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morality, was big. Of needless cruelty Henry cannot be
accused ; rather he may be praised for clemency, con-
sidering the perfidy and treachery which surrounded
him. In his conflict with oligarchical faction he certainly
represented order, national unity, and civilization. That
his life was one of the most arduous and anxious labour
in the public service, that his health was sacrificed to war
and business, that on the terrible day of Shrewsbury and
on every field of action he was in the forefront of danger,
cannot be denied. His policy bequeathed to his son a
secure throne and the power of carrying his people with
him into a war of ambition disastrous at once to the
dynasty and to the nation.


Born 1388; Succeeded 1413; Died 1422

npHE son was a hero. By his integrity, his magnanimity,
his piety, as well as his prowess in war, Henry V.
deserves that name. There is a severe beauty in his
character as well as in his face. His French enemies,
while they found him stern, found him upright, and
after the murderous brigandage in the name of war to
which they had been accustomed, they were agreeably
surprised by his comparative humanity and the disci-
pline of his camp ; positively humane he cannot be
called, since he passed the word at Agincourt to kill
prisoners, and in his later days hanged men to strike
terror. It is not unlikely that he had higher aims than
those of a mere conqueror, and that, had he lived to
rule France, he would have put an end to her distrac-
tions, and, as far as was possible for a foreigner, ruled
her well. To Normandy, when conquered, he showed
a disposition to grant a measure of English freedom.
Henry V. is a hero, yet, in the sequel, the meanest king
that ever sat upon the throne did not so much mischief
to the country, or brought upon it so much shame.

Henry began his reign auspiciously. He frankly ac-
cepted the popular principles of his house, at once
assenting to the declaration that the explicit consent



of parliament was necessary to all laws, which forms a
landmark in political history. Apparently he embraced
with mind and heart the vital principle of constitutional
monarchy, thorough identification of the king with the
people. He also entered at once on a policy of recon-
ciliation, admitting to his grace his father's enemies and
trying to wipe out the traces of the feud. In this he
had the advantage over his father of an established title,
and of never having been known as an equal by those
over whom he reigned. He was rewarded by the loyalty
of Hotspur's son to the house of Lancaster. But it
shows how rife was the spirit of intrigue and mutiny
among his nobles, that when he was on the point of lead-
ing the national army to France he should have discovered
a conspiracy in favour of the Earl of March, the heir of
the legitimist title to the throne, in which Scrope, a man
in whom he had reposed especial confidence, bore a part.
. The dangerous side of his character as a civil ruler was
his piety, Avhich in those days was incompatible with
tolerance. He was not, nor could he ever have been, a
cruel persecutor, or the patron of an Inquisition. Ap-
parently he was sincerely desirous of saving the bodies
of the heretics as well as their souls, and he personally
did his best to convert them. But he was orthodox and
devout, which a catholic king could not be without
treating heresy as a crime. He founded monasteries late
in the moi^astic day. He allied himself closely with the
clergy and renewed the persecuting laws against the
1414 Lollards. The result was a Lollard insurrection, headed
by Sir John Oldcastle, a man of rank and fortune, who
had sincerely embraced what may with truth be called
protestantism, since it was, or aimed at being, the pure


religion of the Gospel. The insurrection was weak; in
fact, barely came to a head. It was quelled with ease and
with the usual consequences of unsuccessful rebellion to
the side which had rebelled. Oldcastle was put to death 1417
as a heretic and a traitor.

Two years before the execution of Oldcastle, John
Huss had been burned at Constance, whither the repre- 1415
sentatives of distracted Christendom had been convened
to put an end to scandalous schism, reform the church
in its head and its members, and redeem the chair of
St. Peter from the monstrous vices of the pope.

