Following an attempt to tax his people without the assent of parliament, Edward I faced opposition to his plans to lead a military expedition to France. In this letter, which takes the form of a public address, Edward I attempts to justify the necessity of the recent taxation. 1297 (C 66/117)
Because the king desires always the peace and quiet and welfare of all the people of his realm and in particular desires that, after the journey he now proposes to make for the honour of God to recover his rightful heritage of which he has been more deceitfully defrauded by the king of France and for the honour and common profit of his realm, all reasons for the said peace and quiet being in any way disturbed may be completely removed, but some persons might say and give the people to understand things that are not true, whereby the same people might be moved to behave towards their liege lord otherwise than they ought, as about the withdrawal of the earl of Hereford and the earl marshall from him lately or about other matters, THE KING, on this and on the condition of himself and of the kingdom and how the affairs of the kingdom have been going for some time, makes known and wishes all to know the truth thereof, which is as follows.
Recently, when a large part of the men-at-arms of England, some by request others at the king’s summons, came to London, the king, wishing to provide for the deliverance of these same people and relieve their expenses and their discomforts, sent word to the said earls, as constable and marshal of England, to come to him on a certain day to arrange the deliverance of the said people; on which day the earl of Hereford and sir John de Segrave, who excused the earl marshal on account of illness, came to the king and in their presence and with their assent it was arranged that they should have it proclaimed throughout the city of London that all those who had come there on a summons or by request should be the next day at St Paul’s before the said constable and marshal for it to be known and put on record how and with how much each of them was willing to serve or help the king on this journey abroad; and the king said to them that, in accordance with the said arrangement which was given to them in writing, they should cause the said proclamation to be made. And they, on receiving the said command and the said writing, went away; then the same night the said earls sent to the king by sir John Esturmy knt a letter written in these terms:
“Because, dear lord, you sent word to the marshal by the constable, in writing, that he should have it proclaimed throughout the town of London that all those who have come at your summons or by request should be next day before them at St Paul’s at the hour of prime, and that they should have enrolled how many horses from everybody and then let you know this, your constable and your marshal pray you to agree to order someone else of your household to do this thing. And because, lord, you well know that they have come here at your request and not on a summons, if they did this they would be entering on their office to do service, wherefore they pray you to agree to give the order to someone else.”
And the king, having received the said letter and taken counsel on it, because it seemed to him that they had written somewhat inadvisedly and he did not wish them to be taken by surprise because of it, sent to them sir Geoffrey de Geneville, sir Thomas de Berkeley, sir John Tregoz, the constable of the Tower, the keeper of London, sir Roger Brabazon and sir William de Bereford to advise them better on this and to provide in such a way that they would not do anything that could turn out to be to the detriment of the king or of their own condition; and if they would not be other-wise advised, that then they should be asked if they acknowledged the said letter and the words contained in it as theirs-which things they acknowledged absolutely. And when this acknowledgement was reported to the king, he having taken counsel on it, put in place of the earl of Hereford, the constable, sir Thomas de Berkeley and in place of the earl marshal sir Geoffrey de Geneville, because the said earls had asked that the king should give the order to others, as is contained in the said letter. On this the earls withdrew from the king and his court. And soon after this the archbishop of Canterbury and several bishops of England came to the king and asked him for permission to speak with the said earls, and the king granted them it; whereupon the said archbishop and the other prelates asked the said earls to let them know where it would please them to come to talk with them; and the earls sent word back to them by letter that they would be at Waltham on Friday the day after the feast of St James. On which day the said archbishop and bishops came to Waltham; and the said earls did not come, but sent there sir Robert Fitz Roger and sir John de Segrave, knights, who said on behalf of the earls that for certain reasons they could not come then. And then, at the request of the said prelates and the said knights who came to the king at St Albans the Sunday next following, the king granted safe conduct to the said earls and gave his letters to that effect to the said knights allowing in them a sufficient length of time within which the said earls could safely and on safe conduct come to the king and stay and return; and with these letters the said knights left the king at this time; but never since have the earls come or sent to the king, nor are they yet coming or sending, that the king knows.
Now it may be that some persons have given the people to understand that the earls showed the king certain articles for the common profit of the people and of the realm, and that the king must have refused and denied them absolutely: of which the king knows nothing, for they neither showed him anything nor caused anything to be shown to him, nor does he know why they withdrew, but expected every day that they would come to him.
