sometimes at a half, of the whole population. Precise 
calculations are impossible, but it is clear that when in the 

' See Ap. - Ashley, i. 1, 29 ; Page, 24-8 ; Cambridge Manor. 

^ Ashley, i. 1, chap. i. ; Page, 16-8. 


winter of 1349 the plague at last was stayed, and men set 
about to repair the damage, they found the conditions of 
society materially altered by the reduced numbers of the 
population. In nearly every manor throughout the country 
— for the most marked characteristic of the plague had been 
its ubiquity — the ranks of hired labour and of the villeins 
owing personal service had been alike mowed down. The 
landlord and his bailiff were reduced to offering double and 
sometimes treble wages to procure hands for the demesne- 
farm, which would otherwise have fallen completely to waste. 
For the peasant was fully alive to his advantage ; he had not 
even waited till the national calamity was over, before pushing 
his claim ; in the autumn of 1349, while the destruction still 
walked by noonday, wages had risen in full proportion to the 
increased market value of a day's work.^ The King had 
issued an ordinance to meet the emergency, ordering the price 
of labour to remain as before. Canute's proverbial ordinance 
was scarcely more futile. Next year Parliament was able to 
meet, and at once proceeded to convert the Eoyal command into 
a permanent statute — the famous Statute of Labourers. It 
was, undoubtedly, a ' class ' measure, passed by the repre- 
sentatives of the lords of the manors, who led both Houses of : 
Legislature, passed also by the merchants who employed \ 
labour in the towns, and whose attitude was all-important in ) 
the Lower House on industrial questions that concerned them. 
But it was scarcely so iniquitous as (for example) the Corn 
Law of 1815, for while it attempted to keep down the price of 
wages to the traditional standard, it attempted at the same 
time to check the rise in the price of provisions. It was an at- - 
tempt to restrain change, to stop the break-up of the old system, | 
to prevent the peasant from receiving more for his labour 
than of old, or paying more for his food. It was a grand ; 
experiment, whose full trial and complete failure were I 
perhaps a necessary step in teaching mankind the laws of \ 
political economy. It was fully tried, for the statute remained 
unaltered, except in detail, down to the Eising of 1381, and 
even beyond it ; punishment was to be inflicted on the 
labourer who received, fine on the employer who gave more 

1 Eogers, i. 306, 312 ; Knighton, ii. 62. 


than a penny for a day's hay-making, more than twopence 
or threepence for a day's reaping. It completely failed, for 
wages rose abnormally and never came down again.^ It was 
impossible to enforce the Act except through the agency of 
the landlord class itself, and the landlord was often in no 
position to bargain with his men or to threaten them with 
the terrors of the law. If he offered them the bare legal 
wage, the free labom'-ers would offer themselves to some 
neighbouring bailiff, who, when his harvests were rotting on 
the ground, would be ready enough to give them what they 
asked. It is true that they would thus subject themselves to 
the penalties of the statute for refusing the legal wage when 
proffered by their landlord ; but while he was setting the 
machinery of the law in motion against them, the harvest 
season would be over. Men in prison cannot reap a field. 
Nevertheless, in spite of the absence of any federated resis- 
tance on the part of the masters, in spite of the continued rise 
of wages by competition, the attempt to enforce the statute 
continued. Though it could not keep wages down, its penal- 
ties were inflicted to such an extent that the fines were 
considered as a regular and important source of income.^ 
Leaders of local unions and their followers were had up 
before the justices. A few of these old indictments are still 
to be found in the Eecord Office. We read how, in a Suffolk 
village, Walter Halderby ' took of divers persons at reaping- 
time sixpence or eightpence a day, and very often at the same 
time made various congregations of labourers in different 
places and counselled them not to take less than sixpence or 
eightpence.' ^ The statute, with peculiar folly, had fixed the 
legal wage for reaping at twopence or threepence, regardless 
of the higher price that had in many cases been paid for this 
work even before the Black Death. Labour troubles and the 
mutual antagonism of classes were inevitable accompani- 
ments of the social changes that took place in the fourteenth 
century, but they were unnecessarily embittered by the 
enforcement of an Act which so crudely disregarded the 

' 25 Ed. III. 2 ; Eogers, i. 265-71. 

2 Stats, of Realm, 31 Ed. III. 1, cap. 6 ; 36 Ed. III. 1, cap. 14. 
^ Anc. Ind., no. 92 ; Ibid. Essex, no. 19, 1-13 E. II. ; Ibid. Norfolk, no. 65, 
46 Ed. III.-2 E. II. 


state of the market. The unfortunate law became the 
favourite child of Parliament. Through a period of two 
generations, its penalties were continually increased, and 
new measures for its enforcement enacted, while its un- 
reasonably low tariff remained unaltered. The effect of 
these statutes was to teach the free labourer lawlessness and 
the nomadic habits which increase it ; constituted authority 
became his enemy ; he was driven to the life of the outlaw. 
While the villein was bound by the sentiment of the Irish 
peasant, as well as by the law of the land, to the plot of 
ground which his fathers had tilled for generations, the free 
labourer knew of no such ties. Although his family must 
often have rendered it difficult for him to flit, many of 
his class took to a roaming life, and passed from district to 
district, working when they could get wages that pleased 
them, and often robbing when they could not. The Commons 
of the Good Parliament complained in words which show how 
close was the causal relation between the Statute of Labourers 
and the break-down of law and order in 1381 : — 

' If their masters reprove them for bad service, or offer to 
pay them for the said service according to the form of the 
said statutes, they fly and run suddenly away out of their 
services and out of their own country, from County to County 
and town to town, in strange places unknown to their said 
masters. And many of them become staff-strikers and live 
also wicked lives, and rob the poor in simple villages, in 
bodies of two or three together. And the greater part of the 
said servants increase their robberies and felonies from day 
to day.' ^ 

In the previous decade it had, with reckless severity, been 
ordained that if the sheriff failed to catch a workman con- 
demned under the statute, he should declare him an outlaw, 
whom every man might slay at sight. ^ -^ 

But there was another characteristic of the labourer who ' 
had no land, which tended, almost as much as these nomadic 
habits, to make him fit to rise against oppression. He became, 
in good seasons, rich and important with a prosperity pre- 
viously unknown to the English rustic, and still at that time 

' Rot. Pari., ii. 340. ^ 34 gd. III., cap. 10, 



quite unknown to Jacques Bonhomme over the water. Lang- 
land thus describes him : — 

Labourers that have no land to live on but their hands 
Deigned not to dine a-day on worts a night old. 
Penny ale will not do nor a piece of bacon, 
But if it be fresh flesh or fish fried or baked, 
And that hot-and-hot for the chill of their maw. 

In such seasons, nothing would satisfy him — 

And unless he be highly paid he will chide 
Aud bewail the time he was made a workman. 

He grieves against God and murmurs against reason 
And then curses he the King, and all his counsel after. 
For making such laws, labourers to grieve. 

It is in the days of his good fortune that the satirist repre- 
sents him as most seditious and most infuriated against 
the Statute of Labourers. But this prosperity, Langland 
proceeds to show, was subject to sudden mutations. Good'' 
times were succeeded by bad, and bad again by good ; the 
labourer was thriftless in good fortune, and helpless when 
the wheel turned. 

But whilst hunger was their master there would none of them chide, 

Nor strive against the statute however sternly he looked. 

But I warn you, workmen, win money while you may, 

For hunger hitherward hasteth him fast ; 

He shall awake with the water floods to chastise the wasteful.' 

I But the decade which preceded the Peasants' Eising was, on 
/ ' the average, one of high wages and low prices.^ No doubt 
' the war taxation that culminated in the poll-taxes pressed 
heavily on all, and very likely caused real distress in the 
opening years of Eichard's reign ; but the labourers who rose 
in 1381 were men accustomed to very fair conditions of 
existence, and had therefore a very good opinion of themselves 
and of what was due to them. This status they had won in 
the teeth of constituted authority, in defiance of Parliaments, 
landlords, justices of the peace, and sheriffs. It was the 
result in many cases of a nomad life, in others of illegal 

» P. PL, B, vi. 309-24. ^ Rogers, i. 270. 


unions and strikes. Could any stuff be more inflammable 
material for the agitator than such a class ? 

But the Black Death had accelerated other important 
revolutions besides that of raising the free labourer's wage 
and status. We have already noticed that the commutation 
of the villeins' feudal services for money had gone some way 
before 1348. The reduction of population by the plague 
hastened the process. It hastened it, no doubt, against the 
landlords' wishes ; for when labour was dearer than before, 
labour services due from tenants were worth more than ever. 
But the landlord was no longer in a position to do what he 
liked even with his own villeins, to such a pass had things 
come. It was with the greatest difficulty that hands could be 
kept on an estate at all. Like the free labourer, the villein- 
had now the whiphand of his master. If the lord refused to 
commute his services for money rent, and still continued to 
exact the day labour which had now become so far more 
valuable than of old, the villein, like the free labourer, could 
' flee.' To retire off the estate to another part of the country 
was forbidden to the free labourer only by the Statute of 
1350 ; but in the case of the villein ' bound to the soil,' it 
was a breach of immemorial custom and the ancient law of 
the land. Yet the ' flights ' of villeins form as marked a 
feature in the later fourteenth century, as the ' flights ' of 
negroes from the slave States of America in the early nine- 
teenth. The one was as definitely illegal as the other, and 
in both cases the frequency of the flights marked the thorough 
determination of the class to set itself free and to revolutionise 
the old state of things. But instead of finding the whole 
country against him, the fugitive villein, whether he escaped 
to city or village, was sure of a welcome from merchants and 
bailiffs whose business, in consequence of the Black Death, 
was being ruined by lack of hands. The master from whom 
he had fled would learn too late that it was impossible to 
replace his lost services, or to fill his deserted toft. It is not 
therefore surprising that the lords were compelled to make 
eYGTj concession in order to retain their serfs on their 
.estates. So far from trying to revive obligations that had 
been previously commuted, we find them parting with 


the villein's services more largely than ever after the Black 
Death, and often for a rent by no means equivalent.^ 

Whatever the labourer and the serf gained as the result 
of the plague, was so much loss to the landlord. He 
suffered terribly during the break up of the old feudal 
agriculture, however advantageous the change was destined 
to prove to him in the long run. "Whatever sacrifices he 
made to retain hands for the demesne, however highly 
he paid free labour, however frequently he commuted 
villein-services, it was impossible to work all the old 
land with half the old population. Chronic recurrence of 
the plague kept down the numbers. It became necessary 
to abandon the attempt to cultivate the whole demesne. 
Part was let out to villeins or labourers, who would accept 
it only as free farmers, and not on the old terms of 
villein tenure.^ Part was converted into pasturage. English 
fleeces were driving all other wool out of the Flemish 
market, while our cloth manufacture at home was begin- 
ning to create serious jealousy among the weavers of 
Ghent and Bruges. The landlord found that a few shepherds 
could render a large part of his demesne land profitable, 
which otherwise would have lain fallow for want of hands. ^ 
The same plan may have occurred to the growing class of 
farmers who were taking over other parts of the land thrown 
upon the market in large quantities ; but they have left no 
manor-rolls to reveal the policy adopted. Though these 
expedients might temper a little the wind of adversity and 
lay the foundations of a better agricultural system for the 
distant future, the landlord had for the present fallen from 
his old standard of prosperity. His demesne-farming was on 
a smaller scale — in many cases only half the old land was 
under the plough * — he was paying double prices for labour, 
and at the same time the villeins were compelling him to 
commute their services. The landlord's grievances fully 
account for the dogged persistence of Parliament in regard 
to the Statute of Labourers. Neither is it surprising to find 

1 Page, 32, 35-8 ; Ashley, i. 2, p. 265 ; Knighton, ii. 65 ; Cambridge Manor 
"^ Page, 30-1. ^ See Ap. * Page, 40, lines 4-7. 


that the lords struggled hard to retain the villeins in 

bondage, and, in all cases where they dared, continued to \ 

exact such of the old services as were not yet commuted, i 

Hence arose a war, corresponding to the war over the statute, | 

the contest being in this case for freedom instead of for J 

higher wages. As the century wore on, the struggle became/ 

more embittered. The ' flights ' of the villeins were not the 

only form it took. The ' flight ' was essentially the act of 

an enterprising person, ready to sacrifice his status and slink 

away through the woods in search of a new life. A whole 

community of land tenants would never take such a step, 

and if they did it would be impossible for them to conceal 

their escape and prevent recapture. And so, as we should 

expect, we find from the manor rolls that ' flights,' though 

frequent, were acts of isolated individuals.^ When the 

demand for freedom became universal among the villeins 

of a manor, they formed a union, stirred to do so perhaps 

by the attractive example of the free labourers, and openly 

refused to do their old services for the bailiff unless they 

were paid wages. This bold stroke for liberty, however 

illegal, cannot but elicit the full sympathy of their descendants, 

born to freedom. The villeins appear to have shown such an 

ugly temper and such a determination to resist, that the 

bailiffs and their masters had to appeal to Parliament for ) 

force to support their rights. In 1377 a statute was passed, ; 

the preamble of which perhaps throws more light on the j.' 

causes of the Peasants' Eising than any other single passage./^ 

Complaint has been made by the lords of manors, ' as well 

men of Holy Church as other,' that the villeins on their 

estates ' affirm them to be quite and utterly discharged of all 

manner of serfage, due as well of their body as of their tenures, 

and will not suffer any distress or other justice to be made 

upon them ; but do menace the ministers of their lords of 

life and member, and, which more is, gather themselves 

together in great routs and agree by such confederacy that 

every one shall aid other to resist their lords with strong 

hand : and much other harm they do in sundry manner to 

the great damage of their said lords and evil example to 

' T. W. Page, 3 5-8 ; Cambridge Manor. 



others to begin such riots, so that, if due remedy be not 
the rather provided upon the same rebels, greater mischief, 
which God prohibit, may thereof spring through the 
Eealm.' ^ 

Due remedy was not provided, and God did not prohibit 
greater mischief. The statute, to which this was the pre- 
amble, ordered special commissions of Justices of the Peace 
to hear the case of those lords who felt themselves aggrieved, 
and to imprison the said villeins, ' rebels,' as indeed they had 
already become, till they should pay fine and submit to 
their lords. Of the action or inaction of these special com- 
missioners we know nothing. The next thing we hear of the 
quarrel, is the rebellion of 1381 itself. 

It will be seen that when that event took place the process 
of commuting villein services for money rents was going on 
fast, but not quite so fast as the serfs themselves wished, now 
that they were possessed by the idea of man's right to freedom.^ 
But the release from forced service was not the only question 
at issue between lords and villeins, nor did the latter consider 
themselves wholly free when such services had been commuted. 
The lord possessed other rights over the person of the villein 
and his family, rights varying in different counties and 
different manors, varying even from farm to farm on the 
same manor, rights that were often petty, but so multitudinous 
as to be exasperating, and so humiliating that they were in- 
compatible with the new ideal. One villein must pay a fine 
to the lord when he gave his daughter in marriage, another 
must have his corn ground at the lord's mill only, and pay 
a high price to the monopolist miller. It was little griev- 
ances like these, which in old France mounted up to such 
a sum of wrong that the great Eevolution was the result. It 
was not service on the lord's demesne, but the enormous mul- 
tiplication of small seignorial dues and taxes that caused the 
' culbute generale ' in 1789. In England they had always been 
a less prominent feature, and in the course of the fifteenth 
century they disappeared, or survived only in the ' innocuous 
curiosities of copyhold.' But in the fourteenth century they 
were an additional goad in the side of the vexed peasant. 

' Stats, of Realm, 1 E. II., cap. 6. ^ See Ap. 

THE IDEAS OF '81 195 

Two principal marks of serfdom were specially grievous. 
The villein might not plead in court against his lord ; 
he had therefore no protection from the justice of his country h 
against the man with whom he had most dealings. Above 
all, the villein could not sell his land or leave his farm 
without permission. In these days of dear labour, his 
lord was unusually anxious to keep him on the manor, while 
he himself was often willing to desert his unprofitable farm 
and better himself elsewhere as a landless labourer ; but even 
if his services on the demesne had been commuted, he was 
still a serf ' bound to the soil.' The economic condition of 
affairs must have lent special bitterness to this incident of 
serfdom. The social questions of the period cannot be under- | 
stood, unless we remember that in 1381 more than half the | 
people of England did not possess the privileges which Magna 4/ 
Charta secured to every ' freeman.' ^ d 

All great revolutions in the affairs of mankind have 
in them a mystical element. Neither the philosopher nor 
the historian can fully explain the inspiration which sud- 
denly moves a nation or a class, long sunk in mediocrity 
or servitude, to flash out for a space before the eyes of 
the world in all the splendour of human energy. The 
wind bloweth where it listeth. No one can account for the 
age of Pericles or for the age of Elizabeth, for the Jesuits, 
for Calvinism, for the French Eevolution. We can tell their 
occasion, but not their cause. Sometimes a crisis calls for 
movement, and no movement comes. Why on some occasions 
there is an outburst of energy, why on other occasions there is 
no such outburst, is in each case a mystery. It is the modest 
task of the historian to relate the circumstances under which 
a movement occurred, and to describe the speculative or 
religious forms in which the ideas of the movement were pre- 
sented. More he cannot do. 

We have already set out the economic and social conditions 
of the Rising. It remains to indicate the ideas by which it 
was inspired. In that age revolutionary theories were as 
naturally religious as in the eighteenth century they were 
naturally irreligious. And so, in fact, we find. The idea of 

' ArcJiceologia, xxx. 235, note a, ' Thraldom.' 

o 2 


personal freedom was brought forcibly before the peasant 
by the rapid commutation of prsedial service for economic 
reasons ; and but for this occurrence it might, for all we can 
tell, have slumbered yet another century. But this idea, once 
awakened, was at once discovered to be in accordance with 
the teaching of Christianity. Complete slavery had long 
been opposed by the Church, but the Abbots and Bishops 
who held manors all over the country had not yet seen any 
incompatibility between Christian brotherhood and the status 
of the villein. But the peasantry and their humbler religious 
pastors saw it for themselves. Besides the levelling and 
democratic tendencies of the Christian spirit, the belief in a 
common origin from Adam and Eve, not then shaken or 
allegorised by scientific criticism, was a very real and valid 
argument against hereditary serfdom. Indeed it is hard to 
see how the lords, basing their claims on inheritance only, 
and not on general utility, could logically escape the difficulty. 
At any rate the famous catchword, 

When Adam delved and Eve span 
Who was then a gentleman ? 

seems to have corresponded in importance and popularity to 
' Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.' 

Those who stirred up these Christian aspirations towards 
an ideal of more perfect freedom and equality, were the 
religious persons who were most directly in touch with the 
labouring classes. Like some parish priests at the beginning 
of the French Eevolution, many of the poorer English clergy 
were instigators of rebellion. John Ball, the principal agi- 
tator, was a chaplain, and a religious zealot. In the character 
of prophet he had for twenty years been going round the 
country. Church and State he alike attacked, but laid most 
stress on the iniquity of serfage. He had begun his career as 
a radical long before John Wycliffe was of any great impor- 
tance in the world of politics and religion. In so far as he 
had any connection with the reformer, it was not as follower 
but as precursor. It was said that he adopted, in the last year 
of his life, Wycliffe's new heresy on the Eucharist. Otherwise 
he is himself responsible for the good and evil he did. He 

THE IDEAS OF '81 197 

had once been a priest somewhere in the North, but finally 
became an agitator in London and its neighbourhood, where 
Sudbury, first as Bishop of London, and then as Metropolitan, 
had repeatedly to adopt repressive measures against him.^ 

' He was accustomed,' says Froissart, ' every Sunday after 
Mass, as the people were coming out of the church, to preach 
to them in the market-place and assemble a crowd around 
him, to whom he would say, " My good friends, things cannot 
go well in England, nor ever will until everything shall be in 
common ; when there shall be neither vassal nor lord and all 
distinctions levelled, when the lords shall be no more masters 
than ourselves. How ill have they used us ? And for what 
reason do they thus hold us in bondage ? Are we not all 
descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve ? And 
what can they show or what reasons give, why they should be 
more masters than ourselves ? except perhaps in making us 
labour and work for them to spend. They are clothed in 
velvets and rich stuffs, ornamented with ermine and other 
furs, while we are forced to wear poor cloth. They have 
handsome seats and manors, when we must brave the wind 
and rain in our labours in the field ; but it is from our labour 
they have wherewith to support their pomp. We are called 
slaves, and if we do not perform our services we are beaten." ' ^ 
Such, in spirit, was John Ball's agitation. But the report is 
that of a prejudiced person in full sympathy with the upper 
classes, and shocked by the startling horrors of the Eising. 
It may be questioned how much stress was really laid by the 
agitators on the project of ' having all things in common.' 
When the Eising took place, no such request was put forward. 
Personal freedom, and the commutation of all services for a 
rent of M. an acre, were the very practical demands then made. 
When this had been granted, most of the rebels went home ; 
even those who stayed, produced no scheme of speculative 
communism, but confined themselves to practical illustrations 
of the theory by carrying off everything on which they could 
lay their hands. The attempt to picture the Eising as a 
communistic movement ignores the plainest facts. It was, as 
far as the bulk of the peasantry was concerned, a rising to 

* Mi>. Lambeth Register, Sudbury, 30 b. '^ Froissart, ii. chap. 135. 


secure freedom from the various degrees and forms of servi- 
tude that still oppressed them severally. Whenever there is 
a labour movement, a few will always be communists, and the 
conservative classes will always give unfair prominence to the 
extreme idea. 

The itinerant friars, with their direct and powerful influence 
on both poor and rich, were thought to have an active share 
in the fermentation that led to the risings. They were loudly 
accused by the Lollards of setting class against class.^ Pro- 
bably the friar on his rounds was urged by self-interest to 
keep up his popularity, and often by genuine feelings to 
protest against oppression and serfdom. He had imbibed 
in his convent a theoretical prejudice against property. 
Langland declares that the friars preached communism to the 
vulgar, with arguments drawn from the proverbial learning of 
their order. 

They preach men of Plato and prove it by Seneca, 

That all things under Heaven ought to be in common ; 

And yet he lieth, as I live, that to the unlearned so preacheth.^ 

Besides the friars, there was another body of friends of the 
people who at the time of the Eising were just coming into 
prominence. Wycliffe's Poor Priests cannot at this time have 
been, and probably never were, at work all over England. 
Neither had this missionary movement yet been organised as 
regularly as it afterwards was. But it seems clear that men, 
drawing some of their doctrines from the great Oxford 
reformer, were already perambulating the country. It would, 
indeed, be remarkable if at a period of such fierce social 
agitation, and such desperate religious controversy, the 
theories of the most famous thinker of the time had not 
been carried far and wide in the mouths of enthusiasts, 
and more or less travestied in the process. What these 
theories were on religion, and on Church property, we have 
already seen. But it is the doctrine of Wycliffe with 
regard to secular property, that specially concerns the 
story of the Peasants' Eising. Ten years before that event 
\/fi^' he had expounded his famous theory of ' dcaaginign.' All 
things, he said, belonged to God, and all men held of him 

' Fasc. Z., 292-4. "^ Piers Plowman, B, xx. 273-5. 



directly. Only the good could hold property of him truly, 
and every good man possessed all things. The bad possessed 
nothing, although they seemed to possess. Hence he argued 
in favour of communism. All things must be held in 
common by the righteous, for all the righteous possess all. 
After this curious metaphysical juggle, he makes a right about 
face, and states that in practical life the good must leave the 
bad in possession, that a wicked master must be obeyed, 
and that resistance and revolution are justified by God only 
under certain strictly limited conditions.^ The practical 
application of his theory, as regards secular society, was 
quite conservative, for he did not apply it at all. But the 
mere fact that the great schoolman had given his blessing to 
the theory of communism was welcome news to agitators 
throughout the country. To Oxford, men of all sorts and all 
classes congregated, and from Oxford they spread over 
England, each with his own version of intellectual discoveries 
made there. Such was the Clarendon Press of the period, 
and it is impossible to tell how many different versions or 
travesties of the ' De Dominio Civili ' it supplied. 

Meanwhile Wycliffe himself went on his way, became more 
and more interested in Church affairs, lost all interest in his 
old theories about possession, and as he became more revolu- 
tionary in religion, became more conservative in social and 
political questions. He exalted the power of the King and 
the temporal lords, in order to forge a weapon with, which to 
strike down the Church. His theory, as he stated it over and 
over again both before and after the Eising, was that temporal 
lords had a right to their property, but that Churchmen had 
no right to theirs, because they ought to live in evangelical 
poverty on the alms of the faithful.^ This strict contrast 
between clerical and lay property is the most marked 
feature of his writings from 1377 onwards. Of communism 
we hear not another word. If before 1381 he himself sent out 
any Poor Priests, he sent them to preach this doctrine, and 
not communism, or revolt of any sort against lay lordship. 

' SeeAp. 

2 Matt., 230, 412, 451, 471, 475-6, 480 ; De Off. Reg. ; Diahgus, cap. ii. 


But, as was only natural, popular missionaries, drawn from 
the people, speaking to the people and depending on the 
people for alms, were influenced by popular ideas. They failed 
to make Wycliffe's distinction between secular and clerical 
property. He meant them to preach against the payment 
of tithes, and they condemned the performance of villein 
services as well ; he meant them to denounce the riches of a 
corrupt Church, and they introduced into their anathemas the 
riches of a corrupt aristocracy. A hostile satirist thus speaks 
of their double influence — 

All stipends they forbid to give 
And tithes whereon poor curates live. 
From sinful lords their dues they take ; 
Bid serfs their services forsake.' 

Such men were firebrands, and they set light to one stack 
more than Wycliffe wished. But they were most of them 
not the real Wyclif&te missionaries. The Lollards who 
were brought to trial by the Church for spreading his heretical 
doctrines, were in no single cases accused of having had hand 
or part in the Peasants' Eising. Similarly the indictments of 
the rebels contain no hint of heresy. The rebellion was not 
a Lollard movement, although some of the agitators were in- 
fluenced by some of Wycliffe's ideas.^ This alone is certain ; 
but it is not unlikely also that some of his own Poor Priests 
entered with more zeal than wisdom into the movement for 
abolishing serfage.^ 

Wycliffe's own view of the proper relations between master 
and servant he expressed so clearly that no doubt whatever 
can remain on the subject. He continually emphasised the 
rights of property and the duty of performing services even 
to sinful lords. It was part of his regular moral teach- 
ing to exhort all Christians to render legal dues without 
question of their equity.'' His own theory of Dominion, so 
dangerous to the proprietary rights of the wicked, remained 
still-born in the ' De Dominio Civili,' and made no appearance 
in his later Latin works, or in any of his English tracts. 

1 Pol. Poems, i. 236. ' Vetant dari,' &c 

'■' Rot. Pari., iii. 124-5 ; Fasc. Z., 273-4:, is -worthless as evidence. 

« S. E. W., iii. 147, 174, 207. " Matt., 227-8. 


Popular preachers were exhorting the villeins to withdraw 
their services from their masters because of the wickedness of 
the upper classes. This plea of moral reprobation, which can 
be traced in the speeches and messages that fomented the 
Eising, was in accordance with the general tenor of Wycliffe's 
old theory. But, now that it had become a practical question, 
he denounced it unmistakably, together with any crude and 
levelling inferences from the notion of Christian brotherhood. 

* The fiend,' he says, ' moveth some men to say that 
Christen men should not be servants or thralls to heathen 
lords, sith they ben false to God and less worthy than 
Christen men ; neither to Christen lords, for they ben 
brethren in kind, and Jesu Christ bought Christen men on 
the Cross and made them free. But against this heresy Paul 
writeth in God's law.' ' But yet,' he goes on, ' some men that 
ben out of charity, slander Poor Priests with this error, that 
servants or tenants may lawfully withhold rents or services 
from their lords, when lords ben openly wicked in their 
living.' ^ 

But while Wycliffe thus made his position clear as to 
violent and illegal remedies, and did at least something to 
counteract any effect which his early academical speculations 
might have had on society, he was not afraid to avow his 
sympathy with the serfs' demand for freedom, and his anger 
at their oppression by the upper class : — 

' Strifes, contests and debates ben used in our land, for lords 
striven with their tenants to bring them in thraldom more 
than they shoulden by reason and charity. Also lords many 
times do wrongs to poor men by extortions and unreasonable 
amercements and unreasonable taxes, and take poor men's 
goods and payen not therefore but with sticks (tallies), and 
despisen them and menace and sometime beat them when 
they ask their pay. And thus lords devour poor men's goods 
in gluttony and waste and pride, and they perish for mischief 
and hunger and thirst and cold, and their children also. 
And if their rent be not readily paid their beasts ben distressed, 
and they pursued without mercy, though they ben never so poor 
and needy And so in a manner they eat and drink poor 

' Matt., 227-9 ; De Sex Jugis, Lechler, ii. 600-1. 


men's flesh and blood, and ben man-quellers, as God com- 
plaineth by his prophets.' ^ Wycliffe was one of the very few 
men who could see both the rights of the lords and the wrongs 
of the peasants. This large view of the social problems of the 
day enabled him, immediately after the rising was over, to 
speak of that astounding event with great moderation and 
breadth of view. At a time when all the upper classes thought 
of nothing but revenge, he had the courage to make the 
characteristic proposal that the Church property should be 
given to the secular lords, in order to enable them at once to 
relieve the poor of the burdens that had caused the out- 

The general tone of the rising was that of Christian 
Democracy. The chief agitator who had spread discontent and 
formulated the theories of rebellion was a priest, and friars 
and Lollards alike were accused, with more or less truth, of 
carrying on Ball's work. In the Eising itself, several parsons 
of poor parishes put themselves at the head of their congrega- 
tions and revenged on society the wrongs that they had endured. 
But the vast majority of the actual leaders were not men of 
the Church. Those who called out their neighbours in the 
villages and towns of England, when the Eising was well on 
foot, were generally laymen. So were those who, during the 
early summer of '81, went round from county to county pre- 
paring the rebellion.^ 

The plans and methods of these organisers are still obscure, 
but the general type is clear. There is no reason to find, as 
some have found, cause for wonder in the simultaneous revolt 
of so many districts. The rising was not, in fact, everywhere 
simultaneous ; but, on the other hand, it had been planned long 
before. The leaders were in the habit of meeting in London, 
where they were in touch with the proletariat of the great 
city. Some of the aldermen and better sort of citizens were 
also in their counsels.^ Trusting to the strength of these 
forces to open the gates of the capital, they determined to 
summon the men of the home counties from north and south 

, ' Matt., 233-4. ^ De Bias., cap. xiii. 199. 

3 Powell, passim ; C. B. B., Anc. Ind., passim. 
* Froiss., ii. 461 ; Knighton, ii. 132, line 20 ; G. B. B., 488, Eex. vi. (E6v. 190). 


to march on London and form a junction within the walls. 
At the same time East Anglia and other more distant parts 
of the country were to rise ; whether partly to assist in 
the march on London, or solely to create local diversions 
and to obtain local ends, it is impossible to say. Messengers 
were sent all over these districts in the summer of 1381, to 
prepare the country for the event. They were men of various 
counties, and they did not always visit the localities of which 
they were respectively natives.^ Such agitators had long been 
at work in the villages and towns of England, but they now 
came bearing, not general exhortations, but a particular 
command from the ' Great Society,' as they called the union 
of the lower classes which they were attempting to form. 
Some of these messages have been, fortunately, preserved for 
us in the original words. They bear the stamp of genuineness 
on their face, unlike the confessions and dying speeches of the 
leaders, which were probably composed by the chroniclers from 
the exaggerated rumours of the time of reaction. But no 
monk could have invented John Ball's famous message. It 
breathes the deep and gallant feeling that led the noblest 
among the rebels to defy gallows and quartering block in the 
cause of freedom : — 

' John Schep, some time Saint Mary's priest of York, and 
now of Colchester, greeteth well John Nameless and John the 
Miller and John Carter, and biddeth them that they beware 
of guile in borough, and stand together in God's name, and 
biddeth Piers Plowman go to his work, and chastise well Hob 
the Eobber, and take with you John Trueman and all his 
fellows and no mo ; and look sharp you to one-head (union) 
and no mo. 

John the Miller hath yground small, small, small. 

The King's son of heaven shall pay for all. 

Be ware or ye be wo (worse). 

Know your friend from.your foe. 

Have enough and say " ho " ! (stop) 

And do well and better and flee sin, 

And seek peace and hold therein. 

And so bid John Trueman and all his fellows ,' ^ 

' Powell, 27, 41, 43, 49, 57, 127 ; C. R. B., 488, Eex. vi. (E6v. 196), Welle 
and Harry. ^ Wals., ii. 33-4. 


This mysterious allegorical style seems to have been the 
favourite of the lower classes of the day. The popularity of 
Langland's ' Piers Plowman,' to which the reference in this 
rebel song bears further testimony, proves the general ap- 
preciation of this sort of writing. ' Piers Plowman ' may perhaps 
be only one characteristic fragment of a mediaeval folk-lore of 
allegory, which expressed for generations the faith and aspira- 
tions of the English peasant, but of which Langland's great 
poem alone has survived. Another of these rebel catchwords 
purposes to come from ' Jack the Miller.' 

' Jack Milner asketh help to turn his milne aright. He 
hath grounden small, small. The King's son of heaven he 
shall pay for all. Look thy milne go aright, with the four 
sails, and the post stand in steadfastness. With right and 
with might, with skill and with will, let might help right and 
skill go before will and right before might, then goeth our 
milne aright. And if might go before right, then is our milne 
misadight.' In another piece : ' Jack Trueman doth you to 
understand that falseness and guile have reigned too long.' 
Lastly, ' John Ball greeteth you well all and doth you to 
understand that he hath rungen your bell.' ^ 

The bell was rung at a moment specially propitious for 

revolt. It seems that riotous resistance to the poll-tax col- 

; lectors broke out spontaneously in some localities, and was 

/ then used by the plotters, who made it the occasion for the 

; intended Eising and great march on London. Heavy taxation 

■ had for same years been a general grievance of all classes, as 

clearly appears from the complaints of the Commons on the 

\ part of the laity, and counter-complaints of the chroniclers on 

\^ the part of the clergy. The complete collapse of the English 

arms by land and sea made the pressure of taxation heavier for 

good patriots to bear with patience. If the battle of the Nile 

had been lost instead of won, we should probably have heard 

more about Pitt's income-tax. If John of Gaunt had returned 

from France, the victor of a second Poitiers, with Du Guesclin 

riding by him up Cheapside an honoured but humbled guest, 

we might have heard less about the poll-tax. This new 

financial expedient was used partly in order to tap the 

' Knighton, ii. 139. 



Church revenues, but still more in order to tax the lower 
classes. ' The wealth of the kingdom,' it was said, ' is in the 
hands of the workmen and labourers,' and the object of the 
House of Commons was to get it out of those hands into the 
coffers of the State, The workmen and labourers were already, 
for other reasons, in no holiday humour, and the pressure of 1 
this new burden was the last straw. Three times within four f 
years a poll-tax was taken. The third time its levy proved / 
the signal for the Eising. 

The Parliament that met at Northampton in the winter of 
1380 voted a poll-tax of a shilling a head. Each town and 
village was to be assessed on that basis according to its popu- 
lation, but ' the rich were to aid the poor ' in the actual pay- 
ment. The very richest were to pay not more than one 
pound, the very poorest married couple not less than four- 
pence between them.^ In the actual levy, this plan was 
carried out. The labouring classes paid sums varying be- 
tween fourpence and a shilling on each family.^ This tax 
was not levied all at once. During the winter, a commission 
had gathered a part, on the basis of a return of population 
which it drew up in the localities. This report showed a 
decrease in numbers since the poll-tax census of 1377, a 
decrease so remarkable that it is difficult to suppose that 
the second return of inhabitants was really as complete 
as the first had been.^ The King's council took the same 
view. On March 16 it declared that the collectors had been 
guilty of gross negligence and favouritism, and commissioned 
a new staff ' armed with large authority and powers of 
imprisonment, to travel from place to place, scrutinising 
carefully the lists of inhabitants, and forcibly compelling 
payment from those who had evaded it before.^ The un- 
popularity of this second set of commissioners was the 
immediate occasion of the outbreak. Everything was againsl . 
the success of their enterprise. They were regarded as having fl 
come down from London to levy an entirely new poll-tax, : | 
.not yet voted by Parliament.'^ Even those who understood f 
that they had only come to complete the collection of the grant 

' Bot. Pari, iii. 90. - Powell, Ap. I. ^ jj^^_ 4_7_ 4 jfj^^i ^ 

5 Cont. Eulog., 351, line 36. 


imperfectly levied in tke winter, were little better pleased. 
Heavy burdens incurred for an unsuccessful war render the 
taxpayer suspicious and quarrelsome. The King had found 
reason to doubt the honesty of the first board of collectors, 
and the nation thought no better of the second. With or 
without ground, rumours were afloat that the new tax was a 
private job allowed for the benefit of the new commissioners. 
The chief of these, John Leg, was said to have bribed the 
King's council to give the obnoxious powers to himself and 
his friends.^ The feeling against them was general, and not 
confined to the classes that revolted. Some even held them 
responsible for the outbreak. 

Tax has troubled us all, 

Probat hoc mors tot validorum. 

The King thereof had small, 
Fuit in manibus cupidorum.~ 

Another cause that contributed to the ill-success of the com- 
mission was the general habit of disobedience to the King's 
petty officers, to his sheriffs, escheaters and tax-collectors, 
a habit now common to all classes alike, as much to the 
noble and his armed retainers, as to the serf and free labourer 
banded in their unions and growing daily in self-confidence 
and strength. To this universal contempt for the royal 
authority and for all its agents, the Chancellor attributed the 
Eising, when he lectured the Houses of Parliament on the 
subject two years later. These bad habits, he said, neither 
began nor ended in the summer of '81.^ 

: Apart from the questions of serfdom and the regulation of 

wages, which were the principal causes of the rebellion, the 
catastrophe may be regarded as the proper punishment of 

■ the governing class for the follies and crimes of many years. 

\ They had murdered the peace and progress of France in a fit 
of blind and boyish patriotism, so naive and exuberant that it 
can scarcely be judged as a rational choice. They had long 

/ drained the joyous cup of military glory, plunder and tribute. 

i They were now to learn that war had its dangers as well as 

: its delights. Our trading vessels were swept off the seas, our 

' Knighton, ii, 130 ; Cont. Eulog., 351 ; Man. Eve., 23. 
2 Pol. Poems, i. 224. ^ Bot. Pari., iii. 150. 


coast towns were burnt. Military habits made the nobles bad 
citizens, and the contagion of disobedience, violence and rob- 
bery had spread through classes that had never seen the fields 
of France. It was necessary for the governors to crush the 
country with taxation, for borrowing on a large scale was no 
longer possible to their shattered credit. The country, eager 
as it was for military success, would not bear this burden, and 
made the collectors' task dangerous and impossible. The 
collectors themselves were corrupt, and dishonest. So was 
a large part of the public service. The Good Parliament had 
done something to put a better face on things, and to intro- 
duce a certain responsibility among the ministers. But the 
same inefficiency, stupidity and corruption which had helped to 
ruin our affairs in France before 1376, still continued in a 
lesser degree during the early years of Eichard. The country ) 
felt a deep distrust of the government, and one object of l^,-. 
the rebels in '81 was to protest against the King's principal j 
advisers, as well as against the corrupt and oppressive 
officials of lower rank, who came into direct contact with 
the people. The government in its purely administrative 
aspect had done much to hasten and aggravate the Eising, 
though it was primarily the result of social and economic / 

In Kent and Essex the insurrections were similar. Both j 
arose in the first instance from the action of the poll-tax com- t^ 
missions. It appears that the disturbances began in Essex. ; 
It was about the last week of May that Thomas Bampton 
came down to Brentwood, a small town eighteen miles 
north-east of London. Sitting there at the receipt of custom, 
he summoned before him the inhabitants of Fobbing, Cor- 
ringhani, and Stanford-le-Hope, a group of villages lying ten 
miles further south, on the lower Thames, not far from 
Tilbury. It was in vain that the men of Fobbing pleaded a 
quittance received from the commissioners who had levied 
the tax during the winter. Bampton was inexorable. He in- 
sisted on a second inquiry into their population and taxable 
resources. He threatened them with penalties for their con- 
tumacy, and seemed disposed to rely on the support of the 
two soldiers who had attended him from London. On 


this provocation a small but angry crowd from the three 
villages was soon collected. They told the commissioner 
flatly that he would not get a penny out of them, and that 
the conference must end. Bampton ordered his men-at-arms 
to make arrests. But the blood of the fishermen was now up, 
and they chased soldiers and commissioner together out of 
Brentwood. Bampton galloped off to London to complain to 
his masters. The men of Fobbing, Corringham and Stan- 
ford, fearing the speedy vengeance of the government (for they 
were within half a day's ride of London), took to the woods, 
and passed from village to village exciting the people of Essex 
to revolt.^ Other bands of outlaws were afoot. The ob- 
noxious statutes regulating wages had driven many free 
labourers to take to the woods, and the runaway villeins pre- 
ferred a roving life to the servitude from which they had fled. 
It has been suggested that the stern realities of this epoch in 
social history gave fresh meaning and renewed popularity to 
those ancient ballads, which told how Eobin Hood and his 
merry men robbed the rich and loved the poor, in the depth 
of the free green forest.^ For many years before and many 
years after the rebellion, the waste places and pleasant wood- 
lands were the haunt of desperate men, whose numbers were a 
shame to government and a danger to society. They prowled 
along the borders of civilisation, ever ready to swoop down 
when occasion offered. This year they poured in hundreds 
into field and town, for England lay at their mercy. 

Meanwhile Bampton had arrived at Westminster with his 
story. The Chief Justice of the King's Bench was at once 
sent down into Essex with a commission of ' trailbaston ' 
; to restore order. He was treated with as little ceremony 
] as the tax-collector, and driven back no less speedily to 
London. The inhabitants of the revolted fishing villages 
had roused the country. The rebellion was well afoot, and 
its ugliest aspect — massacre — was not wanting. The judge 
was spared, but the jurors were beheaded. Three unfortunate 
clerks who had been serving Bampton on his late commission 
were also caught and decapitated. Their heads were placed 

» H. B., 509-10; Higden, ix. 6 ; Knighton, ii. 131 ; Co7it. Eulog., 351-2. 

^ Eev., Ix. 


on pikes and accompanied the march of the rebels from day 
to day. These first acts were done against the King's officers ; 
but henceforward the Eising was principally directed against 
the social grievances from which villeins and labourers suffered. 
It was, as Walsingham described it, a Eising of ' the rustics 
whom we call serfs or bondsmen, together with the other 
rural inhabitants of Essex, who began to riot for their liberty 
and to be peers of their lords, and to be held in servitude to 
no man.' ^ 

In Kent the insurrection began a few days later. The 
men of Essex had sent messengers there to invite support, 
in accordance with the plan of co-operation framed by the 
' Great Society.' Whether the message arrived or did not 
arrive before the Kentish Eising had begun, whether it had 
any effect or none in hastening the outbreak there, the 
rebellion along the south shore of the lower Thames was as 
rapid and spontaneous as on the north. It was on June 3 
that Simon de Burley, a knight of the King's household, 
rode into Gravesend with two of the King's soldiers at his 
heels. Unlike Bampton, he came on private business ; there 
was a runaway serf of his settled in the town. The men of 
Gravesend came together to hear him, and admitted that his 
claim could not be disputed. Wishing to save their neighbour 
from a return to bondage, they proposed to compound for his 
freedom. Burley refused to take less than the ruinous sum 
of 300Z., which of course could not be raised. After sharp 
words had passed, he succeeded in carrying the man off to 
prison in Eochester Castle, further down the river ; but the 
country began to rise behind his back.^ 

This incident was only one of many stimulants now at 
work in Kent. The poll-tax commissioners were busy there. 
When they urged that the collection made in the winter was 
obviously imperfect, if compared with the amount of previous 
poll-taxes, they were met by the reply that there had been a 
great mortality in Kent during the last two years.^ Eegarding 
this answer as insufficient if not false, they proceeded with 
their duty. John Leg himself had come down, and was 

' Wals., i. 454. 2 jj-_ ^_^ 511, 3 (j^^^^ Eulog., 351. 



accompanied, like the tax-collectors in Essex, by a judge with 
a special commission of ' Trailbaston,' for the King was well 
aware that both comities were in a disturbed state. The collec- 
tors were forcibly prevented from entering Canterbury, and on 
June 5 the rebels began to gather from all parts of the county 
at Dartf ord.^ It was afterwards believed by some that there had 
been indecent conduct on the part of the commissioners in the 
course of their duty, but the one contemporary who brings 
this charge ^ is strongly prejudiced against Leg and his com- 
mission. Similar charges lately made by the native press of 
India, with regard to an unpopular house-to-house visitation, 
proved on investigation quite unfounded. Small as is the 
reason for believing the general charge of indecency made 
against the collectors, there is less for believing the story that 
/ Wat Tyler began the rebellion by avenging an insult offered 
to his daughter. It belongs to a well-known class of fable, of 
which the tales of Lucretia and Virginia are famous examples. 
The ' motif ' is popular and fascinating, and for that very 
reason suspicious. There is no mention of the incident in 
any contemporary authority. It is based on the statement of 
Stow, the Elizabethan annalist, and he only tells it in connec- 
tion with a certain John Tyler .^ The story of Wat Tyler's 
blow has been consecrated by tradition, but it must go the 
way of William Tell's shot. 

Whatever were the exact incidents that brought about the 
disturbance, the revolt of Dartford soon spread far and wide. 
Various bodies of men were moving through the district, and 
to distinguish the identity of each band is impossible. A 
, contingent from the rebellious villages of Essex had crossed 
' the Thames at Erith, just below Woolwich, and were busied 
in calling the southern counties to support the movement 
set afoot on the north of the river.^ On the 7th, Maidstone 
was in a state of anarchy. Houses were broken open and 
property taken by the mob.-^ Another band containing men 
from Gravesend attacked Eochester Castle, eager to release 
their comrade whom Burley had carried off as his serf. 

> H. R., 511; Arch. Kent, iii. 90. 2 Knighton, ii. 130. 

=• See Stow's Chrmiicle. " Cont. Eulog., 352. 

^ Anc. Ind., 85, skins 7 and 12. 


After defending it for half a day, the garrison was frightened 
into surrender, and the governor, Sir John Newton, became a 
hostage in the hands of the insurgents. It was an important 
success, not so much strategically as morally. It showed that 
panic had seized the authorities, and that the half-armed mob 
was for the present irresistible. Eochester Castle fell like the 
Bastille at the shout of the people, and the news of its fall 
gave confidence to rebellion and caused the hands of the 
governors to tremble.^ 

On the 10th a body of revolutionists entered Canterbury 
and were heartily welcomed by the inhabitants, who had 
previously shut out the collectors. The mob broke into the 
Cathedral during Mass, and interrupted the singing of the 
monks by calling on them to elect a new Archbishop, for Sud- 
bury, they cried, was a traitor and would soon die a traitor's 
death. They rushed back into the streets and forced the 
Mayor and bailiffs to take an oath of fealty to ' King Eichard 
and the Commons.' The bulk of the rebels then hastened off 
to London, the centre on which all bodies were now converging, 
though they took care to leave a guard in the capital of Kent. 
For the next month it was the stronghold of the rebellion. 
The Mayor and bailiffs were so far faithful to their strange 
oath that they continued in office under the altered con- 
ditions ; the old authorities presided during the whole period 
of mob-rule, until three weeks later, when the justices at 
last came down from London to restore order. During this 
reign of terror in Canterbury, old grudges were paid off by 
the citizens on unpopular characters. Many houses were 
sacked, many burglaries took place, but there were not more 
than two or three murders.^ A similar state of anarchy and 
private feud, but not of total ruin and indiscriminate massacre, 
seems to have prevailed in many of the larger English towns 
during the ' hurling times,' as they were called.^ It is often 
hard to distinguish, in the records of the trials, between the act 
of the mob incensed against a supposed oppressor of the poor, 
and the work of a few scoundrels hired by a private person to 
iiilish off an old quarrel under cover of the general disorder. 

» H. B., 511-2. 2 Kent Arch., iii. 73 et seq. ; H. B., 512. 
^ See Ap. ; hurling = shouting. 



Vulgar burglary by ordinary robbers was safe and easy during 
this summer. Men who saw the year of mutiny in India 
declare that, as fast as the news of the outbreak at Meerut 
flashed along the great trunk road, thousands swarmed out 
against their neighbours, not to overturn the British rule, but 
to plunder and amass wealth during the abeyance of authority. 
^So it was in England in 1381. 

By June 10 the home counties were ablaze from end to end 
and the peasants were marching on London. A few days 
', later the villagers and townsfolk throughout East Anglia had 
overturned law and order in those parts.^ Day after day riot 
spread as the news travelled. It broke out in Somerset- 
shire on the 19th, and in Yorkshire on the 23rd, though 
by that time the rebellion at the centre had spent its main 
force and was fast being put down ; ^ so far was the Eising 
/ from being everywhere simultaneous. That no resistance was 
/ made to the first outbreak of rebellion, was the more discredit- 
' able to those in authority, since the disturbed state of the 
country had been long recognised. The reason, however, is 
not far to seek. There was no force specially trained and 
reserved for police duty. Neither was there a standing army. 
An expedition equipped for France was lying at Plymouth 
embarked. The leaders did not perceive the importance of 
the crisis. It would perhaps have been hard to expect them 
to disembark on their own initiative. ' Fearful lest their 
voyage should be prevented, or that the populace, as they had 
done at Southampton, Winchelsea, and Arundel, should attack 
them, they heaved their anchor and with some difficulty left 
the harbour, for the wind was against them, and put to sea, 
when they cast anchor to wait for a wind.' ^ 

Thus deprived of the only organised force then ready, 
except Percy's Border-riders in the distant North, the 
government had no means to put down the rebels, until there 
had been time to call out the nobles and gentlemen with their 
retainers, who were at present peacefully scattered through the 
land in their manors and castles. This the King's council 

1 Powell. 

2 C. B. R., 503, Bex. 12 (Eev. 283) ; C. R. B., 500, Eex. 13 (E6v. 253). 

^ Froiss., ii. 466. 


had not the wit to do until it was too late. ' The lords,' says , 
Walsingham, ' remained quietly at home as though they were 
asleep, while the men of Kent and Essex swelled the ranks of 
their army.' The country towns and trading cities, where 
resistance might have been organised, were generally favour- 
able to the rising. Often the Mayor and corporation, nearly 
always the lower class of citizens, used the opportunity of the 
rural rebellion to push claims of their own.^ Without rally- 
ing-point, without leader, without plans, the landlord class 
looked helplessly on. The armed and disciplined forces of the 
population were isolated and cut off in detail, at the mercy of 
the unarmed but united rustics. The absurdity of the situaj- 
tion was the greater because the rebels were so ill prepared foir 
warlike operations. The impression left, when the Eising was ; 
over, was that they had been seen going about ' with sticks, . 
rusty swords, battle-axes, bows coloured by smoke and age, 
with one arrow apiece, and often only one wing to the arrow. 
Among a thousand of such persons it was hard to find one • 
armed man.' ^ Probably some were better equipped than the 
chronicler allows. The lower peasant classes, as well as the 
yeomanry, were intended by the legislators of the period to 
possess the long bow, and to practise it ' on Sundays and 
holidays and leave all playing of tennis and football.' ^ It was 
only by encouraging and enforcing habitual exercise in archery, 
that the recruiting ground for our armies in France could be 
maintained in its excellence. Many of the rebels must there- 
fore have been practised shots. But the English bowman, 
unless he was an old soldier, would be useless without dis- 
cipline or leaders, especially if one among a vast mob of 
other rustics less well equipped than himself. At any rate, 
when real resistance began, the rioters gave way at the first 
shock of the men-at-arms. 

