Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. He spent much of his reign reforming royal administration and common law. Through an extensive legal inquiry, Edward investigated the tenure of various feudal liberties, while the law was reformed through a series of statutes regulating criminal and property law. Increasingly, however, Edward's attention was drawn towards military affairs.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
BIRTH AND EARLY YEARS.
ACCESSION TO THE THRONE—EDWARD’S EARLIEST PROCEEDINGS.
THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS.
MIDDLE PERIOD OF EDWARD’S LIFE. A.D. 1279–1290.
SCOTTISH AFFAIRS—THE ARBITRATION—THE WAR. A.D. 1291–1296.
TROUBLES WITH FRANCE—WAR IN SCOTLAND.
THE WAR WITH FRANCE, AND VARIOUS TROUBLES AT HOME, A.D. 1297.
WILLIAM WALAYS, A.D. 1297, 1298.
PROLONGATION OF TROUBLES IN SCOTLAND—PARLIAMENTARY DISCUSSIONS IN ENGLAND, A.D. 1299–1302.
THE DISAFFORESTING QUESTION—THE COMMISSION OF TRAILBASTON, ETC., ETC., A.D. 1299–1305.
THE SETTLEMENT OF SCOTLAND, A.D. 1303–1305.
BRUCE’S REBELLION: THE WAR WHICH FOLLOWED.—THE DEATH OF EDWARD: HIS CHARACTER.
On the night of June 17–18, 1239, Queen Eleanor, the consort of Henry III., presented her husband with a son, who was born in the Palace of Westminster, and who was instantly, says the old chronicler, named by the king, “Edward, after the glorious king and confessor, whose body rests in the church of St. Peter,” immediately adjoining. The event was greeted by the nobles and by the people of London with great manifestations of joy: by the citizens more especially, because the young prince was born among them. The streets of the city were illuminated at night with large lanterns, and music and dancing marked it as a day of general rejoicing.
Such a birth was a new thing, in those days, to Englishmen. They had passed nearly two centuries under the dominion of the dukes of Normandy, whose home was in France, and whose sojourns in England were merely visits paid to a conquered territory. During the later years, indeed, of that Norman tyranny, two or three of its princes, though still deeming themselves Normans, had first seen the light on English ground; but now, by his own choice, the reigning king had ordained that his eldest son should receive his birth in the metropolis of his kingdom, and had named him after the lamented and venerated “Confessor,” the last of the Saxon sovereigns. All this was gratifying to the Anglo‐Saxon mind, and how it was received and felt we can discern in a chronicle of the period, which gladly accepts and records the birth of an English or Anglo‐Saxon prince, narrating that, “on the 14th day of the calends of July (June 18), Eleanor, queen of England, gave birth to her eldest son, Edward; whose father was Henry, whose father was John, whose father was Henry, whose mother was Matilda the empress, whose mother was Matilda, queen of England, whose mother was Margaret, queen of Scotland, whose father was Edward, whose father was Edmund Ironside, who was the son of Ethelred, who was the son of Edgar, who was the son of Edmund, who was the son of Edward the Elder, who was the son of Alfred.”
In this manner the chronicler, who doubtless gave utterance to a common feeling among Englishmen, manages to drop out of view almost entirely the Norman dukes, who had overrun and subjugated the land for more than one hundred and fifty years, and whose yoke had been felt to be indeed an iron one. Among those sovereigns there had been some men of talent and prowess, and one or two of good and upright intentions; but the general character of their rule had been hard and despotic. “The people were oppressed; they rebelled, were subdued, and oppressed again.
After a few years they sank in despair, and yielded to the indignities of a small body of strangers without resistance. The very name of Englishman was turned into a reproach; their language, and even the character in which it was written, were rejected as barbarous. During a hundred years, none of their race were raised to any dignity in the State or the Church.” The old “Saxon Chronicle” tells us how the Norman soldiers “filled the land with castles,—forcing the poor people to toil in their erection; and then, when these fortresses were built, they filled them with devils and wicked men. They took those whom they supposed to have any goods, and shut them up, and inflicted on them unutterable tortures.”
The dawn of a better state of things was seen, when, in 1204, under the weakest and worst of all these alien despots, Normandy was separated from England. To the Norman knights who had settled upon their English possessions acquired by the sword, this separation must have seemed a dire calamity, but to Englishmen it was the reverse. England rose once more to the rank of an independent kingdom. Her sovereigns, Norman dukes no longer, must henceforward be really kings of England if they would be anything; and thus Henry III., born at Winchester, and living all his life in England, came to feel for the land and the people far differently from any of his progenitors. He was a prince, too, who, with many faults, had some real virtues. He was kind‐hearted and liberal. He was, too, the first of his race who knew by experience the value of home affections. From the Conqueror downwards, all the Norman kings had been men of license, and their households the abodes of jealousy, hatred, heart‐burnings, and conspiracies. Henry III. was a faithful husband and an affectionate father; and he owed it to these virtues that, after many errors and many follies, he descended at last into a quiet and not unhonoured grave. The first of all the Conqueror’s descendants to feel himself merely “king of England,” he was the first, also, to desire to gain the good will of the English people, and the first to stand before them as one knowing the value and the duties of an English home. Henry had married a woman of talent, one who stands high in mental rank among English queens. One of our old chroniclers speaks of her as
“The erle’s daughter of Provence; the fairest May of life:
Her name is Helianore, of gentle nurture;
Beyond the seas there was none such creature.”
