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Epochs of History






Boundary of ) n ij'

English Territory as settled by V p' j"* Do. at death of Sdward III Red

I /le Treaty of Bretigni, 1360. ) "


The treaty of Bretigny was made in 1360 between Edward III. and King John of
France. After it Edward lost the actual possession of nearly the whole South of France,
hut he never gave up his pretensions to the Sovereignty of Guienne and Gascony.



Lancaster and York











For the period of English history treated in this
volume, we are fortunate in possessing an unrivalled
interpreter in our great dramatic poet, Shakspeare.
A regular sequence of historical plays exhibit to us
not only the general cnaracter of each successive
reign, but nearly the whole chain of leading events,
from the days of Richard II. to the death of Richard
III. at Sosworth. Following the guidance of such a
master mind, we realize for ourselves the men and
actions of the period in a way we cannot do in any
other epoch. And this is the more important, as the
age itself, especially towards the close, is one of the
most obscure in English history. During the period
of the Wars of the Roses, we have, comparatively
speaking, very few contemporary narratives of what
took place, and anything like a general history of the
times was not written till a much later date. But the
doings of that stormy age — the sad calamities endured
by kings — the sudden changes of fortune in great men

vi Preface.

— the glitter of chivalry and the horrors of civil war,
— all left a deep impression upon the mind of the
nation, which was kept alive by vivid traditions of
the past at the time that our great dramatist wrote.
Hence, notwithstanding the scantiness of records
and the meagerness of ancient chronicles, we have
singularly, little difficulty in understanding the spirit
and character of the times.

Shakspeare, however, made ample use besides, of
whatever information he could obtain from written
histories. And there were two works to which he
was mainly indebted, which deserve to be read more
generally than they are at the present day — the
Chronicles, namely, of Hall and Holinshed. Hall's
Chronicle was written in the reign of Henry VIII.,
and gives a complete account of the whole sequence
of events from the last days of King Richard II. to
the time in which the author wrote. The title of the
work prefixed to it by himself, or possibly by his
printer, Grafton, who completed it, was " The Union
of the Two Noble and Illustrate Families of Lancastre
and Yorke."^ This expresses exactly the general
scope of the book, which traces out very clearly the

1 The full title is as follows : — " The Union of the two Noble and
Illustrate Families of Lancaster and York being long in continual
dissension for the crown of this noble realm, with all the acts done
in both the times of the Princes, both of the one lineage and of the

Preface. vii

story of each separate reign, first of the one family
and afterwards of the other, winding up with a narra-
tive of the reign of Henry VIII. , in whom the blood
of both Houses was mingled. The style of Hall,
though antiquated, is remarkably clear, graphic, and
interesting. The headings that he has prefixed to
the several reigns are in themselves no small help to
the student to remember their general charac er.
The book is divided into the following chapters ; —

" An Introduction into the Division of the Two Houses of
Lancaster and York.

" I. The Unquiet Time of King Henry the Fourth.
" n. The Victorious Acts of King Henry the Fifth.
"in. The Troublous Season of King Henry the Sixth.
" IV. The Prosperous Reign of King Edward the Fourth.
" V. The Pitiful Life of King Edward the Fifth.
'' VI. The Tragical Doings of King Richard the Third.
" VII. The Politic Governance of King Henry the Seventh,
" VIII. The Triumphant Reign of King Henry the Eighth."

This table of contents is quite a history in little.
The feeling with which Hall wrote is that of a
man living under a *' triumphant " king who, after a
century of disorder and civil war occasioned by a
disputed succession, had succeeded peacefully to the
crown, uniting the claims of the two rival families in

other, beginning at the time of King Herry the Fourth, the
first author of this division, and so successively proceeding to the
reign of the high and prudent prince King Henry the Eighth, the
indubitate flower and very heir of both the said lineages."

viii Preface,

his own person and raising his country in the estima"
tion of the whole world by his kingly valor. From
the happy and prosperous days of Henry VIII., — for
such they were upon the whole, especially the early
part of the reign, when Hall wrote — he looked back
with the eye of an historian upon that epoch of
tragedy and confusion, and carefully collected all
that he could find relating to it. In the beginning
of the work he gives a list of the authorities he had
consulted, among which there are one or two that
cannot at this day be identified, and perhaps may
not be now extant.

