Joseph Clayton.

Leaders of the people : studies in democratic history online

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To the Memory of

Regius Professor of Modern History
at the University of Oxford

" I loved him in life and I love him
none the less in death : for what
I loved in him is not dead."






1093-1130 3

POOR, 1162-1170 33


AGITATOR, 1188-1189 69


1207-1215 81


MENT, 1258-1265 IJ7




* S 2 9~ l 535 1 93



OF THE COMMONS, 1626-1643 245




1776-1820 307







From the Engraving by Jacob Houbraken Frontispiece


From an Old French Engraving in the facing p. 3

British Museum


From an Engraving after Van Eyck ,, 33


From the Panel Painting in the Sanctuary in

Westminster Abbey ,, 141


From the Drawing by Hans Holbein ,, 193


From a Steel Engraving by William Holl , , 245


From the Engraving by Jacob Houbraken ,, 257


From a Contemporary Drawing , , 307



"Let us noV> praise famous men, and our
fathers who begat us."


names of the seventeen men, here
named " Leaders of the People," are for
the most part familiar in our mouths as
household words. Those who triumphed, like
Anselm and Stephen Langton ; or whose cause
triumphed, like Simon of Montfort, Eliot, Pym and
Hampden, are beyond any loss of fame. Those
who in high place quitted themselves like men and
died game (if the phrase may be permitted), as did
Thomas Becket and Sir Thomas More, have, for all
time, deservedly their reward. The unsuccessful
rebels, FitzOsbert (called Longbeard), Wat Tyler,
Jack Cade and Robert Ket, are hard put to get rid
of the obloquy heaped upon them by contemporary
authority ; while the later rebels, equally unsuccess-
ful, Lilburne, Winstanley, Major Cartwright and
Ernest Jones, relying on the pen rather than the
sword, escaped the hangman, and in so doing
narrowly escaped oblivion. Good Bishop Grosse-
teste, living out his long life, thwarted often, but
unmartyred, enjoys the reputation commonly awarded
to conscientious public servants who die in harness.

On the whole, re-perusing the records of these
seventeen men, who would altogether reverse the


xii Leaders of the People

verdicts of time? The obloquy may be removed
when the work of the rebels is fairly seen, and it
may be judged that they deserved better of the State
than appeared when they troubled its peace. The
rebels of the pen, too, should be worthy of recollec-
tion in this age, for they wrought manfully with the
weapon now at once so powerful and so popular.
The greater men of our series stand out higher as
the distance increases. So far readjusted, the
awards of history may be accepted.

But with all the differences of character, one com-
mon quality binds these men whose stories are here
retold a resolute hatred of oppression. And one
common work, successful or unsuccessful, was theirs
to labour for the liberties of England and the
health of its people. The value of each man's work
can only be stated approximately : it is difficult to
make full allowance for the vastly different parts our
heroes, statesmen and rebels alike, were called to
play. The great thing is, that whatever the part,
they played it faithfully, as they read it, to the end.
We may admit the degrees of service given : it is
impossible to do otherwise. Some of these Leaders
shone as great orbs of light in their day and
generation, lighting not only England, but all western
Europe and still their light burns true and clear
across the centuries. Others were but flickering
rush-lights long extinct now. But none were will-
o'-the-wisps, for all helped to show the road to be
travelled by English men and women seeking free-


ace xni

dom, and moving ever towards democracy. At the
least, we enjoying an inheritance won at a great
price, and only to be retained on terms no easier can
keep the memory green of some few valiant servants
of our liberties. What is wanted is a real history of
the growth of the idea of freedom and of popular
liberty in this country ; and these rough biographical
sketches may be accepted as a contribution to the
materials for such a book. " Biography is a depart-
ment of history, and stands to it as the life-history
of a plant or an animal does to general biology."

I have gone back to all the original sources to get
once more at the lives of these " Leaders of the
People," and to see them as they were seen by their
contemporaries ; but I have also done my best to
read what the historians of our own day have written
concerning them, and in mentioning my authorities
I have, in each case, given a list of the modern
books that seem to me valuable.

