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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/428

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John
John
422

afterwards Earl of Northumberland, a former opponent, but now a faithful partisan of John of Gaunt.

The parliament which met on 27 Jan. 1377 was almost entirely at the service of Lancaster. Some few members who had sat in the Good parliament raised their voices against the evil treatment of their late speaker, but they were overawed. The policy of the late parliament was reversed, and pardons were sued for those who had been impeached. But the disgrace of Wykeham was deeply resented by the clergy. The struggle between the clerical party and the feudal party was renewed. Convocation met on 8 Feb., and refused to proceed to business unless Wykeham should be present. As a compromise he was allowed to attend, and the clergy then prepared to attack their powerful enemy through an indirect channel.

Force of circumstances had brought together and combined in a common cause two men of very different characters, John of Gaunt and the reformer Wycliffe. 'Lancaster, whose object was to humiliate, had found a strange ally in Wyclif, whose aim was to purify the church. . . . Regarding almost with sympathy the court of Rome as the natural counterbalance to the power of the bishops at home, corrupt in his life, narrow and unscrupulous in his policy, he obtained some of his ablest and best support from a secular priest of irreproachable character. . . . Lancaster, feudal to the core, resented the official arrogance of the prelates and the large share which they drew to themselves of the temporal power. Wyclif dreamt of restoring, by apostolical poverty, its long-lost apostolical purity to the clergy. From points so opposite and with aims so contradictory were they united to reduce the wealth and humble the pride of the English hierarchy' (Fascic. Zizan. p. xxvi). Their connection was of some standing. Wycliffe had been engaged as one of the envoys in the congress at Bruges in 1374 on the negotiations regarding papal provisions, and probably owed his selection to his patron the duke. He was now summoned by convocation, and on 19 Feb. appeared before the bishops in the lady chapel of St. Paul's. Lancaster, who recognised that the attack was directed against himself, accepted the challenge, and accompanied the reformer to his trial, together with the new earl-marshal. The temper of both sides was ready to break out on slight provocation. The rough conduct of Percy first drew on him a rebuke from Courtenay, bishop of London, and a dispute which followed regarding Wycliffe's right to sit during trial, in which Lancaster joined and threatened personal violence to the bishop, brought matters to a crisis. A riot of the Londoners ensued, and the meeting broke up in confusion. The duke's unpopularity with the citizens is said to have been heightened by a proposal which had been made in parliament, while he was presiding, to appoint a captain in place of the mayor, and to extend the marshal's jurisdiction to the city. The next day the people attacked Percy's house, and sought for him and for the duke at Lancaster's palace, the Savoy. The St. Albans chronicler is very minute in his particulars of the riot. Lancaster and his friend were dining at the house of the merchant, John of Ypres, when the news of the outbreak reached them, and had some difficulty in escaping to take refuge with the young prince at Kennington. The rioters wounded to death a priest who used abusive words of Peter De la Mare, the popular speaker of the commons, maltreated one of Lancaster's retainers, who was recognised by his badge, and reversed the duke's coat of arms as a mark of indignity. At length they dispersed on the intervention of their bishop. An immediate attempt by the Princess of Wales to bring about a reconciliation between the city and the duke is said to have failed; and to the time of the king's death overtures from the principal citizens, who had taken alarm at the excesses of the rioters and were now anxious to make peace, had but indifferent success.

Parliament had finished its work by imposing a poll-tax, a new form of raising money which a few years later led to insurrection, and at the end of February it was dismissed. Now came Lancaster's opportunity. The chief citizens were summoned before the king at Shene, and the mayor and aldermen were replaced by others. Even after this, and after receiving yet other tokens of submission, Lancaster still regarded the Londoners with disfavour. But on 21 June Edward died. The citizens then sent a deputation to the young king, and besought his intervention. Lancaster's position was entirely altered by his father's death, and he could not decline this mediation; a shortlived reconciliation was thereupon effected.

At the coronation Lancaster officiated as steward of England; but immediately afterwards, being deprived of his castle of Hereford, and conscious of being an object of dislike to the new government, he retired from court to Kenilworth. However, he managed, to secure for some of his supporters seats in the council which was chosen to carry on the government during Richard's minority.

Meanwhile the war with France had been resumed on the expiration of the truce. The