Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

he persisted in holding by his faith. Anger now came in the place of compassion, and the very constancy which entitled the victim of persecution to the sympathy of all good men and the admiration of every rational mind, so irritated a young man of naturally right feelings and sound judgment, but whose sense as well as his sentiments were perverted by a wicked system, that he at once joined the persecutors, and impatiently commanded the work of blood to be completed. Such spectacles as these ought ever to be held up before the eyes of the lawgiver, that he may be deterred from cruel enactments by the sight of the dreadful havoc which they make in the human mind, at once laying prostrate the understanding and corrupting the heart.

The execution of Bradbie took place under the statute; but the open breach between the King and his parliament was not soon healed, and it effectually secured the Reformers against any further persecution during the remainder of Henry's reign.

HENRY THE FIFTH.

The title of Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, to the crown of England was altogether imaginary as regards hereditary right; and he owed the possession to force alone. The weakness of his kinsman, Richard the Second, his want of firmness and prudence rather than his defective capacity, the hatred into which he had fallen from a long course of capricious conduct, not without acts of great cruelty and oppression, enabled Henry, a favourite with the people, to indulge at once his daring ambition and his desire of vengeance for the injustice of which he had been the victim. Richard had availed himself of a quarrel between Henry and the Duke of Norfolk, another formidable baron, to send both parties into banishment, by a sentence pronounced when they were about to end their differences in single combat; and, after securing to the former the inheritance of his father, John of Gaunt's, ample possessions, he had revoked the grant, and even caused the attorney, through whom the patent was solicited, to be prosecuted for treason. It was under pretence of claiming these estates that Henry, taking advantage of the King's absence in Ireland, returned to England from France, where he had resided during his exile. He was attended by a moderate retinue; not more than sixty barons, knights, and esquires accompanied him; but among them were persons of great power, as the Earl of Northumberland, chief of the Percy family, and the Archbishop of York, who had fled in consequence of ill treatment received at Richard's court. John of Gaunt's son had an hereditary hold on the affections of the people; for, with the exception of London and places under the immediate influence of the Church, that prince was generally beloved in the country. But Henry's own reputation stood high from his services in a crusade undertaken by the Polish princes against the infidels of Lithuania; his superiority to Richard was marked upon all occasions; the injustice with which he had been treated by his cousin greatly increased the impression in his favour; and he became naturally enough the rallying point for all who had either grievances to complain of or ambitious wishes to gratify. Accordingly, upon his landing on the Yorkshire coast, he was joined by considerable numbers, as well of Percy's and the archbishop's retainers as others. He solemnly swore that the recovery of his estates was the only object of his expedition; and as the precaution had been taken of preparing the discontented parts of the country to expect him, a general rising in his favour speedily took place. The great officers of the crown fled on his approach to

London, and even the Duke of York, the King's uncle, who had been appointed regent during his absence, was so alarmed, that he made his peace by a promise of neutrality. The principal ministers took refuge in Bristol; but Henry pursued them thither, forced them to surrender, and, after a mock trial before the officers of his own household, appeased the savage fury of the populace by ordering them to instant execution.1

Richard, who had been detained on his passage from Ireland by storms, proceeded, on landing, to meet his adversary in North Wales; but his followers fell off from him. He was deceived by a gross fraud of Henry, who sent Northumberland with assurance of his allegiance, confirmed by the oath of that profligate man taken on the Eucharist ;- and thus betrayed, he gave himself up to the invader, who carried him immediately to the Tower of London. The multitude, dazzled by success, as is their habit, forgot their dislike of Henry's father in their hatred of the King, whose person was not safe until he was lodged in the fortress. From thence he was conveyed, first to Leeds Castle, a strong place upon a small lake in Kent; afterwards to Pontefract Castle; but not before he had been forced to sign a resignation of the Crown. In this instrument, that the com1 Statim in crastino ad clamorem communium sunt decapitati.— (T. Wals., 397. Otterb., i. 20?.) The trial before his constable and marshal is mentioned by some, but not by T. Walsingham. (Hoi., ii. 854.)

* Note XX.

pulsion by which it was extorted might be the more conspicuous, he is made to assign his own misconduct and his incapacity for the duties of his station as the ground of his abdication.1

The rebellious chief now summoned a Parliament; but, as if conscious that the resignation obtained from an imprisoned sovereign by a subject thus in the act of committing treason could not be regarded as valid, he brought forward thirty-two articles of charge against his royal prisoner, accusing him of various perjuries, oppressions, and cruelties. It was affirmed that these articles were read over to him by Thyrning, the chief justice, but only after they had been adopted by parliament; and certainly he never was heard in his defence by those who undertook to judge him, nor was ever suffered to appear before them, nor even furnished with any information of the charges against him previous to his mock trial. In so flagrant a manner did Henry find himself enabled to outrage all the forms as well as the substance of justice, with the force of his arms, supported by the fury of the populace, and acting upon a timid or obsequious parliament! No voice was raised against him but the protest of Merks, the honest Bishop of Carlisle; sentence was at once pronounced, declaring the crown forfeited, and absolving his subjects from their allegiance to Richard.

Henry now advanced his extravagant claim to the vacant throne. First, he pretended to the inheritance

1 H. Knighton, 27. P.ymer, vii. Rot. Pari., iii.

« ZurückWeiter »