The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part B. - From Henry III. to Richard III.
by David Hume
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The duke of York was left guardian of the realm; a place to which his birth entitled him, but which both his slender abilities, and his natural connections with the duke of Lancaster, rendered him utterly incapable of filling in such a dangerous emergency. Such of the chief nobility as were attached to the crown, and could either have seconded the guardian's good intentions, or have overawed his infidelity, had attended the king into Ireland; and the efforts of Richard's friends were every where more feeble than those of his enemies. The duke of York, however, appointed the rendezvous of his forces at St. Albans, and soon assembled an army of forty thousand men; but found them entirely destitute of zeal and attachment to the royal cause, and more inclined to join the party of the rebels. He hearkened therefore very readily to a message from Henry, who entreated him not to oppose a loyal and humble supplicant in the recovery of his legal patrimony; and the guardian even declared publicly that he would second his nephew in so reasonable a request. His army embraced with acclamations the same measures; and the duke of Lancaster, reenforced by them, was now entirely master of the kingdom. He hastened to Bristol, into which some of the king's ministers had thrown themselves; and soon obliging that place to surrender, he yielded to the popular wishes, and without giving them a trial, ordered the earl of Wiltshire, Sir John Bussy, and Sir Henry Green, whom he there took prisoners, to be led to immediate execution.

The king, receiving intelligence of this invasion and insurrection, hastened over from Ireland, and landed in Milford Haven with a body of twenty thousand men: but even this army, so much inferior to the enemy, was either overawed oy the general combination of the kingdom, or seized with the same spirit of disaffection; and they gradually deserted him, till he found that he had not above six thousand men who followed his standard. It appeared, therefore, necessary to retire secretly from this small body, which served only to expose him to danger; and he fled to the Isle of Anglesea, where he purposed to embark either for Ireland or France, and there await the favorable opportunities which the return of his subjects to a sense of duty, or their future discontents against the duke of Lancaster, would probably afford him. Henry, sensible of the danger, sent to him the earl of Northumberland, with the strongest professions of loyalty and submission; and that nobleman, by treachery and false oaths, made himself master of the king's person, and carried him to his enemy at Flint Castle. Richard was conducted to London by the duke of Lancaster, who was there received with the acclamations of the mutinous populace. It is pretended that the recorder met him on the road, and in the name of the city entreated him, for the public safety, to put Richard to death, with all his adherents who were prisoners; but the duke prudently determined to make many others participate in his guilt, before he would proceed to these extremities. For this purpose he issued writs of election in the king's name, and appointed the immediate meeting of a parliament at Westminster.

Such of the peers as were most devoted to the king, were either fled or imprisoned; and no opponents, even among the barons, dared to appear against Henry, amidst that scene of outrage and violence which commonly attends revolutions, especially in England during those turbulent ages, It is also easy to imagine, that a house of commons, elected during this universal ferment, and this triumph of the Lancastrian party, would be extremely attached to that cause, and ready to second every suggestion of their leaders. That order, being an yet of too little weight to stem the torrent, was always carried along with it, and served only to increase the violence which the public interest required it should endeavor to control. The duke of Lancaster, therefore, sensible that he should be entirely master, began to carry his views to the crown itself; and he deliberated with his partisans concerning the most proper means of effecting his daring purpose. He first extorted a resignation from Richard;[*] but as he knew that this deed would plainly appear the result of force and fear, he also purposed, notwithstanding the danger of the precedent to himself and his posterity, to have him solemnly deposed in parliament for his pretended tyranny and misconduct. A charge, consisting of thirty-three articles, was accordingly drawn up against him, and presented to that assembly.[**]

If we examine these articles, which are expressed with extreme acrimony against Richard, we shall find that, except some rash speeches, which are imputed to him,[***] and of whose reality, as they are said to have passed in private conversation, we may reasonably entertain some doubt,—the chief amount of the charge is contained in his violent conduct during the two last years of his reign, and naturally divides itself into two principal heads. The first and most considerable is the revenge which he took on the princes and great barons who had formerly usurped, and still persevered in controlling and threatening his authority; the second is the violation of the laws and general privileges of his people. But the former, however irregular in many of its circumstances, was fully supported by authority of parliament, and was but a copy of the violence which the princes and barons themselves, during their former triumph, had exercised against him and his party. The detention of Lancaster's estate was, properly speaking a revocation, by parliamentary authority, of a grace which the King himself had formerly granted him. The murder of Glocester (for the secret execution, however merited, of that prince certainly deserves this appellation) was a private deed formed not any precedent, and implied not any usurped or arbitrary power of the crown which could justly give umbrage to the people. It really proceeded from a defect of power in the king, rather than from his ambition; and proves that, instead of being dangerous to the constitution, he possessed not even the authority necessary for the execution of the laws.

* Knyghton, p. 2744. Otterborne, p. 212.

** Tyrrel, vol. iii. part ii. p. 1008, from the records, Knyghton, p, 2746. Otterborne, p. 214.

*** Art 16, 26.

Concerning the second head of accusation, as it mostly consists of general facts, was framed by Richard's inveterate enemies, and was never allowed to be answered by him or his friends, it is more difficult to form a judgment. The greatest part of these grievances imputed to Richard, seems to be the exertion of arbitrary prerogatives; such as the dispensing power,[*] levying purveyance,[**] employing the mareschal's court,[***] extorting loans,[****] granting protections from lawsuits;[*****] prerogatives, which, though often complained of, had often been exercised by his predecessors, and still continued to be so by his successors. But whether his irregular acts of this kind were more frequent, and injudicious and violent than usual, or were only laid hold of and exaggerated by the factions to which the weakness of his reign had given birth, we are not able at this distance to determine with certainty. There is, however, one circumstance in which his conduct is visibly different from that of his grandfather: he is not accused of having imposed one arbitrary tax, without consent of parliament, during his whole reign;[******] scarcely a year passed during the reign of Edward, which was free from complaints with regard to this dangerous exertion of authority. But, perhaps, the ascendant which Edward had acquired over the people, together with his great prudence, enabled him to make a use very advantageous to his subjects of this and other arbitrary prerogatives, and rendered them a smaller grievance in his hands, than a less absolute authority in those of his grand son.

* Art 13,17,18.

** Art. 22.

*** Art 27.

**** Art, 14.

***** Art. 16.

****** We learn from Cotton (p. 362) that the king, by his chancellor, told the commons, "that they were sunderly bound to him, and namely, in forbearing to charge them with dismes and fifteens, the which he meant no more to charge them in his own person," These words "no more" allude to the practice of his predecessors; he had not himself imposed any arbitrary taxes: even the parliament, in the articles of his deposition, though they complain of heavy taxes, affirm not that they were imposed illegally or by arbitrary will.

This is a point which it would be rash for us to decide positively on either side; but it is certain, that a charge drawn up by the duke of Lancaster, and assented to by a parliament, situated in those circumstances, forms no manner of presumption with regard to the unusual irregularity or violence of the king's conduct in this particular.[*] [16]

* See note P, at the end of the volume.

When the charge against Richard was presented to the parliament, though it was liable, almost in every article, to objections, it was not canvassed, nor examined, nor disputed in either house, and seemed to be received with universal approbation. One man alone, the bishop of Carlisle, had the courage, amidst this general disloyalty and violence, to appear in defence of his unhappy master, and to plead his cause against all the power of the prevailing party. Though some topics employed by that virtuous prelate may seem to favor too much the doctrine of passive obedience, and to make too large a sacrifice of the rights of mankind, he was naturally pushed into that extreme by his abhorrence of the present licentious factions; and such intrepidity, as well as disinterestedness of behavior, proves that, whatever his speculative principles were his heart was elevated far above the meanness and abject submission of a slave. He represented to the parliament, that all the abuses of government which could justly be imputed to Richard, instead of amounting to tyranny, were merely the result of error, youth, or misguided counsel, and admitted of a remedy more easy and salutary than a total subversion of the constitution. That even had they been much more violent and dangerous than they really were, they had chiefly proceeded from former examples of resistance, which, making the prince sensible of his precarious situation, had obliged him to establish his throne by irregular and arbitrary expedients. That a rebellious disposition in subjects was the principal cause of tyranny in kings; laws could never secure the subject, which did not give security to the sovereign; and if the maxim of inviolable loyalty, which formed the basis of the English government, were once rejected, the privileges belonging to the several orders of the state, instead of being fortified by that licentiousness, would thereby lose the surest foundation of their force and stability. That the parliamentary deposition of Edward II., far from making a precedent which could control this maxim, was only an example of successful violence; and it was sufficiently to be lamented, that crimes were so often committed in the world, without establishing principles which might justify and authorize them.

