"Mad Parliament:" Beginning Of England's House Of Commons
Author: Lingard, John

Part I.

1258

With the loss of Normandy under King John, the barons of Norman descent
in England had become patriotic Englishmen. They forced their monarch to sign
the Magna Charta and thus laid the foundation of English constitutional
liberty.

John died in 1216 and was succeeded by his son Henry of Winchester, a
minor in his eleventh year. The celebrated Hubert de Burgh, chief justiciar,
soon became regent, and reigned comparatively without control, even after the
young King attained his majority. But in 1232 Henry, being in need of money,
imprisoned the regent and compelled him to forfeit the greater part of his
estate.

After De Burgh's fall, King Henry III became his own master, and was
responsible for the measures of government, the wars with foreign powers, the
disputes with the Pope and with the barons, during which the evolution of the
English parliament made important progress, chiefly through the efforts of
Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.

One of the most important episodes of that evolution was the "Mad
Parliament" - derisively so called by the royal partisans - at which the
Provisions of Oxford, long considered the rash innovations of an ambitious
oligarchy, were promulgated. Of this Mad Parliament it has been said, "It
would have been well for England if all parliaments had been equally sane."

As to the opinion, repeatedly emphasized in the following account, that
De Montfort was false and ambitious, it is well to remind the reader that
other historians have looked upon Earl Simon as a disinterested patriot of the
highest type.

It was Henry's misfortune to have inherited the antipathy of his father
to the charter of Runnymede, and to consider his barons as enemies leagued in
a conspiracy to deprive him of the legitimate prerogatives of the crown. He
watched with jealousy all their proceedings, refused their advice, and
confided in the fidelity of foreigners more than in the affection of his own
subjects. Such conduct naturally alienated the minds of the nobles, who
boldly asserted that the great offices of state were their right, and entered
into associations for the support of their pretensions. Had the King
possessed the immense revenues of his predecessors he might perhaps have set
their enmity at defiance; but during the wars between Stephen and Maud, and
afterward between John and his barons, the royal demesnes had been
considerably diminished; and the occasional extravagance of Henry, joined to
his impolitic generosity to his favorites, repeatedly compelled him to throw
himself on the voluntary benevolence of the nation. Year after year the King
petitioned for a subsidy, and each petition was met with a contemptuous
refusal. If the barons at last relented, it was always on conditions most
painful to his feelings. They obliged him to acknowledge his former
misconduct, to confirm anew the two charters, and to promise the immediate
dismissal of the foreigners. ^1 But Henry looked only to the present moment:
no sooner were his coffers replenished than he forgot his promises and laughed
at their credulity. Distress again forced him to solicit relief, and to offer
the same conditions. Unwilling to be duped a second time, the barons required
his oath. He swore, and then violated his oath with as much indifference as
he had violated his promise. His next applications were treated with scorn;
but he softened their opposition by offering to submit to excommunication if
he should fail to observe his engagements. In the great hall of Westminster
the King, barons, and prelates assembled; the sentence was pronounced by the
bishops with the usual solemnity; and Henry, placing his hand on his breast,
added, "So help me God, I will observe these charters, as I am a Christian, a
knight, and a king crowned and anointed." The aid was granted, and the King
reverted to his former habits.

[Footnote 1: Thus was gradually introduced what has since been considered the
constitutional method of opposing the measures of the Crown, the refusal of
the supplies for the current year. Henry's predecessors were too rich to
depend on the aid of their vassals: to resist their will with any hope of
success it was necessary to have recourse to the sword. But his poverty
compelled him annually to solicit relief, and to purchase it by concessions to
his parliament.]

It was not, however, that he was by inclination a vicious man. He had
received strong religious impressions; though fond of parade, he cautiously
avoided every scandalous excess; and his charity to the poor and attention to
the public worship were deservedly admired. But his judgment was weak. He
had never emancipated his mind from the tutelage in which it had been held in
his youth, and easily suffered himself to be persuaded by his favorites that
his promises were not to be kept, because they had been compulsory and
extorted from him in opposition to the just claims of his crown.

On the fall of Hubert de Burgh the King had given his confidence to his
former tutor, Peter the Poitevin, Bishop of Winchester. That the removal of
the minister would be followed by the dismissal of the other officers of
government, and that the favorite would employ the opportunity to raise and
enrich his relatives and friends, is not improbable; but it is difficult to
believe, on the unsupported assertion of a censorious chronicler, that Peter
could be such an enemy to his own interest as to prevail on the King to expel
all Englishmen from his court, and confide to Poitevins and Bretons the guard
of his person, the receipt of his revenue, the administration of justice, the
custody of all the royal castles, the wardship of all the young nobility, and
the marriages of the principal heiresses. But the ascendency of the
foreigners, however great it might be, was not of very long duration. The
barons refused to obey the royal summons to come to the council: the Earl
Marshal unfurled the standard of rebellion in Wales, and the clergy joined
with the laity in censuring the measures of government. Edmund, the new
archbishop of Canterbury, attended by several other prelates, waited on Henry.
He reminded the King that his father, by pursuing similar counsels, had nearly
forfeited the crown; assured him that the English would never submit to be
trampled upon by strangers in their own country; and declared that he should
conceive it his duty to excommunicate every individual, whoever he might be,
that should oppose the reform of the government and the welfare of the nation.
Henry was alarmed, and promised to give him an answer in a few weeks. A
parliament of the barons was called, and Edmund renewed his remonstrance. The
Poitevins were instantly dismissed, the insurgents restored to favor, and
ministers appointed who possessed the confidence of the nation.

