14th Century Peasants Revolt

Peasants Revolt

14th Century Peasants Revolt

Most English people worked the land during the 14th century, and produced food for the towns and cities.  Then in 1348, the Black Death plague crossed the water’s from Europe into England, bringing with it death on a large scale, no one was immune.  This disease took the lives of some fifty percent of the population.

Things had changed in England, and the peasant’s of this land were only too quick to see it.  There was plenty of land in need of farming, but limited manpower to carry out the work.

Peasant’s charged for their work, and with manpower shortages, the prices were driven higher and higher, and landowner’s profits were driven lower and lower.  Even landowners bartered with peasant’s to get their crops harvested and to market, even if it meant out-bidding fellow farmers.

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The authorities had to step in amid growing chaos, and help farmers before it got completely out of control.  So it was in 1349, emergency legislation was passed in the form of the “Ordinance of Labourer’s” and the “Statue of Labourer’s” in 1351.  These bills were designed to re-set wages paid to peasants at pre Black Death rates.  Under these bills it became illegal to refuse work offered or break existing contracts, with fines being imposed for offenders.

By 1361, the legislation of these bills had been strengthened to such an extent, that anyone breaking the rules faced the possibility of branding or imprisonment, for their actions.

The peasant’s were forced to work on church land for up to two days for free, but this meant that no food was grown for their families.  They saw the church getting richer and richer, as they returned to olden times as they became one of the poor groups of society.

They wanted to break away from this tradition, for working for free on church land.  If landowners paid, why shouldn’t they…  John Ball a Priest from Kent backed their actions.

England had been at war with France, and more and more money was needed to take on their powerful armies.  Whilst King Edward III of England, pressed home his claims to the French throne, so the long running conflict, known as the “Hundred Years War” would continue.

However, the might of Charles V of France increased in 1369, with cross-channel raids on English coastal towns.

A new King came to the English throne, when in 1377 King Edward III died, only to be replaced by Richard II aged ten.

The young King’s biggest challenge was how to raise the money to pay for his armies battling with the French.  Early 14th century taxes were imposed on household’s moveable possessions; goods and livestock.

So Parliament introduced the controversial Poll Tax, where each person aged over 14, would have to pay.

By 1381, the peasant’s had witnessed the Poll Tax charges being rolled out three times over a four year period, and they had reached breaking point…  If you were on the tax register, you paid or they took goods to the value.

In May 1381, villagers from the Essex village of Fobbing made a stand against Poll Tax payments.  When John Brampton the tax collector arrived, checking why bills had not been paid, he was evicted from the village.  In June soldiers arrived to establish law and order, and they too were evicted.

Villagers from Fobbing and many other village’s joined forces and marched on London, taking their grievances to the young King.

Peasant’s from Kent, led by Wat Tyler marched on Canterbury, and entered the walled city and castle on 10th June without resistance.  The rebel force deposed the absent Archbishop Sudbury of Canterbury, and forced cathedral monks to swear allegiance to their cause.

The next morning Wat Tyler took his rebel force and marched on London, destroying tax records and burning down government tax houses on route.  Upon arrival in London, the city gates were opened for them, by those who believed in their cause.

King Richard II left Windsor Castle by boat, taking up residence at the Tower of London.

Both groups of peasant’s had reached London by the 12th June.  The Kent army of rebels camped at Blackheath and the Essex rebels at Mile End, north of the river Thames.

The King agreed to meet them on the afternoon of the 12th at Rotherhithe, but when faced by such a large army, he did not leave the Royal Barge, fearing for his safety and returned to the Tower of London.

On the 13th June rebels attacked the city, prisons were broken into, prisoners set free, and a number of people killed.

As parts of London burnt, Richard II agreed to meet with the rebel forces the very next day at Mile End, believing the looting and ransacking of the city would cease, and many would leave the city.

King Richard II

King Richard II

King Richard II rode out to meet Wat Tyler the leader of the rebel force at Mile End on the 14th June, where their demands were put forward:

  • Land rents were to be reduced to reasonable levels.
  • The Poll Tax was to be abolished.
  • Free pardons for all rebels.
  • Charters would be given to the peasant’s laying down a number of rights and privileges.
  • All traitors were to be put to death.

Richard agreed to their demands, with the added note, that a royal court would decide who is or not a traitor.

Wat Tyler wanted more; he outwitted the King and sneaked off with a group of rebels, and raided the Tower of London.  He found the Simon Sudbury the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Hailes the King’s Treasurer and John Legge creator of the Poll Tax.  These men were forcibly dragged out onto Tower Hill and beheaded; their heads were paraded around the city, before being fixed to London Bridge.

The peasant’s started leaving the city on mass and returning home, believing the charters they had, absolved them from charges, and their demands had been met.  What they didn’t know, was that their leader Wat Tyler and a select group of rebels remained behind, to meet with the King at Smithfield.  Wat Tyler was wounded by William Walworth, the Lord Mayor of London, at this meeting, and he died at the hands of a squire.

The King wanted his revenge on these peasant rebels.  The King so ordered the execution of any man brandishing a charter, for it became a notice of execution.  Thousands were slain by Royal Troops or sent to the gallows for their crimes.

