M. (Paul) Rapin de Thoyras.

The history of England : written in French (Volume 1) online

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Written in FRENCH. by


Tranflated into ENGLIS H with Additional Note s, by .

N. TINDAL, M. A. Vicar ©f Great WalthaminEflex,

The Second Edition.





Printed for James, John and Paul Knapton, at the Crown in Ludgate-ftreec,

near the Weft-End of St. Paul's.

M Dec xxxir.

'-' .-. x » -;-.■


Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2009






S 1 R,

-%^^^^^^ prefuming to offer to Your Royal Highness
this Tranflation, is in fome meafure juftified by the
Nature of the Subjedl, and Reafon of the Thing. For
Hiftory, however ufeful to others, is infinitely more lb
to a Prince, and particularly the Hiftory of that Crown
He is born to wear. How inftruclive, as well as agree-
able, muft a fair and impartial Narration of the Lives
and Adions of a long Series of Predeceflbrs be to Him ?
And that Such is the following Hiftory, originally pen-
ned by a Foreigner, who had no Party to ferve, or Intereft to promote, may
be undoubtedly concluded from the univerfal Approbation it every where
meets with.

. * \

Here then, as from a faithful Monitor, uninfluenced by Hopes or
Fears, Your Royal Highness will learn, in general, That to a Prince
nothing is fo pernicious as Flattery ; nothing fo valuable as Truth :
That proportionable to his People's Liberty and Happinefs will be his

V o l. I. . ( a ) Glory


Glory and Strength : That true Valour confifts not in destroying, but pro-
tecting Mankind ; not in conquering Kingdoms, but defending them from
Violence : That a Prince's moft fccret Counfels, Motives and Purfuits, will
probably one day be published and rigoroufly judged ; and, however flat-
tered whilft living, yet when dead, he will be treated as his Actions have
defcrved, with Honour or Reproach, with Veneration or Contempt.

More particularly, Your Royal Highness will Here perceive,
that foreign Acquifitions and Conquefts were generally fatal to England-,
all Increafe of Empire burdenfom to her, except That of the Ocean, which
can never be too extenfive, as it enlarges and protects her Trade, the
principal Fountain of her Riches and Grandeur.

But above all, you will Here fee the Origin and Nature of our Ex-
cellent Conftitution, where the Prerogatives of the Crown, and Privileges
of the Subject are fo happily proportioned, that the King and the People
are infeparably united in the fame Interefts and Views. You will obferve
that this Union, though talked of by even the moft Arbitrary Princes
with refpect to their Subjects, is peculiar to the Englijh Monarchy, and
the moft folid Foundation of the Sovereign's Glory, and the People's Hap-

Accordingly, you will Here conftantly find, that in the Reigns where
this Union was cultivated , the Kingdom flourifhed, and the Prince was
glorious, powerful, trufted, beloved. On the contrary, when, by an Ar-
bitrary Difpofition, or evil Counfels, it was interrupted, the Conftitution
languifhed, mutual Confidence vaniihed, Diftruft, Jealoufy, Difcord arofe;
and when entirely broken, as was unfortunately fometimes the Cafe, Con-
fufion and Civil Wars enfued.

A s this Union, fo efiential to our Government, was by Your Royal
Grandfather, and is by His Prefent Majejly, Your Royal Father, fteddily
adhered to, fo it is with extreme Satisfaction prefumed, that the fame Ad-
herence will diftinguifh Your Royal Highness's future Reign, a Pre-
fumption grounded upon Your many noble Endowments, but chiefly on
that Foundation of all other, as well as Royal, Virtues, a generous Mind,
which naturally abhors Oppreflion and Tyranny.

Presuming on this known Generofity, I moft humbly intreat Your
Royal Highness's gracious Acceptance of this Addrefs and Tranflation,
and beg leave to have the Honour of fubferibing my felf, with profound
Refpect and SubmilTion,

S I R,

Your Royal Highness'.?

