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regarded this act of cruelty as an infringement of their own security; even his firm friend and supporter, the duke of Buckingham, who had been accomplice in all his designs, was so irritated at the arbitrary temper of Richard, that he retired from court, and formed an alliance with the leaders of the Lancastrian party to place the crown on the head of Henry earl of Richmond, grandson of Catherine, widow of Henry V., and of Owen Tudor, and nearest survivor of the house of Lancaster. In this attempt
a great number of the nobility engaged; but the approach of Richard's army precipitated the insurrection before the plans of the insurgents were matured, and Henry, who had set sail with forty ships from St. Malo, in France, was driven back in a storm. Having gone too far to recede with safety to himself, Buckingham advanced, with all the forces he had been able to collect, to the banks of the Severn, with the intention of engaging Richard; but on attempting to cross, he found the banks overflowed, the bridges washed away, and all communication cut off with the opposite shore. After waiting several days in anxious expectation of the news of Henry's landing, he disbanded his army, and endeavoured to make his escape; being, however, discovered, he was brought to Salisbury, where Richard had taken up his head-quarters, and executed.
Thinking himself sufficiently strong, Richard now summoned a parliament, which, overawed by the presence of the army, confirmed his title, and settled the succession on his son, Edward prince of Wales, at the same time attainting the leaders of the late insurrection, and granting the king a subsidy on condition that the system of voluntary loans or benevolences, which had become frequent since the days of Edward IV., should be declared illegal.
Richard, having freed himself from immediate danger, kept his Christmas at Westminster with extraordinary magnificence, and invited to his court the queen of Henry VI. and her daughter Elizabeth, who were treated with every mark of attention, notwithstanding the current report that the latter was espoused to Henry Tudor; in fact, this appears to have been the plan adopted by Richard to thwart the ambition of his rival, for, knowing the influence Henry Tudor would acquire if he should marry the heiress of the house of Lancaster, he promised his own hand to Elizabeth as soon as the death of his queen should set him at liberty. This unnatural connection was eagerly entertained by the mother, although she had lost her brother and her three sons by the hands of the tyrant, and the engagement was to be effected by a still more serious crime. In three months, as Richard had prognosticated, the death of his queen took place, not without
strong suspicion of poison; but his marriage with Elizabeth was indefinitely postponed; for Ratcliffe and Catesby, two confidential advisers, fearing the revenge of Elizabeth for the injuries of her family if she should become queen, persuaded Richard that although he might obtain a dispensation from the pope for their consanguinity, the people would never regard the marriage but as the consummation of murder and incest, and that it might cost him his throne. Richard thereupon assured the citizens of London and York that no such union had ever been in contemplation, and promised to reform the abuses in the government, of which they justly complained; but his unpopularity rendered it unsafe to call frequent parliaments, and his necessities drove him to continue the arbitrary practice of loans, so that his government became every day more insecure. This was a favourable opportunity for Henry to renew his claims, and taking advantage of some dissensions amongst the regal advisers, he ventured to land at Milford Haven, on the western coast. As he advanced through North Wales, he encountered no opposition from the inhabitants; but few ventured to join his standard, fearing the royal army, which lay at Leicester. Henry, however, continued to receive fresh assurances of support from those who could not venture openly to declare in his cause, and lord Stanley raised a considerable body of troops, with the expressed design of joining the royal army, but with the determination of changing sides as soon as opportunity should serve. Without waiting to increase his numbers, Henry marched direct on Tamworth, and met the army of Richard, twice as numerous as his own, on the field of Redmore, about two miles from the town of Bosworth, which gives its name to the decisive battle which was fought there on the 23rd of August, 1485. At first, victory seemed to incline for Richard, but when the royalists saw Stanley on the side of Henry they wavered and fell back; the duke of Northumberland withdrew entirely from the field, and Richard, perceiving that all was lost, spurred his horse into the thickest of the fight, and having killed the standard-bearer, sir William Brandon, made a furious rush at Henry; the blow, however, was warded off by sir William Stanley, and Richard fell, pierced with a hundred wounds. Both sides instantly threw down their arms, and Henry VII. was crowned on the field of battle, with the coronet which had fallen from the head of Richard, amidst shouts of "Long live king Henry." Thus ended the fierce contest of the Roses, which for near thirty years, with slight intermission, had devastated England, and almost exterminated her ancient nobility.
RETROSPECTIVE VIEW FROM THE ACCESSION OF RICHARD II. TO THE EXTINCTION OF THE PLANTAGENET DYNASTY.
A. D. 1377-1485.
Causes of the freedom of the English constitution-Tendency to absolute monarchy on the continent-Absence of a privileged class in EnglandEnd of the feudal and papal period-Form of the constitution-Separation of the executive and legislative functions-Constitution of parliament-Its powers-Change of ecclesiastical policy-Right of the commons to originate money bills-Elective franchise-Parliamentary privilege Liberty of speech-Subserviency of parliament-Royal prerogatives - Purveyance Pardons-Court of wards-Superior condition of the middle classes. BEFORE entering on the Tudor period it will be requisite to take a retrospective view of the progress which England had made since the accession of Richard II., and to compare it with the prospects which the rest of Europe then presented. While in England the disappearance of feudalism was followed by the establishment of a free constitution, on the continent the tendency was to absolute monarchy, and the peasants, who had suffered beneath the tyranny of the feudal nobles, only longed for the day when all should be subjected to one omnipotent will.
