Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: I, 1400-1422. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1909.
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Letter-Book I covers a period of twenty-three years, viz., from A. D. 1400 to 1422 .It thus embraces the entire reigns of Henry IV. and Henry V., whilst incidentally recording a few matters of the reign of Henry VI. During that period the City underwent no such constitutional dissensions and changes as were met with in the previous volume, and the interest of the present volume reverts to national affairs, the renewal of the war with France, rebellions in Scotland and Wales, and the extinguishing of Lollardry. Considerable difficulty has been sexperienced in ascribing dates to undated entries (especially those touching the movements of Henry V. and the measures taken in connexion with his several expeditions to France) owing to their being recorded, in many cases, with out regard to strict chronological order.
The book opens with a record of proceedings taken against a band of conspirators formed to seize Henry of Lancaster and to replace Richard II. on the throne. On the 25th Jan., 1400, Commissioners were appointed " to hear and determine all matters of treason and felony that had arisen since the King undertook the government of the realm." Among the Commissioners were Thomas Knolles, the Mayor of the City; Matthew Southworth, the Recorder; Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who had been banished by Richard, and whose estates had been confiscated; John Norbury, who had landed with Henry and been appointed Treasurer; Thomas Erpyngham, who had also returned with Henry and been appointed Chamberlain; Thomas Rempstone, the Constable of the Tower; Walter Clopton, Chief Justice of the King's Bench; and William Thirnyng, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
Two days later (27 Jan.) the inquiry was opened at Newgate before a jury of twelve "good men, " Aldermen and others, specially summoned for the purpose. The jury found that the Earls of Kent, Huntingdon, and Salisbury, together with Thomas, Lord Despenser, and Sir Ralph Lumley, had recently been arrested in divers parts of England for treason, and had paid the penalty with their heads.
The story of their conspiracy may be shortly told. Two of the three Earls, viz., Kent and Huntingdon, as also the Lord Despenser, were smarting under the grievance of having been recently degraded from the titular rank they had respectively held as Duke of Surrey, Duke of Exeter, and Earl of Gloucester, (fn. 1) and they had planned to surprise and kill the King and his sons whilst entertaining their friends at Windsor on the Feast of the Epiphany (6 Jan.). The King, however, got wind of the conspiracy and escaped to London. The Earls of Kent and Salisbury were captured and beheaded ignominiously at Cirencester, and the Lord Despenser met a similar fate at Bristol Lumley was decapitated at Oxford, and his confiscated estates bestowed on John, Earl of Somerset, the King's brother (fn. 2); whilst the Earl of Huntingdon, after a fruitless attempt to escape to France, was discovered in hiding in Essex and suffered a similar death, his head being set up with those of other traitors on London Bridge.
The jury further found that Roger Walden (described simply as "clerk, " although claiming still to be Archbishop of Canterbury), Thomas Merk or Merks (here described as Bishop of Carlisle, although he had been already deposed), Bernard Brokas and Thomas Shelley, Knights, Richard Maudeleyn and William Feriby, "clerks, " and four others, had conspired against the King, both in the City and in various parts of the country, in December last until the opening of the new year, and that Sir Thomas Blount, Sir Benedict Sely, (fn. 3) and others, who had been recently condemned to death at Oxford, were accomplices.
These conspirators being already lodged in the Tower, the Constable was ordered to produce them the next day (28 Jan.) before the Justices, a jury, in the meanwhile, being summoned from the vicinity of the Tower, inasmuch as the Tower was situate with in the liberty and precinct of the City. (fn. 4) The prisoners were accordingly brought up by Sir Thomas Rempstone, and the King's orders were read to the effect that the Justices should proceed against them according to the law and custom of the realm, not with standing any claim of Benefit of lergy (fn. 5).
Being put on his defence, Roger Walden, the deposed Archbishop, took exception to his being indicted as a mere "clerk," having been recently consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury and as such being entitled to privilege. He nevertheless declared himself ready, if necessary, to answer his judges under protest. His claim of privilege was at once declared inadmissible. Thereupon he pleaded not guilty, and put himself upon the country; in other words, he claimed to be tried by a jury. He was followed by Thomas Merk, or Merks, Bishop of Carlisle, who, after making a similar protest, likewise claimed a jury.
Gilbert Purveys, of Scotland, another of those indicted, of whom little appears to be known, being put on his defence, acknowledged himself a party to the conspiracy to murder the King either at "Kenyngtone" (fn. 6) or at Sutton, co. Middlesex, (fn. 7) orbetween Sonning and Windsor. He further acknowledged that he was aware of the conspiracy some days before he gave information to the King, having first heard of it from Andrew Hake, but had delayed giving information in order that he might learn more of the matter. After he had given the information he had received (so he said) the King's pardon. Thereupon the Justices, on his own confession as a traitor, adjudged him to be drawn through the City from the Tower to "Tibourne, " there to be hanged, beheaded, and quartered; but execution of the judgment was respited until the King had been consulted.
Thomas Lollebrok, another conspirator, was next examined, but here the record abruptly ends.
The more prominent of the ten conspirators who were thus put on their trial on Wednesday, the 28th Jan., 1400, deserve a brief notice of their character and antecedents beyond what can be gathered from the proceedings against them as recorded in the Letter-Book.
Roger Walden, a man of humble birth, had risen to become Dean of York, and had succeeded Thomas Arundel as Archbishop of Canterbury on the latter's deprivation and exile towards the close of the reign of the late King. No soon erhad Henry landed in England and been acknowledged as King in succession to the deposed Richard than Arundel reappeared and assumed his old title of Archbishop, which Walden conceded with out a struggle. For a short time after his trial he was deprived of his property, but this was afterwards restored to him, and four years later (1404) he was appointed Bishop of London on the recommendation of the Archbishop himself. (fn. 8)
Thomas Merk or Merks, otherwise Thomas of Newmarket (de novo mercatu), (fn. 9) a monk of the Benedictine Order, had been appointed Bishop of Carlisle in 1397. A boon companion of the late King, he was one of the few who refused to desert Richard when captured at Flint in August, 1399. The result of his trial is not recorded in the Letter-Book, but we learn from other sources that he was convicted and condemned to death, but remitted for a time in custody to the Tower. He remained a prisoner only a few months, however, and was then quietly transferred to the charge of the Abbot of Westminster, an old friend and fellow-conspirator (fn. 10) before the end of the year he even received a full pardon. (fn. 11)
The fate of three of the less eminent conspirators is also known, although not recorded in the Letter-Book. Sir Bernard Brocas and the two priests, Richard Maudeleyn and William Feriby (and possibly Sir Thomas Shelley, the companion or esquire of the late Earl of Huntingdon), were executed at Tyburn. (fn. 12) Maudeleyn had been a great favourite with the late King, to whom he bore such a striking resemblance that he had personated Richard at Cirencester in order to make the country folk believe that he had recovered his liberty and was once more among them. (fn. 13) Feriby, like Maudeleyn, had been one of Richard's chaplains as also one of his political agents and advisers. Both of them had fled to escape trial, but had been arrested on their way to Yorkshire and been brought to London, where they were hanged, drawn, and beheaded together. (fn. 14)
Notwithstanding the pains that had been taken in March, 1400, to prove beyond doubt the actual death of Richard II., there were many who, for years to come, continued to believe (or feigned to believe) that he was still alive. Among those who entertained doubts as to Richard's death was William Serle, a devoted servant of the late King, who had fled to France on his master's fall. Hearing rumours that Richard was still alive, he returned in 1404 to make inquiries for himself. Although finally convinced of the King's death, he had nevertheless fostered the imposture by publishing letters presumably bearing the late King's seal. Finding his case hopeless, he purposed again to seek refuge in France, but he incautiously placed himself in the power of Sir William Clifford on the borders of Scotland, and he was carried to the King at Pontefract His trial took place at York, the presiding judge beingthe Chief Justice, Sir William Gascoigne, the same who had the courage to commit to prison the Prince of Wales for contempt of court. (fn. 15) He was convicted on the 26th July and sentenced to be drawn through various towns until he reached London. From the Tower he was to be drawn through the highways of the City to Tyburn, where he was to be hanged, beheaded, eviscerated, and quartered. On the 5th August the King issued his writ from Leicester to the Mayor and Sheriffs to see this sentence duly executed. (fn. 16)
With Serle there had been connected a man known as Thomas Ward or Trumpyngton, who had long masqueraded as King Richard in Scotland. Both of them had been expressly excluded from the general pardon granted to rebels in March, 1404. (fn. 17) Twelve years later, he was still actively playing hispart. A commission to try cases of treason and rebellion in the City appointed by Henry V. in September, 1416, was followed by an inquest by jury taken at Newgate. The jury found—as recorded in the Letter-Book (fn. 18) —that on the 18th April last, a certain Benedict Wolman, a hosteler of London, who had been under-marshal of the King's Marshalsea, and John Bekeryng, a native of Lincolnshire, had formed a conspiracy with in the liberties of the City to bring Trumpington from Scotland and set him on the throne of England. With this object in view they had solicited the aid of the Emperor Sigismund, who was then in England and had recently concluded an alliance with Henry. (fn. 19) Loyal to his new ally, Sigismund forwarded the petition he had received to the King, and Benedict and John Bekeryng were arrested. Benedict was tried and convicted on Michaelmas day, and sentenced to behanged at Tyburn, and his head to be set up on London Bridge at the place called "le Drawebrigge" Bekeryng, on the other hand, "for certain reasons moving the Justiciars thereto, " succeeded in getting his trial put off until the 12th November; but before that day arrived he had died a natural death in prison.
