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they did not drink so much claret in the city as they left blood behind
them." He lived many years after, and when he died he was buried at
Hingham, under a tomb of freestone.

William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich, was born at Norwich in the
latter reign of Edward I. He was from his tenderest years of a docile
and ingenuous disposition. Having, therefore, made a good proficiency
inl earning, wherein he surpassed all his equals, he was sent to the
University of Cambridge. After having gone through the usual course
of the sciences, he applied himself to the study of the civil law, in
which he took the degree of doctor before he was thirty years
of age, a thing then uncommon. On the 8th of December, 1328,
he was collated to the Archdeaconry of Norwich. Soon after this
he went and studied at Rome for his further improvement; and so
distinguished himself by his knowledge and exemplary behaviour, that he
was promoted by the Pope to the place of auditor of his palace ; he was
likewise advanced by him to the Deanery of Lincoln, and so great
an opinion had he of his prudence and capacity, that he sent him
twice as his nuncio to endeavor to procure a peace between Edward III.,
King of England, and the King of France. Upon the death of Anthony
de Beck, Bishop of Norwich, the Pope, by his usurped provisional
power, conferred that bishopric upon him on the 23rd of January,
1343, and consecrated him with his own hands. He was confirmed on
the 23rd of June, 1344. Being invested with that great dignity, he
returned to his native country after many years absence, and lived
in a regular and withal in a generous and hospitable manner. Of Pope
Clement YI. he obtained for himself and successors the first fruits
of all vacant livings within his diocese, which occasioned frequent
disputes between himself and his clergy. In the year 1347 he founded
Trinity Hall in Cambridge, for the study of the civil and canon laws, and
another hall, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, for the
study of philosophy and divinity. Being a person of great wisdom,
eloquent, and of a fine address, he was often employed by the King and
Parliament in affairs of the highest importance, and particularly was at
the head of several embassies, sent on purpose to determine the great
differences between the Crowns of England and France. In 1354 he was,
by order of Parliament, despatched to the Court of Eome, with Henry
Duke of Lancaster and others, to treat in the Pope's presence of a peace
then in agitation between the two Crowns above mentioned. This journey
proved fatal to him, for he died at Avignon, where the Pope then resided.


on the 6th of January, 1354-5;, and was buried with great solemnity in the
Cathedral church.

Thomas Percy, brother of Henry, Earl of Northumberland, was chosen
Bishop of Norwich, January 15th, 1356. During his prelacy the tower of
the Cathedral at Norwich was blown do^vn by a high wind, which, falling on
the choir, damaged the building. He gave £400 out of his own purse, and
obtained an aid from his clergy of ninepencc in the pound, which enabled
him to rebuild the tower with the lofty spire in its present elegant form.
In 1368, the dread of the French invasion was so prevalent that this
bishop with all the clergy in the diocese were put under arms. He died,
August 8th, 1369, and was buried in the nave on the west side of the
organ in the Cathedral.

Henry le Spencer, a relative of King Richard II., Canon of Salisbury,
was nominated Bishop of Norwich in 1370. He was bred to arms in his
youth, and may be called the military bishop. After being advanced to
that dignity, he still continued to distinguish himself in his former pro-
fession by going to France at the head of a great military force to assert
the pontifical rights of Pope Urban VI. against the anti-Pope Clement
VII., and with his sovereign against the French King. He was a perse-
cutor of all heretics, not suffering any of the followers of Wickliffe to live
in his diocese. He died August 23rd, 1406, and was buried near the
steps of the altar in Norwich Cathedral.

REIGN OP RICHARD 11. — 1377 tO 1399.

Richard II. began his reign on June 22nd, 1377. He was the only son
of Edward the Black Prince, and the grandson of Edward III. His
first wife was Anne of Bohemia, sister of the Emperor Wencislaus ; his
second, Isabella, daughter of Charles VI. of France. He had no issue.
The young King^s accession was hailed by the acclamations of the people,
and his coronation was conducted with unusual splendour on July 16th.
Next day the barons held a great Council, and twelve persons were
selected to assist the Chancellor and Treasurer in carrying on the Govern-
ment during the minority of the King.