That even that precedent, false and dangerous as it was, could never warrant the present excesses; which were so much greater, and which would entail distraction and misery on the nation, to the latest posterity. That the succession, at least, of the crown, was then preserved inviolate: the lineal heir was placed on the throne; and the people had an opportunity, by their legal obedience to him, of making atonement for the violence which they had committed against his predecessor. That a descendant of Lionel, duke of Clarence, the elder brother of the late duke of Lancaster, had been declared in parliament successor to the crown; he had left posterity; and their title, however it might be overpowered by present force and faction, could never be obliterated from the minds of the people. That if the turbulent disposition alone of the nation had overturned the well-established throne of so good a prince as Richard, what bloody commotions must ensue, when the same cause was united to the motive of restoring the legal and undoubted heir to his authority? That the new government intended to be established, would stand on no principle; and would scarcely retain any pretence by which it could challenge the obedience of men of sense and virtue. That the claim of lineal descent was so gross, as scarcely to deceive the most ignorant of the populace: conquest could never be pleaded by a rebel against his sovereign; the consent of the people had no authority in a monarchy not derived from consent, but established by hereditary right; and however the nation might be justified in deposing the misguided Richard, it could never have any reason for setting aside his lawful heir and successor, who was plainly innocent. And that the duke of Lancaster would give them but a bad specimen of the legal moderation which might be expected from his future government, if he added,[**typo?] to the crime of his past rebellion, the guilt of excluding the family, which, both by right of blood and by declaration of parliament, would, in case of Richard's demise or voluntary resignation, have been received as the undoubted heirs of the monarchy.[*]

* Sir John Heywarde, p. 101.

All the circumstances of this event, compared to those which attended the late revolution in 1688, show the difference between a great and civilized nation, deliberately vindicating its established privileges, and a turbulent and barbarous aristocracy, plunging headlong from the extremes of one faction into those of another. This noble freedom of the bishop of Carlisle, instead of being applauded, was not so much as tolerated: he was immediately arrested by order of the duke of Lancaster, and sent a prisoner to the abbey of St. Albans. No further debate was attempted: thirty-three long articles of charge were, in one meeting, voted against Richard; and voted unanimously by the same peers and prelates who, a little before, had voluntarily and unanimously authorized those very acts of violence of which they now complained. That prince was deposed by the suffrages of both houses; and the throne being now vacant, the duke of Lancaster stepped forth, and having crossed himself on the forehead and on the breast, and called upon the name of Christ,[*] he pronounced these words, which we shall give in the original language, because of their singularity.

"In the name of Fadher, Son, and Holy Ghost, I Henry of Lancaster, challenge this rewme of Ynglande, and the croun with all the membres, and the appurtenances; als I that am descendit by right line of the blode, coming fro the gude king Henry therde, and throge that right that God of his grace hath sent me, with helpe of kyn, and of my frendes to recover it; the which rewme was in poynt to be ondone by defaut of governance, and ondoying of the gude lawes."[**]

In order to understand this speech, it must be observed, that there was a silly story, received among some of the lowest vulgar, that Edmond, earl of Lancaster, son of Henry III., was really the elder brother of Edward I.; but that, by reason of some deformity in his person, he had been postponed in the succession, and his younger brother imposed on the nation in his stead. As the present duke of Lancaster inherited from Edmond by his mother, this genealogy made him the true heir of the monarchy, and it is therefore insinuated in Henry's speech: but the absurdity was too gross to be openly avowed either by him or by the parliament. The case is the same with regard to his right of conquest: he was a subject who rebelled against his sovereign: he entered the kingdom with a retinue of no more than sixty persons.

* Cotton, p. 389.

** Knyghton, p. 2757. could not therefore be the conqueror of England; and this right is accordingly insinuated, not avowed. Still there is a third claim, derived from his merits in saving the nation from tyranny and oppression; and this claim is also insinuated: but as it seemed, by its nature, better calculated as a reason for his being elected king by a free choice, than for giving him an immediate right of possession, he durst not speak openly even on this head; and to obviate any notion of election, he challenges the crown as his due, either by acquisition or inheritance. The whole forms such a piece of jargon and nonsense, as is almost without example: no objection, however, was made to it in parliament: the unanimous voice of lords and commons placed Henry on the throne: he became king, nobody could tell how or wherefore: the title of the house of Marche, formerly recognized by parliament, was neither invalidated nor repealed, but passed over in total silence: and as a concern for the liberties of the people seems to have had no hand in this revolution, their right to dispose of the government, as well as all their other privileges, was left precisely on the same footing as before. But Henry having, when he claimed the crown, dropped some obscure hint concerning conquest, which, it was thought, might endanger these privileges, he soon after made a public declaration, that he did not thereby intend to deprive any other of his franchises or liberties; which was the only circumstances where we shall find meaning or common sense in all these transactions.

The subsequent events discover the same headlong violence of conduct, and the same rude notions of civil government. The deposition of Richard dissolved the parliament: it was necessary to summon a new one: and Henry, in six days after, called together, without any new election, the same members; and this assembly he denominated a new parliament. They were employed in the usual task of reversing every deed of the opposite party. All the acts oL the last parliament of Richard, which had been confirmed by their oaths, and by a papal bull, were abrogated: all the acts which had passed in the parliament where Glocester prevailed: which had also been confirmed by their oaths, but which had been abrogated by Richard, were anew established:[**] the answers of Tresifian and the other judges, which a parliament had annulled, but which a new parliament and new judges had approved, here received a second condemnation.

* Knyghton, p. 2759. Otterborne, p. 220.

** Cotton, p. 390.

The peers who had accused Glocester, Arundel, and Warwick, and who had received higher titles for that piece of service, were all of them degraded from their new dignities; even the practice of prosecuting appeals in parliament, which bore the air of a violent confederacy against an individual, rather than of a legal indictment, was wholly abolished, and trials were restored to the course of common law.* The natural effect of this conduct was, to render the people giddy with such rapid and perpetual changes, and to make them lose all notions of right and wrong in the measures of government.

The earl of Northumberland made a motion, in the house of peers, with regard to the unhappy prince whom they had deposed. He asked them, what advice they would give the king for the future treatment of him; since Henry was resolved to spare his life. They unanimously replied, that he should be imprisoned under a secure guard, in some secret place, and should be deprived of all commerce with any of his friends or partisans. It was easy to foresee, that he would not long remain alive in the hands of such barbarous and sanguinary enemies. Historians differ with regard to the manner in which he was murdered. It was long the prevailing opinion, that Sir Piers Exton, and others of his guards, fell upon him in the Castle of Pomfret, where he was confined, and despatched him with their halberts. But it is more probable that he was starved to death in prison; and after all sustenance was denied him, he prolonged his unhappy life, it is said, for a fortnight, before he reached the end of his miseries. This account is more consistent with the story, that his body was exposed in public, and that no marks of violence were observed upon it. He died in the thirty-fourth year of his age, and the twenty-third of his reign. He left no posterity, either legitimate or illegitimate.

