Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

inces

have succeeded in restoring order and quiet in his dominions, and acquired the important advantage of a regular army, a continuance of the English power in those two provinces would become impossible, and he might gain the benefit of peace without any concessions.

The war, however, continued to be carried on, though with great languor, and confined almost entirely to those districts; it was carried on, too, with various success. Nearly the whole of Normandy was overrun by Charles's forces, every town but Caudebec being at one time in their possession ; but all were without any exception retaken, and the hostilities on both sides seemed reduced to predatory incursions. Similar occurrences on a smaller scale took place in Guienne. But for about fifteen years after they had abandoned Paris, the English had possession both of the northern and the southern province.

When the issue of the conquest was in suspense, the progress of the invader's arms, and the measures taken to oppose him, became interesting, even in their more minute details. To recount the alternate capture and loss of towns when the fate of the war had been substantially decided, would be at once wearisome and useless. Great valour and conduct were displayed on many occasions, and the renown is still fresh in men's recollection of Talbot, who maintained his rank as the first of English captains in that day, and kept the field when past his eightieth year. Possibly, greater exertions made on the part of England, had the councils been less distracted by

[ocr errors]

a

faction, and latterly by the commencement of the civil war between the Two Roses, might have warded off, for a few years longer, the blow which Charles's great improvements in his system of internal administration had prepared. If it be so, this cannot be set down as among the mischiefs produced by those civil broils; for, assuredly, all the expense of blood and of treasure occasioned by such exertions would have been absolutely thrown away. The entire reconquest of Normandy was effected,

with scarcely any reverse during its pro1450. gress, in about a year; that of Guienne in 1451. another, with the exception of the Bordeaux 1453. district; and two years later Bordeaux was

also taken. Of all the possessions upon which so much had been squandered of wealth and life, and the more important part of which had been for three centuries vested in the Crown of England, none remained save only the town of Calais—a consummation over which reflecting persons, be they philanthropists, or statesmen, or philosophers, can certainly in no wise mourn.

The improvements in the manner of administering the constitution, rather than any change in its structure, produced by the infirm title of the Lancaster Princes, and especially in the reign of Henry V., have been already adverted to. The most important of these were the constant reliance upon Parliament

ose

alone for supplies, and the practice of consulting it on other matters, even those more immediately connected with the prerogatives of the Crown. In both particulars the succeeding reign confirmed and extended the usage: Parliament was more frequently appealed to, and upon subjects more directly touching the rights of the Sovereign. This arose from the long minority of Henry VI., his feeble character, and occasional incapacity, the constant dissensions of the Princes, whose influence was not very unequally balanced, and the embarrassment produced by the Regent's necessary absence from the realm. All these circumstances ensured a considerable accession of importance to the two estates which were under no disability and had no difficulties to struggle against.

The appeal to Parliament, however, was not always made in the same manner, or rather it was sometimes made to the body at large, and sometimes only to the Lords. But a distinction seems to have been taken between matters on which the latter, from their functions of judges and counsellors, might seem the appropriate advisers; and matters which affected the rights, the liberties, and the property of the community. Thus when Beaufort and Gloster quarrelled personally, and the nephew preferred charges against the uncle, the Lords, upon the parties consenting to have their dispute settled by arbitration, appointed certain prelates and peers to be the referees, who directed their award to be entered on the

Rolls of Parliament. On this occasion the Commons were not consulted; but the Lords of the Council having reproved Gloster for his foolish and mischievous proceedings in Hainault, the Commons took part with their favourite in the next Parliament, and added to their grant of supply a request that his Duchess might be assisted in such a manner as to maintain the connection between her dominions and England-a proposal as hurtful in its tendency to the public interest, and as much the result of ignorance, as the vehement zeal of the same body on behalf of the Palatine in the reign of James 1.2

The settlement of the Regency, however, was the most important matter submitted to the Parliament; and though it was at first discussed by the Lords alone, with the assistance of the judges, it afterwards became the subject of statutory provision, the " assent" of the Commons being set forth as well as the "assent and advice” of the Lords. The nomination of the Council was made by them, but with the same assent. The proclamation which, under the necessity of the case, they had issued to assemble the Parliament, was sanctioned, and the session rendered valid, by an act as soon as it met; and that act was made in the name of all the three estates, the King nominally, he being a year old, the Lords and Commons really. The powers of the Protector were in like manner conferred by statute. The whole proceeding may justly be termed Parliamentary, and ^ 'Rot. Par. iv. 296. ..* Rot. Par. iv. 319 : Note LXI.

al

28

cannot be deprived of that title by the circumstance that by far the greater share in it belonged most probably to the Lords. It was far otherwise when they in the reign of Richard II., without any consent of the Commons, and without in any way taking notice of them, appointed a Council of Regency, and settled its powers during the King's minority. In like manner, when Henry VI. laboured under illness and incapacity, the Lords, without any interference of the Commons, took upon themselves even the settlement, indeed the change, of the succession to the Crown; but the civil war had then broken out, and no conclusion can be drawn from such proceedings as to the form or the practice of the constitution at that time. It is, however, to be observed that though some of the precedents from this reign have been occasionally cited, without due discrimination, as authorities upon the great question of a Regency which has arisen twice of late years, yet there is no reason to deny the weight of the first proceedings taken in consequence of Henry's minority.”

Though the accidents which have been referred to, joined with the infirmity of the Lancastrian title, encouraged and enabled both the Lords and the Commons to encroach upon the prerogative, and though the utmost gratitude is due to them for the steadiness with which they persisted in establishing their legislative rights, and their title to interfere in the administration of public affairs, yet we must not

'Rot. Par. iii. 3. • Notes LV., LXIV.

« ZurückWeiter »