THE GROWTH OF DESPOTISM IN EUROPE DURING THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.
For those who, like ourselves, are trained under free institutions, it is hard to realise that great nations are generally those which have been long under the stern discipline of a despotism at last shaken off. Yet it cannot be denied that this form of government, extending over the whole of a large country, and ruling all things within it, has been more able than any other to create a strong sense of nationality overpowering narrow local differences, to establish thorough internal security, and to direct the people to enterprises requiring great exertion in the general cause, and leading to strong enthusiasms, whether through defeat or victory. It has been mostly when their energies have been thus guided that nations have forgotten the jealousies of province against province, county against county, district against district, and learned that the members of one State are immeasurably nearer to one another than any foreigner can be. And when this feeling for the first time gains strength, and a great nation is brought to feel its own unity, how many important consequences spring from the change ! A people which has been thus ruled, if only the despotism does not last long enough to break its spirit, is sure to feel intensely. Loyalty to the power which has made it one becomes a passion, sometimes even a madness. Bravery makes no account of its own life or of other men's. Self-devotion prevails in many of its most striking forms. High-spirited men become proud of laying down their freedom at the feet of a master who gives them in exchange for it the prospect of ruling over their fellow-men as his deputies. In such times we must not indeed expect to find justice, humanity, and peacefulness, or even truth and honour as now understood ; these are plants which spring only from the soil of freedom. But we can say that the national mind, in order that it may some time feel truth and right strongly, is at any rate learning to feel so7nethmg strongly. That something may be, and often is, perverse indeed it is with a people as with a child, in whom we tolerate a certain violence and misdirection of will, because we know that such strength is the very seedbed of future excellence, and that no one can be really great of whom we cannot say that 'quidquid volet valde volet.' Such, then, is on the whole the meaning of those who say that few nations become really great without having been under despotism for a time. In this sense eminent Italian politicians, even of the present day, sometimes hold to Macchiavelli's opinion, that it is the greatest of national misfortunes to their countrymen never to have been welded together by passing through this stage ; and far-seeing thinkers among ourselves have considered the present constitution of Russia not unfavourable to her chance of being great at last, seeing that despotism has certainly built up her unity and inspired her with the spirit of obedience and self-sacrifice, without hitherto breaking down the energy which will some time achieve her political freedom.
Whether the history of England from the sixteenth century onwards proves the truth of this theory will be best settled when we have gone through it. It is plain enough, at any rate, that a despotism did establish itself under the Tudors, and that many of the qualities likely to characterise a nation thus governed did, in fact, show themselves in Englishmen. We do, as a matter of fact, see them proud of their national unity, bearing themselves haughtily towards foreigners, immoderately fond of aggressive expeditions, recklessly brave, deeply and sometimes even insanely loyal. The object of this work is to trace the rise of the autocracy which had these effects; and, as the history of England is seldom or never so cut off from that of the Continent as to have nothing in common with what goes on there at the same time, it will be well, by way of introduction, to show that increasing despotism was in the fifteenth century the law, so to speak, of advance in the countries of Western Europe. Thus we shall presently be enabled to see what changes among ourselves sprang from direct imitation of our neighbours, and what others arose from causes of a general character affecting all countries alike.
Spain, as might be expected from the mixture of Eastern blood in her people, and the military type of her civilisation, had been first to enter upon the course of absolutism which for a time raised her power to such a portentous height, and then laid it prostrate. Indeed her feuds of the Trastamare family had been as effective as our Wars of the Roses a hundred years later in clearing off the turbulent nobles, and thus enabling the Crown of Castile to strengthen itself by the help of the Commons. Under the young Henry III. (1390), the husband of Catherine of Lancaster, the Third Estate was in remarkable prosperity; commerce and manufactures improved greatly, and the history of the country might have been different but for Henry's death in 1406, at the early age of twentyeight. He was succeeded by his son, John II, whose reign of forty-eight years was little else than a perpetual conspiracy against his subjects' freedom. Aided by his imperious minister Alvaro de Luna, he excluded from the royal Council the deputies of the Commons, raised taxes without legislative sanction, and issued pragmaticas asserting his own right to make laws for his subjects. When opposition to these arbitrary measures was threatened, he devised and carried out successfully a wicked scheme for dividing the popular party. Some of the towns were induced, first to petition that they might defray the expenses of their deputies during the session of the Cortes; and then, with a surprising want of political foresight, to allow them to be excused attendance altogether, in order to save the same charges. Thus after a while only eighteen towns sent deputies, the rest being obliged to entrust their interests to these. So successfully were the seeds of division thus sown, that in 1506, when some of the excluded towns wished to have their ancient rights back, they were vigorously opposed by the privileged cities, which maintained that the right of representation was theirs alone. The policy of John II. was followed by Henry IV., Isabella of Castile's elder brother, who also threw the trade of the country into utter disorder by debasing the coinage, besides demoralising society by his own bad example. Isabella herself, on her accession in 1474, resolved to resume the old policy of relying on the Commons, to which she was the more inclined from her earnest desire to benefit the people which she ruled. By decrees obtained from the courts of justice she wrested from the nobles many of the estates, annuities, and other grants which they had unconstitutionally got from her predecessors. Besides this, both she and her husband, Ferdinand, King of Aragon, employed men of humble birth in posts which had been always held by nobles ; above all, she adopted, and placed under the patronage of the Crown, the Holy Hermandad, an association of the towns for the repression of violence ; using it, in defiance of the nobles, as a& national police which she could entirely trust. It must not for a moment be thought that her patronage of the people aimed in the least at restoring their ancient liberties : on the contrary, by establishing and enthusiastically supporting the Inquisition in her dominions, Isabella made any return to constitutional methods impossible, besides deeply staining her own character for honour, patriotism, and humanity. Satisfied with making the towns prosper materially, and with using their support against the grandees, she never foresaw that they would so soon be trying to wrest from her grandson by force of arms the liberty which she denied them. Few passages of history are sadder than the account of their rebellion against the young Charles V. in 1520 ; when, amidst a host of quite rational petitions for the better conduct of justice, for the relief of taxation, for a native administration, for the abolition of all privileges obtained at the expense of the Commons, for the reform of the Cortes, and for sessions once in three years at least, they still, shortsighted like their fathers, demanded that the estates of the nobles should be re-annexed to the Crown —as if they wished to destroy all barriers against despotism except their own. Accordingly, when their forces were beaten on the fatal field of Villalar, and their leaders sent to execution by Charles's ministers, the mainspring of popular freedom in Spain was broken, and they entered upon a long period of decay which has not closed even now, and which hardly required that Philip II. should ensure it by destroying, as he did in 1592, the last fragments of real power possessed by the Cortes both in Castile and in Aragon. These changes were the more melancholy because Spain had in her old institutions a thoroughly good foundation for rational freedom. Her Cortes dated from two hundred years before the time of Simon de Montfort, and had the completes! control over state affairs. The accession of each fresh sovereign required their sanction, and they exercised most fully those powers of remonstrating against grievances and of voting supplies which have always been the two pivots of English freedom. In one point they went beyond us; for their petitions, if accepted by the King, had at once the force of law. In Aragon, where the ancient liberties were even stronger than in Castile, the 'Justicia' judged officially and of right whether the King's letters were genuine and his acts constitutional ; while the acknowledged privileges of the kingdom acted as Magna Charta did among ourselves. Catalonia and Valencia again had all the free spirit which goes with maritime enterprise. Here the traders were often knights, all being held equal within the mercantile guilds, and the sons of merchants valued as high as those of noblemen if hostages were required in war. No cause less baleful than the bigotry which created the Inquisition could have destroyed such safeguards and the high hopes which might have been founded on them.
Before the end of the fifteenth century, a similar struggle with the nobles in France had also ended in favour of the Crown. Yet no sovereign could have been weaker than Louis XI at his accession in 1461, and when, four years later, his nobles began the war of the 'Bien Public ’ against him, he was surrounded by great feudatories, all of whom he had offended bitterly. Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, held, in France, Burgundy proper, with Artois and Franche-Comte; beyond it, Brabant, Limburg, Hainault, and the wealthy cities of Flanders ; and was on the point of excluding France from all communication with the rest of Europe, except through his States, by seizing the Provençal dominions of Rene of Anjou. The Dukes of Bretagne and Bourbon, and the Count of Armagnac with his Gascons, were equally opposed to Louis; and there was not one of these potentates who would have scrupled for a moment to call in against him the English or any other foreigners. In spite of all this, he succeeded by unresting vigilance and craft in baffling them one by one, and in establishing his own power on the ruin of theirs. On the other hand, the Commons were with him, and favour to them was a ruling principle of his reign. He was never tired of encouraging trade (as when he founded the silk manufacture in France) or of increasing the privileges of the cities. As his reign advanced, and enemy after enemy fell before him, agriculture flourished more and more from the ever-increasing security of the country. His taxation was heavy, for he bought off such enemies as Edward IV. instead of fighting them; yet, in spite of Commines' invidious comparison between his revenue of 4,700,000 francs and the 1,800,000 paid under his father Charles VII., there is no appearance that his imposts were considered excessive in his lifetime. Such were some of the points marking his government of the masses ; he was to the best of his knowledge a supporter of the low against the high. Yet all that he tried to do on their behalf was more than counterbalanced by his masterful administration. Other kings had fitfully claimed a right to collect taxes by their sole authority precedents to that effect had been common in the reigns of John, Charles V, Charles VI, and Charles VII. But Louis all through his long reign of twenty-two years, never raised money in any other way, and thus made his people forget the very notion of freedom. For, though isolated thinkers like Philippe de Commines still held that a king who levies money unconstitutionally is tyrannous and violent, and that, as long as he does so, he will never be really strong, the States-General had altogether forgotten such ideas when they assembled at Tours after Louis's death to provide for the regency. Although they took at first a high tone, and claimed the abolition of the 'taille' and other arbitrary taxes, they still allowed themselves to be worsted by a manoeuvre of the Court, and granted the new king the right to levy the taxes of Charles VII., with an addition of twenty-five per cent. Their stipulation that this power should be treated as a concession of their own, and last for only two years, after which the States were to be assembled again, hardly looks like a serious attempt at freedom, when we remember that a French king could get his revenue from the Provincial Councils much more easily than he could from the States-General, and was therefore most unwilling to summon the latter, at the risk of remonstrances against every act of his government and every detail of his household arrangements. Thus Louis XL, from the success with which he organised a system of arbitrary taxation, and established it by means of his personal popularity, must needs be considered as one of the great overthrowers of liberty in France. As to other points of administration, it is almost superfluous to remark how absolute he was. No purely patriotic care for his subjects' welfare can be ascribed to the king who had men tried before judges who were to have their property if they were found guilty ; nor can he be considered tender of their lives who ordered his guards to shoot down every one who came near his palace walls before a stated hour in the morning or of their personal freedom who enclosed them at pleasure in iron cages. We must, therefore, ascribe his care for commerce and the towns to the absolute necessity under which he lay of finding popular support against his too powerful feudatories. That this view of interest ripened into a positive sympathy with the industrious classes, which showed itself in many simple and natural acts of kindness, we are in no degree called upon to deny. But it is not the less true that he demoralised these very classes, first through the crooked contrivances by which he quelled their oppressors, and then still more completely by his resolution to allow them nothing like political as distinct from municipal freedom ; and thus left them at his death prepared to submit to any tyranny which the course of time might produce.
It is not necessary to enumerate the various tyrannies which had raised themselves at the time we are considering upon the ruins of popular freedom in every great city of Italy, with the one exception of Venice ; nor yet those which the weakness of emperors like Frederic III had allowed to begin in the various States of Germany. But the last Plantagenet reigns in England are so important as paving the way for the Tudor despotism, that a few words must needs be said upon them, under the guidance of the latest and most learned of our constitutional historians.
The fifteenth century may be said to begin with the accession of the Lancastrian dynasty in 1399. As regards the points on which political writers most frequently dwell, Henry IV and Henry V were strongly inclined—the former from his defective title and the latter from an innate power of influencing men as he would to a really constitutional government. Again and again did Henry IV. listen to the remonstrances of his Parliaments ; as in 1401, when they claimed that he should accept no account of their proceedings except from themselves ; in 1404, when he consented on their petition to remove atiy councillor distasteful to them, and in particular to dismiss all aliens from the Queen's service ; in 1406, when they insisted that he should give an account of his expenditure and dismiss 'the rascally crew' which composed his household ; and in 1407, when the Commons protested against any bill of supply originating with the Lords. Besides this, parliamentary grants to him were strictly appropriated to their intended purposes—a restriction which we are inclined to consider an improvement of modern times, and one to which even Cromwell as Protector was unwilling to submit. The Parliaments of Henry V were naturally compliant, from the overflowing favour with which a war in France was regarded, where, as Commines repeatedly notes, every Englishman made sure of enriching himself by plunder and the ransom of captives ; thus in 1417 and 1419 large subsidies were willingly paid. When, however, they did make remonstrances, he was, like his father, always ready to attend ; as when they prayed in 1414 that there be never no law made (on their petition), and engrossed as statute and law, neither by addition nor diminution, by no manner of term which shall change the sentence and the intent asked—a point which was to come out on a memorable occasion in after-time.
As to the safety for life under these sovereigns, it cannot be called unsatisfactory, except as regards, first, the exercise of martial law in war-time, and, secondly, the effect of statutes coming from Parliament itself. It has been well said that, in beheading Scrope and Mowbray in 1405, and the Southampton conspirators in 1415, Henry IV. and his son were sowing the wind that their dynasty might reap the whirlwind; inasmuch as from these precedents sprang the practice, so universal in the Wars of the Roses, of putting the captured leaders to death after each battle, either by a mere order, or by the sentence of such men as Montague or Tiptoft, who tried prisoners ‘ summarily and plainly, without any noise and shew of judgment,’ and sometimes according to the law of some foreign State where the judge had received his university education. As for the barbarous executions which followed the statute ‘ de Hmretico Comburendo,’ these of course are not technically acts of royal tyranny, since the authority for them was parliamentary, and grounded on a belief which, though in itself both cruel and stupid, had yet darkened all counsel ever since the days when it misled the strong intellect of Augustine. Here, accordingly, the State, the Crown, and above all the Church, had to share the terrible responsibility among them.