All the writers who have transmitted to us the history of Richard, lived during the reigns of the Lancastrian princes, and candor requires, that we should not give entire credit to the reproaches which they have thrown upon his memory. But after making all proper allowances, he still appears to have been a weak prince, and unfit for government, less for want of natural parts and capacity, than of solid judgment and a good education. He was violent in his temper, profuse in his expenses, fond of idle show and magnificence, devoted to favorites, and addicted to pleasure; passions, all of them the most inconsistent with a prudent economy, and consequently dangerous in a limited and mixed government. Had he possessed the talents of gaining, and still more those of overawing, his great barons, he might have escaped all the misfortunes of his reign, and been allowed to carry much further his oppressions over the people, if he really was guilty of any, without their daring to rebel, or even to murmur against him. But when the grandees were tempted, by his want of prudence and of vigor, to resist his authority, and execute the most violent enterprises upon him, he was naturally led to seek an opportunity of retaliation: justice was neglected; the lives of the chief nobility were sacrificed; and all these enormities seem to have proceeded less from a settled design of establishing arbitrary power, than from the insolence of victory, and the necessities of the king's situation. The manners indeed of the age were the chief source of such violence: laws, which were feebly executed in peaceable times, lost all their authority during public convulsions: both parties were alike guilty: or, if any difference may be remarked between them, we shall find, that the authority of the crown, being more legal, was commonly carried, when it prevailed, to less desperate extremities, than was that of the aristocracy.

On comparing the conduct and events of this reign with those of the preceding, we shall find equal reason to admire Edward and to blame Richard; but the circumstance of opposition, surely, will not lie in the strict regard paid by the former to national privileges, and the neglect of them by the latter. On the contrary, the prince of small abilities, as he felt his want of power, seems to have been more moderate in this respect than the other. Every parliament assembled during the reign of Edward, remonstrates against the exertion of some arbitrary prerogative or other: we hear not any complaints of that kind during the reign of Richard, till the assembling of his last parliament, which was summoned by his inveterate enemies, which dethroned him, which framed their complaints during the time of the most furious convultions, and whose testimony must therefore have, on that account, much less authority with every equitable judge.[*] Both these princes experienced the encroachments of the great upon their authority. Edward, reduced to necessities, was obliged to make an express bargain with his parliament and to sell some of his prerogatives for present supply; but as they were acquainted with his genius and capacity, they ventured not to demand any exorbitant concessions, or such as were incompatible with regal and sovereign power: the weakness of Richard tempted the parliament to extort a commission, which, in a manner, dethroned the prince, and transferred the sceptre into the hands of the nobility. The events of these encroachments were also suitable to the character of each. Edward had no sooner gotten the supply, than he departed from the engagements which had induced the parliament to grant it; he openly told his people, that he had but dissembled with them when he seemed to make them these concessions; and he resumed and retained all his prerogatives. But Richard, because he was detected in consulting and deliberating with the judges on the lawfulness of restoring the constitution, found his barons immediately in arms against him; was deprived of his liberty; saw his favorites, his ministers, his tutor, butchered before his face, or banished and attainted; and was obliged to give way to all this violence. There cannot be a more remarkable contrast between the fortunes of two princes: it were happy for society, did this contrast always depend on the justice or injustice of the measures which men embrace; and not rather on the different degrees of prudence and vigor with which those measures are supported.

There was a sensible decay of ecclesiastical authority during this period. The disgust which the laity had received from the numerous usurpations both of the court of Rome and of their own clergy, had very much weaned the kingdom from superstition; and strong symptoms appeared, from time to time, of a general desire to shake off the bondage of the Romish church. In the committee of eighteen, to whom Richard's last parliament delegated their whole power, there is not the name of one ecclesiastic to be found; a neglect which is almost without example, while the Catholic religion subsisted in England.[**] [17]

* Peruse, in this view, the Abridgment of the Records, by Sir Robert Cotton, during these two reigns.

** See note Q, at the end of the volume.

The aversion entertained against the established church soon found principles, and tenets, and reasonings, by which it could justify and support itself. John Wickliffe, a secular priest, educated at Oxford, began in the latter end of Edward III. to spread the doctrine of reformation by his discourses, sermons, and writings; and he made many disciples among men of all ranks and stations. He seems to have been a man of parts and learning; and has the honor of being the first person in Europe that publicly called in question those principles which had universally passed for certain and undisputed during so many ages. Wickliffe himself, as well as his disciples, who received the name of Wickliffites, or Lollards, was distinguished by a great austerity of life and manners; a circumstance common to almost all those who dogmatize in any new way; both because men who draw to them the attention of the public, and expose themselves to the odium of great multitudes, are obliged to be very guarded in their conduct, and because few who have a strong propensity to pleasure or business, will enter upon so difficult and laborious an undertaking. The doctrines of Wickliffe being derived from his search into the Scriptures and into ecclesiastical antiquity, were nearly the same with those which were propagated by the reformers in the sixteenth century: he only carried some of them farther than was done by the more sober part of these reformers. He denied the doctrine of the real presence, the supremacy of the church of Rome, the merit of monastic vows: he maintained, that the Scriptures were the sole rule of faith; that the church was dependent on the state, and should be reformed by it; that the clergy ought to possess no estates; that the begging friars were a nuisance, and ought not to be supported;[*] that the numerous ceremonies of the church were hurtful to true piety: he asserted that oaths were unlawful, that dominion was founded in grace, that everything was subject to fate and destiny, and that all men were preordained either to eternal salvation or reprobation,[**] From the whole of his doctrines, Wickliffe appears to have been strongly tinctured with enthusiasm, and to have been thereby the better qualified to oppose a church whose chief characteristic is superstition.

* Walsing. p. 191, 208, 283, 284. Spel. Concil. vol. ii. p. 680.

** Harpsfield, p. 668, 673, 674. Waldens. lib. iii. art. i. cap. 8.

The propagation of these principles gave great alarm to the clergy; and a bull was issued by Pope Gregory XI. for taking Wickliffe into custody, and examining into the scope of his opinions.[*] Courteney, bishop of London, cited him before his tribunal; but the reformer had now acquired powerful protectors, who screened him from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The duke of Lancaster, who then governed the kingdom, encouraged the principles of Wickliffe; and he made no scruple, as well as Lord Piercy, the mareschal, to appear openly in court with him, in order to give him countenance upon his trial: he even insisted, that Wickliffe should sit in the bishop's presence while his principles were examined: Courteney exclaimed against the insult: the Londoners, thinking their prelate affronted, attacked the duke and mareschal, who escaped from their hands with some difficulty.[**] And the populace, soon after, broke into the houses of both these noblemen, threatened their persons, and plundered their goods. The bishop of London had the merit of appeasing their fury and resentment.

The duke of Lancaster, however, still continued his protection to Wickliffe, during the minority of Richard; and the principles of that reformer had so far propagated themselves, that when the pope sent to Oxford a new bull against these doctrines, the university deliberated for some time whether they should receive the bull; and they never took any vigorous measures in consequence of the papal orders.[***] Even the populace of London were at length brought to entertain favorable sentiments of this reformer: when he was cited before a synod at Lambeth, they broke into the assembly, and so overawed the prelates, who found both the people and the court against them, that they dismissed him without any further censure.

* Spel. Concil. vol. ii. p. 621. Walsing. p. 201, 202, 203.

** Harpsfield in Hist. Wickl. p. 683.

*** Wood's Ant. Oxon. lib. i. p. 191, etc. Walsing, p 201.

The clergy, we may well believe, were more wanting in power than in inclination to punish this new heresy which struck at all their credit, possessions, and authority. But there was hitherto no law in England by which the secular arm was authorized to support orthodoxy; and the ecclesiastics endeavored to supply the defect by an extraordinary and unwarrantable artifice. In the year 1381, there was an act passed, requiring sheriffs to apprehend the preachers of heresy and their abettors; but this statute had been surreptitiously obtained by the clergy, and had the formality of an enrolment without the consent of the commons. In the subsequent session, the lower house complained of the fraud; affirmed, that they had no intention to bind themselves to the prelates further than their ancestors had done before them; and required that the pretended statute should be repealed, which was done accordingly.* But it is remarkable, that notwithstanding this vigilance of the commons, the clergy had so much art and influence, that the repeal was suppressed, and the act, which never had any legal authority, remains to this day upon the statute book;[*] though the clergy still thought proper to keep it in reserve and not proceed to the immediate execution of it.

