Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: E, 1314-1337. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1903.
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Letter-Book E, otherwise known as the White Book of Memoranda, (fn. 1) carries us down from A. D. 1313 to 1337. The book, as already narrated, (fn. 2) was for "a long seasoun" lost to the City, and was only recovered through the good offices of a Common Serjeant of Henry VIII.'s time, and the disbursement by the civic authorities of the sum of 20s.-no inconsiderable sum in those days.
The period covered by the volume cannot be said to be lacking in interest, embracing, as it does, the last years of the struggle of Edward II. with the Earl of Lancaster and the Ordainers; the rise and fall of the Despensers, who had succeeded to the royal favour enjoyed by Gavestone; the renewal of the war with Scotland, which affected the citizens of London by the repeated calls it entailed for money and men; the King's deposition and tragic death, and the accession of his son, Edward III.; the disgrace of Queen Isabella, and the fall of her paramour Mortimer. Nevertheless, it may be doubted if any of these events exercised the minds of the citizens at large so much as the proceedings of the Justiciars sent by Edward II. to hold an Iter at the Tower in 1321, or the commercial policy pursued by Edward III.
The war with Scotland was resumed in 1314, notification of the King's purpose being made to the City by a writ addressed to the Mayor and Sheriffs from Peterborough, bidding them take steps for preserving peace within their walls during his absence in the North. (fn. 3) The campaign proved a disastrous one, for in June the battle of Bannockburn was fought, the King was defeated, and the flower of the English army made prisoners by Bruce. In the following November, as we have already seen, (fn. 4) the City was called upon to furnish a number of arbalesters equipped with cross-bows, quarels, "quyvres," &c., for the defence of Berwick-on-Tweed.
The time was somewhat inopportune for asking the citizens to forego their prescriptive rights (fn. 5) by furnishing a contingent to serve beyond the City and its liberties, seeing that as recently as the 24th October the King had threatened to send his Justices into the City to inquire into the conduct of every Sheriff and Sheriff's officer who had held office since his accession to the throne, and had even gone so far as to bid the Sheriffs for the time being to discharge every subordinate, whether of Mayor or Sheriff, who had been employed during that period, pending such inquiry. (fn. 6) That the King's Justices should presume to enter the Guildhall and intermeddle in matters which "by ancient custom" could only be determined by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs for the time being was too flagrant a breach of the City's liberties to be allowed to pass unchallenged, and a formal complaint was made which led to the Justices adjourning the session and not appearing again. (fn. 7)
Notwithstanding the increased friction that must have been caused by this high-handed action on the part of the King, the citizens responded readily to the call to arms, and dispatched 120 men (whose names have been handed down to us) (fn. 8) to Berwick, their equipment being forwarded by horses and carts, a journey occupying seventeen days.
Four years later the City was called upon to furnish a contingent of 500 foot soldiers for Scotland. In April, 1318, the Scots had taken Berwick, and stress of circumstances had induced the King to meet the Barons at St. Paul's and to enter into a reconciliation. (fn. 9) In the following August two writs (fn. 10) were dispatched to the civic authorities in quick succession to prepare the force required. John de Wengrave, the Mayor, lost no time in summoning the Aldermen and Commonalty, and after due consideration it was agreed to provide 200 men, every citizen of the better class being called upon to supply a soldier. Although the number agreed upon fell far short of that required, we read of no complaints being made on that score. In this case we not only have the names of the soldiers recorded, but the names of the citizens who were responsible for finding them. (fn. 11) One individual, Richard de Walyngford by name, who hindered the business of raising the contingent in some way or other not recorded, was promptly committed to prison. (fn. 12) The force was placed under two officers or "centurions"-each having 100 men under him-named Roger atte [or "de la"] Water and Manekyn le "Heaumer," or helmet-maker.
By November the danger in the North had for a while passed away, and by the 12th December the City had welcomed back its soldiers. Their conduct in the field had been such as to call forth a letter of commendation from the King, who promised that the City's having borne the expense of raising the contingent should not become a precedent. (fn. 13)
The war was not by any means at an end. In the following March (A. D. 1319) the City was asked for a loan of 1,000 marks to assist the King against the Scots. The money was granted under certain conditions, (fn. 14) and entrusted to William de Hakeford and John de Waldeshef to carry to Scotland, the King providing them with letters of protection. (fn. 15) Waldershef had only recently become a freeman of the City, the freedom having been conferred upon him, together with an annuity of 100s., in recognition of his services at the Parliament held at York in the preceding October (1318), (fn. 16) as well as his services as a lawyer. On that occasion he promised a faithful continuation of his services to the City. (fn. 17) A few years later-viz., in 1322 -we find him occupying a high legal office, viz., that of sworn Serjeant of the City, and at the same time in disgrace with his fellow-citizens for opposing a further grant of an aid to the King for the war in Scotland and stirring up strife. His conduct having been represented to the Mayor and Aldermen, an order for his attachment was issued, but before it could be executed he had made his escape from the City. He was condemned in his absence to lose his freedom and annuity, and was never again to plead in the Courts as counsel for the City or any other client. (fn. 18)
The troubles with Scotland had kept Edward II. so much employed in the North that for fifteen months- viz., from October, 1318, to January, 1320-the Court remained at York. From that city were dated the King's letters patent of the 8th June, 1319, sanctioning certain "New Articles" which the citizens of London had striven long and hard to obtain, and then only obtained at a cost of a large sum of money. (fn. 19) These articles are set out in the Letter-Book, (fn. 20) as well as an Inspeximus Charter of even date confirming the City's liberties. (fn. 21)
