England in the 14th century (wars at home and abroad). The Hundred Years’ war. The peasants’ revolt of 1381. The War of Roses.
By the 14th century the process of centralization of the king’s power was completing. The same methods of government were applied to all parts of England. The old contradictions (ïðîòèâîðå÷èÿ) between the Normans and Saxons were gradually disappearing.
The Norman king made London their residence. It became the largest town in England. The London dialect of the English language became the central dialect. It was the London dialect from which the national language developed. Other towns were also growing. The townspeople, that is the craftsmen (ðåìåñëåííèê) and tradesmen (êóïöû), who later formed the class of bourgeoisie, were becoming an important social force. They became rich by trading with Flanders (a country across English Channel that is now called Belgium). The English traders shipped wool to Flanders, where it was sold as raw material. Flanders had busy towns, and the weavers (òêà÷è) who lived and worked there, produced the finest cloth. Flemish ports were the world marked of northern Europe and commercial rivals of England. Flemish weavers were even invited to England to each the English their trade.
The Hundred Year’s War. In the first half of the 14th century the king of England was Edward III. He was a powerful king, and he wanted to become King of France as well because some of the French provinces, such as Normandy, had once belonged to England and others had been the property of Edward’s mother, a French princess. Meanwhile the feudal lords in France were making plans to seize (çàõâàòèòü) the free towns of Flanders. For England it would mean losing its wool market. Saying that he wished to defend English trade, Edward III declared war on France in 1337. This war is now called the Hundred Year’s War because it lasted over a hundred years. At first England was successful in the war. The English fleet (âîåííî-ìîðñêîé ôëîò) defeated in French fleet in the English Channel. Then the English also won battles on land. The English had certain advantages over the French. They had cannons (ïóøêà), which had just been invited and which the French army did not have. Besides, the English archers could shoot their arrows from a distance, whereas the French knights, armed with swords, could only fight in hand-to-hand combats (ðóêîïàøíûå ñõâàòêè). When the thunder of the first cannons had scared the horses of the enemy……….., the arrows of the English archers reached the French knights before they could use their broad swords.
The peasants’ revolt of 1381. The ruin of France and the femine that followed caused an epidemic of plague. It was so infectious that there was no escape from it. People died within 24 hours. From France the epidemic was brought over to England. The English soldiers called it the Black Death. By the year 1348 one third of England’s population had perished.
The position of the peasants was very hard. They had to give part of their harvest to the lord. They also had to work on the lord’s fields regularly. After the epidemic of the Black Death, when the population of England had diminished (ñîêðàòèëîñü) by one-third, there were not enough laborers to work on the lords’ fields. So the surviving peasants were made to work on the lord’s fields much more. They were paid for their work, but the payment was very little. As years went by, the French feudals united against their enemy, and the English were beginning to lose their advantage. As the king needed money for the war, Parliament voted for extra taxes (ïðîãîëîñîâàòü çà äîïîëíèòåëüíûå íàëîãè), which made the life of peasants still harder. In 1381 the peasants revolted. Sixty thousand people from the counties of Essex and Wat Tyler and Jack Staw. In London they broke open the prisons, destroyed many buildings and killed many royal officials. They came to the royal palace and demanded to see the king. The king of England Richard II was then a 14-year-old boy. He boldly appeared before the crowd of rebels (ïîâñòàíöû), listened to them and promised to fulfill their demands. But the king did not keep his promise. Wat Tyler was treacherously (ïðåäàòåëüñêè) murdered and rebellion was suppressed.
The war of the Roses. The Hundred Years’ War, in which England lost practically all its lands in France, ended in 1453, but there was no peace in the country. Long before the end of this war, a feudal struggle (áîðüáà) had broken out between the descendants (ïîòîìêè) of Edward III. When the Magna Carta was signed in 1215, the Norman barons were united with Saxon nobles and the growing bourgeoisie of the towns, and they took part in governing the country. During the Hundred Years’ War some of the barons, who were professional soldiers, built castles with high walls and kept private armies of thousands of men. They wished to lead their armies over to France to seize lands there. These big barons formed small group of their own. They thought more about their “family politics” than about national politics and were a real threat to the king’s power. Realizing the danger which these big barons represented to the Crown, Edward III tried to marry his sons to their daughters, the heiresses of these Houses. Thus representatives of the royal family became relatives of many big barons. But that did not help to strengthen the position of the House of Plantagenets. During the reign of Richard II (1377-1399), the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, seized the crown and became the first king of the Lancaster dynasty, Henry IV (1399-1413).
The interests of the House of Lancaster supported by the big barons collided with the interests of the lesser barons and merchants of the towns, who supported the House of York. The feudal struggle grew into an open war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. The Lancasters had red rose in their coat of arms, the Yorkists had a white rose. That’s why the war between them got the name of the War of the Rose. This war, which lasted for thirty years (1455-1485), turned into a bitter struggle for the Crown, in which each party murdered every likely heir to the throne of the opposite party. It was dark time for England, a time of anarchy, when the kings and nobles were busy fighting and murdering each other and had no time to take care of the common people, who suffered greatly. The war of the Roses ended with the battle of Bosworth in 1485. King Richard III of the House of York was killed in the battle, and, right in the field, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, was proclaimed king of England. The war was over at last, and everybody signed with relief. Henry Tudor was head of the House of Lancaster. A year later, in 1486, he married the Yorkist heiress Princess Elisabeth of York. This marriage was of great political importance. It meant the union of red rose of the House of Lancaster with the white rose of the House of York.