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The constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 online

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now empowered to inquire after heretics, and a clause to that
effect is to be introduced into their commissions : if any be so
indicted the justices may award against them a writ of capias
which the sherifis shall be bound to execute. The persons ar-
rested are to be delivered to the ordinaries by indenture to be
made within ten days of the arrest, and are to be tried by the
spiritual court : if any other charges are laid against them in
the king's court they are to be tried upon them before being
delivered to the ordinary, and the proceedings so taken are not
to be taken in evidence in the spiritual court; the person

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XIX.] Later Legislation, 363

indicted may be bailed within ten days ; the jurors by whom the

inquest is to be taken are to be men who have at least five

pounds a year in land in England or forty shillings in Wales ;

if the person arrested break prison before acquittal, the king

shall have his chattels, and also the profits of his lands until he

be forthcoming again, but if he dies before conviction, the lands

go to his heirs *.

This is the last statute atrainst the Lollards, and under it Later at-
° , temptoto

most of the cruel executions of the fifteenth and sixteenth legiuate.

centuries were perpetrated. It was not however the last
occasion upon which parliamentary action was attempted. In
1422 the Lollards were again formidable in Londcm, and the
parliament, on the petition of the commons, ordered that those
who were in prison should be at once delivered to the ordinary
according to the statute of 14 14 ; a similar order was given in
1425*. In 1468 Edward lY, with exceptional tenderness, re-
jected a petition that persons who had committed the acts of
sacrilege which were attributed to the Lollards should be
r^arded as guilty of high treason '.

Outside the parliament the still unextinguished embers of Change of
political Lollardy continued to bum; in the attempted rising Sg with
of Jack Sharp in 143 1 the Lollard petition of 14 10 wasLdiaitU.
republished and circulated^, and it is not improbable that
some Lollard discontent was mingled with the popular com-
plaints in 1450. But the influences which had supported
the early Wycliffites were extinct. The knights of the shire
no longer urged the spoliation of the clergy; the class from
which they were drawn found plunder enough elsewhere;
the universities produced no new schoolmen; the friars expe-
rienced no revival or reform; and, although learning was
liberally nurtured by the courts freedom of opinion foimd little
latitude. Bishop Pecock of Chichester, who had endeavoured to Case or
use against the erroneous teaching of the Lollards some contro- PeoooL
versial weapons which implied more independent thought than

> 2 Hen. y, Stat. i. c. 7 ; Statutee, ii 181 sq,

• Rot. Pari. iv. 174, 292.

» lb. y. 63a. * Above, p. 112.

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3^4 CoTutitutional Hutory. [chap.

his brethren could tolerate, was driven out of the royal council
with one accord by the lords, was tried for heretical opinions
before the archbishop and bishops of his province, and con-
Bishop demned ^ Like so many of the earlier Lollards he chose
Bubmission rather than martyrdom, abjured and recanted; in
spite of papal mediation he was not restored to his see, but kept
in confinement, and remained a pensioned prisoner as long as he
lived. He is almost a solitary instance of anything like spiritual
or intellectual enlightenment combining with heretical leanings
to provoke the enmity or jealousy of the clergy.

Local influ- The political views of the Lollards too were a very subor-
ence of Ld- , , , .

lardy. dinate element in the dynastic struggle of the century. It is
certainly curious that the early Lollard knights came chiefly from
those districts which were regarded as favourable to Richard U,
to the Mortimers, and afterwards to the house of York. Hereford,
shire, Gloucestershire, Bristol, and now and then Kent, are the
favourite refuge of the persecuted or the seed-plots of sedition ;
Jack Sharp of Wigmoreland led the rising of 1 431, as the so-
Possible called John Mortimer led that of 1 450. But the common idea
with of resistance to the house of Lancaster was probably the only

faction!^ link which bound the Lollards to the Mortimers, at least after
the old court influences of Bichard's reign were extinguished.
There were Lollards in Kent and London as well as Yorkists,
but the house of York when it came to the throne showed no
more favour to the heretics than the house of Lancaster had
Question of It is diflS.cult to form any distinct notion of the way in which
of extcu- the statutes against the Lollards operated on the general mass
of the people ; they were irregularly enforced, and the number
of executions which took place under them has been very vari-
ously estimated \ Although the party had declined politically,

* WilkinB, Cono. iii. 576; Babington, Pecock's Bepreasor, voL i. ppef.
pp. xxxvi-lvii.

