James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 53 of 55)
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value or significance. Men would look
elsewhere for guidance ; they would shake
off the weight of a system which no longer
possessed any charm or authority-
There were, however, latent in society
the seeds of a new and better order, and
the Middle Ages produced in England some
abiding results of value and importance.
Within a hundred years from the battle
of Senlac the fusion of the Norman ruling
class with the native population was
complete. The centralisation of the
Angevins broke down the barriers of pre-
judice and custom and privilege which had
separated province from province and class
from class. Patriotism became intense
in every rank of society ; and in the four-
teenth century the substitution of English
for French as the common language of
social intercourse bore witness to the
growth of a national individuality.

Grasping and unscrupulous as the
barons of the Lancastrian period showed


position by leaning on the support of Rome
or of the crown. And, although Lollardry
had been silenced, Lollard congregations
still met in secret. Copies of Wycliffe's
" Wicket " were widely circulated, and his
teaching added point to the criticisms,
which the merest commonsense suggested,

themselves, they were less a source of
danger to society than the aristocracies of
France and Germany. The privileges of
nobility were in England comparatively
few, and the younger sons of a great house
were, in the eyes of the law, but simple
commoners ; on the other hand, a writ



of summons to the House of Lords could
be issued at the pleasure of the crown to
any subject, and carried with it nobility
of rank. Thus, although custom gave to the
House of Lords a preponderant influence in
the legislature and the larger half of places
in the Privy Council, it was possible to
recruit that chamber from time to time with
the ablest and most influential
c * { members of the middle class ;
. and in the House of Commons

Parliament , , , . ,,

were to be found many knights

of the shire whose pride of birth was hardly
less than that of the peers. There was no
inseparable gulf between the two Houses,
and they were capable upon occasion of
pursuing a common policy.

Respect for the law and the officers of
the law was another hopeful feature
of society. English law had developed
steadily and without a break from the
accession of Henry II. ; the great legis-
lative measures of that sovereign and of
Edward I. were supplemented by the
evolution of an elaborate case-law in the
royal courts. The legal treatise attributed
to Glanville, but more probably the
work of Hubert Walter, which was written
between 1187 and 1189, is a proof that
the reduction of precedents to order had
even then begun. Bracton, writing in the
years 1250-1258, compiled mainly from
recorded cases his " Tractatus de Legibus,"
a manual of legal principles, which .was
for generations the standard authority.

In his hands and that of later exponents,
such as Britton about 1291, and Littleton
in 1475, the common law became scientific
without becoming tainted to any appre-
ciable degree with the theories of civilians
and canonists. Uncouth in terminology,
abounding in archaisms, and so intricate
that it could barely be mastered by the
study of a lifetime, it was still regarded
with pride as a national heritage, and
was, on the whole, well adapted to the
needs of the nation by which it had been

_,. developed. The judges and the

The Law , , u 4- i- u

.. lawyers of the English courts
Above King , *\ , ,

and Part acted, at the worst of times,
as a check upon royal despotism
and feudal lawlessness. The personal
intervention of the crown in matters of
justice was a thing of the past. Edward IV.
once sat in the King's Bench for three
successive days ; but this was noted as a
surprising occurrence, and it is not re-
corded that he ventured to take a personal
part in the proceedings. In the sixteenth

390 6

century the doctrine that the king could
not lawfully interfere with justice became
rooted in the common law.

Again we have to remark that the
intellectual revival of the fifteenth century
found a ready welcome upon English soil.
Already before this time the nation had
shown the promise of great things in
literature, in science and philosophy.
Among the vernacular poets- of the
Middle Ages the first place indeed belongs
to those of Italy ; but Chaucer and
Langland are inferior only to Dante and
to Petrarch. The Franciscan Roger Bacon
whose " Opus Majus," " Opus Minus,"
and " Opus Tertium " (1267-1271) ranged
over the whole field of the known sciences
is the greatest of those inquirers into
Nature who took the Aristotelian treatises
at their starting point, and in his protest
against the blind acceptance of authority
he struck a note which is echoed by his
more famous namesake of the seventeenth
centurv,. Among the great scholastics
Alexander of Hales, Duns Scotus, and
Occam hold a foremost place, and
represent the subtlest forms of mediaeval
_ metaphysics. The Lancastrian

