Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: D, 1309-1314. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1902.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Letter-Book D-formerly known as the "Red Book" (Liber Rubeus) from the colour of its original binding (fn. 1) -strictly speaking, embraces a period of no more than six years, viz., 1309-1314, although it furnishes us with a record of the elections of various Mayors and Sheriffs and other matters of a somewhat later date, as well as with the forms of the several oaths administered to various municipal officers in or about the fifteenth century.
The main feature of the volume is the record of admissions to the freedom of the City by "redemption" between 1309 and 1312, (fn. 2) as well as of the binding and discharge of apprentices for the same period. (fn. 3) This is the earliest record of its kind extant among the City's archives. In the Town Clerk's custody there is a book of recognizances of those admitted to the freedom by "redemption" between 1666 and 1678, and six volumes of accounts of money received on such admissions between 1694 and 1757, but nothing of an earlier date, whilst the earliest original documents relating to the freedom of the City preserved in the Chamberlain's office date from 1681. There is, however, in the Chamberlain's custody a transcript (made in 1879) of admissions to the freedom circa A.D. 1551-1554, taken from a manuscript preserved in the Egerton Library at the British Museum. (fn. 4) This manuscript, at one time the property of the Corporation, has, like other volumes of the City's archives, gone astray, and in 1877 was purchased by the British Museum authorities from the Rev R Brooke How it came into the latter's possession is best explained by the following note let into a fly-leaf of the manuscript, and written (presumably) by the reverend gentleman himself:—
"This MS. was given to the Revd Mr Brooke abt 25 years ago by C. W. Hick, Esqre his Brother-in-Law, for many years Swordbearer (fn. 5) to the Lord Mayors and well known in the City. Mr Hick had bought it as a relic of the Gt Fire, (fn. 6) and always understood the other part was in the B. Museum, but as it is not, some other Museum may have been mentioned. The card of explanation which was given with the MS. has been mislaid, and tho' diligently sought for has not been found."
This is not the place for a detailed account of the rights and privileges attaching to the freedom of the City of London or of the system of apprenticeship that prevailed in the City in the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, it may be well to remind the reader that the rights of citizenship might be acquired by one of three ways, viz., (1) by birth, otherwise patrimony, (2) by apprenticeship or servitude, or (3) by payment of a sum of money, otherwise known as redemption. (fn. 7)
The freedom of the City of London was no empty honour. Without it a man was not at liberty to open a shop, to traffic by retail, or even to reside within the City's walls, except for a limited time, and then only in the houses of freemen and under frankpledge. (fn. 8) On the other hand, a man who had acquired the freedom by any one of the three methods just mentioned was free to trade by wholesale or retail with fellow - citizen or stranger, to carry his goods throughout the length and breadth of the land, and to enter any town without payment of murage or other toll. If any such toll were exacted in contravention of his chartered rights, the remedy of reprisal was at hand by writ of "withernam." (fn. 9) This immunity from toll was not confined, however, to the London citizen. It was enjoyed by the free inhabitants of other cities and boroughs at home and abroad, and was highly prized. Thus the Gascon wine merchant claimed exemption from murage and pontage—i e, toll for merchandise passing through the City's gates or over London Bridge—by virtue of a charter of Edward I. (fn. 10) Again, the burgesses of Andover claimed the same immunity from toll as that enjoyed by the citizens of Winchester, (fn. 11) which was practically claiming the same chartered privileges as those enjoyed by the citizens of London themselves, for Andover was affiliated to Winchester in the same way as Winchester was to London. (fn. 12) A common trick practised by merchant strangers to facilitate the sale of their goods was to get some freeman to "avow" them as belonging to him. This was known as the offence of "colouring" goods, and it was an offence no freeman could commit without being guilty of perjury. (fn. 13) If convicted he was condemned to lose his freedom. (fn. 14)
Among other advantages which the freeman of the City enjoyed over the merchant stranger was the exemption from the jurisdiction of courts of law outside the City's walls, except in certain specified cases. (fn. 15) Hence it was that when in the year 1309 the Sheriffs received a writ to take the body of Richer le Botoner, otherwise known as Richer "de Refham" or "le Mercer," and carry him out of the City to answer an "appeal of felony" by one who had already been laid by the heels in Berkhampstead gaol, they were able to make a return to the effect that the said Richer was a freeman of the City of London, and the freedom of the said City did not allow of any freeman being taken out of it to answer any matter, and therefore they could not execute the writ. (fn. 16)
Another advantage which perhaps may be mentioned here was that a freeman dying, leaving children, had his funeral expenses paid by the City out of the estates of orphans of whom the Mayor and Aldermen were guardians, as will be shown more fully later on. This came in course of time to press so heavily upon the orphans that a sliding scale was arranged in the reign of Henry VIII., allotting the amount of funeral expenses to individuals according to rank and wealth. Thus, for the funeral of an Alderman "of the gray cloke" the sum of 200 pounds and no more was allowed, for an Alderman "of a calabre cloke," 200 marks, for a commoner dying worth £2,000 or more the sum of 100 pounds, if only worth £1,000 half that sum, and so on. (fn. 17)
