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ITHERTO the King had been exercised in settling his affairs at home. But about this time brake forth an occasion that drew him to look abroad and to hearken to foreign business. Charles the Eighth, the French King, by the virtue and good fortune of his two immediate predecessors, Charles the Seventh has grandfather and Lewis the Eleventh his father, received the kingdom of France in more flourishing and spread estate than it had been of many years before; being redintegrate in those principal members which anciently had been portions of the crown of France, and were after dissevered, so as they remained only in homage and not in sovereignty, being governed by absolute princes of their own; Anjous, Normandy, Provence, and Burgundy. There only remained Brittaine to be re-united, and so the monarchy of France to be reduced to the ancient terms and bounds.
2. King Charles was not a little inflamed with an ambition to re-purchase and re-annex that duchy; which his ambition was a wise and well-weighed ambition; not like unto the ambitions of his succeeding enterprises of Italy. For at that time, being newly come to the crown, he was somewhat guided by his father’s counsels; (councels, not counsellors, for his father was his own counsel, and had few able men about him;) and that King (he knew well) had ever distasted the designs of Italy, and in particular had an eye upon Brittaine. There were many circumstances that did feed the ambition of Charles with pregnant and apparent hopes of success. The Duke of Brittaine old, and entered into a lethargy, and served with mercenary counsellors, father of only two daughters, the one sickly and not like to continue. King Charles himself in the flower of his age, and the subjects of France at that time well trained for war, both for leaders and soldiers (men of service being not worn out since the wars of Lewis against Burgundy). He found himself also in peace with all his neighbour princes. As for those that might oppose to his enterprise; Maximilian King of Romans, his rival in the same desires (as well for the duchy as the daughter), feeble in means; and King Henry of England as well somewhat obnoxious [under obligation] to him for his favours and benefits, as busied in his particular troubles at home. There was also a fair and specious occasion offered him to hide his ambition and to justify his warring upon Brittaine; for that the Duke had received and succoured Lewis Duke of Orleans and others of the French nobility, which had taken arms against their King. Wherefore King Charles, being resolved upon that war, knew well he could not receive any opposition so potent as if King Henry should either upon policy of state in preventing the growing greatness of France, or upon gratitude unto the Duke of Brittaine for his former favours in the time of his distress, espose that quarrel and declare himself in aid of the Duke. Therefore he no sooner heard that King Henry was settled by his victory, but forthwith he sent ambassadors unto him to pray his assistance, or at least that he would stand neutral. Which ambassadors found the King at Leicester, and delivered their ambassage to this effect: They first imparted unto the King the success that their master had had a little before against Maximilian in recovery of certain towns from him; which was done in a kind of privacy and inwardness towards the King; as if the French King did not esteem him for an outward or formal confederate, but as one that had part in his affections and fortunes, and with whom he took pleasure to communicate his business. After this compliment and some gratulation for the King’s victory, they fell to their errand: declaring to the King, that their master was enforced to enter into a just and necessary war with the Duke of Brittaine, for that he had received and succoured those that were traitors and declared enemies unto his person and state: That they were no mean distressed and calamitous persons that fled to him for refuge, but of so great quality, as it was apparent that they came not thither to protect their own fortune, but to invest and invade his; the head of them being the Duke of Orleans, the first Prince of the blood and the second person of France: That therefore rightly to understand it, it was rather on their master’s part a defensive war than an offensive, as that that could not be omitted or forborne if he tendered the conservation of his own estate; and that it was not the first blow that made the war invasive (for that no wise Prince would stay for), but the first provocation, or at least the first preparation; nay that this war was rather a suppression of rebels than a war with a just enemy; where the case is, that his subjects traitors are received by the Duke of Brittaine his homager: That King Henry knew well what went upon it in example, if neighboiur Princes should patronise and comfort rebels against the law of nations and of leagues: Nevertheless that their master was not ignorant that the King had been beholding to the Duke of Brittaine in his adversity, as on the other side they knew he would not forget also the readiness of their King in aiding him when the Duke of Brittaine or his mercenary counsellors failed him, and would have betrayed him; and that there was a great difference between the courtesies received from their master and the Duke of Brittaine, for that the Duke’s might have ends of utility and bargain, whereas their master’s could not have proceeded but out of entire affection; for that if it had been measured by a politic line, it had been better for his affairs that a tyrant should have reigned in England, troubled and hated, than such a Prince, whose virtues could not fail to make him great and potent, whensoever he was comen to be master of his affairs: But howsoever it stood for the point of obligation which the King might owe to the Duke of Brittaine, yet their master was well assured it would not divert King Henry of England from doing that that was just, nor ever embark him in so ill-groiunded a quarrel: Therefore since this war which their master was now to make was but to deliver himself