William Stubbs.

The constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 online

. (page 52 of 68)
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only a sketch can be attempted ; it is possible that anything
more ambitious than a sketch would contain more fallacies
than &cts.
vwiwwoom- 455. Takinff the king and the three estates as the £actors of the
JJje riational national problem, it is probably true to say in general terms that,
middle ages, from the Conquest to the Great Charter, the crown, the elei^,
and the commons, were banded together against the baronage ;
the legal and national instincts and interests againat the feudal
From the date of Magna Carta to the revolution of 1399, the
barons and the commons were banded in resistance to the
aggressive policy of the crown, the action of the clergy being
greatly perturbed by the attraction and repulsion of the papacy.
From the accession of Henry IV to the accession of Henry VII,
the baronage, the people, and the royal house, were divided
each within itself, and that internal division was working a sort
of political suicide which the Tudor reigns arrested, and by arrest-
ing it they made possible the restoration of the national balance.
In such a very comprehensive summary of the drama, even
the great works of Henry II and Edward I appear as secondary
influences; although the defensive and constructive policy of
the former laid the foundation both of the royal autocracy which
lus descendants strove to maintain, and of the national organ-
isation which was strong enough to overpower it ; and the like
constructive and defensive policy of Edward I gave definite
form and legal completeness to the national organisation itself.
In the struggle of the fifteenth century the clergy, alone of the
three estates, seem to retain the unity and cohesion which was

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"XXI.] Balance of Forces in the State. 503

proof against the disruptive influences of the dynastic quarrel ; The Tador
but their position, though apparently stronger, had a fatal
source of weakness in their alliance with or dependence on a
foreign influence ; whilst the weakness of the crown and the
people was owing to personal and transient causes, which a
sovereign with a strong policy, and a people again united, would
very soon reduce to insignificance. The crown was a lasting
power, even when its wearers were incapable of governing ; the
nation was a perpetual corporation, in nowise essentially affected
by personal or party changes ; whereas in the baronage personal Humiliation
and constitutional existence were one and the same thing, and baronage,
the blow that destroyed the one destroyed the other. Hence during
the early days of the Tudor dictatorship, the baronage was power-
less ; and the clergy and commons, although like the crown they
retained corporate vitality, were thrown out of working order
by the absence of all political energy in the remains of the other
estate. The commons, having lost the leaders who had misled Amthy
them to their own destruction, threw themselves into other commoiu.
work, and, ceasing to take much interest in politics, grew richer
and stronger for the troubled times to come. The clergy, with- Benondence
out much temptation to aggression and with little chance of
obtaining greater independence, seeing little in Rome to honour
and nothing at home to provoke resistance, gradually sank into
complete harmony with and dependence on the king. And this
constituted the strength of the position of Henry Vlll : he had
no strong baronage to thwart him ; he or his ministers had
wisdom enough to understand the interests which were dearest
to the commons ; the church was obsequious to his friendship,
defenceless against his hostility. With the support of his par- Pbdtion of
liaments, which trusted without loving him, and confirmed the
acts by which he fettered them, he permanently changed the
balance between church and state and between the crown and
the estates. He overthrew the monastic system, depriving the
church of at least a third of her resources and throwing out of
parliament nearly two thirds of the spiritual baronage^; he

' The smaller monasteries were dissolved by the Act 27 Hen. VIII,
c. 28 ; after many of the larger houses had surrendered, the rest were



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504 Constitutional History. [chap.

His treat- broke the union between the English and Roman churches, and,

church; declariDg himself her head on earth, left the English churoi^
altogether dependent on her own weakened resources, and
suspended and practically suppressed the l^^lative powers of

of the convocation'. He constructed a new nobility out of the ruins
of the old, and from new elements enriched by the spoils of the
church: a nobility which had not the high traditions of the
medieval baronage, and was by the veiy condition of its crea-
tion set in opposition to the ecclesiastical influences which had

of the hitherto played so great a part. But with the commons Henry
did not directly meddle : true he used his parliaments merely
to register his sovereign acts ; took money from his people as
a loan, and wiped away the debt by parliamentary enactment' ;
took for his proclamations the force of laws, and obtained a

His dictator- Mex regia' to make him the supreme lawgiver^; he arrested
and tried and executed those whom he suspected of enmity,
demanding and receiving the thanks of the commons for his
most arbitrary acts. That by these means he carried the nation
over a crisis in which it might have suffered worse evils, is a
theory which men will accept or reject according as they arc
swayed by the feelings which were called into existence by the
changes he effected.

