Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: F, 1337-1352. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1904.
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Letter-Book F-known as the "Red Book" before the series of which it forms a part was named after the letters of the alphabet (fn. 1)-comprises, roughly speaking, a period of fifteen years, viz., from A.D. 1337 to 1352, although the records of Infangthef, as already noted, (fn. 2) are carried down to 1409.
Throughout this period the countries of England and France, except for short intervals, were at war over the possession of the Duchy of Aquitaine and the claim of Edward III. to the French crown. Soon after his accession Edward had sent ambassadors to France to treat for peace, and a peace had been concluded (31 March, 1327), the French King (Charles IV.) agreeing to surrender certain lands that had been seized in Aquitaine. On the latter's death, which occurred early in the following year, Edward had challenged the right of Philip de Valois to the crown of France, claiming it for himself by right of his mother, a daughter of a former occupier of the French throne. So far from strenuously supporting his claim, Edward allowed it to fall into abeyance, and in May, 1329, he informed the citizens of his intention to cross over to France to do homage to the French King for the Duchy of Guienne. (fn. 3)
The relations between the two countries continued strained in spite of all efforts to bring about a complete understanding. Philip made frequent encroachments on Aquitaine, and goaded Edward to make preparations for war by the favour he displayed towards the King's enemies in Scotland. Thus it was that at the time when Letter-Book F commences Edward found it necessary not only to provide for an aggressive war against France, but also to take steps to meet a probable invasion of England. For either purpose ships were necessary, and the City was called upon to take its share in furnishing them. In 1336, during the second Mayoralty of Reginald de Conduit, the sum of £86 10s. had been raised in the City (fn. 4) and expended on fitting out three vessels known respectively as "La Jonette of London," "La Cogge of All Hallows," and "La Seinte Marie Cogge," the last being the property of William Haunsard, (fn. 5) who had recently served as Sheriff, and who a few years later rendered conspicuous service with his ship at the battle of Sluys (23 June, 1340). Early in the following year (1337) the Sheriffs received orders from the King to supply material for anchors for two vessels named respectively the "Christopher"-a large vessel which fell into the hands of the French, but was subsequently recaptured off Sluys-and the "Cogge Edward," the King promising to allow for expenses thereby incurred when the City paid its ferm into the Exchequer. (fn. 6)
Besides ships, the City was called upon to furnish a contingent of 500 men for the King's service, both men and ships to be at Portsmouth by Whitsuntide. The date was subsequently altered to Trinity Sunday (15 June). On the 1st June the King, who was at Stamford, took occasion to find fault with the City's dilatoriness in carrying out his orders, and complained of the want of physique in the men that were being supplied. At the request of John de Pulteneye, who was then occupying the Mayoralty chair for the fourth time, he consented to accept 200 able-bodied archers at once, and to postpone the selection of the remainder of the force. At the same time he issued letters patent declaring that the aid furnished by the City should not become a precedent. (fn. 7) The names of the 200 archers that went to Gascony are set out in the Letter-Book, (fn. 8) divided into companies of 20 men, each commanded by an officer known on that account as "vintainer," whilst five such companies had a superior officer called a "centainer." Each "vintainer" found sureties for himself, whilst he became surety for those under him. Particulars are also set out in the Letter-Book of the City's expenses incurred in finding pay and clothing for officers and men, and for a present of a cask of wine. (fn. 9)
When Parliament met in March (1337) the City took the course, common enough in those days, of making presents of money to the King, the Queen, the Treasurer, and other officers of State, for the purpose of gaining their favour, the money being borrowed, on the credit of the City's Chamber, from divers citizens, whose names have been handed down to us. Some portion of the money so raised was expended, we are told, on obtaining various writs from the King, and notably one for levying money to meet the expenses of fitting out the three vessels just mentioned as having been furnished by the City. (fn. 10)
The King's necessities at this juncture were once more the City's opportunity. For the last two years the citizens of London had been carrying on their business at a disadvantage, owing to a Statute passed at York in 1335 to the effect that merchant strangers should be allowed freely to trade throughout the realm, in spite of all charters, &c., to the contrary Although this Statute contained a proviso that the City of London should have its ancient liberties and free customs uninjured, the citizens held it to be "opposed to the liberties of the City," (fn. 11) and now, as they thought, was an opportunity for getting matters placed on a proper footing. They therefore again took the course of making gifts of money and plate to the Lord Chancellor and others who had influence at Court, (fn. 12) and succeeded in obtaining a grant of letters patent from the King (dated 26th March, 1337), with the assent of Parliament, declaring that the City should enjoy all its ancient customs and liberties, notwithstanding the former Statute enacted to the prejudice of the same. The citizens continued to enjoy the monopoly of trade to the exclusion of the stranger until 1351, (fn. 13) when Parliament again enacted that the ordinance made at York in 1335 should have effect. (fn. 14) Against this re-enactment the citizens more than once petitioned the King and his Council, as we learn from the Letter-Book, (fn. 15) but the result of the petition is not recorded. (fn. 16)
The expenses incurred by the City in obtaining the letters patent (or charter) of 1337 were not inconsiderable, and an assessment had to be made in the several Wards to raise the money needed for this purpose as well as for repairing the gates of Aldersgate and Cripplegate (fn. 17) for the City's protection. John de Pulteneye was Mayor at the time, and the City recognized his good offices with the King for the recovery of its ancient liberties by presenting him with two silver basins, together with the sum of £20. (fn. 18)
Pulteneye was one of the wealthiest and most influential of the citizens of his day, and he was then occupying the Mayoralty for the fourth time. He had filled the office of Alderman of the several Wards of Coleman Street, Candlewick, and Vintry, and in 1334 had acquired the Aldermanry of the Ward of Farringdon by devise of Nicholas de Farndone. (fn. 19) It is, however, doubtful if he ever acted as Alderman of that Ward He was often employed by Edward on important public business, and his influence with the King is further testified by the fact that during this his last Mayoralty he succeeded in getting Edward to allow a sum of 1,000 marks, furnished by the City, to be treated as a loan, and not as a free gift. (fn. 20)
Military preparations continued to be made throughout the year (1337), pending negotiations for peace between England and France. The Parliament which sat at Westminster in February, 1338, gave Edward half the wool of the realm, amounting to 20,000 sacks. Those who had no wool of their own were allowed to make a money payment instead, at the rate of a fifteenth, the City of London being called upon to pay the sum of 1,000 marks. (fn. 21) The wool was to be forwarded to Antwerp, whither Edward was shortly to set sail, being goaded to war by the landing of a French force at Portsmouth. Before setting out he called upon the civic authorities to prepare a scheme for the defence of the City. (fn. 22) A scheme was accordingly drawn up, and a selection made of the best men of each Ward to patrol the City by day and night. (fn. 23) The Mayor and Sheriffs were further enjoined to arrest all persons bearing arms in contravention of the Statutes of Winchester and Northampton, and for so doing they received letters patent of indemnity. (fn. 24) On the 3rd June they were instructed by writ of Privy Seal to dispatch the City's contingent to Ipswich. Many members of the force had already quitted the City, on the ground that they formed part of the retinue of some magnate who was to accompany the King. This entailed on the Wards a further levy of 100 men to make up the deficiency. (fn. 25) On the 12th July Edward sailed from Orwell, near Ipswich, for Flanders, leaving his son, the young Duke of Cornwall, nominal guardian of the realm during his absence, (fn. 26) and he did not return to England until the 21st February, 1340.