At the age of twenty-nine the King had married Eleanor, the daughter of
Raymond, Count of Provence. The ceremony of her coronation, the offices of
the barons, the order of the banquet, and the rejoicings of the people are
minutely described by the historian, who, in the warmth of his admiration,
declares that the whole world could not produce a more glorious and ravishing
spectacle. Eleanor had been accompanied to England by her uncle William,
Bishop-elect of Valence, who soon became the King's favorite, was admitted
into the council, and assumed the ascendency in the administration. The
barons took the first opportunity to remonstrate; but Henry mollified their
anger by adding three of their number to the council, and, that he might be
the more secure from their machinations, obtained from the Pope a legate to
reside near his person. This was the cardinal Otho, who employed his
influence to reconcile Henry with the most discontented of the barons. By his
advice William returned to the Continent. He died in Italy, but the King,
mindful of his interests, had previously procured his election to the see of
Winchester, vacant by the death of Peter des Roches.

The next favorites were two other uncles of the Queen, Peter de Savoy, to
whom Henry gave the honor of Richmond, and Boniface de Savoy, who, at the
death of Edmund, was chosen archbishop of Canterbury. The natives renewed
their complaints, and waited with impatience for the return of Richard, the
King's brother, from Palestine; but that Prince was induced to espouse the
cause of the foreigners, and to marry Sanchia, another of the daughters of
Raymond. But now Isabella, the Queen-mother, dissatisfied that the family of
Provence should monopolize the royal favor, sent over her children by her
second husband, the Count de la Marche, to make their fortunes in England.
Alice, her daughter, was married to the young Earl of Warenne; Guy, the eldest
son, received some valuable presents and returned to France; William de
Valence, with the order of knighthood, obtained an annuity and the honor of
Hertford; and Aymar was sent to Oxford, preferred to several benefices, and at
last made bishop of Winchester.

Associations were formed to redress the grievances of the nation: under
the decent pretext of preventing the misapplication of the revenue, a demand
was repeatedly made that the appointment of the officers of state should be
vested in the great council; and at length the constitution was entirely
overturned by the bold ambition of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.

Simon was the younger of the two sons of the Count de Montfort, a name
celebrated in the annals of religious warfare. By the resignation of Amauri,
his brother, the constable of France, he had succeeded to the estates of his
mother Amicia, the elder of the two sisters and coheiresses of the late Earl
of Leicester: his subsequent marriage with Eleanor, the King's sister, had
brought within his view the prospect of a crown; and his marked opposition to
the extortions of the King and the pontiffs had secured to him, though a
foreigner, the affection of the nobility, the clergy, and the people. Policy
required that the King should not provoke, nor should oppress, so formidable a
subject. But Henry did neither: he on some occasions employed the Earl in
offices of trust and importance; on others, by a succession of petty affronts,
irritated instead of subduing his spirit. Among the inhabitants of Guienne
there were many whose wavering fidelity proved a subject of constant
solicitude; and Simon had been appointed, by patent, governor of the province
for five years, with the hope that his activity and resolution would crush the
disaffected and secure the allegiance of the natives. They were to the earl
years of continual exertion: his conduct necessarily begot enemies; and he was
repeatedly accused to the King of peculation, tyranny, and cruelty. How far
the charges were true it is impossible to determine; but his accusers were the
Archbishop of Bordeaux and the chief of the Gascon nobility, who declared
that, unless justice were done to their complaints, their countrymen would
seek the protection of a different sovereign. When Simon appeared before his
peers, he was accompanied by Richard, the King's brother, and the earls of
Gloucester and Hereford, who had engaged to screen him from the royal
resentment; and the King, perceiving that he could not procure the
condemnation of the accused, vented his passion in intemperate language. In
the course of the altercation the word "traitor" inadvertently fell from his
lips. "Traitor!" exclaimed the earl; "if you were not a king, you should
repent of that insult."

"I shall never repent of anything so much," replied Henry, "as that I
allowed you to grow and fatten within my dominions." By the interposition of
their common friends they were parted. Henry conferred the duchy and
government of Guienne on his son Edward, but the earl returned to the
province, nor would he yield up his patent without a considerable sum as a
compensation for the remaining years of the grant. Fearing the King's enmity,
he retired into France, and was afterward reconciled to him through the
mediation of the Bishop of Lincoln.

Though Richard had frequently joined the barons in opposing his brother,
he could never be induced to invade the just rights of the crown. He was as
much distinguished by his economy as Henry was by his profusion; and the care
with which he husbanded his income gave him the reputation of being the most
opulent prince of Europe. Yet he allowed himself to be dazzled with the
splendor of royalty, and incautiously sacrificed his fortune to his ambition.
In the beginning of the year 1256 the archbishops of Cologne and Mainz, with
the Elector Palatine, chose him at Frankfort king of the Romans; and a few
weeks later the Archbishop of Triers, the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Saxony,
and the Marquis of Brandenburg, the other four electors, gave their suffrages
in favor of Alphonso, King of Castile. It was, however, in an evil hour for
Henry that Richard departed for Germany. The discontented barons, no longer
awed by his presence, associated to reform the State, under the guidance of
the Earl of Leicester, high steward, the Earl of Hereford, high constable, the
Earl Marshal, and the Earl of Gloucester. The circumstances of the times were
favorable to their views. An unproductive harvest had been followed by a
general scarcity, and the people were willing to attribute their misery, not
to the inclemency of the seasons, but to the incapacity of their governors.
Henry called a great council at Westminster, and on the third day the barons
assembled in the hall in complete armor. When the King entered, they put
aside their swords; but Henry, alarmed at their unusual appearance, exclaimed,
"Am I then your prisoner?" "No, sire," replied Roger Bigod, "but by your
partiality to foreigners, and your own prodigality, the realm is involved in
misery. Wherefore we demand that the powers of government be delegated to a
committee of barons and prelates, who may correct abuses and enact salutary
laws." Some altercation ensued, and high words passed between the Earl of
Leicester and William de Valence, one of the King's brothers. Henry, however,
found it necessary to submit; and it was finally agreed that he should solicit
the Pope to send a legate to England and modify the terms on which he had
accepted the kingdom of Sicily; that he should give a commission to reform the
State to twenty-four prelates and barons, of whom one-half had been already
selected from his council, the other half should be named by the barons
themselves in a parliament to be held at Oxford; and that, if he faithfully
observed these conditions, measures should be taken to pay his debts, and to
prosecute the claim of Edmund to the crown of the two Sicilies.