The defeat and depression of Lollardism, however,
did not end the danger to the church, whose inordinate
possessions, apart from any question of doctrine, excited
the jealousy and cupidity of a party in the country and
in parliament, while her vexatious jurisdiction, her ex-
action of fees, and the extortion into which her peni-
tential system had been turned, were always making her
enemies, especially among the quick-witted and money-
loving population of the cities. The tradition is there-
fore not improbable that Archbishop Chichele and the
clergy encouraged the king in warlike enterprise to
divert his mind and that of the nation from spoliation
of their order. The speech ascribed by Shakespeare to
Chichele is unauthentic ; but Chichele founded a chantry
under the form of a college at Oxford to pray for the
souls of those who had fallen in the French wars ; and
the king on his death-bed cited the sanction of his
spiritual advisers as his justification before God for the
blood which he had shed. It appears that the chiefs of
the clergy heartily supported him in the war. He was
not set on by the representatives of the nation, whose

VOL. I вАФ 17


response to his appeal at first was guarded, though they
were afterwards carried away by his victories.

The claim of Henry to the crown of France was more
baseless even than that of Edward, since it was not by
a legitimate but by a revolutionary title that he held
the crown of England. His only real title was the
invitation of a party in France, then distracted, as Eng-
land had been and was again to be, by the rivalry of
princes of the blood while the king was imbecile. The
conduct of France had been unfriendly ; she had fo-
mented and aided Scotch hostility and Welsh rebellion ;
but unfriendly also was the occupation of Calais by
England, to say nothing of her barring, by the reten-
tion of a remnant of Aquitaine with Bordeaux and Ba-
yonne, the unification of France. The union of the two
crowns upon the same head was impracticable, and if it
had been practicable would have been fatal. No legis-
lative securities for the independence of England would
have availed to annul the influence which would have
been exercised upon her government by linking her
with France, and by the immensely enhanced power of
the monarch. In Henry's defence it is said that war
was then regarded as the noblest work of kings, and
that he sincerely believed in the justice of his claim.
The justice of his claim, if it satisfied the jurist, could
not satisfy the statesman. If he burned for martial
enterprise, the chronic enmity of Scotland, whose border
knew no peace, would presently have furnished him with
a warrant for a war,, the object of which would at
all events have been more rational. In invading
France, he not only left a hostile Scotland in his own
island, but gave her France to foment and support her

xiii HENRY V 259

quarrel. Ireland also, the commercial importance of
which, especially as a source of supply for the English
colonies and garrisons in Wales, had begun to be seen,
was a field which on higher than commercial grounds
urgently invited both the arms and the policy of a
soldier king.

Henry's mad enterprise would have ended with the
taking of Hariieur, after the loss of a great part of the 1415
English army in the siege, had it not been for another
exhibition of the insensate pride of the French chivalry.
Agincourt, like Crecy, was a soldiers' battle. The mis- 1415
takes of the general had again brought the army into
a desperate situation, out of which, helped by the blun-
der of the enemy, it fought its way. But there was
nothing at Crecy so full of interest as the morning of
Agincourt, when the little army, thinned and weakened
by disease, dejected yet not despondent, formed round
its gallant king to encounter the overwhelming host
which barred its march. Again the free yeomanry who
drew the bow, and the comradeship of the king with the
soldier, which Shakespeare has vividly painted, showed
the importance of the political element in war power.
Again the bow prevailed. The line also prevailed over
the column. It was a proof of the continuing decline
of the mailed cavalry and of military aristocracy that
at Agincourt not only the English but the French man-
at-arms dismounted and fought on foot. War is still
growing professional and scientific. Gunpowder makes
its way. Battering artillery becomes effective and hand
guns are introduced. All this is against aristocracy.
To Henry, as he not only pressed but built ships, is
given the credit of having founded the royal navy ; an


institution henceforth continuous, though its mighty im-
portance, military and political, belongs to later times.

It was not wonderful that the king, who had com-
manded and borne himself nobly at Agincourt, declaring
that England should never pay a penny for his ransom,
should become the object of a disastrous enthusiasm, or

1415 that when he landed in England after victory the barons
of the Cinque Ports should have carried him through
the breakers in their arms.

That maddest of political murders, the assassination

1419 of the Duke of Burgundy at Montereau, by throwing
the Burgundians into the hands of England, laid France
at the king's feet, and enabled him in the treaty of
Troyes, with the hand of a French princess, to extort
the reversion of the French crown. But his campaigns
had broken his health, and he lived not like Edward
III. to the reckoning day.



