AT a period when the human intellect seems to have attained nearly the apex of its power, and the utmost extent of its expansion; when the stores of literature and science are no longer confined to the groves of the academy, to the cells of the cloyster, to the forums of justice, or to the walls of the senate, it would operate but feebly in favour of an historical work, were it to be introduced by an elaborate disquisition on the general utility, or particular advantages, to be derived from the perusal, or study of history.
It is a trite remark, at least as old as the time of Dionysius, that history may be regarded as that species of philosophy which teaches by example; and it is equally true, that, while it adds to our own stock of experience an immense accumulation of the experience of others, it furnishes innumerable tests, by which we may verify all the precepts of morality and prudence. History is, indeed, the proper repository of all those facts which best illustrate the general nature of man. With the happiest facility it opens to us the springs of human affairs; it marks the rise, progress, and decay, of empires; it develops the reciprocal influence of government and national manners; it explains the factitious passions, and artificial manners, of social life; and, in all the vivid colouring of nature, it pourtravs, with a firm and steady hand, the strong and distinguishing traits of individual character.
lf these remarks be just, with respect to history at large, philosophically considered—and their veracity is too obvious to be questioned—how much more forcibly must they apply to the immediate history of our own country? Descending lower upon the scale, history may there be said also to account for those things in common speech, and in the formalities of common life, which are not otherwise to be understood; yet, without a knowledge of which, we must remain infants in society, and strangers in whatsoever part of the world our lot may have cast us; for, in the interrogative language of the poet,
FROM THE ARRIVAL OF THE SAXONS TO THE RETREAT OF THE BRITONS INTO WALES COMPRISING
THE PERIOD OF ABOUT A HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS
THE Saxons returned a favourable answer to the Britons, assuring them that they would stand by them in their pressing necessities. They also-agreed to grant them an aid of nine thousand men, on certain terms, the principal whereof was, that the Saxons should be put in possession of the Isle of Thanet, adjacent to Kent, where they were to land, and their troops be paid and maintained by the Britons.—Hengist and Horsa, both sons of Witigisil, were appointed to command the troops designed for the aid of the Britons.
Hengist was about thirty years old. He first bore arms under his father Witigisil; after which, for his improvement in the art of war, he served in the Roman armies, where the emperors generally kept some Saxon troops in their pay. This young warrior was endowed with all the necessary qualifications for accomplishing the undertaking committed to his management. His valour and experience, the solidity of his judgment, his address, his easy and engaging behaviour, warranted, in some measure, his success. All these excellent qualities determined the Saxon general to procure for his son so fair an occasion to display his talents. Of his brother, Horsa, nothing particular is said.
The Saxons, notwithstanding their promise, did not think proper to send over at once so considerable a body of forces as nine thousand men, into a country but imperfectly known to them. Wherefore, pretending that the rest were not ready, by reason of their great distance from the place of embarkation, they caused only 1600 to be put on board three vessels. Historians have not expressly marked the place of this first embarkation; but it probably was Zealand, as that country was then in possession of the Saxons, and as it would have been difficult to chose a more convenient place, or one nearer the isle of Thanet, where they might land. Hengist and Horsa accordingly arrived at Ebbesfleet in the isle of Thanet, about the year 449, or 450; and, when they had refreshed themselves, Vortigern led them against the Picts and Scots that were advanced as far as Stamford in Lincolnshire. In the first battle the islanders, according to their custom, began with throwing their darts.
THE REIGNS OF EDWARD III AND RICHARD II COMPRISING A PERIOD OF SEVENTY-THREE WITH THE STATE OF THE CHURCH FROM 1272 TO T1399
EDWARD III SIRNAMED OF WINDSOR
A. D. 1327
THE deposing of Edward II. procured not the English all the happiness they were made to expect. The government of a weak and imprudent King was not more dangerous. than that of a minor Prince, under the direction of a passionate mother, and a young inexperienced minister, more presumptuous and less able than the Spencers.
Accordingly the people quickly found, that they had not gained much by the change. Happily for them, Edward’s minority was of no long continuance. As soon as the young Prince had taken the government upon himself, he converted the misfortunes of the late reign into blessings, and the injuries received from France and Scotland, into glory and triumphs.
