Wilfrid Richmond.

The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

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in the same orbit with the Latin-speaking races
of western Europe. A revival of the empire of
Canute, which had bound England, Norway, and
Denmark together, was made forever impossible.
The eyes of the English king turned henceforth
toward Rouen, Paris, Angers, Bordeaux; the
lands of the northeast on the far side of the
German Ocean were to him a well-nigh for-
gotten world.

As a matter of tactics the victory of
Hastings seems to have been due to William's
.skillful combination of archers and , cavalry.
The English forces, though much more imper-
fectly disciplined and less inured to war than
the Normans, stood well at bay for many hours
behind the shield-wall which they knew so well



how to weave, but they were galled by the
thick-flying arrows of the Normans, and were
tempted, by the feigned flight of the enemy, to
rush down the hill after them. Then did Wil-
liam's cavalry, galloping up, thrust themselves
in between their broken ranks, and throw them
into confusion from which they never recov-
ered. Since the 14th of October 1066 no for-
eign conqueror has permanently established
himself on English soil, and we may therefore
here close our brief and rapid sketch of the
Conquests of England.

Bibliography. — For prehistoric man, consult
Dawkins's < Early Man in Britain, > and Beddoe's
<The Races of Britain. 5

For the interesting subject of British coin-
age, the great authority is Sir John Evans in his
two works, < Coins of the Ancient Britons, 5 and
the supplement thereto.

For the Roman Conquest, consult ( Caesar's
Commentaries, 5 (Books IV. and V.) ; Tacitus,
< Annals 5 (Book XIV.), and <Life of Agricola> ;
Dion Cassius, <Historia Romana; 5 the lives of
the Roman Emperors, which go by the name of
the ( Historia Augusta, 5 and the History of Ara-
mianus Marcellinus.

For the end of the Roman period consult
Paulus Orosius, < Histories 5 (Book 7, Anglo-
Saxon affairs). The two chief British author-
ities are the c Liber Querulus 5 of Gildas, edited
by the Rev. Hugh Williams, and Nennius, <His-
toria Brittonum,> edited by Stevenson for the
Historical Society, and by Mommsen in <Monu-
menta Germanise Historical For the Anglo-
Saxon side of the same events the chief authori-
ties are ( The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,* and
Bede's <Historia Ecclesiastical both edited by
Rev. Charles Plummer. For the history of the
7th century, we may add <The Life of Wil-
frid, > by Eddius in the volume < Historians of
the Church of York, 5 edited by J. Raine (Rolls
Series).

The chief authority for the personal history
of Alfred the Great is Asser, <De Rebus Gestis
Aelfredi, 5 recently edited by W. H. Stevenson,
who in a convincing manner has vindicated
Asser's authority. The works of King Alfred
have been published in two volumes, Oxford,
1852-53.

Some light is thrown on the Danish inva-
sions by the Heimskringla (in the Saga Library,
edited by Morris and Magnusson), also by Vig-
fusson and Powell's < Corpus Poeticum Boreale. 5
For the Norman Conquest, the chief authorities
are Ordericus Vitalis, the <Roman de Rou> of
William Wace and pre-eminently the <Bayeux
Tapestry, 5 edited by F. R. Fowke, London.
Modern writers on the subject are too numerous
to mention here, but reference may be made for
the Roman period to Mommsen's < Provinces of
the Roman Empire, 5 (Vol. I of the English
translation), and F. Haverfield's contributions to
the Victoria County History of England.

For later history it will be sufficient to refer
to J. R. Green's ^Making of England 5 and <The
Conquest of England, 5 to E. A. Freemans
< Norman Conquest, 5 to Sir James Ramsay s
foundations of England, 5 and toCF. Keary s
<Vikings in Western Christendom. 5 But for the
whole subject of the bibliography of English
history from the earliest times to the 15th cen-
tury no better guide can be found than sources



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GREAT BRITAIN — MEDIEVAL ENGLAND



and Literature of English History,* by Charles
Gross, of Harvard University.

Thomas Hodgkin,
Author of <>Italy and Her Invaders,* ^Life of

Charles the Great S < Political History of

England* (Vol. /.), etc.