from imminent dangers, their King hoped the King would shew the like affection to the conservation of their master’s estate, as their master had (when time was) shewed to the King’s acquisition of his kingdom: At the least that according to the inclination which the King had ever professed of peace, he would look on and stand neutral; for that their master could not with reason press him to undertake part in the war, being so newly settled and recovered from intestine seditions. But touching the mystery of re-annexing of the duchy of Brittaine to the crown of France, either by war or by marriage with the daughter of Brittaine, the ambassadors bare aloof from it as from a rock, knowing that it made most against them; and therefore by all means declined any mention thereof, but contrariwise interlaced in their conference with the King the assured purpose of their master to match with the daughter of Maximilian; and entertained the King also with some wandering discourses of their King’s purpose to recover by arms his right to the kingdom of Naples, by an expedition in person; all to remove the King from all jealousy of any design in these hither parts upon Brittaine, otherwise than for quenching of the fire which he feared might be kindled in his own estate.
3. The King, after advice taken with his counsel, made answer to the ambassadors. And first returned their compliment, shewing he was right glad of the French King’s reception of those towns from Maximilian. Then he familiarly related some particular passages of his own adventures and victory passed. As to the business of Brittaine, the King answered in few words; that the French King and the Duke of Brittaine were the two persons to whom he was most obliged of all men; and that he should think himself very unhappy if things should go so between them, as he should not be able to acquit himself in gratitude towards them both; and that there was no means for him, as a Christian King and a common friend to them, to satisfy all obligations both to God and man, but to offer himself as a mediator of an accord and peace between them; by which course he doubted not but their King’s estate and honour both, would be preserved with more safety and less envy than by a war; and that he would spare no cost or pains, no if it were to go on pilgrimage, for so good an effect; and concluded that in this great affair, which he took so much to heart, he would express himself more fully by an ambassage, which he would speedily dispatch unto the French King for that purpose. And in this sort the French ambassadors where dismissed: the King avoiding to understand any thing touching the re-annexing of Brittaine, as the ambassadors had avoided to mention it; save that he gave a little touch of it in the word envy. And so it was, that the King was neither so shallow nor so ill advertised as not to perceive the intention of the French for the investing himself of Brittaine. But first, he was utterly unwilling (howsoever he gave out) to enter into a war with France. A fame of war he liked well, but not an achievement; for the one he thought would make him richer, and the other poorer; and he was possessed with many secret fears touching his own people, which he was therefore loth to arm, and put weapons into their hands. Yet notwithstanding, as a prudent and courageous Prince, he was not so averse from a war, but that he was resolved to choose it rather than to have Brittaine carried by France; being so great and opulent a duchy, and situate so opportunely to annoy England either for coast or trade. But the King’s hopes were, that partly by negligence, commonly imputed to the French, (especially in the court of a young King); and partly by the native power of Brittaine itself, which was not small; but chiefly in respect of the great party that the Duke of Orleans had in the kingdom of France, and thereby means to stir up civil troubles to divert the French King from the enterprise of Brittaine; and lastly in regard of the power of Maximilian, who was corrival to the French King in that pursuit; the enterprise would either bow to a peace or break in itself. In all which the King measured and valued things amiss, as afterwards appeared. He sent therefore forthwith to the French King, Christopher Urwick his chaplain, a person by him much trusted and employed; choosing him the rather because he was a churchman, as best sorting with an embassy of pacification; and giving him also a commission, that if the French King consented to treat, he should thence repair to the Duke of Brittaine and ripen the treaty on both parts. Urwick made declaration to the French King much to the purpose of the King’s answer to the French ambassadors here, instilling also tenderly some overture of receiving to grace the Duke of Orleans, and some taste of conditions of accord. But the French King on the other side proceeded not sincerely, but with a great deal of art and dissimulation in this treaty, having for his end to gain time, and so put off the English succours, under hope of peace, till he had got good footing in Brittaine by force of arms. Wherefore he answered the ambasador, that he would put himself into the King’s hands, and make him arbiter of the peace; and willingly consented that the ambassadors should straightways pass into Brittaine to signify this his consent, and to know the Duke’s mind likewise; well foreseeing that the Duke of Orleans, by whom the Duke of Brittaine was wholly led, taking himself to be upon terms irreconcileable with him, would admit of no treaty of peace; whereby he should in one both generally abroad veil over his ambition, and win the reputation of just and moderate proceedings; and should withal endear himself in the affections of the King of England, as one that had committed all to his will; nay and (which was yet more fine) make faith in him that although he went on with the war, yet it should be but with his sword in his hand to bend the stiffness of the other party to accept of peace; and so the King should take no umbrage of his arming and prosecution, but the treaty to be kept on foot to the very last instant, till he were master of the field.
