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Reign of Henry IV page 12

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Henry IV. was twice married. His first wife was Mary de Bohun, daughter and co-heir of the Earl of Hereford. By her he had four sons and two daughters. Henry was his successor to the throne; Thomas was Duke of Clarence; John, Duke of Bedford; and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. His eldest daughter, Blanche, was married to the Duke of Bavaria, and the second to the King of Denmark.

Conscious of the defect of his title, Henry was careful to avoid, on ascending the throne, asking for any act of settlement. He contented himself with receiving the oath of allegiance from Parliament to himself, and after himself to his eldest son or heir apparent. But after the battle of Shrewsbury he introduced a bill resting the succession on his four sons, but excluding his daughters. But on being reminded that to exclude his daughters annihilated all his claim to the throne of France, he reluctantly consented to the passing of an act admitting the general issue of his sons, but still passing over that of his daughters, as if fearful to bring in some foreign aspirant.

By his second wife, Joanna of Navarre, daughter of Charles the Bad, he had no children. Joanna made a much better queen than might have been expected from her parentage. Her worst faults appear to have been a great fondness for money, and for a numerous train of French attendants, which obliged Parliament frequently to interfere, as did that of Charles I., and insisted on their being sent home. She was handsome in person, but had the reputation of being addicted to the arts of necromancy, no doubt arising from the evil reputation of her father. We shall hear of her again in the next reign.

The defect of Henry's title was a circumstance favourable to the progress of the constitution, though prolific of much controversy and bloodshed. Compelled to court the good-will of the people, and to come to them often for money, the House of Commons availed themselves of this circumstance to increase in their demands of privilege and liberty. We shall notice more particularly these advances when we comİ to review, at a future date, the progress of the nation; and, therefore, it will only be necessary here to glance at them cursorily. In his very first year they passed a law depriving the crown of the power of protecting an unjust judge. In the second, they insisted on the removal of obnoxious persons from his household, and prevailed; in the sixth, they appointed treasurers to superintend the expenditure of the supplies; in the eighth, they enacted thirty articles for the regulation of the royal household, and compelled the judges, the council, and all the officers of the household to swear to the observance of them. The practice of the crown corrupting Parliament had shown itself in the reign of Richard II., and was now rife, through the means of the sheriffs. The Commons obtained an act to compel them to make just returns. They even went so far, when pressed by the king for money, as to recommend him to seize the surplus temporalities of the Church, which they represented as containing 18,400 ploughs of land, producing 485,000 marks a year, equal to £4,750,745 of our present money.

Here, however, the king stood firm against the recommendation, of the Commons; and even, to oblige the Church, he consented to the passing of the first law for the burning of heretics, that is, persons who dared to differ in opinion from the religion of the state; and in accordance with this barbarous act, William Sawtre, rector of Lynn in Norfolk, and afterwards curate of St. Osith's in London, the first English martyr, was burnt at the stake on the 10th of March, 1401.

None, of our historians have given a more masterly summary of Henry IV. and his reign in a few words than Henry. He says: - "His head was better than his heart; his schemes being formed with prudence and generally successful, but not always innocent, and seldom generous. As jealous as he was fond of power, he stuck at nothing to obtain and keep it. From policy more than from principle, he protected the Church and persecuted heretics. Ambition was his ruling passion, and that, impelled by a violent gale of popular favour, hurried him into a throne, which involved him in many crimes and cares, and his country in many calamities. He would have been a better and happier man if he had never been a king."

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