The King's plan of attacking France from the north was a shrewd one, and had been deliberately prepared. He had seen that, just as Philip had proved a thorn in his side by the secret aid sent to Scotland from time to time by the French King, he might enlist in his favour the Flemish merchants, who preferred their commercial interests with England to subordination to their feudal lord, the Count of Flanders, an ally of Philip. A formal treaty had therefore been made with the Flemings before he set sail, to the effect that they should be allowed to trade freely with England, but not interfere in any way in the war with Scotland or with France. (fn. 27)
On the 22nd July Edward landed at Antwerp, whence he addressed a letter to the civic authorities bidding them excuse his Serjeant-at-arms, (fn. 28) Robert Flambard, from executing the office of Mace-bearer of the City, to which he had been recently appointed, inasmuch as he was engaged in the King's service. The letter was presented by Flambard himself on the 2nd November to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty, who thereupon elected a substitute to fill the office until such time as Flambard was in a position to undertake it. (fn. 29) On the same day Flambard surrendered the bailiwick of Southwark, (fn. 30) which had been conferred upon him in 1333. (fn. 31)
Philip in the meanwhile had taken advantage of the King's absence to gather a fleet for the purpose of making a descent on the English coast, and by the end of October the danger to London itself became so imminent that the Regent gave orders for guarding the City by driving piles into the bed of the Thames (fn. 32) against any attacks that might be made from the water-side Tenants of property in the City, religious as well as secular, were to be made to take their share in its defence, and operations for the purpose were to be carried out as expeditiously as possible. As time went on the alarm of invasion increased to such a degree that in February (1339) the City was called upon to fit out four ships with a complement of 300 men, and the same number of vessels of lighter tonnage, known as "scummars," and to forward them to Winchelsea, where they were to join the rest of the fleet under the command of the Admiral of the Cinque Ports, William Trussel, and thence proceed to sea for the defence of the realm against foreign invasion. After some demur on the part of the City as to the excessive burden thus laid upon them, the number of ships to be provided was reduced to two. (fn. 33) In order to equip these vessels a call was made upon each Ward to find a certain proportion of men and armour, according to the size of the Ward, the Aldermen being authorized to arrest those who proved rebellious. (fn. 34)
The Letter-Book affords us an interesting insight into the measures taken by the civic authorities themselves for the City's protection at this crisis. On a fly-leaf at the commencement of the book it is recorded that, besides engines of war known as "springalds," with bolts for the same, which were stored at a house called "La Bretaske," (fn. 35) near the Tower, as well as at Aldgate, there were in the Chamber of the Guildhall six instruments of latten, called "gonnes," (fn. 36) with five "teleres" (fn. 37) (i. e., tillers or stocks for supporting hand-guns) for the same, together with pellets of lead weighing 400 lb. and a half (meaning, probably, 4½ cwt.) and 32 1b. of powder. The small amount of ammunition indicates that it was probably for the use of hand-guns, and not for heavy ordnance. Touching this interesting record, the editor of the 'Memorials of London and London Life' took occasion in 1868 to make the following comment: "This valuable passage on the fly-leaf of Letter-Book F is almost illegible, and to a great extent is almost obliterated, owing to the creases in the parchment. If that care be not taken of it which its singular literary value demands, in a year or two hence it will have inevitably disappeared, owing to the friction upon the page every time the volume is opened, however carefully." The caution then given is even more necessary at the present day. It is therefore a matter for congratulation that the writing has been perpetuated in an excellent photograph taken of the folio by Sir Benjamin Stone, M. P.
Before the King set sail for Flanders he had summoned a Parliament or "Great Council" to meet at Northampton on the 26th July (fn. 38) (1338), and ten days before the Parliament met, his son, the Duke of Cornwall, summoned four merchants of the City to attend at the same place on Monday, the 3rd August (the day after the Parliament had broken up), to consult with him and his Council on affairs of State. (fn. 39) Four merchants from each county were also summoned for the same purpose. (fn. 40) Neither the names of the citizens who attended the Parliament nor those of the merchants who waited upon the Duke and his Council are recorded in the Letter-Book.
The same may be said of the Parliament which was originally summoned for the 14th January, 1339, but did not sit until the 3rd February. The writs are recorded, (fn. 41) but not the returns Another Parliament was held during the King's absence, on the 13th October following. The King was by this time in sore pecuniary straits, having experienced great difficulty in getting the wool already granted by Parliament; but before the Commons consented to a grant they desired to consult their constituents, and prayed (among other petitions) that two knights might be summoned from each shire to the next Parliament to represent the Commons, and that no Sheriff or other royal officer might be eligible. (fn. 42)
The demand for a new election was acceded to, and a new Parliament was summoned for the 20th January, 1340. (fn. 43) Both the writ and return are in this case recorded in the Letter-Book, the writ setting out the reasons for summoning the Parliament, viz., that it had been done at the request of the Commons, and, further, because business had hitherto been hindered in Parliament on account of the manner in which representatives had been elected. (fn. 44) At this session the Commons offered a large subsidy of wool, on condition that the King accepted a number of articles of reform presented in a schedule. The consideration of these articles requiring the King's presence, he notified the civic authorities by letter from Sluys (20 Feb.) of his intention to return home as soon as the tide served. (fn. 45) The next day he landed in England at the same port whence he had set out more than eighteen months before. Beyond assuming the name and arms of King of France (fn. 46) he had achieved nothing by this expedition, which had cost him over a quarter of a million sterling.
