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CHA P. distinguished themselves by their loyalty and attach
ment towards him. Instead of continuing the re. straints which the jealousy of his father had imposed on the earl of Marche, he received that young nobleman with singular courtesy and favour; and by this magnanimity so gained on the gentle and unam. bitious nature of his competitor, that he remained ever after sincerely attached to him, and gave him no disturbance in his future government. The family of Piercy was restored to its fortune and honours," The king seemed ambitious to bury all party-distinctions in oblivion : The instruments of the preceding reign, who had been advanced from their blind zeal for the Lancastrian interests, more than from their merits, gave place every where to men of more honourable characters: Virtue seemed now to have an open career, in which it might exert itself: The exhortations, as well as example, of the prince gave it encouragement: All men were unanimous in their attachment to Henry; and the defects of his title were forgotten amidst the per
sonal regard wliich was universally paid to him. The Lol
THERE remained among the people only one party-distinction, which was derived from religious differences, and which, as it is of a peculiar, and commonly a very obstinate nature, the popularity of Henry was not able to overcome. The Lollards were every day increasing in the kingdom, and were become a formed party, which appeared extremely dangerous to the church, and even formidable to the civil authority." The enthusiasm by which these sectaries were generally actuated, the great alterations which they pretended to introduce, the hatred which they expressed against the established hierarchy, gave an alarm to Henry; who, either from a sincere attachment to the ancient religion, or from a dread of the unknown consequences which attend
all Hist Croyland. contin. Hall, fol. 34. Holingshed, p. 544. * Holingshed, p. 545. - Walsingham, p. 382.
all important changes, was determined to execute c H A P. the laws against such bold innovators. The head of XIX. this sect was. sir John Oldcastle lord Cobham, a nobleman who had distinguished himself by his valour and his military talents, and had, on many occasions, acquired the esteem both of the late and of the present kingo His high character and his zeal for the new sect pointed him out to Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, as the proper victim of ecclesiastical severity; whose punishment would strike a terror into the whole party, and teach them that they must expect no mercy under the present administration. He applied to Henry for a permission to indict lord Cobham ;' but the generous nature of the prince was averse to such sanguinary methods of conversion. . He represented to the primate, that reason and conviction were the best expedients for supporting truth; that all gentle means ought first to be tried in order to reclaim men from error; and that he himself would endeavour, by a.conversation with Cobham, to reconcile him to the catholic faith. But he found that nobleman obstinate in his opinions, and determined not to sa. crifice truths of such infinite moment to his complaisance for sovereigns. Henry's principles of toleration, or rather his love of the practice, could carry him no farther; and he then gave full reins to eeclesiastical severity against the inflexible heresiarch. The primate indicted Cobham; and, with the assistance of his three suffragans, the bishops of London, Winchester, and St. David's, condemned him to the flames for his erroneous opinions. Cobham, who was confined in the Tower, made his escape before the day appointed for his execution. The bold spirit of the man, provoked by persecution and stimulated by zeal, was urged to attempt the most criminal enterprises ; and his unlimited authority
• Walsingham, p. 382.
Fox's Acts and Monuments, 4 Rymer, vol. ix. p. 61. Walsingham, p. 383.
CHA P. over the new sect, proved that he well merited the
attention of the civil magistrate. He formed in his retreat very violent designs against his enemies; and dispatching his emissaries to all quarters, appointed a general rendezvous of the party, in order to seize the person of the king at Eltham, and put their per
secutors to the sword.' Henry, apprised of their in6th Jan. tention, removed to Westminster: Cobham was not
discouraged by this disappointment; but changed the place of rendezvous to the field near St. Giles's: The king, having shut the gates
of the city, to prevent any reinforcement to the Lollards from that quarter, came into the field in the night-time, seized such of the conspirators as appeared, and afterwards laid hold of the several parties who were hastening to the place appointed. It appeared that a few only were in the secret of the conspiracy: The rest implicitly followed their leaders: But upon the trial of the prisoners, the treasonable designs of the sect were rendered certain, both from evidence, and from the confession of the criminals themselves. Some were executed; the greater number pardoned.'