Elsewhere among the City records (fn. 20) we find that in September, 1420, two other men, Thomas Cobold and William Bryan, endeavoured to keep up the Trumpington delusion in the City, although the former was perfectly well aware that Trumpington was at that time dead. In order to avoid arrest Bryan took sanctuary at Westminster. Cobold was discovered in hiding and brought before the Mayor and Aldermen. His replies to questions put to him proved so unsatisfactory that he was committed to prison.
During the winter of 1403–4 France was playing a double game, outwardly pretending to be anxious for a peace whilst secretly working against Henry on the Continent as well as in Wales and Scotland. On the 20th October a summons was sent out for a Parliament to meet at Coventry on the 3rd December. (fn. 21) No return of City members is recorded, and it is doubtful if an election took place, for objections were at once raised as to the time and place selected, and finally the meeting was abandoned, and on the 24th November another summons issued for Parliament to meet at Westminster on the 14thJanuary, 1404. (fn. 22)
Pursuant to this second writ, the City elected, as usual, two Aldermen and two Commoners to be its representatives, viz., William Staundon, Alderman of Cheap Ward, and Drew (fn. 23) Barantyn, Alderman of Aldersgate; William Marcheford, mercer, and John Profyt or "Prophete, " (fn. 24) fishmonger, Commoners.
Before Parliament met the mask had been dropped on both sides, and France and England were again at open war. Money was urgently needed, but the Commons were in no mood to make a grant. At length, after nearly six weeks' delay, they agreed to the imposition of a tax which was of so novel a character and so highly oppressive that they only gave their assent on the understanding that it should not be made a precedent, and that no official record of it should be preserved. The novelty of the grant lay in the imposition of a tax of a shilling in the pound on land value, and the money so raised was to be paid not direct to the King's ministers, but to of ficersspecially appointed as "Treasurers of War." It is significant of the City's ancient position as the "King's Chamber" that three out of the four Treasurers then appointed were eminent citizens who had held high of fice in the City, viz., John Hadle, Thomas Knolles, and Richard "Merlowe" or "Merlawe". (fn. 25) On the 24th March the King nominated Commissioners forlevying the tax on those found in the City liable to contribute and paying the money over to the Treasurers. (fn. 26)
The King was already in debt to the City for the sum of £2, 000 advanced to him for the purpose of putting down the rebellion which had sprung up in Wales under the leadership of Owen Glendower, and in October, 1403, he had issued letters patent for the repayment of the debt out of money that had been granted by Convocation sitting at St. Paul's. This apparently had not been done, for early in the following May (1404), soon after the dissolution of Parliament, the King gave orders to the "Treasurers of War" to repay the loan out of the subsidy granted by the late Parliament. (fn. 27)
In November a fresh subsidy was granted by what came to be known as the "Unlearned" or "Illiterate" Parliament, owing to the exclusion of all lawyers, (fn. 28) and not only were new Commissioners appointed for the City, but new "Treasurers of War" wholly unconnected with the City, (fn. 29) viz.: Thomas Nevill, Lord Furnival, brother to the Earl of Westmoreland, and Sir John Pelham, one of the representatives for the County of Sussex with in a few days after the dissolution of Parliament, whilst the King was yet at Coventry, where Parliament had sat, he issued letters patent authorizing the repayment of a loan advanced by the City for raising the siege of the castle of Coity or Coitiff—now called Oldcastle Bridgend—in Glamorgan, which for some months past had been attacked by Welsh rebels. (fn. 30) The castle was not relieved until September, 1405. (fn. 31)
On the 21st December, 1405, writs were issued for a Parliament to meet at Coventry on the 15th February, 1406; but on the 1st January the place of meeting was changed to Gloucester, as the Prince of Wales was about to enter the Principality to complete the subjection of the turbulent Welsh. (fn. 32) In the meantime news arrived that a French fleet was threatening the south coast, and the London merchants were so greatly alarmed that they prevailed upon the King to issue writs on the 9th February for Parliament to meet at Westminster on the 1st March. (fn. 33)
The Commons chose as their Speaker Sir John Tibetot or Tiptoft, (fn. 34) of whom we shall hear more later on. A spirit of hostility against the King at once displayed itself, more especially by London traders, who, above all things, desired peace. More than once Henry was urged to send all foreigners out of the country, but little or nothing was done until the 14th May, when he issued a writ to the Sheriffs of London to expel as speedily as possible certain foreigners whose names were specified in a schedule, as well as all other foreigners who had entered England since Parliament met. (fn. 35) Many aliens, nevertheless, refused to leave the City, and on the first day of July another writ was sent to the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen to take steps to prevent disturbances arising in the City from the presence of foreigners who ought to have lef tthe kingdom pursuant to the orders of Parliament and had not done so, and to make a return of their names and particulars of the value of their property. A return was accordingly made, but a copy of it has not been preserved in the City's records. (fn. 36)
Although eager enough to rid the kingdom of aliens generally, this Parliament did not he sitate to show favour to foreign merchants, who were to be allowed to trade freely with each other in the City in spite of opposition from the citizens. The latter had to abide their time, and when a fresh Parliamentmet at Gloucester in the following year (1407) they succeeded in obtaining from the King a declaration that the privileges of the citizens should not be prejudiced by what had taken place in the previous Parliament. (fn. 37)
When Henry appealed to the City for money, as he constantly had occasion to do, it was not always for the purpose of supplying him with an army or a navy. Occasionally he was driven to seek money for purposes of a domestic rather than of a national character. Such a case, for instance, occurred in June, 1406, when we find him appointing Commissioners (the Mayor, John Wodecok, being one) for the purpose of raising money from well-to-do persons both in the City and the County of Middlesex, for "certain arduous and pressing matters." (fn. 38) This was a form commonly used when money was required for a national object. On this occasion, however, the "arduous and pressing matter" was the furnishing of an outfit and escort for the King's second daughter, Philippa, who had been recently married at Westminster by proxy to Eric, King of Denmark. The appeal for money was not confined to the City of London, but was made to other cities and boroughs, as well as to nobles and ecclesiastical dignitaries, and any others in a position to make advances. What effect the appeal had on the citizens of London is not recorded in the Letter-Book, but from other sources we learn that at least two Aldermen of the City made generous contributions, John Hende advancing £3, 000, whilst Richard Whityngton is credited with an advance of over £6, 000. (fn. 39) Concurrently with this demand for money other Commissioners were appointed (the Mayor again being among them) to inquire whether any sums of money had been received by the King's of ficers that had not been accounted for. They were further instructed to make a return of the true yearly value of lands, tenements, wardships, and marriages that had been let to ferm by the King himself or by his predecessors on the throne. (fn. 40) These drastic measures had been occasioned by the Speaker having publicly declared in Parliament that Henry was being defrauded by his customers and comptrollers, as well as by a demand of the Commons that such ferms should be raised in value wherever reasonable, and the "outrageous and excessive expenses" of the King's household reformed. (fn. 41)
Pursuant to the King's orders, the Mayor and his fellow Commissioners held an inquiry, three separate juries being sworn for the purpose, and by the following September they were able to make a return to the effect that they knew of no money due to the King that had not been accounted for, nor were they aware of lands, tenements, wardships, marriages, &c., in the City that had been let to ferm by the King or his predecessors for a term at an annual rent. (fn. 42)
One of the most important reforms passed by the Parliament of 1406 was a statute directing that knights of the shire should thenceforth be freely elected in the county court with out external influence being brought to bear upon the electors, and that the names of those so elected should be returned under the seals of all who took part in the election. (fn. 43) The City of London, being a county in itself, came with in the purview of this statute, and accordingly the Sheriffs were directed at the next election to see that it was conducted in the manner prescribed. (fn. 44)
On the 22nd December the Parliament broke up, having sat, with various adjournments, for 159 days, thereby eclipsing in duration any Parliament of the Middle Ages, after displaying "the most advanced principles of medieval constitutional life in England." (fn. 45)
