Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XIII.

HENRY III. (OF WINCHESTER.)

Born at Winchester. Buried in Westminster Abbey. Reigned 56 years. From A.D. 1216 to A.D. 1272.

Archbishops of Canterbury.

Stephen Langton, A.D. 1207—1228. | Edmund, A.D. 1234-1240.

(Vacancy one year.)

Richard, A.D. 1229-1231.

(Vacancy three years.)

(Vacancy five years.)

Boniface, A.D. 1245-1270.
(Vacancy three years.)

HENRY was but nine years old at the time of his father's death; but the Earl of Pembroke, who became regent, was happily a nobleman of high principle and great ability. By his wise measures he revived the loyalty of the English for their lawful sovereign, and succeeded in forcing the prince of France to withdraw from the kingdom.

The death of this earl was a great loss to Henry; who being as weak and fickle as he was haughty and rapacious, was for the most part governed by a succession of favourites. He swore to the observance of the Great Charter at his coronation, but his whole reign was an endeavour to break loose from its restraints.

He was at first attached to Hubert de Burgh, whom he made high justiciary and earl of Kent. This nobleman had been most faithful to Henry's family. His influence over the king became odious to the nobles, and was undermined by Peter de Roches, bishop of Winchester, a far meaner and more worthless favourite, who brought over swarms of Gascons and Poitevins, to the great disgust of the English. Hubert was twice forced to take sanctuary, and most narrowly escaped with his life; but at last he recovered some degree of his former favour, while De Roches was in turn disgraced and sent abroad. The king then attached himself to the relatives of Eleanor of Provence, his queen. His fondness for foreigners, whom he enriched with the plunder of his subjects, was one cause of continual disagreements between him and the barons; and their disgust was heightened by seeing that he suffered the Pope to take

a similar course, in disposing of the Church endowments in favour of aliens. The livings were in the hands of Italians, who drew vast sums from the kingdom: and as Henry upheld the Pope in his various extortions, so the latter was ever ready to absolve the king from his oath to observe the Great Charter, or any other statutes to which he was forced by his barons to swear. The Pope had offered the crown of Sicily to Henry's second son; and this offer was made a plea for draining the kingdom of treasure, which went to enrich the Pope. The same offer was afterwards made to Charles of Anjou, brother of the French king, who led an army to Naples, which seated him on the throne.

Henry was generally supported by his brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, a far abler prince than himself: but on Richard's being chosen king of the Romans, Henry found himself left alone to contend against his barons, who were now headed by Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. Henry had been extravagantly fond of that nobleman, and given him his own sister in marriage; but the fondness had given place to the most bitter aversion, and Leicester took arms against his sovereign, as well as opposed him in the parliaments, which were held from time to time in hope of obtaining money. On one occasion, when the king entered the hall of parliament, he found the nobles all clad in complete armour, and inquired whether he were their prisoner ? They were satisfied at the time with thus frightening the feeble king; but at a later period he was taken prisoner by Leicester, at the battle of Lewes, (A.D. 1264,) and detained, together with Prince Edward his son, for a considerable period, while the kingdom was governed in his name by twenty-four barons, at whose head was Leicester.

Nothing could be more wretched than the state of England at this time. No man was secure in his life or property; and the country was overrun by bands of robbers, who committed the greatest excesses. The Jews were especial sufferers, not only indeed in England, but throughout Europe, in this reign, and those both before and after it. They were cruelly tortured in order to extort their wealth, and this avarice and oppression were cloaked under a seeming zeal for Christianity. Deeply, however, as England suffered from the extortions and insurrections which

mark this period, it was amidst such storms as these that the cradle of English liberty was rocked. An overruling Providence was preparing the way for the establishment of religion and justice, by the very sufferings which appeared to ensure the ruin of England. Thus, on the one hand, the extortions of the Pope disposed men's minds to question his authority; and a manly protest was made against them by Robert Grosteste, bishop of Lincoln from A.D. 1234—1253, a prelate of great piety, as well as learning and courage. On the other hand, the necessity which Leicester felt of some support in his violent course, led him to assemble a parliament, in which the Commons were for the first time represented. Knights chosen by the shires were at first added to the nobles and prelates, and in a later assembly, (A.D. 1265,) the towns also were represented by burgesses. The proceedings of these early parliaments were perhaps rude and tumultuous; but the principle was thus established, that the commonalty have a right to a voice by representatives, in the great national council.

