63. PARLIAMENT ROLLS OF RICHARD II

(A) Parliament of 1377

... And afterwards the commons came before the king in parliament, and there Sir Peter de la Mare, knight, who acted as speaker for the commons,[1] made his protestation, that what he had to say was not said on his own personal account, but by the initiative, assent, and express will of all the commons there assembled.[2] ... And since our lord the king — whom God save! — is at present innocent and of tender age, the said commons, for the redress of the wrongs aforesaid, as well as of others, and for the salvation of the kingdom, which at present is in great peril and more so than ever before, besought our lord the king and the lords of parliament with regard to three matters in particular: —

First, that it might please them to ordain and appoint in this present parliament eight fit persons of different estates, to remain continually along with the king's officials in council [to consult] on the needs of the king and the kingdom....

Item, that it might please them to ordain and appoint in this parliament those who were to surround the person of our same lord the king, who is of such tender age.... And that it should also be ordained that our same lord the king and his household should be governed with good moderation of expenses, to be met solely from the [ordinary] revenues of the kingdom and from the other rights of his crown and his dominions; and that, for the aid and relief of his commons aforesaid, all which is or may be granted for his wars shall be used and expended in the wars and not otherwise.

Item, that the common law, as well as the special laws, statutes, and ordinances of the land made in earlier times for the common benefit and salutary governance of the kingdom, should in their entirety be kept, ratified, and confirmed.... Request is also made to the lords of parliament that whatever is ordained in this parliament shall not be repealed without [consent of] parliament....

And thereupon answer was given that on these matters the prelates and lords would consult together; and the commons were instructed to return to their place and by themselves to consider their other business from now until the next Thursday. On which day they were commanded to return to parliament to hear the responses made to their aforesaid requests.

As to the first request presented by the said commons to our lord the king and to the lords of parliament, ... our lord the king ... has granted it, provided always that the chancellor, the treasurer, the keeper of the privy seal, the justices of both benches, and all the other officials of the king may perform and carry through the duties pertaining to their offices without the presence of such councillors. And our lord the king, for certain reasons that influence him at present, by the advice of the lords of parliament, wishes to have nine persons as such councillors for this present year only, and has had them elected in parliament: namely.... And as to the second request of the commons, ... the lords of parliament respond, saying that to them it seems too severe and burdensome a request that any person should be placed near their lord the king other than one well pleasing to him for various reasons, or to remove any of his officiais or servants except by the express will of the said king....[3] And as to the third and last request, it seems reasonable to all the lords that for the present it should be conceded and granted.

Item, the lords and commons of the kingdom of England, clearly perceiving the great peril of the kingdom ... , of their free will have granted to our same lord the king two fifteenths outside cities and boroughs and two tenths within the same cities and boroughs.[4 ]... And it is the humble prayer [of the commons] to their liege lord and to the other lords of the parliament that for these moneys, as well as for the moneys from the tithes recently granted by the clergy of England and also for the moneys arising from the subsidies of wool, certain fit persons should be assigned on the part of the king to be treasurers or wardens, to such effect that these moneys shall be entirely devoted to the expenses of the war, and by no means to anything else. And it is to be remembered that this request was granted to them by the king.... And thereupon our lord the king had William Walworth and John Philipot, merchants of London, assigned to be wardens of the said sums to be used as aforesaid, and to render faithful account of their receipts and expenditures in such fashion as should be reasonably ordained by our lord the king and his said great council....[5]

(French) Rotuli Parliamentorum, III, 5-7.

(B) Parliament of 1378

... And thereupon the commons, after some little deliberation, made another request of our lord the king, that it might please him to have demonstration made to his said commons how and in what way the said great sums thus given and ordered for the said war had been expended.[6]... To which it was replied by the said Sir Richard[7]... that, although it was unheard of that, for any subsidy or other grant made to the king by the commons in parliament or out of parliament, account should afterwards be rendered to the commons or to anybody besides the king and his officials, nevertheless, to please the commons, our said lord the king willed and commanded of his own initiative, without doing so as of right or through coercion on account of the said request recently made to him, that the said William Walworth,[8] there present, together with certain other persons from the council of our lord the king to be assigned for this duty by the king, should clearly show you in writing the receipts and expenditures made of those [sums] — on the understanding that this [action] should not thereafter be held a precedent, on the ground that it was taken otherwise than solely by the initiative and command of our lord the king, as aforesaid....

