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CHAPTER

VI.

TIIE SUCCESSION TO THE CROW.X.

The English Tue elective character of the old English kingship, but
kingship
clective, with the choice exclusively limited, under all ordinary cir-
both before cumstances, to the members of one royal house, has been
and after the
Conquest. already discussed in a previous chapter.' The Nor-

man Conquest introduced a new dynasty, and a more com-
prehensive idea of royalty, combining both the national and
feudal theories of sovereignty ; but it effected no legal
change in the nature of the succession to the crown.
Election by the National Assembly was still necessary to
confer an inchoate right to become King-a right subse-
quently perfected by the ecclesiastical ceremony of inunc-
tion and coronation. So strongly marked was the elective
character of the kingly office that, even after the choice of
the Nation had been once made, the form of election was
again gone through by the clergy and people assembled in

!

Supra, p. 27, 32-34.
. On the origin of coronation and unction see Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 144,
145. The ancient English kings were both crowned with a helmet and
anointed. The ceremony was understood as bestowing the divine ratification
on the election that had preceded it, and as typifying rather than conveying the
spiritual gifts for which prayer was made. That it was regarded as conveying
any spiritual character, or any special ecclesiastical prerogative, there is nothing
to show : rather from the facility with which crowned kings could be set aside
and new ones put in their place, without any objection on the part of the
bishops, the exact contrary may be inferred. That the powers that be are or-
dained of God, was a truth recognized as a niotive to obedience, without any
suspicion of the doctrine, so falsely imputed to churchmen of all ages, of the
indefeasible sanctity of royalty. The statements of Allen (Prerogative, p. 22)
on this point are very shallow and unfair. To attribute tbe ideas of the seven-
teenth century to the ages of S. Ciregory, Anselm, and Decket seems an excess
ut absurdity,'Thid. p. 146.

the church at the coronation. The doctrine of the hercdi- Growth of

the doctrine tary descent of the crown gradually grew up, as the terri

or hereditary torial idea of kingship superseded the personal idea,' during right. the two centuries after the Conquest. As the king of the English developed into the King of England, the feudal lord of the land, the kingdom came to be regarded by kings and courtiers as the private possession of the Sorcreign, to be enjoyed for his own personal profit ; and by degrees the feudal lawyers, arguing from a false analogy, applied to the Crown the same principles of strict hereditary right which had already begun to regulate the descent of a private inheritance. But the forms of clection and coronation still continucil, and periodically, as the throne became vacant on the death of cach surcrcizn. bore witness to the fallacy of this legal theory: Edward II., who succeeded in 1307, was the first king whose reign was datud from the day following the death of his predecessor. In him, then, the principle of hereditary right appeared to have finally triumphed over the old elective system. But the true nature of the Crown as an office or trust, and the continuing right of the Nation to regulate the succession to it, were signally re-asserted not twenty years later, by the formal deposition of this unfortunate King. This per

3

! See Maskell, Jonumenta Ritualia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, vol. iii. ; Freeman, Norm. Conq. iii. 44, 623. • Supra, p. 44.

John was the first who called himself. Rex Ingliae ' on his great seal; all his predecessors had been 'Kings of the English.'

+ If the descendants of the Conqueror had succeedled one another by the ordinary rule of inheritance, there can be no doubt but that the forms as well as the reality of ancient liberty would have perished. Owing to the necessity, however, under which each of them lay, of making for himself a title in default of hereditary right, the ancient framework was not set aside ; and perfunctory as to a great extent the forms of election and coronation were, they did not lose such real importance as they had possessed earlier, but furnished an important acknowledgment of the rights of the nation, as well as a recognition of the ciuties of the king. The crown, then, continues to be elective : the form of coronation is duly performed : the oath of good government is taken, and the promises of the oath are exemplifieri in the form of charters. ... The recog. nition of the king by the people was effected by the formal acceptance at the coronation of the person whom the national council had elected, by the acts of homage and feally performed by the tenants-in-chief, and by the general oath of allegiance imposed upon the whole people, and taken by every freeman once at least in his life.'--Stubbs, Const. Ilist. i. 338, 339.

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sistence of the national right to choose the Sovereign, the same in principle whether applied to the individual King or to the sclected dynasty, we shall now consider somewhat

niore in detail. William the We have secn how William the Norman found little dif. Conqueror, A.D. 1066.' ficulty; immediately after the Battle of llastings, in pro

curing his clection by the terrified Witan. After taking the ancient oath of the English kings, constituting a compact with the nation to govern with justice and equity, he

was duly crowned at Westminster by the Archbishop of Accession or lork! On his death-bed the Conqueror bequeathed to William Kufus, A.D.

his eldest surviving son, Robert, the patrimonial Duchy of 1087. Normandy. The Crown of England he would not attempt

to bequeath, declaring that he held it not by hereditary right; he left the succession to the clecision of God. He expressed, however, his ardent wislı that his younger and favourite son William should succeed to the kingship of the English, in much the same way as formerly Eadward the Confessor had recominended his brother-in-law Harold." Furnished with a recommendatory letter from his father to Archbisliop Lanfranc, as the licad of the litenagemut, William Rufus at once hastened to England. Here he was obliged to make a triple promise, -to rule his future subjects with justice, cquity, and mercy, to protect the rights and privileges of the Church, and to conform to the Primate's counsels in all things—before Lanfranc would declare in his favour. Having secured this powerful supporter, he was elected King at a meeting of the prelates and barons, in the third week after his father's death, and

immediately crowned with the usual solemnities. IIenry I.