Minor rebellions broke out across the country as rebel peasants returned home, and fire still burnt in their hearts.  Violence spread like a plague, gaols opened, prisoner’s set free, court records burned, property looted and destruction on a large scale.

Rebel leaders were rounded up, by Royal Troops, to stand trial for their part in the Revolt.

  • Jack Straw was captured in London and executed.
  • John Ball was captured in Coventry, tried for his charges in St.Albans and hung, drawn and quartered in the market place.
  • John Wrawe was tried in London, and gave evidence against his colleagues hoping to be pardoned, but the court still sentenced him to death. He was hung, drawn and quartered on 6th May 1382.
  • Sir Roger Bacon, was tried and imprisoned in the Tower of London, before being pardoned by the Crown.

The King announced that all peasants’ previous conditions of service would come into effect on the 30th June, and that the Royal Charters signed during the uprising would be revoked on the 2nd July.

What was the final outcome of the Peasant’s Revolt?

  • The peasants were crushed by a mightier force, their demands refused, and thousands executed, for taking part.
  • Parliament gave up getting involved; in landowners payment to peasant’s who worked on their land.
  • The Poll Tax was abolished.
  • The peasant class gained respect from landowners and government, and were no longer part of the land, and became free men in their own right.

The 14th Century Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 showed if pushed too far, the working man can rise up and take action.  What started as a local revolt centred around Essex spread across the South of England and up the East Coast.

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Plantagenet: Edward I adversary William Wallace (2/2)

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William Wallace

William Wallace sought revenge from Fenwick the English knight who had murdered his father in 1291, for not swearing his allegiance to King Edward I of England, and Lord Paramount of Scotland.

Fenwick passed through Loudon Hill in July 1296, commanding a convoy, and Wallace unmounted him and his cousin Robert Boyd dispatched him into the next world, as his small army attacked the convoy.

In September 1296, Wallace attacked another convoy, belonging to Sir Henry de Percy at East Carthcart.  The Great Council branded him an outlaw on the charge of highway robbery.

Irish exiles, like Stephen of Ireland, joined him in his exploits against the English.

In the autumn of 1296 they seized the Peel Tower in Gargunnock and burnt it to the ground.

In late 1296 attacked Sir James Butler’s convoy as it passed through Methven Wood, then seized Kinclaven Castle, plundered it, and set it ablaze.  Sir John Butler son of Sir James commanded a large force of cavalry and archers, were ordered to seek out and destroy Wallace and his men, by Sir Gerald Heron; Governor of Perth.

Wallace and his men escaped into Cargill Wood and escaped by the skin of their teeth, and lost many brave men that day.

Christmas 1296, and Wallacew spent it with his cousin; Patrick Auchinleck.  For a spot of light relief from time to time, ventured into Lanark and slayed some English infidels’.

William Wallace fell in love with Marion Braidfute, the eighteen year old daughter of the late Hugh Braidfute of Lamington.

In January 1297 seized Lochmaben Castle the stronghold of Robert Bruce 6th Lord of Annandale, the current governor of Carlisle Castle.  Before heading to Dunduff to see out the cold winter months, seized Crawford Castle.

In the spring of 1297, he sneaked into Lanark to visit his girlfriend Marion Braidfute, whom he had married, and they had one child, a daughter who grew up and married Shaw, a squire of Balliol’s blood.

In May 1297, after attending Sunday mass at St.Kentigern Church in Lanark, English soldiers attempted to capture this known outlaw.  He escaped by slipping through Marion’s house, and she delayed their pursuit.  She paid a high price for her loyalty, for Sir William Heselrig, Sheriff of Lanark murdered her, and torched her house, for assisting a known outlaw.

When the news reached Wallace that his wife had been killed for her actions, he was consumed with guilt and revenge.

William Wallace had been content to liberate Scotland from the English.  Everything had changed, for the English had killed his father and wife, and persecuted his mother until her death.  Now this was a personal vendetta against the English… He wanted justice; he wanted to see the blood of English soldiers, run through the hills of Scotland.

A small group of his men slipped into Lanark and entered the home of Sir William Heselrig.  He was slain by Wallace’s own hand as he laid in his bed, then went on and killed his son who attacked him with sword in hand, and his final act of revenge was to torch the village.

William Wallace and his men, went on a killing frenzy and slaughtered some two-hundred and forty English soldiers, evicted priests, women and children from their homes, making them destitute.

After the massacre in Lanark by William Wallace and his band of men against the English… news spread across Scotland like wildfire.  It didn’t take long before like minded Scots took up arms to join him.  His army grew in size to three thousand well armed men, fuelled by his exploits against the English.  Old friends Adam Wallace and Robert Boyd joined his ranks.

Robert Wishart, the Bishop of Glasgow, recruited Wallace to fight the cause for freedom in the name of John Balliol, giving it a veil of respectability.

Sir William Douglas, former governor of Berwick, joined up with Wallace and captured Sanquhar Castle, only to lose it to Captain Durisdee, who himself lost it to William Wallace.

In June 1297 King Edward I released Scottish nobles formerly captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, on condition they quell this minor insurrection in the Moray province.

In June 1297, Wallace and his growing array planned and executed a symbolic strike to liberate Scone, resistance was minimal, for most English had fled when news reached them Wallace was heading in their direction.