[4.] Which grounds being by the French King wisely laid, all things fell out as he expected. For when the English ambassador came to the court of Brittaine, the Duke was then scarcely perfect in his memory, and all things were directed by the Duke of Orleans; who gave audience to the chaplain Urwick, and upon his ambassage delivered made answer in somewhat high terms: That the Duke of Brittaine having been an host and a kind of parent or foster-father to the King in his tenderness of age and weakness of fortune, did look for at this time from King Henry (the renowned King of England) rather brave troops for his succours than a vain treaty of peace. And if the King could forget the good offices of the Duke done unto him aforetime, yet ke knew well he would in his wisdom consider of the future, how much it imported his own safety and reputation both in foreign parts and with his own people, not to suffer Brittaine (the old confederates of England) to be swallowed up by France, and so many good ports and strong towns upon the coast be in the command of so potent a neighbour King, and so ancient an enemy: And therefore humbly desired the King to think of this business as his own: and therewith brake off, and denied any farther conference for treaty.
5. Urwick returned first to the French King, and related to him what had passed. Who finding things to sort to his desire, took hold of them; and said, That the ambassador might perceive ow that which he for his part partly imagined before: That considering in what hands the Duke of Brittaine was, there would be no peace but by a mixed treaty of force and persuasion: And therefore he would go on with the one, and desired the King not to desist from the other: But for his own part, he did faithfully promise to be still in the King’s power, to rule him in the matter of peace. This was accordingly represented unto the King by Urswick at this return. and in such a fashion as if the traty were in no sort desperate, but rather stayed for a better hour, till the hammer had wrought and beat the party of Brittaine more pliant; whereupon there passed continually packets and despatches between the two Kings, from the one out of desire, and from the other out of dissimulation, about the negotiation of peace. The French King meanwhile invaded Brittaine with great forces, and distressed the city of Nantes with a strait siege, and (as one who, though he had no great judgment, yet had that, that he could dissemble home) the more he did urge the prosecution of the war, the more he did at the same time urge the solicitation of the peace; insomuch as during the siege of Nantes, after many letters and particular messages, the better to maintain his dissimulation and to refresh the treaty, he sent Bernard Daubigny, a person of good quality, to the King, earnestly to desire him to make an end of the business howsoever.
[6.] The King was no less ready to revive and quicken the treaty; and thereupon sent three commissioners, the Abbot of Abingdon, Sir Richard Tunstall, and Chaplain Urwick formerly employed, to do their utmost endeavour to manage the treaty roundly and strongly.
