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12. THE MAD PARLIAMENT

[MATTHEW PARIS]

In 1258 the anger of the barons at the misrule of Henry III came to a head. Led by Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, they forced him to submit to the arrangements made by what was known as the "Mad Parliament."

As the feast of St Barnabas drew near, the magnates and nobles of the country hastened to the parliament which was to be held at Oxford, and gave orders to all those who owed them knight-service, to accompany them, equipped and prepared as if to defend their persons against the attacks of enemies. This they accordingly carried into effect, concealing their real reasons for so doing under the pretence that their coming in such a way was to shew themselves ready to set out with their united forces against the king's enemies in Wales. The fact was, they entertained no slight fears that, in consequence of the disagreement of parties, an intestine war should break out amongst themselves, and that the king and his Poitevin brethren would call on the foreigners to aid them against his own natural subjects. Moreover the nobles took further precautions for carefully guarding the seaports. At the commencement of the parliament, the proposed plan of the nobles was unalterably decided on; and they most expressly demanded that the king should faithfully keep and observe the conditions of the charter of the liberties of England, which his father, King John, had made and granted to his English subjects, and which he, the said John, had sworn to observe; which said charter, he, the present King Henry, had many times granted and sworn to observe, and against all violators

of which he ordered sentence of excommunication to be published by all the bishops of England, in the presence of himself and of his barons, he himself being one of the excommunicators. They moreover demanded that a justiciar should be appointed to render justice to those who suffered injuries, with equal impartiality towards the rich and the poor. They also made some other demands, in connection with the affairs of the kingdom, tending to promote the welfare, peace, and honour, as well of the king as of the kingdom; moreover they insisted that the king should frequently consult them, and listen to their advice in making all necessary provisions; and they made oath, giving their right hands to one another in pledge of faith, that they would prosecute their design, at the risk of losing their money, their lands, and even their lives, as well as those of their people. The king acknowledged the reasonableness of these remonstrances, and solemnly swore that he would give heed to their counsels; and his son Edward was bound down by a similar oath. This oath, however, was refused by John, Earl of Warenne, and the uterine brothers of the king, William de Valence, and others. Orders were, moreover, issued for the ports of England to be more strictly guarded, and for the gates of London to be carefully and more secretly fastened by night; on which some one said: "Through the night the gates of London were shut, for fear the deceit of Frenchmen should break the city."

After they had prolonged their stay at Oxford for some days, they met together at a house of the Preacher brethren, to deliberate as to what was to be done in the difficult matter of improving the condition of the disturbed kingdom. There they renewed afresh their

alliance, and reiterated their oath, and confirmed their determination that they would not allow themselves, for life or death, or for their possessions, for hatred or love, or for any reason whatever, to be bent from, or weakened in, their design of purifying from ignoble foreigners the kingdom which gave birth to themselves and their ancestors, who were men of noble race, and of regaining proper and commendable laws; and they resolved that if any one, whosoever he might be, should oppose this determination, he should be compelled, even though against his will, to join them. Although the king and his eldest son, Edward, had taken the oath, the latter began, as far as he could, to draw back from it, as did also John, Earl Warenne. Henry, the son of Richard, king of Germany, wavered, and said that he would on no account take such an oath without the advice and permission of his father; whereupon he was told plainly and publicly, that even if his father himself would not acquiesce in the plan of the barons, he should not keep possession of one furrow of land in England. The aforesaid brothers of the king had, moreover, sworn positively, by the death and wounds of Christ, that they would never, as long as they lived, give up the castles, revenues, or guardianships which their brother, the king, had freely given them, although Simon, earl of Leicester, had given up gratis to the king his castles of Kenilwithe and Odiham, which he had repaired and fortified a few days previously.

When they made this declaration, affirming it by unmentionable oaths, Simon, earl of Leicester, addressing himself to William de Valence, who was blustering more than the others, replied: "You may rest assured that you will undoubtedly lose your head"; and the other

earls and barons said the same, and swore to it in a most determined manner. The Poitevins were in consequence in great alarm, and knew not what to do; for if they betook themselves for concealment to any castle, being destitute of all stores and means of defence, they would be besieged, and would perish of hunger; for even if the nobles did not do so, the whole community of the people at large would besiege them, and destroy their castles to the very foundations. They therefore suddenly and secretly took to flight, whilst dinner was being prepared; and that their design might not be found out, they pretended that they wished to sit down to dinner. As they fled, they frequently looked behind them, and made some of their retainers ascend high towers to watch if the barons followed in pursuit of them; nor did they spare their horses' sides till they reached Winchester, where, in their fear, they placed themselves, as it were, under the protecting wings of the bishop elect of Winchester, on whom all their hopes depended; and moreover, their hopes of finding a safe place of refuge in the castles belonging to him, the said bishop elect. The nobles in the meantime became more firmly leagued together, and appointed as their justiciar, Hugh Bigod, brother of the earl marshal, an illustrious and high-born knight, of pure English blood, and well skilled in the laws of the country; and he fulfilled the duties of justiciar with vigour, and would not allow the rights of the kingdom to be shaken on any

account.

When the nobles were made aware of the certain flight of the Poitevins, as aforesaid, they feared that the fugitives might get near to the sea-coast and summon foreigners, Poitevins and others, from the continent, to

their aid. Seeing, then, that the delay brought on danger, they gave strict orders to their vassals, and to all their partisans, to fly to arms, and to mount their horses with all haste; and thus ended the parliament at Oxford, without any fixed and definite result.

13. THE END OF EARL SIMON

[MATTHEW PARIS (continued)]

After the Mad Parliament and the Provisions of Oxford, war again broke out between the king's party and Simon de Montfort's baronial party. Montfort obtained the upper hand by his victory at Lewes. Prince Edward was held in ward as a hostage. But jealousy of Montfort and dislike of his ideas drove a number of the barons to the royalist side. Montfort again had to take up arms; but Edward, who escaped from custody, overthrew him at Evesham where he was killed.

In this year, whilst the king's son Edward was still detained in custody in the castle of Hereford, a disagreement arose between Simon earl of Leicester, and Gilbert de Clare, the cause of which was as follows: The earl of Leicester was not content with detaining the king of England in his own custody, but took the king's castles under his own authority, and arranged the affairs of the whole kingdom at his own will. And what was a principal ground of offence was, that he claimed entirely for himself alone, the proceeds and profits of the kingdom, the ransoms of prisoners, and other emoluments, which ought, according to the terms of their agreement, to be divided equally among them. He seemed also to be held in contempt by his own sons, who had become proud, and had just at this time caused a proclamation to be made of a tournament to be held at Dunstable against the earl of Gloucester, to which

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