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and he was asked if he had anything to say why execution should not pass upon him. He appears to have disdained making any reply, though the Chronicles mention his having entered upon his favourite topics of doctrine, recommending his judges to imitate the divine attribute of mercy; and add, that he was somewhat rudely interrupted by the chief justice, as wasting the time of the Lords, and giving them trouble. The sentence was then passed, in the form of a bill from the Commons, assented to by the two other estates, ordering him to be forthwith hanged, and to be burnt before the executioner had deprived him of life. The story added, of his having declared that they should not judge him as long as his lawful sovereign, Richard, now in Scotland, was alive, is destitute of all probability; but indeed the bill making no mention of it, though it recites the proceedings against him, is decisive that the whole was a fiction.1 The outlawry, such as we have already described it, was recited in the act as well as the ecclesiastical sentence. But the punishment was plainly awarded on the latter; for the act expressly says, he was "adjudged to die, as a traitor to God and a heretic, condemned by sentence of the Spiritual Court;" and only adds, "and as a traitor to the king and kingdom," without referring to any judgment, or even to the outlawry which had been before recited.2 1 Note XXX.
* T. Wals., 447.—Rot. Pari., 5 Hen. V. 11 (iv. 107).—Julian's "Chronicle of England" says, "he was hangydo and brent, and alle for his leuednesse and fals opinyones."—P. cxvii.
That outlawry, beside the circumstance of the dates already mentioned, laboured under this great defect, that Cobham, having fled, could have no notice before the day of the trial, because this was hurried on immediately on the special commission being issued; and as the alleged riot was on the night of the 7th of January, at the earliest, and the conviction was over on or before the 11th, and as no bill could have been found before the 9th, the default could only have been by not appearing on the 10th, to answer a bill found the day before; and, therefore, he had but one day to receive notice of the indictment, and reach London to meet the charge. But indeed nothing can labour under greater suspicion than the whole affair, and historians have not scrupled to deny that there ever was either an actual trial or a genuine record made up at the time.1
On the morning of Christmas, the day appointed for his execution, Cobham was led forth Dec. 1417.
from the Tower, with his hands tied behind his back; he was placed upon a hurdle and drawn to the gallows erected in St. Giles's Fields. There, being taken out, he fell down on his knees devoutly, and begged the divine forgiveness for his enemies. Then standing up, as he beheld the multitude, among whom there were many persons of distinction, he addressed to them a few words, earnestly exhorting them to follow the law of God contained in the Scriptures, eschewing the evil ways and evil counsels of teachers unchristian in their lives. Being offered the assistance of a priest to confess, he scornfully refused it; adding, that were the apostles themselves standing there, even to them would he not confess: "For God," said he, "is here present—to Him alone will I acknowledge my sins—from Him alone ask or expect pardon." The annoyance given by his persecutors moved him little, the preparations for his torture not at all. The barbarous sentence was then executed, but not with humane despatch. He was hanged up by the middle in an iron chain, and burnt alive while thus suspended; his body was consumed to ashes. His last words were heard to praise God with pious fervour, into whose hands he resigned his soul with his latest breath. The surrounding multitude showed the greatest affection towards the illustrious sufferer, loudly bewailing his fate, and putting up prayers for him; which the priests vainly sought to check or to stifle, by telling them that he had departed this life under the curses of the church, and in resistance to its head. Nor ceased they to slander his memory. They invented a story of his having told the Lord Erpingham that he should rise from the dead in three days; a folly which, had he committed it, would only have proved that his reason had been subdued by his sufferings; but nothing can be more improbable, and nothing more inconsistent both with the whole tenor of his rational, manly life, and with the calm fortitude which he displayed at its closing scene.'
1 The learned editor of the State Trials, Mr. Howell, regards the whole as a forgery; and he appears to think it of less ancient date than the times in question. But the record, if fabricated, plainly existed in 1417, for it is recited in Rot. Pari., iv. 107, which Mr. H. had not seen. There is much probability in the supposition that it was forged for the purpose of Cobham's sentence.
The fate of this great man certainly stamps an indelible disgrace, both upon the age adorned by his virtues, and upon the prince under whose reign and with whose entire assent he was made the object of such unrelenting persecution for conscience-sake. Had he been guilty of the acts imputed to him, and resisted a government which so cruelly treated both himself and his numerous brethren, solely because of their honest difference in opinion with the clergy, all reasonable men would have acquitted him of blame, and there would only have been wanting the accident of success, to the enrolling his name, through all ages, among the most illustrious deliverers of mankind. But there exists no evidence whatever that he had infringed any one temporal law, or committed any offence inconsistent with the peaceful principles which he professed of obedience to lawful civil authority, and it is a part of the flagrant injustice which the priests dealt out to him with the concurrence of Henry, that, not content with condemning him as an enemy to the Pope, they also held him up as a traitor to the King. They thus hoped to gain two ends; both to divide the Reformers, many of whom might approve of his doctrines without joining in his resistance, and to secure the support of the crown in destroying any obnoxious Reformer as a common enemy.
1 T. Wals. only says, "prout dicebatur." Hist. Aug., 448. Ypod. Neust., 198.
We may now resume the earlier part of Henry's history, and follow him in those exploits which have been the theme of unbounded praise from historians, ever prone to corrupt the rulers of the world with unreflecting and even unprincipled panegyric.
His father had closed a life stained with great crimes, yet remarkable for the display of uncommon sagacity, by an act well suited to the rest of his career, and betraying a disposition at once crafty and unscrupulous. He left an earnest request to his son, that he should not suffer his dominions to remain in peace, but keep his turbulent subjects, especially the barons, their chiefs, always employed in foreign war. This counsel fell upon a congenial soil, and the new king did not allow many months to pass before he showed that the usurper's dying words had not been spoken in vain. The state of France at this time was such as might well excite compassion in any one of ordinary humanity, and prescribe forbearance even to an enemy. Torn by factions, exhausted with civil war, presenting the sad spectacle of an imbecile sovereign generally deprived of his reason, whose nearest relatives were bent upon exterminating one another, to seize the sceptre though they ruined the country; finally, as if all the bonds of society were loosened, given over a prey to the savage domination of mercenary ruffians banded together for the work of pillage