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In its place had come a false chivalry with fantastic
orders, such as the orders of the Garter, the Thistle, the
Collar, the Golden Fleece, with the adoration of the
swan and the pheasant, with Quixotic vows and feats of
arms, with a fatuous woman-worship, unaccompanied by
any real respect for the virtue of woman. Young knights
go to war with a bandage over one eye, vowing that they
will not see with both till they have done some feat of
arms in honour of their mistress. Now heraldry becomes
a science. Of these knights-errant Froissart is the prose
troubadour, and the author of " Palamon and Arcite,"
with its amatory extravagances, is the poet. War to
these men is the most exciting and glorious of tourna-
ments, and it is hardly more serious than a tournament,
except that it yields to the victor a rich harvest in booty
and ransoms. King Edward sinks the general in the
champion ; he throws himself into the fray from sheer
love of fighting ; goes into action disguised that he may


encounter a doughty antagonist. He and his companions
in arms prepare for battle as for a feast. He refuses to
order up the reserves to the support of the Black Prince
at the crisis of a battle because he wishes the boy to win
his spurs. The love of pomp and magnificence goes
with that of glory, and the gorgeous wardrobe of Edward
III. forms, like everything else about him, a contrast to
the simplicity of his grandfather. The women of the
upper class are infected with the fancies of the men.
They dress fantastically, affect to mount chargers instead
of palfreys, and ride about to tournaments with their
knights, at some peril to their reputations. Their chief
duty is to rain influence on the field of honour. At the

1340 battle of Sluys the queen and all the ladies of the court
are with the fleet. Among the knights there is strict
observance of mutual courtesy, of the rules of honour,
and not only of the laws, but of the amenities and gen-
erosities of war. But all this is for a caste. The
burgher and the peasant are treated as creatures made
of another clay. They are despoiled and slaughtered
without mercy. The Black Prince, the mirror of this
chivalry, and really a noble character in his way, waits
behind the chair of a royal captive, mounts him on a
splendid charger while he rides himself on a hackney at
his side, and indulges his wrath at a protracted resistance

1370 by putting to the sword without distinction of age or sex
вЩ¶ the people of Limoges. For the brave defence of Calais,
Edward is on the point of hanging ten burghers, Eustace
De St. Pierre and his self-devoted mates, though they
are saved by the intercession of the queen. The king,
who would be damned by failure to pay a debt of honour
to another king or knight, thinks nothing of repudiating


an enormous debt to the plebeian banking houses of

These men were young, and there was a boyishness in
all they did. Life Vas shorter, manhood was earlier, in
those days than in ours. Most of the nobility seem to
have died in middle age, many of them by violent deaths.
"Old John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster," lived
only to fifty-nine. Striplings married, striplings com-
manded armies. . Edward IIL was fifteen when he was
married, eighteen when he had a son. He was eighteen
when he began to govern and command. The Black
Prince was sixteen when he led a division at Crecy, and
twenty-six when he won Poitiers. No wonder if the
policy of a king at twenty was impulsive and capricious.
Rather it is wonderful that Edward's diplomatic combina-
tions against France should have been so skilful as they

For such spirits France offered far more tempting lists
than rough Scotland, where unchivalrous barbarians broke
the legs of the prisoner of war, or savage Ireland where
kerne were to be chased through forest and over bog.
Once more the French possessions of the king of Eng-
land played their ill-starred part. To get the English
out of Aquitaine, and thus round off the French realm,
was a natural object of aspiration to a French king. But
Philip pursued it unscrupulously, and by instigating the
Scotch to attack England gave a cause of war which
Edward was only too ready to embrace. Edward's claim
to the crown of France through his mother Isabella was
utterly untenable, since it involved at once an assertion
and a denial of the right of females to succeed. It seems
to have been set up rather as an engine of his military