Elizabeth carried on the dictatorship which her father had

dissolved by the Act 31 Hen. VIII, c. 13 ; and the Order of the Hospitallers,
by 32 Hen. VUI, c. 34. Colleges, chantries, and finee chai>els, were given
to the king by i Edw. VI, c. 14.

* This was enacted by 26 Hen. VIII, c. i : • That the king our sovereign
lord, bis heirs and successors kings of this realm, shall be taken acoepted
and reputed the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England
called Anglicaua Ecclesia.' The exact tenns bad been discussed in Convoca-
tion as early as 1531, and accepted in a modified form.

* By the Act of Submission (25 Hen. YIH, c. 19), and the instrument
signed by the clergy. May 15, 1532, it was declared tbat there should be
no legisUtion in Couvocation without the king's licence, and that the
existing canon law should be reviewed by a commission of thirty-two
persons, half lay and half clerical.

» Stat. 21 Hen. VIII, c. 34, and 35 Hen. VIII. c 13.

* Stat. 31 Hen. VIII, c. 8. 'That always the king for the time being
with the advice of his honourable council may set forth at all times by the
authority of this Act his proclamations . . . and that those same shiJl be
obeyed obBerved and kept as though they were made by Act of Pariiament
for the time in them limited unless the king's highness dispenae with them
or any of them under his great seal.*



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XXI.] Variation of the Balance, 505

'won, and which the misiroyemment of the intervenintr reigns Position of

ujjj XI. 1.^ T-x -Elizabeth.

had rendered even more necessary than before. In spite of

mistakes and under many inevitable drawbacks, she earned
her title to the supremacy she wielded, and, so long as she
lived, the better side of a strong governmental policy showed
itself. She acted as the guide of the nation which she saw
strong enough to choose its own course ; making herself the
exponent of the countr/s ambition, she ruled the ship of state
hy steering it ; she could not direct the winds or even trim the
sails, but she could see and avoid the rocks ahead.

The Tudor dictatorship left a sad inheritance to the Stewarts. Jsmee I and
James I was not content with the possession, without a theory, of royal power,
supremacy. The power which Henry VIII had wielded he formu-
lated j and challenged the convictions of a people growing more
thoughtful as they grew also stronger. His dogmatic theories
forced the counteracting theories into premature life : his eccle-
siastical policy, the outcome of Elizabeth's, g^ve a political
standing ground to puritanism; and puritanism gave to the
political warfare in which the nation was henceforth involved a

relentless character that was all its own. He left his throne to Charles I

unnt to de-
a son who had not the power to guide if he had had the chance : tennine the
« » t % . Kreat onsis*

whose theory of sovereign right was incompatible with the con-
stitutional theory which, rising as it were from the dead, had
found its exposition among the commons. The lords of the
new baronage neither loved the clergy nor trusted the people.
Divided between the king and liberty, they sank for the time
into moral and legal insignificance ; and, however singly or per-
sonaUy eminent, ceased for a time to be recognised as an estate
of the republic. The clergy, committed to the fatal theory that
was destroying the king, had already fallen. The king himself,
too conscientious to be poUtic, scarcely strong enough to be
faithfully conscientious; neither trusting nor having cause to
trust his people, who neither trusted nor had cause to trust him,
fell before the hostility of men for whose safety it was necessary
that he should die, and the hatred of fanatics who combined
person and office in one comprehensive curse, — a sacrifice to the
policy and principles of his enemies, the victim and the martyr to



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5o6 Constitutional History. [chap.

Pofiition of bis own. The place which Cromwell took, when he bad wrested
Cromwell, the government from the incapable bands that were trying to
hold it, was one which be, with his many great gifts and bis
singular adaptation to the wants of the time, might have filled
well, if any man could. But the whole national mecbaoism
was now disjointed, and he did not live long enough to put
it together in accordance either with its old conformation or
with a new one which he might have devised. So the era of tbe
Commonwealth passed over, a revolution proved to be premature
by the force of the reaction which followed it, by tbe strength
of the elements which it suppressed without extinguishing
them, and by the fact, which later history proved, that it
involved changes &r too great to be permanent in an ancient
full-grown people.

