« PreviousContinue »
of his tenants in chief. There are, however, instances from which it appears that knights of the shire, originally chosen for a subordinate purpose, had become a usual part of the great national council. The introduction of the representatives of cities and boroughs, seems to have been first adopted by Leicester. Mr. Lingard has searched in vain for evidence that the practice had obtained previously to the date of de Montfort's parliament.
On these points we have followed Mr. Lingard, if not always with entire conviction, yet, with much interest and gratification. But we no sooner encounter him on professional grounds than we find him at fault. The history of the illustrious Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, is stated to have had consider'able interest' attached to it by the partiality of modern 'writers.' Our readers will, by this time, have fully understood the meaning of this inuendo. It is, as usual, accompanied with a narrative in which all that is piquant is left out: the statements of Matthew Paris, who affirms that the bishop treated the Pope with very little ceremony, are dismissed as ridiculous tales;' and the accredited story, that he died under a sentence of sus⚫pension or excommunication,' is rejected as derived from 'questionable authority.' Of all such glaring evasions we can only say, valeant quantum. It might, however, have been expedient to be less peremptory in accusations of partiality.'
The reign of Edward I. was distinguished by important concessions from the crown to the people. The improvements effected by that monarch in the administration of justice, have procured for him the title of the English Justinian. For these salutary reforms, however, it is well remarked by Mr. Lingard, that the nation was indebted not merely to his wisdom, but also to his necessities; since they were always granted at the request of his parliament, and purchased with the vote of a valuable aid.' But the firmness of the leading nobles, supported by the spirit of the people, wrested from the haughty and reluctant king, a still more valuable privilege, in 'the sole right of raising the supplies. We have been especially gratified with the narrative of this period of history. That portion of it which relates to Edward's Scottish expedition, is written with much discrimination; and the following strictures, though they may wear the appearance of severity, yet, commend themselves to approbation by their acuteness and independence of popular opinion.
It may perhaps offend the national partiality of some among my readers, but I greatly suspect that Wallace owes his celebrity as much to his execution as to his exploits. Of all the Scottish chieftains, who deserved and experienced the enmity of Edward, he alone perished on the gallows; and on this account his fate called forth and
monopolized the sympathy of his countrymen. They revered him as the martyr of their independence: his blood animated them to vengeance: the huts and glens, the forests and mountains, which he had frequented, became consecrated in their eyes: and as the remembrance of his real exploits gradually faded, the aid of fiction was employed to embellish and eternize the character of the hero. If we may believe the Scottish writers, who lived a century or two after his death, he was gigantic in stature, powerful of limb, and patient of fatigue beyond his contemporaries. He knew no passion but the love of his country. His soul was superior to bribery or insult: and at the call of liberty he was as ready to serve in the ranks as to assume the command of the army. His courage possessed a talismanic power, which led his fullowers to attempt and execute the most hazardous enterprises: and which on Stainmoor compelled the king and army of England to flee from his presence, even before they entered upon action. Under so brave and accomplished a leader Scotland might have been saved; she was lost through the jealousy of her nobles, who chose to crouch in chains to a foreign despot, rather than owe their deliverance to a man of inferior family. Of all this a part may perhaps be true; but it is derived from no credible authority: much must be false, because it is contradicted by real history. The only great battles in which Wallace is known to have fought, are those of Stirling and Falkirk. In the first he was victorious: but he must share the glory of the action with sir Andrew Moray, who was certainly his equal in command, perhaps his superior. In the second he was defeated: and the defeat was the most disastrous, that Scotland ever experienced. In the history of the next five years his name is scarcely mentioned: but when the rest of his countrymen made their peace with Edward, his interests were not forgotten. "It was agreed that he also might put "himself on the pleasure and grace of the king, if he thought pro"per." He did not think proper: and to this, whether it were patriotism or obstinacy, we are to attribute his punishment. He had been summoned to a parliament of both nations held at St. Andrew's; and, as he neglected to appear, sentence of outlawry according to the Scottish law was pronounced against him, with Andrew Fraser, and the garrison of Stirling. Edward was not, however, as he has been represented, a blood-thirsty tyrant. He still accepted the submission of Fraser and contented himself with the captivity of Oliphant and his companions, though they had uselessly involved him in so much danger, and entailed on him so much expense. If the fate of Wallace was different from that of all others, it proves that there was something peculiar in his case, which rendered him less deserving of mercy.' Vol. II. pp. 446-449.