Among which articles there is mention, according to what is said, of some burdens that the king has laid on his kingdom, which he is well aware of, such as the aids that he has oftentimes asked of his people, which he has had to do because of the wars that have been waged against him in Gascony, Wales, Scotland and elsewhere, from which he could not defend either himself or his kingdom without help from his good people; wherefore it grieves him greatly that he has so burdened and so exhausted them, and he asks them to be willing to consider him excused for it as one who has laid out the things not on buying lands or tenements or castles or towns, but on defending himself and them and all the realm. And if God grants him ever to return from the journey that he is now making he wishes very much that all should know that he has the will and great desire to amend it suitably to the will of God and the satisfaction of his people as far as he ought. And if it happens that he does not return, he proposes to ordain that his heir shall do as much as he himself would do if he came back about what he causes to be amended, for he well knows that no one is as bound to the kingdom or to love the good people of his land as he is. In addition, as they have undertaken to cross over to help the count of Flanders who is his ally and particularly to put such an end as God wills, to the matter of himself and his kingdom (for much better to put an end to the matter as soon as one can than to have it drag on thus long), the great lords who were with him lately at London, because they well saw that he was not able (nor is it possible) to go on with or maintain so great a thing from his own resources and that the journey is so urgent owing to the great peril which the king’s friends over there are in and, through them, if they lose, the kingdom could fall into great peril afterwards, which God forbid, and to get the confirmation of the great charter of the liberties of England and of the charter of the forest, which confirmation the king has duly granted them, have granted him a common gift such as he is very much in need of at the present moment. Wherefore he begs all men of property and all the people of his realm, who have never failed him, not to let this gift annoy them, both since they well see that he is sparing neither his person nor his possessions to relieve them and himself of the great privations they have suffered and are still suffering with great distress every day, and since they know also that the need is greater than ever it was at any time. And because through this journey there will come, please God, a good and very long-lasting peace, on that account each one ought to consider himself less aggrieved by this gift, by which too they can be the soonest delivered from the hardships and the labours they have and have had before this time.
And if any should cause it to be understood in the land that the king has refused articles or anything else injuriously to the common profit of the realm in order to treat his people with contempt and to ruin them, or that he has acted otherwise towards the earls than in the way described, he begs that he should not be believed, for this is the right account and the whole truth of how things have gone up to now. And let every one consider how great discord there has been in the past in this realm through these words bandied between the lord and his people and the harm that has resulted from them. And if now these things are believed to be otherwise than they are, it could happen that a dispute would arise out of it, which would be more dangerous and more serious than any ever was in this land. And all those are excommunicated who disturb the peace of this realm in any way whatever, and all those, of whatever condition or estate they are, who give or secure aid or favour, in the form of money, horses, arms or otherwise, secretly or openly, for those disturbing the peace: from which sentence of excommunication no one can be absolved without special order of the pope, save at the point of death, as appears from a bill that the king has of the time of pope Clement, which a great many of the prelates and other great lords of this land have well understood. Wherefor there is need for everyone to preserve himself from it. And the king, because for the honour of God and of himself and of them and of the realm and for the sake of a very long-lasting peace and in order to put his realm into good shape he has undertaken to make this journey and because he has great faith that the good prayers of his good people can help him much and avail to bring this matter to a good conclusion, begs all the good people of his realm to be willing to pray, and have prayers said, carefully for him and for those who go with him.
In witness, etc. Given at Udimore, the 12th day of August.
Because the king desires always the peace and quiet and welfare of all the people of his realm, and some persons might give the people reason to understand things that are not true, whereby the same people might be moved to behave towards their liege lord in ways that they should not, we wish all people to know the truth, which is as follows:
The earl of Hereford and the earl marshall have delivered a letter to the king, wherein they refused to act upon an order of the king. And because it seemed to the king that they had written the letter without good advice, he made certain to know that the earl of Hereford and the earl marshall acknowledged their words. When this acknowledgement reached the king, the earls withdrew from the king and his court.
Now it may be that some persons have given the people of the realm to understand that the earls showed the king certain articles for the common profit of the people and of the realm, and that the king refused and denied them absolutely: of which the king knows nothing.
These articles include, according to rumour, complaints about some of the burdens that the king has placed on his kingdom. The king is well aware of these burdens, such as the taxes that he has often asked of his people, which were necessary because of the wars that have been waged against him in Gascony, Wales, Scotland and elsewhere. It grieves the king greatly that he has so burdened and exhausted his people, and he asks them to be willing to consider his excused for it, since he has not used the money to buy lands, castles or towns, but on defending himself, his people, and all the realm.
The barons who were with the king recently in London understood the demands of war, and in exchange for the confirmation of the great charter of the liberties and the confirmation of the charter of the forest, which the king has duly granted them, the barons have granted a common gift to the king, which he is very much in need of at the present moment. Wherefore, the king begs all men who own property, and all the people of his realm, who have never failed him, not to let this gift annoy them.
And let everyone consider how there has been great discord in the past in this realm through words bandied between the lord and his people, and the harm that has resulted from them. And if now these things are believed to be otherwise than they are, it could happen that a dispute would arise out of it, which would be more dangerous and more serious than any ever was in this land.