policy than as a serious pretension. He was ready to ne-
gotiate about it, and more than once he neglected oppor-
tunities of entering Paris and assuming the crown. The
results were a hundred years' war, with intervals of
hollow peace, between two countries whose friendship was
most essential to each other, and an enmity which con-
tinued even when that war had closed, helped to bring on
other wars, and on the side of France at least has not
died out at this hour. Such victories as Sluys, Crecy,
and Poitiers exalted the spirit of the nation, brought it
high renown, and extended its influence in Europe ; yet
they were dearly purchased by the humiliations which
inevitably followed when the untenable conquest slipped
away, and by the love of blood and rapine which, as the
sequel proved, they bred. Wealth won by plunder is
always curst, and curst in its effects on national character
was the wealth which England won by the plunder of
France. Lightly it had come, lightly it went. It pro-
duced for a time an outbreak of wasteful luxury with
tasteless extravagance in dress, which was followed by
impoverishment and depression. On France her king, in
provoking Edward's pugnacity and ambition, brought
worse evils ; the devastation, sweeping and repeated, of
her fields and cities by the cruel warfare of the day ; the
ravages not only of the invader but of the savage bands
under robber captains which were the offspring of the
war ; the wreck of a civilization before blooming and full
of hope ; the terrible Jacquerie, or rising of the peasants,
goaded to despair by the destruction of their harvests and
the extortion of ransoms for their captive lords ; and
worse even than these, the destruction of political life
and of the germs of political institutions other than the


monarchy. Beneath the protection of the monarchy the
people were fain to cower, and it thus became a despotism
gathering oppressions and abuses till all was swept away
by the whirlwind of revolution.

The war, however, itself produced military changes
which were not without political effects. A new force,
comparatively democratic, appeared on the field of battle
to break the ascendancy of the feudal horseman. One
summer afternoon, on a rising ground, surmounted by a
windmill, near the village of Crecy, there lay a small
English army, brought by the errors of its king and com- 1346
mander into a desperate pass, out of which it had now to
fight its way, as British armies have since more than once
fought their way out of desperate passes into which their
commanders had brought them. The mailed chivalry of
England with their barbed chargers are there around
their chivalrous king. But they have dismounted and
fight on foot. In front is a body of archers armed with
the long-bow, the force of which has already been felt on
Scottish fields, but is new to the battlefields of conti-
nental Europe. They are men drawn from the yeomanry,
many of them, no doubt, from the holders of land by
villain tenure, which no longer implies personal degrada-
tion. They are seated on the ground to keep them fresh,
and have been well fed by the care of their commander,
who is a king of freemen and sees in them his companions
in arms. The eyes of the whole army are turned towards
Abbeville, the quarter from which the enemy is expected
to appear. A heavy thunderstorm sweeps over the
plain. As it passes away the enemy appears. His army,
vastly outnumbering the English, consists of the chivalry
of France under their king, a splendid cavalry; an in-


fantry of serfs, half-armed and unorganized, dragged by
force from their hovels to the field, mere food for the
sword ; and a body of Genoese crossbowmen come to sell
their blood for foreign gold. There is no discipline or
control. The word is given to halt, but is disobeyed by
the impetuous chivalry ; and the whole host precipitates
itself blindly on the English position. The Genoese are
ordered to form and commence the attack, which they do
unwillingly, being wearied by the long march without
refreshment, while their bowstrings have been slackened
by the rain. They form, however, and with a shout let
fly their quarrels. They are answered by the English
archers with a flight of cloth-yard arrows, under which
they soon break and begin to fall back. " Kill me that
rabble ! " cries the king of France. The French chivalry,
in its mad pride, tries to charge over the Genoese. Utter
confusion ensues, and the French army becomes a strug-
gling mass, into which volley after volley of arrows is
poured with deadly effect, while a corps of Welsh light
infantry, slipping among the fallen or helplessly jammed
horsemen, finds the joints of the armour with its knives.
The results at evening are a plain covered with the bodies
of eleven princes and twelve hundred knights, besides
men of the meaner sort without number. The effective
range of the long-bow was greater than that of the fire-
lock ; its discharge was far more rapid than that of a
muzzle-loader ; as it required to be drawn to the ear,
there could be no shooting without aim ; the eye of the
archer as he plucked the arrows from his quiver was not
taken off his mark ; there was no smoke to hinder his
sight. No weapon ever did more execution. For a cen-
tury, at the least, tlie English archery was supreme in


war, foreign or civil. A peasantry comparatively free
and trained, trusted with effective weapons, a compara-
tive union of classes, national feeling bred of national
institutions, and comradeship of the king with his people
formed the political -elements of the war-power which won
Crecy. Villani says that cannon were used in the battle.
He is probably wrong, but they came in at this time, and
were presently used in sieges. The cavalier of feudalism
was dismounted, and its castle wall fell down.