f C C ! > . m j* n and Yorkist periods cannot
L ' Dg \ S Doas t thinkers of such power
and brilliance. But the lawyer
Fortescue (1394-1476), the translator
Caxton (1491), who is better remembered
as the founder of the first English
printing-press, and Sir Thomas Malory,
the compiler of the " Morte d' Arthur " in
1485, gave an impetus to the develop-
ment of English prose. The poetic tradi-
tion was handed on by Gower, Lydgate,
and Hoccleve. By the middle of the
century the English scholar was already a
familiar figure in the class-rooms of the
great Italian humanists, and the library
which Bishop Gray of Ely, one of the
earliest of these pioneers, bequeathed to
Balliol College, Oxford, bears witness to
the new direction which the studies of
the universities were taking.

Early in the reign of Henry VII. the
foundation of Greek studies was laid in
Oxford by the teaching of William Grocyn
and Thomas Linacre. The new learning
was still subordinate to the study of
theology, but was rapidly acquiring an
independent interest and value. The re-
vival of an active impulse towards religious
reformation followed as a natural conse-
quence from the teaching of these two
scholars, of their pupils More and Colet,




and of their Dutch colleague Erasmus,
who came to Oxford in the year 1498.

Lastly, we may notice the beginnings of
an economic revolution which, though
incidentally productive of distress and
discontent, was to increase the wealth of
English society, and to give the industrial
and commercial classes an importance far

greater than they had hitherto

tof Source* P ossessed - Agriculture was still

f^v^Tth* main source of wealth, the

landlord the most important
member of the community. But sheep-
farming was now more profitable than
tillage. The rapidity with which arable
land was converted into pasture at the
close of the century is a proof that the
demand for wool, the staple English export,
had increased and was expected to increase
still further. The wool trade, which before
the time of Edward III. had been mainly
in the hands of foreigners, was now almost
monopolised by 'Englishmen ; and when
Edward IV. granted privileges to the
Hanse merchants in 1474, he did so on con-
dition that the ports of the Baltic should
be opened to English traders. The chief
claim of the Yorkists to popularity had
been that by their foreign policy, and to
some extent by their legislation, they
aimed at the development of trade. The
merchant class was a power with which the
most autocratic sovereign was bound to

To improve his position was the one
object which the king pursued through a
reign of twenty-four years. In his domestic
policy he improved upon the example of
the Yorkists, aiming, like them, at the
establishment of an autocracy based upon
middle-class support, but pursuing this
end with greater skill and caution. He
took for his ministers ecclesiastics and
men of humble origin upon whose devotion
he could count implicitly. He devoted
his main care to finance. By heavy fines
imposed upon suspected nobles, by de-
manding benevolences from
How the ,,, & . ,. - j , , ,,

.... . wealthy individuals, by the

King Amassed , f J -i > .,

Treasure privileges, by the un-

scrupulous exploitation of the
law courts, and by strict enforcement of his
feudal rights, he amassed a considerable
treasure without demanding frequent sub-
sidies. There was too much unrest in the
country to permit of regular taxation. In
1488 and 1497 attempts to collect a tax
which Parliament had voted were followed
by local risings ; and although the rebels


were easily defeated, the king took the
double lesson to heart. His forbearance
was rewarded by emancipation from
parliamentary control ; only once in the
last thirteen years of his reign was it
necessary for him to meet the House of

This policy was not resented. The
king's exactions led to loud complaints
from the victims, but the immediate
burden fell upon the wealthy few. The
Commons were more anxious to be
protected than ambitious of a voice in
determining the royal policy. The king
gave them what they desired. He used
the jurisdiction of the Privy Council
to stamp out the practices of livery and
maintenance through which the nobles
had become a terror to their social
inferiors. In spite of pretenders and
rebellions his reign was one of security
and peace. His legislation is commended
by the high authority of Lord Bacon,
but it was in administration that the king
excelled. The two best known measures
which were enacted in his reign, though
important in their consequences, are by
no means elaborate. One of
these in 1495 provided that no
Mfipiviau^y should incur the guilt of

of Henry VII. , ,,

treason by obedience to the

king de facto ; the other, passed in 1487. fixed
the composition and powers .of the Star
Chamber, a judicial body in close connec-
tion with the Privy Council, and designed
to exercise the council's jurisdiction for
the punishment of powerful offenders.

The diplomacy of Henry VII. was both
subtle and successful. He came to the
throne at a time when the three great
powers of the Continent, Spain, France,
and the Empire, were on the point of
opening a long conflict, in which the
traditions of the mediaeval state system
were cast to the winds, and territorial
aggrandisement became the sole aim of
enterprising sovereigns. Though remote
from Italy, which soon became the main
theatre of strife, Henry held a strategic
position of some value within striking
distance of France and of the Netherlands ;
the power of England, while much inferior
to that of the three states already men-
tioned, was consequently deemed sufficient
to turn the balance in favour of any side
which she espoused. Without committing
himself too deeply, Henry sold his friend-
ship dear, pressed every advantage, and
was .seldom outwitted in a bargain.

Bit/ "***

In the month of May, 1497, John and Sebastian Cabot sailed from the port of Bristol on a voyage of discovery. In the
hope of reaching China, the ships steered north-west, and in this way Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were discovered.

From the painting by Ernest Board by the artist's permission

From Philip, the Archduke of Flanders,
he obtained, in 1496, the treaty known as
the " Magnus Intercursus," which secured
freedom of trade for English merchants
and closed the Netherlands against English
rebels. In 1506 the archduke, having been
accidentally driven ashore on the English
coast, was detained until he granted
further privileges so damaging to Flemish
trade that the new agreement was called
by his subjects the " Malus Intercursus."
From Ferdinand of Aragon, the father-
in-law of the archduke, Henry obtained
a still more valuable concession. In i^ot
the Princess Katharine of Aragoa was
given in marriage to Arthur, the heir of
the English throne. The prince died in
the following year, but Katharine was
then betrothed, with her father's consent,
to the future Henry VIII. In this way the
Tudors established themselves upon an
equal footing with the older dynasties of
Europe, and secured a powerful ally.

Friendship with Spain and Burgundy was
the sheet-anchor of the foreign policy of

Henry VII. But after 1492 he contrived
to avoid hostilities with France, the chief
enemy of his allies. At the king's death,
in 1509. England, though still a power of
the second rank, was universally courted
and regarded as the arbiter of European
politics. Not less skilfully had Henry
conducted his dealings with the com-
mercial powers, Venice, Portugal, and
the Hanse towns, from all of whom he
demanded reciprocity of privilege.

The great position which he had won was
diligently used on behalf of English trade,
although, with characteristic caution, he
gave but slight encouragement to the
great explorers of the period whose
discoveries were to revolutionise the
economic state of Europe. The voyage of
the Cabots in 1497, which brought them
within sight of North America, was under-
taken with the sanction and protection of
the king. The expedition sailed from
Bristol, and in 1498 the Cabots received
permission to engage English vessels for
a second voyage. But a present of $50



was the most substantial aid which the

bold Venetians received from the king.

Henry was in accord with his subjects

on the subject of the explorations. The

time had not yet come for Englishmen

to show an active interest in the New

World. Short-sighted in this

. respect, Henry gave, in a busi-

Rela hons wlth ness of a different character,

Scotland i-u-j.- x- i

an exhibition of exceptional

sagacity. He it was who brought about
the close connection of the Tudors with
the Stuart dynasty of Scotland. In spite
of the friendship between Edward III. and
David Bruce, the subsequent relations of
their kingdoms had been the reverse of
friendly. French diplomacy and the raids
of the borderers of both nations had kept
alive the ill-feeling kindled by the war of
independence. In the latter stages of the
Hundred Years War the troops of Scotland
shared the fortunes of more than one
pitched battle with their French allies.