On the death of William Rufus in the New Forest, on the 2nd of August, 1100, his younger brother Henry, being ciose at hand, and having secured the royal treasure, was

A.D. I 100.

Supra, p. 47:
2 eminem Anglici regni constituo haeredem, sed aeterno Conditori Cujus
sum et in Cujus manu sunt omnia illud commendo : non enim tantum decus
hereditario jure possedi.'--Ordericus Vital. vii. 15.

3 Order. Vital. vii. 15, 16.
* Eadmer, Hist. Nov. lib. i. p. 13; Chron. A. Sax. 192 ; Lingard, ii. 76.

hastily elected King the following day at Winchester. But, although the election was the hurried act of a small number of the barons, it was something more than a mere form. The claims of Henry's absent elder brother, Robert the Crusader, were advanced and discussed. They rested not merely on priority of birth, but upon the wishes of the late King, expressed in the arrangement which he had made with Duke Robert, at Cacn, in town, that cacii should be hcir to the other in case of his dying childless. Ultimately the arguments of the Earl of Warwick gained a decision in Henry's favour;. and two days afterwards (Aug. 3) he was crowned at l'estminster, by Maurice, Bishop of London, and took tlie ancient coronation oath of the English kings. In the Charter of Liberties, which he issued at the same time, he announces to the nation his coronation · Dei miscricordiâ et communi consilio baronum totius regni Angliac.'' The male line of the Conqueror became extinct on the Stephen.

A.D. 1135. death of Henry I. The late King had endeavoured to secure the crown to his own offspring, first by inducing tlic baronage to do homage and fealty to his son William, and, after the untimely death of the Etheling, by exacting, on three separate occasions, an oath from the prelates and barons to acknowledge the Empress Matilda as his suc

This was a stretch of the King's constitutional

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A. D.

i Wiiliam Rufus 'was slain on a Thursday and buried the next morning ; and after he was buried, the Witan, who were then near at hand, chose his brother Henry as King, and he forthwith gave the bislopric of Winchester to William Giffard, and then went to London.'-Chron. A. Sax. ..D. 1100.

I100. Occiso vero rege Willelmo. (Henricus) in regem electus est, aliquantis tamen ante controversiis inter proceres agitatis atque sopitis, annitente maxime comite Warwicensi Henrico.'— Will. Malmes. Gesta Regum, 1. § 393.

3. The exact words of the oath, agreeing with the ancient form used at the coronation of King Ethelred II. have been preserved : 'In Cliristi nomine promitto haec tria populo Christiano mihi subdito. In primis me praeceptu. run et opem pro viribus impensurum ut ecclesia Dei et omnis populus Christianus veram pacem nostro arbitrio in omni tempore servet ; aliud ut rapacitates et omnes iniquitates omnibus gradibus interdicam ; tertium ut in omnibus jucliciis aequitatem et misericordiam praecipiam, ut mihi et vobis indulgeat suam misericordiam clemens et misericors Deus.'— Maskell, Mon. Rit. iii. 5, 6; Select Chart. 95.

4 Thorpe, Ancient Laws and Institutes, 215.

powers; and the attempt to bind men's consciences more firmly by the triple repetition of the oath would seem to indicate his own distrust. A recommendation to the nation was all he could lawfully give, and it was a moot point whether even this recommendation had not been withdrawn on his death-bed.? Morcover, a woman was incapable of performing the martial duties which then appertained to royalty, and the acceptance of the Empress Matilda practically meant subjcction to the rule of her husband. Geoffrcy of Anjou-a man obnoxious to the Normans as an Angevin, to both English and Sormans as a foreigner. On the third occasion when fealty had been sworn to the Empress, her infant son, afterwards Henry II., was joined with her, and was nominated by his grandfather to be king after him. But, as the child was little more than two years old when the throne becainc vacant by Henry's death, he was clearly ineligible. Such being the position of affairs, the prompt action of Stephen of Blois, Count of Mortain and Boulogne," lis personal popularity with the men of London and Winchester, and the great influence of his brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester, cnsured his election and coronation. To call him a usurper is an abuse of the terin. His clection, like that of his uncle, Henry I., was, indeed, somewhat irregular, few only of the magnates having been present :' but the paucity of magnates was counterbalanced by the presence and support of the citizens of London, who might fairly

I Gesta Stephani, p. 7.

: Cont. Flor. Wig. App. “Volente igitur Gaufrido comite cum uxore sua, quae haeres erat, in regnum succeclere, primores terrae, juramenti sui maie recordantes rigem eum suscipere noluerunt, dicentes “ Alienigena non regnabit super nos:" initoque consilio, Stephano comiti . . . coronam regni imposuerunt.'- Select Chart. 110.

3 Stephen was a younger son of Stephen, Count of Blois, by Adela, daughter or William the Conqueror. His wife, Vatilda, was the daughter and leiress of Eustace, Count of Boulogne, by Vary, younger sister of Matilda, wife of Henry I. and niece of Eadgar Etheling.

Will. Malmes. Hist. Nov. i. 3 . 5 «Coronatus est ergo in regem Angliae Stephanus . . . tribus episcopis praesentibus, archiepiscopo, Wintoniensi, Salisberiensi, nullis abbatibus, paucissimis optimatibus.'-Ibid. loc. cit.

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