Of these articles I do not propose to take notice beyond directing attention to the article which declares that the Chamberlain, the Common Clerk (i. e., Town Clerk), and the Common Serjeant should be chosen by the Commonalty of the City and be removed at the will of the said Commonalty. It is remarkable that hitherto there appear to have been two distinct Chamberlains in the City-viz., the King's Chamberlain, known as Camerarius (or Captor) vinorum Regis, otherwise the King's Butler, and ipso facto the City Coroner (an officer appointed not by the City, but by the King), and the City's Chamberlain, or Chamberlain of the Guildhall; whereas after 1319 the former ceases to appear in the City's records in his style and title of Chamberlain, although surviving as King's Butler and Coroner. (fn. 22)
After the King had returned from France, whither he had gone in the summer of 1320 to do homage to the King of France for Aquitaine, he summoned a Parliament to meet at Westminster on the 6th October. (fn. 23) The whole country was in a disturbed state at the time, and an investigation was demanded as to various confederations for breach of the peace. The City itself was not spared. On the 20th November a writ was dispatched to the Sheriff to make preparation for an Iter to be held at the Tower by the King's Justiciars on the 14th Jan., 1321. (fn. 24)
An account of this memorable Iter-compiled in all probability by Andrew Horn, the first City Chamberlain elected after the "New Articles" had received the King's sanction- is given at considerable length in the 'Liber Custumarum,' (fn. 25) although but few references are made to it in the Letter-Book. The Judges continued to sit almost without intermission until the 18th March, inquiring into every petty grievance and the smallest detail of civic government (fn. 26) before turning their attention to the more serious business of Pleas of the Crown, and then an adjournment took place until a fortnight after Easter. When the Session was resumed it was soon apparent that a change had come over the Justiciars. They no longer-so runs the record-behaved like wolves eager for their prey, but were very lambs, (fn. 27) this change of front being accounted for by a threatened rising in the Marches under the Earl of Hereford. A deputation from the City had in the meantime waited on the King at his command, and a letter under the Common Seal had been entrusted to William de Hakeford (already mentioned), desiring his favour touching a Quo Warranto and other writs pending at the Iter, (fn. 28) and this may also have had something to do with the changed attitude of the Justiciars. However this may be, the Iter continued to drag along until Tuesday, the 30th June, on which day "all the bills and assizes were quashed and annulled, so that no pleas were pleaded except Pleas of the Crown and Quo Warranto such as were to be pleaded throughout, by precept of the King," the reason given being that the citizens had complained to the lord the King himself that they could not safeguard the City, owing to the business and turmoil of the Iter. (fn. 29) Four days later (4 July) the Iter was brought somewhat suddenly to a close, having lasted, to the great annoyance of the citizens, twenty-four weeks and three days. (fn. 30)
One of the matters for inquiry which had occupied the attention of the Justiciars, and led to disastrous consequences for the City, was an "appeal," originally made in 1314 by the widow of Robert de Brome de Lappeworthe against Henry de Braundestone and Edmund Wolmer for having caused the death of her husband. Wolmer absconded, and was not to be found, whilst Braundestone was allowed to find sureties for his appearance at the next Iter, "according to the custom of the City." This custom of allowing citizens appealed for death to find sureties for appearance was questioned by the King, who summoned the Mayor and Aldermen to come and certify him on the point. At first the summons was without effect. It is doubtful if it ever came into the hands of the Mayor and Aldermen. At length, however, they appeared and satisfied the King as to the validity of the custom, and the King's Justiciars were enjoined to allow the citizens all their ancient privileges, the widow being left to prosecute her suit at the next Iter, as already narrated.
Thus much in the Letter-Book. (fn. 31) The matter, however, was not allowed to rest here. From the record of the proceedings of the Iter of 1321 in the City's 'Liber Custumarum' (fn. 32) we learn that on the thirty-fourth day of the Iter, i.e., the 16th February, a presentment was made to the Justiciars to the effect that at the time Braundestone stood appealed for death he was not a freeman of the City, but that John de Gisors, who was then Mayor, knowing him to be so appealed, received him into the freedom for a sum of money in order that he might exercise the privilege of a citizen, and be replevined until the next Iter, and further, that the said Mayor caused his name to be inscribed on the Chamberlain's roll with others under a false date, so that his admission should appear to have taken place prior to the felony. In defence, Gisors alleged that Braundestone had been admitted to the freedom a month before the felony, and on this point he claimed a jury. A jury came and gave a verdict against him. Thereupon the Justiciars declared the custom abolished, and the Mayoralty taken into the King's hand, whilst they ordered Gisors into custody. The erstwhile Mayor, however, was soon released on mainprise at the King's intervention, and eventually got off on payment of a fine of 100 marks, whilst the felon recovered his liberty on surety in the following November.
Towards the close of the Iter a presentment was made to the Justiciars to the effect that certain Phelipers or Fripperers-men who dealt in old clothes, second-hand furniture, and other goods -were in the habit of exposing their wares for sale by night on Cornhill-in other words, holding an "evecheping"-in contravention of the ordinance which declared that no such market should be held except from sunrise until the hour of noon and not later. (fn. 33) Such conduct being calculated to foster deceit and to give opportunity for felonies, the Fripperers were enjoined not to expose their old clothes, shoes, and other wares for sale in future after the hour of vespers.