There was, therefore, under the early Lancastrian kings some ground for the admiration of England, as contrasted with France, which is expressed alike by Philippe de Commines and by the English Fortescue, whom Commines may have seen during his exile in France. Under these kings we really had what Fortescue calls a 'dominium regale et politicum' they would not have ventured, as Edward III. did, to assent to a petition of Parliament, and then a few weeks later to rescind the Act by their own authority on the ground that they had ‘dissimulated,’ never having really intended to grant it. But a woful change came over England with the accession of the House of York. First the Privy Council began to assume the powers which made it such a terrible engine of oppression under Henry VII and his successors. This body really had from Parliament a standing authority—to be exercised, however, under strict supervision—by which they could suspend the execution of various important statutes. In pecuniary matters they were authorised in case of emergency to pledge, up to a certain limited amount, the credit of the kingdom—a practice which Commines seems to have had in mind when he says that in his judgment such emergencies as make it really necessary for kings to collect money more quickly than by the normal processes of law hardly ever occur. As the king had long ceased to judge in person, and the Council was considered chiefly as his substitute, its members could not actually try cases. But to examine men before trial when suspected of treason, and to rack them for the purpose of extracting evidence, appears, in spite of Fortescue’s declaration that torture was unknown to the English law, to have been thought within the royal prerogative, and therefore within the competence of the Council. The first registered instances of such torture are in 1468, under Edward IV, when more than one of Queen Margaret’s messengers were burned in the feet or racked to make them discover their accomplices. The jurisdiction of the Constable under which Tiptoft and Montague acted (the latter even impaling prisoners after death) was part of the same bad system. Edward IV also introduced the system of perpetual forfeitures for treason. Before his time restoration after a period of eclipse had been the understood rule ; he set this principle absolutely at nought by bestowing the Percy earldom on a Nevile and that of Pembroke on a Herbert. When we add to these changes the well-known extension in Edward's reign of the system of benevolences and forced loans, the extreme infrequency of parliaments, and the trivial character of the business which they were allowed to take in hand, together with the frequent executions of those whom the king feared—including his own brother, the Duke of Clarence—we shall readily understand what avast breach in the Constitution this reign really made ; a breach which the reign of Richard III., inclined as he naturally was to support the weakness of his title and to put his crimes out of remembrance by popular concessions, was much too short to repair ; especially as his necessities after a while drove him to collect money by methods hardly differing from the illegal ones which he had professed to abolish. Accordingly, Henry VH. on succeeding to the crown found himself very slightly fettered by constitutional precedents, and would doubtless have been a violently oppressive governor if he had not been far more inclinedto the sort of chicane natural to one whose early life had been passed in avoiding dangers, and who in many things kept before his eyes the example of Louis XI. He thoroughly realised that to govern as he chose two main conditions were required ; he must need few or no subsidies, and he must avoid the foreign wars which would make subsidies indispensable, and which might also raise up competitors for the Crown. Such then was the starting-point of the prince who was to inaugurate more than a hundred years of autocratic government in England. And by keeping these two principles constantly in view, he gave a new political character to the centur ywhich followed his accession, which it will, in the following chapters, be our business to trace.
HENRY OF RICHMOND. BOSWORTH FIELD. THE CORONATION. THE SWEATING SICKNESS, 1485, 1486.
It is desirable first to sketch the early life and the accession of the sovereign who was in so many ways to influence the history of England.
Henry of Richmond could claim a twofold royal or quasi-royal descent. His father, Edmund Tudor by creation Earl of Richmond, was son to Catherine of France, the widow of Henry V. Obviously no original title to the throne could be thus derived, even if it were certain that Catherine was ever married to Owen Tudor (of which unfortunately no evidence is known to exist); yet, with the ideas of succession prevalent in those times, such an origin might add force to other stronger claims. Henry’s maternal descent constituted such a claim, inasmuch as his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was great-granddaughter to Edward III’s fourth son, John of Gaunt; and, although the Beauforts were illegitimate, yet after their birth John married their mother, Catherine Roet (the sister-in-law of the poet Chaucer), and succeeded in inducing Richard II to carry through Parliament in 1397 an Act for their legitimation, which, however, did not allow them to bear the name of Plantagenet. This Act was confirmed in1407 by Henry IV, who seems to have thought that by introducing the words ‘excepta dignitate regia’ into Richard's original grant, as preserved in the Patent Rolls, he was barring the Beauforts from succession to the throne ; although the document of confirmation, as submitted by him to Parliament, contained no such exception. As the latter was of course authoritative, Henry inherited from John of Gaunt a parliamentary title to the throne in case of failure, first of the lines of John’s elder brothers, and, secondly, of heirs from his earlier marriages. Both of these contingencies had in great measure occurred. The line of the Black Prince, Edward’s eldest son, had ended with the unhappy Richard II in 1399; William, the next brother, died early, and the House of York, the representatives of Lionel, the third brother, had been almost exterminated. As for John’s earlier marriages, the Lancastrian line, beginning with Henry IV (whose mother was Blanche of Lancaster), had also become extinct when the young Edward, son of Henry VI, was murdered by his uncles on the field of Tewkesbury. Thus, when Henry VII succeeded to the throne, his only rivals in title were John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, the son of Richard III’s sister Elizabeth (who had been declared by Richard heir to the throne) ; his brother the Earl of Suffolk; Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, the son of the Duke of Clarence put to death by Edward IV, his sister Margaret (afterwards Countess of Salisbury), and Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV.
Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother, successively Countess of Richmond and of Derby, was, as will be shown in a subsequent chapter, one of the most remarkable women in English history. Her father was John Beaufort, the first Duke of Somerset. On his death in 1444, she became the ward of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and by him was married at the age of nine to his son, who afterwards succeeded to the title. On her guardian’s attainder, she was transferred to the custody of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and his brother Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, the former of whom became her husband in 1456, her former marriage having been simply set aside. Both these noblemen had been treated as brothers by Henry VI, who bestowed great care on their education, and received from them loyal support in the civil war, Jasper Tudor having been engaged in several of the chief battles and attainted with the King and Margaret of Anjou in 1461. Edmund Tudor died five years before this last event, a few months before his son's birth. The Countess of Richmond, thus widowed at the age of sixteen, lived for awhile in her brother-in-law's castle at Pembroke, and then, in 1459, married her cousin Lord Henry Stafford, son of the Duke of Buckingham, and through him descended from Thomas of Woodstock, the sixth son of Edward III (the Duke of Gloucester who was so foully kidnapped and murdered by Richard II) In 1482 she was again a widow; but soon married Lord Stanley, a widower with a numerous family. There are circumstances connected with this last union which give the impression that she entered into it unwillingly, and merely in order to gain protection for her son, for whom alone she seemed really to live. For this purpose her husband was well chosen, as he was a strong Yorkist. Indeed, but for this marriage, her life would have been forfeited in 1483 for the part which she took in Buckingham's rebellion against Richard III. Soon after this she succeeded in gaining over Lord Stanley to her son's party.
In 1471, after the battle of Tewkesbury, Jasper Tudor followed Margaret's advice by sending the young Henry, his nephew, out of the country.Henry was now fifteen years old, and it was his mother's wish that he should take refuge with Louis XI of France. This plan, however, failed, for he was wrecked on the Breton coast, and had to pursue the life of imprisonment and surveillance which became so familiar to him. Indeed, he once said to Philippe de Commines 'that from the age of five years he had constantly been kept and concealed as a fugitive in prison'. Edward IV and Richard III made frequent attempts to recover him from Francis II, Duke of Bretagne ; Richard, indeed, promised to make him his son-in-law, if surrendered. Accordingly, by the contrivance of Landois, Francis's minister, during his master's illness, Henry was sent to St. Malo to be delivered up ; but, receiving a hint from his faithful supporter Bishop Morton that Landois was trying to get for his master in exchange for his surrender, the earldom of Richmond (which had formerly been held by the Dukes of Bretagne), he escaped, first into the woods, and then into French territory at Angers. Here he was well received ; and the circumstances of the country soon made it highly expedient to support his claim to the English throne. For as Richard III. was sending archers to France in support of the French nobles in their attempt to raise a second 'War of the Public Good' against the young Charles VIII (who had just succeeded his father on the French throne), the wise and politic Anne of Beaujeu, Duchess of Bourbon, who was Regent during her brother's minority, allowed Henry, in 1485, to collect about 2,000 men 'des plus mechants qu'on put trouver', says Philippe de Commines—and also supplied a small sum of money to help the descent on England. Accordingly, on August 7 in that year Henry landed at Milford Haven, and immediately took the decided step of sending circulars calling for help against Richard as an usurper of his rights to the throne and a rebel. He then marched to Shrewsbury, where he received the adhesion of Rhys ap Thomas and other Welsh chiefs. Ap Thomas had sworn that the invader should only enter England 'over his belly'. It is said to have been suggested by high authority that he might discharge himself from this vow by lying down on the ground and letting Henry step over him ; or by going under a bridge while Henry crossed it above him. In making, not for Worcester and the lower Severn, but for Shrewsbury, Henry had in view his stepfather Lord Stanley's Cheshire influence. At Stafford he heard that Stanley could not immediately join him without sacrificing the life of his son. Lord Strange, whom Richard had seized as a hostage; but, going almost alone in advance of his army to his camp at Atherstone, he received from him the most encouraging promises of support. At almost the same moment he was joined by Sir Walter Hungerford and Sir Thomas Bourchier, two of Richard's trusted officers, with a body of choice troops. From Atherstone he turned eastward to meet Richard, who was encamped between Hinckley and Market Bosworth. Even with the reinforcements just acquired he had scarcely 5,000 men, barely half the number of Richard's forces so that his chance of victory was small, unless more leaders deserted to him in the battle.
Mr. Gairdner, in his excellent History of Richard III., has stated very clearly the causes which led to Henry's decisive success. Richard had, it aprpears, been misled by a prediction which he had heard about his rival's landing at Milford, referring, as he imagined, to a small village of that name near Christchurch in Hampshire. Accordingly he had taken very few effective precautions to secure the fidelity of the Welsh leaders, or of Sir W. Stanley, who had the chief power in North Wales. As to Lord Stanley, Richard seems to have had the incapacity (not uncommon in tyrants) to reflect that those whom they injure are certain to remember the wrong when they themselves have forgotten it. His soldiers had all but murdered Lord Stanley on the day when he sent Lord Hastings to the block; yet he trusted him in a manner to the last, making, however, a breastwork in rear of his own camp, for fear of being attacked by him. As for Sir W. Stanley, he had been declared a traitor even while commanding for Richard. It is most satisfactory to find that Richard’s chance of ultimate success had departed from him as soon as the murder of his nephews in the Tower became known. Indeed, revolt after revolt thenceforward made it clear that, even though he might succeed in cajoling the mother and sister of the victims, he could not silence the groans and indignation with which his atrocious act was stigmatised in every street and marketplace of England. The feeling against him was like that against King John for his treatment of Arthur, or against the Emperor Sigismund during his London visit in 1416 for the murder of John Hus. Making a virtue of necessity, Richard acknowledged, as we are informed, his crime in his final address to his soldiers, but pleaded that he had ‘washed it away by salt tears and strict penance.’ He was however quite unable to excite the emotion which he desired.
Advancing by the road from Hinckley to Stapleton and Market Bosworth, Richard drew out his forces on Sutton Heath. His enemy’s position was difficult to force, as Redmore Plain, on which the Lancastrian troops were drawn out, was covered on the left and rear by a brook hard to cross, and on the right by Sutton Ambien Wood and by a morass—an arrangement which evidently made it necessary for Henry to conquer or die, as retreat would have been most difficult. Yet, after all, Richmond made the common mistake of inexperienced soldiers, and desired his men to advance beyond the morass, thus running the risk of seeing them driven in and the whole position carried by the enemy's rush. Seeing the danger, the veteran Earl of Oxford first ordered the men not to move ten feet from the standard; and then, when he had got them well in hand, seized the right moment for hurling them on the enemy, who seemed indisposed to advance and unlikely to make much resistance. At this moment Lord Stanley deserted Richard, and with him the Earl of Northumberland while the Duke of Norfolk, Richard's firm supporter, was slain, and his son, the Earl of Surrey, taken prisoner. Few events in English history are better known than those which immediately followed —Richard's catching sight of his rival and charging him desperately ; his Plantagenet prowess in the fight ; his refusal to fly ; the coming up of Sir W. Stanley ; Richard's shouts of 'Treason, Treason,' as he struck right and left; his fall with many wounds ; the finding by Reginald Bray in a thornbush of the crown which Richard had worn on his helmet, and the crowning of Henry with it by Lord Stanley. The battle may be considered typical of the period at which it occurred, combining as it did the use of such modern weapons as cannon (as proved by the balls from time to time dug up on the field) with a mediaeval encounter, almost hand to hand, between the competitors for the throne. The victor followed the bad precedent of the Wars of the Roses by ordering some of his prisoners to be at once executed. As, however, his vengeance only lighted upon Catesby, the minister of Richard III, and two of his agents, he was considered to have been strangely merciful. The distribution of due honours and rewards was deferred, with some exceptions, till the meeting of Parliament in November.
It was necessary at once to settle by what title Henry should claim the throne. The right of conquest was suggested, but at Once put aside from an instinctive sense of the principle (explained by a great authority of our own time in a celebrated judgment) that, ‘when a country is conquered, its inhabitants retain for the time their own laws, but are under the power of the Sovereign to alter these laws in any way which to the Sovereign in Council may seem proper.’ Men were as clear on this point in 1485 as they were when the ‘conquest’ theory was broached in 1693 in favour of King William III, and when it excited, as Lord Macaulay tells us, a complete tempest of indignation against its unlucky propounder. There was another resemblance between the two periods; namely, that Henry was as determined as William was in after days not to be a mere King Consort; if he married Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV , he would not owe his title to her. Accordingly on August 22 he assumed the crown in virtue of his Lancastrian descent, without making the least mention of Elizabeth; and in order to guard against Yorkist competition, he imprisoned in the Tower the Earl of Warwick, the son of the Duke of Clarence whom Edward IV had murdered. This unhappy young man had for a time been treated by Richard III. as his heir, but then put aside in favour of another nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, the son of Richard’s sister Elizabeth. The chief part of the Warwick property was dealt with in a manner characteristic of Henry. He ordered its restoration to Anne, Countess of Warwick, the widow of the 'Kingmaker’, but forced this aged lady at once to execute a 'feoffment' granting to the King and his heirs all that had been her husband's and her own. This property included the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Sark, the city of Worcester, the town and castle of Warwick, and a vast number of manors and lordships in nineteen counties of England. Only a moderate pension and one manor in Warwickshire were left to her who, when young, had been the greatest lady in England. Nothing was reserved for her grand-daughter Margaret, who afterwards married Sir Richard Pole, and is well known as the Countess of Salisbury executed by Henry VIII in 1541.
On September 28, Henry made his entry into London; 'in a close chariot', says Lord Bacon, 'in order to strike reverence into the people'; a theory of Henry's motives which has been curiously amplified by a German historian of England, who dilates on his strange conduct in thus withdrawing himself, popular and triumphant as he was, from the homage which awaited him in the streets, and yet resuming his military character in order to consecrate his standards in St. Paul's. The truth is, however, that Bernard Andre, the historian of Henry, really spoke of him as entering London 'laetanter'; and that Lord Bacon's 'close chariot,' as well as Pauli's longer paraphrase, is due to a misreading of this word into 'laetenter'. Henry immediately announced his intention of marrying Elizabeth she was sent for from Sheriff's Hutton, and placed under her mother's protection till the Coronation was over and Henry's first Parliament had been held. He thus guarded, with almost superfluous care, against the chance of being thought to claim the crown through her. There was some fear that the prevalence in London of the 'sweating sickness' might delay the inauguration ; but as the force of the disease abated within two months, it was possible to perform it on October 31 following. The marriage did not take place till January 18 in the next year.
