John Richard Green.

England (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 48)
Online LibraryJohn Richard GreenEngland (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

^^. >;




* •'■■





IBHorlli's 33est l^istories












'I 2)e5fcate tbls Booft








EARLY ENGLAND. 449—1071.


The English Conquest of Britain. 449—577 ... 15

The English Kingdoms. 578—796 ...... 83

Wessex and the Northmen. 796—947 78

Feudalism and the Monarchy. 954—1071 . . • .95



The Conqueror. 1071—1085. 131

The Norman Kings. 1085—1154 143

Henry the Second. 1154^1189 ...,«• 169

The Angevin Kings. 1189—1204 190



THE CHARTER. 1204—1291.


John. 1314—1316 . . - ., 303

Henry the Third. 1316—1232 258

The Barons' War. 1332—1273 ....<,. 279

Edward the First. 1373 — 1307 ..••». 821

boC'e: IV.

THE PARLIAMENT. 1307—1461.


Edward the Second. 1307—1327 . , » » . 383

Edward the Third. 1327—1347 897

The Peasant Revolt. 1347—1881 . . . , , 430

Richard the Second. 1381—1400 489

The House op Lancaster. 1399-1433 , ... 523

Tap Wars of te-w Roses. 1433 — 1461 *48

booe: I.




For the conquest of Britain by the English our authorities are
scant and imperfect. The only extant British account is the " Epis-
tola" of Gildas, a work written probably about a.d. 560. The style
of Gildas is diffuse and inflated, but his book is of great value in
the light it throws on the state of the island at that time, and aa
giving at its close what is probably the native story of the conquest
of Kent. This is the only part of the struggle of which we have any
record from the side of the conquered. The English conquerors, on
the other hand, have left jottings of their conquest of Kent, Sussex,
and Wessex in the curious annals which form the opening of the
compilation now known as the " English" "or " Anglo-Saxon Chroni-
cle, " annals which are undoubtedly historic, though with a slight
mythical intermixture. For the history of the English conquest of
mid-Britain or the Eastern Coast we possess no written materials
from either side ; and a fragment of the Annals of Northumbria
embodied in the later compilation ("'Historia Britonum") which
bears the name of Nennius alone throws light on the conquest of
the North.

From these inadequate materials however Dr. Guest has suc-
ceeded by a wonderful combination of historical and arcliseological
knowledge in constructing a narrative of the conquest of Southern
and Southwestern Britain which must serve as the starting-point
for all future inquirers. This narrative, so far as it goes, has served
as the basis of the account given in my text ; and I can only trust
that it may soon be embodied in some more accessible form than
that of a series of papers in the Transactions of the Archgeological
Institute. In a like way though Kemble's "Saxons in England"
and Sir F. Palgrave's " History of the English Commonwealth" (if
read with caution) contain much that is worth notice, our knowl-
edge of the primitive constitution of the English people and the
changes introduced into it since their settlement in Britain must
be mainly drawn from the "Constitutional History" of Professor
Stubbs. In my earlier book I had not the advantage of aid from
this invaluable work, which was then unpublished ; in the present
I do little more than follow it in all constitutional questions as far
as it has at present gone.

Baeda's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum," a work of
which I have spoken in my text, is the primary authority for the
history of the Northumbrian overlordship which followed the Con-
quest. It is by copious insertions from Baeda that the meagre reg-
nal and episcopal annals of the West Saxons have been brought to
the shape in which they at present appear in the part of the English


Chronicle which concerns this period. The life of Wilfrid by Eddi,
with those of Cuthbert by an anonymous contemporary and by
Bseda himself, throw great light on the religious and intellectual
condition of the North at the time of its supremacy. But with the
fall of Northumbria we pass into a period of historical dearth. A
few incidents of Mercian history are preserved among the meagre
annals of Wessex in the English Chronicle : but for the most part
we are thrown upon later writers, especially Henry of Huntingdon
and William of Malmesbury, who, though authors of the twelfth
century, had access to older materials which are now lost. A little
may be gleaned from biographies such as that of Guthlac of Crow-
land ; but the letters of Boniface and Alcwine, which have been
edited by Jalie in his series of " Monumenta Germanica, " form the
most valuable contemporary materials for this period.