On the 1st March, the day being Ash Wednesday, the King summoned the Mayor and Aldermen to appear before the Council the next day, and to bring with them the wealthiest of the citizens. On their appearing in due course, the King spoke to them of the costliness of the war, and demanded a loan of £20,000, giving them a day to consider the matter. On Friday the Mayor, Aldermen, and a great Commonalty met, we are told, in the Chapter House at Westminster, and after giving the matter their consideration they unanimously agreed to lend the King the sum of 5,000 marks. Beyond that they could not go. This sum was rejected as inadequate, and they were told to think better of it, and to bring a list of the names of the wealthier citizens on the following Sunday, so that the King and his Council might assess them for the full amount. This led to another meeting of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty, which took place at the Guildhall soon after sunrise on Sunday morning. The debate was long; and finally it was agreed to offer the King one-third more than the sum previously offered, that is to say, the City was prepared to lend the King the sum of 5,000 pounds, instead of 5,000 marks, although to do so was hard and difficult (quamvis durum esset et difficile), provided the King gave sufficient security for repayment of the money at a certain date. A small deputation, composed of Sir John de Pulteney, Andrew Aubrey, the Mayor, and Roger de Depham, the City Recorder, was thereupon dispatched to Westminster to learn if this new offer would prove acceptable to the King. (fn. 47) The fact that precedence was given to Pulteney over the Mayor is not so remarkable as at first sight appears, when we consider the number of occasions on which the King had sought his good offices, and the fact that he was one of the sureties for repayment of the loan on the following Midsummer Day. (fn. 48)
Three Aldermen and nine Commoners were appointed to make an assessment for raising the required sum. The amount of assessment varied between £400 (the sum at which William de Caustone was assessed) and 100s. A large portion of the money then raised was dispatched to James (or Jacob) van Artevelde, (fn. 49) who had recently won over the merchants of Flanders to Edward's side against the French king, in consideration of certain privileges granted to them. The nature of these privileges was made known to the Mayor and citizens of London by the King himself at the Tower. The towns of Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres were to be especially favoured; the wool staple was to be established in Brabant, and free importation of cloth into England allowed. These and other privileges had received the assent of Parliament, and the City was called upon to affix its Common Seal to the grant. The citizens were assured that their own franchises and customs were in no way prejudiced by this grant, which had been made "for the honour of the Crown and welfare of the realm." (fn. 50)
The King's visit to England was of short duration. Having collected a fleet by seizing all vessels capable of carrying forty tuns or casks of wine (or, as we should say in the present day, vessels of "40 tons burden") as well as lighter boats known as "flunes" or "floynes," (fn. 51) he again set sail from Orwell on Thursday, the 22nd of June. With him went 300 soldiers raised by the City, and with their assistance and that of William Haunsard and his ship, which "rendered good service," he won the battle of Sluys (24th June).
The King sent home an account of the battle in a letter addressed to his son, the Duke of Cornwall, and dated from his ship the "Cogg Thomas," Wednesday the 28th June. This account -the earliest dispatch in existence relative to a naval victory in mediæval times-is recorded in the Letter-Book, (fn. 52) and has been printed, with other matter found in the Letter-Books of the City, by Jules Delpit, the French antiquary, in his 'Collection Générale des Documents Français qui se trouvent en Angleterre' (Paris, 1847). The letter relates how the fleet arrived off the coast of Flanders before "Blankebergh" on Friday the 23rd June about mid-day, when the enemy's fleet, to the number of 190 vessels in all, was seen to be collected in the port of "Swyne," a haven in the immediate neighbourhood of Sluys. The tide not serving for the two fleets to get to close quarters, the English harboured for the night, and the next day, being the Feast of St John, they put out to sea late in the afternoon and attacked the enemy's fleet as it lay in battle array in the harbour. (fn. 53) A severe struggle took place, lasting all that day and the following night, but God, by a miracle, had given him the victory, and all the enemy's ships had been taken except twenty-four. He gives the number of the enemy engaged as 35,000; of which number 5,000 made good their escape, and the rest perished. He mentions also the recapture of the ship "Christopher" (already mentioned), and others that had been lost at Middel- burgh, and the taking of three or four vessels of the same size as the "Christopher." The letter concludes with the King's testimony to the loyalty of the Flemings, with whom he had recently (4 Jan., 1340) concluded an offensive alliance against France, and who had displayed a readiness to engage in the battle from its commencement to the end; and with an intimation that he intended to remain awhile where he was in order to consult with his Flemish friends and allies as to future operations.
By the treaty with the Flemings it had been agreed that the joint campaign should be opened with the siege of Tournai. Accordingly it was from the neighbourhood of that town that Edward addressed a letter a month later (27 July (fn. 54)) to Philip, informing him that he (Edward) had entered Flanders as "sovereign lord thereof," and with the aid of the Flemings as his allies intended to made good his claim to the crown of France. In order to bring the war to a speedy end he proposed to settle the matter either by a personal duel or with a limited number of combatants on either side, according as Philip might choose. Philip ignored the letter, as it was addressed to Philip de Valois, and not to Philip VI. of France, although he sent what was practically a reply, (fn. 55) declaring his intention, at the proper time, to drive Edward out of France, and expressing his conviction that the Flemings would soon return to their rightful allegiance. Nothing came of this correspondence. Edward failed to reduce Tournai, and both sides being pressed for money, he as well as Philip was ready for a truce. Accordingly, on the 25th September, a truce was agreed upon to last until Midsummer Day next (1341), (fn. 56) and Edward returned home, landing at the Tower before daylight on the 30th November.
The King's return was altogether unexpected. Attributing the failure of the war to the remissness of his ministers in forwarding supplies, he at once proceeded to search for the guilty parties. Immediately after his arrival he sent for John de Pulteneye and others, and ordered them into custody. (fn. 57) The next day he dispatched no fewer than four writs of Privy Seal to the Sheriffs of London (fn. 58) Those who had suffered extortion at the hands of officers of the Exchequer were to be invited to state their grievance in writing. Aldermen were to check the items in the Collectors' Rolls with the sums actually paid by the inhabitants of their respective Wards. Collectors, comptrollers of customs, weighers of wool, and every one who owed the King any money, were summoned to appear on New Year's Day, and merchants who had been guilty of exporting wool before it had been cocketed (i. e., sealed with the King's cocket as having paid the King's dues) were to come and answer for their delinquency. (fn. 59) The Chancellor, the Treasurer, and various Justices were deprived of their places, and a Commission appointed, comprising a new Chancellor and a new Treasurer, for the purpose of holding an inquiry as to the misdoings of ministers during the King's absence. When the Commissioners notified their intention of opening their inquiry at the Guildhall, they were met with the objection that such a procedure would be contrary to the City's tranchise. The question thus raised was submitted by the Commissioners to the King, with the result that the Commission was dissolved and an Iter ordered to take place at the Tower to make the necessary investigation (fn. 60) The Iter commenced on the 5th March (1341), and continued, with one or more adjournments, until the 18th May, when the Justices failed to appear and the Iter died a natural death, although the citizens did not obtain a formal release from attending until the 3rd June. (fn. 61)