J. C.

September, 1910.

Archbishop Anselm and Norman


AUTHORITIES : Eadmer Historia Novorum and Life
of Anselm ; Orderic of St. Evroul ; The English
Chronicle; Florence of Worcester ; William of Malmes-
bury ; (Rolls Series) ; Sir Francis Palgrave England
and Normandy ; Freeman Norman Conquest, Vol. V.,
Reign of William Rufus ; Dean Church St. Anselm.


(From an old French Engraving in the British Museum.)

1093 - 1 109.


first real check to the absolutism of
Norman rule in England was given by
Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The turbulent ambition of Norman
barons threatened the sovereignly of William the
Conqueror and of his son, the Red King, often
enough, but these outbreaks promised no liberty for
England. The fires of English revolt were stamped
out utterly five years after Senlac, and the great
Conqueror at his death left England crushed ; but he
left it under the discipline of religion, and he left it
loyal to the authority of the crown, grateful for
the one protection against the lawless rule of the

The English Chronicler, writing as "one who
knew him and once lived at his court," summed up
the character of the Conqueror's life and work in
words that have been freely quoted through the
centuries :

"King William was wiser and mightier than any
of his forerunners. He built many minsters, and was
gentle to God's servants, though stern beyond all
measure to those who withstood his will. ... So
stark and fierce was he that none dared resist his will.
Earls that did aught against his bidding he put in
bonds, and bishops he set off their bishoprics, and

4 Leaders of the People [1093-

abbots off their abbacies, and thanes he cast into
prison. He spared not his own brother, called Odo,
who was the chief man next to the king, but set him
in prison. So just was he that the good peace he
made in this land cannot be forgotten. For he
made it so that a man might fare alone over his realm
with his bosom full of ""old, unhurt ; and no man


durst slay another man whatsoever the evil he hath
done him ; and if any man harmed a woman he was
punished accordingly. He ruled over England, and
surveyed the land with such skill that there was not
one hide but that he knew who held it, and what
it was worth, and these things he set in a written
book. So mighty was he that he held Normandy
and Brittany, won England and Maine, brought
Scotland and Wales to bow to him, and would,
had he lived two years longer, have won Ireland
by his renown, without need of weapons. Yet
surely in his time men had much travail and very
many sorrows ; and poor men he made to toil hard
for the castles he had built. He fell on covetous-
ness, and the love of gold ; and took by right and
by unright many marks of gold and more hundred
pounds of silver of his people, and for little need.
He made great deer-parks, and ordered that whoso
slew hart or hind, him men should blind ; and
forbade men to slay deer or boar, and made the
hare go free ; he loved the big game as if he were
their father. And the poor men that were oppressed
he recked nought of. All must follow the king's
will if they would live, or have land, or even a quiet

But now, in September, 1087, the great King
William was dead, with his life-work done ; and

-i 109] Archbishop Anselm 5

from the tyranny of a strong and just ruler, England
passed to the despotism of his fearless son, William
the Red, who was "terrible and mighty over his
land and his men and towards all his neighbours ; "
in whose reign "all that was loathsome in the eyes
of God and righteous men was of common use ;
wherefore he was loathed by well-nigh all his
people, and hateful to God as his end showed."

There was much of the later Puritan in William I.,
in the steadfastness of purpose, the suppression of
" malignants," and determination to have justice
done, no less than in the sincerity for Church
reform, and the deep respect for the ordinances
of religion. No king of England worked more
harmoniously with a strong archbishop than
William I. with Lanfranc save, perhaps, Charles I.
with Laud.

Then on the death of William I., followed less
than two years later by Lanfranc's, came the
reaction in Church and State from the efforts after
law, religion, and social decency under the Con-
queror's rule.

The Red King had all his father's sternness and
strength, but was without any of that belief in
justice, that faith in the Sovereign Power of a
Living God, that desire for law and order, and
that grave austerity in morals, which saved the
Conqueror from baseness in his tyranny.