By the end of June 1297, Scotland was in rebellion from the north to the south, and the east to the west.  The instigators of this rebellion were; Andrew de Moray, James Steward, Robert Wishart (Bishop of Glasgow) and William Wallace.

“Ever formost in treason, conspired with the Steward of the Kingdom, named James, for a new piece of insolence, yea, for a new chapter of ruin.  Not daringly openly to break their pledge to the king, they caused a certain bloody man, William Wallace, who had formerly been a chief of brigands in Scotland, to revolt against the King, and assemble the people in his support.”

John de Warenne Governor of Scotland returned to Berwick in July 1297, under orders from King Edward I to stamp out this insurrection.

In the early days of July 1297 Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford crossed the English-Scottish border with an army of forty thousand foot soldiers and three hundred cavalry to put an end to this Scottish Rebellion.

Robert Wishart the Bishop of Glasgow called upon the Scottish Nobles, and they gathered at Irvine with their vassals, (A man who gives military service to a lord in return for protection and land) to rid Scotland of the English.  On the 7th July the Scottish Nobles surrendered without any blood being spilt. Then Robert Wishart was taken into custody by the English for his involvement and imprisoned in Roxburgh Castle.

William Wallace attacked Glasgow with three hundred horsemen in reprisal for Robert Wishart’s arrest.  Some four-hundred English soldiers were known to have died that day.

Earls of Atholl, John Comyn, Mentieth, John of Lord with a cumulative force of fifteen-thousand warriors attacked resistance groups of Argyll.  In response Wallace attacked their force, with a short swift blow, and the battle only lasted two hours.

At Ardchattan on the shores of Loch Etive, Wallace gave Duncan of Lorn and Sir Neil Campbell their ancestral lands, for both had been loyal supporters for a free Scotland.

William Wallace and his army marched cross country and attacked the town of Perth, where two-thousand English soldiers were slaughtered in the battle.

The new Sheriff of Perth was the rebel Knight; Ruthven appointed by Wallace for his actions and granted a hereditary Lieutenancy of Strathearn.

William Wallace and his army captured Dunnottar Castle in 1297.  Some four thousand warriors retreated into the church; seeking refuge.  Wallace proceeded to burn the church to the ground with the English inside, and then proceeded to destroy the castle.

After massacring the English at Dunnottar Castle it is said some of the rebels are believed to have knelt down before the Bishop of Dunkeld, resting upon their swords, and asked for absolution for the acts that had taken place that very day.

Wallace’s army headed up the east coast to Aberdeen, where one hundred fully laden ships lay in the harbour.  At low tide, they attacked the English ships, killing crews and soldiers alike, then liberated the cargo, and set the ships on fire.

In August 1297, Sir Henry de Lazom seized control of Aberdeen Castle for the rebel cause.

In the latter part of 1297 William Wallace and his highly outnumbered seized control of Perth and its castle.  As they drove the deflated English from Scottish lands, they seized Cupar Castle, killing all the English soldiers within.

After the battle, Moray and Wallace assumed the title of Guardians of the Kingdom of Scotland on behalf of King John Balliol.  Sadly Moray died from his wounds suffered on the battlefield in late 1297.

As the English retreated from Scotland, they burnt farms, crops and slaughtered livestock.  With winter just around the corner, food would be in short supply.

On the 18th October 1297, William Wallace and his army invaded England, and stripped the counties of; County Durham, Cumbria and Northumbria of food and livestock.

Around Christmas of 1297, William Wallace was knighted for his deeds in freeing Scotland from the English by Robert Bruce the 2nd Earl of Carrick.

By September of 1298, William Wallace had resigned his position as a Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick crowned King of Scotland in 1306 and John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, King John Balliol’s nephew.

William Wallace had become the most wanted man by the English and evaded capture until 5th August 1305.

To many noblemen of Scotland, William Wallace roots show he is nothing more than a commoner with a grudge against the English.  No one can deny, if it hadn’t been for him, Scotland would have become nothing more than a province of England under English rule.

So who betrayed William Wallace to the English?

It is said that Sir John Mentieth a Scottish noble born in 1275, in Ruskie, Stirling, son Walter Bailoch Stewart, the 5th Earl of Menteith, and Mary the 4th Countess of Menteith.  He also replaced the Stewart name to that of Menteith.

In 1296 at the Battle of Dunbar, against the English, he along with his brother Alexander Stewart the 6th Earl of Menteith were captured with many other nobles and imprisoned.

In the June of 1297 King Edward I released Scottish nobles formerly captured at Dunbar, on condition they quell this minor insurrection in the Moray province.

John Menteith pledged his undying support to King Edward I, and was appointed Governor of Dumbarton Castle, this became a secure fortification, becoming a major access route into Scotland from the sea.

On the 5th August, Sir John Menteith being a loyal supporter of King Edward I of England, betrayed William Wallace to English soldiers, and played a part in the capture of this outlaw.

William Wallace was escorted under heavy escort from Robroyston to London on the charge of treason.  He was brought before the authorities charged with treason and atrocities against civilians in war, and crowned with an oak garland, meaning he is the King of the outlaws.

