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to minors. He allowed the nobles leave to marry their daughters without the consent of the Sovereign. The barons, in return for those privileges, gave the same rights to their vassals. Henry I. wishing to ingratiate himself with all his subjects, married a princess descended from the Anglo-Saxon monarchs, and restored the laws promulgated by them: laws dear to the natives, and from their mildness equally beneficial to those of Francic descent. Stephen, though a perjured usurper, ruled with a gentleness that must ever endear his memory, especially if we reflect how often his clemency was exercised against implacable and perfidious subjects. His government was extremely beneficial to the Anglo-Saxons. In his reign the new families assimilated with the old inhabitants. Henry II., the most puissant monarch that had ever sat upon the English throne, though a foreigner, governed this kingdom with parental affection. Under him the nation gained strength, and began effectually to recover the losses the Norman invasion had occasioned. From the state of society let us view the alteration in the customs of the great. The language of all the sovereigns from William I. being French, though with some slight variation, it continued that of the court: this made the great subjects appear separate and distinct from the people, a circumstance which had happened during the government of the three Danish Kings.
John greatly patronized the inhabitants of cities and towns. The Cinque-ports were incorporated, or their rights extended by him. He gave great privileges to that useful order of men, merchants and tradesmen, perhaps as some counterpoise to the nobility, who in his reign first dared to dispute power with the Crown. The cities and towns were, no doubt, much inferior in number, size, beauty, and consequence, at the Norman conquest, to those the Romans left, owing to the cruelty of the first settlers from Germany, and afterward the devastation of the more savage Danes. William found each town, however, governed by an alderman, chosen from the community. Gilds, and brotherhoods of particular trades, were, before his reign, established. These increased in consequence, during the government of his successors, though gradually, because the Normans coming here warriors bore a contempt for commerce, never admitting any to the rank of nobility from those engaged in it, however wealthy: they esteemed agriculture still less. The capitation, or poll-tax, paid before and after the conquest, by merchants, tradesmen, C 2 and
and artificers, like reliefs and scutage, was compounded in the gross: each city or town raised a certain sum, which they assessed at their pleasure upon themselves. In Henry II.'s reign, besides earls and barons, the lay freemen were classed according to their annual income, including also burgesses with the lesser freeholders. At the coronation of Richard I., the citizens of London performed the honorable office of being butlers to the Sovereign, as did those of Winchester of serving up the meat; no inconsiderable posts in a ceremony of unusual splendor, attended with dreadful, though unintentional misfortunes to the Jews. John ratified all the privileges annexed to the citizens and burgesses, by ordaining, in Magna Charta, that no scutage, or aid, should be imposed on the city of London, or any other city, borough, town, or port, but by the common council of the kingdom, i. e. the parliament; except for redeeming the sovereign if taken prisoner in war, knighting his eldest son, or marrying his eldest daughter the first time. The city of London was to be protected in all her ancient liberties and free customs, by land and water: the other cities and towns had all their privileges confirmed. In Henry III.'s reign began tallage by consent of parliament, to which every freeman was subject, even to the very poorest. More is not intended to be advanced, what has been written being sufficient to form an idea of the different ranks in society under the Anglo-Saxon government, and during the reigns of the Norman and Anjevin monarchs, until the constitution was established and confirmed by Magna Charta. However, it will be proper here to remark, that if we examine the laws of Ina, King of Wessex, of Alfred, and Edward the Confessor, as well as other of the Anglo-Saxon sovereigns, we shall find, that the great outline, the common law of England, is as old as we have any records of that people in this island, an invaluable gift which Britons should ever cherish.
It will be proper to observe the change wrought in the manners of our ancestors from the conquest downward.
The peers and barons copied the Sovereign's example, in taking particular bearings to distinguish their banners in time of war. The lion appears upon the continental money of Henry II., and Richard I. bore three lions upon his great seal. Those badges which the nobility used were not invariably continued by their descendants. There are many examples of their changing their father's; and, whenever they married a
rich heiress, it was usual for the eldest son of that marriage to assume her arms, in preference to his paternal ones, and sometimes even the family name also a practice still in use in Scotland.
Under the reigns of Henry II. and Richard I. the influx of continental families must have been great. Hither came cadets from the houses of the noblesse, not only in Normandy, but Anjoy, Maine, Tourain, Poitou, and Acquitaine, or as it is now more generally called, Guienne, including all the west part of France, except Bretagne and Gascogne. To distinguish the Francic settlers in England at this period, and ascertain of what particular province belonging to these great monarchs they were natives, Scarron's rule is sufficient. The Norman names, he says, chiefly end in ville ;* those of Anjoy, in lere; those of Guienne, especially near the river Garonne, in ac, as those in Picardy do in cour; and though Picardy was not part of our transmarine dominions, yet many followed the Norman and Anjevin monarchs into England, where they settled.
