Story Of London

London’s Lord Mayor: 1272-1399

London’s Lord Mayor: 1272-1399
Posted on Aug 19, 2002 – 07:20 AM by Bill McCann

The Lord Mayor of London is an ancient elective office which dates from the reign of Richard the Lionheart. In the intervening eight centuries more than seven hundred men and one woman have held this important post. The City of London has always jealously guarded its independence from the Crown and to this day, within the City, the Lord Mayor is second in Precedence only to the reigning Monarch. This major series of nine articles presents a complete list of the Lord Mayors, arranged chronologically according to the reigns in which they served. This article reviews the political situation of London in the fourtteenth century, presents the list of Lord Mayors in the reigns of Edward I, Edward II, Edward III and Richard II and assesses the character and achievement of each reign.

Throughout the fourteenth century the City and Westminster combined were becoming more and more the political capital of England. In the City, during the reigns of Edward II and Richard II, there were a number of constitutional changes – and experiments – which resulted in the unique system of municipal government which still exists in a fundamentally unchanged form today. As well as growing political stability, the City also enjoyed increasing prosperity from its growing importance as a commercial centre. This gave it much financial stability and influence which allowed the Mayor and Corporation to adopt a detached and self-interested approach to the political upheavals that beset the nation from time to time throughout the century. They, and everybody else, knew that from henceforth London’s support would be critical to the outcome of any dispute between the Crown and the Baronial Class. The long struggle of the City to have the Crown recognise its unique degree of autonomy in the country came to an end in the first year of Edward III’s reign when its ancient Liberties were confirmed and it was granted the bailiwick of Southwark and a monopoly of all markets within a seven mile radius of the City.

Above all else, this century saw the stabilisation of the political framework within which England would function in the succeeding centuries. The central constitutional development was the evolution of parliament. This development, and the unique character which the institution developed and still possesses, was driven and determined by war. The need to organise and finance campaigns on a far greater scale than had before been required was the central and underlying impetus. The wars of the fourteenth century posed major problems for the government placed great burdens on the citizens. The recurrent taxation combined with the seizure of food supplies for the armies placed great strains on the economy and were a source of constant complaint from the countryside. This meant that the need to obtain national consent to raise the taxes became a prime consideration. This, in turn, is what led to the development of the system of parliamentary representation that emerged at the end of the century.

Edward I was a prime factor in the emergence of parliament. It served his judicial and financial aims whilst also giving his subjects a transparent and recognisable means of obtaining redress for their grievances. Under his successor, Edward II, the influence of the aristocracy assumed an importance which led to the system by which the Baronage was required to give its consent to the decisions of parliament. The parliamentary peerage evolved rapidly out of this. The lists which were used to summon the Barons to provide the armies for war were also used to summon them to provide counsel and consent. The fact that the recurring demands for taxation could be granted only by the representatives of the subjects resulted in their regular attendance at parliamentary assemblies. This evolved into the House of Commons which, by the reign of Edward III, had gained a financial importance that greatly increased their political influence.

Edward I began his reign 16th Nov 1272
Regnal YearMayorTerm
1st Edward IWalter Hervey1273-4
2nd Edward IHenry Walles1274-5
3rd Edward IGregory Rocksley1275-80
9th Edward IHenry Walleis1281-4
12th Edward IGregory Rocksley1284-5
13th Edward IRalph de Sandwitch1285-9
17th Edward IRalph de Sandwitch
John le Breton(Warden)
18th Edward IRalph de Sandwitch (Warden)1290-3
21st Edward IJohn le Breton(Warden)1293-8
26th Edward IHenry Walleis1298-9
27th Edward IElias Russel1299-1301
29th Edward IJohn le Blund1301-07

Edward I was the anthitesis of his peace-loving father. An adept in the art of warfare he turned quickly (and confidently) to this means of tackling problems. He had an expansionist view and, in fact, no English king made greater efforts to rule the entire island of Britain. In two sharp campaigns he conquered and destroyed the independent principality of Wales early in his reign. He failed to subdue Scotland, mainly due to the efforts of Robert de Bruce. This campaign left as its legacy an enduring hostility between the English and the Scots. (In the sixteenth century the words Hammer of the Scots were inscribed on his tomb in Westminster Abbey.)In 1290 he expelled the Jews from the kingdom and was not until the seventeenth century that they were permitted to return. His wars with France, which had seized Aquitane in 1294, were an additional drain on the exchequer and at the end of his reign he left his successor with a heavy burden of debt. His contribution to the development of the english parliament has been noted above and it was he who, in 1301, established the precedent of making the heir to the throne the Prince of wales. Edward inspired fear and respect and was without doubt one of the greatest monarchs of his time. His contemporaries valued his many achievements and did not look forward to his death with any degree of optimism. His death in 1307 was greeted with genuine and widespread grief in England.