William II., unmarried, made the wildest and
most brutish profligacy fashionable at court. To
pay for his debaucheries and extravagances he
plundered all who could pay, in especial the Church,
enjoying the revenues of all vacant sees and abbeys,
and declining to fill up the vacancies so that this

6 Leaders of the People [1093-

enjoyment might remain. After Lanfranc, as the
king's chief adviser, came Ranulf (nicknamed the
Torch, or Firebrand), a coarse, unscrupulous bully,
with the wit of a criminal lawyer. This man was
made Bishop of Durham, and Justiciar. For him
government meant nothing but the art of getting
money for his royal master, and silencing all

For over three years there was no Archbishop
of Canterbury, and the Red King refused to fill
up the vacancy caused by Lanfranc's death, pre-
ferring to enjoy the revenues and possessions of
the see ; a thing that was shocking to all lovers
of religion, and scandalous to those who cared for
public decency and the good estate of the country.

Eadmer, a contemporary, describes the condition
of England in those early years of William II. :

" The king seized the church at Canterbury, the
mother of all England, Scotland, and Ireland, and
the neighbouring isles ; he bade his officers to make
an inventory of all that belonged to it, within and
without ; and after he had fixed an allowance for
the support of the monks who served God in that
place, he ordered the remainder to be disposed of
at a rent and brought under his domain. So he
put up the Church of Christ to sale ; giving the
power of lordship over it to anyone who, however
hurtful he might be, would bid the highest price.
Every year, in wretched succession, a new rent
was set ; for the king would allow no bargain to
remain settled, and whoever promised more ousted
him who was paying less, unless the former tenant,
giving up his original bargain, came up of his own
accord to the offer of the later bidder : and every

-i 109] Archbishop Anselm 7

day might be seen, besides, the most abandoned
of men on their business of collecting money for
the king, marching about the cloisters of the
monastery, heedless of the religious rule of God's
servants, and with fierce and savage looks giving
their orders on all sides ; uttering threats, lording
it over every one, and showing their power to the
utmost. What scandals and quarrels and irregu-
larities arose from this I hate to remember. Some
of the monks of the church were dispersed at the
coming of this misfortune, and sent to other houses,
and those who remained suffered many tribulations
and indignities. What shall I say of the church
tenants, ground down by such wasting and misery,
that one might doubt, but that worse followed,
whether escaping with bare life they could have
been more cruelly oppressed. Nor did all this
happen only at Canterbury. The same savage
cruelty raged in all her daughter churches in
England, which, when bishop or abbot died, at
that time fell into widowhood. And this king,
too, was the first who ordered this woeful oppression
against the churches of God ; he had inherited
nothing of this sort from his father, but was alone
in keeping the vacant churches in his own hands.
And thus, wherever you looked, there was wretched-
ness before your eyes ; and this distress lasted for
nearly five years over the Church of Canterbury,
always increasing, always, as time went on, growing
more cruel and evil."

There is no word of exaggeration in this pitiful
lament of Eadmer's. England under William II.
was at the mercy of a Norman whose notion of
absolute monarchy was to bleed the land as a subject

8 Leaders of the People [logs-

province. Courageous in battle he was, and skilful
in arms, but utterly heedless of the welfare of the
people he ruled. It was enough for the Red King
if his demands for money were met. There was no
one strong enough to gainsay his will, or stand
before him as the prophets of old stood before the
kings of Israel, until Anselm came to Canterbury.
It is only in the utterances of men like Eadmer we
learn something of the misery of the nation. 1

The king was with his court at Gloucester at
Christmas, 1092, and Anselm, then abbot of the
famous monastery of Bee in Normandy, was in
England at that time ; partly to comfort his friend,
Earl Hugh of Chester, who was sick, and partly to
attend to the English affairs of his monastery.

Anselm was known as the friend of Lanfranc.
He had been a welcome guest at the court of the
Conqueror and in the cloisters at Canterbury. His
character stood high above all contemporaries in
England or Normandy. Anselm was surely the right
man to be made archbishop, and so put an end to a
state of things which even to the turbulent barons
was discreditable to the country.