The King's impatient attitude towards his ministers struck terror on all sides. Archbishop Stratford took refuge within the sacred precincts of Christ Church, Canterbury, and others were about to take flight when the King caused public proclamation to be made forbidding any member of his Council to leave the country without special permission. (fn. 62)
On the 24th June (1341)-the day on which the truce with France expired-the Emperor of Germany was persuaded by Philip de Valois to write a specious letter to Edward breaking off the alliance which existed between them, whilst offering his services to bring about a peace between England and France Edward declined the Emperor's offer. (fn. 63) A prolongation of the truce was, nevertheless, agreed upon until the following Midsummer Day (1342). In the meantime there had arisen in France a dispute over the succession to the Duchy of Brittany, in which Edward and Philip favoured opposite sides, and although no breach of the truce actually occurred, both countries made preparations for renewing the war. Edward pursued his usual policy of taking the advice of those who were practically acquainted with the matter in hand at the moment, and as his first object just now was to raise a navy to prepare against another threatened invasion by France, he summoned a Council of experienced seamen to meet at Westminster on Monday, the 29th April (1342). The City was called upon to send two of its best seamen, and at the same time to furnish victual and archers for the fleet under the command of the Admiral of the Fleet from the mouth of the Thames to the West. (fn. 64)
On the 12th September another Council or Parliament was summoned to meet at Westminster in the following month by the Duke of Cornwall, as Custos of the realm, the King himself being about to cross the sea. (fn. 65) Some weeks elapsed, however, before he actually set sail, (fn. 66) and when he returned, on the 2nd March, 1343, a truce had been made with France for three years. (fn. 67) Notification of the truce was sent to the Sheriffs on the 20th February (1343), and it was duly proclaimed in the City. (fn. 68) Four days later the Duke of Cornwall issued his writ for the election of two citizens to attend a Parliament to be held on Monday after the quinzaine of Easter (fn. 69) to consider the terms of the truce. This Parliament, which sat from the 28th April to the 20th May, was remarkable as being the first on record where a clear distinction was made between the Lords spiritual and temporal on the one hand, and the representative members, or Commons, on the other, each of them sitting apart in separate chambers. During its session the Duke of Cornwall was created Prince of Wales. It approved of the truce, and was willing to see it converted into a lasting peace if such could be concluded on reasonable terms. This Parliament was further remarkable for the stand it made against Papal claims to ecclesiastical patronage in England. These claims had greatly increased since the beginning of the century, and now that the Pope was living at Avignon, within the borders of France, and in close alliance with Philip, they caused large revenues to be diverted into the hands of the King's enemies, and robbed England of spiritual superintendence. A remonstrance was drawn up and forwarded to Pope Clement, objecting to English benefices being conferred on foreigners. (fn. 70) The King was no less jealous of Papal usurpations than his subjects. On the 20th October he ordered all Papal Bulls to be seized on their arrival in any English port; (fn. 71) and early in the following year (30 Jan., 1344) the Sheriffs of London were ordered to make proclamation forbidding the introduction into the country of any Papal instrument prejudicial to the inhabitants of the realm, and to cause diligent search to be made for those guilty of such a proceeding. (fn. 72)
It soon became clear that Philip had no serious intention of making a lasting peace. On the 10th May (1344) Edward found it necessary to forbid any person capable of bearing arms to leave the kingdom, and three days later called upon the City to furnish him with 400 archers to assist him against Philip, who, he said, had done many things in contravention of the truce that existed between them. (fn. 73) The Parliament which was summoned to meet on the 7th June (fn. 74) advised the King to bring matters to an issue, and granted supplies, viz., two fifteenths from the shires and two tenths from cities and boroughs, so as to guarantee a supply for two years. (fn. 75) The King hoped to further replenish his Exchequer by calling upon all persons holding £40 a year in land or rents to become knights. (fn. 76) The citizens of London objected, on the ground that the City was held under the King in capite as free burgage at a fee ferm, and further, that none of them had the requisite qualifications. (fn. 77) On the 28th June the City was ordered to furnish 100 men-atarms and 200 hoblers and to dispatch them to Portsmouth, whither the contingent of archers previously ordered was to be sent with all haste, as the King was about to cross the sea. (fn. 78) The King did not cross the sea, but remained in England, being occupied for the rest of the year and the greater part of the next in making active preparations for war whilst negotiating for peace. In March (1345) restriction was again placed upon persons leaving the kingdom, and the City was called upon to dispatch a number of archers to Sandwich by Whitsuntide. (fn. 79) A question having been raised as to whether the vessels in the Thames came under the jurisdiction of the Admiral of the North or the Admiral of the West, they were placed under the charge of Robert Flambard, the King's Serjeant-at-arms, until the question should be decided. (fn. 80) In April the King appointed the Earl of Northampton to be his lieutenant in the Duchy of Brittany, whence he proposed to make his next attack on France, and on the 4th June gave orders to the City for those who were to proceed to Brittany under the Earl to set out for Portsmouth without delay. (fn. 81) A week later he notified the Sheriffs that the Earl had started for Brittany, and that the Earl of Derby was about to set out for Gascony. Those who were in the service of the latter Earl were to make their way forthwith to Southampton. (fn. 82)
Early in July the King himself paid a short visit to Flanders in order to assure himself of the continued fidelity of the Flemings. This fact is incidentally mentioned in a writ sent to the Sheriffs on the 3rd August bidding them make proclamation for all barons, bannerets, knights, and esquires between the ages of sixteen and sixty to prepare to start for Gascony and Brittany to make an end of the war. (fn. 83) On the 28th the Mayor and Sheriffs were bidden to make strict search in the City for all such persons, and to send them to Portsmouth together with 320 archers. (fn. 84)
The fleet of the Port of London was to be brought to the Isle of Wight in charge of Robert Flambard and his fellow Serjeant-at-arms, (fn. 85) Richard atte Wode. As it was uncertain when the whole fleet would be ready to cross the sea, the Mayor and Sheriffs were more than once reminded to have their men-at-arms and archers ready at short notice. (fn. 86) The year closed, however, and the expedition had not yet started.
The spring of 1346 was spent in continued preparations for war. Again the Sheriffs of London were called to make proclamation for all persons between the ages of sixteen and sixty to take up arms and to be at Portsmouth by mid-Lent [26 March]. Before the Earl of Derby carried out his design of proceeding to Gascony his father had died, and he had succeeded to the Earldom of Lancaster. (fn. 87) The archers who were to sail with him were now ordered to muster at Tothill fields in the early morning of the 28th March. (fn. 88) Still further delay took place before the main force was ready to start, and fresh orders were repeatedly sent to the City. (fn. 89) At length all was in readiness, and early in July the King and the Prince of Wales, accompanied by a large force, set sail for France, leaving behind them Lionel, the King's second surviving son, as guardian of the realm. (fn. 90) Their destination, which had been kept a profound secret, (fn. 91) was not, however, Brittany nor Gascony, but Normandy.
