A March on London by 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 direction.
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.