It was not possible for all gentlemen, during this reign of 
terror, to watch for the abating of the waters safe in the seclusion 
of their homes. In the second week of June, manor-houses 
were broken open and sacked by mobs, on whose merest whim 

' Leicester excepted, Knighton, ii. 142-3. 

2 Wals., i. 454 ; Froiss., ii. 469 ; Cont. Eulog., 353 ; Mon. Eve., 24 ; Vo3} 
Clam., bk. i., cap. xii. 

s Stats, of Bealm, 12 E. II. cap. 6. 


hung the life of the inmates. Many of the gentry took to the 
woods, whose friendly shelter was in those days near at hand 
for all in danger and distress. Where the villein and the out- 
law had wandered in May, the seigneur hid in June. The 
poet Gower has illuminated his long and wearisome Latin 
epic on the Peasants' Eising by a single passage of intense 
interest. He describes, in the first person, the sufferings of 
those who had to hide from the rebels in the woods and 
wastes. In the seclusion of the forest his poetical nature is 
unmoved by the beauties of glade and dell ; he feels only the 
weary horror of the wet woods, the fear of death that dogs 
his failing footsteps through the brake, the hunger that 
drives him to gnaw the acorns with the herds of swine and 
deer.^ But although the upper classes did well to fly for their 
lives, death was not the certain fate of those who were taken. 
There was no attempt to annihilate a caste, no indiscriminate 
massacre of landlords or gentlemen. Some, if personally 
unpopular, were murdered on the spot, and their heads carried 
round on poles in ferocious triumph. But many were spared 
on condition of surrendering obnoxious charters and docu- 
ments, or of supplying food and money. Some were forced 
by the rebels to march with them, or even to assume apparent 
command, so as to take away from the rebellion the character, 
too obvious in the rural districts, of a rising of the lower 
classes. In East Anglia several gentlemen were of their own 
free will among the rebels, and some even seem to have been 
among the original instigators and leaders.^ Imagination 
alone can at this distance of time supply the reasons of their 
sympathy with the insurgents. 

The rising stands in these respects in strong contrast to 
the Jacquerie that devastated France after the battle of 
Poitiers. Goaded to madness by the miseries of the English 
war, starved, trodden under foot by their own seigneurs, 
pillaged and harried by the chivalry of the two nations, the 
French peasantry turned savagely on the classes at whose 
hands they had suffered such intolerable wrongs. * Wherever 
they went,' says Froissart, ' ... all of their rank of life 
followed them, whilst every one else fled, carrying off with 

' Vox Clam., bk. i. cap. xvi. - Powell. 


them their ladies, damsels and children ten or twenty leagues 
distant, where they thought they could place them in 
security. . . . These wicked people, without leader and with- ( 
out arms, plundered and burnt all the houses they came to, 
murdered every gentleman, and violated every lady and 
damsel they could j&nd. He who committed the most atrocious 
actions, and such as no human creature would have imagined, 
was the most applauded. ... I dare not write the horrible 
and inconceivable atrocities they did.' ^ Although the 
knightly author, when he comes to describe the Peasants' Eising 
of 1381, is stUl the same man, filled with all the prejudices 
of the upper military class, although he very rightly regards 
the English rebellion as a design against the privileges of that 
class, he mentions no such abominable outrages, no systematic 
massacre of the lords of the soil. His silence only bears out 
the mass of evidence now unearthed from the indictments and 
trials of that year. The difference corresponds to a difference 
in the circumstances that gave rise to the two outbreaks. The 
French peasantry found their miserable condition made still 
more unendurable by the war ; they were made to live the life 
of beasts, and, like beasts, they turned to bay. The lot of the ^ 
English peasant, on the other hand, was improving under the 
influence of economic and social change. It was only the 
friction caused by that process, the disappointment that it did 
not go on still faster, the aggravation caused by the attempts 
of the upper classes to delay it, that caused the rebellion. 
When, in the reign of Edward the Sixth, a new change 
in economic conditions brought in new causes of discon- 
tent, and resulted in another Peasants' Eising restricted to 
the area of Norfolk and Suifolk, murder and lynch-law were 
on that occasion conspicuously absent from Ket's rebel camp.^ 
If the violence of revolutionists is a test of their condition 
previous to the outbreak, the rebels of '81 stood half way, in 
point of civilisation and well being, between their descend- 
ants of the Tudor period and the Jacques in the age of 

But, although there was no general proscription of the 
upper classes, murder was a most prominent part of the mob- 

' Froiss., i. caps, clxxix-clxxxii. ^ Froude, vol. iv. chap. 26. 


law. Very unpopular landlords, or persons who had become 
marked men by some quarrel with the country-side, were 
slaughtered with brutal glee. When the rebels entered Can- 
terbury they asked their sympathisers among the citizens 
whether there were any traitors there. Two or three were 
named, drawn out and beheaded.^ But there was no general 
massacre. A typical case, though only one out of many, was 
that of the Prior of Bury St. Edmunds. He had been noted 
for enforcing the rights and privileges of his abbey, and it was 
at the hands of the serfs of the abbey that he met his death. 
When Bury was seized by the rebels, he fled under the cover 
of darkness, and lay concealed in a wood near Newmarket. 
Someone betrayed his hiding-place to the mob at Mildenhall, 
a town eight miles to the north. The same mob had spared 
the lives of the other Bury monks, but such was their animosity 
against the Prior that they instantly marched off to New- 
market, to beat the wood where he lay. They caught him, 
and after leading him about with them in cruel mockery for 
some hours, finally struck off his head. ^ 

But personal hatred against the victims themselves was not 
the sole motive of murder. Connection with John of Gaunt 
seems to have been in itself dangerous. His property was 
destroyed with great vindictiveness, and his servants killed, 
not only at the Savoy, but throughout Kent and East Anglia ; 
special malice was shown against his valet, Thomas Haselden 
' for envy they had of the said Duke ; ' in Yorkshire the 
Duchess fled for her life ; in Leicester the Mayor called out 
the guard to preserve the Duke's property. To be connected 
with the law was no less dangerous than to be connected with 
the House of Lancaster. The ' men of the law ' seem to have 
been massacred, sometimes for no better reason than for 
belonging to that unpopular profession. Their services to 
society are never in any age very obvious to the vulgar, while 
the injuries they inflict are patent enough ; as instruments of 
oppression, they stand in the place of the tyrants who employ 
them and the legislators whose laws they enforce. But in 

' H. R., 512. 2 wals., ii. 2 ; Powell, 17-20. 

^ Wals., i. 462 ; Mo7i. Eve., 24 ; Knighton, ii. 142-4 ; Froiss., ii. 471 ; 
Powell, 31, 35, 44 ; H. B., 512. 


that age more than any other they were accused of corrup- 
tion, and the ' sisour/ or juryman, was the special butt of the 
morahst. The juries were often the creatures of powerful 
and unscrupulous men. At best they were unpopular as the 
instruments of convictions under the Statute of Labourers, 
and it is probable that their connection with this law was one 
cause of the peculiar odium in which many who had acted 
on juries were held at the time of the Eising. Wycliffe, in 
attacking the oppressive thraldom under which some lords 
held their servants, describes how they ' will not meekly hear 
a poor man's cause and help him in his right, but suffer 
jurymen of the country to destroy them, and rather withhold 
poor men their hire, for which they spended their flesh and 
blood.' ^ The words imply a connection between juries and 
the question of a fair wage, which the Statute of Labourers 

The horrible fate of the Chief Justice of England, Sir 
John Cavendish, is typical of the relation of the rebels to the 
law-courts. He was a marked man, not only as the head of 
his profession, but as holding a special commission to enforce 
the Statute of Labourers in Essex and Suffolk, Being on 
circuit at the time of the rebellion in a fen district of the 
latter county, he was overtaken by rioters near a small village 
called Lakenheath. He fled hard to the nearest river, on 
which lay a boat, his only chance of safety. He was almost 
within reach of the bank, when his hopes were frustrated 
by a woman who happened to be standing there. The 
prejudice of her class overcame the merciful instincts of her 
sex, and she pushed the boat into the middle of the stream. 
The pursuers came up and Cavendish was killed. His bloody 
head was exhibited in Bury market-place on the top of the 
pillory. The head of the Prior of Bury was borne in by the 
mob from Newmarket, and placed by that of the justice. In 
mockery of the friendship that had existed between the man 
of the law and the man of the Church, their lifeless lips were 
put together,^ 

Lawyers were unpopular with the peasantry, not only be- 
cause they enforced the Statute of Labourers, but because they 

1 Matt., 234. 2 Powell, 13-4 ; Wals., ii. 2-3. 


upheld in their courts the charters and the recorded privileges 
of the lords. It is a picturesque and forcible appeal to the 
rude sense of justice in the uneducated, to complain ' that 
parchment being scribbled o'er should undo a man,' and the 
destruction of charters and manor-rolls was perhaps the most 
universal feature of the Eising. But a feature scarcely less 
marked was the demand for new charters confirming privileges 
won by the destruction of the old. The rebels did not set 
themselves, as one of the chroniclers declares they did, to 
root out the arts of reading and writing, and .to kill all who 
practised or taught them. Such an exaggeration, natural to 
persons incensed at the destruction of many valuable docu- 
ments, is quite out of keeping with the recorded aims and 
actions of the rioters. Lawyers and official' clerks were 
special objects of animosity, but not clerks and learned men 
as such. Besides, the attempt of the rebels to secure by 
written charters all that was conceded, and their childish 
confidence in the certain validity of these new documents, 
would alone show that they had no wish to create a Utopia 
of illiterates. In the same way, although speculations on 
communism had been rife" for many years, and may have 
helped the spirit of rebellion, no formal demand for any such 
reorganisation of society was anywhere advanced in the 
summer of '81. It is the same with this charge as with that 
of designs to murder the whole upper class. These diabolical 
intentions are based on supposed confessions, which might 
easily be extorted from individuals, or still more easily put in 
their mouths by irresponsible annalists.'^ Even supposing 
that one or two leaders had such ideas in their heads, they 
certainly did not get support from their followers. 

The Rising in the country districts had, for its foremost 
object, to secure complete economic and personal freedom. 
With this end manor-rolls were burnt, and larger or smaller 
bodies of men sent up to London to obtain charters of libera- 
tion from the King. The St. Albans villeins not only got 
from London a special royal charter for themselves as well as 
the general charter of liberation, but even forced the Abbot to 
write another for them himself, sealed with the seal of the 

' Wals., ii. 10. 


abbey. ^ Word was sent. through the disturbed districts that 
no one on pain of death was to do custom or service to his 
lord, without further orders from the ' Great Society.'^ The 
scheme of final settlement put forward, was that of commuting 
all old dues and services for a rent of fourpence an acre.^ 
Although there is no reason to suppose that every rebel 
knew of and consented to this scheme, it was the demand of 
their representatives in London, and there is no other pro- 
posal of which any record has come down to us. There is 
no evidence of any desire to take the land from the lords and 
establish peasant proprietorship. v 

For the rest, the peasants sought to create among the I 
upper classes a wholesome respect for the ' majesty of the Y 
people.' The outbreak was certainly calculated to do this ; \ 
the murder of those specially connected with the Statute of '' 
Labourers was a protest and a threat. 

But, besides the social ends, there were distinct political 
objects in view. The rebels rose to protest against the bad 
government of many years,"* for which they regarded John of 
Gaunt as specially responsible. They dealt out summary 
punishment to any of the King's ministers who came into their 
hands, but above all were they incensed with the Duke. 
This animosity against him was universal in this June, 
and equally universal was the loyalty to young Eichard. 
The two feelings naturally went together, for suspicion 
of the Duke's designs against his nephew, though publicly 
denied by the Parliament of 1377, had never been quite set at 
rest. The boy King, who could not be held responsible for 
any act that had hitherto been done in his name, became the 
idol, and his wicked uncle the bugbear, of the populace. They 
imagined that, if they could get Eichard into their hands, they 
could make him do what they wished ; and they no doubt 
fancied that the generous youth would sympathise with his 
subjects' aspirations for liberty.^ How far the leaders had 
definite designs with regard to the settlement of the admini- 
stration is a question that will arise in connection with their 

> Vv^als., i. 473 and 482. ^ Powell, 49 ; Kent Arch., iii. 71-2. 

3 Calendar of Pat. Bolls, 27 ; Mon. Eve., 28 ; H. B., 517. 
* Froiss., ii. 465 ; H. B., 512. * See Ap. 


action in London. It is, at any rate, certain that the vast 
majority of their followers had no such designs. When they 
had got their charters of freedom, the majority went home. 
Loyalty to good King Eichard and death to his wicked coun- 
sellors began and ended their simple politics. Their watchword 
was ' With King Eichard and the true Commons.' It was in 
the King's name that they were roused by the local agitators, it 
was the King's banner that they unfurled on Blackheath, it was 
the King whom they chose for leader when his servants had 
struck down Wat Tyler.^ It is probable that there is some 
truth in what Froissart says of the rebels who marched on 
London, that full two-thirds of them knew not what they 
wanted, but followed each other in that spirit of ignorant faith 
in which the lower orders, three centuries back, had followed 
Peter the Hermit to the Holy Land.^ 

If the rebellion emphasised the want of popular reverence 
for the government and for the representatives, small and 
great, of the secular power, it emphasised no less the want of 
reverence for the recognised ecclesiastical authorities. We have 
already pointed out the decadence of the ideal of the Mediaeval 
Church, the weakening of the control exercised over laymen 
by penance, confession and obedience to the clergy. It is not 
therefore surprising to find that the rebels, though religious, 
were by no means attached to that mediaeval religion, which 
consisted largely in reverence for churchmen. It was reported 
that the leaders in London demanded, among their other 
revolutionary proposals, complete disendowment of the Church 
and the abolition of the hierarchy ; John Ball, it was said, 
was to be made the sole spiritual ruler of England.^ This is 
probably exaggeration, like so much else that was reported of 
their designs ; but if euch reports got about, a strong leaven of 
anti-ecclesiastical feeling must have existed among many of the 
leaders, as it certainly did in the case of John Ball. It is safe 

( to say that in the Eising the clergy were treated just as 
laymen. They were not promiscuously massacred, but a bad 

; minister was to these men no less a bad minister because' he 


> Powell, 42, 45, 47, 53, 58, 137; Wals., i. 455, 458; Froiss., ii. 472; 
H. B., 512-3. ■' Froiss., ii. 462. ^ H. B., 512, 519; Wals., ii. 10. 


was an Archbishop, a bad landlord was no less a bad landlord 
because he was an Abbot. Eeligious houses were attacked all 
over England, just as the lords' mansions were attacked, by 
serfs demanding their freedom. The number of assaults 
made on monasteries might surprise us, if we did not remember 
that these places, being corporate bodies, had moved more 
slowly in the direction of emancipating their serfs than had 
the ordinary lord of the manor. The townsmen, too, gave 
vent to their hatred of the monastic privileges which ham- 
pered the growth of their boroughs. 

There had been a great change of English feeling towards 
the Church in the course of two centuries. Formerly Becket, 
slain by four bravoes, had become the idol of the populace and 
the favourite Saint in the Calendar ; now Sudbury, torn to 
pieces by the rebels, won no posthumous honours from any 
repentance of the lower orders for their mad act of cruelty. 
No doubt the Eising was a rising against landlords, and the 
Church, being a great landlord, had to suffer with the class. 
But it may be doubted whether the murder of priors and the 
breaking open of monasteries would have been carried on 
with such gusto in the twelfth century. Eichard the Second's 
reign was not an ' age of faith ' in either State or Church. 

The causes of the Eising were manifold, and the districts 
in which rebellion or riot prevailed were in some cases far 
distant from each other. But it is impossible to assign one 
cause to Somerset, another to Chester, a third to the home 
counties, a fourth to East Anglia. It is more true to say that 
within the area of each county, men rose for objects differing 
according to the particular status and grievance of the 
individual rebels. Each manor, each city, had its own 
arrangements, and the inhabitants their own -peculiar rights 
and wrongs. There was less homogeneity of law and custom 
throughout England in the fourteenth century than there is 
to-day. This was especially the case in the towns. The 
popular grievance was sometimes, as at Northampton, against 
the Mayor ; sometimes, as at Bury, against a neighbouring 
•religious house ; sometimes, as at Cambridge, against the 
University; sometimes, as at Oxford, Mayor and citizens 
joined to exact a grant from the King. Sometimes under 


compulsion, sometimes willingly, the governing bodies of 
the towns took part with the mob. At Leicester they 
organised the forces of law and order. To know the causes 
of the Kising in the towns would be to know the history of a 
hundred different municipalities, their law-suits and their 
quarrels, long buried in dust. In the country districts there 
was perhaps as much differentiation between manor and 
manor. But we have already shown the heads under which 
the grievances of the peasants can be summed up. ' As in 
the East of England, so in the Wirral of Cheshire, we find the 
serfs rising against their landlord, in this case the Abbey 
of Chester.^ In Somerset the serfs were, in like manner, 
striving for their freedom. At Bridgewater they burnt title- 
deeds and court-rolls, marched under the royal standard, and 
exposed the heads of their enemies in public places. It is also 
at Bridgewater that we find an interesting case of a religious 
house forced by the parishioners to surrender its dues for 
the more useful purpose of supporting the vicar. The vicar 
appears to have been a man of the name of Frompton, who 
was in London when the Eising broke out. He at once left the 
capital and started for the West to see what could be done 
there. He arrived in Bridgewater in time to lead his parish- 
ioners on June 19 against the House of St. John of Jerusalem.'-^ 
The same grievance of paying tithe to a distant religious 
house drove the men of Eothley and Wartnaby, in North 
Leicestershire, to join the rebellion under the leadership of the 
curate from a neighbouring village.^ 

In Kent the type of man was perhaps by nature more in- 
dependent and more riotous. But the grievances of Kent did 
not differ so entirely from those in other counties as has some- 
times been supposed. Every man in Kent was, theoretically, 
a freeman in the eye of the law. He could sell his land, he 
could plead in court, he was free from many humiliating and 
servile dues that were customary in other shires. But, 
though a freeman, he still owed, in many cases, labour 
service on his lord's demesne,^ and it was to get rid of these 

1 Chester Indictment Bolls (P. E, 0.), no. 8, M, 57. 

2 Bot. Pari., iii. 105-6; G. B. B., 503, Eex. 12 (E6v. 283-4). ^ -^^^_ 252. 
* Vinogradoff's Villainage in England, 205-8 ; Gonsuetudines GanticB 

(Sandys), 89 and 93. 


services that he rose in 1381. In the Isle of Thanet * they 
raised a cry that no one should do service or custom to the 
lordships ' on pain of death.^ The abolition of this prsedial 
service was one object of the rebels in Kent. But it appears that 
they were specially interested in political questions and the 
reform of government, more so than the men of other shires. 
In Scarborough there were riots against the King's officers, 
and against unpopular persons in the town. The rioters 
there, like the mobs of Ghent and Paris at the same period, 
had for their uniform a hood, presumably of some special 
colour. In Beverley and York there were also disturbances ; 
the Duchess of Lancaster was refused admittance into her 
lord's castle of Pomfret, so greatly did those in authority 
fear the vengeance of the rebels. But, though breaches of 
the peace were very general in the south of Yorkshire, it 
cannot be said with certainty that there was a rebellion 
in each of the Eidings. The Midland counties appear to 
have been practically undisturbed. But this was not the case 
with the South-west. Besides the acts of rebellion in 
Somerset, there was an unusual number of murders, robberies 
and unlawful assemblies in Cornwall, Dorset and Devon, 
though the upheaval was not so complete as in the East and 
South.^ (See map at end of Chapter.) 

The story of the local risings is interesting, but the fate 
of the rebellion was decided at London between June 12 
and 15. It was there that the representatives of the rebels 
met their rulers and stated their demands ; it was there that 
for four days a drama was played out, second to none in the 
history of England for appalling situations, horrible possibili- 
ties, and memorable actions. 

On Wednesday, June 12, Blackheath was crowded with 
the most remarkable gathering that ever met on that Champ 
de Mars of old London. The rebel leaders had planted on 
the moor two great banners of St. George, around which they 
assembled their forces. The men of the Surrey shore came 
,up in fresh troops all day long. The towns on the lower 
Thames had put themselves in the forefront of the rebellion ; 

> Kent Arch., iii. 71-2 ; E6v. 222, doc. 75. 2 gee Ap. 


their men came boasting of the rout of the tax-gatherers and 
the capture of Eochester Castle. From the villages hidden 
deep in the forests of the Weald, from the vales of Surrey 
and Sussex, determined bands were moving to the place 
of muster. Many of the Essex rebels had come across the 
Thames to swell the tale, while others were known to be 
guarding the northern approaches of London. Canterbury 
had been revolutionised only on the Monday, but those who 
had seized the Cathedral city may have reached Blackheath 
on the evening of Wednesday. John Ball, too, was in the 
camp. He had been released by the rebels from the Arch- 
bishop's prison in Maidstone, where he was undergoing, not 
for the first time, the discipline of the Church for his railings 
against the ecclesiastical establishment. His release may 
have taken place on Friday the 7th, when the rioting in 
Maidstone began, or on the 11th, when the King's gaol also 
was broken open.^ Whenever it was that he joined the rebel 
army, he became at once the principal figure in their camp. 
He delivered to the multitude on Blackheath a sermon which 
struck the imagination of all contemporaries, for it was the 
last word spoken, before the people met their rulers face to 
face. He took for his text, it was afterwards said, the famous 
couplet about Adam and Eve. All men had been created 
equal by nature ; villenage was the work of sinful men, and 
ought to be abolished. It was believed by his enemies that 
he ended by exhorting the mob to slay the King's ministers 
and the men of law.^ Considering the events of the next few 
days, it is quite likely that his exhortation was at least as 
violent as this. If John Ball was opposed to the murders 
done, his influence over the mob must have been so slight 
as scarcely to warrant his great place in the histories of the 
time. However, he was far the most interesting of the rebel 
leaders. The rest, even Wat Tyler, are to us mere shadows, 
their past history unknown, their identity often in doubt. 
John Ball, after a life of persistent agitation, persecuted, 
imprisoned again and again, but never flinching from his task, 
had won the hearts of the classes he had long loved and 

* Knighton, ii. 131- 2 ; Anc. Ind., 35, skins 7, 12 ; Ke7it Arch., iii. 74, 81. 
2 Wals., ii. 83. 

Wed. June 12 THE EULEES TEAPPBD 225 

served, and now at the end his foot was planted for a few 
brief and terrible days on the neck of landlord and bailiff, 
sheriff and summoner. Bishop and King. 

Wednesday was an anxious day for parties on both shores 
of the Thames. The leaders on Blackheath knew well enough 
that, unless they could enter London at once, their plans were 
ruined. The vast and undisciplined multitude could not be 
fed in the wilderness. London alone could supply their 
needs. Another twenty-four hours and their hungry followers 
would begin to slink away ; in a few days they would pro- 
bably be left with a small band of enthusiasts incapable of 
facing a single squadron of men-at-arms. In numbers their 
whole strength lay, in numbers and in the sudden blow 
delivered before the upper classes had recovered from the 
first panic. The men of Essex, blockading London on the 
North, would be in a similar strait, if they were any longer 
kept outside the gates. 

To the rulers in the city the prospect was even less cheer- 
ing. They had been aware at Court that a great scheme 
of rebellion was in preparation,^ and for some weeks they 
had known of actual disturbances in Essex and Kent. But 
the boy King, ill-advised by counsellors who showed their 
usual want of sense, had given the difficult task of suppression 
to justices with a special commission of ' trailbaston,' but with 
no proper force to' support it. A large body of men ought to 
have been sent into the disturbed districts ten days before. 
The time for action had now passed ; the government could 
only wait on events, for it was locked up in London. The 
King, the Court, the officers who might have been calling out 
the gentry in the shires, and crushing the rebellion wherever 
it appeared, were trapped in their own capital. The rebels all 
over the country were using Eichard's name, and spreading 
the belief that the Eising had the royal sanction. An 
official proclamation denying this report would have had a 
great effect in encouraging the resistance of the authorities ; 
but the ministers was cut off from all communication with the 
country. The rebels outside the walls had become for the 
moment the focus of the kingdom, whence disaffection and riot 

' Froiss., ii. 462. 



spread from shire to shire, till half England was up in arms. 
The Court did not even know what was happening beyond the 
rebel lines. Every road was blocked,' The Queen-mother, who 
arrived that evening among her anxious friends in London, 
was only let in by the courtesy of the peasants, who throughout 
the rebellion kept their hands off women and spared the 
King's household. Having been on a pilgrimage to the shrines 
of Kent, perhaps to mourn over her husband's tomb at 
Canterbury, she was driving back as fast as the horses could 
go, when the Kentish rebels stopped her waggon. She 
and her ladies were terribly frightened, but were allowed to 
pass unharmed by chivalrous captors, who might have used 
her as a hostage.^ 

Both parties were ready for a conference. The men of 
Kent despatched a message to the King by prisoners in 
their camp. They invited him to cross the river and confer 
with them on Blackheath. He was rowed across in a barge, 
accompanied by his principal nobles. At Eotherhithe a depu- 
tation from the camp on the moor above was waiting on the 
bank to receive them. At the last moment prudence prevailed, 
and Eichard was persuaded not to trust himself on shore. 
Very likely the councillors who gave this cautious advice, con- 
sidered that the ' divinity ' that ' doth hedge a King ' would be 
little protection to his servants, and if such were their fears, 
they were well grounded. The rebels, shouting their demands 
across from the shore, professed their loyalty to Eichard, but 
required the heads of John of Gaunt, Sudbury, Hales and 
several other ministers, some of whom were at that moment 
in the boat. The royal barge put back to the Tower, and 
events were allowed to take their course. ^ 
/ It now became a primary object for the rebels to enter 

I London. Hunger was already besieging the camp on Black- 
heath.^ Not only could they not maintain their present 
position; they could not even join the Essex rebels on the 
northern shore, unless the London road was opened to them. 
There was no other bridge over the Thames within miles, 
i and they seem not to have had shipping sufficient to attempt 

> Froiss., ii. 462. ^ ^_ ^__ 513 . proiss., ii. 465 ; Cont. Eulog., iii. 352. 

3 Froiss., ii. 466. 

Wed. Jxjnb 12 LONDON BEIDGE 227 

anything on the river. London Bridge was at that time one 
of the wonders of the world. Its two parapets were rows of 
houses. It was a street containing a fine church. The thir- 
teenth opening from the northern shore was a drawbridge that 
could be raised to let ships pass below, and to stop thorough- 
fare above. This gap was further commanded by a strong 
tower, on the top of which traitors' heads were exposed on 
pikes. Sir Thomas Wyatt and his army were, in Queen 
Mary's reign, kept by this simple device on the Surrey side, 
and there might Wat Tyler have been kept in 1381. The fate 
of the nation hung on the hinges of that drawbridge. If it 
could be held up for a few days longer, the head of the rebel- 
lion would be broken, the Court free, the government again in 
communication with the country.^ 

The Mayor, Walworth, and the Corporation were strongly 
on the side of law and order. Indeed, as the King and 
ministers were now lodging at the Tower, the municipal 
officers were under the eye of government. It would have 
been impossible for them to plead, like the governing bodies 
of other towns, that they supposed the King to be on the side 
of the rebels. Walworth decided to guard the bridge and to 
send to the peasants bidding them, in the names of the King 
and the city together, come no nearer to London. A com- 
mittee of three aldermen rode out to Blackheath to deliver the 
message. Two of them, Adam Carlyll and John Fresh, faith- 
fully performed their mission. But the third alderman, 
named John Horn, separated himself from his two colleagues, 
conferred apart with the rebel leaders, and exhorted them to 
march on London at once, for they would be received with 
acclamations into the city. Such was the strength of the 
rebel party within the walls, that even after this treachery 
Horn did not fear to return. Indeed he brought in with him 
several of the peasants, and lodged them that night in his 
house ; he even went so far as to visit Walworth and advise 
him to admit the mob. He would himself, he said, be surety 
for its good behaviour. 

Meanwhile, encouraged by Horn's advice, and disgusted at 
the failure of the conference at Eotherhithe, the rebels the 

1 H. B., 514 ; Jusserand's Vie iwmade, W^"^^ siicle, 20. 

Q 2 


same evening advanced off Blackheath into Southwark, and 
gave out that they would burn down the suburb if they were 
excluded from the city. The threat was emphasised by the 
destruction of Marshalsea prison before the eyes of the citizen- 
guard on London Bridge.^ Other rioters gutted Lambeth 
Palace, with cries of ' A revell ! a revell ! ' as an earnest of 
their intentions against the Primate-Chancellor.^ Some began 
to pull down the private houses of official persons and jury- 
men on the Surrey side.^ The danger of Southwark was not 
the only pressure brought to bear on the authorities. The 
lower orders in the city itself were for the rebels. The stal- 
wart prentices, trained in many a street fight, were attracted 
by the prospect of a riot on a gigantic scale. The sacred 
right of insurrection was well known to them ; it had become 
almost a light thing in their eyes. This would be a rare 
opportunity to pay off old scores against John of Gaunt, 
against the Flemings of the river- side and the lawyers of the 
Temple. Besides the apprentices, there was a vast floating 
population of labourers in and out of employment, of men of 
all sorts who had come to make their fortunes in London, of 
runaway villeins, and plotters who had come there on purpose 
to be at hand at this critical moment. 

Nothing was done that night, but on Thursday morning 
Alderman Horn rode out again to harangue the peasants. He 
took with him the royal standard, which he had obtained from 
the town clerk, so as to figure as an authorised messenger. On 
his way out he was met by a man really commissioned by the 
King to speak with the rebels, and the two bandied words. 
Horn rode on to Tyler and his confederates, and urged them 
to advance on the bridge, over which he said they would be 
admitted as friends. Such, in fact, was now the case. The 
bridge had that morning been duly occupied by Walter 
Sybyle, ' the Alderman of Bridge,' so called because that im- 
portant ingress lay in the ward for which he was responsible. 
Several magnates of the city came to help him hold it, but he 
refused their services in the most positive manner, and insisted 

1 C. R. R., 488, Eex. vi. (Eev. 190-1) ; H. R., 514 ; Froiss., ii. 468 ; 
Knighton, ii. 132. 

2 H. R., 514 ; Higden, ix. 1-2. ^ ^^ ^_^ 514^ 

Thtjes. June 13 THE EEBELS ENTEE LONDON 229 

on his undoubted privilege. No one, he said, should have 
anything to do with the watch except his own men. It is 
hard to say whether it was known, at the time when Sybyle 
seized the bridge, that he would play into the hands of the 
rebels. It is not unlikely that Walworth suspected him from 
the first, but did not dare to interpose for fear of the lower 
classes. The opening of the bridge was afterwards attributed 
to popular feeling, in which Sybyle's real strength lay far 
more than in his official right to guard the bridge. Once in 
possession, he did not long conceal his friendliness towards 
the peasants, and made it clear to the city authorities that 
he would soon let down the drawbridge, whether they con- 
sented or not. Determining to make the best of a bad situa- 
tion, the Mayor came to terms with Wat Tyler. He gave 
leave of entry to the rebels on condition that they would pay 
for everything they took, and do no damage to the city. The 
same day, and perhaps about the same hour, that the Kentish 
rebels came pouring over London Bridge, a friend on the north 
side of the river opened Aldgate to the men of Essex. Walworth 
had closed it against them the day before, and it was now 
unbarred in spite of his orders.^ ' They entered in troops of 
one or two hundred,' says Froissart, ' by twenties or thirties, 
according to the populousness of the towns they came from, 
and as they came into London they lodged themselves.' The 
supplies of the city were put at their service. Friend and foe 
alike, for fear or favour, made them welcome. Great merchants 
broached the Burgundy in their cellars for throats accustomed 
to the upland ale of the village breweries.^ Hobb and Straw, 
Piers and Gamelyn, stared at sights which neither they nor 
their fathers nor grandfathers before them had beheld, the 
mighty city of red-tiled roofs, the endless labyrinths of narrow 
lanes and winding alleys, the innumerable churches, the 
wharves where strange seafaring folk spoke tongues they had 
never heard and used gestures they had never seen. 

During three days, while the mob was in possession 
of London, fresh detachments came straggling in hour by 
hour from counties near and far.^ But there were from the 

» C. R. R., 488, Eex. vi. (E6v. 190-9) ; Loftie's London, 197. 
^ Wals., i. 457 ; Froiss., ii. 468. ^ See Ap. 


beginning enough to overawe the authorities and to prevent 
any attempt at resistance. The great majority came from the 
counties adjacent to the city, but representatives from the 
East AngKan peasantry now in arms, from the corporation of 
Oxford, and from many of the other counties and towns then 
in a state of rebellion, were present to support the leaders 
and to push their claims on the captive Court. 

Thursday was a busy day for the new masters of London. 
The first wish of the city prentices was to be revenged on 
John of Gaunt. The old quarrel between the city and the 
Duke, which had broken out four years back on the remark- 
able occasion of Wycliffe's trial at St. Paul's, was not likely 
to be forgotten. The Savoy had then been spared at the 
instance of Bishop Courtenay, though the mob that rushed to 
burn it had got half way down the Strand on the road to riot. 
The proud city had been forced to humble itself before the 
Duke for that breach of the peace. Now the whole country 
was up in arms, and the rebels all over the kingdom, in York- 
shire, Leicestershire, and the home counties alike, were at 
open war against John of Gaunt, destroying his property and 
.seeking the lives of his servants. The Kentish men had sworn 
that they would take ' no King called John.' Their first cry 
as they poured into the city was ' To the Savoy, to the Savoy ! ' 
The men of London appear to have begun the attack, but 
the bands of Kent and Essex soon joined them in the work 
of destruction. Peasants and prentices rushed out by the 
western gates, swept along the river-bank, burst into the 
Palace, and threw the rich furniture and treasures out of doors 
and windows. In the street men with axes hacked the furni- 
ture to pieces as fast as it was thrown out to them, while 
others seized and threw it into the river. The noticeable 
circumstance, distinguishing this act of destruction from almost 
all others that took place this summer, was the prohibition 
of plundering. The place was accursed ; everything that 
belonged to the Duke was to be destroyed. As it was the first 
outrage after the entry into London, the rebels were perhaps 
still under the influence of the promise given to Walworth at 
the time of their admission that they would steal nothing. 
* We are no thieves,' they cried as they broke everything to 

Thtjes. June 13 THE MOB IN THE STEEETS 231 

pieces. But this self-sacrificing ideal did not retain its hold 
over them beyond the first day. Indeed the sin of Achan 
was common enough even on this occasion ; convictions for 
theft done at the destruction of the Savoy, afterwards showed 
how incompletely the mob had fulfilled its laudable intention.^ 
Flames were finally applied to the wrecked palace. The ruins 
of Kenilworth still bear witness to the taste and magnificence 
of the Duke, but the residence that was justly his favourite 
perished from the face of the earth. ^ 

Meanwhile a similar vengeance was being wreaked on 
another great offender, Eobert Hales, the Treasurer of England, 
by the destruction of his magnificent manor-house at High- 
bury. He, next to the Duke and the Primate- Chancellor, 
represented to the minds of the rebels the bad government of 
the last few years ; and he had besides a personal enemy 
named Thomas Frandon, who made it his chief object feo stir 
up the rioters against the Treasurer's property and life. It so 
happened that Hales was also Master of the Order of St. John 
of Jerusalem in England. The buildings and priories of that 
society were destroyed, apparently out of spite to the Treasurer. 
Three days before, the Priory at Crossing in Essex had been 
attacked, and the central hospital of the order at Clerkenwell 
now went up in flames, and was kept burning by the mob for 
several days.^ Fleet and Westminster prisons were broken 
open, as the Marshalsea and King's Bench had been the day 
before. Their contents swelled the rising floods of rascality. 
But the building most obvious to attack was the Temple, the 
heart of the iniquitous system of law which strangled the 
rights of man. The Inns of Court, the dens of the vile race, 
were levelled with the ground ; all the rolls and records that 
could be found in the Temple were carried to ' the great 
chimney ' and burnt together, while a proclamation was issued 
that all lawyers were to be beheaded.* The royal account- 
books at the ofiices in Milk Street soon afterwards suffered the 
same fate as the legal records, probably on account of their 

» Anc. Ind., no. 35, skin 10 ; C. E. B., 487, Eex. 19 d. ; C. B. B., 842, 
*Eex. 39(E6v. p. 199). 

2 H. B., 514-5 ; C. B. B., 488, Eex. vi. (E6v. 195) ; Wals., i. 457 ; Cont. 
Eulog., 352 ; Higden, ix. 2 ; Knighton, ii. 134. 

» Wals., i. 457; H. i?.,514, 516; C. B. B., 483, Eex. 23; 484, Eex. 3 ; 486, 
Eex. 10; 488, Eex. 6 (Eev. 194-5, 202). * Wals., i. 457 ; H. B., 515-6. 


232 ^^ffi^EASANTS' EISING OF 1381 

connection with the taxes.^ The reign of terror had begun. 
The victims were usually dragged from the place of their 
arrest to a block in Cheapside, where their heads were in- 
stantly struck off. 

There was but one ark of safety, where many whose blood 
was sought had already taken refuge. Gower compares the 
Tower of London during this terrible crisis to a ship into 
which all those had climbed who could not live in the raging 
sea. It had been the King's head-quarters for the last two 
days. It was from the Tower steps that he had been rowed 
across to the conference at Eotherhithe. His mother was 
with him in the famous fortress, as were Treasurer Hales and 
Chancellor Sudbury, for whose heads the rebels clamoured ; 
his uncle Buckingham and his young cousin Henry, who was 
destined to depose him ; the Earls of Kent, Suffolk, and 
Warwick ; Leg, the author of the poll-tax commission, now 
trembling for his life, and, last but not least, the Mayor 
Walworth.^ But the noblest among them all was the tried 
and faithful servant of Edward the Third, the Ead of Salis- 
bury. A soldier who had shared in the early glories of the 
Black Prince, a diplomatist who had dictated the terms of 
Bretigny to the Court of France, he seems to have held aloof 
in his old age from the intrigues of home politics ; but in the 
imminent danger that now threatened his country he acted a 
part not unworthy of the title he bore. One man was absent 
from this assembly of notables, who, if he had been present, 
would assuredly never have left the Tower alive. John of 
Gaunt had good cause to be thankful that, during the month 
when England was in the hands of those who sought his life, 
he was across the border arranging a truce with the Scots. 

By the evening of Thursday, a great mob was encamped 
on St. Catherine's Hill, over against the Tower, clamouring 
for the death of the ministers who had there taken refuge. 
Sudbury was the principal victim whom they demanded. 
The most horrible of all sounds, the roar of a mob howling 
for blood, ever and again penetrated into the chambers of the 
Tower where prelates and nobles * sat still with awful eye.' ^ 

» C. B. B., 482, Eex. 43. ^ Proiss., ii. 469-71 ; Knighton, ii. 132-3. 

^ Froiss., ii. 469. 

Thues. Jotb 13 THE NOBLES IN THE TOWEE 233 

The young King, from a high turret window, watched the 
conflagrations reddening the heavens.^ In all parts of the 
city and its suburbs the flames shot up from the mansions of 
those who had displeased the people. Far away to the West, 
beyond the burning Savoy, fire ascended from mansions in 
Westminster ; ^ away to the North blazed the Treasurer's 
manor at Highbury. Close beneath him lay the rebel camp, 
whence ominous noises now and again rose. Eeturning 
pensive and sad from these unwonted sights and sounds, 
the boy held counsel with the wisest of his kingdom shut up 
within the same walls. (See map, p. 228.) 

It was not likely that the rebels could execute their threat 
of storming the Tower, but, on the other hand, the city, the 
whole kingdom, lay in their hands as a hostage. Some- 
thing had to be done, and done quickly. Walworth and the 
bolder spirits were for sallying out at midnight with all 
their forces. A fierce and sudden onslaught would break up 
the camp on St. Catherine's Hill, and then the peasants 
could be ' killed like flies ' throughout the streets of London. 
There was a strong regiment of men-at-arms in the Tower 
and Sir Eobert KnoUes would be certain to co-operate from 
the city ; disdaining to hide in the fortress, he was holding 
his own house with the retainers who had made his name a 
terror in France. The plan was calculated to warm the 
heart of that brave but brutal soldier. Many of the better 
sort of citizens had armed themselves and their body-servants 
and could be relied on to join in the massacre. But wiser 
and milder counsels prevailed. No one could accuse Salis- 
bury of cowardice, for he had ' fought like a lion ' before his 
division at Poitiers and in a hundred onslaughts since. It was 
he who now declared against this rash plan of attack. ' Sire,' 
he said to the King, ' if you can appease them by fair words and 
grant them what they wish, it will be so much the better ; 
for should we begin what we cannot go through, we shall never 
be able to recover it. It will be all over with us and our heirs, 
and England will be a desert. ' ^ The policy of graceful 
concession was adopted by the Council as the most expedient 

» H. B., 516. 2 zbid. 516, line 7, and 515, lines 30-1, Butterwyke's house. 
' Froiss., ii, 469-70. 


for the hour. A plan was accordingly arranged by which 
they hoped to come to terms with the rebels, and at the same 
time afford the threatened ministers an opportunity of escape. 
The rebels were invited to meet the King next day at Mile 
End, outside the city. If all the mob moved off there, 
London would be left in the hands of the well-mean- 
ing citizens for at least some hours, and Sudbury and 
Hales could get away.^ The Archbishop, conscious that 
he was supposed to stand between the good King and 
his subjects, had resigned the Great Seal into Kichard's 
hands the day before, when the rebels entered Southwark ; ^ 
but his resignation had done nothing to appease the mob. 
In the early hours of Friday morning he attempted to escape 
by water from the Tower stairs, but was observed by the 
watch on St. Catherine's Hill and forced to abandon the 
attempt.^ His only chance lay in the plan contrived to draw 
away the besiegers. 

As the day broke the multitude in front of the Tower 
renewed their discordant clamour. They were pacified by the 
order to meet the King at Mile End, but only a part of the 
rebel army moved off thither. Enough remained to command 
the exits of the fortress and to continue the work of destruc- 
tion in the city.* It was still early in the day when the King, 
with a cavalcade of the highest nobles of the realm, rode out 
of the Tower Gates to meet the rebels at the rendezvous. 
Sudbury and Hales were left behind. They understood that 
they would probably be sacrificed and were preparing for 
death. The King's half brothers, the Earl of Kent and Sir 
John Holland, ventured to ride out in the royal train, but as 
soon as they got into the country galloped off across the 
fields to find some safer place than Mile End. Most of the 
nobility, however, showed their loyalty to the King, if not 
their trust in the good faith of his subjects, by appearing 
with him at the place of conference. This place was a 
meadow which the Londoners used for their sports in 
summer-time ; it can scarcely have been two miles distant 
from the Tower by road, but it was then well out of the 

> H. B., 516, line 17. - Feed., iv. 123. =• H. E., 517. 

* Wals., i. 458 ; Froiss., ii. 470. 


town ; the fields through which the King and his rebellious 
people passed have long been the site of the notorious slums 
of Whitechapel. The King conceded all. Nothing less than 
complete abolition of serfage throughout the land could satisfy 
the bulk of the rebels. The commutation of all servile dues 
for a rent of fourpence an acre put the reform on a practical 
basis. So small a rent might perhaps have ruined the land- 
lords and proved in the long run disastrous, but the scheme 
at least had pretensions to common-sense. It was not 
communism, or even confiscation. But it is improbable that 
the King's advisers considered it seriously as a settlement. 
If they had, they would have haggled more over the terms. 
They regarded it only as a means of freeing themselves from 
the present situation, as John regarded Magna Charta, as 
Charles the First regarded the Petition of Eight. Another 
concession, made in a similar spirit, was a general pardon to 
all concerned in the rebellion. As a further proof of his 
protection, Eichard gave to the representatives of each county 
present a royal banner, under which they could henceforth 
march with the law on their side. Thirty clerks were at 
once set to work to draw up the charters of liberation and 
pardon in the proper legal form for every village and manor, 
as well as more generally for every shire. The exulting 
peasants then poured back into town through Aldgate, their 
King whom they had conquered in the midst. Freedom was 
theirs, and the dream of prosperity and good government. 
But there were many among them who understood the value 
of promises of State, and knew that all was still to win.^ 

The last hope of real understanding and peace between 
the classes, if ever there had been any, was now extinguished 
by a tragic event. The rebels broke into the Tower. 
Authorities differ as to the exact moment, some place it during 
and some after the conference at Mile End. But it is unfor- 
tunately certain that no resistance was made by the very for- 
midable body of well-armed soldiers, who might have defended 
such a stronghold for many days even against a picked army. 
These troops were ordered, or at least permitted, by the King 
to let in the mob. It appears that part of the agreement with 

' Mon. Eve., 27-8 ; Froiss., ii. 471-2 ; Higden, ix. 3 ; H. B., 517. 


the rebels was that the Tower and the refugees it contained 
were to be delivered over to their wrath.^ The dark passages 
and inmost chambers of that ancient fortress were choked 
with the throng of ruffians, while the soldiers stood back along 
the walls to let them pass, and looked on helplessly at the 
outrages that followed. Murderers broke into strong room 
and bower ; even the King's bed was torn up, lest some one 
should be lurking in it. The unfortunate Leg, the farmer 
of the poll-tax, paid with his life-blood for that unprofit- 
able speculation. A learned friar, the friend and adviser 
of John of Gaunt, was torn to pieces as a substitute for his 
patron. Though the hunt roared through every chamber, it 
was in the chapel that the noblest hart lay harboured. 
Archbishop Sudbury had realised that he was to be sacrificed. 
He had been engaged, since the King started for Mile End, in 
preparing the Treasurer and himself for death. He had con- 
fessed Hales, and both had taken the Sacrament. He was 
still performing the service of the Mass, when the mob burst 
into the chapel, seized him at the altar, and hurried him 
across the moat to Tower Hill, where a vast multitude of 
those who had been unable to press into the fortress greeted 
his appearance with a savage yell. His head was struck off 
on the spot where so many famous men have since perished 
with more seemly circumstance. The Treasurer Hales suffered 
with him, and their two heads, mounted over London Bridge, 
grinned down on the bands of peasants who were still flocking 
into the capital from far distant parts. ^ 

The Archbishop's death was greeted with shouts of accla- 
mation by a vast concourse of people. Such a scene demon- 
strates the hopeless failure of the governing classes in Church 
and State to keep in touch with their subjects. When 
brought face to face, these were the real relations between 
them. The mob slew Sudbury, not so much because he was 
Archbishop, though that did not deter them, as because he 
was the Chancellor who had misgoverned the country and 
introduced the poll-tax.^ The one exercise of his episcopal 

' Wals., i. 458, lines 34-43 ; H. B., 517, line 32. 

2 Froiss., ii. 470 ; Higden, ix. 3 ; H. R., 517 ; Wals., i. 458-62 ; Anc. Ind., 
no. 35, skin 17. ^ Froiss., ii. 463. 


authority, which counted againt him, had been his imprison- 
ment of John Ball. He had exerted his power against that 
disturber of society only in a half-hearted manner, but it had 
been better for him that day if he had burned John Wycliffe 
alive ; for Ball had created the spirit of the rebellion, and an 
insult to the preacher was an insult to the thousands who 
hung on his lips. Everything we know of Sudbury's life is 
to his credit as a kind and good man, and in his last hour he 
showed a fearless dignity, which rivals Becket's determina- 
tion to be struck down at his post. He won less respect 
from the Church than his manner of life and death deserved, 
for he had shown himself cool in defending overgrown eccle- 
siastical privilege, and had neglected or refused to persecute 
heretics. If he had lived, the gentle Sudbury would have 
had the will, though not the strength, to keep the Church 
off the fatal course of pride and persecution into which she 
was hurrying. 

After these horrors the Tower was no fit place for the 
royal residence. The Queen-mother had been treated with 
insolence and vulgarity by the mob that burst into her 
apartments, but had been suffered to escape by boat. She 
was rowed up the river to Barnard Castle ward, where she 
landed and took up her residence at the Garde Eobe, in Carter 
Lane, near St. Paul's. Here she was joined by her son on his 
return from Mile End.^ The rest of the day was a busy one. 
The manumissions and pardons were being copied out, and 
distributed to the rebels with advice to return home as 
fast as possible. The bulk of the insurgents left London with 
the charters in their hands, on Friday evening and Saturday 
morning, but to the horror of the authorities a large body 
remained. Meanwhile murder went on faster than ever. 
The apprentices and men of London were engaged in slaughter- 
ing the Flemings, who lived in a quarter of their own by the 
river-side, and were, like most foreigners who had settled 
down in England for purposes of trade and industry, hateful 
to the native born. Men from the Kentish villages joined 
their city friends in the work, and the cries of slayers and 
slain went on long after sunset, making night hideous. Before 

1 Eroiss., ii. 471 ; Stubbs, ii. 480, note 4 ; Fc&d., iv. 123. 


morning several hundreds of these unfortunate foreigners had 
been massacred.^ As so often happens in popular uprisings, 
the worse elements rose to the top and took the lead as the 
revolt continued. The opening of the gaols had not improved 
the personnel of the crowd. While many an honest peasant 
was trudging home with his charter of liberty which he had 
won at the risk of his neck, the vilest of mankind were 
murdering, burning and robbing, not only in London, but in all 
parts of the country. But the massacre of the Flemings stands 
marked out by its peculiar atrocity. There is but one reference 
to the Eising in Chaucer's ' Canterbury Tales.' In the ' Nun's 
Priest's ' tale he describes the farm servants chasing a fox : — 

Certes Jack Straw and his meinie 
Ne maden never shoutes half so shrille 
f Whan that they wolden any Fleming kiUe, 

As thilke day was made upon the fox. 