Some attempt appears to have been made on the part of the Fripperers to get this order set aside, for on the 15th July a writ of certiorari was sent to the Justiciars, who had but recently terminated their Iter, to inform the King as to the nature of the presentment made against the Fripperers. The attempt, if made, proved abortive, for a fortnight later (30 July) the King directed his writ to the Sheriffs to make proclamation enforcing the order of the Justiciars. (fn. 34) Here again we find the Letter-Book and the 'Liber Custumarum' supplementing each other, the former telling us that the orders of the Justiciars as well as of the King were alike disregarded by the Fripperers, who continued to sell their wares at an unlawful time. The Sheriffs were thereupon directed by the King to investigate the matter and punish the offenders. A jury was accordingly summoned, and a large number of both sexes were found guilty of unlawfully exposing their wares, whilst others were convicted of abetting them and disturbing the King's peace. This was in September (1321). Nothing, however, by way of punishment of the offenders appears to have been done until December, when the Sheriffs received another writ, which induced them to take more strenuous measures, and a few fripperers were committed to prison until discharged by fine. (fn. 35)
The Cappers of London were another body that fell foul of the Justiciars, being called upon to explain by what authority they made regulations for the making of caps, and caused caps made contrary to such regulations to be burnt. (fn. 36) But the Cappers in this respect were no worse off than the Vintners, Fishmongers, Butchers, and others, who were all made to feel more or less the heavy hand of Hervey de Stantone and his fellow-justices. (fn. 37)
A few months after the Justiciars had quitted the Tower the question arose as to what kind of compensation should be made to those who had served on the various juries during the Iter. It was no less a hardship in those days than now for merchants to be called away from their daily business to serve on a jury. In this case the juries had sat for many weeks in succession. A meeting of the citizens was held to discuss the matter, when it was decided to raise a sum of £1,000 by assessment, out of which Hamo de Chigwelle, the Mayor, was to receive 200 marks, Reginald de Conduit, one of the Sheriffs, half that sum, and the jurors were to be compensated out of the residue. (fn. 38) Pity for the juryman did not stop here, for the King himself, who was particularly desirous to keep well with the City at this juncture, gave orders to the Justiciars who had held the Iter to defray the reasonable expenses of the jurors, as had been accustomed at other Iters. (fn. 39)
Early in the following year-viz., on the 20th January, 1322- we find the Mayor explaining to the King by letter (fn. 40) the reason for the delay that had apparently taken place in proceeding to outlaw those who had been put in exigent at the Iter. The custom of the City demanded that such persons should be formally called at three separate Hustings if they were English, and four Hustings if foreigners. (fn. 41) As the Court of Husting only sat fortnightly, and held no session between 1st August and 13th October, (fn. 42) some months elapsed before the necessary Courts were held. The Mayor was now able to inform the King that the customary formalities had been gone through, and nothing remained but to proceed to outlawry (fn. 43) if he would accord his permission.
The City having been taken into the King's hand on the 23rd Feb., 1321, Farndone was deposed from the Mayoralty and the office committed to Sir Robert de Kendale, his commission being publicly read in the Guildhall the same day. (fn. 44) After a brief suspension of their liberties, however, the citizens were again permitted to elect a Mayor, and in May Hamo de Chigwelle, who had filled the office in 1319-20, was again elected. (fn. 45) Some limitation, however, appears to have been placed upon the restored Mayoralty, for in January, 1322, the citizens prayed the King to restore it "in the same state as before the taking of the City into his hand." (fn. 46) To this the King replied by permitting them to enjoy the Mayoralty as it then was (in statu quo) until the quinzaine of Easter. (fn. 47) It does not appear to have been fully restored before the 6th November, 1326. (fn. 48)
Be this as it may, the restoration of the Mayoralty in May, 1321, such as it was, synchronized curiously with a recrudescence of the trouble between the King and his favourites, the Despensers, father and son, on the one part, and the so-called "contrariants" on the other. Early in July matters were coming to a crisis. A strong party had been formed against the favourites, and they had been forcibly ousted from the possessions they had unlawfully seized in Wales. (fn. 49) The King became nervous, and sent for the Mayor and Aldermen to learn if he could depend upon their safeguarding the City on his behalf. They were able to satisfy him as to the loyalty of the citizens, and a scheme was drawn up for the City's defence which met with his approval. The keys of the City gates were put in commission, and certain wards deputed to guard each gate as well as the river and London Bridge. (fn. 50) On the 15th July Parliament met, (fn. 51) and shortly afterwards the disaffected lords made overtures to the City by letter. The letter was delivered to the Mayor and Aldermen as they sat in the Husting, and on its receipt they rose and went up into the Chamber of the Guildhall for the purpose of discussing it. They lost no time in asking the King's advice upon the matter, who told them to hold no intercourse with the lords, but to continue to hold the City for him as they had promised. Thereupon the Earl of Hereford, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, and other "contrariants" drew nearer to the City and took up their quarters, some at Clerkenwell, others at Holborn and the New Temple, and others in Smithfield. On Wednesday, 29th July, they again sent to the Mayor asking for an interview, and again the Mayor consulted the King, who no longer refused permission. The Recorder of the City, Robert de Swalclive, was accordingly selected to go with other good men the following day to meet the lords at the Earl of Lancaster's hostel in Holborn. There they interviewed the Earl of Hereford, who received them with all courtesy, and explained the aim and object of himself and his associates. They had come, he said, for the benefit of the King and the realm, and were bent on overthrowing the Despensers and their accomplices, who led the King astray, and were responsible for the recent Iter at the Tower for the purpose of injuring the City. Having listened to the Earl's statement, the Recorder and those with him asked for a week's delay in order to consult with the Mayor and Commonalty. This was granted, and the matter having been submitted to an assembly composed of twelve representatives from each of the wards and duly considered, it was resolved once again to seek the advice of the King. A deputation accordingly waited on the King on Thursday, the 6th August, but no answer was vouchsafed until the next day, when the King expressed a desire that the citizens would "not pledge themselves to maintain any quarrels," and declared his own wish to be to destroy every enemy, even though it were his own brother or son. The next day-viz., Saturday, 8th August-the City gave in its answer (fn. 52) to the Barons at the Priory of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield. It was to the effect that the Aldermen and good folk of the City wished them well, and prayed them to take no notice of evil reports of the City's attitude that were abroad. The writers declared further that they would give no assistance to the Despensers or to any other enemies of the King and country, and would not oppose any measures the Barons took for the good of the King and the realm. Finally, they prayed the Barons not to take it in bad part that the City was guarded night and day, for it was done in self-defence and for preservation of the King's peace as well as for the Barons themselves. With this answer the Barons expressed themselves satisfied. A week later (14 Aug.) they had brought the King to submission. A formal sentence of forfeiture and exile was passed in Parliament upon the Despensers, and a grant of pardon made to the prosecutors for all breaches of the law committed in bringing the accused to justice.