The next Parliament met at Gloucester in October, 1407, when Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet and one of the members for Oxfordshire in the Parliaments of 1401, 1402, and 1406, was elected. Speaker Liberal supplies were granted for two years from Michaelmas, 1408, on the understanding that the King would not ask for more money for two years from March next, (fn. 46) and the names of the Commissioners appointed by the King to levy the money in the City are recorded in the Letter-Book. (fn. 47) The year was marked by a terrible visitation of the plague, and the City was deserted by lawyers to such an extent that the Court of Husting had to be closed. (fn. 48)
The year 1408 afforded the King some relief from his difficulties by the death of the old Earl of Northumberland, who for years past had been a thorn in his side. Early in the year the Earl made a final effort to dethrone the King, but was defeated and killed in battle on the 19th February at Bramham Moor. The conspiracy is only incidentally mentioned in the Letter-Book, and then not until nearly twelve years after the event. It was on Tuesday, the 25th July, 1419, that an inquisition was held at Newgate before William Sevenok, the Mayor, and Sir William Hankeford, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and a jury touching an indictment (proved to be forged) against certain parties (among whom was Lewis or Llewellyn Bifort, formerly Bishop of Bangor, and a partisan of Owen Glendower) who were alleged to have been ready to join the Earl in his enterprise, and who were also alleged to have been guilty of several murders and to have fled the country. The whole story was found to be absolutely untrue, although the two men chiefly implicated, viz., Roger Olyver and John Russell, "sumtyme clerk convyct, " pleaded guilty to forging various legal documents. (fn. 49)
In June (1408) the truce with France and Flanders was further prolonged for a term of three years, whereby security was guaranteed for French shipping with in certain limits. (fn. 50) The truce, however, was not strictly observed by France, and it became necessary in September of the following year for Henry to direct the Sheriffs of London to invite those who had suffered from the action of France in violation of the recent truce to communicate with Thomas Beaufort, the English Admiral, who was about to sail for Calais. (fn. 51) A month later relations between the two countries had improved and London wine merchants were able to visit Rochelle under royal protection. (fn. 52)
Security for London traders in Prussia and along the Eastern shores of the Baltic had already been guaranteed by an agreement signed on the 3rd October, 1403, by Henry's old friend Conrad de Jungingen, Master General or High Master of the Teutonic Knights. (fn. 53) Nevertheless, a system of reprisals continued to be carried on between English and Hanseatic traders, which was eventually settled by the payment of indemnities on both sides. This accounts for the Letter-Book recording a bond entered into by the King in October, 1409, for the payment of an indemnity to the subjects of Ulric de Jungingen, who in 1407 had succeeded his brother Conrad as Master General of the Teutonic Order. (fn. 54)
The large grants made to the King by the Parliament at Gloucester in 1407 ceasing at Michaelmas, 1410, it became necessary to call another Parliament A summons was accordingly issued on the 26th October, 1409, for a Parliament tomeet at Bristol on the 27th January following, (fn. 55) but by another writ dated the 18th December the meeting was changed from Bristol to Westminster. (fn. 56)
In the meantime the King borrowed a sum of 7, 000 marks from the citizens of London to assist him in the complete subjugation of Wales. The money was duly raised and paid to the King's of ficers, as set out in a letter addressed to the King by the Mayor on the 12th December (1409), but for some reason or other it never came into the hands of the King or of his son the Prince, who was either already in Wales or was about to proceed thither. (fn. 57)
Having secured supplies for two more years from the Parliament of 1410, Henry had no occasion to call another Parliament until November, 1411. The City was represented, as usual, by two Aldermen—viz., Richard Merlawe and Thomas Fauconer—and two Commoners—viz., John Suttone and John Michell—both being described as grocers. (fn. 58) The estates showed a liberalspirit, and not only granted the subsidy on wool, tunnage and poundage, but (following a similar course to that pursued by the Parliament of 1404) again imposed a tax on land value. This time the tax was to be 6s. 8d. on every 20 pounds' worth of income from land. (fn. 59) On the 2nd January, 1412, the King issued letters patent appointing the Mayor, the Sheriffs, and two of the richest and most powerful Aldermen of the City—viz., Richard Whityngton and Thomas Knolles—to be Commissioners for ascertaining who were liable for the tax not only in the City and suburbs, but elsewhere, and to make a return of their names into the Exchequer before the end of February. (fn. 60)
A return was accordingly made, but whether with in the time prescribed or not does not appear, as it bears no date. It was to the effect that lands and tenements in the City could not be accurately valued owing to lack of tenants and injuries by fire and water, but the Commissioners had caused inquiries to bemade on oath as to the present value of such lands and tenements, and they returned an alphabetical list of the names of those liable for the tax, as desired Beyond that they could not go. (fn. 61) This alphabetical list is not recorded in the Letter-Book, but we have a return made by the Commissioners of the various owners of property in the City, with its gross value and the amount of tax payable thereon, recorded in an Exchequer Roll and preserved at the Public Record office. (fn. 62) The gross rental is there returned at £ 4,220 in the hands of 1,132 individuals or institutions, the yield of the tax there on being £70 6s. 8d.
The document is worthy of study, and comprises some strange anomalies. The ecclesiastical and religious personages recorded in it range from the Archbishop of York, who had property in the City of the yearly value of £10 13s. 4d., down to the Hermit of Cripplegate, (fn. 63) who is returned at exactly £10 less. The Mayor and Commonalty of the City are credited with possessing lands, tenements, and rents of the yearly value of a little over £150, whilst the Bridge House estate is returned at a few pounds less. Strange figures these as compared with their respective rentals of the present day! The same may be said of the rentals enjoyed by the leading Livery Companies at the commencement of the fifteenth century, as compared with modern times. The Goldsmiths' Company are returned as possessing the largest property, their rental being £46 10s. 0½d., the Merchant Taylors following them closely with a rental of £44 3s. 7d. The Skinners are credited with a rental of £18 12s. 8d., whilst the Mercers—now one of the wealthiest of all the Livery Companies—had no more than £13 18s. 4d. Both the Corporation of the City and the Livery Companies are far outdone by the Hospital of St. Mary with out Bishopsgate, which had a rental of more than £240 a year. Several Oxford Colleges are returned as possessing property in the City, Balliol College—the patron of the Church of St. Laurence, Jewry—being the largest owner, with a rental of £4 12s.
Among private individuals we find Adam Fraunceys—sometime Mayor—by far the wealthiest in City property, being credited with a rental of £162 9s. 6d., a larger rental than that owned by the Corporation itself. Other returns that may be mentioned are those of William Askham, Alderman and M. P. for the City, at £78 4s. 0¾d.; Thomas Knolles, a still more famous Alderman and Member of Parliament, at £37 14s. 6d.; Drew Barantyn, another Alderman who represented the City in four different Parliaments, at £55 16s. 11d.; Robert Chichele and William his brother, both of them eminent Grocers, the former's rental being returned at £42 19s. 2d.; the latter's at the more modest sum of £10 18s. 8d.; and, lastly, that of Richard Whityngton himself, at no more than £25.
The small return into the Exchequer from this tax on land values must have caused the King great disappointment. To such straits was he put for money that a month later Parliament resorted to ordering a debasement of the coinage for a term of two years as a tentative measure. Gold coinage had not been a success in England before 1344, when a new currency was introduced, viz., a gold piece called a "noble, " of the value of 6s. 8d., a half noble or "maille, " and a quarter nobleor "ferling, " of the value of 40 and 20 pence respectively. (fn. 64) At that time 39½ nobles were made out of a pound weight of gold. (fn. 65) It was now enacted that 50 nobles should be made out of everyTower-pound of gold, and 30 shillings out of every similar pound of silver, the gold and silver being of the same good "allay" as the old money. (fn. 66) The principal object of the new coinage was to facilitate the trade with Flanders, with which country Henry was on the point of concluding a truce for a term of five years from June, 1411. (fn. 67)
In April, 1412, France was so much disturbed by faction between the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans that Henry forbade his subjects to enter the country. (fn. 68) In the course of a few weeks, however, the situation became entirely changed by an offer made by the Orleans or Armagnac party to surrender Aquitaine to the English King as the price of an alliance. No time was lost. Henry caused proclamation to be made in the City for a muster of all those who owed him service, to take place on the 15th June, for the purpose of accompanying him to France to recover his lost Duchy, (fn. 69) and at the same time borrowed a sum of 10, 000 marks from the citizens to help him on his way. (fn. 70) The state of the King's health prevented him from leading the expedition in person. He was at least spared witnessing the fiasco which the expedition proved to be.
