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and general wretchedness of the peasantry in France.
Of private wrong, even of judicial murder, which did
not touch the masses, the nation was too patient ; it was
not patient of arbitrary taxation, perhaps not of extreme
outrage on nature, such as Richard's murder of his
nephews. Nor was popular opinion mute. Tudor kings
stooped to tune it through the pulpit. Printing was
now becoming common, and thought might defy arrest.

The judges did more than preserve and supplement
the law. Under the form of judgment they sometimes
legislated, and in a popular and beneficent sense. By
turning villain-tenure into copyhold or tenure by court-
roll, they made it equally secure and heritable with free-
hold. By affirming the validity of fines and recoveries
they unlocked land and facilitated its circulation.


Under Edward I., under Henry IV., and apparently
under Henry VI., the House of Commons had been elec-
tive. Under the early Tudors it was elective in form, but
it was packed with dependents and nominees of the court.
After the fashion of a congS d'ellre^ the names of men
whose election the court desired were sent down to the
constituencies. In the next reign we have an all-pow-
erful minister commanding that a free election of the
members for a borough should be cancelled and his own
nominees elected in their place, which accordingly is
done. The lay peerage had been decimated and cowed,
and it was outnumbered in the House of Lords by the
prelates and abbots, of whom the prelates at least were
nominees of the crown. When the judgments of par-
liament or the preambles of its statutes are cited as
evidence, the composition of the House is to be borne
in mind. There were no fixed times of election or dis-
solution. The crown could keep a servile parliament in
being as long as it pleased. Yet in tampering with the
independence of parliament the crown acknowledged its
authority, and the House of Commons, if not really
elective, was in a measure representative ; at least on
the question of taxation, where it had popular feeling
strongly behind it. The knights of the shire, though
returned under the influence of local grandees who were
generally in alliance with the court, would probably be
less subservient than were the burgesses, especially when
the city was in the hands of an oligarchy, with which
the government would find it easy to deal. In a certain
sense the weakness of parliament may be said to have
been its salvation. Had it been strong enough to wrestle
with the Tudors they, with the influences and needs of

XV HENRY Vll 299

the time in their favour, would probably have destroyed
it ; as it was subservient, they were content to let it live,
to pay it a nominal deference, sometimes to let it relieve
them of responsibility, and to wield supreme power under
its forms.

Little independent as parliament was, however, Henry
VII. seldom met it. He called but seven parliaments
in his reign of nearly twenty-four years. There was one
period of seven, and another of five, years without a par-
liament. By amassing treasure and avoiding the waste
of war Henry had enabled himself to dispense with par-
liamentary supplies, to preserve at once his own popu-
larity and the independence of his government. His
trade was royalty ; he was not wrong in thinking that
strong monarchy was better than feudal anarchy ; he
would not have been far wrong in thinking strong mon-
archy better than government by an assembly, as political
assemblies were in those days, ill-informed and untrained
to business of state. A greater breadth of political vision
was not in his nature and could hardly be expected of
him in the circumstances of that age.

It is the well-known policy of absolutist kings to
choose as their ministers not nobles but men of lower
rank, thoroughly dependent on their master, bound up
with his interest, ready to do his work, clean or unclean,
and to shoulder the odium of his unpopular measures.
Henry VII. chose ecclesiastics, whose service, besides
being devoted and intelligent, was cheap, since it could
be paid with bishoprics. Archbishop Morton and Bishop
Fox were men after his own heart. Fox was his diplo-
matist and negotiated the Scottish marriage. Morton
had been trained in the perilous days of the Roses, and


had played an active part in the conspiracies against
Richard which paved Henry's way to the throne.

In his latter days the king fell into much worse hands
than those of Morton and Fox. The craving for money
as the sinews of power, and the means of making him
independent of parliament, mastered his soul. He em-

1507 ployed two agents of the sharp attorney type, Empson,
a man of low birth, and Dudley, to extort money by
the vilest practices of chicane, such as oppressive fines
for fictitious offences, or tricky forfeitures and escheats.
The treasure thus amassed enabled him to dispense with
parliament during the last five years of his reign. But
he accumulated odium in equal measure, and it was under
the cloud of national hatred that, after a life of indefati-
gable industry in the public service, with careworn brow
and melancholy step, he descended to the tomb. His
work had not been the very highest, nor destined to last
forever; but it was done. The immense pomp of his

1509 funeral betokened the height of power and majesty to
which his policy had raised the crown.