Edward II began his reign 7th July 1307
Regnal YearMayorTerm
1st Edward IIJohn le Blund1307-08
2nd Edward IINicholas de Farndone1308-9
3rd Edward IIThomas Romaine1309-10
4th Edward IIRichard Reffam1310-1
5th Edward IISir John Gisors1311-13
7th Edward IINicholas de Farndone1313-14
8th Edward IIJohn de Gisors1314-15
9th Edward IIStephen de Abyndon1315-16
10th Edward IIJohn de Wengrave1316-19
13th Edward IIHamo de Chigwell
14th Edward IINicholas de Farndone1320-1
15th Edward IIRobert de Kendale
Hamo de Chigwell
16th Edward IIHamo de Chigwell1322-3
17th Edward IINicholas de Farndon
Hamo de Chigwell
18th Edward IIHamo de Chigwell1324-6
20th Edward IIRichard de Bretoyne1326-7

Edward II is yet another monarch whose posthumous reputation owes much to the ascendancy of his enemies. His reckless promotion of his male lovers as royal favourites and the brutal manner in which he was put to death continue to excite a morbid curiosity in theatre and cinema-goers to this day.The real tragedy of Edward II was that he was a victim of a hereditary monarchy. He clearly did not have ability for kingship but as the eldest surviving son of Edward I he had no choice but to accept the crown. With it came a difficult legacy. The kingdom was at war with Scotland, led by the formidable Robert Bruce, and was nearly bankrupt. In additioon, the grat earldoms of the kingdom were held by particularly unpleasant men who were ambitious and loyal only to themselves. Edward’s infatuation with Piers Gaveston set these men against him from the outset. This led to civil war in 1312 and Edward displayed his political acumen by forming a group of allies amongst thearistocracy. However, it was an age of war and Edward was not a military leader and his inadequacy was plain for all to see at the siege of Berwick in 1319. The alienation of his Queen, Isabella of France, who fled to her brother’s court at Paris was perhaps the turning point of his tragedy. With her lover, Roger Mortimer, she succeeded in forcing his abdication in favour of their fourteen year old son. Apart from his personal tragedy, there were major issues at stake during the reign and some important constirutional developments, particularly, in the evolution of Pariament as noted above, did take place. Once important concept to emerge clearly in this reign was that of Treason. Edward treated the Welsh and the Scots as traitors rather than enemies. A precedent was set which paved the way for treason trials of the next and successive reigns. However, if Law and Order did not actually break down, there was a severe disturbance in the equilibrium of society during the reign. The wars with Scotland and France frustrated the political ambitions of many nobles and produced economic crisis and famine in the country at large. A general sense of malaise hung over the country and the ploitics of the time can only be classified as a miasma of ever-changing allegiances which were dominated by selfish ambitions and outright hatred.