His response was “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.”  Wallace implied that John Balliol was his King.

On the 23rd August 1305 he was removed to the Tower of London having been found guilty of all charges against him, and stripped naked and dragged through the city streets.  He was then hanged, drawn and quartered; an English medieval ritual to ensure one could not rise again on Judgement Day.

They first strangled him by hanging, but stopped short of death.  Emasculated him by removal of his testicles.  Eviscerated him by removal of his internal organs, disembowel and burnt before his very eyes.  Then they beheaded him, and cut his body into four parts.

His head was dipped in tar and placed on a pike on London Bridge.  The remaining four parts of his body were displayed separately in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling and Perth.

William Wallace was seen by the Scottish people as a true martyr of Scotland, and as a symbol of the struggle for independence.  What he had started continued on after his death.

Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick was crowned King of Scotland in 1306.

Scotland gained its independence from the English some fifty years after the execution of William Wallace.  He has been remembered as one of Scotland’s greatest heroes.

In 1869 the Wallace Monument was erected on Stirling Bridge.

A plaque is located on the wall of St.Bartholomews Hospital in London, close to the place of William Wallace’s execution at Smithfield.

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Plantagenet: Edward I adversary William Wallace (1/2)

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William Wallace

William Wallace was born in 1272 in Ellerslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland to parents Malcolm Wallace, a laird and Margaret de Crauford, and he was one of three brothers.

Who would have believed at the time of his birth, he would grow up, to become the Guardian of Scotland, and sacrifice his life for his beliefs…

Yet, neither man had met, but his biggest adversary in life, would come from King Edward I of England (Longshanks) who reigned from (1272-1307).

The young William was educated at home, during his early years, and received religious education from the Monks of Paisley Abbey.  Aged just seventeen or eighteen, he went to Dunipace, to further his education at the Chapelry of Cambuskenneth Abbey, in preparation for his entrance into the church.

Whilst he was growing up, Scotland was changing around him, and as yet hadn’t affected him.  He was preparing himself for a life within the church.

Everything changed when King Alexander III of Scotland died on the 19th March 1286.  His heir to the throne was Margaret, Maid of Norway, but she was but a child.  On route from Norway to Scotland, the new heir to the Scottish throne became ill and died on the 26th September 1290 in Orkney.

So the fight started to see who would become the next King of Scotland: Robert Bruce 5th Lord of Annadale in the south and the other main rival were the Comyn’s from the north.

With the threat of civil war looming, King Edward I of England was invited by the Scottish nobility to arbitrate in the process of choosing the new King of Scotland.  A suggestion that had been put forward by William Fraser, the then Bishop of St.Andrews looking to avoid outright war between the clans.

King Edward I accepted their invitation, on the condition that he be recognised as the “Lord Paramount of Scotland.”

Then on the 11th June 1291, the Lord paramount of Scotland, King Edward I ordered that every Scottish Castle would come under his control and furthermore all Scottish officials were to be replaced by English officials.

He promised at the time, it was only a temporary arrangement under the terms of arbitration, but history has shown us otherwise.  By being made Lord Paramount of Scotland, they had made him their ruler…

The Guardians of the Peace along with the leading members of Scottish nobility were required to swear allegiance to King Edward I as their Lord of the Kingdom of Scotland.  All Scottish people also had to pay homage to Edward I, by the 27th July 1291, at predestined sites across the country.

Sir Malcolm Wallace refused to swear allegiance and fled, then in the latter months of 1291, he was murdered by Fenwick an English knight at Loudon Hill, for his refusal to yield to the true authority of King Edward I in Scotland.

In December 1291 William Wallace became branded as an outlaw by the Governor of Dundee; Sir Alan Fitz-Alan.  His crime that he wilfully killed Selby, the son of a constable, yet Wallace was replying to Selby’s taunts of his father’s murder…  So his new life was beginning, no longer destined to enter the church, but an outlaw.

On the 6th November 1292, the Lord Paramount of Scotland, King Edward I, having heard all arguments as to who should be Scotland’s new King, ruled in favour of John Balliol.

King John Balliol of Scotland, so stated that Scotland was nothing more than another region of England, and under direct control by King Edward I of England.

Robert Bruce shocked by the revelations that had taken place, retired from the Scottish political arena and died on the 1st April 1295.  His son also named Robert Bruce, 1st Earl of Carrick passes his Earldom to that of his eighteen year old son; Robert Bruce who would become the future King of Scotland.

William Wallace hated the English and everything they stood for, holding them responsible for the death of his father.  He often got into skirmishes with them, he just couldn’t help himself, he just couldn’t leave his dirk in its scabbard.

On one of these occasions he did battle with a number of English soldiers in Ayr, and managed to kill a few.  However, he hadn’t been that lucky, for he was eventually captured and thrown into gaol awaiting his trial.

He was one lucky individual, for upon the day of his trial, he was found to be dead by the guards and believed to have died from a fever, sustained from his wounds.  His former nanny was granted permission to take his body for a Christian burial, and finds he is barely alive.  She and her daughter nurse him back to health, whilst keeping up the pretence to those around her, that William Wallace had actually died.