When the commissioners sent to Kenelworth, had returned with Edward II’s. resignation, the Prince his son was again proclaimed, under the name of Edward III and crowned a few days after. The Queen and Mortimer, whose interest it was to make the whole nation accomplices of their violent proceedings, affected on that occasion, to cause a coronation medal to be struck, importing the universal consent of the people to the present revolution. On one side was, the. young King crowned, laying his sceptre on a heap of hearts, with this motto, POPULO DAT JURA VOLENTI. On the reverse, a hand held forth, as it were saving a crown falling from on high, with these words, NON RAPIT SED RECIPIT.
Though Edward was but in his fourteenth year, he had a mature judgment, and a penetration uncommon to that age. However, in compliance to the laws of the land, the King must have governors, and the state regents. The Parliament chose twelve from among the Bishops, Earls, and Barons, of whom Henry of Lancaster was declared the chief. The Queen opposed not this nomination; but, as she had the power in her own hands, she seized the government, and shared it only with her creatures.
THE REIGNS OF HENRY IV AND HENRY V COMPRISING A PERIOD OF TWENTY-TWO YEARS
AND TEN MONTHS.
HENRY IV SIRNAMED OF BOLINGBROKE
HENRY DUKE OF LANCASTER, SIRNAMED OF BOLINGBROKE, the place of his birth, having been proclaimed the 30th of September, took that very day the reins of the government. As the Parliament then assembled was called in Richard’s name, and as their authority ceased upon his being deposed, Henry’s first care was to call another. He was contented, however, with impowering the same representatives, to make, with the House of Lords, a new Parliament under his authority; and, after a few days interruption, the same Parliament met again on the 6th of October, as though it had been called by the new King.
Edmund Mortimer Earl of March, considering it would be no less dangerous than fruitless, at such a juncture, to assert his just right to the crown, retired to his Lordship of Wigmore, near the borders of Wales. The more incontestable his title was, the more reason he had to dread the new King’s jealousy. So, giving way to the torrent which he could not stem, he resolved to live in retirement, without showing the least ambition, or the least uneasiness, at the injustice that was done him.
The Parliament being assembled, Thomas Arundel Archbishop of Canterbury made a long speech, tending to inspire a high opinion of the advantages procured to the kingdom by the late revolution. He enlarged chiefly on the disorders of the late reign, and assured them, that the new Sovereign proposed to govern after a very different manner, and to preserve to all their rights and liberties. This prelate had been banished the realm in the late reign, and Roger Walden, who was appointed in his room, had hitherto performed the Archiepiscopal functions. But as Arundel was not canonically deposed, the Parliament in their first session, ordered that he should resume his dignity, and the rather as the other had not yet obtained the Pope’s confirmation. The Archbishop’s speech, and some preliminary formalities, were the only things remarkable in the first session of the new Parliament, which was adjourned to the 14th of October. This adjournment was necessary in order to prepare for the coronation, which was to be on the 13th.
THE REIGN OF HENRY VI SIRNAMED OF WINDSOR
HENRY V when within view of his end, seemed to have been taken out of the world, by a particular direction of Divine Providence, which is sometimes pleased to stop the best concerted undertakings, when just on the point of accomplishment. The peace of Troye not being yet firmly settled, and the Prince who was to mount the throne, but an infant of nine months, every thing seemed to occur to take from the English the hopes, of seeing the two kingdoms of France and England united under a King of their nation.
On the other hand, the noble qualities of the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, brothers of the deceased King, encouraged the most timid. How great soever the loss might be, it was not thought irreparable, since the valour, experience, and wisdom of these two Princes, enabled them to support the new King’s minority. Instead therefore of being disheartened at so terrible a blow, they showed, by proclaiming young Henry King of England, and heir of France, that they were determined to maintain what the King his father had so gloriously established.
The Duke of Gloucester had governed the kingdom by the title of guardian, ever since the Duke of Bedford his eldest brother attended the Queen into France. But this dignity being inconsistent with a King actually present in his kingdom, ceased the moment young Henry was proclaimed. It is true, the late King had ordered upon his death-bed, that during his son’s minority, the Duke of Gloucester should be Regent, or protector in England. But this was not a sufficient warrant to exercise that important office. The Parliament’s confirmation was also requisite. For that, and some no less urgent reasons, the council speedily summoned a Parliament for the 9th of November. Till the two Houses should settle the form of government, during the King’s minority, the council, whereof the Duke of Gloucester was president, issued all necessary orders for whatever would not admit of delay.