' Adam of Usk (p. 3), in drawing a parallel between the Israelites who
worshipped the golden calf^ and the LoUarda, has some words which might
lead to misapprehension ; they must be read as follows, ' Unde in ploribus
regni partibus et praecipue Londooia et Bristolia, velut Judaei ad montem
Oreb propter vitulum conflatilem, mutuo in se revertentes, xxiii milium de
suis miserabilem patienfces casum merito doluerunt, ADglid inter se de


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XIX.] Social Position of the Clergy. 365

80 far as not to be really dangerous at any time after Oldcastle's Some liberty

.,,,,., <r ,. 1 1 11 1 of teftching

deatn^ considerable liberty of teaching must have been allowed, allowed.
or otherwise bishop Pecock's historical position is absolutely
unintelligible. If he were, as he thought, a defender of the faith,
the enemies against whom he used his controversial weapons
must have existed by toleration ; if he were himself heretical,
the avenues to high promotion must have been but negligently
guarded. But the whole of the age in which the Lollard
movement was working was in England as elsewhere a period
of much trouble and misgovemance ; men, parties, and classes inoonsis-
were jealous and cruel, and although there was an amount of tbeage.
intellectual enlightenment and culture which is in contrast with
the preceding century, it had not yet the effect of making men
tolerant, merciful, or just. Tiptoft's literary accomplishments
left him the most cruel man of his crud time. In the church
the gentle and munificent wisdom of men like Chichele and
Waynflete had to yield the first place in power to the politic
skill and the unscrupulous partizanship of men like Bourchier,
who persecuted the assailants of truths which had little or no
moral influence upon the persecutor.

405. The social importance of the clergy in England during Political and
the middle ages rested on a wider basis than was afforded by of the clergy.
their constitutional position. The clergy, as a body, were very
rich ; the proportion of direct taxation borne by them amounted
to nearly a third of the whole direct taxation of the nation ;

fide antiqua et nova altercantes omni die sunt in puncto quasi mutuo
niinam et aeditionem inferendi.* There is no statement of 23,000 execu-
tions, but of the danger of internal schism. The London chroniclers
furnish a considerable number of executions under Henry V and Henry VI ;
thirty-eight persons were hanged and burned after Oldcastle^s rising in
1414; in 1 41 5 were burned John Clay don and Richard Turmyn ; Gregory,
p. 108 ; in 1417 Oldcastle; in 1422 William Taylor, priest, p. 149 ; in 1430
Richard Hunden, p. 171; in 1431 Thomas Bagley, p. 171; Jack Sharp
and five others were hanged, p. 172 ; in 1438 John Gardiner was bnmea,
p. 181 ; in 1440 Richard Wych and his servant, p. 183 ; in 1466 William
Balowe was burned, p. 233 ; in 1467 four persons were hangcKl for sacri-
lege, p. 235. Foxe adds a few more names ; Abraham, White, and
Waddon, 1428-1431 (voL iii. p. 587); John Goose in 1473, p. 755.
There were many proeecutions, as may be seen in the Concilia as well as in
Foxe, but in the vast majority of cases they ended in penance and recanta-

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366 Constitutional History^ [chap.

they possessed in the constitution of parliament and convo-
cation a great amount of political power, a majority in the house
of lords, a recognised organisation as an estate of parliament,
two taxing and legislating assemblies in the provincial convoca-
Their social tions ; they had on their great estates jurisdictions and franchises
equal to those of the great nobles, and in the spiritual courts
a whole system of judicature parallel to the temporal judicature
but more inquisitorial, more deeply penetrating, and taking
cognisance of every act and every relation of men's lives. They
had great immunities also, and a corporate cohesion which gave
strength and dignity to the meanest member of the class.
^»t num. One result of these advantages was the existence of an ex-
p^M ceedingly large number of clergymen, or men in holy orders.
The lists of persons ordained during the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries are still extant in the r^^isters of the bishops ; the
ordinations were held at least four times a year, and the number
admitted on each occasion was rarely below a hundred. In
3137O1 bishop Courtenay, acting for the bishop of Exeter, or-
dained at Tiverton 374 persons ; 163 had the first tonsure, 120
were ordained acolytes, thirty subdeacons, thirty-one deacons,
and thirty priests^. The ordination lists of the bishops of
Durham ' furnish numbers smaller than these, but still so large
as to make it a difficult question how so large a body of can-
didates for preferment could be provided for. To these lists
the mendicant orders contribute but a small per-centage; the

* Maskell, Mon. Bit. ill ThomaB, in the Survey of Worcester, giyes the
following numbers : —

Aeolytet. Subdeaooiu. Dmcodb. Priests. Total.

