Today’s installment concludes How The House of Commons Began in England,
our selection from The History of England, From the First Invasion by the Romans to the Accession of Henry VIII by John Lingard published in 1819.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of eleven thousand words. Congratulations! For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in How The House of Commons Began in England.
To reduce these partial but successive insurrections occupied Prince Edward the greater part of two years. He first compelled Simon de Montfort and his associates, who had sought an asylum in the Isle of Axholm, to submit to the award which should be given by himself and the King of the Romans. He next led his forces against the men of the Cinque Ports, who had long been distinguished by their attachment to Leicester, and who since his fall had, by their piracies, interrupted the commerce of the narrow seas, and made prizes of all ships belonging to the King’s subjects. The capture of Winchelsea, which was carried by storm, taught them to respect the authority of the sovereign; and their power by sea made the Prince desirous to recall them to their duty and attach them to the crown. They swore fealty to Henry; and in return obtained a full pardon and the confirmation of their privileges. From the Cinque Ports Edward proceeded to Hampshire, which, with Berkshire and the neighboring counties, was ravaged by numerous banditti, under the command of Adam Gordon, the most athletic man of the age. They were surprised in Alton Wood, in Buckinghamshire. The Prince engaged in single combat with their leader, wounded and unhorsed him, and then, in reward of his valor, granted him his pardon. Still the garrison of Kenilworth continued to brave the royal power, and even added contumely to their disobedience. Having in one of their excursions taken a king’s messenger, they cut off one of his hands, and sent him back with an insolent message to Henry. To subdue these obstinate rebels, it was necessary to summon the chivalry of the kingdom; but the strength of the place defied all the efforts of the assailants; and the obstinacy of Hastings the governor refused for six months every offer which was made to him in the name of his sovereign.
There were many, even among the royalists, who disapproved of the indiscriminate severity exercised by the parliament at Winchester; and a possibility was suggested of granting indulgence to the sufferers, and at the same time satisfying those who had profited by their forfeitures. With this view a committee was appointed of twelve prelates and barons, whose award was confirmed by the King in parliament, and called the Dictum de Kenilworth. They divided the delinquents into three classes. In the first were the Earl of Derby, Hugh de Hastings, who had earned his preëminence by his superior ferocity, and the persons who had so insolently mutilated the King’s messenger. The second comprised all who on different occasions had drawn the sword against their sovereign; and in the third were numbered those who, though they had not fought under the banner, had accepted office under the authority, of Leicester. To all was given the option of redeeming their estates by the payment to the actual possessors of certain sums of money, to the amount of seven years’ value by delinquents of the first class, of five by those of the second, and of two years or one year by those of the third. By many the boon was accepted with gratitude: it was scornfully refused by the garrison of the castle of Kenilworth and by the outlaws who had fled to the Isle of Ely. The obstinacy of the former was subdued by famine; and they obtained from the clemency of the King the grant of their lives, limbs, and apparel. The latter, relying on the strength of their asylum, gloried in their rebellion, and occasionally ravaged the neighboring country. Their impunity was, however, owing to the perfidy of the Earl of Gloucester, who, without the talents, aspired to the fame and preëminence, of his deceased rival. He expressed his disapprobation of the award; the factious inhabitants of London chose him for their leader; and his presumption was nourished by the daily accession of outlaws from different parts of the country. Henry summoned his friends to the siege of the capital; and the Earl, when he beheld from the walls the royal army, and reflected on the consequences of a defeat, condemned his own temerity, accepted the mediation of the King of the Romans, and on the condition of receiving a full pardon, gladly returned to his duty, leaving at the same time the citizens to the good pleasure of the King. His submission drew after it the submission of the other insurgents. If Llewellyn remained in arms, it was only with the hope of extorting more favorable terms. The title of Prince of Wales with a right to the homage of the Welsh chieftains satisfied his ambition; and he consented to swear fealty to Henry, and to pay him the sum of twenty-five thousand marks. The restoration of tranquility allowed the King to direct his attention to the improvement of his people. He condescended to profit by the labors of his adversaries; and some of the most useful among the provisions of the barons were with other laws enacted by legitimate authority in a parliament at Marlborough. To crown this important work, and to extinguish, if it were possible, the very embers of discontent, the clergy were brought forward with a grant of the twentieth of their revenues, as a fund which might enable those who had been prevented by poverty to redeem their estates according to the decision of the arbitrators at Kenilworth. The outlaws in the Isle of Ely were also reduced. The King’s poverty had disabled him from undertaking offensive measures against them: but a grant of the tenth part of the church revenues for three years, which he had obtained from the Pope, infused new vigor into his councils; bridges were thrown over the rivers; roads were constructed across the marshes; and the rebels returned to their obedience on condition that they should enjoy the benefit of the Dictum of Kenilworth, which they had so contemptuously and obstinately refused.
Epilogue by Jack Le Moine
At the end of all of this to and fro the “Council” at the beginning of this story had split off into a “Parliament” including Churchmen, Barons, and “Kings Tenants”. While the King’s fortunes had been restored the basics of the Parliamentary reforms remained intact. Out of this seed a giant tree would grow.
This ends our series of passages on How The House of Commons Began in England by John Lingard from his book The History of England, From the First Invasion by the Romans to the Accession of Henry VIII published in 1819. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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