4. Great Britain — Mediaeval England. The
foreign invader had finished his task when the
last results of the Norman conquest of England
were slowly worked out during the Norman and
Angevin periods. For the future the develop-
ment of the country was to depend upon re-
sources supplied from within. The first stage in
this new growth is marked by the reigns of
Henry II. and his sons. From one point of
view Henry II/s work was but a continuation
of that of his grandfather, Henry I. Recent in-
vestigation has shown that few of the character-
istic features of Henry II/s policy were specifi-
cally his own, and that he never departed far
from the lines laid down by his grandfather.
Yet the use Henry made of the materials thus
provided for him constituted a new departure in
our history. Dr. Stubbs' well-known description
of Henry's reign as a "period of amalgama-
tion* remains as true as ever. Before his days,
the English and Norman peoples and English
and Norman institutions remained separate,
though side by side. It was the mission of the
Angevin despotism to grind down both English
and Norman into a common nation with a
common set of institutions. At first the proc-
ess was a mechanical one, for the combina-
tion was due exclusively to the will of an
absolute monarch, working through the most
effective administrative machinery which me-
dieval times had up to now witnessed. As
long as the Angevin despotism remained in-
tact, the English and Norman races and insti-
tutions continued to be kept together through
this external pressure. But they became accus-
tomed to the new conditions, and when the sys-
tem of Henry II., which had survived the neg-
lects of Richard I., broke down through the
active tyranny of John, the union had become
organic to such an extent that it continued, de-
spite the relaxation of the severe pressure which
had brought it about.

The most permanent feature of Henry II.'s
work lay in the establishment of the unity of
England, and the control of the country by a
unified administration dependent upon the cen-
tral power. Though the upper classes long con-
tinued to speak French and to bear French
names, they became as English in spirit as their
native-born tenants and vassals. Yet neither
Henry nor his subjects had any consciousness
of the results of his work. Henry selected Eng-
land for more treatment than he devoted to
the rest of his dominions, not because he was
an English patriot, but because circumstances
gave him greater control over his English
kingdom than over any other part of his
extensive territories. His own personal ambi-
tion was rather to build up a cosmopolitan
Angevin empire, than a national English
kingdom. This ideal could not be realized be-
cause it brought his house into direct conflict
with the growing monarchy of France, whose
kings were engaged in carrying out over their
dominions similar work to that which Henry had
accomplished for his island kingdom. With the



falling away of Normandy, Anjou, and Poitou
from John, and their absorption into the mon-
archy of Philip Augustus, the Angevin empire
collapsed. Henry II.'s continental possessions
had contributed next to nothing toward the de-
velopment of England, but the work he had ac-
complished in unifying them had materially
smoothed the path by which the French national
state was to attain to greatness. The retention
of Gascony in the hands of the English kings
kept up the friction between the two nations and
brought about that hereditary enmity of France
and England, which was so characteristic a
feature of all later mediaeval history. Thus
the failures as well as the success of the
Angevin rulers had their permanent importance.
This was even more notably the case with other
aspects of Henry II/s policy which may be de-.
scribed as premature rather than as impossible.
Conspicuous among these were the efforts of
Henry II. to enlarge the English kingdom into
a monarchy over all the British islands. The
conquest of the more fertile parts of Ireland by
Anglo-Norman feudal adventurers set up in that
island the uneasy dependence of a Celtic people
on the English King's feudal vassals which had
already been established in southern and eastern
Wales since the days of Henry I. Side by side
with this, something like a Norman conquest of
Scotland was effected, not so much by the en-
forced recognition of English supremacy by
unwilling Scottish kings, as by the gradual in-
filtration into the northern kingdom of the sys-
tem and habit of thought which had gained the
ascendancy in Henry's own realm. Even the
least successful of Henry II/s efforts was not
without influence on the future. After the mar-
tyrdom of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Henry
IL renounced as hopeless any heroic attempt to
limit the sphere of the jurisdiction and authority
of the Church. Yet his watchfulness in control-
ling and regulating what he deemed the usur-
pations of the clerical power was renewed from
time to time by the more strenuous of his suc-
cessors, and finally attained a full triumph in the
period of the Reformation. For all these
reasons, the reign of Henry II. is among the
most pregnant of future consequences in all
British history.

