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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Then the town deputies assented to it


A

period followed in which England seemed to have obtained the supremacy in Western Europe. The Scots purchased their King's freedom by a truce which bound them to long and heavy payments, for which hostages were given as a security. A peace was made with the French by which Guienne, Gascony, Poitou, and such important towns as Rochelle and Calais were surrendered to the English. The Prince of Wales, who took up his residence at Bordeaux, mixed in the Spanish quarrels with the view of uniting Biscay to his territories in South France. As the result of these circumstances and of the well-calculated encouragement of Edward III, we find that English commerce prospered immensely and, in emulous alliance with that of Flanders, began to form another great centre for the general commerce of the world. It was still chiefly in the hands of foreigners, but the English made great profits by it. Their riches gained them almost as much prestige in the world as their bravery.[52] The more money-resources the towns possessed, and the more they could and did support the King, the greater became their influence on the affairs of the realm. No language could be more humble than that of these 'poor and simple Commons,' when they address themselves to 'their glorious and thrice gracious King and lord.'[53] But for all that their representations are exceedingly comprehensive and pressing; their grants are not to take effect, unless their grievances are redressed; they never leave out of sight the interests
of their staple; they assail the exactions of the officials or the clergy with great zeal. The regard paid to them gives the whole government a popular character.

On an attempt of the King to exercise the legislative power in his great council, they remonstrated; they had no objection to the ordinances themselves, but insisted that valid statutes could only proceed from the lawfully assembled Parliament.

Now too the relations to the Papal See came again into consideration. Seated at Avignon under the influence of the French crown, the Popes were natural opponents of Edward III's claims and enterprises; they sometimes thought of directing the censures of the Church against him. On the other hand, the complaints in England against the encroachments and pecuniary demands of the Curia were louder than ever, without however coming to a rupture on these points. But at last Urban V renewed the old claim to the vassalage of England; he demanded the feudal tribute first paid by King John, and threatened King and kingdom, in case they were not willing to pay it, with judicial proceedings.[54] We know the earlier kings had seen in the connexion with Rome a last resource against the demands of the Estates: on the King's side it required some resolution to renounce it. But the very nature of the Parliamentary government, as Edward III had settled it, involved a disregard of these considerations for the future. It was before the Parliament itself that he laid the Papal demands for their consent and counsel. The Estates consulted separately: first the spiritual and lay lords framed their resolution, then the town deputies assented to it. The answer they gave the Pope was that King John's submission was destitute of all validity, since it was against his coronation-oath, and was made without the consent of the Estates; should the Pope try to enforce satisfaction of his demand by legal process or in any other manner, they would all--dukes earls barons and commons--oppose him with their united force.[55] The clergy only assented to the declaration of invalidity; to threaten the holy father with their resistance, they considered unbecoming. But the declaration of the lay Estates was in itself sufficient for the purpose: the claim was never afterwards raised again.


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