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Henry of Monmouth, Volume 1 by James Endell Tyler

Dispassionate weighing of the arguments there adduced


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A charge, however, more vitally affecting Henry's character than any other by which it has ever been assailed, requires now a patient and thorough investigation. The groundwork, indeed, upon which the accusation is built, is of great antiquity, though the superstructure is of very recent date. Were it sufficient for a biographer, who would deal uprightly, merely to contradict the evidence by demonstrating its inconsistency with indisputable facts, the business of refutation in this instance would be brief, as the accusation breaks down in every particular, from whatever point of view we may examine it. But the province of these Memoirs must not be so confined. To establish the truth in these points satisfactorily, as well as to place clearly (p. 283) before the mind the total inadequacy of the evidence to substantiate the charge, will require a more full and detailed examination of the value of the Manuscript on which the charge is made to rest, than could be conveniently introduced into the body of this narrative. The whole is therefore reserved for the Appendix; and to a careful, dispassionate weighing of the arguments there adduced, the reader is earnestly invited.

But the Author, as he has above intimated, does not think his duty would be performed were he merely to prove that the charge against Henry is altogether untenable upon the evidence adduced; though that is all which the accusation so unsparingly now in these late years brought against him requires or deserves. The very allusion to such an offence as undutiful, unfilial conduct in one whose life is otherwise an example of obedience, respect, and affection towards his father, requires the biographer to take up the province of inquisitor, and ascertain what ground there may be, independently of that inadequate evidence alleged by others, for believing Henry to have once at least, and for a time, forgotten the duties of a son; or what proceedings, not involving his guilt, might have given rise to the unfounded rumour, and of what satisfactory explanation they may admit.

The charge is this: That, in the parliament held in November 1411, Prince Henry desired of his father the resignation of his crown, on the plea that the malady under which the King was suffering (p. 284) would not allow him to rule any longer for the honour and welfare of the kingdom. On the King's firm and peremptory refusal, the Prince, greatly offended, withdrew from the court, and formed an overwhelming party of his own among the nobility and gentry of the land, "associating them to his dominion in homage and pay." Such is the statement made (not indeed in the form of an accusation, but merely as one of the occurrences of the year,) in the manuscript above referred to. The modern comment upon this text would probably never have been made, if the writer had given more time and patient investigation to the subject; and now, were such a suppression compatible with the thorough sifting of Henry's character and conduct, the quotation of it might well have been spared in these pages. A few words, however, on that comment, and recently renewed charge, seem indispensable. "The King's subsequent death (such are the words of the modern historian) prevented the final explosion of this unfilial conduct, which, as thus stated, deserves the denomination of an unnatural rebellion; and shows that the dissolute companion of Falstaff was not the gay and thoughtless youth which his dramatic representation exhibits to us, but that, amid his vicious gaieties, he could cherish feelings which too much resemble the unprincipled ambition of a Catilinarian temper."[279]


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