For one victim of the mob we can feel little pity. John 
Lyons, who had on the Duke's return to power escaped all the 
forfeitures inflicted by the Good Parliament, at last paid the 
penalty of his frauds and public robberies. He was dragged 
from his own house and beheaded.^ The other great London 
citizens, who were not notorious for inflicting injuries on the 
community at large, were spared. One of them, the ex-mayor 
Brembre, was riding by the King's side on Friday, when 
his bridle was seized by a brewer called William Trueman, 
to whom he had done some injury during his period of office 
three years back. The fellow upbraided him in the King's 
presence, and no one dared reply. Later on the brewer came 
to Brembre's house in the city, ' with a captain of the mob, 
and by the power of the said captain frightened him and much 
disquieted all his family.' Trueman was finally appeased by 
a present of 3L 10s. The power of the mob was on several 
similar occasions used by intriguers to settle private disputes.^ 

Night closed down on scenes such as these, and on Saturday 
morning it was too clear that the authorities had succeeded 
in appeasing only a part of the rebels. Many thousands were 

' Wals., i. 462; H. B., 518; Anc. Ind., no. 35, skin 19; Coji^t. Eulog., 
p. 353 ; Froiss., ii. 472. 

2 Knighton, ii. 136 ; Calendar of Pat. Rolls, Eic. II., ii. 26. 

=* C. R. R., 482, Eex. 39 (Eev. p. 207) ; C. B. R. and Anc. Ind., passim. 


Sat. June 15 ' TO FINISH THE TEEEOE ' 239 

leaving London, but many thousands still remained. Some 
of these were only waiting to receive their charters of liberty, 
which had not all been drawn up on Friday.' But a large 
section, especially the men of Kent, declared that they were 
not yet satisfied. Many of them were wise enough to per- 
ceive that there would be no security for what had been 
gained, unless the King and government were kept under the 
pressure which had extorted the concessions. It is hard to 
say what form of political settlement they contemplated. 
They had probably many different views on the question, all 
more or less confused. The absurd accusations of intending 
to kill the King and restore the Heptarchy were sufficiently 
refuted by the action of the mob at Smithfield, where their 
patient loyalty to Eichard was even pathetic. It is possible 
that the leader who was now at the head of the rebels re- 
maining in London, had some design of securing for himself 
a permanent share in the government of the country, pro- 
bably by directing the counsels of the King. But even Wat 
Tyler's designs met with only half support from his followers, 
if we may judge from the acquiescent manner in which they 
accepted his death at the hands of Walworth. There were 
some social grievances which they wished to redress. The 
men of Kent, it is said, wanted the game laws abolished.^ No 
doubt, too, Froissart is right in saying that many of those who 
stayed on in London only stayed to loot. The last hours of 
the occupation were worse than the first. The rule professed 
by the destroyers of the Savoy had long given way to the 
desire for pillage and the instinct of murder. 

The authorities were still face to face with the same 
problem that had baffled them the day before ; they had still 
to get rid of the mob. They were determined to make an end 
of the situation cost what it might. They expected to come 
to blows by one way or another in the course of the day. In 
a proper spirit of sober resolution, the King and his nobles 
first went to prepare themselves for the terrible issue. 
Leaving the Queen-mother to watch and pray for their safe 
return, they rode out from the Garde Eobe through Lud- 
gate and Temple Bar, passed along the Strand, by the 

1 Wals., i. 463-7. ^ Knighton, ii. 137. 


smouldering ruins of the Savoy, to where the Abbey of 
the Kings rose above the roofs of Westminster. They were 
met outside the doors by a sorrowful procession. The monks 
came in penitential garb bearing the cross before them. 
They had been disturbed and frightened by another violation 
of their sanctuary, similar to the murder of Haule in '78. 
Eichard Imworth, warden of the Marshalsea prison, had fled 
for refuge to the abbey. He was known to all the gaol-birds 
of the neighbourhood as a ' pitiless tormentor ' of the convicts 
entrusted to his charge. His prison had been destroyed when 
the mob occupied Southwark, and he himself now sought 
safety at the most sacred spot in England, the shrine of 
Edward the Confessor. He had fallen down to clasp the 
short marble pillars that then supported it, as they still 
support what is left of it to-day, and hoped that there, be- 
tween the tombs of three Plantagenets, he might be left 
in peace. But the mob, headed by a parson from a distant 
Kentish village, burst into the abbey in full chase. The shrine, 
not then hidden by a screen, was visible from the bottom of 
the aisle. They mounted the steps with a rush, tore Imworth 
away from the pillars by main force, carried him back to the 
city, and struck off his head on the block in Cheapside.^ After 
this experience of mob-rule the monks of Westminster came 
out with prayers and benedictions to welcome the representa- 
tives of order. 

The King dismounted and kissed the cross they carried. 
The nobles, courtiers, and men-at-arms who were with him, 
overwrought by the sights and emotions of three days' hide- 
and-seek with death, burst into tears, which a week before or 
a week after they would have scorned to shed in public. Enter- 
ing the church, they performed with unusual fervour the 
acts of piety which at such a moment appealed to them. The 
highest nobles of the land could be seen striving with knights 
and men-at-arms who should kneel closest to the shrines, 
who should first be allowed to kiss the relics which the 
Abbey contained. Eichard himself, after praying at the 
shrine whence Imworth had so lately been torn, confessed his 
boyish sins to one of the fathers, and then rode off to perform 

1 Higden, ix. 4 ; H. R., 518 ; C. B. B., 483, Eex. 9 ; 484, Eex. 6 (E6v. 212). 


the act of sober courage which, in spite of all the follies of his 
manhood, half redeems his memory. He was followed by his 
troop, whose confidence, whether by means of these pious 
emotions or by the fierce excitement of the game which they 
had to play, was now fully restored and ready for all that might 
follow. It had been determined to meet the rebels once again, 
at Smithfield. Another alternative was to ride off from West- 
minster into the country and rouse the loyalists of England 
against London. Such a course might have been safer for 
the royal party personally, but would have been more 
dangerous to the commonwealth. To leave London and its 
citizens in the hands of exasperated rebels would have been 
to court a terrible revenge. Besides, the country itself was 
still in the hands of rioters, who would have to be subdued. 
The King's counsellors undoubtedly chose the right course in 
first securing London as a basis.^ 

The famous meeting took place in Smithfield, a market 
square, more or less completely enclosed by houses, lying 
outside the walls of London not far from New Gate. It was 
even then infamous for the ' great and horrible smells and 
mortal abominations,' ^ which sullied its fair fame as a cattle 
market down to the latter half of the present century. The 
rebels, who had assembled there in obedience to the King's 
proclamation, were mustered under the royal banners granted 
to them at Mile End ; they were headed by a man who was 
afterwards generally known as Wat Tyler. So many Tylers 
appear in the records of these troubles that it is impossible 
to trace his identity or his previous performances.^ It is clear 
that he was a man of the people, and not one of those gentlenien 
who in some places consented to lead the rebels. He may have 
gained his position either by really superior talents as an 
organiser, or, as some of the leaders of the French Eevolution 
gained theirs, solely by a sufficient display of audacity. One of 
theKing's attendants declared that he recognised him at Smith- 
field as one of the most notorious rogues and robbers in Kent. 
He appears to have been not wanting in insolence, and it is 
quite likely that his head had been a little turned by success. 
He rode forward from the ranks of his followers who were 

1 Higden, ix. 4-5 ; H. B., 518. ^ jej^^, p^rl, iii. 87. * See Ap. 



lined up on one side of the market, and joined the group of 
horsemen that surrounded the King's person. 

Precisely what passed during the next two minutes seems 
to have been afterwards forgotten or differently reported by 
the actors in the scene. When the story came to be put 
down, every chronicler obtained different details.^ It appears, 
whatever his demands were, that he treated the King with 
familiarity and his attendants with contempt. The lords 
and citizens were no longer in the humour to cringe to the 
peasants, and answered him back roundly. The King at 
first tried to act as peace-maker, but the next minute 
Walworth, who like the rest of the company was wearing 
armour under his official robes, struck Tyler from his horse. 
The others leaped to the ground and stabbed him to death 
where he lay. It was practically the first blow struck in 
defence of authority since the rebels had appeared on Black- 
heath. Its moral effect was a complete success, for it was 
struck at exactly the right moment. The day before, at 
Mile End, it would probably have only led to disaster, but 
now the panic of the upper classes was over, and they were 
ready to obey the first signal for a rally ; while the rebels, 
having got most of what they wanted, were half-hearted in 
support of leaders whom they perhaps regarded as too 
forward. Yet it was, in the circumstances, an act of great 
rashness. The multitude could not at first see clearly, 
from the other side of the market-place, what was going on. 
Some said, ' They are making him a knight.' The next 
moment the real nature of the scuffle was evident, and a 
thousand bows were bent in the direction of the King and his 
party. The danger was awful. If one man had drawn his 
bow at a venture, it would probably have been the signal for 
a general discharge. We can suppose that the market-place 
swam round before the eyes of Walworth, when he looked 
' up and saw what he had done. But the' boy on whom all 
depended never lost his head for a moment. With the cool- 
ness of an old general quelling a mutiny, he rode alone across 
the square, leaving his followers huddled together round 
Tyler's body. ' I am your leader,' he said to the rebels. 

' Froiss., ii. 476-7 ; Wals., i. 464-5 ; Knighton, ii. 137 ; Cont. Eulog., iii. 
353-4 ; Higden, ix. 5-6 ; H. R., 518-20. 

Sat. June 15 THE EEBBLS' NEW LEADEE 243 

The sight of the beautiful child, whose good intentions 
towards them they had not yet learnt to distrust, riding up 
to them with quiet confidence, at once disarmed the mob, 
which had neither leader nor plan. Eichard then rode back 
to his advisers, and it was arranged that he should himself 
lead the rebels out into the country, while his followers went 
back into the city to raise forces. To trust himself away 
from his friends for an indefinite period, in the midst of 
lawless men whose whim might at any moment be changed 
by discovering that they were tricked, was an act of courage 
at least as great as that which he had just performed. But 
Eichard went through his part to perfection, and led the 
clamorous band out into the meadow where the ruins of St. 
John's Hospital of Clerkenwell still smouldered ^ {map, p. 228). 
Meanwhile the Mayor had ridden post-haste back into 
the city, and arrayed the fighting force of the wards with 
all possible speed. Many loyal citizens had for days been 
ready armed,^ but no opportunity had yet been afforded 
to mobilise them on account of the presence of the mob 
in the streets. Now all opposition in the city itself was 
overcome. The two rebel aldermen, Sybyle and Horn, at- 
tempted to persuade the citizens to man the walls instead of 
marching to the relief of the King. They stated that he had 
already been slain and that succour would be too late. But 
they were nowhere believed, and their attempt to close 
Aldersgate, and so cut off the communication of the city with 
Smithfield, completely failed.^ The burghers marched out 
by the north-west gates under the command of Sir Eobert 
Knolles, who had also his own private regiment of soldiers. 
The rebels in Clerkenwell fields were skilfully and rapidly 
surrounded. They made no attempt to protect themselves 
or even to use the King as a hostage, but surrendered at 
discretion to the authorities. Some hot-heads wished to 
begin to massacre them on the spot, but Salisbury and the 
King interfered to prevent such folly. The rest of the 
country was still in open rebellion, and mild measures were 
necessary for a day or two more.'* The men of Kent were 

' H. B., 520. 2 Froiss., ii. 469. ^ C. R. B., 488, Eex. 6 (E6v. 194, 197). 
* Wals., i. 466, ii. 13-4 ; Froiss., ii. 479 ; Cont. Eulog., 354. 

E 2 


peaceably dismissed to their homes across London Bridge, 
being conducted through the city to that point by knights 
commissioned for the purpose. A band of the more desperate 
spirits made off northwards to continue the work of rebellion 
elsewhere.^ Eichard and Walworth joyfully returned to the 
city that they had saved. At the Garde Eobe the Queen- 
mother rejoiced over her son, whom she had scarcely hoped 
to see again ; for when the wards were being called out, the 
cry in the city had been ' They are killing the King ! They 
are killing the King ! ' Leaving mother and son together for 
the rest of the day,^ the Mayor went to look for the body of 
the man he had slain, and was surprised to find that it was 
no longer lying on Smithfield place. Tyler had been carried 
into St. Bartholomew's close by, either dead or dying, but 
Walworth dragged him out into the cattle-market once more, 
executed him there, and ordered the Primate's head over 
London Bridge to be replaced by that of the arch-rebel.^ 

It now remained to reduce the provinces. With London 
for a basis, this could only be a question of time, but it was 
several months before the country was thoroughly pacified. 
The rioters who had been dismissed from Clerkenwell fields did 
not all go quietly to their homes. Many of them scattered 
over the country to organise resistance to the invasion which 
they might now expect. On the 16th a large number of the men 
of Essex entered Guildford in Surrey, boasting of their deeds 
in London, and inciting to renewed disorder, while another 
body penetrated northwards as far as Ramsey Abbey, in the 
fen district, where they were massacred by a body of loyalists 
i from Huntingdon. The rebels of Kent returned to Canterbury, 
\ to issue fresh proclamations and stir up fresh riot. Men 
i from all parts of England were roaming the country to keep 
the rebellion alive. In Somerset, Cheshire and Yorkshire the 
Eising had hardly yet begun .^ 

A few days were spent by the King in preparation before 
any expedition was actually set on foot. But the time was 
not wasted, for Eichard summoned the loyal gentry and nobles 

^ H. B., 520-1. - Froiss., ii. 478-9 ; H. R., 521. 

3 H B., 520 ; Froiss., ii. 480 ; Pol. Poems, i. 227-8. 

•• H. B., 521 ; Cont. Eulog., 354 ; G. B. B., 503, Eex, 12 ; 500, Eex. 13 
(Rev. 253, 283) ; Gliester Indictment Bolls, no. 8, m. 57. 

Jtjne 17-20 THE FIGHTING BISHOP 245 

of the country to ride into London with all the retainers that 
they could muster. He set up his standard on Blackheath, 
where the rebel camp had so lately been, but where now a large 
and well-equipped army was rapidly collected.^ Many lords 
and gentlemen who had been hiding in the woods, or who had 
succeeded in fortifying themselves behind the moats of their 
manor-houses, were glad to obey the first signal of authority. 
On June 20 the forces collected were already so strong that a 
plan of operations for the reduction of the South of England 
was drawn up. Special powers were given to the sheriffs of 
Kent and Hampshire in their respective counties, while the 
Earl of Buckingham and Eobert Tressilian received similar 
powers for all England.^ The King himself was to go with 
these two into Essex, while the Earl of Kent supported the 
sheriff's on the south of the Thames. It was not for another 
fortnight that the Earl of Salisbury received his commission 
to put down the Eising in Dorset and Somerset.^ 

But before any of these operations in the South actually 
began, the rising in East Angiia had been subdued by the 
vigorous initiative of Henry Spencer, the fighting Bishop of 
Norwich. He was enjoying a holiday in tiis manor at Burley, 
in Eutlandshire, when news came that the men of his diocese 
were in revolt. Without waiting for the instructions or assist- 
ance of the London executive, he at once dashed down out of the 
Midlands into East Angiia, followed by a small but determined 
band of men-at-arms. He appeared at Peterborough just in 
time to save the monks of the abbey from falling into the 
hands of their own serfs. As the chronicler remarks, these 
rebels had come to destroy the Church, and by the arm of the 
Church they were destroyed. The Bishop spared none. His 
blood was up, and he showed the spirit of his brother, 
the captain of Italian condottieri. The champion of the 
Church militant swept on eastwards through Huntingdon and 
Cambridge counties, the loyalists gathering round him as he 
went- His presence there was so far effective that rioting ceased 
from that time forward. He hurried on into Norfolk, the terri- 
tory of his own see. In crossing the corner of Suffolk that lies 

' Wals., ii. 14. ^ Calendar of Patent Bolls. 1381, pp. 20-3. 

* Boyle's Official Baronage, sub. Salisbury, Commission dated July 3. 


between Cambridge and Thetford, he met, at Icklingham, Lord 
Thomas Morley with three captive rebels. Morley did not 
dare on his own responsibility to execute the rioters without 
special command from the King. The Bishop, who had no 
such fears, took over the prisoners, and when he reached 
Wymondham, had them hanged on his own authority (see 
map,-p. 254). The effect was most salutary, 'In the same 
place many malefactors remained, who, terrified by dread of 
death, did not dare to proceed further in the insurrection.' 
The incident illustrates the helplessness displayed by the 
aristocracy in the provinces, and points to the need of some 
royal proclamation directed against the rebellion. The Bishop 
seems to have been one of the very few who dared to act 
before such authority came down from London, and who had 
not been deceived by the rumour, which the rioters assiduously 
fostered, that the King countenanced the Eising. Bishop 
Spencer pushed on to Norwich, entered it and re-established 
order in the city. He then called out the forces of the place, 
marched on to North Walsham, where the rebels were collected, 
and broke up their assembly. The resistance proved half- 
hearted and the victory complete. The Eising in East Anglia, 
which had been very general and quite unopposed, began 
about June 15, and collapsed after little more than a week, 
under the first blows struck by an unflinching hand.^ 

Meanwhile the King had begun his Bloody Assize in Essex. 
Tressilian, appointed Chief Justice in place of the murdered 
Cavendish, was the Jeffreys of the occasion, and Buckingham 
the Kirke. The Earl went in advance to break the resistance' 
of those bands of rebels which held together, and the Judge 
tried all who were brought into the King's headquarters. 
At Walsham the King had an interview with a deputation 
of peasants, at which he finally threw off the mask. ' Serfs 
you are, and serfs you will remain,' was his answer, when 
they pleaded the charters of liberation from bondage which he 
himself had granted. The messengers retired to their main 
body, but the Earl of Buckingham followed hard upon them, 
broke up the camp at Billericay with great slaughter, and 
pushed on to Colchester. A division of lances was sent 

» Powell, 38-40 ; Wals., ii. 6-8 ; Knighton, ii. 140-1. 

.Ttjne-Jt7ly gibbet AND COED 247 

on to reduce Suffolk, entered Bury St. Edmunds on the 
23rd with little opposition, and at once held assizes in the 
town.^ This opened the line of communication between 
Bishop Spencer in Norfolk and the King in Essex. The 
royal head-quarters were moved up in the train of the armies, 
on June 26 to the palace at Havering-atte-Bower, and on July 2 
to Chelmsford, where he issued a charter revoking the manu- 
mission made at Mile End. During these weeks the sword 
and the rope were busy at work. Many were stabbed by the 
soldiers in the brakes and thickets, and left lying where they 
fell. Chief Justice Tressilian's severities won him an unen- 
viable fame, not only with the peasantry, but with some of 
the more discriminating among the friends of order. It was 
said that he spared none who came before him for trial. He 
seemed to feel that he was revenging his profession and his 
murdered predecessor for all they had suffered in the rebellion. 
Hanging, quartering, disembowelling, went on apace. As good 
an opportunity was afforded to private vengeance and malice 
by the license of the informer and the credulity of the courts, 
as had been lately supplied by the disorder of the country. 
The impolicy of this indiscriminate slaughter, which after- 
wards did not escape comment, caused fresh risings, only to 
be suppressed with fresh cruelties.^ 

It may be plausibly argued that the country needed a 
lesson in the penalties of riot and rebellion, which had so 
long been in abeyance. But the State erred on the side 
of severity, and this mistake was the more unpardonable, 
because it exposed the rulers to the odious charge of bad 
faith. They had persuaded the peasants to leave London by 
charters not only of manumission but of pardon. Such pro- 
fessions may possibly have been the only way of saving the 
State. Princes have often thought so. 

Have we not lingers to write, 
Lips to swear at a need ? 
Then, when danger decamps, 
Bury the word with the deed.^ 

' Powell, 25. 

"- Knighton, ii. 150 ; Higden, ix. 6-9 ; Cavibridge University Library MS8., 
Ee. iv. 32, 2, p. 176. * Swinburne, A Watch in the Night. 


But however lenient a view be taken of this type of 
treachery, the circumstance at all events laid the King and his 
Council under an obligation to deal as gently as possible with 
those whom they had deceived. The pardons delivered at 
Mile End ought at least to have turned the scale on the 
side of mercy. 

Some of the rioters are less to be pitied than others. 
Those who had seized the opportunity to massacre the 
Flemings deserved severe treatment. But even in London 
revenge outran decency. A block was set up in Cheapside by 
the authorities, on the site which had a few days before been 
used by the rebels as their Place de la Eevolution, and on it 
scores of victims were offered up to the manes of those who 
had there perished. The friends of the murdered Flemings, 
some say even their widows, were allowed the brutal satisfac- 
tion of themselves cutting off the heads of the murderers whom 
they identified. The Mayor caused all peasants whom he found 
in London to be executed, besides rioters falling under his 
proper jurisdiction.^ 

Meanwhile the King, turning westward from Chelmsford 
and Havering, arrived at St. Albans to do justice between the 
abbey and its rebellious serfs. Since no murder had here 
been committed by those who had risen for their liberty, 
justice might well have been tempered with mercy. Yet a 
revenge was taken so horrible that it might disgust anyone, 
except the monk who gleefully tells the story. Tressilian 
hanged fifteen of those who had attempted to break the yoke of 
servitude. The Assize at St. Albans was further distinguished 
by the sentence and execution of John Ball himself ; he had 
been caught at Coventry in attempting to escape westward, 
and sent to meet his fate at the hands of the Lord Chief 
Justice.^ On the 22nd the royal party went on to Berkhamp- 
stead, and thence by King's Langley and Henley to Beading 
and Easthampstead in Berkshire. Here, in all probability, 
the work of vengeance was continued, but we have unfor- 
tunately no records of the business done in these parts. At 
Beading John of Gaunt joined his nephew.^ 

' Wals., ii. 14 ; Higden, ix. 8. 
^ Wals., ii. 31-41 ; Higden, ix. 7; Knighton, ii. 150. » See Ap. 

Jtoe-Jttlt a TEICK played ON THE DUKE 249 

The Duke had during the last two months undergone a 
ludicrous and humiliating adventure, very different from 
the tragedy which might have occurred if he had been in 
England. When the rebellion broke out he was engaged in 
negotiating a peace with the Scotch ambassadors in the 
neighbourhood of Melrose. He had come down with a com- 
mission over-riding the local authority of Percy. The jealous 
Earl, who wished to keep the business of the Border in his own 
hands, always resented such commissions from Westminster, 
especially those who came to make peace, for the petty wars 
gave him glory and power. The enemy had made the 
last successful raid, and he was burning for revenge.^ He 
had, besides, a grudge against the Duke in person. The union 
of the two to quash the work of the Good Parliament had 
come to an end when Eichard succeeded to the throne. 
Being the two greatest men in the kingdom, they were 
natural rivals. The day was soon to come when the House 
of Northumberland, having rashly placed the House of 
Lanc&.ster on the throne, too late attempted to undo the deed, 
and' fell for ever on the field of Shrewsbury. 

Percy saw his chance in the Peasants' Eising. The whole 
country was up against the Duke, and there was at first no 
certain knowledge that the King did not, in hostility to his 
uncle, sympathise with the rebels. The cards might so turn 
up that John of Gaunt would be ruined, and the Earl deter- 
mined to do his best to bring about this consummation. As he 
held the gates of England, he determined to close them in his 
rival's face. When the latter, having hurriedly completed 
his treaty with the Scots, hastened South to secure his im- 
perilled position, the Warden of Berwick refused to admit him. ' 
He was forced to throw himself on the hospitality of the 
national enemies, and was entertained at Edinburgh by 
Douglas and the Scotch nobility. But his position in Eng- 
land was not really as bad as he feared, or as Percy hoped. 
The rebellion made it temporarily proper for the King to 
befriend him. The rioters had connected their pretended 
loyalty with the pretended treason of John of Gaunt, and if 
one was to be denied, the other must be denied too. The 

^ Eidpath's Border History ; Speed's Chronicle, ed. 1623, p. 732. 


King was forced to exculpate his uncle as a measure calculated 

to discourage the rebels. Salisbury and the other nobles who 

were with him at the time counselled him to adopt this 

i course. On Jul}^ 3 he issued a letter clearing the Duke of 

\ all charges of disloyalty, and two days later another 

I ordering Percy to conduct him safely home through the 

\ kingdom. When these missives reached the North, the 

Duke's joy and the Earl's chagrin can well be imagined. 

fX Guarded by a strong force of cavalry, John of Gaunt passed 

through the Midlands and appeared early in August in his 

nephew's presence at Beading, where he received a commission 

to put down the Eising in Yorkshire and to keep the peace in 

all the Northern shires.^ 

Eichard now moved towards Kent, where he visited 
Wrotham and Leeds. The county was still in a very dis- 
turbed state. It had been reduced once by the Earl of Kent, 
who had held hanging assizes at Maidstone, but the work had 
gone on but slowly, and there had been continued local resis- 
tance.^ On July 10 the forces of order were still garrisoning 
fortresses in a hostile country.^ When the King came from 
Eeading at the end of August, the rebellion in Kent had been 
beaten down ; but it was not yet stamped out, for a month later 
/it revived. On September 29, a body of desperate men recap- 
'' tured Maidstone, slew some gentlemen, including the Sheriff of 
the county, and marched on the capital. They reached Deptford, 
at the foot of Blackheath, but could make no further progress. 
One of their number, John Cote, afterwards turned approver 
and gave an account of the objects and intentions of this 
second rebellion, which are exactly such as we should expect. 
These later rebels demanded all the liberties and pardons that 
had been granted in June, and intended, if they could not get 
these confirmed, to kill the King and his Council. It is small 
wonder that the feeling of the rebels towards Eichard had 
changed in three months from love to hatred. The boy had 
been all gentleness and sympathy in London. He had told 
them he was their leader, he had accepted their loyal adherence. 

' Knighton, ii. 145-9 ; Eev., 290, note 1 ; Froiss., ii. 481-4 ; Fosd., iv. 126-8, 

^ A?ic. Incl., no. 35, passim. ^ Calendar of Patent Bolls, 1381, p. 28. 


But he had since accompanied his ferocious Judge from place 
to place and associated himself with all the horrors of the re- 
action. It is to be hoped that he felt some shame in acting 
the part which fate and his councillors thrust upon him, as 
trapper and butcher of his confiding subjects. What wonder 
that the men whom he had deceived desperately sought to 
slay him ? If the feeling about Eichard had veered round, 
the feeling about his uncle had undergone a change equally 
complete. John of Gaunt had taken no part in the suppres- 
sion of the rising in the South. He had been in Scotland 
during the horrors of July. He was the natural rival of his 
nephew, and the principal candidate for the Throne. The 
rebels of this forlorn hope~ in September announced that they 
would make the Duke King of England. This change of 
feeling was accelerated by rumours from the North that John 
of Gaunt had freed all the serfs on his vast estates.^ The 
report perhaps had some basis in fact, for commutation of 
prsedial service may have been almost complete on the lands 
of the House of Lancaster. 

This was not the only disturbance of the peace that took 
place in September. The rebellion still simmered, and in places 
broke out with violence. On September 5, armed peasantry 
from the neighbouring villages seized Salisbury market-place in 
conjunction with rioters from among the townsfolk.^ The 
unrest was largely due to the severities of those in authority. 
Desperation drove thousands into fresh rebellion, and fear 
prevented thousands from returning to peaceful avocations. 
The country could not resume its normal condition, for men 
would not return to their homes as long as death waited 
for them on the threshold. The Parliament that met at 
Westminster in November took measures to end this state 
of things. It passed an act of pardon to all rebels, with 
certain important exceptions. Grace was not extended 
to any who had killed the late Chancellor, Treasurer, and 
Chief Justice, nor to the inhabitants of Canterbury, Beverley, 
Scarborough, Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds, and Bridge- 
water. A further list of two hundred and eighty-seven 

' C. E. B., no. 482, Kent, Eex. 1, printed in vol. iv. Arch. Kent. 
^ C.B. E., 492 Eex. 13 (Eev. 280,*note 3). 


persons excepted from pardon was drawn up, including one 
hundred and fifty-one Londoners. Presumably most of these 
were outlaws still in hiding. Some of them were caught and 
brought to justice in the ensuing months, and it is satisfactory 
to find that they were acquitted by juries sick of bloodshed. 
As after Eobespierre's reign of terror, the whole nation ' resolved 
itself into a committee of mercy.' Even the two aldermen 
who had let the rebels into London (and richly deserved 
hanging) escaped punishment, though their crime was never 
disputed. Writs against some of the principal leaders 
remained out for many years, but the work of blood was 

This extraordinary event made a very great impression on 
the minds of contemporaries. It could not be without influ- 
ence on the life of the succeeding generation. 

Its effect on John of Gaunt and his ambitions was two- 
fold. Its immediate result was to force King and Parliament 
to protect and favour the victim of the late rebellion. Eichard 
compelled Percy to treat his uncle with respect and loyalty. 
The House of Commons in November asked for his assistance 
at their counsels as one of the ' associated lords,' and he was 
appointed in the same Parliament to a commission for the 
reform of the household.^ But this courtesy towards the 
Duke was in truth only a proof of his weakness. It was but 
a protest against the extreme violence towards him which 
the rebels had shown. The real effect of the Eising had been 
to curb his ambition, by demonstrating his unpopularity. 
When King and Parliament renewed their natural hostility, 
the great noble was in a few years driven from the arena of 

The power of the central government to keep order in the 
country was not permanently strengthened by the reaction 
that followed the revolt. Disturbances of all kinds went on 
as before. Town mobs still rioted periodically, retainers still 
hectored and robbed, serfs still fought with bailiffs for their 

' Rot. Pari., iii. 103, 111-3 ; G. R. R., 488, Bex. 6 ; C. R. R., 482, Rex. 39 ; 
R6v. cxxv. '' Rot. Pari , iii. 100, 101. 


freedom. But whereas the riotous insolence -^i- the upper 
military class went on increasing till it ended in' the Wars of 
the Eoses, the labour troubles of the fourteenth century were 
in the succeeding age brought to an end by gradual conces- 

The first step towards reform was taken in 1890, when the 
Statute of Labourers underwent considerable modification. 
The standard at which wages were fixed was abolished, and the 
assessment left in the hands of the Justices of the Peace.^ 
A sliding scale, to be settled locally, was made the rule. The 
Act thus remodelled may have still been used for oppression, 
but it is probable that the Eising had taught authorities 
to respect the power of the labourers and to desist from 
annoying a formidable class by continual prosecutions. 

The demand for personal freedom, which had been the 
chief cause of revolt, was for the moment crushed. The 
Parliament of November gratefully confirmed the King's 
repeal of the liberating charters. A unanimious vote of 
county and town members together contradicted: all rumours 
that the emancipation of the serfs was seriously considered 
by Parliament.^ The Eising had failed. But the process 
of manumission, wKfch had been going on for so long, 
continued steadily during succeeding generations. Under 
the Tudors the last remains of serfage were swept away, and 
in James the First's reign it became a legal maxim that 
every Englishman was free. It must remain a matter of 
opinion whether this process was accelerated or ' retarded by 
the Peasants' Eising ; it is impossible to apply hard facts to 
the solution of such a problem. i 

One effect of the rebellion was to put an end to all 
chance of philanthropic legisla^tion in the direction of emanci- 
pating the serfs. Such proposals had been previously made 
in Parliament,-^ though probably with little hope of success. 
They were never made there again. The ideal of freedom 
once had charms for a few of the upper classes, such as 
Wycliffe, who objected to hereditary bondage.^ This feeling 

1 Stats, of Realm, 13 E. II. 1, cap. 8. ^ Rot.i^arl., iii. 100. 

' Stats, of Realm, 1 R. II., cap. 6 ; Rot. Pari., iii. 99 6,'Uaes 57-8. 

* De Dam. Civ., 240-8. ; • J ^ ^ 


might have .jpread among landlords enough to hasten the rate 
of manumission, and might even have come to predominate in 
Parliament. But all acceptance of such theories was doomed 
by the events of this year. 

So far, the Eising may be said to have retarded liberty. 
But the memory of this terrible year must certainly have 
acted in another way besides. The landlord had learned to 
fear his serf, and fear is no less powerful a motive for con- 
cession than love. The peasantry were not tamed by the 
terrors of royal justice. Unions of villeins continued to 
assert their freedom as before. We find them still banding 
together to make forcible resistance to the lord's claims in 
Somerset, in Lincoln, in Shropshire, in Cornwall and in 
Suffolk. From 1383 to 1385 continuously the tenants of 
Littlehaw, near Bury St. Edmunds, withheld their services 
from the lord of the manor, and were supported by the parson 
of the parish. One item only, the money rent of fourpence 
an acre, they duly paid, in accordance with the terms granted 
by the King at Mile End. In 1398 the villeins of Wellington, 
a Somerset estate of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, withheld 
the services of carting and carrying which they owed him, 
and formed a union with considerable funds. The Bishop 
took proceedings in court,- but dropped them at the moment 
of legal victory, preferring to come to some arrangement of 
which we are ignorant.^ This attitude of resistance was an 
important factor in the economic causes which drove the 
landlord to m.anumit his serfs : if they worked unwillingly and 
rebelliously st their forced labour, the forced labour must soon 
be changed for paid service. Opposition to the other acci- 
dents of the servile condition would similarly bring about 
alteration in the form of tenure. This resistance may have 
been in some cases fostered, in others crushed by the 
events of '81. But in any case the Eising was the 
(result of the spirit that hastened liberation, for it was caused 
by the desire to be free, and the will to defy death rather than 
jbear slavery. 

Eioting of all sorts frequently recurred both in town and 
country in the years that followed the great upheaval. 

> Powell, 64-5 ; Anc. Ind,, P. E. 0. Assize Roll, 774 (7) ; Eev., cxxxi. 



1 Longitude AKTest LongLtnde East 1 

■».*»— Muw.^»Ujjr 


There were continual revolts in South Yorkshire, both at Don- 
caster and Beverley. In Oxfordshire a body of rebels issued 
the following remarkable proclamation : ' Arise all men and 

go with us, or else truly and by God ye shall be d .' ^ It 

was better that rebellion should show its head in an age when 
so much was wrong, than that all complaint should be stifled. 
Since Parliament only vented the grievances of the middle 
class, the labourers needed to make themselves heard by 
rioting. The government was bad, the social system was 
decaying, the time was out of joint. A strong expression of 
discontent was natural and right. 

No one can be sorry that the Eising was put down. 
Though as a protest it was perhaps useful, as a revolution 
it could only have led to anarchy. On the other hand, 
it would be rash to regret that it took place. It was a 
sign of national energy, it was a sign of independence and 
self-respect in the mediaeval peasants, from whom three- 
quarters of our race, of all classes and in every continent, 
are descended. This independent spirit was not lacking 
in France in the fourteenth century, but it died out by the 
end of the Hundred Years' War ; stupid resignation then 
took hold of burghers and peasantry alike, from the days 
when Machiavelli observed their torpor,^ down to the eve 
of the Eevolution. The ancien regime was permitted to grow 
up. But in England there has been a continuous spirit 
of resistance and independence, so that wherever our country- 
men or our kinsmen have gone, they have taken with them the 
undying tradition of the best and surest freedom, which 
' slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent.' 

> Anc. Ind., P.E.O. no. 116, Yorks ; 80 Oxon, 21 E. 11. 

* See Maehiavelli's State of France. Early sixteenth cent. 

256 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 




Aftee the catastrophe of the Peasants' Eising, after so strik- 
ing an exposure of governmental incapacity, after such an 
expression of the political no less than the social discontent 
of the nation, a good patriot might well have hoped for some 
change in the aims and methods of the politicians who had 
brought the country to such a pass. It might have been 
expected that the great families would be shamed out of their 
feuds and bickerings, that they would desist from the ignoble 
scramble for place and power, and unite to assist the young 
King and the Commons in rallying a disgraced, impoverished, 
and disorganised people. It might have been expected that 
Richard, who had shown in Smithfield the courage of the 
race of Cceur de Lion tempered by a self-possession more 
rare in the House of Plantagenet, would by his firmness and 
wisdom lead the nation out of this period of panic into years 
of settled government. But no change took place. The 
warning fell unheeded on the ears of the selfish nobility, and 
the King proved to have grave faults as well as fine virtues. 
The history of the four years succeeding the Peasants' Revolt 
is not the history of any conscious effort at national recovery. 
The moral tone of the political world remains as low, the 
aims of intriguers like John of Gaunt remain as personal and 
as short-sighted as ever, while even those few ministers who, 
like Scrope on one side, and Michael de la Pole on the other, 
were honest public servants, proved incapable of suggesting 


or carrying through any definite plan of retrenchment and 
reform. One obvious remedy that should have been applied 
was peace. Yet the war, with its annual burden of heavy 
taxes, was allowed to continue. Neither did the Commons 
distinguish themselves by any memorable action, such as that 
of the Good Parliament. All that they did was to keep up a 
running comment of complaint against everything that hap- 
pened, like the chorus in a Greek play. There is little that 
is heroic or admirable to record in these four years. Yet 
they cannot be passed over in silence by the historian who 
demonstrates the sequence of events in Eichard's reign, for 
they are marked by the transformation of one set of political 
parties and problems into another. 

Hitherto the contests for power have raged round the 
central figure of John of Gaunt, while the King has taken 
little part in the government of his realm. After the Peasants' 
Eising both these conditions were altered. The power of the 
Duke, declining ever since his nephew's accession, had re- 
ceived a fatal blow from the demonstrations of popular feeling 
made against him throughout the country. The one thing 
more that was needed to drive him from politics was the 
determined hostility of the Crown. This was now forthcoming. 
Eichard formed a royal party, and put the management of 
affairs into the hands of his friends. With the King's newly 
acquired power grew his hatred for John of Gaunt, and for 
all others who wished to keep him in the tutelage of coun- 
cillors whom he had not chosen. He did not yet govern by 
himself, but he governed through Michael de la Pole and the 
Veres. The bulk of the nobility found themselves excluded 
from power by a small clique of their own order. The 
Commons found that the administration was no better under 
the new regime than it had been before, and that the 
King's favourites were even less accountable to Parliament 
than the ministers at the beginning of his reign. "When 
the year 1385 drew to a close, the King and a small group 
of his nobles were standing opposed to the peerage and 
the nation. But John of Gaunt was no longer in a position 
to lead the attack on his nephew. In the spring of 1386 he 
withdrew from English politics and crossed the sea to capture 

258 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

castles in Spain. It remains for us to trace these changes 
through the course of public events. 

The Parliament of November 1381 met while thousands 
of rebels were hiding in the woods and wastes, while judge 
and hangman were at work in provincial towns under the 
protection of armed escorts, while the ruins of the Savoy 
and many noble manor-houses lay as they had fallen, at- 
testing the fury of the storm that had wrought their over- 
throw. Under such sorrowful circumstances, it would have 
become the nobility to assemble in a mood of mutual forbear- 
ance ; their responsibility for the past and for the future 
demanded combined effort, and the suspension of personal 
feuds. Nevertheless there was an unusually indecent ex- 
hibition of pride and lawlessness. Earl Percy rode into 
London with an army of moss-troopers powerful enough to 
have held the Cheviot passes against the Scotch King, but 
not powerful enough to overawe the regiments of men-at- 
arms who followed John of Gaunt to the doors of Westminster. 
The two great rivals had been at death-feud since the events 
of the summer, and came to Parliament armed to the teeth. 
A collision between their retainers was daily expected in 
the neighbourhood of the capital. Fortunately only one 
of the two parties had been admitted within the walls. 
The Londoners closed their gates against the Duke, while 
the Northumbrian Earl was welcomed and feted. John of 
Gaunt's old quarrel with the city had never been healed, and 
it was not unlikely that he would attempt to exact reparation 
for the destruction of his property by the apprentices during 
the late riots. In that case the Earl's forces might prove 
useful. At Westminster the commanders of the two rival 
armies met in the presence of Eichard, who succeeded in 
averting a breach of the peace ; but he was in no position to 
reprimand them or to bid them dismiss their followers. The 
situation was humiliating enough to a sensitive boy. Perhaps 
he had his own thoughts on the insolence of the baronage, 
and promised himself that when he was a man he would 
teach the haughtiest nobles that they had a king.^ 

The chief work of the Parliament was to restore in some 

1 Wals., ii. 45 ; Higden, ix. 10, 11 ; Rot. Pari., iii. 98. 


measure the peace of the disturbed country by a general 
pardon of rebels, and at the same time to reassure the 
proprietary classes by strongly repudiating any measure for 
the liberation of serfs. But the Commons did not con- 
sider that they had by so doing dealt with the Eising in all its 
aspects. They regarded the riots as having been caused, not 
merely by quarrels of serf and lord, but also by inefficient and 
oppressive administration. The knights of the shire disliked 
the rebels as social reformers, but almost approved of them 
as political agitators. It was clear, the Commons said, that 
there were many faults in the government, especially in the 
King's Household, where an outrageous number of needy and 
greedy parasites were maintained. These men, together with 
the officers of the Law Courts and the Exchequer, grievously 
oppressed the country districts by seizing men's goods in the 
King's name under pretence of Purveyance, by raising the 
taxes exorbitantly, and by every form of semi-legal robberj^ 
The petition does not attempt to make any distinction be- 
tween these extortioners from Westminster and the local 
' embracers of quarrels and maintainers who are like kings 
in the country-side.' The nation could no longer endure the 
' oppressions done to them by divers servants of the King 
and of other seigneurs of the kingdom, and especially by 
the said maintainers.' It was to these grievances that the 
Commons attributed the late revolt.^ 

The country was indeed in an unfortunate condition, when 
the royal officers who should have defended the subject 
from the lords' retainers, were themselves a thorn in the 
side of honest men. It was for this reason that when 
Eichard attempted to set up a strong personal govern- 
ment and to crush the power of the nobles, he obtained no 
support from the Commons. The small country-gentleman 
had learnt by constant and bitter experience to dread the 
arrival of royal commissioners in his neighbourhood, no whit 
less than he dreaded the retainers and bailiffs of the local 
baron. He was too wise to make himself a party to the 
establishment of a despotism which only made the flights of 
greedy locusts from the Court more frequent and more 

» Bot. Pari., iii. 100. 

s 2 

250 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

desolating. It is in this light that the history of Richard's 
reign must be read. 

The Commons' complaint, in so far as it reflected on the 
state of the King's Household, was taken up by the lords and 
made the basis of a settlement of the usual character. A 
Commission for the reform of the Court expenditure was 
appointed, and Archbishop Courtenay, who had been made 
Chancellor after the murder of Sudbury, surrendered the 
Great Seal to Lord Scrope, whose efficiency and honesty 
made him a general favourite.^ These arrangements for 
better administration were effected by the united action of 
the two Houses. But the Commons must have been painfully 
aware that Parliamentary settlements and Household Com- 
missions were too often cancelled or rendered futile by in- 
trigues among the nobles before many months had gone by. 
Besides, there was one party to the settlement who had not 
been considered or consulted at all — namely, the King him- 
self. It was Eichard who was destined to overturn all these 
elaborate precautions. 

This Parliament differed from all others of the period by 
being divided into two sessions. A Christmas recess, lasting 
till February, was occupied by the marriage of the King. He 
was now sixteen years old, and his ministers had been looking 
for a suitable match ever since he came to the throne. They 
had at last achieved what they regarded as a great diplomatic 
success. The traditional policy of the House of Bohemia 
had been alliance with France against England. The present 
King's blind grandfather had shown his devotion to that 
unfortunate cause by the memorable manner of his death 
on the field of Crecy, when the Bohemian plumes had been 
adopted by the Prince of Wales to commemorate the immortal 
victory. The reigning monarch, Wenceslaus, was also King 
of the Eomans — that is, heir to the German Empire. Charles 
the Fifth of France sought to ratify the old alliance by marrj^- 
ing Wenceslaus' sister Anne to his own son, but he was fore- 
stalled by English diplomacy, and the lady and the alliance 
were secured for Richard the Second. This result was due 
partly to the action of the Pope. Christendom had just been 

> See Ap. 

Jan. 1382 ANNE OP BOHEMIA 261 

divided into two Churches, the one of Avignon, the other of 
Eome. Bohemia remained faithful to the Koman Pontiff, who 
used ail the spiritual and diplomatic influence he possessed at 
Prague to induce Wenceslaus to break off his dealings with 
the schismatic King of France, and ally himself with the 
faithful English. These arguments were backed by the 
promise of 15,000L ready money from the government of 
Westminster. The German Princes were always poor, 
especially those of the Imperial House. Wesceslaus took the 
advice of the Pope and the money of the English, and sent 
over his sister Anne to become Eichard's Queen. The lady 
travelled in great state through Germany, and spent a month 
with her relations the Duke and Duchess of Brabant in their 
town of Brussels. Such was the condition of the English 
navy that no safe escort across the Channel could be pro- 
vided for her, as long as a fleet of twenty Norman vessels 
commissioned to seize her and carry her off to France hung 
off' the Flemish coast. A safe-conduct was finally procured 
for her from the French King by the good offices of her 
uncle. Then, and not till then, was it safe to go further. 
She passed down to the sea through Ghent, where the new 
rebel captain, Philip van Artevelde, showed her every 
honour, and through Bruges, where his liege lord, the Earl of 
Flanders, displayed equal courtesy. As she travelled through 
this country she must have seen in desolated fields, ruined 
chateaux, and deserted villages the traces of the duel lately 
begun between her hosts of Ghent and her hosts of Bruges ; 
which in three terrible and famous years of war did to the 
rich and fertile Flanders of the fourteenth century what 
the Thirty Years' War did to Germany. At Calais she was 
received by the Earls of Salisbury and Devon. She landed 
safely at Dover on December 18. On January 14, 1382 
she was married to the King in the Chapel of Westminster 

Of the many purposes for which this match had been 
designed not one was fulfilled. No heir was born to settle the 
succession to the English Crown ; the active participation of 
Bohemia in the war never took place ; still less was Wences- 
laus either able or willing to direct against France the whole 

262 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

power of the German Empire. The English diplomatists got 
little in return for their 15,000/., except the discontent of 
the taxpayer at so bad a bargain, while Pope Urban never 
succeeded in stirring up his German crusade against the 
French schismatics. By the irony of chance, this marriage 
was the means of bringing about another schism even 
more formidable to the Papacy than that of Avignon. The 
Bohemians who passed to and fro between Prague and 
London after the alliance of the two Courts, carried to their 
home manuscripts of Wycliffe's theological works, and diffused 
there the spirit of the reformer. In the University of Prague 
and the villages of Bohemia this seed soon ripened into 
harvest. The Hussite movement was Wycliffism pure and 
simple. A generation later, persecution and racial animosity 
converted it into Wycliffism armed and triumphant, a strange 
spectacle for the fifteenth century. At the hands of Ziska 
the Catholic Church had a foretaste of the great revolt. It is 
these events, so little foreseen by the statesmen who planned 
the match, which make Anne's coming to England worthy of 

The years '82 and '83 are marked by the last episode of 
the French war, the revolt of Flanders. As far as England 
is concerned, the affair shows how halting and half-hearted 
our war-policy had become, how unfit were the resources of 
the country to carry on the struggle ; it also throws an in- 
teresting light on the degrees of influence exerted on foreign 
and military questions by the various parties within the State. 

The fourteenth century had been a comparatively peaceful 
and a very prosperous period in the history of the Low 
Countries. On their rich and well- watered soil a thriving 
agricultural population multiplied in the hamlets that stood 
around the chateaux of the nobility, while the inhabitants of 
the great cities vied with those of Italy in trade, in the arts 
of manufacture, and in the desire for independence and 
self-government. But while in Italy the burghers had been 
able to gratify all these aspirations, while the towns of the 

' Rot. Parl.,\ii. 113-4 ; Froiss., ii. chap. 148 ; Wals.,ii. 46 ; Higden, ix. 12 ; 
Diet, of Nat. Biog., sub Anne of Bohemia and Kichard II. 


Lombard League had driven the Emperor beyond the Alps 
and subjected the neighbouring barons to their rule, the 
Flemish cities were less successful in their political than in 
their mercantile ambitions. Their geographical situation at 
the mouth of the Ehine, and at the point of juncture of 
France, England, and Germany, made them indeed the 
emporium of Northern Europe, but rendered it difficult for 
them to gratify their desire for independence of the feudal 
system. No such barrier as the Alps, no such distance as 
that which divides Milan from Paris and Vienna, protected 
Ghent and Ypres from the great feudal powers. It was 
certain that, in the last resort, the Flemish Earl would invite 
the nobles of France to crush a league of his rebellious towns, 
before they could establish their sovereignty. This inevitable 
struggle was now brought to a rapid issue. Froissart has 
told the story with no less art, and with more science and 
insight, than he displays in the other parts of his work. 

The affair began by a quarrel between the two chief cities. 
Bruges had won the favour of the Earl, who usually resided 
within its walls ; Ghent had incurred his jealousy by the 
wealth and pride of its citizens, so dangerous to his suzerainty 
in Flanders. Bruges was no less jealous of her great neigh- 
bour, for Ghent stood on the junction of the Lys and the 
Scheldt, along whose broad and famous streams the trade of 
half Europe was carried to its quays. Bruges possessed no 
such waterway, but it had always been the ambition of her 
citizens to divert the Lys from its present course and to 
turn it into the sea near Ostend for their own benefit. Their 
rivals had hitherto prevented them from carrying out 
this design, but the Earl now undertook the work on 
behalf of his favourite city. The canal, if made, would 
reverse the position. Ghent would be ruined, Bruges 
would step into its place. The digging was forcibly inter- 
rupted, and a war began between Ghent and other allied 
towns on one side, and Bruges with the Earl and nobility of 
Flanders on the other. It became a war of extermination 
between town and country, between the feudal and civic poli- 
ties that had so long lived side by side with feelings of 
mutual hatred and rivalry. Two conditions were against 

264 GBNEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

the towns — first, that many of their own number, such as 
Bruges and Oudenarde, were on the side of the enemy, and, 
secondly, that they had no central authority to hold them 
together except the hegemony of Ghent. At first, indeed, the 
great city fought almost single-handed. In this early stage 
of the war, which lasted for about a year, the slain were 
reckoned at hundreds of thousands, and the country was 
turned into a desert. The Earl had given his nobles carte 
blanche in Flanders until the war was over, and their 
cruelties were only equalled by the savagery of the military 
dictators into whose hands the wealthy citizens of Ghent 
had surrendered the government of their town. At last the 
extravagances of these ruffians drove the burghers to elect 
as their captain a man more worthy of such a post in such 
a crisis. Philip van Artevelde was the son of Jacob van 
Artevelde, who had made Ghent a power in Europe. Philip 
had no credentials except his father's name and memory. 
He himself had lived ' reserved and austere,' and little was 
known of him when he was chosen captain. But he had 
inherited the genius of his family. After a brief period of 
disaster, he entirely altered the complexion of the war by a 
bold and lucky rush for Bruges. In May 1382 he took the 
place by a coup de main : the Earl fled for his life, the 
other towns opened their gates, the nobles emigrated, and 
the country districts submitted. Philip was master of all 

While every nation in Europe contemplated with amaze- 
ment this remarkable revolution, and the equally remarkable 
man who, without experience of public life, was guiding the 
helm of the strange State, France and England had a particular 
interest in the event. Flanders was part of France, though 
the Earl had been practically independent. His son-in-law 
and heir, the Duke of Burgundy, was uncle and guardian of 
the young King, Charles the Sixth ; if the power of the Earl 
in Flanders was now overthrown, the Duke would lose his 
inheritance ; to secure his future patrimony he brought the 
power of his nephew to crush the new republic. But the 
King of France had real interests of his own in Flanders, 
not merely because the earldom was nominally part of his 


kingdom, but because Paris and other of his towns had long 
been so mutinous and insolent that the integrity of his 
feudal realm was seriously threatened by burgher democracy. 
Men feared that if Artevelde were allowed to develop his 
newfangled schemes, ' all noblesse would perish.' The 
immediate pretext for war between France and Flanders was 
that the Flemings had burnt villages on the French King's 
side of the frontier. Philip does not seem to have been as 
able and fortunate in his relations with foreign Powers as in 
his internal policy. He did not do his best to postpone the 
war with France, and did not make all the efforts that he 
might to gain the immediate alliance of England. 