Mojl humble, fnojl dutiful^

And mojl obedient Servant,




Sg5£$| H E N Mr. Rapin firft begun this
'$$$ Work, he little thought of writing a
|b& compleat Hiftoiy of England. His long
£w ^ a )' ' n our ^ an< ^ gi vin g him an oppor-
tunity of learning our Language ; and
his Poft in the Army, during the War
in Ireland, even obliging him to it, he
diligently applied himfelf to the reading
of Englijh Books, and particularly of fuch as treated of the Go-
vernment and Hiftory of England, after the Norman Conquejl.
As the defire of knowledge continually increafes, and being
mailer of his time, he was not fatisfied with underftanding the
Nature, but wifhed alio to know the Original, of the Eng-
lljh Conftitution. To this end, he thought it necefTary to
perufe carefully the Hiftory of the Anglo-Saxons, who in-
troduced this form of Government into Great-Britain. He
found this Study to be very difcouraging, the Hiftory of
die Anglo-Saxons being like a vaft Foreft, where the Tra-
veller, with great difficulty, finds a few narrow paths to
guide his wandering fteps. It was this however that in-
fpired him with the defign of clearing this part of the Eng-
UJh Hiftory, by removing the rubbifh, and carrying on the
Thread fo, as to give at leaft a general Knowledge. For
this purpofe, he was indifpenfably obliged to fhow, how
the Saxons came to fend Troops into Great-Britain, and
why a Conqueft, which had coft them fo much, was aban-
doned by the Romans. In a word, he fixed the beginning
of his Hiftory to the time of Julius Cajar, who firft at-
tempted to conquer our Ifland, intending to conclude with
the Norman Conquejl. But not knowing how to em-
ploy his time better, and befides finding, that after the Con-
queft, the Scene was changed, and from a wild Foreft he
was entered into a cultivated Country, where the way was
eafy, he refolved to proceed. However, when he came to
the Reign of Henry II, he was upon the point of relin-
quifhing his Work, of which the beginning gave him no
incouragement, when an unexpected affiftance, not only
induced him to continue it, but alfo to form the project
of a much larger Hiftory than what he at firft intended.
This affiftance was Rymer's Foedera, communicated to
our Author by the famous le Clcre, to whom, being then
publishing at the Government's charge, the Volumes were
ient by the Lord Halifax, a great Promoter of that no-
ble Work.

This Collection , confiding then of feventeen Folios,
which are lately reprinted with two additional Volumes,
was of infinite fervice to our Author in compiling his
Hiftory, and enabling him to clear numberlefs things which
remained in obfcurity. It afforded him means, i. To
reftify the Dates in many places, z. To difcover a great
number of errors in the beft Englijl), Scotch, French, Ita-
lian, and SpaniJIi Hiftorians. 3. To decide, on many oc-
cafions, concerning the contrarieties between the Hiftori-
ans. 4. To infert in his Hiftory many Events, wholly o-
mitted, or but (lightly mentioned by others. In a word,
it is This that chiefly diftinguiihes his Hiftory from all
that have appeared before this Collection was publifhed. For
it is eafy to fee what an advantage it was to him, fince it
contains Treaties of Peace, Truce, League, Marriages,
Commerce, made by the Kings of England with other
Princes; Ambaffadors Inftruftions ; their Letters and In-
formations, as well concerning their own Negotiations, as

the affairs of the Courts to which they were fent; vcrv
inftruftive Memoirs upon affairs confufedly fpoken of by
the Hiftorians ; Letters Patents; Orders; Safe Condudb ;
with numberlefs other Papers, which cannot be ranged un-
der general Heads, and which are of great ufe to a Hif-
torian. All thefe Mr. Rapin was fo well acquainted with,
that he has publifhed Abftrafts of feventeen Volumes, to
fhow the relation of thefe A&s to the Hiftory of Eng-
land. This Work to a Man lefs verfed in the Englifh
Hiftory than Mr. Rapin, would require his whole life ;
but to him, who knew the intent and motive of every
Aft, it was only a diverfion. By the way, it may be
added, that Mr. Rapin had a thorough knowledge of our
Parties and Faftions, as appears in his DiJJertatim on the
Whigs and Tories, publifhed in 1717, and tranflated into
Englijl), Dutch, Danijh, and twice into High-Dutch.

The advantage which the ufe of Rymer's Collection,
gave Mr. Rapin over all our Hiftorians, ferves, in great
meafure, to remove the objeftion of his being a Foreigner,
which naturally arifes in the mind of an Englijhnan. But
if it is farther confidered, that befides this advantage, he
not only carefully perufed all the Englijh Hiftorians, but alfo
confronted them with thofe of the neighbouring States,
whether they wrote in Latin, French, Italian, or Spanijh,
it muft be owned this objeftion entirely vanifhes, and that
fuppofing his judgment and capacity equal to the Work,
( which the Publick by an uncommon approbation feems
to allow ) he was in all other refpefts as well qualified as
any Englijhman can be.

As his affiftances were extraordinary, fo there's reafon
to believe his impartiality uncommon. For befides his pri-
vilege, as a Foreigner, of freely fpeaking the truth, with-
out fear of offending any Party, he had no motive or in-
tereft to induce him to be partial to England, or any of
the neighbouring States. His Life was equally fpent in
France, England, Holland, and Germany. During the
feventeen years he was employed in this Work, he had
no Poft or Penfion, nor exercifed any Profeffion, which
might bias him to one Nation more than another, and as
he had no particular obligations to any of the forememioned
States, fo he had no reafon to complain of ever receiving
the leaft injuftice.

