James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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linked their fortunes by marriage and
alliance with those of the chief Welsh
dynasties ; and the princes of North Wales
had shown, first in the struggle for the
"^Charter, and again in the civil wars under
Henry III., that they were disposed to
encourage every movement- which might
paralyse the hostility of the English

If North Wales were once subdued the
whole country would be at the feet of
England. To this object Edward devoted
himself between 1277 and 1283. By a
skilful combination of land and sea forces



arose out of claims of suzerainty similar to
those which had justified the conquest of
Wales. The import of the homage usually
tendered by the kings of Scotland to their
southern neighbours was uncertain, the
Scots themselves claiming that it was
merely due for the English lands of which
their kings were tenants, while the
English naturally saw in it a proof of the
dependency of Scotland as a whole. It is
neither possible to determine nor profitable
to discuss the original nature of a relation
which began as early as the tenth century,
and meant in practice so much as the
stronger party could make it mean and no
more. The facts of real importance are
that Scotland had until recent times
always proVed a troublesome neighbour to
England, that Alexander III., although a

Llewelyn, the ruling prince of North
Wales, was hemmed up in Snowdon, and
forced by the Treaty of Con way, in 1277,
to acknowledge his dependency on
England. An attempt to repudiate the
submission led to a second invasion, to the
flight and death of the prince, and to the
enactment of the '.' Statutum Gwalliae " in
1284 incorporating the principality with
the dominions of the English crown. The
marches kept their old privileges and
organisation, except that the right of
private war, which they alone of the
English barons claimed to exercise, was
abolished. The remainder of Wales was
divided into shires Cardigan, Carmarthen,
Merioneth, Carnarvon, Anglesey, and
Flint which were governed, like those of
England, through shire courts and sheriffs,
but were unrepresented in the Eng-
lish parliament, and subject to the
authority of special justices, whose
headquarters were fixed at Car-
narvon and Carmarthen. The Welsh
shire courts administered the old
Keltic private law, with such altera-
tions as English ideas of reason and
justice demanded ; and the land
remained Keltic in blood and speech
and sentiment, though it is true
that some attempt was made to
create towns which should be centres
of English influence.

More than a century after
Edward's measures it was still
possible for Owen Glendower to
resuscitate the instinct of national
independence in Wales, and
seriously to prefer a claim to
represent Llewelyn's dynasty.
But the Tudors completed the
work which Edward had begun.
Most of the marches had then
become, through forfeiture, escheat,
or inheritance, the property of the
crown. Under Henry VIII. they
were partly grouped in new shires
and partly incorporated with those
already in existence. From 1536
onwards the shires and towns of
Wales were represented in the
English parliament ; the remnants
of Marcher lawlessness and privilege
were stamped out of existence by the
Council of Wales and the marches, THE FIRST pRINCE

a local Star Chamber With large dlS- The independence of Wales came to an end when Edward I. led an

CretlOnary powers, Which Continued army into the principality. Summoning the representatives of the

in existence Until the Vear l64O su t>dued people, the king, it is said, promised them a prince who was

c , j a Welshman by birth, and who could speak no other language. Then

attempt tO Conquer bCOtlana he showed .his infant son Edward, who had been born at Carnarvon.



son-in-law of Henry III., had stoutly
refused to acknowledge himself the vassal
of Edward so far as his kingdom was
concerned, and that it was imperative to
prevent Scotland from taking part in
European com-
binations as a
free and indepen-
dent state.

The death of
Alexander III.,
in 1286, was
followed at no
long interval by
that of his grand-
daughter, the
Maid of Nor-
way ; the dis-
putes which im-
mediately arose

numerous COm- Edward II. had none of the great qualities of his father, whom he
succeeded on the throne of England in 1307, and in 1327 he was


for the

But in the following year, William
Wallace, a poor knight of whose early life
we know almost nothing, was able to collect
an army, which at Stirling destroyed the
garrison of occupation, and to make himself

the head of anew
national regency .
A timely truce
with France en-
abled Edward in
1297 to return
home from an
uneventful ex-
pedition to
Flanders, to
effect a settle-
ment with the
leaders of the
const i t u t i o n a 1
opposition at
home, and to
invade Scotland
for the second

u .

