Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

have admitted, if questioned on the subject, that the arrangements which seemed so acceptable to himself, and so convenient for his subjects, were not likely to be maintained through many generations. He can scarcely have realised that they bad no inherent stability whatever, and that they were, in short, mere husk or shell, which might be broken and blown away by any accident. A dominion stretching nominally from the Orkneys to the Pyrenees, consisting largely of mere claims to overlordships (claims sometimes admitted with reservations, sometimes openly denied), and embracing a multitude of peoples between whom there was no real connexion, could form no real whole. The fabric in every part of it was simply dynastic. No doubt Henry was sagacious enough to see that to keep this fabric together at all a firm government and order were indispensable; but the order must be imposed upon them from without if they were not capable of building it up from within. In one sense we might say that Henry was working to very little purpose; in another we must admit that he was striving for a very high one. The rule over England (we need say nothing of Scotland), over Normandy, Anjou, and their dependencies, might all be centred in one man; but the several peoples over which he reigned might be growing up and taking root as nations, and when the separation came there would be little sense of loss, and none of weakness. The Duke of Normandy was a greater man because he was King of England; but the English nation did not regard itself as in any way stronger for its connexion with Normandy, nor was it willing to treat Normandy in any way different from that in which it would treat any other foreign country. We have here the key to the history of Henry's age and of the century which immediately follows it; and on this fact Mr. Freeman has laid the utmost etress. In England 'Henry legislates for a kingdom from which all practical tions between conquerors and conquered have vanished-a kingdom in which nothing but a few formal phrases remain to tell men that French and English had ever been the names of hostile races within the realm of England. Under Henry, England, though politically only part of one vast dominion, is legally a realm which knows nothing of the dominions of its sovereign beyond its own shores. The arms of England are to be kept for the defence of England. No man is to send or sell weapons of war out of the kingdom, and no distinction is drawn between wholly foreign lands and the king's own continental dominions.'

a

a

* Norman Conquest, vol. v. p. 684.

Thus, while Henry strove to give permanence to his work, or rather to keep his dominions together in the hands of his sons, and so to uphold his own dynasty, his English subjects were regarding the matter in their own way, keeping quietly to their old rule with little respect to theories of inheritance and succession which were springing up abroad. As it so happens, it was at the coronation of John, the king whose folly severed the Norinan dukedom from the English realm, that the old English custom was most emphatically asserted.

‘Be it known unto you,' said Archbishop Hubert, addressing at once the king elect and the whole assembly, 'that no man hath any antecedent right to succeed another in the kingdom, except he be unanimously chosen by the whole realm, after invocation of the Holy Spirit's grace, and unless he be also manifestly thereunto called by the pre-eminence of his character and conversation. . . . But, indeed, it there be one of the dead king's race who excelleth, that one should be the more promptly and willingly chosen. And these things I have spoken in behalf of the noble Count John here present; forasmuch as we see him to be prudent and vigorous, we all, after invoking the Holy Spirit's grace, for his merits no less than his royal blood, have with one consent chosen him for our king.' These last words show that the primate was announcing the result of the ecclesiastical election as in harmony with the civil election which had been already gone through in a council at Northampton. In the report of Hubert's speech, as given by Matthew Paris, Miss Norgate places entire confidence. It is not easy to see why this confidence should be withheld. He could scarcely have any motive for misrepresenting it. Mr. Freeman thinks it right to note that the report is not that of a contemporary writer; but he has no hesitation in saying that the speech sets forth · some of the 'truest constitutional doctrines that ever English lips uttered, or English ears listened to.'*

This growth of the English nation, as steady under the reign of Richard, who was utterly indifferent to it, as it had been under Henry, who, according to his lights, had done all that he could to foster it, was not a new thing. It was not crushed by the fatal disaster of Senlac; it had gone on, partly checked, and in part distinctly furthered, by the Concueror and by his sons, and it was not extinguished even by the anarchy of the reign, if so it be called, of Stephen. During some portion of his time Stephen was a

* Norman Conquest, vol. v. p. 697. VOL. CLXVI. NO. CCCXL.

K K

[ocr errors]

king in name only. If Richard was something more, it was because circumstances gave him the power of extorting money from his subjects for purposes which had for them little interest or none. What, then, was the worth of this man? His life may be regarded as exhibiting a series of pictures, some of which are not without the element of grandeur, while others, if true, are certainly horrifying. * In his masterly sketch of the Angevin rulers of England, Mr. Freeman says trenchantly that, born as he was on English ‘soil, no king ever had less of English feeling; none

cared less for the welfare of England; none so systematically made himself a stranger to her.'t Miss Norgate endows him especially with the quality of generosity, and more than once reminds us of his possession of it; but it is not mentioned in her narrative of the siege of Châlus. It is well to say nothing of it in telling the story, although Mr. Freeman speaks of Richard as 'showing a certain real ‘ power of forgiving offences. Yet he forgives only the one man who wounded him ; the whole remaining garrison had all been hanged, while he lay sick on the bed from which he never

But generosity is a term to which we may assign more than one meaning; and the meaning which Miss Norgate attaches to it is not altogether clear. An opportunity for exercising this virtue was furnished to him by the proposal that he should yield up the duchy of Aquitaine to his youngest brother. The test was a severe one.