The Red King bade Anselm come to his court,
and received him with great display of honour.

1 " By the mouth of the clergy spoke the voice of the helpless, defence-
less multitudes who shared with them in the misery of living in a time
when law was the feeblest and most untrustworthy stay of right, and
men held everything at the mercy of masters, who had many desires
and less scruples, were quickly and fiercely quarrelsome, impatient of
control, superiority and quiet, and simply indifferent to the suffering,
the fear, the waste that make bitter the days when society is enslaved
to the terrible fascination of the sword." Church, Saint Anselm.

" Unrestrained by religion, by principle or by policy, with no family
interests to limit his greed, extravagance and hatred of his kind, a foul
incarnation of selfishness in its most abhorrent form, the enemy of God
and man, William Rufus gave to England and Christendom a pattern of
absolutism." Stubbs, Constitutional History. Vol. I.

-i log] Archbishop Anselm 9

Then came a private interview, and Anselm at once
told the king how men spoke ill of his misrule :
" Openly or secretly things were daily said of him
by nearly all the men of his realm which were not
seemly for the king's dignity." They parted, and
Anselm was busy for some time in England. When
the abbot wished to return to Bee William refused
him leave to quit the country.

At the beginning of Lent, March, 1093, tne king
was lying sick at Gloucester. It was believed the
sickness was mortal. Certainly the king thought
himself dying. Anselm was summoned to minister
to him, and on his arrival bade the king "make a
clean confession of all that he knows that he has
done against God, and promise that, should he
recover, he will without pretence amend in all things.
The king at once agreed to this, and with sorrow of
heart engaged to do all that Anselm required, and to
keep justice and mercy all his life long. To this he
pledged his faith, and made his bishops witnesses
between himself and God, sending persons in his
stead to promise his word to God on the altar. An
Edict was written and sealed with the king's seal
that all prisoners should be set free in all his domin-
ions, all debts forgiven, all offences heretofore com-
mitted pardoned and forgotten for ever. Further,
good and holy laws were promised to the whole
people, and the sacred upholding of right and such
solemn inquest into wrongdoing as may deter

Thus Eadmer.

Florence of Worcester puts the matter more
briefly. " When the king thought himself about to
die he vowed to God, as his barons advised him, to

io Leaders of the People [logs-

amend his life, to sell no more churches nor farm
them out, but to defend them by his kingly
might, and to end all bad laws and to establish just

There was still the vacant archbishopric to be
filled, and the king named Anselm for Canterbury.

In vain Anselm pleaded that he was an old man
he was then sixty and unfit for so great a respon-
sibility, that he was a monk and had shunned the
business of the world.

The bishops assembled round the sick king's bed
would not hear the refusal. Here was religion well
nigh destroyed in England, and evil rampant, and
the Church of God stricken almost to death, and at
such a time was Anselm to prefer his own ease and
quiet to the call to deliver Canterbury from its
bondage ? By main force they placed a pastoral
staff within his hands, and while the crowd shouted
" Long live the bishop ! " he was " carried rather
than led to a neighbouring church." The king at
once ordered that Anselm should be invested with
all the temporal rights of the see, as Lanfranc had
held them, and in September, 1093, Anselm was
enthroned at Canterbury, and in December he was

Anselm warned the bishops and nobles when they
forced the archbishopric upon him that they were
making a mistake. " You have yoked to the plough
a poor weak sheep with a wild bull," he said. " This
plough is the Church of God, and in England it has
been drawn by two strong oxen, the king and the
Archbishop of Canterbury, one to do justice and
to hold power in the things of this world, the other
to teach and govern in the things eternal. Now

-i IOQ] Archbishop Anselm n

Lanfranc is dead, and with his untamed companion
you have joined an old and feeble sheep."

That the king and the archbishop were unevenly
yoked was manifest on William's recovery, but it
was no poor sheep with whom Rufus had to deal,
but a man as brave and steadfast as he was gentle
and wise.