At Cirencester, June i, 1514 105 140 135 85 463

Worcester, Dec. 21, 1314 50 115 136 109 310

Worcester, Dec. ai, 1319 43 96 91 230

Ambersley, Dec. 18, 1322 120 102 50 60 33a

Tewkesbury, Trinity, 1329 ai8 47 79 62 406

Campden, Trinity, 1331 221 100 47 51 419

Ambresley, June 2, 1335 251 115 133 22 521

Worcester, April 9, 1337 391 180 154 124 849

Tewkesbury, June 6, 1338 204 141 117 149 613.
' In the Registrum Palatinum, yoL iii. One year's ordinations taken at
random may suffice : —

Acolytes. Subdeacons. Deacons. Priests. Total.

In 1 341 at Pentecost 86 26 31 16 159

in September 16 10 18 10 63

in December 11 14 5 8 38.

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XIX.] Numbers of the Clergy. ^Sj

persons who supplied the place of non-resident pluralists,
or who acted under the incumbents as parish priests, were not
numerous, the whole number of parish churches being not
much over 8000 ; a large proportion of candidates were ordained
on the title of chaplaincies, or rather on the proof that ^^^yJj^P^*
were entitled to small pensions from private persons who thus class;
qualified them for a position in which^ by saying masses for the
dead, they could eke out a subsistence^. The persons so ordained
were the stipendiary priests, who in the reign of Henry IV
were so numerous that a poll tax of six and eightpence upon
them formed an important branch of the revenue *. They were
not represented in convocation, but they had every clerical
immunity, and they brought a clerical interest into every family.
A slight acquaintance with medieval wills is enough to prove
that almost every man who was in such circumstances as made
it necessary for him to make a will, had sons or near kins-
men in orders. Sometimes they were friars; more generally, ^^'nfr^
in the yeoman class, chantry priests; the country knights society.
had kinsmen in their livings and among the monks of the
great monasteries; the great nobles and the king's ministers
looked on the bishoprics as the provision for their clerical sons.
The villein class, notwithstanding legal and canonical hindrances,
aspired to holy orders as one of the avenues to liberty '. And
this great diffusion of interest must be set against all general
statements of the unpopularity of the clergy in the later middle
ages. There were just complaints of un&ir distribution of
patronage, and of concentration of great endowments in few

* Thus * WillelmuB de Blenkow, ad titulum V. Marcarum de Jobanne
Forestario, de quo reputat se coDtentum ;' "Reg. Pal. iii. 137. The mischiefe
arising from this system are forcibly stated by archbishop Islip ; * curaa
animarum gerere negligunt, et onera curatorum caritate mutua supportare ;
quin immo eis penitus derelictis ad celebranda annualia et ad alia pecu-
liaria se conferant obsequia,* &o. Wilkins, Cone. iii. i ; ct pp. 50, 51, 213.
The same archbishop fixed a maximum amount of stipend ; ib. p. 135.

■ See above, p. 47.

* The restriction on the liberty of unfree persons to be ordained dates
from very early times, and was intended no doubt to prevent persons
seeking ordinadun from a worldly motive as well as to save the rights of
the master over his dependents. In the Apostolic Canons it is based on
the latter reason. See Maskell, Mon. Rit. iii. pp. xcvii, xcviii ; and above,
vol. ii. p. 463, voL i. p. 431 ; Deer. p. i. dist. 54 ; Greg. ix. lib. i. tit. 18.

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Constitutional History,


Classes from
vhich the
were taken.







from the

hands ; but against class jealousy there was this strong safe-
guard : every tradesman or yeoman might live to see his son
promoted to a position of wealth and power.

