Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

which was so unexpected to, the men, though nat to their leaders, had a proportioned effect on both armies; it inspired unusual courage into Henry's foldiers, and threw Richard's into confusion. The intrepid tyrant perceiving the danger of his situation, fpurred up his horfe into the thickest of the fight, while Richmond quitted his ftation behind, to encourage his troops by his presence in the front. Richard perceiving him, was desirous of ending all by one blow; and with irresistible fury flew through thousands to attack him. He New Sir William Brandon, the earl's standard bearer, who attempted to stop his career. Sir John Cheney having taken Brandon's place, was thrown by him to the ground. Richmond, in the mean time, stood firm to oppose him; but they were separated by the interpofing crowd. Richard, thus disappointed, went, by his presence, to inspire his troops at another quarter ; but at length perceiving, his army every where yielding or Aying, and now finding that all was gone, he rushed with a loud thout into the midst of the enemy, and there met a better death than his crimes and cruelties deferved After the battle, his body was found stripped among an heap of slain, covered over with wounds, and the eyes frightfully staring. In this manner it was thrown across an horie, the head hanging down on one side, and the legs on the other, and thus carried to Leicester. It lay there two days exposed to public view, and then was buried without farther ceremony.

Richard's crown being found by one of Henry's soldiers on the field of battle, it was inmediately placed upon the head of the conqueror, while the whole army, as if inspired with one voice, cried out, “ Long live king Henry !”

Thus ended the bloody reign of. Richard; and by his death the race of the Plantagenet kings,

who

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

who had been in poffeffion of the crown during the space of three hundred and thirty years, became extinct. Thus ended'alfo the contests between the houses of York and Lancaster, by which most of the antient families of the kingdom were extinguished, and more than an hundred thousand men lost their lives, either by the sword or the exécutioner.

These diffenfions had, for some time, reduced the kingdom to a state of savage barbarity, Laws, arts, and commerce, which had before emitted some feeble gleams, were entirely neglected for the practice of arms; and to be a conqueror was fufficient, in the eyes of the brutal people, to ttand for every other virtue. The English had as yet, but little idea of legal subordination; nor could they give any applaule to those who attempted to cultivate the arts of peace, the whole of their study and education being turned for war. The ferocity of the people to each other was incredible. However, the women, whatever part they took in the difturbances of the government, were exempted from capital punishments; nor were they ever put to death, except when convicted of witchcraft or poisoning. As for the clergy, they were entirely distinct from the laity, both in cuftoms, laws, and learning. They were governed by the code of civil law, drawn up in the times of Justinian; while the laity were held by the common-law, which had been traditional from times immemorial in the country. The clergy, however we may be told to the contrary, understood and wrote Latin fuently; while the laity, on the other hand, understood nothing of Latin, but applied themselves wholly to the French language, when they aspired at the character of a polite education. The clergy, as a body diftinct from the state, little interested

themselves

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

I 2

themselves in civil policy; and perhaps they were not displeased to see the laity, whom they confi. dered less as fellow-subjects than rivals for power, weakening themselves by continual contests, and thus rendering themselves more easily manageable.' In short, as there was no knowledge of government among the individuals, but what totally resulted from power, the state was like a feverish constitution, ever subject to ferment and disorder. France, indeed, had served for some time as a drain for the peccant humours; but when that was no longer open, the disorders of the constitution seemed daily to encrease, and vented themselves at last in all the horrors of a long continued civil war.'

c H A P.

CHA P. XXII.

HENRY VII. AFTER having presented the reader with a A frightful train of treasons, strata. A gems, murders, and usurpations, we are now beginning to emerge into a time of "4958 greater importance and glory. We are now to view the conduct of a monarch, who, if not the best, was, at least, the most useful of any that ever fat upon the British throne. We are now to be. hold a nation of tumult reduced to civil subordina. tion; an insolent and factious aristocracy humbled, wise laws enacted, commerce restored, and the peaceful arts made amiable to a people, for whom war alone heretofore had charms. Hitherto we have only beheld the actions of a barbarous nation, obeying with reluctance, and governed by caprice; but henceforward we may discover more refined politics, and better concerted schemes, human wisdom, as if roused from her lethargy of thirteen hundred years, exerting all her efforts to subdue the natural ferocity of the people, and to introduce permanent felicity.

Henry's first care upon coming to the throne, was to marry the princess Elizabeth, daughter of Edward the fourth; and thus 'he blended the in. terests of the houses of York and Lancaster, lo that ever after they were incapable of distinction. Nevertheless, being apprehensive that the people might suppose he claimed the crown in right of this union, he deferred the queen's coronation till two years after, by which he made the priority of his own claim incontestible. His reign also hap

13

pily

[ocr errors]

pily commenced with an obedience to the forms of law, of which England had hitherto seen but few examples. An act had been passed in the preceding reign for the attainder of his friends and followers, which continued ftill in force; and the names of many members of that houfe, by which it was to be repealed, were exprelly mentioned in the attainder. To suffer there to join in repealing that sta-, tute, would be admitting them as judges in their own cause; but to this Henry prudently objected, obliging them to leave the house, till an act was passed for reversing their attainder.

Before this reign, it had been usual for the king when any person was attainted, to give away his estates after his execution, to any of the court 12vourites that happened to be most in confidence. Henry wisely perceived that this severity had two bad effects; the cruelty of the measure in the first place excited indignation ; and it also made the favourite too powerful for subjection. In order to remedy these inconveniencies, he made a law to deprive those who were found in arms of their eltates and effects, and fequefter them for the benefit of the crown.

A great part of the miseries of his predecessors proceeded from their poverty, which was mostly occafioned 'y riot and diffipation Henry saw that moncy alone could turn the scale of power in his favour; and therefore hoarded up all the confil. cations of his enemics with the utmost frugality. From hence he has been accused by historians of avarice; but that avarice which tends to strengthen government and repress fedition, is not only excufable, but praise-worthy. Liberality in a king is too often a misplaced virtue. What is thus given, is generally extorted from the industrious and needy, to be lavished as rewards on the rich, the insidious, and the fawning; upon the syco

phants

« ZurückWeiter »