Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: H, 1375-1399. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1907.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Letter-Book H covers a period of twenty-four years, viz., from A. D. 1375 to 1399—an eventful period in the municipal history of the City of London, no less than in the constitutional history of the kingdom. Of foreign affairs, such as the war with France, which for so long had proved a burden to the citizen of London, as seen in the last two Letter-Books, this volume records but little beyond patched-up truces as hopeful preliminaries to a permanent peace. (fn. 1) It is more concerned with the internal affairs of the City. In it can be traced the various measures which caused Richard II.—the "Londoners' King" as he was called at his accession (fn. 2) —to lose the support of the City, and eventually his crown. We see the citizens split up into two factions, one supporting the King and the other his uncle the Duke of Lancaster. At the head of the King's party was Nicholas Brembre, a grocer by trade, and with him were associated other powerful citizens, all more or less connected with the victualling trade of the City; whilst the Duke found supporters in John de Northampton, a draper, and other influential citizens connected chiefly with the clothing trade of the City; and these two parties, when not engaged in a political contest, were in frequent opposition over municipal questions, (fn. 3) so that all stability in the manner in which the City was governed was for a time lost.
During the last years of the reign of Edward III., the power of John of Gaunt and his friends had been ever increasing, and a system of peculation and extortion had been practised, which at length called for a remedy. This was supplied by the Parliament of 1376. On the 28th Dec., 1375, Edward issued his writ to the Sheriffs of London for the election of four citizens to attend a Parliament to be held at Westminster on the following 12th Feb. It is to be noted that the writ contained no clause against Sheriffs being returned like the last writ of 1373. (fn. 4) The choice of the citizens fell on John Pyel and William Walworth, Aldermen of Castle Baynard and Bridge Wards respectively, and William Essex and Adam Carlille, Commoners. (fn. 5)
This Parliament—known as the "Good Parliament"—did not actually sit until the 28th April (1376). (fn. 6) Among those charged with misconduct were three City Aldermen, viz., Richard Lyons, Alderman of Broad Street Ward, Adam de Bury, of Langbourn Ward (who had been removed from the Mayoralty chair by the King's orders ten years before (fn. 7) ), and John Pecche, of Walbrook Ward. Lyons had made himself very useful financially to the Duke of Lancaster, but he had come by his wealth (fn. 8) by various underhand dealings prejudicial to the honest merchant of the City, and a heavy judgment was passed upon him. Not only was he condemned to pay a fine and be imprisoned during the King's pleasure, but he was expelled from Court and ordered to lose the freedom of the City and be deprived of all his property. (fn. 9) Bury was charged with having used his position as Mayor of Calais for purposes of extortion, but he failed to appear on summons and fled the country. The Commons therefore had to content themselves with the seizure of his property. (fn. 10) Pecche was accused of having wrongfully obtained a monopoly from the King to sell sweet wines, (fn. 11) and of having unlawfully made a charge of 40 pence on every cask, which he appropriated to his own use without the knowledge or assent of the civic authorities. (fn. 12) That he had made this extortionate claim behind the backs of the civic authorities Pecche denied, and even gave the names of the Mayor for the time being and of fifteen Aldermen, besides the City's Common Pleader, as having been fully cognizant of what he was doing. (fn. 13) He, too, was condemned by Parliament to fine and imprisonment, as well as restitution of his unlawful gains, (fn. 14) whilst all three Aldermen were removed from office by order of the Common Council of the City. (fn. 15)
The Common Council, which thus deprived three Aldermen of their gowns by a single resolution, met on the 1st August, 1376, and was of an exceptional character. For some time past the citizens had been exercised in their minds as to whether it were better for the members of the Common Council to continue to be elected by the Wards, or whether the right of election should be transferred from the Wards to the Misteries or Guilds. Party feeling on the question, indeed, ran so high that it came to the ears of the King, and Edward sent a letter of Privy Seal to the City threatening to hold a Council at Westminster on Michaelmas Day to consider the matter, and to deprive the citizens of their franchise unless they remained quiet in the meantime. (fn. 16) Such a threat had the effect of quickly settling the question, and on the 1st August—the day that a new Common Council from the principal Misteries met, as just mentioned—the civic authorities were able to assure Edward that there was no serious dissension in the City, but that, in order to prevent tumult arising from large gatherings, it had been unanimously agreed that any Common Council that should be summoned in future should be chosen by the best men of the Misteries (the number of the Misteries being regulated by the Mayor for the time being, according to the gravity of the occasion), and that the Commonalty had consented to abide by the judgment of those so elected and that of the Mayor and Aldermen. (fn. 17)
This Council had been returned by forty-one of the Misteries, but the number of commoners it comprised is not recorded. We are only told that "a great number of the Commonalty from the principal Misteries" was summoned. The change in the manner of election was effected by the citizens themselves without the sanction of Parliament, (fn. 18) by virtue of a clause in a charter granted to the City by Edward himself in 1341, which enabled the Mayor and Aldermen, with the assent of the Commonalty, to amend their customs whenever necessary. (fn. 19) It was not the first occasion of the Council being elected from the Misteries. This had been done in 1351, and again in 1352. (fn. 20) In 1354, however, the election had again passed to the Wards, (fn. 21) and with the Wards it had remained.
After passing judgment on the delinquent Aldermen, the Council proceeded to consider how best to remedy certain grievances under which the citizens had been suffering for some time past. Complaint had been made by the Commonalty that divers Mayors and Aldermen had been in the habit of making ordinances for their own private benefit, and had made grants of public land under the Common Seal of the City without consulting the Commonalty. (fn. 22) As it seemed only reasonable that approved Commoners should be present at the making of every ordinance touching the inhabitants of the City in common, and that nothing should be done in secret, the Council decreed that in future the Surveyors of each "sufficient" Mistery should cause certain members (six, four, or two, according to its size) to be elected to make ordinances for the government of the City in conjunction with the Mayor and Aldermen, and that the citizens at large should abide by their judgment. Those so elected were to be ready to form a Council with the Mayor and Aldermen whenever necessary, but were to meet at least twice a quarter, and only those so elected were to be summoned to elections of Mayors and Sheriffs. (fn. 23) Pursuant to this resolution another Council was elected within a few days from the Misteries. It consisted of 156 members returned by 47 Misteries, (fn. 24) and met on the 9th August. Each member bound himself by oath not to seek any private gain, and to preserve for each Mistery its reasonable customs (fn. 25) One of its first acts was to disfranchise Pecche. (fn. 26)
The Misteries or Guilds of the City, from which the Livery Companies of the present day are lineally descended, were just now and for some years to come all-powerful. The election to the Common Council remained with them, to the exclusion of the Wards, down to 1384, although an attempt was made in 1380 to dethrone them. Walworth had just entered upon his eventful Mayoralty when he issued his precept for the Aldermen to summon the inhabitants of their Wards to consider whether it were best for the Common Council to continue to be elected from the Misteries, or to be elected from the Wards, or again, partly from the Misteries and partly from the Wards. (fn. 27) Nothing more, however, is heard of the matter until 1384, when, complaints having been made of the business of the Common Council being transacted with more noise than reason, and of some of its members being unfit for their position, the matter was referred to a special Committee to report thereon.
On the 29th January of that year the Committee submitted certain suggestions to the Mayor, Aldermen, and an immense Commonalty of honest and discreet citizens sitting as a Common Council, with a view to their being accepted on trial. They were to the effect that the Aldermen, within fifteen days of their own election on St. Gregory's Day (12th March) in each year (the Aldermen at that time being subject to annual election, as will be seen later on), should assemble their Wards and charge them to elect four of the more sufficient inhabitants of each Ward to be members of the Common Council, and to present the same to the Mayor to be by him accepted and sworn This recommendation was afterwards qualified. It was seen that some Wards might experience a difficulty in supplying four "sufficient" men. The Committee therefore drew up a scheme for each Ward to elect six, four, or two members, according to its size, so that the total number should amount to ninety-six persons, or an average of four members to each Ward. (fn. 28)
The Committee made another suggestion, namely, that the Mayor for the time being should not accept more than eight of those elected by the Wards who were members of one Mistery. They were evidently atraid that although the Misteries no longer directly elected the Council they might still exercise a predominating influence in it. (fn. 29) Their fears were not unreasonable, if we bear in mind the conflict that had taken place between the victualling and non-victualling guilds over the election of Brembre to the Mayoralty chair in the preceding October, to which the reader's attention will more particularly be drawn later on.
This return to the old system of election to the Common Council by the Wards was formally approved by a Council so elected (the members of which numbered not ninety-six, but two hundred and sixty-seven (fn. 30) ) on the 31st July (1384), with a corollary added to the effect that the same members might be re-elected each year if so desired. (fn. 31) By the end of the following year (1385) the system had been found on trial to work so well that another Common Council passed a resolution that it should be continued "for ever." (fn. 32)
The Common Council of the 31st July, 1384, which thus fixed for good and all the constitution of its own deliberative body, next proceeded to prescribe the manner in which elections of Mayors and Sheriffs should thenceforth be carried out.
(1.) As to the election of a Mayor, the procedure was to be as follows, viz: the Mayor for the time being, with the advice and assent of sixteen Aldermen at least, was to summon a Common Council to meet on the Feast of the Translation of St. Edward [13 Oct.], together with as many other sufficient men of the City as they might think necessary, (fn. 33) and those so summoned should make their election of two of the wisest citizens to be presented by them or their Common Serjeant to the Mayor and Aldermen as was anciently accustomed to be done.