When the Feast of SS. Simon and Jude (28 Oct.) came round, and it behoved the citizens, under ordinary circumstances, to elect their Mayor for the year ensuing, Chigwelle was re-elected in the presence of "a very great commonalty." It is possible that the King's wishes may have been consulted in the matter, as stated by more than one chronicler, although there is no suggestion of royal influence having been brought to bear on the election as recorded in the City's Archives. (fn. 53) Instead of riding to Westminster the next day, as was then customary, to be admitted to office, Chigwelle introduced the novelty of going and returning by water. (fn. 54)
That the King should have permitted the citizens to elect their own Mayor on this occasion is not surprising, seeing that he had but recently invoked their aid to enable him to avenge an insult offered to the Queen by Lady Badlesmere. The Queen was on her way to Canterbury, and sought the hospitality of Leeds Castle, co. Kent, the mansion of Sir Bartholomew de Badlesmere, but found the gates closed against her by Lady Badlesmere in the absence of her husband. This insult provoked Edward to take up arms. The City sent him a contingent of four hundred men, (fn. 55) and with their aid he succeeded in capturing the castle (31 Oct.). Encouraged by his success, the King prepared to lead his forces against the Earl of Hereford and other disaffected lords, who, with a large force, had recently encamped at Kingston (fn. 56) in dangerous proximity to the City. The Earl of Pembroke, who had remained loyal to the King; was sent to confer with the civic authorities, but the precise object of his mission is left to conjecture. (fn. 57) On the 17th November the King complained to the Mayor that some of the "contrariants" were reported as having recently been received in the City, and the Mayor was warned against letting them take up their abode within the City's walls. To this the Mayor replied that search had been made for such men as the King had mentioned in his letter, but they could nowhere be found. If at any time they should be discovered, he promised to deal with them as the King had commanded, and he concluded his letter by repeating a request to the King that he would issue a royal commission authorizing the Mayor and Aldermen to punish all "contrariants" found in the City, at discretion. (fn. 58) Before the end of November this request was granted, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty giving their word to keep the City for the King under penalty, although refusing to bind themselves to that effect under the Common Seal; for, said they, "the Common Seal binds everybody, good and otherwise, and would imperil the good men in case of the bad men being guilty of misprision," an evil which they were sure the King did not desire. (fn. 59)
On learning that the King was making his way towards the Marches, the Earl of Lancaster, the leader of the "contrariants," summoned the lords of his party to meet at Doncaster on the 29th November, and prepared to render assistance to the Earl of Hereford. Whereupon the King issued his writ forbidding the meeting. (fn. 60) Once more Edward applied to the City for military aid, but this time he claimed it more as a matter of right than of favour. The citizens were willing enough to furnish a contingent of three hundred, but they objected to being forced to attend. (fn. 61) They were urgent, moreover, for a writ of Privy Seal to be addressed to the Chancellor to the effect that neither this grant nor that made to assist him in reducing Leeds Castle should be made a precedent, or act prejudicially to the City's franchise. The King was not satisfied with the small number of men offered, seeing that the City had assisted him with five hundred men in the war with Scotland and four hundred in his more recent expedition against Leeds Castle, and on the 10th December he issued a Writ of Privy Seal ordering Chigwelle either to increase the number or to come himself with all the great men of the City, without exception, in their own persons, with horses and arms in as great force as they were ever able (si aforceement come vous unqes purrez). (fn. 62) The effect of this was that the City consented to furnish four hundred men at the least, and if possible to increase the number to five hundred, whilst the Mayor renewed his application for the King's Writ of Privy Seal. He further expressed a hope that both the King and his Council would take into their favourable consideration the City's franchises and customs. (fn. 63) The citizens were not kept long in suspense. On the 13th December they were assured by letter of Privy Seal of the King's favour. He had already instructed the Keepers of the Great Seal to make out letters patent (fn. 64) (still preserved among the City's Archives) certifying that the assistance sent to Leeds should not be made a precedent; and as for the City's franchises, he assured them that he and his Council would give reasonable satisfaction. (fn. 65)
In the meantime, viz., on the 1st December, Convocation had met at St. Paul's, and had expressed their opinion that the proceedings against the Despensers in the last Parliament had been illegal. (fn. 66) A week later (8 December) the King issued letters of protection in favour of the younger Despenser, (fn. 67) whilst similar letters (not recorded in the Letter-Book) were issued in favour of the elder Despenser on Christmas Day, (fn. 68) when formal notice of the fact was sent to the Sheriff of London. (fn. 69) The protection in both cases was to continue for a year.
Edward spent Christmas at Cirencester before proceeding to Hereford, still having the City's military force in his train, and from that place he directed writs to the Sheriffs of London to arrest Badlesmere if they could find him, (fn. 70) and to seize any property of the Earl of Hereford, the Mortimers uncle and nephew, and other "contrariants" found within their bailiwick. (fn. 71) At Bridgnorth he came face to face with the Mortimers; but the resistance was short, for, despairing of assistance from the Earl of Lancaster, they yielded on the 22nd January (1322), notification of their surrender being sent by the King himself to the Mayor of London from Shrewsbury the same day. (fn. 72) Less than two months later the Earl of Lancaster himself was taken prisoner at Boroughbridge (16 March), and summarily tried, convicted, and executed. His memory was long cherished by the citizens (fn. 73) as the champion of the oppressed, and miracles were believed to have been wrought at the tablet he had set up in St. Paul's commemorative of the King's submission to the Ordainers. (fn. 74) The rest of the leading "contrariants," whom the Sheriffs of London had been urged by the King to pursue with hue and cry, and if necessary with a posse comitatus, (fn. 75) fell one by one into the King's hands, and left him leisure to turn his attention to other matters.