Edward III began his reign 25th January 1326
Regnal YearMayorTerm
1st Edward IIIHamo de Chigwell1327-8
2nd Edward IIIJohn der Grantham1328-9
3rd Edward IIISimon Swanlond1329-30
4th Edward IIIJohn de Pulteney1330-2
6th Edward IIIJohn de Prestone1332-3
7th Edward IIIJohn de Pulteney1333-4
8th Edward IIIReginald de Conduit1334-5
9thEdward IIINicholas Woton1335-6
10th Edward IIIJohn de Pulteney1336-7
11th Edward IIIHenry Darci1337-8
12th Edward IIIReginald de Conduit1338-9
13th Edward IIIAndrew Aubery1339-41
15th Edward IIIJohn de Oxenford1341-2
16th Edward IIISimon Frauncis1342-3
16th Edward IIISimon Frauncis1342-3
17th Edward IIIJohn Hammond1343-4
18th Edward IIIJohn Hammond1344-5
19th Edward IIIRichard deLacer1345-6
20th Edward IIIGeoffrey De Wichingham1346-7
21st Edward IIIThomas Leggy1347-8
22nd Edward IIIJohn Lovekyn1348-9
23rd Edward IIIWalter Turke1349-50
24th Edward IIIRichard De Kislingbury1350-1
25th Edward IIIAndrew Aubrey1351-2
26th Edward IIIAdam Fraunceys1352-4
28th Edward IIIThomas Leggy1354-5
29th Edward IIISimon Frauncis1355-6
30th Edward IIIHenry Picard1356-7
31st Edward IIIJohn De Stodeye1357-8
32nd Edward IIIJohn Lovekyn1358-9
33rd Edward IIISimon Dolseley1359-60
34th Edward IIIJohn Wroth1360-1
35th Edward IIIJohn Pecche1361-2
36th Edward IIIStephen Cavendishe1362-3
37th Edward IIIJohn Nott1363-4
38th Edward IIIAdam De Bury1364-6
40th Edward IIIJohn Lovekyn1366-7
41st Edward IIIJames Andreu1367-8
42nd Edward IIISimon De Mordone1368-9
43rd Edward IIIJohn De Chichester1369-70
44th Edward IIIJohn Bernes1370-2
46th Edward IIIJohn Pyel1372-3
47th Edward IIIAdam De Bury1373-4
48th Edward IIIWilliam Walworth1374-5
49th Edward IIIJohn Warde1375-6
50th Edward IIIAdam Stable1376-7

Edward III was the first king to rule by a parliamentary title and became the greatest warrior king in Christendom. In the thirtieth year of his reign he famously entertained two captive kings (John of France and David of Scotland)at a series of feasts which were universally described as the most splendid of all time. His establishment of the Order of the Garter in 1348-9 asserted his undisputed claim to be at the pinnacle of European chivalry. Unlike his father, he built up a loyal following among the aristocracy and throughout the long reign, with all its political troubles, he made with no serious personal opposition from the earls. This was partly due to his ability to make astute political concessions whenever necessary. For the first time, jurisdictional authority was vested in person outside the royal family and the creation of new duchies and earldoms led to an unprecedented atmosphere of co-operation between the king and his nobles. The long struggle with France, known as the Hundred Years War was launched in this reign and Edward assumed the title King of France. The initial stages were phenomenally expensive and led to a revolt in Parliament which led to the dismissal of unpopular ministers and the development of shorter and less expensive military campaigns in France. His victory over the French in 1360 ushered in the longest respite from direct taxation which the country had enjoyed for more than a century. A grateful parliament granted him all that he wanted including the economically vital wool subsidy which formed the backbone of royal finance for many years to come.

The economy, as always was a problem which the government little understood. It was exacerbated by the advent of the plague or Black Death. In its first manifestation in 1348-50 it killed about forty percent of the population. The sharply reduced labour force led to increasing strident demands for wage rises which were strongly resisted by Crown and Baronage alike. The Ordinance of Labourers and the Sumptuary Laws were both designed to peg wages at pre-plague levels and limit personal expenditure at “appropriate” levels. Despite this, however, the end of the reign saw an economic climate which favoured workers rather than employers. This was despite the fact that government legislation and its enforcement was provoking a heightened class tension. In Parliament, there were warnings of an approaching Peasant’s Revolt.

The sheer length of the reign brought its own problems. In his last years was feeble and senile and dominated by his ambitious mistress Alice Perrers and a small clique of courtiers. France renewed hostilities in 1369 and the plague returned three times during the reign. The overall demographic of the plague was to reduce the population by at least a third. The renewed war with France was mismanaged and brought renewed and increasing demands for taxes. Matters reached a head in 1376 and the “Good Parliament” attacked the king’s ministers and mistress accusing them of corruption and peculation. Despite the social and economic upheavals this reign saw the establishment of a political stability which was unparalleled in England – for a full half century there was no civil war in the country. Edward had managed the restlessness of his Barons by successfully leading them into war and he had had satisfied the ambitions of his sons by building up their fortunes and prestige amongst the nobility. The combination of these two policies left a dangerous legacy for his successor.