A poem from her pen is said to be preserved in the Royal library of Turin; and it is in this reign that we first hear of a poet laureate in England. It was probably from his consort, to whom he was all his life devotedly attached, that Henry learned that fondness for the arts and that cultivated taste which are often discernible in his proceedings. Painting and architecture, as well as poetry, always interested him. Over the Confessor’s tomb he resolved to raise a noble edifice; and to that resolve we owe the Abbey Church of Westminster. Several of our finest ecclesiastical buildings were commenced about this time, and it is now that the Norman style of architecture disappears, and the early English comes in its room. Both the Temple Church, and the great cathedral of St. Paul which perished in the fire of London, were upreared in Henry’s reign. There can be no doubt that his liberal and often lavish expenditure on objects of this kind was one among the various causes of that long series of pecuniary troubles and embarrassments, which brought upon him all the chief disasters of his reign. Thus, in passing through Paris in 1255, Henry thought that it became him to give a banquet to the French king and his nobles, at which banquet twenty‐five dukes, twelve bishops, and eighteen countesses, with a host of illustrious knights, were present; and the next day he sent to his distinguished guests, at their dwellings, “rich cups, gold clasps, silken belts, and other princely presents.” And very naturally, the chronicler next tells us that he landed at Dover oppressed with a burden of debt, which he himself described as “horrible to think of.” Then followed exactions, forced loans, and applications to a “great council” for aid;—mutual reproaches, disputes, and at last a civil war.
But we must return to our subject—the earlier years of Henry’s distinguished son. Edward’s childhood appears to have been spent principally at Windsor. In his third year, 1242, we find an order in these terms: “Pay out of our treasury, to Hugh Giffard and William Brun, £200, for the support of Edward our son, and the attendants residing with him at our castle of Windsor.” Four years later, Matthew Paris notices the death of this Hugh Giffard, whom he calls “a nobleman of the household, and preceptor to the princes.” In the following year, prince Edward was seized with a dangerous illness, and the king wrote to all the religious houses near London, requesting their prayers for his recovery.
Of Hugh Giffard’s successor we find no record; but as the prince’s education now became a matter of importance, we may be sure that a competent instructor was provided. Two very able men are found in habits of friendship with him through life, and it is probable that one or both of them had a share in his early training. Robert Burnel was the prince’s chaplain and private secretary, and he and Anthony Beck accompanied Edward in his expedition to Palestine, and were named executors in the will made at Acre, in 1271, after the attempt on his life. Burnel afterwards became chancellor and bishop of Bath and Wells, and Anthony Beck received the bishopric of Durham. But whoever it was that gave to Edward’s mind its earliest bent and bias, he has a right to our sincere respect and gratitude.
High and noble principles, both of religion and morals, are exhibited in every act and word of his after life. He was at all times devout; frequent in pilgrimages, religious retirements, and similar observances, and fond of using scripture language and citing scripture precedents: yet there was nothing of the monk or the ascetic about him. Throughout his life he was pre‐eminently a man of action, but in every action recollections of duty and principles of rectitude were always perceptible.
Young Edward begins now to be spoken of as a youth of fine stature, often described as “Edward with the flaxen hair.” The king showed great fondness for him, and evidently felt a natural pride in his son. Long before the youth could be competent for such a post, he endeavoured to make him the lieutenant or governor of Gascony, and involved himself in quarrels both with his brother Richard the earl of Cornwall, and with earl Simon, by these attempts. He was at last obliged to go over to Gascony to arrange these quarrels, which had arisen from his own imprudence; and we read of his embarkation at Portsmouth on the 6th of August, 1253, when we are told “the prince, after his father had kissed and wept over him at parting, stood sobbing on the shore, and would not leave it so long as a sail could be seen.” The deep and ardent affection which subsisted in both father and son, is visible in many other incidents of the following twenty years, and it constitutes an important feature in Edward’s character.
Henry, when in Gascony, had an object in view beyond the adjustment of the existing differences. He sent two of his confidential servants, the bishop of Bath and John Mansel his minister, into Spain, to propose to king Alfonso the Wise a marriage between Alfonso’s young sister Eleanor and his son Edward. By this marriage certain claims which the Spanish king had, or was supposed to have, on Gascony, were to be adjusted; such claims being made over to Eleanor as a kind of dowry. A treaty on this basis was made, sealed with gold, and brought over to England, where it is now preserved among our ancient records.
The Castilian monarch, however, with the stateliness and dignity of his nation, claimed that Edward “should be sent to him, that he might examine into his skill and knowledge, and confer knighthood upon him.” The queen of England resolved to visit Alfonso with her son, and personally to assist at the betrothal. She reached Burgos, with the young Edward, on the 5th of August, 1254. Alfonso was pleased and satisfied, and we know, from the after history, that the two persons most interested in the question became sincerely attached to each other. Throughout a wedded life of six‐and‐thirty years, we observe the prince and princess scarcely ever separated. When Edward goes to Palestine, Eleanor accompanies him; when a painful operation is to be performed, she can only by force be removed from the apartment. Wherever he journeys she is ever by his side: when fever seizes her, he is her faithful attendant; and when at last the tomb must receive her, he will give her such honours and follow her with such grief, as few women of the most exalted rank or character have ever been the occasion of.
The prince and princess reached England in the autumn of 1255, and took up their abode in the palace of the Savoy. In the following year, Edward’s sister, the young queen of Scotland, paid them a visit, and the palace of Woodstock became the scene of royal festivity;—Oxford and all the neighbouring villages being filled with distinguished guests.
The king had professed to give his son, on his marriage, the government of Gascony and of Ireland, and the earldom of Chester, guaranteeing to him a revenue of 15,000 marks, or £10,000, which would be equal to £150,000 in the present day. But with these great revenues still larger expenses accrued. In 1257, the Welsh, always unruly, made an inroad into the English counties on the border, and the king, when appealed to, threw upon Edward the task of restoring order. The prince was obliged to borrow of his uncle, the earl of Cornwall, a sum of 4000 marks, and he began to organize a military force. But the Welsh, who were fond of marauding expeditions into England, were too numerous to be kept in order by a few hundred horsemen; and the prince began to understand by painful experience, how unsatisfactory and how injurious to both countries was the existing state of the relations between Wales and England.