The personal prowess and contemporary fame
of Richard I. cannot blind us to the insignifi-
cance of his reign in results. His brother, John,
was the worst and most unlucky of English
kings, but the consequences of his failures and
blunders determined the whole future coarse of
English history. John's unsuccessful conflict with
Innocent III. emphasized that triumph of the
Church, which even his father had been unable
to prevent. The break up of the Angevin em-
pire, though precipitated by his caprice and neg-
lect, was sooner or later inevitable. More im-
portant than either of t'lese was the reaction
against his domestic authority, which resulted
in the union of barons and people in an effort to
limit the autocracy of the Crown. The Angevin
despotism had done its best work in bringing
about the union of England. Like all despotisms,
it was a bad thinpr in itself, even when necessary
as the only alternative to feudal anarchy. In
John's capricious hands it did not so much as
secure the continuance of the law and order for
which England had long been willing to pay a



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GREAT BRITAIN— M&DI£WAL* 2WGLAHD



heavy price. When the mass of the English
people, abandoning their traditional devotion to
the monarchs who had saved them from feudal
disorder, united with the baronial leaders to
wrest from the unwilling king the grant of
Magna Charta, the first faint beginnings of
English liberty and constitutional government
were already at hand.

Of recent years it has become almost the
fashion to decry the importance of Magna Charta.
It is easy to see that John, in sealing the charter,
thought of nothing but obtaining a momentary
respite, and repudiated his act as soon as he
found it safe to do so. It is equally patent that
the barons who forced John to accept the charter
were mere feudalists, careless of all but their
personal wrongs and the grievances of their
class, and quite unconscious that they were act-
ing otherwise than their ancestors had always
acted. Yet emphasizing the unworthiness of
these men should not blind us to the significance
of their work. However unconscious they were
of their high mission, the Fitzwalters and the
Vescys were in a very real sense the pioneers
of English liberty. The opportune death of the
tyrant, the withdrawal from England of the
barons' dangerous ally, Louis of France, and the
wisdom of the papal legate, Gualo, who accepted
in the name of his ward, the infant Henry III.,
the charter which John had repudiated, insured
the permanence of their principles. For nearly
a century the great event of English history is
the struggle for the charter. Under the long,
minority of Henry III. the ideas of limited mon-
archy and constitutional control, which were its
essence, had time to assert themselves. When
the young king attained manhood, his personal
weakness made impossible any effective attempt
on his part to carry on the government on auto-
cratic Angevin lines. The aristocratic control of
the administration was now secured, though it
was long before that control was vigorous or
effective. The chief danger to England was
that the nobles in resuming their former power
might also have fallen back on the old separa-
tist ambitions of their feudal ancestors. Luck-
ily the reaction toward feudalism was slight and
easily suppressed. The baronage of Henrv III.'s
reign was a very different body from that of
Norman times, and only a few isolated individ-
uals still cherished the ancient feudal ambition
of each nobleman ruling like a king over his
own hereditary estate, and caring nothing for
the manner in which the central government of
the country was carried on. The barons of the
13th century accepted the unity of England, and
accepted the central administration which the
Norman and Angevin kings had built up. Their
chief concern was to see that the government of
the country was under their own control, and
not regulated by the king's despotic caprice.
Thus the unity of England remained, but the
central government was henceforth an aristoc-
racy rather than an autocracy. The barons
claimed to be the hereditary counsellors of the
Crown. Even a strong king was compelled to
frame his policy to their liking, and to admit
them into a sort of partnership with him. Under
a weak king, like Henry III., the barons aspired
to rule the realm as they would. Their moment
of triumph came in 1258, when the Provisions
of Oxford transferred the administration of the
country from the monarch to a committee of



15 barons, without whose counsel and consent
the king was not permitted to take any action.
Thus the Angevin despotism developed into the
constitutional monarchy of later times, though
at this stage the only effective limiting force was
the baronial aristocracy. Side by side with this
constitutional development was the blossoming
of every aspect of mediaeval life, which made
the 13th century one of the most brilliant periods
of English annals. The age of Henry III. wit-
nessed the consummation of Gothic architec-
ture ; the beginnings of the most spiritual aspects
of mediaeval Christendom in the orders of mendi-
cant friars ; the rise of a new intellectual life m
the scholastic philosophy, and the organization of
teachers and scholars, called universities. For a
long time the political weakness of i:he reign
df Henry III. checked the general progress of
the nation, but with the revolt of the barons a
new political development began.