The campaign on which Edward and his son were now embarking resulted in the victory of Crecy and the capture of Calais, besides lesser exploits. An account of the early part of the campaign by the King himself was sent to the citizens of London "for their comfort," enclosed in a writ from the Regent, Lionel, to the Sheriffs, bidding them see that the King's dispatch was proclaimed in the Husting and elsewhere in the City. (fn. 92) This account is entered in the Letter-Book, and has been printed by Delpit, the French antiquary, in his work already mentioned. It is interesting to compare it with other accounts recorded by Murimuth and Avesbury. (fn. 93) In the account before us the King narrates how, after arriving at La Hogue, near Barfleur, the expedition set out on Tuesday, the 18th July, for Valognes, which was taken; that thence it marched to Carentan, repairing on its way a bridge which had been broken by the enemy, and having made itself master also of that town, proceeded to Saint Lo, which it also took, after repairing another bridge; (fn. 94) that it then continued its march direct to Caen, where it arrived without having stopped for a single day's rest from the hour it set out from La Hogue. (fn. 95) Here, we are told, the army met with resistance. The town was assaulted, and after a stubborn fight was eventually taken without loss to the English, whilst a large number of the enemy were slain and others taken prisoners, among the latter being the Comte d'Eu, Constable of France, and Sire de Tankerville, the Chamberlain and Marshal of France. (fn. 96) Turning from the exploits of the army, the King proceeds to relate how, in the meantime, the fleet had ravaged the coast from Barfleur up to the dyke of "Coleville," near Caen, and had burnt the town of Cherbourg and a large number of vessels lying there. For these successes he calls upon his subjects to return thanks to God, by whose grace he hopes to bring the campaign to a fortunate and honourable end. The narrative concludes by notifying the return of the Earl of Huntingdon, invalided home, who would more fully inform the King's Council of the state of affairs, whilst the writ which accompanied the dispatch called upon the Sheriffs to see that reinforcements were got ready.
On the King's subsequent movements, culminating in the victorious battle fought against Philip at Crecy on the 26th August, the Letter-Book is altogether silent. All that can be gathered from its pages is the fact that the City raised a sum of 3,000 marks, one-third of which was made a free gift to the King, whilst the remainder was offered as a loan. (fn. 97) On the 3rd September the King sat down before Calais prepared for a long siege. His forces, already greatly reduced by the recent battle suffered a still further diminution by desertion, and he found it necessary, before the end of the month, to give orders to the Mayor and Sheriffs to seize all deserters, of whatever rank, found within their jurisdiction. (fn. 98) On the 3rd October the Regent, Lionel, sent two writs to the Sheriffs, one bidding them make proclamation for furnishing the King's army with provisions, and the other for an armed force to be sent to Sandwich by the 15th to assist him in the siege of Calais. Horses (grossi equi) were not to accompany the force, inasmuch as the place of disembarkation was close to the town. (fn. 99) At the close of the month the Sheriffs received another writ to the effect that no corn was to be exported except to Calais or to places in Flanders and Gascony. (fn. 100) The greatest precautions were to be taken against exportation elsewhere, the exporters being called upon to give surety at the outset, and also to produce certificates from officials in Flanders and Gascony that the corn exported for those countries had actually arrived there. The siege was maintained throughout the winter, and early in the following year (1347) steps were taken by the home Government to furnish the King with means to carry it on. A fleet was required, above all things, to occupy the harbour of Calais, and in order to obtain one the Regent directed his writ to the Sheriffs on the 15th February for the election of four citizens to attend a Council to be held in Lent to consider the matter. (fn. 101) Another writ of the same date ordered the Mayor and Sheriffs to seize all vessels in the Port of London for the King's service. (fn. 102)
A month later (15 March) the City was called upon to furnish two large ships, each of them manned with sixty wellarmed seamen and twenty archers. These were to join the main fleet of 120 vessels under the Admiral of the West at Sandwich on Easter Monday, and were to be paid for out of a subsidy of 20,000 sacks of wool granted by a Council held by the Regent at Westminster on the 3rd March. (fn. 103) In May the Sheriffs were ordered to make proclamation forbidding the exportation of wool before the King had levied his share of the wool of the country. (fn. 104)
In the meantime Pope Clement, who since his accession to the Papal chair on the death of Benedict XII in 1342 had always shown himself anxious to mediate between Edward and Philip, had directed a letter to the former exhorting him to make peace. To this the King made reply (fn. 105) to the effect that he had always been ready to conclude a peace on reasonable terms; that God had ordained the crown of France to be his right and heritage; that he was being deprived of it by Philip; who was the real cause of the evils enumerated in the Pope's letter, and much more in the same strain. (fn. 106)
Nothing came of this interchange of letters. Edward did not relax his efforts to capture Calais, whilst Philip hastened preparations to raise the siege. On Tuesday, the 17th July, the French army mustered at Hesdin, a town situate about fourteen miles north-east of Crecy. On learning this, Edward sent home for additional forces to be forwarded to Calais with all speed. (fn. 107) On the 23rd the Regent dispatched a writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs for victuals to be sent as soon as possible to Calais, as Philip had pitched his camp, with an immense force, within three miles of the town, preparatory to making an attack on the English army. No attack was made, however. On the morning of Thursday, the 2nd August, the French army unexpectedly decamped, and on the following day Calais surrendered, to remain in the hands of the English for more than 200 years. A few days later (9th August) the King himself dispatched a writ of Privy Seal to the Mayor and Sheriffs, calling upon them to fit out the City's best ship, and send it forthwith to join the English fleet lying at Calais. (fn. 108) On the 12th the Regent caused proclamation to be made in the City, inviting merchants and others to go over to Calais with victuals and merchandise before the 1st September, promising, if they would do so, to afford them accommodation on easy terms. (fn. 109) A week later (20 August) he gave orders for the return to Calais of all persons who had left the army there and had returned to England. Transport would be ready for them at Sandwich and Dover, to convey them to Calais, by Sunday the 2nd Septembe.r (fn. 110) The reason for these hurried orders was a report that Philip was busy collecting another army for recapturing Calais, having heard that a portion of the English force had already been sent home. (fn. 111) Hostilities were not renewed, however, and on the 28th September a truce was signed to last until the 24th June, 1348.
Soon after the King's return to England he gave orders for supplying Calais with a sufficiency of corn, (fn. 112) so that the town might be prepared to withstand a siege if necessary. On the 13th November he summoned a Parliament to meet on the 14th January (1348). He knew the war was not popular, and was careful to explain that he was not summoning a Parliament for the purpose of raising money and imposing further burdens upon his subjects, but in order to take their advice and to consult with them for the common weal. (fn. 113) It was probably as an earnest of his good intentions that he gave orders that the tax of six pence in the pound formerly imposed for the London fleet should no longer be collected, although the subsidy of 2s. on every sack of wool was still to be levied. (fn. 114) Both in this Parliament and in the Parliament held two months later, viz., on the 31st March, in which the King asked for money to enable him to meet the military preparations which were being made by Philip, (fn. 115) the Commons insisted upon redress of their grievances. Edward succeeded in effecting a compromise, and a fifteenth and tenth were granted for three years. On the expiration of the truce at Midsummer, 1348, the Sheriffs received orders to forbid the holding of jousts and tournaments in the City-exercises that served very well as a pastime-and to command that the citizens should betake themselves to the more serious exercise of arms for the safety and defence of the realm against the King's enemies. (fn. 116) All immediate danger of a renewal of hostilities was averted, however, by an agreement for a truce for six weeks from the 13th September to the following 25th October. (fn. 117) Beyond this, and beyond a record of the fact that before the truce came to an end Edward was already gathering a force at Sandwich for service abroad, (fn. 118) the Letter-Book has nothing to say about military affairs until March, 1350, (fn. 119) the reason for this being that England and France were glad to come to terms in the face of the plague, commonly known as the Black Death, which was ravaging both countries.
