Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London 1188-1274. Originally published by Trübner, London, 1863.
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In this year, just after the Feast of Saint Martin [11 November] about the time of Vespers, a certain Jew having wounded a Christian with an (fn. 3)anelace, in Colecherche Street, many Christians, indeed a countless multitude of people, ran in pursuit of the Jew, and broke into many houses belonging to the Jews; not content with which, afterwards at nightfall they carried off all the goods of the said Jews, and would have broken into many more houses, and carried off the goods, had not the Mayor and Sheriffs repaired to the spot and driven away those offenders by force of arms. For which reason, inquisition was made on the morrow, and so from day to day, by the Mayor and Sheriffs in the Guildhall, twelve men from each of the Wards of London, to whom no suspicion attached in reference to that felony, being sworn thereunto. And afterwards, all the Aldermen made inquisition upon this matter, each in his own Wardmote; and those who were indicted or accused, were taken by the Sheriffs and imprisoned, part of them in Neugate and part in (fn. 4)Crepelgate. But afterwards, those who were free of the City and who could find pledges, were liberated on surety.
In this year his lordship the King returned from France, and putting to sea, together with the Queen, at Witsand, landed at Dover on the Vigil of Saint Thomas the Apostle [21 December], and on the Wednesday before the Epiphany [6 January] arrived in London.
This year there was a great frost and thick ice, the frost beginning on the fifth day before the (fn. 5)Nativity and lasting for three whole weeks; the Thames too was so frozen, that at one time it was covered from shore to shore, so much so, that it had all the appearance of being able to be crossed over on foot and on horseback.
In the same year, on the seventh day of February, were burnt, by reason of a fire breaking out there, the Lesser Hall of his lordship the King at Westminster, the Chamber, the Chapel, the (fn. 6)Receiving-Room, and many other official buildings as well.
In this year, just before (fn. 7)Saint Peter's Chair, the Mayor and citizens of London shewed unto Sir Philip Basset, Justiciar of England, and others of the Council of his lordship the King, at Westminster, that the Constable of the Tower, in contravention of their franchises, wished to arrest and seize vessels in the Thames before the Tower, and take prisage of corn and other things, before they had reached the wharf; further saying, that just then he had caused a vessel belonging to Thomas de Basinges, laden with wheat, to be stopped before the Tower, and was for taking one hundred quarters therefrom, at a price, by the quarter, two pence less than it would have sold for when brought ashore. To which the said Constable made answer, that this he was quite at liberty to do, in behalf of his lordship the King; whereupon, the citizens replied, that attachments on the Thames pertain solely to the Sheriffs of London, seeing that the whole water of Thames belongs to the City from shore to shore, as far as the (fn. 8)Newe Were; as had been repeatedly shown before the Justiciars Itinerant at the Tower, and as had been assented to at (fn. 9)Bermundesheie, by twelve knights of Sureye, upon oath, before his lordship Hugh Bigot, Justiciar of England, then itinerant there.
They said also, that his lordship the King takes no prisage of corn, before the vessel has reached the wharf, and that then he is to have the quarter of wheat at two pence less than it would sell for; and this, only for the support of his own household. Also, that neither the Constable nor any other person is to have prisage of corn; but that, if he wishes to buy anything, he must buy it in the market of the City, like the citizens, and at the option of the vendor; and they entreated his lordship the King, that he would preserve their liberties; always claiming however, that there they neither would, nor ought to, undergo judgment or receive the same. Then, after conference had been held between the Justiciars and others of the King's Council, Sir William de Wilton made answer to the citizens;—"His lordship the King is wishful that your liberties be preserved, and it is our duty to be wishful that his rights be not lost; and because we are ignorant what are the rights which pertain unto the Tower, we will make inquisition at the end of three weeks after Easter, of other persons who have been Constables there, what kind of (fn. 10)seisin his lordship the King has had there; but the City, in the meantime, may enjoy its own seisin wholly and in peace, saving however such claim on part of the Constable, as upon the said day he shall be able reasonably to shew." Whereupon, it was provided by the citizens, and injunction was given to the Sheriffs, that they should not allow the Constable to make any attachment on the Thames, and should repel force by force, if necessary.
In this year, his lordship the King again gave his assent to the maintenance of the Statutes of Oxford, and sent his writs, in which the said Statutes were set forth in writing, throughout all the Counties of England, enjoining that the same should be observed, as well as others which the Earl Marshal, the Earl of Leicester, Philip Basset, and Hugh Bigot, were about to prepare: an ordinance which held good for no long time.