The freedom of the City, on the other hand, entailed duties and responsibilities as well as conferred privileges. One of these duties, and one much insisted on in early times, was resiancy, (fn. 18) although this appears in the fourteenth century to have given place to what had then come to be looked upon as a still more important duty, viz., that of being in Lot and Scot. (fn. 19)
The distinction between a freeborn citizen and one who had obtained the rights of citizenship by purchase obtained in ancient Rome, the source, as some writers have supposed, of many of the characteristics of London municipal organization. "Art thou a Roman ?" asked the chief captain of St Paul on hearing that the Apostle, whom he had ill-used, had claimed the privilege of Roman citizenship. On receiving a reply in the affirmative, he expressed some surprise. "With a great sum obtained I this freedom," said he, to which the Apostle (with a sly suggestion, perhaps, that he at least was no parvenu) answered, "But I was freeborn". (fn. 20)
Another link with ancient Rome may, perhaps, be found in the antipathy which the freeman of the City of London entertained (as already shown (fn. 21) ) to the foreigner and stranger, a feeling which found its counterpart in the breast of the Roman burgess, and scarcely allowed him to see any distinction between a stranger and an enemy. (fn. 22)
In the case of one claiming the freedom of the City either by patrimony or by servitude, it is clear that something must have been previously known of his family and antecedents. It was different with a foreigner and stranger, and steps had to be taken to prevent the admission of irresponsible and unsuitable characters. In March, 1312, and again in the following December, we find the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty formulating rules as to the admission of foreigners and others. In March the Commonalty recommended that thenceforth no alien (alienigena) should be admitted to the freedom except with their assent, either in a common assembly or in the Husting, and this recommendation, we are told, met with the approval of the Mayor and Aldermen. (fn. 23) In December following, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty having again met to draw up rules for the better government of the City, it was agreed that "forasmuch as in times past, beyond the memory of man, as well as in modern times, the City aforesaid is wont to be defended and governed by the aid and counsel, as well of the good men of mercantile trades as of the other handicraft trades, and it has of old been accustomed that no stranger (persona extranea), native (indigena), or alien (alienigena), as to whose conversation and condition there could be no certain knowledge, should be admitted to the freedom before the merchants or craftsmen of the City following the trade which the person so to be admitted intends to adopt should have been duly called together, that so the Mayor and Aldermen aforesaid, being certified by their fellowcitizens thus assembled as to the condition and trustworthiness of those to be admitted, may know whether such persons are to be admitted or rejected the form aforesaid, so far as concerns the more important (grossiora) mercantile trades and handicrafts, shall henceforth be strictly observed, so that no one be thenceforth admitted to the freedom in contravention of the provision aforesaid." (fn. 24)
Seven years later, viz., in 1319, the citizens succeeded in obtaining the King's sanction to a series of ordinances which they had drawn up for the better government of the City. (fn. 25) The royal assent was not obtained without considerable difficulty, and then only after some of the proposals had been rejected and others amended. Among the articles thus sanctioned was one to the effect that no alien should be admitted to the freedom except in the Husting (nisi in Hustengo (fn. 26) ), and with the assent of the Commonalty, unless he happened to belong to some mistery or craft, in which case he must find six mainpernors or sureties of his mistery or craft to indemnify the City on his behalf, in the same manner as a native seeking admission and belonging to a mistery or craft was bound to do. (fn. 27) The influence and importance of the trade and craft guilds were so much enhanced by the promulgation of these ordinances that "many of the people of the trades of London," we are told, "were arrayed in livery"—hence the origin of the term 'livery companies"—"and a good time was about to begin." (fn. 28)
It must be borne in mind that the object of these precautions was rather to keep out unsuitable characters than to hinder respectable foreigners becoming citizens of London. The attitude of the civic authorities towards the foreigner was calculated to induce him to become a freeman. "Take up the freedom, and participate in the City's burdens as one of us," they practically said, "or put up with the restrictions which we think fit to impose upon merchant strangers." (fn. 29) That many of them refused both alternatives is evidenced by the fact that two Aldermen were appointed in 1311 to join the Chamberlain in imposing and receiving fines from foreigners (forinseci) who were found residing and trafficking in the City without having taken up the freedom. (fn. 30) Even a bondman fleeing from his master could not only shake off his bonds if he succeeded in finding refuge within the City's walls undisturbed for a year and a day, (fn. 31) but he oftentimes acquired the rights of citizenship. If claimed by his master, as was the case (recorded in a previous Letter-Book) with certain fugitive bondmen of the Earl of Cornwall (fn. 32) in 1288, the civic authorities would naturally hesitate before admitting such a one to the freedom, if only for the reason that they had no wish to excite bad blood with the manorial class. Again, we read that certain butchers holding land in villenage at Stepney, under the Bishop of London, were disfranchised in 1305, but we are not told whether this was on account of their serfdom, or because they were living beyond the liberties of the City. (fn. 33) That more bondmen succeeded in obtaining the freedom than was desirable is evinced by an order being made in July, 1387, to the effect that from that time forth (amodo) no stranger (forinsecus) should be enrolled as apprentice, or received into the freedom by apprenticeship, unless he swore he was a freeman and not a serf (nativus). (fn. 34)
At what period the system of apprenticeship was introduced into England cannot be precisely determined, but it is conjectured to have taken place in the reign of Henry III. or Edward I. (fn. 35) This conjecture receives some support from an entry in a manuscript preserved in the Cottonian Library at the British Museum, (fn. 36) under the year 1275, to the effect that in that year a certain liberty or franchise (libertas) was established, viz., that the names of apprentices should be entered on a paper in the Chamber of the Guildhall, and those who wished to buy the liberty of the said City should have their names entered on the said paper, and the man whose name did not appear on the said paper should be deprived of the liberty of the City. This, we are told, was done for the good reason that many boasted of being freemen who were not freemen. (fn. 37)
One of the earliest references to apprentices in the City's Records occurs in the year 1279 or 1280, when Gregory de Rokesle was Mayor and the ordinances for regulating the trade of fishmongers were amended. Among these ordinances we find some relating to apprentices to the following effect, viz., that thenceforth no one shall take more than two or three apprentices at most, according to his ability to support them, that no one shall take an apprentice for a less term than seven years, that the master and the apprentice come to the Guildhall and cause the agreement and the term to be enrolled, and also do the same at the end of the term, unless it be dissolved by the death of one or the other. Further, that if the master die within the term, the apprentice shall come to the Guildhall, and do as he shall be ordered before he do anything of the trade, (fn. 38) and, lastly, that those who are already apprentices shall do no work after Sunday next, until such time as their master shall have come to the Guildhall and caused their covenant and term to be enrolled. (fn. 39)
The rules here prescribed for apprenticeship among fishmongers were afterwards applied to other trades. Thus, among a long series of ordinances entered in the Letter-Book before us (fn. 40) (presumably of the year 1312 or 1313), we find the following, viz. : (1) that thenceforth no person shall receive an apprentice unless he be himself free of the City, and cause their covenant to be enrolled, of whatever condition such apprentice may be, (2) that no apprentice, after fully serving his term, shall follow his trade in the City before he shall have been sworn of the freedom and thereupon enrolled, (3) and that no apprentice shall be received for a less term than seven years, according to ancient usage.
The enrolment of an apprentice within the first year of his term was strongly insisted on by the municipal authorities, every freeman on admission binding himself by oath to see that any apprentice of his was so enrolled. (fn. 41) In September, 1300, an ordinance was passed by the Mayor and Aldermen to the effect that the names of all apprentices who thenceforth failed to be entered by their masters "on the paper" within their first year should be enrolled on a certain schedule to be produced at the next Husting before the Mayor and Aldermen, with the view to the defaulting apprentices being fined at the discretion of the Chamberlain and two Aldermen specially elected for the purpose. (fn. 42)
The number of instances entered in Letter-Book D where apprentices were fined for not being duly enrolled either at the commencement or end of their term, or were called upon to pay an extra fee for the privilege of admission to the freedom before the expiration of their term, is very large. On the other hand, we rarely meet with a recorded instance of a master being mulcted for neglecting to enrol his apprentice. (fn. 43)
It will be seen that those who obtained the freedom of the City by "redemption" were for the most part called upon to pay a sum of money varying from five to a hundred shillings, according to their ability or to favour shown them. Others obtained the franchise without any payment at all, thanks to the influence of some high Court or ecclesiastiCal. dignitary, or maybe of the King himself. (fn. 44) Others, again, were pardoned their fees at the instance of the Mayor or one of the Aldermen or some high officer of the Corporation, like Hugh de Waltham, their "Common Clerk." (fn. 45) The Friars Minors presented Simon Burgeys, their cook, for admission to the freedom, and he was admitted on payment of one mark. (fn. 46) On the other hand, Master John de Laxfeld, another professor of the culinary art, had proved himself so successful in tickling the palate of divers Sheriffs that he obtained his freedom for nothing. (fn. 47)
A peculiar disability was attached to the acquisition of the freedom of the City by redemption, which, for its quaintness, may be mentioned here, although introduced at a later date. It was this, viz., that no one wearing a beard "of more notable prolyxyte or length" than that worn by other citizens should be admitted by redemption to the liberties and freedom of the City as long as he should wear any such beard. (fn. 48) The objection to the citizen, especially if holding high office in the City, being "bearded like a pard" was prevalent for some years after the passing of the resolution of the Court of Aldermen to the effect just mentioned, and to a certain extent may be said to have continued down to the middle of the last century. (fn. 49) Sir Thomas Lodge, who was Mayor in 1562, is recorded as being the first to occupy the Mayoralty chair wearing a beard, "ye whiche was thowght to mayny people very straynge to leve ye cumly aunsyent custom of shavynge theyr beards." Notwithstanding, however, the surprise thus created, his successor in the chair, Sir John Whyte, thought fit to appear with "a longe beard." (fn. 50)
On fos ii-vi b we find recorded the elections of Mayors and Sheriffs between 1309 and 1322. (fn. 51) The election of Mayors took place at this period on the Feast of SS. Simon and Jude [28 Oct.], (fn. 52) whilst that of Sheriffs was held either on Michaelmas Day or the Feast of St. Matthew [21 Sept.] (fn. 53) In 1313 it was found necessary to shut out the mob who frequented elections without possessing the franchise and to limit the number of electors to those who should be specially summoned, and an ordinance was made to this effect. Two years later the King himself had to complain of the riotous manner in which elections continued to be carried out, and the former ordinance had to be enforced by a proclamation. (fn. 54)
By the terms of charters granted to the City by King John (fn. 55) and Henry III., (fn. 56) the citizens were bound to present the Mayor of their choice, for the year ensuing, either to the King himself, or in case of his absence from Westminster or London, to his Justices or Barons of the Exchequer, for admission to office. In the case of both King and Barons being absent, provision was afterwards made by charter of Edward I. (fn. 57) for the presentation and admission of the Mayor and Sheriffs-elect to take place before the Constable (or Warden) of the Tower, conditional, however, on the Mayor always again presenting himself to the King as soon as the latter returned to London. This presentation to the King, after admission to office by the Constable of the Tower, does not appear to have been necessary for the Sheriffs. (fn. 58) There appears, moreover, to have been another point of difference between the two cases, for whereas the Mayorelect was usually admitted and sworn before the Barons of the Exchequer, (fn. 59) the Sheriffs were for the most part only admitted. (fn. 60) Indeed, the question whether the Sheriffs-elect could be called upon to make oath before the Barons of the Exchequer was much combated by the civic authorities, and notably in the year 1312, as recorded in this volume. (fn. 61) In that year the choice of the Mayor and Aldermen, and twelve representatives from each Ward summoned to make election of new Sheriffs, had fallen upon John Lambyn and Richard de Horsham. When the new Sheriffs were called upon to give the customary security for their office, Richard de Horsham failed to appear. Nevertheless, we are told, the Mayor and Commonalty "presented the said John and Richard as their Sheriffs" (presenta verunt predictos Johannem et Ricardum in vicecomites suos), although Richard de Horsham was only represented by a substitute who had not undergone a formal election. The Barons demurring to such a proceeding, although precedents were cited for the course taken, the citizens hurriedly took counsel among themselves and re-elected one of the late Sheriffs, viz., Richard de Welleford, to serve again with John Lambyn The Barons accepted this nomination, and called upon the Sheriffs-elect to make oath there "like the rest of the King's Sheriffs." To this the Mayor and citizens took exception on the ground that the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex ought not to make oath, nor had hitherto made oath, elsewhere than before them. Thereupon the Exchequer Rolls were searched to see how the matter really stood, and it was found that Fulk de St Edmund and Salamon le Cutiller, who had been elected Sheriffs in 1289, had made oath before the Barons of the Exchequer. Here, then, was a precedent wherewith to confound the Mayor and citizens ! They were, however, not to be so easily confounded, for the case in point, as they were careful to point out, occurred at a time when the City was in the King's hand and the citizens were helpless. This and much more was said until, eventually, the Barons gave way, and consented to admit the new Sheriffs, reserving the right to raise the question of making oath whenever the King might think fit.
A twelvemonth later the Barons of the Exchequer were severely taken to task by the King for having allowed the citizens to make another election, and letting Horsham go without exacting a heavy fine, according to previous usage in the case of a Sheriff-elect not appearing or refusing to be admitted. In future they were to admit all nominees to the office, whether they put in an appearance or not. (fn. 62)
When Hamo Godchep and William de Bodele were elected Sheriffs in 1315, another attempt was made by the Barons of the Exchequer to enforce the oath, but again the Sheriffs came off best, and the question as to whether they could be compelled to make oath before the Exchequer or not remained (we are told) unsettled. (fn. 63) Nevertheless, in 1324, and two following years, Sheriffs are recorded as having been sworn at the Exchequer. (fn. 64)
In previous Letter-Books orphanage matters are only recorded here and there. In Letter-Book D, however, we have a number of appointments of guardians to City orphans recorded as having been made between 1309 and 1322. (fn. 65) The reader is reminded that by the custom of the City the guardianship of orphans of freemen appertained to the Mayor and Aldermen, who, following the method of devolution in socage tenure, (fn. 66) placed them in the custody of the nearest friends or "parents" (parentes) to whom the inheritance of their property could not descend. (fn. 67) This "Court of Orphans" had for its chief executive officer the Common Serjeant (fn. 68) of the City, whose business it was to take all inventories and accounts of estates in question, whilst the youngest attorney in the Mayor's Court—known as Clerk of the Orphans- took sureties from the guardians for the proper maintenance of their charges until they came of age or married, and for their rendering an account of all property entrusted to them. (fn. 69) In case of default on the part of the guardians the Court enforced its orders by distress, sequestration, or committal. (fn. 70)
