church for a divorce; and alleged the above reason in support of his demand. A council of prelates was accordingly held; which, avoiding the discussion of so delicate a question, found a simpler mode of acceding to the king's request. They discovered that Eleanor and her husband were cousins within the prohibited degrees, and they therefore pronounced the marriage null and void. The lady, accordingly, the marriage tie being dissolved, set off to return into her own dominions. In her passage thither, she narrowly escaped marriage by force, two or three different times, from the gallant and loyal barons, through whose territories she passed. She was once imprisoned, and once, by a sudden change of route, escaped abduction; the flaw in her character being thus, as it would seem, overlooked, in consideration of her rich and extensive dower. She resisted, however, this approved method of wooing, (one of the suitors who employed it was Henry's younger brother,) and at last arrived safely at Poitiers, the capital of her minor state. It was hither that Henry, who had not yet succeeded to the crown of England, came to try his fortune as a lover, and returned with the duchess as his bride into Normandy. For political, as well as personal, reasons, Louis had opposed this marriage. Henry was already duke of Normandy; he was the heir-apparent (his father being still alive) to the counties of Anjou and Touraine,—and the countries belonging to Eleanor, completed (with the exception of Brittany), the whole of western France, from the borders of Picardy to the Pyrenees. The possessions of Louis himself were in no degree equal to these. They were less in point of extent, and still more inferior in wealth, commerce, and civilisation. In point of fact, the French king possessed, at that time, nothing to the south of the Loire. He had, it is true, a suzerainty over the greater number of the various petty potentates, among whom that fine country was divided ;-but it was little more than nominal, and frequently resisted and disputed, even to that limited extent. In the present instance, Louis endeavoured to exert, if not to stretch, the rights of a suzerain over a vassal—by commanding Henry not to marry without his consent. But as the practical extent of these rights was usually commensurate with the power of the respective parties, Henry paid no sort of attention to this mandate;—but, having married Eleanor, did homage to the French king for the possessions which he had gained through her. To the inhabitants of Aquitaine, this change of husbands, on the part of their duchess, was by no means displeasing. It seems to have been the universal line of policy of the petty independencies, in the south of France, to endeavour to ally themselves as much as possible with potentates at a distance from their frontiers, and to shun connection with those in nearer neighbourhood. They felt that their liberties, even their distinctive existence, were likely to merge in a great neighbouring power, while from a distant ruler they had nothing of this kind to fear; and he, at the same time, would be able to protect them from encroachments on the former part, and would have a personal finterest in doing so. Thus, therefore, the Aquitains,—however they might have preferred a chief born among themselves, —received with pleasure rather than otherwise, the assumption by Henry of the title and powers of duke, which, according to the customs of the time, his late marriage entitled him to assume. Not long after this event, Henry became Count of Anjou, by the death of his father; on the condition, however, (to which he swore), of yielding it to his younger brother Geoffrey, as soon as he succeeded to the English crown. This stipulation he never fulfilled; but, exercising the right of the strongest, he retained the in

heritance of his brother by force; after whose death, he still further extended his possessions in France, by the acquisition of Brittany. This originated in the pretended right of Henry to the small county of Nantes; which, detaching itself from Celtic Brittany, of which it had been only a forced appendage, had called Geoffrey of Anjou, the dispossessed brother, to be their Count. As the inheritance of this very brother, did Henry claim Nantes and its territory;-and by getting his foot into this stirrup, did he ultimately ride supreme over Brittany altogether. Thus did he become possessed of the whole western coast of France, south of Picardy; and this was the zenith of the English power on the continent, previously to the time of Henry W. But, though the inhabitants of Aquitaine preferred the alliance of the English to that of the French king, they still looked back with regret to the times when they were governed by one of their own nation, chosen by themselves—to the times, in a word, of their national independence. To regain this they made several struggles: especially, they took advantage of the dissension between Henry II. and his sons, to further this purpose. The county of Poitou, which had been a part of Eleanor's dowry, as well as Aquitaine, had already been given to prince Richard, and the Aquitains more than once placed him at their head, in their revolts against his father. The repeated revolts, however, which took place in Aquitaine, during the latter part of the reign of Henry IL, did not take it from under subjection to the English crown. On the contrary, it was destined to remain attached to our kings, after their old inheritance of Normandy was wrested from them, and incorporated with France. The immediate cause of this loss was the death of Arthur of Brittany. Normandy, in despite of the many points of collision which existed between it and France, properly so called, became amalgamated with it in a period singularly short. Before half a century had elapsed, the feelings of the Normans were completely identified with those of the French, and became entirely sundered and foreign from their ancient brethren on the other side of the channel. But Aquitaine still remained. Poitou, indeed, passed under the power of the Freuch king; but further it did not extend. One of the most important of the many errors which arise, in reading the history of early times, from giving modern signification to words, is with reference to the kingdom of France. Even at the period of which I am treating, the beginning of the 13th century, it was only slowly, and by degrees, extending itself to the south of the Loire. When Philip Augustus embarked for Palestine, France, strictly so called, did not possess a single port in the Mediterranean; nay, it did not reach to within many leagues of it. By the death of Arthur and the forfeiture of John, Poitou was now added to Philip's dominions; and as they thus adjoined Aquitaine, the people of the latter country, true to the principle I have more than once alluded to, adhered the more closely to England, in consequence of the nearer neighbourhood of France. During the reign of Henry III, there seems to have been but slight variation in the state of Aquitaine; and its affairs seem to have gone on very peaceably from this time till, in the middle of the subsequent reign, when Edward I. was immersed in his Scottish projects, Philip the Bold took advantage of a quarrel between the crews of a French and an English vessel, near Bayonne, to prosecute the ambitious views which the kings of France had long had upon Aquitaine. He accordingly sent a citation to Edward to appear before him at Paris, as his vassal for the duchy of Aquitaine, to answer for the outrages committed by his Gascon subjects. With this Edward did not choose to comply ; but he sent his brother Edmund, earl of Lancaster, to Paris, to negociate on the subject. Philip, however, who was exceedingly irritated,

