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deeply imbued with the military spirit in the reign of John, is evident from the fact, that though exempted by special charter from being liable to be called to serve in war, they were, as William of Malmesbury assures us, always ready to assert their rights at the point of the sword, and that, for warlike purposes they constantly maintained twenty thousand armed horsemen, and forty thousand footmen. As, however, the population of London could not at this period have furnished so great a number of fighting men, it has been supposed that a considerable proportion of the above sixty thousand must have consisted of the vassals or followers of the barons residing in different parts of the country, but who were, in some way or other, connected with the city. The extraordinary military resources of the city of London at this time, satisfactorily accounts for its being able to defend itself against the assaults of king John, though all other parts of the kingdom had been reduced by him.
The naval power also of the city of London must have been very considerable at this period, considering the rude condition in which shipping matters must then have been placed. The citizens sent out a fleet against the numerous pirate vessels which then infested the mouth of the Thames, and which had well nigh totally destroyed the commerce of London, and nearly ruined its merchants. What the strength of this fleet was, is not mentioned by any of the historians of the time; but that it must have been very great is matter of fair inference from the fact, that, after an engagement with the combined forces of the pirates, it captured and destroyed no fewer than sixty-five of their ships.
Of the commercial greatness of London at this period, the writer whose name has been already mentioned thus speaks :“ London is a noble city, renowned for the opulence of her citizens, and crowded with merchants who resort thither with their various commodities."
In the commencement of the reign of Henry the Second, John's successor, a striking proof of the opulence of the city of London was exhibited. On the occasion of his queen, Eleanor, being crowned, she rode in state from the city to Westminster, at that time, and for a long period afterwards, quite detached from London. The most distinguished citizens, three hundred and sixty in number, anxious to show their loyalty to their queen, went out, preceded by an imposing band of trumpeters, to meet her majesty. They were all attired in garments of the finest silk, richly embroidered with gold, and severally mounted on horses caparisoned in a style of dazzling splendour. Every citizen in this imposing procession bore a gold or silver cup in his hand; and having joined the train of her majesty, they served the wine out of their golden and silver cups at the banquet which followed the coronation. In a few years afterwards, the necessities of Eleanor's husband became so great through his reckless extravagances, that he was compelled to pawn the crown jewels in order to raise money. None but the citizens of London could advance the needed sum. Chagrined that they should have accepted these jewels as security for the repayment of the money, Henry exclaimed in a rage, « Were the treasures of Augustus Cæsar exposed to sale, the city would buy them. These fellows, who call themselves barons, are wallowing in wealth and every species of luxury, while we (the king and royal family) labour under the want of common necessaries."
About this time the office of lord mayor begins to occupy a prominent place in the history of London. Until now the chief magistrate had been called the “portgreve," or " bailiff” of London. It seems to have been then, as now, an office of great importance, and one which was filled only by very opulent citizens. The first great display of civic profusion in the way of feasting, was made by Henry Picard, who was lord mayor in 1363 He gave a magnificent entertainment in his mansion in Cheapside, to four sovereigns, Edward the Third, of England; John, of France; David, of Scotland; and the monarch of Cyprus. The example thus set of civic feasting by the lord mayor, was speedily followed by the aldermen, who vied with each other in the sumptuousness of their entertainments. Turtle soup being at the time unknown, the favourite aldermanic dish was one of eels, served up in a peculiar way, and so expensively, that each dish cost about eighty pounds of our money. Nor were the sheriffs behind the aldermen in the article of feasting. It has been ascertained, that towards the close of the fourteenth century, the annual consumption of wine at one of their feasts was not less than from forty-five thousand to fifty thousand bottles. City feasting, indeed, at length became an enormous evil, which it was found necessary to attempt to put down. For this purpose the corporation, after stating that owing to the immense expenditure at these entertainments given by the mayoralty and shrievalty, it was with great difficulty that citizens could be induced to accept either office, proceeded to pass a by-law limiting the mayor, sheriff, alderman and commoner to one course at dinner or supper, and the course to six dishes. This by-law of the corporation was passed in 1554, but seems to have been only made to be broken; for we find, in 1573, that excessive and sumptuous feasting had again reached such a height, that the corporation felt themselves called on a second time to interfere, and to attempt to put it down. The attempt proved ineffectual: the city never forfeited its festive character. It still retains it, and probably will continue to do so for centuries to come. What, indeed, would the office of lord mayor be,
without the association of Mansion House entertainments ! Turtle soup is as necessary an element as ever in the constitution of the aldermanic character,
Of the extent of the population of London at the different intervening periods from the time of the Norman invasion down till the great fire of 1666, we have no certain knowledge. Now and then, it is true, we are enabled, from some incidental references in the writings of those who have treated of particular periods, to form a conjecture on the subject, but it is only conjecture. So late as four centuries ago, the general impression of those who have paid attention to the matter is, that the population of London did not exceed fifty-five thousand. In the middle of the sixteenth century its population is understood to have been about two hundred and fifty thousand. It is a well-ascertained fact, that in the year 1666, the year of the great fire, the number of houses was sixty-six thousand; which, giving eight individuals to each house, would have made the population five hundred and twenty-eight thousand. That the population of London did not increase more rapidly previous to the thirteenth century, is a circumstance which may be partly accounted for from the frequency with which it was visited by the plague and pestilence in the previous centuries. In 664, a plague broke out, which carried off nearly all its inhabitants. In 1348, a dreadful plague, which originated in India, and, marching