This, the first of three epidemics (fn. 120) that visited this country during the reign of Edward III., appeared in England in August, 1348, and is said to have reached London by the following November, although no signs of it appear in the Letter-Book before June, 1349, when the Sheriffs received the King's orders to make proclamation enforcing the observance of an ordinance regulating the wages of servants and artificers, and forbidding the enhancement of the price of victuals in consequence of the pestilence. (fn. 121) This ordinance, which was originally made by the King and his Council, caused much disaffection, and had to be repeatedly enforced. (fn. 122) Two years later, however, viz., in 1351, it was enacted in a still more stringent form as a Statute, known as the "Statute of Labourers," on the petition of the Commons, for whose benefit all fines imposed for breach of the Statute were to be devoted. (fn. 123) In the meanwhile the civic authorities had taken it upon themselves to afford relief to the inhabitants of the City who had been suffering from the unreasonable demands of servants and labourers. A schedule of wages and prices was drawn up, fixing the price of labour and material, down to the amount of money to be paid to a cook for making a rabbit-pie. The schedule might be varied by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty according to the exigencies of the time, but the price for the time being was to be strictly observed, and men were elected from each Ward to see to it. (fn. 124)
We see other signs in the Letter-Book of the ravages of the plague in the record of the death of William Raven, a mercer, eight days after he had been appointed Weigher at the Small Balance, (fn. 125) and the increase in the number of orphans for whom the City was called upon to provide guardians. (fn. 126) Again, it is remarkable that, although by the end of 1349 the plague is recorded as having abated in the City (fn. 127) (cessata jam pestilencia mortali), more than half of the names of the Wardens appointed early in the following year to see that certain ordinances of the Shearmen were duly observed had to be struck out, as being the names of persons who were either dead or sick, or who had quitted the City, and others supplied in their places. (fn. 128) So many, indeed, were quitting not only the City but the country for fear of the plague, that the King had to forbid any one leaving the kingdom, even on a pilgrimage to Rome, without his special permission. (fn. 129) Already the pestilence in Europe, combined with the war between England and France, had so far put a stop to the flow of merchants to Rome that the citizens of London had applied in their corporate capacity to the Pope to nominate John de Worthyn, his chaplain, of the Dominican Order, to grant absolution and impose penances in the City when the interposition of his Holiness was not absolutely necessary. They further prayed his Holiness that in the event of the death of the chaplain, another Dominican Friar might be appointed in his place by the Prior and Convent of the Order, with the counsel and assent of the civic authorities. (fn. 130)
Instead of making another expedition to France, as Edward had intended to do, in the summer of 1350, he agreed to another truce with France, to last from the 13th June to the following 1st August, and for one year after. (fn. 131) Scarcely had the quarrel between England and France been again patched up, before England was menaced with danger from another direction. Philip de Valois died on the 22nd August (1350), and was succeeded by his eldest son John, Duke of Brittany, and although the latter was precluded by the truce from showing any overt hostility to England, he, like his father, encouraged the King of Spain, whose subjects had hitherto enjoyed Edward's protection, (fn. 132) in his attacks upon English merchantmen on the high seas. More than a month before Philip's death, Edward had learnt that Spain was collecting a naval force at "Swyne," and on the 24th July had written from Framingham in Norfolk informing the civic authorities of the fact, and of his intention to assemble a fleet at Sandwich for the purpose of meeting the enemy at sea. For this object he called upon the City to furnish him with two good ships, having a complement of armed men and archers, and victualled for a month at least. (fn. 133) The City, accordingly, fitted out two vessels, one the property of Andrew Turk (brother of the Mayor), and the other belonging to Goscelin de Cleve. The former carried forty armed men and sixty archers, whilst the latter carried thirty armed men and forty archers. This force, together with their pay, was raised by an assessment on the various Wards, and was dispatched to Sandwich on Friday, the 13th August, although, by the King's orders, they were to have arrived at that port by Sunday the 8th. (fn. 134) With the assistance thus furnished by the City, in addition to the main fleet, Edward succeeded in humbling for the first time the pride of Spain at sea.
Although the Spanish fleet was much crippled, Edward deemed it necessary to provide a convoy for the Bordeaux fleet, which sailed in the following autumn, and he sent orders to the Sheriffs to make proclamation in the City for all ships engaged in the wine trade to meet at Plymouth, and seek the protection of the Seneschal of Gascony and the Constable of Bordeaux. (fn. 135) On the 10th August of the following year (1351) the King was able to announce to the citizens that he had concluded peace with Spain for twenty years. (fn. 136)
For three years-viz., from April, 1348, until February, 1351 -no Parliament had met, the government of the kingdom being carried on by ordinances of the King and his Council Occasionally the City was called upon to send representatives to attend the Council, as they were in September, 1350, (fn. 137) but for the most part the Commons were not represented. Hence arose no little jealousy. At length a Parliament was summoned to meet on the 9th February, 1351. The writ of summons addressed to the Sheriffs of London was somewhat out of the ordinary run of such writs, for they were specially bidden to see that the City's representatives were not men gaining their living by pleading and maintaining quarrels, but solid, trustworthy men, who had the public good at heart. (fn. 138) As soon as the Parliament sat the Commons insisted upon embodying into a Statute (known as the "Statute of Labourers") the provisions made in Council in 1349 for regulating prices and wages, as already mentioned.
