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

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towards destroying the constitution itself.

It is one of the penalties which great men must pay for their ^^^^ "
greatness, that they have to be judged by posterity according to a
standard which they themselves could not have recognised, be-
cause it was by their greatness that the standard itself was created.
Henry V may be judged and condemned on moral principles
which have emerged from the age in which he was a great actor,
bat which that age neither knew nor practised. He renewed
a great war, which according to modem ideas was without justi-
fication in its origin and continuance, and which resulted in an
exhaustion from which the nation did not recover for a century.
To modem minds war seems a terrible evil, to be incurred only
OD dire necessity where honour or existence is at stake ; to be
justified only by the clearest demonstration of right ; to be con-
tinued not a moment longer than the moral necessity continues.
Perhaps no war ancient or modem has been so waged, justified, or
concluded; men both spoke and thought otherwise in earlier
times, and in times not so very far distant from our own. For Changes in
medieval war&re it might be pleaded, that its legal justifications of war.
were as a rule far more complete than were the excuses with which
Lewis XIV and Frederick II defended their aggressive designs ;
for the kings of the middle ages went to war for rights, not for
interests, much less for ideas. But it must be further remem-
bered, that until comparatively late times, although the shedding
of Christian blood was constantly deplored, war was regarded as
the highest and noblest work of kings ; and that in England, the
history of which must have been Henry's guide, the only three
nnwarlike kings who had reigned since the Conquest had been
despised and set aside by their subjects. The war with France was

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74 Comtitntional History. [chap.

Wm with not to him a new war, it had lasted fer beyond the memory of
hereditaiy any living man, and the nation had been educated into the belief

doctrine. i i

that the struggle was one condition of its normal existence.
The royal house we may be sure had been thoroughly instructed
in all the minutiae of their claims ; the parliament insists as
strongly on the royal rights as on its own privileges, and the fall
of Henry VI shows how fetal to any dynasty must have been
the renunciation of those rights. The blame of continuing the
war when success was hopeless, if such blame be just, does not
fall on Henry Y, who died at the culminating point of his
successes, and whose life, if it had been prolonged, might have
consolidated what he had won. Judged by the standard of
his time, judged by the standard according to which later ages
have acted, even whilst they recognised its imperfection, Henry V
cannot be condemned for the iniquity or for the final and fetal
results of his military policy. He believed war to be right, ho
believed in his own cause, he devoted himself to his work and
he accomplished it.
Henry Y u A similar equitable consideration would relieve him from the

a religions ...

persecutor, imputation of being a religious persecutor. He lived in an age
in which religious persecution was rife ; in which it was incul-
cated on kings as a duty, and in which it was to some extent
justified by the tenets of the persecuted ; for one of the miseries
of authoritative persecution is that it arrays the rebel against
both spirit Ui 1 and temporal authority. There were indeed germs
of social and political destructiveness inherent in the Lollard
movement, but the goveiiiment, in the policy of persecution,
r^arded the Lolkrds as active traitors, and not only regarded
them as such but made them so, leagued them with the Welsh
and Scots, and implicated them in every conspiracy against the
reigning house. This may be lamentable, but it is a consider*
ation which equity cannot disregard. Posterity may well con-
demn all persecutors who have loved persecution; it cannot
without reservation condemn those who have persecuted merely
as a religious or as a legal duty. Henry Y persecuted, as his
father had done, but, even when he persecuted on religious and
not on political grounds, he did it with a singular reluctance to

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xvm.] Character of Henri/ V. 75

undertake the vindictive part of the work *. To his mind it was
as a correction for the soul of the sinner, and a precaution
against evils to come, not as mere exercise of justice. There
is proof enough of this in the way in which he personallj at-
tempted to convert the heretic Badby*, and in the impolitic
delay which encouraged Oldcastle.