would listen to no reasonable terms; and the earl had already set off on his return to England, when the two queens (consort and mother) interposed, and, through their active mediation, finally accomplished a pacification. This business was one of the few in which Edward I. was foiled. He was, indeed, completely overreached, by a piece of bad faith on the part of the French king, quite as flagrant as any of those for which his own father had been so notorious. Philip, alleging that he had real cause of grievance against the Gascons, for their conduct towards his subjects, it was agreed that, to save the point of honour, the duchy should be yielded up into his hands; in consideration of which it should be immediately restored. As soon, however, as the French king had obtained possession, all restoration was flatly refused; and a war, in consequence, ensued, with various fluctuations of success—which was concluded by the matters in dispute being referred to the arbitration of the pope. The pope ultimately decreed, [A.D. 1299), “I. That king Edward, being then a widower, should marry the French king's sister Margaret. II. That prince Edward, the king's eldest son, should, at a convenient time, marry the lady Isabel, the French king's daughter; and, III. That the king of England should make reparation for the French ships taken at the beginning of the war, and that sundry towns in Gascony should be put into the pope's hands, that it might be understood unto whom the right appertained.” But this last article remained little better than a dead letter—the French king refusing to give up the towns which he held, and Edward, consequently, not paying compensation for the ships. About two years afterwards, however, the French king and the pope quarrelling, the former feared that the pontiff would excite Edward to make war upon him, on account of the retention of Gascony, and he accordingly yielded it up at once into his hands. The town of Bourdeaux had, shortly before, driven out the French ; and now, of their own accord, returned under the government of the English, to whom, at all times, they showed particular attachment. In the reign of Edward II, another somewhat similar attempt was made to deprive England of her sway in Aquitaine, arising, like the former, from the anomalous claims of suzerainty over an independent monarch. Upon the refusal of Edward, grounded upon some irregularity of the summons, the French king sent a considerable army into the south, which took possession of the Agenois, and threatened the whole duchy of Aquitaine. After considerable negociations the queen was sent over to her brother, to endeavour to bring matters to an amicable issue ; and it was ultimately agreed that the king of England should cede his continental dominions, consisting of the duchy of Aquitaine and the county of Ponthieu, to his eldest son, who should do homage for them to the French king; but that if the young prince died before his father, these territories should then revert to him. Thus Edward III. became possessed of these French dominions before he succeeded to the throne of England. The great contest that ensued for the succession to the French crown, gave an entirely new complexion to the nature of the king's dominions on the continent; and, in this place, they come very prominently forward upon the surface of our national history. The main interest, indeed, of that history lies, with a few intervening exceptions, in its foreign wars, for upwards of a century from this period. For, it is not until the ultimate expulsion of the English, in the reign of Henry VI., that the curtain can be considered as having finally fallen upon the great drama begun at the accession of Philip de Valois. In order distinctly to lay before the reader the order of descent from which the claim of Edward III. to the throne of France arose, I subjoin a table which will, I think, make it more clear than any verbal detail:—


[ocr errors]

,-- - Charles, | o: de Louis Hutin Philip the Long Charles the Fair Isabel, vaious king of France; ; Franco: King of France; married to his brotherdied in 1316. died in 1321. l died in 13.8 i #. # Philip di eaving an only o n nil. 111p de r—- daughter who had o Walois. no issue. Jane, married Joan married Margaret, Edward Ill. to Philip, Count to Eudes IV., married of Evreux. Duke of to Louis, Count

Burgundy. of Flanders. Charles, called the Bad, King Philip, Count Louis, of Mâle, of Navarre, of Artois, born Ceunt of Flanders,

born 1332. in 1332. born 1330.