Though several of these first sovereigns of the Norman and Anjevin lines were stained with great crimes, yet they were all possessed of courage, resolution, and strong sense, so that they struck terror, not only into their own subjects, but infused awe into the breasts of the neighbouring potentates. A very different character was possessed by John; he was inactive, indolent, unwarlike: these ill qualities rendered him contemptible in the eyes of his barons, and the sovereigns who surrounded him. Had his conduct been the opposite to this, his private enormities would have been as little regarded as they had been in his predecessors. His indolence occasioned his barons to revolt, his clergy to anathematize. him, and Philip of France to proscribe him, as his unworthy vassal. These circumstances led to his ruin the barons obtained a charter of privileges, which being violated, they called in a foreign prince, to whom they transferred their allegiance: the clergy obliged him to debase himself, by surrendering to the Pope's nuncio that diadem which his illustrious father and brother had worn with so much honor. To fill up measure of his disgrace and ruin, Philip drove him out of Normandy, Anjoy, and all the other possessions which he held as fiefs of that crown.
*The Norman surnames begin with the syllables beau, de, des, la, da, de la, saint,
and fitz: and often have champ, mart, mout, in them.
Such events were big with consequences. The barons naturally courted their dependants, whether Anglo-Normans or Anglo-Saxons, to fight under their banners against the Sovereign; and, having all hope of assistance from their friends and relations upon the Continent taken away, and their estates there confiscated, they were naturally led to think themselves natives and subjects of England only, and that their interest became the same as those of the subjugated people. Impelled by these ideas, they pretended to pride themselves upon being Englishmen, though their immediate progenitors would have thought it the greatest disgrace: a foreign favorite was held in utter detestation by the posterity of these very men, who were all of continental descent.
Thus the misfortunes of the Sovereign and the monarchy were the happiest circumstances which could have happened to the Saxon blood in England. Their masters, from the King to the lowest baron, were sure to be their countrymen, and that influx of foreigners was stopped, which had kept up and perpetuated the great distinction between them in customs, manners, and language, and had been the cause, why those, who were not natives, had obtained all the great places of trust and consequence. From the Norman conquest to John's reign, England might be said, with great propriety, to have been in the hands of strangers. In the latter part of John's government, these strangers, by the peculiarity of their own situations, and that of their Sovereign and his dominions, became no more so, but subjects and friends only to England; consequently enemies to that despotic power which their fathers had cherished, as an instrument to oppress the natives of this kingdom, that they might, with the greater ease, establish their own fortunes. It is evident, by Campbell's Naval History, that John was as eager to attempt recovering his transmarine dominions, as his barons were averse to assist him, though it must have been at the expense of all the lands they held there. Abandoning those possessions, they were determined to make their settlement here as advantageous as possible. They despised the person of John, as they did that of Henry III., his son and successor. The latter was more weak than wicked, except in a greedy rapaciousness, to lavish riches upon foreigners, for whom he had an open and decided partiality.
The barons, now united to the English soil, had no wives in France to solicit their return, and the Anglo-Saxons no longer regarded them as
their tyrants and oppressors, but as their fellow subjects, patrons, and defenders. They mutually withstood the power of the Crown, the peculation of the Popes, and the admission of strangers: every thing foreign was viewed with detestation; he who could not accurately speak the English language was in danger of his life. The victors and the vanquished, alike priding themselves in the common name of Englishman, united now to form a national character; even the barons viewing the inhabitants of the country, their families had so recently descended from, as aliens, strangers, and enemies.
A greater change could scarce be wrought than what happened in the reign of these two princes. Instead of that power and grandeur which their predecessors enjoyed, and that dread with which they inspired their subjects, these Sovereigns became only the head of their great vassals, who, when leagued against them, evinced that they were too powerful to be subdued. They even exacted terms too ignominious for the Crown to grant.
The great peers, as we must distinguish the earls, had continued much the same, both in number and privileges, until the reign of Henry III., when the barons experienced a great change; for Simon de Montfort, aided by many others of the greatest subjects, having subdued that monarch, obliged him to summon only such who had favored his cause. When fortune had deserted the arms of these confederated chieftans, and Henry in his turn triumphed, borrowing the example of Montfort, he called to the parliament such only whom he knew were his friends: thus many of the ancient baronies were levelled to a rank much inferior to what they had been estimated at by the Conqueror.
During this period, the Anglo-Saxon gentry, who had adopted the christian names of their Norman masters, as William, Richard, Henry, &c. instead of Egbert, Ethelred, Alfred, Edgar, and others, now also assumed surnames, as it was looked upon disgraceful in those of the highest rank not to have a second or family one. Henry I.'s natural son having no cognomen, it was made an objection to his marrying the rich heiress of the powerful Baron Fitz-Hamon, until his father gave him that of Fitz-Roy; the lady having been represented as previously saying, "It were to me a great shame,
"To have a lord withouten his twa name."