Item, they prayed that five or six of the prelates and lords should come to the commons to discuss with them jointly the said matters concerning which they were charged.[9] And to this request the lords replied, saying that they were neither obliged nor willing to do this; for such manner of procedure had never been used in any parliament except in the last three parliaments recently held. But they said and declared that it had well been accustomed for the lords to choose from among themselves a certain small number, six or ten, and for the commons [to choose] another small number from among themselves; and for these lords and commons thus elected to meet together in easy manner, without murmurs, cries, and noise. And so by motions made among them they would quickly arrive at some good decision, which would then be reported to their companions of one or the other group. And in such fashion the lords would henceforth proceed, and in none other.... And thereupon the commons readily assented that certain lords and commons, a small and reasonable number, should be elected, as had anciently been accustomed....[10]

(French) Ibid., III, 35-36.

(C) Parliament of 1379

... These are the names of the prelates and lords assigned on the request of the commons to examine the estate of the king: namely, ...[11] First, [they are] to examine the revenues arising from the subsidy on wool, those received since the feast of St. Michael last and those presumably to be received before the feast of St. Michael next; item, to examine as well all the revenues of the kingdom received since the said time ... and those which presumably can be received and levied before the said feast of St. Michael ...; item, to examine what sort of fees or wages the great and petty officers of the king were accustomed to have in the early days of King Edward, grandfather of our present king....[12] And it should be remembered that the said lords thus assigned have the command of the same king in parliament to enter ... the offices and courts of the king as may be necessary for this investigation, together with the officials and keepers of the same; and there, together with the said officials, to search the rolls, accounts, and any other records that are concerned in this matter ...; and to make a distinct report to our said lord the king and to his council as to what they have done and have found, together with their good advice in this connection....

Item, the lords and commons of the kingdom of England assembled in this parliament have granted for themselves and for the whole community of England the subsidy on wool, wool-fells, and leather; also another subsidy, to be taken from the goods of certain persons throughout the kingdom according to a certain form and in a certain manner prescribed in a schedule made in that connection and already presented in parliament, of which the tenor is word for word as follows....[13]

(French) Ibid., III, 57.

(D) Parliament of 1380

... In the first place the lords and commons have agreed that, to meet the aforesaid necessities, every lay person[14] of the kingdom who has passed the age of fifteen years, whether male or female, of whatsoever condition or estate, both inside and outside franchises, shall give three groats[15] — with the exception of actual beggars, who are to be charged nothing — always providing that the levy shall be made under the regulation and form that each lay person is to be equally charged according to his ability and in the manner following: that is to say, in raising the total sum to be accounted for in each vill, the well-to-do shall according to their ability aid the lesser folk; yet so that the wealthiest man shall not pay more than the sum of sixty groats for himself and his wife and that no person shall pay less than a groat for himself and his wife. And no one shall be charged for payment except in the place where he and his wife and his children have their residence, or in the place where he remains in service.... And commissions shall be given to fit persons, as well in the counties as in the cities and boroughs, to be collectors and comptrollers of the aforesaid sum; and they are to be sworn well and loyally to perform their office. And it is the intention of the said commons to make the present grant solely for the support of the earl of Buckingham and the other lords and men of his company in the parts of Brittany, for the defence of the kingdom, and for the safeguarding of the sea.

(French) Ibid., III, 90.

(E) Parliament of 1381

... And the king commanded Sir Richard le Scrope, knight, the newly created chancellor of England, to rehearse for them the same charge touching the points aforesaid.[16] And so he clearly did; and especially with regard to the repeal thus made of the grant of freedom and manumission to the serfs and villeins of the land, it was again on the king's behalf plainly asked of all those present in full parliament whether this repeal pleased them or no.