The impolitic, but brilliant schemes and exertions for the attainment of continental dominion, which distinguished the reigns of our Edwards and our Henrys, find an adequate narrator in Mr. Lingard. His descriptions of battles are admirably written: they never trench on the marvellous; authorities are carefully examined; and the results are judiciously given in language at once simple and nervous. The romantic victories of Crecy,
Poitiers, and Azincourt were gained, as far as human means were concerned, by the ability of the commanders, the unrivalled skill of the English archers, and by that peculiar quality of British troops, unyielding firmness. The memory of the Edwards is clouded by instances of sternness and infliction of suffering, from which the name of Harry of Azincourt is happily free; but the victor of Crecy has been charged with actions or purposes, of which he seems to have been guiltless. It is clear from the explanations of the present Historian, that the severity of his menaces against the self-devoted citizens of Calais, was the effect of policy, and by no means that of ferocious intention.
The wars of the Roses, with all their dependent complications of political and military detail, are unravelled by Mr. Lingard with his accustomed skill. The common report of the sanguinary and hypocritical character of Richard III. is adopted on grounds which cannot easily be shaken. Attempts, in some degree plausible, have been made, to exonerate that monarch from the infamy entailed on his name by the various murders which he is affirmed to have perpetrated; and the statements and reasonings of his different defenders have been imbodied and enforced by Mr. Laing in an appendix to the last volume of Henry's History of England. His investigation is executed with considerable ability, though there is some little confusedness in the composition. But his statements and inferences are com pletely demolished by Mr. Lingard, who places the question on its original foundation, ascribes to Richard the atrocious misdeeds which gained him the throne, and, on a balance of evidence, decides that Perkin Warbeck was an impostor.
We do not think it necessary to enter on the examination of the reigns of Henry VIII. and his Son, which occupy the fourth volume, having already intimated our opinion, and not being aware that a fuller exposition of our sentiments would answer any important purpose. But, as we have been particularly interested by Mr. L.'s account of the battle of Floddenfield, we shall extract it as an illustration of his distinctness in descriptions of this kind. Hume's statements, we feel no disposition to discuss. He is at once so partial and so negligent an historian, that, whether we might deem him right or wrong, we should seldom think it expedient either to refer to him, or to vindicate our dissent from him, as an authority in questions of fact. But Dr. Henry, as both a diligent inquirer, and a man of pure intentions, deserves a more respectful treatment, and we have fixed on this passage of history as affording us an opportunity of remarking, that he appears to us sometimes to indulge an innocent and unconscious partiality towards his own countrymen. In the narrative of this fierce and well-contested engagement, for instance, he adopts all the romantic tales of the Scot
tish historians, and introduces every possible circumstance that may seem to extenuate the decided superiority of the Scotch in numbers and position. His account of the manœuvres of that bloody day, is confused and spiritless, and a perfect contrast to the clear and animated sketch below. The Scotch fought with their characteristic courage; but they were completely outgeneralled. The admirable movement suggested by Lord Howard, had rendered utterly useless the strong position and defensive measures of James.