Once the news was out that the legendary William Wallace was indeed alive, and ready to tackle the English warriors once again a prophecy was written by Sir Thomas Rymour, believing he would drive the English out of Scotland,

For sooth, ere he decease,

Shall make thousands in the field make end.

From Scotland he shall forth the Southron send,

And Scotland thrice he shall bring to peace.

So good of hand again shall ne’er be kenned.

Fully recovered from his near death experience, he sent his former nanny and daughter into the care and protection of his mother at Ellerslie, fearing for their lives, once it becomes known they had aided his recovery.

The combination of William Wallace’s exploits against the English and the prophecy hailing him as the one who would deliver Scotland out of the hands of the English, into a life of Freedom.  Many Scots and close friends, who were sympathetic to his cause rallied round him, as their leader to liberate Scotland.

Cousins:     Adam Wallace, Richard Wallace, Simon Wallace and William de Crauford.

Nephews:  Edward Little and Tom Halliday.

Uncle:        Patrick Auchinleck of Gilbank.

King John Balliol’s reign as the Scottish ruler was marred by the constant interference of King Edward I’s constant meddling in the affairs of Scotland, he had become a puppet of the English monarch.

Edward had Scotland firmly under his control, and informed his King of Scotland to make ready troops and funds for an invasion of France and be ready by the 1st September 1294.

The Scottish King’s war council debated their involvement of taking part in this invasion, and devised a counter plan that would be in the best interests of Scotland.

Emissaries were sent to the court of King Philip of France, and informed of King Edward I intentions to invade their lands.  So it was, a treaty was hammered out to thwart Edward’s plan of invasion.  If Edward crossed the seas to invade France, Scotland would invade England assisted by the French.  In return Edward Balliol son of King John Balliol of Scotland would marry Jeanne de Valois, the niece of King Philip of France.

An additional treaty was also created between King Erik II of Norway.  They would supply one-hundred of their battleships for a four month period, whilst hostilities between England and France continued for the sum of 50,000 groats.

King John Balliol of Scotland informed King Edward I of England, that no Scottish warriors would take part in the invasion of France.

News reached the ears of King Edward I in the summer of 1295 that the Scots had created a treaty between themselves and France.

In October 1295, English northern defences were strengthened against a possible invasion from Scotland and so King Edward I ordered King John Balliol to release his control of castles and burghs of Berwick, Jedburgh and Roxburgh.

On the 16th October 1295, all King John Balliol estates south of the border were seized by King Edward I.

In the December of 1295, King Edward informed two hundred of his tenants at Newcastle to form themselves into a fighting unit in preparation for attacks by the armies of Scotland.

In the February of 1296, King Edward had amassed a fleet of ships off the East Anglian coastline, destined to sail north to Newcastle to assist his land forces.

King John Balliol summoned all Scots who could bear arms to converge at Caddonlee by 11th March 1296; this was in response to the English forces heading towards the border between their two countries.

Some nobles chose to reject the request; among those was Robert Bruce, the Earl of Carrick who had their estates seized by the crown, along with any who were known supporters of the English.

In Mid-March of 1296, the armies of England and Scotland faced each other across the border each eyeing one another up.  One Lord Wark, Robert de Ros left his English forces to join those of the Scots, all for the love of a Scottish lass.  He led a Scottish contingent in an ill-fated attempt to capture Wark castle.

On the 26th March 1296, the Earl of Buchan, one John Comyn attacked Carlisle, but the town’s defences, proved impenetrable.  In utter frustration he laid waste to dwellings not protected by the town’s defences.  On his route back to his homeland of Scotland, his army plundered and burned villages, monasteries and churches.

On the 30th March 1296 King Edward I had thirty thousand foot soldiers and a further five thousand cavalry lined up on the outskirts of Berwick.  He offered unconditional surrender, but he was taunted by the town’s inhabitants.  The battle was over quickly, as the garrison commander Sir William Douglas swore his allegiance to the English King.

It is said between seventeen and twenty thousand men, women and children were butchered by English warriors in three days of orgy and wanton destruction.

The news of the genocide committed at Berwick sent shock waves across Scotland.  By 5th April King John Balliol dispatched the Abbot of Arbroath to King Edward I, carrying a letter of withdrawing his allegiance to him and England.

On the 23rd April 1296, the Scottish army had seized Dunbar Castle.  Then on the 27th April, John Comyn led his Scottish forces against the English forces led by John de Warenne in the Lammermoor Hills at Spottsmuir, Dunbar.  With one single move, the Scots were out manoeuvred and 130 battle hardened nobles were captured, and England’s resistance in Scotland crumbled.

28th April 1296    Dunbar Castle surrendered to the English.

8th May 1296       Roxburgh Castle surrendered to the English.

In Mid-May, Jedburgh, Dumbarton, Edinburgh and Stirling Castle all surrendered to the English.  Then English warriors headed north clearing out those pockets of rebels who resisted the English, through Perth, Montrose and Aberdeen.

On the 2nd July 1296 King Balliol begged forgiveness of the English King and informed him it was his intention to abdicate from the Scottish throne.

On the 7th July 1296 King John Balliol at Stracathro admitted his errors publicly and confirmed his reconciliation with King Edward I.  On the 10th July he abdicated his post from the Kingdom of Scotland.  First at Brechin to the Bishop pf Durham, then at Montrose in front of King Edward I.