As the French took advantage of the youth of Richard to renew the
war, and plundered the coasts of England, it became needful to raise
supplies ; and the new Parliament granted an aid of two-tenths in the
towns, and two-fifteenths in the counties ; and in order to secure its
proper disbursement, two eminent citizens of London were appointed
treasurers of the fund thus voted. Nearly the whole of the subsidy was
expended in an expedition undertaken by John of Gaunt on behalf of the
Duke of Brittany, but he returned without having engaged in any
important operation against the enemy.


There was another urgent demand for a subsidy in the next Parliament ;
and after requesting and receiving permission to examine the public
accounts, they laid additional duties on wool_, wool fells, and skins j and
about seven months after, in 1379, on the King spontaneously offering
the Treasury accounts for the inspection of Parliament, a capitation tax
was granted, which varied from 4d., the payment required from a laborer,
to £6 13s. 4d., the sum at which a duke was assessed. The amount
raised was insufficient for the exigencies of the Government, which was
burdened by a war with Scotland as well as with France ; and in 1380 a
tax was imposed of " three groats per head on every male and female of
fifteen years of age, except beggars, the sufficient people in every town
to contribute to the assistance of the less able, so as none should pay
above sixty groats for himself and wife." This impost, which fell most
oppressively on the poor, and was farmed out to collectors in each county,
led to the famous rebellion of 1381, of which a particular account must
now be given, as it commenced in the Eastern Counties, and extended
through Essex, Suffi^lk, and Norfolk.


In 1380 the Parliamont granted the King, as before stated, a new and
at that time strange subsidy byway of poll-tax; to be levied on every
person above fifteen years of age, monks and nuns not excepted. This poll-
tax caused great discontent amongst the people, and the year following an
open rebellion broke out, for the common people thinking themselves
aggrieved thereby, and galled with the oppression of the lords and gentry,
rose in many parts of the kingdom, resolved to force the King to make
them free, and to release them from the state of villanage or serfdom under
which they groaned, for England was at that time a land of bondage.

The insurrection first began in Essex, in consequence of some indecent
conduct by a collector of the poll-tax towards the daughter of one Walter,
a tiler, for which the father knocked out his brains with a hammer. The
common people applauded the deed, and promising to stand by him, he
soon found himself at the head of 100,000 men, who declared him their
chief, and protector of the poor. They were presently joined by one John
Ball, an excommunicated priest, who by his seditious discourses greatly
influenced the minds of the people, telling them that, all men being the sons
of Adam, there ought to be no distinction between them, that property was a
robbery of the poor, and that the great difference in men^s estate was
directly contrary to Christianity. The favourite subject on which he
commonly preached was comprised in the following distich : —
" When Adam delved, and Eve span,


These risings were universal throughout the kingdom. Suffolk people
collected to the number of 50,000 men, and committed numberless out-
rages. Sir John Cavendish, Lord Chief Justice, and Sir John Cambridge,
prior of Bury, fell a sacrifice to their fury. So unbounded was their rage
against every kind of literature, that they bui'nt all the ancient charters
in the Abbey of Bury St. Edmund's and the University of Cambridge.
Another body of rebels, collected from Lynn, Thetford, and Yarmouth,
proceeded to Norwich, where they were headed by John Litester, a dyer
and citizen, who styled himself King of the Commons. Li the course of
their proceedings they seized and carried along with them all the
gentlemen they met with, some of whom Litester obliged to serve him at
table on their bended knees. Sir Stephen de Hales, being a very
handsome man, was appointed his chief carver. The citizens treated with
the rebels, and advanced them a large sum of money to save the town
from fire and plunder ; but notwithstanding this. King Litester entered
the city, and demolished the houses of the gentry and lawyers, pretending
that they were not comprised in the agreement.

Henry le Spencer, then Bishop of Norwich, a man as remarkable for
his bravery as his charity, hearing of these commotions, set out from his
manor-house of Burleigh, near Stamford, and entered the city with all
the troops he could collect. The rebels had retired to North Walsham,
where they lay strongly encamped. The bishop followed them there, and
attacked them in their trenches, which he soon carried, and after a severe
contest obtained a complete victory. A dreadful slaughter of the rebels
ensued. Litester, their king, with the principal leaders, were taken
prisoners, tried, condemned, hanged, drawn, and quartered, according to
the barbarous cu&tom of the times. Others soon after received the just
reward of their crimes.

