• Medieval democracy

    I’ve shamefully neglected this blog as I’ve been away writing book four in the Hildegard series.  This time it’s set in London in the autumn of 1386 when the barons and Richard’s wicked uncles make the first move to seize his crown.

    In those days nobody was elected to parliament by the people but representatives were commanded to attend when the king chose.  They came from all parts of the realm to the palace of Westminster just like now.   It was usually an excuse for the king to ask for money.  And it was usual for the two chambers to resist.

    King Richard’s Chancellor was impeached – probably the first use of the word with its modern meaning – with the accusation that he had been embezzling money from the royal coffers.    He was easier to call to account than the king at that point.  Things changed later, of course.

    This parliament is special for another reason.  It is the only one Geoffrey Chaucer was called to attend.  I don’t know what he did wrong but he was never called again.  I expect he got sick of the corruption, the buying and selling of support, that went on. Maybe he was too frightened to show his face. He failed to vote in support of his then benefactor, the Duke of Lancaster, Gaunt himself, a show of independence that would nark Gaunt no end.  Woodstock and Arundel wouldn’t be too pleased either.  It would be safer to get out of town until their rage had blown itself out.

    Hildegard gets thoroughly embroiled and it’s serious – politics then was a matter of life and death.  The executioner’s block cast its shadow over London.  The stakes were high.  Dynasties were made and destroyed.  Nothing less than the succession to the crown of England was the prize…