This country was the natural ally of the new republic. 
The dictator's father, Jacob van Artevelde, had been the friend 
of Edward the Third. The son had now unexpectedly given 
England a last chance of gaining a footing on the Continent. 
A new State with strong anti-French proclivities had suddenly 
sprung into existence. Since we did not intend to make 
peace with France at once, it was our true policy to protect 
Flanders, as Elizabeth under very similar circumstances 
protected rebellious Holland. The danger of French invasion 
must always have kept Artevelde so subservient to our wishes 
that we could have dictated terms of economic and political 
alliance, and become ' the most favoured nation ' in trade 
and war ; the English and Flemish shipping together could 
have held the Channel against all comers. Alliance was 
plainly for the interest of both parties. 

It was known that Philip would be attacked by the whole 
power of France before the year was out. A few hundred 
trained English soldiers, hastily equipped and sent over, would 
make a great difference in the coming struggle, for though 
Artevelde had at his command great resources and great 
numbers, neither he nor his subjects had military capacity 
or experience. The Flemish ambassadors had an interview 
at Westminster with the Duke of Lancaster, the Earl of 
Salisbury, and the Earl of Buckingham, at which they asked 
for alliance and for English troops ; but coupled the request 
with a demand for two hundred thousand crowns, an out- 
standing debt owed by England to Jacob van Artevelde, 

266 GBNBEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

dating back to the time of Crecy. The revival of this claim 
was very ill-timed, and showed that Philip's great natural 
capacities needed that training in diplomacy which a few 
years' experience would probably have supplied. The 
English lords, vexed at the importunity of the upstart, and 
failing to see the importance of the crisis, sent away the 
ambassadors without any definite answer. 

When Parliament met in autumn, the Chancellor declared 
the kingdom to be in great danger of conquest by its enemies, 
and demanded money for two expeditions, which would 
secure our shores from attack. One of them, the relief of 
the good towns of Flanders, was certainly calculated to raise 
the prestige of England and to secure the Channel against 
the enemy's fleets. But the proposed invasion of the Spanish 
Peninsula would merely throw away men in a distant country 
in the vain hope of gratifying the ambition of John of Gaunt. 
Parliament would have done well to reject the latter proposal 
and vote a large sum of money for the Flemish war. But 
the Duke of Lancaster's influence was still strong; he 
pressed hard to be put in command of a Peninsular army, 
and even offered to repay the nation for its outfit when he 
had conquered Castile. Finally, the Commons settled to do 
nothing. They voted a tenth and fifteenth for the defence 
of the kingdom, and left it to the King's Council to decide 
how it was to be spent. They signified their own preference 
that the Flemish towns should receive instant aid, but they 
did not make it a condition of supply.^ In the end, neither 
campaign was undertaken that winter. Parliament was 
dissolved, and a month later the Flemish Eepublic perished 
on the field of Eosbec. 

While these tardy palaverings were going on at West- 
minster, Philip lay before Oudenarde in hourly expectation of 
the arrival of troops from England. ' I am surprised,' he 
said, ' how they can so long delay, when they know they have 
free entrance into this country.' At last the English herald 
came, bringing a scheme of future alliance, but no troops. 
' The succours will come too late,' cried Artevelde bitterly, and 
rode off in moody silence to Ghent to call out the levee-en- 

' Bot. Pari., iii. 133-4, 136-7, and 140. 

Not. 27, 1382 EOSBEC 267 

masse. He had decided to give the French battle, for they 
were reducing place after place. There was a French faction 
in every town, who were sometimes able, as at Ypres, to open 
the gates. The enemy could not have captured Ghent before 
winter drove them home, but the Eegent was anxious to save 
South Flanders. This was why he gave battle, though 
according to Froissart it was a grave military blunder. The 
war was decided at Eosbec, near the shores of the Lys. The 
dense phalanxes of burgher spearmen, unprotected by archers 
or cavalry, were surrounded on all sides by the French knight- 
hood and massacred where they stood. Those in the centre of 
the columns were pressed to death by thousands. Artevelde 
was smothered in a ditch by the fugitives of his own army. 
His brief and splendid career, scarcely twelve months long, 
resembles the course of a meteor across the sky, more closely 
than many longer lives to which that figure has been applied. 
He appeared for so short a time before the world that it is 
hard to estimate his true greatness. Though he still lacks a 
historian, he no longer ' lacks a sacred bard ; ' for Taylor has, 
in our own century, made him the hero of a fine historical 

Eosbec ended the dream of a united and independent 
Flanders, but Ghent still held out two years more. The war 
in 1383 was again a war between Ghent single-handed and 
ths rest of Flanders under the Earl. Needless to say the 
English, now that their chance had gone by, attempted to 
undo what their dilatoriness had done, and flung themselves 
into the conflict with belated energy. Froissart suggests that 
jealousy of the democratic character of Artevelde's republic 
had made the English nobles half-hearted in his cause.^ It 
is difficult to say whether this was so ; the movement of the 
city communes in Flanders had little in common with the 
Peasants' Eising in England. No such tendency on the part 
of the English municipalities can be detected ; they were 
riotous but not revolutionary. Be this as it may, now that 
Eosbec had reassured the noblesse and the landed interest of 
•all countries, the English lords became anxious to support the 
last struggles of Ghent against the French, whose reputation 

' Froiss., ii. chap. 189. 

268 GBNEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

as soldiers had been much repaired by their success against 
Philip. Froissart tells us how the English knights went 
about crying to each other : ' Ha, by holy Mary ! how proud 
will the French be now, for the heap of peasants they have 
slain ! I wish to God Philip van Artevelde had had two 
thousand of our lances and six thousand of our archers ; then 
not one Frenchman would have escaped death or capture.' 
The commonalty were no less eager for the reconquest of 
Flanders, for the Earl on his restoration had shown himself 
more unfavourable than the dictator to English merchants 
and English trade. 

Even the Church had her own reasons for lending active 
support to a campaign in the Low Countries. The absurd 
division of Christendom between Urban of Eome and Clement 
of Avignon affected the destiny of the Flemings. Ghent 
and her allies obeyed the Eoman Pope. The King of France 
had marched against them with the blessing of the chair 
of Avignon, and had displayed on the field of Piosbec the 
sacred oriflamme, which might be unfolded only against 
heretics. The Vatican had been less slow than the Court of 
Westminster to perceive that its interests were bound up with 
the cause of civic independence in Flanders. Urban had sent 
over a commission to Spencer, Bishop of Norwich, to raise and 
conduct an English crusade against the French Clementists. 
Spencer was the Bishop in whom he justly placed the most 
confidence for such a purpose ; for he was pre-eminently a 
Papal Bishop, and pre-eminently a fighting man. His recent 
campaign against the peasants of East Anglia was the talk of 
the day. He set about the task committed him with charac- 
teristic energy. During the summer of 1382 all England, but 
especially the Eastern Counties, resounded with preparations 
for a crusade. The trumpet of the Church militant was 
heard in the land. The friars, who were as much the special 
servants of the Papacy as Spencer himself, used all their arts 
and all their influence to rouse enthusiasm and to raise 
money. The bulk of the nation looked on with quiet 
approval, for the quarrel of Urban against Clement was also 
that of England against France. The Leicester monk, 
Knighton, thus describes the proceedings : — ' The Bishop col- 


lected an incredible sum of money, gold and silver, jewels 
and necklaces, mugs, spoons, and other ornaments, especially 
from ladies and other women. One lady alone contributed a 
hundred pounds, and others, some more some less ; many 
gave, it was believed, beyond their real means, in order to 
obtain the benefit of absolution for themselves and their 
friends. Thus the secret treasure of the realm, which was 
in the hands of the women, was drawn out. Men and women, 
rich and poor, gave according to their estate and beyond it, 
that both their dead friends and themselves also might be 
absolved from their sins. For absolution was refused unless 
they gave according to their ability and estate. And many 
found men-at-arms and archers at their own expense, 
or went themselves on the crusade. For the Bishop had 
wonderful indulgences, with absolution from punishment and 
guilt, conceded to him for the crusade by Pope Urban the 
Sixth, by whose authority the Bishop in his own person or by 
his commissioners absolved both the dead and the living on 
whose behalf sufficient contribution was made.' ^ 

The amount collected was a great triumph for supersti- 
tion. It displayed the strength of the friars, and the rooted 
belief among many of Wycliffe's countrymen in those ideas 
of absolution against which he was so boldly lifting his voice. 
These ideas were, as they must ever be, the basis of the extra- 
ordinary power of the Eoman clergy ; in the fourteenth no 
less than in the sixteenth century the question of absolution 
was fiercely contested. Wycliffe's bitterest and most pro- 
longed attacks on the Church were made against her conduct 
in this crusade, and if he ever had a right to be bitter, it 
was on this occasion. There were two fathers of Christen- 
dom, each urging his children of France and England to 
continue a desolating war which had long exhausted and 
wearied both parties, each intriguing to bring other forces 
and other nations into the struggle, and each using every 
spiritual weapon to bring about a general Armageddon. Yet 
if there was an anti-Eoman party among the English Church 
authorities, they held their peace and left the heretic to 
denounce the iniquities of the Papacy.^ 

' Knighton, ii. 198-9 ; Wals. ii. 71-80. 

2 Pol. Works, i. 19-20, ii. 579-632 ; S. E. W., iii. 242-7, 349. 

270 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

When Parliament met at the beginning of the new year a 
contest arose between the party of the Duke of Lancaster, who 
iavoured the proposed expedition to Spain, and the party of 
Eishop Spencer, who wished to support the crusade in Flanders 
with the parliamentary taxes. Both sides were partly in the 
right. On the one hand, the invasion of the Peninsula was a 
useless waste of blood and treasure, and left our coasts un- 
defended. Flanders was the right point of attack. On the 
other hand, it would be a disgraceful hypocrisy on the part of 
Parliament to pretend to vote the national money for a crusade, 
yfhen the real motive for sending the national troops to 
Flanders was the lust of worldly conquest, and it would be 
indecorous to commit the national army to the command of 
an ecclesiastic. The Lords mostly favoured the Duke of 
Lancaster and his scheme. They were beginning to transfer 
their jealousy from him to Eichard. The Commons, on the 
other hand, were strong for Flanders and the Bishop. They 
still feared and hated the Duke, they saw how useless the 
Spanish expedition must prove, and they regarded Bishop 
Spencer as something of a hero. His fiery and successful raid 
on the Eastern Counties had given rise to the belief that he 
was a good general, while John of Gaunt had again and again 
proved himself the reverse. The knights of the shires were 
not influenced by Wycliffe's protests against the crusade ; on 
the other hand, the majority were probably not fanatical 
Churchmen or Papists, for the last House of Commons had in- 
sisted on the withdrawal of an ordinance against the Wycliffites. 
The House considered it a practical and patriotic plan to make 
use of the money raised by the sale of pardons, for the recovery 
of Flanders. They accordingly voted that the taxes should be 
applied to fitting out an expedition ' for the succour and 
comfort of Ghent ; ' that this body should be joined to the 
crusading army levied by the Pope's bulls, and the whole 
put under the command of the Bishop of Norwich. They 
insisted that he should not be accompanied by any of 
the King's uncles. The last condition was the subject of a 
bitter and prolonged controversy between the two Houses. 
The Commons were determined that the taxes and the army 
should not be entrusted to John of Gaunt, while the secular 

1383 THE CEUSADE 271 

lords were jealous of a Bishop's military authority, and re- 
garded the Duke's cause as the cause of their own class. If 
he was not to go to Spain, they claimed that he should at 
least be sent in command of the Flemish crusade. Party 
feeling ran high, and threats of violence were used on both 
sides. Finally, the Commons and the Church had their way 
against the will of the majority of the lay peerage, the Bishop 
assumed the cross at St. Paul's with great ceremony, and soon 
after left England in sole command of a formidable array.^ 

When the crusaders arrived at Calais, the question arose 
whether they should attack France or Flanders, Spencer 
was in a curious position. He had been commissioned 
by Pope Urban to slay Clementists, and a great part 
of his army consisted of devotees who had come abroad to 
win salvation by that Christian exercise. Now the men of 
Flanders were Urbanists, and even their Earl, though so 
lately restored by Clementist arms, professed himself faithful 
to the Vatican. As crusaders, the English had no longer any 
right to attack the Flemings. But the Bishop had received a 
parliamentary grant ' for the succour and comfort of Ghent.' - 
As general of the English army, he was therefore bound to 
attempt the reconquest of Flanders in alliance with the 
remnant of Artevelde's faction, who still held the great city. 
He finally succeeded in reconciling his incongruous duties by 
attacking the Earl of Flanders as a heretic, on the ground 
that he was supported on his throne by the Clementist French. 
He marched first against the Flemish coast towns, displaying 
the Papal banner of St. Peter's keys, under which ensign he 
slew several thousand faithful subjects of the Vatican. He 
took possession of Gravelines, Dunkirk, Nieuport, Furnes, and 
all the coast as far as Sluys. He then turned inland, and, 
with the help of the men of Ghent, laid siege to Ypres, the 
key of South Flanders. Here his career of victory was 
checked by the appearance of the French army, hastening to 
the relief of the Earl. In the face of any serious opposition, 
Spencer could not long conceal his inability to fill the post 
to which he had been chosen with such acclamation. Though 

' Rot Pari., iii. 144-6 ; Higden, ix. 17-8 ; Wals., ii. 84 ; Cont. Eulog., 356. 
2 Bot. Pari., iii. 145-6 ; Froissart, ii. chaps. 194-6. 

272 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

capable of leading a handful of soldiers against hordes of 
half-armed peasantry of whom everyone else was foolishly 
afraid, he was quite unable to direct one great army against 
another. He was outmanoeuvred and driven back to the coast, 
where he lost town after town almost without a struggle. He 
returned home, leaving a part of his army under a few officers 
to defend Bourbourg, the only relic of his conquests. It 
was soon afterwards surrendered, and our last foothold in 
Flanders was gone. 

The Bishop had a heavy reckoning to pay to Parliament 
that autumn. The Commons had been deceived in him, and, 
as usually happens in such cases, considered that they had 
been deceived by him. The Lords were able to boast that 
they had foreseen the event, and joined heartily in the con- 
genial task of crushing their enemy. He was impeached by 
the Commons for misconduct of the war, found guilty by the 
Lords and condemned to lose the temporalities of his see.^ 
Under this ignominious eclipse, his figure disappears from 
English history, and the Mediaeval Church militant along 
with him. No sham crusade was ever again organised in our 

The result of this last campaign was to bring the inter- 
ference of England in Flanders to an end, and to set us within 
measurable distance of peace with France. Long years had 
been ineffectually wasted in fitful attempts to get better terms 
than those which should have been accepted as inevitable in 
'76. The result of the crusade at last opened the eyes of 
all to the real situation. Men began to desire peace,^ but 
even now were unwilling to confess that they had been beaten. 
It was still considered beneath the dignity of England to 
acknowledge facts. The Commons recommended peace, but 
added a hope that the King would not accept the terms 
offered by the French.^ All that any government dared do 
was to make and prolong truces. The first of these, made in 
January 1384, lasted more than a year. Then there was 
again, for a short while, a fitful warfare, almost entirely 
confined, however, to the struggle for supremacy in Spain. 

' Bot. Pari, iii. 152-8. ^ Wals., ii. 110, 117, last line, ' inutilis.' 

=> Bot. Pari, iii. 170. 


In 1389 a second truce was made, and this was prolonged till 
the accession of Henry the Fifth opened the second period of 
the Hundred Years' War. England thus obtained an oppor- 
tunity, in the latter part of Eichard the Second's reign, 
to recover from her terrible exhaustion and anarchy. She 
recovered from the exhaustion, but the anarchy continued. 
The sieeds of evil, which the long war had sown, were never 
eradicated till the time of the Tudors. 

Ghent, deserted by England in January '84, made terms 
at the end of the next year. The city secured the status quo 
ante helium, with all old privileges and liberties, but accepted 
again the suzerainty of the Earl of Flanders. The Duke of 
Burgundy had now succeeded to that title. On this basis of 
mutual recognition of rights, Flanders and its lord prospered 
for the next hundred years, gradually effaced the traces of the 
havoc wrought by their quarrel, and built up the power of the 
House of Burgundy, which, under Charles the Bold, for a 
while overshadowed all Europe, defied France and Germany 
together, and perished at the hands of the Swiss on the field 
of Nancy. 

While the war was passing through its latter stages, an 
important change took place in home politics. Eichard the 
Second, by assuming to himself the direction of the govern- 
ment, drove into opposition all who had during his minority 
grown accustomed to share in the control of the nation. Lords 
and Commons alike. The policy, ability, and character 
of Eichard the Second are no fixed and certain quantities. j/" 
During the twenty years of his public career, he displays 
alternately strength and weakness, self-sufficiency and de- 
pendence, vindictiveness and clemency; now he quells all 
men by his kingly bearing, now he exhibits that lethargic 
melancholy into which Shakespeare has correctly pictured him 
declining when his subjects went over to Bolingbroke. His 
policy was, in his later years at least, subject to sudden muta- 
tions. But between 1382 and 1386 it is on the whole uniform, 
although his character and ability seem to vary on different 
occasions. His object in these early years was to be rid of 


274 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

all tutors selected for him by his uncles or by either House of 
Parliament, and to rule according to his own will, by the 
advice and agency of those whom he chose as his ministers. 
His principal choice does credit to his judgment. Michael de 
la Pole was a Yorkshireman, who had many years before risen 
from the ranks of the gentry to those of the peerage, by his 
services to Edward the Third in the French wars. He was well 
over fifty years of age when, leaving the party of the Duke of 
Lancaster to which he had been attached, he became Eichard's 
confidant. He was as much the superior of Piers Gaveston 
as his young master was the superior of Edward the Second. 
Of Eobert Vere, Earl of Oxford, little is certain either for 
good or bad. In choosing him for a favourite, Eichard did 
not raise him from obscurity, for his ancestors had been 
Earls of Oxford since the reign of Stephen ; it is perhaps a 
presumption against his wisdom as a counsellor that he was 
under twenty-five years of age. It is equally difficult to esti- 
mate the character of Tressilian, who as Chief Justice became 
Eichard's instrument, and of Brembre, who headed the King's 
friends among the citizens of London. But besides these 
distinguished and perhaps honourable recipients of the royal 
favour, there appear to have been a number of more insigni- 
ficant and needy gentlemen attached to the Court, favourites 
in the worst sense of the word, who, after making what they 
could out of a generous and foolish master, finally brought 
him to ruin.^ There were many in England who would have 
welcomed a revival of absolutism if it had meant good govern- 
ment in the interest of the middle classes. In favour of such 
an administration, the House of Commons itself would have 
foregone its right of interference. But the King, even while 
he was still in the process of attaining power, showed that 
he cared for royal privilege more than for the interests of 
the nation. A spendthrift Court, fed on the national money, 
characterised the reign of Eichard no less than of Charles the 
Second. This waste was from the outset a cause of quarrel 
between the Crown and the Commons.^ 

The affair began ominously in July 1382. The Chancellor 
appointed by the last Parliament was Lord Scrope, a man of 

' See Ap. ^ See Ap. 


such ability and integrity that, although a friend to John of 
Gaunt, he had obtained the confidence of the whole nation. 
He now did his duty by protesting against the lavish grants 
that the King was making to his courtiers. It was the 
old question, whether Crown land might be alienated, or 
whether it should be regarded as sacred to the public service. 
The young courtiers who surrounded Eichard eagerly per- 
suaded him that the Crown property was his property, that so 
it might the sooner become theirs. When the Chancellor 
expostulated, they induced the King to get rid of his best 
servant. Scrope's sudden dismissal, for such a reason as 
this, spread alarm and sorrow throughout the country.^ 
Eichard, at the age of sixteen, had himself overthrown the 
settlement of the kingdom made by Parliament, and had done 
so in order to plunge more freely into a policy of extravagant 
expenditure on his household. 

The King took no part in the quarrel waged, in the follow- 
ing February, between Lords and Commons as to the desti- 
nation and command of the crusade. Possibly this dispute 
alone prevented the two Houses from acting in concert to 
protest against the removal of Scrope. As it was, the 
Commons presented a petition praying the King that the 
principal officers of State should not in future be removed 
without due cause. So little heed did the King pay to this 
request, that on the very day on which Parliament was dis- 
solved, he took the Great Seal from Bishop Braybrook, 
Scrope's successor, in order to give it to Michael de la Pole.^ 
The new Chancellor was sufficiently experienced in public 
affairs to know that his position was perilous, that it was 
opposed to the spirit of constitutional government which 
had grown up during Eichard's tutelage, and that he must 
be ready to encounter storms. At the next Parliament, in 
October 1383, he attempted to disarm criticism by an apology 
for appearing in the office of Chancellor. He knew, he said, 
that he was unworthy, but the King had appointed him and 
he had no choice but to obey.^ Lords and Commons were on 
this occasion acting in unison, but fortunately for Pole their 

» Wals., ii. 68-70 ; Fmd., iv. 150. " Bot. Pari., iii. 147 ; Feed., iv. 162. 
3 Bot. Pari, iii. 149. 

T 2 

276 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

wrath was turned in another direction, against the Bishop of 
Norwich, just returned from his unlucky crusade. Although 
no regular impeachment was yet aimed at the King's favour- 
ites, the peers exchanged angry words with their sovereign. 
They complained that he had thrown over their counsel, 
deprived them of their constitutional position as the heredi- 
tary advisers of the throne, and governed after his own 
headstrong way. Eichard answered with no less heat that he 
intended to save the kingdom from the bad government of the 
nobility.^ The issues had now become clear. The King's 
uncles found that their young charge had escaped from their 
hands and dispensed with their services. The other great 
nobles, except the few who were the King's favourites, found 
their influence at Court similarly declining. A new friend- 
liness grew up between John of Gaunt and many of his old 
opponents. His bitter enemy, the Earl of March, had lately 
died, and the other lords found they had less reason to be 
jealous of him than of his nephew. 

The feelings of both parties broke out at the Parliament 
of April '84, which was held at Salisbury. The Earl of 
Arundel, who had become one of the principal leaders in 
opposition to the King, spoke very plainly before both Houses 
on the bad government of the realm. Eichard, who was 
presiding from his throne over the opening of the Parliament, 
leapt to his feet, white with anger, and shouted at the Earl : 
' If you impute bad government to me, you lie in your throat ; 
go to the Devil ! ' John of Gaunt rose to intervene, and 
explain away Arundel's words, but the scene was not one 
which could be forgotten.^ Shortly afterwards, while the 
Court was still at Salisbury, a friar came to the King secretly, 
to reveal a plot formed against his life and throne by his 
uncle of Lancaster. Eichard was inclined to believe it, and 
would even, it was said, have put the Duke to death without 
further inquiry, had not the other great nobles prevented 
him. He accepted their advice, but as soon as they had left 
his presence, burst into hysterical fury, threw his cap and 
slippers out of the window, and flung himself about the room 
like a madman. Meanwhile the friar had been arrested by 

1 Higden, ix. 26. ' Ibid. ix. 33. 

Apeil 1384 A FOUL DEED 277 

the King's sergeants, who had orders to take him to prison in 
Salisbury Castle. But before they had left the doors of the 
palace, a party of knights, headed by Sir John Holland, 
took over the charge of the prisoner, led him on to the castle, 
and carried him down into one of its ancient dungeons. 
There the miserable man was tortured with all the ingenuity 
of human wickedness. Such a scene would have passed with 
little comment in the days of Front de Boeuf, but it shocked 
the contemporaries of Chaucer. It was said that no servant 
or page would set his hands to the work, and that the foul 
deed was done by the gentlemen themselves, one of whom 
was of royal blood. Although the victim was at last handed 
over to the governor of the castle, who treated what was left 
of him with humanity, he died within a few hours. When 
word was brought to Eichard, he sobbed for vexation and 
pity. Though in the heat of anger he could order deeds of 
blood, such diabolical and calculating cruelty as this was 
revolting to his nature. Besides, the death of the friar 
deprived him of all chance of discovering his uncle's plot. 
The horrible fate that awaited any man who should accuse 
John of Gaunt of treason, so appalled the other witness in the 
case that he was glad to deny all knowledge of the facts. 
The forcible suppression of the friar's evidence would perhaps 
be some reason for suspecting that his story was true ; but the 
remarkable circumstance is that those who tortured him to 
death were not enemies of the King or friends of the Duke. 
The chief of them was Eichard's half-brother, Holland. One 
of the chronicles even states that Holland took charge of the 
prisoner by royal command, although none accuse Eichard of 
knowing that he would be tortured. It cannot therefore be 
said with certainty that John of Gaunt and the nobles opposed 
to the Crown sent the knights to make away with the friar. 
The whole incident must remain an inscrutable mystery.^ 

The King openly showed that he still suspected the 
Duke's guilt. This led to another scene. His second uncle, 
Thomas Woodstock, Earl of Buckingham, burst into his 
presence, upbraided him for his suspicions, and threatened 
him in the most violent terms. The bitterness of the quarrel 

* See Ap. 

278 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

between Eichard and his nobles, the uncontrolled passions 
, ybt the whole royal family, were signs that the Commons read 
<•/ with a heavy heart, for it was not hard to see that the ship 
of State was fast drifting towards the breakers. The Lower 
House took no action about the friar. The knights and 
burgesses feared to come ' between the pass and fell-incensed 
points of mighty opposites.' Their only important step was 
to lodge complaints of the anarchy of the country, the violence 
of great men and the perversion of justice by maintenance. 
The Duke of Lancaster took upon himself to reply in the 
name of the nobility that ' the lords were powerful enough to 
punish their retainers for committing such excesses.' The 
Commons had nothing by this answer. If the nobility were 
powerful enough to keep their men in order, why did they 
not do so ? Being unable to get support from the King or 
satisfaction from the lords, the knights held their peace. 
When this most unsatisfactory of Parliaments came to an 
end, all parties left Salisbury with feelings of mutual suspicion 
and hatred.^ 

The next trial of strength between the King and his uncle 
took place in August, when John of Northampton, late Mayor 
of London, was brought to justice before the King at Beading. 
In order to understand this event it is necessary to go 
back a little in the history of the great city. Ever since the 
Peasants' Bevolt, London had been the battle-ground of rival 
factions, among whom the King and the Duke each had 
supporters. Bichard's friends were found among the great 
merchants of the victualling trades, especially among the 
fishmongers and the grocers. The latter body, founded in 
1345 by a union of the spicers and pepperers, had not been 
long in arousing by their success the jealousy of their fellow- 
citizens. One year sixteen of the twenty-five aldermen were 
grocers.^ The fishmongers were a scarcely less powerful body. 
Their chief was "Walworth, and the chief of the grocers was 
Nicholas Brembre. These two men, ever since the occupation 
of London by the rebels, had been the friends of Bichard, 
whose throne and life they had done so much to preserve 

I Wals., ii. 114-5 ; Higden, ix. 40-1 ; Rot. Pari, iii. 166 et seg. 
^ Cunningham, 341. 


during those three perilous days. It may well be that the 
common fear of death, when they rode side by side through 
the fierce crowds that lined the streets, the plans for common 
safety that they formed in the Tower while the mob outside 
shouted for blood, had bound Eichard to Walworth and 
Brembre by closer ties than those of political interest. The 
leaders of the victualling trades were essentially King's men. 

Their greatest rivals were the clothing trades, and the 
head of these was John of Northampton, draper. In Novem- 
ber 1381, this man was elected Mayor in the room of 
Walworth. As his enemies relied on the King, so he relied 
on the Duke. Yet, unpopular as his patron was in London, 
Northampton himself played chiefly for popular support. He 
had not long held office before he began a policy of aggression 
directed against the victualling interest. As the Fishmongers' 
Guild used their privileges to raise the price of fish in the 
city to an exorbitant figure, the new Mayor issued ordinances 
calculated to put a stop to such dealings. The price of fish 
went down, and there was general rejoicing. When the Mayor 
passed through the streets, he was received with signs of 
popular good-will. But if he had ventured to show his face 
in Billingsgate, he would have been greeted in suitable 
language, for he had ruined the fishmongers.^ Following up 
this blow, he passed a decree forbidding victuallers of all 
sorts to hold office in the city. By this means his chief 
opponents were excluded from all share in the government, 
and the great trades they represented were practically dis- 
franchised. Not contented with this, the Mayor and his 
friends attacked John Philpot, a friend of Walworth and 
of the King. In spite of his great services to the city and 
realm, his munificence in fitting out fleets for the defence of 
English trade, and his long-established position, he was 
forced to resign the office of alderman. Having turned all 
his enemies ofl' the governing body, John of Northampton 
governed London through a clique drawn chiefly from the 
clothing trades.^ 

Though his rule was an oligarchy, his sympathies were 

» C. B. E., 507, Eex. 39 (trial of Northampton) ; Wals., ii. 65-6. 
2 C. B. B., 507, Eex. 39 ; Wals. ii. 71. 

280 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

democratic. The two aldermen, Carlyll and Sybyle, who 
had admitted the rebels into London by the drawbridge 
in June 1381, were now brought up for trial, but through 
the favour of the Mayor and his circle escaped the halter 
that they so richly deserved. Probably their acquittal was 
designed to please the mob.^ But a still more remarkable 
bid for popular favour was made by the rulers of the city. 
The sympathy with Wycliffe and the dislike of the clergy, 
which were strong in London, broke out in a somewhat 
absurd and even odious form. Jurisdiction in matters of 
sexual morality belonged, as we have already seen, to the 
Ecclesiastical Courts. The Church was in an anomalous and 
hypocritical position, for while it was her duty to punish all 
cases of immorality, in practice she left them alone or did 
worse, by exacting money instead of penance. On the in- 
decent hypocrisy of the ' Summoner ' and his master, Wycliffe 
poured out the vials of his wrath, and Chaucer of his scorn. 
In London the position was rendered still more ludicrous by 
the fact that the ' stews ' of Southwark belonged in part to 
the Bishop of Winchester, Wykeham drew a handsome rent 
from these ill-famed lodging-houses. The rest belonged to 
Walworth.^ One day a dense mob, headed by the Mayor 
himself, marched across London Bridge, raided the stews 
and pilloried a number of the unhappy occupants. As an 
act of justice it was little to be praised, and it was per- 
formed in no serious spirit. The real motive, as churchmen 
complained, was to protest against ecclesiastical jurisdiction 
by an open usurpation of the Bishop's privileges.^ Perhaps 
the Mayor was also aiming a blow at Walworth by exposing 
his discreditable property. 

In the autumn of '82, John of Northampton was once 
more elected, and for another year London endured his 
extraordinary rule. He aroused ever-increasing hostility 
among the victualling trades by attempting to reduce the 
prices of all, as he had reduced those of the fishmongers.^ 
Nevertheless he would have been returned again in November 

' C. R. B., 507, Eex. 39, top of second side of MS. 

^ History of Kent, Hundred of Blackheath, p. 263, note. 

= Wals., ii. 65, * Higden, ix, 29. 


'83 as the champion of cheap food, if the King had not 
carried the election of Brembre by force. Many of the late 
Mayor's supporters were slain, imprisoned, or forced to fly 
the city.^ The grocer, thus installed by royal interference, 
reversed his predecessor's policy, and restored all privileges 
to the injured trades. The ex-Mayor soon gave his enemies 
a handle against him. His friends complained of the violence 
by which the elections had been carried, demanded a writ for 
a new poll, and entered into negotiations with John of Gaunt.^ 
Eiotous meetings against the existing government of the city 
took place in many quarters of London. John of Northamp- 
ton was arrested when returning from one of these demonstra- 
tions at Whitefriars.^ Both Mayors had been guilty of ques- 
tionable proceedings, but the party in power had always the 
law at its service. The King determined to get rid of the Duke's 
partisan. He was still brooding over the suspicion, which the 
friar had poured into his ear at Salisbury, that his uncle 
was plotting with ' certain citizens of London ' against his 
life.^ John of Northampton was tried at Beading before a 
Council of Lords, over which Eichard presided. As the Duke 
of Lancaster was absent in the North, the prisoner imprudently 
demanded the postponement of his sentence till his patron 
should return to take part in the proceedings. The King's 
face changed with passion. ' I will teach you,' he cried, 
' that I am your judge, whether my uncle is absent or not.' 
In the heat of his anger he ordered the man to be carried off 
to execution, but when his fit of passion was over he revoked 
the sentence. After a brief imprisonment, the condemned man 
was brought up for a fresh trial before Chief Justice Tressilian 
in the Tower of London. Tressilian, fearing future reprisals, 
attempted to avoid trying the case, on the ground that it was 
within the jurisdiction of the city. But as the King insisted 
that he should proceed, he was forced to sentence the ex- 
Mayor and his two principal supporters. They were imprisoned 
in different castles. The leader himself was carried off to 

1 Rot. Pari, iii. 225 ; Higden, ix. 30. 

=2 C. R. R., 507, Kex. 39 (second side). 

=• C. R. R., 507, Eex. 39 ; Higden, ix. 30 ; Wals., ii. 110-11. 

* Mon. Eve., 50, 

282 GENEEAL EISTOEY 1381-85 

Tintagel, to listen on its lonely rock to the booming tides and 
screaming gulls, and to pine for the green banks of Thames.^ 

It was a triumph for the King and a further insult to the 
Duke, who, it was clear, could no longer maintain the quarrel 
of his partisans, as he had once done when Wycliffe was 
brought before the Bishops. The next election for the 
mayoralty came on in the autumn, and Brembre stood again. 
He was opposed by Twyford, and would probably have been 
beaten had he not again resorted to force. He hid armed 
men behind the arras in the Guildhall. The other party 
came up in full confidence of victory, shouting ' Twyford, 
Twyford ! ' but as soon as the voting began the soldiers 
rushed out and drove them from the chamber. Brembre's 
followers remained and carried the election. As the King 
supported this act of violence with his sanction,^ Brembre 
continued in office and was re-elected every year until the 
nobles overthrew Eichard's power and punished his favourites. 
The revolution in the State was the signal for a similar 
revolution in the city. John of Northampton was released 
from Tintagel and restored to his property, while Brembre 
was brought before the bar of the Lords, and, after a trial by 
prejudiced and inflamed judges, condemned to death and exe- 
cuted (Feb. 1388). The crafts of London who petitioned for 
his punishment were the mercers, cordwainers, and eight 
other guilds who were of the faction opposed to the victualling 
trades.^ This close connection between the struggle of crafts 
within the city and the struggle of political powers without, 
is worthy of remark. Each of the parties in the State had 
its own friends in London, who were raised to the govern- 
ment of the city when the party itself obtained predominance. 
Neither side was hostile to London as a whole ; neither King 
nor Lords wished to reduce its privileges. The attack on its 
municipal rights, made by John of Gaunt in 1377, was a 
folly peculiar to that arrogant politician, which even he had 
learned to regret. 

After Northampton's trial, nothing of any importance 

' Higden, ix. 45-9 ; Wals., ii. 116. 

2 Eot. Pari, iii. 225 ; Higden, ix. 50-1. 

^ Bot. Pari., iii. 225-7 ; Higden, ix. 93 and 166-9. 


occurred in 1384. In the following February the King's 
hatred of his uncle took a most ominous form. The Duke 
had lately adopted an insolent tone at the Council Board. 
He had advised an expedition into France ; but the King's 
confidants had insisted on an invasion of Scotland. Irritated 
at this proof of his declining power, he declared that he would 
in no way assist the campaign. The King and his favourite 
lords, of whom the Earl of Oxford was the chief, conspired to 
strike a blow at the powerful man who thus defied them. 
The details of the plot are narrated so differently by diffe- 
rent chroniclers, that it is impossible to say whether Eichard 
intended to have his uncle condemned by Tressilian for high 
treason, or put to death without the formality of a trial. 
These contradictory reports as to the exact nature of the 
scheme are due to the fact that it was never executed. The 
Duke, forewarned, took measures for his own safety, and 
refused to appear before the King without armed attendants. 
At length some sort of reconciliation was effected by the 

By this time Eichard's high-handed actions were causing i^ 
widespread alarm. He had surrounded himself with a small 
circle of friends, and no one else was interested in his success. 
Proceedings like these against the greatest nobles of the 
land would soon drag the country into civil war. Such was 
the remonstrance that Archbishop Courtenay addressed to 
Eichard, after his plot against the Duke. The protest was 
the more weighty because it came from one who for both 
public and private reasons had long been John of Gaunt's 
enemy. After a stormy interview with the Primate, the King 
dined with Brembre, and then went out in his barge to take 
the air on the Thames. Between Westminster and Lambeth 
they met the Archbishop in a boat with the Earl of Bucking- 
ham. A conference took place on the water, in which 
Courtenay repeated all he had said before dinner. The King 
drew his sword and would have struck him, had not he been 
restrained by Buckingham. His vindictive passion was fully 
aroused. He wished to deprive the Primate of his temporali- 
ties, but Michael de la Pole had the good sense to prevent 

' Wals., ii. 126 ; Mon. Eve., 57 ; Higden, ix. 55-8. 

284 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

such insanity.^ Courtenay became a firm adherent of the 

In July Eichard put himself at the head of his first 
military expedition, and marched to invade Scotland. As the 
result of an invasion of France might prove disastrous and 
humiliating, a military promenade across the Border was 
considered the best way to initiate the King in warfare. On 
such an occasion all men of note accompanied the army, and 
vied with each other in the splendour of their suites and 
the efficiency of their soldiers. Even the Duke of Lancaster, 
notwithstanding his threat of abstention, was with the van- 
guard in person. At the beginning of August the main body 
had reached Beverley in South Yorkshire, where they lay 
encamped for some days. Here a quarrel arose between the 
retainers of Sir John Holland, the King's half-brother, and 
of Sir Ealph Stafford, son and heir of the Earl of Stafford. 
Sir Ealph's man had slain the other, in self-defence as he 
averred. There was no chance that real justice would be done 
in such a case. It became, as a matter of course, a personal 
quarrel between their two masters. The question was only 
which nobleman had most power and most insolence. Sir 
Ealph Stafford, having told his man to run away until he had 
made good the case, rode out to find and appease Sir John 
Holland. Meanwhile Sir John, in a towering passion, was 
riding about the camp like a madman. The two happened to 
meet in a narrow lane after nightfall. ' Your servants have 
murdered my favourite squire,' cried Sir John, and without 
more words he drew his sword and struck Stafford dead from 
his horse. It was a wicked and unprovoked murder, but Sir 
John took it very lightly. ' I had rather have killed him than 
one of less rank,' he said, ' for I have the better revenged the 
loss of my squire.' He supposed that his close relationship 
to the King would prevent all trouble. Indeed, if the slain 
had been a common man, little more would have been heard 
about it. But Sir Ealph's father, being an Earl, went straight 
to the King and threatened to revenge himself, at whatever 
cost to the kingdom, unless he got justice. Eichard was 

' Higden, ix. 58-9 ; Mon. Eve., 57-8 ; Wals., ii. 128. 

Aug. 1385 ' THE HONOUE OF THE AEMY ' 285 

forced temporarily to banish Sir John, and to confiscate his 
goods.^ The incident, like the torture of the friar in the year 
before, shows the uncivilised manners of the Court, the violent 
passions which the young men of the time affected, and the 
total abeyance of ordinary law in cases where great men had 
interest. All these evils were directly connected with the 
practice of keeping retainers. The military spirit which is 
still so disastrous to the nations of the Continent, at that time 
existed among the English nobles in the worst possible form. 
It was not even the national army whose * honour ' each 
wished to defend at the expense of justice, but the ' honour ' 
of the little army attached to his own household and wearing 
his own badge. It was difficult for a man of position to avoid 
having such a force, for on it his social and political status 
depended. If the Earl of Stafford had not had retainers, he 
would not have been able to use high language to the King, 
and his son's death would have gone unrevenged. 

Saddened by this tragedy, the army moved on towards 
Scotland. They crossed the Border at Berwick and began 
to ravage the country. The Scotch were aided by a few 
hundred French men-at-arms under some officers of experience, 
but it would have been madness to give battle to the whole 
force of England, which had on this occasion been brought 
against them. The English advanced up the Tweed valley, 
destroying as they went, until they came to the famous Abbey 
of Melrose. The ' halidome,' as its estates were called, had 
hitherto been spared by the moss-troopers who rode the 
Border districts. But the royal army signalised the impor- 
tance of the occasion by reducing the abbey to a ruin. Turn- 
ing North, they arrived, in a few days, at Edinburgh, which 
they destroyed, as they had destroyed everything on the road. 
The castle alone held out. Meanwhile the Scotch army, 
unable to hinder the progress of this overwhelming force, had 
made a bold dash for England. There are two routes between 
the kingdoms, roughly corresponding to the modern railway 
lines by Berwick and Carlisle respectively. One is the plain 
between the east end of the Cheviots and the sea, a flat and 
fertile country, by which the great English army had marched. 

» Proiss., iii. chap. 13 ; Wals., ii. 129-30. 

286 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

The other lies over the western spurs of the Cheviots, the vast 
land of bleak and pathless moors over which Bertram was 
walking when he fell in with Dandie Dinmont. It was by this 
route that the small and handy Scotch force dashed down. 
They ravaged Cumberland and Westmoreland, and laid siege 
to Carlisle. When the news was brought to the English near 
Edinburgh, the question arose whether they should pursue. 
The Duke of Lancaster and most of the army wished to follow 
the Scotch, to cut off their retreat, and to overwhelm them by 
superior numbers. After this plan had been accepted in 
Council, Michael de la Pole had a private interview with his 
master, in which he exposed the dangers of the undertak- 
ing. The long dry days had gone by, and in the autumnal 
mists so great an army would perish for want of food and 
shelter in the bogs and wastes of Bewcastle. The Scotch 
had passed that way because they were few, and could move 
without more baggage than a sack of oatmeal at the saddle- 
bow, but it would be necessary for Eichard to return, as he 
•came, by the east coast, obtaining provisions by road and sea. 
The King was convinced. The next day, as the army was 
about to break up and march for Carlisle, he jauntily told the 
Duke that he had changed his plan, and would return by 
Berwick. Hot words again passed between them. Eichard 
remarked that his uncle invariably lost the forces entrusted 
to his care, and that if this army crossed the moors, it would 
perish as John of Gaunt's army had perished when crossing 
France in '73. He even hinted that some design against his 
royal person underlay the dangerous advice to follow the 
enemy. The army returned to England by the beaten track, 
inglorious and discontented.'^ 

The Scotch wars of this period have little influence on 
English history, far less than the French wars. The reason 
is simple. Between the fertile and civilised part of England 
and the march of Scotland, lay the hundred miles of barren 
and thinly peopled country constituting the Border shires. 
This country, Scotch invasion incessantly harried, keeping it 
barbarous, but never reaching Lincolnshire or Cheshire. The 
Scotch themselves were less fortunate. Their barren high- 

1 SeeAp. 


lands lay far away, but the centre of their civilisation was 
exposed to every attack. From the top of the Cheviot ridge 
the moss-troopers could descry three of the richest shires of 
Scotland stretched below them a helpless prey, while south- 
ward they could see nothing but desolate moors. The fertile 
Lothians and the Tweed valley could be raided by Percy, but 
the English midlands could not be touched by Douglas. It 
was but seldom that an army from Southern counties invaded 
Scotland ; for Percy, as we have seen, did his best to keep 
Border affairs in his own hands. England was, therefore, less 
affected by Scotland than by France or Flanders. The reader 
of Chaucer's ' Canterbury Tales ' may remark the number of 
references to Ghent, Brittany, and the continental countries. 
He will scarcely find a single mention of Scotland or of 
Ireland. This would not be the case in a collection of stories 
of the Tudor or the Stuart times. How little the ordinary 
Englishman of this age knew of the sister-kingdom, is shown 
by passages in which the chroniclers gravely inform us that 
the name of the Scotch capital is Edinburgh.^ 

When the army had returned in the late autumn, Parlia- 
ment was at once held. The nation was angry, and the Com- 
mons this time spoke out. They granted money for the 
defence of the kingdom, but they granted it for particular 
purposes only, and appointed special ' Treasurers of War ' to 
see that these conditions were kept. They sent up two peti- 
tions to the King ; ®ne praying that his household accounts 
should be overhaviled once a year by the principal officers 
of the realm, the other that he would announce who were 
to be his ministers for the ensuing year. Both requests 
were modest. They by no means amounted to a settlement 
of the government, such as previous Parliaments had made. 
The Commons recognised that the King was no longer a boy, 
and that he would choose his own servants. They desired 
only to make these servants responsible. But Eichard, 
instead of meeting the Commons half way, refused their 
requests in terms of insult. As to the affairs of his house- 
hold, he would do as he pleased. As to the names of his 
ministers, there were good and sufficient men in office at present, 

* Moil. Eve., 62 ; Higden, ix. 64. 

288 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

and he would change them whenever he wished.^ These 
answers marked the isolated position which the King and his 
friends had chosen. Not only would they defy the lords, but 
they would treat the Commons with contempt. The knights 
of the shires had only one course open to them. If they were 
to recover the right of criticising the government, and the 
share in appointing councils which they had lately enjoyed, 
they must unite with the nobles to reduce the pretensions of 
the Crown. This union was maintained until its final triumph 
over Eichard in the last year of the century, when a con- 
stitutional government by King, Lords and Commons was 
established as the basis of the Lancastrian settlement. We 
have no intention of relating the events of that struggle and 
of that revolution, for they form a separate chapter of Eng- 
lish history, beginning with the revolt of Parliament against 
Eichard in 1386, and ending with his resignation in 1399. 
We have traced the course of politics from the time of the 
Good Parliament up to the end of the year 1385. We have 
cleared the stage and said the prologue for the ' Tragedy 
of King Eichard the Second.' 

There is more than one reason why a break in political 
history can be made here with advantage. We have traced 
the career of John of Gaunt practically to its close. In the 
spring of 1386 he sailed for the Peninsula with an armament 
great enough to prolong the war there against the King of 
Castile and his French allies, but quite insufficient to conquer 
Spain. While he warred beyond the seas, the revolt of the 
country against Eichard began under better auspices than his. 
The cause was taken up by his brother Buckingham, now made 
Duke of Gloucester, and his son, Henry Bolingbroke ; but he 
himself, even when he returned to England in 1389, took no 
contentious part in affairs. It was left to his wiser and more 
popular son to carry through the ambitious designs which he 
had formed for the aggrandisement of the House of Lan- 
caster. He must have turned in his grave for joy when 
Henry was proclaimed King of England in place of Eichard 
the Second, but he himself, in spite of his great power and 
position, had been uniformly unsuccessful. He had failed in 

' Rot Pari., iii. 204, 213, sees. 32, 38, 


his attack on the endowments of the Church, in his attack on 
the privileges of London, in his design on the throne of Spain, 
in his design on the throne of England, even in his attempt 
to govern the country through his nephew. His military 
undertakings had been a series of disasters. Eeviewing the 
causes of his failure, it must be said that he failed because he 
was unwise and headstrong. Some of his ends, such as the 
attempt to conquer Spain and to crush the liberties of London, 
were impossible from the first, while the means by which he 
attempted to carry out his more practicable designs were ill 
chosen. He never learnt the necessity of conciliation nor could 
he calculate justly the relative value of political forces. 

As to principle, no one ever connected the word with 
John of Gaunt. He was but a type of the ambitious and 
selfish noble of the period, armed and tempted to wrongdoing 
by the retainers at his back. That the Commons were 
driven by Eichard's folly to ally themselves with such forces 
against the Crown, was a great disaster. The members of 
the Lower House would have done much to avoid such a 
union, as their action in several parliaments had shown. 
It is possible that they would even have been ready to 
sacrifice their constitutional position to the royal claims, if 
Eichard's despotism had been paternal. But, instead of 
establishing trustworthy officers to restore order, to keep 
down the retainers, and to enforce justice, he surrounded 
himself more and more as the years went on with retainers 
of his own, who trampled on the rights of the citizen and 
considered themselves above the law because they wore the 
King's livery. Langland saw nothing to choose between the 
retainers of the nobles and Eichard's own men, who were 
distinguished by the badge of the white ' hart.' The King's 

swarmed so thick 
Thronghotit his land in length and in breadth, 
That who so had walked through woods and towns, 
Or passed the paths where the Prince dwelt, 
Of ' harts ' or ' hinds ' on henchmen's breasts, 
Or some lord's livery that was against the law. 
He should have met more than enough. 
For they cumbered the country and many a curse earned, 


290 GENEEAL HISTOEY 1381-85 

And carped at the Commons with the King's mouth 
Or with the Lords'. . . . 

They plucked the plumage from the skins of the poor, 
And showed their badges that men should dread 
To ask any amends for their misdeeds.^ 

These mournful words sum up the failure of politicians 
to find a remedy for the most deep-rooted disease of society. 
One gain only had been made. During the dotage of 
Edward and the boyhood of Eichard, the Commons had 
asserted their right to interfere in the government, and had 
taken on to their own shoulders business of a purely political 
nature which had formerly been left to the King and the 
Lords. The balance of power established under the Lan- 
castrian constitution of the next century, itself the root of 
the Hanoverian constitution, would have been impossible 
but for the action of the House of Commons in the sad years 
whose history we have related. 

' Richard Redeless, passiis, ii. lines 20-34. 