deposed because of his incompetence and murdered in Berkeley Castle.

time. At the




enabled Edward to assert his suzerainty.
With the consent of all the claimants he
conducted an arbitration which ended in the
recognition of John Balliol as the rightful
heir. The new king did homag^to the
full extent of Edward's pretensions, and
it would have been well if the
latter had remained content with
this guarantee of peace, the
greatest that could reasonably
be expected, and a far greater concession
than the pride of the Scottish people
approved. An ill-judged attempt to
assert the jurisdiction of the English
royal court over Balliol and his subjects
led to the virtual deposition of the vassal
king, the election of a baronial committee
of regency, and, in 1296, to an alliance
between the new government and Philip
the Fair of France, who had recently
declared war upon Edward with a view to
the recovery of Guienne and Gascony.
The policy of the English king had pre-
cipitated the danger which it was intended
to prevent.

The danger was, however, promptly met.
In 1296 the Lowlands were overrun by an
English army, and Balliol, the nominal
head of the national movement against
the English supremacy, was taken i nd
relegated to an English prison. Scotland
was placed under English regents. The
regalia of the crown were sent to West-
minster as a sign that the independent
existence of the kingdom had now ceased.

battle of Falkirk the squares of Wallace's
spearmen were shaken and shattered
by the masterly tactics of the English
king. Wallace became a homeless
fugitive, to be betrayed and executed
after years of wandering ; and Scotland
received a constitution under which the
government was vested in a regent, a
council, and the assembly of the Scottish
Estates. The latter body was to be
represented in the English parliament,
but to legislate independently for Scot-
land ; the English shire system and the
law of the Lowlands were to be applied
without exception over the whole country.
Moderate and skilfully planned, so far
as details went, the new constitution was
in its essence intolerable to Scottish
pride ; it was hardly promulgated before
a new national leader appeared in the
person of Robert Bruce, the grandson and
namesake of a competitor who had all
but defeated Balliol's claim to the throne.
The Bruce, though overthrown almost
as soon as crowned by a third army of
invasion, defied his pursuers
in the fastnesses of the Western
Isles, and it was left for
Edward's successor to complete
the reduction of the rising, if he could.
The o d king, worn out by strenuous
labours, died at Burgh-upon-Sands, on the
Solway Firth, in the act of launchirg a
new host against the supporters of Bruce in
1307. The greatest legislator and most


Death of
the Great



f a

Edward II.

far-seeing reformer of an age which all
over Europe was rich in statesmen,
Edward bequeathed to his son a kingdom
more extensive, more compact, and more
highly organised than any which had
hitherto existed in the British Isles,
but at the same time loaded with debt,
involved in a hopeless war, and weakened
ky the discontent of an
aristocracy whose political

ambitions became more
, ,.

dangerous in proportion as

their feudal privileges and responsibilities
were diminished by increasing centralisa-
tion. The new king was the last man to
extricate his inheritance from these em-
barrassments ; profligate, extravagant, and
idle, he abandoned public affairs to Piers
Gaveston, an unpopular favourite of Gascon

The Scottish war was dropped at the
moment when there was the best prospect
of ending it with success ; and the next few
years were wasted in bickerings with the
great barons, for which Piers Gaveston was
principally responsible. Led by the king's
cousin, Thomas of Lancaster, the great
earls clamoured for that influence in the
royal counsels which, according to custom,
should have been theirs. Incompetent and
untrustworthy to a man, the malcon-
tents would have merited little sympathy
if the king had placed himself in the
hands of an abler favourite. Even under
Gaveston's guidance he pursued a more
patriotic policy than that of his opponents ;
and it was an invasion of Scotland on
his part which enabled them to assemble
in council and pass, without the con-
currence of clergy or commons, ordinances
for the banishment of Gaveston, the
regulating of the government, and the
limitation of the king's prerogative.