Edward III. at first grounded his claim upon his being the male nearest in blood to the last king, who was capable of succeeding—he being his nephew, and Philip de Valois his cousin-german. According to the phraseology in which the dispute was conducted, he claimed not by right of representation (i.e., as representing his mother) but by right of proximity. The objections to this confused mode of argument appear to me to be unanswerable. Edward's right was derived through his mother; his claim, therefore, in fact, rested on his being grandson to Philip the Fair, (father of the three last kings), and consequently his heir in preference to his nephew. The first objection set up against this was the celebrated Salic law—which excluded females from succession to the crown of France. It being evident, however, that if the right of female succession were established, the daughters of any of the three last kings would have a claim preferable to his own, Edward admitted the authenticity of the Salic Law, as far as it regarded the exclusion of females themselves; but he alleged that this was on account of “the natural imbecility of their sex,” and did not apply to their heirs, though it did to themselves. To this was opposed the almost universal usage of feudal inheritance; and the doctrine that no person could transmit a right which was not vested in himself. The extreme confusion that would arise from such a preposterous principle of succession is demonstrated by the circumstances of the present case. According to this doctrine, Edward would have succeeded to the French crown in 1328, on the death of Charles the Fair; but he would have been superseded by Louis of Mâle, who was born in 1330, of Margaret, second daughter of Philip the Long-who again must have given place to his cousin Philip, Count of Artois, the son of Philip's eldest daughter—who, in the very year of his birth, must have yielded to Charles of Navarre, the grandson through a female of Louis Hutin, the last king who had inherited through a direct male line ! A reference to the foregoing table will set this before the reader at a glance. Recent circumstances, also, had served to give peculiar force to the Salic Law. From Hugh Capet to Louis Hutin, the crown had descended from father to son through eleven generations. At his death, his queen was left pregnant; and his brother was appointed to the regency, in order to await the birth of the infant, that its sex might be ascertained. The queen produced a boy: but he died at the expiration of a few days; and Philip the Long was then declared king. In the interim (17th July, 1316) a council, at which all the princes of the blood and the great barons assisted, determined that, if the queen bore a female, the crown of France descended of right to Philip the Long ; but that that of Navarre would belong to Jane, daughter of Louis Hutin, as females were not excluded from that crown.

Notwithstanding this, on the death of the infant son of the queen, the Duke of Burgundy, who was maternal uncle to Jane, protested against Philip being crowned,

until his niece's claims had been investigated—although he had himself coincided in the decision of the council. Philip the Long, however, to set the question for ever at rest, convoked an assembly of all the great nobles of the state, including the bishops, and the University of Paris. This was held on the 2nd of February, 1317; when it was unanimously decided, “That the laws and the customs inviolably observed among the French, excluded females from the crown.” To this decision the Duke of Burgundy and the Count de la Marche, (afterwards king, as Charles IV. or Le Bel) who had joined in his former remonstrance, subscribed. Philip the Long also died without male issue; and his brother, Charles the Fair, succeeded without opposition. He also died, leaving only a daughter, and his widow pregnant. It was now that the claim of Edward III. was first brought forward. For, as it was intended to appoint to the regency the prince who would succeed in the event of the queen bearing a daughter, Edward asserted that that person was himself. He sent, in consequence, ambassadors to Paris, who pleaded his cause, before the peers of France, in a solemn hearing of the cause, when the regency was conferred upon Philip of Valois. The queen was delivered of a daughter—and Philip then succeeded to the crown. Some months after this accession, Edward did homage to Philip as King of France, for his Duchy of Aquitaine—thereby acknowledging the right of that prince. He was, at that time, engaged in wars with Scotland, and was also very young, and but recently seated on the throne. When, therefore, he assumed the title of King of France, in 1339, he pleaded these circumstances as having enforced his previous submission. We will admit for a moment the excuse of present necessity (the excuse of all others to be admitted with the most jealousy) for this acknowledgment, —and still upon his own showing, and indeed upon each and every view of the question the right of Edward was utterly null and futile. Admitting the Salic Law fully, Philip was the rightful heir ; denying it fully, Jane, the daughter of Louis Hutin—and the two last kings had been usurpers;–admitting it partially, (to the exclusion namely of females, but not of their male heirs) Charles of Navarre, who, at that time, was seven years old. As for the jargon of proximity, without tracing whence that proximity arose, it is a principle too extravagant even to be discussed ; and, indeed, the case was really argued on the ground of females transmitting their rights, as before stated. Surely, therefore, it is clear that there never was a claim less founded than that of Edward III. to the crown of France. Wnolly untenable, however, as it was, perhaps no other recorded in history ever occasioned such long and such bloody wars.


The English army, after ravaging and plundering through Normandy, had advanced near to Paris, as if to threaten the capital; when suddenly it turned and retreated in the direction of Ponthieu, which, as well as Aquitaine, now belonged to the English king. He was followed by an immense army, commanded by Philip le Valois himself. The English, in their route, had to cross the river Somme, a difficult matter, as the bridges were all cut down, with two or three exceptions only, and these, with the fords, were strongly guarded. At the ford of Blanchtache, however, after a spirited battle they forced their way, just in time to avoid an attack by Philip, at the head of his overwhelming forces. The French king, however, soon found that it was the position, and not the attack, that was objected to. That night the English king lay in the fields with his host, and “made a supper to all his chief lords of his host and made them good cheer, And when they were all departed to


« ForrigeFortsett »