At the appointed day the great council, distinguished in our annals by
the appellation of the "Mad Parliament," assembled at Oxford. The barons, to
intimidate their opponents, were attended by their military tenants, and took
an oath to stand faithfully by each other, and to treat as "a mortal enemy"
every man who should abandon their cause. The committee of reform was
appointed. Among the twelve selected by Henry were his nephew the son of
Richard, two of his half-brothers, and the great officers of state; the
leaders of the faction were included in the twelve named by the barons. Every
member was sworn to reform the state of the realm, to the honor of God, the
service of the King, and the benefit of the people; and to allow no
consideration, "neither of gift nor promise, profit nor loss, love nor hatred
nor fear," to influence him in the discharge of his duty. Each twelve then
selected two of their opponents; and to the four thus selected was intrusted
the charge of appointing fifteen persons to form the council of state. Having
obtained the royal permission, they proceeded to make the choice with apparent
impartiality. Both parties furnished an equal number; and at their head was
placed Boniface, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, if he were connected with
the court from his relationship to the Queen, was also known to lean to the
popular faction, through his jealousy of the superior influence of the King's
half-brothers. In reality, however, these elections proved the declining
influence of the Crown; for, while the chiefs of the reformers were named,
Henry's principal friends, his nephew and his brothers, had been carefully
excluded. In a short time the triumph of Leicester was complete. The
justiciary, the chancellor, the treasurer, all the sheriffs, and the governors
of the principal castles belonging to the King, twenty in number, were
removed, and their places were supplied by the chiefs of the reformers, or the
most devoted of their adherents. The new justiciary took an oath to
administer justice to all persons, according to the ordinances of the
committee; the chancellor not to put the great seal to any writ which had not
the approbation of the King and the privy council, nor to any grant without
the consent of the great council, nor to any instrument whatever which was not
in conformity with the regulations of the committee; the governors of the
castles to keep them faithfully for the use of the King, and to restore them
to him or his heirs, and no others, on the receipt of an order from the
council; and at the expiration of twelve years to surrender them loyally on
the demand of the King. Having thus secured to themselves the sovereign
authority, and divested Henry of the power of resistance, the committee began
the work of reform by ordaining: 1. That four knights should be chosen by the
freeholders of each county to ascertain and lay before the parliament the
trespasses, excesses, and injuries committed within the county under the royal
administration; 2. That a new high sheriff should be annually appointed for
each county by the votes of the freeholders; 3. That all sheriffs, and the
treasurer, chancellor, and justiciary should annually give in their accounts;
4. And that parliaments should meet thrice in the year, in the beginning of
the months of February, June, and October. They were, however, careful that
these assemblies should consist entirely of their own partisans. Under the
pretext of exonerating the other members from the trouble and expense of such
frequent journeys, twelve persons were appointed as representatives of the
commonalty, that is, the whole body of earls, barons, and tenants of the
Crown; and it was enacted that whatever these twelve should determine, in
conjunction with the council of state, should be considered as the act of the
whole body.

These innovations did not, however, pass without opposition. Henry, the
son of the King of the Romans, Aymar, Guy and William, half-brothers to the
King, and the Earl of Warenne, members of the committee, though they were
unable to prevent, considerably retarded, the measures of the reformers, and
nourished in the friends of the monarch a spirit of resistance which might
ultimately prove fatal to the projects of Leicester and his associates. It
was resolved to silence them by intimidation. They were required to swear
obedience to the ordinances of the majority of the members; proposals were
made to resume all grants of the crown, from which the three brothers derived
their support; and several charges of extortion and trespass were made in the
king's courts not only against them, but also against the fourth brother,
Geoffrey de Valence. Fearing for their liberty or lives, they all retired
secretly from Oxford, and fled to Wolvesham, a castle belonging to Aymar, as
bishop-elect of Winchester. They were pursued and surrounded by the barons:
their offer to take the oath of submission was now refused; and of the
conditions proposed to them the four brothers accepted as the most eligible,
to leave the kingdom, taking with them six thousand marks, and trusting the
remainder of their treasures and the rents of their lands to the honor of
their adversaries.

Their departure broke the spirit of the dissidents. John de Warenne and
Prince Henry successively took the oath: even Edward, the King's eldest son,
reluctantly followed their example, and was compelled to recall the grants
which he had made to his uncles of revenues in Guienne, and to admit of four
reformers as his council for the administration of that duchy. To secure
their triumph a royal order was published that all the lieges should swear to
observe the ordinances of the council; and a letter was written to the Pope in
the name of the parliament, complaining of the King's brothers, soliciting the
deposition of the Bishop of Winchester, and requesting the aid of a legate to
cooperate with them in the important task of reforming the state of the
kingdom.