Some important generalisations may be drawn from a study
of the episcopal lists from the time of the Conquest down-
wards : under the Norman kings the sees were generally
occupied by men of Norman birth, either such as were ad-
vanced by Lanfranc on the ground of learning and piety, or
such as combined with distinguished birth that gift of organi-
sation which belonged to the Norman feudalist ; to one class
belonged Lanfranc himself and Anselm, to the other Osmond
of Salisbury, who was a Norman baron, but also the reformer
of the medieval liturgy, and William G-iffi&rd the minister
of Henry I. As the ministerial system advanced, the high
places of the church were made the rewards of official service,
and official servants, having no great patrimonies, cultivated the
cathedral foundations as a provision for their families ; hence
arose the clerical caste which was so strong under Henry I and
Stephen. Here and there we find a scholar like Robert of Melon,
or Gilbert the Universal. Already the great nobles showed
their appreciation of the wealth of the church ; Everard bishop
of Norwich was of the house of Montgomery, Henry of Win-
chester was a grandson of the Conqueror, and the pious Roger
of Worcester, the friend of Becket, was a son of Earl Robert
of Gloocester. Hugh de Puiset, bishop of Durham, and S.
William, archbishop of York, were nephews of Stephen. Nor
was the example lost upon the later kings or barons : Henry II
the archbishopric of York to his son ; Henry m obtained
Canterbury for his wife's uncle, and Winchester for his own
half-brother ; Fulk Basset, bishop of London, was a baron both
temporal and spiritual. The noble Cantilupes served their
generation as bishops of Hereford and Worcester. The next
age saw the culmination of the power of the mendicant orders ;
Kilwardby, Peckham, and Bradwardine sat at Canterbury ; an-
other avenue to power was thus open to men of humble
birth, and when the short-lived popularity of the friars was
over, the avenue was not closed. Wykeham, Chichele, and

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XIX.] Ecclesiastical Divisions, 369

Waynflete rose by other means, services done in subordinate

office, but they amply justified the system by which they rose in

die great collegiate foundations by which they hoped to raise

the class from which they sprang. Side by side with them are Preponder-

found more and more men of noble names, Beaumont, Berkeley, S2mM."° ^

Grandison, Charlton, Despenser, Courtenay, Stafford, Beaufort,

Neville, Beauchamp, and Bourchier, taking a large share, but

not the whole, of the great dignities. Last, a Wydville rises

under Edward lY ; and then under Henry VII a change takes

place; new men are advanced more frequently, and merito- Meritorious

service &

rious service again becomes the chief title to promotion; the title to pro.
humiliation of the baronage has perhaps left few noble men
capable of such advancement. In this, as in some other points,
medieval life was a race for wealth ; the poor bishoprics were
left to the friars; scarcely any great man took a Welsh see
except as a stepping-stone to something better. Still it may General dif-
fairly be said that during the latter centuries a poor and humble pien^caf
origin was no bar to great preferment ; and the meanest stipen-
diary priest was not only a spiritual person, but a member of
an order to which the greatest families of the land, and even
the royal house itself, thought it no humiliation to contribute
sons and brothers.

Against this diffusion of influence and interest has to be Internal

1/..1... 1 'xi*!! -divisions of

set the fact, that it was only on points of the most general the clerical
and universal application that a body so widely spread, and so
variously composed, could be brought to act together. Against
any direct interference from the temporal power, unauthorised
taxation or restrictive legislation, the clergy might act as a
body; but within the sphere of ecclesiastical politics, and within
the sphere of temporal politics, they were as much liable to
division as were the baronage or the commons. The seculars
hated the regulars ; the monks detested the friars ; the Domi-
nicans and Franciscans regarded one another as heretics ; the
Cistercians and the Cluniacs were jealous rivals: matters of
ritual, of doctrine, of church policy — the claims of poverty and
chastity, the rights and wrongs of endowments— the merits of
rival popes, or of pope and council — licenced and unlicenced
VOL. in. B b

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370 Constitutional History, [chap.

preaching, licenced and unlicenced confession and direction —
were f ought out under the several standards of order and pro-
fession. And not less in the politics of the kingdom. As in
early days the regulars sustained Becket and the seculars sup-
Political par- ported Henry II, under John the clergy were divided between
among tiie the king and the bishops; the Franciscans of the thirteenth
century were allied with Grosseteste and Simon de Montfort ;
under Edward III they followed Ockham and Marsilius, and
linked Grosseteste with Wycliffe; under Henry IV they fur-
nished martyrs in the cause of restoration. In the great social
rising of 138 1 clergy as well as laymen were implicated ; secular
priests as well as friars died for Richard 11 ; and later on the
whole body of the clergy was arrayed for or against one of the
rival houses. It was well that it was so, and that the welfare
of the whole English church was not staked on the victory
of a faction or a policy, even though the faction may have been
legally or the policy morally the best. The clei^ could no
longer, as one united estate, mediate with authority between
parties, but they might, and probably did, help on reconciliation
where reconciliation was possible, and somewhat humanise the
struggle when the struggle must be fought out.
Diffusion of 406. The existence of a clerical element in every class of
education Society, and in so large proportion, must in some respects have
from the been a great social benefit. Every one admitted even to minor
eieriiS Orders must have been able to read and write ; and for the sub-
^^' deaconate and higher grades a knowledge of the New Testa-