But besides this defect of power in the church, which saved Wickliffe, that reformer himself, notwithstanding his enthusiasm, seems not to have been actuated by the spirit of martyrdom; and in all subsequent trials before the prelates, he so explained away his doctrine by tortured meanings, as to render it quite innocent and inoffensive.[**] Most of his followers imitated his cautious disposition, and saved themselves either by recantations or explanations. He died of a palsy, in the year 1385, at his rectory of Lutterworth, in the county of Leicester; and the clergy, mortified that he should have escaped their vengeance, took care, besides assuring the people of his eternal damnation, to represent his last distemper as a visible judgment of Heaven upon him for his multiplied heresies and impieties.[***]

The proselytes, however, of Wickliffe's opinions still increased in England:[****] some monkish writers represent one half of the kingdom as infected by those principles: they were carried over to Bohemia by some youth of that nation, who studied at Oxford: but though the age seemed strongly disposed to receive them, affairs were not yet fully ripe for this great revolution; and the finishing blow to ecclesiastical power was reserved to a period of more curiosity, literature, and inclination for novelties.

* Cotton's Abridg. p. 285.

** 5 Richard II. chap. 5.

*** Walsing. p. 206. Knyghton, p. 2655, 2656.

**** Knyghton, p. 2663.

Meanwhile the English parliament continued to check the clergy and the court of Rome, by more sober and more legal expedients. They enacted anew the statute of "provisors," and affixed higher penalties to the transgression of it, which, in some instances, was even made capital.[*] The court of Rome had fallen upon a new device, which increased their authority over the prelates: the pope, who found that the expedient of arbitrarily depriving them was violent, and liable to opposition, attained the same end by transferring such of them as were obnoxious to poorer sees, and even to nominal sees, "in partibus infidelium." It was thus that the archbishop of York, and the bishops of Durham and Chichester, the king's ministers, had been treated after the prevalence of Glocester's faction: the bishop of Carlisle met with the same fate after the accession of Henry IV. For the pope always joined with the prevailing powers, when they did not thwart his pretensions. The parliament, in the reign of Richard, enacted a law against this abuse: and the king made a general remonstrance to the court of Rome against all those usurpations, which he calls "horrible excesses" of that court.[**]

It was usual for the church, that they might elude the mortmain act, to make their votaries leave lands in trust to certain persons, under whose name the clergy enjoyed the benefit of the bequest: the parliament also stopped the progress of this abuse.[***] In the seventeenth of the king, the commons prayed, "that remedy might be had against such religious persons as cause their villains to marry free women inheritable, whereby the estate comes to those religious hands by collusion."[****] This was a new device of the clergy.

* 13 Richard II. cap. 3. 16 Richard II. cap. 4.

** Rymer, vol. vii. p. 672.

**** Knyghton, p. 27, 38. Cotton, p. 355.

**** Cotton, p. 355.

The papacy was at this time somewhat weakened by a schism, which lasted during forty years, and gave great scandal to the devoted partisans of the holy see. After the pope had resided many years at Avignon, Gregory XI. was persuaded to return to Rome; and upon his death, which happened in 1380, the Romans, resolute to fix, for the future, the seat of the papacy in Italy, besieged the cardinals in the conclave, and compelled them, though they were mostly Frenchmen, to elect Urban VI., an Italian, into that high dignity. The French cardinals, as soon as they recovered their liberty, fled from Rome, and protesting against the forced election, chose Robert, son of the count of Geneva, who took the name of Clement VII., and resided at Avignon. All the Kingdoms of Christendom, according to their several interests and inclinations, were divided between these two pontiffs. The court of France adhered to Clement, and was followed by its allies, the king of Castile and the king of Scotland: England of course was thrown into the other party, and declared for Urban. Thus the appellation of Clementines and Urbanists distracted Europe for several years; and each party damned the other as schismatics, and as rebels to the true vicar of Christ. But this circumstance, though it weakened the papal authority, had not so great an effect as might naturally be imagined. Though any king could easily, at first, make his kingdom embrace the party of one pope or the other, or even keep it some time in suspense between them, he could not so easily transfer his obedience at pleasure: the people attached themselves to their own party, as to a religious opinion; and conceived an extreme abhorrence to the opposite party, whom they regarded as little better than Saracens, or infidels. Crusades were even undertaken in this quarrel; and the zealous bishop of Norwich, in particular, led over, in 1382 near sixty thousand bigots into Flanders against the Clementines; but after losing a great part of his followers, he returned with disgrace into England.[*] Each pope, sensible, from this prevailing spirit among the people, that the kingdom which once embraced his cause would always adhere to him, boldly maintained all the pretensions of his see, and stood not much more in awe of the temporal sovereigns, than if his authority had not been endangered by a rival.

We meet with this preamble to a law enacted at the very beginning of this reign: "Whereas divers persons of small garrison of land or other possessions do make great retinue of people, as well of esquires as of others, in many parts of the realm, giving to them hats and other livery of one suit by year taking again towards them the value of the same livery, or percase the double value, by such covenant and assurance, that every of them shall maintain other in all quarrels, be they reasonable or unreasonable, to the great mischief and oppression of the people, etc."[**]

* Froissard, liv. i. chap. 133, 134. Walsing. p. 298, 299, 300. etc. Knyghtor., p. 2671.

** I Richard, II. chap. 7

This preamble contains a true picture of the state of the kingdom. The laws had been so feebly executed, even during the long, active, and vigilant reign of Edward III., that no subject could trust to their protection. Men openly associated themselves, under the patronage of some great baron, for their mutual defence. They wore public badges, by which their confederacy was distinguished. They supported each other in all quarrels, iniquities, extortions, murders, robberies, and other crimes. Their chief was more their sovereign than the king himself; and their own band was more connected with them than their country. Hence the perpetual turbulence, disorders, factions, and civil wars of those times: hence the small regard paid to a character, or the opinion of the public: hence the large discretionary prerogatives of the crown, and the danger which might have ensued from the too great limitation of them. If the king had possessed no arbitrary powers, while all the nobles assumed and exercised them, there must have ensued an absolute anarchy in the state.

One great mischief attending these confederacies was, the extorting from the king pardons for the most enormous crimes. The parliament often endeavored, in the last reign, to deprive the prince of this prerogative; but, in the present, they were content with an abridgment of it. They enacted, that no pardon for rapes, or for murder from malice prepense, should be valid, unless the crime were particularly specified in it.[*] There were also some other circumstances required for passing any pardon of this kind: an excellent law, but ill observed, like most laws that thwart the manners of the people, and the prevailing customs of the times.

* 13 Richard II. chap. 1

It is easy to observe, from these voluntary associations among the people, that the whole force of the feudal system was in a manner dissolved, and that the English had nearly returned, in that particular, to the same situation in which they stood before the Norman conquest. It was, indeed, impossible that that system could long subsist under the perpetual revolutions to winch landed property is every where subject. When the great feudal baronies were first erected, the lord lived in opulence in the midst of his vassals: he was in a situation to protect, and cherish and defend them: the quality of patron naturally united itself to that of superior: and these two principles of authority mutually supported each other. But when by the various divisions and mixtures of property, a man's superior came to live at a distance from him, and could no longer give him shelter or countenance, the tie gradually became more fictitious than real: new connections from vicinity or other causes were formed: protection was sought by voluntary services and attachment: the appearance of valor spirit, abilities in any great man, extended his interest very far, and if the sovereign were deficient in these qualities, he was no less, if not more exposed to the usurpations of the aristocracy, than even during the vigor of the feudal system.

The greatest novelty introduced into the civil government during this reign was the creation of peers by patent. Lord Beauchamp, of Holt, was the first peer that was advanced to the house of lords in this manner. The practice of levying benevolences is also first mentioned in the present reign. This prince lived in a more magnificent manner than perhaps any of his predecessors or successors. His household consisted of ten thousand persons: he had three hundred in his kitchen; and all the other offices were furnished in proportion.[*] It must be remarked, that this enormous train had tables supplied them at the king's expense, according to the mode of that age. Such prodigality was probably the source of many exactions by purveyors, and was one chief reason of the public discontents.

* Harding: this poet says, that he speaks from the authority of a clerk of the green cloth.



