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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Which was defending its own interests


by this he necessarily awakened the ill will of the aristocracy. He was charged with having instigated the troubles themselves by proclamations which he issued in opposition to the Privy Council; and with not merely having done nothing to suppress them but with having on the contrary supported the ringleaders and taken them under his protection.[148] No doubt this was the reason why the campaign against the rebels in Norfolk was not entrusted to him, as he wished, but (after some vacillation) to his rival, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. The victory gained by him, with the active sympathy of the nobility, which was defending its own interests, was a defeat for Somerset. Even those who did not believe that he had any personal share in the movement, nevertheless reproached him with having allowed conditions to be prescribed to himself and his government by the people; the common man would be King. Financial difficulties arising from an alteration in the coinage, and ill success in the war against France, contributed to give his opponents the ascendancy in the Privy Council. Somerset once entertained the idea of setting the masses in movement on his own behalf: one day he collected numerous bands of people at Hampton Court, under cover of summoning them to defend the King, by whose side his enemies wished to set up a regency. But this pretext had little foundation, it was only himself whom his rivals would no longer see at the head of affairs: after a short fluctuation in the relations
between the main personages he was forced to submit. He saved his life for that time: after an interval he was released from prison and again entered the Privy Council: then he once more made an attempt to recover the supreme power by help of the people, but thus drew his fate on himself. The masses who regarded him as their champion showed him loud and heartfelt sympathy at his execution.

On Somerset's first fall it was said that the Emperor Charles V had a share in bringing it about, and this is very conceivable; for what result could be more displeasing to this sovereign than that Protestantism, which he was putting down in Germany, should have gained at the same moment a strong position in England: it is certain that the change of administration was greeted with joy by the court at Brussels.[149]

But it brought the Emperor no advantage. At the moment the new government assumed a hostile attitude towards France: but soon afterwards the Earl of Warwick, who now took the lead of affairs as Duke of Northumberland, found himself driven to the necessity of making a peace with that power, by which Boulogne was given up and Scotland abandoned to French influence. One article of the treaty contains indirectly a renunciation of the proposed marriage between the King of England and the Queen of Scotland. And this treaty was greatly to the Emperor's disadvantage, since it now set the French free to renew the hostility against him which had been broken off some years before by an agreement all in his favour. They allied themselves for this purpose with the German princes who found the Emperor's yoke intolerable. These princes had even applied to the English government: and Edward would personally have been much inclined to lend an ear to their proposals. If the fear of being involved in war with the Emperor on this account withheld him from open sympathy, yet it is certain that his general political attitude essentially contributed to enable them to take up arms and break the Emperor's ascendancy.

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