From the rise of Wessex our history rests mainly on the English
Chronicle. The earlier part of this work, as we have said, is a
compilation, and consists of (1) Annals of the Conquest of South
Britain, and (2) Short Notices of the Kings and Bishops of Wessex
expanded by copious insertions from Beeda, and after the end of
his work by brief additions from some northern sources. These
materials may have been thrown together into their present form in
Alfred's time as a preface to the far fuller annals which begin with
the reign of ^thelwulf, and which widen into a great contemporary
history when they reach that of JEUred himself. After -lElfred's
day the Chronicle varies much in value. Through the reign of
Eadward the Elder it is copious, and a Mercian Chronicle is im-
bedded in it : it then dies down into a series of scant and jejune
entries, broken however with grand battle-songs, till the reign of
-lEthelred when its fulness returns.

Outside the Chronicle we encounter a great and valuable mass of
historical material for the age of Alfred and his successors. The
life of ./Elfred which bears the name of Asser, puzzling as it is in
some ways, is probably really Asser's work, and certainly of con-
temporary authority. The Latin rendering of the English Chronicle
which bears the name of .i^thelweard adds a little to our knowledge
of this time. The Laws, which form the base of our constitutional
knowledge of this period, fall, as has been well pointed out by Mr.
Freeman, into two classes. Those of Eadward, ^thelstan, Ead-
mund, and Eadgar, are like the earlier laws of ^thelberht and Ine,
" mainly of the nature of amendments of custom." Those of Alfred,
.^thelred, Cnut, with those which bear the name of Eadward the
Confessor, " aspire to the character of Codes. " They are printed in
Mr. Thorpe's "Ancient Laws and Institutes of England," but the
extracts given by Professor Stubbs in his " Select Charters" contain
all that directly bears on our constitutional growth. A vast mass
of Charters and other documents belonging to this period has been
collected by Kemble in his "Codex Diplomaticus .^vi Saxonici,"
and some are added by Mr. Thorpe in his " Diplomatarium Anglo-
Saxonicum." Dunstan's biographies have been collected and edited
by Professor Stubbs in the series published by the Master of the

In the period which follows the accession of ^thelred we are
still aided by these collections of royal Laws and Charters, and the


English Chronicle becomes of great importance. Its various copies
indeed differ so much in tone and information from one another
that they may to some extent be looked upon as distinct works, and
" Florence of Worcester" is probably the translation of a valuable
copy of the "Chronicle" which has disappeared. The translation
however was made in the twelfth century, jnd it is colored by the
revival of national feeling which was characteristic of the time.
Of Eadward the Confessor himself we have a contemporary biog-
raphy (edited by Mr. Luard for the Master of the Rolls) which
throws great light on the personal history of the King and on hia
relations to the house of Godwine.

The earlier Norman traditions are preserved by Dudo of St.
Quentin, a verbose and confused writer, whose work was abridged
and continued by William of Jumieges, a contemporary of the Con-
queror. AVilliam's work in turn served as the basis of the "Roman
de Rou" composed by Wace in the time of Henry the Second. The
primary authority for the Conqueror himself is the " Gesta Williemi"
of his chaplain and violent partisan, William of Poitiers. For the
period of the invasion, in which the English authorities are meagre,
we have besides these the contemporary "Carmen de Bello Has-
tingensi, " by Guy, Bishop of Amiens, and the pictures in the
Bayeux Tapestry. Orderic, a writer of the twelfth century, gossipy
and confused but honest and well-informed, tells us much of the
feligious movement in Normandy, and is particularly valuable and
detailed in his account of the period after the battle of Senlac.
^mong secondary authorities for the Norman Conquest, Simeon of
Durham is useful for northern matters, and William of Malmesbury
worthy of note for his remarkable combination of Norman and Eng-
lish feeling. Domesday Book is of course invaluable for the Nor-
man settlement. The chief documents for the early history of Anjou
have been collected in the "Chroniques d' Anjou" published by the
Historical Society of France. Those which are authentic are little
more than a few scant annals of religious houses ; but light is
thrown on them by the contemporary French chronicles. The
" Gesta Comitum" is nothing but a compilation of the twelfth cen-
tury, in which a mass of Aigevin romance as to the early story of
the Counts is dressed into historical shape by copious quotations
from these French historians.