On the 1st December he issued a writ for a Parliament to meet at Westminster on the 3rd February (1413). (fn. 71) This Parliament was determined by the King's death, which is recorded in the Letter-Book as having taken place between 7 and 8 o'clock on the morning of the 20th March, (fn. 72) and a new writ was issued two days later. (fn. 73)
One of the first acts of Henry V. was to appoint Henry Beaufort his Chancellor in place of Archbishop Arundel. The latter contented himself with continuing to exercise his religious zeal, not only against his old enemy the Lollards, but also against the poor City barbers, who were ordered for the future to keep their shops closed on Sunday, under penalty of a fine, such a penalty, in the Archbishop's opinion, being likely tohave a greater effect upon them than any threat of excommunication. (fn. 74)
Proceedings against Lollardry and heresy are frequently to be found recorded in the Letter-Book Thus in May, 1400, we find the King's writ to the Sheriffs for proclamation to be made forbidding chaplains to preach in the City or elsewhere unless duly authorized by their Diocesan, the reason given being that heresy was being widely disseminated by unauthorized chaplains. (fn. 75) Again, the famous statute De heretico comburendo, passed in the following year, which allowed the Church to hand over impenitent heretics to State of ficers for punishment, is set out at length in its pages. (fn. 76) Yet, in spite of all, Lollardry continued to flourish, its increasing influence over the gentry being marked by a proposal made in the so-called "Unlearned" Parliament of 1404 that the King should seize the property of the Church and devote it to secular purposes. This was strenuously opposed by Arundel, who did not spare the Speaker himself, and eventually won the day. (fn. 77) Five yearslater (Dec., 1409) the Lollards had their revenge, and succeeded in making Arundel's position as Chancellor so untenable that he had to resign, and Thomas Beaufort took his place When Parliament met in January, 1410, the Lollards were so confident of their own strength that another and more drastic scheme of confiscation of Church property was proposed, but its very extravagance caused it to be rejected. Their hopes had been encouraged by the fact that Sir John Oldcastle, their acknowledged leader, was in great favour with Henry of Monmouth. That Prince so far aided their cause, as has been seen, by dismissing their inveterate enemy Arundel from the Chancellorship immediately after his accession to the throne, but beyond that he hesitated to go. After more than one citation to appear before Convocation, Oldcastle was eventually taken and lodged in the Tower as a contumacious heretic, but shortly afterwards succeeded in making his escape On the 28th October, 1413, the King issued his writ to the Sheriffs to make proclamation forbidding any assistance being given to the escaped prisoner. (fn. 78)
We read in the Letter-Book how Oldcastle's escape had been planned and executed by William Fyssher, a "parchemyner, "or parchment-maker, and others, and how they broke into the Tower and carried the prisoner of f to Fyssher's house, where a conspiracy was deliberately formed against the King. Fyssher was put on his trial in 1416 for the part he had played, was convicted of treason, and sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. (fn. 79)
By breaking prison Oldcastle had irretrievably committed himself to a policy of treason. Hitherto his chief support had been found in the well-to-do middle class in the City of London (fn. 80) and elsewhere. He now began to gather strength from every party that was disaffected towards the Government. The first design of the conspirators was to seize the King by stratagem whilst keeping Christmas at Eltham. This was defeated by Henry getting wind of the plot and coming up to London. Their next project was to assemble in force on the 10th January (fn. 81) (1414) in St. Giles' Fields, where they hoped to be joined by a large contingent from the City. Again, however, they were disappointed, for Henry caused the gates to be closed and prevented the disaffected citizens from joining in the proceedings, whilst he himself appeared on the scene of the muster and took up a strong position. Thereupon the Lollards took to flight. Some of the least fortunate were arrested and punished as heretics, but Oldcastle made good his escape for a time. On the following day (11th January) Commissioners, comprising the Mayor, the Sheriffs, and six Aldermen, were appointed by the King to search the City and commit to prison all Lollards they could find. (fn. 82) On the same day Henry sent two writs to the Sheriffs, one bidding them make proclamation of the rewards to be paid to those arresting Oldcastle or causing him to be arrested; the other forbidding the unlawful seizure of the property of those accused of heresy, as it was the King's wish that they should be punished according to the law and custom of the realm, and not otherwise. (fn. 83)
That the King entertained no vindictive feeling against the Lollards as a body, believing, as he did, that many had been led astray by bad advice, is shown by the fact that on the 28th March a general pardon was granted to all but a few ringleaders, among those excepted being Oldcastle. (fn. 84) Again on the 20th May he issued another pardon to certain Lollards mentioned by name, but Oldcastle does not appear on the list. (fn. 85) This was followed by another general pardon granted to all rebels, &c., on the 9th December, provided they sued forcharters of pardon before Michaelmas, 1415. (fn. 86)
That Oldcastle, however, did in fact receive an offer of pardon in the course of the year, but had declined to avail himself of it, is proved by a writ to the Sheriffs dated 18th February, 1415, bidding them make proclamation to the effect that whereas John Oldcastle of "Coulyng, " co. Kent, Knight, had not availed himself of the King's of fer of pardon already promulgated, the of fer would be with drawn unless he made submission with in a fortnight after Easter. This writ is recorded in the Letter-Book. (fn. 87)
On the 30th April (1414) Parliament had met at Leicester, (fn. 88) one of the causes for its summons being declared by Beaufort, the Chancellor, to be the defence of the nation against the Lollards. (fn. 89) A new Statute (fn. 90) was accordingly passed againstheretics, which went beyond the previous Statute of 1401, De heretico comburendo, and instead of the secular power confining itself to aiding in the execution of ecclesiastical judgment incases of heresy, it was itself authorized to take the initiative.
It was, no doubt, in pursuance of this Statute that the civic authorities took upon themselves to arrest certain Lollards (among them being John Cleydone, a currier by trade), and to hand them over to the Commissaries of the Bishop of London. Cleydone was tried before the Archbishop of Canterbury and others on the 17th August, 1415, the Mayor, Thomas Fauconer, giving evidence against him. Being proved to be a lapsed heretic, he was handed over to the secular power and was burnt in Smithfield. (fn. 91)
Another victim was a baker named Richard Gurmyn, who is supposed to have been burnt in the same fire as Cleydone. In this case too, Fauconer, the Mayor, appears to have played a prominent part, being afterwards charged with ignoring a pardon which the King had granted the heretic. The accuser was a certain John Russell, described as a "wolpakker, " and he succeeded in getting Fauconer (after his Mayoralty had closed) committed to the Tower and fined £1, 000. His triumph, however, was short, for when the whole matter was to have been threshed out before a jury on the 30th July, 1416, Russell failed to appear. He was found guilty and condemned to stand on the pillory. In the meantime he had taken sanctuary at Westminster, where he remained until the following March, when he surrendered and made formal confession and submission. (fn. 92)
That Fauconer, during his Mayoralty, had no wish to put undue pressure upon Lollards, whose religious aspirations in general found considerable favour among the citizens (more especially with respect to reforming the morals of the clergy), (fn. 93) is shown by a letter he wrote to Richard Alkirtone, a Canon of Chichester, inviting him to preach the usual Easter sermon in the City, but at the same time begging him to be moderate in his language. (fn. 94)
When Parliament commenced to sit at Leicester at the end of April, 1414, the King was meditating a fresh war with France in vindication of his "hereditary" assumption of the title of King of that country. Such an enterprise would at once satisfy his military ardour and serve to divert the thoughts of his subjects from religious bickerings. France was still divided into two factions, each striving to get the upper hand, the one Burgundian, the other Orleanist or Armagnac. It was Henry's object to effect an alliance with the party most likely to prove of use to him. Before proceeding to extreme measures he sent ambassadors at the end of May to negotiate an alliance with Charles VI. of France, and at the same time to make clear to that monarch the nature of Henry's claims. These negotiations failed, and the position of affairs had to be laid before Parliament, which was summoned to meet on the 19th November. (fn. 96) The estates showed themselves in favour of one more attempt being made at negotiation, but at the same time granted a large subsidy for the defence of the realm . (fn. 97) Ambassadors were accordingly sent once more to Paris, but they again failed in their object. In April, 1415, Henry informed a great Council of his determination to proceed to France for the recovery of his inheritance, and the next day Bedford, his brother, was appointed Lieutenant of the Kingdom during his absence. (fn. 98)
The Mayor and Aldermen had been informed of the King's purpose as early as the 10th March. Four days later there came to the Guildhall the Archbishop of Canterbury, thssse Bishop of Winchester, the Dukes of Bedford, Gloucester, and York, and others (not named) to consider the question of raising the necessary money. Before getting to business a preliminary question had to be decided as to the order in which they ought to sit. After taking the opinion of "certain of the more substantial commoners of the City" according to custom, the Lords agreed among themselves that the Mayor, as the King's representative in the City, should occupy the middle seat, that the prelates should sit on his right hand and the royal Dukes on his left. (fn. 99)
The practical outcome of this solemn meeting is not recorded in the Letter-Book. We know, however, that in June Henry pledged a collar of gold richly studded with gems with Fauconer, the Mayor, as security for the repayment of a City loan of 10, 000 marks (fn. 100) on the 1st of January, 1417, and early in August he borrowed a similar sum from the City on the security of the customs, the same to be repaid on or before the 25th December, 1416. (fn. 101)
At this point commences the difficulty (already mentioned) of tracing the sequence of events in connexion with Henry's expedition to France, owing to their being recorded in the Letter-Book with but little regard to chronological order. The following, however, may be considered as a substantially accurate account of the King's movements pieced together from its pages.