At Sluys the English took, by boarding or hand-to- 1340
hand fighting, the whole of a vastly superior French fleet.
This was almost as much a land as a naval action, the
enemy being at anchor in his port. The victory over
the Spanish fleet was not less brilliant and more naval.
Edward paid attention to his navy, and the maritime
character of the nation, which brought with it, besides
general vigour and enterprise, security from invasion and
exemption from standing armies with their political effects,
made progress during this reign.

The composition of the armies was a mixture of fast-
receding feudalism with the advancing system of national
administration. Tenants of the crown were still under
the feudal obligation of bringing their retainers to the
king's standard. The national militia was called out
under the statute of Edward I. by commissions of array.
These were home forces, bat the men once called out were
pressed or tempted to enlist for service abroad. Most
of the troops, however, were raised by contract, either
with warlike nobles who enlisted the men on their estates,
or with professional captains like the condottieri of Italy.
Enlistment was for the war only. All yeomen were
practised with the bow. High pay was drawn by the


chiefs both for themselves and for their men. Thus
national, feudal, and professional elements were blended
in Edward's camp. The gaol also was made a recruiting
ground in these as in much later times. As the war went
on, and the demand for military skill and experience in-
creased, the professional captains came to the front, sup-
planting the feudal lords. Among the famous lieutenants
of Edward III., if the Earl of Derby was a grandee, Manny,
Chandos, and Calveley were simple knights, and Knolles,
according to some chroniclers, was of still humbler birth.
Some of these soldiers of fortune came home rich with
spoils and built mansions wherein to tell their stories of
Sluys, Crecy, and Poitiers.

Of ships the crown had but few. The war fleet was
raised by a sort of naval commission of array. The sea-
men of the Cinque Ports were its core. On them
rested the special duty of maritime defence. In return
they enjoyed high privileges and honours, their barons
carrying the canopy over the king at the coronation.
They lived always in the face of maritime danger and
were perpetually engaged in irregular and piratical if
not in regular war. Edward's victories at Sluys and
over the Spaniards brought the navy to a high pitch
of glory.
1335 There was a political tendency again in the alliance
with the manufacturing democracy of Flanders and
its dictator. Van Artevelde, against the feudal Count
of Flanders and the feudal monarchy and nobility of
France. English fleeces fed Flemish looms, and wool
was king then as cotton is king now. It was diploma-
tist as well as king, for it gave birth to the Flemish
alliance. The pikes of Flemish burghers and mechanics


were destined to win over the French chivalry a victory
almost as startling as that of the English bow at Crecy,
though the pike in the hands of the burgher and me-
chanic failed to sustain itself like the bow drawn by the
yeoman. It was in attempting to transfer the allegiance
of Flanders to an English prince that Van Artevelde met 134?
his doom at the hands of a mob. Democracy, as yet, has
no confidence in itself. It was partly to satisfy the
demand of the Flemish burghers for the political shelter
of royalty that Edward styled himself king of France.
English alliance with Flanders was the counter-move to
the French alliance with Scotland.

The war with France could not fail to stimulate Eng-
lish nationality. English instead of French, hitherto
dominant, is made legally the language of state, though
the French still clings to its hold on the jargon of the
law. English literature has now a new birth. Wycliffe
is its first great prose writer. Chaucer is its first great
poet. He is followed by Gower and Lydgate. The
poor have a poet in Langland. Popular and patri-
otic ballads express the rising spirit of the nation. In
the ecclesiastical sphere also nationality prevails and
begins to shake oif subjection to the papacy. The
papacy had been captured by the French monarchy and
placed under its w^ing in a huge castle of corruption at
Avignon. Popes had come to be regarded as diplomatic
tools of France. Englishmen said, "If the pope is on
the side of France the pope's master is on our side."
Papal intervention is treated with disdain. The pay-
ment of tribute to which John had forced the nation is
renounced. When the pope lays Flanders under an in-
terdict, the king sends English priests who cared not


