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The three several memoirs of Henry the Fifth, King of England, printed in the present Volume, for the first time, are in themselves sufficiently valuable and interesting to deserve some attention at the hands of the future historian j while an additional interest, perhaps, is lent to them by the juxtaposition in which they are placed. Though professing to give an account of the actions, motives, and career of the same personage, they do so from wholly different points of view; and they respectively reveal to us the character of one of the most popular monarchs in English History, under aspects so widely dissimilar, that it is almost with difficulty—so far, at all events, as the first and third of these works are concerned—an uninformed or superficial reader would recognize in them the portrait of one and the same individual.
In the first of these Lives, Henry is placed before us in hardly any other capacity than that of a scholar and a philosopher; his deeds, whether in politics or iu warfare, being treated as merely supplemental and ancillary to the enunciation of what we might term "wise saws and ancient instances," in Shakspearian phrase; in fact, as almost wholly subservient to the writer's evident purpose of setting him forth in those lights, and of showing how a prince, naturally of virtuous tendencies, none the less commendable perhaps from their having been temporarily obscured or interrupted, had nobly profited by the lessons bequeathed by the lives and actions of the sages and heroes of antiquity.
In the second Life, or sketch rather—to designate it in accordance with strict accuracy,—this Sovereign's person and qualities, habits and inclinations, are viewed solely from within the walls of his palace: his form and features are portrayed,—with scrupulous exactness, no doubt; and the other topics enlarged upon are, the private character of the monarch, the complexion of his mind, the depth of his devotional feelings, his generosity to the Church, his boundless hospitality, his courtesy, and his beneficence; points of view, all of them, that would be most likely to suggest themselves to one who, like the writer (as in a future page will be more fully demonstrated), was attached in the capacity of domestic Chaplain to the royal household.
In the third of these Biographies, Henry, on the other hand, is painted in another, and, it must be admitted, far less amiable light. To all appearance, he is influenced by no other than a feeling (amounting almost to unreasoning fanaticism), that he is a chosen instrument, in the hands of the Almighty, to scourge the French people for the perfidiousness of their rulers and their own manifold shortcomings and crimes; to support the existing ecclesiastical institutions against all innovators; and to increase and exalt the spiritual dominion of the Catholic Church: the consequence of which latter persuasion is, that he feels himself in duty bound to obviate the spread of all religious enquiry with fire and sword; and more particularly that early form of it denominated Lollardism, which, suggested by WiclifFe, was, under the auspices of Sir John Oldcastle and other men of high birth, in the early part of the fifteenth century struggling into an active and energetic existence.
The motives which may have influenced these writers in thus regarding the life and actions of the same individual under such totally different aspects, would appear to be not altogether undeserving of some further notice; while at the same time, the enquiry will naturally, by supplying certain data, enable the reader to form a fair estimate of the probable amount of trustworthiness for which he may give them credit, and the consequent degree of authenticity that may be attributed to their respective works.
Relative to the writer of the first Life, Robert Redman, or Redmayne, after many and bootless enquiries,1 no accurate information has been obtained; indeed it may be pronounced, so far as positive certainty is concerned, that nothing is known of him beyond his name, and the fact, which he incidentally discloses, that he was connected by friendship, if by no other ties, with the house of Hastings, a contemporary Earl of Huntingdon. To have recourse, however, to deduction, in default of explicit information.—As he speaks in his Dedication (p. 5.) of his patron as having been invested with
1 It is within the limits of possibility that this writer may have been the same Robert Redman who printed the primer in English and Latin, in the year 1537, which Cranmer notices in writing to Cromwell,— " I have overscne the prymer which you sent unto me," &c. State Tapers: Henry VIII., vol. 1, p. 559. Though our author himself does not, from the absence of any allusion by him to the circumstance, seem to have been aware of a fact so honorable to his name, there was a Redman present in Henry's expedition against France, and concerned in the military preparations
for that enterprise. In Mr. Hunter's tract on the Battle of Agincourt, p. 21, it appears that a muster roll of the contingent of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, the king's brother, was taken at Mikilmarch, near Romsey, 16 July 1415, by Sir Richard Redman, knight, and John Strange, clerk (see also Feadera, vol. 9, p. 287): and in the Appendix to Sir Harris Nicolas's History of the battle (p. 61), among the names of persons entitled to the ransoms of French prisoners between the years 1415 and 1430, occurs the name of "Sir Richard Redman, kt., three prisoners."