To which the prelates and temporal lords, as well as the knights, citizens, and burgesses, unanimously responded that this repeal had been well made; adding that such [grant of] manumission or freedom could not be made without the assent of those who had the greatest interest. And to this they had never assented of their free will; nor would they have ever done so except to live and die all in one day.[17] And they — that is to say, the prelates and lords, as well as the commons — humbly besought our lord the king that these manumissions and enfranchisements, thus made and granted through coercion, to their disherison and the destruction of the kingdom, should be quashed and annulled by the authority of this parliament, and that the said repeal should be affirmed as one well and justly made. And this was then unanimously granted and agreed to by all....

And it is to be noted that afterwards, when the king had secured advice from the lords of the kingdom and from his council with regard to these requests made to him [by the commons], as it truly appeared to him to be for his benefit and for that of his said kingdom, he willed and granted that certain prelates, lords, and other men should be assigned to survey and examine in privy council the estate and governance of our said lord the king's person, as well as of his said household, and to advise themselves of sufficient remedies, should he proceed with the matter [of reform], and thereupon to make report to the king aforesaid. And the lords in parliament then declared it seemed to them that, if reform of the government was to be made throughout the kingdom, attention should first be given to its principal member — namely, the king himself — and then [pass] from person to person, as well those of Holy Church as others, and from place to place, from the highest degree to the lowest, sparing no person, degree, or place.

And to do this for the said household, the following lords were elected....[18]

(French) Ibid., III, 100 f.

(F) Parliament of 1386

... In this parliament all the commons, assembled as one body and with a single purpose, came before the king, the prelates, and the lords in the parliament chamber and made bitter complaint concerning the last chancellor of England, Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, who was there present; accusing him by word of mouth in the manner following.... And on all these articles the commons asked the judgment of parliament. To which the said earl replied in the manner following.... And thereupon, after the response of the said earl to the accusations of the said commons, and the replies made to these [arguments] by the one side and the other, the said earl, at the request of the said commons, on account of the gravity of the offences thus charged against him, was arrested by the king's order and committed to the custody of the constable of England, and then released on bail.... And for the misdeeds and offences aforesaid, of which the said earl through the insufficiency of his said responses has thus been convicted, it is adjudged that he is to be committed to the king's prison, to remain there during the king's pleasure; and he shall not be liberated from the said prison until he has paid fine and redemption at the king's pleasure....

The lords and commons of the realm assembled in this present parliament, for the defence of the kingdom and of the sea, and for the protection of trading, granted to our lord the king in full parliament certain subsidies and aids on certain conditions, according to the form and in the words that follow....[19] And in addition the said lords and commons have for the said reasons granted another half a tenth and half a fifteenth, to be levied from laymen at the quinzime of St. Michael next, on a certain condition: namely, that the aforesaid grants, except the said latter half a tenth and half a fifteenth, together with the other income of the king, may [be made to] suffice for the charges and defences of the kingdom during the coming year, through the care and good administration of ...[20], who have been ordained and assigned by our lord the king under his commission sealed with the great seal ... to be of the continual council of our lord the king; and that until then the same latter half a tenth and half a fifteenth shall under no circumstances be levied or collected by any one in any way....[21]

Item, the commons very humbly pray that, for the honour of God, for the maintenance of your crown, for your own profit and that of all the prelates and lords, and for the relief of the poor commons of your realm, it may please you to ordain and appoint in this present parliament fit officials: namely, the chancellor, the treasurer, the keeper of the privy seal, the steward of your household, and also the other lords of your great and continual council. [And they petition] that the said lords and officials may have power to correct and amend all the defects that so greatly blemish your crown ...; likewise that a statute be made that no one, of whatsoever dignity, estate, nation, or condition, shall in private or in public be so bold as to effect or counsel the contravention of what the said lords and officials see fit to decide, and this under severe penalty. Which matters, through your benignity, you have partially put into execution; it is prayed that at present you may please to carry out the remainder.... Response: The king so wills, providing that the commission and statutes asked in this petition shall be in effect for no more than one entire year. And as to the steward of his household, he will install a fit man by the advice of his council....