Cobham himself, who made his escape by flight, was lord Cob. not brought to justice till four years after, when he
was hanged as a traitor; and his body was burnt on the gibbet, in execution of the sentence pronounced against him as a heretic. This criminal design, which was perhaps somewhat aggravated by the clergy, brought discredit upon the party, and checked the progress of that sect, which had embraced the speculative doctrines of Wickliffe, and at the same time aspired to a reformation of ecclesiastical abuses.
THESE two points were the great objects of the Lollards; but the bulk of the nation was not affected in the same degree by both of them. Com
mon Walsingham, p. 385. Cotton, p. 554. Hall, fol. 35. Holingshed, p. 544. Rymer, vol. ix. p. 119. 129. 193.
Walsingham, po 400. Otterbourne, p. 280. Holingshed,
mon sense and obvious reflection had discovered to CHAP.
XIX. the people the advantages of a reformation in discipline; but the age was not yet so far advanced as to be seized with the spirit of controversy, or to enter into those abstruse doctrines, which the Lollards endeavoured to propagate throughout the kingdom. The very notion of heresy alarmed the generality of the people: Innovation in fundamental principles was suspicious: Curiosity was not, as yet, a sufficient counterpoise to authority: And even many, who were the greatest friends to the reformation of abuses, were anxious to express their detestation of the speçulative tenets of the Wickliffites, which they feared, threw disgrace on so good a cause. This turn of thought appears evidently in the proceedings of the parliament which was summoned immediately after the detection of Cobham's conspiracy. That assembly passed severe laws against the new herétics : They enacted, that whoever was conviced of Lollardy before the ordinary, besides suffering capital punishment according to the laws formerly established, should also forfeit his lands and goods to the king; and that the chancellor, treasurer, justices of the two benches, sheriffs, justices of the peace, and all the chief magistrates in every city and borough, should take an oath to use their utmost endeavours for the extirpation of heresys. Yet this very parliament, when the king demanded supply, renewed the offer formerly pressed upon his father, and entreated him to seize all the ecclesiastical revenues, and convert them to the use of the crown.* The clergy were alarmed: They could offer the king no bribe which was equivalent: They only agreed to confer on him all the priories alien, which depended on capital abbies in Normandy, and had been bequeathed to these abbies, when that province remained united to England: And Chicheley, now
CHA P. archbishop of Canterbury, endeavoured to divert
the blow, by giving occupation to the king, and by 1414. persuading him to undertake a war against France,
in order to recover his lost rights to that kingdom.'
It was the dying injunction of the late king to his son, not to allow the English to remain long in peace, which was apt to breed intestine commotions; but to employ them in foreign expeditions, by which the prince might acquire honour; the nobility, in sharing his Hangers, might attach themselves to his person; and all the restless spirits find occupation for their inquietude. The natural disposition of Henry sufficiently inclined him to follow this advice, and the civil disorders of France, which had been prolonged beyond those of England, opened a full career to his ambition.
The death of Charles V. which followed soon State of after that of Edward III. and the youth of his son,
Charles VI. put the two kingdoms for some time in a similar situation; and it was not to be apprehended, that either of them, during a minority, would be able to make much advantage of the weakness of the other. The jealousies also between Charles's three uncles, the dukes of Anjou, Berri, and Burgundy, had distracted the affairs of France, rather more than those between the dukes of Lancaster, York, and Glocester, Richard's three uncles, disordered those of England; and had carried off the attention of the French nation from any vigorous enterprise against foreign states. But in proportion as Charles advanced in years, the factions were composed ; his two uncles, the dukes of Anjou and Burgundy, died: and the king himself, assuming the reins of government, discovered symptoms of genius and spirit, which revived the drooping hopes of his country. This promising state of affairs was not of long duration : The unhappy
Hall, fol. 35, 36.