The ordinances provided for annual

parliaments ; but the form of government

which they set up was one in which

supreme power was divided

* e , between the ordainers and the
the King s egtate of the baronage j t was
Favourite ,

an oligarchic constitution, simi-
lar to the Provisions of Oxford, but with
even less pretence of , solicitude for the
common weal. The king would have been
justified in challenging the ordinances on the
broad ground of constitutional principle.
He chose rather to accept those which
involved a question of principle, and
only to disregard that which touched his

favourite. The concession was inadequate ;
Gaveston, having fallen into the hands
of his rivals, was beheaded without a
trial, and the king, after having weakly
consented to a reconciliation with the
murderers of his friend, in the hope
that by so doing he might save the last
of the English strongholds in Scotland,
was left by the opposition to fight the
national cause without their aid.

Attempting the relief of Stirling with a
force which by no means represented the
full strength of his kingdom, he lost the
battle of Bannockburn in June, 1314, and
with it his last hope of destroying Scottish
independence. Stirling capitulated at
once, and Berwick a few years later. The
Scots in their turn took the offensive.
Northern England was savagely raided,
and Edward Bruce, crowned king of
Ireland in 1315, waged incessant and
successful war upon the English settlers of
that island for the next three years. To
the problem of meeting these attacks
little thought was given by any English
party. Edward's main thought was to
be revenged upon his arch-enemy, the
TK v * r i Earl of Lancaster. With the
Bttlett aid f new favourites > the D .es-
Bannockburn P 6n f 6rS ' ^ S ed Dissension
in the ranks of his opponents ;
and in 1322 Lancaster, deserted by his
adherents, experienced the same fate
which he had meted out to Gaveston. A
constitutional colour was put upon this act
of vengeance by means of a parliament
which declared the ordinances illegal, and
laid down the important principle that all
matters touching the king, the realm, and
the people should be settled exclusively
by a parliament composed of the three

It was, however, a time of general want
and suffering. Famine and murrain proved
no less destructive than the raids of the
Scot ; and for all misfortunes the king was
held accountable. A miserable intrigue
between his wife, Isabel of France, and
Roger Mortimer, a lord of the Welsh
Marches, gave the starting-point for a con-
spiracy which was joined by all the enemies
of Edward and the Despensers. The latter
were seized and hanged ; the king was
deposed in favour of his son by a parliament
in which the commons were present as
approving though silent spectators. Even
the murder of Edward a few months later,
in 1327, failed to produce a reaction.













YV7HEN the queen -mother and Mortimer,
** acting as the self-constituted guard-
ians of the young Edward 1 1 1., concluded a
humiliating peace with Scotland their popu-
larity at once evaporated. A new conspiracy,
in 1330, sent Mortimer to the scaffold, rele-
gated the queen to a close though honour-
able confinement, and made Edward III.
king in fact as well as name. The new
ruler immediately established a name for
vigour and military success. He once
more attacked Scotland, which the death
of Robert Bruce had left in the hands of
an infant king. Edward, the son of John
Balliol, was assisted in an invasion of
Scotland, and the English Edward avenged
Bannockburn by a signal victory which
he gained at Halidon Hill over Bruce's
partisans in 1333. Edward Balliol became
King of Scotland for a time, while the heir
of the national idea was taken for safety
to the court of France. It was
a delusive success ; Scotland

Maintains Her ,, , , /v / i

could not be effectively con-
Independence , ., ,,. J , ,,

quered, the alliance of the

nationalists with France was now more
firmly cemented, and in 1339 Edward
Balliol retired from the country in despair,
leaving the field open for his rival's
return. But the ephemeral success of his
cause soothed English pride, and gave
Edward III. a breathing space in which
to make good his position.

The Hundred Years' War is, after the
secular conflict of papacy and empire, the
most important crisis of the Middle Ages.
It was a trial of strength between the
two most compact and highly developed
of mediaeval states. One of these it ruined,
while upon the other it threw a strain
which accelerated the natural processes
of decay and transformation. It ushered
in an era of complex diplomacy, shifting
combinations, and protracted wars, in
consequence of which despotism, more
or less popular in its character, became
the normal type of European policy.

Its various effects upon European policies,
from Bohemia to Spain, and from Scotland
to Sicily, belong properly to European
history ; but some account of its general
E , character is necessary to explain

^ng an s ^ nature and order of the

changes to which it led in
Self-defence , T , , ,,

England. It was due to the

desire of the French monarchy to recover
the last shreds of the Angevin Empire
from the heirs of Henry II.

