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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Conducted by the two archbishops


As

the crown was now regarded as vacant, Henry of Lancaster arose,--in the name of God, as he said, whilst he made the sign of the cross on his forehead and breast,--to claim it for himself, in virtue of his birth and the right which accrued to him through God and the help of his friends. It was not properly speaking an election that now took place: the spiritual and lay lords, as well as the other members of the Parliament, were asked what their opinion of his claim was: the answer of all was that the Duke should be their King. When, conducted by the two archbishops, he ascended the vacant throne, he was greeted with the joyous acclaim of those assembled. The Archbishop of Canterbury made a speech full of unction, the drift of which was, that henceforth it would not be a child, such as the late sovereign had been, self-willed and void of understanding, but a Man that would rule over them, in the full maturity of his understanding, and resolved to do not so much his own will as the will of God.[62]

Thus did the spiritual and lay nobility, in and with the Parliament, make good their claim to dispose of the crown. They went to work against Richard II with less reserve than against Edward II. In the latter case the Queen had taken part in the movement; they had set the son in his father's stead. But this time they did not wait for the actual consummation of the King's marriage; they raised a prince to the throne who had openly opposed him in the field,

and was not even the next in succession. For there were still the descendants of an elder brother left, who according to English usage had a prior right. The Parliament held itself competent to settle on its own authority even the succession to the crown. It enacted that it should belong to the King's eldest son, and after him to his male issue, and on their failure to his brothers and their issue. The proposal formally to exclude succession in the female line did not pass; but for a long while to come the actual practice had that effect.

Besides the motives involved in the extension of the Power of the Estates in and for itself there was yet another reason for such a proceeding. And this arose out of the growth, and increasing urgency, of the religious divisions. The Lollards preached, and taught in schools, according to their views: in the year 1396 in a petition to Parliament they traced all the moral evils and defects of the world to the fact that the clergy were endowed with worldly goods, and showed the advantage which would arise from the application of these to the service of the state and the prosecution of war.[63] They seem to have flattered themselves that by this they would win over the lay lords, but they were completely mistaken. For these remarked on the contrary that their own property had no better legal foundation than that of the clergy,[64] and only attached themselves to the rights of the Church all the more zealously.

That which would have been impossible under Richard II's vacillating government,


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