In a short time Leicester was alarmed by the approach of a dangerous
visitor, Richard, King of the Romans. That Prince had squandered away an
immense mass of treasure in Germany, and was returning to replenish his
coffers by raising money on his English estates. At St. Omer, to his
surprise, he received a prohibition to land before he had taken an oath to
observe the provisions of reform, and not to bring the King's brothers in his
suite. His pride deemed the message an insult; but his necessities required
the prosecution of his journey, and he gave a reluctant promise to comply as
soon as he should receive the King's permission. At Canterbury Henry
signified his commands, and Richard took the oath.

Henry had been for two years the mere shadow of a king. The acts of
government, indeed, ran in his name; but the sovereign authority was exercised
without control by the lords of the council; and obedience to the royal orders
- when the King ventured to issue any orders - was severely punished as a
crime against the safety of the State. But if he were a silent, he was not an
inattentive, observer of the passing events. The discontent of the people did
not escape his notice; and he saw with pleasure the intestine dissensions
which daily undermined the power of the faction. The earls of Leicester and
Gloucester pursued opposite interests and formed two opposite parties.
Leicester, unwilling to behold the ascendency of his rival, retired into
France; and Gloucester discovered an inclination to be reconciled to his
sovereign. But to balance this advantage Prince Edward, who had formerly
displayed so much spirit in vindicating the rights of the crown, joined the
Earl of Leicester, their most dangerous enemy; and this unexpected connection
awakened in the King's mind the suspicion of a design to depose him and place
his son on the throne. In these dispositions of enmity, jealousy, and
distrust the barons assembled in London to meet Henry in parliament. But each
member was attended by a military guard; his lodgings were fortified to
prevent a surprise; the apprehension of hostilities confined the citizens
within their houses; and the concerns of trade with the usual intercourse of
society were totally suspended. After many attempts, the good offices of the
King of the Romans effected a specious but treacherous pacification; and the
different leaders left the parliament friends in open show, but with the same
feelings of animosity rankling in their breasts, and with the same projects
for their own aggrandizement and the depression of their opponents.

At length Henry persuaded himself that the time had arrived when he might
resume his authority. He unexpectedly entered the council, and in a tone of
dignity reproached the members with their affected delays and their breach of
trust. They had been established to reform the State, improve the revenue,
and discharge his debts; but they had neglected these objects, and had labored
only to enrich themselves and to perpetuate their own power. He should,
therefore, no longer consider them as his council, but employ such other
remedies as he thought proper. He immediately repaired to the Tower, which
had lately been fortified; seized on the treasure in the mint; ordered the
gates of London to be closed; compelled all the citizens above twelve years of
age to swear fealty in their respective wardmotes; and by proclamation
commanded the knights of the several counties to attend the next parliament in
arms. The barons immediately assembled their retainers, and marched to the
neighborhood of the capital; but each party, diffident of its strength,
betrayed an unwillingness to begin hostilities; and it was unanimously agreed
to postpone the discussion of their differences till the return of Prince
Edward, who was in France displaying his prowess at a tournament. He returned
in haste, and, to the astonishment of all who were not in the secret, embraced
the interests of the barons.

Henry, however, persevered in his resolution. By repeated desertions the
party of his enemies had been reduced to the two earls of Leicester and
Gloucester, the grand justiciary, the Bishop of Worcester, and Hugh de
Montfort, whose principal dependence was on the oath which the King and the
nation had taken to observe the Provisions of Oxford. To this argument it was
replied that the same authority which enacted the law was competent to repeal
it; and that an oath which should deprive the parliament of such right was in
its own nature unjust and consequently invalid. For greater security,
however, the King applied to Pope Alexander, who by several bulls released
both him and the nation from their oaths, on the principle that the Provisions
of Oxford were injurious to the State, and therefore incompatible with their
previous obligations. These bulls Henry published, appointed a new justiciary
and chancellor, removed the officers of his household, revoked to himself the
custody of the royal castles, named new sheriffs in the counties, and by
proclamation announced that he had resumed the exercise of the royal
authority. This was followed by another proclamation to refute the false
reports circulated by the barons.

The King, now finding himself at liberty, was induced to visit Louis of
France; and Leicester embraced the opportunity to return to England and
reorganize the association which had so lately been dissolved. His hopes of
success were founded on the pride and imprudence of Prince Edward, who,
untaught by experience, had called around him a guard of foreigners, and
intrusted to their leaders the custody of his castles. Such conduct not only
awakened the jealousy of the barons, but alienated the affections of the
royalists. Henry, at his return, aware of the designs of his enemies, ordered
the citizens of London, the inhabitants of the Cinque Ports, and the principal
barons, and afterward all freemen throughout the kingdom, to swear fealty not
only to himself but, in the event of his death, to his eldest son the Prince
Edward. To the second oath the Earl of Gloucester objected. He was
immediately joined at Oxford by his associates; and in a few days the Earl of
Leicester appeared at their head. With the royal banner displayed before
them, they took Gloucester, Worcester, and Bridgenorth; ravaged without mercy
the lands of the royalists, the foreigners, and the natives who refused to
join their ranks, and, augmenting their numbers as they advanced, directed
their march toward London. In London the aldermen and principal citizens were
devoted to the King: the mayor and the populace openly declared for the
barons. Henry was in possession of the Tower; and Edward, after taking by
force one thousand marks out of the temple, hastened to throw himself into the
castle of Windsor, the most magnificent palace, if we may believe a
contemporary, then existing in Europe. The Queen attempted to follow her son
by water; but the populace insulted her with the most opprobrious epithets,
discharged volleys of filth into the royal barge, and prepared to sink it with
large stones as it should pass beneath the bridge. The mayor at length took
her under his protection and placed her in safety in the episcopal palace near
St. Paul's.