(2.) As to the election of a Sheriff. Such election was to take place on the Feast of St. Matthew [21 Sept.], when a Common Council and other citizens were to be summoned in the manner just stated, and those summoned were to make their election of an able person to be presented to the Mayor and Aldermen. (fn. 34)
From that day to this the Members of the Common Council have always been elected from the Wards, although a controversy again arose in 1389 as to whether the election should be vested in the Wards or Misteries. This led to a resolution by the Mayor and Aldermen (apart from the Commonalty), which, if put into execution (which seems doubtful), would have practically deprived the Wards of their right of election without restoring it to the Misteries. It was to the effect that whenever a Common Council should become necessary, the Mayor for the time being—in the presence of twelve Aldermen at least—should elect a certain number of members from each Ward, according to its size and at his discretion, without respect of their particular Mistery. (fn. 35)
The year 1376, that witnessed the change in the mode of election of the Common Council from the Wards to the Misteries, witnessed also a change in the election of Aldermen of the City. As far back as 1319 one of the "articles" conceded by Edward II. for the better government of the City was to the effect that the Aldermen should be removable (amobiles) every year on St. Gregory's Day (12 March), and not be re-elected the following year, but that others should be elected in their place. (fn. 36)
There is reason, however, for believing that this article remained for many years a dead letter, it not being sufficiently clear whether the Aldermen were bound to surrender their office or were only removable. This ambiguity was at length cleared up in 1376 by letters patent of Edward III., (fn. 37) which explained that the intention of the "article," or ordinance, was that all the Aldermen should cease to hold office on St. Gregory's Day in each year, and not be re-elected.
On the 6th March, 1377, a Common Council, comprising the Mayor, the Recorder, nineteen Aldermen, and sixty-four Commoners belonging to thirteen different Misteries or Companies, passed a resolution that Aldermen who had misbehaved themselves and been removed from office should on no account be re-elected, but that an Alderman who had conducted himself well might be re-elected after the lapse of a year. (fn. 38)
Seven years later, viz., on the 4th February, 1384, Brembre, the Mayor, took upon himself to issue his "precept" for an election of Aldermen to take place regardless of any so elected being already Aldermen, (fn. 39) thereby ignoring the year's interval before re-election prescribed in 1377. Richard, who was narrowly watching the course of affairs in the City, assented to this election standing good, but would only allow the same procedure to be followed in future elections if sanctioned by Parliament. (fn. 40) This sanction it in due course received. (fn. 41) The same procedure in the annual election of Aldermen continued down to 1394, when annual elections ceased, and it was decreed by King and Parliament that thenceforth Aldermen should not at any time be removed without reasonable excuse. (fn. 42)
The same year, the Ward of Farringdon Within and Without, having increased so much in wealth and population, was divided into two Wards and an Alderman allowed both for the Ward of Farringdon Within and the Ward of Farringdon Without These Aldermen, however, were not to enter upon their duties until approved by the King. (fn. 43)
Three years later another change—and that an important one—in the mode of election is recorded in the Letter-Book. Elections of Aldermen by the Wards had not of late been wholly satisfactory. Dissension and undue partiality were constantly being displayed by the electors, with the result that men were elected who were not suitably equipped for the office. An ordinance was therefore passed on the 1st August, 1397, by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty, limiting the powers of the inhabitants of the Wards to the nomination of two (fn. 44) individuals who should be equally fit to fill the office of Alderman of the City, but placing the final choice as to which of the two should be admitted and sworn, in the hands of the Mayor and Aldermen. (fn. 45)
Passing to more general affairs, we find the Letter-Book recording the death of Edward III. at Shene on the 21st June, 1377, and the accession of Richard II. "in the eleventh year of his age." (fn. 46) The last few months of Edward's reign witnessed an attack made in Parliament which threatened the liberties of the citizens of London. In February a Bill had been introduced for taking the government of the City out of the hands of the Mayor and placing it in the hands of Henry Percy, Constable and Marshal of England. The Bill was favoured by the City's old enemy the Duke of Lancaster, but was hotly opposed by the redoubtable John Philipot, and the proposal was eventually allowed to drop. (fn. 47) The Letter-Book affords us an insight into the strained relations that existed between the citizens and the Marshal. The latter took occasion to complain that the citizens obstructed him in his duties, (fn. 48) and the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen were summoned to Westminster to explain matters The meeting before the King's Council, however, was put off from time to time until Edward s death intervened, and we hear no more of the matter. (fn. 49)
At the time of Edward's death Richard was staying at Kingston, whence he despatched letters to the Mayor and Sheriffs, bidding them to make proclamation for keeping the peace in the City and not allow any individual or ship to leave the Port of London without his permission or that of his Council. This much we learn from the Letter-Book. (fn. 50) On the other hand, the Letter-Book records nothing of the deputation of citizens that waited on Richard at Kingston, before Edward had drawn his last breath, when John Philipot, as their spokesman, assured Richard of the City's allegiance to him and to none other as their future King, and at the same time took the opportunity of deprecating the recent hostility that had been displayed between the City and the Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 51) It is significant that the chroniclers who record this visit to Kingston mention Philipot as taking the leading part in the interview It is possible, therefore, that the deputation was more or less of an informal character, otherwise Brembre the Mayor, who afterwards became such a strong supporter of Richard, would surely have attended and have addressed the Prince in place of Philipot.
On the 26th June, notice was sent to the Sheriffs that Richard's coronation would take place on the 16th July, and they were to see that those who claimed a right to take part in the ceremony were duly invited. (fn. 52) The Mayor accordingly claimed to serve the King with a gold cup, and to retain it afterwards, together with a gold ewer, as his fee, whilst other citizens chosen for the purpose claimed the right of assisting the Chief Butler. Both claims were allowed, in spite of the opposition of Chief Justice Belknap. (fn. 53)
The Council appointed to carry on the government on behalf of the young king had no easy task. A combined French and Spanish fleet was cruising unopposed in the Channel, and the Exchequer was empty. On the last day of July (1377) a writ of Privy Seal was despatched to the civic authorities bidding them send four of the wisest citizens to attend a Council to be held at Westminster in the middle of August to consult about the war and the protection of commerce at sea. The City replied by sending William Walworth, John Philipot (who in the course of the next year fitted out a fleet at his own expense and did much to rid the sea of pirates (fn. 54) ), and two other less noteworthy citizens, viz., Adam Carlille and John Hadley. (fn. 55) In the meanwhile (4 Aug.) a writ was issued for the election of four citizens to attend Richard's first Parliament, which was summoned to sit at Westminster on the 13th Oct. Three of the four just mentioned, viz., Walworth, Philipot, and Carlille, were returned, together with Walter "Sibille" or "Sibyle," who, like Carlille, was at the time an Alderman, whilst Walworth and Philipot were Commoners. (fn. 56)
At the end of August, a meeting of leading citizens was held in the Guildhall, when measures were decided upon for the protection of shipping in the Thames. Four Aldermen were assigned to take charge of the ships, with an armed force of 100 men, for six days of the week, in rotation, and this was to continue until Michaelmas Day. (fn. 57)
By way of assisting the King out of his more immediate financial difficulties, a sum of £10,000 was advanced to him by Brembre, Walworth, Philipot, Hadley, and other merchant-princes of the City, whilst a further sum of £5,000 was advanced by the City itself in its corporate capacity. As security for repayment of these loans, the King pledged the customs on leather, &c., issuing from the Port of London, on the understanding that the merchants who had advanced the larger sum out of their own pockets should be repaid before the Corporation, with whom he also deposited Crown jewels to the full value of their loan by way of additional security. (fn. 58)
When Parliament met in October it refused to grant supplies for the war, unless the King appointed Treasurers or Wardens who should be responsible for the proper application of the money. Thereupon Richard appointed Walworth and Philipot. (fn. 59) He also, at the request of the Commons, (fn. 60) as well as the citizens themselves, confirmed the City's rights and privileges by an ample inspeximus charter. (fn. 61)
This charter again confirmed to the citizens the monopoly of retail trading in the City, to the exclusion of non-freemen or 'strangers." (fn. 62) Brembre, the Mayor, caused the charter to be publicly proclaimed in the City, and was not slow to take measures to prevent strangers from infringing this monopoly, which the citizens had often lost in the past and might lose again. (fn. 63) In April (1378) he directed his precept to eight of the leading Guilds—viz., the Grocers, Mercers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Ironmongers, and Vintners—bidding them to elect men to search for merchant strangers bringing merchandise to the City affecting their respective Guilds. (fn. 64) The men so elected were thereupon bound by oath to see that no merchant who was not of the franchise sold merchandise by retail within the City and suburbs; that such merchants disposed of their goods within forty days to those who were of the franchise, and that during their stay they lodged with hostelers who were freemen. (fn. 65) Restrictions were imposed on the sale of cloth by foreigners, (fn. 66) and they were forbidden to meddle with the craft of free Weavers. (fn. 67)
In the meantime events were taking place in the City that had far-reaching consequences. A few weeks before the death of Edward III a Common Council drawn from fifty-one of the Guilds had thought fit to remove five of its members —viz., William Essex, John More, Richard Norbury or Northbury, Robert Fraunceys, and John Willarby—on the ground that they had been in the habit of betraying the secrets of the Council and been remiss in their duties. (fn. 68) It is to be noted that two of these "suspects" were mercers by trade and company, viz., More and Norbury; one of them, viz., William Essex, was a draper; whilst Fraunceys is described as a goldsmith, and Willarby as a "taillour." More and Norbury, as we shall see later on, were staunch adherents of Northampton and his party, and with him suffered imprisonment. The Mayor at the time was Brembre, he having been elected in March, 1377, to take the place of Adam Stable, a mercer by trade, who had been deposed at the instigation of the Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 69) The cause, therefore, of the opposition to these five members of the Common Council is to be looked for in the faction that existed at the time, and continued for many years to come, between the victualling and the non-victualling Guilds in their struggle for civic supremacy.
In March, 1378, we again see signs in the Letter-Book of this rivalry. One Sunday, early in the month, an affray arose in St. Paul's Churchyard between members of the Goldsmiths' and Pepperers' (or Grocers') Guilds, in consequence, we are told, of "a certain rancour that had existed between them." Brembre, the Mayor, soon appeared on the scene, and peace was restored. Subsequently the Aldermen met at the Guildhall, being summoned by the Mayor, when Nicholas Twyford, a member of the Goldsmiths' Guild and one of the Sheriffs for the time being, appeared, and with him a man whom Brembre at once recognized as having taken a leading part in the riot. The Mayor therefore ordered his arrest and committed him to the custody of Andrew Pykeman, Twyford's fellow Sheriff, who had been appointed to the office by Brembre himself. (fn. 70) Twyford resented this, and was forthwith arrested by the Mayor's orders. When his conduct was reported to the Common Council, many were in favour of his surrendering the Shrievalty, but eventually he was allowed to remain in office on his finding sureties of indemnity. In March, 1382, when Northampton, Brembre's rival, occupied the Mayoralty chair, the recognizance which Twyford had been made to enter into was annulled by order of the Common Council. (fn. 71)
In addition to its own economic troubles, the City had external difficulties to contend against. Thanks to Richard's intercession, the City and the Duke of Lancaster had agreed in June, 1377, to forget their differences. (fn. 72) In reality the Duke continued to oppose the City in every way possible. By his advice the Parliament of October, 1378, was summoned to meet at Gloucester (fn. 73) instead of Westminster, and when it met he insisted on taking the subsidy out of the hands of Walworth and Philipot as Treasurers of War, although no fault could be found with the way they had fulfilled their duties. (fn. 74) His brother, the Earl of Buckingham, at the same time summoned the Mayor before Parliament to answer for an assault made in the City upon some of the Earl's servants. Brembre stoutly defended himself, and proved his innocence of any complicity in the matter. (fn. 75) Nevertheless it was deemed advisable to purchase the forbearance of the Earl by a gift of 100 marks, lest the City itself should be made to suffer. Parliament broke up on the 16th November, and on the 25th the City members (fn. 76) related to the Common Council what had taken place and how well Brembre had behaved. The Council was so pleased with the way he had defended himself that it ordered the Common Clerk (i. e., Town Clerk) of the City to place the proceedings on record, and promised that Brembre should be repaid the amount of his gifts and all other expenses incurred by him over the matter. (fn. 77)
Nor did the attack on the City end here, for many of the great lords withdrew themselves altogether from the City, a proceeding which threatened to ruin the hosteler and vintner. The citizens met under the presidency of Philipot, their new Mayor, to discuss how best to win back their wealthy customers. The only course open was to resort to wholesale bribery! The City's "Chamber" being devoid of funds, the necessary money had to be raised by subscription. The names of the subscribers and the amount each subscribed are set out in the Letter-Book. (fn. 78) It will be seen that Philipot headed the list with a sum of £10, or just double the amount advanced by any other subscriber. Six others, including Walworth and Brembre, subscribed £5 respectively, whilst the rest contributed sums varying from £4 down to 5 marks, the last-mentioned sum being contributed by the majority of subscribers, including Richard "Whytyngdon" of famous memory. In this way a sum amounting to little more than £350 was raised by 166 subscribers. The expenditure was not made in vain, for it is recorded that "by the diligence and work of certain good folk of the City, a good accord was effected between the lords of the realm and the City, thanks be to God." (fn. 79)
It was during Philipot's Mayoralty that an inquisition was held as to those who had practised maintenance and champerty in the City since the death of Edward III. By "maintenance" is here meant the undertaking to promote other persons' causes in courts of justice by those who have no personal interest in the matters at issue. It had also a more particular meaning in the support given by great lords to their dependents wearing their "livery." (fn. 80) Two juries were sworn, and they returned the names of over sixty persons whom they found guilty of maintaining suits in the Mayor's Court and before the Sheriffs as well as "in the country," and of thus obstructing the law. (fn. 81) Among these occurs the name of John "Montham" or "Muntham," a joiner, who with Guy Paulyn, a draper, John Bere, a haberdasher, Thomas Kyngesbrigge, a cordwainer, and others incidentally mentioned in the Letter-Book, became strong supporters of Northampton against Brembre. Two years before, viz., in 1376, the "Good Parliament" had forbidden all officers and ministers of the Crown to accept any gift for favour promised or otherwise, except their fees and gowns; (fn. 82) and in August of the same year the Commons of the City presented a petition for the passing of a civic ordinance to the effect that in future no Mayor, Recorder, Sheriff, or Alderman should take any gift for maintenance of a quarrel under the same penalty as that recently imposed on Justices by Parliament. (fn. 83)
It was also during Philipot's Mayoralty that a blow was struck at fraudulent debtors, who often made over their property by collusion to their friends whilst they themselves took sanctuary in some church or other privileged place. The practice of sanctuary was strongly inveighed against, not only by Wycliffe, but by his patron and supporter the Duke of Lancaster, with the result that a statute was passed in the spring of 1379 to the effect that a fraudulent debtor taking sanctuary should be summoned at the church door once a week for five weeks, and if at the end of that time he failed to appear, judgment should go against him, and his goods be seized for his creditors, any collusive deed of gift notwithstanding. (fn. 84)
The grants made to the King by the Parliament at Gloucester as well as the money advanced to him by the City were soon expended, and recourse was had again to the citizens. In February, 1379, the Mayor and Aldermen were summoned to Westminster. What passed at the Council is recorded at some length in the Letter-Book. (fn. 85) They were told that the money voted by Parliament could not be got in quickly enough to meet pressing demands; the Council had therefore advised the King to raise a loan among his wealthy subjects. The Duke of Lancaster and others of the nobility had agreed to contribute, and the Mayor and Aldermen were now asked what each of them was prepared to do to assist the King at this crisis. After a brief consultation among themselves, the Mayor and Aldermen suggested that the usual course in such cases should be followed, and that they should have an opportunity of consulting the Common Council of the City before giving a reply. Eventually the City agreed to advance another sum of £5,000 on similar security to that for the former loan (including the pledging of the crown jewels), but a rebate was to be allowed in any further tax that might be imposed by the next Parliament. The loan was to be repaid by the 1st Nov. (1379). (fn. 86)
When a new Parliament met in April (1379) the state of the Exchequer demanded that the net for gathering revenue should be more widely spread than had been hitherto customary. In 1377 recourse had been had, by way of experiment, to a poll-tax of fourpence for every person over 14 years of age. (fn. 87) The result was sufficiently successful to encourage another trial of that mode of raising money; but this time the tax was to be on a graduated scale, according to the wealth of each individual, from 10 marks (or £6 13s. 4d.) imposed on a Duke down to fourpence, which the poorest peasant was called upon to pay. The Mayor of London (assessed at the same amount as an Earl) had to pay £4, whilst the Aldermen (assessed on the same footing as Barons) paid £2. Ten assessors and four collectors of the tax were appointed for the City. (fn. 88) When the collectors sent in their accounts it was found that the whole receipts scarcely reached £630, (fn. 89) whilst the proceeds of the tax throughout the country amounted to no more than £22,000, a sum far short of what had been anticipated. (fn. 90)
In November of the next year (1380) a Parliament was summoned to meet at Northampton, the Duke of Lancaster being again responsible for the change from Westminster. (fn. 91) Money was more needed than ever, and once more recourse was had to a poll-tax. This time a tax of three groats, or one shilling, was imposed on every one over the age of fifteen excepting absolute beggars (forspris les verrois mendinantz), and the richer were to help the poorer. (fn. 92) Six Commissioners and two Comptrollers were appointed to levy the tax in the City, and the Aldermen were to see that the tax was paid by all who were liable in their respective Wards, and bring in the money so raised to the Guildhall by the 27th January (1381)—afterwards changed to the 6th February. (fn. 93) When the collectors came to render their account it was found that the sum total they had received was but a little more than £1,000, and this they had collected from 20,397 inhabitants of the Wards and suburbs. (fn. 94)
The return affords a valuable clue as to the number of the inhabitants of the City and liberties at this period, provided always that the return is accurate. That many of the returns from the country were not accurate was strongly suspected by the King's Council, and on the 16th March it appointed a new set of Commissioners armed with authority "to travel from place to place, scrutinizing carefully the list of inhabitants and forcibly compelling payment from those who had evaded it before." (fn. 95)
The imposition and collection of the Poll-tax of 1380 were seized upon by every malcontent in town and country as affording an opportunity for him to better his condition, and thus became the proximate cause of the great upheaval known as the Peasants' Revolt, which took place in the following year. An account of the insurrection, as one of "the most wondrous and heretofore unheard-of prodigies" that had ever befallen the City, was formally placed on record in the Letter-Book. (fn. 96) The writer is unknown, but whoever he may have been, the account he gives us is valuable as being both contemporary and official. In the light, however, of other documentary evidence on the subject to be found in the British Museum and Public Record Office, (fn. 97) it is remarkable as much for what it omits as for what it records.
The narrative begins with the irruption of the rebels from Kent and Essex into the City on Thursday the 13th June, 1381. The writer admits that this success was gained by the connivance of "perfidious commoners" within the City, but the treachery of two Aldermen, viz., Walter Sibyle and William Tonge, who allowed the insurgents an easy passage over London Bridge and through Aldgate into the heart of the City, in spite of Walworth's orders to keep the City gates closed, is passed over in silence. Nor, again, does he mention the welcome extended to the enemy by John Horne, another Alderman, whom Walworth had despatched with two others to parley with them and endeavour to dissuade them from approaching the City. (fn. 98)
Before entering the City the Kentish men had attacked a house in Southwark inhabited by women of loose character (fn. 99) from Flanders. All foreigners were hateful to the rebels, and more particularly Flemings, who were made to suffer terribly at their hands. By nightfall the Duke of Lancaster's manor of the Savoy and most of the property of the Knights Hospitallers at the Temple and at Clerkenwell had been destroyed by fire and much blood spilt. The conflagration was witnessed by the King from the Tower, and he decided to interview the rebels himself on the morrow at Mile End.
