A MARCH ON LONDON
A MARCH ON LONDON
G. A. HENTY
The events that took place during the latter half of the fourteenth
century and the first half of the fifteenth are known to us far better
than those preceding or following them owing to the fact that three great
chroniclers Froissart Monstrelet and Holinshed have recounted the
events with a fulness of detail that leaves nothing to be desired. The
uprising of the Commons as they called themselves--that is to say
chiefly the folk who were still kept in a state of serfdom in the reign of
Richard II.--was in itself justifiable. Although serfdom in England was
never carried to the extent that prevailed on the Continent the serfs
suffered from grievous disabilities. A certain portion of their time had
to be devoted to the work of their feudal lord. They themselves were
forbidden to buy or sell at public markets or fairs. They were bound to
the soil and could not except under special circumstances leave it.
Above all they felt that they were not free men and were not even deemed
worthy to fight in the wars of their country. Attempts have been made to
represent the rising as the result of Wickliffe's attack upon the Church
but there seems to be very small foundation for the assertion. Undoubtedly
many of the lower class of clergy discontented with their position did
their best to inflame the minds of the peasants but as the rising
extended over a very large part of England and the people were far too
ignorant to understand and far too much irritated by their own grievances
to care for the condition of the Church it may be taken that they
murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury and many other priests simply
because they regarded them as being wealthy and so slew them as they slew
other people of substance. Had it been otherwise the Church would not
have been wholly ignored in the demands that they set before the king but
some allusion would have been made for the need of reforms in that
The troubles in Flanders are of interest to Englishmen since there was
for many years an alliance more or less close between our king and some
of the great Flemish cities. Indeed from the time when the first Von
Artevelde was murdered because he proposed that the Black Prince should be
accepted as ruler of Flanders to the day upon which Napoleon's power was
broken forever at Waterloo Flanders has been the theatre of almost
incessant turmoil and strife in which Germans and Dutchmen Spaniards
Englishmen and Frenchmen have fought out their quarrels.
G. A. HENTY.
I. TROUBLED TIMES
II. A FENCING BOUT
III. WAT TYLER
IV. IN LONDON
V. A RESCUE
VI. A CITY MERCHANT
VII. DEATH TO THE FLEMINGS!
VIII. A COMBAT IN THE TOWER
IX. DEATH OF THE TYLER
X. A FIGHT IN THE OPEN
XI. AN INVITATION
XII. THE TROUBLES IN FLANDERS
XIII. A STARVING TOWN
XIV. CIVIL WAR
XV. A CRUSHING DEFEAT
XVI. A WAR OF THE CHURCH
XVIII. A NOBLE GIFT
XIX. WELL SETTLED
"EDGAR STRUCK HIM A BUFFET ON THE FACE WHICH SENT HIM REELING BACKWARDS."
EDGAR TALKS MATTERS OVER WITH THE PRIOR OF ST. ALWYTH.
"IN A MOMENT EDGAR'S SWORD FELL ON THE RUFFIAN'S WRIST."
THE LORD MAYOR STABS WAT THE TYLER IN PRESENCE OF THE BOY-KING.
EDGAR AND ALBERT ARE KNIGHTED BY KING RICHARD.
THE TWO YOUNG KNIGHTS CHARGE DOWN UPON THE PANIC-STRICKEN CROWD.
SIR EDGAR AT LAST SURRENDERS TO SIR ROBERT DE BEAULIEU.
THE PRISONERS MAKE THEIR ESCAPE OVER THE ROOFS OF YPRES.
A MARCH ON LONDON
"And what do you think of it all good Father?"
"'Tis a difficult question my son and I am glad that it is one that
wiser heads than mine will have to solve."
"But they don't seem to try to solve it; things get worse and worse. The
king is but a lad no older than myself and he is in the hands of others.
It seems to me a sin and a shame that things should go on as they are at
present. My father also thinks so."
The speaker was a boy of some sixteen years old. He was walking with the
prior in the garden of the little convent of St. Alwyth four miles from
the town of Dartford. Edgar Ormskirk was the son of a scholar. The latter
a man of independent means who had always had a preference for study and
investigation rather than for taking part in active pursuits had since
the death of his young wife a year after the birth of his son retired
altogether from the world and devoted himself to study. He had given up
his comfortable home standing on the heights of Highgate--that being in
too close proximity to London to enable him to enjoy the seclusion that he
desired--and had retired to a small estate near Dartford.