But notwithftanding his endeavours to be entirely impar-
tial, he plainly forefaw, People's prejudices in favour of
their own Nation, would prevent them from doing him
juftice upon feveral occafions. But this was a Rock he
could not avoid. How is it poffible, for inftance, to relate
the Concerts between the Englijl} and Scots, to the fatisfac-
tion of both ? The War between them in the XlVth Cen-
tury, concerning the Sovereignty of the Kings of England
over Scotland, cannot be defcribed with its Caufes and
Circumftances, without exafperating the one or the other.
The Scots are perfuaded, Edward I. ^fted very unjuftlv
with their Anceftors, and that his Grandfon Edward 111
was not more fcrupulous. The Englijh, on the contrary,
believe, their Kings had Then and long Before an uncon-
teftable right of Sovereignty over all Scotland, and that Ed-
ward the Firjl's War upon that account was very lawful.
Our Author has declared for the Scots, as believing the
Truth on their fide. For which reafon he has endeavou-
red to fet this whole affair in the cleareft light pnffible,
thinking it the duty of a Hiftorian, to correft fuch errors



The P R E F A C E.

as have gathered ftrength from Time, or from the negli-
gence and prejudices of former Writers.

The quarrel between Edward III and Philip de Vahis,
in which fo much blood was fpilt, is another inftance
wherein it is almoft impofTible to pleafe both the Engiijh
and French, Among the French, the Salic Law is a AV/'
me tangere. To fatisfy them, not only the Antiquity of
that Law muft be acknowledged, but the Senfc and Ex-
tent muft alfo be left unexamined. The Engiijh, on their
fide, are no lei's prejudiced. Without confidering that
Ediyerd could have no right to the Crown of France,
but on fuppofition of the authority of the Salic Law, they
alledge againft it fuch reafons, as are not only unfer-
viceable, but even prejudicial, to that Prince's Rights. Our
Author however, without being reftrained by the Fear of
dii'pleafing either, has explained, in a Differtation at the
end of Edward the Third's Reign, what is meant by the
Salic Law, wherein confifted the Difference between the
two Kings, and fhown, that their Rights were fo litigious,
as to be very difficultly decided by that Law.

If it is hard to fatisfy two different Nations in the re-
cital of their Contefts and Quarrels, it is no lefs fo to con-
tent the Engiijh themfelves, in things wherein their opi-
nions are divided ; as for inftance, the Prerogatives of the
King, the Privileges of Parliament, the Succeffion of the
Crown, and the like. Mr. Rapin obferves, that difputes
on thefe points were firft fet on foot among us in the laft
Century, by two oppofite Parties, one whereof was for an
abfolute and arbitrary Power in the King, whilft the other
endeavoured not only to diveft him of his juft Prerogatives,
but even to render him dependent on the Parliament.
Thefe two extremes he equally condemned, and as he
had no motive or intereft to incline him to either Party,
he has done his utmoft to difcover the Truth, through
the Paflions and Prejudices of the Writers on bc' ; i fides.
He has fairly confronted the Facts laid down by the feveral
Hiftorians, received for true, fuch as they all agree in,
and of fuch as are varioufly related, he has admitted only
thofe that are fupported by ftrong evidence. The Barons
War; are alfo a Subject that can hardly be treated to the
fatisfaction of all Readers ; fome confidering as Rebellion,
what others deem a juft defence of Liberty and Property.
Mr. Rapin has declared for neither of thefe Opinions, far-
ther than induced by folid reafons, and, by means of the
Fa-dera, has clearly accounted for the Rife and Progrefs of
thefe 'Wars, which, for want of that affiftance, are very
confufedly explained by others.

What moft embaraffed our Author, is the national Par-
tiality of the Hiftorians, chiefly upon two Articles, The
Violation of the Treaties, and, the Succefs of the Battles.
For the firft, where the Truth was no other way to be
difcovered, he has frequently made ufe of a very natural
maxim ; namely, that it is not likely the Party, to whom
a Treaty is adv'antagious, fhould be the firft to break it.
As for the fecond Article, nothing is more common than
to fee Hiftorians ftick to own their Nation vanquifhed, and
think it incumbent on them to diminifh its loffes, or mag-
nify its victories. On thefe occafions, when our Author
could not fix the fuccefs of a Battle by the Confequences,
he has taken care to inform the Reader of the difagreement
between the Hiftorians.