Afterwards, on Sunday in Mid-Lent, many people of the City meeting at Saint Paul's Cross, the Mayor did fealty to Sir Edward, (fn. 11)after the King's decease; and on the morrow all the Aldermen did the same in the Guildhall, those who were absent through illness doing the same at home, before the Mayor. On the Sunday following, all males of twelve years of age and upwards, made the same oath before their respective Aldermen, each in his own Wardmote.
In this year, before Pentecost, the Barons who had given their assent to the observance of the Ordinances and Statutes made at Oxford, sent a certain letter to his lordship the King, under the seal of Roger de Clifford, requiring of him that he would maintain those Statutes; and defied all those who should attempt to contravene the same, saving always, the persons of the King, the Queen, and their children. Immediately after this, the said Barons, with a great army, levied war against all their adversaries, and, in the first place, at Hereford seized the (fn. 12)Bishop of Hereford, and all his Canons who were aliens, carried off all their treasures, sold all that they could find upon their manors, and ravaged many of the manors with fire. And in the same way they did as to all the manors by which they passed, belonging to those, that is to say, who attempted to infringe the said Statutes, ecclesiastics as well as others; in their churches also, they placed new rectors, and more especially in the churches that were held by aliens, doing no harm to any persons except their adversaries, but strictly maintaining the peace as towards them. Seizing however the castles belonging to his lordship the King and some others, they placed new constables in them; all of whom they made to swear fealty to his lordship the King, always carrying before themselves the King's standard. After this, about the Feast of Saint John [24 June], they sent a letter to the citizens of London, under the seal of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, desiring to be certified by them whether they would observe the said Ordinances and Statutes, made to the honour of God, in fealty to his lordship the King, and to the advantage of all the realm, or would in preference adhere to those who wished to infringe the same.
And be it known, that the prayer of the Barons was to the following effect:—"The Barons do humbly and duteously request of his lordship the King, that the Ordinances and Statutes made at Oxford, and confirmed by oath as well of his lordship the King as of the nobles, and after that, of all and singular of the realm of England, shall be strictly and inviolably observed. Provided however, that if anything in them, by award of good men thereunto elected, shall be found to the prejudice or injury of his lordship the King or of the realm, the same shall be wholly withdrawn therefrom; and that if anything shall be doubtful or shall need correction, the same shall be made clear or corrected; and that as to other points, those namely that are good and beneficial, security shall be provided that the same shall be for ever strictly observed. They do further request, that the realm shall in future be governed, under his lordship the King, by trusty and skilful natives of the same and not by others than such; the same as in all other kingdoms throughout the world is commonly done."
Upon receiving the message, the citizens shewed the same to his lordship the King, who was then at the Tower, the King of Almaine, the Queen, Sir Edward, and Robert Walrand being the only other persons who were then present; and they further said, that all the community was willing to observe those Statutes which were to the honour of God, in fealty to the King, and to the advantage of the realm; which Statutes, by the King's command, had before been ratified by the said community by oath; and further, that it was their wish that no knights [or] serjeants, aliens by birth, should be allowed to sojourn in the City; for that it was through (fn. 13)them that all the dissensions had arisen between the King and his Barons. After this, by the King's command, certain of the citizens were sent to Dover with the King's Council, to treat for peace with the Barons. On the occasion of which journey, answer was made to the Barons, that all the community was willing to observe the said Statutes, to the honour of God, in fealty to his lordship the King, and to the advantage of the realm, saving always the liberties of London: and thus was a league made between the Barons and the citizens, with this reservation,—"saving fealty to his lordship the King."
At this season, and indeed before, all aliens, both knights and serjeants, were dismissed from the City; who were afterwards placed by Sir Edward in garrison at Wyndleshore. And at this time also the citizens kept watch and ward, riding by night throughout the City with horse and arms; though among them a countless multitude of persons on foot obtruded themselves; some evil-minded among whom, under pretext of searching for aliens, broke open many houses belonging to other persons, and carried off such goods as were there to be found. To restrain the evil designs of these persons, the watches on horseback were therefore put an end to, and watch was kept by the respective Wards, each person keeping himself well armed within his own Ward.
Afterwards, on the Sunday before the Feast of Saint Margaret [20 July], the Barons came to London, and on the morrow the King and Queen withdrew from the Tower to Westminster. At this time, with the assent of his lordship the King, Hugh le Despencer was made by the Barons Justiciar of all England, and the Tower of London delivered into his charge.
Be it here remarked, that this Mayor, during the time of his Mayoralty, had so pampered the City populace, that, styling themselves the "Commons of the City," they had obtained the first voice in the City. For the Mayor, in doing all that he had to do, acted and determined through them, and would say to them,—"Is it your will that so it shall be?" and then, if they answered—"Ya, ya," so it was done. And on the other hand, the Aldermen or chief citizens were little or not at all consulted on such matter; but were in fact just as though they had not existed. Through this, that same populace became so elated and so inflated with pride, that during the commotions in the realm, of which mention has been previously made, they formed themselves into covins, and leagued themselves together by oath, by the hundred and by the thousand, under a sort of colour of keeping the peace, whereas they themselves were manifestly disturbers of the peace. For whereas the Barons were only fighting against those who wished to break the aforesaid Statutes, and seized the property of such, and that too by day, the others by night broke into the houses of the people of (fn. 14)Quercy and of other persons in the City, who were not against the said Statutes, and by main force carried off the property found in such houses, besides doing many other unlawful acts as well. As to the Mayor, he censured these persons in but a lukewarm way.
Afterwards, these same persons, like so many Justiciars Itinerant, wished to remove all (fn. 15)purprestures, new and old, observing no order of trial; and endeavoured to throw open lanes, which, by writ of his lordship the King and with the sanction of the Justiciars Itinerant, the community assenting thereto, had been stopped up and rented to certain persons; so much so, in fact, that some of them they opened, without judgment given, and in like manner did they remove certain purprestures, and some of them after dinner (fn. 16); and this they did, not only for the purpose of removing them, but for the opportunity of carrying off the timber and other things there to be found.
After this, on the morrow of Saint Margaret [20 July], a writ of his lordship the King was sent to the Mayor and citizens, and was read in the Guildhall; it being set forth therein, that the dissensions which existed between the King and the Barons had been allayed, and that the King commanded that his peace should be strictly observed, as well within the City as without; and that, when any one should be known to contravene the aforesaid Statutes, he should be arrested by the Bailiffs, and all his goods seized, and kept in safe custody until the King should have issued his precept to other effect thereupon. And further, that from that day forward all matters should be conducted and determined according to the law of the land.
At this season, the Barons aforesaid, to conciliate still further the good will of the citizens, addressed them, and said that they would make provision, in case aught should be subtracted from their liberties; and even more, that such other matters, as, consistently with justice and honour, might tend to augment their liberties, if put in writing, they, the Barons, would shew unto the King and his Council; and that the King would confirm the same with his seal, to be held by the said citizens and their heirs for ever. The Mayor too had all the populace of the City summoned, telling them that the men of each craft must make such provisions as should be to their own advantage, and he himself would have the same proclaimed throughout the City, and strictly observed. Accordingly, after this, from day to day individuals of every craft of themselves made new statutes and provisions—or rather, what might be styled "abomi"nations,"—and that, solely for their own advantage, and to the intolerable loss of all merchants coming to London and visiting the fairs of England, and the exceeding injury of all persons in the realm. At this time too, nothing whatever was done, or treated of, for the common advantage of the City or for the increase of its liberties; though still, the (fn. 17)aforesaid enactments and provisions were not carried into effect.
After this, on the Vigil of Saint James [25 July] the Barons too departed from London for Windleshore, with the view of besieging the castle there: which Castle however was surrendered by Sir Edward, and peace made, on the day after the Feast aforesaid, the King and Barons still staying in the neighbourhood of (fn. 18)Fuleham; immediately after which, the aliens who were within the Castle returned to their native land.
At this time also, many nobles and others, making complaint, set forth unto the King and his Council, that they, among others, had been plundered, and that too unjustly, adding that they were not opposed to the said Statutes of Oxford, and demanding justice: a matter however, which was postponed until the quinzaine of Saint Michael.
Afterwards, on the second day after the Feast of Saint Matthew [21 September], which then fell on a Sunday, his lordship the King, the Queen, and their sons, with many nobles of England, crossed over to be present at a conference with the King of France at Boulogne; where the pilgrimage of himself and of other Crusaders to the Holy Land was treated of, as also the coronation of his (fn. 19)son as King; there being there present, nearly all the Dukes and nobles of France, Burgundy, Champagne, and Spain.