Born 1491; Succeeded 1509; Died 1547

TN an age of art the artists chiefly patronized by
Henry VIII. were those who painted his own por-
trait. We know well his burly form, his face of ani-
mal comeliness, his attitude of self-assertion. He is
described as accomplished in body and mind, though, in
the zenith of monarchy, the accomplishments of a king
were sure to be rated high, and few could be so uncourtly
as to throw him in wrestling, beat him in archery, or
unhorse him in the tournament. His courage was not
tried in battle. In time of plague he showed great lack
of it; nor was it needed in sending innocents to the
block, or ordering the wholesale execution of peasants.
Self-willed as he was, it is not unlikely that some of
his murders were committed in order to rid him of an
influence which he had not the moral force to throw off.
He had a taste for letters, which he showed in patroniz-
ing Erasmus, but which did not prevent him from mur-
dering the philosopher and the poet of his reign. He
had read theology, and we find it in his letters to a
mistress mingling with the unclean language of his lust.
There is reason to think that he had a not unkindly
nature, though by absolute kingship with a full treasury
at nineteen It was spoiled and turned into a selfishness
as intense as ever had its seat in the heart of man.



The reign opened with executions which were not the
less judicial murders because the victims were vile.
Empson and Dudley had been the accomplices of the late

1510 king. Their heads were flung to an enraged people.
The treasure which their chicanery had amassed Henry
squandered royally in court pleasures, in pageantry, and
at the gambling-table, where his privy accounts show that
he lost large sums. His meeting with Francis I. on the

1520 Field of the Cloth of Gold was a scene of prodigal folly
and waste which took all lacqueys with ravishment and
has betrayed the dramatist into bombast. He bedizened
himself with gold and jewels. He went to war with a
preposterous train. In building, also, he was lavish.
Frugality might have made his monarchy absolute.

Henry's youth, however, his good looks, his brilliancy,
his manner at once frank and high, his magnificence,
which the people failed as usual to see was at their own
cost, all in contrast to the severe bearing and unpopular
habits of his father, won for him the lieart of the com-
mons ; and the monarchy alone being now left on the
political stage, with nothing else to stand between the
country and the relapse into civil war, king-worship
became a religion. England approached dangerously
near to the blind loyalty which prevailed in France after
the civil wars of the Fronde and gave birth to the
splendid and fatal despotism of Louis XIV. Great
monarchies were being consolidated in Europe, and their
example acted on the Tudors as that of Louis XIV.
afterwards acted on the Stuarts.

The judicial murders of Empson and Dudley might be
palliated by their offences. Unpalliated was the murder

1513 of Suffolk, whose only crime was his Yorkist title to the


crown. The late king, having got him into his hands,
had left him in prison, being restrained from putting him
to death by a pledge which, it is supposed, his casuistry
construed as personal" and not binding on his successor,
to whom he bequeathed the deed.

The early part of the reign is the government of
Wolsey, the last, perhaps the greatest, and certainly the
most magnificent, in the line of ecclesiastical statesmen.
Wolsey had as his key to power the art of playing on
a despot's humour. As he confessed on his death-bed,
he put his king in the place of his God, and in the end
saw his mistake. His policy was absolutist; he aimed
at government without parliament. Yet he was patriotic
in his way, for he sought the exaltation of England.
He came from the right quarter for a vizier; a trader's
son, self-raised, owing everything to royal favour, he
could bow the knee better than any of the old nobility.
Captivating the king by his address, relieving him of
toil, and setting him free for pleasure by his indefatiga-
ble industry, Wolsey became practically king, and might
write ego et rex mens. Master of church preferment,
holding, besides his archbishopric of York and his chan-
cellorship, rich bishoprics and the rich abbey of St.
Albans, he heaped on himself enormous wealth. A
cardinal's hat made him a prince of the church, and,
somewhat to the detriment of his foreign policy, an
aspirant to the papacy. His magnificence, his palaces,
his train of gentlemen clad in velvet of the cardinal's
colour, the eight ante-chambers with rich hangings,
through which suitors passed to his presence, the silver
crosses, pillars, and pole-axes, carried before and about
him when he went abroad, the prodigal splendour of the