The purely baronial conception of the Eng-
lish Parliament had hardly been formulated
when its inadequacy became self-evident. Even
in Norman and Angevin times the authority of
the Crown had been largely based on the mute
but hearty support which the average English-
man gave to the one power which could main*
tain order, and save him from the caprice of the
local feudal tyrant The machinery by^ which
this popular backing of the royal authority had
been effected still survived in the popular local
courts, and the jury system of Henry II. had
enlarged the. representative principle by afford-
ing facilities' for* representative committees of
the shite moots to treat directly with the king
or his agents. Administrative convenience and
financial necessity brought about during the
first half of the 13th century a further ex-
tension of the idea of representation. It be-
came not unusual iFor knights, representing the
shires, and burgesses, chosen from the boroughs,
to be gathered together in a single assembly to
voice complaints, frame laws, testify to ancient
customs, and make extraordinary grants of
money. Such was the state of things when the
narrowness and selfishness of the triumphant
baronial oligarchy provoked a strong reaction
among their own more enlightened supporters,
and gave a unique chance tolhebroadcr-mmded
friends of the monarchy to rescue it from the im-
potence into which it had fallen. Simon of
Montfort, Earl of Leicester, made himself the
leader of the former; Edward, the king's son,
the future Edward I., put himself at the head of
the latter movement. The momentary triumph
of Earl Simon over both his baronial colleagues
and his royalist enemies was marked by the
Parliament of 1265, which, if not the "first
House of Commons, 1 * was at least the first oc-
casion when the new machinery of representa-
tion was applied to the determination of grave
political issues. The effect of Simon's work was
that the lesser landholders and the citizens were
called upon to enlarge the narrow circle which
had hitherto alone aspired to control the crown.
Though Simon perished within a few months on
the field of Evesham, his enemy and supplanter,
Edward I., carried on and completed the work.
Edward was every inch a king, and loved power
too well to abandon any of it willingly. But he
dreaded the might of the gTeater barons and of
the still independent Church ; he appreciated the
advantage of having the people on his side ; and



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he was the first king after the conquest who was
in a real sense an Englishman. Up to now the
progress made in England had been on lines
common to all Christendom. There is nothing
specifically English in the Church, the friars,
Gothic art, scholastic philosophy, the universi-
ties, feudal warfare, or even in the system of
representative control of the Crown by the es-
tates. At last under Edward I. a newer and
more specially national note is sounded. Under
this great king the constitutional system be-
came perfected; the council of the nation be*
came permanently strengthened with a popular
and representative element; the baronial parlia-
ment was enlarged with the three estates of
barons, clergy, and commons. Edward I. was
even less of an innovator than Henry II., but
old ideas took new shapes under his direction.
The materials of the Constitution had been sup-
plied during the creative period of the barons'
wars. His work, as Stubbs has truly said, was
a work of definition. Henceforward the main
outlines of the Constitution were clearly marked
out and defined. As far as outward forms went,
they remained as Edward established them, until
quite modern times.