Having informed the Mayor and Aldermen at the Tower of London on the 10th March (1415) of his intention to cross the sea to reconquer the possessions of the Crown and of his need of money, Henry, twelve days later, issued his writ to the Sheriffs to make proclamation for all who were, or had been, in the service of the Crown to hasten to London by a certain day and there await orders. (fn. 102) This was followed by another writ on the 3rd May for proclamation to be made to the effect that all the King's lieges who by virtue of former writs had come to the City should remain there and not depart, but attend a Council to be held at Westminster on the 6th and await its decision on a matter which had been submitted to it by the King. (fn. 103) On the10th June the Sheriffs were informed that Sir John Tiptoft was about to sail to take up his duties as Steward of Aquitaine, to which of fice he had been appointed on the 8th May, and the men and archers who were to accompany him were ordered to be at Plymouth by Midsummer Day at the latest. (fn. 104)
As the time approached for his own departure, Henry gave orders for the governors of the City to remain with in its walls during his absence abroad, (fn. 105) whilst the Mayor issued his precept to the Aldermen enjoining them to take steps for the preservation of the peace with in their several Wards, and a like precept to the Masters of sixteen of the principal Misteriesto take the same precautions in their respective fraternities. (fn. 106)
Just as the King was about to embark at Southampton, news was brought to him of a conspiracy to carry off the young Earl of March, the legitimate heir of Edward III., and proclaim him heir to Richard II. as soon as Henry had sailed. The traitors—the Earl of Cambridge, Henry le Scrope of Masham, and Sir Thomas Grey of Heton—were arrested on the 30th July, and paid the penalty with their lives. On the day following their arrest the King himself informed the Mayor and Aldermen of the plot by letter. This letter is not recorded in the Letter-Book, but the reply to it (in which the King is thanked for his communication and is assured of the loyalty of the City) will be found recorded there. (fn. 107)
The City's reply was dated the 2nd August, and on the same day the King had occasion to dispatch a writ to the Sheriffs for a muster to be made of all capable men found in the City and suburbs for the purpose of assisting the Duke of Bedford in defence of the realm against the Scots, who were meditating an invasion of England. (fn. 108)
Henry set sail on Sunday the 11th August. Nevertheless, on the following day—whilst he was yet at sea—a letter of Privy Seal was sent to the Mayor from Westminster, complaining that many of the Aldermen were still absent from the City, and charging him to see that the absentees speedily returned to take their part in the government of the City and the preservation of the peace. This the Mayor did. (fn. 109) On the evening of Tuesday the 13th the English fleet entered the Seine and dropped anchor off the Chef de Caux, three miles below Harfleur. On the 17th the siege was commenced, and was continued for a month. At length, on Wednesday the 18th September, the town surrendered conditionally, its final surrender taking place on Sunday the 22nd, on which day the King dispatched a letter to the Mayor announcing his success. (fn. 110)
Henry had no sooner made himself master of Harfleur than he took steps to ensure its permanent occupation. To this end he caused a proclamation to be made inviting merchants and others to join him there, and to bring with them all manner of victual, clothing, armour and artillery. (fn. 111) On the 5th October Bedford, who had been left in charge at home, caused another proclamation to be made much to the same effect. Merchants, victuallers, and artificers who were willing to take up their residence in Harfleur were to go there with all speed with their goods and military equipment, and the Earl of Dorset, the captain of the town, would provide them with houses. (fn. 112) It will be noted that in both proclamations the English immigrants were to come prepared to take a share in defending the town when necessary.
Henry quitted Harfleur on Tuesday the 8th October with his army in light marching order, as he desired to reach the coast as quickly as possible. It was not, however, until he had won the decisive victory of Agincourt on the 25th that he achieved his purpose of gaining the coast It was on the very day of his victory that the citizens of London, as we learn from the Letter-Book, were experiencing the greatest anxiety as to the fortune of their King. A report had got about that no tidings could be obtained of the whereabouts of Henry and his army. Four days later, however, just as their newly elected Mayor was about to proceed to Westminster, to be sworn into of fice before the Barons of the Exchequer, their anxiety was turned into joy by news of the victory, and the procession, customarily made on horseback with great pomp and ceremony, was converted into a pilgrimage on foot to the Abbey, for the purpose of rendering a devout thanksgiving for the King's success before proceeding to the civic installation. (fn. 113) The civic authorities caused the reason for this unusual procession on foot to West-minster to be placed on record, lest it might become a precedent when others succeeded to the Mayoralty, "in manifest derogation of the laudable customs" of the City. (fn. 114)
The reception given to the King by the citizens on his return from France was of so brilliant and varied a character that one chronicler declares that a description would require a special treatise (fn. 115); but on this event the Letter-Book is strangely silent. From other sources, however, we learn that he was met by a deputation from the City, and was presented with a sum of £1, 000 in two basins of gold worth half that sum. (fn. 116)
The most interesting event of 1416 recorded in the Letter-Book is the visit paid to this country by the Emperor Sigismund, who had recently used his best energies to put an end to the Great Schism of the Church at the Council of Constance. (fn. 117) Henry not only sympathized with the Emperor in his religious plans, but, for political reasons, was anxious to secure his alliance The Emperor, on his part, was the more ready to turn to England, seeing that a visit he had lately paid to Paris had not encouraged him to look for a renewal of his old alliance with France.
Leaving Paris on the 8th April, he landed at Dover on the 30th. (fn. 118) The Sheriff of London had been notified of his approaching visit the day before the Emperor had set out from Paris, and all knights and esquires had been bidden to mee Henry on the 16th April at the latest. (fn. 119) It is clear that the Emperor was expected to arrive earlier than he did, sufficient allowance not being made for the transport of his huge retinue. On the 6th May—the day before the Emperor was escorted by Henry through the City—precautions were taken to restrict the wearing of of fensive weapons to knights and esquires. (fn. 120) The night of his arrival in London was spent by the Emperor at Westminster Palace, whilst Henry lodged at Lambeth, where he summoned the lords, knights, and esquires to attend him between 8 and 9 o'clock the next morning. (fn. 121) They had originally been ordered to keep close attendance upon him until St. George's Day (23rd April), (fn. 122) which it was proposed to celebrate with unusual state at Windsor; but the observance of the festival had to be postponed, owing to the late arrival of the Emperor. The feast was eventually kept on the 24th May, when the Emperor was ceremoniously invested by Henry with the Order of the Garter. (fn. 123)
In the meanwhile the cause of peace had not been advanced by the conduct of the French. Not only was Harfleur being besieged by the Count of Armagnac, but the English coast had been threatened by his Genoese allies Even before the Emperor quitted Paris in disgust Henry had given orders for a fleet to be prepared on the Essex coast to repel invasion. (fn. 124) Towards the end of May a fleet was ready to set sail from London under the command of the Earl of Huntingdon, who, a month later, succeeded in scattering the Genoese vessels. (fn. 125)
As to Harfleur, a proposal was made by Sigismund in June that the town should be placed in the hands of himself and of William of Holland (whom he had invited to England to assist in the negotiations) as a temporary measure until a final settlement For this arrangement the assent of the French prisoners in England was necessary. Although professing themselves anxious for peace, they refused their assent, and Henry had no alternative but to prepare another expedition to France. He primarily intended to lead the expedition in person, and went to Southampton for the purpose; but the command was eventually given to the Duke of Bedford, his brother, (fn. 126) who succeeded in raising the siege of Harfleur.