If we set aside the charges of sacrificing the welfare of his coun- 5^*°®^
try to an unjustifiable war of aggression, and of being a religious character,
persecutor, Henry V stands before us as one of the greatest and
purest characters in English history, a figure not unworthy to
be placed by the side of Edward I. No sovereign who ever
reigned has won from contemporary writers such a singular
unison of praises '. He was religious, pure in life, temperate,
liberal, careful and yet splendid, merciful, truthful, and honour-
able ; ' discreet in word, provident in counsel, prudent in judg-
ment, modest in look, magnanimous in act ; ' a brilliant soldier,
a sound diplomatist, an able organiser and consolidator of all
forces at his command; the restorer of the English navy, the
founder of our military, international and maritime law^. A true
Englishman, with all the greatnesses and none of the glaring
faults of his Flantagenet ancestors, he stands forth as the
typical medieval hero. At the same time he is a laborious
man of business, a self-denying and hardy warrior, a cultivated
scholar, and a most devout and charitable Christian. Fortunately
perhaps for himself unfortunately for his country, he was cut
off before the test of time and experience was applied to try the

^ Henry was reproved by Thomas Walden for his great negligence in
regard te the duty of punishing heretics ; Tyler, ii. 9, 57, quoting Von der
Hardt, i 501 and L'Estrange, li. aSa ; Geodwin, App. p. 301.

» Wals. U. 383.

' For Henry's character see Walsingham, ii. 344 : * le plus vertueus et
prudent de tous les princes Christiens rengnans en son temps'; Wavrin,
p. 167. He was severe, * et bien entretenoit la disoiplene de chevallerie
oomme jadis fasoient les Remmains '; ib. p. 439. See Aeneas Sylvius, De
Yiris niustribus ; Pauli, v. 1 75. Elmbam and Titus Livius are professed

* Heniy's Ordinances for his armies may be found in Excerpta Historica,
p. 18; Nicolas' Agincourt, Appendix, pp. 31 sq. ; his dealings with the
navy in the Proceedings of the Privy Coundl, vol. v. pref. czxviii. sq. ; and
in Sir H. Nicolas' HLtory of the Navy; Black Book of the Admiralty,
vol. L pp. 383, 459, &c. See also Bernard's Essay on International Law,
in the Oxford Essays.

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Constitutional History,


of hiaposi-
ti(m com-
pared with
that of
Henry IV.

He imme-

of justice

fixedness of his character and the possible permanence of his
plans. In his English policy he appears most distinctly as a
reconciling and uniting force. He had the advantage over his
father in two great points: he was not even in a secondary
degree answerable for the diflBculties in which Henry IV had
been involved by the very circumstances of his elevation ; and he
had, what Henry IV perhaps had not, an unshaken confidence in
his own position as a rightful king. He could afPord to be
merciful; he loved to be generous; he saw it was his policy
to forgive and restore those whom his father had been obliged
to repress and punish. The nobility and the wisdom of this
policy not only made him supreme as long as he lived but
ensured for his unfortunate son thirty years of undisputed
sovereignty, a period of domestic peace which ended only when
the principles on which that policy was based were, by mis-
fortune, impolicy, and injustice, themselves subverted.

322. Henry IV died on the 20th of March, and on the aist
Henry V removed archbishop Arundel from the chancery and
put bishop Beaufort in his place; on the same day he made
the earl of Arundel treasurer in the place of lord le Scrope ;
on the 29th he removed Sir William Gkiscoigne the chief justice
of the bench ^. In the two former appointments nothing more was
done than was reasonably to be expected. Beaufort was Henry Vb
minister as distinctly as Arundel was Henry IVs; the earl
of Arundel had supported him as prince contrary to the wishes of
his uncle the archbishop, and it was important to the new king
not to offend the Arundel interest, although he could not act
cordially with its most prominent representative. The dis-
missal of Sir William Gascoigne can by itself be easily accounted
for ; Gkscoigne was an old man, who had been long in office, and
a great country gentleman, who might fairly claim to rest in his
later years. But tradition has attached to the name of Gas-
coigne a famous story, which, were it true, would have its bearing
on the character of Henry V. Gascoigne had probably, for the
evidence is not very clear, refused to join in the judicial murder
of archbishop Scrope : popular tradition, more than a hundred
* Fobs, Tabulae Gurialee, p. 32 ; Dugdale, Origines, ad aim.

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xvin.] Traditions of Henry K 77

years later, made him the hero of a scene in which Henry, when Legend of

- Ci&Aooumo

prince of Wales, was represented as striking the judge upon the
bench in defence of an accused servant, and as obeying the man-
date of the same judge when he committed him to prison for the
violence done to the majesty of the law*. It is not only highly
improbable, but almost impossible that such an event could have
taken place : the story was one of a series of traditions which
represented Henry V as a wild dissolute boy at the very times
when either at the head of his father's forces he was repressing
the incursions of the Scots and Welsh, or at the head of his
fiEtther's council was leading high deliberations on peace and war
and national economies. The story of Gascoigne must be taken
at its true value. The legends of the wildness of Henry's youth Traditional