Philip VI., the first Valois king, took
up the plans which more than one of
his predecessors had framed for this pur-
pose. He sheltered David Bruce in exile,
and afterwards assisted him in the
recovery of Scotland ; he attempted to
break the long-standing alliance between
England and the Flemish towns by
imposing on the latter a count of French
sympathies ; in short, he neglected no
opportunity of injuring English interests.
Edward began the war in self-defence,
although, after its beginning, he raised a
counter-claim to the throne of France,
in virtue of his descent on the maternal side
from Philip the Bold, who died in 1285.

This step was mainly taken to remove
the feudal scruples of the Flemings, who
refused to serve against the king of
France. The danger to the Flemish and
Gascon trade and the piracies of the
French ' made the war popular with the
English commons. Their subsidies were
generously granted, and the expenses of a
war in which all ranks, from the duke
to the man-at-arms, fought for daily wages
were defrayed chiefly from the purses
of the middle and lower classes. After
Wh th I 345 wnen the military opera -
w y tions took a wider scope, and

P ar . wz plans of conquest shaped them-
selves in the minds of Edward
and his son, national pride, the interests
of a nobility growing rich on spoils and
ransoms, and a series of brilliant victories,
maintained the popularity of the war.



governorship of his younger brother, the
incompetent John of Gaunt, Duke of
Lancaster, English power dwindled till, at
the death of Edward III., Bordeaux,
Bayonne, Dax, and Calais
were the only French
towns of importance left
to his grandson.

The early successes in
France had been due to
the superiority of English
arms . N o missile
weapon of the age could
compare with the longbow
in efficiency, and this
weapon was almost an
English monopoly. In
tactical skill Edward and
his son were superior to
any general whom they
encountered. The new
practice of paying the
soldiers of all ranks had
in. OF ENGLAND transformed the English

tiarch England's prosperity fighting force from a
_ . .d^.i.1, uu . u ..^^d. Invading France, Edward 9 &

consented to the Treaty of won the great battle of Crecy in 1346, and in the disorderly mob into a
Bretigny, in 1360, under following year he captured Calais after a long disciplined army. But

Which the English kept "^ His later years were full of trouble. ...

At first it appeared as though the vic-
tory of Edward would be soon complete.
The navy of France was destroyed at Sluys
in 1340, their main army was shattered at
Crecy, and David of Scot-
land became an English
prisoner at Neville's Cross
m 1346. The victory of
Roche Derrien, in 1347,
though trivial in itself,
placed Brittany at the
disposal of the English
party ; and, finally, King
John of France fell into
the hands of the Black
Prince at Poitiers in 1357.
With this disaster anarchy
was unchained in France.
Threatened simul-
taneously by a sedition
in the capital and by an
insurrection of the
oppressed peasantry in
the surrounding country,
the regency of France


Under this
rapidly advanced

Calais which had been captured in 1347
Poitou, Saintonge, the Angoumois, the
Limousin, Perigord, Quercy, Rouergue,
Guienne, and Gascony. This treaty marks
the highest point of
English fortunes in the
first stage of the war.

Under John's successor,
Charles V., the French
monarchy slowly began
to recover frgm the
wounds inflicted in the
preceding twenty years.
The Black Prince, who,
as Duke of Aquitaine, ad-
ministered the continental
possessions, rashly in-
volved himself in a war
respecting the Castilian
succession. An expedition
to Castile shattered his
health, drained his re-
sources, and, in spite of
temporary success, ulti-
mately led to an alliance


the capture of strong
places was difficult. It was easier to
overrun France than to hold it. When
the war ceased to be self-supporting,
the burden of maintaining an army on
hostile territory became
insupportable. Edward
had undertaken a task
which was beyond the
powers of any feudal
state. It would have
been well if his successors
had recognised this truth
and impressed it on the
nation. But under
Richard, II. operations of
an aimless kind were
intermittently pursued,
while allies fell away and
the narrow seas were
scoured by French and
Scottish privateers.

