Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the reading of the sentence of deposition against Edward II. had incurred the penalties of treason, and that the sentence against Suffolk might be revoked, a universal storm of indignation burst from all grades of society, and men declared openly that all justice and law had come to an end. Those who had been the best supporters of Richard were disgusted at the proceeding, and when he entered London on the 10th of November (1387) to resume the powers

of government as soon as the period of the commission should terminate, he was met by the cries and groans of the people. The earls of Gloucester, Derby, Arundel, Nottingham, and Warwick, who had been foremost in the late transactions, perceiving the danger to which their lives and property would be exposed if the king should succeed in restoring his favourites to power, marched to Highgate at the head of 40,000 men, and appealed of treason the archbishop of York, De Vere (who had been created duke of Ireland), the earl of Suffolk, sir Robert Tresilian (the chief justice), and sir Nicholas Bramber (the late lord mayor of London), and, entering Westminster hall, threw their gauntlets on the ground before the king, offering to prove the charges by single combat. But Richard replied, that he thought it more equitable for the matters to be tried in parliament, and warrants were accordingly issued for a new return. When the commons met they cited the obnoxious ministers to appear before them, and on their default condemned in one sentence not only the parties accused by the lords-appellants, as the five earls were called, but their friends and abettors, and the whole bench of judges, who had given their assent to the king's questions. The duke of Ireland, the earl of Suffolk, the archbishop of York, sir Robert Tresilian, sir Nicholas Bramber, the bishop of Chichester, sir Simon Burley, sir John Beauchamp, sir James Barnes, and sir John Salisbury, with the judges, were all found guilty, and sentenced to undergo the extreme penalties of the law; but the two first effected their escape to France, and the judges, at the earnest intercession of the bishops, were banished to the different cities of Ireland. Without entering into the merits of the question, we cannot help observing the difference with which these proceedings have been related by historians according to their political bias : while some have seen in them nothing but the expression of the vindictive feelings of a ruling faction, appropriately designated the Merciless Parliament; others with equal warmth have applauded the just exercise of authority at a time when no milder measures would have been equally successful : certain it is, that in the absence of more definite details we are at a loss to account for the condemnation of men some of whom had borne a good previous reputation ; but, looking at the result as a whole, the effect was

a

he was.

eminently successful,—the country was restored to peace, and the king freed from his worst advisers. The

year which followed was a period of reaction, but in the absence of history we can only guess at the causes which led to the expulsion of Gloucester and his party from power. By one of those strokes of decisive action which mark the dark character of Richard, he took the government into his own hands. Sitting in the great council held after Easter in 1389, the king turned suddenly round to Gloucester, and demanded what

age Your highness,” replied the earl, "is in your twenty-second year.” “Then,” said the king, “ I must surely be old enough to manage my own affairs. My lords, I thank

you
for

your past services, but I require them no longer.". A new chancellor and treasurer were appointed by the king, and the country was governed for eight years

with
energy

and vigour; but in 1396 the truce with France and the king's marriage with the French princess Isabella again called forth the opposition of Gloucester, who strenuously reprobated these measures as base and unworthy the successor of Edward III. Seeing the nobility divided amongst themselves, Richard thought this the opportune moment to wreak his longmeditated vengeance against that nobleman, and going to the castle of Pleshy, where Gloucester resided, as if on a visit, he took him by surprise, and, having arrested him, caused him to be conveyed over to Calais. The earls of Arundel and Warwick were likewise treacherously seized, and to quiet the clamour of the people, the king caused proclamation to be made, that all had been done with the assent of the dukes of Lancaster and York, who were supposed to be in the popular interest. The king now entered London at the head of a powerful force, and having revoked his former pardons, caused the commons to bring in charges against Arundel and Warwick : the sheriffs had, as Richard had commanded them, influenced the elections, and the lords and commons vied with each other in undoing whatever the previous parliament had obtained. At the king's command, they sentenced Arundel to death, and banished the earl of Warwick, the archbishop of Canterbury, lord Mortimer, and lord Cobham, while the earls of Derby and Nottingham were terrified into submission by the threat of a parliamentary impeachment. To complete the degradation of parliament, the commons next repealed the statutes of the tenth and eleventh