Some of the difficulties which the Court had to contend with may be illustrated by a case recorded in this volume. On the 3rd August, 1310, the King dispatched a writ from Northampton to the Mayor and Aldermen bidding them to commit the custody of Nicholas, Henry, and Katherine, children of Robert le Convers (otherwise known as "le Orfevre," or the Goldsmith), who had recently died, (fn. 71) to David de Cotesbroke and Roesia his wife, late wife of the said Robert and mother of his said children. (fn. 72) The indecent haste with which Roesia must have taken to herself a second husband needs only to be mentioned to explain further developments. The King's writ was not executed, for on the 29th August a dispute which had arisen between the executors of Robert le Convers and David de Cotesbroke and his wife touching the custody of his wife's children by her former husband was determined by the Mayor and Aldermen placing the two boys, aged respectively seven and three years, in charge of Nicholas de Farndone, and allowing the mother to have only the custody of the girl, who was one year old, both parties finding sureties according to the custom. (fn. 73) Three years later Cotesbroke is recorded as dead, without having rendered an account of his guardianship, for which he was presumably liable conjointly with his wife. Thereupon an order was issued for an attachment of his goods and chattels as well as of his wife's property to the extent of £50, the value of Katherine's estate. The wife failing to appear on summons, her standing sureties obtained their discharge, whilst a further distress was ordered to be made on her goods until she found other sureties. (fn. 74)
Nothing more is recorded of the matter until 1321, when Roesia appears as the wife of Nicholas de Stratstede, and those who had undertaken to become sureties for Katherine on the death of David de Cotesbroke found it difficult to obtain their discharge by reason of Roesia, after marrying her third husband, having absconded. They eventually succeeded in getting an acquittance, thanks to the pressure brought to bear by a King's writ, and proved their gratitude to the Mayor and Aldermen by informing them in whose hands certain silver cups belonging to Katherine were to be found. The property was duly recovered, and placed for a time in the custody of the Chamberlain. In the following year the cups were handed over to Reymund de Bordeaux, who had taken Katherine to wife, she being a damsel, be it remembered, of the tender age of thirteen years ! (fn. 75)
In the previous Letter-Book it has been shown that in weighing merchandise at the King's or Great Beam a custom had long prevailed of favouring the purchaser at the expense of the vendor. (fn. 76) The extent of the favour thus shown was originally an uncertain quantity dependent on the caprice of the weigher, but in 1257 this draft or "tret" (Lat. tractus) was, after due consideration by "more than five hundred (fn. 77) (v e) trustworthy men of the City," fixed at a definite quantity, viz. 4 lbs per cwt. The change thus deliberately made for the express purpose of introducing a greater spirit of fairness in the matter of weighing than had previously existed, as well as to bring the weighing of general merchandise into conformity with the method of weighing gold and silver, (fn. 78) caused no small stir, and the cry was raised that the King's Beams and Weights had been altered. The opposition was overcome, however, and matters continued to work smoothly until 1305, when (as we have seen (fn. 79) ) the King's successor on the throne, Edward I., in his desire more especially to favour foreign merchants, endeavoured to do away with this "courtesy of London" (as the foreigner termed it), (fn. 80) but the citizens showed great determination to uphold the custom, if possible, and there the matter rested so far as Letter-Book C carried us. From Letter-Book D we learn that four years later (1309) an ordinance was made by the Mayor and Aldermen, in conjunction with certain merchants of London, Lombardy, and Provence, to the effect that all merchandise should in future be weighed by an even balance (as, indeed, they had been weighed since 1257), that a cwt of heavy goods (averia ponderis) should comprise 112 lbs., whilst a cwt. of goods sold by the pound should comprise 104 lbs, and that every merchant, whether citizen or stranger, should always sell and buy goods by weight. (fn. 81) Not a word is mentioned of the 4 lb bonus to the purchaser, so this, we presume, was now abolished.
Besides the King's, or Great Beam, there was also in the City a Small Beam or Balance for weighing silks and spices (speciarie), (fn. 82) the latter comprising drugs and groceries. The issues and profits of this Beam belonged to the municipality, and the office of weigher, at one time much sought after, was usually let to ferm In 1291 the King desired that it might be given to a woman known as Jacobina la Lumbard. His wish, however, could not be complied with, inasmuch as it had only recently been conferred on William de Bettoyne for life. (fn. 83) Upon Bettoyne resigning the office at the close of 1298 it was granted by the Mayor and Aldermen to William de Helvetone, or Helmetone (the name is variously spelt), at a ferm of 10 marks per annum. (fn. 84) He appears to have kept the post only for a year, for in January, 1300, it was delivered to Ralph de Arraz "to hold and keep until otherwise ordained by the Mayor and Aldermen." Unlike his predecessor in office, he was to account for the profits of the Beam to the City, reserving for himself such recompense as the Mayor and Aldermen should think fit. (fn. 85) No mention is made of any ferm being demanded or paid. The conditions of appointment appear in this case to have satisfied all parties, for the next vacancy recorded took place in September, 1309, when the Small Balance, at the joint request of Sir Hugh le Despenser, the King's favourite, and Sir John de Hasting, was granted to Edmund le Lorimer, at a yearly rent of £10. (fn. 86) In the following year Queen Isabella desired that the post might be given to Richard de Redynge, and her request being backed up by the King, it was conferred on Redynge for one year from the 1st May (1310), at the same ferm as before, although at the special desire of the King and Queen 100 shillings of the rent were afterwards remitted. (fn. 87) Even this reduced rent, however, Redynge found himself, three years later, unable to pay, owing to dealers in silk and cendals ceasing to have their goods weighed, and the rent, at the request of the Keeper of the King's Wardrobe, Sir "Ingelard" or "Ingelram" de Warle (whose removal from office was one of the articles pressed by the Ordainers), was again reduced by one-half, a composition being accepted for outstanding arrears. (fn. 88)