Henry VI. : Born 1421 ; Succeeded 1422 ; Deposed 1461

Edward IV. : Born 1442 ; Succeeded 1461 ; Died 1483

Edward V.: Born 1470; Proclaimed King 1483; Supplanted 1483

rriHE conquering hero gone, the conquest inevitably
slipped away. The Duke of Bedford, a less brilliant
Henry, with the redoubtable archers, for a time arrested
fate and gained fruitless victories at Crevant and Ver- -^^23
neuil. But the tide soon turned and set steadily against 1424
English domination. The English, masters of the coun-
try only when they could hold it by the sword, had to
disperse their force, always small, over a number of gar-
risons. The French learned from dire experience instead
of fighting battles to make it a war of posts. They
found in Dunois a second Du Guesclin, a leader who was
a genuine soldier, not a Quixote, and led not for glory
but for practical success. The spirit of the suffering
people of France found its embodiment in Joan of Arc,
whose execution left a dark stain upon the English
escutcheon, though her trial took place at the instance of
the University of Paris, and almost all concerned in it
were Frenchmen of the Burgundian party, while the
belief in sorcery was the superstition of the age, and
Joan owed to it her victories as well as her cruel death.
The internal feud which had opened the gate to the



invader was healed by the evils and humiliations of his
presence. The Duke of Burgundy deserted in course of
time the unnatural alliance into which only a personal
quarrel had led him. Province after province was
reconquered or went back to its natural allegiance. At
last nothing was left but the farcical title of king of
France, retained for two centuries by the kings of Eng-
land, and Calais, the possession of which always served
to keep up yearnings for conquest, and to misdirect
the policy of the island monarchy. The free navigation
of the Channel, which Calais imperfectly secured, would
have been more perfectly secured by peace. Gascoriy,
the last relic of the continental domains of the house of
Anjou, went with the rest, against the desire of its people,
who clung to the English connection as the safeguard of
their provincial independence. Thus the end of English
attacks on the French monarchy was its complete unifi-
cation as well as its lasting enmity to the assaihmt.
The standing army of France, the destined support of
a military despotism, was another fruit of these wars.

But the heaviest price of this magnificent escapade
remained to be paid in its effect on national character
and domestic politics. Again great fortunes had been
swept by lucky adventurers from the gambling-table of
the French war. Caister Castle, the mansion of Sir
John Fastolf, is one of their monuments. Again the
spirit of restless adventure, of violence, of plunder, had
been awakened. It was strong in a nobility which, in
fact, not being lettered or provided with refined pleas-
ures, had in peace little to occupy its castle leisure but
cabal. But society at large, as the Paston letters show,
was pervaded by the same angry influence. It w^as full


of strife, chicane, fraudulent and oppressive litigation,
violence sometimes abusing, sometimes breaking through,
the forms of law. Ejectment at Caister is carried out
with an armed force and the disputed mansion stands 1469
a regular siege. Abduction, among other disorders, is
rife. By the great nobles, with their immense estates
and the hosts of retainers whom they protected in license,
feudal anarchy was almost renewed.

Of the weakness of the hereditary system there could
be no more striking picture than the crowning of the
child Henry VI. at London and Paris to reign over the 1429,
two kingdoms, of one of which half remained to be con-
quered, with England maddened by the war-fever, a
debatable title to the crown, a mutinous nobility, and a
parliament though loyal hard to manage. The moral was
scarcely more pointed when, after a long minority, fol-
lowed by a period of political tutelage, Henry became 1453
utterly imbecile. It has been conjectured that the earl,
who was his tutor, did his work too well, and educated the
feeble boy out of his wits. In those days they had little
idea of differences of capacity ; they thought that the
rod, well applied, would bring all up to the same mark.
But Henry inherited niadness from his grandfather,
Charles VI. of France. Amidst the storm of dark and
murderous faction we sometimes catch glimpses, like
glimpses of the moon amidst cloud-rack, of the charac-
ter of the king, gentle and pious, taking the side of peace
and mercy. Let alone, he would have been a weak St.
Louis. The nation evidently loved him, though it could
not fear and did not obey him. After his murder he was
regarded as a saint. Nor is he without a monument.
At Eton and at King's College he still wears his crown.