'' " reformation

are so &r countenanced by contemporary authority that the of Henry v
period of his accession is described as a point of time at which aooession.
his chariEM^ter underwent some sort of change ; ' he was changed
into another man' says Walsingham, 'studying to be honest,
grave, and modest^/ If the words imply all that has been
inferred from them, Henry may at least plead that his wild acts
were done in public ; his follies and indiscretions, for vice is not
laid to his charge, were the frolics of a highnspirited young man
indulged in the open vulgar air of town and camp; not the
deliberate pursuit of vicious excitement in the fetid atmosphere
of a court. The question however concerns us here only as
connected with the change of ministers. If there had been any
real change in Henry's character, manifested on the occasion of
his father's death, it would have been more likely to make him
retain than remove his father's servants. One difRculty im-
mediately resulted from the measure : the removal of Arundel
from the chancery at once enabled kim to renew his attack on

* On this and the points of chronology connected with it, see Fobs,
Biographia Jnridica, pp. 390 sq. Kecent investigation has thrown no new
light upon the stoiy, which first turns up in £lyot*8 Govemour, Book U.
c 6, written in 1534 ; cf. PauU, Gesch. v. Engl. v. 71.

« WaU. ii. 390 ; Capgr. Chr. p. 303. Hardyng*8 words (p. 37a) read
like a translatioQ of Walsingham. Fabyan, p. 577. charges Henry before
his &thei^8 death with all vice and insolency, after it * sodaynly he became
a newe man.' Of. Hall, Ohr. p. 46 ; Klmham (ed. Heame), p. 1 a ; and
Pacdi, Gesch. v. Engl, v. 70 sq.

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78 Constitutional History. [chap.

the Lollards, and emboldened the Lollards to more hopefal

Herays first 323. The parliament which had met before the death of

parliament. ^

Henry lY continued to sit as the first parliament of his suc-
cessor ; but it was not called on for dispatch of business until
after the coronation, which took place on the 9th of April, 141 3.
On the 15th of May the session opened with a speech from

Taxes and Beaufort, and the assembly sat until the 9th of June^. Ample
provision was made for the maintenance of the government ; the
subsidy on wool was granted for four years for the defence of
the realm, tunnage and poundage for a year, and a fifteenth and
a tenth for the keeping of the sea : and the king was allowed a
'preferential* claim on the public revenue, to the amount of
X 1 0,000, for the expenses of his household, chamber, and ward-
robe ^ The commons spoke their minds plainly as to the weak-
ness of the late reign and the incompleteness of national de-
fence ^. The law of 1406 on elections of knights was confirmed
and amended with a clause ordering that residents only should
be chosen*; the measures taken against the aliens were enforced,
the king granted a general pardon, and the usual anti-papal peti-
tions were presented and accorded. Another significant event
of the year was the translation of the body of Bichard II from
Langley to "Westminster ; an act by which Henry no doubt in-
tended to symbolise the burial of all the old causes of enmity*.

Arundel 324. Archbishop Arundel had lost no time in proceeding

Lollards, against the Lollards. The convocation which had met on March 6

^ Hot. Pari. iy. 5-14. The members bad their wages from Feb. 3 to
June 9 ; ib. p. 9.

« Rot. Pari. iv. 5, 6 ; Dept. K. Rep. ii: App. ii. p. 185.

' *Reher9ant qu*en temps notre seigneur le roy son pier, qui Dieuz
asBoile, y feust pluseurs foitz requis par les ditz Conununes de bon gover-
nance et lour requeste grauntee. Mes coment y feust tenuz et perfouri)e em
apres mesme notre seigneur le roy en ad bone conisance* ; Rot. Pari iv. 4«
'bon governance' is defined as 'due obeissanoe a les lois deins le
roialme ' ; ib.

* Rot. Pari. iv. 8 ; Statutes, ii. 170.

* December; Ghr. Lond. p. 96 : ' Non mne maximis ezpensis regis nunc,
qui fatebatur se sibi tantum yenerationis debere quantum patri suo canukli* ;
Wals. ii. 297 ; Otterboume, p. 374. He had been knitted by Richard.
Hardyng says also that he gave licence for offerings to be made at the
tomb of archbishop Scrope; p. 37a.