There is one other point of interest in Letter-Book D bearing upon the internal government of the City that may be mentioned here, and that is an ordinance passed in 1311 to the effect that in every assessment citizens should be assessed in the Ward where they had their habitation, and not in the Ward where their goods and chattels might happen to be, and if their mansion happened to be situated on the border of different Wards, they were to be assessed in that Ward where they ate and slept Again, as regards Aldermen, they were to be assessed in that Ward where they resided with their families, and not in the Wards they represented as Aldermen. (fn. 89)
If the consumption of wine and beer be a criterion of a nation's prosperity, the wealth of the inhabitants of the City must at this time have been highly satisfactory, for it is on record (fn. 90) that in the year 1309 the number of taverners in London was 354, whilst that of the brewers amounted to no less than 1,334, a number that must have taxed the energy of the Mayor and Sheriffs to the utmost when called upon to visit their houses to see the assize of ale duly kept and bad wine destroyed. (fn. 91)
Throughout the reign of Edward II. the path of the citizens was beset with difficulties. We have seen how on the 26th August, 1307, he summoned the City to send two representatives to attend a Parliament which was to meet at Northampton on the 13th October, for the threefold purpose of deliberating on his father's funeral and his own marriage and coronation, and how the choice of the citizens fell upon William de Coumbemartyn and Henry de Durham. (fn. 92) A month before the issue of this summons the Mayor had received the King's writ of Privy Seal for proclaiming his peace and his succession to the throne by right of inheritance (par descente de heritage), the seal used on the occasion being expressly recorded as that used by the King before he had received the government of the realm. (fn. 93) From Northampton the King came to Westminster, where he buried his father, and early in the following year crossed over to France Before quitting Dover he issued writs appointing Sunday next after the Feast of St Valentine—in other words, Sunday, the 17th February—as the day of his coronation, (fn. 94) and proclamation for keeping the King's peace on the occasion is recorded as having been made in the City on that day, (fn. 95) although by force of circumstances the coronation did not actually take place till the following Sunday (24th February). (fn. 96) In the meantime the King's Marshals (marescalli domini Regis) had paid a visit to the City, and had appropriated various houses wherein to lodge the numerous magnates, both native and foreign, who wished to attend the ceremony. (fn. 97) The ceremony over, these houses, which had been thus appropriated without a thought of remuneration for their use and occupation pending the coronation, were on the following Thursday restored to their respective owners, and any further occupancy had to be paid for. (fn. 98)
The King's extreme partiality shown to Peter de Gavestone, or "Gavastone" (the usual spelling in the Letter-Books), and other favourites soon brought him into open opposition with the Barons. One of his earliest acts after his accession was to recall the banished Gavestone, create him Earl of Cornwall, and give him Margaret, sister of the young Earl of Gloucester and his own niece, in marriage. At his favourite's instigation the King removed his father's ministers, Ralph Baldock, the Chancellor, and Walter de Langtone, the Treasurer. Gavestone knew that Walter de Langtone, who had been responsible for his being driven into exile, was not in favour with the citizens, owing to his having attempted, at the close of the last reign, to enclose a park at "Greneford," co Middlesex, (fn. 99) to the prejudice of the rights of chace which the citizens enjoyed in the suburbs of London by charter. He therefore took an early opportunity of inviting the citizens to bring forward any complaints they wished to make against the late Treasurer without fear of evil consequences. (fn. 100) Among other bounties lavishly bestowed on this favourite was the comparatively small gift of 100s. out of the yearly rent of £50 paid by the citizens for Queenhithe ever since it had been granted to them in fee ferm, in 1246, by Richard, Earl of Cornwall. (fn. 101) The Earl's son, Edmund, had charged this rent with an annuity of 100s. in favour of Philip de Kent, and in August, 1309, the King, who claimed the reversion of the annuity, commanded that in due course it should be paid to Gavestone and his wife. (fn. 102)
A few months later we find both the King and his favourite eager to obtain the office of Common Serjeant of the City (recently rendered vacant by the death of Thomas Juvenal) for Gavestone's "valet" named John Albon. (fn. 103) Their request could not be complied with by the civic authorities, inasmuch as the post had already been given to another "valet" named Thomas de Kent, who had seen long service in the City as Serjeant-at-Mace to successive Mayors, and to whom the Cripplegate had been granted as a residence, at the King's special request, before his accession to the throne. (fn. 104) His candidature for the post, moreover, had been supported by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, who shortly before his death obtained the freedom of the City, on exceptional terms, for another "valet" named Thomas Godechep. (fn. 105)
The Barons, finding their sentences of banishment passed on Gavestone were of little effect, and that the King's government was going from bad to worse, succeeded in the following year (1310) in forcing upon Edward a Commission of reform, whereby his own authority was to be superseded until Michaelmas, 1311 Ordainers were thereupon elected to draw up a scheme of reform. (fn. 106) They were to be allowed, at their own request, to take up their abode in the City, and to carry out their work there, and strict injunctions were laid by the King on the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs of the City to see that they were not molested. (fn. 107) Gavestone, in the meanwhile, finding the turn affairs were taking, had disappeared from Court.
The Ordainers lost no time in setting to work, and the result of their labours was submitted to, and approved by, Parliament, sitting at the house of the Black Friars, in August, 1311. The ordinances were subsequently proclaimed at St Paul's Churchyard, (fn. 108) and on the 5th October received the reluctant assent of the King.