It is possible that fresh light may be thrown on our earlier hig-
toiy when historical criticism has done more than has yet been done
for the materials given us by Ireland and Wales. For Welsh his-
tory the "Brut-y-Tywysogion" and the " Annales Cambriae" are now
accessible in the series published by the Master of the Rolls ; the
"Chronicle of Caradoc of Lancarvan" is translated by Powel ; the
Mabinogion, or Romantic Tales, have been published by Lady Char-
lotte Guest ; and the Welsh Laws collected by the Record Commis-
sion. The importance of these, as embodying a customary code of
very early date, will probably be better appreciated when we possess
the whole of the Brehon Laws, the customary laws of Ireland,
which are now being issued by the Irish Laws Commission, and to
which attention has justly been drawn by Sir Henry Maine ("Early
History of Institutions") as preserving Aryan usages of the remotest


The enormous mass of materials which exists for the early his-
tory of Ireland, various as they are in critical value, may be seen in
Ml-. O'Curry's " Lectures on the Materials of Ancient Irish History ;"
and they may be conveniently studied by the general reader in the
"Annals of the Four Masters," edited by Dr. O' Donovan. But this
is a mere compilation (though generally a faithful one) made about
the middle of the seventeenth century from earlier sources, two of
which have been published in the Rolls series. One, the " Wars of
the Gaedhil with the Gaill, " is an account of the Danish wars which
may have been written in the eleventh century ; the other, the
"Annals of Loch Ce, " is a chronicle of Irish affairs from the end of
the Danish wars to 1590. The "Chronicon Scotorum" (in the same
series) extends to the year 1150, and though composed in the seven-
teenth century is valuable from the learning of its author, Duald
Mac-Firbis. The works of Colgan are to Irish church affairs what
the "Annals of the Four Masters" are to Irish civil history. They
contain a vast collection of translations and transcriptions of early
saints' lives, from those of Patrick downward. Adamnan's "Life
of Columba" (admirably edited by Dr. Reeves) supplies some details
to the story of the Northumbrian kingdom. Among more miscel-
laneous works we find the " Book of Rights, " a summary of the dues
and rights of the several over-kings and under-kings, of much
earlier date probably than the Norman invasion ; and Cormac's
" Glossary, " attributed to the tenth century and certainly an early
work, from which much may be gleaned of legal and social details,
and something of the pagan religion of Ireland.




For the fatherland of the English race we must look far
away from England itself. In the fifth century after the
birth of Christ the one country which we know to have
borne the name of Angeln or England lay within the dis-
trict which is now called Sleswick, a district in the heart
of the peninsula that parts the Baltic from the northern
seas. Its pleasant pastures, its black-timbered homesteads,
its prim little townships looking down on inlets of purple
water, were then but a wild waste of heather and sand,
girt along the coast with a sunless woodland broken here
and there by meadows that crept down to the marshes and
the sea. The dwellers in this district, however, seem to
have been merely an outljnng fragment of what was called
the Engle or English folk, the bulk of whom lay probably
in what is now Lower Hanover and Oldenburg. On one
side of them the Saxons of Westphalia held the land from
the Weser to the Rhine ; on the other the Eastphalian Sax-
ons stretched away to the Elbe. North again of the frag-
ment of the English folk in Sleswick lay another kindred
ti'ibe, the Jutes, whose name is still preserved in their
district of Jutland. Engle, Saxon, and Jute all belonged
to the same Low-German branch of the Teutonic family ;
and at the moment when history discovers them they were
being drawn together by the ties of a common blood, com-
mon speech, common social and political institutions.
There is little ground indeed for believing that the three
tribes looked on themselves as one people, or that we can
as yet apply to them, save by anticipation, the common


name of Englishmen. But each of them was destined to
share in the conquest of the land in which we live ; and it
is from the union of all of them when its conquest was
complete that the English people has sprung.