On the whole, those who desire to obtain a clear
impression of the history of this period cannot do
better than read the Chronicle of Hall, of which it
is greatly to be desired that some more handy and
convenient edition were published for general use.
It is, however, for the most part accessible in public
libraries, either in the original black-letter edition
or in that of Sir Henry Ellis*

The later Chronicles of Stow and Holinshed, pub-
lished during the latter part of the reign of Queen
Elizabeth, add many important particulars not to be
found in Hall. John Stow was a most industrious
antiquary, who spent the greater portion of his life
in collecting and taking notes from MSS., and in

Preface. ix

his Chronicle, or, as he himself calls it, his "An-
nals," he gives the fruit of his gleanings, not in a
connected narrative but in a record of events from
year to year, as the name of the work implies. The
work of Holinshed, on the other hand, is called on
the title-page a Chronicle, but is, in fact, a regular
history, embodying the substance of Hall's narrative,
sometimes nearly in the words of the earlier writer,
with a great deal that is contained In Stow and a
large amount of additional information from other

Modern writers have not improved upon these
admirable works in extent or fulness of information,
though they have undoubtedly brought criticisms to
bear on many points of detail. Of popular histories
written in recent times, Lingard's is upon the whole
the most careful and trustworthy ; but any one de-
siring really to study the period can only refer to
such works as a help to rectify and to test the accu-
racy of his own judgments after saturating his mind
with the perusal of earlier authorities. Those who
have not an opportunity of referring to Hall or
Holinshed, would do well ^not to take their whole
view of the history from any one historian, however
accurate he may be, but to jot down the simple facts
for themselves, comparing one writer with another

X Preface,

to ensure accuracy, and from them form their own

If, however, it be desired to examine the original
sources from which information about the period is
obtained, the student must of course go to earlier
writings even than Hall's Chronicle. He must
examine the authorities used by Hall himself, and a
number of other chronicles and narratives besides,
many of which have been only published in compara-
tively recent times. Of these works it would be un-
necessary here to give a list j but it is right to say
that the present volume has been written from a
direct study of all the contemporary testimony that
exists relative to the events of each particular reign.







1 The French War— Wycliffe and John of Gaunt
IL Wat Tyler's Rebellion ....

IIL The Crusade in Flanders. Invasion of Scotland

The King's Favorites ....
IV. Revolution and Counter-Revolution .
V. The Struggle Continued. The Wonderful Parlia'
ment — The King of age . . .
VI. The King and the Duke of Gloucester
VII. The Dukes of Hereford and Norfolk *
VIII. The King and Henry of Lancaster • .









kenr:y IV.

I. The Revolution Completed. Invasion of Scotland . 67

II. Eastern Affairs , . 72

IIL Owen Glendower's Rebellion and the Battle of

Shrewsbury ........ f6

IV. Capture of Prince James of Scotland ... 81

V. The Church. French Affairs. Death of Henry IV. 85


xii Contents.



I. Oldcastle and the Lollards 90

II. The War with France and the Battle of Agincourt . 96

III. The Emperor Sigismund. Henry Invades France a

Second Time. The Foul Raid. Execution of
Oldcastle 104

IV. Siege and Capture of Rouen. Murder of the Duke

of Burgundy. Treaty of Troyes .... 108
V, Henry's Third Invasion of France. His Death • 114




Henry vi.