for the interdict to perform service. By the statute of
1351 Provisors an end is put legally to the appropriation of
English benefices by the pope, and though, through the
connivance of the kings, who shared the booty with the
popes, the statute fails of its full effect, it shows the tem-
per of parliament. It will presently be followed by the
1353 statute of Praemunire, restricting under heavy penalties
appeals to Rome, and thus cutting off the main stream
of her lucre. More than this, there is a general move-
ment, provoked by the worldliness and vices of the
clergy, against ecclesiastical wealth and influence. Jeal-
ousy is shown of the engrossment by ecclesiastics of the
great offices of state. Laymen instead of ecclesiastics
are made chancellors and heads of the administration.
Nor, as will presently be seen, does the anti-clerical move-
ment end there.

Poitiers and other feats of arms might follow Crecy ;
the Black Prince might win in French fields the halo of
renown which still surrounds the mail-clad efhgy recum-
bent on his stately tomb. His companions in arms,
Chandos, Manny, Knolles, Calveley, and the Captal De
Buch, might vie with the exploits of their leader, and
sweep fortunes from plundered and bleeding France.
The Round Table might gather round the warrior king
its circle of chivalry, nobler at all events than a circle of
Versailles courtiers or of old grandees invested mainly
by their rank in the peerage with a title which was
denied to Nelson. Castle, manor house, and cottage in
England might be full of French trophies and stories
of French fields. The end, nevertheless, was sure. The
conquest of France was a wild and mischievous dream.
It was never even steadily pushed to completion. At

X EDWARD in 221

last, the enemy having learned to avoid battles in the
open field, it degenerated into a series of aimless raids
over a country stripped too bare to feed the invader.
Scotland in alliance with France hung always on the
rear of England, though at Nevill's Cross she suffered 1346
total defeat and the capture of her king. The exhaus-
tion of both sides was expressed by truces, during which
armies, being unpaid, broke up into bodies of banditti,
free companies as they were called, which pillaged at
random and did not spare the pope. France found in
Charles V. a prudent king, in Bertrand Du Guesclin a
soldier skilful in the war of posts. Age paralyzed king
Edward, mortal disease his heroic son. At last, of all
that the sword and the bow had won, nothing but the
preposterous claim to the French crown, except Calais,
was left. Calais, to which England thenceforth passion-
ately clung, had value as commanding the Channel in
days when no waters were safe from piracy. Unfortu-
nately' it proved in after times the too alluring gate for
a renewal of the mad scheme of conquest.

The politics of the reign consist chiefly in stretches of
prerogative on the part of the king to obtain money for
the devouring expenses of his wars, met by fitful resist-
ance and affirmation of right on the part of parliament.
It is fair to remember that parliament had gone with the
king into the war, and that it was ill-informed and ill-quali-
fied to measure the necessities of war or government. It .
was so ill-informed as to assume that there were more
than four times as many parishes in England as there
were, and thus to over-rate fourfold the produce of a tax.
It was haunted by a l3elief that the king could live, or
ought to live, " of his own," that is, of the domains and


proprietary dues of the crown, which were by this time
far from sufficing to defray the costs of government.
The king was reduced to such straits that he had to pawn
his crown, to become bankrupt, and by his bankruptcy
to ruin the Bardi and Peruzzi, the two great financial
houses of Florence. He tried arbitrary methods of rais-
ing money. In disregard of his grandfather's pledges he
tallaged the domain towns. He empowered commis-
sioners to receive fines, grant pardons, sell permissions
to marry the wards of the crown, and gather money by
all means that the feudal system provided. He laid his
fiscal grasp upon commerce, which was still in a com-
paratively uncovenanted state. He laid imposts espe-
cially on the wool, which was the great article of trade,
with a value almost like that of currency, as tobacco once
had in Virginia. When he had been prevented from
raising the money by a direct tax, he raised it by tricky
arrangements with the merchant. It was for this
purpose that he insisted on having all the wool brought
for sale to a particular mart, or staple, fixed by royal
order ; a measure which is held to have combined the
king's power of regulating commerce with his power of
licensing fairs. He wrung money out of the feudal ward-
ships, seizing upon those of mesne lords as well as his
own. He exacted feudal aids for knighting his sons.
Fines and penalties were another sinister source of his
revenue. He abused purveyance, the oppressive and
hateful privilege of taking for the king and his retinue
wherever he went, carts, horses, and provisions at a nomi-
nal price, which was apt not to be paid. He raised
forced levies and compelled the district to equip them.
He seems to have tried not only special dealings with the