Educated at Oxford he had gone to Padua at his father's death which
happened just as he left the university and had remained at that seat of
learning for five years. There he had spent the whole of his income in the
purchase of manuscripts. The next two years were passed at Bologna and
Pisa and he there collected a library such as few gentlemen of his time
possessed. Then Mr. Ormskirk had returned to England and settled at
Highgate and two years later married the daughter of a neighbouring
gentleman choosing her rather because he felt that he needed someone to
keep his house in order than from any of the feeling that usually
accompanies such unions. In time however he had come to love her and
her loss was a very heavy blow to him. It was the void that he felt in his
home as much as his desire for solitude that induced him to leave
Highgate and settle in the country.
Here at least he had no fear of intrusive neighbours or other
interruptions to his studies. The news from London seldom reached his
ears and he was enabled to devote himself entirely to his experiments.
Like many other learned men of his age it was to chemistry that he
chiefly turned his attention. His library comprised the works of almost
every known writer on the subject and he hoped that he might gain an
immortal reputation by discovering one or both of the great secrets then
sought for--the elixir of life or the philosopher's stone that would
convert all things into gold. It was not that he himself had any desire
for a long life still less did he yearn for more wealth than he
possessed but he fondly believed that these discoveries would ameliorate
the condition of mankind.
He did not see that if gold was as plentiful as the commonest metal it
would cease to be more valuable than others or that the boon of a long
life would not add to the happiness of mankind. For some years he gave
little thought to his son who was left to such care as the old
housekeeper and the still older man-servant chose to bestow upon him and
who in consequence was left altogether to follow the dictates of his own
fancy. The child therefore lived almost entirely in the open air
played tussled and fought with boys of his own age in the village and
grew up healthy sturdy and active. His father scarcely took any heed of
his existence until the prior of the Convent of St. Alwyth one day called
"What are you going to do with your boy Mr. Ormskirk?" he asked.
"My boy?" the student repeated in tones of surprise. "Oh yes; Edgar of
course. What am I going to do with him? Well I have never thought about
it. Does he want anything? My housekeeper always sees to that. Do you
think that he wants a nurse?"
"A nurse Mr. Ormskirk!" the Prior said with a smile. "A nurse would have
a hard time with him. Do you know what his age is?"
"Four or five years old I suppose."
"Nearly double that. He is nine."
"Impossible!" Mr. Ormskirk said. "Why it is only the other day that he
was a baby."
"It is eight years since that time; he is now a sturdy lad and if there
is any mischief in the village he is sure to be in it. Why it was but
three days ago that Friar Anselmo caught him soon after daybreak fishing
in the Convent pool with two of the village lads. The friar gave them a
sound trouncing and would have given one to your son too had it not
been for the respect that we all feel for you. It is high time Mr.
Ormskirk that he was broken of his wild ways and received an education
suited to his station."
"Quite so quite so. I own that I have thought but little about him for
indeed 'tis rarely that I see him and save that at times his racket in
the house sorely disturbs my studies I have well-nigh forgotten all about
him. Yes yes; it is of course high time that he began his education so
that if I should die before I have completed my discoveries he may take up
The Prior smiled quietly at the thought of the sturdy dirty-faced boy
working among crucibles and retorts. However he only said:
"Do you think of undertaking his education yourself?"
"By no means" Mr. Ormskirk said hastily. "It would be impossible for me
to find time at present but when he has completed his studies I should
then take him in hand myself make him my companion and assistant and
teach him all that is known of science."
"But in the meantime?"
"In the meantime? Yes I suppose something must be done. I might get him a
tutor but that would be a great disturbance to me. I might send him up to
the monastery at Westminster where the sons of many gentlemen are
"I doubt whether the training or rather want of training that he has had
would fit him for Westminster" the Prior said quietly. "There is another
plan that perhaps might be more suitable for him. One of our brethren is a
scholar and already three or four of the sons of the gentry in the
neighbourhood come to him for three hours or so a day. Our convent is a
poor one and the fees he receives are a welcome addition to our means."
"Excellent!" Mr. Ormskirk said delighted at the difficulty being taken
off his shoulders "It would be the very thing."