The King of the Romans now appeared again on the scene in the quality of
mediator. The negotiation lasted three weeks: but Henry was compelled to
yield to the increasing power of his adversaries; and it was agreed that the
royal castles should once more be intrusted to the custody of the barons, the
foreigners be again banished, and the Provisions of Oxford be confirmed,
subject to such alterations as should be deemed proper by a committee
appointed for that purpose. Henry returned to his palace at Westminster; new
officers of state were selected; and the King's concessions were notified to
the conservators of the peace in the several counties.

The King now found himself sufficiently strong to take the field. He was
disappointed in an attempt to obtain possession of Dover; but nearly succeeded
in surprising the Earl of Leicester, who with a small body of forces had
marched from Kenilworth to Southwark. Henry appeared on one side of the town,
the Prince on the other; and the royalists had previously closed the gates of
the city. So imminent was the danger that the Earl, who had determined not to
yield, advised his companions to assume the cross, and to prepare themselves
for death by the offices of religion. But the opportunity was lost by a
strict adherence to the custom of the times. A herald was sent to require him
to surrender; and in the mean while the populace, acquainted with the danger
of their favorite, burst open the gates and introduced him into the city.

The power of the two parties was now more equally balanced, and their
mutual apprehensions inclined them to listen to the pacific exhortations of
the bishops. It was agreed to refer every subject of dispute to the
arbitration of the King of France; an expedient which had been proposed the
last year by Henry, but rejected by Leicester. Louis accepted the honorable
office, and summoned the parties to appear before him at Amiens. The King
attended in person; the earl, who was detained at home in consequence of a
real or pretended fall from his horse, had sent his attorneys. Both parties
solemnly swore to abide by the decision of the French monarch. Louis heard
the allegations and arguments of each, consulted his court, and pronounced
judgment in favor of Henry. He annulled the Provisions of Oxford as
destructive of the rights of the crown and injurious to the interests of the
nation; ordered the royal castles to be restored; gave to the King the
authority to appoint all the officers of the state and of his household, and
to call to his council whomsoever he thought proper, whether native or
foreigner; reinstated him in the same condition in which he was before the
meeting of the "Mad Parliament," and ordered that all offences committed by
either party should be buried in oblivion. This award was soon afterward
confirmed by Pope Urban; and the Archbishop of Canterbury received an order to
excommunicate all who, in violation of their oaths, should refuse to submit to
it.

The barons had already taken their resolution. The moment the decision
was announced to them they declared that it was, on the face of it, contrary
to truth and justice, and had been procured by the undue influence which the
Queen of Louis, the sister-in-law to Henry, possessed over the mind of her
husband. Hostilities immediately recommenced; and as every man of property
was compelled to adhere to one of the two parties, the flames of civil war
were lighted up in almost every part of the kingdom. In the North, and in
Cornwall and Devon, the decided superiority of the royalists forced the
friends of the barons to dissemble their real sentiments; the midland counties
and the marches of Wales were pretty equally divided: but in the Cinque Ports,
the metropolis, and the neighboring districts Montfort ruled without
opposition. His partisan, Thomas Fitz-Thomas, had been intruded into the
office of mayor of London; and a convention for their mutual security had been
signed by that officer and the commonalty of the city on the one part, and the
earls of Leicester, Gloucester, and Derby, Hugh le Despenser, the grand
justiciary, and twelve barons on the other. In the different wardmotes every
male inhabitant above twelve years of age was sworn a member of the
association: a constable and marshal of the city were appointed; and orders
were given that at the sound of the great bell at St. Paul's all should
assemble in arms and obey the authority of these officers. The efficacy of the
new arrangements was immediately put to the test. Despenser, the justiciary,
came from the Tower, put himself at the head of the associated bands, and
conducted them to destroy the two palaces of the King of the Romans, at
Isleworth and Westminster, and the houses of the nobility and citizens known
or suspected to be attached to the royal cause. The justices of the king's
bench and the barons of the exchequer were thrown into prison; the moneys
belonging to foreign merchants and bankers, which for security had been
deposited in the churches, were carried to the Tower; and the Jews, to the
number of five hundred, men, women, and children, were conducted to a place of
confinement. Out of these, Despenser selected a few of the more wealthy, that
he might enrich himself by their ransom; the rest he abandoned to the cruelty
and rapacity of the populace, who, after stripping them of their clothes,
massacred them all in cold blood. Cock ben Abraham, who was considered the
most opulent individual in the kingdom, had been killed in his own house by
John Fitz-John, one of the barons. The murderer at first appropriated to
himself the treasure of his victim; but he afterward thought it more prudent
to secure a moiety, by making a present of the remainder to Leicester. ^1

[Footnote 1: The Earl of Gloucester also massacred the Jews in Canterbury; and
the Earl of Derby destroyed their houses at Worcester and compelled them to
receive baptism. As a justification, it was pretended that they were attached
to the King, had Greek fire in their possession, kept false keys to the gates,
and had made subterraneous passages from their houses leading under the
walls.]

"Mad Parliament:" Beginning Of England's House Of Commons
Author: Lingard, John

Part II.

Henry had summoned the tenants of the crown to meet him at Oxford; and
being joined by Comyn, Bruce, and Baliol, the lords of the Scottish borders,
unfurled his standard and placed himself at the head of the army. His first
attempts were successful. Northampton, Leicester, and Nottingham, three of
the strongest fortresses in the possession of the barons, were successively
reduced; and among the captives were reckoned Simon the eldest of Leicester's
sons, fourteen other bannerets, forty knights, and a numerous body of
esquires. From Nottingham he was recalled into Kent by the danger of his
nephew Henry, besieged in the castle of Rochester. At his approach the enemy,
who had taken and pillaged the city, retired with precipitation; and the King,
after an ineffectual attempt to secure the cooperation of the Cinque Ports,
fixed his head-quarters in the town of Lewes.

Leicester, having added a body of fifteen thousand citizens to his army,
marched from London, with a resolution to bring the controversy to an issue.
From Fletching he despatched a letter to Henry, protesting that neither he nor
his associates had taken up arms against the King, but against the evil
counsellors who enjoyed and abused the confidence of their sovereign. Henry
returned a public defiance, which was accompanied by a message from Prince
Edward and the King of the Romans, declaring in the name of the royal barons
that the charge was false; pronouncing Montfort and his adherents perjured;
and daring the earls of Leicester and Derby to appear in the King's court and
prove their assertion by single combat. After the observation of these forms,
which the feudal connection between the lord and the vassal was supposed to
make necessary, Montfort prepared for the battle. It was the peculiar talent
of this leader to persuade his followers that the cause in which they fought
was the cause of heaven. He represented to them that their objects were
liberty and justice; and that their opponent was a prince whose repeated
violation of the most solemn oaths had released them from their allegiance,
and had entailed on his head the curse of the Almighty. He ordered each man
to fasten a white cross on the breast and shoulder, and to devote the next
evening to the duties of religion. Early in the morning he marched forward,
and, leaving his baggage and standard on the summit of a hill, about two miles
from Lewes, descended into the plain. Henry's foragers had discovered and
announced his approach; and the royalists in three divisions silently awaited
the attack. Leicester, having called before the ranks the Earl of Gloucester
and several other young noblemen, bade them kneel down, and conferred on them
the order of knighthood; and the Londoners, who impatiently expected the
conclusion of the ceremony, rushed with loud shouts on the enemy. They were
received by Prince Edward, broken in a few minutes, and driven back as far as
the standard. Had the Prince returned from the pursuit, and fallen on the
rear of the confederates, the victory might have been secured. But he
remembered the insults which the citizens had offered to his mother, and the
excesses of which they had lately been guilty; the suggestions of prudence
were less powerful than the thirst of revenge; and the pursuit of the
fugitives carried him with the flower of the army four miles from the field of
battle. More than three thousand Londoners were slain; but the advantage was
dearly purchased by the loss of the victory and the ruin of the royal cause.
Leicester, who viewed with pleasure the thoughtless impetuosity of the Prince,
fell with the remainder of his forces on Henry and his brother. A body of
Scots, who fought on foot, was cut to pieces. Their leaders, John Comyn and
Robert de Bruce, ^1 were made prisoners: the same fate befell the King of the
Romans; and the combat was feebly maintained by the exertions and example of
Philip Basset, who fought near the person of Henry. But when that nobleman
sank through loss of blood, his retainers fled; the King, whose horse had been
killed under him, surrendered; and Leicester conducted the royal captive into
the priory. The fugitives, as soon as they learned the fate of their
sovereign, came back to share his captivity, and voluntarily yielded
themselves to their enemies.

[Footnote 1: Grandfather of King Robert Bruce, of Scotland.]

When Edward returned from the pursuit, both armies had disappeared. He
traversed the field, which was strewed with the bodies of the slain and the
wounded, anxiously, but fruitlessly, inquiring after his father. As he
approached Lewes, the barons came out, and, on the first shock, the earl
Warenne, with the King's half-brothers and seven hundred horse, fled to
Pevensey, whence they sailed to the Continent. Edward, with a strong body of
veterans from the Welsh marches, rode along the wall to the castle, and
understanding that his father was a captive in the priory, obtained permission
to visit him from Leicester. An unsuccessful attempt made by the barons
against the castle revived his hopes; he opened a negotiation with the chiefs
of the party; and the next morning was concluded the treaty known by the name
of "the Mise of Lewes." By this it was agreed that all prisoners taken during
the war should be set at liberty; that the princes Edward and Henry should be
kept as hostages for the peaceable conduct of their fathers, the King of
England and the King of the Romans; and that all matters which could not be
amicably adjusted in the next parliament should be referred to the decision of
certain arbitrators. In the battle of Lewes about five thousand men are said
to have fallen on each side.

By this victory the royal authority was laid prostrate at the feet of
Leicester. The scheme of arbitration was merely a blind to deceive the
vulgar: his past conduct had proved how little he was to be bound by such
decisions; and the referees themselves, aware of the probable result, refused
to accept the office. The great object of his policy was the preservation of
the ascendency which he had acquired. To Henry, who was now the convenient
tool of his ambition, he paid every exterior demonstration of respect, but
never suffered him to depart out of his custody; and, without consulting him,
affixed his seal to every order which was issued for the degradation of the
royal authority. The King of the Romans, a more resolute and dangerous enemy,
instead of being restored to liberty, was closely confined in the castle of
Wallingford, and afterward in that of Kenilworth; and the two princes were
confided to the custody of the new governor of Dover, with instructions to
allow of no indulgence which might facilitate their escape. Instead of
removing the sheriffs, a creature of Leicester was sent to each county with
the title of conservator of the peace. This officer was empowered to arrest
all persons who should carry arms without the King's special license; to
prevent all breaches of the peace; to employ the posse comitatus to apprehend
offenders; and to cause four knights to be chosen as the representatives of
the county in the next parliament.