ment, or, at the very least, of the Gospels and Epistles in the
Missal, was requisite *. This was tested by careful examination
in grammar and ritual, at every step ; even a bishop elect might
be rejected by the archbishop for literary deficiency* ; and the

^ The rules on the subject of examination were very strict ; see Maskell,
Mon. Rit. iiL xcv sq.

* Thus in 1229 Walter elect of Canterbury was rejected by the pope for
failing in his examination ; M. Paris, p. 356. There are some instances
in which this was overruled. Lewis Beaumont of Durham could scarcely
read the hard words in his profession of obedience; see vol. ii. p. 318;
Robert Stretton elect of Coventry was rejected by archbishop Islip but
forced by the king and the pope into his see; he could not read his
profession, and it was read for him ; Islip in disgust declined to take part

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XIX.] Clerical Influence, 371

bishop who wittingly ordained an ignorant person was deemed

guilty of deadly sin. The great obscurity which hangs over

the early history of the universities makes it impossible to guess

how large a portion of the clergy had received their education

there ; but towards the close of the period the foundation of Conegea and

1.1 . , . , . schools.

colleges connected with particular counties and monasteries

must have carried some elements of higher education into the

remotest districts ; the monastic and other schools placed some

modicum of learning within reach of all. The rapid diffusion of

Lollard tracts is itself a proof that many men could be found

to read them : in every manor was found some one who could Kno^edg©
' "^ , , of Latin

write and keep accounts in Latin; and it was rather theannmon.
scarcity and cost of books, than the inability to read, that caused
the prevalent ignorance of the later middle ages. Some germs
of intellectual culture were spread everywhere, and although
perhaps it would still be as easy to find a clerk who could not
write as a layman who could, it is a mistake to regard even so
dark a period as the fifteenth century as an age of dense igno-
rance. In all classes above the lowest, and especially in the Active inter-
clerical class, men travelled both in England and abroad more foreign
than they did after the Reformation had suspended religious
intercommunion and destroyed the usefulness of ecclesiastical
Latin as a means of communication. For clerks, if not for
laymen also, every monastery was a hostelry, and the frequent
intercourse with the papal court had the effect of opening the
clerical mind to wider interests.

It would have been well if the moral and spiritual influence Moral influ-

... enoequea-
of the clerical order had been equally good ; but, whilst it is tionable.

necessary to guard against exaggerated and one-sided state-
ments upon these points, it cannot be denied that the proved
abuses of the class go far to counterbalance any hypothetical ad-
vantages ascribed to its influence. The majority of the persons

in the conaecration ; Ang. Sac. L 44, 449. Robert Orford elect of Ely was
rejected by Winchelsey ' ob minua sufficientem literaturam' ; on application
to the pope he convinced him that he had not failed in hia examination but
had anawered logically not theologically; ib. p. 641. Giraldua CambrenaiB
has some amusing stories about the bad Latin of the bishops of his time ;
but on the whole the cases of proved incompetence are very few.

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37 a Constitutional History, [chap.

Mischief ordained had neither cure of souls nor duty of preaching;
the numbw their spiritual work was simply to say masses for the dead;
ployed ' they were not drawn on by the necessities of self-culture
^ ^'^* either to deeper study of divine truth or to the lessons which
are derived from the obligation to instruct others; and they
lay under no responsibility as bound to sympathise with and
guide the weak. The moral drawback on their usefulness was
even more important, because it affected the whole class and
not a mere majority. By the necessity of celibacy they were
cut off from the interests of domestic life, relieved from the
obligations to labour for wives and families of their own, and
thus left at leisure for mischief of many sorts. Every town
contained thus a number of idle men, whose religious duties
filled but a small portion of their time, who had no secular
responsibilities, and whose standard of moral conduct was formed
Evils result- upon a very low ideal. The history of clerical celibacy, in

Online LibraryWilliam StubbsThe constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 → online text (page 38 of 68)