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agreeably to a vulgar superstition, that he was his father's murderer; and he expressed a deep sense, though too late, of that undutiful behaviour which had brought his parent to an untimely grave.
Thus died, in the fifty-eighth year of his age, thirty-fifth of his reign, the greatest prince of his for wisdom, virtue, and abilities, and the most powerful in extent of dominion of all those that had ever filled the throne of England. His character in private, as well as in public life, is almost without a blemish; and he seems to have possessed every accomplishment, both of body and mind, which makes a man either estimable or amiable. He was of a middle stature, strong and well proportioned; his countenance was lively and engaging; his conversation affable and entertaining; his elocution easy, persuasive, and ever at command. He loved peace, but possessed both bravery and conduct in war; was provident without timidity; severe in the execution of justice without rigour; and temperate without austerity. He preserved health, and kept himself from corpulency, to which he was somewhat inclined, by an abstemious diet, and by frequent exercise, particularly hunting. When he could enjoy leisure, he recreated himself either in learned conversation or in reading; and he cultivated his natural talents by study above any prince of his time. His affections, as well as his enmities, were warm and durable; and his long experience of the ingratitude and infidelity of men never destroyed the natural sensibility of his temper, which disposed him to friendship and society. His character has been transmitted to us by several writers, who were his contemporaries"; and it extremely resembles, in its most remarkable features, that of his maternal grandfather Henry the first: excepting only, that ambition, which was a ruling passion in both, found not in the first Henry such unexceptionable means of exerting itself, and pushed that prince into measures, which were both criminal in themselves, and were the cause of farther crimes,
and and chatime Henry.
8 M. Paris, p. 107. h Petri Bles. epist. 46, 47. in Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. xxiv. p. 985, 986, etc., Girald. Cambr. p. 783, etc.
Miscellaneous transactions of this reign.
from which his grandson's conduct was happily exempted.
This prince, like most of his predecessors of the Norman line, except Stephen, passed more of his time on the continent than in this island: he was surrounded with the English gentry and nobility when abroad: the French gentry and nobility attended him when he resided in England: both nations acted in the government as if they were the same people; and, on many occasions, the legislatures seem not to have been distinguished. As the king and all the English barons were of French extraction, the manners of that people acquired the ascendant, and were regarded as the models of imitation. All foreign improvements, therefore, such as they were, in literature and politeness, in laws and arts, seem now to have been, in a good measure, transplanted into England; and that kingdom was become little inferior, in all the fashionable accomplishments, to any of its neighbours on the continent. The more homely but more sensible manners and principles of the Saxons, were exchanged for the affectations of chivalry, and the subtilties of school philosophy: the feudal ideas of civil government, the Romish sentiments in religion, had taken entire possession of the people: by the former, the sense of submission towards princes was somewhat diminished in the barons; by the latter, the devoted attachment to papal authority was much augmented among the clergy. The Norman and other foreign families established in England, had now struck deep root; and being entirely incorporated with the people, whom at first they oppressed and despised, they no longer thought that they needed the protection of the crown for the enjoyment of their possessions, or considered their tenure as precarious. They aspired to the same liberty and independence which they saw enjoyed by their brethren on the continent, and desired to restrain those exorbitant prerogatives and arbitrary practices, which the necessities of war and the violence of conquest had at first obliged them to indulge in their monarch. That memory also of a more equal government under
the Saxon princes, which remained with the English, diffused still farther the spirit of liberty, and made the barons both desirous of more independence to themselves, and willing to indulge it to the people. And it was not long ere this secret revolution in the sentiments of men produced, first violent convulsions in the state, then an evident alteration in the maxims of government.