Disappointed yet more by the attitude of France, Sigismund determined upon making an of fensive and defensive alliance with Henry. Thus united they attended a conference, originally intended to be opened at Calais on the 1st August. (fn. 127) The Duke of Burgundy was expected to be present on the occasion, and Henry had invited those of his subjects who had any grievances against the Duke to lay them before the conference, (fn. 128) the Duke and Henry having agreed to prolong thetruce between England and Burgundy for two years. (fn. 129) The conference broke up in October, leaving matters practically in no better state than before, except that the bond between Henry and the Emperor was drawn closer by an extension of their alliance. (fn. 130)
It was clear that a renewal of the war would inevitably take place in the following spring (1417), and the Letter-Bookrecords the preparations that were made for the event. Letters of Privy Seal were sent out at the opening of the year calling upon all lords, knights, esquires, and others to make a return of the number of men-at-arms and archers they could furnish by the 12th January, and a month later they were to attend the King and Council for the purpose of executing indentures and receiving the men's pay. (fn. 131) On the 25th February the Sheriffs were ordered to make proclamation for all knights, esquires, &, who had bound themselves for the coming expedition to France, to provide themselves with victuals for half a year andattend at place and time appointed according to their indentures. (fn. 132) Early in March the King hypothecated the custom on wool, &, for the repayment of a loan of 5, 000 marks advanced by the City. (fn. 133) The King's Purveyors had orders not to obstruct the Mayor in purchasing corn for the fleet which was about to sail from Southampton. (fn. 134)
Still there occurred great delay. In May, and again in June, the Sheriffs were ordered to make proclamation for masters of vessels and seamen to hasten to Southampton. (fn. 135) More money had to be raised for the expedition, and this was supplied, not by the Corporation as a body, but by voluntary contributions by the wealthier citizens individually. Particulars of these contributions are recorded in the Letter-Book. (fn. 136) The largest sum subscribed, viz., £200, was advanced by Thomas Knolles and Nicholas Wottone, the one an eminent grocer and the other a draper. The next largest sum (£100) was subscribed by four others, viz., Robert Chichele, William Crowmer, William Sevenok, and William Cambridge, three of whom were grocers and one a draper. Three others contributed 100 marks, viz., Henry Bartone, a skinner, and Mayor for the time being, Richard Merlawe, an ironmonger, and William Waldene, a mercer; whilst thirty-four other citizens subscribed lesser sums. (fn. 137) By way of security for repayment of the loan the King pledged with the contributors a Spanish sword mounted in gold and enriched with jewels, estimated to be worth £2,000. The sword was not to be parted with before Michaelmas, 1418, unless previously redeemed by the King. In May, 1419, it still remained unredeemed, but was voluntarily surrendered to Henry in exchange for a grant of custom on wool . (fn. 138)
On the 17th July the King is recorded in the Letter-Book as being at Southampton, whence he issued his writ to the Sheriffs to make proclamation relieving merchants from payment of the additional subsidy on wool, woolfells, &, imposed by the last Parliament. All merchants in England were, for the next four years, to be called upon to pay only such subsidy as they had been accustomed to pay before the Statute. (fn. 139)
On the 1st August Henry landed for the second time in Normandy at Touques, a small fortified town which the Earl of Huntingdon was attacking, and on the 9th he was able to inform the citizens of London by letter of the surrender of the "castle" with out bloodshed. To this a reply was sent on the 28th under the Mayoralty seal, testifying the joy with which the news had been received, and assuring the King that all was peaceful in the City. (fn. 140)
From Touques Henry determined to proceed to Caen, sending on before him the Duke of Clarence in light marching order and by a shorter route than he himself proposed to take. By this means the French garrison was taken by surprise, so that when Henry arrived everything was ready for a bombardment, and on the 5th September the King had the satisfaction of informing the citizens of London that the town had surrendered the previous day " with right litell deth of oure peple." The citadel was to be surrendered on the 19th unless previously relieved by the French King, his son Charles, the Dauphin, (fn. 141) or the Count of Armagnac, the Constable of France. (fn. 142) This news was followed a few days later (11 Sept.) by another letter from the Duke of Clarence testifying the enormous success which the army had achieved. So many towns and fortresses had been taken that the fear was that there were not sufficient men to keep guard over them. (fn. 143) Another difficulty presented itself in keeping the English force supplied with victuals. To this end the Duke of Bedford, the King's lieutenant at home, caused proclamation to be made in the City that all merchants who were willing and able to ship victuals to France on the King's behalf might do so without paying custom dues, provided they gave security thatsuch victuals should be forwarded to Caen and not elsewhere. (fn. 144)
Success continued to attend the English army throughout the remainder of the year, town after town falling into Henry's hands until he arrived before Falaise on the 1st December. This town had to be reduced by blockade, and was not captured until February in the following year In the meantime (20 Dec., 1417) the Mayor and Aldermen dispatched a letter to the King congratulating him upon his success abroad, and assuring him of their loyalty and of the peace and tranquillity of the City since his departure. (fn. 145)
The great enterprise that Henry proposed to undertake in the coming year (1418) was the siege of Rouen, and the Letter-Book affords us glimpses of some of the preparations that were made for the purpose. Thus we find the Bailiffs and Surveyors of the Thames ordered on the 24th February to allow certain "cogshippes" to proceed to Southampton to join the proposed expedition, not with standing any embargo that might attach to them. (fn. 146) It was probably in February that a proclamation (recorded with out date) was also issued for the embarkation in the Thames of all soldiers, seamen, and others who were bound for the expedition, and for their setting sail for Southampton at the next tide. (fn. 147)
In the spring the Earl of March and Thomas Beaufort, now Duke of Exeter, who had been busy all the winter in England gathering fresh forces for the King's service, crossed over to France; and the Letter-Book records another proclamation, dated the 9th April, calling upon all soldiers of the Duke's retinue and all others who had bound themselves for the expedition to hasten to Southampton and there embark, on pain of imprisonment. (fn. 148)
At the end of May Henry left Caen and joined the Duke of Clarence, and a few days later the united forces advanced to Louviers. This town having surrendered on the 23rd June, the army immediately set out for Pont de l'Arche on the Seme, some twenty miles by river above Rouen, and began to besiege it four days later. Information was sent to Richard Merlawe, the Mayor, of the proceedings of the army by a letter from the Duke of Clarence, dated from Pont de l'Arche, the 5th July, the day after the English had forced the passage of the Seine, when the speedy surrender of the town was looked for. This was followed by a letter from the King himself, dated the 21st July, addressed to the Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen, and Commons of the City, informing them that the town had capitulated the previous day. To both of these letters the City returned a gracious reply. (fn. 149)
Whilst Henry was besieging Louviers a terrible scene was being enacted in Paris. The Armagnac party had rendered themselves so obnoxious that the inhabitants, with the aid of a Burgundian force, rose against them, and on the 12th June Count Bernard himself had been treacherously slain. The Duke of Burgundy being now supreme, it was a matter of importance to Henry to learn what would be the Duke's attitude towards himself. He accordingly dispatched a messenger to the Duke "to knowe whether he wolde kepe trewes taken bitwixt us and hym or no." The answer came back that the Duke was prepared to give battle, and so (as Henry informed the Londoners in his letter) he held the Duke his "ful enemy."
Determined to take advantage of the disunion in France, Henry pressed forward the siege of Rouen. Two more proclamations with out date are recorded in the Letter-Book These were probably issued during the siege, which commenced on the 29th July. One proclamation required all who were willing to proceed to Rouen or other town on the coast of Normandy for the King's service to be on board ship by Sunday next; in the meanwhile they were to attend the Mayor, who would provide them with transport and free victuals for the voyage. The other directed those who were willing to go to Normandy to wait upon William Sevenoke and other Aldermen, who would similarly provide them with ships and victuals. (fn. 150)
On the 9th August the King informed the Mayor and Corporation that he was then laying siege to Rouen—" the most notable place in France save Paris, " he writes—and begged them to send victuals by ship to Harfleur, and thence up the Seine to Rouen, for the relief of his army. A month later (8 Sept.) a reply was sent informing him that 30 butts of sweet wine, 1,000 pipes of ale and beer, and 2,500 cup swere on the way to refresh his forces. (fn. 151) No further mention of the siege appears in the Letter-Book, although the town did not surrender until the 19th Jan., 1419.