The French govern-
ment, grown bolder with
success, began to lay
for the invasion of

between France and Phiiippa met the Scots at Neville's Cross, in England, and actually sent
Castile, which cost the 1346 > and defeated them, she died in 1369. aux iii ar i es to Scotland.
English their command of the sea and In 1396, Richard II., having freed himself
enabled Charles V. to resume the aggressive from the trammels of the regency, was
with some success. The Black Prince sufficiently wise and courageous to con-
returned home to die. Under the elude a truce for twenty-eight years.



But this step was made an additional
count in the long list of charges which his
enemies compiled against him. Although
the truce was not formally renounced after
his fall, the relations of the two countries

supply," made every new tax an excuse
for demanding remedial legislation. In
particular they claimed statutory recogni-
tion of their right to be the sole source
of taxation, to appropriate for specific
purposes the sup-
plies which they
had voted, to
audit the royal
accounts, and to
impeach or de-
mand the removal
of ministers of
whom they dis-
approved. These
rights the king
was ready to
grant, but no less
ready to disregard
whenever circum-
stances strength-
ened his position.
The Commons
were more suc-


The son of the Black Prince, Richard II. became king in 1377. He was overthrown by lating than in
the rebellion of Henry of Lancaster Bolingbroke to whom he resigned the crown. ' , & .

applying valuable

remained dubious and tense. The last principles of parliamentary government ;
and greatest stage in the struggle still their formal separation from the House of
belonged to the future. Lords, which took place early in the

The deposition of Edward II. was reign, made it difficult to unite the
followed, in English politics, by fifty years various elements of the opposition, and
of unstable equi-
librium. On the I
question of the I
war there was no |
radical difference 1
of opinion between i
the king and the I
people. The con- I
stant demands for I
new subsidies gave I
rise to complaints, I
and new claims of
control and audit
on the part of the
Commons. But
their respect for
the king pre-
vented them from
pushing remon-
+T-OTT >c until T7oat-c Wnen Richard II. yielded Up his crown it was assumed by Bolingbroke, under the title of
11 ycd.1, Henry IV. In earlier life, Henry fought in the East; after becoming king he extended the
and infirmity P wers f Parliament. He died in 1413 at Westminster, and was buried at Canterbury.

compelled him at

last to leave the

management of Parliament in the hands
of his favourites and kinsmen. The
third - estate, acting invariably on the
maxim that " redress should precede

some time had to elapse before the knights
of the shire, who represented the lower
gentry, realised the complete identity of
their interests with those- of the towns.
When, as in 1371 and 1376, a court


Even in the Middle Ages the City of London stood first as a business centre, and, upon occasion, was the host
of royalty. This picture, from a panel in the Royal Exchange, illustrates such an event, the artist showing
Sir Henry Picard, the Mayor of the City and Master of the Vintners' Company, in 1357, entertaining at the
one time four kings Edward III. of England, David II. of Scotland, John of France, and the King of Cyprus.
From the painting by A. Chevallicr Tayler, R.B.A., by the artist's permission

2 47


faction placed itself at the head of the
third estate, the true importance of the
latter at once became manifest. On the
second of these two occasions the Commons
impeached and punished the two most
obnoxious of the royal ministers. But
the sequel is instructive. The Black
Prince, who had instigated the attack
through jealousy of the influ-
ence which John of Gaunt
possessed with the old king,
died in the middle of the
session. The opposition, left leaderless,
collapsed ; the ministers were released,
and the Speaker of the Commons was
thrown into prison. The next Parliament,
in which the Lower House was packed
with the friends of John of Gaunt,
obediently condoned the duke's defiance
of its predecessor.

Edward III. had usually been on good
terms with his baronage. But the com-
position of this estate was different at the
end of his reign from what it had been at
the beginning. A single earl of the royal
blood had been sufficiently influential to
menace the safety of Edward II. But
Edward III., blind to this warning, had
given positions as great as that of Thomas
of Lancaster to several of his younger
sons .and kinsmen. The intrigues of these
princes were a fertile source of trouble
from the moment when the crown devolved
upon the infant son of the Black Prince.

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster,

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 50 of 55)