Ch 05 The End of the Middle Ages

Ch.05- End of the Middle Ages

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CHAPTER V: THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES

SECTION 2: PARLIAMENT AND THE HOUSE OF LANCASTER

 

AFTER THE RISING OF 1381, JOHN OF GAUNT RULED IN RICHARD’S ABSENCE BUT HAD BEEN WEAKENED BY HIS UNIVERSAL UNPOPULARITY. AN OPPOSITION PARTY GATHERED, MADE UP OF KING RICHARD’S FRIENDS AND THE NOBILITY LEFT OUT OF THE SPOILS OF OFFICE.

IT IS PROBABLE THAT THE LINES WERE DRAWN BY THOSE OPPOSED TO CONTINUING THE WAR WITH FRANCE, IN WHICH THE WOOL MERCHANTS HAD THE MOST INTEREST.

YEARS OF STRUGGLE FOLLOWED LEADING TO, IN 1386, THE IMPEACHMENT OF THE KINGS CHANCELLOR, THE EARL OF SUFFOLK.

IMPEACHMENT WAS A NEW PROCEDURE WHERE THE COMMONS WERE THE ACCUSERS AND THE LORDS WERE JUDGES, AND IT CAN BE REGARDED AS A PRIMITIVE METHOD OF SECURING THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MINISTERS OF PARLIAMENT.

THE LORDS HELD THE POWER, BUT, IN 1389, RICHARD EXECUTED A COUP D’ETAT, AND THE PERIOD THAT FOLLOWED IS THE MOST OBSCURE IN ENGLISH HISTORY.

HOWEVER, RICHARD GAINED MORE POWER, BUT FOR THE FIRST TIME IT APPEARS THAT THE HOUSE OF COMMONS BECAME A POLITICAL FORCE, INDEPENDENT OF THE GREAT NOBLES.

THE ARRANGEMENT SUITED THE KING AND HIS FRIENDS WHO COULD NOT EXIST WITHOUT THE FINANCIAL BACKING OF THE INFLUENTIAL LONDON MERCHANTS, AND SO RICHARD SECURED CONTROL OF THE CITY OF LONDON FOR HIS FRIENDS.

SMALL LANDOWNERS WERE CAUGHT BETWEEN THE DEMANDS OF THE PEASANTS AND LABOURERS AND THE GROWING POWER OF THE NOBLES WHO USED VIOLENCE AND THREATENED TO ENGULF THEM.

AN UNEASY ALLIANCE WAS FORMED WHERE EACH GROUP DEPENDED ON THE OTHER WITHOUT RESOLVE, BUT IT LED TO AN UNDERCURRENT OF OPPOSITION TO RICHARD.

WITH INCREASED CONTROL, SEIZURE OF ESTATES AND TAXES, RICHARD MANIPULATED PARLIAMENT BY PACKING THE HOUSE WITH HIS FRIENDS, AND, TO ENSURE CONTROL, HE MOVED IT TO SHREWSBURY, AWAY FROM POTENTIAL TROUBLE IN LONDON. BUT, BY 1399, RICHARD WAS ALSO WITHOUT FRIENDS, AND, FOR THE SECOND TIME, A KING WAS DEPOSED BY PARLIAMENT AFTER AN ARMED SEIZURE OF POWER.

A NEW KING WAS APPOINTED BY PARLIAMENT WHO WAS NOT ENTHRONED BY HEREDITARY RIGHT AND SUCCESSION, BUT WHOSE TITLE DEPENDED ONLY ON CONQUEST AND THE VOTE IN PARLIAMENT.

HENRY IV WAS COMMITTED TO A POLICY OF CONCILIATION BETWEEN THE GENTRY AND THE MIDDLE CLASSES, AND PARLIAMENT REACHED ITS HIGH WATER MARK FOR THE MIDDLE AGES.

HOWEVER, THE KING WAS FACED WITH A REVOLT IN 1403 FROM THE LORDS IN THE NORTH AND WEST. IT WAS LED BY THE EARLS OF NORTHUMBERLAND AND MARCH WHOSE DESCENT FROM EDWARD III WAS NEARER THAN THAT OF HENRY. THEY WERE SUPPORTED BY THE SCOTS AND WELSH WHO HAD RISEN UNDER OWEN GLENDOWER.

HENRY DEFEATED THEM ALL AT SHREWSBURY, BUT MORE AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR MUTUAL MISTRUST AND MILITARY BLUNDERS. FOR THE REST OF HIS REIGN, HE DISPLAYED A DIPLOMATIC ABILITY TO AVOID FURTHER BLOODSHED.

HE ADDED TO HIS ESTATES OF THE CROWN THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER AND SO WAS ABLE TO AVOID DEMANDS OF MONEY ON PARLIAMENT WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN RESISTED.

THE ELECTION TO PARLIAMENT WAS NOW A PRIVILEGE RATHER THAN A BURDEN, AND, IN THE SHIRES, A STRUGGLE BEGAN BETWEEN THE GENTRY AND THE RISING CLASS OF FREE PEASANTS.

IN 1429, AN ACT WAS PASSED GIVING LIMITED FRANCHISE TO THOSE WITH FREEHOLD TO THE VALUE OF 40 SHILLINGS A YEAR. THIS CONTINUED UNTIL THE 1832 REFORM BILL.

ELECTIONS WERE FOUGHT INDEPENDENTLY OF EACH OTHER AND THE ACT OF 1445 REQUIRED THAT THOSE ELECTED SHOULD BE ‘GENTLEMEN BY BIRTH’, SO PARLIAMENT WAS MANIPULTED AS REGULAR PRACTICE.

THE LORDS CAME TO WESTMINSTER WITH BANDS OF RETAINERS, AND IT DESCENDED INTO A MERE INSTRUMENT FOR CARRYING OUT THE DESIRES OF THE RULING GROUP OF THE DAY.

THE HOUSES OF COMMONS HAD DEPRIVED ITSELF OF THE BASIS OF RESISTANCE TO THE KING, AND THE BILL OF ATTAINDER COULD HAVE ENEMIES CONDEMNED AND SENTENCED WITHOUT TRIAL.

THE STRUGGLE WITHIN PARLIAMENT CONTINUED, BUT IT WAS STRONG ENOUGH AS AN INSTITUTION TO SURVIVE.

ALL OVER EUROPE, SIMILAR BODIES WERE IN DECAY BECAUSE THEIR WAS NO MIDDLE CLASS, GENTRY OR MERCHANTS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO KEEP THEM ALIVE.

PARLIAMENT WAS RETAINED BY THE BOUREOISIE AS A WEAPON TO BE USED WHENEVER THEY WERE STRONG ENOUGH TO USE IT

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