Henry was sparing of new creations on his accession but his stepfather, Lord Stanley, was made Earl of Derby,his uncle Jasper Tudor Duke of Bedford, and Sir Edward Courtenay Earl of Devon. On the other hand pecuniary grants v/ere abundant in the first months of the reign. As a matter of course the chief sufferers in Henry's cause were reinstated in their property, often with large additions. Such were his mother, the Lady Margaret, now Countess of Derby Sir Thomas Stafford, the son and heir of the late Duke of Buckingham ; Catherine Duchess of Bedford, the same Duke's widow ; and Piers Courtenay, Bishop of Exeter, who, like his brother Sir Edward, had been with Henry in exile. To John, Earl of Oxford, whose father had lost his life in the Lancastrian struggle, and who had distinguished himself in 1473 by the seizure of St. Michael's Mount, was given the office of Admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine. With this grant were joined many others ; among which we should not have expected to find Lord Oxford's appointment as keeper of the lions, lionesses, and leopards in the Tower, with a shilling a day for himself, and sixpence for the food of each animal. It may here be remarked, once for all, that in this reign money was about twelve times its present value.
Another highly interesting restoration at this time was that of Henry, Lord Clifford—the 'Shepherd Lord' whom Wordsworth has celebrated. His family had been attainted in 1461, and he himself concealed in a shepherd's hut to avoid the vengeance of the Yorkists for his father's murder of the child-Earl of Rutland at twenty-four years, working at shepherds’ tasks, and learning to know the stars by watching them from the Cumberland fells. Some manuscripts still remain in the possession of the Clifford family which prove his fondness for alchemy—a study which, though prohibited under pain of felony by a statute of Henry IV, had flourished in the very court of Henry VI, and was destined, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, long to retain its hold on English belief. He was also given to astrology, which was then held to be the great practical use of star-knowledge. Lord Clifford lived till the tenth year of Henry VIII., and, in spite of the ‘tranquil soul’ which the poet ascribes to him, distinguished himself highly at the battle of Flodden.
At the same time an immense number of minor offices, such as the wardenships of royal parks and castles, were transferred from the supporters of Richard to those of Henry. Few comparatively were bestowed on Welshmen, though Sir Rhys ap Thomas, to whom Henry owed so much, was made Constable of Brecknock, Chamberlain of South Wales, and a Commissioner of Mines. Welshmen were, however, freely admitted to the small body of guards which Henry now formed, in imitation probably of Louis XI’s Scottish Archers. Following the same King’s example, Henry at once showed himself favourable to trade. Some London merchants claimed that by old custom they were to pay no tunnage between the day of a new king’s accession and that on which his first Parliament met (this indulgence being considered as counterbalancing the extra expense which they incurred in guarding their property at such times), and their claim was allowed. Several Venetian traders who wished to come to England received a special safe-conduct ; and some other Italians were relieved from penalties incurred under a statute of Richard III.
The 'sweating sickness', above alluded to, which broke out among us for the first time in 1485, was one of the most alarming of mediaeval epidemics; and it recurred so often in these reigns as to deserve a brief description here. According to Dr. Hecker of Berlin, who has collected all existing notices of it, it was a violent inflammatory fever, prostrating the bodily powers as with a blow, and suffusing the whole body with a fetid perspiration. The internal heat which the patient suffered was intolerable, yet every refrigerant was certain death, and the crisis was almost always over in twenty-four hours. Shortly after the royal entry on September 28 it began its ravages in the City, two Lord Mayors and many aldermen dying in a week. From thence it ranged through the greater part of England, stopping short, however, at the Scottish Border, and not spreading to Ireland, in spite of the constant maritime intercourse with that country. It mostly attacked persons in the prime of health and strength, and not those who were weak from age, sex, or disease ; and this appears to disprove the opinion that it was caused by the presence of Henry's army in London, and was a consequence of the privations which they had suffered on shipboard and on their march. The disease gained fresh terror from the impotence of medicine to grapple with it. So complete was this, that the distinguished Linacre, afterwards founded the College of Physicians, is not known to have written on the subject. Strange to say, this failure of the profession of medicine probably led to its quicker cessation ; for, as there was no scientific guidance, the people treated those attacked by the light of nature, making them go quietly to bed and stay there till better, taking no food and only the mildest beverages. In subsequent years when the disease returned, and medical practice, as then understood, had risen to the occasion, the very opposite treatment to this was adopted in some countries. In the Netherlands, for instance, the patient was loaded with the hottest garments, and crushed, sometimes to actual suffocation, under a mass of featherbeds kept down by the weight of several men lying at the top. There is no trace of such violent remedies being ever used in England ; on the present occasion the methods of common sense were blessed in their results, for the disease went on diminishing through the autumn, and was at length brought to an end most sudden and complete by the violent storm of New Year's Day, 1486.
It is always interesting to observe the moral conduct of a people during a time of terrible pestilence. In the present instance we may remark that when hardly one person recovered out of a hundred attacked, and when, moreover, the disease followed Englishmen abroad and spared foreigners resident among us, it did not rouse either the national hatreds or the superstitious terrors which might have been expected. We hear of nothing like the execution at Meissen in 1507 of 'bose Buben' suspected of having poisoned the wells; and the theological strife had not yet arisen which induced the citizens of Cologne in 1517 to burn heretics in the hope of averting a fresh eruption of the same plague. Nor can it be said of England at this time (as Mr. Burton quotes of Scotland in 1569), that 'in time of plague selfishness ruled the day, every one being so detestable to others, and especially the poor to the rich, as if they were not equal with them touching their creation; but rather without soul or spirit, as beasts degenerated from mankind.' No cases are recorded like those during the ‘Black Death’, of near kinsmen forsaking one another; nor were there any such fierce outbreaks of fanaticism as those of the Flagellants, which soon after this maddened Germany and Hungary. Superstition of many kinds was indeed rife in England in 1485; but its types were at any rate somewhat gentler and more humane than those of other countries.
LAMBERT SIMNEL. THE BRETAGNE WAR.1486-1492.
On November 7, 1485, Henry VII. held his first Parliament, thus seeming to fulfil the general expectation that as a Lancastrian sovereign he would follow the example of Henry IV and Henry V in taking kindly to constitutional government. His House of Lords contained only twenty-seven lay peers—a fact which has been supposed to prove how many families had become extinct during the Wars of the Roses. In reality, however, only two had thus failed for want of heirs ; and the number of peers in this Parliament was so small because no summonses had been sent to twenty-five who were likely to be malcontent. Henry wished in the first place to have the succession settled upon his own heirs by whatever wife; this was done, and, at his strongly expressed desire, confirmed by a Papal Bull. He also wanted the attainders of his supporters to be formally reversed, and not merely cancelled by his act in employing them, as he had done in several cases. He intended to issue a general pardon of his enemies with some exceptions; yet was unwilling that Parliament should enact this, choosing rather to deal with individuals, wlio might be made to pay dearly for it, and thus the better enable him to do for the present without any parliamentary revenue beyond the tunnage and poundage which was granted to him for life. For the same purpose he declared invalid all alienations of property from the Crown made since 1454. He kept also a keen eye on the fines imposed upon foreign merchants for non-employment; that is, for attempting to dispose of their wares in England without buying a return cargo there. As if born to the manner of English royalty, he picked out for his ministers two of the ablest churchmen of the time, Morton, Bishop of Ely, his old and tried supporter, and Fox, Bishop of Exeter. The services of men like these on his Council would be invaluable, yet would cost him nothing, seeing that they might be paid by translation to richer bishoprics. After giving indemnity to all the King's partisans for any injury done to the opposite party, and enacting that Gascon wines should only be brought to England in English, Irish, or Welsh vessels, the Parliament was on the point of being prorogued when the members humbly petitioned Henry to be pleased to marry Elizabeth. With this request he complied, as we have already seen, yet her coronation was not for the present allowed.
Considering himself now fairly established on the throne, Henry resolved on a progress to the North, the great home of the Yorkist party, whence Richard III had recently drawn hisbest and most faithful troops. On the way thither he kept his Easter joyously at Lincoln, but was rudely disabused of his confidence in his own fortune by an insurrection raised by Lord Lovel, Sir Humphrey Stafford, and Sir Thomas Stafford, who had been in sanctuary at Colchester since Bosworth Field. The Staffords were sons of the Humphrey Stafford slain by Cade in 1450; and, like Lord Lovel, had fought for Richard at Bosworth. They made for Worcester, apparently trusting for their safety to local connexions there. These, however, failed them entirely, and their forces dispersed on Henry’s first proclamation of pardon. Lord Lovel fled to Lancashire and then to Flanders, and the Staffords took sanctuary at Culham, near Abingdon, but were removed from it for trial on the ground that the place had not sufficient privileges as a sanctuary to shelter traitors. The elder brother was then executed, the younger pardoned as having acted under his influence.
This rebellion had little or no connexion with the feeling in favour of the House of York, which was still very strong in England, and attributable to two main causes. In the first place, the Yorkist Lancastrians (including the present King) were hated by the violent and unreasoning part of the community for having lost, under Henry VI, the English provinces in France, the wars occasioned by which had been such perennial sources of plunder to Englishmen serving there ; and the White Rose was therefore popular as more or less representing the idea of empire abroad. In the second place, traders and manufacturers held the same opinion on different grounds; for, from the very accession of Edward IV., the head of the House of York, much had been done for them by the numerous commercial treaties which he made with foreign powers, and by his personal interest in trade ; especially had the greater strength of his government guaranteed our seacoasts and trading vessels from those attacks of pirates which remained for more than a century longer the* invariable mark of a weak or careless rule in England.We can therefore readily understand the strength of Yorkist feeling in London and in the North, seeing that so large a part of English trade and English manufactures belonged to these districts. In Ireland the same sentiment existed, but appears to have sprung chiefly and characteristically from a remembrance of the gentle sway of Richard, Duke of York, as Lord-Deputy there in 1459;when, after the defeat of his party at Blore Heath, he crossed the Channel, seized the government of Ireland in defiance of Ormond and the Lancastrians, and proceeded to hold a Parliament there which claimed to be independent of the English Parliament and courts of law. George Duke of Clarence had also been loved in Ireland for his father’s sake, and had distinguished himself by his courteous behaviour to the people between the years 1461 and 1470, and afterwards from 1472 till his death.
To arouse and stimulate all these feelings of opposition to Henry’s government was the life-long purpose of Mararet of York, the sister of Edward IV., who had been second wife to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. After the death of her husband in his war with the Swiss (1477), this princess had seen the French part of his dominions absorbed by Louis XI., and the Flemish provinces passing by the marriage of Mary her stepdaughter into the hands of Maximilian of Austria, the young and chivalrous son of Frederick III Emperor of Germany; she herself, however, retained so much independence in the districts which had been assigned to her as a dowry on her marriage, that it was vain to appeal to the Emperor when she did acts hostile to England. The marriage of her niece with Henry had by no means conciliated her; she rather hated Elizabeth as a deserter from the White Rose. Her ill-feeling found its opportunity in 1486, when Lambert Simnel was brought forward as a pretender to the English Crown. The broad facts of the imposture were that this youth was represented as being really the Earl of Warwick whom Henry had under lock and key in the Tower. When, therefore, we find that his cause was supported by the Earl of Lincoln, Richard III.’s own nephew, who had once been heir-presumptive to the Crown, it seems plain that Lincoln’s hope must have been to get rid of Henry by means of this deception, and then quietly to put the puppet aside and stand up for his own right; adopting, in fact, the plan which Buckingham would probably have pursued towards Henry himself if the rebellion of 1483 had been successful. As so many people knew the true Lord Warwick by sight, and as Henry took care that all London should see him on the way to and from St. Paul’s, it was thought best that Simnel should make his first appearance in Ireland. There he found men’s minds fully prepared for a Yorkist insurrection. Accordingly his cause was taken up by Lord Kildare, who was then ruling Ireland as deputy for the Duke of Bedford, and he was actually crowned at Dublin (May 24, 1487) as Edward VI. without a sword being drawn. At this point Margaret struck in to aid him, showing herself as courageous as her husband, but with a feminine craft which was all her own. She helped a skilful commander named Martin Schwartz to equip nineteen vessels carrying about 2,000 veteran soldiers; and Simnel sailed for England with these and with some Irish troops commanded by Lord Kildare, besides a few Englishmen under Lord Lincoln. Landing at Fouldrey in Lancashire, he made first for York, striving hard as he went to keep his men orderly and humane, so that the impression of his being really the rightful King might strengthen. By this time, however, Henry, after making a pilgrimage to Wal-singham, had fixed his headquarters at Nottingham, as Richard III. had done just before Bosworth; both Kings considering this place well situated for commanding the various roads from the North to London. He had also much to encourage him ; for, popular though the Yorkist cause might be, most Englishmen disliked the thought of having a king imposed upon them by a mob of Irishmen and Flemings. Accordingly Lord Lincoln had to engage at Stoke, near Newark (June 16), with little more than the force which he brought from Ireland. The battle was obstinate, there being little thought of giving quarter to foreigners or Irish. Lord Lincoln fell with Martin Schwartz and Lord Lovel; unless, indeed, the story is true that Lovel was concealed for several years in a strong-room at Minster Lovel, in Oxfordshire, and at last died there fromWhe negligence of a servant who failed to provide him with food. The unhappy Irish, armed as they were with nothing better than darts and knives, were of course cut in pieces. Content with the death of his chief enemies in battle, Henry pardoned the nobles who had assisted in the Dublin coronation, on their pleading that they had been misled, not only by the very governor whom the King had placed over them, but by the Archbishop of Dublin and the chief part of the clergy. He even spared Simnel himself, making him, first a turnspit in his kitchen, and then, by way of promotion, a falconer. In the course of the next year he, with not a little quiet humour, exhibited the pretender dressed in his livery to the Irish nobles who were visiting London; and enjoyed immeasurably the uncourtly execrations into which they burst at the sight.
After his victory Henry thought it prudent to conciliate Yorkist feeling by allowing the coronation of Queen Elizabeth; this took place November 25, 1487. He could afford to comply thus far, as he had just made a Northern progress of a very different character from the one which he had designed in the preceding year. His object now had been to punish all who had adhered to the rebellion; and when we hear that for this purpose he proclaimed martial law, it is easy to judge of the terror which his presence must have caused, in spite of his generally preferring fines to bloodshed. With regard to such proclamations, it is satisfactory to learn from the highest authority that, the rebellion being at an end, they were quite illegal; indeed an Act of Indemnity was afterwards required to protect from penalties those who had used force under them. Strangely enough, one of those on whom the King’s hand fell heavily was his wife’s mother, who on the first report of Simnel’s rebellion was imprisoned for the rest of her life in a nunnery at Bermondsey, with little allowance for her support. This was done by authority of the King in Council; the reason alleged, namely that she had placed her daughters in King Richard’s hands instead of remaining with them in sanctuary, was so plainly frivolous that the object in making it must have been to suggest that there was much more behind. Lord Bacon conjectures that she may have borne a part in teaching Simnel how to make people think him a prince, from a notion that Henry was unkind to her daughter, and a consequent wish that he might be slain or deposed. Yet he appears to have been, on the whole, an affectionate husband; although we are told some years later that Margaret, Henry’s mother, was somewhat tyrannical to her daughter-in-law. On this view, it must be acknowledged that the situation was strained; for the Lady Margaret, Lancastrian to the backbone, was allowed by Henry to regulate on the most critical occasions all the details of Elizabeth's household, to the utter exclusion of her Yorkist mother, who must surely have been more or less than a woman and a mother-in-law if she could have calmly endured such exclusion. Perhaps we need go no further to account for her ruin.
