Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Treaty of Troyes and decision of the States, the rights of Charles VII. were acknowledged by the greater part of the country south of that river; his title, unquestioned by all but the Burgundians'and the English, gave him both popular support and actual strength; and his troops, though rather inured to defeat than encouraged by success, were so numerous and so well appointed as to keep the field wherever the invading army endeavoured to assail them or to extend its conquests.

In these difficult circumstances the first measure of Bedford, after assuming the Regency of France, was to obtain reinforcements from England; and with this view he found it necessary to settle the government of that kingdom. As he had formerly been appointed Regent, or Guardian of the Realm, during his brother's absence, it was natural to expect that he, or, until his return home, his brother Gloster, should be allowed to fill that high office during the minority of the new King. We have no record of any steps taken to gain this object; but we may conclude that the chief Lords and Prelates were approached by his emissaries in order to obtain their assent. We only know for certain that as soon as the late King's death was known, a number of the great Lords took upon themselves to issue a Commission in the infant Prince's name and under the Great Seal, authorizing the Judges, Sheriffs, and other officers, to perforin their several duties, summoning a Parliament to meet in two months, and empowering Gloster to hold it as Royal Commissioner.

The Parliament accordingly met at Westminster, and the Primate addressed them in a Nov. 8. speech or sermon, taking for his text the 12 verse “ The princes of the nations are assembled with God.” After alluding shortly to the late King's great deeds, and at somewhat more length to the number six of the young King's title, as possessing all perfections, among others because God created the world in six days, he declared the purpose of the meeting to be, providing for the peace and defence of the realm and the care of the Sovereign's person ; and he recommended the advice of Jethro to Moses as worthy of being followed—to choose from all the people able men, fearing God, men of truth, hating covetousness (Exod. xviii.). The first proceeding of the Parliament was to ratify and confirm the Commissions which had been issued, among others the irregular summons of the body itself, on the ground of those proceedings having been absolutely necessary for securing the existence of the Government and the safety of the kingdom.' But when Gloster claimed the office of Regent or Guardian, both as being next heir to the Crown within the realm, and as having been named by the late King on his death bed, the Lords, after deliberating upon the matter, and consulting men learned in the law, probably the Judges, declared that no person could have any such right, either by inheritance as heir presumptive, or by appointment of the deceased Sovereign, whose power ceased with his · Rot. Par., iv. 169.

..* Note LV.

[ocr errors]

life, and that all claims of this kind were to be utterly rejected as derogatory to the rights of the Estates of the realm. With this opinion of the Lords the Commons agreed, and a statute was made naming Bedford Protector, and in his absence Gloster, with the avowed intention of confining his powers to those ministerial acts which the defence of the kingdom and preservation of the public peace required, but denying all pretensions to share in the Royal authority. A council of fifteen was appointed, consisting of peers, prelates, and commoners, in equal numbers, with Exeter, the late King's uncle, nominally to assist the Protector, but in reality to controul him ; for without their concurrence no act of his was to be valid. Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, with Exeter, was to have the care of the young King's person, in consequence of his father's appointment; for here the scruples of the lawyers appear to have overcome the Parliament's regard to constitutional rights, and the deceased monarch's will was suffered to govern upon a most important point, rather than allow the absurdity of the infant Prince's passing an act to declare his own incapacity.

Bedford, now acting as Regent of France by the title derived under the Treaty of Troyes, and acknowledged as well in the capital as in all the provinces north of the Loire, had none of the difficulties

2.

i Note LV. This Statute appointing the Council does not appear on the Statute Roll, nor does the Act ratifying the Commissions. But they both had the assent of all the Estates. Rot. Parl. iv. 179.

to contend with which the jealousy of the Parliament raised in his brother's way. But the whole exercise of his great capacity was required to sustain the load which the late King's decease had devolved upon him; and certainly it is not easy to find in all the history of those times a personage more entitled to our admiration, if superior talents alone are the object of applause. A genius ever fertile in resources; a constancy which the most grave and unlooked-for disasters could not shake; courage and skill that rose with the emergency, and became the more conspicuous the more they were of difficult exercise; these great qualities were joined to the prudence and circumspection which prevents either oversight or error, the self-command which forbids all entrance to selfish propensities when public duty must be performed; and while the person thus endowed with talents and wisdom commanded the respect of all, his amiable disposition won the affections of those whom the more stern nature of Henry had chilled or repulsed. A master of the art of war as practised in that age, he was fully as remarkable for his political as for his military conduct; nor would it be easy to discover a single particular in which his arrangements for meeting the difficulties of his situation could have been improved. It is painful to view the stains which, in the sequel, tarnished so bright a renown.

He began by sending persons in whose zeal and ability he could confide to hasten the arrival of supplies from England; and the inroads of Charles's partisans soon showed how necessary such succours had become. No longer confined to the southern provinces, they crossed the Loire, attacked many places held by the English, and surprised several which were unprepared. They even penetrated as far as Normandy, and took Bernay, defeating an English force that marched to its rescue or recapture. They were equally successful in seizing upon La Ferté Milon, a town of some strength on the borders of Champagne, and held it until L'Ile Adam, whom Bedford had wisely released on his brother's death, collecting hastily a body of troops, retook it. But the loss which most grieved the Regent was that of Meulan, a strong place on the Seine, by commanding the navigation of which it cut off the river communication between Normandy and the capitalNormandy his only stronghold, and Paris where the Armagnac party divided the allegiance of his subjects. Accordingly he lost no time in preparing to regain possession of so important a post. The place had been surprised about the middle of January, and the siege to retake it was formed within a few days after. To interrupt these operations Charles made extraordinary efforts. He despatched the Constable Buchan and Count Aumale with a body of 6000 men, which passed unresisted through the country between Bourges and Meulan, a clear proof what an imperfect hold the English had of their conquests; for the distance was not less than 120 miles. March 1. When this force came within sight of the

1423. besieging army dissensions broke out between the commanders, and the expedition returned

e

« ZurückWeiter »