It is pleasant to turn from dreary annals of political contest 
to a thing more vital, the rise among the English of an 
indigenous Protestantism. We have already sketched the 
state of the Church and of religion in England, and the doc- 
trines which Wycliffe promulgated as a protest against what 
he found. We have given some account of the reception 
awarded to him personally, especially in the political world. 
But we have had little opportunity to notice the effect of his 
doctrinal heresies, or to calculate the degree to which he 
actually changed the religious beliefs of the country. We 
have little or no knowledge of his followers before 1382, the 
year in which persecution began. With persecution begins 
our knowledge of the persecuted. It is possible to collect a 
considerable number of facts about the Lollards of Eichard 
the Second's reign, to trace the methods and the area of 
their labours, and to estimate the degree to which the doc- 
trines of the early Wycliifites differed from those of their 
master. This story is not, like the Peasants' Eising, of 
great dramatic interest ; for in this first generation Lollardry, 
though fertile in missionaries, was unproductive of martyrs. 
But in historical importance it stands first, for it had more 
lasting effects than the rebellion, which only emphasised, 
without materially hastening, a process already at work in 

Although Wycliffe' s famous heresy respecting the Eucha- 
rist had been promulgated in 1380, if not before, and 
although preachers of his school, if not actually with his 

D 2 


commission, had been for some time perambulating the 
country, no action was taken against his followers in the 
year 1381. It was thought, indeed, by orthodox clergy that 
the Archbishop ought to institute proceedings against those 
who publicly impugned the doctrine of Transubstantiation ; 
but Sudbury, to whom vigorous action of any sort was dis- 
tasteful, and persecution abhorrent, had neglected or refused 
to move in the matter. By the next generation, which saw 
the spread of Lollardry, he was bitterly blamed for not 
seizing the occasion to nip heresy in the bud. Even his 
death at the hands of the Kentish rebels had not atoned for 
this gentle fault.^ His successor Courtenay was a man cast 
in a very different mould. The new Primate had, as Bishop 
of London, taken the principal part in Wycliffe's trial at St. 
Paul's, and had again and again forced Sudbury to throw 
off his lethargy and stand up for the rights of the Church. 
He was a born persecutor, and he came into office at a time 
favourable to his genius. The Parliament, which sat from 
November '81 to the following February, had been too busy 
with the work of pacificating the country to listen to him ; 
but when the next assembled in May he appealed to it for 
help. The season was opportune, for the Peasants' Eevolt 
had frightened the ruling classes out of all designs against 
ecclesiastical property, and the blood of Sudbury the Primate- 
Chancellor had sealed a Holy Alliance between Church and 
State, between the King and the Lords on the one hand and the 
Bishops on the other. John of Gaunt's policy of aggression 
towards clerical wealth and privilege, though mildly supported 
by Court and nobility, had been moribund ever since the 
Parliament of Gloucester in 1378. The Peasants' Eevolt 
killed it altogether. The design of confiscation was some- 
times taken up by the House of Commons, but King and 
Lords henceforth befriended the Church until the age of the 
Tudors. Courtenay was able to rely on the secular arm in 
his attack on heresy. The power of the Crown, which had 
successfully defended Wycliffe on two former occasions, now 
lent its aid to crush his followers. 

Although this change of policy was largely due to the 

» Wals., ii. 11-2. 


Peasants' Eising, it would be a mistake to suppose that the 
persecution of 1382 and the following years was not 
essentially religious. It was conducted in the Church Courts, 
the charges were charges of doctrinal heresy, the accused 
were religious missionaries, not agitators such as John Ball, 
and the principal question at issue was the right of the 
heretics to hold their new doctrine of Consubstantiation. 
This heresy of Wycliffe's instantly absorbed public attention 
and became the centre of the controversy. It shocked the 
great supporters who had stood by him when he merely 
attacked Church privilege. John of Gaunt repudiated such 
a wicked and blasphemous conception of the Eucharist in 
language which probably was sincere. This doctrine, com- 
bined with the general suspicion of revolutionary tendencies, 
alienated the nobles and the Court. The LoUardry of the 
eighties, unlike the Wycliffism of the seventies, was not a 
political attack on clerical privilege with a chance of immediate 
success, but a new religion that could be tested only in the 
slow crucible of time. 

In May 1382 Courtenay's campaign began. He summoned 
to the Blackfriars' convent in London a Council of the province 
of Canterbury, before which he brought up Wycliffe's opinions 
for judgment. First in the list of heresies came the doctrine 
of Consubstantiation ; next the propositions that a priest in 
mortal sin could not administer the Sacraments, and that 
Christ did not ordain the ceremonies of the Mass. Two other 
heresies are of equal note : ' that if a man be contrite, all ex- 
terior confession is superfluous or useless,' and * that after 
Urban the Sixth no one ought to be received as Pope, but 
men should live, after the manner of the Greek Church, under 
their own laws.' Wycliffe's views on the temporalities of the 
clergy, and the uselessness of the regular orders, were also 
condemned. Lollardry was for the first time put definitely 
under the ban of the Church, and war was formally declared 
by the Bishops against the itinerant preachers.^ 

The council at Blackfriars was spoken of throughout 
England as a new and important move in the game. A 
curious accident enabled Wycliffe's friends to boast that, 

> Fasc. Z., 277-82. 


though their master had been condemned by the Bishops, the 
Bishops had been condemned by God. It was on May 19 that 
the theses were pronounced to be ' heresies and errors.' About 
two o'clock that afternoon, while the churchmen were sitting 
round the table at the pious work, the house was shaken by 
a terrible earthquake that struck with panic all present except 
the stern and zealous Courtenay. He insisted that his sub- 
ordinates should resume their seats and go on with the 
business, although the shock appears to have been more 
violent than is usual in our country, casting down pinnacles 
and steeples, and shaking stones out of castle walls. It took 
away from this solemn act of censure some at least of the 
effect on which the Bishops had calculated, and Wycliffe did 
not let pass the opportunity to point the moral. Such an 
omen was no light thing in such an age.^ 

Strengthened by this decision of the Church against his 
enemies, Courtenay appealed to the secular power. He had 
learnt by bitter experience four years back that, unless the 
King's arm is stretched against the heretic, the Bishop curses 
but in vain. The prelates had agreed to root out heresy in 
Oxford, but if the University authorities should defy them, 
they had no force of their own sufficient to compel the students 
to obey. They had decided that each Bishop was to arrest 
unlicensed preachers in his own diocese, but such arrests 
would be few and hazardous, unless the sheriff's men supported 
the Summoner. Courtenay's appeal for help was readily 
answered. A short Parliament had sat from May 7 to 22, and 
during the last few days of its session an ordinance was 
framed by King and Lords, after the departure, or at least 
during the absence, of the Commons, j It was ordained that for 
the future, if complaint against some heretic was lodged by the 
Bishops in the Court of Chancery, orders should be sent 
to the King's officers and sheriffs to arrest him on behalf 
of the ecclesiastical authorities.^ | 

Before the prolonged and doubtful contest between the 
Church and the new missionaries began in country districts, 
a sudden and successful blow was struck at the head-quarters 

» Fasc. Z., 272 ; Pol. Poems, i. 251 and 254 ; Higden, ix. 13-4. 
2 Bot. Pari., iii. 124-5. 


of Lollardry. The schools of Oxford, the intellectual centre of 
England, were captured by the orthodox party. 

The great University at this time occupied an independent 
place in English life and thought. It was not, as it became 
in the following century, an instrument used by the Church 
to force her own beliefs on the national intellect. It was not, 
as it became for a while under the Stuarts, a subservient body, 
willing to confirm the decrees of the Crown by its approval, 
and to defend the theory of tyranny in its schools. Oxford 
was at this time an intellectual world by itself, influencing the 
world outside, but jealous of outside interference. If it had 
not that liberty of thought in matters political and religious 
which the Universities enjoy to-day, it possessed more than 
other corporate bodies of the time. Owing half its privileges 
to the Pope and half to the Crown, it was not entirely in the 
hands of either power. Geographically, its site was well chosen 
to secure independence ; it was not, like the University of 
Paris, seated under the very walls of the royal palace ; it was 
far from Canterbury, it was very far from Eome, and there was 
no Bishop of Oxford ; even Lincoln, the see to which it 
appertained, was more than a hundred miles distant. This 
independence was further strengthened by the prestige 
naturally belonging to a University which had admittedly no 
equal save Paris, and had surpassed even Paris in the produc- 
tion of men who gave the law to the learned throughout Europe. 
It is difficult for us to appreciate its singular importance as 
a national institution. The monastic schools where, in the 
days of Becket, the learning of the country had been centred, 
had sunk to be places of merely primary education in so 
far as they were educational at all. The grammar schools 
thickly scattered over the country only undertook to prepare 
boys for the University, so that the higher studies were 
monopolised by Oxford and Cambridge.^ Of these one was 
so far inferior that it would be hard to find before the six- 
teenth century a single Cambridge man of any academical 
fame. Mediaeval Oxford, pre-eminent, proud and free, dared 
to admire and follow Wycliffe, the latest but not the 

' Mr. A. F. Leach's English Schools at the Reformation, 103-8. 


least of the great men whom she had produced. She 
quickened the intellectual life of England by an Oxford 
movement. For this noble treason against obscurantist ideals, 
she was now struck down by a conspiracy of Church and King, 
her noble liberty was taken from her, and till the new age 
came, the history of the schools was ' bound in shallows and 
in miseries.' 

If the University had been united within itself, thisinvasion 
would not have been easy. But it was split into two parties. The 
' seculars,' who regarded themselves as the University proper, 
consisted of secular clergy for the most part, priests like 
Wycliffe, or deacons and clerks in lower orders. These men 
were academicians first and churchmen second. They were as 
jealous of Papal and episcopal interference, as of royal man- 
dates, or of the power and privileges of the town. Their rights 
were protected against all aggression by the countless hosts 
of turbulent undergraduates herding in the squalid lodging- 
houses of the city, who, when occasion called, poured forth to 
threaten the life of the Bishop's messenger, to hoot the King's 
officials, or to bludgeon and stab the mob that maintained the 
Mayor against the Chancellor. The mediaeval student, al- 
though miserably poor and enthusiastically eager for learning, 
was riotous and lawless to a degree that would have shocked 
the silliest and wealthiest set that ever made a modern college 
uncomfortable. The ordinary undergraduate, as well as the 
ordinary townsman, possessed a sword, which he girded on for 
his protection on a journey or for any other special cause, 
so that the riots in the streets of Oxford were affairs of life and 
death, and the feud of ' town and gown ' a blood-feud. Many 
of the students were laymen, but the majority were in training 
to be clerks ; there can be little doubt that the lawless habits 
contracted at the University account in part for the violent and 
scandalous life of the innumerable clergy in lower orders. 
The college system had already arisen to meet this evil, but 
it was not till the fifteenth century that any very large pro- 
portion of the ' secular ' students were brought under college 
discipline. Heresy could more easily spread in the inns and 
lodging-houses where the students then lived, than in colleges 


which could be supervised by orthodox masters and visited by 
inquisitorial Bishops.^ 

Side by side with the ' secular ' University lived the 
* regulars.' The monks and friars had long played an im- 
portant part in Oxford life. Outside the walls stood the 
colleges of Gloucester and Durham, where Benedictine monks 
lived under their own rule and at the same time enjoyed 
the education of the place. Within the city itself, over 
against Oriel, rose Canterbury College, lately converted into a 
house for the education of the monks of Canterbury by the 
ejection of the secular clerks and their warden. But the 
great strength of the Oxford regular clergy lay in the friars. 
They had four convents outside the walls, one belonging to 
each order. In the thirteenth century they had raised the 
fame of the University to the height where it still rested, by 
producing Grossetete, Eoger Bacon and Duns Scotus. But 
though the friars had once been respected, they had never 
been loved by their brother academicians, for they attempted 
to take advantage of the University without conforming to 
its rules. They wished to become masters and doctors in 
theology without studying the prescribed course of ' arts.' 
Being themselves great theologians, they wished to make 
Oxford more theological. The seculars, on the other hand, 
were more secular in spirit as well as in name, and struggled 
to preserve, as an indispensable part of the University course, 
and as the principal factor in University education, those 
mediaeval ' arts ' which, narrow as they might seem to us 
now, were then the only studies by which learning was saved 
from being confined to theology and law. Disputes and 
jealousies had gone on for over a hundred years, and with 
special bitterness since 1300. 

One of the chief causes of quarrel in the time of Wycliffe 
was the assiduity with which the friars proselytised among the 
secular students. Many undergraduates came up to Oxford 
at twelve or fourteen, and were set down moneyless, friend- 
less, without experience and far from home, in the midst of 
that extraordinary pandemonium. The insinuating friar 
kiiew well how to win these poor boys to join the cheerful and 

' SeeAp. 


ordered life of the Franciscan or Dominican convent outside 
the city walls. Once he had taken the vows, the novice was 
caught, and a temporary convenience became a life-long bond. 
The seculars regarded this practice as poaching, the more so 
as it brought Oxford into such discredit with parents who did 
not wish their sons to become friars, that the number of under- 
graduates was said to fall off in consequence. The hatred 
of the two sections was further increased by professional 
jealousy, which was augmented when the spiritual Franciscans 
declared for evangelical poverty and denounced the possessions 
of the Church. This jealousy was as strong in Oxford as in the 
rest of England. The monks and friars detested each other 
only one degree less than they both detested the seculars.^ 

Into this embroilment of old hatreds and rivalries 
Wycliffe's doctrines were thrown as a fresh element of dis- 
cord. At first, as we have seen, his attack on Church 
property brought him into alliance with at least a section of 
the Oxford friars. By attacking the prelates and the 
Church generally, he seems to have won the favour of all 
parties at Oxford, especially at the time of his trial in 1378. 
But in the next two or three years his quarrel with the 
regular orders came to a head. When his doctrine on the 
Eucharist appeared, the friars and monks, the orthodox 
theologians of the place, united with the Chancellor Berton 
and a few seculars to condemn the thesis. A University 
officer was sent into Wycliffe's lecture-room to enjoin silence 
upon him. There he was found, propounding to his audience 
the impossibility of accidents without substance, and of the 
other metaphysical absurdities which he alleged against Tran- 
substantiation. He appeared to be a little taken aback at the 
decree, but replied that it could not shake his opinion.^ 

He was equally firm when John of Gaunt hurried down to 
Oxford to prevent him from ruining a fine political career by 
an insane love of truth. As he did not wear the livery of the 
House of Lancaster, and had quite other plans in his head 
than were dreamt of by his patron, he refused to be silent on 
the forbidden topic.^ The alliance of the two men came to an 
end after this critical interview, for the Duke was as orthodox 

> See Ap. "- Fasc. Z., 110-3. ^ Ibid. 114. 


in purely doctrinal matters as Henry the Eighth himself. 
Henceforth he had no dealings with Wycliffe. It may be 
that he still used his influence to prevent the arrest of his old 
ally, and on one occasion he induced the Bishop of Lincoln to 
commute a sentence of death, pronounced upon a Lollard who 
had not gone so far as to deny Tran substantiation ; ^ but when 
two of Wycliffe's Oxford friends appealed to the Duke for pro- 
tection, he not only refused to grant it, but ' when he had 
heard their detestable opinion on the Sacrament of the altar 
he thenceforth held them in hatred.' ■^ While John of Gaunt 
never again approached Wycliffe to obtain his assistance in 
politics, the reformer, for his part, went on to work for the 
salvation of England by his own methods, no longer tram- 
melled by an uncongenial alliance. 

Wycliffe's position at Oxford was not really so weak 
as these repudiations made it appear. The Chancellor's 
decisions against him did not represent the feeling of the 
seculars. In the last day of May 1381, while bands of 
outlaws were already assembling in the woods of Kent and 
Essex to begin the great revolt, the University of Oxford was 
engaged in electing a new Chancellor for the two coming 
years.^ The man of their choice was one Eobert Eygge, who 
represented all the feelings and prejudices of the University 
proper, and was therefore more favourable to Wycliffe than 
his predecessor had been. During his term of office 
Wycliffism became the shibboleth by which the secular 
party was distinguished from the friars and monks. The 
Chancellor's own position towards the question was thoroughly 
Oxonian. Jealousy of the friars, jealousy of episcopal inter- 
ference with the schools, made him regard Wycliffe as a 
champion whom Oxford was bound in honour to defend. But 
he was not a Lollard, and had the year before joined in his 
predecessor's condemnation of the theses on the Eucharist. 
Now, however, that he was placed at the head of the Univer- 
sity, he allowed these doctrines to be preached in the churches 
and debated in the lecture-rooms over which he had control, 

' Knighton, ii. 193 ; Fasc. Z., 334-40. ^ Fasc. Z., 318. 

^ Munimenta Academica Oxon (R. S.), 106; Mr. Matthew's article, 
Eng. Hist. Bev., Ap., 1890. 


regarding the heretics with interest and reserved approval. 
He intended to protect liberty of thought in the schools, 
since the innovators were the bitterest enemies of the monks 
and friars. 

During the winter of 1381-2 feeling between the parties 
rose higher and higher. The subject of the Peasants' Eising 
was in all men's mouths. The seculars, far from admitting 
any responsibility in Wycliffe, accused the friars of having 
stirred up the poor against the rich by an unscrupulous use 
of their religious influence.^ A Wycliffite named Nicolas 
Hereford, a man of considerable position in the schools, 
preached against the mendicant orders on every occasion, 
demanded the total abolition of them, and carried with him 
the mass of the University. In February the friars felt his 
attacks to be so dangerous that they wrote to John of Gaunt 
requesting his protection, and denying that they had had any 
hand in the rebellion which had done such injury to his 
power and property.^ But the Duke remained neutral both 
then and during the events which, in the next twelve months, 
decided the fate of Oxford. 

A few days after this letter had been sent, Hereford 
preached a Latin sermon at St. Mary's before the learned 
of the University, in which he exhorted the authorities to 
exclude friars and monks from all degrees and honours. 
The regulars complained to the Chancellor Eygge, but he 
refused to reprimand the preacher. Indeed his two proctors 
had been present at the sermon and applauded it.^ It seemed 
that the seculars, under the new stimulus of Wycliffism, were 
about to make a supreme effort to rid the schools of their 
rivals. The feeling shown by the rest of the University so much 
alarmed the regulars that they decided without more delay to 
call in an outside power. A deputation of monks and friars 
was sent up to London to appeal to Archbishop Courtenay. 

The council which sat at Blackfriars during the latter 
half of May 1382 and condemned the principal tenets of 
Lollardry, the famous ' council of the earthquake,' included 
ten bishops, and no less than sixteen doctors and bachelors 
of theology of the mendicant orders. It was a signal reunion 

» Fasc. Z., 293-4. ^ Ibid. 292-5. ^ Ibid. 305. 


of the friars with their old enemies the English prelates.^ 
We have already mentioned the action of this council against 
Wycliffism in general ; but it also dealt with the University 
in particular. The Bishops readily adopted the view of the 
Oxford regulars, and warmly accepted the offer of their ^ 
assistance to win back the seat of learning to orthodoxy. On 
May 30 Courtenay sent off an injunction to the Chancellor 
Eygge, reproving him for having supported Hereford, and 
bidding him henceforth act in conjunction with Stokes, an 
Oxford friar of hot temper and strong prejudice. This man, 
the Archbishop's accredited agent and representative in the 
University, received letters condemnatory of Wycliffe's 
opinions with orders to publish them in the schools. Eygge 
was enjoined to assist him in this act with all his authority 
as Chancellor.^ 

A clear issue had been raised. The Archbishop of 
Canterbury had interfered with Oxford, and had interfered 
on the side of the friars. The Chancellor and those of 
the seculars who sympathised only a little with Wycliffe, 
but cared first and foremost for the liberties of their Univer- 
sity, were converted into ardent Wycliffites. No Bishop, '"^ 
they angrily declared, had any power over them even in 
cases of heresy. Stokes had delivered his credentials to the 
Chancellor on the evening of June 4. The next morning 
the whole city was in an uproar. The students poured out 
from the halls and inns that lined Schydyard Street and 
High Street, armed and eager for riot. They were joined 
by the town militia under the Mayor's orders. Wycliffe had 
brought about not only the strange alliance of friars and 
Bishops against him, but the no less strange alliance of town 
and gown in his favour. It was Corpus Christi day, and a 
great sermon was to be preached in St. Frideswyde's. The 
Wycliffite Eepyngton was announced as the preacher. Eygge 
and his proctors came to church in company with the Mayor, 
all in the highest spirits. Many of the students and citizens y 
came with arms under their gowns. The friars were com- 
pletely overawed. After the sermon, which was an outspoken 
defence of Lollardry and denunciation of the Church, the 

1 Fasc. Z., 286-8 and 284. - Ibid. 298-9 ; Pol. Poems, i. 261. 


Chancellor waited for the preacher at the porch and walked 
home with him, laughing and congratulating him on his 
success. Meanwhile Stokes sat cowering in the church, 
where he had just heard himself insulted and reviled, not 
daring for his life to show his head outside the door. The 
whole town was in high excitement and jubilation. Next day 
Eygge consented to publish the condemnation of Wycliffe's 
theses in the schools, but the opinions of the Blackfriars 
Council were treated as a joke by the University, which had 
learned from Wycliffe himself to regard the curses of the 
Church with contempt. In the evening, Stokes wrote to 
Courtenay a letter which vividly paints his terror. *I do 
not know,' he says, 'what will happen further. But one 
thing I must please make clear to you, venerable father ; 
that in this matter I dare go no further for fear of death. I 
therefore implore you with tears to help me, lest I or my 
fellows suffer loss of life or limb.' The Archbishop was not 
long in answering this appeal. On the 9th he sent off a 
letter to the faithful friar, bidding him come up to London 
with all speed to explain the situation and consult for the 
future.^ Before receiving this summons, Stokes was so rash 
as to show his hated face in the lecture-room ; but, warned 
by the glitter of arms under the cloaks of some of his 
audience, he gave way to the instinct of self-preservation 
and fled from the pulpit as precipitately as Dominie Sampson. 
On the 12th he went to London in obedience to the welcome 
invitation of the Primate. Leaving Oxford in the morning, 
he reached his destination at night. Considering the 
snail's pace at which journeys were then commonly taken, 
the ride does credit to the state of the highway .^ 

When Stokes arrived at the capital, he found affairs 
already improved. The Chancellor Eygge, though he had 
practically defied the Church authorities on the 5th, did 
not venture to shut himself up in Oxford and abide the 
consequences, but went up to explain his conduct and 
secure his position. He appeared before the Bishops on 
the 12th, while his opponent was on the road. The 
charge brought against the Chancellor and two proctors 

1 Fasc. Z., 296-304. - Ibid. 302-4. 


was that they had favoured the Lollards. Their various 
acts of contumacy during the last few weeks were recounted 
in detail. Bygge had been heard to applaud strong words 
against the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrament. Yet al- 
though he had gone great lengths in the safe and congenial 
atmosphere of Oxford, his courage oozed rapidly away when 
he stood before the Bishops. His disbelief in Transubstan- 
tiation was not long-lived. He had joined in repudiating 
Wycliffe's thesis on the Eucharist when it first appeared, and 
he now again and finally rejected such errors. His Lollardry 
was as the seed that fell upon stony places ; it sprang up 
quickly in a shallow soil and withered in a moment before 
the sun of authority. He asked pardon on his knees, and 
was forgiven at the special request of William of Wykeham. 
He was sent back to Oxford with a new mandate. Wycliffe, 
Hereford, Eepyngton and others were to be suspended from 
all teaching and preaching. Eygge hinted that he might 
find it difficult to enforce such a decree. ' Then the Univer- 
sity is the favourer of heresy,' sternly replied Courtenay, ' if 
it does not permit Catholic truths to be published.' It must 
be added that the Chancellor found State as well as Church 
arrayed against him. On the 13th he had been summoned 
before the King's Council and solemnly enjoined to obey the 
episcopal decrees.^ 

Unwillingly did he return to Oxford on this hard mission. 
No sooner was his foot on the High Street than courage 
returned. The seculars were mad with rage at the orders he 
brought, and 'only the regulars took the side of the Church.' 
So far from imposing silence on the Lollards, the Chancellor 
suspended one of their chief enemies, a monk called Henry 
Crumpe, from teaching in the schools. But this resistance 
was destined to prove futile, for the Church was armed with 
the power of the State. The University authorities had now 
bitter reason to regret that they had not, of late years, culti- 
vated the friendship of the Crown. So far from caring to 
maintain the independent position of Oxford, the rulers of 
the country looked on it with suspicion. Five years before, 
so'me undergraduates had sung lampoons under the lodging 

1 Fasc. Z., 304-11. 


where the King's messenger lay, and shot arrows through 
his window. The protection afforded to the delinquents by 
the Chancellor had lent a serious aspect to the silly quarrel, 
and had so embittered the Court against the University ^ that 
now, in their hour of need, the academicians stood without a 
friend. Moreover, the Court was swayed by strong disapproval 
of Wycliffe's later doctrines. There is no greater mistake 
than to supppose that Eichard and his counsellors were at 
this time strongly infected with heresy. They were faithful 
sons of the Church, and did her yeoman's service ; for if they 
had chosen to stand aside, the Bishops, unaided, could never 
have purged Oxford. But on July 13, the King sent down to 
Eygge two peremptory mandates. One ordered him to restore 
Crumpe to his place in the schools, the other to banish 
Wycliffe, Hereford, Kepyngton and John Aston from the 
University and town of Oxford within seven days. Contumacy 
would only lead to the forfeiture of all privileges held from 
the Crown. There was nothing left but to obey,^ 

Meanwhile, in London, the council of churchmen con- 
tinued its sessions in the Blackfriars' convent. Having dealt 
with the Chancellor, they proceeded to deal with the principal 
heretics of Oxford, always excepting Wycliffe himself. John 
Aston, the most contumacious of all, was brought up for 
trial. He was destined to become one of the chief Lollard 
missionaries, and already enjoyed great popularity. The 
citizens of London broke into the convent during the trial, 
and the interruptions of the audience lent courage to the 
prisoner. Aston refused to subscribe to the doctrine of Tran- 
substantiation, declaring that the matter passed his under- 
standing, although his desire was to believe what Scripture 
and the Church taught. These words, though apparently 
innocent, were well enough understood by the hearers ; for 
Wycliffe argued, not only that Scripture was on his side, but 
that the Church had, for more than a thousand years, believed 
as he did on the question of the Eucharist. Courtenay told 
Aston to speak in Latin, but he only went on louder than 
before in English, for he was appealing to the London citizens 
rather than to the Bishops. He addressed his judges with 

' Cont. Eiclog. (E. S.), 348-9 ; Wilkin, iii. 137. ^ Fasc. Z., 311-7. 


scant courtesy. They condemned his opinions, but were 
afraid to touch his person. A few days later, a broadsheet 
in Latin and English, in which he explained his views on 
Transubstantiation, was widely circulated in the city, and 
posted in the squares and streets.^ Real interest was at this 
time felt by the London citizens in the controversy about 
the Sacramental elements. And, indeed, much more hung on 
the question than appeared in the obscure and unattractive 
technicalities. The Mediaeval Church and her opponents 
seem to have been aware from the first, that with the miracle 
of the Mass was closely connected the predominance of 
the clergy over the lay world. The cases of Aston's 
brother Oxonians, Hereford and Repyngton, turned on the 
same question. They sent in a paper repudiating most of , 
Wycliffe's twenty-four condemned theses, but reserving their 
opinion on the mendicancy of the friars, and above all on the 
Eucharist. These two schoolmen were genuinely antagonistic 
to the regular orders, and had qualms as to the metaphysical 
soundness of Transubstantiation, but they were probably never 
real Lollards. They both lived to be reconciled to the Church 
and to persecute the heretics of the next generation. But 
at this juncture they did great service to Wycliffe by lending 
the weight of University opinion to his views on the Sacra- 
ment. Their answers were considered unsatisfactory, and on 
July 1 they were excommunicated by Courtenay.^ 

After the King's mandate of July 13, it was impossible 
for the condemned theologians to return to Oxford. Hereford, 
genuinely convinced that he was on the track of truth, and 
that the authorities could be brought to see it, set off to Rome 
to appeal against Transubstantiation. He was not the first or 
last to imagine that, if only he could get a hearing from the 
Pope, he could move the Catholic Church out of old tradition 
into new paths. Aston and Repyngton lay low for some 
months. Wycliffe, who had taken little or no part in the 
late controversies at Oxford, was probably at Lutterworth 
writing ; he was busy with his pen this and every other year 
till his death. By the King's mandate, the University town, 

' Fasc. Z., 289-90, and 329-30 ; Wilkin, iii. 164 ; Wals., ii. 65-6. 
2 Fasc. Z., 290 and 318-28. 


where he had lived and moved and had his being almost since 
childhood, was closed against him for ever. But so engrossed 
was he in a new work that he wasted no sigh of regret over 
his expulsion. Of late years he had ceased to care much for 
the University, as his call to a larger field of operations became 
more clear. He was beginning to think more about the powers 
of his disciples as missionaries, and less about their scholar- 
ship. * If,' he wrote, ' divinity were learned on that manner 
that apostles did, it should profit much more than it doth now 
by state of school, as priests now without such state (of scholar- 
ship) profit much more than men of such state And 

thus men of school travail vainly for to get new subtleties, 
.... and the profit of Holy Church by this way is put aback.' 
The bad reception given to his doctrine on the Eucharist at 
its first appearance in the schools seems to have disgusted 
him. About that time he wrote : ' An unlearned man with 
God's grace does more for the Church than many graduates.' 
Scholastic studies, he said, rather breed than destroy heresies, 
as may be seen in the acceptance given to Transubstantiation 
by Oxford theologians.^ This attitude of mind was both good 
and bad for Wycliffe. It was good in so far as it detached 
him from nice speculations, and fitted him for his work as a 
popular reformer. His great merit was this, that he appealed 
from the Latin-reading classes to the English-speaking public, 
from thoughtless learning to common sense. Yet this system 
of propaganda had the defects of its qualities. The Poor 
Priests whom he trained up were some of them too ignorant 
and simple. This was partly because he had connected his 
religion with the absolute ideal of apostolic poverty. The 
well-to-do, who are generally the best educated, were practically 
debarred from becoming his missionaries ; few rich young 
men were found willing to sell all they had and give to the 
poor. The Lollard preachers were drawn more and more, 
as time went on, from the lower and uneducated classes who 
had little to lose by renouncing possessions. To connect 
blessedness with the states of poverty and ignorance was an 
error which should have died with St. Francis of Assisi. Un- 
fortunately Wycliffe, himself a learned man and thoroughly 

* Matt., 428 ; Dialogus, 53-4. 


impregnated in other respects with progressive notions, went 
back in some measure to this mistake. The loss of Oxford was 
a most serious blow to his cause, yet he took no part in the 
struggle for the independence of the University, which was 
fought largely on his behalf. 

The end of that struggle was at hand. The royal mandates 
of July had already crushed open resistance. In November, 
Courtenay summoned a Convocation of the province of Canter- 
bury to meet at Oxford ' for the suppression of heresy.' The 
Bishops made a triumphant entry into the conquered city. 
Wycliffe remained at Lutterworth,^ but his Oxford disciples 
came in to make their submission. Eygge consented to be a 
tool in the hands of the inquisitors. Eepyngton, unwilling 
to sacrifice his career in Church and University to his dislike 
of the friars and his doubts on Transubstantiation, had re- 
canted a month before, and had been at once restored by the 
Archbishop to his place as an orthodox teacher in the schools. 
He now once more publicly abjured his heresies before the 
Convocation in Oxford. He died a Cardinal, after having as 
Bishop of Lincoln in the reign of Henry the Fourth perse- 
cuted the Lollards with the utmost severity. Such conduct 
is not admirable, but it was probably honest. Eenegades are 
not necessarily hypocrites. He may have found that the 
Lollard reforms would be more democratic and more thorough 
than he liked, and he may have shrunk from defying Church 
authority when once he found it irrevocably set against his 

A more remarkable case of submission than those of Eygge 
and Eepyngton was that of John Aston. In June he had 
bandied words with the Bishops at his trial, and had appealed 
to the support of the Londoners ; in September he had preached 
Lollardry at Gloucester, and he was still destined to be one of 
Wycliife's most ardent missionaries. He used to travel on 
foot through England, preaching with the zeal of an apostle. 
Yet he now made before the Bishops at Oxford a recantation 
which can only be regarded as designed, like that of Cranmer, 
to gain time. Being brought up before Convocation, he 
pleaded ignorance on the test question of the Eucharist. 

' See Ap. ^ Wilkin's Concilia, 169, 172 ; Diet, of Nat. Biog. Eepyngton. 


Courtenay ordered him to consult with Eygge and any other 
doctors of the University whom he might himself choose as 
his confidants. Aston, after dining with these counsellors, 
professed himself convinced, and went to find the Bishops. 
They were still in the dining hall of St. Frideswyde's monas- 
tery, being unable to reach the Chapter House on account of 
the great crush of undergraduates who crowded in the pas- 
sages to see what was going forward. John Aston read his 
recantation before the Bishops, denied the ' presence of bread,' 
and apologised for his rudeness at Blackfriars. Three days 
later he was readmitted by Courtenay to all his functions at 

The seculars had looked on helpless at the defeat of their 
party. The victory of the regulars was wormwood to them. 
No longer daring to maintain Wycliffism themselves, they at- 
tempted to mar their enemies' triumph by accusing the friars 
of heresy in other questions. This was always easy, and was 
done in due form by Eygge. But the Bishops could no longer 
afford to listen to charges against the mendicant orders, how- 
ever welcome they would have been a few years back. Cour- 
tenay readily accepted the friars' plea that they ' had not 
asserted these propositions, but had only maintained them for 
the sake of argument.' ' Then the reverend father, perceiving 
that a great discord had arisen between the University and 
the regulars, restored harmony between them, though with 
difficulty, by adjourning Convocation till the next day.' ^ 

These proceedings finally established the Bishops' 
authority over Oxford. The regulars and the orthodox party 
had only to complain at Lambeth and Westminster, if Lol- 
lardry showed its head again. Two years later the Chap- 
lain of Exeter College was removed by Courtenay for his 
Wycliffism, and in 1395 King Eichard, strenuous as ever in 
defence of the faith, forced the Chancellor of the University to 
proclaim Wycliffe's errors, to condemn his ' Trialogus,' which 
was in great demand among the students, and to banish cer- 
tain Lollards.^ Heresy was kept under by force ; otherwise, 

> Courtenay's Eegister, MS. Lambeth Libr., f. 34 b, 35 a ; Wilkin's repro- 
duction is incomplete. 

^ Oxford Hist. Series, Boase's Exeter Coll., p. 20 ; Aylifife's University of 
Oxford, appendix, pp. xxvi-xxviii. 


judging from the events of 1382, the seculars would at least 
have protected free discussion, and perhaps have made Oxford 
the centre of an educated and cultivated Lollardry. It would 
be hard to over-rate the importance of such a movement in 
a town where a large proportion both of the parish priests 
and of the unbeneficed clerks were trained. So many of the 
English clergy were from Oxford that the revolt of the seculars 
there in 1382 gravely threatened clerical orthodoxy throughout 
England. Oxford had all the advantages which Cambridge 
possessed, when Cambridge became the focus of Protestant 
thought in the sixteenth century. But the action of the 
King and Bishops closed the University against Wycliffe and 
consigned him to his parish. We have shown reason for 
suspecting that he himself did not greatly regret the change, 
and that his interest in the place of learning was not, at the 
critical moment, as deep as it should have been. 

It would, however, be wrong to suppose that Oxford became 
at once a Catholic seminary. Up to the end of Henry the 
Fourth's reign, at least, certain dangers attended the edu- 
cation of the faithful there. About 1409 a revival of free 
thought led to a sharp struggle, in which the University 
was again worsted. Among other measures taken to gag 
opinion, the publication of books was subjected to severe 
censorship, the establishment of which ' proved an effectual 
check on the literary productiveness of Oxford for several 
generations.' ^ The continued growth of the collegiate system 
throughout the fifteenth century further strengthened the hold 
of the Church on the young men. Although in many local 
centres Lollardry survived until the later Reformation, we 
. hear no more of it at Oxford, and even in the sixteenth century 
it was Cambridge that led the way. 

Though the interests of Wycliffism proved in the long run 
to have been materially injured by the events we have just 
recorded, the growth of the new doctrines throughout the 
country was at first rather stimulated than checked by the 

» Sir H. C. Maxwell Lyte's History of Oxford, 278-85 ; and Wilkin, iii. 
323 and 339. 


disaster. The heretics of the University, driven out and 
scattered through the shires of England, were forced to 
become missionaries instead of academicians. Aston, un- 
affected by his late recantation, went where he could speak 
unmuzzled. Other Oxonians soon followed him, Hereford 
was at that time on his way to Eome, bent on proving to the 
Holy Father the unsoundness of the doctrine of Transub- 
stantiation. Like many other appellants, he found that he 
had to deal not so much with the Pope as with the Cardinals, 
the most conservative body in Christendom. He was soon 
lying, under a sentence of imprisonment for life, in the dun- 
geons of the ' Pope's prison,' probably the Castle of St. Angelo. 
Two years later, in the absence of Urban the Sixth at Naples, 
there took place in the streets of Eome one of those frequent 
insurrections by which the populace of that strange dead city 
kept alive the memory of their ancient liberties and of their 
modern tribune Cola di Eienzi. The English heretic was re- 
leased in this accidental way, together with all prisoners 
whom the mob found in the dungeons. He returned as fast 
as he could to his native land, but not to his University. 
He joined Aston in the Western shires, where they caused 
the Bishop of Worcester many a sleepless night. ^ Several 
more Lollard preachers were Oxford men,^ and it is likely 
that others, besides those of whom we know, left the 
University when it ceased to be a place for free discussion, 
and hastened to take their marching orders from the Eector 
of Lutterworth. 

This propagandist movement received great encourage- 
ment from the Parliament of October 1382. The ordinance 
that had been passed in May by King and Lords had 
put the sheriffs and state officers at the service of the 
Church, to facilitate the arrest of unlicensed preachers. In 
July, Eichard had sent out a special writ to every Bishop, 
with orders to arrest all Lollards, as he wished to have no 
heresy in his kingdom.^ But the Commons felt otherwise. 
In October they insisted on the withdrawal of the ordinance 

* Knighton, ii. 172-6 ; Courtenay's Kegister, Lambeth Library, f . 65 b and 
69 a ; Wilkin, iii. 202-3. 

2 Foxe,iii.l31 (Brute) ; MSS. Gott. Cleopatra, E,ii.201,P.E. 0. (Compeworth). 
5 Wilkin, iii. 156. 


of May, in which they had not concurred. ' It was never,' 
so they complained, ' assented to or granted by the Com- 
mons, but whatever was said about it has been without 
their consent. Let it now be annulled, for it was not the 
intention of the Commons, to be tried for heresy, nor to bind 
over themselves or their descendants to the prelates more 
than their ancestors had been in time past.' ^ 

The English were not accustomed to religious persecution. 
Although in the Continental countries the Inquisition had for 
more than a century been working for the suppression of 
thought with the same remorseless and successful cruelty 
which it afterwards opposed to the Eeformation, the heretic 
at the stake was a thing scarcely known in mediaeval England. 
There had hitherto been no recognised heresy in our country. 
A few foreign refugees, and a deacon who had turned Jevf for 
love of a Jewess, are almost the only victims on record. But 
now that heresy had become rife, it was no longer so easy as it 
might once have been to introduce an inquisition. The Church 
was growing unpopular, and the power of the priest over the 
lay conscience and intellect was being loosened. The enforce- 
ment of penance was becoming more difficult and rare ; its 
commutation for money was an absurd farce ; and the 
Church authorities were associated in many minds with 
avarice, blackmail, and superstitious cults, which the better 
sort of laymen openly derided. This tone of scorn pervades 
the lay literature of the period. A hundred years before it 
would have been easy for the Bishops to obtain the services 
of the sheriffs for the suppression of errors, but the Commons 
were' now in a less reverential mood, and not inclined, as they 
confessed, ' to bind over themselves or their descendants to 
the prelates.' While the King and the nobility were eager to 
trample out heresy, the Knights of the Shires were chiefly 
desirous of securing the layman's liberty from clerical inter- 
ference. They had no wish to be priest-ridden. 

It is difficult to say whether, apart from a dislike of the 
clergy, many members of the Lower House were at this time 
actually heretical. Heresy certainly spread among country 
gentlemen and merchants in the next few years, and already 

* Rot. Pari., iii. 141. 


a spirit of independent inquiry existed among some at least 
of the priest-hating squires and knights. Langland com- 
plained, some years before Wycliffe rose to fame, that the 
upper classes were in the habit of discussing the mysteries of 
religion among themselves ' as if they were clergy.' 

At meat in their mirths, when minstrels are still, 
Then tell they of the Trinity a tale or two, 
And bring forth a bald reason and quote St. Bernard, 
And put forth a presumption to prove the sooth. 
Thus they drivel at their dais the deity to know. 
And gnaw God with the gorge when their gut is full. 

He describes how they call in question the justice of con- 
demning all mankind for the fault of Adam, and how they 
' carp against clerks crabbed words.' ^ 

This evidence as to the attitude of the upper classes, helps 
to account for a curious act of profanity committed by a knight 
of Wiltshire in 1381. When he had received the consecrated 
wafer into his hand, he jumped up and ran out of church, 
locked himself in his house, and ate the Host with his dinner. 
This was not the spirit of Wycliffe and his first disciples, who 
one and all believed in Consubstantiation and reverenced, 
though they did not worship, the Sacrament. No one sym- 
pathised with the man's profanity ; it was an isolated exception. 
But the incident could scarcely have taken place if the knight 
had lived in a highly devotional society. No one suggested 
that he was mad.^ It is safe to say that among the upper 
and middle classes, among such types of men as rode with 
Chaucer on the Canterbury pilgrimage, the Lollards were able 
to reckon on a very general dislike of clerical pretensions, 
and in many cases there was a tendency to independent 
opinion and free thought. As regards the lower classes 
the evidence is more scanty. But the sack of monasteries, 
and the murder of the Primate and other clergy, point to 
the same dislike of the Church, the same irreverence that we 
find in higher grades of society. 

Against this tendency must be set the great influence of 
the friars ; their command of the confessional and the con- 
sciences of so many ; the still prevalent belief in the value of 

> P. PI, B, X. 52-7, 101-16. 2 Wals., i. 450-1. 

1382-4 LUTTEEWOETH 313 

masses for souls ; the increasing establishment of chantries 
for that purpose ; the attachment of the vast majority of 
Englishmen to the ceremonial of the only existing religion. 
The competition of rival beliefs is so obvious a factor in 
modern Christianity that it is hard for us to picture the mind 
of a person who had never heard of alternative religions. It 
is unlikely that one Englishman in ten thousand had any 
definite impression of what the Albigenses had been. No one 
had any real conception of the pre-Christian ages, and since 
the Templars had been suppressed, Englishmen were no 
longer in contact with Mahomedan ' heathenesse.' Eeligion 
meant nothing but the Catholic faith, the religion of the Pope 
and Bishops. To such a mind the idea of ' dissent ' would be 
intolerable and appalling. If we can imagine these conditions 
of thought, we may realise what a dead weight the Lollards 
had to move. Yet, as we have seen, the mass had already 
begun to stir a little even before they touched it. 

The withdrawal, at the request of the House of Com- 
mons, of the ordinance for the arrest of heretics gave the 
missionaries a comparatively free hand for several years. 
Occasionally the King, occasionally one of the Bishops, set on 
foot a persecution of an individual preacher. But the de- 
nounced often escaped capture, for the local authorities did 
not help the Church to effect arrests, and public opinion did 
not allow of extreme measures. During this important period 
there were three cradles of Lollardry — the neighbourhood of 
Leicester, the West of England, and the capital. 

It is easy to see why Leicester fell under this influence. 
Twelve miles outside the southern gate, on the high road to 
Eugby, lay the flourishing village of Lutterworth. Its fine 
parish-church has been enlarged but little altered since that 
day. From the arch over the entrance to the choir still looks 
down a quaint and dismal fresco of the Judgment, in which 
the figures of emaciated ghosts are rising from the clay at 
the sound of the last trumpet. The scene is not one of joyful 
resurrection, it is but a gathering of the pale and ghastly dead. 
Beneath this sad ensign Wycliffe ministered, and sometimes, 
perhaps, chose it to point his moral or to furnish his text. It 
is impossible to say what he did with his church, whether he 


removed the images, how he celebrated the Mass, in what 
tongue he conducted the service. Until 1381 he had con- 
tinually passed to and fro between Lutterworth and Oxford, 
but during the last years of his life he lived continuously in 
his parish. His occupations were sedentary. He did not 
even go round the neighbouring towns and villages where his 
Poor Priests were at work. The Leicester chronicler gives a 
detailed account of Lollard missions in the neighbourhood, 
but does not mention Wycliffe as taking part in them. This 
inactivity may have been dictated partly by his age and 
increasing infirmity, partly by a desire not to provoke 
measures against his own person. Above all, he could do 
better work in the study at Lutterworth. He sent out a long 
succession of English pamphlets and Latin treatises, which 
show not only his extraordinary productiveness, but the con- 
stant progress of his thought. He was also engaged on 
translating the Scriptures into English for the laity — scat- 
tering pearls before swine, as the monks elegantly said.^ 
' The first Lollard who made any considerable impression 
/on the people of Leicester was a priest named "William Sv/yn- 
derby. Before attaching himself to the heretics he had 
played the local prophet on his own account, reproved the 
merry wives of Leicester for their gaiety, and even set up as a 
hermit. At last he joined some of Wycliffe' s followers. They 
lived together in a little deserted chapel outside the walls 
of the city, where no one was likely to interfere with them. 
Here they encouraged each other in their strange opinions, 
and debated the new doctrines. Swynderby, who preached 
in all the churches and churchyards for miles round, was well 
known in Melton Mowbray, Market Harboro', and Lough- 
borough. But in Leicester itself he had the greatest following 
of all. He preached not only in the Lollards' Chapel, but in 
the great churches of the city, for the parish priests were un- 
willing or unable to interfere. When at last the Bishop of 
Lincoln sent down to prohibit him from using sacred ground, 
he preached from a mill. The crowds that came out to hear 
him were greater than ever. He denounced the clergy, 
employing Wycliffe' s arguments against the wealth of the 

' See Ap. 


prelates and unjust excommunication ; he called on the 
people to withhold their tithes from wicked churchmen, and 
exhorted husbands and fathers to beware of the priest's 
intimacy with the family ; but he taught no communism or 
other doctrines generally subversive of order. In July 1382, 
while the attack on Oxford was being conducted by the 
Primate, he was arrested and brought up before the Bishop of 
Lincoln, at the capital of his diocese. The friars, who had 
felt their influence waning before the new popular hero, pre- 
sented a list of his heresies, slightly overstating what he had 
really said. It was to no purpose that the Mayor and best 
citizens of Leicester sent in a document affirming that Swyn- 
derby had not used the language imputed to him. He was con- 
demned to the stake. Faggots, it is said, were actually being 
collected, when he was saved by the intercession of John of 
Gaunt, who happened to be in Lincoln. By recanting all his 
imputed heresies Swynderby obtained his freedom. This 
surrender did him such injury in the eyes of his supporters 
that he was forced to leave the neighbourhood of Leicester. 
He preached at Coventry for nearly a year and made many 
converts, until at last the clergy of the place forced him to 
move on, only to continue his mission in the far West.^ 

His work at Leicester was carried on by his friends and 
by fresh helpers from Oxford. John Aston, who was journey- 
ing staff in hand through all the towns of England, paid a 
flying visit, during which he preached against Transubstantia- 
tion, and declared that the substance of bread and wine 
remained in the Sacrament. Swynderby had not ventured 
to go beyond covert references to the nature of the Host, but 
the new doctrine now became the accepted creed among the 
Lollards of the neighbourhood. Aston vanished as quickly 
as he had come.^ 

John Purvey had a more permanent local influence, for \/^ 
it was he who lodged with Wycliffe in the rectory, con- 
stantly attended his master till the end, helped him in his 
literary labours, and was looked up to by the inmates of 
the Lollard chapel as one specially versed in their leader's 

• Knighton, ii. 189-98 ; Fasc. Z., 334-40 ; Foxe, iii. 113-6. 

- Knighton, ii. 176-7 ; Wals., ii. 53-4 is the same and refers to Aston. 


writings and opinions.^ On December 28, 1384, Wyclifte 
was struck with paralysis in Lutterworth church. They 
carried him out, and the pictured Judgment he never again 
beheld. On the last day of the year he died. They buried 
him in the churchyard, where for nearly half a century he was 
suffered to lie. Then his body, like Cromwell's, was dug up by 
his enemies, and his bones thrown into the stream that flows 
below the village.^ It seems a fit ending for the indefatigable 
man, who never wished for peace with the wicked, nor sighed 
for ' deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill.' The historian 
has no temptation to linger over his death, for it was but an 
incident in the contest that he had set on foot. He had so 
well laid down the lines on which his disciples were to 
advance, that his removal affected them little. A criticism 
of his work will be best supplied by recounting the success 
and the failure of Lollardry, and by considering how far 
these can be attributed to the merits and the faults of his 

After his death his friend and companion, Purvey, went 
off to the West of England.^ The occupants of the chapel 
outside Leicester walls could no longer look for assistance 
and direction to Lutterworth. But they had already formed 
among themselves a staunch and vigorous community. 
They were essentially popular preachers, and in their hands 
the subtlety and scholasticism of Wycliffe's doctrines were 
abandoned in favour of that direct appeal to common sense 
which had been their master's best weapon. While he had 
rather deprecated than attacked the worship of images, while 
he had defined its use and its abuse, his followers were 
thorough iconoclasts. They did not attempt to teach dis- 
tinctions seldom understood by ordinary people. They took 
the readiest and most effective means of stopping idolatry by 
denouncing the cult of images altogether. A figure of St. 
Catharine still stood in the deserted sanctuary where the 
reformers had taken up their abode. One evening in the 
year 1382, finding themselves short of fuel, they pulled it 

» Knighton, ii. 178-9. 

■■^ Wals., ii. 119 ; Eaynaldi Annates, sub 1427; Lyndwood, 284. 