Henry's second Parliament was now held (November 9, 1487). It established for the first time the Court of Star Chamber, for reasons and in a manner which will be stated in another chapter, where also its statute against carrying off women will be described. The main subject which it had to deal with was the critical state of affairs in Bretagne. Here Duke Francis, at whose court Henry had long lived, was now in extreme old age, and, as he had no son, the question was what should become of his province when he died. The determined resolution of Anne of Beaujeu to bring about the union of Bretagne to France by a marriage between Charles VIII and its heiress Anne was creditable to her patriotism ; her personal interest was all the other way, as Ferdinand and Isabella had in i486 promised that, if she an"anged a marriage between their daughter and Charles VIII, they would support her in claiming a perpetual regency in France, their hope being that she would maintain between the two countries the peace which was certain to come to an end if Charles assumed the full powers of the French Crown. England was still more strongly against the union between France and Bretagne ; and not unnaturally so, considering the great danger to our navigation from the long line of coast which would thus come into French hands, instead of being hostile, as it generally had been while under the separate governments. Doubtless our mariners knew well the fact, remarked in our own time by the Duke of Wellington, how clearly ships going along our coast may be detected at a great distance by the light on their sails from the southward sun, while French ships on the other side escape notice and pursuit from their sails being in shade. Troubles between Bretagne and France began even in Francis’s life-time ; for the Duke received and befriended the Duke of Orleans (afterwards Louis XII), who, after the fashion of heirs-presumptive, had raised against the Regent’s power the war of the ‘Public Good’ already alluded to. Accordingly in the preceding September an embassy had been sent to England by the French Government requesting Henry to remember his old obligations to France, and either to join in the attack on Bretagne, or at least to remain neutral in the war. The ambassadors reached him at Leicester, and were almost immediately asked whether it was true that Charles VIII was planning a marriage with Anne. They professed to be scandalised at the very suggestion—it was well known, they said, that their master was affianced to Margaret, the daughter of Maximilian King of the Romans; indeed, this very young lady had for some time been residing in Paris, and receiving a French education. Besides this they declared that Charles was arranging an expedition into Italy; his views, therefore, were in a direction quite opposite to that of Bretagne. The ambassadors might have added that Maximilian himself was the only person whom Anne would at the time hear of as a husband—as indeed she afterwards married him by proxy. Henry replied by a counter-embassy, offering his mediation for the re-establishment of peace between Bretagne and France. Charles VIII. declared that such an arrangement was just what he most ardently desired; but would it not be well, he asked, that Urswick, the English ambassador, should go to Rennes on his way home, and come to an equally clear understanding with the Breton Government? This could not well be refused, and the result was just what Charles had foreseen : the answer to Urswick was really given, not by Francis II, but by the Duke of Orleans, whose interest was entirely against peace. Louis would hear of no terms of accommodation ; he also urged most strongly that the union of France and Burgundy must be contrary to English interests. On this Charles asked Henry to continue his mediation till peace was brought about, but at the same time announced his own intention of at once going on with the warlike operations. He therefore invaded Bretagne and besieged Nantes (June 1487) and at this time a few English volunteers under Lord Woodvile went over to help the Bretons—a proceeding at which Henry professed himself very indignant.
This was the state of things on which the Parliament of November 1487 had to decide. They were asked pointblank by Archbishop Morton whether or no they would advise the King to ally himself with Bretagne against France. Morton told them that an honourable foreign war would be better for Henry than the domestic tumults which had given so much trouble of late. The position of England as to the Continent had, he remarked, been much altered for the worse of late by the absorption of Burgundy into thedominions of France and Austria : were they to allow Bretagne, their other trusty confederate, to be constantly joined with France against them ? Besides, such a precedent of the greater being allowed to swallow up the less would be a fatal one for small countries like Scotland, Portugal, and many of the States of Germany.
These arguments seemed conclusive to the members, who would naturally also fear the loss of Breton trade (as we then obtained from thence our chief supplies of linen and canvas) ; and a subsidy for the war was unanimously voted. Henry would not, however, begin hostilities without another embassy ; and before this came to an end, the battle of St. Aubin had been fought, the Duke of Orleans taken prisoner, and Lord Woodvile slain with most of his men (July 28, 1488). Somewhat confused at this effect of his long delay, Henry at once sent over Lord Brook, one of his companions in exile, with 8,000 men. Yet this commander could not or would not bring the French to battle ; and after the death of Francis II., which occurred September 9, the English, finding that no one claimed them as allies, simply returned to England, five months after their departure for France. This of course left matters for the present in the hands of the French Government ; which showed, it must be admitted, considerable tact in the management of difficult circumstances, beginning by claiming only Charles's right as suzerain to break the marriage of Anne with Maximihan, as being contrary to the interests of France. This was done ; and the unlucky King of the Romans had both to lose his wife and to take back the little daughter whom he had hoped to make Queen of France. He had, however, gained more than one point by these transactions. For though Bretagne was finally lost to him, and though the Duchess Anne became the wife of Charles VIII. (December I49i),yet the lady never forgot that she had once been Queen of the Romans, and was perpetually plotting in favour of his family ; indeed, on one occasion she attempted to marry her daughter to Charles of Spain, Maximilian's grandson, and thus, in defiance of the Salique law, to make France part of his overgrown dominions. Besides this the English, before the hope of Maximilian's marrying Anne was over, had supported him vigorously against his own rebellious subjects at Bruges, Ghent, Ypres, and Sluys. The popular party in the cities had invited the French to their aid and, under pretence that the safety of the garrison of Calais was threatened by their revolt, Henry sent about 2,000 men, under Lords Morley and Daubeny, who inflicted a heavy blow upon the French besiegers of Nieuport. Thus both in Bretagne and on the north-eastern frontier of France there had been fighting between the English and French, while at the same time Henry and Charles strongly maintained that the peace between the countries was unbroken.
The subsidy for the war granted by Henry's third Parliament in 1489 was not levied without great difficulty in the North of England. It was opposed most Strenuously in Yorkshire and the Bishopric of Durham; the people maintaining that the miseries which they had been suffering made such payments impossible. In fact, they seem to have been just able to tolerate a Lancastrian sovereign if he, for his part, never asked them for money. The King ordered the Duke of Northumberland to enforce the collection but on the first attempt he was murdered by the recusants. On this the Earl of Surrey, who had been lately released from the Tower, where he had been prisoner since the beginning of the reign, was ordered to take the command against them, Henry himself leading up a reserve force in case of disaster. However, the rebels were put down before it arrived ; their chief leader, Sir John Egremond, fled to the Duchess of Burgundy, while the plebeian rioters were hanged in considerable numbers. At about the same time with these events Henry heard of the death of James III of Scotland, whose friendship he had repeatedly tried to win, obtaining from him in 1487 a truce for seven years, renewable for similar periods. James died miserably in consequence of an accident which threw him from his horse and left him stunned and defenceless (1488) to be murdered by one of the rebels who had just defeated his troops at Sauchie.
There is something really amusing about Henry’s pomp of preparation in 1492 for a war with France to avenge the absorption of Bretagne which he had failed in hindering. The warlike spirit 8ith France, of England had been strongly stimulated by the newsof Ferdinand and Isabella’s capture of Granada from the Moors, which arrived in the spring of that year, the city having surrendered on the 2nd of January. This, indeed, was an event of which it would be hard to exaggerate the importance. For the Mohammedan power had till then appeared irresistible : and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 had invested the Sultans with a thousand claims, as representing the empire of Constantine, which might at any moment be pressed in the most alarming manner. In i486, Mohammed II. had made his famous descent upon Otranto; intending to use this as a base of operations, first against Rome and Italy, then against the other States of Europe—an enterprise which was hindered by nothing but his death in the following year, and the succession of the unwarlike Bajazet. The tide had now been turned by Spanish valour: Islam had lost the chief outwork of its power, and the victory had added to the territories of Castile and Aragon a country of brilliant fertility and resource, the possession of which had an effect in consolidating the Spanish monarchy superior even to that produced in France by the annexation of Burgundy. England had been represented at the siege of Granada only by one gallant volunteer, Lord Scales, who had greatly distinguished himself in the early part of the war. Nevertheless the event was celebrated by a service of triumph held in St. Paul's: and Archbishop Morton, who had now at Henry's express request been made a Cardinal, congratulated the vast assembly on the close of the 700 years of war with the unbelievers in Spain, and the certainty that numberless souls would now be gained to the Kingdom of Christ. Stirred to the emulation of such prowess, the Parliament allowed Henry (a former Act notwithstanding) to raise a benevolence for the French war ; it was on this occasion that Cardinal Morton devised his celebrated 'Fork', ordering his commissioners to press hard men who spent much, as this proved them to be rich, and also men who spent little, as it was plain that they must be saving largely. Tournaments and military exercises were held everywhere to ' stir the blood' of the people ; and a striking success in Flanders excited still more enthusiasm. The Duke of Saxony, pretending a wish to arbitrate between his ally Maximilian and his rebellious subjects at Bruges, had been admitted into that city with a small force. Instead, however, of staying there and communicating with the magistrates, he passed out unchecked by the gate leading to Damm and Sluys, and seizing the former of these towns cut off Bruges from the sea, access to which was all important for its trade. On this Henry allowed his troops to help Maximilian by besieging Sluys, which commanded the embouchure of the canal leading to Bruges. This he was the more inclined to do as Ravestein, the leader of the insurgents, had made Sluys the headquarters of a vigorous system of piracy. He therefore sent Sir E. Poynings with a considerable force, which assailed the castles while the Duke of Saxony besieged the town. After much obstinate fighting the place surrendered, and the rebellion against Maximilian was practically at an end, very mainly through English help. This, however, did not overcome Henry’s reluctance to plunge farther into the war. True he had assembled a force not less than 26,000 strong; but the question of ways and means constantly weighed on his mind. Maximilian was above all things impecunious ; his father, the old Emperor Frederic III could not be reckoned on for much; subsidies were hard to wring from the people at home, and even if collected, their value was trifling compared with the vast expense of such a war, in which the commonest archer would be paid at least sixpence a day (a sum, as we have seen, equal to six shillings of our money). Tidings also came that Ferdinand of Aragon had justmade a treaty with France on most advantageous terms, receiving back Roussillon and Perpignan, which his father had pledged to France for 300,000 crowns. Accordingly, though Henry sailed for Calais (October 6), leaving orders for the army to rendezvous there, and even began the siege of Boulogne (as an instalment of the sovereignty which he claimed over all France), yet he was not insensible to the advantage of negotiating, and allowed a peace to be concluded at Etaples (November 3), receiving under the name of expenses a sum of 127,000l., besides a pension or tribute of 6,000l. a year to make good what he had spent in Bretagne. Thus the war ended, not heroically we must admit; yet how much better would it have been for England if Henry’s successor had been more like him in hating useless conquests. The present King’s motives were doubtless mixed enough ; what his enemies called avarice had much to do with his conduct, and he also feared war in general, as tending to raise up competitors for a throne in some sense gained by conquest. Avarice, however, is hardly a fault when it takes the form of sparing the people taxes; and when we hear of so many sovereigns plunging into battle in order that their title may not be canvassed, we ought surely to have a good word for the King who thought the permanence of his reign best secured by peace. Thus much at least must be admitted, that inspiration itself would hardly have guided Henry better at this juncture than did his own mental habits and tendencies. For a danger was soon to burst upon him which required his very fullest attention ; well for him that it did not find him hampered by a dangerous foreign conflict in which success was unlikely, and almost sure to be useless even if attained.
WARBECK. BLACKHEATH FIELD.1492-1496.
As early as 1491, a youth named Warbeck had gone to Ireland in the service of a Breton merchant, Pregent Meno. He was strikingly handsome and well-dressed, and attracted considerable attention on his arrival at Cork. Gradually a report was spread that he was really a Plantagenet; what precise member of that illustrious family was now among them was a point on which authorities disagreed. He was first made out to be the Earl of Warwick, then a bastard of Richard III.; but, at last, all Ireland was convinced that he was no other than the Duke of York, one of the two youthful prisoners murdered in the Tower. Thus encouraged, Warbeck wrote letters to the Earls of Desmond and Kildare to enlist them in his cause. He made little progress for a time in gaining powerful adherents, and had, indeed, as yet scarcely been heard of in England ; still, his Irish sojourn had given him a good opportunity for studying the part which he was to play. When the war with France was declared in 1492, the French Government thought it worth while to invite him to Paris; there he was received as a royal prince, and attended by a guard of honour. On the conclusion of the Peace of Etaples he was not surrendered to Henry, but simply ordered to leave France ; upon which Margaret of Burgundy received him with enthusiasm as her nephew, and may also have done something in the way of prompting him for his part, though the stories of her having been his chief instructress are inconsistent with the comparative lateness of his visit to her. It is almost strange that Henry allowed the affair to go on thus long with so little notice. He may have thought even Margaret's genius hardly equal to such a tour de force as the launching of another counterfeit prince, only six years after her first failure in this line ; and certainly did not know that Warbeck had many partisans in England, and had promised Margaret that, in the event of success, her long unsettled dowry should be paid, and also her expenses for him and for the earlier Yorkist rebellions. Accordingly he considered it enough for the present to send Sir Edward Poynings and Dr. Warham on an ;embassy to Flanders (July 1493) and remonstrate against the countenance given to the pretender, taking at the same time some steps towards having a force ready in case of need. The ambassadors received only an evasive answer from the Archduke Philip's Council. 'It was impossible', they said, 'to interfere with the Duchess of Burgundy's actions within the districts which belonged to her'. The only method now at Henry's disposal, short of actual war, was a prohibition of trade between England and Flanders ; so all Flemings were banished from England, and the mart for English cloth transferred from Antwerp to Calais. The misfortune was that this prohibition created distress in England as well as in Flanders, besides exciting a furious jealousy in London against the German merchants there, who were less affected by it. This feeling reached such a pitch that the Steelyard, which was the London centre of their trade, narrowly escaped utter destruction.
Meanwhile Henry, as a worthy pupil of Louis XI, was using many artful means for tracking out the conspiracy against him. He directed various spies to pretend loyalty to Warbeck and his party, and thus to ascertain on whose help they counted in England. At the same time they were to take every opportunity of detaching Englishmen abroad from the rebellion. It is said that he took particular care to have these spies cursed at St. Paul's, as if they were really his enemies. This, however, would happen in the natural course of things, if he kept secret their real intentions. The results of this policy soon appeared in the arrest of Lord Fitzwalter and some other men of rank, several of whom were beheaded. But the most startling revelation still remained ; it was found that Sir W. Stanley, who had deserted to Henry at Bosworth Field, had now joined the conspiracy against him. Little is known about the degree of Sir William's guilt. The indictment against him only specified his having said in conversation with the informer Clifford, that 'if he were sure that the young man was King Edward's son, he would not bear arms against him'. The judges held that treason could not escape from being sheltered under such a condition; and Stanley was accordingly executed (February 16, 1495). It appears also that he had deeply offended Henry by applying for the Earldom of Chester, which was then, as it still is, an appanage of the Crown and annexed to the title of Prince of Wales.