entertainments which he gave the king and court, his
towering ascendancy and monopoly of the royal smile,
cut to the heart the survivors of the old nobility, and
they murmured, probably they formed designs, against
the low-born minister. He quashed their designs, if he
did not silence their murmurs, by sending to the block
1521 their chief, the Duke of Buckingham, who suffered on
the evidence of faithless servants for mere words which
Tudor tyranny dubbed treason. Their estates were dilapi-
dated, and they were made dependent on the favours of
the crown by the expenses of the court with its pageants,
its gambling-tables, and its Field of the Cloth of Gold.
The old nobility, however, continued to form a party in
the court, which struggled throughout the reign against
the party of new men raised by office or court favour,
such as Thomas Cromwell, Boleyn, Paget, Seymour,
Audley, and Russell, and against the new policy of
which the new men were the agents.

The House of Commons being elected under court in-
fluence, while the Lords had lost their retainers and their
spirit, parliament on most questions sank into an engine
of the government; though the Tudor never ventured to
dispense with its authority as the Bourbon dispensed
with the authority of the States General, but was even
fain, in his dealings with foreign powers, to shelter his
own responsibility beneath its ostensible freedom. At
the king's bidding it betrayed the safeguards of liberty,
and came near to moral self-extinction. It passed the
most profligate of repudiation acts, not only releasing
the king from the obligation to pay his debts, but com-
pelling those whom he had paid to refund. It attainted
and sent to the scaffold without trial or confession the


victims of his displeasure. It multiplied treasons so
that anyone who incurred the king's frown was a traitor.
It gave the king's proclamations the force of law. It
enabled him to dispose of the crown by will. It capped
its compliances by enacting in favour of his infant heir
that a king on coming of age should have power to cancel
all laws made during his minority. At the name of the
king members rose from their seats and bowed as they
would bow at the name of God. Preambles of statutes
in this reign are nothing but manifestoes of the govern-
ment. What noble or distinguished heads fell on the
scaffold the common people cared little. The Wars of the
Roses had made them familiar with such spectacles, and
they were not enlightened enough to see that the axe
which struck off the head of More, Fisher, or Surrey,
slew public liberty in his person. The only tyranny
which in general they took to heart was taxation, to
which the king, having squandered his father's hoard, was
compelled by his prodigality to resort. Against this a
spirit of resistance was shown. An exorbitant demand 1525
of Wolsey on the taxpayer brought on a storm to which
the king prudently and gracefully yielded, leaving the
odium on his minister. The Tudors had tact, and
showed it especially in concession. There was a Celtic
strain in their blood. Statutes, restraining freedom in
the conveyance of property or liberty of bequest, as they
touched the material interest of the commons, also en-
countered a certain amount of resistance.

It has been said that the forms of law were preserved.
As a rule they were, and in the end they proved most
valuable. Yet even the form of the Great Charter was
scarcely preserved when a man was attainted for treason

* VOL. 1 вАФ 20


and put to death without a hearing. In cases of treason
the courts in these times, as Hallam says, were little
better than the caverns of murderers. The real trial, if
it could be so called, was before the privy council, which
sat in secret, used torture, and generally prejudged the
case. A subservient judge and jury merely registered
the sentence of the council. In the treatment of the
prisoner at the bar of what was called justice, not justice
only but decency was disregarded. The House of Lords,
which tried peers, was a hardly less passive tool of the
government than the common tribunals. The noblest
and most innocent head was as much at the mercy of the
despot in England as at Constantinople. Verdicts, even
of the peers, are worth no more as historical evidences
than the preambles of statutes.

