Wealth and Power

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London has been constantly the purse of England, often the brain, but time and again she has been also the sword. Indeed, it is by the sword even more than by the purse that she became the capital of England.

We do her an injustice when we think of her wealth in war more than of her battalions. We are wrong in taking only Whittington as the type of the great Londoner Whittington with his wealth and splendid charity.

That was one side of medieval London, but there was another. Whittington traded in the ransoms of prisoners of war, but there were other City merchants who helped to take the prisoners - merchants who fought in the Crusades, men like Geoffrey the goldsmith, who was one of the leaders of the fleet which saved Portugal from the Moors, or John Philpot, the Mayor who fitted out a fleet and cleared the pirates from our coast.

Even greater in their influence on history than the merchants of London who served as equals beside the barons in the wars of medieval Europe were the unnamed battalions of Londoners who fought in the battles in England from Assendon to Worcester.

Next page: A Prize of Conquests