westward, devastated every country through which it passed, reached London, and committed fearful havoc among its population. The ordinary burying grounds were not sufficient to contain the dead bodies. it was found necessary to open a new place of interment in the neighbourhood of the Charterhouse; and there alone upwards of fifty thousand persons were buried. . This terrible plague lasted eight years, though it raged with less violence after the first few months. In 1497, London was again visited with the plague. It broke out in September, and lasted for six or seven weeks. Immense numbers fell victims to it, but the details are not known. In six years after this period, a disease called the sweating sickness attacked the citizens, and carried off many thousands during the nine months it lasted. It appeared in a most virulent form, seldom taking more than twenty: four hours to destroy its victim. In 1528, the same dreadful disease reappeared, under still more alarming circumstances than before; for it now did its work in five or six hours. In less than forty years, and while the memory of the visitation just alluded to was yet fresh in the minds of many of the inhabitants, London was again doomed to endure the devastating effects of another plague. This was in 1563, when no fewer than seventeen thousand five hundred individuals fell victims to it—a very large number, considering the limited population of London at
that period. In 1592, it was yet once more the fate of the metropolis to be visited by a fearful plague-one which swept away from ten thousand to twelve thousand of its citizens. Another plague, which visited London in 1602, carried off upwards of thirty thousand of its inhabitants. But the most terrible visitation in this shape which London ever had to encounter, was the great plague of 1665. It broke out in Long Acre, in December. It was partly checked by the excessively cold weather of January, February, and March ; but broke out with renewed violence in April and May. In June it had reached its climax, and did not abate till October. About seventy thousand persons fell victims to it; and had not all who were in circumstances to do so, quitted he place, there can be no question that myriads more would have perished on the occasion. Such frequent and destructive visitations satisfactorily account for the fact of the population of London not increasing with that rapidity during the periods referred to, which might otherwise have been expected." How striking the contrast between London with its present population of upwards of two millions, and its seventy-five thousand, four hundred years ago!
The frequency with which fires occurred in London between the eighth and seventeenth centuries, and their generally destructive character, must also have contributed, in no small degree, to arrest its extension during the intervening period. The first great fire in London of which we have any authentic accounts, took place in 764. What the extent of its destruction was, we have no means of ascertaining. In thirty-four years afterwards, namely, in 798, London was visited by another and still more frightful conflagration, more than one half of it was destroyed on that occasion. In 893, it was subjected to a repetition of the calamity, which was nearly as extensive as the conflagration of 798. The historians of the period do not express themselves in sufficiently definite terms to enable us to say what the extent of the devastation was; but there can be little doubt that, as in the previous case, a full half of the city was burnt to the ground. The next great conflagration occurred in the year 1077, when the greater part of the city was again consumed. This destructive visitation was followed by another of a similar kind, in the short space of nine years, when, according to the chroniclers of the period, “ the greater and best part of the city was consumed,” including the cathedral of St. Paul's. That cathedral, however, was immediately afterwards rebuilt, on a much more extensive scale, and in 'a far more magnificent style, than before. In 1093, another dreadful fire broke out in London, but' no clue is given us as to the extent of its devastations. The next great metropolitan fire-great as well for the destruction of life which ensued, as for the destruction of property occurred in the year 1212. The conflagration began on the south side of Southwark bridge; but in some mysterious manner or other, another fire broke out simultaneously on the city side of the bridge. The immense concourse of persons who had assembled on the bridge to witness the progress of the devouring element, and, if possible, to aid in extinguishing it, were hemmed in. The bridge, being built of wood, was soon itself enveloped in flames. The only chance, therefore, of escape, was in throwing themselves over the bridge into boats on the river. Many thousands were in this way saved, but it was computed that, in the hurry, and confusion, and crowding into the boats, not less than three thousand persons fell into the river and perished. How affecting the thought, that in thus escaping from the destructive fury of one element-fire, it was only to meet immediate death by its opposite element-water. The amount of property, too, destroyed by this 'conflagration, was very great; it burnt down a number of houses on either side of the river.
In the space which intervened between 1212 and the great fire of 1666, London was visited by many conflagrations, but none of them were of sufficient magnitude to require a particular reference. The frequency of fires down to the close of the sixteenth century, is easily accounted for. It is to be ascribed to the fact of the houses being, until the commencement of the seventeenth century, nearly all built of wood. The frequency of fires had induced the mayor and aldermen of the city to pass a resolution that all houses should, with the view of preventing the recurrence of fires, be built of stone. The resolution, however, was not acted upon to any great extent. The much greater expensiveness of the materials was, probably, the principal reason why the resolution was not more generally adopted. Be this as it may, there were comparatively few houses of stone until the commencement of the seventeenth century.
In that century, in the year 1666, occurred the most 'terrific and most destructive fire, not only which had ever been known in London, but which had ever taken place in any part of the world. It broke out in a baker's house in Pudding Lane, at the back of the Monument, and destroyed, during the three days it lasted, eighty-nine churches, St. Paul's, the city gates, the Royal Exchange, the Custom House, Guildhall, Zion College, and a great many other public buildings. The number of streets it laid in ruins exceeded four hundred, and the number of houses 'consumed was upwards of thirteen thousand. The ruins of this colossal conflagration covered nearly four hundred and fifty aeres. It extended from the Tower to the vicinity of the Temple Church, and from the north-east gate, in Bishopsgate Street, to Holborn Bridge. Even then its further progress was only arrested by the blowing up of a number of houses. Estimates