{1399.} The English had so long been familiarized to the hereditary succession of their monarchs, the instances of departure from it had always borne such strong symptoms of injustice and violence, and so little of a national choice or election, and the returns to the true line had ever been deemed such fortunate incidents in their history, that Henry was afraid, lest, in resting his title on the consent of the people, he should build on a foundation to which the people themselves were not accustomed, and whose solidity they would with difficulty be brought to recognize. The idea too of choice seemed always to imply that of conditions, and a right of recalling the consent upon any supposed violation of them; an idea which was not naturally agreeable to a sovereign, and might in England be dangerous to the subjects, who, lying so much under the influence of turbulent nobles, had ever paid but an imperfect obedience even to their hereditary princes. For these reasons Henry was determined never to have recourse to this claim; the only one on which his authority could consistently stand: he rather chose to patch up his title, in the best manner he could, from other pretensions: and in the end, he left himself, in the eyes of men of sense, no ground of right but his present possession; a very precarious foundation, which, by its very nature, was liable to be overthrown by every faction of the great, or prejudice of the people. He had indeed a present advantage over his competitor: the heir of the house of Mortimer, who had been declared in parliament heir to the crown, was a boy of seven years of age:[*] his friends consulted his safety by keeping silence with regard to his title: Henry detained him and his younger brother in an honorable custody at Windsor Castle.

* Dugdale, vol. i. p. 151.

But he had reason to dread that, in proportion as that nobleman grew to man's estate, he would draw to him the attachment of the people, and make them reflect on the fraud, violence, and injustice by which he had been excluded from the throne. Many favorable topics would occur in his behalf: he was a native of England; possessed an extensive interest from the greatness and alliances of his family; however criminal the deposed monarch, this youth was entirely innocent; he was of the same religion, and educated in the same manners with the people, and could not be governed by any separate interest: these views would all concur to favor his claim; and though the abilities of the present prince might ward off any dangerous revolution, it was justly to be apprehended, that his authority could with difficulty be brought to equal that of his predecessors.

Henry, in his very first parliament, had reason to see the danger attending that station which he had assumed, and the obstacles which he would meet with in governing an unruly aristocracy, always divided by faction, and at present inflamed with the resentments consequent on such recent convulsions. The peers, on their assembling, broke out into violent animosities against each other; forty gauntlets, the pledges of furious battle, were thrown on the floor of the house by noblemen who gave mutual challenges; and "liar" and "traitor" resounded from all quarters. The king had so much authority with these doughty champions, as to prevent all the combats which they threatened; but he was not able to bring them to a proper composure, or to an amicable disposition towards each other.

{1400.} It was not long before these passions broke into action. The earls of Rutland, Kent, and Huntingdon, and Lord Spenser, who were now degraded from the respective titles of Albemarle, Surrey, Exeter, and Glocester, conferred on them by Richard, entered into a conspiracy, together with the earl of Salisbury and Lord Lumley, for raising an insurrection, and for seizing the king's person at Windsor;[*] but the treachery of Rutland gave him warning of the danger. He suddenly withdrew to London; and the conspirators, who came to Windsor with a body of five hundred horse, found that they had missed this blow, on which all the success of their enterprise depended.

* Walsing. p. 362. Otterborne. p. 224.

Henry appeared, next day, at Kingston upon Thames, at the head of twenty thousand men, mostly drawn from the city; and his enemies, unable to resist his power, dispersed themselves, with a view of raising their followers in the several counties which were the seat of their interest. But the adherents of the king were hot in the pursuit, and every where opposed themselves to their progress. The earls of Kent and Salisbury were seized at Cirencester by the citizens, and were next day beheaded without further ceremony, according to the custom of the times.[*] The citizens of Bristol treated Spenser and Lumley in the same manner. The earl of Huntingdon, Sir Thomas Blount, and Sir Benedict Sely, who were also taken prisoners, suffered death, with many others of the conspirators, by orders from Henry. And when the quarters of these unhappy men were brought to London, no less than eighteen bishops and thirty-two mitred abbots joined the populace, and met them with the most indecent marks of joy and exultation.

But the spectacle the most shocking to every one, who retained any sentiment either of honor or humanity, still remained. The earl of Rutland appeared, carrying on a pole the head of Lord Spenser, his brother-in-law, which he presented in triumph to Henry as a testimony of his loyalty. This infamous man, who was soon after duke of York by the death of his father, and first prince of the blood, had been instrumental in the murder of his uncle, the duke of Glocester;[**] had then deserted Richard, by whom he was trusted; had conspired against the life of Henry, to whom he had sworn allegiance; had betrayed his associates, whom he had seduced into this enterprise; and now displayed, in the face of the world, these badges of his multiplied dishonor.

* Walsing. p. 363. Ypod. Neust. p. 556.

** Dugdale, vol. ii. p. 171.

{1401.} Henry was sensible that, though the execution of these conspirators might seem to give security to his throne, the animosities which remain after such bloody scenes, are always dangerous to royal authority; and he therefore determined not to increase, by any hazardous enterprise, those numerous enemies with whom he was every where environed. While a subject, he was believed to have strongly imbibed all the principles of his father, the duke of Lancaster, and to have adopted the prejudices which the Lollards inspired against the abuses of the established church: but finding, himself possessed of the throne by so precarious a title, he thought superstition a necessary implement of public authority; and he resolved, by every expedient, to pay court to the clergy. There were hitherto no penal laws enacted against heresy; an indulgence which had proceeded, not from a spirit of toleration in the Romish church, but from the ignorance and simplicity of the people, which had rendered them unfit either for starting or receiving any new or curious doctrines, and which needed not to be restrained by rigorous penalties. But when the learning and genius of Wickliffe had once broken, in some measure, the fetters of prejudice, the ecclesiastics called aloud for the punishment of his disciples; and the king, who was very little scrupulous in his conduct, was easily induced to sacrifice his principles to his interest, and to acquire the favor of the church by that most effectual method, the gratifying of their vengeance against opponents. He engaged the parliament to pass a law for that purpose: it was enacted, that when any heretic, who relapsed, or refused to abjure his opinions, was delivered over to the secular arm by the bishop or his commissaries, he should be committed to the flames by the civil magistrate before the whole people.[*] This weapon did not long remain unemployed in the hands of the clergy: William Sautre, rector of St. Osithes in London, had been condemned by the convocation of Canterbury; his sentence was ratified by the house of peers; the king issued his writ for the execution; [**] and the unhappy man atoned for his erroneous opinions by the penalty of fire. This is the first instance of that kind in England; and thus one horror more was added to those dismal scenes which at that time were already but too familiar to the people.

But the utmost precaution and prudence of Henry could not shield him from those numerous inquietudes which assailed him from every quarter. The connections of Richard with the royal family of France, made that court exert its activity to recover his authority, or revenge his death. [***]

* 2 Henry IV. chap. vii.

** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 178.

*** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 123.

But though the confusions in England tempted the French to engage in some enterprise by which they might distress their ancient enemy, the greater confusions which they experienced at home, obliged them quickly to accommodate matters; and Charles, content with recovering his daughter from Henry's hands, laid aside his preparations, and renewed the truce between the kingdoms.[*] The attack of Guienne was also an inviting attempt, which the present factions that prevailed among the French obliged them to neglect. The Gascons, affectionate to the memory of Richard, who was born among them, refused to swear allegiance to a prince that had dethroned and murdered him; and the appearance of a French army on their frontiers would probably have tempted them to change masters.[**] But the earl of Worcester, arriving with some English troops, gave countenance to the partisans of Henry, and overawed their opponents. Religion too was here found a cement to their union with England. The Gascons had been engaged by Richard's authority to acknowledge the pope of Rome; and they were sensible that, if they submitted to France, it would be necessary for them to pay obedience to the pope of Avignon, whom they had been taught to detest as a schismatic. Their principles on this head were too fast rooted to admit of any sudden or violent alteration.

The revolution in England proved likewise the occasion of an insurrection in Wales. Owen Glendour, or Glendourduy, descended from the ancient princes of that country, had become obnoxious on account of his attachment to Richard: and Reginald, Lord Gray of Ruthyn, who was closely connected with the new king, and who enjoyed a great fortune in the marches of Wales, thought the opportunity favorable for oppressing his neighbor, and taking possession of his estate. [***] Glendour, provoked at the injustice, and still more at the indignity, recovered possession by the sword; [****] Henry sent assistance to Gray; [*****] the Welsh took part with Glendour: a troublesome and tedious war was kindled, which Glendour long sustained by his valor and activity, aided by the natural strength of the country, and the untamed spirit of its inhabitants.