Of the temper and life of the folk in this older England
we know little. But from the glimpses that we catch of
it when conquest had brought them to the shores of Brit-
ain their political and social organization must have been
that of the German race to which they belonged. In their
villages lay ready formed the social and political life which
is round us in the England of to-day. A belt of forest or
waste parted each from its fellow- villages, and within this
boundary or mark the " township, " as the village was then
called from the " tun" or rough fence and trench that served
as its simple fortification, formed a complete and indepen-
dent body, though linked by ties which were strengthening
every day to the townships about it and the tribe of which
it formed a part. Its social centre was the homestead
where the eetheling or eorl, a descendant of the first Eng-
lish settlers in the waste, still handed down the blood and
traditions of his fathers. Around this homestead or sethel,
each in its little croft, stood the lowlier dwellings of free-
lings or ceorls, men sprung, it may be, from descendants
of the earliest settler who had in various ways forfeited
their claim to a share in the original homestead, or more
probably from incomers into the village who had since set-
tled round it and been admitted to a share in the land and
freedom of the community. The eorl was distinguished
from his fellow-villagers by his wealth and his nobler
blood ; he was held by them in an hereditary reverence ;
and it was from him and his fellow-sethelings that host-
leaders, whether of the village or the tribe, were chosen in
times of war. But this claim to precedence rested simply
on the free recognition of his fellow-villagers. Within
the township every freeman or ceorl was equal. It was
the freeman who was the base of village society. He was
the " free-necked man" whose long hair floated over a neck

Chap. 1.] EARLY ENGLAND. 44D— 1071. 17

which had never bowed to a lord. He was the " weaponed
man" who alone bore spear and sword, and who alone pre-
served that right of self -redress or private war which in
such a state of society formed the main check upon lawless

Among the English, as among all the races of mankind,
justice had originally sprung from each man's personal
action. There had been a time when every freeman was
his own avenger. But even in the earliest forms of Eng-
lish societ}^ of which we find traces this right of self-de-
fence was being modified and restricted by a growing sense
of public justice. The " blood-wite" or compensation in
money for personal wrong was the first effort of the tribe
as a whole to regulate private revenge. The freeman's
life and the freeman's limb had each on this system its
legal price. " Eye for eye," ran the rough code, and " life
for life," or for each fair damages. We see a further step
toward the modern recognition of a wrong as done not to
the individual man but to the people at large in another
custom of early date. The price of life or limb was paid,
not by the wrong-doer to the man he wronged, but by the
family or house of the wrong-doer to the family or house
of the wronged. Order and law were thus made to rest
in each little group of people upon the blood-bond which
knit its families together; every outrage was held to have
been done by all who were linked in blood to the doer of
it, every crime to have been done against all who were
linked in blood to the sufferer from it. From this sense
of the value of the family bond as a means of restraining
the wrong-doer by forces which the tribe as a whole did
not as yet possess sprang the first rude forms of English
justice. Each kinsman was his kinsman's keeper,
bound to protect him from wrong, to hinder him from
wrong-doing, and to suffer with him and pay for him if
wrong were done. So fully was this principle recognized
that even if any man was charged before his fellow-tribes-
men with crime his kinsfolk still remained in fact his sol©


judges ; for it was by their solemn oath of his innocence
or his guilt that he had to stand or fall.