"Then perhaps you will speak to the boy and lay your orders upon him"
the Prior said. "He was in the village as I passed by and I brought him
up here very much against his will I admit. Then I gave him in charge on
arrival to your servitor knowing that otherwise the young varlet would
slip off again as soon as my back was turned. Perhaps you will send for
Mr. Ormskirk rang a bell. The housekeeper entered.
"Where is Andrew?" he asked.
"He is looking after Master Edgar sir. His reverence told him to do so
and he dare not leave him for a moment or he would be off again."
"Tell Andrew to bring him in here."
A minute later the old servant entered with the boy. Edgar was in a
dishevelled condition the result of several struggles with Andrew. His
face was begrimed with dirt his clothes were torn and untidy. His father
looked at him in grave surprise. It was not that he had not seen him
before for occasionally he had noticed him going across the garden but
though his eyes had observed him his mental vision had not in any way
taken him in his thoughts being intent upon the work that he had
reluctantly left to take a hurried meal.
"Tut tut tut!" he murmured to himself "and this is my son. Well well
I suppose he is not to be blamed; it is my own fault for being so heedless
of him. This is bad Edgar" he said "and yet it is my own fault rather
than thine and I am thankful that the good prior has brought your
condition before me before it is too late. There must be no more of this.
Your appearance is disgraceful both to yourself and me--to me because you
are in rags to yourself because you are dirty. I had never dreamt of
this. Henceforth all must be changed. You must be clothed as befits the
son of a gentleman you must be taught as it is right for the son of a
scholar to be and you must bear in mind that some day you will become a
gentleman yourself and I trust a learned one. I have arranged with the
good prior here that you shall go every day to the monastery to be
instructed for three hours by one of his monks. In future you will take
your meals with me and I will see that your attire is in order and that
you go decent as befits your station. What hours is he to attend Prior?"
"From nine till twelve."
"You hear--from nine to twelve. In the afternoon I will procure a teacher
for you in arms. In these days every gentleman must learn the use of his
weapons. I myself although most peacefully inclined have more than once
been forced when abroad to use them. A man who cannot do so becomes the
butt of fools and loses his self-respect."
"I shall like that sir" Edgar said eagerly. "I can play at quarter-
staff now with any boy of my size in the village."
"Well there must be no more of that" his father said. "Up to the present
you have been but a child but it is time now that you should cease to
consort with village boys and prepare for another station in life. They
may be good boys--I know naught about them--but they are not fit
associates for you. I am not blaming you" he said more kindly as he saw
the boy's face fall. "It was natural that you having no associates of
your own rank should make friends where you could find them. I trust that
it has done you no harm. Well Prior this day week the boy shall come to
you. I must get befitting clothes for him or the other pupils will think
that he is the son of a hedge tinker."
An hour later Andrew was despatched to Dartford in a cart hired in the
village with orders to bring back with him a tailor also to inquire as
to who was considered the best teacher of arms in the town and to engage
him to come up for an hour every afternoon to instruct Edgar.
Seven years had passed since that time and the rough and unkempt boy had
grown into a tall young fellow who had done fair credit to his teacher at
the convent and had profited to the full by the teaching of the old
soldier who had been his instructor in arms. His father had
unconsciously been also a good teacher to him. He had with a great
effort broken through the habits to which he had been so long wedded. A
young waiting-maid now assisted the housekeeper. The meals were no longer
hastily snatched and often eaten standing but were decently served in
order and occupied a considerable time the greater portion of which was
spent in pleasant chat either upon the scenes which Mr. Ormskirk had
witnessed abroad or in talk on the subjects the boy was studying;
sometimes also upon Mr. Ormskirk's researches and the hopes he entertained
from them; and as Edgar grew older upon the ordinary topics of the day
the grievances caused by the heavy taxation the troubles of the time and
the course of events that had led to them; for although very ignorant of
contemporary matters Mr. Ormskirk was well acquainted with the history of
the country up to the time when he had first gone abroad.
The recluse was surprised at the interest he himself came to feel in these
conversations. While endeavouring to open his son's mind he opened his
own and although when Edgar was not present he pursued his researches as
assiduously as before he was no longer lost in fits of abstraction and
would even occasionally walk down to the village when Edgar went to school
in order to continue the conversation upon which they were engaged. Edgar
on his part soon ceased to regard his father as a stranger and his
admiration for his store of information and learning served as a stimulant
to his studies for which his previous life had given him but little
For the last two years however his father had seen with regret that
there was but little hope of making a profound scholar of him and that
unless he himself could discover the solution of the problems that still
eluded him there was little chance of it being found by his successor.