Meantime Maximilian and his young son Philip were in rapture at the splendid chances which were now presenting themselves. Warbeck appears to have given them the additional promise, either to abdicate in favour of Philip, or to hold the kingdom in subordination to him; it seemed quite probable that Maximilian would soon be able to hurl all the forces of England at the King of France whom he hated so entirely. Henry VII therefore became suddenly aware that England was to ;be at once invaded, and that Warbeck was held to be really the Duke of York, not only by those who had been maintaining him for two years, but by the Pope, by James IV of Scotland, by Charles VIII of France, by the Duke of Savoy, by the King of Denmark, and perhaps also by Ferdinand and Isabella. To a man habitually prudent and foreseeing there is something unbearable in the thought of having allowed danger to accumulate by sheer neglect; and Henry suffered this misery to such an extent that he became in a few days quite like an old man.
At the beginningof July 1495 Warbeck’s fleet, or rather Maximilian’s, was off the coast of Kent. Some of the troops on board disembarked near Deal, and were at once set upon by the country people. No attempt was made to rescue the prisoners, and the expedition passed on ; its leaders little thinking that the acute Ferdinand would at once divine that one who acted so pusillanimously could not be a genuine Plantagenet. Warbeck made for Ireland and began the siege of Waterford, which had been always favoured as the original landing-place of Henry II., and had shown its loyalty eight years before by holding out against Simnel. Its inhabitants now resisted the attack with such spirit for eleven days that the pretender found it necessary to raise the siege; and so little was to be accomplished in Ireland that he now resolved to try his fortune with James IV., who had promised him help even before his departure for Flanders. Accordingly he landed in Scotland, was received with considerable ceremony by James at Stirling (November 26), and an invasion of England was planned, for which Scotland was to be compensated by 33,000l. and the cession of Berwick. Henry, now thoroughly awakened to his difficulties, was attempting the same arts which had prospered in Flanders. He was in constant correspondence with John Ramsay Lord Bothwell, who had promised, if possible, to kidnap the ‘ feigned boy ’ and despatch him to England, and also to intimidate his supporters. Bothwell traitorously pressed upon Henry that war with Scotland was always dear to Englishmen ; that James’s government was most unpopular; that it would be easy to send a fleet and destroy all the shipping of the country ; and that Edinburgh Castle itself was only half armed. However, before Henry was prepared for such enterprises, the Scottish raid into England took place (September 17), and was carried out with a cruelty which shocked Warbeck himself; indeed he expressed his grief at it in a way which his allies considered as ' unprincely ’ as his cowardice at Deal had been. As the invaders numbered only 1,400, nothing was really effected ; the only reliable hope had been that Warbeck would find support beyond the Border, none of which appeared during the four days which the invaders spent in England. By this time both Charles VIII and Ferdinand had bethought themselves how important it was to compete for Henry’s friendship ; and each was declaring that he alone could supply undoubted evidence of Warbeck’s real birth. Henry, not ill pleased at finding his alliance thus valued, and his danger from Warbeck getting less every day, nevertheless used the rebellion as an excuse for remaining neutral in the Franco-Austrian quarrel; ‘how,’ he asked Ferdinand and Maximilian, ‘could he possibly declare against France while such a home-danger was close upon him?’ Whether any of the new evidence was now communicated to James is uncertain; at any rate, Warbeck was ordered to leave Scotland and advised to land somewhere on the English coast in the hope of gaining support there. That the recommendation was serious we may judge from the fact that when he embarked at Ayr (July 1497), it was in company with the celebrated Scottish mariners Andrew and Robert Barton, of whom we shall hear more in the next reign. Instead, however, of at once carrying out James’s plan, he went for the third and last time to Ireland; but, finding that the Deputy, Lord Kildare, would now oppose him vigorously, he thought it better to try his fortune in Cornwall, where a rebellion had been repressed only three months before, and might perhaps be renewed by his presence.
This Cornish dissatisfaction had originally sprung out of the old grievance of subsidies. That a trifling Scottish invasion should be held to justify ;such exactions all over England appeared intolerable to a sturdy race of miners who would have thought little of resisting a few hundred foreigners, if any such had landed in their counties. Being informed by Thomas Flammock, a Bodmin attorney, that taxes were illegal for such a purpose, they actually resolved to march to London in arms in order to petition against the impost, and to call for the punishment of those who advised it—that is, of Cardinal Morton and Sir Reginald Bray. In Devonshire their conduct was peaceful; but on entering Somersetshire near Taunton, they murdered a Commissioner for the subsidy, and forced Lord Audley to be their general. Under his command they marched by way of Salisbury and Winchester into Kent, where they hoped to find a population like-minded with themselves, doubtless from the memories of Cade’s rebellion. In this they had no success, the Kentish men being proud rather of their recent resistance to Warbeck than of any achievements of their fathers. Henry also, fortunately for himself, had forces in hand which had been prepared for the Scottish war; these were immediately ordered to advance towards Blackheath, where the rebels were now encamped, while at the same time bodies of horse were sent to their rear to prevent their straggling in that direction. Officers were also detached to the city of London to organise resistance and check the panic which seemed impending there. Confidence having been thus restored, the commanders spread a report that they intended to attack the rebels on Monday, June 24; and, having thus thrown them off their guard, they ordered their outposts at the bridge over the Ravensbourne at Deptford to be driven in on the Saturday afternoon. This was done by Lord Daubcny; and as the Cornish-men had arranged no supports in case of repulse, he had no difficulty in making his way up Blackheath Hill, and charging the main body on the plain above. His victory was soon complete, 2,000 rebels being slain and the other 14,000 completely hemmed in by the troops in their rear. It is remarkable that although the good archery of Cornwall had cost Henry the lives of 300 men slain on the field, he yet contented himself with inflicting capital punishment on Lord Audley, Flammock, and a third leader, the Bodmin blacksmith Michael Joseph.
Escaping with difficulty from some Waterford pursuers who were overhauling his vessels, Warbeck landed at Whitsand Bay; and the Cornishmen, no whit daunted by the results of their excursion to the metropolis, joined him in such numbers that he was able, after a fashion, to besiege Exeter. Being driven from thence by the Earl of Devonshire, he led about 7,000 men as far as Taunton ; then his heart failed him so miserably that he deserted his wretched followers and made for the sanctuary of Beaulieu in the New Forest. Being taken to Exeter, where Henry then was, he made a full confession of his imposture, the substance of which has been lately confirmed by the discovery of a letter from him to his mother, written at about the same time, and with family details closely corresponding to those in the confession. Strange to say, his life too was spared, even after he had made one attempt at escape ; but, being afterwards imprisoned in the Tower, he was allowed to communicate with the captive Earl of Warwick, The two plotted a new evasion, and were then both executed : 'the winding-ivy of a Plantagenet', as Lord Bacon says, 'thus killing the true tree itself.' Mr. Gairdner, from an appendix to whose work on Richard HL the newer details here given upon Warbeck have been taken, is inclined to believe that the pretender was spared only that he might entrap Lord Warwick. If Henry really contrived this, he must have been a graduate in treachery worthy to rank beside Louis XI and Richard III. Yet it is hard to see why Warwick could not have been destroyed by simpler means; and we should in justice remember that Henry had let Simnel live without any such motive. Indeed, with all his faults, bloodthirstiness seems to have been foreign to his character, at any rate when he felt himself safe without capital punishments. There was a quaint kindliness, too, which sounds sincere, in his reply to his Council’s condolence on his being so troubled with impostors. ‘It is,’ he said, ‘the vexation of God himself to be vexed with idols; therefore, let not this trouble any of my friends. For myself, I have always despised them; and am only grieved that they have put my people to such great trouble and misery.’
Even before these events came to an end the prohibition had been removed against commerce with Flanders.The intermediate difficulties of the country had been much lightened by the patriotic conduct of the ‘ Merchant Adventurers ’ (a corporation dating from the fourteenth century), who resolved to buy for cash goods for exportation exactly as they would have done if there had been trade as usual. This, of course, locked up much of their capital, and even hazarded their credit with foreign countries. It was, therefore, most important that restrictions should cease; and this was finally effected (April 1496) by a treaty called by the Flemings the ‘ lntercursus Magnus.’ It guaranteed freedom of trade, without licenses or passports, and in all commodities, between England, Ireland, and Calais on the one hand, and Brabant, Flanders, Hainault, Holland, and Mecheln on the other. Each contracting nation was to be allowed to possess houses suitable for themselves and their merchandise in the dominion of the others ; and while the traders were to pay all customary dues, they were also to be reinstated in all their former privileges. So welcome was the treaty to both parties, that the English merchants, on arriving at Antwerp, were escorted to their house in a kind of triumph by the whole population. It is not without regret that we find the Merchant Adventurers so far presuming on their services at a critical time as to make in 1497 a determined attempt to engross to themselves the whole foreign trade of the country, and to prevent all who did not belong to their corporation from resorting to countries abroad without its license. They made the matter worse by claiming the license-money for a 'fraternity of St. Thomas of Canterbury' —an intrusion of religious pretences which was not likely to commend their view to the general community ; especially as an old claim of 3s. 4d. was now raised to no less than 5l., besides further demands for entrance money from individuals. Yet most of this outrageous claim was conceded to them (though with a proviso that 6l. 13s. 4d. should be the highest sum which they were to demand from any one for a license to trade) ; and the powers which they thus acquired remained for many years a source of ever-recurring controversy.
ALLIANCES AGAINST FRANCE. DEATH OF HENRY. 1497-1509.
To trace Henry's connexions with the French wars in Italy, and his reason for joining the Italian league against Charles VIII in 1496, it is necessary to go back to events two years earlier. Charles had carried out in August 1494 the attempt on Italy of which his ambassadors had spoken in England, not heeding either the dissuasions of his wise sister, or the dying advice of Louis XI to give France at least five or six years of rest. He had in his mind a collection of the strangest and most confused motives and purposes that can be conceived. The strongest feeling of all was the vanity which made him wish to stand forth as a youthful Csesar or Charlemagne, at the head of a France which the late annexations had made stronger than it had been for centuries. Besides this he had a fitful belief that he was divinely ordained to break the power of the Turks ; but his notions of the way to accomplish this were as indirect as those of his predecessor St. Louis, who landed at Tunis in order to conquer Jerusalem. First Naples must be subdued, then the whole of Italy ; after this, it would be easy to become king of Greece and to organise the whole for the conquest of the Holy City. As to the first step, he might claim Naples as being a titular possession of Rene of Anjou, who had ceded his dominions to Louis XI ; indeed Rene had been nominally king of Jerusalem as well, so that this claim too had been conveyed by the same cession. It is hardly possible to imagine a more irrational mode of opposing the victorious Turks ; for Charles's plans were sure to shatter rather than consolidate the means of resistance by setting one Italian State against another. Besides this, it was necessary, before he started, to bribe other princes not to attack his own dominions during his absence ; and for this purpose he surrendered, to Maximilian, Artois and Franche Comté, and to Ferdinand, Roussillon and the Cerdagne. Of these districts the first two had been given up to Louis XL in 1481, and their retrocession now laid France open on the north-east ; the latter were the keys of Catalonia, also pledged to Louis in exchange for his support at a critical juncture, and their recovery was now regarded by the Spaniards as hardly less important than the conquest of Granada. Yet, after all, Maximilian was not conciliated, for he knew that Charles hoped to make himself a kind of Eastern emperor, and therefore his rival ; nor yet Ferdinand, who was sure to take the first opportunity for supporting the Aragonese dynasty of Naples which Charles intended to dethrone. In Italy itself the only ally of France was Ludovico Sforza, who had usurped Milan from his nephew Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti, and in order to retain it was delighted to throw all Italy into confusion by a French invasion.
Only the briefest summary of the French operations can be given here. Charles at once alienated Ludovico Sforza by supporting his nephew in a fit of romantic generosity, and lost the hope of Florentine friendship by insisting on entering the city as a conqueror, and on delivering Pisa from its supremacy ; he also began the bad fashion of carrying off works of art to ornament his own capital. In the States of the Church he occupied the fortresses, and drove the Pope and Cardinals to take refuge in the Casde of St. Angelo. The result of all these follies was that, although the extraordinary unpopularity of Alfonso of Aragon made the conquest of Naples as rapid as one within our own memory, it was utterly impossible to hold the country. For a league against France was secretly formed by Venice, Ferdinand, Pope Alexander VI, Maximihan, and Sforza. These powers undertook to cut Charles off from France, and if possible to take him prisoner. He, however, succeeded in making his way through the opposing forces at Fornovo, near Piacenza, leaving behind him 9,000 men to hold his conquests, but appearing afterwards to forget all about these unfortunate troops, who perished almost entirely by war and disease.
The manner in which these events influenced Henry's policy was curious and characteristic. Of course it was ordinarily the interest of an English sovereign to form no very close connexions either with France or Spain, but to allow these powers to weaken themselves and each other by perpetual strife, so that neither might be able to join with Scotland in attacking him. The annexation of Bretagne had, however, caused in England a positive hatred of France, while the fact that her King was engaged in enterprises so far away made it safe to side with Spain against him. Ferdinand and Isabella on their part were willing to draw towards Henry, in order to use him as an ally in the rear of their great enemy. In fact, the Spanish sovereigns had for some time been looking for opportunities of conciliating him ; and their ambassador, Don Pedro de Ayala, had been most influential in persuading James of Scotland to give up his support of Warbeck, thus freeing Henry from the great danger of his reign and raising the value of his friendship. Two marriages were now planned with the object of uniting both Scotland and Spain with England, and detaching both irrevocably from the French alliance. Henry's eldest son Arthur was to be the husband of Katherine, the younger daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, and his daughter Margaret was to become Queen of Scotland. The consequences of these two marriages would be wide-reaching. That with ;Scotland might lead to the union of the two countries by the succession of a Scottish prince to the English throne if this happened, Henry acutely remarked that Scotland would still be only an accession to England, and not England to Scotiand, inasmuch as the greater would necessarily draw the less. That with Spain would directly cause firmer friendship and more vigorous& commercial intercourse with the Netherlands, as the Archduke Philip, Maximilian's eldest son, had married& Juana, Katherine's elder sister ; and this again would compel the Duchess Margaret of Burgundy to desist ; from any further Yorkist enterprises against Henry. Yet, with all these motives to conclude Arthur's marriage at once, the negotiations for it went on slowly. An agreement was formed about its conditions in September 1496; on August 15, 1497, the betrothal took place at Woodstock, but the marriage itself was delayed till November 1501. The same kind of caution showed itself in Henry's adhesion (September 1496) to the Italian League. He accompanied this with a stipulation ;that he should not, like the other members of the confederacy, be called upon to make war with Charles. Ferdinand was willing to receive him into the League even on these terms, feeling sure that circumstances would soon compel him to take a more decided part. Meantime the King of Aragon was preparing, as late historical discoveries have shown, a plan for overthrowing the peculiar liberties of the Gallican Church, as established by Charles VII, the grandfather of the present King; but for these, it was thought, no king of France would ever dare to wage war against the Pope as Charles had been doing, or to show himself so disobedient to his spiritual authority. That the marriage of Katherine should have been thus planned with the decided object of strengthening the Papacy may surely be considered as one of the most striking instances on record of the irony of fate. As having this object, it could not but be religiously dangerous to England and ominous to our liberties. Lord Bacon remarks that prosecutions for heresy were rare under Henry VII ; yet they were not unknown, for Joan Boughton, Lady Young, and several other persons had been burned as Wycliffites in 1494 and the following years, and the spirit of heresy was abroad. What then was likely to be the effect of so close an alliance with Ferdinand and Isabella, who had allowed the Inquisition to burn 500 persons annually for many years together in their dominions ? Here again, we should feel some gratitude to the sovereign who, whether from timidity and indecision, or from something within him which did not love cruelty, did after all guard us from the worst risks which his policy was likely in itself to bring on.