Accordingly at 7 o'clock on the morning of Friday (14 June) he set out for that locality, accompanied by the Mayor and a large retinue, and there held conference with Wat Tyler, their leader. The demands made by Tyler were high, among them being the punishment of the King's ministers who were regarded as "traitors." This point was pressed, and although the King had gone prepared to grant almost anything, he did not consent (as we are told he did by the writer in the Letter-Book) "that they might take those who were traitors against him and slay them wheresoever they might be found." (fn. 100) The most that he said was to the effect that they should have at their disposal all such as could be proved traitors "by process of law." (fn. 101)
Whilst the King was still at Mile End, Tyler, with a large following, hurried off to the Tower for the purpose of seizing the so-called "traitors." They met with little or no opposition from the guard, and soon came upon Sudbury, the Archbishop and Chancellor, and Robert Hales, the Prior of St. John's and Treasurer, and these they brought out and beheaded on Tower Hill. John Legge, the King's Serjeant-at-arms and sometime farmer of the public revenue, who had been one of the prime movers in the stringent collection of the Poll-tax, (fn. 102) also fell a victim to their fury. The Letter-Book further records the decapitation in Chepe of Richard Lyons, (fn. 103) the disgraced Alderman, and the wholesale massacre of Flemings in the Vintry, the work of murder and devastation being continued until "vespers on the following day" (Saturday, 15 June).
On one matter, closely affecting the governing body of the City, the official report of the revolt is singularly silent, and that is the attempt made by the rioters to set fire to the Guildhall and destroy a book of ordinances, compiled in all probability under Northampton's auspices, and known as "Jubile," of which we shall hear more later on. For particulars of this incident we have to look outside the Letter-Book.
From other sources also we learn that John Horne, the traitor Alderman, went up and down the City with a riotous band, offering speedy justice to all who had a grievance, and usurping authority generally. He turned Richard Toky, a grocer of Lombard Street, out of his house because a woman claimed it, (fn. 104) and threatened Robert Norton, a tailor, with the loss of his head unless he at once satisfied a certain creditor. Nor were the Aldermen themselves respected by the rioters' for we read that two of them, viz., William Baret and Hugh Fastolf, the one living in the parish of St. Mary Bothaw, near Dowgate, and the other in the parish of St. Dunstan in the East, near the Tower, were forced to make formal conveyances of their respective houses to a rebel named Paul Salesbury, as well as to suffer the grossest indignities. Nevertheless, Salesbury had little difficulty in securing the King's pardon for his excesses. (fn. 105)
The King in the meanwhile avoided returning to the Tower, and betook himself (according to the City's account) to his "Wardrobe," near Castle Baynard, (fn. 106) where he passed an anxious night. In the course of Saturday afternoon (15 June) he made his way to Westminster Abbey, where he spent some time in prayer and confessed to the anchorite there. (fn. 107) By that time the rebels had gained so much the upper hand that force seemed useless, and there was nothing left except to try to resume the negotiations which had been opened at Mile End. With this view Richard sent a messenger to invite them to a second conference to be held in Smithfield.
Of what took place at Smithfield there are several accounts, varying in some particulars, but not generally conflicting. The official account in the Letter-Book is one of the shortest, being limited to a more or less turgid description of the manner in which Walworth, the Mayor, dealt Tyler a "mortal blow," whilst in altercation with the King and nobles. (fn. 108) The writer does not seem to have been aware that Tyler had first aimed a blow with a dagger at the Mayor, whose life had only been saved by a coat-of-mail worn under his gown. Whether the blow dealt by Walworth was really mortal or not matters little, for (as we learn from other sources) one of the King's esquires, John Standyche or Standwick by name, ran Tyler twice through the body, so that he dropped from his horse whilst trying to ride back to his men. Seeing their leader fall, the rebels prepared to attack the royal party, but the youthful Richard rose to the occasion, and at this critical juncture himself went fearlessly to meet them. In a few words he was able to appease them, and, putting himself at their head, led them out of the City towards Clerkenwell.
Whilst the King was thus engaged Walworth had slipped back into the City for the purpose of collecting a band of citizens to bring to his aid. Sibyle and Horne, the traitor Aldermen, had, however, forestalled him, and had done their utmost to persuade the citizens to close Aldersgate, the gate nearest Smithfield, declaring all to be lost and that there was nothing to be done except to defend the City's gates and wall. In giving this advice they may have been acting honestly, although at the inquest held in November, 1382, the jury thought otherwise. (fn. 109) This incident, again, is not mentioned in the LetterBook. Fortunately the citizens paid more heed to the Mayor than to the Aldermen, and within half an hour a considerable force was despatched to the King under the leadership of Sir Robert Knolles, (fn. 110) whilst Walworth returned to Smithfield to look for Tyler, whom he supposed to be still alive. On learning that he had been carried, more dead than alive, to St. Bartholomew's Hospital hard by, Walworth proceeded there, and, finding the wretched man, had him brought out to the middle of Smithfield and there beheaded. He then set out to join the King at Clerkenwell, with Tyler's head borne on a pike. The sight of their leader's head and the large force with which they found themselves unexpectedly surrounded brought the rebels to reason. They expected to be annihilated, but to their great joy the King allowed them freely to depart. Thus was peace restored. In token of gratitude for the aid thus rendered him by the City, the King knighted there and then not only the Mayor, but three other Aldermen, viz., Nicholas Brembre, John Philipot, and Robert Launde. (fn. 111)
As soon as all immediate danger had passed away, Richard appointed seven commissioners—comprising the four new City Knights, Robert Bealknap, the Chief Justice of Common Pleas, Robert Knolles, and William Cheyne, the City's Recorder—with full powers to investigate the recent outbreak, to punish the guilty, and to take precautions against further disturbances, whilst he himself set out to visit those counties to which the disaffection had spread. (fn. 112) No time was lost in taking measures for safeguarding the City. On the 16th June the Aldermen were instructed to take the names of all hostelers in their several Wards, and to hold them responsible for the conduct of their household. Four days later they were further ordered to administer an oath of allegiance to the inhabitants of their Wards, and to arrest those who refused to take it, whilst elaborate precautions were to be taken to guard the City's gates, the charge of each being assigned to a certain Ward on a certain day. (fn. 113) Elsewhere among the City's records we find a return made by the several Aldermen of the names of those men in their Wards who were suspected of having connived at the rebellion, men who were known to be of bad character, and who, owing to the insurrection, had withdrawn themselves from the City. The list comprises nearly 200 names. (fn. 114) With what feelings Sibyle, Horne, and Tonge made their returns may be better imagined than described. In the same quarter we find the names of over 70 persons suspected of connivance with the rebels, who were taken before the Commissioners between the 19th June and the 19th October (1381) and made to take an oath of allegiance and find sureties for good behaviour. (fn. 115)
In November Parliament met, (fn. 116) and before it broke up it passed a general Act of Pardon for the rebels with certain exceptions, including the names of 151 Londoners, (fn. 117) among whom neither Sibyle, Horne, nor Tonge appears. Of what befell them we learn nothing from the Letter-Book beyond the fact that they continued in office as Aldermen down to March, 1382, and that at the annual election which then took place (fn. 118) not one of them was re-elected. From other sources, however, we learn that these three, together with Adam Carlille, were placed on trial before the King's Bench in April, 1383, when they were allowed out on bail. In the following November they again appeared to stand their trial, and refused to avail themselves of the benefit of the Act of Pardon. (fn. 119) Early in 1384, when they were again before the Court, proceedings fell through owing to want of witnesses; and the same thing again occurring when the Court next sat to try them (in spite of invitations for witnesses to come and give evidence), they were at length allowed to go quit. (fn. 120)
Although never again elected Alderman, Sibyle was appointed Deputy of his old Ward on a special occasion in August, 1384, when the Mayor and Aldermen were summoned to attend the King's Council at Reading, and Tonge was at the same time appointed Deputy of Tower Ward. (fn. 121) A twelve-month later Tonge is also recorded as having been elected and sworn Alderman of Tower Ward in place of Hugh Fastolf, whose duties as Constable of Dover Castle prevented him from properly executing the office of Alderman. (fn. 122) Nevertheless, on St. Matthew's Day (21 Sept.), when the election of Sheriffs took place, Fastolf appears as an Alderman as well as Tonge, the latter being one of the two Aldermen elected Auditors of the accounts of the Chamberlain and Wardens of London Bridge. (fn. 123) Again, at the Mayor's election in the following October, Fastolf attended among the Aldermen, (fn. 124) but then disappears entirely until the next annual election of Aldermen in March, 1386, when he was elected Alderman of Bridge Ward. (fn. 125) After his election as Auditor Tonge never appears again as Alderman. That he was still held in esteem by his fellow-citizens may be presumed from his being returned to represent the City in the Parliament which sat at Cambridge in September, 1388. (fn. 126)
For four years in succession (viz., Oct., 1377, to Oct., 1381) the victualling guilds had been powerful enough to place in the Mayoralty chair one of their own class. In October, 1381, however, when Walworth went out of office, the non-victualling guilds proved the stronger, and succeeded in placing John Northampton, a draper, in the chair. (fn. 127) In 1382 he was again elected, so that for two years the non-victuallers ruled the City, to the no little discomfort of fishmongers and other victuallers. One of the earliest official acts by Northampton on entering upon his first Mayoralty was to issue particular orders to the Aldermen for safeguarding the City's gates. (fn. 128) Precepts of this kind to the Aldermen might be issued by any Mayor on his own authority, (fn. 129) and nobody can blame Northampton for having exercised his prerogative in this respect, seeing the peril that the City had recently passed through. On the other hand, many acts have been commonly attributed to Northampton himself, which in reality were due to the combined judgment of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council. It was said at Northampton's trial (fn. 130) that he packed the Common Council with friends of his own from the smaller Misteries, who passed any ordinances he wished. It was further declared that in bringing this about he was assisted by More, Norbury, and Essex (who had been restored to their former rights of citizenship in February, 1382 (fn. 131) ), as well as by Thomas Usk, a scrivener, whom Northampton employed as his secretary, and who afterwards became his enemy.