The Scots were again making incursions and giving trouble in the North, and on the 7th February (1322) the King, who was then at Gloucester, had dispatched separate writs to the Sheriffs of London and the Sheriff of Middlesex to arm every man between the ages of sixteen and sixty on the footing prescribed by the Statute of Winchester. (fn. 76) By another writ issued at this juncture (fn. 77) he summoned the Sheriff of Middlesex to appear in person before him and to bring the knights, esquires, and horsemen (gentz a cheoval) of the county. This personal differentiation of the Sheriff of Middlesex from the Sheriffs of London was a mistake, as Chigwelle, the Mayor, took occasion to point out to the King in reply to the writ. He explained that the county of Middlesex was annexed to the City (le dit conte est annex a vostre dite Cite), and that the Sheriffs of the City were Sheriff of Middlesex, the duties of the latter being performed by a deputy. (fn. 78) The deputy at this time was William of Norwich, and he had already gone to the King on a matter of business connected with the Exchequer. The Mayor was sending Walter Crepyn on behalf of the county of Middlesex, and he would explain to the King what steps had been taken to execute his orders. In the meantime he is asked to excuse the presence of the Sheriffs before him, "for without them the City could not be fitly guarded nor the King's commands executed." (fn. 79)
Later on, the City offered the King the alternative of a force of 500 men for forty days at the City's charge to assist him against the Scots, or 2,000 marks in money or victual. The King preferred the money, on the ground that he wished to spare the men a long march. At the same time he had no scruple in asking that he might be accommodated with a bodyguard of 100 men "for the honour of the City." (fn. 80) The City's offer was made in April (1322), but no more than 1,200 out of the 2,000 marks appear to have reached the Exchequer by the 23rd August, (fn. 81) owing probably to the opposition raised to the grant by John de Waldeshef, as already narrated.
In October (1322) Chigwelle, who had contrived at a very critical period to steer clear of all difficulties, was once more elected Mayor by a "very great Commonalty." (fn. 82) The same chronicler, who ascribes his last election to the desire of the citizens to please the King, gives the same reason for his election now. (fn. 83) But now, as before, there is no sign in the Letter-Book of royal influence having carried the election. In the following April (1323) the King, for no apparent reason, deposed Chigwelle and replaced Nicholas de Farndone in the Mayoralty chair, (fn. 84) the late Mayor being kept in close attendance on the Court wherever it went, and being treated to all intents and purposes as a prisoner. (fn. 85) The same restriction was imposed upon three other Aldermen of the City, viz., Hamo Godchep, Edmund Lambyn, and Roger le Palmer. The City petitioned the King and invoked the good offices of the younger Despenser and Robert de Baldock, Keeper of the Privy Seal, in their favour, (fn. 86) but with what effect we are not told. All we know is that in November the King saw fit to restore Chigwelle to the Mayoralty, (fn. 87) and that he continued to occupy that position, either by the King's favour or by free election of the citizens, during the remainder of the reign.
The right of free election was not restored to the citizens until November, 1326, (fn. 88) the Mayoralty having remained more or less "in the King's hand" since the Iter of 1321. By that time the King had been reduced to sore straits-forsaken by wife and friends. Queen Isabella had landed at Harwich in September, accompanied by Prince Edward and Mortimer, who three years before had effected his escape from the Tower, with the connivance, if not the active assistance, of Richard de Betoyne and John de Gisors, two Aldermen of the City. The country had been summoned to arms, and a price put on Mortimer's head. (fn. 89) The citizens had determined by this time to throw over the King and to cast in their lot with Queen Isabella and her son. To them more than to any one else they owed the recovery of their rights. The writ notifying the restoration of the Mayoralty was issued by Prince Edward, as guardian of the realm, the King being in flight. It is true that on the 5th December the King issued letters patent confirming the restoration of the Mayoralty, but by that time he was a prisoner at Kenilworth, and could not help himself. The immediate effect of the restoration was the re-election of Betoyne to the Mayoralty chair. (fn. 90)
The day that the King was captured in Wales (16 Nov.) the younger Despenser and Robert de Baldock, at that time the King's Chancellor, were also made prisoners. The former was brought before Sir William Trussell and other commissioners, and, after a mere form of trial, condemned to death. The same fate awaited Baldock, but he was claimed by the Bishop of Hereford as a clerk in Holy Orders, and for a short time was lodged in the Bishop of London's house in the parish of St. Mary Mounthaut, whence he was removed to Newgate, where he died in the following spring. The City at the time was practically in the hands of a mob, who pillaged the Treasury of St. Paul's and carried off some valuables which the Chancellor had kept there. Some chests, however, bearing the seal of Roger de Waltham, Keeper of the King's Wardrobe, which had been stored in the same place, are recorded in the Letter-Book as having been previously removed to the Guildhall, where they remained for more than a year, and were then delivered up to their rightful owner. (fn. 91)
On the 7th January (A.D. 1327) a Parliament, which had been originally summoned to meet on the 14th December, sat at Westminster, when an oath was taken by the prelates and magnates to maintain the cause of Queen Isabella and her son. This Parliament is mentioned in the Letter-Book as having been held on the morrow of St. Hillary, i.e., 14 January, and the reader is there referred for an account of its transactions to "the great book of charters and liberties of the City," (fn. 92) a book which is no longer to be found among the City Archives. Before the end of the month (fn. 93) Sir William Trussell had proceeded to Kenilworth at the head of a commission, including three notable citizens of London, viz., John de Gisors, Reginald de Conduit, and John Hauteyn, (fn. 94) and had there formally renounced all further allegiance to the King. From that hour Edward II. ceased to reign.
One of the first acts of the young King, Edward III., was to grant a charter to the City confirming its ancient liberties and franchises, (fn. 95) as enjoyed before the Iter of 1321. Many of them had been in abeyance from the time the City was declared by the Justices to have been taken into the King's hand, and all efforts to get them restored by the late King had proved more or less futile. (fn. 96) The citizens were now to be allowed to record their liberties and customs before the King and his ministers as they had been accustomed to do before the Iter, notwithstanding any statute or judgment to the contrary, a privilege which, we shall see later on, they were glad to exercise. (fn. 97) Another grievance the citizens had. Early in February, 1321, the Justices at the Iter had endeavoured to make the civic authorities liable for the escape of felons from sanctuary, and it was not until the 3rd June following, when there were signs of the Iter coming to a close, that Edward II. thought fit to propitiate the City by issuing letters patent absolving the authorities of all previous negligence in guarding such felons, provided they used in future the same precautions as were used in other parts of the realm. (fn. 98) The charter of his successor on the throne went a step further, and declared that the citizens should only be responsible for the custody of those taking sanctuary as they were formerly accustomed, notwithstanding any judgment made at the Iter.