The same Parliament also enacted the "Statute of Cloths," a Statute which created no little commotion among the City traders. In the first place, it declared that on and after a certain day all cloth should be measured by the King's Alnager, and be of a certain assize. The drapers, having laid in a large stock of cloth at Michaelmas last, and having experienced a bad season for trade, found themselves with the cloth left on their hands. They prayed, therefore, that the King's Alnager, or some one else, might be allowed to place the cloth, as it was, on the market either before or on the day prescribed, and promised that any cloth they bought in future should be of the assize ordained. (fn. 139) A second grievance caused by this Statute was the re-enactment of the Statute of York, (fn. 140) already mentioned as having granted free trade to the merchant stranger, and a veto put upon the interference of any municipal officer in the buying and selling of victuals. (fn. 141) It was soon seen that the removal of all municipal supervision in the sale of the necessaries of life might lead to a "corner" being made in these commodities. In order to prevent this the King took upon himself to send his writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs, three weeks after Parliament had risen, bidding them punish any victualler, whether wholesale or retail, found enhancing the price of victuals under cover of this enactment. (fn. 142)
If the year 1351 witnessed a departure from the usual mode of electing members to sit on the Council of the Kingdom by the exclusion of lawyers-or, at least, of such lawyers as gained their livelihood by champerty and maintenance-it also witnessed a remarkable (although but temporary) change in the manner of electing Commoners to assist the Mayor and Aldermen in the municipal government and sit on the Council of the City. The members of the Common Council had hitherto been elected from the Wards. We see from the Letter-Books (fn. 143) that this was the case in 1285, and again in 1347, the latter election taking place pursuant to an ordinance passed in October of the previous year, enforcing the attendance of Aldermen at elections of the Mayor and prescribing the number of representatives to take part in the general government of the City according to the size of each Ward. (fn. 144)
In November, 1351, we find, for the first time, this mode of election departed from. Instead of a precept being issued to each Alderman for the election of a certain number of members from his Ward to consult with the Mayor and Aldermen on the business of the City, we find a precept or "bill" addressed to two members of the principal "Misteries" or Guilds, bidding them summon the good men of their Mistery for the purpose of electing four members to attend at the Guildhall on City business whenever summoned by the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen. (fn. 145) The Misteries to whom this precept was sent numbered only thirteen, and the entire Common Council (excluding the Mayor and Aldermen) for this year consisted of no more than fifty-four members (some of the Misteries returning more than four, others less), as compared with a hundred and thirty-three which constituted the Council of 1347. This appears to be a unique instance of the Common Council having been elected from the Misteries before the year 1376, when an ordinance was passed to the effect that thenceforth the Council should be so elected instead of by the Wards. (fn. 146) This ordinance, however, only remained in force until 1383, when the right of election was restored to the Wards. (fn. 147)
On the 15th November, 1351, the King issued his writ for a Parliament to meet on the 13th January, the writ containing the same limitation as to men engaged in litigation for a livelihood not being allowed to sit as the writ for the last Parliament. (fn. 148) A fortnight later, victuallers were encouraged to come to Westminster during the Council Session, and sell their goods, under an assurance that they would not be interfered with by the King's Purveyors. (fn. 149) The abuse of purveyance accounts, in a great measure, for the unpopularity of Edward III. and his father. (fn. 150) Whenever Parliament was about to sit at Westminster the price of food was immediately raised, either by the victuallers themselves, eager to put money in their pockets, or by the action of the King's Purveyors, who caused a scarcity of provisions by seizing all they could lay their hands on for the King's household On the occasion of the last Parliament these hateful officials were expressly forbidden to intercept corn or other victual on the way to the City for fear of producing a scarcity. (fn. 151) The hardship inflicted by purveyance was aggravated in 1351 and 1352 by restrictions placed upon the exportation of corn, except to Calais, without the King's special licence. (fn. 152) In both years complaint was made in Parliament of the exactions of the King's officers, (fn. 153) with the result that some relief was obtained by the passing of a Statute known as the "Statute of Purveyors." (fn. 154) This Statute was of such importance to the citizens of London that the King ordered that it should be publicly read in the Husting.
The Letter-Book reminds us of another drawback arising from meetings of Parliament at Westminster, such meetings being often the occasion for a good deal of horse-play within the verge of the Palace, whilst quarrels frequently took place among bad characters, who ruffled it with sword or dagger. The nuisance had to be put down in 1352 by royal proclamation, which forbade any one appearing at Westminster or on the way from the City to Westminster at such times bearing any offensive or defensive arms, except the King's officers and those appointed for keeping the peace. (fn. 155)
In September, 1351, the truce between England and France was renewed for another year, (fn. 156) although a rupture had appeared imminent in the previous month of July, when Edward found it necessary to replenish his Exchequer by seizing all the property in the City belonging to merchants of the Hanse of Almaine. (fn. 157) The storm, however, blew over, but only to rise again a twelvemonth later, when the French King threatened Brittany with a large force. The City received a call to arms, (fn. 158) and Parliament was summoned to consider a course of action. (fn. 159) But before it met a battle had already been fought in which the English forces had come off victorious. After this success, if not in consequence of it, the truce between the two countries was renewed until the 11th November, 1353. (fn. 160) With the writ of summons for the second Parliament of 1352 the Letter-Book may be said to conclude so far as relates to the war with France.
Among miscellaneous matter recorded in the Letter-Book may be mentioned a deputation sent over in 1347 to the City by the Hanse of Almaine to complain of the action of the Sheriffs and Water-bailiffs in demanding custom and toll on merchandise imported by members of the Hanse, who, they said, "were enfranchised by the City by the composition touching Bishopsgate." The deputation consisted of Tideman de Lymberg, Hildebrand Suderman, and Tideman Coufot. (fn. 161) The first mentioned had assisted Edward by advancing money on the English regalia (fn. 162) at a time when the King was hard pressed; and on that account, perhaps, the goods of this Hanseatic merchant were exempted from seizure (fn. 163) in 1351, when the property of other members of the Hanse was taken into the King's hand, as just related. Hildebrand Suderman or Sutherman we hear of again as having been implicated in the murder of a merchant of Bristol, named Robert Curteys, who had been wrongfully charged with having committed a robbery in Flanders at a time when he was proved to have been in England. (fn. 164) For this reason Hildebrand was for some time in disgrace with the King. He was eventually taken under the King's protection, although still debarred from commercial intercourse with England. (fn. 165) The deputation having laid their complaint before the civic authorities, the matter was duly examined, and search made in the 'Books of Memoranda' in the custody of the Chamberlain-by which we understand more particularly these Letter-Books of the City-for evidence bearing on the question, with the result that the claim of the Hanse merchants to be quit of toll was found to be justified, and moreover that any question arising as to toll or custom ought to be determined by their own Alderman, the Alderman of the Hanse, and not by the civic authorities. (fn. 166)
