England at the Beginning of the Hundred Years War
King Edward II, the first Prince of Wales, was crowned at the age of 23 when his father died. His twenty years reign was marked by the constant struggle with the House of Lords. As a monarch, Edward was not fitted to carry on his father's work either in war or in statesmanship.
His methods of raising money and shameful relationship with favourite Gaveston were disapproved by the nobles. In 1313, the Lords chose a board of seven bishops, eight earls and six barons to draw up Ordinances for the control of the King. The most important of these Ordinances were as follows:
1.Charters to be kept;
2.The King to make no gifts without the leave of the Lords;
3.Customs to be collected by Englishmen;
4.The King's ministers to be chosen with the consent of the baronage;
5.The King not to start a war or leave the country without the consent of the barons;
6.Parliament to be held annually.
In spite of Edward's protest the barons sent his favourite Gaveston out of the country. King already was unable to control the lords. For many years of Edward's reign the country was practically governed by the Duke of Lancaster. After the years of fruitless straggle King had to submit to the barons, who demanded his resign.
After the resign of Edward II his son Edward III came to power in 1327. As an energetic and adventurous leader Edward established his power in . England, intervened into domestic affairs of Scotland and was intending to begin the war with France.
In 1328, his uncle Charles IV French died without children. Edward immediately claimed the French throne in the right of his mother, but failed. The French crown came to Edward's cousin Philip, who later began to support Scotland in her wars with England.
In 1337, Edward evaded France with his forces, saying that he wanted to defend English trade with free towns of Flanders, which could be possibly taken by the French. This was the first fighting, which led to more than hundred years of struggle in which neither English nor French gained victory. In popular history this war was named a Hundred Years War, though it consisted of several wars between England and France (1337—1453).
In a year after the invasion Edward with his forces won the battle in the harbour of Sluys and took the command of the Channel. After it the war became a national issue of two countries, diplomacy and economic pressure were called into play.
The Crown constantly needed money to carry on the wars, so the Parliament had to establish and develop control over taxation. In the course of the wars the King agreed to allow Parliament to elect treasurers, whose duties were in supervising expenditures of money and examining the royal accounts.
The Black Death. The 1381 Peasants' Rising
The succession of wars made the internal situation in the country disastrous — the fields lay waste, the prices doubled each year. The situation was worsened by the bubonic plague, which swept over England in 1348—1349. It came to Europe from China and killed the people and cattle in great numbers. The population of England was reduced at least by a third or even by a half.
The great decrease of population increased wages gave more freedom to peasants and caused the decline in the value of land. The traditional agriculture was displaced by sheep-farming.
In 1350, the Parliament approved "The Statute of Labourers" which prohibited the rise of wages, but the strict measures were of no effect — the peasants and workers demanded more and more money for their work.
In 1355, the war with France broke out again.
The first successful steps of the English in the war were followed by further victories in France. In 1356, Edward III captured King of France and his son. The situation in France became very difficult, the French nobles and people fought against each other — the people rose against nobles' cruelty and latter rose against the people.
At last a treaty called the Great Peace was signed. In it King Edward agreed to give up the greater part of his conquests in France and King John of France had to pay a ransom of 3 million crowns of gold within six years.
In 1377, after the death of Edward III his grandson Richard got the crown at the age of eleven. As the war with France was going on, the Government of England invented the poll-tax — every person in the kingdom above the age of fourteen had to pay three-four penny pieces a year.
The people of Essex rose against the poll-tax, many other counties showed resentment. In Kent the tax-collector came to the cottage of a Tyler Wat claming the tax upon his daughter. The collector brutally insulted the girl, Wat Tyler tried to defend her and struck the collector dead with a blow.
The people of the town rose as one man. They made Wat Tyler then-leader joined with the people of Essex led by Jack Straw and the whole mass marched to London Bridge. In London they broke and opened the prisons, destroyed the buildings and killed royal officials. They demanded:
1)to be recognised as free people;
2)to fix the rent of land at a certain price of money;
3)to be given liberty to buy and sell in all markets;
4)to be pardoned for past offences.
The rebels killed the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Treasurer, who had proposed the hateful poll-tax.
When Tyler with his men came to speak to the King, he was suddenly stabbed in the throat. The men were ready to fight, but the young King promised the people to do everything they had claimed. As soon as the rebels were calmed, the King forgot his promise — hundreds of people were tried and executed with great cruelty.
Though the uprising failed, it marked certain changes in the lives of ordinary people — the serf system inevitably collapsed and the serf was gradually becoming a free peasant or a wage labourer. Lords were scared. In 1382, the Parliament voted a new poll-tax placed only on the landowners.
Task 3. Vocabulary development. Discuss the meaning of the following words in groups and put them into the sentences given below.