The Prince, who knew the signal, bidding adieu to the company, instantly galloped off with his friend, another knight, and four esquires.
Continuing 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. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments. 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.
It is generally supposed that the project of summoning to parliament the representatives of the counties, cities, and boroughs grew out of that system of policy which the earl had long pursued, of flattering the prejudices, and attaching to himself the affections, of the people. Nor had his efforts proved unsuccessful. Men in the higher ranks of life might penetrate behind the veil, with which he sought to conceal his ambition; but by the nation at large he was considered as the reformer of abuses, the protector of the oppressed, and the savior of his country. Even some of the clergy, and several religious bodies, soured by papal and regal exactions, gave him credit for the truth of his pretensions, and preachers were found who, though he had been excommunicated by the legate, made his virtues the theme of their sermons, and exhorted their hearers to stand by the patron of the poor and the avenger of the Church. Within the kingdom no man dared to dispute his authority; it was only at the extremities that a faint show of resistance was maintained. The distant disobedience of a few chiefs on the Scottish borders he despised or dissembled; and the open hostilities of the lords in the Welsh marches were crushed in their birth by his promptitude and decision. He compelled Roger de Mortimer and his associates to throw down their arms, surrender their castles, and abide the judgment of their peers, by whom they were condemned to expatriate themselves, some for twelve months, others for three years, and to reside during their exile in Ireland. They pretended to submit, but lingered on the sea-coast, and amid the mountains of Wales, in the hope that some new event might recall them to draw the sword and fight again in the cause of their sovereign.
It had cost Leicester some years and much labor to climb to the summit of his greatness; his descent was rapid beyond the calculation of the most sanguine among his enemies. He had hitherto enjoyed the cooperation of the powerful earls of Derby and Gloucester; but, if he was too ambitious to admit of an equal, they were too proud to bow to a fellow-subject. Frequent altercations betrayed their secret jealousies; and the sudden arrest and imprisonment of Derby, on a charge of corresponding with the royalists, warned Gloucester of his own danger. He would have shared the captivity of his friends had he assisted at the great tournament at Northampton; but by his absence he disconcerted the plans of his enemy, and, recalling Mortimer and the exiles, unfurled the royal standard in the midst of his tenantry. Leicester immediately hastened to Hereford with the King, the Prince, and a numerous body of knights. To prevent the effusion of blood their common friends intervened; a reconciliation was effected, and four umpires undertook the task of reconciling their differences. But under this appearance of friendship all was hollow and insincere. Leicester sought to circumvent his adversary; Gloucester waited the result of a plan for the liberation of Edward, which had been concerted through the means of Thomas de Clare, brother to the Earl, and companion to the Prince.
One day after dinner Edward obtained permission to take the air without the walls of Hereford, attended by his keepers. They rode to Widmarsh. A proposal was made to try the speed of their horses; several matches were made and run; and the afternoon was passed in a succession of amusements. A little before sunset there appeared on Tulington hill a person riding on a gray charger and waving his bonnet. The Prince, who knew the signal, bidding adieu to the company, instantly galloped off with his friend, another knight, and four esquires. The keepers followed; but in a short time, Mortimer, with a band of armed men, issued from a wood, received Edward with acclamations of joy, and conducted him to his castle of Wigmore. The next day the Prince met the Earl of Gloucester at Ludlow. They mutually pledged themselves to forget all former injuries, and to unite their efforts for the liberation of the King, on condition that he should govern according to the laws, and should exclude foreigners from his councils.
When Leicester received the news of Edward’s escape, he conceived that the prince was gone to join the Earl Warenne, and William de Valence, who a few days before had landed with one hundred and twenty knights on the coast of Pembrokeshire. Ignorant, however, of his real motions, he dared not pursue him; but issued writs in the King’s name, ordering the military tenants of the Crown to assemble at first in Worcester, and afterward in Gloucester. To these he added circular letters to the bishops, accusing Edward of rebellion, and requesting a sentence of excommunication against all disturbers of the peace “from the highest to the lowest.” The royalists had wisely determined to cut off his communication with the rest of the kingdom by securing to themselves the command of the Severn. Worcester readily opened its gates; Gloucester was taken by storm; and the castle, after a siege of two weeks, was surrendered on condition that the garrison should not serve again during the next forty days. Every bridge was now broken down; the small craft on the river was sunk or destroyed; and the fords were either deepened or watched by powerful detachments. Leicester, caught as it were in the toils, remained inactive at Hereford; but he awaited the arrival of the troops whom he had summoned, and concluded with Llewellyn of Wales a treaty of alliance, by which, for the pretended payment of thirty thousand marks, Henry was made to resign all the advantages which he and his predecessors had wrested from the princes of that country.
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