A jealousy having sprung up between Leicester and Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, the latter nobleman aided Prince Edward to escape from those who had him in custody. The prince was suffered to ride out, surrounded by guards and soldiers; and being one day mounted on a very swift horse, he proposed to his guards that they should ride races with each other; which they consented to do, for the sake of sport. When Edward saw that their horses were quite tired, he set spurs to his own, and soon left the guards behind. He rode to a hill on which he had seen a man mounted on a grey horse, who waved his bonnet; and the prince knew by this signal that his friends were at hand. Having assembled an army, the prince defeated the barons in the battle of Evesham (A.D. 1265), in which Leicester lost his life. This nobleman had put the aged king in front of the battle, that he might be killed by his own friends; and Henry would have been slain, had he not cried out to the soldier who was on the point of cutting him down, "I am Henry of Winchester, your king."

Prince Edward was able, after this victory, to re-establish his father's authority so firmly, that he was not afraid to join in the seventh and last of the enterprises called crusades, with Louis, king of France, called St. Louis.

That monarch lost his life in the course of this expedition from an epidemic fever before Tunis (A.D. 1270). It is remarkable that on a former crusade, the sixth, he had been taken prisoner by the sultan of Egypt, in A.D. 1250.

Prince Edward was still absent from England when his father died, A.D. 1272. The sentiment which he expressed when he heard of that event, is worthy of being remembered. He had received at the same time news of the death of his son John; and on being asked why he mourned for his father more than for his child, he answered, "That God might give him many children, but he could have but one father."

The reign of Henry is the longest in English history, except the reign of George III. During it and the reign of his predecessor, in spite of the disturbance of the times, the fine arts had made progress; the choirs of Worcester, and Wells, and the greater portion of Salisbury, cathedrals are monuments of the advances made in Church architecture.

The prevailing style was that called the Early English or first pointed style. Henry III. was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his fine tomb may still be seen.

The two reigns also are not wanting in literary names: John of Wallingford; Walter of Coventry; John Fordeham, chaplain to King John; and Matthew of Paris, a monk of St. Alban's, are those most worthy of note.

CHAPTER XIV.

EDWARD I. (LONG-SHANKS.)

Born at Westminster.

Buried in Westminster Abbey.

Reigned 35 years. From A.D. 1272 to a.d. 1307.

Archbishops of Canterbury..

Robert Kilwarby, A.D. 1273—1278. | Robert Winchelsea, A.D. 1294— John Peckham, A.D. 1278—1292. 1313.

(Vacancy two years.)

EDWARD was surnamed Long-shanks, from his remarkable length of limb. While in Palestine he distinguished himself by his valour against the infidels, and was wounded by

[ocr errors]

an assassin whom they hired to kill him. He was able himself to dispatch his cowardly foe; but the dagger with which he had been struck was poisoned, and the wound was likely to be fatal. It has been said that Edward owed his life to the affection of his queen, who ventured to suck the venom from his arm. He was welcomed by his subjects on his return; and by the wisdom of his laws, and his just severity in enforcing them, he restored the kingdom to its former prosperity. This king has been called the English Justinian, from his resemblance to the celebrated Eastern emperor, who arranged and digested the civil law. In this reign the constitution of parliament was more fixed, the principles of just taxation were more plainly admitted, and the means of obtaining justice were more sure. It was now that the principal landowners in the several shires were made justices of the peace. A restraint was also laid on the practice of making over landed property to the Church, by certain laws called the statutes of mortmain, from two Latin words, which signify "in dead hands;" implying that lands so disposed of were lost to the country, so far as the "living" and active participation in its burdens was concerned. This restraint was absolutely necessary; for by practising on the fears of men in their last moments, the monks had obtained vast grants of land all over the kingdom; and since what was thus bestowed could not be alienated, and was not subject to the same taxes with which other property was burdened for the defence of the kingdom, great injury was done to the commerce as well as the military strength of the country. Creditors were, in like manner, often defrauded of their rights, by the power which landowners possessed of so entailing their estates upon their children as to evade the payment of just debts. This and similar abuses were remedied by several laws of this king, who did more to settle the administration of justice on its present footing, than any other of our earlier kings. He punished offenders without respect of persons; and once when his son, Prince Edward, was influenced by Gaveston, his favourite, to insult the Bishop of Lichfield, the king gave orders to commit him to prison, that he might learn to respect the laws which he was afterwards to administer. His severe inquiries into many abuses often exposed him to the resentment of his nobles; and when Earl Warenne

« PředchozíPokračovat »