'Having demolished the castle of Ford, James led his army across the river, and encamped on the hill of Flodden, the last of the Cheviot mountains, which border on the vale of Tweed. The same day the earl mustered his forces at Bolton in Glendale. They amounted to twenty-six thousand men, chiefly the tenants of the gentlemen in the northern counties, and the men of the borders, accustomed to Scottish warfare. From Bolton he advanced to Wooler haugh, within five miles of the enemy; whence he viewed with surprise the strength of their position, accessible only in one quarter, and that fortified with batteries of cannon. Rouge Croix was again despatched to James, with a message, requiring him to descend into the large. plain of Milfield between the two armies, and to engage his adversary on equal terms. The king laconically replied, that he should wait for the English according to their promise, till Friday at noon. Surrey was disconcerted by this answer. To decline the battle, was to break his word; to fight the Scots in their present position, was to invite defeat. He was rescued from the dilemma by the bold counsel of his son, who advised him to march towards Scotland, and then return and assail the enemy on the rear. The next morning the army formed in two grand divisions, each of which was subdivided into a battle and two wings. The first, distinguished by the name of the vanguard, obeyed the lord admiral: the second, called the rearguard, was led by the earl himself. In this manner the English crossed the Till, and keeping out of the reach of the cannon, advanced along the right bank till the evening. At sunrise the following day, they again crossed the river by the bridge of Twissel, and returning by the left bank approached the Scottish camp. James now discovered the object of this movement, which at first had appeared unaccountable. He ordered his men to set fire to their huts, and hastened to take possession of an eminence more to the north, called the hill of Brankston. The smoke which rose from the flames, was rolled by the wind into the valley; and entirely intercepted the view of the two armies, and their respective movements; so that when it cleared up, the admiral found himself at the foot of the hill, and beheld the enemy on its summit at the distance of a quarter of a mile, disposed in five large masses, some of which had taken the form of squares, and others that of wedges. Alarmed at their appearance and numbers, he halted his division; it was soon joined on its left by the rearguard under his father; and both advanced forward in one line. At the same time the Scots began to descend the hill, in perfect order and profound silence. As the battle, from the disposition of the Scottish forces, consisted of
several distinct actions, it will be most convenient for the reader, to travel along the English line, and notice the result of each conflict in succession. The right wing of the vanguard under sir Edmund Howard, could not support the overwhelming charge of a large body of spearmen, commanded by the lord Home. The English were broken; and their commander was unhorsed: but while he lay on the ground expecting to be taken or slain, the battle was unexpectedly restored by the timely arrival of the bastard Heron, with a numerous band of outlaws. The fugitives rallied at his call; and a doubtful contest was fiercely maintained, till the lord Dacre, with the reserve of fifteen hundred horse, charged the spearmen, and put them to a precipitate flight. The next was the lord admiral with the major part of the vanguard, opposed to the earls of Huntly, Errol, and Crawford, who commanded a dense mass of seven thousand Scots. In this part of the field the contest was obstinate and bloody. At length Errol and Crawford fell; and their followers, discouraged by the death of the leaders, began to waver, fell into confusion, and shortly afterwards fled in every direction. Surrey with the rearguard was attacked by the king himself. James fought on foot, surrounded by some thousands of chosen warriors, who were cased in armour, and on that account less exposed to the destructive aim of the English archers. Animated by the presence and the example of their monarch, they advanced steadily, and fought with a resolution, which, if it did not win, at least deserved, victory. Though Surrey made every effort, he could not arrest their progress: they had penetrated within a few yards of the royal standard: and James, ignorant of the event in other parts of the field, flattered himself with the prospect of victory. But in the mean while, sir Edward Stanley, who commanded the left wing, had defeated the earls of Argyle and Lennox. As they descended the hill, the Scottish ranks were disordered by the murderous discharges of the archers: the moment they came into close combat, the confusion was completed by a sudden charge in flank from three companies of men at arms. The Scots began to retreat: Stanley chased them over the summit of the hill, and, wheeling to the right, led his followers against the rear of the mass commanded by James in person. In a few minutes that gallant monarch was slain by an unknown hand, and fell about a spear's length from the feet of Surrey. The battle had begun between four and five in the afternoon, and was decided in something more than an hour. The pursuit continued about four miles; but the approach of night and the want of cavalry favoured the escape of the fugitives. In the official account published by the lord admiral, the Scots are said to have amounted to eighty thousand men; a multitude from which we may fairly deduct perhaps one half, as mere followers of the camp, collected more for the purpose of plunder than battle. Ten thousand were slain: among whom were the king of Scots, his illegitimate son, the archbishop of St. Andrews, two other bishops, two abbots, twelve earls, thirteen barons, five eldest sons of barons, and fifty gentlemen of distinction. Six thousand horses were taken, with the park of artillery, amounting to seventeen pieces.'
We have derived so much gratification and instruction from