* Rymer, vol. viii. p. 142, 152, 219.

** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 110, 111.

*** Vita Ric. Sec. p. 171, 172

**** Walsing, p. 364.

***** Vita Rir. Sec. p. 172, 173.

As Glendour committed devastations promiscuously on all the English, he infested the estate of the earl of Marche; and Sir Edmund Mortimer, uncle to that nobleman, led out the retainers of the family, and gave battle to the Welsh chieftain: his troops were routed, and he was taken prisoner:[*] at the same time, the earl himself, who had been allowed to retire to his castle of Wigmore, and who, though a mere boy, took the field with his followers, fell also into Glendour's hands, and was carried by him into Wales.[**] As Henry dreaded and hated all the family of Marche, he allowed the earl to remain in captivity; and though that young nobleman was nearly allied to the Piercies, to whose assistance he himself had owed his crown, he refused to the earl of Northumberland permission to treat of his ransom with Glendour.

The uncertainty in which Henry's affairs stood during a long time with France, as well as the confusions incident to all great changes in government, tempted the Scots to make incursions into England; and Henry, desirous of taking revenge upon them, but afraid of rendering his new government unpopular by requiring great supplies from his subjects, summoned at Westminster a council of the peers, without the commons, and laid before them the state of his affairs.[***] The military part of the feudal constitution was now much decayed: there remained only so much of that fabric as affected the civil rights and properties of men: and the peers here undertook, but voluntarily, to attend the king in an expedition against Scotland, each of them at the head of a certain number of his retainers. [****] Henry conducted this army to Edinburgh, of which he easily made himself master; and he there summoned Robert III. to do homage to him for his crown.[*****] But finding that the Scots would neither submit nor give him battle, he returned in three weeks, after making this useless bravado; and he disbanded his army.

{1402.} In the subsequent season, Archibald, earl of Douglas, at the head of twelve thousand men, and attended by many of the principal nobility of Scotland, made an irruption into England, and committed devastations on the northern counties. On his return home, he was overtaken by the Piercies, at Homeldom, on the borders of England, and a fierce battle ensued, where the Scots were totally routed. Douglas himself was taken prisoner; as was Mordac, earl of Fife, son of the duke of Albany, and nephew of the Scottish king, with the earls of Angus, Murray, and Orkney, and many others of the gentry and nobility. [******] When Henry received intelligence of this victory, he sent the earl of Northumberland orders not to ransom his prisoners, which that nobleman regarded as his right by the laws of war received in that age. The king intended to detain them, that he might be able by their means to make an advantageous peace with Scotland; but by this policy he gave a fresh disgust to the family of Piercy.

* Dugdale, vol. i. p. 150.

** Dugdale, vol. i. p. 151.

*** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 125, 126.

**** Rymer, Vol. viii. p.. 125.

***** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 155, 156, etc.

****** Walsing p. 336. Vita Ric. Sec p. 180. Chron. Otterborne. p. 237.

{1403.} The obligations which Henry had owed to Northumberland, were of a kind the most likely to produce ingratitude on the one side, and discontent on the other. The sovereign naturally became jealous of that power which had advanced him to the throne; and the subject was not easily satisfied in the returns which he thought so great a favor had merited. Though Henry, on his accession, had bestowed the office of constable on Northumberland for life,[*] and conferred other gifts on that family, these favors were regarded as their due; the refusal of any other request was deemed an injury.

* Rymer, vol. viii. p. 89.

The impatient spirit of Harry Piercy, and the factious disposition of the earl of Worcester, younger brother of Northumberland, inflamed the discontents of that nobleman; and the precarious title of Henry tempted him to seek revenge, by overturning that throne which he had at first established. He entered into a correspondence with Glendour: he gave liberty to the earl of Douglas, and made an alliance with that martial chief: he roused up all his partisans to arms; and such unlimited authority at that time belonged to the great families, that the same men, whom, a few years before, he had conducted against Richard, now followed his standard in opposition to Henry. When war was ready to break out, Northumberland was seized with a sudden illness at Berwick: and young Piercy, taking the command of the troops, marched towards Shrewsbury, in order to join his forces with those of Glendour, The king had happily a small army on foot, with which he had intended to act against the Scots; and knowing the importance of celerity in all civil wars, he instantly hurried down, that he might give battle to the rebels. He approached Piercy near Shrewsbury, before that nobleman was joined by Glendour; and the policy of one leader, and impatience of the other, made them hasten to a general engagement.

The evening before the battle, Piercy sent a manifesto to Henry, in which he renounced his allegiance, set that prince at defiance, and, in the name of his father and uncle, as well as his own, enumerated all the grievances of which, he pretended, the nation had reason to complain; He upbraided him with the perjury of which he had been guilty, when, on landing at Ravenspur, he had sworn upon the Gospels, before the earl of Northumberland, that he had no other intension than to recover the duchy of Lancaster, and that he would ever remain a faithful subject to King Richard. He aggravated his guilt in first dethroning, then murdering that prince, and in usurping on the title of the house of Mortimer, to whom, both by lineal succession, and by declarations of parliament, the throne, when vacant by Richard's demise, did of right belong. He complained of his cruel policy in allowing the young earl of Marche, whom he ought to regard as his sovereign, to remain a captive in the hands of his enemies, and in even refusing to all his friends permission to treat of his ransom; He charged him again with perjury in loading the nation with heavy taxes, after having sworn that, without the utmost necessity, he would never levy any impositions upon them. And he reproached him with the arts employed in procuring favorable elections into parliament; arts which he himself had before imputed as a crime to Richard, and which he had made one chief reason of that prince's arraignment and deposition.[*] This manifesto was well calculated to inflame the quarrel between the parties: the bravery of the two leaders promised an obstinate engagement; and the equality of the armies, being each about twelve thousand men, a number which was not unmanageable by the commanders, gave reason to expect a great effusion of blood on both sides, and a very doubtful issue to the combat.

We shall scarcely find any battle in those ages where the shock was more terrible and more constant. Henry exposed his person in the thickest of the fight: his gallant son, whose military achievements were afterwards so renowned, and who here performed his novitiate in arms, signalized himself on his father's footsteps; and even a wound, which he received in the face with tin arrow, could not oblige him to quit the field.[**]

* Hall, fol. 21, 22, etc.

** T. Livii, p. 3

Piercy supported that fame which he had acquired in many a bloody combat. And Douglas, his ancient enemy, and now his friend, still appeared his rival amidst the horror and confusion of the day. This nobleman performed feats of valor which are almost incredible: he seemed determined that the king of England should that day fall by his arm: he sought him all over the field of battle: and as Henry, either to elude the attacks of the enemy upon his person, or to encourage his own men by the belief of his presence every where, had accoutred several captains in the royal garb, the sword of Douglas rendered this honor fatal to many.[*] But while the armies were contending in this furious manner, the death of Piercy, by an unknown hand, decided the victory, and the royalists prevailed. There are said to have fallen that day on both sides near two thousand three hundred gentlemen; but the persons of greatest distinction were on the king's; the earl of Stafford, Sir Hugh Shirley, Sir Nicholas Gausel, Sir Hugh Mortimer, Sir John Massey, Sir John Calverly. About six thousand private men perished, of whom two thirds were of Piercy's army.[**] The earls of Worcester and Douglas were taken prisoners: the former was beheaded at Shrewsbury; the latter was treated with the courtesy due to his rank and merit.

The earl of Northumberland, having recovered from his sickness, had levied a fresh army, and was on his march to join his son; but being opposed by the earl of Westmoreland, and hearing of the defeat at Shrewsbury, he dismissed his forces, and came with a small retinue to the king at York.[***] He pretended that his sole intention in arming was to mediate between the parties: Henry thought proper to accept of the apology, and even granted him a pardon for his offence: all the other rebels were treated with equal lenity; and, except the earl of Worcester and Sir Richard Vernon, who were regarded as the chief authors of the insurrection, no person engaged in this dangerous enterprise seems to have perished by the hands of the executioner.[****]

* Walsing. p. 366, 367. Hall, fol. 22.

