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Reign of Henry VII. - (continued) page 10

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There is one measure for which Henry has received a degree of admiration which is not his due; that is, for putting down the power of the great barons, who disturbed and endangered both the throne and the nation. That was not Henry's work, it was their own. They were extinguished by a process which might be called the suicide of almost an entire class - they exterminated each other in the civil wars. But Henry having them down, had the just merit of keeping them there. He had not the fatal vanity of surrounding his throne with a fresh creation of the dangerous caste, and though he seemed thereby to unduly strengthen the crown, he eventually strengthened the people, for, unharassed by the perpetual squabbles and demands of the feudal barons, the people from this period made rapid progress, so that in little more than another century they began to speak wonderful things to their governors. At the accession of Henry there were only left twenty-seven temporal peers in England.

In estimating the man we cannot do it more justly than in the words of the historian Henry: - "The great defects of the character of this prince proceeded not from the weakness of his head, but the hardness of his heart, which was exceedingly selfish and unfeeling; little susceptible of the impressions of love, friendship, pity, or any generous benevolent affection. He was an unkind husband to an amiable consort; never had a friend, and seldom forgave an enemy. As a son, he treated his venerable mother with formal respect, but allowed her no influence; as a father, he was careful, but not affectionate; as a master, he was far from being generous. An inordinate love of money, and an unrelenting hatred to the house of York, were his ruling passions, and the chief source of all his vices and troubles."

By his want of enterprise and his dread of expense, he missed the glory of sending Columbus on his grand voyage of discovery, which revealed the New World. Worn out by his neglect and repulse at the Court of Spain, Columbus sent his brother Bartholomew to London, to explain to Henry his views, and to pray his co-operation. But while Henry hesitated, though he was greatly excited by the proposal, Ferdinand and Isabella took up the cause, and Spain won the fame of that incalculably eventful enterprise. Roused, however, by Columbus's success, Henry sent out Sebastian Cabot in 1498, who discovered the mainland of America and the island of Newfoundland. As Henry, therefore, departed from the world, it was widening its horizon beyond all former experience. Discovery was on the eve of giving it new and immense regions, the progress of inquiry was preparing a new birth in religion, and commerce, art, science, government, literature, and civilisation were beginning a new career, which, marvellous as it has already proved, appears yet more marvellous in its promise of the boundless future.

Amongst the merits of Henry should not be forgotten that, unenterprising as he was by nature, he yet promoted the enterprise of discovery, and expended 14,000, at that time a great sum, in building a ship called the Great Harry, which may properly be termed the first ship of a distinctive English navy, for before, our monarchs generally borrowed vessels from the merchants.

Henry left three children, his son and successor Henry, and two daughters - Margaret, married to James IV. of Scotland, and Mary, afterwards married to Louis XII. of France.

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Pictures for Reign of Henry VII. - (continued) page 10

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Henry the Seventh's Chapel
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