John maintained a menagerie of lions and other wild and strange beasts; stately peacocks swept proudly along the green swards, for the inventory of 1369 specifies seventeen peacocks, some old and some young, whereof six were white.
It was not, however, the mothers of the people crying for their children whom the courtly singer remembered in his elegy written in the year 1369; the woe to which he gave a poetic expression was that of a princely widower temporarily inconsolable for the loss of his first wife. O noble, O worthy Pedro, glory of Spain, Whom fortune held so high in majesty!
It was to meet these and other annuities to more distant chiefs, that William of Windsor, in 1369, covenanted for a larger revenue than the whole of the Anglo-Irish districts then yielded, and which led him besides to stipulate that he was to undertake no new expeditions, but to act entirely on the defensive.
This was a declaration of war; and deeds followed at once upon words. Edward III., after a short and fruitless attempt at an accommodation, assumed, on the 3d of June, 1369, the title of King of France, and ordered a levy of all his subjects between sixteen and sixty, laic or ecclesiastical, for the defence of England, threatened by a French fleet which was cruising in the Channel.
He was born on July 6th, 1369, in a humble cottage at Husinec, in South Bohemia; earned coppers in his youth, like Luther, by chanting hymns; studied at Prague University; and entered the ministry, not because he wanted to do good, but because he wanted to enjoy a comfortable living. He began, of course, as an orthodox Catholic.
He allied himself with Henry of Trastamare, listened to the grievances of the Aquitanians, summoned the Black Prince to appear and answer the complaints. In 1369, Henry defeated Pedro, took him prisoner, and murdered him in a brawl; thus perished the hopes of the English party in the south. About the same time Charles V. sent open defiance and declaration of war to England.
The appeal of the southern nobles was the beginning of a national movement which, before March, 1369, was supported by more than 900 towns, castles, and fortified places in Edward's allegiance. In April the French invaded Ponthieu and were welcomed as deliverers at Abbeville and the other towns of the county. John of Gaunt led an army during the summer from Calais southwards.
It broke out again in 1361-62, and once more in 1369. The mortality caused by the plague was only one of its disturbing consequences. The bonds of society were loosened; natural affection seemed to vanish; friend deserted friend, mothers even fled from their children; demoralization showed itself in many instances in reckless debauchery.
Without the tomb is this inscription: Here lies King Richard, who perished by a cruel death, in the year 1369. To have been happy is additional misery. Near him is the monument of his queen, daughter of the Emperor Wenceslaus. On the left hand is the tomb of Edward I., with this inscription: Here lies Edward I., who humbled the Scots. Be true to your engagements. He reigned forty-six years.
A few figures will serve vividly to illustrate this change: In 1855, 3,700 kegs of herring were imported by way of Lubeck, as against 33,000 kegs for the period 500 years previous; and in the year of war, 1369, despite the embargo with Denmark, a great consumer, the exports of herring from thirty Hanseatic ports yielded a sum of 130,000,000 marks, 40,000,000 of which fell to the share of Hamburg, then a much smaller city than Lubeck.