When, however, we come to consider other charges brought at the same time against Northampton, and find many of them to be baseless, we are put on our guard against accepting such evidence without corroboration. For instance, it was charged against Northampton that, when Mayor, he and others ordained that all the Aldermen should be annually removed and others elected in their place, (fn. 132) whereas this change in the election of Aldermen was effected in 1376 by letters patent of King Edward III., (fn. 133) at a time when Northampton was not Mayor. Again, the transference of the election of members of the Common Council from the Wards to the Misteries was ascribed to his Mayoralty, whereas the Letter-Book clearly shows that this change was also made in 1376 during the Mayoralty of John Warde, who was a grocer, and therefore belonged to the victualling class! (fn. 134)
Other charges brought against Northampton were to the effect that during his Mayoralty ordinances were passed (1) forbidding any victualler to hold a judicial office within the City, and (2) permitting foreign victuallers to trade by retail in the City, notwithstanding the custom of the City. (fn. 135) Here the accusers had some basis for their charges, for towards the close of his first Mayoralty a petition had been laid before the Parliament of October, 1382, by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty (not, be it noted, by Northampton only), complaining of the price of fish being unduly enhanced by the free fishmongers of the City, and of the difficulties placed in the way of fishmongers who were not freemen carrying on their trade within the City. The petition further set out that in order to mend matters the civic authorities had revived and amended certain ancient ordinances (fn. 137) opening the fish trade to foreign fishmongers, with the result that the price of fish had been reduced. They had also burnt "panyers" or "dorsers" of unlawful size (fn. 138) used by free fishmongers. The petitions concluded with a prayer to Parliament that it would ordain that in future no fishmonger of London nor other victualler should hold a judicial office in the City, and that certain concessions should be made to foreign fishmongers desirous of exercising their trade. (fn. 139)
To this petition Parliament gave a qualified assent, and a statute was passed forbidding any victualler to hold a judicial office in cities and towns, if another fit person, not a victualler, could be found; but a victualler so appointed was to give up trading so long as he remained in office. (fn. 140) Foreign victuallers, moreover (including fishmongers), were still to be allowed to sell their wares in the City by wholesale or retail. (fn. 141) These concessions were not obtained without strong opposition by the free fishmongers, whose cause was advocated in Parliament by Nicholas Extone. (fn. 142) He declared that the petition was the outcome of hatred and envy, and not brought for the public good, and that the free fishmongers of the City went in bodily fear. To this charge Northampton had replied that unity and concord had never been greater in the City except as regards the free fishmongers, who wished to continue to practise extortion upon the people, (fn. 143) and he promised that peace should be kept unless first broken by them.
At this juncture Walter Sibyle, who was in attendance with other fishmongers, expressed a desire to be heard, and permission having been granted, he gave a fresh turn to the debate by intimating that all the trouble might be traced to the fact that some of the petitioners had been committed to prison by order of the late King, and that the order had been executed by City officials who happened to be of the Mistery and Livery of Fishmongers. (fn. 144) Such an insinuation brought John More to his feet (feeling, no doubt, that Sibyle's shaft had been directed against him among others), and he twitted Sibyle with his traitorous conduct during the recent rebellion, as commonly reported. Sibyle immediately challenged More to be more explicit. Thereupon More declared that it was common rumour (the truth of which, however, he was not prepared to vouch) that John Horne and Adam Carlille had aided and abetted the rebels, and that Sibyle had prevented Walworth from closing London Bridge against the enemy. He wished the matter to be investigated, and he believed that what he had stated would be found to be true. (fn. 145) There the debate, which had thus descended to personalities, was allowed to end. (fn. 146) The strife between the free fishmongers and those who were not free continued, however, to be waged in the City after Parliament had risen, both Northampton and Extone coming in for their share of praise or contumely. (fn. 147)
There was another matter on which the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty petitioned this Parliament, viz., that it would sanction and confirm the City's ordinances for the punishment of usurers, saving always the rights of Holy Church. (fn. 148) To this petition answer was made that the King wished the rights of Holy Church to remain as of old, and that for the punishment of extortion, trespass, &c., the Common Law of the land and the usages and customs of the City were adequate without further enactment. (fn. 149) The proceedings taken against usurers whilst Northampton occupied the Mayoralty chair (fn. 150) were particularly distasteful to his enemies, who saw, or thought they saw, that they were being taken for the express purpose of disqualifying his opponents from holding office. (fn. 151)
On the 7th October (1382)—the day after Parliament had commenced its session—the King had directed a letter of Privy Seal to the Sheriffs, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City, intimating that if the citizens at the approaching election of a Mayor for the year ensuing were to re-elect Northampton he would be pleased; but it was not his intention to interfere in any way with the free election of the citizens. He also wrote to Northampton himself, urging him to accept office if re-elected Northampton produced the letter on the day of the election (13 Oct.), and, having signified his willingness to serve another year "on account of his reverence for the King," he was re-elected. (fn. 152)
Northampton's re-election was quickly followed by Philipot's resignation or deprivation of his Aldermanry (fn. 153) as well as by the disfranchisement of Extone for his recent conduct in Parliament. (fn. 154) What really happened to Philipot is not clear. All that we discover from the Letter-Book is that in March, 1383, when the annual election of Aldermen took place, William Baret was chosen in his stead as Alderman of Cornhill Ward; (fn. 155) but that in the following year (1384), when the victualling party was again in the ascendant and Brembre once more occupied the Mayoralty chair, Philipot again appears as Alderman of his old Ward, continuing in office until his death (25 May, 1384), when he was succeeded by John Rote. (fn. 156) According to Walsingham, (fn. 157) the Mayor forced Philipot to resign as being too formidable a rival, but the chronicler does not explain how pressure was brought to bear. If we are to believe the depositions against Northampton and others in the Coram Rege Roll already cited, Philipot was publicly charged by John More on the day of Northampton's re-election with having failed to repay certain sums of money which he had borrowed during his Mayoralty (1378-9), and was then and there disqualified from holding any office within the City. (fn. 158)
Another incident of Northampton's second Mayoralty was the surrender of rooms over Aldersgate by Ralph Strode, the City's Common Serjeant-of-law or Common Pleader, to whom they had been granted during Brembre's Mayoralty for life. (fn. 159) Strode, having recently resigned his post, was declared to have forfeited ipso facto all title to the rooms, and they were made over to one of the King's esquires. When Brembre and his party, however, were again in power (4 May, 1386) a small annuity was bestowed on Strode to recompense him for the loss he had sustained at the hands of Northampton, (fn. 160) and he was appointed standing counsel for the City.
In October, 1383, Northampton's second year of office expired, and Brembre was again elected Mayor. The record of his election in the Letter-Book betrays no signs of its having been contested. (fn. 161) Nevertheless, complaint was made to the Parliament of 1386 by the Mercers, Cordwainers, Saddlers, Armourers, and other guilds of the non-victualling class, that not only on this occasion, but also in 1384 (when Brembre was re-elected to the Mayoralty chair), his election had been carried by a display of force, "thourgh debate and strenger partye," and not by free election of the citizens. (fn. 162) If force were used by Brembre's supporters to secure his election in 1383 there is evidence to show that Northampton was prepared to resort to similar means to secure his own re-election, for it was alleged at the latter's trial that his friend John More (recently elected one of the Sheriffs (fn. 163) ) had placed a guard over the entrance to the Guildhall to prevent any one not in favour of Northampton from taking part in the election. It was further alleged that after the day had gone against him Northampton consulted the Duke of Lancaster as to petitioning the King to set aside the election, (fn. 164) a thing that Richard was little likely to do, seeing that he had all along favoured Brembre's election, even if he had not brought actual force to bear in its accomplishment. (fn. 165)
Thus far there appears to be little, if any, fault to find with the official conduct of Northampton and his party. During the short time they had been in power they had endeavoured to suppress barefaced immorality and to cut down ecclesiastical fees. If they thereby usurped the authority of the Bishop, they were doing no more than following in the steps of Wycliffe. They had, moreover, provided the poor with cheap food, and especially fish. (fn. 166) A loaf of bread or a draught of ale could be bought for a farthing, and a large number of coins of that denomination had been specially minted at the Tower by Northampton's orders, so that the baker and taverner should have no excuse for not giving change for a halfpenny. (fn. 167) The victualling party in the City had proved, however, too strong for them, and Brembre was once more supreme. The strength of that party was materially increased by the return of four City victuallers to the Parliament which met on the 26th October, soon after Brembre's victory, viz., Walworth and Philipot, at that time Commoners, and Baret and Vannere, Aldermen. (fn. 168) Not only was the recent statute forbidding victuallers to hold judicial office repealed, (fn. 169) but all victuallers were to continue to be subject to the rule of the Mayor and Aldermen. (fn. 170) The King, moreover, was persuaded to grant another inspeximus charter to the City, whereby merchant strangers were again reduced to their former piteous plight. (fn. 171)
Had Northampton accepted his defeat in a chastened spirit, it would have been better for him and his followers; but he was of an obstinate character, (fn. 172) and instead of waiting for the tide of events to turn again in his favour resorted to conspiracy From the day that Brembre was sworn into office Northampton held meetings from time to time in various parts of the City with Norbury, Essex, Usk, and others to concert measures for the overthrow of the Mayor. (fn. 173) At length Brembre reported their doings to the King, and on the 22nd Jan. (1384) Northampton was bound over to keep the peace in the sum of £5,000, two of his sureties being his friend John More and Simon Wynchecombe, the Sheriffs. (fn. 174)