Mr. Rapin, profeffmg to write for the information of
Foreigners, was obliged to give a particular account of the
Engiijh Conftitution. The following Difcourfe therefore
was folely defigned for the inftruction of fuch as are
ftrangers to our Government, which, being different, as
he obferved, from all others, the Reader, as well as Hifto-
rian, muft always have it in fight, leaft wrong Ideas lead
them into great Errors.

Origin and The Government of England is a mixt and limited Mo-
Natvrt of narchy, as it is certain, all the Governments in Europe
the Eoghfh eftakijfned by the .northern Nations formerly were. They

itorjlitutiur.. J . -iiri Jl_*

were Monarchies, inverted, not with abiolute and arbitrary,
but with a power bounded by the national Laws. Such is
ftill the Engiijh Conftitution, whatever changes have hap-
pened in the other European Kingdoms. The King and
People make but one Body, of which the King is Head.
He directs and gives motion to all the other Members, takes
care of their Welfare, and ought always to have an eye
to the Publick, to procure their good, and guard them a-
gainft all impending evils. By watching thus for the pub-
lick, he confults his own intereft, fince, being ftrictly
united with his Subjects, he is fure to be gainer by all the
advantages he procures them.

But to enable the King to labour effectually for the good
of the Kingdom, it was neceffary to cloath him with a
great Power, and affirm him a Revenue fufficient to live
in fplendor, in order to attract the veneration of the Peo-
ple. It was neceffary to grant him Privileges approaching
abfolute Power ; as the command of the Armies and for-
tified Fhces ; the execution of the Laws, and the admi-

niftration of Juftice in his own Name ; the pardoning of
condemned Criminals ; the difpofal of all the high Offices ;
the calling and diffolving of the Parliament ; the rejecting
of Bills he thinks contrary to the publick Good ; the
proclaiming Peace and War : Thefe are called the Preroga-
tives of the King, or of the Crown. I do not pretend to
aive an exact Lift of them. I am fenfible fome extend
them much farther: but all I mean here is, that the King
has great Prerogatives, which were the effect or confe-
quence of the mutual agreement of the firft Anglo-SaxaH
Kings with their People. The King wants nothing to
render kirn happy and powerful. His Revenues are more
than fufficient for his ordinary expences, and to reward
thofe who diftinguifh themfelves by their merit, befides
the preferments in the Church, State, and Army, which
he may beftow as he pleafes. Has he a iuft War to main-
tain ? He is not obliged to burden his People with Taxes
and Impofitions. It is the People themfelves that volunta-
rily furnifh him with every thing neceffary. Thus, with-
out ever being under a neceffity of heaping up riches for
the future, he is fure of finding in the purfes of his Sub-
jects wherewithal to fupply his prefent occafions.

There are but two things, the Saxons did not think
proper to truft their Kings with, by reafon of the ill con-
fequences, for being of like paffions with other Men, they
might very poffibly abufe them ; namely, The Power of
changing the Laws enacted by confent of King and Peo-
ple ; and the Power of raifing Taxes at their pleafure.
From thefe two Articles fpring numberlefs branches con-
cerning the Liberty and Property of the Subject, which
the King cannot touch, without breaking the Conftitu-
tion, and they are the diftinguifhing character of the Eng-
iijh Monarchy. The Prerogatives of the Crown, and the
Rights and Privileges of the People, flowing from the
two fore-mentioned Articles, are the Ground of all the
Laws that from time to time have been made by the una-
nimous confent of King and People. The Engiijh Go-
vernment confifts in the correfpondence and ftrict union
of the King's Prerogatives with the People's Liberties.
So far are thefe from deftroying one another, that they are
rather the ftrongeft cement of that ftrict union, fo necef-
fary between the Prince and People. The King, by means
of his Prerogatives, is able to protect his Subjects ; to fee
the Laws duly executed, and Juftice impartially adminiftred ;
to defend the Weak againft their powerful oppreffors ; to
aflift the Unfortunate, and punifh the Difturbers of the
Society On the other hand, the People, whilft in pof-
feflion of their Liberties, coimJing in the Laws and the
King's care to execute them, live fecurely without any
fears for their Lives or Properties. They enjoy the fruits
of their induftry, which turns to the King's advantage,
fince from the People it is, that the King's occafions are
fupplied. If they make their court to the Nobles, it is
only when their inteieft or affiftance may be neceffary,
and not out of fear of being eppreffed, fince the Greateft
are equally fubject to the Laws, with the Meaneft.