** Chron. Otterborne, p. 224. Ypod. Neust. p. 560.

*** Chron. Otterborne, p. 225.

**** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 353.

{1405.} But Northumberland, though he had been pardoned, knew that he never should be trusted, and that he was too powerful to be cordially forgiven by a prince whose situation gave him such reasonable grounds of jealousy. It was the effect either of Henry's vigilance or good fortune, or of the narrow genius of his enemies, that no proper concert was ever formed among them: they rose in rebellion one after another; and thereby afforded him an opportunity of suppressing singly those insurrections which, had they been united, might have proved fatal to his authority. The earl of Nottingham, son of the duke of Norfolk, and the archbishop of York, brother to the earl of Wiltshire, whom Henry, then duke of Lancaster, had beheaded at Bristol, though they had remained quiet while Piercy was in the field, still harbored in their breast a violent hatred against the enemy of their families; and they determined, in conjunction with the earl of Northumberland, to seek revenge against him. They betook themselves to arms before that powerful nobleman was prepared to join them; and publishing a manifesto, in which they reproached Henry with his usurpation of the crown and the murder of the late king, they required that the right line should be restored, and all public grievances be redressed. The earl of Westmoreland, whose power lay in the neighborhood, approached them with an inferior force at Shipton, near York; and being afraid to hazard an action, he attempted to subdue them by a stratagem, which nothing but the greatest folly and simplicity on their part could have rendered successful. He desired a conference with the archbishop and earl between the armies: he heard their grievances with great patience: he begged them to propose the remedies: he approved of every expedient which they suggested: he granted them all their demands: he also engaged that Henry should give them entire satisfaction: and when he saw them pleased with the facility of his concessions, he observed to them, that, since amity was now in effect restored between them, it were better on both sides to dismiss their forces, which otherwise would prove an insupportable burden to the country. The archbishop and the earl of Nottingham immediately gave directions to that purpose: their troops disbanded upon the field: but Westmoreland, who had secretly issued contrary orders to his army, seized the two rebels without resistance, and carried them to the king, who was advancing with hasty marches to suppress the insurrection.[*]

* Walsing. p. 373. Otterborne, p 255.

The trial and punishment of an archbishop might have proved a troublesome and dangerous undertaking, had Henry proceeded regularly, and allowed time for an opposition to form itself against that unusual measure: the celerity of the execution alone could here render it safe and prudent. Finding that Sir William Gascoigne, the chief justice, made some scruple of acting on this occasion, he appointed Sir William Fulthorpe for judge; who, without any indictment, trial, or defence pronounced sentence of death upon the prelate which was presently executed. This was the first instance in England of a capital punishment inflicted on a bishop; whence the clergy of that rank might learn that their crimes, more than those of laies, were not to pass with impunity. The earl of Nottingham was condemned and executed in the same summary manner: but though many other persons of condition, such as Lord Falconberg, Sir Ralph Hastings, Sir John Colville, were engaged in this rebellion, no others seem to have fallen victims to Henry's severity.

The earl of Northumberland, on receiving this intelligence, fled into Scotland, together with Lord Bardolf;[*] and the king, without opposition, reduced all the castles and fortresses belonging to these noblemen. He thence turned his arms against Glendour, over whom his son, the prince of Wales, had attained some advantages; but that enemy, more troublesome than dangerous, still found means of defending himself in his fastnesses, and of eluding, though not resisting, all the force of England.

{1407.} In a subsequent season, the earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardolf, impatient of their exile, entered the north, in hopes of raising the people to arms; but found the country in such a posture as rendered all their attempts unsuccessful. Sir Thomas Rokesby, sheriff of Yorkshire, levied some forces, attacked the invaders at Bramham, and gained a victory, in which both Northumberland and Bardolf were slain.** This prosperous event, joined to the death of Glendour, which happened soon after, freed Henry from all his domestic enemies; and this prince, who had mounted the throne by such unjustifiable means, and held it by such an exceptionable title, had yet, by his valor, prudence, and address, accustomed the people to the yoke, and had obtained a greater ascendant over his haughty barons, than the law alone, not supported by these active qualities, was ever able to confer.

* Walsing. p. 374.

** Walsing, p. 377. Chron. Otterb. p. 261.

About the same time, fortune gave Henry an advantage over that neighbor, who, by his situation, was most enabled to disturb his government. Robert III., king of Scots, was a prince, though of slender capacity, extremely innocent and inoffensive in his conduct: but Scotland, at that time, was still less fitted than England for cherishing, or even enduring sovereigns of that character. The duke of Albany, Robert's brother, a prince of more abilities, at least of a more boisterous and violent disposition, had assumed the government of the state; and, not satisfied with present authority, he entertained the criminal purpose of extirpating his brother's children, and of acquiring the crown to his own family. He threw in prison David, his eldest nephew; who there perished by hunger: James alone, the younger brother of David, stood between that tyrant and the throne; and King Robert, sensible of his son's danger, embarked him on board a ship, with a view of sending him to France, and intrusting him to the protection of that friendly power. Unfortunately, the vessel was taken by the English; Prince James, a boy about nine years of age, was carried to London; and though there subsisted at that time a truce between the kingdoms, Henry refused to restore the young prince to his liberty. Robert, worn out with cares and infirmities, was unable to bear the shock of this last misfortune; and he soon after died, leaving the government in the hands of the duke of Albany.[*] Henry was now more sensible than ever of the importance of the acquisition which he had made: while he retained such a pledge, he was sure of keeping the duke of Albany in dependence; or, if offended, he could easily, by restoring the true heir, take ample revenge upon the usurper. But though the king, by detaining James in the English court, had shown himself somewhat deficient in generosity, he made ample amends by giving that prince an excellent education, which afterwards qualified him, when he mounted the throne, to reform in some measure the rude and barbarous manners of his native country.

* Buchanan, lib. x.

The hostile dispositions which of late had prevailed between France and England, were restrained, during the greater part of this reign, from appearing in action. The jealousies and civil commotions with which both nations were disturbed, kept each of them from taking advantage of the unhappy situation of its neighbor. But as the abilities and good fortune of Henry had sooner been able to compose the English factions, this prince began, in the latter part of his reign, to look abroad, and to foment the animosities between the families of Burgundy and Orleans, by which the government of France was, during that period, so much distracted. He knew that one great source of the national discontent against his predecessor was the inactivity of his reign; and he hoped, by giving a new direction to the restless and unquiet spirits of his people, to prevent their breaking out in domestic wars and disorders.

{1411.} That he might unite policy with force, he first entered into treaty with the duke of Burgundy, and sent that prince a small body of troops, which supported him against his enemies.[*] Soon after, he hearkened to more advantageous proposals made him by the duke of Orleans, and despatched a greater body to support that party.

{1412.} But the leaders of the opposite factions having made a temporary accommodation, the interests of the English were sacrificed; and this effort of Henry proved, in the issue, entirely vain and fruitless. The declining state of his health, and the shortness of his reign, prevented him from renewing the attempt, which his more fortunate son carried to so great a length against the French monarchy.

Such were the military and foreign transactions of this reign: the civil and parliamentary are somewhat more memorable, and more worthy of our attention. During the two last reigns, the elections of the commons had appeared a circumstance of government not to be neglected; and Richard was even accused of using unwarrantable methods for procuring to his partisans a seat in that house. This practice formed one considerable article of charge against him in his deposition; yet Henry scrupled not to tread in his footsteps, and to encourage the same abuses in elections. Laws were enacted against such undue influence; and even a sheriff was punished for an iniquitous return which he had made:[**] but laws were commonly at that time very ill executed; and the liberties of the people, such as they were, stood on a surer basis than on laws and parliamentary elections.

* Walsing. p. 380.

** Cotton, p. 429.

Though the house of commons was little able to withstand the violent currents which perpetually ran between the monarchy and the aristocracy, and though that house might easily be brought, at a particular time, to make the most unwarrantable concessions to either, the general institutions of the state still remained invariable; the interests of the several members continued on the same footing; the sword was in the hands af the subject; and the government, though thrown into temporary disorder, soon settled itself on its ancient foundations.