7. About this time the Lord Woodvile (uncle to the Queen) a valiant gentleman and desirous of honour, sued to the King that he might raise some power of voluntaries under-hand, and without licence or passport (wherein the King might any ways appear) go to the aid of the Duke of Brittaine. The King denied his request, or at least seemed so to do, and laid straight commandment upon him that he should not stIr; for that the King thought his honour would suffer therein, during a treaty to better a party. Nevertheless this lord (either being unruly, or out of conceit that the King would not inwardly dislike that which he would not outwardly avow,) sailed secretly over into the Isle of Wight whereof he was governor, and levied a fair troop of four hundred men, and with them passed over into Brittaine, and joined himself with the Duke’s forces. The news whereof when it came to the French court, put divers young bloods into such a fury, as the English ambassadors were not without peril to be outraged. But the French King, both to preserve the privilege of ambassadors, and being conscious to himself that in the business of peace he himself was the greater dissembler of the two, forbad all injuries of fact or word against their persons or followers. And presently came an agent from the King to purge himself touching the Lord Woodvile’s going over, using for a principal argument to demonstrate that it was without his privity, for that the troops were so small, as neither had the face of a succour by authority nor could much advance the Briton affairs. To which message although the French King gave no full credit, yet he made fair weather with the King and seemed satisfied. Soon after the English ambassadors returned, having two of them been likewise with the Duke of Britaine and found things in no other terms than they were before. Upon their return they informed the King of the state of the affairs, and how far the French King was from any true meaning of peace, and therefore he was now to advise of some other course. Neither was the King himself led all this while with credulity merely, as was generally supposed. But his error was not so much facility of belief, as an ill-measuring of the forces of the other party.
[8.] For (as was partly touched before) the King had cast the business thus with himself. He took it for granted in his own judgment that the war of Brittaine, in respect of the strength of the towns and of the party, could not speedily come to a period. For he conceived that the counsel of a war that was undertaken by the French King (then childless) against an heir apparent of France, would be very faint and slow; and besides that it was not possible but that the state of France should be embroiled with some troubles and alterations in favour of the Duke of Orleans. He conceived likewise that Maximilian King of the Romans was a Prince warlike and poent, who he made account woud give succours to the Britons roundly. So then judging it would be a work of time, he laid his plot how he might best make use of that time for his own affairs. Wherein first he thought to make his vantage upon his Parliament, knowing that they being affectionate unto the quarrel of Brittaine would give treasure largely. Which treasure as a noise of war might draw forth, so a peace succeeding might coffer up. And because he knew his people were hot upon the business, he chose rather to seem to be deceived and lulled a-sleep by the French, than to be backward in himself; considering his subjects were not so fully capable of the reasons of state which made him hold back. Wherefore to all these purposes he saw no other expedient than to set and keep on foot a continual treaty of peace, laying it down and taking it up again as the occurrence required. Besides he had in consideration the point of honour, in bearing the blessed person of a pacificator. He thought likewise to make use of the envy that the French King met with by occasion of this war of Brittaine, in strengthening himself with new alliances; as namely that of Ferdinando of Spain, with whom he had ever a consent (even in nature and customs); and likewise with Maximilian, who was particularly interessed. So that in substance he promised himself money, honour, friends, and peace in the end. But those things were too fine to be fortunate and succeed in all parts; for that great affairs are commonly too rough and stubborn to be wrought upon by the finer edges or points of wit. The King was likewise deceived in his two main grounds. For although he had reason to conceive that the counsel of France would be wary to put the King into a war against the heir apparent of France; yet he did not consider that Charles was not guided by the principal of the blood or nobility, but by mean men, who would make it their master-piece of credit and favour to give venturous counsels which no great or wise men durst or would. And for Maximilian, he was thought then a greater matter than he was; his unstable and necessitous courses being not then known.
9. After consultation with the ambassadors, who brought him no other news than he expected before (though he would not seem to know it till then), he presently summoned his Parliament, and in open Parliament propounded the cause of Brittaine to both houses by his chancellor Morton Archbishop of Canterbury, who spoke to this effect.
10. “My lords and masters, the King’s Grace, our Sovereign Lord, hath commanded me to declare unto you the causes that have moved him at this time to summon this his Parliament; which I shall do in a few words; craving pardon of his Grace and you all, if I perform it not as I would.
11. “His Grace doth first of all let you know that he retaineth in thankful memory the love and loyalty shewed to him by you at your last meeting, in establishment of his royalty, freeing and discharging his partakers, and confiscation of this traitors and rebels; more than which could not come from subjects to their sovereigns in one action. This he taketh so well at your hands, as he hath made it a resolution to himself to communicate with so loving and well approved subjects in all affairs that are of public nature at home or abroad.