As the blood-bond gave its first form to English justice^
so it gave their first forms to English society and English
warfare. Kinsmen fought side by side in the hour of
battle, and the feelings of honor and discipline which held
the host together were drawn from the common dutj- of
every man in each little group of warriors to his house.
And as they fought side by side on the field, so they dwelt
side by side on the soil. Harling abode by Harling, and
Billing by Billing ; and each " wick" or " ham" or " stead"
or " tun" took its name from the kinsmen who dwelt to-
gether in it. In this way the home or " ham" of the Bill-
ings was Billingham, and the " tun" or township of the
Harlings was Harlington. But in such settlements the
tie of blood was widened into the larger tie of land. Land
with the German race seems at a very early time to have
become everywhere the accompaniment of full freedom.
The freeman was strictly the free-holder, and the exercise
of his full rights as a free member of the community to
which he belonged became inseparable from the possession
of his " holding" in it. But property had not as yet reached
that stage of absolutely personal possession which the social
philosophy of a later time falsely regarded as its earliest
state. The woodland and pasture-land of an English vil-
lage were still undivided, and every free villager had the
right of turning into it his cattle or swine. The meadow-
iand lay in like manner open and undivided from hay-har-
vest to spring. It was only when grass began to grow
afresh that the common meadow was fenced off into grass-
fields, one for each household in the village; and when
hay-harvest was over fence and division were at an end
again. The plough-land alone was permanently allotted
in equal shares both of corn-land and fallow-land to the
families of the freemen, though even the plough-land was
subject to fresh division as the number of claimants grew
greater or less.

Chap. 1.] EARLY ENGLAND. 449—1071. 19

It was this sharing in the common land which marked
off the freeman or ceorl from the unfree man or Iset, the
tiller of land which another owned. As the ceorl was the
descendant of settlers who whether from their earlier ar-
rival or from kinship with the original settlers of the vil-
lage had been admitted to a share in its land and its cor-
porate life, so the Iset was a descendant of later comers to
whom such a share was denied, or in some cases perhaps
of earlier dwellers from whom the land had been wrested
by force of arms. In the modern sense of freedom the Iset
was free enough. He had house and home of his own, his
life and limb were as secure as the ceorl's — save as against
his lord ; it is probable from what we see in later laws that
as time went on he was recognized among the three tribes
as a member of the nation, summoned to the folk-moot,
allowed equal right at law, and called like the full free
man to the hosting. But he was unfree as regards lord
and land. He had neither part nor lot in the common land
of the village. The ground which he tilled he held of
some free man of the tribe to whom he paid rent in labor
or in kind. And this man was his lord. Whatever rights
the unfree villager might gain in the general social life of
his fellow-villagers, he had no rights as against his lord.
He could leave neither land nor lord at his will. He was
bound to render due service to his lord in tillage or in fight.
So long, however, as these services were done the land was
his own. His lord could not take it from him; and he
was bound to give him aid and protection in exchange for
his services.

Far different from the position of the Iset was that of the
slave, though there is no ground for believing that the
slave class was other than a small one. It was a class
which sprang mainly from debt or crime. Famine drove
men to " bend their heads in the evil days for meat ;" the
debtor, unable to discharge his debt, flung on the ground
his freeman's sword and spear, took up the laborer's mat-
tock, and placed his head as a slave within a master's


hands. The criminal whose kinsfolk would not make up
his fine became a crime-serf of the plaintiff or the king.
Sometimes a father pressed by need sold children and wife
into bondage. In any case the slave became part of the
live stock of his master's estate, to be willed away at death
with horse or ox, whose pedigree was kept as carefully as
his own. His children were bondsmen like himself ; even
a freeman's children by a slave mother inherited the
mother's taint. " Mine is the calf that is born of my cow,"
ran an English proverb. Slave cabins clustered round the
homestead of eyerj rich landowner ; ploughman, shepherd,
goatherd, swineherd, oxherd and cowherd, dairymaid, barn-
man, sower, hayward and woodward, were often slaves.
It was not indeed slavery such as we have known in mod-
ern times, for stripes and bonds were rare : if the slave was
slain it was by an angry blow, not by the lash. But his
master could slay him if he would ; it was but a chattel
the less. The slave had no place in the justice court, no
kinsmen to claim vengeance or guilt-fine for his wrong. If
a stranger slew him his lord claimed the damages; if
guilty of wrong-doing, " his skin paid for him" under his
master's lash. If he fled he might be chased like a straj-ed
beast, and when caught he might be flogged to death. If
the wrong-doer were a woman-slave she might be burned.
With the public life of the village, however, the slave had

Online LibraryJohn Richard GreenEngland (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 48)