I. The Ring's Minority and the French Wa.r . .128

tl. The Siege of Orleans. Joan of Arc .... 132

III. Gloucester and Beaufort. Negotiations for Peace . 140

IV. The King's Marriage. Deaths of Gloucester and

Beaufort I46

V. Loss of Normandy. Fall of the Duke of Suffolk . 150

VI. Jack Cade's Rebellion. Loss of GuienneandGascony 155

vn. The King's Illness. Civil War 161

VIII. The Duke of York's Claim. His Death. Henry

Deposed 167



I. Triumph of the House of Yotk 173

II. Edward's Marriage. Louis Xl. . . . , 178

III. The Burgundian Alliance. Warwick's Intrigues . 183

IV. Edward driven out, and Henry VI. Restored . . 188

V. Return of King Edward 192

Contents. xiii


VI. War with France ..••••. 198

VII. France and Burgundy 200

VIII. t ate of Clarence. The Scotch War, Death of Edward 203





I. The Royal Progress. Murder of the Princes . .218

II. The Rebellion of Buckingham 222

III. Second Invasion of Richmond. Richard's Overthrow

and Death 227






I. France at the Death of Edward III.

Opposite Title-page

II. Extent of the English Conquests in

France To face page i \-^

III. Henry V.'s First Campaign in France " loo ^

IV. England during the Wars of the

Roses « 5/2 \

V. Europe in the Fifteenth Century " 250






The reign of Edward III. may be considered the climax
of mediaeval civilization and of England's early great-
ness. It is the age in which chivalry ^g^ ^f g^-
attained its highest perfection. It is the "^^^^ ^^^•
period of the most brilliant achievements in war, and of
the greatest development of arts and commerce before
the Reformation. It was succeeded by an age of decay
and disorder, in the midst of which, for one brief interval,
the glories of the days of King Edward were renewed ;
for the rest, all was sedition, anarchy, and civil war.
Two different branches of the royal family set up rival
pretensions to the throne ; and the struggle, as it went
on, engendered acts of violence and ferocity which de-
stroyed all faith in the stability of government.

2. Even in Edward's own days the tide had begun to
turn. Of the lands he had won in France, Loss of French
and even of those he had inherited in that conquests.
country, nearly all had been lost. Calais, Bordeaux,
Bayonne, and a few other places still remained; but

* o


2 Preliminary. CH. i.

Gascony had revolted, and a declaration of war had
been received in England from Charles V., the son of
that king of France who had been taken prisoner at
Poitiers. Edward found it impossible in his declining
years to maintain his old military renown. His illus-
trious son, the Black Prince, only tarnished his glory
by the massacre of Limoges. Even if England had
still possessed the warriors who had helped to win her
earlier victories, success could not always be hoped for
from that daring policy which had been wont to risk
everything in a single battle. The French, too, had
learned caution, and would no longer allow the issue to
be so determined. They suffered John of Gaunt to march
through the very heart of their country from Calais to
Bordeaux, only harassing his progress with petty skir-
mishes, and leaving hunger to do its work upon the in-
vading army. England was exhausted and had to be
content with failure. During the last two years of
Edward's reign there was a truce, which expired three
months before his death. But no attempt was made to
do more than stand on the defensive.

3. In domestic matters a still more melancholy re-
action had taken place. The great King had become
^ ^ .,. . weak, and the depravity from which he and

Imbecility of .

Edward in his his people had emancipated themselves at
years. ^^ beginning of his reign reappeared at the
close in a form almost as painful. Alice Ferrers ruled
the King and sat beside the judges, corrupting tjie
administration of the law. In the King's imbecility his
sons conducted the government, and chiefly John of
Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, whose elder brother the Black
Prince had, for the most part, withdrawn from public life,
owing to his shattered health. But just before his death
in 1376, the latter, conscious of the corrupt state of the

1377* Preliminary, 3

whole administration, srave his countenance , _, ^ ,

° ♦ The Good

to what was called 'the Good Parliament,' Parliament.'
in attacking the principal abuses. They impeached,
fined, and imprisoned various offenders who had been
guilty of extortion as farmers of the revenue, or of
receiving bribes for the surrender of fortresses to the
enemy ; then, aiming higher still, not only ventured to
complain of Alice Ferrers, but compelled the King to
banish her from his presence. Unfortunately, the good
influence did not last. On the death of the Black Prince
everything was again undone. Alice Perrers returned to
the King. The Speaker of ' the Good Parliament ' was
thrown into prison. John of Gaunt returned to power
and brought charges against William of Wykeham,
bishop of Winchester, once the all-powerful minister of
Edward III., in consequence of which he was dismissed
from the Chancellorship, and ordered to keep at a dis-
tance from the court, while the men who had been cen-
sured and condemned by Parliament were released from
their confinement.