12. “Two therefore are the causes of your present assembling: the one of a foreign business; the other matters of government at home.
13. “The French King (as no doubt ye have heard) maketh at this present hot war upon the Duke of Brittaine. His army is now before Nantes, and holdeth it straightly beseiged, being the principal city, if not in ceremony and preeminence, yet in strength and wealth, of that duchy: ye may guess at his hopes, by his attempting of the hardest part of the war first. The cause of this war he knoweth best. He alledgeth the entertaining and succouring of the Duke of Orleans and some other French lords, whom the King taketh for his enemies. Others divine of other matters. Both parts have by their ambassadors divers times prayed the King’s aids; the French King, aids or neutrality; the Britons, aid simply; for so their case requireth. The King, as a Christian Prince and blessed son of the holy church, hath offered himself as a mediator to treat a epace between them. The French King yieldeth to treat, but will not stay the prosecution of the war. The Britons, that desire peace most, hearken to it least; not upon confidence or stiffness, but upon distrust of true meaning; seeing the war goes on. So as the King, after as much pains and care to effect a peace as ever he took in any business, not being able to remove the prosecution on the one side nor the distrust on the other caused by that prosecution, hath let fall the treaty; not repenting of it, but despairing of it now, as not likely to succeed. Therefore by this narrative you now understand the state of the question, whereupon the King prayeth your advice; which is no other, but whether he shall enter into an auxiliary and defensive war for the Britons against France?
14. “And the better to open your understandings in this affair, the King hath commanded me to say somewhat to you from him of the persons that do intervene in this business; and somewhat of the consequence thereof, as it hath relation to this kingdom; and somewhat of the example of it in general; making nevertheless no conclusion or judgment of any point, until his Grace hath received your faithful and politic advices.
15. “First for the King our sovereign himself, who is the principal person you are to eye in this business, his Grace doth profess that he truly and constantly desireth to reign in peace: but his Grace saith he will neither buy peace with dishonour, nor take it up at interest of danger to ensue; but shall think it a good change, if it please God to change the inward troubles and seditions wherewith he hath been hitherto exercised into an honourable foreign war.
16.“ And for the other two persons in this action, the French King, and the Duke of Brittaine, his Grace doth declare unto you, that they be the men unto whom he is of all other friends and allies most bounden; the one having held of him his hand of protection from the tyrant; the other having reached forth unto him his hand of help for the recovery of his kingdom; so that this affection toward them in his natural person is upon equal terms. And whereas you may have heard that his Grace was enforced to fly out of Brittaine into France for doubts of being betrayed; his Grace would not in any sort have that reflect upon the Duke of Brittaine in defacement of his former benefits; for that he is thoroughly informed that it was but the practice of some corrupt persons about him, during the time of his sickness, altogether without his consent or privity.
[17.] “But howsoever these things do interest his Grace in his particular, yet he knoweth well that the higher bond that tieth him to procure by all means the safety and welfare of his loving subjects, doth disinteress [dissociate] him of these obligations of gratitude, otherwise than thus; that if his Grace be foreced to make a war he do it without passion or ambition.
18. “For the consequence of this action towards this kingdom, it is much as the French King’s intention is. For if it be no more but to range his subjects to reason who bear themselves stout upon the strength of the Duke of Britaine, it is nothing to us. But if it be in the French King’s purpose, — or if it should not be in his purpose, yet if it shall follow all one as if it were sought, — that the French King shall make a province of Brittaine and join it to the crown of France; then it is worthy the consideration how this may import England, as well in the increasement of the greatness of France, as by the addition of such a country that stretcheth his boughs unto our seas, as in depriving this nation and leaving it naked of so firm and assured confederates as the Britons have always been. For then it will come to pass that, whereas not long since this realm was mighty upon the continent, first in territory and after in alliance, in respect of Burgundy and Brittaine, which were confederates indeed, but dependent confederates; now the one being already cast partly into the greatness of France and partly into that of Austria, the other is like wholly to be cast into the greatness of France; and this island shall remain confined in effect within the salt waters, and girt about with the coast countries of two mighty monarchs.