One of the articles of reform submitted to the King by the Ordainers was the expulsion of the Friscobaldi, the King's foreign agents, who supplied him with large sums of money for the discharge of his father's debts, as well as his own, and to whom had been committed the duty of collecting the New Custom to which reference has already been made. (fn. 109) This New Custom, as we have seen, had been conceded by foreign merchants to the King's father in return for a charter of privileges, but the citizens had declined to have anything to do with it, or with the appointment of its collectors. In 1311 the Ordainers declared the Custom to be illegal, and insisted upon the arrest of Emeryk (Amerigo) de Friscobaldi and his company and their goods, and upon their banishment in default of their rendering a true account of moneys received. (fn. 110)
In anticipation of the King being forced to yield, the Friscobaldi prepared to quit the country without rendering their account, when a writ for their arrest, addressed to the Mayor and Sheriffs, arrived from Berwick. The writ was dispatched the 6th July, and by the 20th all members of the Friscobaldi found in the City were in safe custody. Before the end of the month, however, the King had been persuaded to change his mind, and two writs were sent on successive days, in which he affected surprise at the Mayor and Sheriffs having executed his own orders, and bade them set the foreign merchants at liberty, as he had received assurance that a due account would be rendered on a certain day, and the merchants and their goods were set free accordingly. (fn. 111) The King displayed the same weakness towards the Friscobaldi on the Continent, at one time yielding to pressure and ordering the arrest of Emeryk de Friscobaldi, then Constable of Bordeaux, and his fellows, at another time recalling his order By November, however, both Emeryk and his more immediate associates were arrested. (fn. 112) In the City the foreigners appear to have lost but little of their influence, to judge from the fact that early in the following year (23rd January, 1312) the King sent a writ of Privy Seal ordering the admittance of a family of Genoese merchants, to whom he became indebted for loans, to the freedom of the City. (fn. 113)
Another grievance of the Barons against the King was that he failed to prosecute the war with Scotland with sufficient vigour, and that he was losing all that his father had won at great cost. Soon after the Ordainers had been elected, however, he put himself at the head of an army and prepared to march against the Scots. He was soon in sore straits, both for money and men. By a writ directed to the Mayor and Sheriffs on the 12th September, 1310, he enjoined them to search for and arrest a number of seamen and cross-bowmen who had deserted. (fn. 114) Great difficulty was also experienced in getting a supply of victuals for his army, notwithstanding the issue of strict orders that everything taken by way of purveyance should be paid for at its full value. (fn. 115) On the other hand, the civic authorities had to be warned against allowing the exportation of victuals, horses, and arms in aid of the King's enemies in Scotland, and precautions were taken accordingly. (fn. 116) The City had hitherto done its part. In June, 1310, eighteen Aldermen, including the Prior of Holy Trinity, who, as we have seen, (fn. 117) was ex officio Alderman of Portsoken, were fined 100s. apiece for failing to appear and render account at the Exchequer, as ordered, but the fines were remitted in April of the following year in consideration of the Mayor and Aldermen having been at the time engaged in raising an armed force for the King's service. (fn. 118) In the meantime, viz., in March, 1311, the City had voted a sum of 1,000 marks to the King in aid of the war, (fn. 119) and the money was dispatched in baskets, covered with canvas and secured by cords, under the surveillance of Roger atte Watre, Serjeant of the Commonalty. (fn. 120)
The King remained on the Border, trying every expedient to raise money, until July, 1311, when he returned South to attend Parliament, and receive the report of the Ordainers, who had been awaiting his arrival in the neighbourhood of London and the City. (fn. 121) That he had little intention of regarding the assent that had been forced from him by the Barons as binding upon his conscience was quickly shown, for on his return to the North in January, 1312, he set aside the ordinances condemning Gavestone to exile and forfeiture, a proceeding which could not be regarded by the Barons otherwise than as a declaration of war. Before making formal announcement of his intention respecting Gavestone, (fn. 122) the King took the precaution to be assured of the City's attitude. On the 9th January he dispatched a letter from Knaresborough to the Mayor, charging him to safeguard the City in his interest, and measures had been taken to that end. (fn. 123) On the 21st he addressed letters from York, not only to the Mayor, but also to twenty of the leading citizens, again urging that the City should be kept secure on behalf of himself and his heirs. The Mayor thereupon summoned a meeting of the Aldermen and four or six of the best men of each Ward to consider the steps to be taken. By this time, however, the attitude of the City had somewhat changed. By the majority of the Aldermen the summons was unheeded. Only eight, beside the Mayor, are recorded as having attended on the summons, eight others are recorded as not being present, while the rest of the twenty-four are not mentioned at all. Nevertheless, stringent ordinances were made for keeping the City on the King's behalf the gates were to be chained within and without, the City wall repaired, the foss deepened, and approaches to the Thames and all wharves well guarded. (fn. 124)
On the 26th the King displayed sufficient amenity to order a proclamation to be made for observance of the Ordinances, with the proviso, however, that they were not to the prejudice of the Crown, (fn. 125) whilst a few days later (31st January) he gave permission to the Mayor and Aldermen to admit any Baron desirous of entering the City, provided he came without arms and horse, and was not suspected of evil intent. (fn. 126) At the same time he gave orders for provisioning the Tower. The Sheriffs to whom these orders were given declared themselves unable (they might perhaps with more truth have said "unwilling") to execute them, on the ground that the whole of the City's ferm, and other issues in the City and the county of Middlesex, had been already appropriated by the King for payment of his debts. (fn. 127) Again, the bearer of the reply sent by the Mayor and Aldermen to the King's letters, assuring him that the City was being put in goodly array, and its gates and walls repaired and strengthened, was instructed to draw the King's attention to the fact that the whole of the custom or toll known as "murage," exacted from those passing the City's gates with merchandise, for the maintenance of the City's walls, had been expended by the command of the King himself on the wall behind the house of the Black Friars, (fn. 128) who, being a religious order, were exempt from such toll, but if the King thought fit that they should aid therein, the citizens would be "the better comforted," and would the more speedily have the City put into due repair. (fn. 129)