The rebels in Essex and Kent dispersed on the death of their leader,
Wat Tyler, who was killed by William Walworth, Mayor of London, at
the head of his followers. Thus this terrible rebellion was quelled more
easily than might have been expected. Mr. Coller gives the following
account of the rebellion in Essex : —

Soon after the accession of Richard II., a new, and at that time it was consi-
dered a strange, spirit began to manifest itseK in the lower orders of society. The
concessions Avhich the barons had exacted, as a sop to induce the common peojDle
to support theii- pretensions, had awakened a desire for a larger degree of inde-
pendence. A revolt of the peasants in France was talked of among the serfs, and
added to their sense of personal slavery, which was more general in England than
in any other country in Europe. John Ball, who called himself " St. Mary's
priest of York and now of Colchester," taking advantage of this feeling, went
about Essex preaching the doctrine of equality in its widest sense, the right of all


to the soil, and iaveigliing against the insolence of one class in setting up distinc-
tions of suj)eriority over another. This was eagerly listened to and pondered over
by the multitude, the mine of insurrection was thus prepared, and the spark
which exploded it was struck from the anvU of an Essex blacksmith. A poU-tax
of three groats a-head on all above the age of fifteen gave edge to the uneasy dis-
content of the degraded and, it may be truly said, the oppressed population.
This impost had always been one of the most hated of government exactions,
and in this instance an attempt to levy it with vigour drove the people
to desperation. The ruling powers, pressed by a war with France, for the
support of which the poll-tax was professedly laid on, finding it not sufii-
ciently productive, sent out Special Commissioners to quicken its flow into
the treasury. The Essex collectors were reprimanded for their remissness in
not reaping a full harvest of groats from every head that had seen fifteen
summers ; and thus urged, they went forth -with that stern sense of duty which
power is so apt on all occasions to place in the foreground as an apology for its
want of feeling. One of them entered the shop of a sturdy blacksmith at
Brentwood, while he was engaged in the business of his craft. Attracted by his
tread, a young maiden, just in her teens, came bounding forth from where she had
been gambolling or watching her father weld the iron shoe. The quick eye of the
tax-gatherer scanned her womanly height, and in the name of the King, demanded
the tax upon her head. Tiie blacksmith demurred ; the girl, he said had not
arrived at taxable maturity. The dispute grew Avarm; and the townsfolk gathered
round to listen. At length the taxing-man " offered to produce a very indecent
proof that the girl was above fifteen, and at the same time laid hold of the maid."
Heated by the quarrel, and exasperated by the insult to his child, the blacksmith
with brawny arm raised his ponderous sledge hammer, and smote the tax-gatnerer
dead to the earth. This was the first blood shed in Wat Tyler's rebellion. The
bystanders applauded the deed. Cries for further vengeance and demands for
liberty were heard. The people instantly began to arm ; and as the news spread
throughout the surrounding county, multitudes flocked into the town, to take a
part in this desperate and tumultuous movement of the common people, Thomas
Bampton, one of the magistrates of the district, proceeded to the arrest of some of
the leaders; but they were instantly liberated. The commissioners of the poll-tax
and their attendants fled hastily to London ; and the mob, left uncontrolled,
proceeded to the most atrocious excesses. Houses were plundered, property was
destroyed, several active officers of the government were murdered, and their
heads were carried about on poles in triumph, " The flame," says Hume, " spread
in an instant over the county; it soon propagated itself into that of Kent,
Surrey, Suffolk, Xorfolk, Hertford, Cambridge, and Lincoln, Before the govern-
ment had the least warning of the danger, the disorder had grown beyond control
or opposition ; the populace had shaken off all regard to their former masters, and
being headed by the most audacious and criminal of their associates, who assumed
the feigned names of AVat Tyler, Jack Straw, Hob Carter, and Tom Miller, by
which they were fond of denoting their mean origin, they committed everywhere the