In August of 1296 John and Edward Balliol were incarcerated in the Tower of London, and John was later moved and placed under house arrest in Hertford.

King Edward I removed the Stone of Destiny from Scone, and had it placed in Westminster Abbey.  He removed the Scottish regalia which included the Black Rood of St.Margarets along with a number of official documents from Edinburgh.

On the 28th August 1296, Parliament was convened at Berwick where prominent Scottish landowners had to prove their rights to their estates in the form of documental evidence.

King Edward I left Scotland on the 19th September 1296, leaving his appointed English officials to govern his provinces in his name.

John de Warenne:                Governor of Scotland.

William Ormsby:                    Justiciar of Scotland.

Hugh Cressingham:              Treasurer of Scotland.

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England and France in Medieval Times

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Map of Medieval England and France

In December 1154, Henry of Anjou, grandson of Henry I was crowned King Henry II of England.  This young prince had been born and raised in France, and one would have to say he was more a part of French aristocracy than English.

Henry of Anjou, held the lands of Anjou and Maine, granted to him by way of his father, and Normandy by his grandfather.

Eleanor the Duchess of Aquitaine, wife of Louis VII of France was infatuated with Henry.  Eleanor had her marriage to Louis annulled, and she married Henry at Poiters.  Eleanor’s lands consisted of Aquitaine, Touraine, Gascony, Poitou and Brittany, which were joined up with Henry’s lands of Anjou, Maine and Normandy.  The pair created an empire covering the lands from Scotland to Spain and the Arctic to the Pyrenees.

Henry of Anjou became King Henry II of England in December 1154, upon the death of Stephen, England’s last Norman ruler.

Upon the death of Henry II, Richard the Lionheart was crowned King Richard I of England at Westminster Abbey in September 1189.

Richard had little interest in England, other than its fund-raising potential, as he taxed his subjects to finance his obsession with the crusade in the Holy Land.  In 1190, Richard left for Palestine, leaving England in the care of his mother; Eleanor of Aquitaine and his brother Prince John.

News reached Richard of trouble at home in England, involving his brother, and sent Hubert Walter to replace William Longchamp as the King’s new deputy in his absence.

Prince John fled to France, and formed an alliance with King Philip of France.  Before Richard could respond to such a threat, he was captured and handed over to the Holy Roman Emperor for ransom.

Hubert Walter had to ask the people to dig deep and raise the money which would set their King free.  Brother John was less willing to pay the ransom, which left England in the hands of Prince John, until he was finally ransomed in 1194.

This King, this warrior, spent his latter years fighting the French who had appropriated his father’s, now his lands in his absence.

King Richard I of England (The Lionheart) was struck by a crossbow arrow at the “Siege of Chalus” in France on the 6th April 1199, which turned septic killing the King.

Prince John was named as his successor to the English throne, and like his brother, King John was determined to regain his inheritance, from the French.

In March of 1204, the French had taken “Chateau Gaillard” built by Richard to offer protection to Normandy.  By the year’s end, Normandy, Anjou and other territories which were once in his family’s name, were back in French hands.  Most of the remaining territories were lost in the “Battle of Bouvines” in 1214.

The war in France, and King John’s failures led to a rebellion by English Nobles in 1215.  He had to accept limits to his power… in a sense they were reigning in their King.

John had made himself an unpopular King, always demanding more and more money, which led to the charter; “The Magna Carta” applying his seal to the document at Runnymede under duress.

Two important parts, are still accepted to-day as they were then:

  • No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions … except by lawful judgement of his peers.
  • To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right of justice.

The Angevin Empire; the lands of Eleanor the Duchess of Aquitaine and Henry of Anjou (King Henry II of England) had been reduced to that of Gascony and parts of Aquitaine, following the “Treaty of Paris” in 1259.

The One Hundred Years War:

The root cause which had led to the “Hundred Years War” dates back to tensions between English and French Kings in 1066.

As history moves forward, English King’s believed they should sit upon the French throne, believing the French had stolen their birthright… their lands.

  • William the Conqueror was Duke of Normandy, when he became King of England.
  • Henry II was already Count of Anjou and Maine, an inheritance from his father and Normandy from his grandfather. His wife; Eleanor the Duchess of Aquitaine, her lands consisted of Aquitaine, Touraine, Gascony, Poitou and Brittany.

King Edward III had no hesitation in declaring war on France in 1337, in response to the confiscation of his duchy of Aquitaine.  He challenged King Philip VI of France, his right to sit upon the French throne.

King John lost the lands of Normandy and Anjou to France in 1204, his son Henry III, renounced his claim upon these lands in the “Treaty of Paris” in 1259 leaving him with Gascony as a duchy, held by the French crown.

Edward I clashed with the Scots in 1294, which led to French and Scots becoming allies against the English in battle.  The French supported David Bruce of Scotland, when Edward III moved upon the Scots, which led to France’s confiscation of Aquitaine, the events that precipitated the Hundred Years War.

Charles IV of France died in 1328, without leaving a male heir.  Edward made a claim for the throne by right of succession; his mother Isabella, daughter of Philip IV and Charles IV’s sister.  He was passed over in favour of Philip, son of Charles Valois.