James IV. proved himself, after Bos-
worth, a loyal friend to the defeated
Yorkists. Instead of avenging the in-
juries suffered in the past, Henry took
the surest means of averting future
collisions. He arranged in 1498, and
brought to a conclusion four years later,
a marriage between James and his eldest
daughter, Margaret. The advisers of
Henry expressed doubts as to the policy
of a match which might have the ultimate
effect of placing a Scot upon the English
throne. The king, however, ridiculed
their fears. The greater power, he said,
would always draw the less ; union would
never redound to the hurt of England.
The peace with Scotland which he desired
was not to be secured for many years, to
come. Still, Henry may be fairly credited
with the first project, since the time of

Edward I., for a peaceful union of
the kingdoms. With the question of
Ireland he dealt in an astute but less
satisfactory manner. The English party
had steadily lost ground in the island
since the timS of John, and in the reign
of Edward III. the home government
had definitely abandoned all hope of
controlling the country outside the Pale,
the district in the immediate neigh-
bourhood of Dublin. The statute of
Kilkenny in 1366 drew a sharp line
between the inhabitants of the Pale and
the remainder of the population, pro-
viding that the former were to live by
English law, and= forgo the use of the
Irish language, but leaving the latter to
their own devices. The statute had
failed to attach the Pale to England ; and
outside the Pale the settlers had sunk to
the level of the natives among whom they
lived. Occasionally a vigorous governor,
such as Richard of York, acquired a per-
sonal ascendancy, but the Irish Yorkists
were even more trouble to the first Tudor
than those who hated English authority
in any shape or form. After vain ex-
periments in the direction of firm govern-
ment, Henry VII. adopted the plan of
setting Irishmen to govern Ireland, with
the result that the country remained in
a state of anarchy, but ceased to trouble
England. Before, however, this autonomy,
if so it may be called, was
granted, the parliament of the

Anlrch Palehad been induced in 1494
to pass a statute known as
Poynings' Law, which was of more import-
ance in after ages than at the time when it
was first enacted. This law provided that
no Bill should be laid before the Irish
parliament without the consent of the
English Privy Council. H. W. C. DAVIS













DEFORE Saxons and Angles invaded the
*-' island of Great Britain the Keltic or
Pictish population of the northern portion
were never brought into subjection by
the Romans to the same extent as in the
southern portion. The Wall of Hadrian,
roughly corresponding to the later boun-
dary between the English and Scottish
kingdoms, marks the limit of the con-
tinuous effective occupation, though
Roman legions marched into the moun-
tains of Caledonia and maintained out-
post^ as far as the Forth and the Wall of
Antonine. As to the native tribes, it
would seem that Brythonic Kelts held the
Lowlands and Gaelic Kelts the Western
Highlands, while it is uncertain whether
the Picts, who occupied the rest of the
north, were Kelts or a pre-Aryan race.
In any case, the Picts were ultimately
assimilated by their Keltic neighbours.
... The Scots, who in later days

_ '' gave their name to the whole,

_ as the Angles did to Eng-
Came From , , b ~ ,. T , ,,

land, were Gaelic Kelts who

migrated from Ireland. The invasion
of the Angles brought the eastern
portion of the Lowlands under Teu-
tonic dominion, the Kelts being driven
either over the Forth or westwards into
Galloway. Thus, the North of England
and the South of Spotland were divided
into Western Keltic Strathclyde, with
Cumbria, and Eastern Anglian North-
umbria. The Scottish kingdom, first
known as Dalriada, corresponding roughly
to Argyleshire, became united first with
the Pictish kingdom as the kingdom of
Alban, the crown remaining with the
Scots dynasty, under Kenneth McAlpin,
in 844. Meanwhile, both Picts and Scots
had received Christianity from St. Columba
and his missionaries, but, like Northumbria,
transferred their allegiance to Rome.

By this time the Northmen and Danes
were already establishing themselves in the


far north and the western islands, and very
soon obtained the supremacy in North-
umbria, King Alfred of Wessex conceding
them the Danelaw. His son, Edward the
Elder, making common cause with the kings
of Strathclyde and Alban against the Danes,

is stated very questionably
Scotland s

... to have been owned by them
Relations with ,, t ., , J, .,

En land as father and lord the

original basis of the English
claim to suzerainty over the Scots kingdom.
Soon afterwards, the crown of Strathclyde
also passed by election to a member of
the royal house of Alban.

The relations between England, Alban,
and Strathclyde remain exceedingly con-
fused and disputable ; but it is stated that
Edgar the Peaceful at the close of the
century ceded the Lothians to Kenneth of
Alban as his vassal. More definitely assured
is the fact that some years later, as a result
of hostilities in the north, the Earl of North-
umbria ceded the Lothians to Malcolm of
Alban, to whom the crown of Strathclyde
had already passed. Thus, the kingdom
of Scotland was already in being.