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xvin.] Sir John Oldcastle. 79

had sat by prorogation until the end of June, and had voted a
tenth to the king. Before this body Arundel had laid a pro-
position to attack LoUardy in the high places of the court. It
was resolved that there was no chance of preventing the schism
imminent in the English church unless those magnates who
protected the heretics were recalled to due obedience^. Of these Sir John
the chief was Sir John Oldcastle, a Herefordshire knight, who lord
had sat in the house of commons in 1404, and who by a sub-
sequent marriage with the heiress of the barony of Cobham had, ^
in 1409, obtained summons to the house of lords as lord Cobham.
Oldcastle was a personal friend of the king, and had been joined
with the earls of Arundel and Kyme in command of the force
sent at Henry's instigation to France in 141 1. He was an
intelligent and earnest Lollard, and had taken pains to spread
the influence of the sect, by the preaching of unlicenced

itinerants, in his Herefordshire and Kentish estates. Acainst His trial'

and perse-
him a formal presentment was made by the convocation, andvennce.

after consultation with the king, who tried by personal argument
to bring him over, he was summoned to appear before the arch-
bishop and the bishops of London, Winchester, and Bangor*.
Having refused to receive the first citation he received a second
summons to appear at Leeds on the nth of September; not
presenting himself there he was called once more by name and
declared contumacious. In consequence of this he was arrested
by the king, and appeared before the archbishop in custody of
the keeper of the Tower on the 23rd of September. A long dis-
cussion ensued, during which Oldcastle proflTered an orthodox
confession ; but, being pressed by the archbishop with distinct
questions on the main points of Lollard doctrine, he refused to
renounce them. He was therefore condenmed as a heretic ouHiioon-
the 25th, and returned to the Tower, a respite of forty days and escape.
being aUowed him in hopes of a recantation. Almost imme-
diately, however, he effected his escape, and the country, which
had been already alarmed by the declaration that a hundred

» li^nikins. C<mc. iii. 353.

* On Oldcastle'f trud see WaUingham, ii. 391-297; Otterb. p. 374;
Faadc Scbil, pp. 433-450; Gapgr. 111. Henr. p. 113; Wilkins, Cono. iii.
35»-357 * Bymer, ix. 61-66, 89, 90 ; Hall, Chr. pp. 48 sq.

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8o Canstiiutional History. [chap.

Alarm of thousand Lollards were prepared to rise, was thrown into a

a Lollard . r jt

riainff. panic. The sentence of excommunication and the rewards
ofifered for his capture were alike ineffectual, and it was found
that at Christmas an attempt was to be made to seize the king
at Eltham. Henry defeated this by coming up to London, but
the conspirators were not discouraged, and a very large con-
course was called to meet in S. Giles's fields on the 12 th of

Henry pre- January, 1 4 1 4. Henry, by closing the gates of London, prevented
the disaffected citizens from joining in the proceedings, and with
a strong force took up his position on the ground. Some un-
fortunate people were arrested and punished as heretics, but
Oldcastle himself escaped for the time. He was then summoned
before the justices and declared an outlaw. He failed in an
attempt to excite a rebellion in 14 15 in connexion, it was said,
with the Southampton plot. Li the year 141 7 however, when
Henry was in France, he was captured on the "Welsh marches,
brought up to London, and cruelly put to death ^. With this abor-
tive attempt the politico-religious schemes of the Lollards disap-
pear for many years, although the effects of the alarm were very

Death of considerable. Archbishop Arundel died in February, 141 4, and
Arundel. . . •• . , ,. . . ,

nis successors were more moderate, and more politic in the
ways they took to repress the evil. It may be questioned

^ There is no doubt that Oldoastle's proceedings, overt and secret, added
to Henry's difficulties in the opening of the second French campaign.
When Thomas Payn, Oldcastle^s secretary, was captured, Henry Y declared
that the taking pleased him more ' than I had geten or given him £10,000,
for the great inconveniences that were like to fall in his long absence out
of his realm ' ; Ordinances, v. I05 ; Ezc. Hist. p. 146. The writings of the
Lollards were spread through the country; Oldcastle either was, or was
said to be, in league with the Scots and with the Mortimer party of Wales,
and to have relations with the pseudo-Bichard even at the last ; Elmham
(ed. Cole), p- 1 5 1 » Wals. ii. 307. Capgrave sajrs that he ventured to pn^pose
to the king a bill for confiscating the temporalities of the church, which was
presented by Henry Grejndore; 111. Henr. p. 121; Sir John. Greyndore
was a tenant of the Mortimers ; Ellis, Orig. Letters, and Series, i. ao. See
also Elmbam (ed. Cole), p. 148. Oldcastle was captured towards the end
of 141 7 ; brought to London on a warrant of the council dated Deo. i ; and
taken before the parliament as an outlaw for treauon and as excommuni-
cated for heresy. On the 14th the commons petitioned for his execution ;
the sentences of the justices and of the archbieiiop were read the same day ;
the lords, with the consent of the duke of Bedford the guardian of ^e
kingdom, sentenced him to execution; and he was drawn, hanged, and
burned, Dec. 14; Bot. Pari. iv. 107-110.