4. One act, however, the Good Parliament accom-
plished which was not to be undone. Immediately ou
the death of the Black Prince the Commons Richard
petitioned that his son Richard might be 1^"^^^^^
publicly recognized as heir to the throne. Prince, re-
The significance of this act is not at once heir to the
apparent to us who are accustomed to a '^'■°^"-
fixed succession. But the days were not then so very
remote when it had been not unusual to set aside the
direct line of the succession, either to avoid a minority
or for some other reason ; and it might have been ques-
tioned still whether the right of a younger son, like John
of Gaunt, was not preferable to that of a grandson, like
young Richard. In this case, however, the general feel-

4 Richard II. ch. ii.

ing was marked and unmistakable. The great popu-
larity of the Black Prince made the nation desire the
succession of his son ; and the unpopularity of John of
Gaunt strengthened that desire still further. Hence it
was that on the death of Edward III. his grandson
Richard succeeded quietly to the throne.



I. The French War. — Wy cliff e and John of Gaunt.

I. It was just twelve months after the death of the Black
Prince that his father, King Edward III., died at Sheen.
^ jj According to what had been determined in

June 21. Parliament, Richard was immediately re-

cognized as king. He was at this time only eleven years
Accession of ^Id, and could not be expected to discharge
Richard. ^^e actual functions of government for many

years to come. The utmost that could have been hoped
under circumstances so disadvantageous was that he
might have been placed under such tuition as would
have taught him to exercise his high powers with vigor
and discretion when he came of age. But even of this
the state of parties afforded very little prospect. His
eldest uncle, John of Gaunt, was so generally disliked
that his influence would not have been tolerated, and no
one else had any claim to be his political instructor. No
attempt was made to form a Regency or to appoint a
Protector during the minority. The young King was
crowned within a month after his accession, and was in-
vested at once with the full rights of sovereignty. All

1377' "^^^ Fi'ench War. 5

parties agreed to support his authority, and seemed anx-
ious to lay aside those jealousies which had disturbed the
latter days of the preceding reign. John of Gaunt and
William of Wykeham were made friends ; and the city
of London, which had been much opposed to the for-
mer, was assured both of his and of the new King's
good will.

2. It was, indeed, a very proper time to put away
dissensions, for the French were at that moment harass-
ing the coasts. A week after King Edward's death they
burned Rye. A little later they levied contributions in
the Isle of Wight, attacked Winchelsea, and ^j^^ French
set fire to Hastings. About the same time ^^^"^ ^y^-
the Scots were busy in the North, and burned the town
of Roxburgh. These and a number of other misfortunes
were due mainly to the weakness of the government.

3. A Parliament, however, presently assembled at
London, composed mainly of the same persons as the
Good Parliament of 1 376. In this Parliament

-. . -, -, r • ■, Parliament.

a subsidy was voted for carrymg on the war ;
but to prevent a repetition of old abuses, the control of
the money was placed entirely in the hands of two lead-
ing citizens of London, who were charged not to allow
it to be diverted from the use for which it was intended.
The names of these two citizens were William Walworth
and John Philipot ; and they deserve to be noted here as
we shall meet with each of them again in connection
with other matters.

4. About the end of the year there arrived in England
certain bulls — not the first that had been issued by the
Pope to denounce his teaching — against John
WycHffe, a famous theologian at Oxford, ^^' ^"
whose tenets, both political and religious, had created no
small stir. Wycliffe denied that the Pope, or any one

6 Richard II. ch. ii.

but Christ, ought to be called Head of the Church. He
treated as a fiction that primacy among the Apostles
which the Church of Rome had always claimed for St.
Peter. He maintained that the power of kings was su-
perior to that of the Pope, and that it was lawful to ap-
peal from the sentence of a bishop to a secular tribunal.
It was one of his cardinal principles that dominion was
founded on grace, and that any one who held authority,
either temporal or spiritual, was divested of his power by
God whenever he abused it, so that it then became not
only lawful but right to disobey him. This teaching
shook to its foundation the view commonly entertained
of the relations of Church and State, but it recommended
itself in many ways to no small section of the nation.
As early as the year 1 366 it had become of value to the
Court ; for the Pope had revived the claim made by the
See of Rome for tribute in the days of King John, and
while the papal pretensions were repudiated by the Par-
liament at Westminster, Wycliffe defended in the schools
of Oxford the decision come to by the legislature.