For a time the City enjoyed tranquillity, but on Sunday the 7th February, according to the evidence produced at his trial, Northampton again became turbulent and led a band of rioters through Westchepe. Brembre happened to be dining in the neighbourhood with some of the Aldermen, and on hearing of the disturbance they all sallied forth, accompanied by Wynchecombe, the Sheriff, to follow up the rioters. Northampton refused to obey one of the Mayor's Serjeants who had been sent to stop him, and it was not until he and his band had reached the house of the White Friars near the Temple that the Mayor came up with them. (fn. 175) There Northampton and his brother Robert—otherwise known as Robert Cumbertone— were taken into custody and brought to Brembre's house, in the parish of St. Michael Paternoster church. (fn. 176) Two days later (9 Feb.), according to the Letter-Book, (fn. 177) the King issued his writ to the Mayor to arrest Northampton (already apparently in his custody), as he was suspected of planning an insurrection in the City, and to deliver him to the Constable of Corfe Castle. His arrest appears to have brought matters to a head, for on Thursday the 11th February a riot broke out under the leadership of John "Constantyn," a cordwainer, who gave the signal for revolt by closing his shop. He was almost immediately arrested, tried, and beheaded in the street, by order of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs, who afterwards (4 April) received the King's letters of indemnification. (fn. 178)
In June the King issued another writ to Brembre and the Sheriffs (More and Wynchecombe) to deliver Robert Cumbertone and a certain John Blytone to the custody of his Serjeantat-arms for conveyance also to Corfe Castle, as their presence in London was likely to cause a disturbance as it formerly had done. (fn. 179) The City had been full of "rumours, covines, congregations, and affrays," ever since Brembre's election, and some had laid the blame on Brembre and some on Northampton. On the 11th June it was decided to take a formal vote of the Common Council as to who or which was the real cause of all the mischief, and the unanimous reply was Northampton. (fn. 180)
On the 5th August the King summoned the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen, as well as certain other individuals named in the Letter-Book, to attend a Council at Reading on Wednesday the 17th. (fn. 181) The object of the Council was to put Northampton on his trial, and as many of his partisans were still in the City it was necessary to appoint some responsible body to see that the peace was kept during the absence of the regular authorities. For this purpose each Alderman was instructed to appoint a deputy to govern his Ward until his return. (fn. 182) In anticipation of the trial, the voice of the Common Council of the City was again taken as to whether, in the event of the King pardoning Northampton, his presence in the City would make for peace or otherwise. The answer was again unanimous it were better for peace and unity in the City if he were kept out of it. (fn. 183)
At the trial, which took place on the 18th August, the chief witness against Northampton was Thomas Usk, his former ally and secretary. He was not among those whom the King had summoned to attend, but he had been brought there by Brembre, who welcomed (if he had not actually suborned) such tainted evidence against his hated rival. (fn. 184) Usk unblushingly declared himself to have been a traitor to the City and Northampton's accomplice. (fn. 185) Thereupon Northampton bluntly called him a liar, and challenged him to a duel. It was in vain that Northampton pleaded for judgment not to be passed on him in the absence of the Duke of Lancaster, his patron and supporter. Such a suggestion irritated the King beyond measure, and he declared himself equally competent to pass judgment on both him and the Duke, (fn. 186) and forthwith sentenced him to be hanged and his property to be confiscated. The capital sentence, however, was speedily commuted to one of imprisonment for life (fn. 187) (thanks to the intercession of the Queen), and he was remitted to Corfe Castle. His property, however, was at once appropriated by the King, who proceeded to distribute it among his dependents, although he allowed Northampton's wife a small annuity for the maintenance of herself and children. (fn. 188)
The assumption of judicial power by the King, with or without his Council, in a matter cognizable at Common Law had long been contested by Parliament, (fn. 189) and Richard must have known that he was on dangerous ground when he thus passed sentence on Northampton. It was probably on this account that early in September he caused Northampton to be brought up to the Tower, and again to be put on trial (with More and Norbury, who had been recently arrested) before duly appointed Commissioners. (fn. 190) Among these was the Chief Justice Tresilian, who displayed some hesitation in acting as a Commissioner on the ground that the prisoners ought to be tried by the Mayor. (fn. 191) The trial took place on Monday the 12th September, and the proceedings are set out in the Letter-Book. (fn. 192) More and Norbury were charged with inciting a rebellion and "feloniously and traitorously aiming at the death of Nicholas Brembre, the Mayor," and others, whilst Northampton was charged with having aided and abetted them. All three prisoners acknowledged their guilt, and were condemned to be hanged at Tyburn, whereupon the Chancellor immediately produced the King's writ of Privy Seal, dated the same day as the trial, for execution to be suspended. In the end the prisoners were relegated to widely distant parts of the country, viz., More to the castle at Nottingham, Norbury to Corfe Castle, and Northampton to Tintagel Castle. There they were to remain for a term of ten years, at the expiration of which they were to give sureties for keeping the peace, and undertake not to come within 100 miles of the City. (fn. 193) On the 6th October the King granted an indemnity to the civic authorities for the part they had taken in the recent trials. (fn. 194)
Although their bitterest opponents had been thus removed, Brembre and the victualling party felt far from secure. The fact that the Queen had herself interceded for Northampton at Reading, and that the Duke of Lancaster was known to favour him, made them fear lest Court influence should be brought to bear for the purpose of reversing the existing order of things. Occasion was taken, therefore, of the meeting of citizens summoned for the election of Sheriffs on St. Matthew's Day (21 Sept.) to pass a resolution forbidding the presentation of any petition to the King, Queen, or Lords which might have the effect of subverting the City's government. (fn. 195)
In October Brembre again stood for the Mayoralty. (fn. 196) The Hall was packed with over 300 citizens specially summoned, (fn. 197) and care was taken that they should be "of his ordynance and after his avys." (fn. 198) Not content with mild measures, he took the precaution of having an armed force at hand in case of emergency. (fn. 199) His opponent on this occasion was Nicholas Twyford, of the non-victualling party (being a goldsmith by trade), who had already once fallen foul of Brembre, as already mentioned. (fn. 200) A disturbance arose, as had been anticipated, a large number of Twyford's supporters having gained access to the Hall in spite of all precautions; but the rioters were soon dispersed by Brembre's force, and he again obtained possession of the Mayoralty chair "as it were of Conquest or Maistrye." (fn. 201) The election was attended by Lord Neville of Raby, Lord Fitz Walter, and Sir Thomas Morieux (fn. 202) on behalf of the King, (fn. 203) who favoured Brembre's re-election as he had done on the occasion of the last election. (fn. 204)
Brembre's second year of office was an uneventful one, and in October, 1385, he was again elected Mayor, (fn. 205) this time without any opposition. Again the King signified his approval, (fn. 206) as well he might, for Brembre's influence, no doubt, had assisted him to obtain from the citizens another loan of £5,000 in June last, (fn. 207) a Royal Crown being again pledged with the City.
In the meanwhile the Duke of Lancaster and others had been using their best endeavours with the King to obtain the release of Northampton, More, and Norbury. The King had been given to understand that the majority of citizens were in favour of the distance of one hundred miles, within which the prisoners, if and when released, were originally bound not to approach the City, being reduced to forty miles. Brembre himself knew this to be untrue, but in order to put the matter to the test, he took the advice of the Aldermen and summoned a deputation from the various Wards (to the number of 168) to meet in the Council Chamber at the Guildhall on Wednesday the 28th March (1386). They were then, one and all, called upon to declare on oath whether they thought it better for the peace of the City that Northampton, More, and Norbury should be allowed to come within forty miles of the City, or be kept at a distance of one hundred miles as originally ordered. The answer they gave was unanimously against the proposal, as calculated to engender discord in the City, and the Mayor was asked to take a deputation to the King with the view of getting him to allow the previous order to stand. (fn. 208)
This opposition on the part of Brembre and the citizens roused the indignation of the Duke of Lancaster, who was preparing to leave for Spain, and to whom the King had given his word that a charter of pardon should be granted to the prisoners, with a proviso that they should not approach within forty miles of the City. On the 7th May, and again on the 12th May, the Duke wrote to Brembre from Plympton, upbraiding him for his "unreasonable and outrageous" conduct in thwarting him by endeavouring to persuade the King to forego his promise. To these letters a reply was sent both by Brembre individually and by the Corporation of the City collectively, deprecating the Duke's anger, and assuring him that Brembre had acted not on his own responsibility, but on behalf of the citizens at large. He was further informed that the citizens had been persuaded by Brembre and the Aldermen, with the view of gratifying the King and himself, to consent to a compromise allowing Northampton, More, and Norbury to be set free on finding sureties for their good behaviour, and undertaking not to come within eighty miles of the city. (fn. 209) This compromise was accepted, and on the 3rd June the King issued letters patent to that effect. (fn. 210) Early in July Lancaster set sail, not to return for more than three years. (fn. 211)
In October (1386) Brembre went out of office, and Nicholas Extone, a member of his own party, was elected Mayor in his stead. (fn. 212) Once more the King succeeded in obtaining a City loan, and again a Royal Crown was pledged. (fn. 213) Although Northampton, More, and Norbury had regained their freedom, neither they nor their friends would rest content until they had also regained their former state of citizenship. In the absence of the Duke of Lancaster, who had recently sailed for Spain, their cause was taken up by Lord de la Zouche, who urged the King on their behalf. The citizens again became excited, and agreed [17 April, 1387] to dispatch a letter to his lordship, expressing their surprise at his action. (fn. 214) They reminded him of the doings of these men, which had led to their expulsion from the Common Council ten years before, and of their having been lately convicted on their own confession of high treason, and their guilt publicly proclaimed by the King's orders. If such a proclamation were to be rendered void, they assured him it would be to the King's great dishonour and to the City's destruction. (fn. 215) The same day that the Common Council resolved to send this letter to Lord de la Zouche, it also resolved to send a deputation to seek an interview with the King himself, who was then in Berkshire, and endeavour to persuade him to allow the judgment passed on Northampton, More, and Norbury to remain in force. The result of the interview—as reported to the Common Council by the Recorder on the 4th May—was so far satisfactory that the King promised to exercise caution in showing favour to the released prisoners, although he reserved his right to act graciously towards them. (fn. 216)
The Common Council was firmly resolved not to allow them to be restored to the freedom of the City, even if the King should show further favour to them, and resolutions to that effect were passed both on the 17th April and the 4th May. (fn. 217) It further resolved on the latter day that William Essex, who had failed to appear to answer the charges of sedition brought against him, should be disfranchised, and that when Lord de la Zouche should next appear in the City he should be urged to cease his solicitations. (fn. 218) The Mayor was instructed at the same time to make inquiry as to who were in possession of the property of Northampton, More, and Norbury, with the view of having it seized for the King's use.