Matters were quickly drawing to a climax, and Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and his associates had openly taken up arms, when the King again laid his commands (8th February, 1312) upon the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen to hold the City on his behalf against the Barons, adjuring them on the fealty they had sworn to King Henry III. and his heirs. (fn. 130) By this time the Barons were actually in the City, and had held a conference at St Paul's to apportion to each the share he should take in the coming struggle. To the Earls of Pembroke and Warren was deputed the task of seizing Gavestone, who was then at Scarborough Castle. On the 19th May he was forced to capitulate, and was carried prisoner by the Earl of Pembroke to Deddington, co Oxon. During a temporary absence of the Earl, however, the prisoner was seized and carried off by the Earl of Warwick, who took him to his own castle at Warwick, in the neighbourhood of which he was beheaded, after the merest formality of a trial, on the 19th June. (fn. 131)
This action on the part of the Earl of Warwick and his associates drove the Earls of Pembroke and Warren into the King's camp Edward lost no time in dispatching another writ to the Mayor bidding him take the City "into the King's hand" and allow no horses or arms to leave the City, (fn. 132) and on the 11th July he notified his intention of coming to the City in person. (fn. 133) Shortly after this announcement he appeared, and summoned the Mayor and citizens to attend at the Blackfriars. No particulars of the interview are recorded in the City's archives. We learn, how ever, from other sources that it passed over satisfactorily to both parties, the citizens undertaking to keep the City for the King as desired. (fn. 134) The necessity for putting the City into a posture of defence was the greater by reason of the Parliament, which had been summoned to meet at Lincoln towards the end of the month, (fn. 135) having since been ordered to meet at Westminster on the 20th August (fn. 136) Pursuant, therefore, to their promise made to the King, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty met together in the Guildhall shortly before Parliament assembled and made provision for safeguarding the City's gates by day and night, so that no armed force should find its way in except by special warrant from the King himself. If any such approached Ludgate the warder of the gate was instructed to address them in the following terms: "My lords, the King hath charged me that no one enter his city by force or arms unless he have special warrant. I pray you, therefore, sirs, that you take it not ill but as to your persons, those of you who are on palfreys, and those folk who do not bring chargers or arms, may enter as peaceful folk." (fn. 137) The Earls and their forces were hovering in the neighbourhood of London, and civil war seemed on the point of breaking out, when there appeared on the scene certain ambassadors for peace dispatched by the Pope and the King of France These were Cardinal Arnold de St Prisca-who took up his abode at the Bishop of London's house near St Paul's, in the neighbourhood of which one of his servants was killed and the churchyard polluted (fn. 138) -Count Louis of Evreux, and the Bishop of Poitiers After long negotiations, carried on under a series of letters of safe conduct, which the King feared might be abused, (fn. 139) matters were adjusted, and on the 22nd December peace was proclaimed.
While these negotiations were going on the Queen gave birth to a son (13 November), who afterwards ascended the throne as King Edward III., and this Letter-Book gives us a graphic account of the manner in which the news was received by the citizens, the disappointment of the Queen's messenger at being forestalled and at the smallness of the remuneration accorded him by the Mayor and Aldermen, and the junketing that continued in the City for a week or more in honour of so auspicious an event. (fn. 140)
A month later the ardour of the citizens was damped by an Order in Council—issued, it is said, (fn. 141) under the advice of their old enemy Walter de Langtone—to the effect that the King's demesne cities and boroughs throughout England were to be tallaged. Such an order should not, as a matter of right, have affected the citizens in any way, for the City of London, as they were careful to point out to the Council, did not form part of the King's demesne, and since the time of Henry I. the citizens, as they alleged, had been quit of all tallages. This last allegation was not consonant with facts, for the City had been frequently tallaged. (fn. 142) They might with more reason have declared that since the passing of the statute de tallagio non concedendo (fn. 143) in the twenty-fifth year of his father's reign (A.D. 1297), the King's claim to tallage cities and boroughs was very questionable without the consent of Parliament. But although the statute does not appear to have been expressly pleaded, it doubtless had some effect with the King, for after long argument an offer was made to delay tallaging the City until Parliament should meet if the citizens would make an immediate advance to the King of 2,000 marks. This they were not prepared to do, and thereupon the King's Justices appeared at the Guildhall and at once set to work to assess the tallage. The matter was compromised by a loan of £1,000 (fn. 144) on the terms formerly offered, and letters patent were made out accordingly. This was in February, 1313. More than eighteen months elapsed, and at last a Parliament had been summoned to meet at York (September, 1314), but, owing to the renewal of the war with Scotland (in aid of which the City contributed a force of 130 arbalesters fully equipped (fn. 145) ) and other reasons, the question whether the City was liable to tallage or not still remained unsettled. Nevertheless, in October, 1314, the King again appointed Commissioners to assess the citizens for a tallage, either by poll or in common, as they might see fit, and sent writs to the Sheriffs to render them every assistance and to cause representatives from each of the Wards to appear before them. Once more the Mayor and citizens resorted to the King's Council, and again succeeded in obtaining a respite until Parliament met, at the price of 600 marks (fn. 146) And there the record ends, after telling us that the citizens were called upon to provide a sum of money to carry the matter through at the next Parliament. (fn. 147)