While Bedford lived, though his energies were wasted
in the war, he was able by his influence to keep the coun-
cil, into whose hands the government fell, for the most
part in the right path. He alone could control the
selfish and foolish ambition of his brother Humphrey,
Duke of Gloucester, who, without capacity to rule, was
trying to make himself master of the government.
Gloucester had claimed the regency by right of birth,
but the council resisted the claim, forming by its deci-
sion a precedent for after times ; and he was compelled to
content himself with the title of Protector, and with a
power limited by the authority of the council. After
Bedford's death the ship began to sink. Beaufort, sub-
limely slandered by Shakespeare, seems to have been a
statesman, and though a cardinal, as well as self-seeking
and ambitious, to have been a faithful counsellor of
the crown, to the interest of which he was by kinship
bound. His support made the peace policy, to which his
wisdom inclined and which alone could save the govern-
ment, respectable in the eyes of the people. He, too,
passed off the scene. The king was now of age to reign,
but incapable of governing. The government was in
the hands of the queen, Margaret of Anjou, and De la
Pole, Duke of Suffolk. Margaret, the bride of surrender,
dowered only with the loss of Maine, came foredoomed
at once to partisanship and to popular hatred. She was
very young and inexperienced. Whatever notions of
government she had were not English. Her temper was
violent. She was disposed to favouritism, and her letters
indicate that she was given to jobbery and to interference
with the course of justice. De la Pole, hei: chief minis-
ter, not being of blue blood, though his family had a


noble record of public service, was regarded with jealousy
by the grandees, while his policy of peace and his sur-
render of Maine drew on him the hatred of the nation,
whose pride was not, like its force, exhausted by the
struggle. He was apparently odious as a favourite. It
does not seem that there was much more to be laid to
his charge. Gloucester led the party, large in the nation,
especially among the seamen, which was still ignorantly '
and madly bent on war ; and his popularity made him
formidable to the court. His sudden and most oppor-
tune death under arrest in the hands of Margaret and 1447
Suffolk, though it parried the immediate danger, did not
save their government. Suffolk fell before the storm of
political hatred. In attempting to fly the kingdom he
was murdered, and the circumstances of his murder, 1450
which was open and unavenged, and in which the crew of
a royal ship took part, showed that it was not a mere
assassination, but the symptom of a general disaffection.
The murder of Bishop Moleyn by mutinous sailors, who 1450
accused him of having sold Normandy to the French,
was another bloody sign of the times. Suffolk's place at
Margaret's side was taken by the Duke of Somerset,
representing the aspirations of the Beauforts, the bastard
children of John of Gaunt by Catherine Swinford, legiti- 1.397
mized by Richard II., but in the act of confirmation by 1407
Henry IV. excluded from the succession to the crown.
By this time the government was foundering. The
finances were in a desperate condition. The judges had
been for some time without salaries, and must have paid
themselves by corruption. The court itself was com-
pelled to subsist by predatory exaction under the name
of purveyance. The king's feeble intellect totally gave


way, and the crash, the penalty of his father's insane
policy of conquest, came.

1450 The commons rose in Kent under a local leader. Jack
Cade. This rebellion was not, like the revolt of the
serfs, economical and social, but political. The lesser
gentry and yeomen at first joined it. Its manifesto
demanded redress of the abuses of government, the list of
which the framers, had they spoken the exact truth,
would have summed up in weakness. The government
was for a time overthrown, and once more murder,
rapine, and havoc reigned. But the forces of order in
the community rallied, the insurrection was crushed, and

1 1')0 its leader paid the forfeit of his head.