5. In truth the authority of the Pope had not been
strengthened in the estimation of Englishmen since the
days when that tribute had been submitted to, especially
not in the days of Wycliffe. For nearly sixty years the
Papal See had been removed from Rome to Avignon,
and in matters of international concern the Pope was
looked upon as a partisan of the French king. Of the
The Popes six Popes who had reigned at Avignon,
at Avignon. every one had been a native either of Gas-
cony or of the Limousin. The exactions of the Papal
Court rendered it still more odious. The See of Rome
had gradually usurped the right of presentation to bish-
oprics and prebends, and received the first-fruits of each
new-filled benefice, of which it endeavored to make the

1377- Wycliffe. 7

utmost by frequent translations. At "the sinful city of
Avignon," as it was called by the Good Parliament, there
lived a set of brokers who purchased benefices and let
them to farm for absentees. Thus a number of the most
valuable preferments were absorbed by Cardinals and
other foreigners residing at the Papal Court. And worse
than all, the revenues of the English Church went fre-
quently to support the enemies of England. For the
Pope claimed a general right of taxing benefices, and
when he required money for his wars in Lombardy, or to
ransom French prisoners taken by the English, he could
always demand a subsidy of the English clergy. The
bishops did not dare to resist the demand, however little
they might approve the object. In this way the Pope
drew from the possessions of the Church in England five
times the amount the King received from the whole
taxation of the kingdom. And while all this wealth was
withdrawn from the country, and some of it applied in a
manner opposed to the country's interest, the people
were so ground down with taxation that they were unable
to provide effectively for defence against a foreign enemy.
Statesmen therefore desired the opinion of divines
whether England might not lawfully, as a Christian
nation, refuse to part with her treasures to the See of
Rome. Wycliffe had no doubt upon the subject. He
declared that every community had a right to protect
itself, and that it might detain its treasure for that pur-
pose whenever necessity required ; moreover, that on
Gospel principles the Pope had no right to anything at
all, except in the way of alms and free-will offerings of
the faithful.

6. Unselfish as his aim undoubtedly was, it was only
natural that doctrines such as these should have recom-
mended Wycliffe to the favor of the great. Even in the

8 Richard II. ch. ii.

days of Edward III. he was a royal chaplain ; and in
the very first year of Richard II. his advice was asked
by the King's council upon the question just referred to.
On the other hand, he was naturally looked upon by
churchmen as a traitor to the principles and constitution
of the Church ; nor could he hope to escape their ven-
geance except by the protection of powerful laymen. In
this respect the friendship of John of Gaunt was of most
signal use to him ; and it was shown in an especial man-
ner not long before the death of Edward III. On that
occasion Wycliffe had been cited before the Archbishop
of Canterbury and the Bishop of London at St. Paul's ;
and the Duke of Lancaster not only took his part, but
befriended him so warmly as to let fall some offensive
expressions against the Bishop of London. But he had
very soon cause to repent the indiscretion. The Lon-
doners resented either the affront to their bishop or the
stretch of authority on the duke's part in protecting a
heretic, and it was only at the bishop's own intercession
that they refrained from attacking the duke himself or
setting fire to his palace of the Savoy.

7. The incident was characteristic of John of Gaunt,
a man whose inward endowments, either of
Gaunt! virtue or discretion, by no means corre-

sponded with his artificial greatness. Al-

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Online LibraryJames GairdnerThe houses of Lancaster and York, with the conquest and loss of France → online text (page 1 of 21)