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. French and English Con-
ENGLAND AND FRANCE
HOUSE OF LANCASTER
The origin of the Reformation, certainly in England, probably in Europe also,1 may be traced to the times of which we are about to treat . The foundations of this great change were laid in the two preceding reigns, but the earliest, and, if justly considered, the most important, passages of Henry the Fifth's life were intimately connected with it; and, in order to form an estimate of his individual merits, as well as to comprehend fully the history of his age, we must in the first place endeavour to obtain an accurate view of that important event. This, however, is rendered extremely difficult, by the mutual animosity of the contending parties, which spreads its influence over the writings of the time, and still more by the cir- 1 Note I.
cumstance that the authors whom we must consult belong for the most part to the Lancastrian party as well as to the Romish church; while the very few who take the opposite side not only are of a much later date, but seem to make up for their scanty numbers and their obscure station by an abundant acrimony against the ecclesiastical establishment. Nevertheless, the attempt must be made to ascertain the truth by comparing and balancing probabilities, when testimony fails to command our belief, or we have not the means of bringing its credit to a satisfactory test through the help of original records — the safest guides of the historical inquirer.
In the last years of Edward the Third's reign, the attention of men was drawn to a body of priests, who, with their lay followers, formed a new sect, under the teaching and the guidance of Dr. John Wycliffe. This remarkable person was born about the year 1324, in a parish of the same name in Yorkshire, upon a manor which had belonged to his family ever since the Conquest.1 Educated at Oxford, he had there acquired in an ample measure the learning of the times, had become a profound theologian, and displayed an extraordinary capacity for the subtleties, metaphysical as well as religious, of scholastic controversy. In these talents and accomplishments he is confessed by his most implacable adversaries, the clerical impugners of his doctrines, to have had no superior, if he had any 1 Inland's Itinerary, v. 99. Collect., ii. 319.