We hear nothing more of Northampton and his allies until the following September, when an inquisition is recorded as having taken place before the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Recorder on the 16th day of that month, for the purpose of discovering who had been the aiders and abettors of Northampton, More, Norbury, and Essex in their misprisions, as well as particulars of the several estates of these leaders of the anti-Brembre party. The jury found certain individuals to have been guilty of conspiracy against the City's government, but as to the property of Northampton and the rest they professed themselves ignorant. (fn. 219)
On the following day (17 Sept.) the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty addressed a letter to the King, under their Common Seal, expressing their loyalty to him and their regret at the disfavour he had shown towards the City on account of the "heinous and horrible sect" of Northampton and his fellows, traitors to the King. At the same time they thanked him for recent expressions of favour shown towards the City in a gracious letter as well as by the mouth of Brembre (at that time one of the King's most intimate advisers), and begged him not to show favour to any of Northampton's party until he had heard what those responsible for the government of the City had to say. (fn. 220)
In the meantime a commission for regulating the Kings lavish expenditure, appointed 19th Nov., 1386, (fn. 221) had been declared (Aug., 1387) by certain justices assembled at Nottingham to have been illegal, (fn. 222) and the country was being threatened with civil war. The citizens stood by the King, and took an oath to uphold him against all enemies. A copy of this oath was sent to him early in October by the hands of Brembre, who was afterwards accused of having forced the oath upon the citizens without the King's knowledge or assent The last clause of the oath was directed against Northampton and his party, and appears to have been added as an afterthought. It did not appear in the copy sent to the King. (fn. 223)
Two days later (fn. 224) (7 Oct.) Richard returned a gracious reply, thanking them for their efforts to bring about unity and concord in the City. He exhorts them to continue their efforts in this direction, so that he may the sooner pay them a visit. Brembre had informed him (the letter went on to say) that good and honourable men had recently been elected Sheriffs, (fn. 225) and the King expressed a hope that at the coming election of a Mayor the citizens would choose one who could be trusted to well govern the City, otherwise he (the King) would refuse to accept him. (fn. 226) He charged the civic authorities to see that he be not troubled with petitions to show further favour to the "traitors" Northampton, More, and Norbury, whose property they were instructed to safeguard until further orders; and he concluded by expressing his gratification at their having appointed Thomas Usk to be Under-Sheriff of Middlesex in accordance with his recent request. (fn. 227) On Sunday the 10th November Richard paid his visit to the City, where he was warmly received, (fn. 228) but no record of the visit appears in the Letter-Book.
Affairs were now approaching a crisis, and Brembre's career was rapidly drawing to an end. On the 14th Nov. the King's youngest uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and other lords opposed to Richard's policy—thereafter styled the "lords appellant"— laid a deliberate charge of treason against the King's "false advisers," viz., Archbishop Neville, the Duke of Ireland, the Earl of Suffolk, Chief Justice Tresilian, and Brembre. (fn. 229) In order to gain time, Richard agreed that the charge should be investigated in the Parliament which was to meet on the 3rd Feb. (1388), and in the meanwhile both the accusers and the accused were to remain under royal protection. (fn. 230)
Richard seized the opportunity of turning to the City for aid, and on the 28th Nov. summoned Extone and the Aldermen to Windsor to talk over matters on Sunday the 1st December. (fn. 231) He inquired of them as to the number of armed men the City could bring to his assistance if necessary, to which they replied that the inhabitants of the City were no fighters, being engaged for the most part in trade and handicrafts. Seeing the turn affairs were taking, Extone begged the King to be discharged from the Mayoralty. (fn. 232) This the King would not allow, but two days later (3 Dec.) sent him a writ charging him to take steps with the Aldermen for safeguaiding the City, and to make a return of the names of all disloyal persons he might find. (fn. 233)
As to what took place between the 3rd Dec. (1387) and the 3rd Feb. (1388)—when Parliament met—the Letter-Book is strangely silent. Of the King's sojourn at the Tower towards the close of the year; of the advent of the "lords appellant" to the City (thereby placing the Mayor in an awkward dilemma as to whether it were best to offer them a welcome or not); of the interview which took place at the Tower between the lords and the King; and of the meeting held in the following January at the Guildhall, when the lords offered, but in vain, to arrange matters between the rival Guilds of the City—we find not a word. These matters are to be looked for in other chronicles of the day. (fn. 234)
Elsewhere, however, among the City's archives it is recorded that those who had been found guilty in September last of having conspired against Brembre and the City's government were brought up before the Mayor and Aldermen on the 1st Feb., 1388, and charged on the indictment, when a jury found a verdict of not guilty in favour of some, whilst the Court quashed the indictment against the rest. (fn. 235) We have also seen that the Coram Rege Roll for Hillary term, 1388 (for some reason unexplained), records various inquisitions taken at Northampton's trial, but whethe at the trial that took place at the Tower in September, 1384, or at a fresh trial is not clear.
When Parliament met it was found that four out of the five of the King's advisers had made good their escape, and only Brembre, the "false London Knight" (faulx Chivaler de Loundres), as he was styled, was taken In anticipation of impending danger he had made over his property in October last to others, no doubt on a secret trust. (fn. 236) On the 17th February, being brought before Parliament and charged with treason, he boldly faced his accusers, and offered to prove his innocence by wager of battle as a knight ought. This, however, was not allowed. (fn. 237) Two days later he was called upon to answer charges of extortion brought against him by members of various City guilds, presumably those of the non-victualling class. (fn. 238) On the 20th he was condemned and forthwith hanged. Shortly before his execution at Tyburn he confessed to a son of his old rival, Northampton, that he had behaved badly towards him, and asked forgiveness. Thus ended the career of a citizen who looms large in the records of the City, and whose history and fate have been described as assuming the "importance of a constitutional episode." (fn. 239)
Whilst Brembre's trial was still proceeding Tresilian's hiding-place had been discovered, and he had been already tried, condemned, and executed [19 Feb.] (fn. 240) Another to share the same fate was Usk, on the charge of having got himself appointed Under-Sheriff of Middlesex for illegal purposes—a charge scarcely borne out by the evidence of the Letter-Book, seeing that he owed his appointment to the King's exertion in his favour. He was sentenced to death on the 4th March, (fn. 241) and died asseverating to the last that the evidence he had given against Northampton was absolutely true. (fn. 242)
Not content with bearing witness against Brembre in this "Merciless Parliament" (parliamentum sine misericordia), as it was called, and so contributing to his downfall, certain mercers, goldsmiths, drapers, and others of the non-victualling guilds attacked Extone, charging him with attempting to get Robert Knolles appointed "Captain" over the City to the prejudice of the City's liberties. At Extone's own request the King caused the matter to be investigated, and the charge being found to be baseless, Richard administered a sharp warning to the citizens against defamation of Extone's character. (fn. 243) Before Parliament dissolved, the City Guilds were once more deprived of their trade privileges. (fn. 244)
In September (1388) another Parliament met at Cambridge (fn. 245) under the auspices of the "lords appellant," and in the following November an important step was taken towards regulating not only the Guilds of the City of London, which had occasioned so much disquietude of late years (and which the lords had already shown a desire to take in hand), but also all kindred associations throughout the country, for the King issued writs to the Sheriff of every county to make a return of all Guilds within his bailiwick, with full particulars of their origin, government, and possessions.
Two separate writs of even date, viz., 1 Nov., were sent to the Sheriffs of London, the one bidding them make proclamation for all Masters, Wardens, and Surveyors of misteries and crafts in the City to bring their charters or letters patent into Chancery before the 2nd February (1389), and the other for all Masters of guilds and fraternities to make returns of the nature of their foundation and particulars of their customs, privileges, and property. (fn. 246) The first writ applied to the Guilds which controlled the various trades and crafts of the City, but which also possessed incidentally a religious and social element; (fn. 247), the second referred to unchartered associations formed solely for religious and social purposes. No returns to the first writ appear to be extant (if, indeed, they were ever made (fn. 248) ), whilst only thirty-one returns have been discovered to the second writ. (fn. 249) Among the latter are returns of four fraternities bearing the names of craft Guilds, viz., the Whitetawyers, the Barbers, the Cutlers, and the Glovers, but only as social and religious associations. A seventeenth-century copy of the return made by the fraternity of Barbers is printed in Mr. Sidney Young's 'Annals of the Barber-Surgeons' (pp. 30-34) Another blow was dealt the City Guilds and Fraternities in 1391 by a statute which thenceforth made all Guilds subject to a licence of amortization, thereby showing that up to that time they had enjoyed unlimited power of acquiring property in mortmain without such licence. (fn. 250)
In addition to the strenuous fight for supremacy between the victualling and non-victualling Guilds, the Letter-Book shows various Guilds quarrelling among themselves on other matters, (fn. 251) as well as suffering from internal disorder among their own members. On one side were ranked the Masters and those entitled to wear the "livery" and to participate in the administration of the Guild, on the other, the journeymen ("valets" or "yeomen," as they were then called), having no share in the rule of the Guild; and but little in its benefactions. The latter were in frequent rebellion against the former, oftentimes associating themselves together under the guise of religion in order to escape the penalties attaching to "covines and conspiracies." (fn. 252)
Frequent complaints were made, moreover, to the Mayor and Aldermen of men who "used" a certain craft obtaining the freedom of the City through some other Mistery or Company than that which governed their particular craft, and this notwithstanding the City Chamberlain having warned them against such a proceeding, at the time of their seeking admission to the franchise. The excuse given for practising this illegality was sometimes ignorance of the City custom, sometimes change of occupation, and sometimes the larger fees demanded for admission to one Guild than to another. The penalty was generally disfranchisement. (fn. 253)
The Parliament of February, 1388, although fully justifying its name as "merciless," proved itself in one respect a friend to the City, for it prayed the King to grant a general pardon to the citizens (with the exception of Northampton, More, and Norbury) for all treasons, felonies, &c., committed between the 1st October, 1382, and the 31st May, 1388; and the King had acceded to its request, reserving to himself, however, all forfeitures and escheats. (fn. 254)
In November, 1389, the Duke of Lancaster, the old patron and supporter of Northampton, returned to England from Spain after an absence of three years and received a hearty welcome from the King, who added him to the number of his Council. It was possibly due to his pacific influence (fn. 255) that the Commons, assembled in the Parliament of November, 1390, presented a strong petition to Richard in favour of Northampton. This petition set forth how, during his Mayoralty, Northampton's sole aim and object had been to maintain justice and remedy abuses, but that his enemies had oroved too strong for him; how he had been compelled to throw himself on the King's mercy, and how William Venour (a grocer, and therefore not of Northampton's way of thinking) and all the Aldermen had testified on oath in the King's presence that Northampton was guiltless of the charges laid against him, and that he was a true and loyal subject. They prayed the King, therefore, that all judgments passed against him might be annulled. (fn. 256) The King granted their petition, and issued letters patent early in December to that effect. (fn. 257) In November of the following year  Parliament prayed the King to extend the same favour to More and Norbury. This, too, he granted by letters patent dated 1 Dec., on which day also he granted other and fuller letters of pardon to Northampton (fn. 258) than those of December, 1390, whereby he was restored to all his estates except such as had already passed through the King's hands. (fn. 259)
The civic authorities were fearful lest the old faction should be renewed now that the leaders of one of the two parties were again free, and an order was issued forbidding all discussion or mention of the matter. (fn. 260) The bitter controversy which had so long distracted the City was thus allowed to die out, but three more years were allowed to pass away before Northampton, More, and Norbury were restored to their rights of citizenship (15 Jan., 1395).