Was the Tudor government popular? Its eulogists
say that as it had no standing army but the yeomen of
the guard, it must have rested on the free allegiance of a
loving people. It had, besides the yeomen of the guard,
its park of artillery, the forts, and their garrisons. It
had some ships of war. It could hire mercenaries at
need. It had in its interest the local authorities, mili-
tary as well as civil, the old feudal nobility having been
supplanted by a new nobility of crown favour, and the
troops of retainers having been dissolved. Buckingham,
about the last feudal magnate who could have made
head against the power of the monarchy, was put to
1521 death early in the reign. Insurrection in the middle
and lower classes was thus deprived of its almost indis-
pensable leaders. Popular, no doubt, the government
was as a security against the dreaded renewal of civil
war. It was popular as being national, not feudal.


Aristocratic opposition to it had been broken; no other
opposition had been formed; and the middle classes, hav-
ing turned their minds away from politics to commerce
and the acquisition of wealth, were ready to welcome a
strong rule. Yet there were insurrections, serious, and
not easily put down. Opinion being thoroughly fettered,
we have no means of knowing what Englishmen in
general really thought of their king.

The first two decades of the reign are full of diplo-
matic intrigue and wars of royal rivalry. Three young
kings, Henry VIII., Francis I., and Charles V., who
had all been competitors for the august title of Caesar,
made Europe the gambling-table of their restless, sense-
less, and unprincipled ambition. The wars were with-
out object or substantial result, while, being carried on
largely with armies of freebooting mercenaries, they in-
flicted on the people miseries untold, culminating in the
sack of Rome by the imperial hordes, one of the great 1527
horrors of history. Diplomatists, of course, were in re-
quest, and diplomatists of the kind afterwards described
by Wotton, when he said that an ambassador was a man
sent to lie abroad for the service of his country; men
perfect in their sinister craft, consummate masters of
intrigue and dissimulation, ignoble precursors of the
noble profession which has in better times made diplo-
macy on the whole a ministry of justice, peace, and good-
will among nations. Now comes the era of espionage,
bribery, treacher}^, and political assassination. Which-
ever of the three royal gamesters was for the time the
winner had the other two against him. Here we have
that diplomatic idol, the balance of power, which has cost
the nations dear.


Henry's passion was vanity; he loved to think himself
the arbiter of Europe. At one time he had formed a
wild design of renewing the enterprise of Henry V., the
memory of whose fatal victories the nation still cherished,
and asserting in arms his claim to the crown of France.
He laid down his money freely and was fooled by both
his allies in turn, especially by the politic and cold-
blooded Charles V. He paid no heed to the sagacious

^ adviser, who bade him turn his eyes from the field of
empty and fleeting glory in France to that of solid and
lasting acquisition in the north of his own island. By
quarrelling with France he brought down upon himself,
as a matter of course, an attack from Scotland, whose

1513 wires France always pulled ; and the victory of Flodden,
not followed up by conquest, remained a splendid victory
and nothing more. An attempt was made in a better
spirit to provide for the union of the crowns by the mar-
riage of Henry's infant heir with the infant heiress of
Scotland. But through Scotch jealousy and faction,
aided by Henry's arrogance, it failed, and a renewal of
the senseless war of devastation, with the barbarous sack-

1542 ing of Edinburgh, deepened the gulf of hatred between
the two sections of the English race.

The revived monarchy, however, did not fail to show
its force within the islands. A dynasty partly Welsh
aptly completed the Welsh union. By a series of
statutes the principality was politically incorporated with
England, a limit was put to the irregular domination of
the Lords Marchers, all Wales was made shire ground,

1536 with English laws, local self-government after the Eng-
lish model, and parliamentary representation; the only
distinction of importance left being that Wales was not


included in the circuits of the English judges, but had
special sessions of its own. Political incorporation,
however, did not efface the difference of language or of
character. These the Welsh hills preserved and in some
measure preserve now.