In the last two Letter-Books we find reference made to what was known as "Queen's Gold" (aurum Reginæ). (fn. 167) This was a sum of money paid to the Queen Consort by the King's tenants in capite on every fine made to the King, (fn. 168) and was in the proportion of one-tenth of each fine It first appears in the City's records under date 1255, when Queen Eleanor, wife of Henry III., remitted to the citizens the "Queen's Gold" due for fines made and to be made, she having received therefor a satisfactory consideration. (fn. 169) When Parliament granted the King a tenth or fifteenth, it was usual for the City to pay a lump sum by way of composition. In 1334, and again in 1335, the amount paid by the City in respect of a fifteenth appears to have been 1,100 marks, one-tenth of which-viz., 110 marks-had, in addition, to be paid to Queen Philippa as "Queen's Gold." (fn. 170)
It is to be noted that "Queen's Gold" was only payable on fines granted to or exacted by the King, and any attempt by the Barons of the Exchequer to exact it on occasions of free gifts by the City to the King was rigorously opposed. Thus in 1336 a demand was made for the payment of 50 marks by way of "Queen's Gold" in respect of a sum of 500 marks given as a free gift by the City to the King to assist him in the war with Scotland; but the King was eventually compelled to acknowledge that the claim was unjust, and issued his writ to the Barons to withdraw the demand. (fn. 171) On the other hand, a claim for "Queen's Gold" made in 1345 on a fine of 500 marks paid to the King for putting an end to the Iter of 1341, to which attention has already been drawn, was paid without a murmur. (fn. 172)
The mention of "Queen's Gold" in this connexion calls to mind the remarkable fact that for nearly ninety years there is no record of any coinage of gold having occurred in England In 1257 a gold penny of the value of 20d. had been issued by Henry III., and since then no other gold coin appears to have been minted until 1343, when, as the Letter-Book informs us, three new gold pieces-bearing respectively on the obverse two leopards (lions ?), one leopard, and a helm-of the value of 6s., 3s., and 1s. 6d., were minted at the Tower of London. This new money was put in circulation in the City by a proclamation made on Sunday, the 1st February, 1344. (fn. 173) It was soon discovered, however, that these coins were over-valued in proportion to the silver coins then current, (fn. 174) and on that account were superseded after a few months by a new gold currency, consisting of a Noble of the value of 6s. 8d. (or half a mark), and a Half and Quarter Noble of proportionate value. (fn. 175) At the same time the King opened an Exchange in Bucklersbury, where a Noble could be exchanged for sterlings at a penny discount, a Half-noble at a halfpenny, &c., a premium being charged on the conversion of sterlings into Nobles. On the 20th April, 1345, the King ordered the Sheriffs of London to make proclamation to the effect that he had appointed "Courard Roirer" (fn. 176) and certain other merchants of "Dast" (fn. 177) to be money-changers in the cities of London, York, and Canterbury, and that they were to deal with the gold Noble at 6s. 6½d. as purchasers, and at 6s. 7½d. as vendors. (fn. 178) Another writ, much to the same effect, was issued from "Suthwyk" on the 20th July following, (fn. 179) whilst yet another was sent to the Sheriffs from the Tower of London on the 10th September, the same year. (fn. 180) In August and October of the following year (1346) the King had occasion again to enforce previous orders for the new gold pieces to be accepted as currency, and to forbid the importation of base coin from the Continent (fn. 181) The base coin thus imported was known as "Lussheburghs," (fn. 182) from their having emanated originally (as is supposed) from Luxemburg, and their circulation in the City was peremptorily forbidden by the King in February, 1348. (fn. 183) Three years later, viz., in 1351, the King, with the advice of his Council, not only caused a new issue of gold pieces to be made, but also introduced into England a new silver coin with the Flemish or Dutch name of "Gros," of the value of four sterlings, and a Half-gross of proportionate value The coin is better known to us by the English term "groat." (fn. 184)
Another notable event recorded in the Letter-Book is a decree made in 1344 by the Mayor and Aldermen, with the assent of the leading Mercers, (fn. 185) or retail dealers in small wares, of the City, to the effect that the Small Beam or Balance should be re-made (de novo fabricetur) and furnished with new weights. It was further decreed that the new machine should have a tongue and cleft, like modern balances, and that in weighing goods the tongue should be allowed to stand up straight and evenly within the cleft (sub cloffo (fn. 186)), and not incline to one side or the other. (fn. 187) This appears to have been a new departure.
In 1305 Edward I. had attempted to introduce the system of weighing evenly by the balance in the City to accommodate the foreign merchants resorting there, the weigher being instructed to see that the balance stood evenly after removal of his hands (there being at that time, apparently, no tongue and cleft); but the citizens objected to the innovation as being opposed to the custom that had long prevailed in the City of giving an overdraught (tractus or tret) to the purchaser. (fn. 188) Four years later, however (viz., in 1309), the civic authorities came to terms with the foreign merchants, and it was agreed to weigh evenly all goods bought and sold by weight (averia ponderis), whether weighed by the Great or the Small Beam. (fn. 189) A clause to similar effect was inserted in the Statute of Staples of 1353, set out in Letter-Book G, (fn. 190) but the latter distinctly mentions the tongue of the balance, which the ordinances of 1305 and 1309 do not.
In 1339 circumstances arose which led to the claim of the civic authorities to seize all felons found within the City and to commit them to Newgate until the next gaol delivery being recognized by Parliament. The circumstances were these: The Sheriff of Lincoln having received orders for the arrest of Alan Ryngolf, of Boston, to answer certain charges of trespass, failed to bring up the prisoner, owing to his having been arrested in the City by the Sheriffs of London on a charge of robbery committed at Boston. Thereupon the Sheriffs of London were called upon to answer for their conduct at Westminster, and so well did they plead on behalf of the City's franchise that it was adjudged that, inasmuch as the robbery for which Alan had been arrested in the City was more odious (magis odiosa) than the trespasses with which he was originally charged, he should be remitted to Newgate in their custody until the next gaol delivery. (fn. 191)
In 1348 we find the burgesses of Reading complaining that the Sheriffs of London illegally exacted toll and custom on their goods entering the City, contrary to their charter as recorded in Letter-Book C (or the "Greater Black Book") in the Chamber of the Guildhall; (fn. 192) and in 1351 the citizens of Oxford claimed the right to assize of bread and ale on the ground that they enjoyed the same chartered rights and privileges as the citizens of London. (fn. 193) These and similar matters bearing upon the liberties and customs of the City serve to illustrate the City's history in the Middle Ages, and add to the interest of the Letter-Book.
In conclusion, the reader's attention is drawn to what is by no means the least interesting feature of the Letter-Book, viz., a list of Mayors and Sheriffs from the earliest times down to 1548. The list may be divided into two parts, viz., the record of Mayors and Sheriffs down to the twenty-eighth year of Edward III. (the year in which the Letter-Book practically ends), entered, apparently, by one and the same hand, and probably in that year; and the record of subsequent Mayors and Sheriffs written by various hands and at divers times. This list has been collated with the Mayors and Sheriffs recorded in the City's 'Liber de Antiquis' (translated and edited by the late H. T. Riley under the title 'Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London, A. D. 1188-1274'); but it should also be studied in connexion with other lists printed in an appendix to what is generally known as 'Gregory's Chronicle' (the author being, as is supposed, William Gregory, skinner, Sheriff in 1436, Mayor in 1451), published by the Camden Society in 1876 under the careful editorship of Dr. James Gairdner, and also with a list of Sheriffs of London and Middlesex printed under the auspices of Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte, Deputy-Keeper, Public Record Office ('Lists and Indexes,' No. ix.), in 1898.