We shall not dwell upon the last eighteen years of Henry’s reign—years of trouble, disgrace, dissension, and civil war. The young prince took just that part in these painful transactions which might have been expected of him. He was sincerely attached to his father; he was also a firm supporter and assertor of the royal rights; but his ruling principle through life was an inflexible adherence to rectitude;—a resolve to do justice alike to all men.
Hence he could not approve or maintain many of his father’s proceedings. As early as the period at which we have arrived, differences arose between the father and the son on these questions. Henry had professed to make his son the lieutenant or governor of Gascony. Yet the king’s officers still continued to seize, for the king’s use, quantities of wine at Bordeaux. The Gascons appealed to the prince, and he went to the king to claim redress for them. He told his father plainly that he would not tolerate such proceedings. “The king,” says the chronicler, “with a sigh exclaimed, ‘My own flesh and blood assail me; the times of my grandfather, whose children fought against him, are returning!’” But the prince felt assured of the justice of the cause he had espoused; he was firm, and Henry was compelled to promise that these acts of oppression should cease.
This same sort of struggle between the rights of the people and the assumed privileges or encroachments of the crown, now began to grow into a serious and prolonged strife in England. One historian remarks, that “It was not that Henry was by inclination a vicious man; he had received strong religious impressions; though fond of parade, he avoided every scandalous excess; and his charity to the poor and attention to public worship were deservedly admired. But his judgment was weak, and his will, it must be added, was often at the command of others.”
He had also the disadvantage of committing faults and falling into errors, in the presence of one who was well qualified to take advantage of both.
Simon de Montfort was one of the greatest among the great Norman knights of that age. It has been well said of this remarkable class of men, that “The ideal perfection of the knight‐errant was to wander from land to land in quest of renown; to gain earldoms, kingdoms, nay, empires, by the sword, and to sit down a settler on his acquisitions, without looking back on the land which gave him life. Every soil was his country; and he was indifferent to feelings and prejudices which promote in others patriotic attachments.”
The earls Simon de Montfort, grandfather, father and son, were pre‐eminently soldiers of this class. In 1165 Simon the Bald obtained in marriage a daughter of Blanchmaines, earl of Leicester, and his son and grandson always put forward a claim to that earldom. The son of Simon the Bald went to France, took up the crusade against the Albigenses, and died count of Toulouse. One of his sons, calling himself “earl of Leicester,” came to England and gained, some said clandestinely, the affections of the princess Eleanor, daughter of king John, and sister of Henry III. Thus connected with the royal family, we find him, all through the middle portion of this century, either trusted and employed by the king, or else heading a combination of the barons against him. He became at last a popular leader, admired and sometimes almost idolized by the people; and when he died, he was held by them to have been a martyr to their cause. We are scarcely able to form a decided opinion of his whole character. Some of his later acts are not reconcilable with the obligations of loyalty to his sovereign, who was also, by marriage, his relation; but we must admit that the difficulties of his position were considerable. The most favourable feature in the case is, that this great soldier seems to have possessed and valued the friendship of Grosstête, “holy bishop Robert,” who is, perhaps, the purest and brightest character presented to us in the records of that day.
Up to a certain point the prince concurred with the discontented faction among the barons, and with earl Simon their leader, whose consort was his aunt. But, as we might have anticipated, when their plans and purposes began to border upon treason, Edward, whose affection for his father never varied, soon withdrew from their society. “The Barons’ war,” as it has been called, lasted from 1258 to 1265. “A concilium,” held in London in the first of these years, led to a much larger and more important assembly at Oxford about Midsummer. The barons came to that city with great numbers of armed retainers, and forced from the king an assent to “the provisions of Oxford,” which did, in effect, put the royal authority “into commission,” or share it with a selected number of great lords. The prince, we are told, “being brought to it with great difficulty, at last submitted himself to the ordinance and provision of the barons.” He saw, we cannot doubt, the degradation of the royal authority which was implied in those provisions; but he saw no available way of escape. He consented, therefore, though unwillingly; but a pledge once given was, with him, a solid reality.
Through life, the motto which, doubtless by his own command, was afterwards inscribed upon his tomb, was his constant rule: Pactum serva. Having entered into an engagement, he would adhere to it. Accordingly, we find that in 1259 the poor king was alarmed by rumours that the prince and the barons were confederating for his dethronement. One chronicler tells us that certain evil advisers created distrust between the father and the son; and that when the prince would have vindicated himself, the king exclaimed, “Let him not approach me, for if I were to see him, I should not be able to help kissing him.” Such was the affection which had always existed between the two.
But again we find, about a year later, that the uprightness of the prince, and his adherence to his engagements, created a new difference between Henry and his son. Matthew of Westminster tells us, that “Edward, receiving full information concerning the king’s vain counsels and counsellors, became enraged against the latter, and withdrew himself from his father’s sight, and in all good faith declared his adherence to the barons, in conformity with his oath. The king shut himself up with his evil advisers in the Tower, and Edward remaining outside with the barons, things assumed a threatening aspect.”
Two years of fluctuating prospects and of great trouble followed. But Edward began to see, on the part of earl Simon, designs which he could not possibly approve or tolerate. The earl, on one occasion, actually threatened Windsor Castle; and when the prince agreed to meet him at Kingston to confer upon the position of affairs, the earl “was too circumspect to allow him to get into Windsor again.” He “detained the prince” until, to regain his liberty, he consented to surrender the royal fortress to the earl.
Such proceedings as this must have alienated the prince from earl Simon and the barons; and at last, in 1263, it was agreed that all questions should be submitted to king Louis of France (St. Louis), to whose decision all parties bound themselves to conform. At the commencement of 1264, Louis held a great court, and heard the arguments on both sides; and then, by his final sentence on the 23rd of January, he “annulled and made void the provisions of Oxford,” and discharged all persons from any obligations to the same.
