In the months since the dissolution of the Parliament on 14 July 1425 disagreements between the chancellor, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and the London mercantile community over tunnage and poundage, and even more seriously Beaufort’s continuing struggle for power with the Protector, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, had resulted in armed confrontation at London Bridge on 30 October. This prompted the return home from France of John, duke of Bedford, to resume the role of Protector, and by decision of the minority council Parliament was summoned to meet at Leicester, at some distance from London, whose citizens could not be trusted to remain calm where Gloucester’s interest was concerned. Beaufort’s unpopularity in the capital would undoubtedly have caused unrest had Parliament met at Westminster.
Earlier in the century Leicester had been the centre of a region where the lollard heresy had a firm hold, and that the lollards were still thought capable of giving trouble is clear from the reference which Beaufort made in his sermon opening the Parliament to the need for observing God’s law and protecting God’s flock contra perfidorum Hereticorum et Lollardorum invasionem. This was a deliberate echo of the sermon he had delivered at Leicester 12 years earlier, at the Parliament of April 1414 which had been called to the town because of the rise of heresy.
Before the Parliament met Gloucester was invited to discuss its agenda with the council at Northampton on 13 Feb., and offered an impartial enquiry of the causes of the quarrel between him and Beaufort. Although the need for harmony for the successful despatch of parliament’s business was stressed, Gloucester refused to be reconciled with his uncle in advance of the meeting, and Parliament met in an atmosphere of great tension and serious danger of open violence. Even though the lords’ retainers were told not to carry weapons (‘every man was warnyd and i cryde throughe the towne that they shulde leve hyr wepyn yn hyr ynnys that ys to saye hyr swerdys and bokelers, bowys and arowys’), they armed themselves with bludgeons, so that the Parliament was given the sobriquet, ‘the parlyment of battes’.
Beaufort as chancellor opened the session in the great hall of Leicester castle in the presence of the four-year-old king, for whom Bedford was commissioned to act. Ten days were presumably taken up by informal attempts led by Bedford to resolve the quarrel between Glo