'Richard was generous; but to give up to other hands the reaping of a harvest which he had sown with such unsparing labour, and watered with such streams of blood, was a sacrifice too great for his generosity in his six-and-twentieth year.' (Vol. ii. p. 233.) His unlucky subjects spoke of this sowing of the seed as a process of intolerable tyranny and cruelty; and his refusal to give place to another ruler looks much like a determination to complete the work of merciless repression. But is not the term ' generosity' out of place altogether, when ap

rose.

* There is, we fear, no solid reason for doubting the terrible story which relates the slaughter of Saladin's hostages during the truce of 1191. The massacre may have been done in accordance with rule; the tale says that it was, and so far it may have had a technical justification. We may also cut down the number of the slain, but the slaying of more than five thousand Saracens for Saladin's failure to pay a sum of gold within the time agreed on remains a sufficiently ruthless deed.

† Norman Conquest, vol. v. p. 687.

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

6

plied to a man like Richard? Miss Norgate holds that we can best see what Richard was from the portrait drawn of him by Gerald de Barri in contrast with that of his brother Henry. The latter, Giraldus tells us, was 'admired for his "mildness and liberality;' the former was 'esteemed for his seriousness and firmness;' and so the critic goes on, setting the graciousness, the courtesy, the mercy of Henry over against the stateliness, the constancy, the justice of Richard. Henry was the refuge and the shield of vagabonds and evil doers; 'Richard was their scourge.' The one was gracious to strangers ;' the other “ to his own friends: one 'to all men, the other only to good men.' It is rash to put faith in comparisons when the colours are so broadly and lavishly laid on. The picture of neither corresponds with the story of his life. It is of Richard that Miss Norgate herself is speaking when she says that he was ready to find a ‘ground of suspicion in every word and action of his father ' for which his own intelligence was incapable of accounting, and to credit every calumny reported to him by his father's enemies.' (Vol. ii. p. 254.) It is not easy to see how this readiness to believe all evil of his father could be found in one of whose character an unsuspecting confidence and 'generosity' formed the noblest feature.' (Vol. ii. p. 281.) But elsewhere Miss Norgate speaks of the habitual shiftiness of Richard's conduct (vol. i. p. 336); and of his extortionate demands on the resources of his people there is, of course, no concealment. He could scarcely be a generous ruler or a generous man whose justiciar deserves praise for contriving to meet his . ceaseless demands year after year with

out either plunging the nation into helpless misery, or pro'voking it to open revolt.' (Vol. ii. p. 341.) Nor did Richard improve as he grew older. Of the administration of the last eight months of Richard's reign Miss Norgate speaks as a

salutary discipline, but as a discipline which was also stern and cruei.' Her judgement, then, is in substantial agreement with that of Mr. Freeman, and in Mr. Freeman's picture meanness and greediness take the place of generosity. Richard's one object was to screw money out of his king• dom. Wherever Richard went personally everything was 'to be sold, and no commodity seems to have been found more marketable than the honour of a chivalrous king. * No pretence was too base for the hero of the lion's heart, ‘if money could be gained by it.'* We can only regret that

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

>

* Norman Conquest, vol. v. p. 693.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Freeman could speak of Richard as reconciling 'the “breach of every duty of a man, a son, and a king with some

degree of at least formal piety,' as though such a task involved the least difficulty, and as though one abomination could be palliated by being combined with another. In short, Richard's deeds were, in most instances, overruled for the benefit of England; but strict justice to his people sat very lightly on his conscience. On one side we have a series of oppressive exactions; on another a series of halfknown acts, some of which might have seriously compromised his English subjects, if nations could be compromised by the unauthorised and unsanctioned acts of any individual man, be he king, or pope, or any other. As a concession, Miss Norgate thinks, to the emperor's vanity, Richard accepted from him the investiture of the kingdom of Burgundy, over which Roger Howden is careful to say that the emperor had really no power at all. The story that he surrendered England itself into his hands, and received it back from him as a fief of the empire, Miss Norgate is inclined to set aside as an exaggeration. Mr. Freeman seems not less inclined to regard it as a fact. We are carried back to the old question of commendation; and on this controversy we

1 have expressed an opinion which we see no grounds for either withdrawing or even modifying.*

The reign of Richard was the reign of one who, in Mr. Freeman's words, 'appears in every land and in every cha‘racter, except that of a king of the English, dwelling and • reigning in his own kingdom. The reign of John is the reign of a man whose treasons united all Englishmen against him as a coherent nation. John did his best to bring about an anarchy inore desperate than that of the days of Stephen. Under both the work of recovery was in great part the work of churchmen, if the word “churchmen' is to be applied especially to holders of office. The history of their influence, of their successes and their failures, is full of interest in the records of every age; at no time has it a greater interest than during the reigns of our Angerin kings and their innmediate predecessors. In this portion of her task, as in every other, Miss Norgate's volumes are full of instruction ; but we are not sure that she does full justice to the English clergy as a whole, from the days of Alfred downwards. In no one respect has Dean Milman done better service, in his History

[ocr errors]

* Edinhurgh Review, vol. cxxx. pp. 206-210.

« AnteriorContinuar »