It should be remembered that the king in full parliament, before its close, made public protest by personal word of mouth that, on account of anything done in the said parliament, he was unwilling that prejudice should be incurred by himself or by his crown, and that his prerogative and the liberties of his said crown should be saved and guarded....

(French) Ibid., III, 216-24.

(G) Parliament of 1388[22]

... At the last parliament, on account of the great damages and terrible dangers which had been incurred through the bad government [of those] surrounding the king during all his earlier reign — [namely,] Alexander, then archbishop of York; Robert de Vere, then duke of Ireland; Michael de la Pole, then earl of Suffolk; Robert Tressilian, one time justice; Nicholas Brember, knight; and their adherents and others — whereby the king and all his kingdom had been almost wholly ruined and destroyed, ... ordinance was made by statute and a commission was given to various lords for the benefit, honour, and salvation of the king, his royal authority, and all his realm, the tenor of which commission and statute is as follows.... And thereupon the aforesaid Alexander, Robert, Michael, Robert, and Nicholas, and their aforesaid adherents and others ... devised, plotted, and proposed various horrid treasons and wrongs against the king, the aforesaid lords thus assigned, and all the other lords and commons who had agreed to set up the aforesaid ordinance and commission, [thus conspiring] for the defeasance of the king, his royal authority, and all his realm.

Whereupon Thomas, duke of Gloucester, uncle of our lord the king, and son of King Edward — whom God assoil! — Richard, earl of Arundel, and Thomas, earl of Warwick, perceiving the evil purposes of the traitors aforesaid, assembled in force to safeguard their persons, to show and declare the said treasons and evil purposes, and to provide remedy according to the will of God. And they came into the presence of our aforesaid lord the king and appealed the said five traitors for high treason committed by the latter against the king and his kingdom. Upon which appeal, our said lord the king adjourned the aforesaid parties until this present parliament....[23] Which five traitors were attainted in this present parliament of the treasons and wrongs aforesaid, at the suit and appeal of the said duke of Gloucester, the said earls of Derby, Arundel, and Warwick, and the earl marshal.

[Therefore] may it please our said highly respected lord the king to accept, approve, and confirm in this present parliament all that was done in the last parliament, as set forth above, and whatever has been done since the said last parliament through force of the statute, ordinance, or commission aforesaid, as well as what has been done by the aforesaid duke of Gloucester, earls of Derby, Arundel, and Warwick, and earl marshal. Response: Our lord the king, considering the matter of the said petition to be true and the request of his said commons in this affair to be for the honour of God and to his own advantage and that of his realm, by assent of the prelates, dukes, earls, barons, and all others in this present parliament, granted the request of the said commons in all particulars according to the form of the said petition....[24]

(French) Ibid., III, 248 f.

(H) Parliament of 1397

... Item, with regard to the fourth article,[25] concerning the expense of the king's household and the residence of bishops and ladies in his company, the king was greatly aggrieved and offended at the fact that the commons, his lieges, should take unto themselves or presume [to make] any regulation or government of the king's person, or of his household, or of any person of the state whom he pleased to have in his company. And it seemed to the king that the commons herein committed a great offence against his regality and his royal majesty and the liberty both of himself and of his honourable progenitors, which he had held and by the aid of God would maintain and support. Wherefore the king commanded the said lords spiritual and temporal on the following Saturday morning fully to show and declare the king's will in this matter to the said commons. Furthermore, the king, hearing how the said commons had been moved and excited by a bill presented before them to express and demonstrate the said last article, commanded the duke of Guienne and Lancaster to charge Sir John Bussy, speaker of the commons, by the fealty [owed to the king] to report to him the name of the man who had presented the said bill before the commons.

Item, on Saturday, the morrow of Candlemas, the lords spiritual and temporal were [assembled] together with the commons, to whom they explained the will and command of the king; and the said commons delivered the said bill to the lords, with the name of the man who had presented it to them, that is to say, Sir Thomas Haxey. Which bill was afterwards at the king's command delivered by the clerk of parliament to the clerk of the crown. Then, by the king's order, the commons came before the king in parliament; and there, with all the humility and obedience of which they were capable, they expressed deep grief, as appeared from their demeanour, that the king had formed such an opinion of them. And they humbly besought the king to hear and accept their apology: that it had never been their intention or will to express, present, or do anything which would offend or displease the king's royal majesty, or would contravene his royal estate and liberty, either in this matter concerning his own person and the government of his household, [in that] concerning the lords and ladies in his company, or in any other matter touching [the king] himself; for they well knew and understood that such matters pertained to them not at all, but solely to the king himself and to his [power of] ordinance....[26]

(French) Ibid., III, 339.