The proposal of a Crusade by Alexander VI in 1500, on different principles from those pursued by CharlesVIII, produced a fresh indication of Henry’s unwillingness to trust the Pope too far. When asked to join with Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, Venice, France, and Spain in a combined attack against the Turks, he replied with hardly concealed contempt that no prince on earth should be more forward than he to join in so holy an enterprise, but that surely the Mediterranean powers, being so much nearer than he was to the scene of action, and so much better supplied with ships and galleys, ought to take the initiative in it. Yet if these should refuse, rather than his Holiness should go alone, he would wait upon him as soon as he could be ready, 'always provided that he might first see all differences among Christian princes fully settled, and might have some good Italian ports put into his hands for the retreat and safeguard of his men.’ That the envoy should be ‘nothing at all discontented ’ with this answer seems to show that the plan was not intended to be really serious.
At the time of Katherine’s betrothal, when she was only thirteen years old, and her bridegroom three years younger, the question had been raised in Spain whether she should be sent to England for education. Opinions varied on this point, Katherine-some maintaining that Henry’s court was morally by no means a fit place for the training of a young lady, others that, as she would have to go there at last, it would be better that she should have as little remembrance as possible of any happier home. At the end of 1500 her journey was at length to take place; and hearing thather entrance into London was to be magnificent, Isabella wrote entreating Henry to curtail such expenses, and give Katherine more, if possible, of his fatherly affection inlieu of them. She was to be endowed at once with the third part of the principality of Wales, of the dukedom of ;Cornwall, and of the earldom of Chester ; and, in case ofher becoming queen, she was to be as richly endowed as any former queen had ever been.’ In exchange for this somewhat hazy promise, she signed a renunciation of her dowry of 200,000 ducats; the young couple were married in the following November, and sent to reside at Ludlow Castle, from which the poor young bridegroom wrote to his father after a week or two that he had never conceived the possibility of such happiness as he was then enjoying. His occupations also seem to have been truly royal; much of the town of Ludlow had been destroyed in the civil wars, and he encouraged its restoration by all possible means. Besides this, he devoted himself, with the help of the Welsh members of his Council, to the improvement of the laws by which the Principality was governed. He is praised too for the peaceable disposition which made him check at once all quarrels among the members of his household. But all this genial promise was cut short by a misfortune like that which carried off at a very early age the two other sons-in-law of the Catholic sovereigns. A neglected cold settled on Arthur’s lungs; and he expired within five months of his wedding-day. Before the unhappy Katherine emerged from her retirement, an ambassador came from Spain with a public commission to bring back the Princess, at the same time claiming her dowry and payment of the income guaranteed to her: yet so important did Henry’s alliance appear to Ferdinand and Isabella, that they gave their envoy private instructions to arrange, if possible, that the young widow should marry the Duke of York her brother-in-law, a boy five years younger than herself. Of course such a marriage was irregular, and would require a special dispensation from the Pope ; yet, considering the object proposed by the league between Ferdinand and Henry, it seemed not impossible that such a point might be conceded, especially if, as reported, Katherine had been Arthur’s wife only in name. Subject to the chances of papal pliancy, the King thought it well to allow the parties to be affianced to one another; whether the marriage actually took place or not would depend on future combinations. Meantime, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s country house at Croydon was appointed for Katherine’s residence ; and she was treated well or ill according to the ebbs and flows of Henry’s good will for Spain, holding, as she did, a kind of political agency for the interests of her native country. At one time Henry VII. conceived the outrageous design of marrying her himself, but was deterred from it by Isabella’s declaration that such a notion was ‘ too wicked to be so much as named in Christian ears.
The conclusive reason for Ferdinand and Isabella’s urgency in the affair of their daughter’s second marriage must be looked for in the state of France, where Charles VIII had been succeeded, in April, 1498, by his cousin Louis of Orleans, whom we have seen revolting against him in Bretagne. The new King's first care was to bribe Pope Alexander VI to grant a divorce from his unloved wife Jeanne of France, the daughter of Louis XI, and to secure Bretagne to the French Crown by at once marrying Anne, the late King’s widow. Immediately on ascending the throne, he assumed the titles of King of Naples and Duke of Milan, the former as heir to Charles VIII, the latter as being descended from the Visconti of Milan. Before the year of his accession ended he allied himself with Venice and the Pope, overran the Milanese, dethroned Ludovico Sforza, who had been restored to his dukedom after Charles VIII’s retreat from Italy, and imprisoned him in the terrible castle of Loches, near Tours. He then made with Ferdinand the strange agreement that the two powers should divide Naples between them, Apulia and Calabria being assigned to Spain, and the Terra di Lavoro and Abruzzo to France. For this purpose the French invaded the country in July 1501, took Frederic King of Naples prisoner, and occupied the provinces assigned to them, while Gonzalo de Cordova, Ferdinand’s general, reduced Tarento and the southern districts. The natural consequences of this preposterous contract were not long in appearing; the two Kings differed as to the division of the central provinces, each claiming them as belonging to his own portion. This quarrel was rising to a height at the beginning of the year 1502; so that just at the time of Arthur’s death the Catholic sovereigns had the strongest motives to hold fast to the English alliance. Indeed their ardent desire for this made them, as it would appear, overlook many of the difficulties in the way of Katharine's re-marriage. Henry, on his part, was not without scruples, which were strengthened by the decided opinion expressed by Warham, Bishop-elect of London, against the Pope's power to sanction it. However Bishop Fox and other high authorities were of the contrary opinion ; indeed, considering what the Pope had already done in the way of allowing divorces, Henry might think it hard to assign any limits to his power in this direction. At any rate, the magnificent victories of Gonzalo de Cordova in Naples soon made him think no more of his doubts ; and he gave full assent to the future marriage, yet by a refinement of caution made his son execute privately a formal protest against it.
The latter days of Henry were once more embittered by the fear of a Yorkist insurrection. The Duke of Suffolk was a still surviving brother of Lord Lincoln, and had commanded for the King at Blackheath Field. This nobleman, having committed manslaughter in a brawl, was forced by Henry to appear personally in court, and there to sue out his pardon. Affronted at being thus treated like a common person, he fled to his aunt the Duchess of Burgundy in Flanders. Finding little encouragement there, he made his peace with Henry and returned home. But just before Prince Arthur's marriage, for which he had incurred large debts, he once more retreated to Flanders, in the hope that new discontents at home might afford him an opportunity. On this Henry resorted to his former arts. Sir Robert Curzon was instructed to go over to Flanders, pretend to join Suffolk, and gain information as to his confederates at home. This led to the arrest of the King's brother-in-law the Earl of Devonshire (husband of Elizabeth's sister Katherine), and of Lord Abergavenny ; others of meaner rank, such as Sir James Tirrel, the murderer of the Princes in the Tower, were at the same time executed. The plans of Suffolk were thus deranged, and he was reduced to live in hopeless exile, receiving, however, protection in Flanders from the Archduke Philip, who by the death of Isabella was now King of Castile in right of Juana his wife. Suffolk was, however, driven from this refuge by a singular accident. In January 1506 Philip and Juana were on the way to Spain in order to take possession of their heritage. Their fleet ran down the English Channel, firing guns by way of bravado when they were near the land ; but in the midst of this amusement they were surprised by a storm which shattered and dispersed their vessels, driving the sovereigns themselves into the harbour of Melcombe. No accident could possibly be more delightful to Henry ; for he thus got into his power the prince who had been his most determined adversary, launching Warbeck's expedition against him, and agreeing to receive the Crown of England in the event of its success. He eagerly invited Philip and Juana to visit him at Windsor ; where, under cover of an honourable reception, they would be still more completely in his power. Amid a thousand courtesies, he still held firmly to one main point ; Suffolk must be surrendered. This was at last agreed to, though with extreme unwillingness ; Henry on his part promising not to punish him for his rebellion, and consenting that the matter should be so arranged that the exile might seem to return by his own free will. At the same time Philip was compelled to make a new commercial treaty, which was so unpopular among his subjects that they called it the ' 'Intercursus Malus' (by way of contrast with the great treaty of 1496), complaining that it sacrificed their interests by allowing English cloth to be sold in Flemish towns generally, instead of only at the two emporia of Bruges and Antwerp, and thus taking out of their hands the profits of local trade in their own country.
Henry was now a widower of some years' standing the fair and good Queen Elizabeth having died in 1501. Anxious at the thought that the succession to the throne now depended on the life of one son, he began to think of marrying again. He was not too old to hope for fresh offspring, though his weak constitution gave him an appearance of age. Several ladies were at different times proposed ; and he has been deservedly ridiculed for the catalogue of enquiries which he directed to be made about the personal charms of some of them. He urgently pressed for a portrait of the widowed Queen of Naples, Isabella's niece ; but met with a blank refusal—the lady would not allow her beauty to be sent about on approval. Maximilian's daughter Margaret, after being first Queenelect of France, then wife to the heir-apparent of Spain, then Duchess of Savoy, seemed at one time likely to end with being Queen of England. Besides this, Henry had been more than suspected of ardently admiring Queen Juana on the Windsor visit, when the evident ill-health of her husband gave a prospect of his death, which happened a few months after. All these schemes having failed, the King made a virtue of necessity, and remained for the rest of his life unmarried.
A curious attempt was made in 1 508 to procure from Pope Julius II (who had succeeded Alexander VI in 1503) the canonisation of King Henry VI. Lord Bacon hints that the fees payable to the Roman Court on such occasions were unreasonably high, amounting as they did to nearly 1,000 ducats. He inclines, however, to the view that Julius was too sensible so to honour one who was ‘little better than a natural.’ That the expense would not have deterred Henry is proved by his having willingly paid similar fees for the canonisation of Anselm, which took place at this time.
As there were no regular parliamentary subsidies in the last thirteen years of Henry’s reign, he had to provide for the expenses of government otherwise, and did so by means which have stained his memory deeply. He made money out of every office in his Court, received bribes for conferring bishoprics, and sold pardons to those concerned in the Cornish rebellion, the sums paid varying from 1l. to 200l. But far the most discreditable exactions were those which are connected with the names of Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley—the former a Towcester tradesman’s son, employed by Henry in imitation of Louis XI’s love for low-born ministers; the latter the founder, at least, of a great family, as his son John played a considerable part in English history under his successive titles of Lisle, Warwick, and Northumberland. These men enriched Henry by a course of the most odious chicane directed against wealthy men all over England. We hear of their prosecuting Sir William Capel for being remiss in enquiring about base coin when Lord Mayor of London, and fining him 2,oooZ. As this was the second time Sir William had been thus treated, he firmly refused to pay, and remained a prisoner in the Tower till the end of the reign. Other persons were indicted of crimes before magistrates, and then left in prison untried, in defiance of Magna Charta, till they consented to pay fines or ransoms for their freedom. Sometimes, as Lord Bacon tells us, Empson and Dudley even dispensed with the help of magistrates, and committed accused persons to prison by their own authority, the pecuniary object in each case being the same. They got enormous sums for restoration in cases of technical outlawry, and even tried to establish the principle that such a composition should never be less than half a man’s income for two years after the outlawry began. Endless vexations were also practised at times when new heirs were succeeding to landed property, by maintaining and aggravating every feudal exaction applicable to such occasions. Especially was this the case with royal wards, whose lands were given up to them only after paying extravagant fines. Empson and Dudley had also agents everywhere employed in the detestable task of hunting out defects in the title of landholders, and trying to revive obsolete rights of the Crown. This practice, a return to which had in after years so much to do with the ruin of Charles I., would almost certainly have overthrown both Henry himself and his dynasty if it had been carried on long; as it was, his feeling of his approaching end made him inclined to listen to remonstrances, some of which were urged, as we are glad to hear, by the honourable boldness of the Court preachers. Yet the abuses were not restrained till the King had amassed treasure to the surprising amount of 1,800,000l.; while his agentshad laid up for themselves a store of public hatred which only waited for their master’s death to discharge itself.
Henry’s last public act was the conclusion of a project of marriage between his daughter Mary and Charles Prince of Castile, the son of Philip and Juana. He thus hoped that he had built round his kingdom the long hoped-for 'wall of brass'; since he was to have for his son-in-law the King of Scotland on the one side and the future Lord of Spain and Burgundy on the other. When he perceived his end approaching, he proclaimed a general pardon for State offences, and also showed some desire that unjust acquisitions of the Crown should be restored. Soon after this he died calmly at Richmond (April 22, 1509), at the age of only fifty-two, and after a reign of twenty-three years and eight months, the troubles of which had long ago brought on him infirmities far beyond his years.
PRINCE HENRY AND HIS ENVIRONMENT.
The Prince, who now succeeded to the position of heir-apparent, was nearly five years younger than his brother. The third child and second son of his parents, he was born on 28th June, 1491, at Greenwich, a palace henceforth intimately associated with the history of Tudor sovereigns. The manor of Greenwich had belonged to the alien priory of Lewisham, and, on the dissolution of those houses, had passed into the hands of Henry IV. Then it was granted to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who began to enclose the palace grounds; on his death it reverted to the Crown; and Edward IV, many of whose tastes and characteristics were inherited by his grandson, Henry VIII, took great delight in beautifying and extending the palace. He gave it to his Queen, Elizabeth, and in her possession it remained until her sympathy with Yorkist plots was punished by the forfeiture of her lands. Henry VII then bestowed it on his wife, the dowager's daughter, and thus it became the birthplace of her younger children. Here was the scene of many a joust and tournament, of many a masque and revel; here the young Henry, as soon as he came to the throne, was wedded to Catherine of Aragon; here Henry's sister was married to the Duke of Suffolk; and here were born all future Tudor sovereigns, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. At Greenwich, then, through the forfeit of his grandmother, Henry was born; he was baptised in the Church of the Observant Friars, an Order, the object first of his special favour, and then of an equally marked dislike; the ceremony was performed by Richard Fox, then Bishop of Exeter, and afterwards one of the child's chief advisers. His nurse was named Ann Luke, and years afterwards, when Henry was King, he allowed her the annual pension of twenty pounds, equivalent to about three hundred in modern currency. The details of his early life are few and far between. Lord Herbert, who wrote his Life and Reign a century later, records that the young Prince was destined by his father for the see of Canterbury, and provided with an education more suited to a clerical than to a lay career. The motive ascribed to Henry VII is typical of his character; it was more economical to provide for younger sons out of ecclesiastical, than royal, revenues. But the story is probably a mere inference from the excellence of the boy's education, and from his father's thrift. If the idea of an ecclesiastical career for young Henry was ever entertained, it was soon abandoned for secular preferment. On 5th April, 1492, before the child was ten months old, he was appointed to the ancient and important posts of Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle. A little later he received the still more honourable office of Earl Marshal; the duties were performed by deputy, but a goodly portion of the fees was doubtless appropriated for the expenses of the boy's establishment, or found its way into the royal coffers. Further promotion awaited him at the mature age of three. On 12th September, 1494, he became Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland; six weeks later he was created Duke of York, and dubbed, with the usual quaint and formal ceremonies, a Knight of the Bath. In December, he was made Warden of the Scottish Marches, and he was invested with the Garter in the following May.