In that assembly a new form of government was established, to last,
unless it were dissolved by mutual consent, till the compromise of Lewes had
been carried into full execution, not only in the reign of Henry, but also of
Edward, the heir-apparent. This form had been devised by the heads of the
faction to conceal their real views from the people; and was so contrived that
they retained in their own hands the sovereign authority, while to the
superficial observer they seemed to have resigned it to the King and his
council. It was enacted that Henry should delegate the power of choosing his
counsellors to a committee of three persons, whose proceedings should be
valid, provided they were attested by the signatures of two of the number. The
King immediately issued a writ to the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of
Gloucester, and the Bishop of Chichester, authorizing them to appoint in his
name a council of nine members; nor were they slow in selecting for that
purpose the most devoted of their adherents. The powers given to this council
were most extensive, and to be exercised without control whenever the
parliament was not sitting. Besides the usual authority it possessed the
appointment of all the officers of state, of all the officers of the
household, and of all the governors of the royal castles. Three were ordered
to be in constant attendance on the King's person; all were to be summoned on
matters of great importance; and a majority of two-thirds was required to give
a sanction to their decisions. Hitherto the original committee seemed to have
been forgotten; but it was contrived that when the council was so divided that
the consent of two-thirds could not be obtained, the question should be
reserved for the determination of the three electors, an artifice by which,
under the modest pretence of providing against dissension, they invested
themselves with the sovereign authority. By additional enactments it was
provided that no foreigner, though he might go or come, or reside peaceably,
should be employed under the government; that past offences should be mutually
forgiven; that the two charters, the provisions made the last year, in
consequence of the Statutes of Oxford, and all the ancient and laudable
customs of the realm, should be inviolably observed; and that three prelates
should be appointed to reform the state of the Church, and to procure for the
clergy, with the aid of the civil power if necessary, full compensation for
their losses during the late troubles.

The earl was now in reality possessed of more extensive authority than
Henry had ever enjoyed; but he soon discovered that to retain the object of
his ambition would require the exertion of all his powers. The cause of the
captive monarch was ardently espoused by foreign nations and by the sovereign
pontiff. Adventurers from every province of France crowded to the royal
standard which Queen Eleanor had erected at Damme in Flanders; and a numerous
fleet assembled in the harbor to transport to England the thousands who had
sworn to humble the pride of a disloyal and aspiring subject. To oppose them
Leicester had summoned to the camp on Barham downs, not only the King's
military tenants, but the whole force of the nation, ^1 and, taking on himself
the command of the fleet, cruised in the narrow seas to intercept the
invaders. But the winds seemed to be leagued with the earl; the Queen's army
was detained for several weeks in the vicinity of Damme; and the mercenaries
gradually disbanded themselves, when the short period for which they had
contracted to serve was expired. At the same time the Pontiff had
commissioned Guido, Cardinal Bishop of Sabina, to proceed to England, and take
Henry under the papal protection; but, deterred by the hint of a conspiracy
against his life from crossing the sea, he excommunicated the barons unless
before the 1st of September they should restore the King to all his rights,
and at the same time summoned four of the English prelates to appear before
him at Boulogne. After much tergiversation these obeyed, but appealed from
his jurisdiction to the equity of the Pope or a general council; and though
they consented to bring back a sentence of excommunication against the King's
enemies, they willingly suffered it to be taken from them by the officers at
Dover. Their appeal was approved by the convocation of the clergy, and Guido,
after publishing the excommunication himself at Hesdin, returned to Rome,
where he was elevated to the chair of St. Peter by the name of Clement IV.

[Footnote 1: The military tenants were ordered under the penalty of felony to
bring into the field not only the force specified by their tenures, but all
the horsemen and infantry in their power: every township was compelled to send
eight, six, or four footmen well armed with lances, bows and arrows, swords,
crossbows, and hatchets, who should serve forty days at the expense of the
township; and the cities and burghs received orders to furnish as many
horsemen and footmen as the sheriff might appoint. No excuse was to be
allowed on account of the shortness of the time, the approach of the harvest,
or any other private inconvenience.]

During the summer Leicester had been harassed with repeated solicitations
for the release of the two princes, Edward and Henry. In the winter he
pretended to acquiesce, and convoked a parliament to meet after Christmas for
the avowed purpose of giving the sanction of the legislature to so important a
measure. But the extraordinary manner in which this assembly was constituted
provoked a suspicion that his real object was to consolidate and perpetuate
his own power. Only those prelates and barons were summoned who were known to
be attached to his party; and the deficiency was supplied by representatives
from the counties, cities, and boroughs who, as they had been chosen through
his influence, proved the obsequious ministers of his will. Several weeks
were consumed in private negotiation with Henry and his son. Leicester was
aware of the untamable spirit of Edward, nor would he consent that the Prince
should exchange his confinement for the company of his father on any other
terms than that he should still remain under the inspection of his keepers,
and evince his gratitude for the indulgence by ceding to the earl and his
heirs the county of Chester, the castle of Pec, and the town of
Newcastle-under-Lyne; in exchange for which he should receive other lands of
the same annual value. At length the terms were settled, and confirmed by the
parliament, with every additional security which the jealousy of the faction
could devise. It was enacted "by common consent of the King, his son Edward,
the prelates, earls, barons, and commonalty of the realm," that the charters
and the ordinances should be inviolably observed; that neither the King nor
the Prince should aggrieve the earl or his associates for their past conduct;
that if they did, their vassals and subjects should be released from the
obligation of fealty till full redress were obtained, and their abettors
should be punished with exile and forfeiture; that the barons, whom the King
had defied before the battle of Lewes, should renew their homage and fealty;
but on the express condition that such homage and fealty should be no longer
binding if he violated his promise; that the command of the royal castles
should be taken from suspected persons and intrusted to officers of approved
loyalty; that the Prince should not leave the realm for three years, under
pain of disherison; that he should not choose his advisers and companions
himself, but receive them from the council of state; that with his father's
consent he should put into the hands of the barons for five years, five royal
castles, as securities for his behavior, and should deliver to Leicester the
town and castle of Bristol in pledge till a full and legal transfer should be
made of Chester, Pec, and Newcastle; that both Henry and Edward should swear
to observe all these articles, and not to solicit any absolution from their
oath, nor make any use of such absolution, if it were to be pronounced by the
Pope; and lastly, that they should cause the present agreement "To be
confirmed in the best manner that might be devised, in Ireland, in Gascony, by
the King of Scotland, and in all lands subject to the King of England." These
were terms which nothing but necessity could have extorted; and to add to
their stability, they were for the most part embodied in the form of a writ,
signed by the King, and sent to the sheriffs, with orders to publish them in
the full court of each county twice every year.