» Knighton, ii. 179 ; Wilkin, iii. 202, Perney = Purvey ? 


down and split it for firewood. The incident created con- 
siderable sensation in Leicester, for it marked the set of the 
Lollard stream. The heretics became more and more out- 
spoken in their attacks on the common objects of superstition. 
The Leicester monk tells us with horror how they called 
images ' idols,' and how ' St. Mary of Lincoln ' became in 
their language ' the witch of Lincoln.' ' When all our fathers 
worshipped stocks and stones,' the cult of polytheism centred 
on particular shrines. As the Switzer of the forest cantons 
regards the Black Virgin of Einsiedeln, as the Neapolitan 
regards the Blood of St. Januarius, so the Englishman 
regarded the Virgin of Walsingham and the bones of St. 
Thomas of Canterbury. The Lollards denied the sanctity 
of such places, and attempted to arouse scorn against the 
local ' Maries.' The Church vigorously defended her strong- 
holds. As time went on, the chief matter in dispute, next 
to the nature of the Host, was the value to popular religion 
of saints, images, and shrines.^ 

The new party held firmly together. Individual eccen- 
tricity had little place among the preachers, who could be 
easily recognised by their long russet-coloured gowns with 
deep pockets, their peculiar speech interlarded with phrases 
of Scripture, the sanctity of their demeanour, their habit of 
basing every argument on some injunction found in * God's 
Law,' and their abhorrence of the common oaths of the 
day, for which they substituted ' I am sure,' * It is sooth," 
' Without doubt it is so.' The monks of Leicester Abbey 
noted with alarm how they resembled each other in manners, 
language and doctrine, and how with unity came strength. 
They preached no doctrines subversive of order or hostile to 
lay property ; on the contrary, they cultivated the friendship 
not only of the wealthy citizens, but of the knights and 
gentry. Sir Thomas Latimer, a powerful local magnate, 
could welcome them to a score of manor-houses scattered 
over Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Smaller land- 
holders, such as John Trussel, who possessed only the single 
manor of Gayton, gave them countenance when they came 
on their rounds. This patronage was of the utmost 

' Knighton, ii. 182-3, 313. 


importance to them ; for when the unauthorised preacher 
walked into a new village, his russet gown at once betrayed 
his errand, and if both the landlord and the parson were 
against him, his chance of getting a hearing was small. 
But on friendly ground his reception was very different. 
The Poor Priest, however much a 'man of the people' he 
might be, found his natural radicalism grow cool when, after 
-a long day's walk through a hostile country, he was welcomed 
at nightfall to the kitchen fire of the moat-house, well fed by 
the retainers with sack and venison, saved from the Bishop's 
Summoner at the door, and next morning requested to speak 
his mind to the people in the churchyard, with the knight 
standing by him armed for greater security. In those 
hamlets where the advowson belonged to one of these 
Lollard gentlemen, the parson probably thought it best to leave 
the church-door open to the intruder and his hearers. The 
protection and assistance afforded by so many landlords in 
the latter years of the fourteenth century was enough to 
instil into the minds of the preachers the distinction that 
Wycliffe had made between clerical and lay property.^ 

The relation of the Lollards to the ruling classes in the 
towns was of the same friendly character. A London 
prentice of the name of Colleyn, who had run away from his 
master to become a preacher of the Word, brought the new 
doctrine to Northampton. The Mayor, John Fox, lodged 
him in his own house together with a Poor Priest of the 
neighbourhood, and sent to Oxford to ask that a supply of 
theologians should be sent to Northampton to give an 
authoritative exposition of Wycliffism. The Lollards who 
came to meet this demand were denounced by their enemies, 
some as men who assumed Oxford degrees that they had 
never really taken, others as notorious for simony and dis- 
honest dealing. However this may have been, they suc- 
ceeded, with the help of Fox the Mayor, in completely 
dominating the place, occupying the pulpits against the will 
of the incumbents and taking forcible possession of the 

' Knighton, ii. 174-98, 262 ; Inquisitiones post inortem. Calendar, iii. 275, 
•281, iv. 201, 213, for Latimer's and Trussel's property ; Rot. Claus., 12 E. II., 
m. 9. 


churches at the head of riotous mobs. The Bishop of 
Lincoln's officers dared not enter the gates. Northampton 
had chosen a religion of its own. It would be interesting to 
know whether Fox was ancestor of the martyrologist or the 

Under such auspices in village and town, these preachers, 
whose enthusiasm and energy even their foes did not deny, 
produced an extraordinary effect. According to the Leicester 
monk, every second man in those parts was a Lollard. This 
must not be treated as a statistical fact, but only as a strong 
expression. Half the population had perhaps been impressed 
more or less favourably by some of Wycliffe's doctrines, but 
as was proved when the Archbishop visited the diocese, few 
were ready to break definitely with the Church authorities. 
There are many shades of opinion and degrees of persuasion, 
and it is hard to believe that in any countryside half the 
inhabitants were pledged to LoUardry, 

The heretics had done well to gain for themselves so 
good a position, but they still lacked one quality without 
which such a cause as theirs could never triumph. They 
were not ready to be martyrs. The good impression they 
had made on the public mind would at this point have been 
greatly strengthened, if they had shown that unbending 
spirit, that joyful defiance of death, that power almost super- 
human of enduring torture, by which their successors in the 
end won the battle against authority. But it was not till the 
second generation of Lollards that Sawtrey showed the way 
for Protestants to die. Wycliffe's immediate followers, though 
able and zealous missionaries, were not perhaps such fine 
men as their master or as their successors. But physical 
fear was not the sole reason of their submission to the epis- 
copal tribunals. It may well be that they dreaded to appear 
as avowed heretics before God. No schism had taken place, 
they were not a ' dissenting body.' Wycliffe, though he was 
fighting the Church, liked to think that he was only con- 
verting it, and his followers scarcely knew where they stood. 
One of them, Hereford, after preaching LoUardry for several 

1 Ant. Petitions, 7099, P B. 0. Translation in MSS. Cott. Cleopatra, 
E, ii. 201. 


years, fled back to the paths of orthodoxy and rose to high 
preferment. His case is not typical, but it is significant. 
The idea of Church authority must at this period have lain 
on men ' with a weight heavy as frost and deep almost as 
life.' In spite of highly trained logical acumen, the mediaeval 
mind was so oddly inconsistent that a desire to be included 
in the fold of the Church might coincide with utter contempt 
for her ministers and disbelief in her dogmas. But as time 
went on the Lollards became more accustomed to the position 
of heretics, more ready to stake their souls on the hazard, and 
to sacrifice their bodies in the cause. 

In October 1389 Archbishop Courtenay visited the diocese 
of Lincoln. He came down to Leicester, the hot-bed of 
heresy, and lodged with the monks, who readily supplied him 
with information as to the names of the principal offenders. 
He wisely desisted from molesting Sir Thomas Latimer, John 
Trussel and the other Lollard gentlemen, but he summoned 
before him the hot-gospellers of meaner station. Only one 
out of the nine persons indicated was a priest. Most of the 
others appear, from their names — Smith, Scryvener, Tailor, 
Goldsmith — to have been tradesmen of the town. The 
Primate made an impressive display of the wrath and majesty 
of the Church. Appearing in full pontificals, ' he fulminated 
a sentence of excommunication with cross erected, candles lit 
and bells beating.' The town was put under an interdict 
till the accused were forthcoming. Nevertheless five out of 
the nine succeeded in lying hid. The other four gave way, 
recanted, and were reconciled. William Smith, who had used 
the image of St. Catharine as firewood, was forced to do pen- 
ance with a crucifix in one hand and an image of the insulted 
Saint in the other, and to surrender the books which he 
had written in the mother-tongue on the New Testament and 
the Fathers. Although a tradesman by birth and no Oxford 
scholar, Smith had taught himself to read and write, and 
had even advanced to the study of theology. He is a most 
interesting person, and it is a pity that he had not the crown- 
ing courage to endure martyrdom. 

The submission of Smith and his friends was a blow to the 
prestige of the party. According to the Leicester monks, the 


heretics thenceforth carried on their work with greater 
privacy. Like the more serious persecutions of the next 
century, Courtenay's action had the effect of driving Lollardry 
underground, and thereby gave it the reputation, and to some 
degree the real character, of a conspiracy. Left to themselves 
the Leicestershire Lollards would have had no dealings with 
revolutionary politicians. As long as their proceedings were 
allowed to go on in the light of day, they had shown no 
such inclination.^ 

Before the Archbishop's visitation of Leicester, Lollardry 
had spread thence to Nottingham lying twenty miles to the 
North.^ Towards the close of his reign, Richard the Second, 
indefatigable in the pursuit of heresy, had four tradesmen of 
Nottingham brought up to London and examined in the 
King's Court of Chancery, in the presence of the Archbishop 
of York, to whose diocese their town belonged. Each of them 
was forced to repeat an oath renouncing the ' teaching of the 
Lollards.' ' I, William Dynot,' runs this remarkable docu- 
ment, ' before you, worshipful father and Archbishop of York 
and your clergy, . . . swear to God . . . that fro this day forth- 
ward I shall worship images, with praying and offering unto 
them in the worship of the Saints that they be made after, and 
also I shall no more despise pilgrimage.' This is a clear 
statement of one chief question at issue. To simple minds it 
may appear no other than this — whether to practise or not to 
practise idolatry.^ {See map, p. 352.) 

Leicestershire and the neighbouring counties were not the 
only districts where the new doctrines spread during the reign 
of Richard the Second. The principal Wycliffites drifted one 
by one to the West of England, which seemed to hold out 
some special attraction. Perhaps when once Aston had gone 
there, Hereford, Purvey and Swynderby followed him merely 

' Wilkin, iii. 210-2 ; Courtenay's Register, Lambeth Libr., f. 144 b. ; 
Knighton, ii. 212-3, 180-1. 

. 2 Wilkin, iii. 204 ; Rot. Pat., 11 Eic. II., pt. 2, m. 20 ; Rot. Claus., 12 E. II. 
(236), m. 38. 

3 Wilkin, iii. 225. 



to keep company and to act together. Perhaps the Bishops 
of Salisbury, Hereford, Worcester and Bath were known to be 
more lax or more kindly than their brothers of Canterbury 
and Norwich, who were famous for their antagonism to 
heretics. Perhaps the distance from Westminster and Can- 
terbury, the proximity of the Welsh mountains for a refuge, 
the deep forests and dells of Hereford and Monmouth, 
the trackless moors round Stonehenge and the miry lanes 
of Somerset, gave the pedestrian better chances of avoid- 
ing the Bishop's mounted messenger than could be found 
in the more highly civilised shires of Eastern and central 

It is impossible to say when the first Wycliffite preacher 
appeared in the West. Wycliffe had been regarded as a force 
in the country before the Eising of 1381, and although there 
is no proof that he himself sanctioned or commissioned any 
' Poor Priests ' at that early date, there were even then popular 
preachers, who carried about versions of his doctrines, together 
with their own views on Church or State. Such persons in 
all probability had set floating in the West reports of the new 
movement in Oxford. But the first missionary in those parts 
of whom we have any certain knowledge is that typical 
Wycliffite, John Aston, who walked into Gloucester, staff in 
hand, one day in September 1382. The churchmen were 
beating the religious drum round the country to raise men 
and money for Bishop Spencer's Flemish crusade, while 
Wycliffe in reply was carrying on a vigorous pamphlet con- 
troversy. The crusaders were strongest in the Eastern 
Counties, but even in Gloucester Aston found the recruiting 
and the trade in Papal pardons going on briskly. They fur- 
nished him with a text. He declared that those who were 
working for the crusade were inducing Christians to endow 
murder, that the religious war-cry was of all things the most 
wicked, that the Bishops, who were selling pardons for this 
pious purpose, were sons of the devil. Five years later he was 
still at work in the same diocese.^ 

But he was not all that time alone or confined to 

» Knighton, ii. 178 ; Wilkin, iii. 202-3. 


the society of local enthusiasts. After Wycliffe's death, 
Purvey left Lutterworth and appeared in Bristol, bringing 
his master's last message to the world. A priest ought sooner 
to omit matins and vespers than the preaching of the Word 
of God. The celebration of the Mass as then performed, 
Purvey called a human tradition, not evangelical or founded 
on Christ's commands. In Leicestershire, whence he had 
come, his friends cared so little to ' hear the blessed mutter 
of the Mass, and see God made and eaten all day long,' that 
they called these prolonged ceremonies ' blabbering with the 

In 1386 Nicolas Hereford landed in England, returning a 
sadder and a wiser man from his attempt to convert the Pope. 
He at once began to preach his condemned doctrines, at first 
in the neighbourhood of Canterbury, where he escaped Courte- 
nay's attempts to capture him. But when in January 1387 the 
King was called in to effect his arrest, he moved westwards 
to join Purvey and Aston.^ Six months later the Bishop of 
Worcester issued a mandate against the Lollard leaders in his 
diocese, from which it appears that the conditions of the mis- 
sionary work were at least as favourable as in the Leicester 
district. He complains that Hereford, Aston, Purvey and 
John Parker are traversing his diocese, ' under a great cloak 
of sanctity,' that they preach in public, and also secretly in 
halls, chambers, parks and gardens, and that the parish 
churches and churchyards are often put at their service.^ It 
is important to remember that this Bishopric of Worcester 
then ran down to the seaboard and included the great port 
towns of Bristol and Gloucester, where Lollardry had a strong 

William Swynderby, driven first from Leicester and then 
from Coventry, carried on the mission in the diocese of Here- 
ford. Before his arrival a number of Lollards already 
existed there under the mild sway of Bishop John Gilbert, 
who was translated in 1389. The first action of Gilbert's 
successor, John Trevenant, was to issue mandates against 

» Knighton, ii. 179-80 and 174. 

'^ Courtenay's Register, Lambeth Library, f. 65 b, and f. 69 a. 

3 Wilkin, iii. 202-3. 

T 2 


them. Next year Swynderby had appeared both in Mon- 
mouth town on the banks of the Lower Wye, and in 
Whitney on the extreme west border of Hereford and of Eng- 
land. Although he was often forced by his pursuers to keep 
to the more outlying districts, he easily succeeded in avoiding 
capture, for the country west of Malvern rises up in range 
beyond range of hills to this day largely clothed in forests, 
and interseeted by steep lanes and bridle-paths which must in 
those days have been mere tracks. Swynderby used to hide 
in a ' certain desert wood called Derwoldswood.' Again and 
again Trevenant summoned him, but to no purpose. Once 
only, under a safe-conduct from the Bishop, he appeared, and 
read before his judges and a large crowd of spectators a 
document answering one by one the charges made against 
him. He denied that he had preached the invalidity of 
Sacraments administered by a sinful priest ; what he had 
really said was that ' There is no man, Pope nor Bishop, 
prelate nor curate, that binds soothly verily and ghostly,' but 
inasmuch as his decisions are God's decisions also. He had 
been falsely accused of denying the Eeal Presence, for he 
had affirmed that body and bread were present together. He 
agreed with Wycliffe that confession might be useful but 
never necessary. He mocked at indulgences in good set 
terms. ' Lightly they might be lost, drenched or brent, or a 
rat might eat them, his indulgence then were lost. Therefore, 
sire, have me excused, I know not these terms ; teach me 
these terms by God's law and truly I will learn them.' He 
denied the Pope's power of remitting sin or deserved punish- 
ment, he attacked the friars and denounced the worship of 
images. Having thus defended himself in English before the 
people and the Bishop, he disappeared as mysteriously as he 
had come. Trevenant was as good as his word, and did not 
attempt to arrest him before he made his escape ; the days of 
the Council of Constance and ' nd faith with heretics ' had 
not yet come. As he refused to appear again without such 
another safe-conduct, he was condemned in his absence, on 
the ground of the answer he had put in. He appealed to the 
King's Council at Westminster against this condemnation, 
declaring that he had asked the Bishop to confute him out of 


the Bible, and that the Bishop had only answered by excom- 
munication. He breaks out at the end of the letter into 
unfavourable statements about the Bishops and the Pope. 
' As Christ's law teaches us to bless them that injure us, the 
Pope's law teaches us to curse them, and in their great 
sentence that they use they presume to damn the men to hell 
that they curse. ... As Christ's law bids to minister things 
freely to the people, the Pope with his law sells for money, 
after the quantity of the gift, pardons, ordination, blessing 
and sacraments and prayers and benefices and preaching to 
the people. As Christ's law teaches peace, the Pope with his 
law absolves men for money, to gather the people, priests and 
others, to fight for his cause.' He also sent a petition to the 
Houses of Parliament, which consisted chiefly of quotations 
from the Scriptures.^ 

Another Lollard of this neighbourhood was a man named 
Walter Brute, of Welsh parentage but educated at Oxford, 
where he had written theological works in support of Wycliffe.^ 
He was Swynderby's friend and companion, and adhered to 
all his teaching. Like Swynderby, he hid from the ecclesias- 
tical officers, and sent a manuscript into Court as his only 
answer to the Bishop's summons. This strange piece has 
been fortunately preserved for us at length. It is full of 
Scripture phrases, applied in the strained and mystical sense 
which we associate with later Puritanism, though it really 
derives its origin from the style of theological controversies 
older far than the Lollards themselves. Eome is the 
' daughter of Babylon,' ' the great whore sitting upon many 
waters with whom the Kings of the earth have committed 
fornication.' 'With her enchantments, witchcrafts and 
Simon Magus' merchandise the whole world is infected and 
seduced.' Brute prophesies her fall in the language of the 
Eevelation. The Pope is ' the beast ascending out of the 
earth having two horns like unto a lamb,' who compels ' small 
and great, rich and poor, to worship the beast and to take his 
mark in their forehead and on their hands.' It is easy to 
perceive, after reading such phrases, one reason why the 

» Foxe, iii. 107-31. ^ Bale's Scriptores. Basle edition, 1557-9, p. 503. 


Bishops objected to the study of the Bible by the common 
people. While Brute and his friends were beginning to 
realise the full horror of the Mediaeval Church system, their 
imaginations on the subject were easily inflamed by the 
mysterious and powerful language of the book in which, as 
they believed, they could find all truth. Brute proved to 
his own satisfaction that the Pope had the number of the 
Beast.^ He regarded the Papacy as the centre whence most 
evils emanated. The sale of pardons he traced chiefly to this 
source ; the encouragement of war to serve the interests of 
Eome shocked him scarcely less. Like Swynderby, he was 
accused of denying the Eeal Presence, and like Swynderby 
he explained his actual heresy to be that of Consubstantia- 
tion. He was fully alive to the dangers of priestcraft in 
all its aspects, including auricular confession and the pre- 
vailing doctrine of absolution. After many escapes, he was 
captured in 1393, brought before Bishop Trevenant at Here- 
ford, and forced to read a submission. But the words were 
so general that they scarcely amounted to a recantation 
and might mean one thing to the judges and another to the 

Lollardry continued to flourish in those parts, though 
Nicolas Hereford deserted his friends and accepted preferment 
in the Church. The spread of heresy in the West was not 
confined to the dioceses of Hereford and Worcester. There 
were Lollards in Beading and Salisbury, and the Bishop of 
that diocese, whose spiritual rule extended over all Berkshire 
and Wiltshire, had to deal with the most daring phase of 
the revolt. It was here that the Poor Priests first made the 
audacious experiment of creating their own successors. Pious 
Catholics were scandalised to learn that hedge-priests, ordained 
by their equals, were celebrating masses and administering 
the Sacraments. It does not seem that this form of rebellion 
against Episcopacy went very far, for most of the Lollard 
priests in the next generation had been regularly ordained by 

1 The Pope is 'Dux Cleri.' D = 500; V = 5; X = 10; C = 100; L = 50; 
E, K = 0; 1 = 1 .-, Dux Cleri = 666. 

- Foxe, iii. 131-87, 196-7 ; Bot. Pat., 17 E. II. m. 27 d. 


Bishops. But the attempt, at least, shows that advanced 
Wycliffism was strong in those parts.^ 

London was another focus of heresy. The citizens of 
the capital had applauded Aston at his trial, and had followed 
their favourite Mayor, John of Northampton, in his raid 
across the river. In 1387 Walter Patteshull, a Lollard priest 
who had once been a friar, raised a riot against his former 
associates by posting on St. Paul's door, specific charges of 
murder and other horrible crimes, which, he avowed, had been 
committed in his old convent. The rioters, who are described 
as ' nearly a hundred of the Lollards,' assaulted several friars 
with impunity, as the authorities of the city thought fit only 
to expostulate with them.^ This insolence on the part of the 
heretics took place in the year when the persecuting King was 
fully engaged in a contest with his political enemies. His 
nominee, the grocer Nicolas Brembre, was beginning to feel 
his artificial supremacy in London extremely insecure. In 
ordinary times Eichard took care that the Wycliffites of the 
capital, though staunch and numerous, should not molest their 
enemies or even carry on their services in public.^ 

The Lollardry of London was more immediately affected 
by political and parliamentary life than the Lollardry of the 
country districts. Many of the Parliamentary leaders had 
hostels in the city, and all came up to the capital once or twice 
a year on the business of the nation. In 1395 certain Lollard 
members of the Privy Council, finding themselves unable to 
influence their royal master in favour of their co-religionists, 
took advantage of Eichard's absence in Ireland to lay their 
opinions before Parliament. The movers in this affair were 
Sir Eichard Stury and Sir Lewis Clifford, Privy Councillors, 
Thomas Latimer the powerful Northamptonshire landlord who 
had helped the Wycliffites on his own estates, and Lord John 
Montagu, brother of the Earl of Salisbury. Montagu was a 
man of sincere conviction, who had removed all images from 

' Wals., ii. 188 ; Rot. Glaus., 20 Eic. II. 245, m. 28 ; Ibid. 13 E. II. pt. 1, 
m. 31. 

2 Wals., ii. 157-9. ' C. B. R., 15 E. U. (no. 240), m. 18. 


the private chapel attached to his fine manor-house of Shenley 
in Hertfordshire. His estates and influence lay in the counties 
bordering on London. Such were the men who brought before 
Parliament a paper setting out the most advanced tenets of 
Lollardry. The status of the proposers was in itself a suffi- 
cient safeguard against views subversive of property, which 
had no place in the Lollard programme. As an official state- 
ment by the leaders of the party, the articles are valuable 
evidence of its tendencies. They correspond exactly to the 
doctrine preached by individual heretics. They show that 
there was general agreement withm the sect on those ques- 
tions which had been brought forward by missionaries such 
as Swynderby, Aston and Purvey. There are the usual 
attacks on Transubstantiation, image-worship, pilgrimage, 
prayers for the dead, the riches and secular employments of 
the clergy. The necessity of auricular confession is denounced 
for the reason that it ' exalts the pride of the clergy ' and 
gives opportunity of undue influence. Exorcisms and blessings 
continually performed on inanimate objects, as wine, bread, 
water, oil, salt, incense, the walls and al^r of the church, the 
chalice, the mitre and the cross, are styled ' rather practices 
of necromancy than of true theology.' We find also — an im- 
portant and novel point — a strong objection to vows of celibacy. 
Vows of this nature were very commonly taken even by men 
and women who remained in ordinary life without entering 
a convent.^ Great virtue was supposed to attach to this, in 
accordance^with the well-known theory of the Church. Even 
Wycliffe had the mediaeval admiration for the state of virginity, 
but his followers shook it off. The Lollards considered it 
superstition, and preferred the state of marriage. Another 
article denounces superfluous arts ministering to the luxury 
of the age, and calls for sumptuarj^ laws ; men ought to live 
like the apostles, contented with simple food and dress. The 
Quaker's objection to all war as unchristian also appears as 
part of the Lollard creed. The cause of this somewhat im- 
practicable theory was the disgust engendered b}^ the de- 
vastating campaigns in France, crowned, when peace seemed 

' See the Ely Episcopal Eeeords, Calendar, Gibbons, passim; Bev. W. 
Hunt's Diocesan History of Bath and Wells, 138. 


in sight, by the Papal Crusades. The poet Gower, though 
opposed to Lollardry, gave voice to the same feeling against 
perpetual war, and the efforts of the clergy to keep it alive. 

And now to look on every side 
A man may see the world divide, 
The wars are so general 
Among the Christians above all, 
That every man seeketh reche (revenge). 
And yet these clergy all day preach, 
And sayen, good deed may none be 
"Which stands not upon charity. 
I know not how charity may stand 
Where deadly war is taken on hand. 

"When clergy to the war intend 
I know not how they should amend 
The woful world in other things 
To make peace betwen the Kings.^ 

These articles of Lollard belief were drawn up by Stury, 
Montagu and their friends, and solemnly presented to Parlia- 
ment, while other copies were nailed to the door of St. Paul's 
for the benefit of the citizens. It was the high-water mark of 
Lollardry. The Bishops, finding that the two Houses of 
Parliament refused to suppress their enemies, and knowing 
that they themselves were powerless to act alone, sent off the 
Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London in hot haste to 
fetch the King. They found him with his great army flounder- 
ing about bogs and wildernesses after swift-footed Irish kernes, 
and receiving the homage of recalcitrant kings, whose subjects 
were supposed, by the English knights, to eat human hearts 
as a delicacy. The Bishops easily persuaded Eichard to give 
over chasing the wild Irish, and return to the more practic- 
able task of suppressing heresy at home. He was deeply 
moved at the bad news. He came back in one of his passions, 
vowing to hang all Lollards. There was an end of the heretica-l 
proceedings in Parliament, and Sir Eichard Stury, the Privy 
Councillor, was compelled to forswear his opinions on pain of 
death. ' And I swear to you,' said the King, ' that, if you ever 

' Gower, Conf. Am., Prologue, 12 and 34 ; see also Vox Clam., bk. iii. cap. 9. 


break your oath, I will slay you by the foulest death that may 

From the day when Eichard thus swooped down upon 
the parliamentary heretics, to the day when his pride and 
power and the right line of Plantagenet passed away with 
the passing century, no important change took place in the 
position of the Lollards. Although occasional arrests were 
made, and although in some centres of population, like 
Leicester, secrecy was prudent, and perhaps necessary, per- 
secution was not consistently applied. The Poor Priests 
patrolled those districts where their protectors were strong, 
almost as safely as the friars themselves. This state of 
things was in no way the result of any favour shown to 
heresy by Eichard. The Church could not have wished for 
a more orthodox King. When the University bade fair to 
defy the authority of the Bishops, he had reduced the school- 
men to obedience by the royal authority. He had passed an 
ordinance against the Poor Priests which the Commons had 
insisted on repealing. He had again and again issued 
special mandates bidding his officers arrest Lollards who 
escaped or defied the Bishop's Summoners.^ He had issued 
general orders for the seizure of Wycliffe's works, and lastly, 
he had come back across St. George's Channel in order 
to crush at Westminster the heretics' parliamentary designs. 
Bound the magnificent tomb which he himself adorned in 
memory of his dead wife, and against the day of his own 
death, runs an inscription which the visitor to Westminster 
Abbey can still read. It contains the proud boast that ' He 
overthrew the heretics and laid their friends low.' ^ 

It was not any liberality in the King that made Eichard's 
reign a time to which later Lollards looked back with regret. 
Persecution had been partial and irregular for other reasons ; 
because public opinion both in the country and in the House 
of Commons had been against interference, because powerful 
men had befriended the heretics on their estates and in 

• John de Trokelov/e (E. S.), 174-83 ; Proiss., iv. cap. Ixxxiv. ; Wals., ii. 
216-7 ; Fasc. Z., 360-9 ; Stubbs, ii. 494, note 2 ; Post Mortem Ing^uisitiones 
Calendar, iii. 259-60, and Wals., ii. 159 for John Montagu. 

^ Rot. Glaus, and Rot. Pat. MSS., passim. 

* Stanley's Westinmster Abbey, ed. 2, 148-9. 


Parliament, because the Bishops had not ventured to face all 
this opposition for the sake of weeding the Church. It is not 
unlikely that, if severe persecution had been applied in all 
parts of England at a time when the heretics were still so 
uncertain of their position that they dared not face martyrdom, 
the movement might have been crushed outright. But it 
was allowed to take root and to produce men of sterner stuff. 
The chronicler of St. Albans bitterly laments the apathy of 
the Bishops in allowing the Poor Priests to roam their dioceses 
at pleasure, and declares that the only one who did his duty 
was fighting Bishop Spencer. That vigorous prelate swore 
he would burn any such preacher who came within his 
jurisdiction, with the result that there was not a single 
Lollard heard of in Norwich diocese.^ If his threat really 
produced this result, it is the more remarkable inasmuch as 
Norfolk and Suffolk afterwards became the hotbed of the sect. 
But when Henry the Fourth ascended the throne, the centres 
of Lollardry were found where the milder Bishops held sway 
— in the shires of Leicester, Northampton and Nottingham, in 
London and its neighbourhood, in Sussex,^ Berks and Wilts, 
in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. {See map, p. 352.) 

Here ends the history of the first generation of Lollards. 
We have reached, if we have not already outstepped, the 
furthest limit that can be set to the 'Age of Wycliffe.' In 
this calamitous epoch we have seen the noble institutions of 
early England sink, not without noise of falling, to their 
grave. We are pervaded and oppressed by a sense that true 
revival cannot come except with the triumph of new ideas and 
the erection of new machinery. The political victories of the 
Commons are unstable and of little worth as long as society 
is rent asunder by the insolence of the great lords and their 
military servants. Neither can the mediaeval monarchy 
revive under conditions so altered, without first altering 
itself. The old-fashioned management of the navy can no 
longer maintain maritime supremacy. The military system 

> Wals., ii. 188-9. ^ For Sussex, see Bot Glaus., 21 R. II. no. 247, m. 17. 


is not only useless abroad but fatal at home. The change 
from feudal to modern methods of land-tenure and field 
labour, more advanced than any other of the many changes 
in process, convulses society, and in one short but terrible 
crisis almost wrecks the State. In religion, the inadequacy 
of the Mediaeval Church to English needs is apparent in a 
hundred ways, and a great attempt is made to answer the 
call for something new. In the succeeding century all the 
movements for change were stopped, except as to land and 
labour, where the process went on silently but steadily. 
Henry the Fifth galvanised medisevalism into life. He 
maintained for a short while the old constitutional monarchy 
and the rights of the Commons against the nobles ; he re- 
conquered France ; he aided the Church to crush Lollardry. 
Little did all his efforts avail. Woful indeed, and barren of 
things good, were the reigns of his successors. The history 
of the fifteenth century in England brings to mind the words 
of Carlyle. ' How often, in former ages, by eternal Creeds, 
eternal Forms of Government and the like, has it been 
attempted, fiercely enough, and with destructive violence, to 
chain the Future under the Past ; and say to the Providence 
whose ways are mysterious and through the great deep : 
Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther ! A wholly insane 
attempt ; and for man himself, could it prosper, the fright- 
fullest of all enchantments, a very Life-^-Death.' ^ In the 
end the enchantment was broken, and the Age of Wycliffe 
found the answer to its questions in the Tudor Monarchy and 
the English Eeformation. y*" 

• Miscellaneous Works, iv. 33. 





Though we have now come to tlie end of the Age of Wycliffe, 
the reader would perhaps be sceptical as to its important 
effects on the course of English history, unless he had infor- 
mation about the later influence and ultimate destiny of 
the Lollard movement. The present chapter is designed to 
partially supply the need. 

Although the reign of Henry the Fourth was signalised 
by the increased bitterness of both parties and the commence- 
ment of internecine war, there was no turn in the tide of 
heresy. On two occasions the representatives of the shires, 
assuming as usual the leadership of the Lower House, pro- 
posed that the King should seize the temporalities of the 
Church and apply them to relieve taxation, to aid the poor, 
and to endow new lords and knights.^ This was a sign of in- 
creased Lollard influence over the gentry, for they had never 
advanced any such proposal in the days when John of Gaunt 
attempted to stir Parliament against Church property with a 
view to his own tortuous plans. It must have been a genuine 
expression of opinion, for such motions were no longer insti- 
gated by any party in the Lords, and they were actually dis- 
couraged by the Court. In retaliation for these proposals the 
Church party, by the aid of the royal family, passed statutes 
for the suppression of heresy. The consent, or at least the 
acquiescence, of the Commons was twice secured for such 

' Wals., ii. 263 ; Ammles Henrici (R. S. John of Trokelow), 393 ; Wals., 
ii. 282-3. 


measures/ although in another Parliament, in which the 
heretics had the upper hand, the knights petitioned for the 
relaxation of the persecuting laws ; ^ the Lollardry of the 
House of Commons was a fluctuating quantity. The famous 
statute of 1401, 'De Hasretico Comburendo,' was directed 
against the progress of doctrinal heresy, on the complaint of 
the Bishops that their own officers without State help were 
unable to restrain Lollardry.^ The statute afforded means 
for the burning of heretics which legally existed before, but 
were now recapitulated and approved with a view to energetic 
use. "" 

It has been already pointed out that the original founders 
of the sect, either from uncertainty of their position or from 
lack of physical courage, made little resistance when brought 
before the authorities of the Church. Even the last of that 
generation, John Purvey, the companion of Wycliffe's later 
years, when brought up for trial in his old age in March 1401, 
could not find the strength to die by torture for the opinions 
which he had held so long. But a new class of men had al- 
ready arisen. Three days before Purvey read his recantation 
at St. Paul's Cross, William Sawtrey had been burned for 
teaching that ' after the consecration by the priest there 
remaineth true material bread.' He suffered in the cattle 
market, where twenty years before young Eichard had faced 
the rebels, and where such executions were to take place for 
many and many a year to come. ' Acts of faith ' they may 
well be called, for it needed firm faith to roast a human being 
alive for opinions such as those of Sawtrey. The Middle 
Ages had given birth to such a ' faith,' that there was no hope 
for liberty of speculation until by rival ' faiths ' belief in the 
infallible Church had been undermined.* 

During the next few years a certain number of prosecutions 
for heresy took place ; all those of which we have record re- 
sulted in recantation.'^ But no vigorous assault was yet made 
on the Lollard party, for the lords and gentlemen who ad- 
hered to it were left untouched. Though Archbishop Arundel 

1 See Ap. - Wals., ii. 283 ; Hot. Pari., iii. 623 ; St., iii. 65. 

3 Bot. Pari., iii. 466. * Fasc. Z., 408-11 ; Wilkin, iii. 255-60. 

^ Ecclesiastical Courts, Blue Book, 1883, pp. 58-9. 


was in earnest, though the King and his son were only 
too eager to help, they were probably not a little afraid of 
the knights of the shires, and other powerful supporters of the 
heretics. In 1410 an artisan, whom they ventured to call 
to account, had the courage of his opinions and went to the 
stake. His name was John Badby ; he was one of the West- 
country Lollards, a tailor of Evesham, in the diocese of 
Worcester. Snatched away from his humble trade in the 
market town on Avon banks, he was confronted in London 
with the whole majesty of Church and State, two Archbishops, 
eight Bishops, the Duke of York, and the Chancellor of 
England. Yet he did not swerve from his opinion that 
' Christ sitting at supper could not give his disciples his living 
body to eat.' A more severe trial was still before him. In 
Smithfield Market he found the faggots piled up round the 
stake, and the heir to the throne standing by them. Young 
Prince Henry, although he indulged in wild and frivolous 
revels, was at the same time deeply engaged in politics, and 
acted as leader of the Church party. A genuine but simple 
piety of the medieval type fitted him well to play the part of 
the last King of Chivalry. Though he thought it his duty to 
persecute, he was not cruel, and could not unmoved see Badby 
go to his fate. He argued with him long and earnestly, 
making him promises of life and money if only he would 
recant. It was a remarkable and significant scene. The hope 
and pride of England had come in person to implore a tailor 
to accept life, but he had come in vain. At last the pile was 
lit. The man's agonies and contortions were taken for signals 
of submission. Henry ordered the faggots to be pulled away, 
and renewed his offers and entreaties, but again to no eifect. 
The flames were set a second time, and the body disappeared 
in them for ever. Henry the Fifth could beat the French at 
Agincourt, but there was something here beyond his under- 
standing and beyond his power, something before which Kings 
and Bishops would one day learn to bow.^ 

As soon as old Henry was dead, and young Henry seated 
on the throne, a step was taken which showed that the new 
King intended to crush Lollardry once and for all. A man 

• Wals., ii. 282 ; Wilkin, iii. 325-8 ; Eamsay, i. 125-7. 


was selected as victim, whose fall would prove that rank, 
wealth, honour, long public service, and even the King's 
personal friendship, would no longer suffice to protect the 
heretic from the flames. Sir John Oldcastle was a knight of 
good family and estate in West Herefordshire, that outlying 
district of England where Swynderby and Brute had so 
successfully established a Lollard party in the teeth of Bishop 
Trevenant. In the early years of Henry the Fourth's reign, 
Sir John had earned the gratitude of the new dynasty by his 
activity in maintaining order as Eoyal Commissioner on the 
disturbed and rebellious Welsh Border. In 1409 he married 
his third wife, Joan, heiress of Lord Cobham of Kent, and 
thereby came into possession of estates and castles round 
Cooling and Hoo, on the shores of the Thames and Medway. 
In this district, exposed to the eye of the world far more than 
in his ancestral home among the western mountains, he 
nevertheless offered the same open protection to Lollardry, 
and made his new domain another nest of heretics. He was 
himself a man of genuine religious conviction and piety, and 
by no means a mere priest-hater. Satirists expressed their 
dislike of his sanctimonious habits : — 

It is unkindly for a knight, 

That should a kinge's castle keep, 
To babble the Bible day and night 

In resting time when he should sleep ; 
And carefully away to creep 

Fro' aU the chief of chivalry. 
Well o^ight him to wail and weep, 

That such lust hath of Lollardry. 

As soon as Henry the Fifth had ascended the throne, the 
Bishops were given leave and encouragement to attack him, 
although the King first tried whether personal exhortation and 
argument could not move his old friend to repentance. But 
Henry was no more successful with the knight than he had 
been with the tailor, and the interview only added bitterness 
to estrangement. The Bishops' turn had come, and the heretic 
was cited to appear in the spiritual court. On receiving 
this summons Oldcastle adopted the theoretical position, that 
the Church had no jurisdiction over him, a plea clearly illegal 


in that age, though prophetic of the future. He shut himself 
up at Cooling Castle and refused to obey, until the King's writ 
for his arrest arrived. Then he surrendered. The royal 
officers produced him before the Bishops in St. Paul's Chapter 
House, the scene of Wycliffe's trial in 1377. Oldcastle made 
a bold confession of faith, denounced the misuse of images and 
pilgrimages, and rejected both Transubstantiation and the 
necessity of auricular confession. On these grounds he was 
proclaimed a heretic and handed over to the secular arm. 
The King, with whom lay the duty of burning the condemned 
man, gave Oldcastle forty days' respite, an interval which he 
used to escape from the Tower and call his co-religionists to 
arms in defence of conscience. The Lollards thought that the 
situation required violent measures. Although they had long 
been subjected to persecution, they had hitherto possessed 
strongholds in the houses of powerful sympathisers ; but if 
once they lost such guardians as Oldcastle, woods and caves 
would be their sole refuge. Their decision to rise in arms was 
unwise and wrong, not because they owed particular loyalty 
to a line which had usurped the throne only thirteen years 
before, but because, with small resources and few supporters, 
they could never hope to establish a government, or do any- 
thing more than throw the kingdom into confusion. But it 
is idle for armchair philosophers, living in the nineteenth 
century with the old-established privilege of believing or dis- 
believing in any religion as they choose, to condemn as fools 
and knaves men who dared to stake their lives and fortunes 
on one desperate throw for freedom of conscience. They cared 
intensely for the mission that they had undertaken, they 
believed (and with reason) that little good would come until 
it had succeeded, they saw that the existing government was 
determined to crush it, so they determined to be beforehand 
and to crush the government. 

The attempt proved a fiasco, though it demonstrated the 
numbers and zeal of the Lollard party in the Home Counties. 
A plot to seize the King at Eltham was discovered. It was 
planned to effect a coup d'etat by the junction ^ of bands of 
Lollards from town and country on St. Giles' Fields between 
London and Westminster. This also was frustrated by 


guarding the gates so that the Londoners could not leave the 
city, while the meeting ground itself was occupied by the 
King's troops. As fast as the bodies of rebels came up from 
the villages, they were seized or dispersed. Before dawn all 
was over save the hanging. Sir John Oldcastle himself 
escaped, and took refuge in his native district and the Welsh 
mountains beyond, where he lurked for three years longer in 
/ perpetual conspiracy, until he was j&nally captured, hanged as a 
traitor and burnt as a heretic. ' Oldcastle,' says Shakespeare, 
' died a martyr,' and though he also died a traitor, there are 
few who will deny him a claim to the honourable as well as to 
the odious title, ^ 

The affair of St. Giles' Fields bears a certain resemblance 
to the Chartist Demonstration of 1848. In both cases there 
was unnecessary alarm, caused by a movement which was 
not really strong enough to be dangerous ; in both cases the 
previous occupation of the ground where the rioters were to 
meet prevented any serious gathering, and in both cases 
most of the demands, which the insurgents failed to secure by 
physical force, were brought about by the working of time. 
But here the resemblance ceases, for no evidence has come 
to hand of any other motive save religion for the rising of 
January 1414. The rebels were not in league either with 
lords of the Mortimer and Plantagenet factions, or with social 

Only one knight, besides Sir John Oldcastle, and no person 
of higher rank, was implicated in the abortive rising, a fact 
the more remarkable since up till that time lords and knights 
had been considered the strength of Lollardry. Although 
many of the upper classes had been influenced by the doc- 
trines of the sect, and although many continued to nurse 
dislike of the wealth, the insolence and the overgrown privi- 
leges of the clergy, until these feelings broke out in the time 
of Henry the Eighth, there were found but few gentle- 
men ready to share during the fifteenth century the lot of 
a proscribed and rebel party. The 'sudden insurrection,' 

' Diet, of Nat. Biog. ; Fasc. Z., 433-50 ; Pol. Poems, ii. 244 ; Eamsay, 
i. chap. xiii. and pp. 253-4 ; Wals., ii. 291-7, 806-7, 327-8. 
^ See Ap. 


as the churchmen boasted, had incurred the disapproval of 
' knighthood ' and ' turned to confusion the sorry sect of 
Lollardry.' ^ 

The defection of wealthy patrons is also to be partly 
attributed to the characteristic poverty which marked all 
the priests of Wycliffe's sect, in accordance with his sweeping 
denunciation of Church possessions. Although the Poor 
Priests did not incite the lower classes against their more 
fortunate neighbours, they were themselves, as their name 
portends, men of no position and no property. The ideal 
which Wycliffe had prescribed for his missionaries was that 
of the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent out. They were 
not allowed to take money with them on their journeys, but 
were to depend on friends for food and lodging ; they were not, 
like the friars, to take a bag with them in which to carry off 
alms either in kind or money ; they were merely to accept the 
necessaries of life as each day required. In how many cases 
these precepts were strictly followed it is hard to say, but they 
were practised at least to some extent, and such a life had few 
attractions to priests of any save the poorest class. The 
choice of Lollard missionaries must thereby have been limited, 
and limited to that part of the clergy which was on the whole 
the least learned and the least trained. The first preachers 
of the sect, Hereford, Purvey, Aston and Brute, had been 
scholars and theologians ; but more and more as time went on 
the priests were simple, poor men, and no great Lollard divine 
succeeded Wycliffe. The religion became almost exclusively 
one for the lower classes of the country and the tradesmen of 
the towns. The lords, courtiers and knights gradually with- 
drew their patronage, partly because they so seldom found, 
among the ministers of the sect, any one who was socially 
their equal or educationally their superior. 

Yet in spite of these tendencies Lollardry had no con- 
nection with socialism or even with social revolt. If, at the 
time of the Peasants' Eising, any of the Lollard preachers, 
misrepresenting or disregarding Wycliffe's opinions, had 
attacked lay property and the rights of the manor lords, they 
soon ceased to do so. We possess reports of the proceedings 

1 Pol. Poems, ii. 247. 


against scores of Lollards, the items of indictment mount up 
to many hundreds, yet I have been able to find, between the 
years 1382 and 1520, only one case of a Lollard accused of 
holding communistic theories, and not a single case of a 
Lollard charged with stirring up the peasantry to right their 
social wrongs.^ 

The year after the unfortunate rebellion which had brought 
seven and thirty heretics to the gallows as traitors, two men, 
a baker and a skinner of London, were burnt by the Church 
for obstinate belief. During the following ten years a 
vigorous persecution was directed against the priests and 
chaplains belonging to the party, the most effective means of 
stopping the spread of the new doctrine. Out of twenty-five 
heretics of whose trials we have record during these ten years, 
eleven were in Holy Orders, but only one, a priest called 
William Tailour, had the resolution to go to the stake. The 
more determined Lollards, knowing that no alternative was 
now offered in the spiritual courts save recantation or death, 
took greater care than ever to avoid capture, while those whose 
convictions were less profound remained at their homes and 
were brought up before the Bishops to recant. We read of 
fifteen men of Kent who, with their priest, William White, 
took to the woods to avoid arrest by the Archbishop's officers, 
preferring outlawry to capture. The priest himself, who was 
taken in Norfolk in 1428, showed himself worthy of the spirit 
he had infused into his congregation, and perished at the 
stake. He had marked his contempt for Canon Law by 
openly marrying a wife." 

Not only in the Home Counties, but in the East and West 
of England, free opinion struggled against authority. Lol- 
lard influence was spreading through Somerset from the 
local centre of Bristol. As the West of England had its own 
great pilgrimage-shrines, Salisbury, Bath, and above all 
Glastonbury (where the monks showed a complete set of St. 
Dunstan's bones in rivalry to the set at Canterbury), it is not 
surprising to find that the Lollards of these parts laid great 

' See Ap. 

2 Fasc. Z., 420 ; Ecclesiastical Courts, Blue Book, 1883, 60-5 ; Poxe, iii. 581- 
91, and Wilkin, iii. passim, 1515-1528. 


stress on the absurdity of pilgrimage to relics. In 1431 the 
Bishop of Bath and Wells proclaimed through Somerset 
that he would excommunicate any who should translate the 
Bible into English or copy any such translation. The spirit 
of rebellion against the Church was strong in some parts of 
this county, as at Langport, where, in 1447, the tenantry of 
the Earl of Somerset drove their priest from his office, 
stopped all his services, buried their dead for themselves, 
refused to do penance, beat the Bishops' officers when they 
interfered, and rid themselves of all ecclesiastical influence 
and jurisdiction. These were tenantry of the greatest lord of 
the Bed Eose, acting under cover of their master's name and 
the license of the times.^ {See map, p. 352.) 

In East Anglia LoUardry was at least as widely spread as 
in the West, and was far more vigorously persecuted. In 
the reign of Eichard the Second, Bishop Spencer had by timely 
threats kept the Poor Priests out of his diocese, or had at least 
forced them to act in such secrecy that Norfolk and Suffolk 
remained in outward appearance the most Catholic part of 
England.^ But when he passed away, and more careless 
shepherds took charge of his flock, the wolves came leaping 
over the fence, and his preserve was soon one of the parts 
most infested by Lollards. In the neighbourhood of Beccles, 
on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk, great congregations 
were formed, Lollard schools started, and arrangements made 
with a certain parchment-maker for smuggling in the latest 
heretical tracts from the capital. This was about the time Of 
the accession of Henry the Sixth.-^ All was done without the 
protection or patronage of any powerful landowner, simply 
by the initiative of the middle classes of the district, searching 
for a religion suitable to themselves. In 1428 Bishop Alne- 
wick of Norwich determined to break up these congregations, 
and instituted proceedings for heresy against more than a 
hundred persons. It was natural that in a large commmiity 
of men and women, to most of whom religion was only 
one among the duties and considerations of life, by far the 

1 Mr. Hunt's Bath and Wells, Diocesan History Series, pp. 140-6 ; Corre- 
spondence of Bishop Bekyngton (R. S.), ii. 340. 

2 Wals., ii. 189. ^ Foxe, iii. 585. 


greater part should choose to recant and live ; but several, 
including three priests, preferred to be burnt to death,^ 

The depositions on which these heretics were convicted 
have fortunately come down to us, preserving a curious 
picture of nonconformist life in the fifteenth century. 
' Item Nicolas Belward is one of the same sect and hath a 
New Testament which he bought at London for four marks 
and forty pence, and taught the said William Wright and 
Margery his wife and wrought with them the space of one 
year and studied diligently upon the said New Testament.' 
This being one of the charges brought as condemnatory 
evidence into the Bishop's Court, it does not seem that the 
Church authorities were as tolerant of Bible study as is 
sometimes asserted. ' Item John Pert, late servant of 
Thomas Moon, is one of the same sect and can read well, 
and did read in the presence of William White.' These 
passages show not only that the Bishop of Norwich persecuted 
for Bible-reading,^ but .that the Lollards had further diffi- 
culties to contend with in searching the Scriptures. ' Four 
marks and forty pence ' would have been a prohibitive sum 
for many, and not onl}'- was the Book a rare treasure, but the 
man who could ' read well ' was rare treasure also. Some 
other charges are worth noting. Suspicion was aroused 
against Margery Backster and her husband by the horrible 
discovery of ' a brass pot standing over the fire with a piece 
of bacon and oatmeal seething in it ' during the season of 
Lent. She spoke her mind on the subject with more valour 
than discretion, declaring ' that every faithful woman is not 
bound to fast in Lent,' and that ' it were better to eat the 
fragments left upon Thursday at night on the fasting days 
than to go to the market to bring themselves in debt to buy 
fish.' Margery had even invited the informer to come ' with 
Joan her maid,' ' secretly in the night to her chamber and 
there she should hear her husband read the law of Christ 
unto them, which law was written in a book her husband was 
wont to read to her by night.' She also declared her intention 
of not bemg ruled by any priest, of not going on pilgrimage 
to our Lady of Walsingham or any other shrine, and her 

' Foxe, iii. 587-8, 599. ^ See Ap. 


opinion that Thomas of Canterbury was a false traitor and 
damned in hell. There are innumerable other charges of a 
like nature against various men and women of East Norfolk 
and Suffolk. One of their beliefs, at any rate, was not very 
far from the truth : ' William Wright deposeth that it is read 
in the prophecies of the Lollards, that the sect of the Lollards 
shall be in a manner destroyed ; notwithstanding at length 
the Lollards shall prevail and have the victory against all 
their enemies. ' ^ 

Heresy was strong not only in Norfolk and Suffolk, but 
in Essex, especially in Colchester. The Bishop of London, 
who had jurisdiction here, supported the noble efforts of 
his brother of Norwich, by burning the parish priest of 
Manuden, in Essex, and a woolwinder of London city. The 
Lollardry of the Eastern Counties had suffered a severe 
blow, for not only had the leaders been burnt, but the rank 
and file of the congregations had been forced to recant by the 
score, and each of them knew that if he resumed his old 
courses he would be burnt as a relapsed heretic without the 
opportunity of recantation. Nevertheless, as appeared in the 
sequel, the religion did not die out in those parts. ^ 

One effect of these persecutions was to bring Lollard 
conspiracy again to a head. In May and June 1431, im- 
mediately after the persecution in East Anglia, a series 
of pamphlets was widely distributed through the towns of 
England, calling for the disendowment of the Church. It 
was proposed to apply the confiscated property, partly to the 
maintenance of the poor, and partly, as the Commons had 
suggested in 1410, to the endowment of more landed nobility 
and gentry. It is unnecessary to point out that on the very 
eve of the Wars of the Eoses it was preposterous to suggest 
an increase in the numbers and wealth of those who kept 
retainers and practised maintenance. There could be no 
serious question of such a use for Church property until the 
first Tudors had crushed the harmful power of the nobles. 
Several persons were hanged for connection with the pamphlets 
before any actual disorder had taken place. However willing 

1 Foxe, iii. 594-7. 
2 Ibid. iii. 584-600; Blue Book, 1883, Ecclesiastical Courts, 64-6; see A.p. 


they may have been, the Lollards were not able to make the 
least show of rebellion.^ 

During the next quarter of a century more trials took 
place, at least two of which resulted in burning, but we have 
no record of any more attacks on whole congregations at once. 
The Lollards as a sect were probably going down in numbers, 
and were certainly in most places forced to act with greater 
secrecy under the pressure of such terrible laws, although 
it may well be that in some few districts besides Langport, 
the dependents of one or other of the Lords of the Eoses 
defied Church authority. An important light is thrown upon 
the state of religious parties at this time, by the story of 
Eeginald Pecock, Bishop of Chichester, which although it 
concerns only the fate of an isolated and friendless individual, 
has deservedly taken a place in the history of England. 