The accumulation of these great offices of State, any one of which might have taxed the powers of a tried administrator, in the feeble hands of a child appears at first sight a trifle irrational; but there was always method in Henry's madness. In bestowing these administrative posts upon his children he was really concentrating them in his own person and bringing them directly under his own supervision. It was the policy whereby the early Roman Emperors imposed upon Republican Rome the substance, without the form, of despotism. It limited the powers of mischief which Henry's nobles might otherwise have enjoyed, and provided incomes for his children without increasing taxation or diminishing the privy purse. The work of administration could be done at least as effectively, much more economically, and with far less danger to internal peace by deputies of lower rank than the dukes and earls and barons who had been wont to abuse these high positions for the furtherance of private ends, and often for the levying of private war. Nowhere were the advantages of Henry's policy more conspicuous than in his arrangements for the government of Ireland. Ever since Richard, Duke of York, and George, Duke of Clarence, had ruled as Irish viceroys, Ireland had been a Yorkist stronghold. There Simnel had been crowned king, and there peers and peasants had fought for Perkin Warbeck. Something must be done to heal the running sore. Possibly Henry thought that some of Ireland's loyalty might be diverted from Yorkist channels by the selection of a Tudor prince as its viceroy; but he put his trust in more solid measures. As deputy to his infant son he nominated one who, though but a knight, was perhaps the ablest man among his privy council. It was in this capacity that Sir Edward Poynings crossed to Ireland about the close of 1494, and called the Parliament of Drogheda. Judged by the durability of its legislation, it was one of the most memorable of parliaments; and for nearly three hundred years Poynings' laws remained the foundation upon which rested the constitutional relations between the sister kingdoms. Even more lasting was the precedent set by Prince Henry's creation as Duke of York; from that day to this, from Henry VIII to the present Prince of Wales, the second son of the sovereign or of the heir-apparent has almost invariably been invested with that dukedom. The original selection of the title was due to substantial reasons. Henry's name was distinctively Lancastrian, his title was no less distinctively Yorkist; it was adopted as a concession to Yorkist prejudice. It was a practical reminder of the fact which the Tudor laureate, Skelton, celebrated in song: "The rose both red and white, in one rose now doth grow". It was also a tacit assertion of the death of the last Duke of York in the Tower and of the imposture of Perkin Warbeck, now pretending to the title.
But thoughts of the coercion of Ireland and conciliation of Yorkists were as yet far from the mind of the child, round whose person these measures were made to centre. Precocious he must have been, if the phenomenal development of brow and the curiously mature expression attributed to him in his portrait are any indication of his intellectual powers at the age at which he is represented. Without the childish lips and nose, the face might well be that of a man of fifty; and with the addition of a beard, the portrait would be an unmistakable likeness of Henry himself in his later years. When the Prince was no more than a child, says Erasmus, he was set to study. He had, we are told, a vivid and active mind, above measure able to execute whatever tasks he undertook; and he never attempted anything in which he did not succeed. The Tudors had no modern dread of educational over-pressure when applied to their children, and the young Henry was probably as forward a pupil as his son, Edward VI, his daughter, Elizabeth, or his grand-niece, Lady Jane Grey. But, fortunately for Henry, a physical exuberance corrected his mental precocity; and, as he grew older, any excessive devotion to the Muses was checked by an unwearied pursuit of bodily culture. He was the first of English sovereigns to be educated under the new influence of the Renaissance. Scholars, divines and poets thronged the Court of Henry VII. Margaret Beaufort, who ruled in Henry's household, was a signal benefactor to the cause of English learning. Lady Margaret professors commemorate her name in both our ancient universities, and in their bidding prayers she is to this day remembered. Two colleges at Cambridge revere her as their foundress; Caxton, the greatest of English printers, owed much to her munificence, and she herself translated into English books from both Latin and French. Henry VII, though less accomplished that the later Tudors, evinced an intelligent interest in art and letters, and provided for his children efficient instructors; while his Queen, Elizabeth of York, is described by Erasmus as possessing the soundest judgment and as being remarkable for her prudence as well as for her piety. Bernard André, historian and poet, who had been tutor to Prince Arthur, probably took no small part in the education of his younger brother; to him he dedicated, after Arthur's death, two of the annual summaries of events which he was in the habit of compiling. Giles D'Ewes, apparently a Frenchman and the author of a notable French grammar, taught that language to Prince Henry, as many years later he did to his daughter, Queen Mary; probably either D'Ewes or André trained his handwriting, which is a curious compromise between the clear and bold Italian style, soon to be adopted by well-instructed Englishmen, and the old English hieroglyphics in which more humbly educated individuals, including Shakespeare, concealed the meaning of their words. But the most famous of Henry's teachers was the poet Skelton, the greatest name in English verse from Lydgate down to Surrey. Skelton was poet laureate to Henry VII Court, and refers in his poems to his wearing of the white and green of Tudor liveries. He celebrated in verse Arthur's creation as Prince of Wales and Henry's as Duke of York; and before the younger prince was nine years old, this "incomparable light and ornament of British Letters," as Erasmus styles him, was directing Henry's studies. Skelton himself writes.—
The honor of England I learned to spell,
I gave him drink of the sugred well
Of Helicon's waters crystalline,
Acquainting him with the Muses nine.
The coarseness of Skelton's satires and his open disregard of the clerical vows of chastity may justify some doubt of the value of the poet's influence on Henry's character; but he so far observed the conventional duties of his post as to dedicate to his royal pupil, in 1501, a moral treatise in Latin of no particular worth. More deserving of Henry's study were two books inscribed to him a little later by young Boerio, son of the King's Genoese physician and a pupil of Erasmus, who, according to his own account, suffered untold afflictions from the father's temper. One was a translation of Isocrates' De Regno, the other of Lucian's tract against believing calumnies. The latter was, to judge from the tale of Henry's victims, a precept which he scarcely laid to heart in youth. In other respects he was apt enough to learn. He showed "remarkable docility for mathematics," became proficient in Latin, spoke French with ease, understood Italian, and, later on, possibly from Catherine of Aragon, acquired a knowledge of Spanish. In 1499 Erasmus himself, the greatest of the humanists, visited his friend, Lord Mountjoy, near Greenwich, and made young Henry's acquaintance. "I was staying," he writes, "at Lord Mountjoy's country house when Thomas More came to see me, and took me out with him for a walk as far as the next village, where all the King's children, except Prince Arthur, who was then the eldest son, were being educated. When we came into the hall, the attendants not only of the palace, but also of Mountjoy's household, were all assembled. In the midst stood Prince Henry, now nine years old, and having already something of royalty in his demeanour in which there was a certain dignity combined with singular courtesy. On his right was Margaret, about eleven years of age, afterwards married to James, King of Scots; and on his left played Mary, a child of four. Edmund was an infant in arms. More, with his companion Arnold, after paying his respects to the boy Henry, the same that is now King of England, presented him with some writing. For my part, not having expected anything of the sort, I had nothing to offer, but promised that, on another occasion, I would in some way declare my duty towards him. Meantime, I was angry with More for not having warned me, especially as the boy sent me a little note, while we were at dinner, to challenge something from my pen. I went home, and in the Muses' spite, from whom I had been so long divorced, finished the poem within three days." The poem, in which Britain speaks her own praise and that of her princes, Henry VII and his children, was dedicated to the Duke of York and accompanied by a letter in which Erasmus commended Henry's devotion to learning. Seven years later Erasmus again wrote to Henry, now Prince of Wales, condoling with him upon the death of his brother-in-law, Philip of Burgundy, King of Castile. Henry replied in cordial manner, inviting the great scholar to continue the correspondence. The style of his letter so impressed Erasmus that he suspected, as he says, "some help from others in the ideas and expressions. In a conversation I afterwards had with William, Lord Mountjoy, he tried by various arguments to dispel that suspicion, and when he found he could not do so he gave up the point and let it pass until he was sufficiently instructed in the case. On another occasion, when we were talking alone together, he brought out a number of the Prince's letters, some to other people and some to himself, and among them one which answered to mine: in these letters were manifest signs of comment, addition, suppression, correction and alteration—You might recognise the first drafting of a letter, and you might make out the second and third, and sometimes even the fourth correction; but whatever was revised or added was in the same handwriting. I had then no further grounds for hesitation, and, overcome by the facts, I laid aside all suspicion." Neither, he adds, would his correspondent doubt Henry VIII's authorship of the book against Luther if he knew that king's "happy genius". That famous book is sufficient proof that theological studies held no small place in Henry's education. They were cast in the traditional mould, for the Lancastrians were very orthodox, and the early Tudors followed in their steps. Margaret Beaufort left her husband to devote herself to good works and a semi-monastic life; Henry VII converted a heretic at the stake and left him to burn; and the theological conservatism, which Henry VIII imbibed in youth, clung to him to the end of his days.
Nor were the arts neglected, and in his early years Henry acquired a passionate and lifelong devotion to music. Even as Duke of York he had a band of minstrels apart from those of the King and Prince Arthur; and when he was king his minstrels formed an indispensable part of his retinue, whether he went on progress through his kingdom, or crossed the seas on errands of peace or war. He became an expert performer on the lute, the organ and the harpsichord, and all the cares of State could not divert him from practising on those instruments both day and night. He sent all over England in search of singing men and boys for the chapel royal, and sometimes appropriated choristers from Wolsey's chapel, which he thought better provided than his own. From Venice he enticed to England the organist of St. Mark's, Dionysius Memo, and on occasion Henry and his Court listened four hours at a stretch to Memo's organ recitals. Not only did he take delight in the practice of music by himself and others; he also studied its theory and wrote with the skill of an expert. Vocal and instrumental pieces of his own composition, preserved among the manuscripts at the British Museum, rank among the best productions of the time; and one of his anthems, "O Lorde, the Maker of all thyng," is of the highest order of merit, and still remains a favourite in English cathedrals.
In April, 1502, at the age of ten, Henry became the heir-apparent to the English throne. He succeeded at once to the dukedom of Cornwall, but again a precedent was set which was followed but yesterday; and ten months were allowed to elapse before he was, on 18th February, 1503, created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, the dukedom of York becoming void until a king or an heir apparent should again have a second son. The first sign of his increased importance was his implication in the maze of matrimonial intrigues which formed so large a part of sixteenth-century diplomacy. The last thing kings considered was the domestic felicity of their children; their marriages were pieces in the diplomatic game and sometimes the means by which States were built up. While Duke of York, Henry had been proposed as a husband for Eleanor, daughter of the Archduke Philip; and his sister Mary as the bride of Philip's son Charles, who, as the heir of the houses of Castile and of Aragon, of Burgundy and of Austria, was from the cradle destined to wield the imperial sceptre of Caesar. No further steps were taken at the time, and Prince Arthur's death brought other projects to the front.
Immediately on receiving the news, and two days before they dated their letter of condolence to Henry VII, Ferdinand and Isabella commissioned the Duke of Estrada to negotiate a marriage between the widowed Catherine and her youthful brother-in-law. No doubt was entertained but that the Pope would grant the necessary dispensation, for the spiritual head of Christendom was apt to look tenderly on the petitions of the powerful princes of this world. A more serious difficulty was the question of the widow's dower. Part only had been paid, and Ferdinand not merely refused to hand over the rest, but demanded the return of his previous instalments. Henry, on the other hand, considered himself entitled to the whole, refused to refund a penny, and gave a cold reception to the proposed marriage between Catherine and his sole surviving son. He was, however, by no means blind to the advantages of the Spanish matrimonial and political alliance, and still less to the attractions of Catherine's dower; he declined to send back the Princess, when Isabella, shocked at Henry VII.'s proposal to marry his daughter-in-law himself, demanded her return; and eventually, when Ferdinand reduced his terms, he suffered the marriage treaty to be signed. On 25th June, 1503, Prince Henry and Catherine were solemnly betrothed in the Bishop of Salisbury's house, in Fleet Street.
The papal dispensation arrived in time to solace Isabella on her death-bed in November, 1504; but that event once more involved in doubt the prospects of the marriage. The crown of Castile passed from Isabella to her daughter Juana; the government of the kingdom was claimed by Ferdinand and by Juana's husband, Philip of Burgundy. On their way from the Netherlands to claim their inheritance, Philip and Juana were driven on English shores. Henry VII treated them with all possible courtesy, and made Philip a Knight of the Garter, while Philip repaid the compliment by investing Prince Henry with the Order of the Golden Fleece. But advantage was taken of Philip's plight to extort from him the surrender of the Earl of Suffolk, styled the White Rose, and a commercial treaty with the Netherlands, which the Flemings named the Malus Intercursus. Three months after his arrival in Castile, Philip died, and Henry began to fish in the troubled waters for a share in his dominions. Two marriage schemes occurred to him; he might win the hand of Philip's sister Margaret, now Regent of the Netherlands, and with her hand the control of those provinces; or he might marry Juana and claim in her right to administer Castile. On the acquisition of Castile he set his mind. If he could not gain it by marriage with Juana, he thought he could do so by marrying her son and heir, the infant Charles, to his daughter Mary. Whichever means he took to further his design, it would naturally irritate Ferdinand and make him less anxious for the completion of the marriage between Catherine and Prince Henry. Henry VII was equally averse from the consummation of the match. Now that he was scheming with Charles's other grandfather, the Emperor Maximilian, to wrest the government of Castile from Ferdinand's grasp, the alliance of the King of Aragon had lost its attraction, and it was possible that the Prince of Wales might find elsewhere a more desirable bride. Henry's marriage with Catherine was to have been accomplished when he completed the age of fourteen; but on the eve of his fifteenth birthday he made a solemn protestation that the contract was null and void, and that he would not carry out his engagements. This protest left him free to consider other proposals, and enhanced his value as a negotiable asset. More than once negotiations were started for marrying him to Marguerite de Valois, sister of the Duke of Angoulême, afterwards famous as Francis I; and in the last months of his father's reign, the Prince of Wales was giving audience to ambassadors from Maximilian, who came to suggest matrimonial alliances between the prince and a daughter of Duke Albert of Bavaria, and between Henry VII and the Lady Margaret of Savoy, Regent of the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Ferdinand, threatened on all sides, first came to terms with France; he married a French princess, Germaine de Foix, abandoned his claim to Navarre, and bought the security of Naples by giving Louis XII a free hand in the north of Italy. He then diverted Maximilian from his designs on Castile by humouring his hostility to Venice. By that bait he succeeded in drawing off his enemies, and the league of Cambrai united them all, Ferdinand and Louis, Emperor and Pope, in an iniquitous attack on the Italian Republic. Henry VII, fortunately for his reputation, was left out of the compact. He was still cherishing his design on Castile, and in December, 1508, the treaty of marriage between Mary and Charles was formally signed. It was the last of his worldly triumphs; the days of his life were numbered, and in the early months of 1509 he was engaged in making a peace with his conscience.