At last, then, the prince was morally and legally at liberty. The obligation by which he had so long felt bound was at an end; but earl Simon and the discontented barons refused to abide by their engagement. They had sworn that “whatsoever the king of France should ordain concerning the matters in dispute they would faithfully observe,” but when the decision was against them, they refused to submit to it. From this moment Edward takes his place by his father’s side. Hostilities commenced in April, 1264, and in May a battle was fought at Lewes. The prince defeated the forces opposed to him, but earl Simon broke up and dispersed the centre and left wing of the royal army, and forced the king to shut himself up in the Priory of Lewes. Edward, to extricate his father, agreed to terms; and for a time both the king and the prince were in a sort of honourable captivity, attended everywhere by earl Simon, who now acted in the king’s name, and did, in almost every matter, merely what he pleased.
This state of things lasted about a year, when at last the prince escaped from the guards whom earl Simon had placed around him, was joined by the earl of Gloucester and Roger Mortimer, and once more raised the royal standard. At Evesham, in August, 1265, the final struggle took place. Earl Simon, seven lords of his party, and one hundred and sixty knights, perished, and “the Barons’ war” was ended. A year or two was required to restore tranquillity; but during the rest of Henry’s life, which lasted seven years longer, the realm was for the most part at peace.
A parliament was held at Marlborough in 1267, for the settlement of questions arising out of the civil war. And now, seeing the country again in tranquillity, Edward listened to the earnest entreaties of Louis of France, and consented to accompany him on the last great Crusade.
He embarked at Portsmouth in the spring of 1270, accompanied by his faithful Eleanor. The princess was with him when, at Acre, his life was attempted by an assassin. The romantic story of her extraction of the poison from the wound with her own lips, is not found in authentic history; but one chronicler narrates how, when a painful operation became necessary, the surgeon requested Edward’s brother and the lord de Vesci to carry the princess away;“so she was carried out, weeping and crying aloud.”
The support of the French army failing him, Edward quitted Palestine in July, 1272, and at Sicily he met the news of his father’s death and of his own accession to the crown of England. The king of Sicily was surprised at the grief which these news excited—a grief more poignant and more visible than that caused by an earlier despatch which mentioned the death of one of Edward’s children. The prince made the natural reply, that other children might replace the one which he had lost, but that he never could have another father. The warm and sincere affection which always subsisted between these two very different men, is proved by incidents which meet us at every turn; and our estimate of king Henry’s character is considerably raised by the fervour and the permanence of his son’s attachment to him.
Of Edward’s own character we have already seen something. In two chief characteristics, it is fully developed long before he reaches the royal dignity. He was in a more than ordinary degree a man who could love, and who was beloved. His father, his mother, his wife, his friends, were the objects of his unvarying attachment. This feature of his life is constantly apparent.
But he was also a man of honour and of integrity. He looked, in all matters, more to the question of right than to that of expediency. Born to wear a crown, he was careful to do nothing to diminish the royal dignity; but not even for the maintenance of his father’s privileges, would he do that which he did not believe to be just and right; and, above all things, the one principle, Pactum serva, was never to be departed from. A prince’s word, once given, must be held sacred. One other feature in his character is noted by the historians of his day. He was of an irascible temper, easily excited to anger; but his anger might be as quickly calmed as it was aroused. Walsingham tells us how, on one occasion, the prince was amusing himself with his hawks, and one of the lords in attendance overlooked a falcon which had made a stoop on a duck among the willows. The prince spoke sharply to him, and the other answered, with some pertness, that “he was glad the river was between them.” In a moment Edward had plunged into the stream, and was urging his horse up the opposite bank, in pursuit of the offender. But the attendant, knowing with whom he had to deal, flung off his cap, bared his neck, and threw himself on the prince’s mercy. Edward’s wrath was gone in a moment, he sheathed his weapon, gave instant forgiveness, and the two rode home in perfect amity together.
In like manner, while engaged in the pacification of the country after “the Barons’ war,” he found, in a forest in Hampshire, a noted captain of free‐lances, one Adam Gordon, or Gourdon, whose deeds made him the terror of all the country round. The prince sought him out, and met with him one evening when he and his followers were returning to their fastnesses. Edward at once singled Gordon out, and engaged him in single combat. Both being skilled in arms, and of tried valour, the contest was an arduous one. At last Gordon was wounded, and yielded himself. Edward respected his valour and his knightly prowess, received his submission, had his wounds attended to, took him into his favour, and presented him that night to his mother, the queen, at Guildford Castle. Gordon proved faithful, and remained long attached to Edward’s service.
A similar clemency marked all Edward’s proceedings. To “seek his grace” was always to find it. The few exceptions, in his whole life, are those of men who had “broken covenant,” and proved false and treacherous after confidence had been placed in them. Even Hume, generally unfriendly to Edward, is obliged to confess of the pacification which followed the victory of Evesham, that “The clemency of this victory is remarkable. No blood was shed on the scaffold; no attainders, except of the Montfort family, were carried into execution.”
And if we examine his conduct through life with an unprejudiced eye, we shall find this attribute of clemency—a very uncommon one in those days—distinctly perceptible in all his proceedings. A firm and resolute and warm‐tempered man, he could sometimes punish; but his general rule of conduct was once expressed by himself in a hasty exclamation: “May pardon him! Why, I will do that for a dog, if he seeks my grace!”
The death of Henry III. took place in Westminster on the 16th of November, 1272, and he was buried on the 20th, in front of the great altar in that noble church, on the uprearing of which he had lavished so much treasure. At the close of the funeral, earl Warenne, the earl of Gloucester, and all the chief of the clergy and laity there present, went forward to the high altar, and swore fealty to king Edward. Three guardians or regents immediately entered upon the government of the realm—namely Edmund, the king’s cousin, son of the late earl of Cornwall, brother of Henry III.; Walter, the archbishop of York; and Gilbert, earl of Gloucester. No difficulty of any kind appears to have occurred; the submission of all classes was entire; and we may assume that a regular correspondence was at once established between the regents and the king. We find him showing no signs of haste, but remaining abroad until sundry matters of importance were arranged, and then taking his journey homewards with royal state and deliberation.