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. ^1 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.

[Footnote 1: It is amusing to compare the opposite writers of this period.
Wikes and the letter-writer in Westminster are royalists, and severely censur
the ambition and treason of Leicester, but, in the estimation of the
chroniclers of Dunstable and of Waverly, he lived a saint and died a martyr.]

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. At last, reinforced by a party of Welshmen, the Earl
marched to the south, took and destroyed the castle of Monmouth, and fixed his
head-quarters at Newport. Here he expected a fleet of transports to convey
him to Bristol; but the galleys of the Earl of Gloucester blockaded the mouth
of the Avon; and Edward, with the bravest of his knights, made an attempt on
the town of Newport itself. The part which lay on the left bank of the Usk
was carried; but the destruction of the bridge arrested the progress of the
victors, and Leicester, with his dispirited followers, escaped into Wales.

Misfortune now pressed on misfortune; and the last anchor of his hope was
broken by the defeat of his son Simon of Montfort. That young nobleman was
employed in the siege of Pevensey, on the coast of Sussex, when he received
the King's writ to repair to Worcester. On his march he sacked the city of
Winchester, the gates of which had been shut against him, passed peaceably
through Oxford, and reached the castle of Kenilworth, the principal residence
of his family. Here he remained for some days in heedless security, awaiting
the orders of his father. Margot, a woman who in male attire performed the
office of a spy, informed the Prince that Simon lay in the priory, and his
followers in the neighboring farmhouses. Edward immediately formed the design
of surprising them in their beds; and marching from Worcester in the evening,
arrived at Kenilworth about sunrise the next morning. Twelve bannerets with
all their followers were made prisoners; and their horses and treasures repaid
the industry of the captors. Simon alone with his pages escaped naked into
the castle.

Leicester on the same day had crossed the Severn by a ford, and halted at
Kempsey, about three miles from Worcester. Happy to find himself at last on
the left bank of the river, and ignorant of the fate of his son and the
motions of the enemy, he proceeded to Evesham, with the intention of
continuing his march the next morning for Kenilworth. The Prince had returned
with his prisoners to Worcester, but left the city in the evening, and, to
mask his real design, took the road which leads to Bridgenorth. He passed the
river near Clains, and, wheeling to the right, arrived before sunrise in the
neighborhood of Evesham. He took his station on the summit of a hill in the
direction of Kenilworth; two other divisions, under the Earl of Gloucester and
Roger de Mortimer, occupied the remaining roads. As the royalists bore the
banners of their captives, they were taken by the enemy for the army of Simon
de Montfort. But the mistake was soon discovered. Leicester, from an
eminence, surveyed their numbers and disposition, and was heard to exclaim,
"The Lord have mercy on our souls, for our bodies are Prince Edward's."
According to his custom he spent some time in prayer, and received the
sacrament. His first object was to force his way through the division on the
hill. Foiled in this attempt, and in danger of being surrounded, he ordered
his men to form a circle, and oppose on all sides the pressure of the enemy.
For a while the courage of despair proved a match for the superiority of
numbers. The old King, who had been compelled to appear in the ranks, was
slightly wounded, and as he fell from his horse would probably have been
killed had he not cried out to his antagonist, "Hold, fellow! I am Harry of
Winchester." The Prince knew the voice of his father, sprang to his rescue,
and conducted him to a place of safety. During his absence Leicester's horse
was killed under him; and, as he fought on foot, he asked if they gave
quarter. A voice replied, "There is no quarter for traitors." Henry de
Montfort, his eldest son, who would not leave his side, fell at his feet. His
dead body was soon covered by that of the father. The royalists obtained a
complete but sanguinary victory. Of Leicester's partisans all the barons and
knights were slain, with the exception of about ten, who were afterward found
breathing, and were cured of their wounds. The foot soldiers of the royal
army - so we are told to save the honor of the leaders - offered to the body
of the earl every indignity. His mangled remains were afterward collected by
the King's orders and buried in the church of the abbey.

By this victory the sceptre was replaced in the hands of Henry. With
their leader, the hopes of the barons had been extinguished: they
spontaneously set at liberty the prisoners who had been detained since the
battle of Lewes, and anxiously awaited the determination of the Parliament,
which had been summoned to meet at Winchester. In that assembly it was
enacted that all grants and patents issued under the King's seal during the
time of his captivity should be revoked; that the citizens of London, for
their obstinacy and excesses, should forfeit their charter; that the Countess
of Leicester and her family should quit the kingdom; and that the estates of
all who had adhered to the late earl should be confiscated. The rigor of the
last article was afterward softened by a declaration, in which the King
granted a free pardon to those who could show that their conduct had not been
voluntary, but the effect of compulsion. These measures, however, were not
calculated to restore the public tranquillity. The sufferers, prompted by
revenge, or compelled by want, had again recourse to the sword; the mountains,
forests, and morasses furnished them with places of retreat; and the flames of
predatory warfare were kindled in most parts of the kingdom. 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 preeminence 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 preeminence, 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
tranquillity 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.


 

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