There remains still one incident, however, in connexion with this controversy deserving a passing notice, namely, that during Brembre's first Mayoralty, after the defeat of Northampton in October, 1383, a Committee had been appointed (20 June, 1384) to examine, among other matters, the articles and ordinances contained in a book known as "Jubile," with the view of preserving the good ordinances and rejecting the bad. (fn. 262) This book had probably been compiled when Northampton and his party were in power, and it was now to be revised to suit the views of the opposite party. It had been an object of special hatred (for some reason unexplained) to the insurgents under Wat Tyler in 1381, who, led by a brewer of Wood Street named Walter atte Keye, had threatened to destroy the Guildhall by fire (as already mentioned (fn. 263) ), together with the City's archives, and especially this book. Fortunately, the book could not be found. (fn. 264) In 1387, however, what the rioters failed to accomplish was done by a formal order of a Common Council, so numerously attended that it had to sit in the hall under the Council Chamber, with Nicholas Extone presiding as Mayor. On Saturday, the 16th March—so the Letter-Book informs us—this Council decreed that the book called "Jubile" should be burnt. (fn. 265) But here a difficulty arises, for in a petition to the Parliament of 1386 by the Cordwainers and other City Guilds we find them complaining that the book, described by them as comprising "all the good articles appertaining to the good government of the City," had been already burnt by Extone, the Mayor, without the consent of the good commons of the City. (fn. 266) This discrepancy I confess myself unable to explain.
In October, 1387, Extone was re-elected Mayor upon a strong hint from the King, (fn. 267) and it was during his second year of office that the Aldermen and leading citizens were called upon to take an oath to uphold the statutes passed by the "Merciless Parliament," the same oath having been administered to all attending that Parliament the day before it dissolved (3 June, 1388). (fn. 268) The names of those who took the oath in the City have been preserved among the City's archives, the list comprising 490 Aldermen and citizens and 93 ecclesiastics. (fn. 269)
When Extone's second year of Mayoralty came to a close he was succeeded by Nicholas Twyford, who had unsuccessfully contested Brembre's second election in 1384. (fn. 270) His year of office was uneventful, except for the revival of the question whether the Common Council should continue to be elected from the Wards or be again elected from the Misteries, and the strange resolution that was thereupon made. (fn. 271)
He was succeeded in October, 1389, by William Venour, a grocer, but not without his election being hotly contested by Adam Bamme, a goldsmith, who was strongly supported by other goldsmiths, as well as drapers, mercers, and others of the non-victualling order—another proof that the embers of the old faction were still alive. (fn. 272) Bamme succeeded to the Mayoralty the following year (Oct., 1390). (fn. 273)
In 1392, when John Hende (or Heende), a draper, was occupying the Mayoralty chair, the relationship between the City and the King became somewhat strained over a money question. (fn. 274) The King showed his displeasure by removing the Common Pleas and Exchequer from London to York, thereby causing considerable expense and inconvenience to the citizens. His next move was to summon the Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen, and twenty-four commoners, specially named, to meet him at Nottingham on the 25th June. (fn. 275) The civic authorities thereupon returned answer by a "commis- sion" under the Common Seal to the effect that the parties summoned would duly appear to do the King's bidding. Richard took exception to this "commission," for reasons not specified, and made it a pretext for depriving the Mayor and Sheriffs of their offices and relegating them to separate prisons, (fn. 276) himself appointing a Warden and Sheriffs in their places. (fn. 277) He is said to have even meditated an attack on the citizens by force of arms, but was dissuaded from such a course by the City's former enemy, the Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 278) As it was, he contented himself with appointing a Commission comprising the Dukes of York and Gloucester to inquire into the alleged misgovernment of the City. Not only Hende and the Sheriffs and Aldermen of his Mayoralty year, but Venour, the Mayor two years before, and the Sheriffs and Aldermen of his year, were summoned to appear before the Commissioners at Eton. (fn. 279) The result of the inquiry was a foregone conclusion The City was fined 3,000 marks and deprived of its liberties, (fn. 280) which the citizens agreed to ransom by a payment of no less than £100,000 (fn. 281) Thanks, however, to the good offices of the Queen, the fine was shortly afterwards remitted, and the City recovered its liberties on payment of the comparatively modest sum of £10,000. (fn. 282) This was the last time that the City was deprived of its liberties until the great Quo Warianto case of 1682. (fn. 283)
By the death of Anne of Bohemia in 1394 the citizens lost a good friend. (fn. 284) Two years later Richard married the youthful Isabella of France, (fn. 285) and an end was put to the war which had lasted more than half a century. (fn. 286) During the interval he made an expedition to Ireland (fn. 287) —his only great enterprise—whither a loyal address (set out in the Letter-Book (fn. 288) ) was dispatched to him by the Commons sitting in the Parliament of January, 1395, urging his return "for many hegh causes." Among these must be reckoned a recrudescence of Lollardy, which induced the Pope himself to address a letter to Richard in Sept., 1396, exhorting him to suppress the crafty and daring sect who called themselves "the poor men of Christ's treasury," but who were commonly known by the more appropriate title of "Lolards," as being dry tares (lolium aridum) (fn. 289) —a sect he characterized as subversive of all ecclesiastical authority. A month later His Holiness addressed another letter to the Mayor and Commonalty of the City, asking them to use their influence with the King in the same direction. (fn. 290)
In June, 1397, the King for the last time intermeddled with the municipal government of the City, when, the Mayor, Adam Bamme, having died in office during his second Mayoralty, he appointed Whitington in his place. (fn. 291) The appointment was popular, for Whitington was again raised to the Mayoralty chair by the free election of the citizens in the following October. (fn. 292)
Richard's reign was now fast drawing to a close. In July (1397) he caused his uncle the Duke of Gloucester and the Earls of Arundel and Warwick to be suddenly arrested, and the Sheriffs of London were charged to proclaim the fact and the cause of their arrest, namely, the "extortions and oppressions" they had practised against the King's majesty, and not their "assemblies and ridings." (fn. 293) He promised that further explanation should be made in the Parliament which was to meet in September. (fn. 294) By way of precaution, Richard deemed it advisable to summon all lords, knights, esquires, and others wearing his livery of a hart (fn. 295) (liberatam nostram de cervo gerentes), as well as all "valets" in the service of the Crown, to meet him at Kingston-on-Thames on Saturday, the 15th September, and thence ride with him to Westminster. (fn. 296) He at the same time sent a gracious letter to the Mayor and Aldermen, thanking them for a promise of pecuniary assistance and for their good government of the City. (fn. 297) Parliament met on the 17th Sept., by which time Gloucester had already been treacherously put to death by the King's orders. A few days later Arundel was hurriedly tried and executed, whilst Warwick was banished to the Isle of Man. (fn. 298)
Richard's star was once more in the ascendant, and Parliament was ready to do his bidding .Not only did it declare the castles and revenues of Gloucester and Warwick to be forfeited to the King, but it formally abrogated the Commission of reform appointed in 1386 to control the King's conduct. (fn. 299) On the 29th Sept it adjourned, to resume session at Shrewsbury or the 28th Jan., 1398.
The interval of precisely two years that elapsed between the adjournment of Parliament and the day on which Richard signed the document which deprived him of his crown (29 Sept., 1399) was one of eventful interest, although there is little to be gathered from the Letter-Book Some of the folios towards the end of the volume have been left blank, some have been torn out bodily, some mutilated. It tells us nothing of Richard's despotic government during that interval, or of the citizens having been made to submit (with the rest of his subjects) to extortionate demands for money in the shape of blank cheques. (fn. 300)
The only incident recorded in the Letter-Book that need be mentioned here is the fact that before setting out on another visit to Ireland in May, 1399, Richard appears to have made a last bid for favour in the City by restoring to the free fish- mongers their Guild privileges His absence from England afforded an opportunity for Henry of Lancaster, who had been recently banished, to return and make himself master of the realm. (fn. 301) The advent of the Duke was heartily welcomed by the citizens with the Mayor (Drew Barantyn) at their head, but no formal record of the passing of the crown from Richard to Henry is to be found in the Letter-Book.
R. R. S.
The Guildhall, London, April, 1907.