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xvni.] Parliament of Leicester. 8i

whether the movement which is thus connected with the name Strong

policy of
of Oldcastle has any very definite analogy with the popular Henry V.

commotions of 1381 and 1450; but it is obvious that if the

prompt and resolute policy adopted by Henry V had been taken

in those years, the tumults then raised might have been

effectually prevented ; if Richard II or Henry VI had had to

deal with Oldcastle, the meeting at S. Giles's fields might

have assumed the dimensions of a revolution. The character of

Oldcastle as a traitor or a martyr has long been a disputed

question between different schools; perhaps we shall most

safely conclude from the tenour of history that his doctrinal

creed was far sounder than the principles which guided either

his moral or his political conduct.

325. The alarm had scarcely subsided when the parliament Biriiament

. . . *^ Leicester

met, April 30, at Leicester^; and the chancellor in his opening in 1414-

speech declared that one of the causes of the summons was to

provide for the defence of the nation against the Lollards ; the

king did not ask for tenths or fifteenths, but for advice and aid in

good governance. A new statute was accordingly passed against New law

the heretics, in which the secular power, no longer content to Loilardy.

aid in the execution of the ecclesiastical sentences, undertook,

where it was needed, the initiative against the Lollards^. Judged

by the extant records the session was a quiet one; the estates

granted tunnage and poundage for three years, and obtained

one g^reat constitutional boon, for which the parliaments of

Edward III and Richard 11 had striven in vain ; the commons statutes to

prayed, that ' as it hath been ever their liberty and freedom that without^

there should no statute or law be made unless they gave thereto words or the

their assent,' * there never be no law made' on their petition J^'chS^

'and ingrossed as statute and law, neither by addition nor""****^

by diminution, by no manner of term or terms the which

should change the sentence and the intent asked.' The king,

in reply, granted that ' from henceforth nothing be enacted to

the petitions of his commons that be contrary to their asking,

whereby they should be bound without their assent; saving

» Rot. ParL iv. 15-33.

' lb. iv. 34; SUtatea, ii 181 ; Wilkins, Cone. iii. 358.

vol.. m. Q r^ T

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S% Constitutional History, [chap.

alway to our liege lord his prerogative to grant and deny what
J^cmotipn him list of their petitions and askings aforesaid^.* In this
*>ro**i^^d session the king created his brothers John and Humfrey dukes
men. of Bedford and Gloucester, and his cousin Bichard of York,

earl of Cambridge. The duke of York was declared loyal and

relieved from the risks which had been impending since 1400;

and Thomas Beaufort was confirmed in the possession of the

Confiscation earldom of Dorset*. The possessions of the alien priories, which
of the alien , , .

priories. had, since the beginning of the war under Edward m, retained
a precarious hold on their English estates, were, on the petition
of the commons, taken for perpetuity into the king^s hands'.

Nerottations Although the rolls of parliament are completely silent on the
subject, it may be fairly presumed that the question of war with
France was mooted at the Leicester parliament ; for soon after
the close of the session, on the 31st of May, the bishop of
Durham and lord Grey were accredited as ambassadors to
Charles YI with instructions to negotiate an alliance, and to
debate on the restoration of Henry's rights — rights which were
summed up in his hereditary assumption of the title of King of

Prospect of France *. It is not improbable that the design of a great war
was now generally acceptable to the nation. The magnates were
heartily tired of internal struggles, and the lull of war with
Scots and Welsh gave them the opportunity of turning their
arms against the ancient foe. The king himself was ambitious
of military glory and inherited the long-deferred designs of his
father, his alliances, and his preparations. The clergy were willing
to further the promotion of a national design which at the same
time would save the church from the attacks of the Lollards ".
The people also were ready, as in prosperous times they always
were, to regard the dynastic aims of the king as the lawful and
indispensable safeguards of the nation. The historians who ia

Online LibraryWilliam StubbsThe constitutional history of England in its origin and development, Volume 3 → online text (page 9 of 68)