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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Even if they did not spring from the Yorkist marriage


Now

that the banner of a true Lancaster appeared again in the field, and the discontented Yorkists, ill-treated by Richard, joined him, it might certainly be hoped that the usurper would be overthrown, and that a strong power would emerge from the union of both lines. Yet the issue was even then very doubtful.

As in the earlier civil wars, so now too the help of a foreign power was necessary. With French help the Earl of Richmond led about 2000 men, of which not more than perhaps 800 were English, to Wales;[74] in his further advance he was joined by proportionately considerable reinforcements; yet he did not number more than 5000 men under his banners, badly clothed and still worse armed, when Richard with his chivalry came upon him in overwhelming numbers. Henry would have been lost, had he not found partisans in Richard's ranks. Even before the engagement the desertion from Richard began: then in the middle of the battle the chief division of his army passed over to Henry. Richard found the death he sought: for he was resolved to be King or die: on the battlefield itself Henry was proclaimed King.

There is no doubt that he owed to his union with the house of York, whose right was then generally regarded as the best, not only his victory, but the joyous recognition also which he experienced afterwards: yet his whole nature revolted against basing his state on this union: he cherished the ambition of ruling only

through his own right.

At the first meeting of Parliament, which he did not call till he was fully in possession and crowned King, he was met by a very genuinely English point of law. It arose from the fact that many members of the Lower House had been attainted by the late government. How could they make laws who were themselves beyond the pale of law? Who could cleanse them from the stain that clove to them? This objection could be raised against Henry himself. In this perplexity recourse was had to the judges: and they decided that the possession of the crown supplied all defects, and that the King was already King even without the assent of Parliament.[75] In the general disorder things had gone so far, that it was necessary to find some power outside the continuity of legal forms, from which they might start afresh. The actual possession of the throne formed this time the living centre round which the legal state could again form itself. By exercising the authority inherent in the possession of the crown, the King could effect the revocation of the sentences that weighed on his partisans and on a large portion of the Parliament. After the legal character of that Assembly had been established, it proceeded to recognise Henry's rights to the crown in the words used for the first of the Lancastrian house.

In the papal bull which ratified Henry's succession, three grounds are assigned for it: the right of war, the undoubted nearest right to the succession, and the recognition by Parliament. On the first the King himself laid great stress: he once designates the issue of the battle as the decision of God between him and his foes. He thus avoided any mention of the marriage with Edward IV's daughter, which he did not complete till he was acknowledged on all sides. The papal bull declared that the crown of England was to be hereditary in Henry's descendants, even if they did not spring from the Yorkist marriage.

We can easily understand this: Henry would not tolerate by his side in the person of his wife a joint ruler of equal, and even better, right than his own; but we can understand also that this proceeding drew on him new enmities. At the very outset the widowed Queen gave it to be understood that her daughter was rather lowered than raised by the marriage. The whole party of York moreover felt itself contemned and insulted. To the ferment of displeasure and ambition into which it fell must be attributed the fact that a pair of adventurers, who acted the part of genuine descendants of the house of York, Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, supported from abroad, found the greatest sympathy and recognition in England. The first Henry VII had to meet in open battle, the second he got into his hands only by a great European combination.


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