If the absolutism of tbe Tudors must in a measure answer
for the sins of the Stewarts, and tbe sins of tbe Stewarts for
tbe miseries of the Bebellion, tbe republican government
must in like measure be held responsible for the excesses of
The the Eestoration. Both the Rebellion and tbe Restoration were

Bestomtion. gj^Q^i educational experiments. Tbe arrogance of puritanism had
been almost as f&tsl to the political unity of the commons, as
tbe doctrine of divine right had been to the king and tbe church.
Tbe Restoration saw the strange alliance of a church, purified
by sufifering, with the desperate wilfulness of a court that had
lost in exile all true principle, all true conception of royalty.
Stranger still, the nation acquiesced for many years in tbe sup-
port of a government which seemed to reign without a policy.
The without a principle and without a parliament. But most

strange of all, out of tbe weakness and foulness and darkness
of the time, tbe nation, church, peers and people, emeige with
a strong bold on better things; prepared to set out again on
a career which has never, since tbe Revolution of t688, been
materially impeded. But this is far beyond tbe goal which we
have set ourselves, and would lead on to questions the true
bearings of which are even now being for the first time ade-
quately explored, into a history which has yet to be written.
456. Keeping this general outline well in view, but not

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Revolution.



XXI.] Character of the Kings. 507

Riding our investigation by special regard to it, we may now
approach the main subject of the chapter, and come down to
details which, however mutually unconnected, have a distinct
Talue, as they help to supply colour and substance to the
shadowy impersonations of the great drama.

Few dynasties in the whole history of the world, not even strong char-
the Caesars or the Antonines, stand out with more distinct per- pumtagenet
sonal character than the Plantagenets. Without having the rough, "^^
half Titan, half savage, majesty of the Norman kings, they are,
with few exceptions, the strong and splendid central figures of
the whole national life. Each has his well-marked individual
characteristics. No two are closely alike, each has qualities
which, if not great in themselves, are magnified and made im-
portant by the strength of the will which gives them expression.
There is not a coward amongst them ; ev^i the one man of the
race who is a careless and incapable king, has the strong will of
his race, and a latent capacity for exertion which might have
saved him. All of them, or nearly all, lived before the eyes of
their subjects; some were oppressively ubiquitous: the later
kings from Edward I onwards could speak the language of their
people, and all of them doubtless understood it. Whatever
there was in any one of them that could attract the love of the
people was freely shown to the people : their children were
brought up with the sons and daughters of the nobles, were at
an early age introduced into public life, endowed with estates and
establishments of their own, and allowed, perhaps too freely, to
make their own way to the national heart. It can, indeed. Their
scarcely be said that any of the Plantagenet kings after his popularity,
elevation to the throne enjoyed a perfect popularity. Henry 11
was never beloved ; the Londoners adorned their streets with
garlands when Eichard came home, but a very slight experience
of his personal government must have sufficed them; John
hated and was hated of all; Henry III no man cared for;
Edward I was honoured rather than loved ; Edward II, alone
among the race, was despised as well as hated. With Edward
III the tide turned ; he came to the crown young, and gained
fiiympathy in his early troubles; he took pains to court the



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5o8 Constitutional History. [chap.

Personal natiou, and in liis best years he was a favoarite ; but, sHer the
of the ki^ war and the plague, he fell into the background, and the nation
was tired of him before he died. Richard possessed eiu-ly, and
early forfeited, the people's love ; he deserved it perhaps as little
as he deserved their later hatred. Henry lY, as a subject^ had
been the national champion, and he b^^an to reign with some
hold on the people's heart ; but the misery of broken health, an
uneasy conscience, and many public troubles, threw him early
into a gloomy shadowy life of which his people knew little^
Henry Y was, as he deserved to be, the darling of the nation ;
Henry VI was too young at his accession to call forth any per-
sonal interest, and during his whole reign he failed to acquire
any hold on the nation at large ; they were tired of him before
they came to know him, and when they knew him they knew
his unfitness to rule. Edward IV, like Henry IV, came a favour-
ite to the throne ; but unlike Henry, without deserving love, he
retained popularity all his life. BIchard III had, as duke of
Gloucester, been.loved and honoured ; he forfeited love, honour
and trust, when he supplanted his nephew, and he perished
before his ability and patriotism, if he had any, could recover
the ground that he had lost.
Growth of 457. Notwithstanding this series of failures, we can trace a
or^yi^.° growing feeling of attachment to the king as king, which may be
supposed to form an essential characteristic of the virtue of loyalty.
Loyalty is a virtuous habit or sentiment of a very composite
character ; a habit of strong and faithful attachment to a per-
son, not so much by reason of lus personal character as of his
official position. There is a love which the good son feels for
the most brutal or indifferent father ; national loyalty has an
analogous feeling for a bad or indifferent king ; it is not the
same feeling, but somewhat parallel. Such loyalty gives hr
more than it receives; the root of the good is in the loyal
people not in the sovereign, who may or may not deserve it;
there is a feeling too of proprietorship : ' he is no great hero but
he is our king.' Some historical training must have prepared
a nation to conceive such an idea. The name of king cannot
have been synonymous with oppression; loyalty itself, in its



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XXI.] Orowih (f Loyalty. 509

very name, recals the notion of trust in law, and observance of Itacauaos.
law ; and the race which calls it forth, as well as the nation that
feels it, must have been on the whole a law-abiding race and
nation. It gathers into itself all that is admirable and loveable
in the character of the ruler, and the virtues of the good king
imquestionably contribute to strengthen the habit of loyalty to
all kings. Once aroused, it is strongly attracted by misfortime ;
hence kings have often learned the blessings of it too late.
Richard 11 after his death became ' God's true knight ' whom the
wicked ones slew ^, and Henry YI became a saint in the eyes of
the men whom he had signally £Euled to govern '. Yet the growth Slowness of
of loyalty in this period was slow if it was steady. The Plantage-
net history can show no such instances of enthusiastic devotion
as lighted up the dark days of the Stewarts. Edmund of Kent
sacrificed himself for Edward H ; and the friends of Richard II
perished in a vain attempt to restore him ; Margaret of Anjou
found a way to rouse in favour of Henry and her son a despe-
rate resistance to the supplanting dynasty ; but none of these
is an instance of true loyalty unmingled with fear or personal
aims. The 'growth oH the doctrine that expresses the real feel- Enunciation
ing is traceable rather in such utterances as that of the chan- principle,
cellor in 14 10, when he quotes from the pseudo-Aristotle the
saying, that the true safety of the realm is to have the entire and
cordial love of the people, and to guard for them their laws and
rights '.

Thus the growth of loyalty was slow; the feudal feeling How fsur
intercepted a good deal of it; the medieval church scarcely by lawyws
recognised it as a virtue apart from the more general virtues of
fidelity and honour, and, by the ease with which it acquiesced
in a change of ruler, exemplified another sort of loyalty of
which the king de facto claimed a greater share than the king
de jwre. Notwithstanding the sacred character impressed on
him by unction at his coronation, notwithstanding oaths taken
to him, and perfect legitimacy of title, he is easily set ^de
when the stronger man comes. Richard 11 believed in .the

' Politioal Songs, li. 267. ' See aboTe, p. 131.

* See above, p. 239.

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5io Constitutional Hiitofy, [chap.

virtue of his unction as later kings have believed in the dirise
right of legitimacy ; and, when he surrendered his crown, refiued
to renounce the indelible characters impressed by the initiatoiy
rite^
Doctrine of 458. If the clergy were disinclined to sacrifice themselvefi,
and of the with archbishop Scrope, for a posthumous sentiment, the lawycn
ofhereditary had little scruple in setting up or putting down a legitimate
^^^ ' claimant. Yet the idea of legitimacy, the indefeasible right of
the lawful heir, was also growing. Edward III in his claim on
France ; archbishop Sudbury in his declaration that Richard 11
succeeded by inheritance and not by election ' ; the &l8e pedi-
gree by which the seniority of the house of Lancaster was
asserted on behalf of Henry IV ' ; the bold assumption of ii>de>
feasible right put forth by duke Richard of York * ; the out-
rageous special pleading of Richard m ' ; the formal claim of
a just title by inheritance which Henry Vii made in bis first
speech to the commons, not less than the astute policy by which
he avoided risking his parliamentary title and acknowledging
his debt to his wife* — all these testify to the growing beli^ in
a doctrine which was one day to become a part of the creed of
loyalty, but was as yet an article of belief rarely heard of save
when it was to be set aside.
Personal 459. Apart from the hold on the people which this growing

&e king, sentiment gave the king independently of his personal qualifica-
tions, rank those individual qualities which, as we have said,
the Plantagenet kings, }yy their public lives, set before the nation :
and his other their strength, eloquence, prowess, policy and success. Oom-
influence. bined with these were the local influence exei'cised by the king in
his royal or personal demesne, and the legal and moral safeguards
sought in the securities of fealty, homage, and all^iance, and
in the still more direct operation of the laws of treason.

* See above, p. 13. • See above, vol. ii. p. 443.

* See above, p. 1 1. * See above, p. 185. ' See above, p. 224.

* * Subsequenterqne idem dominiia rex, prae&tia oommanibuB ore boo
proprio eloquenB, ostendendo suuni adventum ad job et ooronam Angliae
fore tain per juBtum titulum hereditaaciae qaam per verum Dei jadidom
in tribuendo aibi victoriam de buo inimico in campo, 8co* ; Rot. Part vL
a68 : compare the politic silenoe of the Act of Settlement, Stat i Hen. Til.
o. I.



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XXI.] Local Influence of the Croton. 511

460. The first of these, the extensive influence exercised by Importance
the king as a great landowner, scarcely comes into prominence as a land-
before the reign of Richard II ; for during the preceding reigns
the royal demesnes had been so long removed from the imme-
diate influence of the king that they had become, as they be-
came again later, a mere department of official administration.
John, who had, before his accession, possessed a large number
of detached estates, continued when he became king to draw
both revenue and men from them, although by his divorce he
lost the hold which he had once had on the great demesnes of
the Gloucester earldom. Henry III had given to his eldest
son lands in Wales and Cheshire as well as a considerable allow-
ance in money ; but Edward I had had no time to cultivate
personal popularity in those provinces ; and his son, who before
his accession had possessed in the principality itself a settled
estate of his own, sought in vain, during his troubles, a refuge
in Wales. The earldom of Chester, however, which had been The earldom
settled by Edward I as a provision for the successive heirs ap-
parent, furnished, after it had been for nearly a century in their
hands, a population whose loyalty was undoubted. Eichard 11
trusted to the men of Cheshire as his last and most faithful
friends ; he erected the county into a principality for himself ;
and the notion of marrying him to ' Perkin's daughter o'Legh,'
the daughter of Sir Peter Legh of Lyme*, was scarcely
needed to bring them to his side in his worst dajB. It was
with Cheshire men that he packed and watched the parliament

of 1397 '. Still more did the possession of the Lancaster heri- Theduohyof

lAncsflter.
tage contribute to the strength of Henry lY. Although the

revenue was not so g^eat as might have been imagined, the
hereditary support which was given to him, his sons and grand-
son, was no unimportant element of strength to them. The
earldoms of Leicester, Lancaster, Lincoln and Derby, conveyed
not merely the demesnes but the local influence which Simon
de Montfort, Edmund and Thomas of Lancaster, the Lacys and
the Ferrers, had once wielded ; and by his marriage with the

^ Chr. Kenilworth, ap. WilUams, Chroniqtie de U Trahison, p. 293.
' Ann. Rio. p. ao8.



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5i^ Constitutional History, [chap.

Tiw duchy of co-heiress of Bohun, Henry secured during the whole of his life
the supreme influence in the earldoms of Hereford, Essex and
Northampton. Part of that influence was lost when Henry V
divided the Bohun estates with the countess of Stafford, his
cousin ^ ; hut in the duchy of Lancaster, as it was finally con-
solidated, he and his son had a faithful and loyal, if somewhat
lawless, hody of adherents. It was hy the Lancashire and
Yorkshire men that Beaufort set duke Humfrey at defiance*;
and hy their aid Margaret of Anjou was ahle to prolong the
contest with Edward lY. It was in the halls of Lancashire
gentlemen that Henry YI wandered in his helplessness ; and in
the minster of York that prayers were offered hefore his image.



Online LibraryWilliam StubbsThe constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 → online text (page 52 of 68)