[19.] "For the example, it resteth likewise upon the same question, upon the French King’s intent. For if Brittaine be carried and swallowed up by France, as the world abroad (apt to impute and construe the actions of Princes to ambition) conceive it will, then it is an example very dangerous and universal, that the lesser neighbour estate should be devoured by the greater. For this may be the case of Scotland towards England; of Portugal towards Spain; of the smaller estates of Italy towards the greater; and so of Germany; or as if some of you of the commons might not live and dwell safely besides some of these great lords. And the bringing in of this example will be chiefly laid to the King’s charge, as to him that was most interested and most able to forbid it. But then on the other side there is so fair a pretext on the French King’s part (and yet pretext is never wanting to power) in regard the danger imminent to his own estate is such as may make this enterprise seem rather a work of necessity than of ambition, as doth in reason correct the danger of the example, for that the example of that which is done in a man’s own defence cannot be dangerous, because it is in another’s power to avoid it. But in all this business, the King remits himself to your grave and mature advice, whereupon he purposeth to rely.”
20. This was the effect of the Lord Chancellor’s speech touching the cause of Brittaine; for the King had commanded him to carry it so as to affect the Parliament towards the business; but without engaging the King in any express declaration.
21. The Chancellor went on: “For that which may concern the government at home, the King hath commanded me to say unto you; that he thinketh there was never any King (for the small time that he hath reigned) had greater and juster cause of the two contrary passions of joy and sorrow, than his Grace hath; joy, in respect of the rare and visible favours of Almighty God, in girting the impoerial sword upon his side, and assisting the same his sword against all his enemies, and likewise in blessing him with so many good and loving servants and subjects, which have never failed to give him faithful counsel, ready obedience, and courageouis defence; sorrow, for that it hath not pleased God to suffer him to sheath his sword (as he greatliy desired, otherwise than for administration of justice,) but that he hath been forced to draw it so oft, to cut off traitorous and disloyal subjects, whom it seems God hath left (a few amongst many good) as the Canaanites amongst the people of Isreal, to be thorns in their sides, to tempt and triy them; though the end hath been always (God’s name be blessed therefore) that the destruction hath fallen upon their own heads.
[22.] Wherefore his Grace saith that he seeth that it is not the blood spilt in the field that will save the blood in the city; nor the marshal’s sword that will set this kingdom in perfect peace: but that the true way is to stop the seeds of sedition and rebellion in their beginnings, and for that purpose to devise, confirm, and quicken good and wholesome laws against riots and unlawful assemblies of people and all combinations and confederacies of them by liveries, tokens, and other badges of factious dependence; that the peace of the land may by these ordinances, as by bars of iron, be soundly bound in and strengthened, and all force both in court, country, and private houses be supprest.
“The care hereof, which so much concerneth yourselves, and which the nature of the times doth instantly call for, his Grace commends to your wisdom.
23. “And because it is the King’s desire that this peace wherein he hopeth to govern and maintain you, do not bear only unto you leaves, for you to sit under the shade of them in safety, but also should bear you fruit of riches, wealth, and plenty; therefore his Grace prays you to take into consideration of matter of trade, as also the manufactures of the kingdom, and to repress the bastard and barren employment of moneys to usury and unlawful exchanges; that they may be (as their natural use is) turned upon commerce, and lawful and royal trading; and likewise that our people be set awork in arts and handicrafts, that the realm may subsist more of itself, that idleness be avoided, and the draining out of our treasure for foreign manufactures stopped. But you are not to rest here only, but to provide further that whatsoever merchandise shall be brought in from beyond the seas may be employed upon the commodities of this land; whereby the kingdom’s stock of treasure may be sure to be kept from being diminished by any overtrading of the foreigner.
24. “And lastly because the King is well assured that you would not have him poor that wishes you rich; he doubteth not but that you will have care, as well to maintain his revenews of customs and all other natures, as also to supply him with your loving aids, if the case shall so require: the rather for that you know the King is a good husband, and but a steward in effect for the public, and that what comes from you is but as moisture drawn from the earth, which gathers into a cloud and falls back upon the earth again; and you know well how the kingdoms about you grow more and more in greatness, and the times are stirring; and therefore not fit to find the King with an empty purse. More I have not to say to you, and wish that what hath been said had been better expressed: but that your wisdoms and good affections will supply. God bless your doings.”