It cannot be denied, fuch a 'Government is extremelv
proper to render both Prince and People happy. But when
Kings arofe, as fome there were, that aimed at abfolute
Power; by changing the old, and making new, Laws, at
pleafure ; by impoling illegal and arbitrary Taxes on the
People ; this excellent Government being, in fome mea-
fure, diffolved, by thefe deftructive maxims, confufion and
civil Wars enfued, which fome very wrongfully afcribe to.
the fickle and reftlefs temper of the Engiijh. On the other
hand, the People have not always been contented with
maintaining their Privileges, when once infringed by the
King, but, for fear of the like attempts for the future,
have proceeded to meafures very deftructive of the juft
Rights of the Crown. And this is the reafon why the
Prerogative, abufed by fome former Kings, runs not at
prefent fo high as formerly.

Since then the Engiijh Conftitution confifts in an inti-
mate union between the Prince and People, as between the
Head and Body, it is confequently in its utmoft perfec-
tion and ftrength whilft this union fubfilts, and both, with-
out mutual fufpicions, jealoufies, and fears, fecurely eniov
their refpedtive Rights. On the contrary, it decays and
degenerates, when one endeavours to invade the Privileges
of the other.

To preferve a perfect union between the King and the
People, it was neceffary to eftablifh a way of communica-
tion between them. This was done by means of a Wil-
tena- Gemot, or AJfembly of Wife Men, who reprefented the
whole Nation. This method the Saxons brought with
them from Germany, where all publick affairs were de-
cided in fuch an Affembly, of which their Generals,
chofen in time of war, were Prefidents. However, they
were obliged to make fome alterations, becauie in Germany
they had no Kings, the lupreme Power being lodged in
the Wittena-Gemot ; whereas in England, their Chiefs or
Leaders affumed the Title of Kings. Htngift, who firft


The Preface.


led Saxon Troops into Britain as Auxiliaries was the firft
that affirmed this Title, probably with the approbation of
the Saxons under his command. For fince he was not
naturally their King, how could he become fo without
their confent ? But it muft be obferved, Hengijl may be
confidered in a double capacity. At his arrival in Great-
Britain he was certainly only General of the Saxons. But
alter receiving the Grant of Kent from Vortigern King of
the Britons, he became as much Sovereign of that Country
as Vortigern was before him, and accordingly aflumed the
T.tie of Kiny of Kent, but this new Title did not make
hi, n King of the Saxons, of whom he was only intruded
with the command. So, it is likely, the Saxom, in con-
fenting, their General fhould become their Sovereign, did
not give him an abfolute power over their Lives and Pro-
perties, fuppofing, what would be extremely difficult to
prove, he was inverted with fuch a power over his Britijh
Subjects. There is a remarkable paffage in the Hiftory of
France to this purp<?fe. Clovis was King of the Francs,
before he led his Army into Gaul, and his large Conquefts
there gave him no more power over his own Countrymen
than he enjoyed before. This is evident from his being pre-
vented by a common Soldier, from prefenting the Arch-
bifhop of Rheims, with a piece of Plate taken among the
Plunder. The Soldier could not bear, the King fhould
appropriate to himfelf what belonged to all in common, fo
hewed it in pieces with his Battle- Ax [ and took his fhare. ]
The King, who knew he exceeded his Power, did not dare
to punifh him upon the fpot, and though he afterwards
took an occafion to put him to death, it was upon fome
other account, wherein he might lawfully do it. It may
then with good reafon be affirmed, that the Saxon Ge-
nerals, in affuming the Title of King, acquired not a
defpotick Power over their own Followers, by whofe af-
fiftance they conquered Britain. Since therefore the firft
Kings had not fuch a Power, it was neceflary to eftabliih
fome way to prevent their ufurping it -, and that could not
be done better, than by general Aflemblies, which confifting
of the King, and the chiefs of the People, kept the ba-
lance even betwixt both. It muft be further obferved,
there is one material difference between the fettlement of
the Francs in Gaul, and of the Saxons in Britain. In
Gaul, the number of the Conquered was always fuperior
to that of the Conquerors. Whereas in Britain, if any
Britons remained in the conquered Provinces, they were
but tew, and fr. a ftate of Slavery. So, the Country was
properly inhabited only with Saxons, Jutes, and Angles,
over whom the Conquefts made by their own Arms, gave
to their firft Kings no power but what they confented to.
We are ignorant indeed of the particulars of the agree-
ment between the Kings and their refpe&ive People, but
the proofs that afterwards appear, of the People's Liberty,
leave no room to doubt, there was at firft fome regulation

It is not eafy to know diftindtly, who the Witan or
Wilemen were that compofed their Wittena-Gemots. At
firft, thefe Aflemblies might only confift of the Saxon

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