Malcolm was succeeded by Duncan, who
was displaced and killed by Macbeth,
who was in turn displaced and killed by
Malcolm III., shortly before the conquest
of England by William of Normandy.
The key to the relations between England
and Scotland lies in the claim of the kings
of England to suzerainty over Scotland,
based on the English records, and the
claims of the Scots kings to Southern as

well as Northern Northumbria,
Refugees and to Soutnern as we ^ ^

at the Court Northern Strathclvde i.e.,
1 Cumbria. Neither 'claim was
ever made continuously effective. With
this Malcolm III., "Big-Head" Cean
Mohr,or Canmore, to use the familiar form
of his nick-name the historical fogs
of earlier centuries begin to clear away.
The Atheling Edgar, heir of the house of

Acquiring a claim to the Scottish throne through his wife Gruoch, the granddaughter of King Kenneth II., Macbeth
determined to wear the crown. But to do this he had first of all to get rid of King Duncan. Tradition says the pair
plotted the murder of that sovereign, and carried out the crime near Elgin in 1040. Macbeth then succeeded to the
throne, but in the year 1057 he was defeated and killed by Duncan's son, Malcolm, at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire.

From the water-colour drawing by George Cattermole, in South Kensington Museum

Cerdic, fled with his -sisters to the Scots
king's court ; one of them, known in
Scottish history as St. Margaret, Malcolm
married. Their daughter, Edith, married
Henry I. of England, and from her all
subsequent kings and queens of England
descended, except Stephen. Scotland was
drawn altogether into closer relations
with the southern country : the Lowlands,
with a population mainly of Angles and
Danes, became the progressive part of the
country, in touch with the movement of
European civilisation. Anglo-Norman
. barons acquire fiefs in Scot-

Strnf eTf land ' - the Sc tS kin S S h ld
baronies in England, notably

Scots Kings ,, ,j p TT ',.

the earldom of Huntingdon.

They do homage to the English kings, but
the Scots never admit that the homage
was for Scotland ; in the Scottish view, it
was only lor the English baronies. Evi-
dence on the point is inconclusive ; but
quite certainly whatever allegiance was
professed, it was held of very little account.
Meanwhile, the mountaineers held aloof,
taking no part in the " Sassenach " de-
velopment, and holding by their Keltic
clan system, while the south became
feudalised more or less on the Norman
model. In the extreme north and in the


isles, the Northmen had so thoroughly
planted themselves that Caithness and
Sutherland and the Hebrides belonged to
the Norwegian rather than to the Scottish
kingdom. It was not till the middle of the
thirteenth century was past that the
Norwegian power was finally broken by
Alexander III., at the battle of Largs, and a
subsequent treaty ended Norway's claim
to the lordship of Caithness and the isles.
To follow the details more closely :
Malcolm espoused the cause of the Athel-
ing against the usurpation of William,
and raided Northumbria ; William, in
return, marched into Scotland, whereupon
Malcolm did homage to him of some sort.
Much the same thing happened in the time
of Rufus ; but Malcolm was again raiding
England when he was ambushed and killed
at Alnwick. Then came a chaos of con-
tests between his sons for the crown.
Finally Edgar was established by the aid
of Rufus. When Edgar died he had to
recognise the distinction between the old
kingdom of Alban and the provinces of
Lothian and Strathclyde ; his brother,
Alexander I., became king, but another
brother, David, with the title of Earl, was
virtual lord of the Lowlands. The earl
succeeded his brother as King David I.,


and it was in his reign that the kingdom
of Scotland took upon it the character
of being primarily the Anglo-Norman
kingdom of the Lowlands, claiming, and
more or less maintaining, a suzerainty
over the Highlands, but developing on its
own lines. David's marriage with the
daughter of Waltheof, son of Si ward of
Northumbria, brought sundry great Eng-
lish earldoms into his hands ; while in
his reign the Anglo-Norman Bruces and
Balliols and Fitzalans, progenitors of the
house of Stewart, appear with others as
barons of Scotland as well as of England.

David made war upon England, chiefly
in the character of a loyal liege-subject of
the Empress Maud, who was claiming the
throne in opposition to Stephen. In spite

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 53 of 55)