He was in Sicily when the tidings of his father’s death reached him. Before his visit to the pope had terminated, he was known throughout Italy to be king of England; and as he proceeded homewards through Northern Italy, he met with a royal reception in many of the cities; the people coming forth to receive him with processions, and blowing of trumpets, and acclamations of “Long live king Edward.” At Chalons a grand tournament had been prepared for him; which, however, was not without sinister design; “the Burgundians bargaining over their wine‐cups, for some days before, for the horses and armour of the English knights, whom they confidently reckoned on overcoming.” The English, however, were not overcome. The gigantic count of Chalons, failing to dismount Edward, tried, by main force, to pull him from his horse; but he was thrown to the ground, chastised, and made to give up his sword. Ill blood and exasperation arose; the English had to fight their way out of the town; and the tournament was remembered as “the little battle of Chalons.”
Edward next visited the king of France, and did homage for his French possessions. Passing into Gascony, he found it needful to subdue and bring into subjection a fractious noble, Gaston de Bierne. Thence he proceeded to the courts of the countess of Limousin and the countess of Flanders, with each of whom he had business to transact. At last, in July, 1274, he set his face towards England, landing on the 2nd of August at Dover. The two great earls, Warenne and Gloucester, were awaiting his arrival, and he became, in turn, the guest of each, at their castles of Reigate and Tunbridge. Meantime, preparations were making for his immediate coronation; and, on the 19th, this ceremony took place. In the abbey‐church of Westminster Edward and Eleanor were crowned king and queen of England by Robert Kilwardby, archbishop of Canterbury. There were present, besides all the great men of the realm, Edward’s two brothers by marriage—Alexander, king of Scotland, and John, duke of Bretagne—with their consorts, the sisters of the king. On the following day, king Alexander of Scotland paid his accustomed homage.
The ceremony was attended with many circumstances of rejoicing and exhibitions of munificence. While the nobles and citizens made the conduits flow with wine and the streets gleam with tapestry, scattering silver in handfuls, the princes showed a royal liberality. King Alexander of Scotland, “when the king was seated on his throne, came to do him worship, and with him an hundred knights, mounted and accoutered; and when they had lighted off their horses, they let the horses go, and they that could catch them, had them for their own behoof. And after these came Sir Edmund, the king’s brother, and with him the earl of Gloucester; and after them the earl of Pembroke and the earl Warenne, and each of these led an hundred knights, who, when they alighted, let their horses go, and they that could take them had them to their liking.”
The feast was a right royal one. We shall find, throughout Edward’s reign, that none ever practised a truer or a wiser economy. His habits were simple and plain, his household well regulated. A friend once expressed wonder at the plainness of his dress. His answer was, “And what good, think you, would fine clothes do me?” But he well understood his royal estate and office. When he had to come before the people as their king, his doings were always kingly. The coronation‐banquet was a noble one. New buildings were erected in the court‐yard of Westminster, to accommodate the guests; and the provision made shows how numerous these guests must have been. The details are still preserved, and we find that the principal items were—“380 oxen, 430 sheep, 450 pigs, 18 wild boars, 278 flitches, and nearly 20,000 fowls.” Such a prodigious supply was not provided for one day’s festival; the feast was prolonged through a whole fortnight. Edward’s friends and chief counsellors, such as Anthony Beck and Robert Burnel, were churchmen; and we find, in every part of his personal history, frequent reference to Old Testament precedents. In the present instance they seem to have followed a notable example—“At that time Solomon held a feast fourteen days.”—1 Kings viii. 65.
And now Edward was on his throne,—was dwelling in his palace, ruling over the people of England. The work before him was an arduous one; his chief advisers were men suited to the times; and his own strength of purpose, sagacity, and perseverance were precisely what the land needed at that peculiar juncture.
England had long been in a state of extreme disorder, and it required a clear head and a strong right arm, to bring it into a condition of health, and comfort, and security.
One change of vast moment, indeed, had been effected in the course of the protracted reign which had just ended. From the time of William until the end of the reign of John, during one hundred and fifty years, the people had felt that they were under the yoke of alien lords. The Normans, men of iron, people of another land, and who spoke another language, ruled over them; but the half‐century of Henry’s reign gradually lightened, and at last removed the weight of this oppression.
The two races, Saxon and Norman, began to know a real amalgamation. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, “those Saxon swine” was the usual appellation employed by a Norman knight when speaking of the people of the land; and, “Do you take me for an Englishman?” his form of indignant disclaimer. In the thirteenth, we find both Normans and Saxons agreed in a league to expel “all foreigners.” And thus it was that, at last, “in the thirteenth century, the great English people was formed.” A nation more warlike and more enterprising than the Saxons, and more fond of home life and of personal liberty than the Normans, gradually appeared. It was in Henry’s reign that the English tongue, and the English desire for laws suited for free men, began to be seen and heard: but that weak though well‐meaning sovereign was not a leader or a ruler who could direct his subjects in such a path as this.
The order and the governance of law scarcely existed in Henry’s reign. When the sovereign needed corn or wine, or any other commodity, his usual course was to seize it. On one occasion he angrily asked of his earl marshal, “Cannot I send and seize your corn, and thresh and sell it?” “And cannot I send you the heads of the threshers?” was the earl’s angry reply.
One of the judges, accused of corrupt practices, came to court to defend himself, attended by armed friends, one of whom offered wager of battle. The king, exceedingly enraged, publicly declared, that “if any one would kill Henry of Bath, (the judge,) he should have pardon for the crime!” When even the bench of justice was thus occupied by violent and corrupt men, it is no wonder that we hear that “the whole county of Hampshire swarmed with felons and murderers,” or to find that “the king himself was obliged to hold a court of justice at Winchester, trying and sentencing the offenders, many of whom were wealthy, and some of them his own servants.”