Once more, under Edward II. the citizens had always experienced great difficulty, whenever they furnished him with a military contingent, in obtaining some formal assurance that it should not form a precedent to the prejudice of the City's liberties. (fn. 99) Sometimes they succeeded in getting such assurance, as in the case of the force sent to assist the King in his attack upon Leeds Castle; (fn. 100) sometimes they failed. The charter of Edward III. put matters on a firmer basis, for, among other things, it explicitly declared that thenceforth the citizens should not be distrained to go or send to war outside the City.
The same charter granted the citizens "infangthef" and "outfangthef," together with chattels of felons. Proceedings respecting delivery of "infangthef" between 1327 and 1337 are recorded in the Letter-Book, (fn. 101) and form by no means the least interesting portion of the volume. They are continued in Letter-Book F down to 1409. "Infangthef," or "infangenthef," gave the right of hanging a thief if caught within one's own jurisdiction, whilst the less common "outfangthef" bestowed the same right in the case of a thief outside one's jurisdiction. It is said that in both cases it was essential that the thief should be caught "with the mainour" (cum manuopere), that is, with the stolen goods upon him. (fn. 102)
The common form of procedure was as follows: A is attached at the suit of B with the mainour of certain articles feloniously taken out of the custody of the said B on a certain day in a certain parish and ward, of which felony B appeals (fn. 103) him and finds pledges to prosecute. A either confesses himself guilty or "defends" the felony and for good and evil puts himself on the country-in other words, claims to be tried by a jury. A jury (fn. 104) of twelve accordingly appears on summons and declares on oath whether it finds A guilty or not guilty. If guilty, he is adjudged to be hanged, (fn. 105) his chattels, if any, become forfeit to the City as felon's goods, the "mainour" being restored to the successful prosecutor. If found not guilty, he is adjudged to go quit, and the "mainour" is committed to the custody of the Sheriff until further orders. (fn. 106) If the accused, on being asked, as was the custom, how he wished to acquit himself, confessed himself guilty, he was ordered to be hanged without further ado.
Occasionally the accused declared himself to be a clerk, not necessarily implying that he was in Holy Orders, but that he could read like a clerk in Holy Orders, and therefore claimed what was known as "benefit of clergy." (fn. 107) In this way he might save his neck if found by the Ordinary capable of reading a verse from the New Testament (called on that account the "neck verse"), and would get off with no worse punishment than a burning in the hand.
The King's marriage with Philippa of Hainault was popular with the citizens as tending to open up trade with Flanders, the greatest cloth manufactory on the Continent. On her arrival in London in December (1327) the Mayor and citizens rode out to welcome her in solemn state, and the following day sent both King and Queen great store of provisions and wax, (fn. 108) the latter being a commodity highly valued in those days. The institution of "Staples" or market-places for the sale of wool, lead, and tin (but more especially of wool), the so-called "staple" commodities of England, dates from the time of Edward I., who bought Antwerp from the Duke of Brabant in 1296, and established there the foreign centre of the wool trade. (fn. 109) Under Edward II. the merchants had their foreign Staple in various places in Brabant and Flanders, until in 1313 the King ordained that in future the sale of wool and woolfells should take place in some fixed Staple abroad, to be decided upon by the wool merchants themselves. (fn. 110) Six years later a deputation from London and Middlesex was summoned to meet the King's Council with the view of considering the advisability of fixing the home Staple at certain towns; (fn. 111) the result being that London, York, Winchester, and other large towns were designated for the purpose.
In May, 1326, when the reign of Edward II. was drawing to a close, another ordinance was made limiting the trade in wool to certain towns in England, Wales, and Ireland, and Chigwelle, the Mayor, was strictly enjoined to prevent the exportation of teasels, fuller's earth, and all other materials used in the manufacture of cloth from the port of London. At the same time a meeting of merchants of London and Norwich (a town much frequented by Flemings from earliest days) was ordered to be held at the House of the Black Friars for the purpose of electing a Mayor of the Staples. (fn. 112) A proposal to remove the Tron-a machine used chiefly for weighing wool, although also used for weighing cheese, butter, tallow, &c. (fn. 113)- from the City to the New Temple, was strongly opposed by the civic authorities, both on account of the Temple being outside the City and of the difficulty of getting the wool up the river, especially in winter time. (fn. 114)
Shortly after his accession Edward III. gave orders to the Mayor of the City to see that the Ordinances of Edward II. touching the Staple were duly observed; (fn. 115) and similar orders were sent on the 1st March, 1328, (fn. 116) after the question of keeping the Staple within the realm had been debated in a Parliament at York. (fn. 117) Richard de Betoyne, who was Mayor of the foreign Staple and represented the City in this Parliament with Robert de Keleseye, John de Grantham, and John Priour, incurred considerable odium for advocating the removal of the Staple from England. Letters passed between the municipal authorities of York and London touching the attitude he had taken up on the question, but in the end Betoyne's explanations were accepted, (fn. 118) and his services acknowledged by allowing him to take at valuation a handsome coverlet which had found its way into the hands of the City Chamberlain during the late troubles. (fn. 119)
At the next Parliament, which sat at Northampton from 24th April to 14th May the same year, to determine business left over from the Parliament at York, "owing to the absence of certain prelates and magnates of the realm," (fn. 120) the monopolies of the Staple were abolished, and free trade, for a time at least, established. (fn. 121) In 1334 the Staples were restored and again abolished. In August, 1336, the exportation of wool was forbidden by royal letters. (fn. 122) By this time the imports on this commodity had reached such importance that the King deemed it advisable to take the wool merchants into his confidence and to deal with them as an independent body. (fn. 123) A Parliament being summoned to meet at Nottingham in September, the City was invited to send four of the leading wool merchants to assist in the business to be transacted. (fn. 124) The result was the imposition of a custom of 40s. per sack exported by denizens and 60s. by aliens. In 1337, as almost the last entry in the Letter-Book records, the export of wool was altogether forbidden until the King and Council should determine how it was to be dealt with. At the same time foreign clothworkers who settled in the country were promised protection. (fn. 125)
It is only of recent years that the association of the poet Chaucer with the City of London has met with the recognition it deserved. (fn. 126) This is to be accounted for in a great measure by the obscurity in which the poet's parentage has been so long involved, an obscurity which patient research has only recently dissipated. It has now been ascertained beyond doubt that the poet's grandfather was Robert le Chaucer, a citizen, and probably a vintner, of London, who in 1308 was deputy to Henry de Say, the King's Butler (fn. 127) in the Port of London. Two years later he is recorded in Letter-Book D as one, among others, attached to appear before the King on a charge of having illtreated Gascon merchants resorting to the City. (fn. 128) The offence was probably not a serious one, for he was soon afterwards appointed by the King to be one of the two collectors in the Port of London of the "New Custom" of 2s. imposed in 1303 on every tun of wine imported by foreign merchants, in return for certain privileges accorded them. (fn. 129) He died in or about 1315, leaving a widow, Mary, who afterwards married another Chaucer named Richard, also a citizen and vintner of London.