During the greater part of this reign, the king was obliged to court popularity; and the house of commons, sensible of their own importance, began to assume powers which had not usually been exercised by their predecessors. In the first year of Henry, they procured a law, that no judge, in concurring with any iniquitous measure, should be excused by pleading the orders of the king, or even the danger of his* own life from the menaces of the sovereign.[*] In the second year, they insisted on maintaining the practice of not granting any supply before they received an answer to their petitions, which was a tacit manner of bargaining with the prince.[**] In the fifth year, they desired the king to remove from his household four persons who had displeased them, among whom was his own confessor, and Henry, though he told them that he knew of no offence which these men had committed, yet, in order to gratify them, complied with their request.[***] In the sixth year, they voted the king supplies, but appointed treasurers of their own, to see the money disbursed for the purposes intended, and required them to deliver in their accounts to the house.[****] In the eighth year, they proposed, for the regulation of the government and household, thirty important articles, which were all agreed to; and they even obliged all the members of council, all the judges, and all the officers of the household, to swear to the observance of them.[*****] The abridger of the records remarks the unusual liberties taken by the speaker and the house during this period.[******] But the great authority of the commons was but a temporary advantage, arising from the present situation. In a subsequent parliament, when the speaker made his customary application to the throne for liberty of speech, the king, having now overcome all his domestic difficulties, plainly told him that he would have no novelties introduced, and would enjoy his prerogatives. But on the whole, the limitations of the government seem to have been more sensibly felt, and more carefully maintained, by Henry than by any of his predecessors.

* Cotton, p. 364.

** Cotton, p. 406.

*** Cotton, p. 426.

**** Cotton, p. 438.

***** Cotton, p. 456, 457.

****** Cotton, p 462.

During this reign, when the house of commons were at any time brought to make unwary concessions to the crown they also showed their freedom by a speedy retractation of them. Henry, though he entertained a perpetual and well grounded jealousy of the family of Mortimer, allowed not their name to be once mentioned in parliament; and as none of the rebels had ventured to declare the earl of Marche king, he never attempted to procure, what would not have been refused him, an express declaration against the claim of that nobleman; because he knew that such a declaration, in the present circumstances, would have no authority, and would only serve to revive the memory of Mortimer's title in the minds of the people. He proceeded in his purpose after a more artful and covert manner. He procured a settlement of the crown on himself and his heirs male,[*] thereby tacitly excluding the females, and transferring the Salic law into the English government. He thought that, though the house of Plantagenet had at first derived their title from a female, this was a remote event, unknown to the generality of the people; and if he could once accustom them to the practice of excluding women, the title of the earl of Marche would gradually be forgotten and neglected by them. But he was very unfortunate in this attempt. During the long contests with France, the injustice of the Salic law had been so much exclaimed against by the nation, that a contrary principle had taken deep root in the minds of men; and it was now become impossible to eradicate it. The same house of commons, therefore, in a subsequent session, apprehensive that they had overturned the foundations of the English government, and that they had opened the door to more civil wars than might ensue even from the irregular elevation of the house of Lancaster, applied with such earnestness for a new settlement of the crown, that Henry yielded to their request, and agreed to the succession of the princesses of his family;[**] a certain proof that nobody was, in his heart, satisfied with the king's title to the crown, or knew on what principle to rest it.

But though the commons, during this reign, showed a laudable zeal for liberty in their transactions with the crown, their efforts against the church were still more extraordinary, and seemed to anticipate very much the spirit which became so general in little more than a century afterwards. I know that the credit of these passages rests entirely on one ancient historian;[***] but that historian was contemporary, was a clergyman, and it was contrary to the interests of his order to preserve the memory of such transactions, much more to forge precedents which posterity might some time be tempted to imitate.

* Cotton, p. 454.

** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 462.

*** Walsingham.

This is a truth so evident, that the most likely way of accounting for the silence of the records on this head, is by supposing that the authority of some churchmen was so great as to procure a razure, with regard to these circumstances, which the indiscretion of one of that order has happily preserved to us.

In the sixth of Henry, the commons, who had been required to grant supplies, proposed in plain terms to the king, that he should seize all the temporalities of the church, and employ them as a perpetual fund to serve the exigencies of the state. They insisted that the clergy possessed a third of the lands of the kingdom; that they contributed nothing to the public burdens; and that their riches tended only to disqualify them from performing their ministerial functions with proper zeal and attention. When this address was presented, the archbishop of Canterbury, who then attended the king, objected that the clergy, though they went not in person to the wars, sent their vassals and tenants in all cases of necessity; while at the same time they themselves, who staid at home, were employed night and day in offering up their prayers for the happiness and prosperity of the state. The speaker smiled, and answered without reserve, that he thought the prayers of the church but a very slender supply. The archbishop, however, prevailed in the dispute; the king discouraged the application of the commons; and the lords rejected the bill which the lower house had framed for stripping the church of her revenues.[*]

* Walsing. p. 371. Ypod. Neust. p. 563.

The commons were not discouraged by this repulse: in the eleventh of the king, they returned to the charge with more zeal than before: they made a calculation of all the ecclesiastical revenues, which, by their account, amounted to four hundred and eighty-five thousand marks a year, and contained eighteen thousand four hundred ploughs of land. They proposed to divide this property among fifteen new earls, one thousand five hundred knights, six thousand esquires, and a hundred hospitals, besides twenty thousand pounds a year, which the king might take for his own use; and they insisted, that the clerical functions would be better performed than at present by fifteen thousand parish priests, paid at the rate of seven marks apiece of yearly stipend.[*] This application was accompanied with an address for mitigating the statutes enacted against the Lollards, which shows from what source the address came. The king gave the commons a severe reply and further to satisfy the church, and to prove that he was quite in earnest, he ordered a Lollard to be burned before the dissolution of the parliament.[**]

* Walsing. p. 379. Tit. Livius.

** Rymer, vol. viii. p. 627. Otterborne> p. 267.

{1413.} We have now related almost all the memorable transactions of this reign, which was busy and active, but produced few events that deserve to be transmitted to posterity. The king was so much employed in defending his crown, which he had obtained by unwarrantable means, and possessed by a bad title, that he had little leisure to look abroad, or perform any action which might redound to the honor and advantage of the nation. His health declined some months before his death; he was subject to fits, which bereaved him, for the time, of his senses; and though he was yet in the flower of his age, his end was visibly approaching. He expired at Westminster, in the forty-sixth year of his age, and the thirteenth of his reign.

The great popularity which Henry enjoyed before he attained the crown, and which had so much aided him in the acquisition of it, was entirely lost many years before the end of his reign; and he governed his people more by terror than by affection, more by his own policy than by their sense of duty or allegiance. When men came to reflect, in cool blood, on the crimes which had led him to the throne; the rebellion against his prince; the deposition of a lawful king, guilty sometimes, perhaps, of oppression, but more frequently of indiscretion; the exclusion of the true heir; the murder of his sovereign and near relation; these were such enormities as drew on him the hatred of his subjects, sanctified all the rebellions against him, and made the executions, though not remarkably severe, which he found necessary for the maintenance of his authority, appear cruel as well as iniquitous to the people. Yet, without pretending to apologize for these crimes, which must ever be held in detestation, it may be remarked, that he was insensibly led into this blamable conduct by a train of incidents which few men possess virtue enough to withstand. The injustice with which his predecessor had treated him, in first condemning him to banishment, then despoiling him of his patrimony, made him naturally think of revenge, and of recovering his lost rights; the headlong zeal of the people hurried him into the throne; the care of his own security, as well as his ambition, made him a usurper; and the steps have always been so few between the prisons of princes and their graves, that we need not wonder that Richard's fate was no exception to the general rule. All these considerations make Henry's situation, if he retained any sense of virtue, much to be lamented; and the inquietude with which he possessed his envied greatness, and the remorses by which, it is said, he was continually haunted, render him an object of our pity, even when seated upon the throne. But it must be owned, that his prudence, and vigilance, and foresight, in maintaining his power, were admirable; his command of temper remarkable; his courage, both military and political, without blemish; and he possessed many qualities which fitted him for his high station, and which rendered his usurpation of it, though pernicious in after times, rather salutary, during his own reign, to the English nation.

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