Edward revived his claim for the French throne in 1340, by assuming the title; “King of France.”

The French invasion fleet was destroyed off Sluis in Northern Flanders in 1340.  French cavalry suffered at the hands of Welsh bowmen at Crecy in 1346 and Poiters some ten years later.

Edward’s forces undertook military raids; plundering and burning crops and buildings, leaving thousands destitute.

By 1360, Edward had recovered much of the jewels which made up the Angevin Crown.

Edward promised to renounce his claim upon the French throne, and would be confirmed, by having a Lordship upon Aquitaine and Calais.

Before the signing, war flared up again, it was France who was on the winning side.  Edward was driven back to the three ports of Bordeaux, Calais and Bayonne.  He was put in the position of agreeing terms of peace between England and France.  From then on Edward ceased to use the title: “King of France.”

Agincourt:

The events that led to Agincourt, started back in 1369, when French and English forces fought on opposite sides in a Spanish dispute for Castile’s throne.

The French under the leadership of King Charles V and his constable, Bertrand du Guesclin who succeeded in taking from the English much of the principality of Aquitaine.  Which reduced England’s lands in France to a coastal strip between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

Charles V launched naval raids upon England’s south coast ports with the assistance of his Castilian allies, up until his death in 1380. Truces were attempted but they never lasted, until Richard II stepped in and negotiated peace in 1399 with France.

Rivalry was evident between the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans, as to who would step in and take control of the government on behalf of Charles VI.

Louis of Orleans was assassinated in 1407, which led to Civil war between Burgundy and the Orlean’s known as the Armagnacs.

King Henry V crossed to Normandy in 1415 with his forces, and defeated the French army at Agincourt on the 25th October.  French casualties were high, and the royal dukes of Orlean’s and Bourbon were captured.

Henry crossed to France in 1417, and a campaign of sieges ensued.  The Rouen Norman capital fell in January 1419, putting the duchy under their direct control.

French parties met at Montereau, to co-ordinate resistance to the English on the 19th September 1419.  John, the Duke of Burgundy was struck down by Armagnac followers of the dauphin Charles, avenging Louis of Orleans.

Philip allied himself with the English and brokered an agreement with Charles VI whereby Henry would marry Charles’s daughter Catherine and be recognised as his heir to the French throne.  Henry would act as Regent for the ailing Charles whilst he lived, as agreed in the “Treaty of Troyes” in 1420.

Henry V died in August 1422 from dysentery and Charles VI in October 1422.

Henry VI son of Henry and Catherine, just nine months old was recognised as King of France.  The lands, the wealth attained by his father King Henry V had been frittered away by his long period as an infant son.  By the year 1453 most of France had been lost with the exception of Calais and the Channel Isles.

England was shocked to the core, over the loss of its lands in Europe; their empire was no more…

Wikipedia Image

Thomas Becket (Sonnet)

thomas-beckett-by-early-british-kingdoms

Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket, man of God
once confidante, of the King,
transferred his allegiance to God
as church opposed the King.

The King called out in despair
will anyone rid me of this man,
knights hearing of their King’s despair
answered the call, to remove this man,

They killed him
this man of God,
they murdered him
upon his altar; to God,

Henry II and his knights
paid penance, for taking Becket’s life.

Thomas Becket Slain…

thomas-beckett-by-early-british-kingdoms

Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was born on the 21st December 1118, which was also the feast day of St.Thomas the Apostle.  The son of Gilbert Becket and his wife Matilda from France, a London Merchant and Sheriff of the city.

Becket was educated at Merton Priory in Surrey, then Paris.  Whilst studying abroad, his father’s fortune took a terrible crumble, and he was forced to return home.  For three years worked as an auditor in the City of London, also served as secretary to Lord Pevensey’s secretary.

By the time he reached his mid-twenties, had moved onwards and upwards, and worked within the Theobald household, for the Archbishop of Canterbury.  It was during this time; he entered the world of power and policy within the church, and then went on to study canon law at Bologna and Auxerre in Italy.

In the year 1154, Henry II was crowned King of England, and Becket was his Lord Chancellor, a post recommended by the then Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops, looking for a protector and defender of their rights.

It wasn’t long before the same Bishops who had recommended

Becket for the post of Lord Chancellor complained that he had forgotten the interests of the church.

His reply to these Bishops: I follow the rules of the church, and in the eyes of God remain a devout believer in a court full of promiscuous behaviour and over indulgence.  I attend mass at dawn and pray late into the night.

In 1162 Thomas Becket was nominated as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, and on the 23rd May 1162 confirmed by the council of bishops and nobleman, and ordained on the 2nd June and consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury on the 3rd June.

Henry had expected Becket would continue his work putting the royal government first, in front of those of the church.  This was not to be for he resigned his post as Lord Chancellor, to become a champion of ecclesiastical claims, which would see a rift grow between King Henry and Thomas Becket.

Henry, who believed in the rights of the justice system, was provoked by several errors, in the church courts, claiming the right to punish clerical criminals, after they have been degraded by the bishop’s court.  Becket felt compelled to oppose the King’s request, this angered him immensely.  Becket carried the full support of the bishops with him; but neither they nor the pope were prepared to go to any lengths in opposing Henry.  Eventually having to concede to Henrys demands, but not willingly.