This Richard le Chaucer was in 1319 appointed a scrutineer of wine according to the custom of the City. (fn. 130) In 1326 he and his wife brought an action for damages against Agnes, widow of Walter de Westhalle, Thomas Stace, Geoffrey Stace, and Laurence, Geoffrey's man, who, they alleged, had forcibly removed from their custody in the Ward of Cordwainer Street a son of the said Mary by her former husband, named John, then under fourteen years of age, and had married him, against his and their will, to Johanna, daughter of Walter de Westhalle. The amount of damages claimed was £300. This John is now recognized as the poet's father.
The defendants pleaded in justification the custom of Ipswich (the property of the youth being in that town) by which an heir could claim his property at the end of his twelfth year. The trial began before the King at Norwich in Hilary term, 1326, (fn. 131) but owing to the disturbed state of the country and the forced abdication of the King nothing was done until Easter, 1327, when, at the plaintiffs' suit (secta), the defendants were ordered to appear before the King and a jury of twentyfour (fn. 132) at York. The defendants made default, and the Sheriffs returned that they were not to be found in their bailiwick (i.e., London). They further returned that they could not bring a jury of twenty-four before the King, because under the terms of a recent charter (fn. 133) all inquisitions (by jury) touching men of the City were ordered to be taken thenceforth at St. Martin le Grand, and not elsewhere, except inquisitions to be taken at Iters at the Tower and for gaol delivery of Newgate. (fn. 134) Whereupon the Mayor and Commonalty, by William de Burgh, their attorney, pray that the jury might be adjourned to St. Martin le Grand. The charter being afterwards produced on request, a writ was sent to the Justices bidding them allow the City's charters throughout the King's reign, and the Sheriffs were ordered to summon a jury of twenty-four to appear before the King in the quinzaine of St. Michael, unless the Justices should come in the meanwhile to St. Martin le Grand. In October, 1327, the action came on for hearing at St. Martin le Grand before Robert Baynard, the King's Commissioner, and two Aldermen, viz., Hamo de Chigwelle and Nicholas de Farn done, when the defendants again failed to appear. The matter being left to a jury, they found that the defendants had by night forcibly abducted John le Chaucer from the custody of the plaintiffs, as alleged, but did not marry him, the damages being assessed at £250.
From this point the proceedings are recorded for the most part in the Letter-Book before us (fn. 135) and the City's 'Liber Albus.' (fn. 136) Geoffrey Stace appealed against this verdict, (fn. 137) and having found sureties for prosecuting his claim, a writ was sent to the Sheriffs of London on the 8th July (1328) bidding them summon twenty-four lawful knights (milites (fn. 138)) of the venue of London to appear before the King in October and declare on oath whether the jury (fn. 139) on the trial had committed perjury, as alleged by Geoffrey, or not. Richard le Chaucer and Mary his wife were also to be summoned. (fn. 140) No notice having been taken of this writ, another was dispatched to the Sheriffs on the 12th October, to which the Sheriffs made return that no attaint on citizens could be taken touching any matter arising in the City, and that therefore they could not execute the writ without prejudice to the City's liberties and customs. (fn. 141) Thereupon the King gave orders to Geoffrey le Scrope and his fellow-justices to allow such liberties and customs as the citizens might formally record before the King and his ministers, as they were wont to do before the Iter of 1321, and as they were again allowed to do by virtue of the King's recent charter, (fn. 142) and the Sheriffs were ordered to summon the Mayor and Commonalty to come and make their record on the octave of St. Hillary (1329). On the day appointed both the plaintiff and the defendants appeared, but the Sheriffs ignored the writ. Another day after Easter was thereupon named. The parties appeared by their respective attorneys and the Mayor and citizens by Gregory de Nortone, the City's Recorder, but another delay took place owing to the latter claiming on the City's behalf the customary "quarantine" or respite of forty days for consultation. At last, in July, everything was ready.
Being called upon to state what liberties and customs they claimed in the matter, the Mayor and citizens declare that, by the great charter of liberties of England granted by the King's ancestors, the City of London was allowed all its liberties and free customs undiminished; that before the Statute for granting attaints in pleas of trespass lately promulgated at Westminster (fn. 143) no writ of attaint lay at law for trespass, and therefore they say that such a statute was in contravention of the City's liberties and free customs, which ought not to be changed or infringed without express mention being made in the statute. They therefore record that when juries are called upon to decide on oath any matter arising in the City, their verdict ought to be credited and allowed to stand for ever, and, further, that no writ of attaints ought to lie, or ever had lain, against citizen-jurors in pleas of this kind. They accordingly ask the Justices to allow the citizens to enjoy this custom, inasmuch as the said Richard and Mary were their fellow-citizens.
