Page images

plied him with material which he used in such wise as best suited his purpose. He has also drawn some few matters from Sir Thomas More's1 History of the Life and Death of King Edward V, and of the usurpation of Richard III." Bacon must also have made some use of the manuscript treasures of Sir Robert Cotton, even though under the sentence which was imposed upon him he was excluded from London. The result proves abundantly how much greater was the genius which he brought to his labour than that of any of his predecessors in the field of historical labour. But it is clear that with materials of such a character, and so irregularly and imperfectly collected, the same correctness of statements is not to be looked for as might fairly be expected when Rymer has made all the texts of treaties and details of negotiation easily accessible, and the Calendars of State Papers form trusty guide through the maze of conflicting statements. In several places in the notes such errors as have, from this want of trustworthy information, found their way into the text of Bacon's History, have been noticed, but the details of Henry VIIth's connection with France and Brittany, and the character of his intervention history down to the year 1532. It was not published till 1548, the year after the death of the author, and had been completed by Grafton.

5 Richard Grafton produced in 1569 what he calls A Chronicle at large and meere History of the affayres of Englande and Kinges of the same, deduced from the Creation of the worlde, &c." Grafton had more facilities than his contemporaries for the production of his works, for he was a printer as well as an author.

John Stow (1525—1605) was a most diligent, accurate, and impartial recorder of public events. He, like Speed, was a tailor, but his decided turn for antiquarian research soon asserted its power, and he abandoned his trade, and is said to have travelled on foot through a large part of England for the purpose of a personal inspection of the historical treasures of the cathedrals and large libraries. He published a Summary of English Chronicles” and “A Survey of London,” which latter is the best known of his works. He wrote, but was never able to publish, a large Chronicle or History of England. He fell into great poverty towards the end of his life.

1 Sir Thomas More (1478—1535), the famous author of the Utopia, and the friend of Colet and Erasmus. Afterwards he was made Lord Chancellor, and was put to death for his religious opinions along with Bishop Fisher.


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


in support of the Duke of Brittany, seem to need more comment to put them in their true light than could be given in a note.

It was late in the summer of 1487 that the ambassadors of Charles VIII came to England to pray for the King's assistance for France against Brittany, or at least that he would stand neutral.” Now it is to be noted that in Bacon's account of the king's reply it is stated that he was utterly unwilling to enter into war with France.” It is probable that the reason for this unwillingness is to be discovered in the entries in the Calendar of Patent Rolls for this third year of the king's reign. We find there notices of preparation (Feb. 1487--8) of forces against the King's enemies congregating on the sea.

Now that the danger apprehended was connected with Ireland we may gather from subsequent entries where mention is made (May 25th) of those who “come from Ireland to treat on matters concerning the sound rule of peace in that land,” and at the same place is found a list of general pardons for Irishmen. So that Henry's mind was full of his own affairs at the time of the French embassy. But he sent Urswick over to France and to Brittany likewise, and as Bacon's narrative represents the story (p. 49), it was after the mission of Urswick that the siege of Nantes took place. But we know now that the siege of Nantes was commenced on June 19th, 1487 (only three days after the battle of Stoke), and raised on the 6th of August following, at which time the King was too busily concerned with his own disturbed realm either to receive or send ambassadors to France. We see therefore that when the French ambassadors did come Henry would be aware that the French had just before been compelled to raise the siege of Nantes, and might be pardoned for supposing that the strength of Brittany was sufficient to hold out for some time, and that therefore there would be an opportunity for negotiations so as to conclude the difficulty without engaging England in a war, for which, owing to recent troubles, she was little fit.

Lord Woodville's crossing into Brittany, which we know from the Paston Letters (May, 1488) the king had countermanded, took place in time for the small succours, which that nobleman brought with him, to be present at the battle of St Aubin, July 28th, 1488. But these were the only English engaged in the cause of Brittany up to that date, and by the treaty of Verger (21 Aug., 1488) hostilities between France and Brittany were brought to a close.

It was in the following November, after keeping his All Hallow-tide at Windsor” (see Herald's narrative, Cott. MSS. Jul. XII. fol. 49, quoted by Mr Spedding), that Henry summoned not a parliament, as stated in the text (p. 53), but a great council at Westminster, to debate on what was to be done in the inatter of Brittany. For the duke of Brittany had died on Sept. 9th, 1488, and Charles's claim of wardship now began to be asserted over the young duchess Anne. We find from Rymer (XII. 347 seqq.) that ambassadors were sent in December after this great council to France, Brittany, Spain, and Flanders, and Henry's third parliament met Jan. 13th, 1488—9, and voted supplies for the succour of Brittany. It seems therefore that the result of the battle of St Aubin, which had upset all Henry's calculations about the power of Brittany, ended the first part of the war of France against that duchy, and in that Henry had taken no active part, and it was not until the death of the Duke that any new claim was put forward by Charles, and then Henry felt that he must prepare for the helping of Brittany. The speech therefore put into the mouth of Chancellor Morton as uttered at the great council in November (p. 53) is wrongly conceived. The army of the French king was not before Nantes, but making its way through Brittany, and taking town after town by way of enforcing Charles's claim to be the guardian of the young Duchess. This, Bacon, misled by Polydore, did not know, and so could not put into the mouth of his speaker.

The statement likewise (p. 60) about the sending of new solemn ambassadors to France just at the time of the battle of St Aubin is another error. These ambassadors (Urswick and Frion being members of the embassy) were sent Dec. ith, 1488, to treat about terms between France and England and

[ocr errors]

Brittany, a course needful enough for the succour of the duchy, and preparatory to the sending of an army if nothing came of the embassy.

All the account therefore (pp. 60—61) of Henry's conduct in sending succours to Brittany immediately after the battle of St Aubin, which succours came too late, and returned almost immediately, is entirely incorrect. No English troops, except those with Lord Woodville, had been sent at all, nor was Henry in a position to send any till the commencement of the next year, when he did dispatch a force, which arrived in Brittany in April, 1489, and was acting in behalf of the duchy, while other English succours were engaged in Flanders in the cause of Maximilian. We learn also from Rymer (XII. 337) that in the August of that year reinforcements were being sent to these troops in France, and that commissions were issued for raising soldiers “ destined for Brittany” may be seen from the Calendar of Patent Rolls for the 14th, 15th, and 16th of August, 1489. The effect of these double operations of English troops in Flanders and Brittany was that Charles consented to make peace with Maximilian at the treaty of Frankfort, and agreed thereby to give back to Brittany all the towns which had been taken since the death of the Duke, and to this treaty Anne of Brittany gave her acceptance in Nov., 1489. During all this time the project of marriage between Maximilian and Anne was maintained, and it was probably about this period that the proxy marriage (see p. 77) took place; and had Maximilian really taken the Duchess to wife, as he might have done, there would have been an end to Charles's scheme of annexing Brittany to the French crown. But taking advantage of the remissness of the Archduke, Charles effected by marriage what he had not been able to achieve by war.

It was in the winter of this year 1489-90 that the commissioners from France came to England and made the propositions contained in the speech recorded on pp. 79 seqq., in consequence of which Henry appears to have made up his mind that he must go to war with France, and during the whole of that year he was busily engaged in levying troops and forming

[ocr errors]

a confederation with Maximilian and Ferdinand and Isabella to make actual war against Charles if he should invade them or the territories of the duchess of Brittanył. Public proclamation of this convention was made in England, on 17th Sept., 1490. Now it was not till 6th Dec., 1491, that Charles married Anne, and so brought matters to an end, so far as the possession of Brittany was concerned. The proceedings of the year and a quarter which intervened between these two dates seem to have been somewhat as follows. The Duchess on the strength of the proxy marriage, and in consequence of the convention just mentioned, assumed the title of Queen of the Romans (cf. D'Argentré, XIII. 57), and this caused Charles, from whom all knowledge of the marriage had been kept secret, to determine on taking some decisive step. He renewed the hostilities which had been suspended since the treaty of Frankfort, and in February, 1490—1, made himself master of the town of Nantes, the siege of which on a former occasion he had been obliged to raise. (See Rymer, 12 June, 1490, for an account of the commencement of this second investment of the town.) The tidings of this new movement on the part of the French king roused Maximilian to send his embassy (see p. 89) to England, and in the middle of the year 1491 Henry called not a parliament, as it seems, but, in accordance with a former precedent, a great Council as precursor of a parliament (for the parliament proper did not meet till 17th October, 1491), and to them he made his speech about his intention to go to war with France. The subsidies needful seem to have been voted (conditionally no doubt) by this assembly, for a commission for levying them exists dated 7th July, 1491. The narrative of Bacon is easily intelligible from this point (p. 93). The parliament when it assembled was in every sense merely a war parliament. The troops prepared were sent over as described,

1 For the numerous authorities which may be cited in evidence of the activity of Henry in his preparations for war with France, see Spedding, vi, 110, to whose guidance for an explanation of these even the editor desires here to make very full acknowledgment. Mr Spedding's notes leave little to be said on points connected with the elucidation of the history.

« PreviousContinue »