Previously to the meeting of the Parliament, died King Charles VI. at Paris, the 21st of October, having survived Henry V his son-in-law, but fifty-five days. His death entirely changed the face of affairs. It was not doubted that the Dauphin would take the title of King of France, and exert his utmost to procure the possession of a crown, which he deemed fallen to him by the death of the King his father. Whilst Charles VI was alive, many of his subjects thought it their duty to obey him, without enquiring, whether what he did was conformable to the laws, and beneficial to the state, because, their oath to him was not conditional.
THE REIGN OF HENRY VI SIRNAMED OF WINDSOR
Joan of Arc
IN CONSIDERING THE HISTORY OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY YOUNG WOMAN, it particularly deserves to be remarked, that we have only one contemporary author (Monstrelet) who gives an account of her. All the after writers have added something to what he relates, in order to embellish their history. Monstrelet was one of the retinue of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and had himself seen this girl. But he is extremely reserved in what he says, he never gives his own opinion, and the reason is very evident. For Joan making her appearance when the Duke of Burgundy was in alliance with England, Monstrelet, with all of that party, did not believe her inspired.
But as he wrote not his chronicle till after the Duke was reconciled to King Charles, he thought it not proper to combat in his writings the general opinion of the French, who were then his master’s friends. On the other hand, as probably, in changing his party, he had not changed his opinion of Joan, he took care to say nothing, to make it thought he was under the same prejudice with the rest of the French. It seems therefore that Monstrelet may be taken for a guide, who whatever his opinion was, has said nothing to render him suspected. He never says either that Joan was, or was not inspired.
The same author has inserted in his chronicle a letter written in the name of Henry VI to the Duke of Burgundy, to acquaint him with what passed at the trial and condemnation of the Maid of Orleans. This letter might be justly suspected of partiality, if the facts it contains did not, for the most part, agree with the records of the trial mentioned hereafter.
We have a third means which is both the amplest and most considerable, namely, Joan’s examination and answers, of which the famous Stephen Pasquier has given us the particulars. Pasquier says, he had Joan’s original trial four whole years in his hands, and what he has related was faithfully extracted. But we must carefully distinguish what Pasquier says as of himself, from the records of the trial. He was so prejudiced in favour of Joan, that he could not help being angry with those of his countrymen who did not believe her inspired.
He says, they were worse than the English, and extremely injurious to the honour of France. So, considering only his private opinion, he may be said to have justly rendered himself suspected to one of the parties. But the trial itself is an original piece beyond all suspicion, since we find there word for word, Joan’s own answers to the articles she was examined upon.
THE REIGNS OF THE THREE KINGS OF THE HOUSE OF YORK, EDWARD IV EDWARD V AND RICHARD III. CONTAINING THE SPACE OF TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AND A HALF
EDWARD WAS PROCLAIMED THE 5TH OF MARCH, AND ON THE 12TH OR 13TH OF THE SAME MONTH, he was obliged to put himself at the head of his army. Before his departure from London, a tradesman was executed, for saying, he would make his son heir of the crown. Probably, he added some contemptuous words against the new King, and expressed too much zeal for the House of Lancaster.
Queen Margaret had acted with prudence, in not hazarding a battle at the gates of London, and in retiring among the northern people, who had hitherto appeared firmly attached to the House of Lancaster. They even gave her, upon this occasion, a sensible mark of their affection, by strengthening her army with whole bodies of fresh troops. This was done with such expedition, that in a few days the Queen saw herself at the head of sixty thousand men, in condition to await her enemy, or even to march against him.
Though Edward had been proclaimed at London, he was very sensible, that that ceremony made no great addition to his right, considering how irregularly it was performed.
The nobles of his party, and the people of London, were not invested with power to give the kingdom a sovereign; therefore, he could not depend upon that extraordinary election, unless it was supported with force. Henry VI had reigned thirty-eight years, acknowledged for lawful King by all the English; and yet this right, which seemed so well established, had not been able to maintain itself against a superior strength.
It was, therefore, easy to see, that Edward’s right, which had not great advantages, would subsist no longer than crowned with success. Matters standing thus, the two patties were once more to try the way of arms. Edward being young and lively, trusted to his courage and fortune. He was likewise excited to venture all, by the great men of his party, who having shewn so little regard for Henry, saw no safety but in victory. He departed therefore from London a few days after being proclaimed, and heading his army, marched towards the north, with a resolution to go in quest of Queen Margaret.
THE REIGN OF HENRY VII; WITH THE STATE OF THE CHURCH, FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF HENRY IV. 1399 TO THE END OF THE REIGN OF HENRY VII. 1509.
A. D. 1485
THE battle of Bosworth being ended, as was said, by the flight of the royal army, and death of King Richard, Henry caused Te Deum to be sung upon the place, all the troops falling on their knees to return God thanks for his victory. Presently after, the whole army, as it were by inspiration, made the air resound with the cry of, long live King Henry! This was a sort of military election, which might have served him for foundation to pretend to the crown, .though he had no other title.
He had, however, three titles, or foundations, whereon he could ground his right. The first was, his descent from the house of Lancaster, by Margaret his mother, daughter of the Duke of Somerset. The house of Lancaster had been possessed of the crown above sixty years, and this possession had been confirmed by many acts of Parliament. But on the other hand, several Parliaments had afterwards condemned this possession as a continual usurpation, and adjudged the crown to the house of York, as descending from Lionel, third son of Edward III.
This question, considered originally, and independently of the circumstances which moved the Parliaments to come to such opposite determinations, could not have been decided in favour of the house of Lancaster, if the laws and customs of the realm had been followed. But if, setting aside the usual practice, it should be considered with respect to the acts of Parliament, it could not be doubtful, since the Pro and Con were equally supported by the same authority. It might also be objected to Henry, that indeed sundry Parliaments had decided the point in favour of the house of Lancaster, but it did not follow that the house of Somerset could receive any advantage from that decision.
The Somersets were indeed descended from the house of Lancaster, but by a bastard branch, which could pretend to the crown only by virtue of their legitimation. Now it was a question yet undecided, whether the Act of Legitimation, and Richard the Second’s subsequent letters patent, gave to that branch, .derived from a bastard born in adultery, the right to succeed to the crown, though mentioned neither in the Act of Parliament, nor in King Richard’s letters. Besides, even upon supposition of this right, another query still arose, namely, whether the posterity of this
The Reign of Henry VIII; Containing the Space of Thirty Seven Years and Nine Months
HENRY VIII, SON AND SUCCESSOR OF HENRY VII, came to the Crown at the age of eighteen years, wanting a few months. The Lord Herbert, his Historian, says, the King his Father designed him at first for the Archbishopric of Canterbury, because having an elder Son, there was no likelihood that this would ascend the Throne. And therefore, continues he, care was taken to instruct him in all the parts of Learning necessary for a Prince that was one day to be a Churchman.
He would have spoken more justly, if he had only said, that Henry VII had such a design when he first put him upon his studies. But as the young prince was become his heir apparent at the age of eleven years, it could not be with the same view, that he caused him to pursue the study of such parts of learning as were proper for a clergyman. It is more likely therefore, that the King his father kept him to his studies, for fear his active and fiery spirit should carry him to more dangerous employments.
He was only son of Queen Elizabeth, heiress of the House of York. Consequently he might have given the King his father some trouble, had he thought of asserting his right as heir to his mother. However this be, Henry having taken a relish for learning in his younger years, preserved it ever after.
He always delighted in perusing good books, and conversing with the learned, even when the multitude of his affairs seemed to divert him from such kind of employments. By this means he made advances in the sciences very uncommon to great Princes. Francis I, his contemporary, stiled by the French historians, the father of the muses, was in learning much his inferior. He spoke French and Latin very well and readily. He was perfectly skilled in music, as two entire Masses composed by himself, and often sung in his chapel, do abundantly witness. He was exercised in the most abstruse points of the Aristotelian Philosophy, which alone was in vogue in those days (1503). But he applied himself chiefly to the study of Divinity, as it was then taught in the universities, all stuffed with useless questions. Thomas Aquinas’s Summary was his favourite book.