(I) Parliament of 1398[27]

... Item, on the same Thursday the commons prayed the king that, since they had before them divers petitions, as well for individual persons as others, which had been neither read nor answered, and also since numerous other matters and proposals had been brought up in the king's presence, which for lack of time they could not at present well terminate, it might be the king's pleasure to commit full power to certain lords and such other persons as should please him, to examine, answer, and determine the said petitions and the matters and proposals aforesaid and all related questions. To which prayer the king agreed. And thereupon, by the authority and assent of parliament, he appointed and assigned....[28]

Item, on the same day the commons of the realm, by the assent of the lords spiritual and temporal, granted to the king the subsidy on wool, wool-fells, and leather for his lifetime; also a fifteenth and tenth and half a fifteenth and half a tenth, in the manner and form following....[29]

(French) Ibid., III, 368.


[1] See above, p. 222.

[2] The commons complained especially of the evils then being suffered by the knights and the merchants.

[3] But, they think, those about the king should be warned not to impose on him for their own selfish ends, and the officers of the household should be talked to about moderation of expenses.

[4] To be levied according to the ancient custom; see no. 61B. [5] Sixty-nine petitions of the commons follow.

[6] This was after the commons had refused further aid and the king had protested their refusal.

[7] Richard le Scrope, steward of the king's household.

[8] See the preceding document.

[9] See above, p. 222.

[10] The commons examined the royal accounts and approved them, except for a protest that too much had been spent outside the kingdom. Finally they granted the usual subsidy on wool.

[11] Three bishops, three earls, and three barons.

[12] Also annuities being paid by the king's grant, the furniture of the household, and other matters.

[13] The added subsidy was a graduated poll-tax, according to which dukes were to pay 10m.; royal justices 5; earls and the mayor of London 4; barons, bannerets, serjeants-at-law, aldermen of London, and mayors of larger towns 2; bachelors, squires, apprentices-at-law, mayors of smaller towns, and great merchants 1; other merchants, franklins, artisans, and the mass of the people lesser sums down to 4d.

[14] The clergy made a separate grant of 100,000. [15] A silver coin worth 4d.

[16] This was done at the request of the speaker of the commons.

[17]Pur vivre et mourir tous en un jour; the meaning obviously is "under threat of immediate death."

[18] The duke of Lancaster and seventeen others.

[19] The grant was of half a tenth and half a fifteenth, and of tunnage and poundage until the end of the next year.

[20] The dukes of York and Gloucester, two archbishops, two bishops, one abbot, one earl, one baron, two knights, the chancellor, the treasurer, and the keeper of the privy seal.

[21] Other provisions follow, prohibiting substitutions on the commission, interference with the members, etc.

[22] The following recitation constitutes the preamble to the petition, which is here placed in the third paragraph.

[23] The record here recites how the said traitors violated the king's protection by open revolt, and how the Lords Appellant were forced to take arms against them.

[24] Here follow a complete pardon for the Lords Appellant and the royal assent to various other petitions providing for punishment of the traitors, the purification of the government, etc.

[25] In the address by the speaker of the commons.

[26] The commons formally submitted to the royal grace, which was granted through the chancellor. The king personally promised not to request tenths and fifteenths just for himself and his household.

[27] First summoned at Westminster, September, 1397; adjourned to Shrewsbury. January, 1398. During the first session the statute and commission of 1388 were repealed and the Lords Appellant convicted of high treason. See J. G. Edwards, in the English Historical Review, XL, 321 f.

[28] Twelve peers, or six of them, and six knights, or three of them, with power as aforesaid.

[29] They were thanked and dismissed by the king on the same day.


Search