More than one large volume of theology written to confute 
Wycliffism has survived to our own day. The chief work of 
Henry the Fifth's time, written by Thomas Waldensis,^ is of 
interest only because it shows on what points Lollardry was 
repugnant to the orthodox of that generation ; but the argu- 
ments used by Eeginald Pecock, writing to confute the same 
heresies about the year 1450, are in themselves worthy of 
consideration. In his book, called ' The Eepressor of Over- 
much blaming of the Clergy,' he so far adopted Wycliffe's 
methods as to write, not in the learned Latin and for the 
clergy alone, but in English, to appeal to the reason of 
laymen. He assumes throughout his book that there exists 
a frankly outspoken prejudice against the Church and against 
her doctrines. Such phrases as this occur : ' Full oft have I 
heard men and women unwisely judge and defame full sharply 
well nigh all Christian men to be idolaters, and all for the 
having and using of images.' To describe his opponents 
Pecock uses such words as the ' lay party,' ' some of the lay 
people,' or ' many of the lay party.' His language implies 
that he was not speaking merely of a small sect despised and 
rejected of men, but of an attitude of mind which a clergyman 
might expect to find prevailing to a greater or less degree 

* Eamsay, i. 436-7 ; Privy Council, Nicolas, 89, 99, 107 ; Gregory's Chronicle, 
Camden Society, 1876, new series, xvii. 172. ^ Waldensis, ed. 1523. 


wherever he went. Even in the darkest days Lollardry was 
leavening society and causing great uneasiness to its tri- 
umphant enemies. 

As his book is addressed to the layman, Pecock refrains 
from brandishing Church authorities, as all previous defenders 
of orthodoxy had done, and adopts the tone, not of a Pope 
speaking ' ex cathedra,' but of a man taking his readers into 
his confidence. He gives this style of argument a name. 
He calls it ' reason.' Eeason, he says, is above Scripture ; 
the meaning of Scripture can only be discovered by reason, 
and if the apparent meaning of Scripture and the obvious 
dictates of reason conflict, he goes so far as to say that we 
must abide by reason. The object of his book is to overturn 
by reason the scriptural basis on which the ' lay party ' too 
confidently rested. They held that no ordinance is to be 
esteemed a law of God which is not founded on the Bible ; 
that every humble Christian shall arrive at the true sense of 
Scripture ; and that when the true sense has been discovered, 
all human arguments which oppose it are to be discarded. 
Having shown by appeals to reason that these propositions 
are not true, Pecock goes on to confute the particular applica- 
tions of Bible-texts which the ' lay party ' had used upon 
such topics as images, pilgrimages, episcopal authority and 
ecclesiastical endowment. He was undoubtedly assaulting 
Wycliffe's stronghold by the practicable breach. The inter- 
pretations of Scripture, by which the ' lay party ' thought they 
proved their doctrines, were often clumsy and strained, the 
efforts of men at once ill-educated and pedantic. Pecock 
points out the flaws in these misinterpretations with great 
success, by the process of reason or common sense. But 
having done this he considers that he has done all, and 
refrains from inquiring whether faith in the invocation of 
Saints and the sacredness of images and relics might not 
be overturned by that very ' reason ' with which he has been 
exposing his opponents' fallacies. He proves, to his own 
satisfaction at least, that Scripture did not concern itself with 
forbidding the practices of the Eoman Church, but he never 
really attempts to prove that reason has ordained them. The 
effective part of his argument is purely negative, and when he 


attempts to justify by reason the friars' hypocritical practice 
of touching money only with a stick, we feel that he had 
cause to fear his own weapons. 

Such a fear, at any rate, was entertained by the Church 
authorities, who soon gave their champion to understand that 
they had no wish to be defended by methods that might be 
fatal to their own position in the end. Bishop Pecock was 
brought to trial for heresy in 1457. He was accused of 
having ' rejected the authority of the old doctors,' ' saying 
that neither their writings nor those of any others were to be 
received, except in so far as they were agreeable to reason. 
When passages from their works had been produced against 
him, he had been known to say — " Pooh, Pooh ! " ' He was 
condemned and offered the alternative of recantation or death 
by fire. He had not, like the Lollard martyrs, a vigorous 
faith of his own to pit against this tyranny, and he believed 
too much in the Catholic Church to feel the fierce indignation 
against his persecutors that might have carried a high-spirited 
man through the ordeal. He recanted and read a public abjura- 
tion at St. Paul's Cross, was deprived of his bishopric, and 
ended his days in confinement at Thorney Abbey in the fens of 
Cambridgeshire. The Archbishop gave orders to the Abbot 
that ' he was to have nothing to write with and no stuff to 
write upon.' It is pitiable to think of this seeker after God, 
fallen on an age that did not understand him, shut up like a 
child in disgrace for the rest of his life, the scorn of stupid 
monks. Both on him and on the Lollards the obscurantist 
forces, which then ruled Christendom, had descended with 
crushing weight. Before Q,nj good thing could happen in the 
intellectual life of England it was necessary to break the ter- 
rible power thus madly wielded by the Bishops. They blocked 
the way to all who sought for truth in whatever direction.^ 

From the trial of Pecock to the end of the Wars of the 
Eoses the prosecutions on record are few, though there may 
have been many of which evidence has not survived. The 
political troubles probably made the Bishops less active than 
they otherwise might have been, and previous persecution had 
taught the Lollards as a sect to lie very quiet. In 1466, 

- Pecock's Repressor (B. S.), Introduction and text. 

1490-1520 ' ON THE PACE OF THE WATEES ' 347 

however, ' an heretic was ybrende [burnt] at the Tower Hill,' 
to use the words of a contemporary chronicler, ' for he 
despised the sacrament of the altar ; his name was "William 
Barlowe, and he dwelled at Walden (Essex). And he and his 
wife were abjured long time before. And my Lord of Londgn 
kept him in prison long time, and he would not make no 
confession to no priest but only unto God, and said that no 
priest had no more power to hear confession than Jack Hare.' ^ 
Eight years later another Lollard named John Goos was 
burnt, also on Tower Hill. ' In a slippery and faithless age,' 
says the historian of that unhappy period, ' it is refreshing to 
jQnd one man who could die for his convictions. Staunch to 
the last, he asked to be allowed to dine before going to 
execution. He said, " I ete nowe a good and competent dyner, 
for I shall passe a lytell sharpe shower or I go to souper." ' ^ 

In the reign of Henry the Seventh a spirit seemed to be 
moving on the face of the waters. An ever-increasing number 
of men burnt for Lollardry was only one of the signs of the 
times, but it is the one that most concerns us here, for the 
history of these martyrdoms affords ample proof that a 
revival of Wycliffism had set on foot a serious movement for 
reformation in England, before the good news came from 
Germany. The evidence set down against these men in the 
records of the spiritual courts shows that the sect had under- 
gone some change in the course of a hundred years. The 
Lollards had become more than ever what it was their boast 
to be — ' simple men ; ' their religion was a religion of common- 
sense rather than of learning. This resulted from two 
causes, their long separation from the wealthier and better 
educated classes, and the destruction by the authorities of 
Wycliffe's theological writings. His Latin books and the bulk 
of his English pamphlets had been exterminated in Eng- 
land. His ' Wicket,' a popular tract against Transubstantia- 
tion, seems alone to have remained to his followers in the 
sixteenth century. That work, and translations of parts of 
the Bible, formed the literature of Protestant communities 
in this period. They had had a system of theology in the 
works of their founder — those works had been hunted out and 

' Gregory's Chronicle, p. 233, Caraden, new series, xvii. ^ Eamsay, ii. 455. 


burnt ; they had founded schools ' — those schools had been 
broken up. Even to study the Bible was for them a dan- 
gerous offence, though they braved that danger. Persecution 
had forced them to become an unlearned body. It is not for 
the Catholic Church which deprived them of their literature 
to scoff at the Lollards as illiterate. 

For the rest, we find that the opinions of the sect have 
become on the whole more violent and harsh than those of 
the early Wycliffites. This was the inevitable result of the 
prolonged death-struggle with the pitiless organisation of 
Catholicism, whose every aspect was becoming more and 
more odious to its victims. Many, if not most, of these later 
Lollards had passed beyond the limited heresy of Consub- 
stantiation, which had satisfied their predecessors, and spoke 
with increasing scorn and disgust of the rites which then con- 
stituted religion.- 

The strength of revived Lollardry is displayed in the 
Eegisters of the persecuting Bishops, which afford us evi- 
dence of various Lollard congregations between 1490 and 
1521, each as large as that which the Bishop of Norwich had 
broken up at Beccles in 1431, congregations who studied 
Wycliffe's ' Wicket,' and who could trace back their founda- 
tion to the beginning or middle of the fifteenth century. At 
Newbury in Berkshire and Amersham in Buckinghamshire 
there had been such societies in continuous existence for 
sixty or seventy years. A preacher of that district named 
Thomas Man, before going to the stake in 1518, told his 
judges that he believed he had converted seven hundred 
persons in the course of his life. Uxbridge and Henley had 
heretic congregations, in close communication with those of 
Norfolk and Suffolk, several years before Luther appeared on 
the stage. Li 1521 a great attack was made on the Buck- 
inghamshire and Berkshire Lollards by the Bishop of 
Lincoln, and on those of Essex and Middlesex by the Bishop 
of London. Accusations were heard against hundreds of 
persons, scores were forced to recant, and at least six were 
burned. But even at this advanced date the English Bible 
and Wycliffe's 'Wicket' were the only literature of the 

' Rot. Pari., iii. 466 ; Foxe, iii. 585. - See Foxe, iv. 221-46, passim. 


accused : we hear nothing of German or Lutheran influence, 
which indeed had not time to spread into the little villages 
and country towns which the Bishops attacked.^ 

During the reign of Henry the Seventh there were re- 
newed persecutions in such old Lollard centres as Bristol, 
Salisbury, and Coventry, and one or two persons were burnt 
in Norfolk and Kent, But we hear of no heresy outside the 
old range of Lollard influence.^ In London, between 1500 
and 1518, men were forced to recant by the score, while four 
or five were burnt. The capital had always contained 
Wycliffites, and the connexion between the London Protes- 
tants of this period and their predecessors of the fifteenth 
century is confirmed, if it needs confirmation, by the express 
statements of their persecutors. In 1514 Eichard Hun, who 
soon afterwards died in prison in the Lollards' Tower under 
suspicious circumstances, was accused of ' having in his keep- 
ing divers works prohibited and damned by the law, as the 
xApocalypse in English, the Epistles and Gospels in English, 
and Wycliffe's damnable works.' ^ Another man had ' divers 
times read the said book called Wycliffe's Wicket,' which had 
been introduced to him many years before by an old Lollard 
who was burnt at Salisbury in 1503.^ Still more impor- 
tant is the opinion of Tunstall, Bishop of London, on the 
effect of Lutheranism in England, which he expresses in a 
private letter to Erasmus in the year 1523. ' It is no 
question,' he writes, ' of some pernicious novelty ; it is only 
that new arms are being added to the great band of Wycliffite 
heretics ' ■' Erasmus himself, writing the same year to Pope 
Adrian the Sixth, to urge on the new Pontiff the remarkable 
doctrine of the uselessness of persecution, confesses that ' once 
the party of the Wycliffites was overcome by the power of the 
Kings ; but,' he adds, ' it was only overcome and not ex- 
tinguished.' ^ 

The Bishop of London was right when he said that 
Lutheranism was adding new arms to the Wycliffites. Al- 

' Foxe, iv. 123-4, 213-4, 221-46. 

- Seyer's Memoirs of Bristol, ed. 1823, 213; Foxe, iv. 126-8; Norfolk, 
Foxe, iv. 8 ; Salisbury, Foxe, iv. 126-8 and 207 ; Kent, Foxe, iv. 7 ; Coventry, 
Foxe, iv. 133. a j^oxe, iv. 184. 

* Ibid. iv. 207-8, iii. %. « Erasmus, 1159. « Ibid. 787. 


though in the country districts, East Anglia, Berks, and 
Bucks, the old Lollard congregations were in 1521 still 
untouched by German influence, Lutheran books were in that 
very year introduced into Oxford, with the result that ' divers 
of that University were infected with the heresies ' of the 
German.^ Although the new doctrines scarcely differed at 
all in essentials from Lollardry, they appealed better to the 
politician and the man of learning. The orthodox instantly 
took alarm. King Henry wrote his famous Defence of the 
Paith, and Cardinal Wolsey in that same year issued orders 
to seize all Lutheran books. Here, then, ends the history of 
Lollardry proper, not because iIlLs"exnnguisEedn5uFl3F^ 
is merged in another party. The societies of poor men, who 
met to read the Gospel and Wycliffe's ' Wicket ' by night, 
suddenly finding Europe convulsed by their ideas, seeing their 
belief s adopted by the learned and the powerful, joyfully surren- 
dered themselves to the great new movement, for which 
they had been waiting in the dark years so faithfully and 
so long. 

But the importance of Lollardry cannot be estimated 
merely by the number of ready recruits for the battle of the 
Eeformation which it supplied from its own ranks. The 
effect produced on ordinary men who were no Lollards cannot, 
unfortunately, be determined by historical analysis. But a 
consideration of human nature, and more especially of the 
English nature, would lead to the supposition that through- 
out this long period there were many impressed without 
being convinced, or convinced without being ready to act on 
their conviction. Between the Lollard and the high Catholic 
position, between the exhortations of the heretic pulpit and 
the directions of the orthodox confessional, there were many 
shades of opinion and many houses of rest, in which our 
ancestors' minds must have loved to lodge, if they at all 
resembled our own. Although the Church authorities in the 
fifteenth century grew more rather than less intolerant by 
force of revulsion from Lollardry, the ordinary layman began 
to see that there were two sides to the religious question. Lay- 

1 Letter of Archbishop Warham to Cardinal Wolsey, see p. 4, LutJieran 
Movement in England, Jacobs. 


men who were not Lollards wrote satires against the Bishops 
about the sale of pardons and of absolution, against the friars 
for their immorality, and against the clergy generally for the 
simony and hypocrisy of ' pope-holy priests full of presump- 
tion.' These and other signs were already alarming the 
lovers of the Church, who saw symptoms of a lay revolt. 
We find a churchman appealing to Henry the Sixth to defend 
the clergy against the ill-will of the lords and knights, who 
were certainly not Lollards at that time.^ The great mass of 
Englishmen, who were still hostile or indifferent to the new 
doctrine, were compelled to realise that there existed other 
forms of religion besides the regular mediaeval Christianity, 
a truth horrible and appalling until it became customary. 
Thus the ideas of Luther and Latimer did not come to 
Englishmen in all the shocking violence of novelty, since 
here the doctrines of Lollardry had been common talk ever 
since 1380. The doctrinal and ritual reformation of religion 
in England was not a work of the sixteenth century alone. 
The difference between the religious beliefs of an average 
layman at the time of the Gunpowder Plot and those of his 
ancestor in the age of Crecy, was so profound that the change 
cannot have been wrought in a generation, still less by a 
Court intrigue. The English mind moves slowly, cautiously, 
and often silently. The movement in regard to forms o^ 
religion began with Wycliffe, if it began no earlier, and 
reached its full height perhaps not a hundred years ago. 
England was not converted from Germany ; she changed 
her own opinion, and had begun that process long before 
Wittenberg or Geneva became famous in theological contro/ 
versy. If we take a general view of our religious history, we 
must hold that English Protestantism had a gradual and 
mainly regular growth. 

Apart from questions of doctrine and ritual, the importance 
of Lollardry was great in formulating the rebellion of the 
laity. That rebellion was directed against the attempt of the 
Church to keep men in subordination to the priest, after the 
time when higher developments had become possible. If 
Wycliffe began the doctrinal and ritual revolution, even he 

' Pol. Poems, ii. 237 and 248-51. 


did not begin this wider movement. L was but one 

of the many channels along which flowed the tide of lay 
revolt. Chaucer, Langland, Gower, John of Gaunt, the 
rebels of 1381, the townsmen rioting against monasteries, the 
Parliament men who demanded the confiscation of Church 
property, those who would not do penance, those who refused 
to appear in the Church courts, those who would not pay tithe, 
were all striving in the same direction, Lollardry offered a 
new religious basis to all. Under Henry the Eighth all these 
forces rose together and swept away the mediaeval system. 
The King did it, the nobles took the spoils, but the nation 
reaped the advantage. The Northern counties, which had not 
shared in Lollardry or in any of the kindred movements, rose 
to protest in the Pilgrimage of Grace ; but the South of Eng- 
land, which then meant the strength of England, stood by the 
King. In the reign of Eichard the Second many laymen had 
thought the existing power, property and privileges of the 
Church to be an evil, but a sacred evil. The Lollards asserted 
that ecclesiastical evils were not necessarily sacred. The 
triumph of that view was the downfall of the governing 
Church, and it preceded by thirty years the Elizabethan 
adjustment of doctrine and ritual. 

In England we have slowly but surely won the right of 
the individual to form and express a private judgment on 
speculative questions. During the last three centuries the 
battle of liberty has been fought against the State or against 
public opinion. But before the changes effected by Henry the 
Eighth, the struggle was against a power more impervious to 
reason and less subject to change — the power of the Mediaeval 
Church in all the prestige of a thousand years' prescriptive 
right over man's mind. The martyrs who bore the first brunt 
of that terrific combat may be lightly esteemed to-day by 
priestly censure. But those who still believe that liberty of 
thought has proved not a curse but a blessing to England 
and to the peoples that have sprung from her, will regard with 
thankfulness and pride the work which the speculations of 
Wycliffe set on foot and the valour of his devoted successors 




As this work is strictly a history of England and not of 
Wyclif&sm, I have felt no call to enter into the second half 
of Wycliffe's work — his influence on continental affairs. In 
some sense this is an omission even from the point of view of 
English history, for his doctrines were adopted by the Hussites, 
the Hussites to a greater or less extent affected Lutheranism, and 
Lutheranism reacted on England. In a Bohemian psalter of 
1572 appears a symbolical picture representing Wycliffe striking 
the spark, Huss kindling the coals, and Luther brandishing the 
lighted torch. ^ To some extent this truly represents the case ; for 
it is scarcely too much to say that the works of Huss were repe- 
titions or paraphrases of Wycliffe's writings.^ The degree to which 
the Hussite movement hastened or affected the German Eeforma- 
tion is a question which is best left to the Germans themselves. 

Besides England and Bohemia, LoUardry found a hazardous 
home in a country which in institutions and society at that time 
differed from England almost as much as from Bohemia, although 
in the race and character of the inhabitants the kinship with 
the English was very close. As far back as 1407 an English 
Wycliffite named John Eeseby, flying from the persecutors in his 
own land, had taken refuge in Scotland, probably the first Presby- 
terian to set foot on that kindly soil. Whether his eyes were 
delighted with angehc visions of future Kirk Assemblies, it is 
for poets to say ; but in any case the Pope had the better of it for 
the time, and the Scotch Bishops burned the intruder at the stake.^ 
Either Eeseby, or other such English fugitives, brought over 
the Border writings of Wycliffe, which were read and treasured by 
Scotch Lollards in great fear and secrecy during the early years of 
the fifteenth century.^ In 1425 the sect was large enough to 

' John Wiclif, Patriot and Reformer, Buddensieg, p. 9. 

^ Wyclif and Hus, Loserth, bk. ii. 181-280 in Evans's translation. 

^ Spottiswood, bk. ii., gives the date 1407 ; Bower's Continuation of Fordun 
makes it 1408. In any case it is not 1422, as one might think from Knox. 

* Walter Bower's Continuation of Fordun; see Burton's History of 
Scotland, ed. 1867, iii. 92. 

A A 

354 NOTE 

attract the attention of the Scotch Parliament, which directed the 
Bishops to suppress it; and in 1431 a Bohemian, who denied 
Transubstantiation and administered the Sacrament in both kinds 
to his congregation after the fashion of his Hussite fellow- 
countrymen, was burnt at St, Andrews. After that we hear no 
more of Scotch heretics for some time. They seem to have kept 
the candle alight, though under a bushel, for three generations 
later we come upon their successors, known in history as ' the 
Lollards of Kyle.' Their home was Ayrshire, and they numbered 
in their congregation several lords and ladies of good family. In 
1494 the Archbishop of Glasgow condemned thirty of them in his 
spiritual court, on articles which prove them to have been genuine 
Lollards ; but he could not induce the secular arm to bring any of 
them to the stake. ^ Although the lasting effect of Wycliffism in 
England is beyond a doubt, it would perhaps be harder to show 
that the Scotch Lollards took any great part in preparing their 
country for the later conquest by Calvinism. But perhaps this 
question is better left to the Scotch. 

^ Knox, History of the Reformation in Scotland, bk. i. He says the 
districts they came from were Cunningham, King's Kyle, and Kyle Stewart. 
In the neighbouring county of Kirkcudbright, local tradition points to Earlston 
Castle, that stands on wooded heights overlooking the valley of the Water of 
Ken, a few miles north of St. John's Town of Dairy, as the home of a Lollard 
lord. This makes it likely that they had some places of refuge in Kircud- 
brightshire, the mountainous district where the Cameronians held out to the 
death against Claverhouse and his dragoons. 



Note 3, p. 5 
The Chancellor Thorpe had held the post of Master of Pembroke 
College, Cambridge, a foundation of the Pembroke family (Moberly's Life 
of WyTceJiam, ed. 1893, p. 94). The Treasurer Scrope was the Duke of 
Lancaster's right-hand man. See Foss, Judges of England, sub loc. ; 
St., ii. 442 and 489. The proofs of Scrope's attendance on John of Gaunt 
in the expeditions to France of 1359, 1366, 1369, and 1373, appear in the 
deposition in the Scrope and Grosvenor case, S. and G. Boll, Nicolas, ii. 

Note 1,^, 10 

In 1365 and 136& similar grants for two years had been made, but the 
King's ministers had not considered this liberality an excuse for omitting 
to hold parliament. During the whole of this long reign there had been 
no abeyance of parliament for two years together, except during the Great 
Plague. On five other occasions parliament had been omitted for one 
year. But the strongest evidence that the omission was resented in the 
present case is the petition of the Commons of 1376, that parliaments be 
held once a year. Bot. Pari., ii. 355. 


Note 1, p. 15 

E.g. Chronicon Anglice, 68, 70, 72, 74 ; Wals., i. 348, ii. 84. Thus 
the Chronicon Anglice, p. 112, mentions that John of Gaunt used unfair 
influence in the county elections, but does not think it worth while 
to speak of the returns for the towns. The words of the chronicler are 
so clear on this point that they are worth quoting : — ' Milites vero de 
comitatibus quos dux pro arbitrio sm-rogaverat (nam omnes qui in ultimo 
Parliamento viriliter pro communitate steterant, procuravit pro viribus 
amoveri ; ita quod non fuerunt ex illis in hoc Parliamento prseter duo- 



decim, quos dux amovere non potuit, eo quod comitatus, de quibus electi 
fuerant, alios eligere noluerunt).' See also Bot. Pari., ii. 355, where the 
complaint is only of forced election in the counties and not in the towns. 

Further contemporary evidence is not lacking that the knights of the 
shire were alone considered important from a political point of view. 
Thus when Richard the Second packed his Parliament of 1397, through 
the agency of the Sheriffs, he only concerned himself about the county, 
and not the town members. Langland {Bieh. Bedeless, passus iv. 627, 
Skeat) :— 

(The King) ' sente side sondis (wide messages) to schreuys aboute, 

To chese swich cheuaUeries as the charge wold. 

To sehewe ffor the schire in company with the grete. 

And whanne it drowe to the day of the dede-doynge, 

That sovereignes were sembHd and the schire-knytis ; 

Than, as her (their) fforme is, ffrist they beginne to declare 

The cause of her comynge and than the kyngis will.' 

It is only some lines later that the town members are mentioned, and 
then as quite a distinct body from the knights. 

' A morwe thai must, affore meti to-gedir. 
The knytis of the comunete and carpe of the maters 
With citiseyne of shiris ysent ffor the same.' 

Stubbs, ii. 540, supports this view. Though he does not refer in the 
footnote to the original authorities from which he formed the conclusion, 
it is clearly the result of all his enormous research work in the authorities 
that concern the later Middle Ages. 

My contention is, not that the burghers took no part in the business of 
Parliament, for they sent up such petitions as concerned themselves, but 
that they took no important share in the pohcy of attacking ministers, 
appointing councils of state, &c., which the Commons carried out in the 
next ten years. 

Note 3, p. 15 

We may indeed be led slightly to exaggerate the unanimity of the 
Commons, owing to the omission of all minority-protests from the Rolls 
of Parhament, but the opposition to the general sense of the House must 
have been very small, seeing that it has not found its way into the 
chronicles, or any other unofficial records of the time. 

The only record of a minority-protest against the general sense of the 
House is in Ghron. Aug., 112, where the protest is made in favour of the 
policy of the Good Parhament and of most other parliaments, against the 
unusual policy of that particular Parhament of 1377, which assembly 
John of Gaunt had packed. This, therefore, is the exception that proves 
the rule. 

Note 4, p. 29 

Ghron. Aug., 98-100 ; Gesta Abbatum S. Alb., iii. 230-2 ; Bot. Pari., 
ii. 329 ; Bishop Stubbs (ii. 452) says : — ' Under a general ordinance against 


allowing women to practise in the courts of law, they obtained an award 
of banishment and forfeiture ' against Alice Ferrers. If this means that 
her goods were at this time forfeited, it is incorrect. It was only pro- 
vided that her goods should be forfeited and herself banished the king- 
dom if she afterwards returned to Court. She did return to Court 
and the sentence was consequently executed by the Parliament of October 
1377, but not by the Good Parliament, as Bishop Stubbs might lead 
people to suppose. 

Note 2, _p. 30 

I agree with Bishop Stubbs (ii. 452, note 6) that although the KoUs of 
Parliament put the sections referrring to the formation of this Council 
before the sections referring to the impeachments, it is probable that the 
distinct statement of the Chronicon Anglice is to be preferred. That 
chronicle, which gives a very detailed account of every step of the pro- 
ceedings of this Parliament, says, after describing the affair of Alice 
Perrers, ' His ita se habentibus, cum jam finis Parhamenti instaret, 
milites petierunt ut duodecim domini regis consiliis assiderent,' &c. The 
EoUs of Parliament are, it must be remembered, no evidence of chrono- 
logical order, for they arrange their matter in order of class of subject, 
not in order of time. Thus they record the grant of money, which was 
in this Parliament carefully deferred to the end of all, before any other 
business, even before the first refusal of the Commons to make the grant. 

It is true that an MS. from Stowe's collection, printed at the 
beginning of Chron. Ang. (R.S.) p. Isxi, puts the election of the Council at 
the beginning of Parliament, and makes the new councillors the judges 
of the impeached peers. But the MS. is without date or parentage, a 
mere scrap without beginning or ending, and cannot be put up against 
the detailed account of the Good Parliament, given by such an authority 
as the Chronicon Anglice. Besides, the Eolls of Parliament make it 
clear that the impeached were not tried before a select committee. The 
other MS. of a similar character, printed at the beginning of Chron. Aug., 
p. Ixviii, gives the names of the councillors, but does not clearly state at 
what period of Parhament they were elected. 

Note 2, p. 38 

Wals., i. 325, states that the Pope issued bulls for Wychffe's arrest before 
this trial, but this statement is incorrect. The bulls are dated May 31, 
1377. Walsingham's account of the matter is palpably worthless, e.g. he 
gives the Eucharist heresy as one of Wycliffe's shortcoixiings at the time 
of this first trial. Wals., i. 324. His statement that the Archbishop then 
enjoined silence on Wycliffe is as valueless as the rest. 

Note 2, p. 50 

' The Chron. Ang. states that the immaculate Bishop obtained this 
concession by making friends with the Mammon of unrighteousness in 
the pleasing shape of Alice Perrers, and that the Duke was angry with 


her for exerting her influence in favour of his enemy. Although this 
chronicler would be unlikely to wilfully record untrue scandal about his 
favourite hero, the Bishop of Winchester, there is yet some ground to doubt 
the truth of this story. Three days before the King's death, when all 
knew the end nuist soon come, was not a likely season for Wykeham to 
go out of his way to seek the friendsliip of Edward's ixiistress. Some 
change in the State was a certainty directly the new King succeeded, and 
it would be the Bishop's part to wait for Edward's death. A likelier ex- 
planation of the restoration of the temporalities is this : John of Gaunt, if 
he knew the Khig was dying, would wish to conciliate such enemies as 
Wykeham with a view to the commg revolution. The fact that the 
restoration of the Bishop's lands is signed ' per concilium ' also points to 
the fact that the Duke took part in this act of concession. Further, it is 
natural to suppose that Edward would, at the near approach of death, 
remember of his own accord the past services of his faithful friend 
William of W^ykeham. 

However, in the face of the clearly unprejudiced statement of the 
Chronicle, the matter must remain doubtful. 


Note l,_p. 54 

Sir H. Nicolas' History of the Navy, passim ; Bat. Pari., ii. 307, 311, 
820; Feed., iv. 16; Social England, ii. 42-7 and 182-94. Out of a 
fighting navy of 700, the quota of Eoyal ships was about 25. The rest 
were merchantmen, &c. from the different towns ; see Nicolas, Boyal 
Navy, ii. 507-10. 

Note 1, p. 59 

Bot. Pari., iii. 122, sec. 8 ; St., iii. 550 ; Bot. Pari., iii. 118, sec. 98. 
The best proof of the general adoption of this system is found in the MS. 
Calendar of the Exchequer documents, Eecord Office, entitled 'Army, &c.' 
See latter part of Edward the Third's reign, government contracts vidth 
various private persons for their troops. The first document of Eichard the 
Second's reign referred to in this Calendar is an ' indenture dated March 9, 
E. II., made between the King and Thomas Tryvet, chivaler, witnessing the 
agreement of the latter to serve the Bang for a year with eighty men and 
eighty archers.' These are examples of the system, which it is clear from 
this Calendar was the basis of our armies in France. See also the Scrope 
and Grosvenor EoU, Nicolas, ii. 20, for a similar engagement of John of 
Gaunt in 1359, to serve with 300 men-at-arms, 500 archers, 216 squires, 
80 knights and 3 bannerets. The King paid the Duke for serving with so 
many men, and the Duke raised the required force by sub-contracts with 
smaller nobles, such as that with Lord Neville (Dugdale, p. 296). 

The only mention of any standing army or royal troops is a passage 


in Chron. Ang,, 154, which speaks of ' Alemanni Eegis stipendiarii,' in 
the coronation procession of Eichard the Second. They could have been 
nothing but a small body, for they are mentioned nowhere else, and took 
no part that we hear of in suppressing the Rising of 1381, when the Kmg 
depended on the Londoners and on Knolles' retainers for the immediate 
suppression of Tyler's bands, and on the forces that came in from the 
country under the lords for reconquest of the disturbed districts. 

Note 1, p. 91 

Feed., iv. 51 ; Bp. Stubbs (ii. 467, note 4) implies that the reason of 
Houghton's resignation was the Pope's inquiry into his conduct with 
regard to certain clergymen whom he had ill-treated ; see Fosd., iv. 51. But 
the King's description of Houghton {Foed., iv. 55) states that he was a 
strong churchman in politics, ' fuit namque semper et est inter ceteros 
prelatos regni nostri totius status ecclesiastici fortissimus defensator.' 
Unless this is a downright lie, Houghton's position in a government that 
was at open quarrel with the Church over the Westminster Sanctuary 
question, would have been simply impossible. This I believe to have 
been the reason of his resignation. 

Note % p. 92 

That this difficulty in the working of the law actually took place is 
shown by Henry the Eighth's statute modifying the law of Sanctuary; it 
orders that the abjurer be branded on the hand with the letter A, ' that 
he may be better known among the King's subjects.' Stats, of Bealm, 

21 H. VIII. 2. There was no such provision in the reign of Eichard the 

For the laws of sanctuary, see Bevue Historique, vol. 50, ' Abjuratio 
regni,' and all the cases of sanctuary that occur in Gross. 

Note 1, p. 94 

The great part played by the privilege of Sanctuary in thwarting 
criminal justice may be seen by studying Gross' Select Coroners' Eolls, 
Selden Society, where frequent cases occiu*. 

See also the preamble to Henry the Eighth's great statute of 1540, 
which shows at least what had been the experience of the generations 
succeeding Wycliffe. ' Evil-disposed persons within this realm and other 
his grace's dominions, nothing regarding the fear of God nor the punish- 
ment of the King's laws, heretofore have done and do daily commit and 
perpetrate wilfully, as well great, sundry and detestable murders, 
robberies and also great and heinous offences, whereunto such malefactors 
are partly instigated and moved by certain licentious privileges, and other 
liberties granted to diverse places and territories within the realm, 
commonly called Sanctuaries, to which such wilful offenders heretofore 
.have had refuge and tuition of their lives and bodies after the said mis- 
chievous offence.' Stats, of Bealm, 32 H. VIII. 12; 21 H. VIII. 2; 

22 H. VIII. 14. 



Note 1, jp. 114 

See the legate Otho's ordinance in 1237, and the acceptance of the 
principle by the Church in 1268 ; Gibson's Codex, ii. 1090-1, misprinted 
as pp. 1080-1 in edition of 1713. Taking money for penance is there 
absolutely prohibited as being an encouragement to sin. 

In 1342 Archbishop Stratford decrees that money shall not be received 
for notorious offences the second time, and that commutations be ' made 
moderately, so that the receiver be not judged rapacious ; ' Gibson's 
Codex, ii. 1091. This is a very different thing from the absolute prohibi- 
tion of 1237 and 1268. 

Note 2, p. 116 

Although Chaucer puts the story into the mouth of the Summoner's 
professional enemy the Friar, he means the portrait for a real one, for he 
describes the practices of the Summoner in the same way in the Prologue ; 
and for the characters in the Prologue he himself is responsible. 

Note 2, p. 118 

E.g. in 1381 he confirmed a Cardinal (Tibercinensis) as Precentor of 
York. In 1384 he confirmed another Cardinal as Archdeacon of Wilts ; 
See Neve's Fasti, sub. loc. These licenses are referred to at the end of 
the Statute against Aliens, 7 E. II., 11. 

Note 3, p. 119 

I found in the Lambeth Library an order (MS. 144 b, Lambeth Reg., 
Sudbury) to the Archbishop to certify to the Barons of the Exchequer 
the number of secular foreign clergy holding benefices in his diocese 
Dec. 12, 1377. On applying at the Eecord Office I found not only his return, 
but the returns made by a dozen other Bishops on receipt of a similar 
order (MSS. Clerical Subsidies). While some of the Bishops have closely 
followed the words of the writ, and made a return only of secular alien 
clergy in their diocese, some have also returned the names of the alien 
Abbots and Priors holding appropriated churches in the diocese. I have 
had these lists copied out, and they are my authority for the statements 
in the text as to foreign rectors. 

Note 1, p. 123 

The Primate's leave was sometimes necessary to complete the transac- 
tion, and Sudbury gave licenses for nine appropriations of different 
rectories during his short term of office, 1375-81. In 1383 his successor 
Courtenay made over three parish churches to the Carthusians. See 
Lambeth Register, Lambeth Library, MS. Index. For appropriations 
allowed by the Bishop of Ely in 1395, 1400 and 1401, see Ely Register, 
fs. 215-7 and 174. 


Note 2, p. 130 

The controversy between Dr. Gasquet and Mr. Matthew over the 
authorship of this translation cannot be said to be yet settled by agree- 
ment, and I have not yet gone into the evidence deeply enough to hazard 
a private judgment. 

Knighton, ii. 152, states that Wycliffe made translations of the Scrip- 
tures. I am prepared to contradict Dr. Gasquet's statement on p. 113 Old 
English Bible that Wycliffe never in any of his undoubted writings advo- 
cated having the Scriptures in the vernacular. The passage quoted above 
from the De Officio Pastorali is undoubtedly his, and no doubt has ever 
been thrown on the three similar passages quoted by Mr. Matthew in the 
Historical Beview, x. 93. Besides, how could he have expected it to become 
the daily guide and law for all men if it was in an unknown tongue ? 
I do not suppose that Dr. Gasquet would dispute that he wished it to 
become the daily guide of all. 

Wycliffe's statements of friars' activity against the Bible are expHcit, 
and the statements of his followers are of equal value, or of more value, 
as bringing so many more witnesses to the fact. See S. E. W., iii. 393, 
405 ; Matt., 10, 255, 429-30 ; the LoUard poem in Pol. Poems, ii. 32. 

There is also a valuable piece of confirmative evidence as to the atti- 
tude of the friars in Chaucer's Sommoner's Tale. The Friar there 

' I seyd a sermon after my simple wit, 
Nat al after the text of holy writ ; 
For it is hard for yow as I suppose, 
And therefore wiU I teche you aU the glose : 
For lettre sleeth, so as we clerkes seyn.' 

This is exactly of what the Lollards complained (see Opus Evangelicv/m, 
158, and Matt., 89), that their enemies said the Bible was ' false to the 
letter,' and preferred their own traditions ; see also Fasc. Z., 175, last 

The English Bible was often in the fifteenth century left in wills and 
bequests registered by the Church, and therefore, Dr. Gasquet argues 
(0. E. B., 140-5), they probably were possessed with the consent of the 
Chiirch. But among the laity only rich men leave them in their wills, 
and there is no proof of their authorised possession by the vulgar. 

Nothing can be more damning than the licenses to particular people 
to have Enghsh Bibles, for they distinctly show that without such licenses 
it was thought wrong to have them ; e.g. Mirour of Our Lady {circa 
1450, E. E. T. S., p. 3), where the writer remarks that the nuns can read 
the Psalms in Enghsh ' out of Enghsh Bibles if ye have hcense thereto.' 

Note 1, p. 134 

E. E. T. S., Political and Religious Poems ; see Introd. xxxiv. for the 
date, which is thought to be about 1440. See also Pope's Bull on same 
subject, about the same date ; Memorials of Bijjon, i. 300-1. 


Note 2, p. 137 

Wilkin, iii. 226. Waltham Abbey Church was also restored by money 
obtained in the same way; see MS. University Library, Cambridge, 
Dd., iii. 53, p. 37, no. 78 ; Catalogue, i. 114. So was Eipon Church ; 
Memorials of Bipon, i. 116 (a.d. 1375). 

Note 2, p. 138 

Indulgences were (in some cases) nominally the remission of penance 
on this earth for money received, but they came to be regarded as remis- 
sion of penance in the next. The step was very natural and easy, for 
penance in the next world was supposed to be commuted by penance in 
this. It is clear that mdulgences were by many regarded as affecting 
the next world, for 

(i) It is so stated by contemporaries, not merely by Lollards, but by 
orthodox reformers. 

(ii) If indulgences were only regarded as remitting penance in this 
life, why were pardons advertised for several thousand years, since no one 
could expect to hve so long ? 

(iii) In the pardon printed in Wals., ii. 79-80, the Pope actually 
promises ' retributionem justorum ac salutis seternse augmentum,' in 
retm-n for money to help the crusade. 

(iv) Knighton (ii. 198-9) says people gave money to the crusade 
' ut sic tam amici eorum defuncti quam ipsi a suis delictis absolverentur.' 
And again : ' Habuit namque prasdictus episcopus indulgentias mirabiles 
cum absolutione a poena et a culpa pro dicta cruciata a Papa Urbano sexto 
ei concessas, cujus auctoritate tam mortuos quam vivos . . . absolvebat.' 

Note 1, jp. 151 

In the days of Wycliffe's friendship with the orders, he speaks of 
' fratribus et aliis viris evangehcis ; ' De Dom. Civ., 325. This refers 
no doubt to their doctrine of poverty, based on the ' evangelical ' ground of 
the Gospel, but the expression always implies a certain admiration when 
used by Wycliffe. Cont. Eulog., 345, tells how he said the friars ' were 
very dear to Grod.' I do not believe this praise was mere thoughtless 
eulogy of allies ; for after his quarrel with the orders he contmued to 
speak with respect and friendship of individuals in their body, and to 
invite them to leave the order as unworthy of their adherence ; e.g. De 
Apostasia, 42 and 44; 8. E. W., i. 147; Matt., 51; S. E. W., iii. 

Note 1, p. 152 

As to the date of Wycliffe's quarrel with the friars, it is mentioned 
in a work as early as the De Officio Pastorali, English ed., Matt., 
429. Now I think it is practically certain that the De Officio Pastorali 
is of early date, and not after 1380 ; for neither in it nor in the parallel 
Latin version (edit, by Lechler) is there anv mention of the Eucharist con- 


troversy, either in the attack on the friars (Matt., 429-44) or in the 
attack on University teaching (Matt., 427-8). (a) Now in the very 
similar attack on University teaching in the Dialogue, p. 54, cap. 26, he 
complains of the teaching of heresy on this point, (b) Wycliffe scholars 
have long agreed that the omission of mention of the Eucharist in passages 
dealing with the friars is strong evidence of an early date. Dr. Lechler 
and Mr. Matthew both put the De Officio Pastorali earlier than 1380. 

There seems to be no longer any doubt that there were ' Poor Priests ' 
perambulating the country before 1380, though the degree of their con- 
nection with Wycliffe and WycUifism differed in different cases. 

(a) They were accused of playing a part in the organisation of the 
Eising of 1381 (Wright's Pol. Poems, E.S., 235-6, and Bot. Pari., iii. 
124-5). They must have been working some time and have obtained 
some influence in order to incur the charge. There is no proof that 
WycHffe himself commissioned or sent out any of his own Mends before 
1381, but some of his doctruies were being preached by irresponsible 
individuals, e.g. John Ball was accused of preaching against Transubstan- 
tiation in 1380. 

(b) In the De Officio Pastorali (Matt. 444), whose date we have 
discussed just above, Wycliffe speaks of the friars getting true preachers 
stopped and arrested by lords and bishops. It would seem, therefore, 
that the rivalry of the friars and of Wycliffe's allies was already breaking 
into open hostility on the field of their labours. 

Wycliffe himself says that the hostility shown by the Church to his 
doctrine of the Eucharist was reaUy due to antipathy aroused by his two 
former doctrines of the uselessness of rehgious vows and the wickedness 
of ecclesiastical endowments {De Blasphemia, cap. xviii., 286-7). That 
is to say, he alleges that he had incurred the hostility of the friars by 
denouncing the special vows of ' religious ' orders that cut themselves off 
from the world, in the same way as he had offended the rest of the 
Church on the question of endowments, before the Eucharist heresy 
farther complicated matters. 

Note 8, p. 155 

In the De Officio Begis (1379), cap. ii. 29-30, he called it straining at 
a gnat and swallowmg a camel to object to clerical marriage while allow- 
ing priests to hold secular office. In the De Papa (probably 1380), how- 
ever, he speaks with respect of the rule of cehbacy (Matt., 474) as if he 
approved of it. But in Sermon no. cv. {8. B. TF., . 364), he distinctly 
condemns it. These sermons are probably of a ater date than the De 
Papa of 1380 (see reference to crusade of 1383 in no. xlvii. 136). 
There are also some other passages in English works sometimes 
attributed to him, which condemn celibacy {8. E. W., iii. 189-90 ; Matt., 
7, top of page), but these may have been written by some other 
Lollard. The strong attitude of the Lollards on the question can be 
seen m Fasc. Z., 361, in their petition to Parliament of 1395. Wal- 
densis in his Doctrinale represents Wycliffe as defending clerical marriage 


(Waldensis, ed. 1523, caps. 66-67), on the ground that Christ never forbad 
His apostles to marry. 

Note 1, 2>- 167 

We have no means of calculating statistically the proportion the wealth 
of the Church bore to the wealth of the kingdom. 

We have no calculation either of ecclesiastical or lay wealth at this 
period. We have only (I) a calculation of Church wealth in 1291, and 
(II) a calculation of Church wealth at the time of the Eeformation. 

(I) The pages of the Ecclesiastica Taxatio of 1291 (printed by 
command of his Majesty in 1802) have been summed up by Bishop 
Stubbs, the result being 210,644Z. 9s. Qd. (see St. ii. 580) ; a similar calcu- 
lation of Canon Dixon's gives 218,802L as the yearly income. 

(II) The Valor Ecclesiasticus and Speed's calculations from it 
give the result of 320,280Z. as the yearly income at the time of the 
Eeformation. We may safely suppose that the ecclesiastical incorae in 
Eiehard the Second's reign lay somewhere between these two sums, say 
at about 270,000L But it must be remembered that this is exclusive of 
several very large sources of wealth enjoyed by the clergy : 

(i) Of the incomes enjoyed for secular employments by prelates in 

office under the King, and clerks engaged by business men. 
(ii) Money collected from laity by way of ahns, by sale of indulgences 

and all exceptional ways, 
(iii) The large fines, fees, and blackmail collected by the spiritual 
Such items as these it is impossible to estimate, and it is therefore im- 
possible to estimate the annual income of the Church with any approxi- 
mation to correctness. But even if we could, it would be of little use, for 
it is quite impossible to calculate the income of the laity and of the king- 
dom as a whole, and therefore the real proportion that Church wealth 
bore to the whole cannot be calculated either. Canon Dixon {Church 
History, ed. 1878, i. 250) chooses to estimate the revenue of the laity at 
about a mUhon when the Church assessment of 1291 was taken. But he 
quotes no authority. When economic historians are uncertain whether 
the population was one and a half or three millions, how shall we attempi 
to estimate the national wealth, about which we know even less ? Canon 
Dixon's comparison of lay and clerical wealth is in fact without any value. 
I am as little inclined to trust the word of contemporary LoUards that 
the Church possessed ' the more part ' of the temporaUties of the kingdom 
besides the spiritualities and treasure. Mr. Wakeman thinks that the 
monasteries alone possessed ' about a third of the land of England,' 
apparently before the fourteenth century {Hist, of the Church of England, 
2nd ed., p. 177). I do not know on what calculation he bases this. In 
1291 monastic wealth was 51,000Z. a year, not counting appropriated 
benefices, which might double, and would certainly greatly increase, this 
sum (Canon Dixon's Church History, i. 250). 

It is worth remarking that the clerical tenth paid on the basis of the 


calculation of 1291 was in the fourteenth century 20,000Z., the tenth paid 
by the laity on their property being 30,000^. (see Sir J. Eamsay, in the 
Antiquary, iv. 208). But I do not wish to say that this represents the 
real proportion of clerical to lay wealth. The Commons declared that 
the Church possessed more than a third of the wealth of the land {Bot. 
Pari., ii. 337). 


Note 1, f. 186 

Page, 23-4. Professor Ashley confirms Mr. Page's idea that the 
services of herding and ploughing were the first to be commuted, by his 
list of permanent servants on the manor (i. 1, 32), where all are herdsmen 
or ploughmen except a messor, the technical name for the superintendent 
of the villein-reapers. He also says (i. 1, 10) that the demesne ploughs 
were heavier than the villeins' ploughs. 

Note 3, p. 192 

Page, 36-7, shows that the movement for converting arable into 
pasture was afoot before 1381. Dr. Cunningham and Professor Ashley 
have treated at greater length its cause and increase in the fifteenth 

Note 2, p. 194 

Page, 39-40, gives us the statistics of the state of things on the 
seventy-three manors he has studied, in the year 1381. 

On thirty-two of them the change to hired labour had been fully 
carried out on the demesne. 

On twenty -two the villeins performed only a very small number of 
feudal services. 

On fifteen there was perhaps half of the hand lahour necessary for 
the demesne done by villeins (the ploughing and warding being done 
by hired labour). 

On fourteen the services of viUeins were alone sufficient for the 

In these cases the reduction of the amoimt of demesne land imder 
cultivation about corresponded to the reduction of the number of villeins 
since 1349. 

Note 1, p. 199 

Be Dominio Civili, 42-3, 96, 101-2, 199 201, 218 ; p. 87 gives his 
distinction between ' dominium ' and ' usus,' which is his philosophical 
way out of the difficulty. Mr. Poole {Illustrations of Medimval Thought, 
ch. X.) holds this view of the duplicate nature of the argument in the De 
Dominio CiviU. 


Note 3, p. 211 

They are so called in an English chronicle, early fifteenth century 
liandwritiag, MS., Ee., iv. 32, no. 2, University Library, Cambridge, p. 174 
pencil pagination, p. 171 ink. This chronicle is related to the chronicle 
of Brute. See also p. 495, Lambarde's Kent, ed. 1656. 

Note 5, p. 219 

The disappointment of these hopes when Richard revoked the charters 
of pardon and of manumission brought on a bitter reaction against him, 
and a corresponding change of feeling in favour of John of Gaunt, who 
had been absent in Scotland during the whole Eising. But this was not 
till the very end of September {G. B. R. 482, Res 1, Cote's confession), 
so that Powell (p. 60) and Stubbs (ii. 472) have no real reason for sup- 
posing that Cote's confession has any relation to the rebellion in Jxme. 
It only refers to a second rising of desperate and disappointed men, in 
the autumn. Mr. Powell has another argument, on p. 60, ' that certain 
reports were current with reference to the Duke of Lancaster having 
some connection with the movement is evidenced by the King's contradic- 
tion of them given in Rymer.' This I believe to be equally fallacious. 
The passages in question, Foed., iv. 126 and 128, say that the rebels 
accused him of disloyalty to the King, and made it an excuse for attacking 
his property in the King's name. The passages are, in fact, a very strong 
confirmation of all other accounts of the hostility of the rebels to the Duke 
and the loyalty to the King which they showed in June. The charges 
of disloyalty from which the King clears his uncle are those which had 
been mentioned in Parliament four years back {Bot. Pari., iii. 5), and 
which appeared again in 1384. 

See also Cont. Eulog. (R. S.), iii. 353, lines 27-30, where the King is 
represented as summoning the rebels to Smithfield, on the ground that 
he wishes them to defend him against John of Gaunt, who is advancing 
from Scotland with an army of Scotchmen. I do not believe the story 
that the King made such a proclamation, but such a rumour bears 
out the hostility of the rebels to Jolm of Gaunt's designs against Richard. 

Note 2, p. 223 

With regard to the counties and districts marked blue on the map 
of the Rising, p. 254, no difficulty exists. I am indebted to Mons. 
Eeville's researches for the proof of risings in Lincolnshire and North 
Leicestershire. The specific acts of rebellion in the other counties and 
districts in this category, I abeady knew of from MSS. in the P. R. O., or 
from printed matter. I have put the city of Oxford in this category 
because it sent a detachment to London to coerce the King ; see 
Calendar Pat. Bolls, 1381, p. 16. 

As to the counties in the other category, red, I refer to Reville, 
285-7. Also to the fact that the King visited Berkshire in July to August, 
immediately after the assize at St. Albans, presumably for inquisitorial 


purposes. The places to which Keepers of the Peace were sent, Eev., 
289-90, are not, I think, necessarily disturbed ; e.g. Cumberland. 

Although I have given references to an English edition of Froissart, 
as being perhaps the commonest edition in England, I have studied his 
account of the rebeUion in various French editions. It appears to me 
that many of the place-names in his account of the rebellion are so 
corrupt that no reliance can be placed on them as evidence. 