most outrageous violence on such of tlio gentry and nobility as had the misfortune
to fall into their hands." The Kent rebels assembled in a vast multitude on
Blackheath, from whence they sent a message to the young King requesting an
interview. The Essex men in the meantime mustered in thousands, and,
marching upwards, swarming through Eomford and Stratford, took a position on
the opposite side of the river to second the demands. The King acceded to the
proposed conference, but as he approached the mob he became alarmed at the
signs of insolence amongst them, and hastily returned to the Tower. The Kentish
peasants, enraged at this, rushed into the Metropolis and committed the most
horrible excesses. Amongst those who perished was Eichard Lyon, the owner of
Listen Hall manor at Gosfield, a fiimous wine merchant and lapidary, who was
one of the Sheriffs of London in 1374. He had been in former days the master
of Wat Tyler, and in gratitude for all favours the rebel leader seized and beheaded
him. While the Kent rebels thus devastated the city, the insurgent serfs of
Essex appear to have lain quietly at Mile End. The King, with the Queen
mother and party of nobles, met them there, and listened to their demands. It
is a proof of the moderation of these men that at a time when they must have
thought themselves irresistible, they asked only for the abolition of slavery,
freedom to buy and sell in all market towns, a fixed rent instead of the services
of villanage, and a general pardon. The sovereign granted their requests ; the
mob dispersed ; and the following proclamation appeared : —

" Kichard, &c. Know ye that of our special grace, we have manumitted or
set free all and singiUar our liege subjects and others, of the county of Essex,
and them and every one of them from all bondage do release and acquit by these
presents. And also Ave pardon to our said liegemen and subjects all manner of
felonies, treasons, transgressions, and extortions by them, or any of them, in any
manner whatsoever done or committed, by riding about, going through divers
places with men-at-arms, archers, and others, with armed force, flags and pennons
flying. Witness ourself at London, the 15th of June, and the fourth year of
our reign."

Having rid himself of one body of the rioters, the King turned with the same
soothing mien to the other division of the city. The result of his interview with
Wat Tyler and his band in Smithfield is Avell known. The rebel leader was
struck down by the city mace, wielded by the hand of Walworth, the Lord
Mayor ; but the young King adroitly extricated himself from the consequences of
this act, cajoled the rioters out of the city, and dispersed them with the promise
that they should participate in aU the privileges of the charter of enfranchisement
he had just granted to the Essex men. While this was proceeding in London,
fearful atrocities were committed by straggling bands of the seditious in various
parts of the county. Colchester had caught the taint, and some excesses were
committed in that district. Sir John Cavendish, the Lord of Pentlow, who had
been Chief Justice of the King's Bench, was seized by a party of the " revolted
clowns," as they were called, who were incensed against him because it was his
son who kiUed Wat Tyler, after he had been prostrated at Smithfield. His house