Ireland also felt the new force. Hapless Ireland, and
hapless England in her dealings with Ireland, and in
all the bitterness, trouble, and danger which these
dealings have entailed! If there is a ease in which
historical fate may be accused rather than man, rather,
at least, than any single man or set of men, it is the
case of England and Ireland. Had Anglo-Norman con-
quest of Ireland been complete, as was Norman conquest
of England, it would have been followed by fusion
of the conquering with the conquered race. Under-
taken, not by government, but by private adventure,
it was left incomplete. Private adventure had neither
force nor desire to penetrate mountain, bog, and forest.
The centre of English power was far away. The road
lay through Welsh mountains long unsubdued. The
arms of the monarchy were diverted to French fields.
Alone of the kings, Richard II. led an army to Ireland,
and he returned from a futile expedition to find his
kingdom lost. The sojourn of Lionel, Duke of Clarence,
son of Edward III., produced a momentary reformation.
"Because," says Sir John Davies, "the people of this
land, both English and Irish, out of a natural pride, did
ever love and desire to be governed by great persons."
If British monarchs could only have seen this and done
their duty! The channel over which the Dublin and
Holyhead packet now so swiftly shoots was then a con-
siderable sea. The result was an Anglo-Norman Pale


of which Dublin was the centre. Outside the Pale the
septs remained in their primitive state, with the clan
system, no central or regular government, no cities,
scarcely any agriculture, a pastoral and unsettled life,
and general lawlessness under the name of Brehon law.
A ruthless war of races was always going on. As the
hostile Indian is to the American frontiersman, so was
the native Celt to the Anglo-Norman of the Pale. At
the same time, there \vas constant war among the tribes.
Nothing is more cruel or more hideous than a protracted
struggle of semi-civilization with savagery. A native
was to the Englishman as a wolf, and the native skene
spared no Englishman. Nothing could prosper. In the
little English sea-board towns, petty commonwealths in
themselves, there was order and some commerce. Gal-
way preserves in her architecture and her legends the
picturesque and romantic traces of her trade with Spain.
Elsewhere was nothing but turbulence and havoc. A
parliament there was in the Pale, but it was a scarecrow.
Judges there were in the Pale, after the English model,
but they had little power to uphold law. The church
was feeble, coarse, and almost worthless as an instrument
of civilization. What there was of it was rather monas-
tic than parochial, the monastery being a fortalice, and,
in a general reign of crime, perhaps drawing endowment
from remorse. Only the friars were zealous in preaching.
The church seems not to have acted as a united body, to
have held no synods, and to have been divided, like the
population, by the race line. Ecclesiastics fought like
laymen, and appear to have been as little revered. A
chieftain pleaded as an excuse for burning down a cathe-
dral that he had thought the archbishop was in it. In


the Celtic districts the calendar of ecclesiastical crimes,
or crimes against ecclesiastics, given by the Four Masters
between 1500 and 1535, comprises Barry More, killed by
his cousin the archdeacon of Cloyne, who was himself
hanged by Thomas Barry; Donald Kane, abbot of Macos-
quin, hanged by Donald O'Kane, who was himself
hanged; John Burke, killed in the monastery of Jubber-
patrick; Donaghmoyne church, set on fire by McMahon
during mass; Hugh Maguinness, abbot of Newry, killed
by the sons of Donald Maguinness ; the prior of Gallen,
murdered by Turlough Oge Macloughlin ; O'Quillan
murdered, and the church of Dunboe burned, by O'Kane.

Some of the Anglo-Norman barons, finding tribal an-
archy even more lawless than feudalism, doffed the
hauberk, donned the saffron mantle of the Irish tribe,
and became chiefs of bastard septs. The crown, by en-
actments which seem like an inhuman perpetuation of
the estrangement between the races, strove to prevent this
lapse of the Englishry into barbarism, but strove in vain.

While England was torn and her government paralyzed
by the Wars of the Roses, the Pale was reduced to a dis-
trict comprising parts of four counties, and defended by
a ditch. Had there been among the Celts any national
unity or power of organization, here was their chance of
winning back their lands. But they were fighting among
themselves as fiercely as they fought against the Pale.
As a learned Irish writer says, patriotism did not exist;
there was no sentiment broader than that of the clan ; nor
was the rival clan less an object of enmity than the
Englishry. Soon the chance of the Celts was lost. Out
of the wreck of the aristocracy in the civil war rose the
powerful monarch}^ of the Tudors. The thoughts of


Henry VII. had been turned to Ireland, where the Pale
was Yorkist and had been the scene of Yorkist con-

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