25. It was no hard matter to dispose and affect the Parliament in this business; as well as in respect of the emulation between the nations, and the envy at the late growth of the French monarchy; as in regard of the danger to suffer the French to make their approaches upon England, by obtaining so goodly a maritime province, full of sea-towns and havens, that might do mischief to the English, either by invasion or by interruption of traffic.
The Parliament was also moved with the point of oppression; for although the French seemed to speak reason, yet arguments are ever with multitudes too weak for suspicions. Wherefore they did advise the King roundly to embrace the Britons’ quarrel, and to send them speedy aids; and with much alacrity and forwardness granted to the King a great rate of subsidy in contemplation of these aids. But the King, both to keep a decency towards the French King, to whom he profest himself to be obliged, and indeed desirous rather to show war than to make it, sent new solemn ambassadors to intimate unto him the decrees of his estates, and to iterate his motion that the French would desist from hostility; or if war must follow, to desire him to take it in good part, if at the motion of his people, who were sensible of the cause of the Britons as their ancient friends and confederates, he did send them succours; with protestations nevertheless that, to save all treaties and laws of friendship, he had limited his forces, to proceed in aid of the Britons, but in no wise to war upon the French, otherwise then as they maintained the possession of Brittaine. But before this formal ambassage arrived, the party of the Duke had received a great blow, and grew to manifest declination. For near the town of St. Alban in Brittaine a battle had been given, where the Britons were overthrown, and the Duke of Orleans and the Prince of Orange taken prisoners, there being slain on the Britons’ part six thousand men, and amongst them the Lord Woodvile, and almost all his solders, valiantly fighting. And of the French part, one thousand two hundred, with their leader James Galeot a great commander.
26. When the news of this battle came over into England, it was time for the King (who now had no subterfuge to continue further treaty, and saw before his eyes that Brittaine went so speedily for lost, contrary to his hopes, knowing also that with his people and foreigners both, he sustained no small envy and disreputation for his former delays,) to dispatch with all possible speed his succours into Brittaine; which he did under the conduct of Robert Lord Brooke, to the number of eight thousand, choice men and well armed; who having a fair wind, in a few hours landed in Brittaine, and joined themselves forthwith to those Briton forces that remained after the defeat, and marched straight on to find the enemy, and encamped fast by them. The French wisely husbanding the possession of a victory, and well acquainted with the courage of the English, especially when they are fresh, kept themselves within their trenches, being strongly lodged, and resolved not to give battle. But meanwhile to harass and weary the English, they did upon all advantages set upon them with their light horse; wherein nevertheless they received commonly loss, especially by means of the English archers.
27. But upon these achievements Francis Duke of Brittaine deceased; an accident that the King might easily have forseen, and ought to have reckoned upon and provided for; but that the point of reputation, when news first came of the battle lost, (that somewhat must be done) did overbear the reason of war.
28. After the Duke’s decease, the principal persons of Brittaine, partly bought, partly thro’ faction, put all things into confusion; so as the English not finding head or body with whom to join their forces, and being in jealousy of friends as well as in danger of enemies, and the winter begun, returned home five months after their landing. So the battle of St. Alban, the death of the Duke, and the retire of the English succours, were (after some time) the causes of the loss of that duchy; which action some accounted as a blemish of the King’s judgment, but most as the misfortune of his times.
29. But howsoever the temporary fruit of the Parliament in their aid and advice given for Brittaine, took not nor prospered not; yet the lasting fruit of Parliament, which is good and wholesome laws, did prosper, and doth yet continue till this day. For according to the Lord Chancellor’s admonition, there were that Parliament divers excellent laws ordained, concerning the points which the King recommended.