The history of all the preceding kings of England since the conquest, gives evident proofs of the disorders attending the feudal institutions; the licentiousness of the barons, their spirit of rebellion against the prince and laws, and of animosity against each other: the conduct of the barons in the transmarine dominions of those monarchs, afforded perhaps still more flagrant instances of these convulsions; and the history of France, during several ages, consists almost entirely of narrations of this nature. The cities, during the continuance of this violent government, could neither be very numerous nor populous; and there occur instances which seem to evince that, though these are always the first seat of law and liberty, their police was in general loose and irregular, and exposed to the same disorders with those by which the country was generally infested. It was a custom in London for great numbers, to the amount of a hundred or more, the sons and relations of considerable citizens, to form themselves into a licentious confederacy, to break into rich houses and plunder them, to rob and murder the passengers, and to commit with impunity all sorts of disorder. By these crimes it had become so dangerous to walk the streets by night, that the citizens durst no more venture abroad after sunset, than if they had been exposed to the incursions of a public enemy. The brother of the earl of Ferrars had been murdered by some of those nocturnal rioters; and the death of so eminent a person, which was much more regarded than that of many thousands of an inferior station, so provoked the king, that he swore vengeance against the criminals, and became thenceforth more rigorous in the execution of the laws.
i Benedict. Abbas, p. 196.
There is another instance given by historians, which proves to what a height such riots had proceeded, and how open these criminals were in committing their robberies. A band of them had attacked the house of a rich citizen, with an intention of plundering it; had broken through a stone wall with, hammers and wedges; and had already entered the house sword in hand; when the citizen, armed cap-à-pie, and supported by his faithful servants, appeared in the passage to oppose them: he cut off the right hand of the first robber that entered; and made such stout resistance that his neighbours had leisure to assemble and come to his relief. The man who lost his hand was taken; and was tempted by the promise of pardon to reveal his confederates; among whom was one John Senex, esteemed among the richest and best-born citizens in London. He was convicted by the ordeal; and though he offered five hundred marks for his life, the king refused the money, and ordered him to be hanged. It appears, from a statute of Edward the first, that these disorders were not remedied even in that reign. It was then made penal to go out at night after the hour of the curfew, to carry a weapon, or to walk without a light or lantern'. It is said in the preamble to this law, that both by night and by day there were continual frays in the streets of London.
Henry's care in administering justice had gained him so great a reputation, that even foreign and distant princes made him arbiter, and submitted their differences to his judgment. Sanchez, king of Navarre, having some controversies with Alphonso, king of Castile, was contented, though Alphonso had married the daughter of Henry, to choose this prince for a referee; and they agreed each of them to consign three castles into neutral hands, as a pledge of their not departing from his award. Henry made the cause be examined before his great council, and gave a sentence, which was submitted to by both parties. These two Spanish kings sent each a stout champion to the court of England, in order to defend his cause by
1 Observations on the ancient Sta
k Benedict. Abbas, p. 197, 198. tutes, p. 216.
arms, in case the way of duel had been chosen by Henry".
Henry so far abolished the barbarous and absurd practice of confiscating ships which had been wrecked on the coast, that he ordained if one man or animal were alive in the ship, that the vessel and goods should be restored to the owners".
The reign of Henry was remarkable also for an innovation which was afterwards carried farther by his successors, and was attended with the most important consequences. This prince was disgusted with the species of military force which was established by the feudal institutions, and which, though it was extremely burthensome to the subject, yet rendered very little service to the sovereign. The barons, or military tenants, came late into the field; they were obliged to serve only forty days; they were unskilful and disorderly in all their operations; and they were apt to carry into the camp the same refractory and independent spirit to which they were accustomed in their civil government. Henry, therefore, introduced the practice of making a commutation of their military service for money; and he levied scutages from his baronies and knights' fees, instead of requiring the personal attendance of his vassals. There is mention made, in the history of the exchequer, of these scutages in his second, fifth, and eighteenth year°; and other writers give us an account of three more of them. When the prince had thus obtained money, he made a contract with some of those adventurers in which Europe at that time abounded: they found him soldiers of the same character with themselves, who were bound to serve for a stipulated time: the armies were less numerous, but more useful, than when composed of all the military vassals of the crown: the feudal institutions began to relax: the kings became rapacious for money, on which all their power depended: the barons, seeing no end of exactions,
m Rymer, vol. iv. Brompton, p. 1120. 436, 437, 438.
Diceto, p. 597. • Madox, p. 435,
Benedict. Abbas, p. 172.