In the meantime, whilst still before Rouen, Henry had, on the 4th August, renewed an alliance he had made with John of Brittany in the preceding November. (fn. 152) Whilst the Duke of Brittany was busying himself with negotiations for effecting a union between the two factions under the Dauphin and Burgundy, it was to Henry's interest to keep them asunder and to accept the terms of the highest bidder. In July, 1419, however, the Duke and the Dauphin came to terms, and united themselves against the English king, and at the close of the month open hostilities, which had been in abeyance, were resumed.
Pontoise became the objective of Henry's next move, as that town commanded the road to Paris from the North. It was taken by surprise, and speedily captured, the news being forwarded to the Mayor and Aldermen by letters both from the King and the Duke of Clarence, dated the same day (5 August) at Mantes. The Duke's letter concluded with a request that they would confer upon Roger Tillyngton, skinner, his well-beloved servant, the freedom of the City. To both of these letters appropriate replies were sent, but no notice appears to have been taken of the Duke's request. (fn. 153)
By the 17th August Henry was back at Pontoise, whence he again wrote to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commons of the City, thanking them especially for a kind and notable of fer of an aid which he had learnt from his brother the Duke of Bedford and the Chancellor they had voluntarily made. This letter fell into the hands of the enemy and was taken to Crotoye, so another letter to the same effect was dispatched from Trie le Chastel on the 12th September. (fn. 154) By that time the Duke of Burgundy had ceased from troubling, having been treacherously murdered by adherents of the Dauphin, even as the Count of Armagnac had perished at the hands of the Burgundian party fifteen months before, and thus the way was paved for the Treaty of Troyes in May of the following year.
By this treaty, which is fully set out in English in the Letter-Book, Henry agreed to marry Katherine of France, and in his turn was recognized as Regent for the time being and heir to the throne of France. (fn. 155) The new "Great Peace" was proclaimed at Paris with great joy on the 30th May, and at London on the 14th June after a solemn procession and sermon at Paul's Cross. (fn. 156) The marriage of Henry with Katherine was solemnized at Troyes on the 2nd June.
Henry had yet to deal with the Dauphin, who was no party to the Peace. When the King next appears in the Letter-Book he is recorded as being with his army before Melun, the stronghold of the Dauphin, whence his Scottish and other mercenaries had long threatened Paris. The siege of Melun was begun on the 13th July, but so strongly was it fortified, and so stout a resistance did the besieged make, it was not until the 17th November that the town surrendered at discretion. It was during this siege that Henry issued letters patent granting certain exemptions from custom and other privileges to the burgesses of Dieppe, as set out in the Letter-Book. (fn. 157)
The capture of Melun removed all difficulty of access to the French capital, and Henry made his state entry into Paris onthe 1st December and spent Christmas there with his Queen and Court Early in the following year he turned his face homewards, and arrived in England on Candlemas Day (2 Feb.), after an absence of three years and six months. Preparations had already been commenced for the Queen's coronation, the Duke of Gloucester, the Guardian of the realm, having on the 26th January issued his writ to the Sheriffs for proclamation to be made for those who owed service to the Queen on such an occasion to attend the coronation at Westminster on the third Sunday in Lent (23 Feb.). (fn. 159) The ceremony at the Abbey was followed by a banquet, which was attended by the Mayor and Aldermen.
before turning his back on France Henry had instructed his brother Clarence to resume the war on the approach of spring. Scarcely had operations commenced before Clarence allowed himself to be taken by surprise, and was killed in a skirmish near Baugé. This took place in March, 1421, and in the following June Henry himself was back again in France, leaving his Queen at home, she being at that time enceinte. (fn. 160)
The news of Henry's return gave fresh courage to the English forces. It had been his intention (so he informed the Mayor, &c., of London, by letter from Mantes on the12th July (fn. 161) ) to spend some little time in Picardy on his arrival, in order to settle its government, but news had been brought to him that the self-styled Dauphin—" he that clepeth hym Daulphin"—was threatening Chartres; he had therefore hastened with his army to Paris to assure himself that all was well there, and had thence come to Mantes with the view of raising the siege of Chartres; but again his movements had to be altered, for he had heard on his way from Paris that the "pretense Daulphin" had already raised the siege and hurried to Touraine. To this letter a gracious reply was sent, asusual, under the Mayoralty seal, in which the King was assured of the continued tranquillity of the City.
Thus far the Letter-Book enables us to trace fairly well the movements of Henry V. both at home and abroad, but after his letter of the 12th July, 1421, it records nothing more of him but the bald statement that he had died and been succeeded by his son, and the Sheriffs of London were to make proclamation to that effect. He had indeed died at the Bois de Vincennes near Paris on the night of the 31st August or early in the morning of the 1st September, 1422, leaving an infant son, on whom he had never set eyes, to succeed him on the throne as Henry VI. The writ to the Sheriffs was issued a month later (1 October). (fn. 162)
Turning to matters affecting the internal government of the City, the Letter-Book records much that is of interest, more especially in connexion with some of the Livery Companies.
The differentiation, for instance, of the Barbers, pure and simple, from Barbers exercising the faculty of surgery (barbitonsores cirurgicam facultatem exercentes), otherwise known as Barber-Surgeons, becomes well defined. The two distinct fraternities or guilds of Barbers and Surgeons had long existedin the City side by side, and no little jealousy had been exhibited between them from time to time. In 1375, (fn. 163) as recorded in the previous Letter-Book, the Barbers had complained to the Mayor and Aldermen of unskilled practitioners in surgery, and had prayed that two Masters might be yearly appointed to rule thecraft, and that none might be admitted to the franchise of the City until examined and found capable. Their prayer was granted, and two Masters were elected for the first time. (fn. 164) This ordinance must have been distasteful to the Surgeons' Guild, as it placed the Barbers on the same footing with them in respect of the examination of Surgeons, the inspection of their instruments, &c., more especially as the Surgeons had as recently as 1369 obtained from the same authorities the power of presenting defaults of unskilful practitioners. (fn. 165) In 1410 the Barbers submitted the ordinances of 1375 to the Mayor andAldermen, and not only succeeded in getting them confirmed, but obtained exemption from the jurisdiction of any other craft or mistery, by whatever name known, in matters touchings having, making incisions, phlebotomy, or other matters pertaining to the art of Barbery or Surgery then practised or thereafter to be practised. (fn. 166)
Five years later (May, 1415), complaint having been made to the Mayor and Aldermen of the unskilful and fraudulent practice of certain Barbers towards their surgical patients, the Court, whilst not unmindful of the privileges recently conferred upon the Barbers, nevertheless deprived them of the right they had hitherto enjoyed of electing their own Masters, and took the election into its own hands, with the result that Simon Rolf and Richard Wellys became the first Masters for ruling all barbers exercising the faculty of surgery in the City. (fn. 167)
Again, a dispute is recorded in the Letter-Book between the Haberdashers and Hatters on the one part and the Cappers and Hurers (or hat-merchants) on the other, touching what should be regarded as "false" caps, and to which party belonged the right of search. In 1404 the Hurers and Cappers obtained an ordinance from the Court of Aldermen forbidding the fulling of any hure or cap otherwise than by hand, those fulled at mills or by foot being deemed false work, and investing the Wardens of their craft with power of search. (fn. 168)
The matter came up again in 1417, when the Masters andgood men respectively of the misteries of Hatters and Haberdashers complained to the Court of Aldermen of the Mastersand Wardens of the mistery of Cappers having seizedcertain "longe cappes" belonging to a haberdasher. TheCappers defended their action by citing the ordinance of 1404. On the other hand, the Hatters and Haberdashers declaredthat the ordinance was bad, inasmuch as "cappes, hures andhattes, " both in England and abroad, were fulled both at millsand by foot at less cost, and equally as well as those fulled by hand. They also claimed an equal right of search with the Cappers. The Mayor and Aldermen thereupon decreed thatthe ordinance should be void and that in future the examinationof caps, &c., should be shared by all parties concerned. (fn. 169)