As the cloud of rebellion clears away, Richard, Duke of
York, the legitimist claimant, in virtue of his descent
by a female line from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the
elder brother of the Duke of Lancaster, steps upon the
scene and challenges the ascendancy of Somerset. He
had assumed the significant name of Plantagenet, and
the rising of Jack Cade seems to have been in his inter-
est, if not countenanced by him. Presently he takes up

1455 arms, and in the battle of St. Albans, where Somerset
falls, opens thirty years of intermittent civil war. It is
most likely that the cautious and moderate ambition of
York would have been satisfied with a compromise, giv-
ing Henry the crown for life and the succession to York
and his heirs. In this case, as in the case of James II.,

1453 the turning-point was the birth of an heir which shut out
York, as it shut out William's wife from the prospect of
succession, while the lateness of the birth in both cases
alike, and in the present case the state of the king's
health, gave occasion for party cries of fraud. Mar-


garet, too, had now a son for whose claim to fight, and
she fought like a she-wolf over her cub. If after the
first clash of arms there was any hope of peace, it was
extinguished by her sweeping attainder of her enemies 1459
in the parliament at Coventry. Hatred, deep enough
before, was deepened by the cruelty of her partisans after
the battle of Wakefield. Fortune sent her no able coun- 1460
sellor or commander. The death of York, which seemed 1460
her gain, was her loss, since into his place stepped his
son Edward, with a brilliant and precocious geniiis for
war. She fatally injured her cause by stretching out her
hand in her desperate need to the foreign enemies of the
kingdom, by bartering away Berwick, by bringing down
on southern England a horde of northern marauders.
After the second battle of St. Albans she, or those about 1461
her, lacked nerve to move on London, and their victo-
rious army was led aimlessly back to the north to be
crushed by the military genius of Edward at Towton. 1461
That black Palm Sunday of fratricidal slaughter decided
the issue of the civil war. The country received, London
perhaps welcomed, the conqueror as king. London saw
the tiger's beauty, felt his winning manner, and it seems
had staked money on his success.

Young Edward's love-match with a Lancastrian widow 1463
caused the scale once more to turn, disconcerted the policy or
of the head of his party, the all-powerful Warwick, and,
by bringing the queen's relatives to the front, threw
that prince of schemers into the background. Warwick
unmade the king whom he had made, and for one 1470
more hour Henry, broken and imbecile, became the sport
of destiny and wore the mockery of a crown. But
Edward soon recovered the throne. He recovered it, not


through any national movement in his favour, but by his
1471 own vigorous action, and by the victory which at Barnet
his generalship gained over Warwick, a politician pro-
found in the cabinet but weak in war. From Barnet he
1471 rushed upon Margaret's last army at Tewkesbury, smote
it to pieces, and laid, as he might think, for ever by the
butchery of the helpless young prince his namesake, the
spectre of the Lancastrian claim. Henry was murdered
1471 in the Tower. To his tomb at Chertsey pilgrims
thronged and miracles were believed to be wrought there.
It is not unlikely that his saintly character, contrasted
with the blood-thirsty ferocity of the princes of the house
of York, kept its hold on the hearts of the people and
helped in the ultimate triumph of his house.

The period of the Wars of the Roses is almost a blank
in political history. No principle was involved in the
struggle. It is true that the title of Lancaster was
parliamentary, while that of York was legitimist, and
that the parliamentary dynasty would be naturally consti-
tutional, while the legitimist would be naturally despotic.
But there was nothing to show that this was the issue or
in fact that either character had been retained. The
charge of absolutism was brought by the Yorkists against
the queen and her camarilla. The line of Lancaster had
been legitimized in the eyes of the people by two reigns
and Agincourt. Even after York's victory at Northamp-
ton he found the parliament rooted in its allegiance to
the heir of Henry V. and had to content himself with a
compromise, leaving Henry the crown for life. Men took
the field at the bidding of their own lords, and the map of
party coincided with that of local influence and connec-
tion. In the north the house of Lancaster had always


been strong, border warfare had retarded civilization,
and the spirit of feudalism lingered. London appears to
have been Yorkist, but it quietly accepted both kings.
If the Cinque Ports were Yorkist, it was probably from
hatred of France and of a peace policy. At Towton
the banners of the chief cities appeared on the Yorkist
side. But this was when queen Margaret had leagued
herself with the Scotch and brought down a plundering
northern army upon southern England. The war can
hardly even be called dynastic. Loyalty was not the
motive or the watchword. It was a war of aristocratic

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