Once roused he had the good sense to see that it was not in such a life
that Edgar was likely to find success and he wisely abandoned the idea of
pressing a task upon him that he saw was unfitted to the boy's nature. The
energy with which Edgar worked with his instructors in arms--who had been
already twice changed so as to give him a greater opportunity of
attaining skill with his weapons--and the interest with which the lad
listened to tales of adventure showed the direction in which his bent
lay. For the last two years his father had frequently read to him the
records of Sir Walter Manny and other chroniclers of war and warlike
adventure and impressed upon him the virtues necessary to render a man at
once a great soldier and a great man.
"If my boy" he said "you should some day go to Court and mingle in
public affairs above all things keep yourself clear of any party. Those
who cling to a party may rise with its success but such rises are ever
followed by reverses; then comes great suffering to those upon the fallen
side. The duty of an English gentleman is simple: he must work for his
country regardless altogether of personal interest. Such a man may never
rise to high rank but he will be respected. Personal honours are little
to be desired; it is upon those who stand higher than their neighbours
that the blow falls the heaviest; while the rank and file may escape
unscathed it is the nobles and the leaders whose heads fall upon the
block. I think that there are troubles in store for England. The Duke of
Gloucester overshadows the boy king but as the latter grows older he will
probably shake off his tutelage though it may be at the cost of a civil
"Then too there are the exactions of the tax-gatherers. Some day the
people will rise against them as they did in France at the time of the
Jacquerie and as they have done again and again in Flanders. At present
the condition of the common people who are but villeins and serfs is
well-nigh unbearable. Altogether the future seems to me to be dark. I
confess that being a student the storm when it bursts will affect me but
slightly but as it is clear to me that this is not the life that you will
choose it may affect you greatly; for however little you may wish it if
civil strife comes you like everyone else may be involved in it. In
such an event Edgar act as your conscience dictates. There is always
much to be said for both sides of any question and it cannot but be so in
this. I wish to lay no stress on you in any way. You cannot make a good
monk out of a man who longs to be a man-at-arms nor a warrior of a
weakling who longs for the shelter of a cloister.
"Let however each man strive to do his best in the line he has chosen
for himself. A good monk is as worthy of admiration as a good man-at-arms.
I would fain have seen you a great scholar but as it is clear that this
is out of the question seeing that your nature does not incline to study
I would that you should become a brave knight. It was with that view when
I sent you to be instructed at the convent I also gave you an instructor
in arms so that whichever way your inclinations might finally point you
should be properly fitted for it."
At fifteen all lessons were given up Edgar having by that time learnt as
much as was considered necessary in those days. He continued his exercises
with his weapons but without any strong idea that beyond defence against
personal attacks they would be of any use to him. The army was not in
those days a career. When the king had need of a force to fight in France
or to carry fire and sword into Scotland the levies were called out the
nobles and barons supplied their contingent and archers and men-at-arms
were enrolled and paid by the king. The levies however were only liable
to service for a restricted time and beyond their personal retainers the
barons in time followed the royal example of hiring men-at-arms and
archers for the campaign; these being partly paid from the royal treasury
and partly from their own revenue.
At the end of the campaign however the army speedily dispersed each man
returning to his former avocation; save therefore for the retainers who
formed the garrisons of the castles of the nobles there was no military
career such as that which came into existence with the formation of
standing armies. Nevertheless there was honour and rank to be won in the
foreign wars and it was to these the young men of gentle blood looked to
make their way. But since the death of the Black Prince matters had been
quiet abroad and unless for those who were attached to the households of
powerful nobles there was for the present no avenue towards distinction.
Edgar had been talking these matters over with the Prior of St. Alwyth
who had taken a great fancy to him and with whom he had since he had
given up his work at the convent frequently had long conversations. They
were engaged in one of these when this narrative begins:
"I quite agree with your father" the Prior continued. "Were there a just
and strong government the mass of the people might bear their present
position. It seems to us as natural that the serfs should be transferred
with the land as if they were herds of cattle for such is the rule
throughout Europe as well as here and one sees that there are great
difficulties in the way of making any alteration in this state of things.
See you were men free to wander as they chose over the land instead of
working at their vocations the country would be full of vagrants who for
want of other means for a living would soon become robbers. Then too