30. First, the authority of the Star-chamber, which before subsisted by the ancient common laws of the realm, was confirmed in certain cases by act of Parliament. This court is one of the sagest and noblest institutions of this kingdom. For in the distribution of courts of ordinary justice, (besides the high court of Parliament,) in which distribution the King’s bench holdeth the pleas of the crown; the Common-place, pleas civil; the Exchequer, pleas concerning the King’s revenew; and the Chancery, the Pretorian power for mitigating the rigour of law, in cases of extremity, by the conscience of a good man; there was nevertheless always reserved a high and preeminent power to the King’s counsel in causes that might in example or consequence concern the state of the commonwealth; which if they were criminal, the counsel used to sit in the chamber called the Star-chamber; if civil, in the white-chamber or White-hall. And as the Chancery had the Pretorian power for equity, so the Star-chamber had the Censorian power for offences under the degree of capital. This court of Star-chamber is compounded of good elements; for it consisteth of four kinds of persons; counsellors, peers, prelates, and chief judges: it discerneth also principally of four kinds of causes; forces, frauds, crimes various of stellionate, and the inchoations or middle acts towards crimes capital or hainous not actually committed or perpetrated. But that which was principally aimed at by this act was force, and the two supports of force, combination of multitude, and maintenance or headship of great persons.
31. From the general peace of the country the King’s care went on to the peace of the King’s house, and the security of his great officers and counsellors. But this law was somewhat of a strange composition and temper. That if any of the King’s servants under the degree of a lord, do conspire the death of any of the King’s counsel, or lord of the realm, it is made capital. This law was thought to be procured by the Lord Chancellor, who being a stern and haughty man, and finding he had some mortal enemies in court, provided for his own safety; drowning the envy of it in a general law, by communicating the privilege with all other counsellors and peers; and yet not daring to extend it further than to the King’s servants in check-roll, lest it should have been too harsh to the gentlemen and other commons of the kingdom, who might have thought their ancient liberty and the clemency of the laws of England invaded, if the will in any case of felony should be made the deed. And yet the reason which the act yieldeth (that is to say, that he that conspireth the death of counsellors may be thought indirectly and by a mean to conspire the death of the King himelf) is indifferent to all subjects as well as to servants in couirt. But it seemeth this sufficed to serve the Lord Chancellor’s turn at this time; but yet he lived to need a general law; for that he grew afterwards as odioius to the country as he was then to the court.
32. From the peace of the King’s house the King’s care extended to the peace of private houses and families; for there was an excellent moral law moulded thus: The taking and carrying away of women forcibly and against their will (except female wards and bondwomen) was made capital: the Parliament wisely and justly conceiving, that the obtaining of women by force into possession (howsoever afterwards assent might follow by allurements) was but a rape drawn forth in length, because the first force drew on all the rest.
33. There was made also another law for peace in general, and repressing of murders and manslaughters, and was in amendment of the common laws of the realm; being this: That wereas by the common law the King’s suit, in case of homicide, did expect the year and the day, allowing to the party’s suit by way of appeal; and that it was found by experience that the party was many times compounded with, and many times wearied with the suit, so that in the end such suit was let fall; and by that time the matter was in a manner forgotten, and thereby prosecution at the King’s suit by indictment (which is ever best flagrante crimine) neglected; it was ordained that the suit by indictment might be taken as well at any time within the year and the day as after; not prejudicing nevertheless the party’s suit.
34. The King begain also then, as well in wisdom as in justice, to pare a little the privilege of clergy; ordaining that clerks convict should be burned in the hand, — both because they might taste of some corporal punishement, and that they might carry a brand of infamy. But for this good act’s sake, the King himself was after branded by Perkin’s proclamation for an execrable breaker of the rites of holy church.
35. Another law was made for the better peace of the country, by which law the King’s officers and farmers were to forfeit their places and holds, in case of unlawful retainer or partaking in routs and unlawful assemblies.
36. These were the laws that were made for repressing of force, which those times did chiefly require; and were so prudently framed as they are found fit for all succeeding times, and so continue to this day.
37. There were also made good and politic laws that Parliament against usury, which is the bastard use of money; and against unlawful chievances and exchanges, which is baastard usury; and also for the security of the King’s customs; and for the employment of the procedures of foreign commodities, brought in by merchants strangers, upon the native commodities of the realm; together with some other laws of less importance.
Go to Chapter IV