For the first six centuries after the establishment of the European monarchies, the people of France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, had enjoyed no ordinary share of liberty; each country had had its assembly of the estates, and the power of the nobles was frequently so exorbitant as to render the royal authority little more than a name; but in the fourteenth century, when the anarchy and oppression of the nobility had driven the mass of the people to seek shelter in the power of the crown, the combined influence of the commons and the sovereign was sufficient to overpower the aristocratic element, while the democratic was yet too weak to supply its place; and thus the limited monarchies of the middle ages became the absolute governments of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was in England alone that the tendency was the reverse; there the original ascendency of the crown had caused the nobles to unite with the people in opposing its aggression, and they gladly surrendered their distinctive privileges to secure the ordinary blessings of freedom. "When," says De Lolme,* "the barons, whom their personal consequence had at first caused to be treated with caution and regard by the sove
* De Lolme, On the Engl. Const., book 1. ch. i. p. 21.
reign, began to be no longer so,-when the tyrannical laws of the Conqueror became still more tyrannically executed, the confederacy, for which the general oppression had paved the way, instantly took place, the lord, the vassal, and inferior vassal, all united. They even implored the assistance of the peasants and cottagers, and the haughty aversion with which on the continent the nobility repaid the industrious hands that fed them, was in England compelled to yield to the pressing necessity of setting bounds to the royal authority."
The people, on the other hand, knew that the cause they were called upon to defend was a cause common to all; and they were sensible besides that they were the necessary supporters of it. Instructed by the example of their leaders, they spoke and stipulated conditions for themselves; they insisted that for the future every individual should be entitled to the protection of the law: and thus did those rights with which the lords had strengthened themselves, in order to oppose the tyranny of the crown, become a bulwark which was in time to restrain their own. France the reaction took an opposite turn; the nobles, intent only on maintaining the power which they so greatly abused over the lives and fortunes of the peasants, lost sight of the real danger which threatened their independence; the princely domains of Normandy, Anjou, Languedoc, and Touraine had already been reunited to the crown, and Brittany and Champagne were soon to follow. In Spain a similar process had been going on,—the twelve kingdoms had been united into three,-Aragon, Castile, and Granada, which were at no distant period to be absorbed under the powerful rule of Ferdinand and Isabella; while in Germany a still worse fate awaited the miserable inhabitants, for though the elective character of the empire prevented the emperors from consolidating their power, as in the hereditary kingdoms of France and Spain, yet the greater barons, uncontrolled by the power of the crown, became independent princes and usurped the sole right of election, so that they governed without even the ordinary check of popular disaffection; for the central government, which was too feeble to defend the personal liberty of the subject, was strong enough to enforce unconditional obedience to its subordinates by the power it derived from the whole; and thus the petty princes of Germany were, in the most unlimited sense, arbitrary kings. As the power of the nobles on the continent declined, the influence of the assemblies of the estates first dwindled into insignificance, and then ceased altogether to be consulted; for the third estate was not like the English house of commons, based on popular representation, capable of expanding with the increasing power of the nation, and supplying the
place which the nobles had lost, but was composed of the merchants and wealthy citizens of the towns, who had little or no connection with the rest of the country, and looked down with disdain on the rural population. But to compare correctly the progress of society in England and on the continent, we must recollect that from the earliest times many great and influential cities had existed in England: London, Winchester, and York, though second to none in Europe, formed no separate communities within themselves; they possessed local jurisdiction, and even monopolized certain trades, but they were not exempted by special immunities, and all who wished might become denizens of their corporations. It was not so on the continent in the middle ages,-the towns were insulated from the provinces in which they were situated, and for the most part inhabited by a population of different origin and different sentiments, so that no kindred interests, as in England, united the whole power of the state to resist arbitrary encroachments. Nor was this opposition of town and country confined to the political relations of society; it entered into the sphere of private life and produced a marked result in the character of continental civilization. Instead of the peasant and the farmer looking up to their county-town as the head of the district in which they lived and the source from which they drew their political knowledge, the farmer regarded the towns with almost hostile dread, for they were surrounded by walls and guarded by soldiers, and every one who passed within their gates was subjected to the most oppressive interference; even the necessaries of life were taxed, and the peasant who brought his produce to market was molested at every turn by tolls and dues, as if he had entered a foreign country; while by means of their guilds the citizens closed every branch of trade, and restricted the number of workmen; thus sustaining the rate of wages at the expense of labour, and condemning the countryman without the walls to a life of serfdom, as tyrannical as the feudal system, which made the peasant the prisoner of the manor on which he was born. This state of things stood as a barrier to the progress of civilization and blighted the prospects of society; for although learning, literature, and wealth progressed to a large extent within the towns, the country remained stationary, and the majority of the people were discontented with a system which confined wealth and power in the hands of the few: that this insulation of the towns should have subsisted for generations, while almost every other relation of society had been altered, is perhaps one of the most curious facts of history.
The last and perhaps the greatest difference between the condition of society in England and on the continent in the fourteenth