Several years after this, we find one of the greatest nobles in the land setting an example of disorder. Matthew Paris narrates how, “in consequence of some hasty words which passed between them, John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, slew with his own hand, in Westminster Hall, Alan de la Zouch, the king’s justiciary.” Probably, had Henry been at that time without assistance, this outrage, committed by so potent a nobleman, would have escaped retribution; but the prince was now at his right hand. Collecting a sufficient force, Edward pursued the earl to Reigate, besieged his castle, brought him to London a prisoner, tried him, and only spared his life, after much deliberation, in consideration of an enormous fine, equal to £100,000 of our present money.
Nor was violence, even of the extremest kind, a privilege of the nobles only. In July, 1263, during the excitement of “the Barons’ war,” queen Eleanor desired to leave her residence in the Tower of London, and to remove to Windsor Castle; but as her barge approached London Bridge, she found that it was occupied by a crowd of earl Simon’s adherents, who assailed her with cries of the grossest abuse, among which, “Drown the witch!” was one of the mildest. Huge stones, as well as all kinds of filth, were hurled at the barge, and the queen was glad to accept of the protection of the mayor, who conveyed her to the house of the bishop of London. Not many months after, when a body of these Londoners took part in the battle of Lewes, prince Edward rejoiced to avenge these insults, and to drive them in confusion at the spear’s point off the field.
But more than ten years had passed since these calamitous times, and most of those years had been spent in peace. No voices but those of acclamation now greeted Edward and his queen in their progress through the metropolis; and we may easily believe, without any violent stretch of the imagination, that among the London citizens who partook of the coronation‐banquet in 1274, there were many who, in the rawness of their youth, had crowded London Bridge to cast stones at Edward’s mother, and had fled before his vehement charge on the downs at Lewes in 1264.
Such was the realm of England, and such was its state and condition, over which Edward was now called to rule. It needed such a regulator, such an organizer; and he, perhaps, could hardly have found anywhere a better raw material out of which to build up a nation.
To him, in some measure, we owe the production and the formation of the men who fought and conquered at Crécy, Poictiers, and Agincourt; but we should be lothe to indicate this as his chief glory. We deem the work performed in his reign in establishing law, and in giving England a free legislature, to have been far more noble, far more glorious, than the achievement of brilliant but barren victories on distant battle‐fields.
England needed, most of all, at that peculiar conjuncture, precisely what, in Edward, God gave to her, “a legislative mind.” The king seems to have entirely appreciated the necessities and the difficulties of his position; and to have applied himself to the great task, of bringing everything into order, and of establishing the dominion of wise and equitable laws.
At the same time we must not forget, that such a work, and one embracing such a variety of details, could not have been performed by any single mind or single hand. Edward must have been aided by one or more of the most sound and competent of advisers. We cannot doubt that in Robert Burnel he had found such an assistant. And it is, perhaps, the best proof of the perfect unity and harmony which always existed between the king and his wise and able chancellor, that we find it difficult to separate the one from the other. We cannot tell when the king himself speaks, and when we are listening to his chancellor. We find, indeed, sometimes, language so evidently personal, as to make us feel that it must have been the king’s own; but at other times we seem to hear the great lawyer, the jurist, who is fitly interpreting his master’s will. Take, for instance, that noble opening of Edward’s reign, which we find in the preamble of the first statute of his first parliament:—
“Because our lord the king hath great desire to redress the state of the realm in such things as require amendment, for the common profit of the holy church and of the realm; and because the state of the holy church hath been evil kept, and the people otherwise entreated than they ought to be; and the peace less kept, and the laws less used, and offenders less punished than they ought to be—the king hath ordained by his council, and by the assent of archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, and all the commonalty of the realm, these acts under written, which he intendeth to be necessary and profitable to the whole realm.”
We cannot doubt that this high and kingly purpose was truly Edward’s; but we may with equal reason believe, that this right royal declaration came immediately from the pen of Robert Burnel.
There is, however, another feature of this reign which ought never to be overlooked. To frame good laws is a great merit in a ruler; but it is a still higher merit to devise and to create a legislature. And this is, in fact, the principal achievement of this sagacious and high‐minded sovereign.
Until his time the nation, at least for centuries, had known no such thing as a law‐making, still less a representative, body. Under the Norman kings, from A.D. 1066 to 1216, every now and then, “great councils” were held. The military despot who sat upon the throne, often found it convenient and necessary to summon together his barons, the great captains of his Norman soldiery, to ask an aid or contribution from them. But nothing like the construction of a law is ever heard of in these assemblies. At last, towards the end of the reign of John, “Magna Charta” is extracted from him; but this is not so much a statute as a treaty, dictated at the sword’s point by his armed barons.
Then followed the fifty‐six years of Henry’s reign. In the first forty years of this reign, several “great councils” were held, usually, as in Norman times, to consult about “granting the king an aid.” Once in 1236, we find “The provisions of Merton,” which commences “It was provided in the court of our lord the king.” In the same year we find a “royal ordinance” concerning Ireland; and twenty years later, in 1256, “a provision for leap year,” also a “royal ordinance.”
About this time the chroniclers begin to borrow the term “parliament” from France, and we hear that “a parliament was held at Oxford,” at which the barons dictated to the king certain “provisions,” which were afterwards cancelled and set aside by king Louis of France.
Seven years after this, earl Simon, in the king’s name, summonses a meeting in Westminster, and, as many of the nobles kept aloof from him, so that only five earls and seventeen barons were called to this “concilium,” he orders the sheriffs to send knights from the counties, and burgesses from certain towns, so as to form a sufficiently numerous body. But the earl’s object was merely to dictate certain terms to the king. No such thought as that of a legislature—an assembly for agreeing upon necessary laws—is anywhere to be perceived.
After the death of earl Simon, we hear of “a concilium” at Kenilworth; which, like earl Simon’s parliament, is only a council for agreeing upon certain terms, between the king on the one part and the barons on the other. These terms are embodied in “the Dictum of Kenilworth.”
But at last the realm is quieted; king Henry is once more at peace upon his throne, and his son, now arrived at the full manhood of his twenty‐eighth year, is naturally the guide as well as the protector of his weak though well‐meaning father. And now, in the year 1267, all enemies and all perils having vanished, and the king and the prince being left to their own free will, we hear, doubtless from Edward’s lips, words, which for two centuries at least, had never been used in this realm of England. The first document we possess, bearing the name of a “Statute,” is “the Statute of Marlborough,” and of this, the opening sentences run thus:—
“Our lord the king, providing for the better estate of his realm of England, and for the more speedy ministration of justice, as belongeth to the office of a king; the more discreet men of the realm being called together, as well of the higher as of the lower degree; it was provided, agreed, and ordained,” etc.
Here we have the first rough sketch or outline of what we now call “the British Constitution.” This constitution, we are often told, was wrung from the unwilling hands of successive sovereigns by the urgent demands of the people, in times of royal exigency. With respect to some later details, this may be true; but not less true is it, that the main and general outline was freely given to the people by the “legislative mind” of Edward, aided by his great chancellor, Robert Burnel.
Four hundred years after Edward’s day we had a philosopher in England, John Locke, who had read and pondered much, and who explained to us that the very nature of a civilized and free society is “to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it.” The very object, he adds, “of civil society is to authorize a legislature to make laws for us, as the public good shall require.” These principles, as we have said, arose in John Locke’s mind, in the course of study and cogitation. But several centuries before this, the same thoughts had occurred to an English prince, to whom “study,” as we understand the word, was impossible, and who must have owed these conclusions, in a large measure, to that sagacity and true nobility of soul with which God had endowed him. Yet we ought not to overlook the fact, that in Edward’s youth one of the earliest of our great lawyers, Bracton, had thus written:—
“The king ought not to be subject to man, but to God, and to the law; for the law maketh the king. Let the king, therefore, render to the law what the law hath invested in him with regard to others, dominion and power; for he is not truly king where will and pleasure rule, and not the law.” And again, “The king also hath a superior, namely, God, and also the law, by which he was made a king.”
Just while Edward was rising into early manhood, did this great lawyer appear, and the probability surely approaches to something like a certainty, that Robert Burnel had been a student of Bracton’s writings, had felt the truth and force of the above words, and had made the young prince acquainted with those invaluable pages.
Edward’s coronation had taken place in August. His four years’ absence on the Continent must have occasioned an accumulation of matters needing regulation; his castles and palaces, his forests and royal domains, would require to be visited and brought into order. A new state of things must be established. We see immediately an important change in the “Exchequer Issues.” In Henry’s reign, we read: “To Humphrey de Rohan, earl of Hereford, £120 for 50 casks of wine, taken from him by Imbert Pugeis (a soldier), for the king’s use.” “To Gerard de Bosco, a merchant of Bordeaux, 70 marks, for 20 casks of wine taken from him for the queen’s use.” But on Edward’s accession these seizures disappear, and the entries run thus, “To Raymund de Alemaunt, of Bordeaux, £46 13s. for 20 casks of wine, purchased from him, for the king’s use, by Gregory de Rokesle and Matthew de Columbius, the king’s butlers.”
The royal revenues and the royal expenditure were now, for the first time for a century, to be brought into order and under proper regulation. Christmas would naturally approach, long before all this business could be despatched, and it is not surprising that, however he may have desired it, Edward found it impossible to convene his first parliament earlier than the February of 1275.
In that month—the same which, in modern times, has been found the most suitable and convenient, did this first of English parliaments assemble. And when the clerk, sitting at the chancellor Burnel’s feet, took pen in hand to record its proceedings, his entry ran in the following terms:—
“These be the acts of king Edward, made at Westminster, at the first parliament‐general after his coronation; by his council, and by the assent of archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, and all the commonalty of the realm, thither summoned.”
Here we find, set forth rather more fully, the same idea and purpose which we had seen expressed at Marlborough in 1267;—a legislature, a council summoned for the purpose of making and establishing laws; which council was not to consist of great barons only, or of barons and prelates only, but, “of the lower as well as of the higher degree,” of “bishops, earls, barons, and all the commonalty of the realm.”
This idea was, as yet, but vaguely expressed. In Edward’s after years we shall see it more fully worked out, until the whole British Constitution rises to completeness under his creative hand. In this first attempt he merely recognizes the principle that the “lower degree as well as the higher” ought to be present,—ought to be consulted. What “the commonalty of the realm, hither summoned,” may mean, we cannot now define with any certainty. The most probable view of the matter is, that the London corporation, then fully existing and on the spot, was invited to represent “the commonalty of the realm,” and did appear, doubtless with awe and reverence, as a portion of the first parliament, the first real legislature, that had been assembled in England in Anglo‐Norman times.
But what was the work which this first “parliament of England” had to do? And the answer to this question reveals to us the real greatness of Edward’s wise counsellor. Robert Burnel, who had accompanied his master to Palestine, and who had, at Acre, been named one of his executors, seems to have been despatched to England, when the king, on his homeward journey, was delayed by business in Gascony and in Flanders. We find him in England, acting as one of the regents or guardians of the realm, several months before the king landed at Dover. He, doubtless, possessed his master’s entire confidence, maintained a regular correspondence with him, and was fully occupied in bringing all things into order, before Edward himself appeared at Dover. To some such mind as this we owe it, that so soon as the king had landed, and had conferred on two of his greatest nobles the honour of a visit while passing from the coast to London, he found, on reaching the metropolis, the whole ceremony of the coronation, with its great banquet and rejoicings, only awaiting his arrival. Can we see there assembled, awaiting the king’s arrival, the king of Scotland, the duke of Bretagne, all the nobles of the land, with their countless retinues; can we remark the new buildings prepared, and the vast provision for the banquet, and all these and many other preparations, all concentrating to one point, and all involving a large expenditure—without acknowledging that in bringing such a variety of affairs to a ripeness on a day before appointed, there is visible the mind of a man of vast ability? All, at last, is in readiness. The king arrives at Dover, passes on with kingly state and deliberation to the castle of his greatest subject, the earl of Gloucester; then to Reigate, to earl Warenne’s,—then to the metropolis, and to his own palace of Westminster. He rests apparently but a single night, and then proceeds from his palace into the abbey, and is at once crowned king. And his very first act, after thus taking his rightful place, is, to make his trusted friend and most able counsellor, Robert Burnel, the chancellor of England.
To this great man, we doubtless owe that noble production, the “Statute of Westminster.” In the five or six months which intervened before the meeting of parliament; while the king was examining and regulating the condition of his castles, palaces, establishments, and household, his chancellor, looking forward to the great event which was to follow immediately after Christmas, was occupied, we may safely assert, with the preparation of the work of legislation; a work then to be commenced, but never afterwards to be discontinued in this realm.
Parliaments, such as we now possess, were new things in England. The “concilium,” or great council, which we find in Anglo‐Norman history, was a gathering of earls, barons, and prelates, for the decision, usually, of a simple question—most generally, of granting an aid to the king. All through the long reign of Henry III., the idea that it was necessary occasionally to meet for the purpose of making laws, never once appears in any record. Of course parliaments holding protracted sittings, for weeks or months together, were wholly unthought of. Provision for the residence and maintenance of the prelates and barons would have been difficult. All that was contemplated was, one meeting, to do one thing and then to separate. Very naturally, therefore, Chancellor Burnel, while he had discovered the need of several laws on different subjects, combined his various reforms in one great statute. Lord Campbell observes that, “The ‘Statute of Westminster’ deserves the name of a code, rather than an act of parliament. Its object was, to correct abuses, to supply defects, and to remodel the administration of justice.” * * * “It protects the property of the church from violence and spoliation; it provides for the freedom of popular elections; it contains a strong declaration to enforce the enactments of ‘Magna Charta’ against excessive fines; it enumerates and corrects the great abuses of tenure, particularly with regard to the marriage of wards; it regulates the levying of tolls; it corrects and restrains the power of the king’s escheator, and other officers under the crown; it amends the criminal law; it embraces the subject of procedure, both in civil and criminal matters, introducing many regulations with a view to render it cheaper, more simple, and more expeditious.”
This great measure was in fact the beginning of English legislation. Up to this period, for centuries, the law of England had been a mere tradition, an unwritten collection of rules and principles, handed down from one generation to another, and deposited in the minds and memories of the judges and students of law. Recollections and traditions of Saxon laws, confirmed in “Magna Charta,” doubtless constituted its substance. Such a traditionary code is now of great value, under the name of “common law,” because it is expounded in books, and administered by judges of known integrity. But in the days of which we are speaking, books, i.e., manuscripts, were rare and of great price, and the judges, as a rule, were corruptible. Hence, Burnel, having observed and learned what provisions were chiefly needed, began, in this first of parliaments, to apply the remedy of written and authoritative law. A legislative system, worked by a new power; a real legislature, meeting usually every year, but in some years twice or thrice, began now to be known in England. This legislature, under Edward’s watchful eye, was enlarged and strengthened from time to time, until, before his reign had closed, we find it closely resembling the parliament of our own day—consisting, in 1304, of “the prelates, nine earls, ninety‐four barons, the knights of the shire, and the burgesses sent by 159 towns.”
In the great “Statute of Westminster”—the beginning of our English Statute law—there is one provision which, if the mind dwells upon it, suggests many inquiries. It runs thus:—
“And because elections ought to be free, the king commandeth, upon great forfeiture (i.e., penalties), that no man by force of arms, nor by malice nor menacing, shall disturb (or hinder) any to make free election.”
Almost six hundred years after, in the parliament now sitting, serious and prolonged inquiries have been entered into, as to how “elections can be free,” and how to provide that neither “by force of arms, nor by menace” shall any be hindered from making a free choice or election. Thus, after so many centuries of parliamentary legislation, we find ourselves again trying to effect that which Edward and his great chancellor commanded in the very first law that they placed upon our statute‐book.
But does not the question naturally arise, “What were these elections which Robert Burnel thus saw to need protective legislation?” After all the violence and disorders of such reigns as those of Stephen, Richard, and John, the idea of “a free election” seems a strange one to have existed in this realm of England.
Yet elections there must have been, of two kinds. The Londoners had preserved from days long preceding the Conquest, their “hustings,” both name and thing, and one of the laws in use in the days of Edward the Confessor, fixes the time for holding these meetings.
Henry I., a son of the Conqueror, again recognizes the London hustings and the folk‐motes; and he grants the citizens the right of electing and appointing a sheriff of Middlesex. And in various charters and other records we find traces of elections frequently occurring in the city of London. These elections, too, were liable, as now, to be disturbed by force of arms and menaces. Several of the great barons and prelates had their palaces or castles in or near the city. Baynard’s Castle, in the days of king John, was the stronghold of Robert Fitzwalter, castellan of the city, who doubtless lacked neither the will nor the power greatly “to disturb free elections.” Mobs, too, were frequent and unruly in those days. Fitz‐Albert, called Longbeard, in 1196, had more than fifty thousand of the people at his command, and at last fortified himself in Bow Church, whence he was taken and executed. Still more recently, indeed, just about the time of the holding this parliament of Westminster, a feud broke out in the city, concerning the election of a mayor. The candidate properly chosen was Philip le Taylour, but the mob insisted on having Walter Harvey. The king was obliged to interfere, and to appoint a custos
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