The twenty-four years during which Henry VII had guided the destinies of England were a momentous epoch in the development of Western civilisation. It was the dawn of modern history, of the history of Europe in the form in which we know it today. The old order was in a state of liquidation. The medieval ideal, described by Dante, of a universal monarchy with two aspects, spiritual and temporal, and two heads, emperor and pope, was passing away. Its place was taken by the modern but narrower ideal of separate polities, each pursuing its own course, independent of, and often in conflict with, other societies. Unity gave way to diversity of tongues, of churches, of states; and the cosmopolitan became nationalist, patriot, separatist. Imperial monarchy shrank to a shadow; and kings divided the emperor's power at the same time that they consolidated their own. They extended their authority on both sides, at the expense of their superior, the emperor, and at the expense of their subordinate feudal lords. The struggle between the disruptive forces of feudalism and the central power of monarchy ended at last in monarchical triumph; and internal unity prepared the way for external expansion. France under Louis XI was first in the field. She had surmounted her civil troubles half a century earlier than England. She then expelled her foreign foes, crushed the remnants of feudal independence, and began to expand at the cost of weaker States. Parts of Burgundy, Provence, and Brittany became merged in France; the exuberant strength of the new-formed nation burst the barriers of the Alps and overflowed into the plains of Italy. The time of universal monarchy was past, but the dread of it remained; and from Charles VIII's invasion of Italy in 1494 to Francis I's defeat at Pavia in 1525, French dreams of world-wide sovereignty were the nightmare of other kings. Those dreams might, as Europe feared, have been realised, had not other States followed France in the path of internal consolidation. Ferdinand of Aragon married Isabella of Castile, drove out the Moors, and founded the modern Spanish kingdom. Maximilian married Mary, the daughter of Charles the Bold, and joined the Netherlands to Austria. United France found herself face to face with other united States, and the political system of modern Europe was roughly sketched out. The boundaries of the various kingdoms were fluctuating. There still remained minor principalities and powers, chiefly in Italy and Germany, which offered an easy prey to their ambitious neighbours; for both nations had sacrificed internal unity to the shadow of universal dominion, Germany in temporal, and Italy in spiritual, things. Mutual jealousy of each other's growth at the expense of these States gave rise to the theory of the balance of power; mutual adjustment of each other's disputes produced international law; and the necessity of watching each other's designs begat modern diplomacy.
Parallel with these developments in the relations between one State and another marched a no less momentous revolution in the domestic position of their sovereigns. National expansion abroad was marked by a corresponding growth in royal authority at home. The process was not new in England; every step in the path of the tribal chief of Saxon pirates to the throne of a united England denoted an advance in the nature of kingly power. Each extension of his sway intensified his authority, and his power grew in degree as it increased in area. So with fifteenth-century sovereigns. Local liberties and feudal rights which had checked a Duke of Brittany or a King of Aragon were powerless to restrain the King of France or of Spain. The sphere of royal authority encroached upon all others; all functions and all powers tended to concentrate in royal hands. The king was the emblem of national unity, the centre of national aspirations, and the object of national reverence. The Renaissance gave fresh impetus to the movement. Men turned not only to the theology, literature, and art of the early Christian era; they began to study anew its political organisation and its system of law and jurisprudence. The code of Justinian was as much a revelation as the original Greek of the New Testament. Roman imperial law seemed as superior to the barbarities of common law as classical was to medieval Latin; and Roman law supplanted indigenous systems in France and in Germany, in Spain and in Scotland. Both the Roman imperial law and the Roman imperial constitution were useful models for kings of the New Monarchy; the Roman Empire was a despotism; quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem ran the fundamental principle of Roman Empire. Nor was this all; Roman emperors were habitually deified, and men in the sixteenth century seemed to pay to their kings while alive the Divine honours which Romans paid to their emperors when dead. "Le nouveau Messie," says Michelet, "est le roi."
Nowhere was the king more emphatically the saviour of society than in England. The sixty years of Lancastrian rule were in the seventeenth century represented as the golden age of parliamentary government, a sort of time before the fall to which popular orators appealed when they wished to paint in vivid colours the evils of Stuart tyranny. But to keen observers of the time the pre-eminent characteristic of Lancastrian rule appeared to be its "lack of governance" or, in modern phrase, administrative anarchy. There was no subordination in the State. The weakness of the Lancastrian title left the king at the mercy of Parliament, and the limitations of Parliament were never more apparent than when its powers stood highest. Even in the realm of legislation, the statute book has seldom been so barren. Its principal acts were to narrow the county electorate to an oligarchy, to restrict the choice of constituencies to resident knights and burgesses, and to impair its own influence as a focus of public opinion. It was not content with legislative authority; it interfered with an executive which it could hamper but could not control. It was possessed by the inveterate fallacy that freedom and strong government are things incompatible; that the executive is the natural enemy of the Legislature; that if one is strong, the other must be weak; and of the two alternatives it vastly preferred a weak executive. So, to limit the king's power, it sought to make him "live of his own," when "his own" was absolutely inadequate to meet the barest necessities of government. Parliament was in fact irresponsible; the connecting link between it and the executive had yet to be found. Hence the Lancastrian "lack of governance"; it ended in a generation of civil war, and the memory of that anarchy explains much in Tudor history.
The problems of Henry VIII's reign can indeed only be solved by realising the misrule of the preceding century, the failure of parliamentary government, and the strength of the popular demand for a firm and masterful hand. It is a modern myth that Englishmen have always been consumed with enthusiasm for parliamentary government and with a thirst for a parliamentary vote. The interpretation of history, like that of the Scriptures, varies from age to age; and present political theories colour our views of the past. The political development of the nineteenth century created a parliamentary legend; and civil and religious liberty became the inseparable stage properties of the Englishman. Whenever he appeared on the boards, he was made to declaim about the rights of the subject and the privileges of Parliament. It was assumed that the desire for a voice in the management of his own affairs had at all times and all seasons been the mainspring of his actions; and so the story of Henry's rule was made into a political mystery. In reality, love of freedom has not always been, nor will it always remain, the predominant note in the English mind. At times the English people have pursued it through battle and murder with grim determination, but other times have seen other ideals. On occasion the demand has been for strong government irrespective of its methods, and good government has been preferred to self-government. Wars of expansion and wars of defence have often cooled the love of liberty and impaired the faith in parliaments; and generally English ideals have been strictly subordinated to a passion for material prosperity.
Never was this more apparent than under the Tudors. The parliamentary experiment of the Lancastrians was premature and had failed. Parliamentary institutions were discredited and people were indifferent to parliamentary rights and privileges: "A plague on both your Houses," was the popular feeling, "give us peace, above all peace at home to pursue new avenues of wealth, new phases of commercial development, peace to study new problems of literature, religion, and art"; and both Houses passed out of the range of popular imagination, and almost out of the sphere of independent political action. Parliament played during the sixteenth century a modester part than it had played since its creation. Towards the close of the period Shakespeare wrote his play of King John, and in that play there is not the faintest allusion to Magna Carta. Such an omission would be inconceivable now or at any time since the death of Elizabeth; for the Great Charter is enshrined in popular imagination as the palladium of the British constitution. It was the fetish to which Parliament appealed against the Stuarts. But no such appeal would have touched a Tudor audience. It needed and desired no weapon against a sovereign who embodied national desires, and ruled in accord with the national will. References to the charter are as rare in parliamentary debates as they are in the pages of Shakespeare. The best hated instruments of Stuart tyranny were popular institutions under the Tudors; and the Star Chamber itself found its main difficulty in the number of suitors which flocked to a court where the king was judge, the law's delays minimised, counsel's fees moderate, and justice rarely denied merely because it might happen to be illegal. England in the sixteenth century put its trust in its princes far more than it did in its parliaments; it invested them with attributes almost Divine. By Tudor majesty the poet was inspired with thoughts of the divinity that doth hedge a king. “Love for the King”, wrote a Venetian of Henry VIII in the early years of his reign, “is universal with all who see him, for his Highness does not seem a person of this world, but one descended from heaven”. Le nouveau Messie est le Roi.
Such were the tendencies which Henry VII and Henry VIII crystallised into practical weapons of absolute government. Few kings have attained a greater measure of permanent success than the first of the Tudors; it was he who laid the unseen foundations upon which Henry VIII erected the imposing edifice of his personal authority. An orphan from birth and an exile from childhood, he stood near enough to the throne to invite Yorkist proscription, but too far off to unite in his favour Lancastrian support. He owed his elevation to the mistakes of his enemies and to the cool, calculating craft which enabled him to use those mistakes without making mistakes of his own. He ran the great risk of his life in his invasion of England, but henceforth he left nothing to chance. He was never betrayed by passion or enthusiasm into rash adventures, and he loved the substance, rather than the pomp and circumstance of power. Untrammelled by scruples, unimpeded by principles, he pursued with constant fidelity the task of his life, to secure the throne for himself and his children, to pacify his country, and to repair the waste of the civil wars. Folly easily glides into war, but to establish a permanent peace required all Henry's patience, clear sight and far sight, caution and tenacity. A full exchequer, not empty glory, was his first requisite, and he found in his foreign wars a mine of money. Treason at home was turned to like profit, and the forfeited estates of rebellious lords accumulated in the hands of the royal family and filled the national coffers. Attainder, the characteristic instrument of Tudor policy, was employed to complete the ruin of the old English peerage which the Wars of the Roses began: and by 1509 there was only one duke and one marquis left in the whole of England. Attainder not only removed the particular traitor, but disqualified his family for place and power; and the process of eliminating feudalism from the region of government, started by Edward I, was finished by Henry VII. Feudal society has been described as a pyramid; the upper slopes were now washed away leaving an impassable precipice, with the Tudor monarch alone in his glory at its summit. Royalty had become a caste apart. Marriages between royal children and English peers had hitherto been no uncommon thing; since Henry VII's accession there have been but four, two of them in our own day. Only one took place in the sixteenth century, and the Duke of Suffolk was by some thought worthy of death for his presumption in marrying the sister of Henry VIII. The peerage was weakened not only by diminishing numbers, but by the systematic depression of those who remained. Henry VII, like Ferdinand of Aragon, preferred to govern by means of lawyers and churchmen; they could be rewarded by judgeships and bishoprics, and required no grants from the royal estates. Their occupancy of office kept out territorial magnates who abused it for private ends. Of the sixteen regents nominated by Henry VIII in his will, not one could boast a peerage of twelve years' standing; and all the great Tudor ministers, Wolsey and Cromwell, Cecil and Walsingham, were men of comparatively humble birth. With similar objects Henry VII passed laws limiting the number of retainers and forbidding the practice of maintenance. The courts of Star Chamber and Requests were developed to keep in order his powerful subjects and give poor men protection against them. Their civil law procedure, influenced by Roman imperial maxims, served to enhance the royal power and dignity, and helped to build up the Tudor autocracy.
To the office of king thus developed and magnified, the young Prince who stood upon the steps of the throne brought personal qualities of the highest order, and advantages to which his father was completely a stranger. His title was secure, his treasury overflowed, and he enjoyed the undivided affections of his people. There was no alternative claimant. The White Rose, indeed, had languished in the Tower since his surrender by Philip, and the Duke of Buckingham had some years before been mentioned as a possible successor to the throne; but their claims only served to remind men that nothing but Henry's life stood between them and anarchy, for his young brother Edmund, Duke of Somerset, had preceded Arthur to an early grave. Upon the single thread of Henry's life hung the peace of the realm; no other could have secured the throne without a second civil war. It was small wonder if England regarded Henry with a somewhat extravagant loyalty. Never had king ascended the throne more richly endowed with mental and physical gifts. He was ten weeks short of his eighteenth year. From both his parents he inherited grace of mind and of person. His father in later years was broken in health and soured in spirit, but in the early days of his reign he had charmed the citizens of York with his winning smile. His mother is described by the Venetian ambassador as a woman of great beauty and ability. She transmitted to Henry many of the popular characteristics of her father, Edward IV, though little of the military genius of that consummate commander who fought thirteen pitched battles and lost not one. Unless eye-witnesses sadly belied themselves, Henry VIII must have been the desire of all eyes. “His Majesty”, wrote one a year or two later, “is the handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on; above the usual height, with an extremely fine calf to his leg; his complexion fair and bright, with auburn hair combed straight and short in the French fashion, and a round face so very beautiful that it would become a pretty woman, his throat being rather long and thick.... He speaks French, English, Latin, and a little Italian; plays well on the lute and harpsichord, sings from the book at sight, draws the bow with greater strength than any man in England, and jousts marvelously”. Another foreign resident in 1519 described him as “extremely handsome. Nature could not have done more for him. He is much handsomer than any other sovereign in Christendom; a great deal handsomer than the King of France; very fair and his whole frame admirably proportioned. On hearing that Francis I wore a beard, he allowed his own to grow, and as it is reddish, he has now got a beard that looks like gold. He is very accomplished, a good musician, composes well, is a capital horseman, a fine jouster, speaks French, Latin, and Spanish.... He is very fond of hunting, and never takes his diversion without tiring eight or ten horses which he causes to be stationed beforehand along the line of country he means to take, and when one is tired he mounts another, and before he gets home they are all exhausted. He is extremely fond of tennis, at which game it is the prettiest thing in the world to see him play, his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture”.
The change from the cold suspicious Henry VII to such a king as this was inevitably greeted with a burst of rapturous enthusiasm. “I have no fear”, wrote Mountjoy to Erasmus, “but when you heard that our Prince, now Henry the Eighth, whom we may well call our Octavius, had succeeded to his father's throne, all your melancholy left you at once. For what may you not promise yourself from a Prince, with whose extraordinary and almost Divine character you are well acquainted.... But when you know what a hero he now shows himself, how wisely he behaves, what a lover he is of justice and goodness, what affection he bears to the learned, I will venture to swear that you will need no wings to make you fly to behold this new and auspicious star. If you could see how all the world here is rejoicing in the possession of so great a Prince, how his life is all their desire, you could not contain your tears for joy. The heavens laugh, the earth exults, all things are full of milk, of honey, of nectar! Avarice is expelled the country. Liberality scatters wealth with a bounteous hand. Our King does not desire gold or gems or precious metals, but virtue, glory, immortality”. The picture is overdrawn for modern taste, but making due allowance for Mountjoy's turgid efforts to emulate his master's eloquence, enough remains to indicate the impression made by Henry on a peer of liberal education. His unrivalled skill in national sports and martial exercises appealed at least as powerfully to the mass of his people. In archery, in wrestling, in joust and in tourney, as well as in the tennis court or on the hunting field, Henry was a match for the best in his kingdom. None could draw a bow, tame a steed, or shiver a lance more deftly than he, and his single-handed tournaments on horse and foot with his brother-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk, are likened by one who watched them to the combats of Achilles and Hector. These are no mere trifles below the dignity of history; they help to explain the extraordinary hold Henry obtained over popular imagination. Suppose there ascended the throne today a young prince, the hero of the athletic world, the finest oar, the best bat, the crack marksman of his day, it is easy to imagine the enthusiastic support he would receive from thousands of his people who care much for sport, and nothing at all for politics. Suppose also that that prince were endowed with the iron will, the instinctive insight into the hearts of his people, the profound aptitude for government that Henry VIII displayed, he would be a rash man who would guarantee even now the integrity of parliamentary power or the continuance of cabinet rule. In those days, with thirty years of civil war and fifteen more of conspiracy fresh in men's minds, with no alternative to anarchy save Henry VIII, with a peerage fallen from its high estate, and a Parliament almost lost to respect, royal autocracy was not a thing to dread or distrust. "If a lion knew his strength," said Sir Thomas More of his master to Cromwell, "it were hard for any man to rule him." Henry VIII had the strength of a lion; it remains to be seen how soon he learnt it, and what use he made of that strength when he discovered the secret.