The Reigns of Edward VI, and Queen Mary; Containing The Space of about Twelve Years
His disposition and good qualities. 1547
EDWARD VI, ONLY SON AND SUCCESSOR TO HENRY VIII, was nine years and three months old when he ascended the Throne by the death of the King his Father. His majority was fixed to the eighteenth year of his age, by the late King’s will, but he died before he came to it, after a short reign of six years and five months. The history therefore of these six years, as may be easily judged, will not be so much the history of the King himself, as of his Governors and Ministers.
There was reason to hope extraordinary things from this young Prince, had it pleased God to bless him with a longer life. He had an excellent memory, a wonderful solidity of mind, and withal, he was laborious, sparing no pains to qualify himself for the well governing of his Kingdom. At eight years of age, he wrote Latin letters to his father. French was as familiar to him as English. He learnt also Greek, Spanish, and Italian. After that, he applied himself to the liberal sciences, wherein he made an astonishing progress. Cardan, who saw him in his fifteenth year, speaks of him as of the wonder of the age. The testimony of this (Italian) philosopher was the less suspicious, as it was after the young Prince’s death that he published his praises, and in Italy, where his memory was odious.
He Is Informed of His Father’s Death
As soon as Henry VIII, had resigned his last breath, the Earl of Hertford, and Sir Anthony Brown, were sent by the council, to give young Edward notice of it, and to bring him to London. He was then with his sister the Princess Elizabeth at Hertford, from whence the deputies conducted him to Enfield. Here they inform him of the King’s death (1547), and pay their respects to him as to their Sovereign. After that, they attended him to the Tower of London, where he was received by the council in a body, and proclaimed King the same date the 31st of January, 1547.
On the morrow, the Council met to settle the form of King Henry’s Government during the King’s minority. There was not much to be debated. The Parliament had empowered the late king, not only to settle the Succession by his will, but also to appoint what form of government he should think most proper, till his successor was capable of holding the reins himself. All therefore that was to be done, was to open his will and obey the contents.
The Reign of Queen Elizabeth: Containing The Space of Forty Four Years, And Four Months
Queen Mary’s Death Concealed For Some Time 1558
THE Death of Mary, though foreseen, struck the counsellors and ministers with astonishment. They were all of the prevailing religion; and had advised, or at least approved the persecution which the protestants lately groaned under, and now, in all likelihood, the protestants were going in their turn to govern.
Mary’s death was therefore concealed for some hours, to give time to consult what was to be done. But as the Parliament was sitting, it was not in their power to decide any thing concerning the succession, especially as it was clearly settled by the will of Henry VIII, authorised by an act of Parliament which had never been repealed. Their consultation therefore ended only in a message to inform the Parliament of the Queen’s death. This was all that could be done on this occasion.
The House of Lords Deliberate Upon The Succession
The news was first communicated to the House of Lords, who immediately considered the rights of the persons who might pretend to the crown. If this affair had been left, to the decision of the Civil or Common Law, there would have been no small difficulty, so much had Henry perplexed
it by his divorces, and by contradictory acts of Parliament. But in England, the Parliament, which includes the King, Lords, and Commons, is the supreme legislator, and, when force does not interpose, the validity of its laws are unquestionable.
Henry VIII. obtained an act, empowering him to settle the line of succession as he should think proper. He placed Elizabeth next to her sister Mary, though both had been declared bastards. This sufficed to give Elizabeth a right, which the Parliament could not contest, since it was a parliamentary right, as founded in the act to empower Henry to settle the succession.
ELIZABETH HAD NO SOONER BREATHED HER LAST, but the Council met to consult about the measures that were to be taken in the present juncture. The Queen, who had delayed to name her successor till the end of her days, at last declared, the King of Scotland was to ascend the throne of England after her, and it was not doubted but her will agreed with this declaration.
So, the Council deemed it necessary, before all things, to be assured of it, by perusing the will, which was immediately opened, and found to confirm what the Queen had declared by word of mouth. The King of Scotland had therefore in his person a threefold right, which rendered his title indisputable.
The first was what is called in England, a Parliamentary right, which derived its validity from the act of Parliament, securing the Crown to Henry VII. and his heirs. The second was hereditary right, for this Prince was the nearest relation, and natural heir to Elizabeth. These two rights were
farther strengthened by the Queen’s will, which made the third.