Note 3, p. 229 
The St. Albans and Barnet men reached London on the 14th, 
Friday ; see Wals., i. 458 and 467. In the nature of the case people from 
different parts of the country aroused at different times would arrive on 
different days, See also Froiss., ii. 475 for the expectation that more 
would arrive even after Saturday. 

Note 3, p. 241 
So much is his identity in doubt that Knighton (ii. 137) says of this 
Smithfield leader : ' Watte Tyler, sed jam nomine mutato vocatus est 
Jakke Strawe.' See St., ii. 478, note 1, on the various Tylers. 

Note 3, p. 248 
I have made out the King's itinerary, from the places where the 
Patent EoUs and Privy Seal documents were signed. These signatures 
especially the latter kind, are some presumptive evidence as to the 
whereabouts of the King. A signature at Westminster or London does 
not prove the Bang was there, but a signature at some more unusual 
place creates a great likelihood that the Court was there about that time. 
What other sources of evidence we have, confirm the places and dates 
given by these signatures. The general direction of his itinerary in 
putting down the Eising cannot, I think, be doubted — first through Essex 
then Herts and Bucks to Berks, and thence, at the end of August, to 

Note 1, p. 260 

Hot. Pari., iii. 100-1. Scrope is spoken of as ' nouvellement crees ' 
November 18, 1381. The petition on p. 101, sec. 20, for a better chancellor 
was evidently made before Scrope's appointment, for the paragraphs of 
Bot. Pari, are not arranged in chronological order, and Wals. (ii. 68) says 
that Scrope was elected ' per regni communitatem et assensum 
dominorum.' I see no reason to favour Bishop Stubbs' suggestion that 
Courtenay may have resigned out of sympathy with the claims of the 
serfs to emancipation. He had been Chancellor when the King repealed 
the charters of manumission. Scrope was put in his place because he 


was known to be a good minister, while Courtenay's abilities were a 
more unknown quantity. 

Note 1, p. 274 

The Court expenditure on favourites was the principal complaint 
against Richard. Now I do not believe that these favourites were Pole, 
Vere, Tressilian, and Brenibre ; Wals. (ii. 68-9) speaks of those who 
devoured the King's substance as being ' tarn milites quam armigeri, et 
inferioris gradus famuU,' phrases which could not apply to any of the 
above-named persons. He also speaks, p. 126, of ' juvenes.' Now Vere 
was the only ' juvenis ' among the favourites of whom we hear by name, 
so there must have been others. For M. de la Pole see Diet, of Nat. Biog. 

Note 2, :p. 274 

See proceedings of ParHament of 1386, when the grievances were 
fully set out. It appears that until 1389 Eichard's ' household ' expenses 
were about on a level with those of Edward the Third, which had caused 
such dissatisfaction. After that year they rose still further. Sir J. H. 
Eamsay, Antiquary, iv. 209. 

Note 1, i^ 211 

Higden, ix. 33-40 ; Mon. Eve., 50-1 ; Wals., ii. 112-4. Among the 
torturers of the friar the chronicler names another, ' P. Courtenay ; ' this 
probably refers to one of the sons of Earl of Devon, Philip and Peter, who 
were no friends to Lancaster. Simon Burley is asserted to have been 
another of the torturers, and he afterwards suffered death as a partisan of 

Note 1, p. 286 

Froiss., iii. chaps. 14, 15, 16 ; Wals., ii. 131-2 ; Mon. Eve., 61-63 ; 
Higden, ix. 65. The other chronicles all suppose the Dvike's intention 
was to cross the Firth of Forth and continue the campaign in Scotland, 
but Froissart is more detailed and explicit, and is, besides, a better 
authority on military affairs. He asserts that the design was to carry 
the war into Cumberland. 


Note 1, p. 297 

A student of the period could have lived (1) alone, lodging with a 
tradesman's family in the town, like Nicolas in Chaucer's Miller's Tale ; 
(2) in one of the inns of the town ; (3) in a private house rented by a 
society of students ; (4) in a college, or some endowed and disciplined 


Note 1, p. 298 

For this description of Oxford my chief authorities are Mr. Rashdall's 
UniversUies of Europe in the Middle Ages, vol. ii. pt. ii ; Sir H. C. 
Maxwell Lyte's History of Oxford; The Oxford Historical Series, 
especially The Grey Friars in Oxford and Collectanea, ii. 193-275 ; 
Armaohanus, Brown's Fascimclus, ii. 468 et seq. ; Chaucer's Canterbury 
Tales, Prologue and Miller's Tale, for Oxford ; and, lastly, the Reeve's 
Tale, about the students of the sister University. 

Note 1, p. 307 

I have not mentioned in the text Knighton's assertions that WycHffe 
appeared : (1) before the Council of Blackfriars ; Knighton, ii. 156-8 ; (2) 
before the Convocation at Oxford, p. 160-2. The assertions have been 
rightly rejected by all Wycliffe scholars. If these remarkable occurrences 
were true, they could not have been omitted from the official accounts (in 
Oourtenay's Lambeth Register) of the business of these two assemblies. 
Kjiighton asserts that at the Council of Blackfriars Wycliffe recanted, and 
then gives us the form of his recantation, which turns out to be a re- 
statement of his views. Knighton gives us also the form of his supposed 
answer to the convocation of Oxford. Both these supposed replies are 
popular tracts in Wycliffe's English, and not careful statements in Latin 
such as he would have given in to the Bishops, if on his defence. But 
the Leicester monk was romancing. No other chronicler and no official 
report mentions the striking event of Wycliffe's third and fourth trials. 

Note 1,2). 314 

Knighton, ii. 151-2, says that Wycliffe translated the Scriptures, 
and this is borne out by the fact that there were Lollard translations 
extant at this time which were denoimced by the Church. This quite 
leaves open the question, discussed between Mr. Matthew and Doctor 
Gasquet, whether the so-called ' Wycliffite Bible ' is by Wycliffe. 


Note 1, p. 334 

The Commons definitely petitioned for an Act ' de heretico combu- 
rendo ' in 1401. See Bot. Pari., iii. 473-4. 

The Act of 1406 was initiated by the House of Lords and the Prince of 
Wales, but the Commons' Speaker presented the Bill in the name of the 
Lower House. Bot. Pari., iii. 583. 

Note % p. 338 

The satire against Oldcastle and the Lollards {Pol. Poems, ii. 243-7) 
describes the Rising as " rearing riot for to ride against the King and his 

B B 


Clergy,' and there is no mention of any design against society or property, 
which would certainly have been mentioned in this long satire if there 
had been the least ground for it. The Lollards are described as people who 
read the Bible and loathe images and pilgrimages. 

Some Lollards had been spreading stories that Eichard was alive, as 
far back as 1406 (see Bot. Pari., iii. 583-4), but only as a lever for their 
own agitation against their Lancastrian persecutors. They had no 
support from the Eemnant of the Plantagenet party. Oldeastle had been 
a stout Lancastrian at the time of the change of dynasty. 

Note 1, p. 340 

Further, the preambles of the Lancastrian Statutes directed against 
the LoUards, which represent the worst the State had to say against them, 
are confined to complaints of religious heresies and of the pohtical designs 
to which the persecuted sect was driven in order to secure rehgious 
liberty. There is no word m these statutes of attacks on property, except 
in the petition for legislation against Lollards, in Hot. Pari., iii. 583-4, 
which accuses the Lollards of demanding the seizure of Church property, 
and adds that the petitioners suppose that the Lollards will next proceed 
to attack lay property. This statement implies that the Lollards were not 
at the time actually attacking lay property, but were expected to do so 
by hostile critics. If the Conservative party issued a pamphlet, saying 
' The Liberal party is attacking the House of Lords, and you may be sure 
it will soon attack the Crown,' such a statement would prove to the 
historian of a later age that the Liberal party was not then attacking the 

Note % p. 342 

A Lollard writer of the fifteenth century complains in general terms, 
' Our bishops damn and burn God's law because it is drawn into the 
mother tongue.' (Arber's English Beprints, p. 172 of vol. for Sept. 

The burning of translations possessed by poor heretics is quite com- 
patible with permitting the orthodox among the rich to have English 

Note 2, p. 343 

When Foxe is quoting from Bishops' Registers he is trustworthy, but 
I have not adopted the stories that he tells on hearsay of old inhabitants. 


Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, 162 

Abbey of St. Albans, 161, 162 

Absenteeism in the Church, 119, 125 

Absolution, 114, 139, 146 

Acts of Provisors, 117 

Adrian VI., and religious persecution, 

Alfred, King, cited, 53 
Aliens Act, 118 

Alnewick, Bishop of Norwich, his per- 
secution of LoUardry, 341 
Alsatia, sanctuary in, 97 
"v Anne of Bohemia, married to Eichard 
II., 260 
Appropriation, 121, 122, 125, 126 
Aquitaine, under English occupation, 

3 ; lost to the EngUsh, 7 
Archdeacon, Chaucer's, 112, 115, 116 
Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, 19 
Arundel, Earl of, 17, 81, 276 
Arundel, Sir John, lost at sea on the 

Brittany expedition, 100 
Artevelde, Jacob van, 264, 265 
Artevelde, Philip van, at Ghent, 101, 
163, 261 ; defeats the Earl of Flan- 
ders, 264; seeks English aid, 265, 266 ; 
defeated, and killed, at Eosbec, 267 
Aston, John (Lollard), banished from 
Oxford, 304 ; zeal as a Wyclifiite 
preacher, 307 ; recants at Oxford, 
307, 308 ; again preaches Wycliffite 
doctrines, 310 ; against Transub- 
stantiation, at Leicester, 315 ; de- 
nounces the Flemish Crusade, 322 ; 
cited, 305, 339 
Aston, Sir Eobert, succeeds Serope as 

Treasurer, 12, 48 
Ave Maiia, Wycliffe's treatise, 178 
Avignon, the Papacy at, 76, 77, 118, 
120, 139, 168, 181, 268 

Backstee, Mary (Lollard), 342 
Badby, John (Lollard), burnt in 
Smithfield, 335 

Ball, John, 196 ; message of, 203 ; 
spiritual power in England, 220 ; 
preaching to the rioters on Black- 
heath, 224 ; as instigator of the 
rebellion, 237 ; executed, 248 

Bampton, Thomas (poll-tax collector), 
207, 208 

Barlowe, William (Lollard), burnt, 347 

Battle, Abbot of, in arms against 
foreign invasion, 56 

Becherel, a French stronghold, 24 

Belward, Nicolas (Lollard), 342 

Benedictines, the, 297 

Benefit of clergy, 166 

Berton, Chancellor, 298 

Beryngton, John (a Pardoner), 137 

Bible, the teaching of the, 128, 129 ; 
translations from the Latin, 130 ; 
and in the vernacular, 361 

Bishops, the, 19 ; standing and envi- 
ronment of, 38, 106, 107, 108, 110, 329 

Bishops' courts, morality of officials- 
of, 116, 117 

Black Death, the, 124, 186, 191, 192 

Bodiham Castle, 61 

Bolingbroke, Henry (son of the Earl 
of Buckingham), 288 

Boniface VIII., 76, 133, 168 

Bordeaux, in English occupation, 7 

Brantingham, Thomas (Bishop of 
Exeter), Treasurer, 4 

Braybrook, Bishop (Chancellor), 275 

Brembre, Sir Nicholas (Mayor of 
London), 49, 238, 274, 278, 281, 
327 ; executed, 282 

Brest, in English occupation, 7 

Bretigny, Treaty of, 2, 55 

Brittany, Duke of, aided by the 
English, 7, 100 ; abandons the 
English alliance, 101 

Bruges, at war with Ghent, 263, 264 

Brunton, Bishop of Eochester, 20; 
eulogises the Black Prince, 27 ; on 
the escape of criminals from justice, 
93 ; cited, 106, 119 

B B 2 



Brute, Walter (Lollard), scope of his 
belief, 325 ; his submission and re- 
cantation, 326 ; cited, 339 

Bryan, Lord, 45 

Buckingham, Earl of (Thomas of 
Woodstock, Eichardll.'s uncle), 43, 
70 ; in command of expedition to 
Brittany, 101 ; cited, 232, 245, 246, 
277,283; made Duke of Gloucester, 

Burley, Simon de, claims his serf, at 
Gravesend, 209 

Bury (merchant), 26 

Buxhall, Sir Alan (Governor of the 
Tower), 89 

C^SAEEAN clergy, 110, 111, 172 

Calais, in English occupation, 7, 10 

Cambridge, Earl of, 4 

Canterbury, 134 ; under rebel rule, 211, 

Canterbury College, 297 

Carlyll, Adam (Alderman of London), 
227 ; tried for aiding rebels, and 
acquitted, 280 

Cavendish, Sir John (Chief Justice), 
murdered by rioters, 217 

Celibacy, decreed to priests, 126 ; 328 

Chantries, foundation of, 132 

Chantry priests, 153 

Charity, conception of, 160 

Charles V. of France, seizes English 
possessions in France, 3 ; cited, 100, 
101, 260 

Charles VI. of France, 101 

Chaucer, quoted, 55, 66, 112 ; his 
Archdeacon, 115 ; his Summoner, 
116 ; on tithes, 126 ; on pilgrimages, 
133 ; his hatred of Pardoners, 135, 
136, 137 ; his dislike of friars, 143 ; 
his ' Summoner's Tale,' 147 ; on 
idolatry, 179 

Cheapside, John of Gaunt's arms re- 
versed in, 47, 49 

Cheshire, 60 

Chicheley, Archbishop, 124 

Church courts, 113, 114 

Church endowments, curtailed, 6 

Clement V., 76 

Clement VI., 77 

Clement VII., 118, 268 

Clementists at feud with Urbanites, 271 

Clergy, the, 143 et seq. 

Clerks in holy orders, 153 

Clifford, Sir Lewis (Lollard), 85, 327 

Colchester, protection to debtors in its 
abbey, 96 

Colleyn (Lollard preacher), 318 

Communism, 197, 198, 199 

Confessional, the, 115, 138, 140 

Consubstantiation, 175, 293, 312, 326, 

Convocation, at St. Paul's, 37 ; refuse 
supplies, 38 ; summon William of 
Wykeham, 38 ; Wycliffe summoned 
before, 43 ; rights vested in, 167 

Cornwall, the complaint of, 56 

Cote, John (approver), 250 

Courtenay (Archbishop of Canter- 
bury), cited, 19, 21, 30, 38, 43, 44, 
71, 79, 85 ; supports the Papacy, 
78 ; issues Gregory XL's bull 
against the Florentines, 79 ; recalls 
it, 80 ; attacks Wycliffe, 80 ; action 
on the murder of Haule, 90; 

V [resigns the chancellorship, 260; 
■* quarrels with Eichard, 283 ; inarms 
against heresy, 292 ; firmness in 
dealing with Wycliffism, 294 ; at 
Oxford, 301, 302, 303, 307 ; repress- 
ing Lollardry at Leicester, 320 

Courts Christian, 112 

Cr6cy, 16 

Criminous clerks, 167 

Crumpe, Henry (monk), 308, 304 

Daltngeuge, Sie Edward, 61 
Danes, their invasions of England, 53 
De Dominio Civili, Wyeliffe's, 42 
De Hasretico Comburendo, Statute of, 

De Officio Eegis, Wyeliffe's, 97, 98 
Debtors, and Sanctuary, 94, 96 
Denia, Count of (Spanish grandee), 
captured by two English knights, 
87 ; his son his hostage, 87 
Devon, Earl of, 17 
Du Guesclin, 100 
Durham, 134 
Durham College, 297 

Edwaed the Black Prince, governor 
of Aquitaine, 3 ; difficulties with 
his soldiers, 3, 4 ; dying, 4, 9, 17 ; 
hostility to John of Gaunt, 18 ; 
rejects Lyons' bribe, 24 ; death, 26 ; 
burial place, 27 ; character, 27 

Edward the Third, in his last years, 
4 ; influenced strongly by John of 
Gaunt, 9 ; liaison with Alice Fer- 
rers, 28, 29, 32 ; dissolves the Com- 
mons' Council, 31 ; cancels the 
Acts passed by the Good Parlia- 
ment, 33 ; disliked by the people, 
35 ; promises to respect the liberties 



of the Londoners, 47 ; in agreement 
with Eome on Church appoint- 
ments, 107 ; his death, 50 ; public 
mourning thereon, 70 

Eltham, royal manor of, 30, 337 

Elys (merchant), 26 

England, exhausted by the French 
and Spanish war, 8 ; its coast de- 
fences, 56 

English Bibles, 130 

Erasmus, on the persecution of the 
Wycliffites, 349 

Erghum, Ealph, Bishop of Salisbury, 

Essex, Eising of the peasants in, 208 ; 
suppression of the rebellion, 246 

Eucharist, the doctrine of the, 175, 
293, 298, 808, 363 

Exeter, its citizens in conflict with 
Church authorities, 163 

Fbeeeks, Sib Ealph, claims the cus- 
tody of the Count of Denia's son, 
88 ; arrests Shakell, 89 

Fitz-Ealph, Bishop of Armagh, on the 
friars' powers of absolution, 139 ; 
his dislike of the friars, 143 ; his 
doctrine of Dominion, 172 

Fitzwalter, Lord, 45 

Flanders, Earl of, 261, 263 

Flanders, the revolt in, 262 

Flemings, massacred in London in 
the Eising, 237, 238 ; their massacre 
avenged, 248 

Florentines, excommunicated by Gre- 
gory XL, 79 

Fox, John (mayor of Northampton), 
favours Lollardry, 318 

France, her fleet occupies the Isle of 
Wight and Sussex, 72 

Francis of Assisi, 156 

Franciscans, the, 298 

Frandon, Thomas, 281 

Franklin, the, of the Canterbury Pil- 
grimage, 66 

French translation of the Bible, 130 

Fresh, John (alderman), 227 

Friars, the, status of, 106; consider 
confession and absolution methods 
of earning money, 115; oppose the 
spread of Scripture knowledge, 130 ; 
as paid confessors, 138, 189, 140 ; 
the four orders, 143 ; mendicant, 
143, 144 ; education and mode of 
. life, 144 ; influence, 145 ; rivalries, 
145 ; art of preaching, 146 ; powers 
of absolution, 146 ; sway over 
women, 146, 147, 148 ; relations to 

the secular government, 149 ; agents 
of the Pope, 149 ; tenet of poverty, 
150; distrust of Wycliffe, 152; 
accused of mercenary motives for 
preaching, 177 ; accused of preach- 
ing communism, 198 ; on the side 
of Urban, 268 ; proselytism, 297 ; 
their strength at Oxford, 297 ; ac- 
cused of inciting the poor against 
the rich, 300 ; seek John of Gaunt's 
protection, 300 ; Courtenay's inter- 
position in behalf of, 301 ; charged 
with heresy, 308 ; prosecute Swyn- 
derby, 315 ; various means of influ- 
ence at disposal, 313 ; against the 
use of the Bible, 361, 368 

Froissart, on English arrogance in 
France, 2 ; status as a chronicler, 
159 ; on John Ball, 197 ; on the 
Jacquerie, 214 ; on the Eising, 215, 
220, 229, 289; on the Flemish 
revolt, 263, 267, 268 

Frompton (vicar of Bridgewater), 222 

Gaunt, John of. See John of Gaunt 
Ghent, under Artevelde, at war with 
the Earl of Flanders, 263, 264, 
267 ; at the end of the war accepts 
his suzerainty, 273 
Gilbert, Bishop John, 323 
Glastonbury, pilgrimage shrine at, 

134, 340 
Gloucester College, 297 
Gloucester, Lollardry at, 322 
Good Parliament, the, constitution 
of, 13-16 ; devise the bringing great 
offenders to the bar of the Lords, 
22 ; against women pleading causes, 
29 ; tries to check John of Gaunt's 
schemes, 30 ; visits Edward III. at 
Eltham, 30 ; its Council to guide 
him dissolved, 31; declared to be 
no parliament, 33 ; petitions pre- 
sented, 57 ; on lawless retainers, 
60 ; against aliens holding benefices, 
117 ; on the Statute of Labourers, 
189. See also House of Commons 
Goos, John (Lollard), burnt, 847 
Gower (poet), on the Bishops, 111 ; 
alarmed at ecclesiastical greediness, 
168 ; on the Peasants' Eising, 214, 
282 ; against war, 829 
Gravesend, the people of, interpose 

between Burley and his serf, 209 
' Great Society,' the, 203, 209, 219 
Gregory XL, 77 ; bull against Wy- 
cliffei,78; bull against Florentines, 
79;, cited, 80, 118, 152, 181 
Grosset^e, Bishop of Lincoln, 172 



Halderby, Waltee, indicted for in- 
citing peasants, 188 

Hales, Eobert (Treasurer), property 
destroyed by rioters, 231 ; killed by 
them, 235 

Haselden, Thomas (John of Gaunt's 
valet), 216 

Haule (English knight), in conjunc- 
tion with Shakell, captures the 
Count of Denia, 87 ; refuses to give 
up the Count's hostage son, 88 ; 
imprisoned in the Tower, 89 ; in 
sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, 
89 ; killed there, 90, 94, 95 

Henry H., 58 

Henry IV., 33, 333 

Henry V., tries to dissuade the Lollard 
Badby from martyrdom, 335 ; seeks 
to influence Sir John Oldcastle, 336 ; 
plot to seize him, 337 

Henry VII.. 347 

Henry VIII., his attack on the monas- 
teries, 160 ; cited, 165, 350 

Henry of Castile, King, 3 

Hereford, Nicolas (Wycliffite), 
preaches against friars and monks, 
300 ; suspended, 303 ; banished 
from Oxford, 304 ; excommunicated, 
305 ; goes to Eome on appeal, 305 ; 
imprisoned there by the Pope, 310 ; 
released, joins Aston, 310 ; returns 
to orthodoxy, 319 ; cited, 323, 339 

Hildebrand, 126 

Holland, Sir John, his conduct in the 
Peasants' Eising, 234 ; tortures a 
friar, 277 ; murders Sir Ealph 
Stafford, 284 

Horn, John (alderman), intrigues with 
rioters, 227, 228, 243 

Houghton, Adam, Bishop of St. 
David's, resigns chancellorship, 91 

House of Commons, hostile to bishop 
ministers, 5 ; constitution of the, 
14, 16 ; dealing with Supplies, 21 ; 
impeaches privy councillors, 22 ; 
refuses Supplies until national 
grievances are remedied, 23 ; 
impeaches Lyons and Latimer, 

•)(' 24; ensures Eichard's succession, 
28 ; bill to transfer government of 
London to King's Marshal, 43, 45 ; 
aims of, 52 ; petitions for yearly 
removal of Sheriffs, 57 ; seeks to 
repress disorder, 64 ; strength in 
1377, 73 ; necessity for experienced 
parliamentary leaders, 73; reforms, 
74 ; Act restricting rights of frau- 
dulent debtors to sanctuary, 98 ; 
action on failure of Brittany ex- 

pedition. 101 ; asks for John of 
Gaunt's aid as one of the associated 
lords, 252 ; in favour of Spencer 
and the Flanders expedition, 270 ; 
refuses to sanction persecution of 
Lollards, 311, 313 ; proposition to 
seize Church temporalities, 333. 
See Good Parliament 

House of Lords, constitution of the, 
16 ; confiscates the property of 
Alice Perrers, 74 

Hun, Ei chard (Lollard), 349 

Hundred Years' War, the, 255 

Hungerford, Sir Thomas, elected 

j Speaker, 37 

TBuntingdon, Earl of, created by 
Eichard II., 70 

Hussite movement, the, 262 

Imwoeth, Eichaed (Warden of the 
Marshalsea), beheaded by the mob, 

Indulgences, 137, 138, 362 

Inquisition, the, 311 

Islip, Archbishop, 124 

Jacqueeie, the, 214 

John de la Mare (member for Wilt- 
shire), 29 

John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster), 
4 ; in command of the English 
army in France, 5, 7, 9 ; influence 
over Edward III., 9, 31 ; his sup- 
porters, 10, 11 ; enemies, 17, 18 ; 
shrinks from conflict with the 
Commons, 24 ; condemns Latimer 
for fraud and treachery, 25 ; endea- 
vours to secure succession to the 
Crown, 28 ; in disfavour with 
Londoners, 35 ; politic concessions 
to curry popular favour, 36 ; tam- 
pers with elections, 39 ; tries to 
stifle Commons minority, 37 ; sup- 
ports confiscation of Church pro- 
perty, 39, 41 ; urges Wyeliffe to 
preach disendowment, 42 ; his 
bill to secure government of Lon- 
don, 43 ; aids Wyeliffe at St. Paul's, 
44 ; attacked by mob, is sheltered 
by Black Prince's widow, 46 ; 
procures the excommunication 
of his lampooners, 48 ; granted 
the Jura Eegalia, 49 ; his castles, 
61, 62 ; effect of Edward's death 
on his career, 68 ; supports the \ 
succession of Eichard 11. , 69, 70 ; ** 
retires to private life, 71 ; deprived 
of Hertford Castle, 71 ; at Kenil- 




worth, 72 ; at head of expedition to 
St. Malo, 75 ; claim to throne of 
Spain, 88 ; forbids Wyeliffe to 
speak on Transubstantiation, 174 
position in the Rising, 216 ; destruc 

/tion of his palaces by rioters, 220 
at feud with Percy, 249, 258; ex- 
onerated by Richard from charge 
of disloyalty, 250 ; made king by a 
section of the rebels, 251 ; disliked 
by Richard, 257 ; proposes an in- 

^vasion of Spain, 266 ; intervenes 

'between Richard and Arundel, 276 ; 

VRichard's plot against him, 283 ; 

^with the King on the invasion of 
Scotland, 284, 286 ; in Spain, 288 ; 
rejects Wyeliffe' s theory of the 
Eucharist, 293, 298 ; neutral in 
Oxford divisions, 300 ; breaks with 
Wyeliffe, 299 ; intercedes for the 
Lollard Swynderby, 315 
John of Northampton (Mayor of 
London), 278 ; rules London 
through a clique, 279 ; attacks the 
' stews ' of Southwark, 280 ; elected 
Mayor of London for the second 
time, 280 ; imprisoned for con- 
spiracy, 281 ; restored to his estate, 

John XXII., 77 

Jura Regalia of the County Palatine, 

Juries, 217 
Jurors, 113 

Kateington, Thomas de (governor of 

St. Sauveur), 25 
Kenilworth Castle, 61 
Kent, Earl of, 234, 245, 250 
Kent, the Peasants' Rising in, 209 
Kentwood, John (member for Berks), 

Ket's rising, 215 
Knighton, on the crusade against the 

Clementists, 268 
Knights of the Shire, 14, 36, 57, 67, 

KnoUes, Sir Robert, 243 
Knox, John, cited, 40 
Knyvet (Chancellor) 12, 20, 111 

Lambeth Palace, 228 

Lampoons against John of Gaunt, 48 

Lancashire, 60 

Lancaster, Duchess (wife of John of 

Gaunt), 223 
Lancaster, Duke of. See John of 



Langland, WiUiam (author of ' Piers 
Plowman'), quoted, 35, 39, 124; 
exposes the corruption of lawyers 
and jurors, 113 ; on penance and 
absolution, 115 ; on pilgrimages, 
135 ; his ' Pardoner,' 136 ; jealous 
of the friars, 143 ; on the lower 
clergy, 154, and monastic life, 
159 ; censures idolatry, 179 ; on 
friars' preaching communism, 198 ; 
on the King's and the nobles' re- 
tainers, 289 ; on the loose discussion 
of religious matters, 312 

Latimer, Hugh, cited, 128 

Latimer, Lord, 9, 10, 11, 17, 24-26, 80, 
31, 71, 74 ; claims the custody of 
the son of the Count of Denia, 18 ; 
arrests Shakell, 89 

Latimer, Sir Thomas (Lollard), 317, 
320, 327 

Latin, in the pulpit, 127, 128 

Lawyers, 113 

Leg, John (poll-tax collector), and his 
commission of Trailbaston, 209, 
210; takes refuge in the Tower, 
232 ; murdered there by the rioters, 

Leicester, a seat of LoUardry, 313, 

Limoges, the massacre at, 27 

Littlehaw, tenants of, refuse services 
to lord of the manor, 254 

Lollards, the, purpose to abolish im- 
prisonment for debt, 94 ; persecuted 
for reading the Bible, 131 ; depre- 
ciate the value of Church sacra- 
ments and ceremonies, 175 ; preach- 
ing their chief aid in conversion, 
177 ; animus against saint and 
image worship, 179, 316 ; accuse 
the friars of setting class against 
class, 198 ; have no share in the 
Rising, 200 ; banned by the Church, 
293; Wyeliffe' s princip^al tenets 
condemned by the Council, 293, 294, 
300 ; class furnishing their preachers, 
306 ; banished from Oxford, 309 ; /^ 
the Commons get Richard's edict 
against them revoked, 310 ; their 
chief centres, 313 ; new views on 
Transubstantiation, 315 ; dress, 
speech, and demeanour, 317 ; 
favourable reception throughout 
England, 318 ; indisposition to 
martyrdom, 319 ; attack friars in 
London, 327 ; views placed before 
Parliament, 327, 328; in arms 
against oppression, 337 ; meeting 
in St. Giles' Fields, 338 ; character 



of the Poor Priests, 339 ; uncon- 
nected with Sociahsm, 339 ; in the 
West of England and in East Anglia, 
340, 341, 343 ; schools and religious 
tracts, 341, 343; increase of 
martyrdom among, 347; renewed 
strength and renewed persecution, 
348 ; aided by Lutheranism, 350 ; 
in Scotland, 353, 354 

London, standing of its merchant 
princes, 15 ; scheme for the trans- 
ference of its government, 46 ; Lord 
Percy's assumption of its magis- 
tracy, 46 ; outbreak of citizens, 46 ; 
its hberties guaranteed by Edward, 
48 ; Mayor and Sheriffs charged 
with rioting. 48 ; and deprived of 
their posts, 49 ; apprentices, 49 ; in 
occupation of the rioters, 229-248 ; 
trade rivalries in, 278, 279 ; a focus 
of Lollardry, 327 

London Bridge, 227 

Lutheranism, in aid of WycUffism, 

Lutterworth Church, 313 

Lynn, resents ecclesiastical inter- 
ference, 163 

Lyons, John, beheaded by rioters, 
238 ^i 

Lyons, Ki chard (London merchant), 
10 ; doubtful speculations, 11 ; 
punished for fraud, 24, 30 

Maintenance, 58, 59, 60, 278 
Man, Thomas (Lollard), burnt, 348 
Manuden, parish priest of (Lollard), 

burnt, 343 
March, Earl of, 17, 22, 28, 30, 32, 69, 

71 ; resigns the Marshalship, 32, 33 ; 

his castles, 62 ; death, 276 
Mare, de la. See Peter de la Mare 
Marshalsea prison, 228 
Marsiglio of Padua, 172 
Mass, the, 174 
Masses for the dead, 132 
Melrose Abbey destroyed by the 

English, 285 
Merchant-sailors, 54 
/ Michael de la Pole. See Pole 
\( Mile End, meeting of Eichard and 

rioters at, 235 
Military service, conditions of, 65 
Monasteries, absorb tithes and church 

dues, 122; life in, divorced from 

national life, 157 ; status of, 161 ; 

manorial system on their estates, 

161 ; attacked by local serfs, 161 ; 

avenged, 162 ; destruction of, 164 

Monks, defy the government, 91 ; of 
the regular clergy, 106 ; displace 
the priest, 122; status of, 144; 
cloistral life, 157; teaching, 157; 
copying MSS. and illumination, 
158 ; chronicles, 158 ; morality, 159 ; 
uselessness of their life, 159 ; duties 
to the poor, 160; tenacious of 
manorial rights, 161 ; at Oxford, 

Montagu, Lord John (Lollard), 327, 329 

Morley, Lord Thomas, 246 

Navy, the, character of, in Edward 

III.'s reign, 52-54 ; decay of, 55 
Neville, Archbishop of York, 19 
Neville, Lord (son-in-law of Lord 

Latimer), 10 ; commercial immo- 

rahty, 11 ; removed from Privy 

Council Board, 26, 64 
Newton, Sir John (Governor of 

Eochester Castle), 211 
Norfolk, pilgrimage places in, 134 
Northampton, Parliament meet at, 

102 ; a Lollard centre, 319 
Northumberland, 60 
Norwich, 134 
Nottingham, Earl of (created by 

Eichard II.), 70 
Nottingham, Lollardry at, 321 
Nottingham Castle, 32, 35 

Occam, religious tenets of, 172 
Oldcastle, Sir John, an ardent Lollard, 
336 ; confined in, and escapes from, 
the Tower, 337 ; caught and hanged, 
Oxford, Eobert Vere, Earl of, 274, 283 
Oxford University, influence of Wy- 
cliffe at, 42 ; an intellectual centre, 
199 ; its place in the nation, 295 ; 
divisions in, 296; character of its 
students, 296, 297 ; influence of the 
friars at, 297 ; Wycliffe's doctrines 
paramount at, 298 ; Lollards ban- 
ished from, 309 ; its literary work 
checked, 309 

Papacy, the, in 1377, 75 

Paraphrase of Genesis and Exodus, 

quoted, 129 
Pardoners, 135, 136, 137, 138 
Parish priests, effects of the Black 

Death on, 124 ; marriage of, 126 ; 

their teaching, 127 ; status of, 144 



Parishes, number of, in England, 

Parker (Lollard preacher), 323 

Parliament, of 1371, 4 ; of 1373-1376, 
9 ; the Good, 13 ; at Northampton, 
102. See House of Commons 

PatteshuU, Walter (Lollard priest), 
his charge against the friars, 327 

Pattison, Mark, quoted on satire, 106 

Peachy (merchant), 26 

Peasants' Rising, of 1381, causes of, 
183 ; tenure of villeins or serfs, 184 ; 
forced service commuted for money 
payment, 186 ; effects of Black 
Death on labour conditions, 186 ; 
Statute of Labourers, 187 ; free la- 
bourers driven into outlawry, 189 ; 
fluctuations in labourers' prosperity, 
190 ; significance of the flight of 
villeins, 191, 193 ; the villeins' 
struggle for freedom, 193 ; their 
obligations to their lords, 194 ; John 
Ball's agitation, 196 ; the Rising not 
a Lollard movement, 200 ; upper 
classes preached against, 201 ; 
fomenters of revolt, 202 ; formation 
of the Great Society, 203 ; the poll- 
tax, 205 ; beginning of disturbance, 
206, 207 ; outbreaks in Essex and 
Kent, 208, 209 ; union of peasants 
of those two counties, 210 ; uprising 
in Somerset and Yorkshire, 212 ; 
poor armament of the rioters, 213 ; 
early outrages, 214 ; popular hatred 
of John of Gaunt, 216, 219 ; dislike 
of lawyers, 217, 218 ; belief in 
charters, 218 ; direct aims of the 
rebels, 219 , trust in Richard, 219, 
220 ; attitude towards ecclesiastics, 
220 ; religious houses attacked, 221, 
222; districts chiefly affected, 221, 
222, 223 ; rebels at Blackheath, 223, 
225, 226 ; invite the King to their 
camp, 226 ; enter London, 229 ; 
destroy palaces and prisons, 231; 
besiege the Tower, 232 ; terms ob- 
tained from Richard at Mile End, 
234 ; murders in the Tower, 236 ; 
most of the rebels quit London with 
their charters, 237; Wat Tyler 
killed in Smithfield, 241 ; surrender 
of rioters in Clerkenwell Fields, 243 ; 
Rising quelled in the provinces, 244 ; 
Bloody Assize in Essex, 246 ; exe- 
cutions in London, 248 ; Act of 
Pardon passed, with exceptions, 
251 ; failure of Rising, 253 ; results, 
254, 255 

Peeock, Reginald, Bishop of Chichester, 
his writings in defence of the Church, 
344-346 ; discredited and deprived 
of see, 346 

Pedro the Cruel, 87 

Pembroke, Earl of, 4, 5 ; defeated by 
the French, 7 

Penance, 131, 132 

Percy, Earl of Northumberland (father 
of Hotspur), 17 ; character and 
career, 21 ; joins John of Gaunt 's 
party, 32 ; made Marshal of Eng- 
land, 32 ; interferes on behalf 
of Peter de la Mare, 32 ; his castles, 
62 ; at Richard's Coronation, 70 ; 
made Earl, 71 ; resigns Earl Mar- 
shalship, 72 ; in antagonism to 
John of Gaunt, 249, 258 ; interest in 
Border affairs, 287 ; cited, 30, 36, 37, 
41, 42, 43, 46 

Perrers, Alice (Edward HI.'s mistress), 
in alliance with John of Gaunt, 9, 
29 ; relations with Edward, 28 ; ac- 
cused of being married and of 
wizardry, 29 ; banished the King, 
29 ; returns to him, 32 ; property 
confiscated, 74 

Pert, John (Lollard), 342 

Peter de la Mare (Speaker of the 
House of Commons), 23 ; in prison 
at Nottingham Castle, 32, 37 
on the mercantile marine, 56 
seneschal to the Earl of March, 66 
reception on discharge from Notting- 
ham Castle, 70 ; parliamentary ex- 
perience, 73 

Philip the Fair, 75, 76 

Philpot, John (Alderman), appointed 
receiver of taxes, 74, 91, 279 

Piers Gaveston, 274 

' Piers Plowman,' 35, 65, 113, 204 

Pilgrimage, 132, 133, 134, 135 

Pilgrimage of Grace, 352 

Plurality of cures, 119 

Poitiers, 16 

Poitou, lost to the English, 7 

Pole, Michael de la, 257, 274 ; chan- 
cellor, 275 ; intercedes for Courte- 
nay, 283 ; counsel on the invasion 
of Scotland, 286 

Poll-tax, amount raised by, 99, 100, 
101, 102, 205 

Ponthieu, seized by the French, 3 

Poor Priests (Wycliffe's), their charac- 
ter and mission, 177, 199, 200, 301, 
322, 326, 330, 331, 339, 341, 363 

Pope, the, restrictions on his influence 
in England, 107, 117, 118. See 
individual Popes under names 



Prior of Bury St. Edraunds, murdered 
by his own serfs, 216, 217 

Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, de- 
stroyed, 231 

Pulpit, influence of the, 127, 128 

Purvey, John (Lollard preacher), 315, 
339 ; denounces the celebration of 
the Mass, 323 ; recants, 834 

Purveyance, 259 

V Queen-mother (mother of Eichard II.) , 
226, 237, 244, 283 

Eansom, in the fourteenth century, 

Eeading, Church claims to appoint 
municipality, 163 

Eegulars, 106,' 122, 297, 308 

Eepyngton (Wycliffite), his sermons, 
301, 303; banished from Oxford, 
304 ; excommunicated, 305 ; recants 
and is restored, 307 

Eeseby, John (Lollard), burnt, 353 

Eetainers, 58, 59, 60, 61, 64, 68 

Eichard II., luxury in his reign, 63 ; 
accession to throne and coronation, 
69, 70 ; indebtedness, 102 ; in agree- 
ment with the Pope on Church 
appointments, 107, 118 ; action at 
St. Albans, 162, 248; the idol of 
the people, 219 ; his commission of 
Trailbaston, 225 ; at the Eising 
seeks safety in the Tower, 332 ; 
makes terms with the rioters at Mile 
End, 234 ; at worship with his nobles 
at Westminster Abbey, 24^3 ; meets 
rioters in Smichfield, 241 ; heroic 
behaviour, 242 ; operations against 
rebels, 245 ; absolves John of Gaunt 
from charge of disloyalty, 250 ; 
hatred and jealousy of John of 
Gaunt, 257, 281, 283 ; endeavours at 
personal government, 259 ; marries 
Anne of Bohemia, 260, 261 ; fluctu- 
ating character, 273 ; favourites and 
spendthrift Court, 274, 368 ; deprives 
Scrope and Braybrook of chancellor- 
ship and bestows it on Pole, 275 ; 
at enmity with the peers, 276 ; plot 
against him, 276 ; rage at the friar's 
murder, 277 ; upbraided by Buck- 
ingham, 277 ; his partisans, 278 ; at 
the trial of John of Northampton, 
281 ; quarrel with Courtenay, 283 ; 
invasion of Scotland, 284 ; tactics 
on the return from Scotland, 286 ; 
treatment of the Commons, 287, 

288; restores Crumpe at Oxford, 
304 ; compels Chancellor of Oxford 
University to proclaim Wycliffe's 
errors, 308 

Eochelle, naval fight off, 7, 8 

Eochester Castle, fall of, in the Eising, 

Eome, 77, 78 

Eosbec, battle of, 267 

Bygge, Eobert, elected Chancellor of 
Oxford University, 299 ; champions 
Wycliffism, 299, 300 ; publishes con- 
demnation of Wycliffe's theses, 302 ; 
asks pardon of the council, 302 ; re- 
cants, 307 ; accuses the friars of 
heresy, 308 

St. Albans, the rising at, 162, 218, 

St. Augustine, quoted, 176 

St. Dominic, order of, 144 

St. Edmundsbury, 124, 134, 162, 164 

St. Francis, order of, 144 

St. Giles' Fields, Lollard meeting at, 

St. Malo, 75 

St. Paul's Cross, 90 

St. Peter's, Gloucester, 91 

St. Sauveur, 24 

Salisbury, Bishop of, 71 

Salisbury, Earl of, 232 ; opposed to 
attacking the rioters in London, 
233, 245, 250 

Salisbury, Parliament of 1384 held at, 

Sanctuary, 89, 90, 91, 94, 95 ; right of, 
questioned, 92 : legislation concern- 
ing, 96 ; modified and abolished, 

Savoy, destruction of the, 46, 231 

Sawtrey, William, burnt, 334 

Scotland, invasion of, by Eichard II., 
284 ; Lollardry in, 353, 354 

Scrope, Lord, made Chancellor, 91, 
260 ; acknowledges financial deficit, 
98, 101 ; vacates chancellorship, r/ 
101, 275 ; protests against Eichard's 
expenditure on his courtiers, 275 ; 
cited, 11, 367 

Seculars, 106, 122, 296, 297, 298, 308 

Shakell (English knight), in conjunc- 
tion with Haule, captures the Count 
of Denia, 87 ; refuses to give up 
Denia's hostage son, 88 ; confined 
in the Tower, 89 ; seeks sanctuary 
in Westminster Abbey, 89 ; arrested, 
89 ; released and indemnified, 97 

Sheriffs, 36, 57, 58 





Shipman, Chaucer's, 55 

Simon de Montfort, 62 

Simony, 120 

Sluys, battle of, 8, 53, 55 
, Smith, William (Lollard), recants and 
does penance, 320 

Smithfield, meeting between Eichard 
and rioters at, 241 

Somerset, Earl of, attitude of his 
tenantry to the Church, 341 

Southwark, the ' stews ' of, 280 

Spain in league with France, 3 ; 
French and Spanish fleets ravage 
south coast of England, 79 

Spencer, Henry, Bishop of Norwich, 
21 ; warlike tendencies, 109 ; subdues 
the Eising in East Anglia, 245, 
246 ; undertakes the crusade against 
the French and Flemings, 268, 270 ; 
his dilemma between Urbanists and 
Clementists, 271 ; disastrous cam- 
paign in Flanders, 271 ; impeached 
and condemned, 272 

Stafford, Earl of, 17, 22, 31, 37 ; his 
castles, 62 ; demands retribution 
for his son's murder, 284 

Stafford, Sir Ealph, murdered by Sir 
John Holland, 284 

Stanley, Dean, quoted on sanctuary, 

' Stations of Eome,' quoted onpardons, 

Statistics, in the middle ages, 6 

Statute of Labourers, the, 187, 189, 
190, 217, 253 

Statute of Provisors, 107 

Stephen, King, 59 

Stokes (friar), appointed to condemn 
Wycliffism at Oxford, 301 ; flies to 
London, 302 

Stow, cited, 210 

Stubbs, Bishop, quoted, 154 

Stury, Sir Eichard, 9 ; disgraced, 26 ; 
interview with the dying Black 
Prince, 27 ; with Edward HI., 33, 
(Lollard), 327, 329 

Sudbtiry, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
20, 30, 38, 43, 44, 85 ; conduct on 
murder of Haule in sanctuary, 90 ; 
as chancellor, 101, 102 ; his ecclesi- 
astical advancement, 109 ; on epi- 
scopal non-residence,123 ; denounced 
by the rebels, 211 ; takes refuge in 
the Tower, 232 ; resigns the Great 
Seal, 234 ; beheaded by rioters on 
Tower Hill, 221, 235; his weak- 
ness regarding Lollardry, 292 

Suffolk, Earl of, 22 

Summoners, 136, 138, 280 

Sussex, 56 ; coast invaded by French 

and Spanish fleet, 72, 74 
Swynderby,William (Lollard preacher) , 

314 ; condemned to the stake, 

but recants, 315 ; tenor of his 

preaching, 323 ; his submission, 

Sybyle, Walter (Alderman of Bridge), 

228 ; favours the rioters, 229, 243 ; 

acquitted on charge of aiding rebels, 


Tailoue, William (Lollard), burnt, 

Templars, the, 168 
Temple, the, sacked by the mob, 231 
Thames, the, measure for its protec- 
tion, 56 
Thomas of Woodstock (brother 'of 

John of Gaunt), 43 ; created Earl of 

Buckingham, 70 
Tickhill Castle, 62 
Tithes, 112, 122, 123, 125 
Tower of London, episodes concerning, 

in the Eising, 232-235 
Towns, growth of, 163, 164 
Trailbaston, 208, 210, 225 
Transubstantiation, 173, 174, 298, 304, 

305, 337 
Treasurers of War, 287 
Treaty of Bretigny, 2, 55 
Tressilian, Eobert, 245 ; his cruelty as 

Chief Justice, 246, 247, 248, 274 ; 

sentences John of Northampton, 

Trevenant, Bishop John, his action 

against the Lollards, 324, 326 
Trueman, William (brewer), 238] 
Trussel, John, favours Lollards, 317, 

Tunstall, Bishop of London, on the 

effects of Lutheranism, 349 
Twyford (candidate for the mayoralty 

of London), 282 
Tyler, John, 210 
Tyler, Wat, the alleged insult to his 

daughter, 210 ; at the head of the 

rioters in Smithfield, 241 ; struck 

down by Walworth, 242; executed 

in Smithfield, 244 ; cited, 228, 229, 

239, 367 

Ubban VIL, 181, 262, 268 

Waldensis, Thomas, confuting Wy- 

clifiiam, 344 
Walsingham, quoted, 134, 159, 209, 




Walworth, William, appointed receiver 
of taxes, 74 ; Mayor of London, 91 ; 
attitude towards the rebels, 227 ; 
admits rioters into London on 
terms, 229 ; at refuge in the Tower, 
233 ; strikes down Wat Tyler in 
Smithfield, 242 ; arrays the citizens 
in aid of the King, 243 ; executes 
Tyler, 244 ; his cruelty in London, 
248 ; his rents from the ' stews ' of 
Southwark, 280 
Wars of the Eoses, 52, 68 
Warwick, Earl of, 17, 22, 37; his 

castles, 62 
Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia, 260, 

Westminster Abbey, 89 
Westminster Hall, on Richard's coro- 
nation day, 70 
Westminster, sanctuary at, 89, 90, 91, 

92, 94, 95, 96, 134 
White, William (Lollard), burnt, 340 
Wight, Isle of, occupied by French 

and Spaniards, 72 
William of Wykeham (Bishop of 
Winchester), Chancellor, 4, 6, 19, 
30, 69 ; accused of peculation, 34 ; 
popular sympathy with, 35 ; sum- 
moned to Convocation, 38 ; tem- 
poralities of his see returned to 
him, 50 ; the type of an average 
bishop, 108 ; his property in the 
' stews ' of Southwark, 280 
Winfarthing, the sword of, 134 
Wolsey, Cardinal, 350 
Wright, William and Margery (Lol- 
lards), 342, 343 
Wycliffe, John, birth and education, 
169 ; at Oxford and at Lutterworth, 
170 ; advocates return of Church 
endowments and distribution of 
ecclesiastical property among poor 
laymen, 39, 40, 202 ; his poUtical 
power and patrons, 42 ; argument 
of his ' De Dominio Civili,' 42 ; 
preaches in London, and summoned 
before Convocation, 43 ; supported 
by John of Gaunt, 44, 45 ; on the 
trains of the nobility, 62 ; his 
teaching attacked by Gregory XL 
and by Courtenay, 78, 80 ; his theory 
of communism, 81 ; before the House 
of Commons, 81 ; pamphlet on 
Papal claims, 82, 83 < 84 ; on sanc- 
tuary, 95 ; his ' De Officio Regis,' 
97 ; views on Transubstantiation, 98, 

173 ; outspokenness in matters of 
belief, 105 ; denounces the prelacy, 
110; on the murder of Sudbury, 
111 ; censures the corruption of 
lawyers, 113 ; dislikes Church 
jurisdiction over sin, 113 ; advocates 
abolishment of Papacy, hierarchy, 
and monasteries, 121 ; attacks ap- 
propriation, 123 ; on tithes, 125 ; 
considers the pulpit the best aid in 
reformation, 128 ; rests his doctrine 
on the Bible, 128, 129, 131, 181 ; 
translates the Bible, 130 ; his itine- 
rant priests, 130 ; " against the me- 
thods of atonement for sin, 131, 
185 ; on forgiveness of sins and 
confession, 140 ; denies the Pope's 
power to bind and loose, 141 ; 
believes in purgatory, 142 ; antago- 
nistic to friars, 143, 145, 179 ; his 
doctrine of evangelical poverty, 151 ; 
distrusts the mendicant orders, 152 ; 
against employment of clerics in 
secular affairs, 155 ; impugns the 
so-called devotional life, 156 ; ad- 
vocates an active religious life, 159 ; 
on ecclesiastical cursing, 165; re- 
ligious theories, 170, 171, 172 ; 
breaks with John of Gaunt on 
Transubstantiation, 174, 298 ; on 
the other sacraments, 175 ; opposes 
elaborate Church services, 176 ; 
advocates preaching, 177 ; on saint 
and image worship, 177, 178, 179 ; 
on ordination and apostolic succes- 
sion, 180 ; abjures the Papal head- 
ship, 181 ; his writings, 182, 314 ; 
on ' dominion,' 198, 200 ; upholds 
the authority of the King against 
the Church, 199 ; on master and 
servant, 200 ; withstands levelling 
ideas, 201 ; sympathy with serfs, 
201 ; on juries, 217 ; opposed to 
the English crusade against the 
Clementists, 269 ; his theory on the 
Eucharist, 291, 292 ; favoured by 
Rygge, 299 ; suspended, 303 ; es- 
teems scholarship less than mis- 
sionary zeal, 306 ; life at Lutter- 
worth, 314 ; death, 316 ; destruction 
of his writings by Church authori- 
ties, 347 ; his own reasons for the 
opposition to his doctrine of the 
Eucharist, 363 

York, 134 

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