The most permanent result of Edward I.'s
work was the creation of the English parliamen-
tary system. Edwards other ambitions were
less completely realized. He aspired, with but
little success, to maintain his position in Gas-
cony and on the Continent against Philip the
Fair, the greatest of the mediaeval Kings of
France. He aimed at playing* a prominent part
in Europe, and checking the ever-growing usur-
pations of the Church in the political sphere, and
at establishing his authority over all the British
Islands. In most of these directions he was not
very successful, except that by the destruction of
the state of Llewelyn of Wales he made the Eng-
lish monarch supreme over southern Britain.
Even in his lifetime his attempt to absorb Scot-
land showed no great prospect of success. Under
his unworthy son, Edward II., Robert Brace's
great triumph at Bannockburn (1314) secured
the independence of Scotland and made perma-
nent the division of the English race into two
unequal halves. So far as concerned internal
politics, the reign of Edward II. seemed marked
by an equally strong reaction. The Lord Earl
Ordainers and their leader, Thomas of Lan-
caster, take us back to the oligarchical at-
mosphere of the Provisions of Oxford It was
only after their fall that the Despensers identi-
fied the triumphant monarchy with the represen-
tative parliamentary system. The revolution of
1326, which cost Edward II. his throne and his
life, perpetuated the constitutional authority of
the estates. During the long reign of Edward
III., the king's foreign preoccupations made it
essential for him to keep on fair terms with his
subjects. The subsidies and support, necessary
to enable Edward III. to carry on the early
stages of the Hundred Years' War with France,
finally consolidated the constitutional fabric and
ensured its permanence.

England had already become a nation under
Edward I. During the reign of his grandson
Edward III. the might of the English state
was revealed to all Europe by the extraordinary
military successes which laid low the ancient
feudal fashion of fighting in famous battles
such as those of Crecy and Poitiers. It was



now that the English King first aspired to be
lord of the seas, and that English mariners and
wool merchants prepared the way for the in-
dustrial England that was ultimately to super-
sede the military state that now claimed a great
place in the affairs of Europe. It was the a^e
of Chaucer and Wycliffe, when the English
tongue and English literature blossomed anew
and when the new nation became impatient 01
the narrow limits and strict restraints of the
mediaeval fashions of life and thought. It was
in this age that the Church first provoked suc-
cessful opposition, and first manifested signs of
conscious weakness. The ravages of the Black
Death, the direst of mediaeval pestilences, un-
dermined the old social order and prepared the
way for all that ultimately differentiated tlje
social and economic system of England from
that of its continental neighbors. Chivalry,
whose deeds were glorified in the pages of Frois-
sart, was threatened with decay at the moment
of its apparent triumph. The brilliant successes
of the French war were succeeded by disastrous
failures. In his embarrassed old age Edward
III. saw the loss of his foreign conquests, and
the undermining of his authority at home. Dur-
ing the troubled reign of his grandson, Richard
II., the economic troubles of the period cul-
minated in that Peasant Revolt of 1381 which,
even in its failure, was to ring the knell of
villeinage and the old social system. As Rich-
ard attained manhood, he ventured upon the
most serious effort made by a later mediaeval
'king to overthrow the constitutional system, and
strove to make himself an autocrat like his an-
cestors and his contemporaries, the French
kings. His boldness drove him from his throne
to a prison where he soon met his fate. With
the Revolution of 1399 England was brought
back permanently to the constitutional path.

The Revolution of 1399 was a conservative re-
action in at least two directions. It restored the
old parliamentary Constitution and insured the
loyal continuance of a limited monarchy by es-
tablishing on the throne with a parliamentary
title that house of Lancaster, which since the
days of Earl Thomas had almost continuously
led the constitutional opposition to the sover-
eign. Under the Lancastinian kings the mediae-
val constitutional monarchy attained its height.
Not only weak kings, like Henry IV. and
Henry VI., were perforce true to their constitu-
tional obligations. We see the same loyalty
even in a strong monarch like Henry V., who
was vigorous enough to renew Edward IIL's
claim to the French throne and lucky enough to
profit by French divisions and make himself
ruler of the more important half of the French
monarchy. Under Henry V. also the other
characteristic feature of Lancastinian policy
manifested itself most fully. This was the ec-
clesiastical reaction in favor of the strict ortho-
doxy with which the house of Lancaster was as
much identified as with constitutional princi-
ples. If Edward III. and Richard II. had trifled
with Wycliffe and his followers, Henry IV. and
Henry V. were only content with extirpating
Lollardy and all its works. Their policy was
made easier by the socialistic and revolutionary
extremes into which some of the Lollards had
drifted. The early 15th century was not
ripe for radical revolution in the Church, and
the downfall of heresy was the more rapid and



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complete since WydiftVs teaching had never
really established itself in popular favor. For
another hundred years the majestic unity of the



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 4 of 185)