In 1415 journeymen or "yeomen" tailors (fn. 170) became insubordinate to the rule of the Masters of the Guild, consorting together in various houses, and behaving in so insolent a manner that complaint was made to the Mayor and Aldermen. The Master and Wardens, being summoned to appear, frankly acknowledged their inability to put a stop to the scandal, and asked the Court to summon certain of fenders who were livingin a house at Garlickhithe. This was done, and after due consideration, the Mayor and Aldermen ordained that thenceforth the yeomen should be subject to the rule and governance of the Masters and Wardens of the mistery, and should cease to wear a livery or live together, under pain of imprisonment and fine. (fn. 171)
Two years later (5 Aug., 1417) the yeomen tailors of their own accord approached the Court of Aldermen and prayed that they might be allowed to meet once a year on a certain festival in the church of St. John of Jerusalem for religious and charitable purposes in connexion with their fraternity. Thereupon the Mayor and Aldermen consulted the ordinance of 1415, and finding that the petition, although having the appearance of good fellowship (licet sub pro colore bonitatis), would, if granted, lead to disturbances, as similar assemblies of the same mistery had done before, they forbade such conventicles to be held anywhere except in the presence of the Masters of the mistery. (fn. 172)
The Letter-Book records the settlement of a question of precedence claimed by the respective Rectors of the churches of St. Peter, Cornhill, St. Magnus the Martyr, and St. Nicholas Coldabbey in the solemn processions which took place at Whitsuntide in each year. The record gives us to understand that the question was raised not so much by the Rectors as by their parishioners. In the last two parishes mentioned—viz., St. Magnus and St. Nicholas Coldabbey — the bulk of the parishioners were no doubt fishmongers carrying on their business in the fish markets in Bridge Street or New Fish Street in the parish of St. Magnus, (fn. 173) and in Old Fish Street in the parish of St. Nicholas, and every year they challenged the right of the Rector of St. Peter's, Cornhill, to take precedence over the Rectors of their own parish church, although it had been solemnly decreed by the ecclesiastical authorities in February, 1399–1400, that the last place in processions, as the place of honour, rightly belonged to the Rector of St. Peter's, Cornhill. In 1417 matters came to a head, and the Mayor and Aldermen, after hearing the decree just mentioned, ordained that the Rector of St. Peter's should continue to enjoy his precedence with out hindrance on the part of the Rectors of St. Magnus and St. Nicholas, on pain of fine and imprisonment. (fn. 174) This ordinance as recorded in the City's Journal of the day (fn. 175) contains also a clause commanding the Masters of the Mistery of Fishmongers in both fish markets to see that it be duly observed.
It was presumably in 1419 (the record bears no date) that the University of Cambridge attempted, not for the first time, to challenge the right of the City of London to appoint their own Wardens and to survey weights and measures at all Fairs held in England. At Sturbridge Fair, held in the suburbs of Cambridge, the University not only claimed these rights exclusively as its own, but the Chancellor for the time being insisted on his power to commit to prison any one found assaulting a scholar until surety was given for keeping the peace. It had recently happened that two eminent grocers of London, viz., John Aylesham and Thomas Catworth, were discovered selling their goods by weight, and when ordered to bring their weights to be assayed they had refused to do so. When the Fair was over, an attempt was made by two scholars of the University (at the instigation of the Chancellor) to seize the merchandise that remained unsold, but they were forcibly prevented. Thereupon the Chancellor caused the London grocers to be arrested, and committed them to the custody of the Sheriff until they foundsurety. By some means or other (not recorded) they obtained their release, and the University proceeded to lay the matter before the King's Council. There the rights of each of the parties were pleaded and supported by divers charters and the liberties and customs of the City, as may be seen in the Calendar, (fn. 176) but the Council's decision is not recorded in the Letter-Book.
In the following year (1420) not only were heavy penalties imposed upon brewers who failed to have their measures sealed by the City Chamberlain or his deputy, pursuant to an ordinance passed in 1408, but those who were found guilty of selling an inferior beer, either inside or outside their houses, or of selling the best beer dearer than they ought, were condemned to forfeit both beer and vessels on the evidence of any informer. Lest this ordinance should prove too rigorous in practice, the Mayor (Richard Whityngton) and Aldermen reserved the right of annulling it. In the meanwhile it received the approval of more than 300 brewers in the City and suburbs, their names being set out in the Letter-Book. (fn. 177)
The Letter-Book closes with a record of two matters of special but widely different interest: the one being a schedule of those taken in adultery in the City between the years 1401and 1439; the other being the various statutes and ordinances that had been passed since the year 1300 for regulating the office of King's Purveyor, and ordered by the Parliament of 1422 to be proclaimed four times a year by the Sheriff of every county.
It is not easy to discover a satisfactory reason for placing on record here the names of those found guilty of immorality during the period mentioned, unless it be the fact that more than half of them were criminous priests whose detection may have been due to a recrudescence of Lollardry in the City, and whom it was thought well to gibbet. The whole number of those so taken amounts to seventy, forty-four of them being priests, and two of them City Rectors. of these two, one appears to have succeeded in purging himself before the Ordinary, or to have got off with a light punishment, the other failed and lost his living. Of the laymen who were taken only four are recorded as being married, whilst over thirty married women were incriminated. The largest number of arrests made in a twelvemonth was ten, no fewer than six of whom were priests. This occurred during the Mayoralty of John Wodecok (Oct., 1405—Oct., 1406), whose religious proclivities (exemplified by his having initiated the custom of holding a religious service previous to the election of a Mayor) may possibly have inspired the Ward of ficers with greater zeal in looking for misdemeanants. Billingsgate and Bishopsgate Wards appear to have exceeded other Wards in licentiousness.
The excessive number of clergy over laymen in this long list is calculated to astonish the citizen of London of the present day; but we must not forget that the City swarmed with chantry priests, and was not more demoralized in those days than the rest of England, and more especially cathedral towns. (fn. 178) The laxity of morals among the clergy was, moreover, encouraged in some degree by the inadequate punishment inflicted by the spiritual courts, to whose jurisdiction alone they claimed to be subject. Ever since the first grant of "Benefit of Clergy" every cleric could claim as an absolute right to be exempted in cases of felony from the criminal law of the land. (fn. 179) The Mayor and Aldermen in most cases acknowledged the right and remitted the "criminous clerk" to the Ordinary to "purge" himself by bringing forward witnesses to swear to their belief in his innocence, failing which, he had to submit to a punishment of penance, or a fine, or both, but in most cases the punishment was altogether inadequate to the crime. Nevertheless, the civic authorities had their own way of dealing with such clerks Thus, in 1382 it was ordained that any priest found with a woman should be taken to the Tun on Cornhill with minstrels, and on his third of fence should abjure the City for the rest of his life. (fn. 180) Again, the Letter-Book records a proclamation of the fifteenth century made by the Mayor "on the King's behalf" forbidding the hiring of an immoral priest under penalty of paying double his salary into the City Chamber. (fn. 181) As to laymen taken inadultery in the City, they were indicted before the Mayor and Aldermen, and usually condemned to the pillory, (fn. 182) a punishment no less obnoxious than the escort to the Tun with minstrelsy.
The statutes and ordinances touching Purveyance have been set out in the Calendar verbatim et literatim. (fn. 183) The first statuterecorded is one passed in 1330, but the royal prerogative of purveyance—which allowed victuals and goods to be appropriated for the King's service by his purveyors or takers, to be paid for at the lowest rate or not paid for at all—had long been an intolerable burden which no legislation appears to have been strong enough to abolish. No fewer than nine statutes are recorded in the Letter-Book in the reign of Edward III. alone, by the last of which, passed in 1362, it was enacted not only that the practice of purveyance should cease, but also that the "odyouse name purveour be chaunged and cald catour." (fn. 184)
The prerogative of purveyance, besides the right of preemption of victuals, fodder, &c., extended to the requisition of horses and carts, and even the enforcement of personal labour At the Parliament held at Gloucester in October, 1407, a formal complaint was made to the King by Thomas Chaucer, the Speaker, of the conduct of his purveyors, and in the following month the Sheriffs received the King's writ to make proclamation to the effect that no one should be forced to surrender anything to the King's takers of victuals or carts unless those of ficers showed their commission. (fn. 185) This had become necessary owing to unscrupulous persons fraudulently representing themselves to be the King's purveyors, two instances of the kind being recorded in the Letter-Book. (fn. 186)
R. R. S.
The Guildhall, London, April, 1909.