merchants, but assemblies of merchants, more manageable
than parliament, to lend a colour of authority for his
encroachments. For failing to supply his financial needs,
he cashiered and persecuted his chief minister. Archbishop 1340
Stratford, and almost drove him to play the part of
Becket long after date. With Stratford he waged a sort
of pamphlet war, which showed that public opinion was
alive. One consequence of the quarrel was the assertion
by the lords of the right to be tried only by their peers.
The parliament struggled with increasing obstinacy and
success as the tide of the king's fortunes ebbed, and with
it his personal ascendancy and the hold over the military
aristocracy, which had made him almost irresistible for
a time. Theoretically the parliament not only asserted
but enlarged its rights. The king finally renounced the
prerogatives of tallage and maletolt, that is, of taxing the
domain towns and of laying imposts on merchandise,
thereby rounding off in law at least the system of parlia-
mentary taxation. He promised redress of the abuses of
purveyance and impressment. He formally submitted to
examination of his expenditure, to control in the appoint-
ment of his ministers, and to their being called to a regu-
lar account at the opening of the parliamentary session.
He accepted in fact the leading principles of responsible
government. But he seems, when pressed by his neces-
sities, to have broken through his engagements ; once he
shamelessly cancelled, when parliament had risen, his
assent to a remedial statute, avowing that he had been
dissembling for the purpose of expediting business. So
brilliant a personage it was difficult to bind. He seems,
however, to have been pretty ready to assent, nominally
at least, to anything except restrictions on his power of


raising money. Devoted to war and glory, he had hardly
any domestic policy except that of drawing supplies.

It is due to Edward III. at the same time to say that,
whether it were for the purpose of his exchequer or with
a larger and better policy, he did his best to foster
trade. By war no one can really make trade flourish,
since trade depends on wealth, which is destroyed by war.
Edward made trade flourish, not by his wars but by
his commercial diplomacy, especially by his connection
with the Flemish looms and by his efforts to restrain
piracy on the seas. He was repaid by the strength with
which commerce supplied him in his wars. Commercial
wealth is increasing, leading merchants are becoming
great men. Instead of mere exporters of the raw mate-
rial, the English are becoming manufacturers of wool.
1363 Sir Henry Picard, a vintner, entertains at his London
mansion the king of England and two captive kings with
a sumptuous feast, followed by gambling on a grand scale.
The statute-book is full of commercial legislation, mostly
protectionist and meddling, and therefore unsound ; yet
perhaps not so manifestly unsound or, it might be, so
wholly devoid of economical justification in those days
as it would be in ours. Forestallers and regraters rightly
viewed were but middlemen, yet their tricks may have
obscured the right view.

Parliament is in full activity. More than seventy writs
for its meeting are issued during the fifty years of the
reign. Its organization is being completed. It is now
definitively divided into the two Houses, Lords and Com-
mons, which sit in separate chambers. There are confer-
ences between the Houses. Parliament is opened with a
sermon from the chancellor, when he is an ecclesiastic,


something like the king's speech of later days. Debate
seems to be becoming oratorical ; at least Wycliffe puts
into the mouths of politicians highly figurative invective
against the wealth and immunities of the clergy. The
House of Commons has its Speaker, to be its mouthpiece
in addressing the crown and to preside over its own dis-
cussions. It secures its legislative authority by insisting
that its petitions, the assent of the crown to which it makes

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