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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Edward IV was a most brilliant figure


the Norman-Plantagenet rule,

that England became completely a member of the Romano-German family of nations which formed the Western world. In however many ways the invading nobility had mingled with the native houses, it yet held fast to its ancient language; even now it is part of the ambition of the great families to trace their pedigree from the Conquerors. Attempts had been made, sometimes of a more political, sometimes of a more doctrinal nature, to break loose from the hierarchy, which prevailed throughout these nations; but they had only increased its strength; the native clergy saw that its safety lay in the strictest adherence to the maxims of the Universal Church. Similarly the character of the Estates in England was akin to that of those in North France and especially in the Netherlands; on this rests the sympathy which the enterprises of Edward III and Henry V met with; for it was indeed the feeling of these centuries, that the members of any one of the three Estates felt themselves quite as closely bound to the members of the same Estate in other lands as to their own countrymen of the other Estates. There was but one Church, one Science, one Art in Europe: one and the same mental horizon enclosed the different peoples: a romance and a poetry varying in form yet of closely kindred nature was the common possession of all. The common life of Europe flowed also in the veins of England: an indestructible foundation for culture and progressive civilisation was laid. But we saw to what point matters
had come notwithstanding, as regards the durability of its internal system and its power. The Plantagenets had extended the rule of England over Scotland and Ireland: in the latter it still subsisted, but only within the narrow limits of the Border Pale; in the former it was altogether overthrown. The best result that had been effected in home politics, the attempt to unite the Powers of the country in Parliament had, after a short and brilliant success, led to the deepest disorder by disregarding the rights of birth. The degraded crown above all had thus become the prize of battle for Pretenders allied with France or Burgundy. But it could not possibly remain thus. The time was come to give the English realm an independent position and internal order corresponding at once to its insular situation and to the degree of culture it had attained.

The first who attempted this with some success was Edward IV, of the house of York, who in the war of the Roses had remained master of the field.

But everywhere there began once more an era of autocratic princes.

CHAPTER I.

RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SUPREME POWER.

Edward IV was a most brilliant figure, the handsomest man of his time, at least among the sovereigns, so that the impression he thus made was actually a power in politics; we find him incessantly entangled in love affairs: he was fond of music and enjoyment of all kinds, the pleasures of the table, the uproar of riotous company: his debauched habits are thought to have shortened his life, and many a disaster sprung from his carelessness; but he had also Sardanapalus' nature in him: with quickly awakening activity he always rose again out of his disasters; in his battles he appeared the last, but he fought perhaps the best; and he won them all. In the history of European Monarchy he is not unworthy to be ranked by the side of Ferdinand the Catholic, Charles the Bold, Louis XI, and some others who regained prestige for their dignity by the energy of their personal character.


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