was plundered and laid waste, and the judge Minself was hurried into Suffolk and
"beheaded. But little resistance was offered to these excesses. Spencer, the
celebrated mihtary bishop, who had a seat at Lambourn, mustered a slender force
and defeated the rebels in ISTorfolk. The arm of authority and the spirit of the
nobles, however, appear to have been paralyzed by the sudden audacity of those
who had been regarded as part and parcel of their estates ; and for weeks the
county lay in this state of anarchy, with society turned upside down, peasants
dictating to kings, and the barons trembling at the footsteps of the serfs. Ven-
geance, however, was not far off. The King Called a Parliament and laid before it the
letters of enfranchisement, observing, "It is for you to decide whether the peasants
shall enjoy the rights of freemen or not." " God preserve us," responded the
barons " from subscribing to such charters, though we were all to perish in one
day." They backed their bold words by a rally of then- retainers, and the King soon
found himseK at the head of an army of 40,000 men. A part of this force, headed
by the King, marched into Essex to thrust the serfs back into slavery, and took up
a position at Waltham. The disaffected, on their side, mustered in vast force at
Billericay, where they unanimously resolved to retain their haK-fledged freedom,
or die in the conflict. A distracted and undisciplined mob, however, was no
match for mailed knights and men-at-arms ; and when the King's force came up
they were surrounded, smitten do-\vn, and scattered in all directions. Some sought
shelter in the surrounding woods ; and old ]S"orsey, which has so often since then
echoed the music of the fox hound, was surrounded by the armed horsemen, and
disturbed by the cry of the overtaken fugitive. A remnant fled to Colchester ;
but the discreet burgesses and former abettors there would have nought to do with
them, and they were either captured or killed. Chelmsford in conseq\ience of
these disttu'bances was honoured by a Eoyal visit. The King, with a large part of
his force, took up his quarters in the town — the ancient palace of Writtle probably
affording accommodation to the monarch and liis court — and proceeded to hold an
assize of blood. The first act was to call in the letters of enfrancliisement, entire
villages being menaced with wholesale military execution if they withheld them ^
and these were burnt in presence of the people. A proclamation was issued com-
manding that all freemen and knaves should, as heretofore, perform all the works
and services which they owed to their lords, according to ancient custom, and
should not be allowed any right or privilege they did not enjoy before the insur-
rection, " inasmuch," it was said, " as the letters of enfranchisement issued from
our court without mature consideration, and seeing that the granting of them
tended to the great prejudice of us and our croAvn, and of the prelates, lords, and
barons, of our kingdom, and of the most holy church." The pardons were revoked;
and those who had taken the lead in the insurrection were seized, condemned, and
executed, some with form of law, but many others without. A court was opened
at Chelmsford for the trial of the offenders, and it is stated that 500 persons, who
repaired to that town, and threw themselves at the King's feet, obtained pardon ;
but the county wore the aspect of a common slaughter-house. Cruelties of the
most horrible description were accompaniments of the executions. Men were half


strangled at one corner of a street, and then taken to 1)e lianj^^ed at another. In
this way some were " hanged four times at tlie corners of towns." These were
tlie terrors and atrocities l)y wliich the spirit of tliat day sought to crush tlie
freedom Avhich every peasant in the land now enjoys, without being conscious of
its value, or the price set upon it on former days — the right to choose his own
master, and sell his labour where he likes — to rise, if he can, in the social scale,
without being held in menial bondage, and disposed of as a chattel to the next
possessor of the soil on Avhich he happens to bo born."

Richard 11. granted a charter to the city of Norwich, which is dated at
Westminster, February 2Gtli_, 1377, by which all the former charters were
confirmed, and also " that if there are any customs contained therein which
they have not used, yet for the future occasion they might use them with-
out having a non-user or dis-usev pleaded against them,^' and further there
is a clause added that no privileged person should enter the city and buy
victuals beforehand, &c.

Richard II. held a Parliament at Cambridge in 1381, in the buildings
of Trinity College, which were then of sufficient magnitude for the pur-
pose. Much dissatisfaction was expressed on account of the state of
public affairs. The King, as he advanced towards manhood, did not
exhibit that firmness which had been anticipated, bat suffered himself to
be guided by two arrogant favourites — De Vere, whom he created Marquis
of Dublin ; and De la Pole, whom he had made Earl of Suffolk and
Chancellor. The Parliament, at the instance of the King's uncle,
requested the dismissal of the Chancellor, whom they charged with mal-

Richard petulantly replied that he would not at their desire remove the
meanest scullion from his kitchen. They threatened the King that if he
continued obstinate they would depose him, and he removed his minister,
who was impeached. De la Pole was convicted of some charges, ordered
to pay a fine, and to be imprisoned during the Royal pleasure (138G).
The De la Poles are an ancient family in Suffolk, and have been prominent
in public affairs.

In the seventh of Richard II. (1384), Sir William Elmham, of Elmham in
Norfolk, was accused in Parliament and condemned for having received
of the King's enemies in France 3400 francs of gold for making peace
with them whilst in the army commanded by Henry Spencer, Bishop of
Norwich ; and the King wrote to the Sheriff of Norfolk to levy the same
on the lands and goods of Sir William, to arrest him and to bring him
before the King and Council, to be imprisoned till lie should satisfy him
by a fine and ransom ; but he was afterwards pardoned in the same year.

In the thirteenth of Richard II._, a descendant of the Fitz Alans of
Norfolk, Richard Earl of Arundel, subscribed the letter to Pope


Boniface complaining of the great miscliief to the kingdom by

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 68 of 70)