of Richard's reign, and confirmed by statute the answers of the judges, who had been punished with death and exile; they even committed the whole powers of the legislature to twelve commissioners named by the king, and declared it high treason to disobey their ordipances; but the most dangerous precedent of this parliament was the grant of a tax on wool for life to the king, which in a manner .superseded the necessity of assembling parliament, and laid the foundation of the claim of the Tudor and Stuart princes to established imposts. Thus freed from the necessity of frequently meeting his people, and provided with a revenue for life, Richard became as truly absolute as his ambition could desire. To prevent the possibility of a sudden insurrection, he kept constantly in his pay a body of ten thousand archers, and executed all who ventured to oppose his will. When money was required, he forced men to confess under their seals that they had been guilty of treason, and to give blank obligations, which his officers filled up with large sums. But to execute these measures, it became requisite to break the power of the nobility; for, as Mr. Hallam observes, the constitution had invested them with such paramount rights that it was impossible either to make them surrender their country's freedom or to destroy it without their consent. Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick had already fallen, and Derby and Nottingham, now dukes of Hereford and Norfolk, alone remained of the popular party. By a clever stratagem, the king procured the former to bring an accusation against the latter, and as there were no witnesses, the king decided the dispute by banishing both to the continent, thus freeing himself at once of two men whose presence he feared. On the death of his father, the duke of Lancaster (in 1399), Henry Bolingbroke, who had for some years borne the title of Hereford, succeeded to his father's estates, but the king refused to grant him seisin of his lands, alleging that they had been forfeited by his sentence of banishment. This glaring violation of justice roused the spirit of the nobles, and the people, who had only been waiting for an opportune moment to rise, readily joined in the cause. Richard, not suspecting the depth of the designs which were laid against him, departed on an expedition to Ireland, leaving the kingdom in the hands of his uncle, the duke of York; Hereford, hearing of his departure, took shipping at Vannes, in Brittany, and landed with a few followers in Yorkshire, where, being joined by the earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, he marched on London, and followed the regent to Bristol, where, appearing before the castle, his uncle the duke of York consented to an interview, and both parties united their forces, which are said to have amounted to 100,000

years

The king receiving intelligence of these proceedings, despatched the earl of Salisbury with part of the army, and returned himself with the remainder to Milford Haven, but by a series of manoeuvres he was brought into the power of Henry, who led him first to Chester and then to London. Finding himself deserted by all classes of his subjects, Richard offered no resistance to Lancaster, and when informed of his intention to direct the government in his own name, is said to have replied, “ Fair cousin, since it pleases you, it pleases us likewise," and shortly after signed a deed of abdication, by which he relinquished all claim to the crown, and declared his subjects absolved from their allegiance. “This measure," says Mr. Hallam, “although evidently of a revolutionary nature, was justified by the circumstances of the nation. For two years Richard had governed altogether tyrannically; and, upon the same principles that cost James II. his throne, it was unquestionably far more necessary, unless our fathers would have abandoned all thought of liberty, to expel Richard II. Far be it from us to extenuate the treachery of the Percies towards this unhappy prince, or the cruel circumstances of his death, or in any way to extol either his successor, or the chief men of that time, most of whom were ambitious and faithless; but after such long experience of the king's arbitrary, dissembling, and revengeful temper, I see no other safe course in the actual state of the constitution, than what the nation concurred in pursuing."

men.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

* Hallam, Middle Ages, ii. p. 212.

>

Costume of Richard II.

CHAPTER XII.

HOUSES OF LANCASTER AND YORK.

FROM THE ABDICATION OF RICHARD II. TO THE COM

MENCEMENT OF THE CIVIL WARS. A. D. 1399—1422.

Origin of the wars of the Roses—Battle of Shrewsbury- Revolt of Northum

berland— Attention to the forms of the constitution-- Freedom of members from arrest—Henry's parliamentary title-Private statutes-Persecutions for religion - Change in the policy of the Romish church -- Henry V.Revival of the claims to the throne of France --- Battle of AgincourtEffect on France -- Subsidy to the king for life--Public accounts submitted to parliament --Progress of constitutional liberty— Treaty of Troyes -Dangers anticipated from the annexation of France -- The dauphin refuses the terms of the treaty--The king's death.

[blocks in formation]

The revolution which raised Henry IV. to the throne laid the foundation of the civil contests between the houses of York and Lancaster, which for several generations involved the country in all the horrors of civil war; for although Henry IV. was descended from John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III., his cousin, the earl of March, was a much nearer claimant, and before the lapse of five years a powerful conspiracy was formed by the earl of Northumberland, Owen Glendour of Wales, and Douglas of Scotland, for placing the young earl on the throne : Henry however succeeded in gaining intelligence of their designs, and obtained a victory at Hartlefield, near Shrewsbury, in which Percy, the son of Northumberland, -named Hotspur, from his impetuosity in battle, was slain, and Douglas made prisoner. Another rebellion took place in 1405, headed by the archbishop of York and the earl of Northumberland, but this was speedily suppressed, and the archbishop executed for treason, being the first prelate who suffered capitally in England. Few reigns present less materials of political importance than that of Henry IV. With the

exception of some trifling interference in the affairs of Scotland and France, Henry had little connection with foreign countries, and his domestic government was characterized by few political innovations. As he owed his crown to a parliamentary title, he was compelled to show considerable deference to the forms of the constitution, and rarely ventured on any matter of importance

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »