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THE REIGN OF HENRY THE SECOND.
THE spirit of war and contention, which had for a long time possessed the nation, became 1154. so effectually laid during the last year of King Stephen's reign, that no alteration or disturbance ensued upon his death, although the new king, after he had received intelligence of it, was detained six weeks by contrary winds: besides, the opinion of this prince's power and virtues had already begotten so great an awe and reverence for him among the people, that upon his arrival he found the whole kingdom in a profound peace. He landed at Hostreham about the beginning of December, was received at Winchester by a great number of the nobility, who came there to attend and swear fealty to him, and, three weeks after, was crowned at Westminster, about the twenty-third year of his age.
For the farther settling of the kingdom, after the long distractions in the preceding reign, he seized on all the castles which remained undestroyed since the last peace between him and King Stephen; whereof some he demolished, and trusted others to the government of persons in whom he could confide.
But that which most contributed to the quiet of the realm, and the general satisfaction of his subjects, was a proclamation published, commanding all foreigners to leave England; enforced with a most effectual clause, whereby a day was fixed, after which it should be capital for any of them to appear; among these was William d'Ypres, Earl of Kent, whose possessions the king seized into his own hands.
These foreigners, generally called Flemings by the
writers of the English story, were a sort of vagabond soldiers of fortune, who in those ages, under several denominations, infested other parts of Europe as well as England: they were a mixed people, natives of Arragon, Navarre, Biscay, Brabant, and other parts of Spain and Flanders. They were ready to be hired to whatever prince thought fit to employ them; but always upon condition to have full liberty of plunder and spoil. Nor was it an easy matter to get rid of them, when there was no farther need of their service. In England they were always hated by the people, and by this prince in particular, whose continual enemies they had been.
After the expulsion of these foreigners, and forcing a few refractory lords to a surrender of their castles, King Henry, like a wise prince, began to consider that a time of settled peace was the fittest juncture to recover the rights of the crown which had been lost by the war. He therefore resumed, by his royal authority, all crown lands that had been alienated by his predecessor; alleging, that they were unalienable in themselves; and besides, that the grants were void, as coming from a usurper. Whether such proceedings are agreeable with justice, I shall not examine; but certainly a prince cannot better consult his own safety, than by disabling those whom he renders discontent; which is effectually done no other way but by depriving them of their possessions.
1156. While the king was thus employed at home, intelligence came that his brother Geoffry was endeavouring by force to possess himself of the Earldom of Anjou, to which he had fair pretensions : for their father, considering what vast dominions would fall to his eldest son, bequeathed that earldom to the second in his last sickness, and commanded
his nobles then about him to take an oath that they would not suffer his body to be buried until Henry (who was then absent) should swear to observe his will. The Duke of Normandy, when he came to assist at his father's obsequies, and found that without his compliance he must draw upon himself the scandal of keeping a father unburied, took the oath that was exacted for observing of his will, though very much against his own. But after he was in possession of England, whether it were that his ambition enlarged with his dominions, or that from the beginning he had never intended to observe what he had sworn, he prevailed with Pope Adrian (of English birth) to dispense with his oath; and in the second year of his reign went over into Normandy, drove his brother entirely out of Anjou, and forced him to accept a pension for his maintenance. But the young prince, through the resentment of this unnatural dealing, in a short time died of grief.
Nor was his treatment more favourable to the King of Scots, whom, upon a slight pretence, he took occasion to dispossess of Carlisle, Newcastle, and other places granted by the empress to that prince's father, for his services and assistance in her quarrel against Stephen.
Having thus recovered whatever he had any title to demand, he began to look out for new acquisitions. Ireland was in that age a country little known in the world. The legates sent sometimes thither from the court of Rome, for urging the payment of annats, or directing other church affairs, represented the inhabitants as a savage people, overrun with barbarism and superstition: for, indeed, no nation of Europe, where the Christian religion received so early and universal admittance, was ever so late or slow in feeling its effects upon their manners and
civility.* Instead of refining their manners by their faith, they had suffered their faith to be corrupted by their manners: true religion being almost defaced, both in doctrine and discipline, after a long course of time, among a people wholly sunk in ignorance and barbarity. There seem to have been two reasons why the inhabitants of that island continued so long uncultivated; first, their subjection or vassalage to so many petty kings, whereof a great number is mentioned by authors, besides those four or five usually assigned to the several provinces. These princes were engaged in perpetual quarrels, in doing or revenging injuries of violence, or lust, or treachery, or injustice, which kept them all in a continual state of war. And indeed there is hardly any country, how renowned soever in ancient or modern story, which may not be traced from the like original. Neither can a nation come out from this state of confusion, until it is either reduced under one head at home, or by force or conquest becomes subject to a foreign administration.
The other reason why civility made such late entrances into that island, may be imputed to its natural situation, lying more out of the road of commerce or conquest than any other part of the known world. All the intercourse the inhabitants had, was only with the western coasts of Wales and Scotland; from whence, at least in those ages, they were not likely to learn very much politeness.
1155. The king, about the second year of his reign, sent ambassadors to Pope Adrian, with injunctions to desire his licence for reducing the savage people of Ireland from their brutish way of
* The Irish had been very learned in former ages, but had declined for several centuries before the reign of Henry II. See Bede.
living, and subjecting them to the crown of England. The king proceeded thus, in order to set up a title to the island, wherein the pope himself pretended to be lord of the see; for, in his letter, which is an answer and grant to the king's requests, he insists upon it, that all islands, upon their admitting the Christian faith, became subject to the See of Rome; and the Irish themselves avowed the same thing to some of the first conquerors. In that forementioned letter, the pope highly praises the king's generous design, and recommends to him the civilizing of the natives, the protection of the church, and the payment of Peter-pence. The ill success of all past endeavours to procure from a people, so miserable and irreligious, this revenue to the holy see, was a main inducement with the pope to be easy and liberal in his grant; for the king professed a design of securing its regular payment. However, this expedition was not undertaken until some years after, when there happened an accident to set it forward, as we shall relate in its place. ******
HENRY THE SECOND'S CHARACTER,
EXTRACTED FROM THE MONKS.
[Hard to gather his character from such bad authors.]
A WISE prince, to whom other princes referred their differences, and had ambassadors from both empires, east and west, as well as others, at once in his court.