Trouble began at once when William rose from
his sick-bed. Anselm was now enthroned and no
attempt was made to revoke the appointment. But
the king's promises of public amendment were
broken without hesitation. The pardoned prisoners
were seized, the cancelled debts redemanded and the
proceedings against offenders revived.

" Then was there so great misery and suffering
through the whole realm that no one can remember
to have seen its like in England. All the evil
which the king had wrought before he was sick
seemed good by the side of the wrong which he did
when he was returned to health."

The king wanting money for his expedition
against his brother, Robert of Normandy, tried
to persuade Anselm to allow the Church lands,
bestowed since Lanfranc's death on vassals of the
crown on tenure of military service, to remain with
their holders. He was answered by steady refusal.
Had Anselm yielded, he would have been a party to
the alienation of lands, that, as part of the property
of the see, he was bound to administer for the
common good ; he would have been a party not
only to the spoiling of the Church, but to the
robbery of the poor and needy, whose claims, in
those days, to temporal assistance from Church
estates were not disputed. Any subsequent restitu-

12 Leaders of the People [1093-

tion of such lands was impossible, he foresaw, if it
was shown that the archbishop had confirmed what
the king had done.

Then came the question of a present of money to
the king. Anselm brought five hundred marks,
and, but for his counsellors and men of arms, who
told him the archbishop ought to have given twice
as much, William would have taken the gift gladly
enough. As it was, to show his dissatisfaction, the
money was returned. Anselm went boldly to the
king and warned him that money freely given was
better than a forced tribute. To this frank rebuke
of the extortion practised by the king's servants,
William answered that he wanted neither his money,
nor his preaching, nor his company. Anselm retired
not altogether displeased at the refusal, for too
many of the clergy bought church offices by these
free gifts after they were instituted. In vain his
friends urged him to seek the king's favour by
increasing his present, Anselm gave the five hundred
marks to the poor, and shook his head at the idea of
buying the king's favour.

But if Anselm declined to walk in the path of
corruption to oblige the king, William was equally
resolute to make the path of righteousness a hard
road for the archbishop.

In February, 1094, when the Red King was at
Hastings waiting to cross to Normandy, Anselm
appealed to him to sanction a council of bishops,
whose decisions approved by the crown should have
the authority of law. There were two things for
such a council to do : (i) stop the open vice and
profligacy which ravaged the land ; (2) find abbots
for the many monasteries then without heads. In

-i ICQ] Archbishop Anselm 13

Anselm's words, the council was "to restore the Chris-
tian religion which was well-nigh dead in so many."

William treated the request with angry contempt,
and when Anselm sent bishops to him asking why
the king refused him friendship, an evasive answer
was returned.

" Give him money," said the bishops again to
Anselm, " if you want peace with him. Give him the
five hundred marks, and promise him as much more,
and you will have the royal friendship. This, it
seems to us, is the only way out of the difficulty."

But it was not Anselm's way. He would not even
offer what had been rejected. " Besides, the greater
part of it was spent on the poor."

William burst out into wrathful speech when he
was told of this reply. " Never will I hold him as
my father and archbishop, and ever shall I hate him
with bitter hatred. I hated him much yesterday,
and to-day I hate him still more."

A year later (March, 1095) at a great council of
bishops and nobles, held at the castle of Rocking-
ham, the king's hatred had full vent. From the first
the Archbishop of Canterbury received from the
Pope a pallium, the white woollen stole with four
crosses, which was " the badge of his office and
dignity," 1 and Anselm was anxious to journey to
Rome to obtain his pallium from Pope Urban. Wil-
liam objected to this on the ground that there was
another claimant to the papacy, and that until he
had decided who was the rightful pope no one in
England had a right to do so. In vain Anselm

1 No Archbishop of Canterbury has received the pallium since
Cranmer, but the sign of it remains in the archiepiscopal arms of

14 Leaders of the People [logs-

pointed out that he, with all Normandy, had acknow-
ledged Urban before he had become archbishop.

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Online LibraryJoseph ClaytonLeaders of the people : studies in democratic history → online text (page 1 of 22)