To this argument the King's Attorney replied that the record could not be allowed, because, he said, every liberty and free custom must be proved in the affirmative, by showing actual use and not non-user; and as to the allegation made by the Mayor and citizens that no attaint ought to run, or had been accustomed to run, against a jury of citizens in "pleas of this kind," that sounded more as a matter of desuetude than a custom or liberty. On this account he asked judgment for the King. Moreover, he went on to say, many writs of attaint had been issued at the suit of parties, both before and after the aforesaid Iter, against citizens in matters arising within the City, and the Sheriffs had duly executed them, and returned on their panels the names both of twenty-four jurors and of jurors on a first jury (jurata prima). On this account too he asked judgment for the King.
The King, in the meanwhile, had given instructions to the Justices to raise no serious objections to such liberties and customs as the City claimed of record, and as Stace was unable, when asked on a later day, to show that any attaint had ever been taken in the City on a jury of citizens, judgment was given against him, and the attaint was quashed, whilst for the trespass of which he had been already convicted he was committed to the Marshalsea quousque, &c. In the meantime proceedings of outlawry, or "waivery" (the technical term in the case of women), had been taken against Agnes Westhalle, convicted of the same trespass as Geoffrey Stace, and judgment had been passed against her for not having appeared when called at successive Hustings, according to custom. It has been seen that a judgment of outlawry, or waivery, could not be executed in the Folkmote without the King's consent being previously obtained. (fn. 144) When, therefore, Agnes appeared before the King's Justices, and was asked to show cause why the judgment of waivery against her should not be executed, she availed herself of an informality in the proceedings to gain a respite, (fn. 145) and there the record ends.
Besides claiming the right to have inquisitions, with certain exceptions already specified, taken at St. Martin le Grand, and to have the verdict of their juries unimpeached, the citizens of London claimed the further privilege of not being forced to plead or be impleaded without the City's walls. This privilege was older than the right of electing their Mayor, having been granted to them by Henry II. in or about the year 1155. (fn. 146) On the strength of their chartered right they refused to attend the King's Marshalsea even when sitting at St. Dunstan's within Temple Bar, and therefore, as one would suppose, within the liberties of the City. Their objection was, nevertheless, allowed. (fn. 147) The officers of the Marshalsea were so often in the habit of ignoring the City's rights in this matter that an investigation was opened before the Parliament which sat at York in the autumn of 1318. The civic authorities being unable, however, to substantiate their claim by the production of the City's charters at York, the question of its legality was referred to the Chancellor, the Treasurer, and the Barons of the Exchequer. (fn. 148) The result is not recorded in the Letter-Book, but we know that in the following year (1319) Edward II. granted an inspeximus charter confirming, among other things, the immunity of the citizens in general from pleading or being impleaded without the City. (fn. 149)
The same charter confirmed a grant previously made by Henry III., to the effect that no one should take a house by force within the City and Portsoken, nor by delivery of the Marshal. Nevertheless we find it recorded under the year 1325 that, the King being in residence at the Tower, his serjeant-herbergeour appropriated the house of John de Caustone, who was Sheriff at the time, for the use of the King's secretary and his retinue, marking it with chalk in token of such appropriation on the King's behalf. The Sheriff very naturally took umbrage at so high-handed a proceeding, and obliterated the mark, and for this he was attached. He pleaded not guilty, and demanded a jury. His cause was supported by the Mayor and Commonalty, who pleaded their chartered rights and the custom of the City whereby allotment of hostels to the King's officers on his coming to the City had always been made by the Mayor, Sheriffs, and other officers of the City in the presence of the King's Marshal. (fn. 150) A jury thereupon found the Sheriff not guilty, and he was allowed to go sine die, whilst, after due consideration, the City's claim was allowed, saving the rights of the King (salvo jure Regis). (fn. 151)
In 1307 proceedings began to be taken against the ancient Order of Templars, and in October, 1310, the Sheriffs of London received the King's orders to safeguard such Templars as should be delivered into their custody by the Constable of the Tower, pending an inquiry that was about to be made as to their conduct. They were to be lodged in the City's gates or some other convenient houses, so as to be handy for the Inquisitors. (fn. 152) In the following month not only the Sheriffs, but the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty were called upon to give every assistance to those appointed to conduct the trial of the Templars. (fn. 153) After a harassing inquisition the Order was suppressed in 1312, and much of its property passed into the hands of the King's favourites, although nominally bestowed upon the Knights Hospitallers or Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The manor of the New Temple (except that portion which came to be known as the "Outer Temple") was given to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, a staunch adherent of Edward II., who shortly afterwards, however, made him surrender it to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, in exchange for lands in Monmouth. The King's confirmation of this surrender, dated 1st October, 1314, is recorded as having been entered in the Letter-Book in 1328 at the request of Henry, Earl of Lancaster, (fn. 154) brother of the above Thomas. In the same Letter-Book we find copies of an inspeximus charter of Edward III., dated 15th August, 1327, confirming the assignment of the property of the Templars to the Hospitallers, as well as another inspeximus charter of the same King, dated the 30th June of the same year, confirming previous charters granted to the latter by Henry III., Edward I., and Edward II. (fn. 155) We find also a writ addressed to the Mayor and Sheriffs two years later (2 October, 1329), forbidding them to exact murage and other toll from the Hospitallers, as the Templars, to whose possessions they had succeeded, had always been quit of such demands. (fn. 156)
Among matters of minor interest may be mentioned a writ issued in 1319 for a stop to be put to the exaction of murage in the City, inasmuch as the tax drove merchants elsewhere; (fn. 157) the refusal by the City, the same year, to forego their rights and deliver up the custody of Queenhithe to a nominee of the Crown; (fn. 158) the repair of the several weights used in the Stannary of Cornwall so as to bring them up to the London standard; (fn. 159) the appointment of wardens to act on the City's behalf and to hold pleas at fairs, (fn. 160) pursuant to the terms of the first charter of Edward III. confirming an ancient custom; the fining of Robert le Bret in ten casks of wine for having deserted a deputation sent to attend the King at Windsor; (fn. 161) and, lastly, the references to the repairing of the Guildhall Chapel and Cripplegate. (fn. 162)