Richard II began his reign 21st June 1377
Regnal YearMayorTerm
1st Richard IINicholas Brembre1377-8
2nd Richard IIJohn Philipot1378-9
3rd Richard IIJohn Hadle1379-80
4th Richard IIWilliam Walworth1380-1
5th Richard IIJohn De Northampton1381-3
7th Richard IISir Nicholas Brembre1383-6
10th Richard IINicholas Exton1386-8
12nd Richard IISir Nicholas Twyford1388-9
13rd Richard IIWilliam Venour1389-90
14th Richard IIAdam Bamme1390-1
15th Richard IIJohn Heende1391-2
16th Richard IISir Edward Dalyngrigge(Warden)
Sir Baldwin Radyngton
William Staundon
17th Richard IIJohn Hadle1393-4
18th Richard IIJohn Fresshe1394-5
19th Richard IIWilliam More1395-6v
20th Richard IIAdam Bamme1396-7
21st Richard IIRichard Whytyngdone1397-8
22nd Richard IIDrugo Barentyn1398-9

Richard II was ten when his grandfather died and he inherited the crown. His greatest prop in the early years of the reign were his uncle John of Gaunt who many suspected of harbouring ambitions of assuming the crown himself. These suspicions made him perennially unpopular and his dark shadow still haunts this period of English History in the popular imagination. He it was, as Steward of England, who organised the coronation of his young nephew. The ceremony was a brilliant affair which was designed to emphasise the sanctity and magnificence of England’s Hereditary monarchy. Following the fractiousness of the last year’s of Edward III it was also designed to usher in a new era of harmony between king and subjects. It was a pious hope. Because of the long ward with France each of the Barons now had a seasoned small army at his disposal and all were prepared to use it against enemies other than France. The war with France was not, in fact, going well and the country was also full of disbanded soldiers who were frustrated and hungry, for the ravages of the plague had all but destroyed the economy and the newly instituted Poll Tax produced a deep resentment in the countryside.

The first crisis of the reign came in 1381 with the Peasant’s Revolt led by Wat Tyler. Here the king displayed a coolness and nerve which won him many admirers. He agreed to their demands for the abolition of serfdom and the poll tax and famously confronted the rebels at Smithfield. Many of the rebels had already dispersed, trusting to his concessions and the Revolt collapsed utterly when the Lord Mayor, William Walford, killed Tyler in the sight of the king. Richard then revoked his concessions with the famous quote Serfs ye are, and serf ye shall remain.He was backed by parliament in the following November.

Richard was the first king of England to insist on the Divine Right of Kings. He appears to early formed the opinion that God had sent the king to rule the people. In the years following the suppression of the Peasant’s Revolt he became increasingly difficult to deal with. He clearly believed that anyone who disagreed with him was a traitor. He became reckless in his patronage and his generosity to Robert de Vere, his hereditary chamberlain, evoked memories of Edward II and Piers Gaveston. In 1386 he tried to defy parliament but was forced to yield and accept a commission to oversee expenditure and patronage. This he could not accept and had a panel of judges draw up a definition of the royal prerogative which made the parliamentary proceedings unlawful and those who promoted them traitors. The document was leaked and led to a short civil war which Richard lost. This left him a the mercy of his opponents and the so-called Merciless Parliament impeached and executed a number of his supporters in February 1388. During this time John of Gaunt had been in Spain and on his return peace once again returned. For the next eight years Richard, under the guidance of Gaunt, ruled peacefully and well. In 1396 he made a 28-year truce with France and, with the Hundred Years War effectively over, set about making the Crown financially independent of parliament. Unfortunately, his motive was personal revenge for 1388 rather than political development and alarm quickly spread throughout the kingdom. His sense of “Divine Right” became more pronounced and he lost all touch with reality. In 1399 he was largely deserted and an easy prey for Henry Bolingbroke and Henry Percy who forced his abdication in September 1399. A plot to rescue him from imprisonment at Pontefract castle the following January was enough to persuade Henry IV to have him murdered. This was therefore an erratic reign which, but for its relative brevity, could have inflicted great harm on a country still recovering from the economic and demographic ravages of the plague. Perhaps its one achievement was the ending of the costly wars with France. The conclusion of the reign was as inglorious as it was necessary but it, too, sowed seeds of disorder and doubt which were to foment the turbulent politics of the following century.

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