Following the stand down by myself and the bishop’s, Henry put forward a document known as the ‘Constitutions of Clarendon’ relating to the way the church is run, but contrary to Cannon Law?

Becket was angered by this document, and the quarrel between Becket and Henry erupted once again, over how the church should be run.

Becket forced the King’s hand, which outraged him.

At Northampton Castle a council was held to fine Thomas Becket and charge him with alleged offences in his personal and ministerial life.

Before the King could have Becket formally charged for these offences, he escaped to France taking refuge in the Abbey of Pontigny, where he remained in exile for six years.

Whilst in exile, Becket gathered support from loyal followers for his cause, however, the pope and did not condone his actions.

In 1167, the King’s anger, enraged that the exiled archbishop had found safe refuge, decreed, that all English scholars studying on the continent were to return home.  Many students and teachers alike, gathered at Oxford, here they tried to re-create the scholarly atmosphere they had experienced in Paris and other universities in France.

Britain’s oldest university ‘Oxford’, owes its origin to the quarrel between King Henry II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.

As the year 1170 drew to a close.  The conflict which had divided England for the past six years, was reaching its climax.  It was in early December that Becket agreed to meet Henry in Normany, and there they reconciled their differences.

Thomas Becket had remained in exile over the King’s demands to have control over the church.  These demands were limitless.  Henry, had forbidden  the clergy to exercise their given rights, to appeal to Rome as the final authority in matters relating to the church.  Furthermore, he had ordered the priests of England to take an oath, against the pope.

When Becket returned to Canterbury he publicly excommunicated his enemies from the pulpit of the cathedral on Christmas Day 1170, to the utter disgust of Henry.

This was the final straw, Henry could take no more, he had met Becket in Normandy to discuss their differences and this is what he does in return.  In a moment of anger, Henry said, “idle cowards of my court, who stand by while this miserable priest insults me to my face”.  These hasty words were enough to inspire a deed, which shocked the whole of Christendom.

Four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville and Richard le Breton took the King at his word.  To get rid of him, would surely be of great service to the realm.  They left the royal court and made their way to Canterbury.  There they had planned to arrest the archbishop Thomas Becket, imprison him to await the King’s pleasure, if this was not possible, they would take it upon themselves to kill him.

By the time the knights had reached Canterbury on December 29, 1170, crowds had gathered outside the cathedral, amid rumours of violence and murder.  FitzUrse ordered his men to stand guard at the cathedral gates, whilst he and his three loyal followers sought out Thomas Becket.

Upon hearing the commotion outside, Becket was escorted into the cathedral by the monks, fearing for his safety.

Moments later, the knights burst through the cathedral doors.  “Where is Thomas Becket, traitor to his king and kingdom? demanded FitzUrse.

“I am here, no traitor but a priest of God and an archbishop, “Becket replied from the steps leading to the High Altar.

It was here Becket was slain on the steps leading to the  High Altar by Reginal FitzUrse and his trusted followers, from King Henry II’s court.

But Thomas Becket had the final word, an eyewitness to the tragedy wrote that “the sun’s gaze was averted, its ray’s hidden from the earth and the day veiled in darkness…a terrible storm cloud overhung the firmament, the rain fell suddenly and swiftly and the thunder rolled around the heavens.  After this, the sky turned a deep red in token of the blood which had been shed in horror at the outrage.”

shrine-of-thomas-becket

Shrine dedicated to Thomas Becket

Within three years of this brutal murder, Thomas Becket, had been canonised by Pope Alexander III, and his tomb had become a shrine, for pilgrims from all over Europe.

It was one of those symbolic acts which colour and fortify the convictions of the many.  The few who were closely involved had to extricate themselves.

The penance of the four knights was fourteen years’ service with the Knights Templar in the Holy Land.

The King had to provide 200 knights for a year for the defence of Jerusalem.

In 1174, King Henry II himself was forced into doing a public penance – being whipped in Canterbury Cathedral on the site of Becket’s murder.

But this did not stop him in his purpose.  He succeeded in bringing the English Church, under royal control – a position which his successors, never lost.

Becket had failed in his ongoing struggle, by opposing the King, at every turn, as the rightful head of the Church.  He was slain in his own cathedral for his actions, and became a martyr to his cause.

For the next 360 yrs, his memory lived on in the shrine dedicated to him, and became one of the greatest centres of pilgrimages in the Christian world.

Becket’s fame spread further.  In the Holy Land, an order of Christian Knights was founded in his memory.

In the 1530’s, England broke with the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1536 an act of Parliament by order of Henry VIII saw the dissolution of the smaller monasteries, and this act was followed by the dissolution of Abbey’s in 1539.  Henry VIII ordered the shrine to be destroyed, and all the rich gifts, which had been lavished upon it over the centuries-confiscated.

But even this action could not destroy the legend, of a man of God, who perished for his beliefs.

Today, a plaque marks the spot in Canterbury Cathedral, where Archbishop Thomas Becket paid with his life in 1170 for his opposition to King Henry II’s demands.

Wikipedia Images