1 HOW unfit and how unworthy a choice I have made of myself, to undertake a work of this mixture, mine own reason, though exceeding weak, hath sufficiently resolved me. For had it been begotten then with my first dawn of day, when the light of common knowledge began to open itself to my younger years, and before any wound received either from Fortune or Time, I might yet well have doubted that the darkness of Age and Death would have covered over both It and Me, long before the performance. For, beginning with the Creation, I have proceeded with the History of the World; and lastly purposed (some few sallies excepted) to confine my discourse with this our renowned Island of Great Britain. I confess that it had better sorted with my disability, the better part of whose times are run out in other travails, to have set together (as I could) the unjointed and scattered frame of our English affairs, than of the universal: in whom, had there been no other defect (who am all defect) than the time of the day, it were enough; the day of a tempestuous life, drawn on to the very evening ere I began. But those inmost and soul-piercing wounds, which are ever aching while uncured; with the desire to satisfy those few friends, which I have tried by the fire of adversity, the former enforcing, the latter persuading; have caused me to make my thoughts legible, and myself the subject of every opinion, wise or weak.
To the world I present them, to which I am nothing indebted: neither have others that were, (Fortune changing) sped much better in any age. For prosperity and adversity have evermore tied and untied vulgar affections. and as we see it in experience, that dogs do always bark at those they know not, and that it is their nature to accompany one another in those clamors: so it is with the inconsiderate multitude; who wanting that virtue which we call honesty in all men, and that especial gift of God which we call charity in Christian men, condemn without hearing, and wound without offence given: led thereunto by uncertain report only; which his Majesty truly acknowledgeth for the author of all lies. Blame no man, saith Siracides, before thou have inquired the matter: understand first, and then reform righteously. Rumor, res sine teste, sine judice, maligna, fallax; Rumor is without witness, without judge, malicious and deceivable. This vanity of vulgar opinion it was, that gave St. Augustine argument to affirm, that he feared the praise of good men, and detested that of the evil. and herein no man hath given a better rule, than this of Seneca; Conscientiæ satisfaciamus: nihil in famam laboremus, sequatur vel mala, dum bene merearis. Let us satisfy our own consciences, and not trouble ourselves with fame: be it never so ill, it is to be despised so we deserve well.
For myself, if I have in anything served my Country, and prized it before my private, the general acceptation can yield me no other profit at this time, than doth a fair sunshine day to a sea-man after shipwreck; and the contrary no other harm, than an outrageous tempest after the port attained. I know that I lost the love of many, for my fidelity towards Her,2 whom I must still honor in the dust; though further than the defence of her excellent person, I never persecuted any man. of those that did it, and by what device they did it, He that is the Supreme Judge of all the world, hath taken the account: so as for this kind of suffering, I must say with Seneca, Mala opinio, bene parta, delectat.3
As for other men; if there be any that have made themselves fathers of that fame which hath been begotten for them, I can neither envy at such their purchased glory, nor much lament mine own mishap in that kind; but content myself to say with Virgil, Sic vos non vobis,4 in many particulars. to labor other satisfaction, were an effect of frenzy, not of hope, seeing it is not truth, but opinion, that can travel the world without a passport. For were it otherwise; and were there not as many internal forms of the mind, as there are external figures of men; there were then some possibility to persuade by the mouth of one advocate, even equity alone.
But such is the multiplying and extensive virtue of dead earth, and of that breath-giving life which God hath cast upon time and dust, as that among those that were, of whom we read and hear; and among those that are, whom we see and converse with; everyone hath received a several picture of face, and everyone a diverse picture of mind; everyone a form apart, everyone a fancy and cogitation differing: there being nothing wherein Nature so much triumpheth as in dissimilitude. From whence it cometh that there is found so great diversity of opinions; so strong a contrariety of inclinations; so many natural and unnatural; wise, foolish, manly, and childish affections and passions in mortal men. For it is not the visible fashion and shape of plants, and of reasonable creatures, that makes the difference of working in the one, and of condition in the other; but the form internal.
And though it hath pleased God to reserve the art of reading mens thoughts to himself: yet, as the fruit tells the name of the tree; so do the outward works of men (so far as their cogitations are acted) give us whereof to guess at the rest. Nay, it were not hard to express the one by the other, very near the life, did not craft in many, fear in the most, and the worlds love in all, teach every capacity, according to the compass it hath, to qualify and make over their inward deformities for a time. Though it be also true, Nemo potest diu personam ferre fictam: cito in naturam suam residunt, quibus veritas non subest: No man can long continue masked in a counterfeit behavior: the things that are forced for pretences having no ground of truth, cannot long dissemble their own natures. Neither can any man (saith Plutarch) so change himself, but that his heart may be sometimes seen at his tongues end.
In this great discord and dissimilitude of reasonable creatures, if we direct ourselves to the multitude; omnis honestæ rei malus judex est vulgus: The common people are evil judges of honest things, and whose wisdom (saith Ecclesiastes) is to be despised: if to the better sort, every understanding hath a peculiar judgment, by which it both censureth other men, and valueth itself. and therefore unto me it will not seem strange, though I find these my worthless papers torn with rats: seeing the slothful censurers of all ages have not spared to tax the Reverend Fathers of the Church, with ambition; the severest men to themselves, with hypocrisy; the greatest lovers of justice, with popularity; and those of the truest valor and fortitude, with vain-glory. But of these natures which lie in wait to find fault, and to turn good into evil, seeing Solomon complained long since: and that the very age of the world renders it every day after other more malicious; I must leave the professors to their easy ways of reprehension, than which there is nothing of more facility.
To me it belongs in the first part of this Preface, following the common and approved custom of those who have left the memories of time past to after ages, to give, as near as I can, the same right to history which they have done. Yet seeing therein I should but borrow other mens words, I will not trouble the Reader with the repetition. True it is that among many other benefits for which it hath been honored, in this one it triumpheth over all human knowledge, that it hath given us life in our understanding, since the world itself had life and beginning, even to this day: yea, it hath triumphed over time, which besides it nothing but eternity hath triumphed over: for it hath carried our knowledge over the vast and devouring space of many thousands of years, and given so fair and piercing eyes to our mind; that we plainly behold living now (as if we had lived then) that great world, Magni Dei sapiens opus, The wise work (saith Hermes) of a great God, as it was then, when but new to itself. By it (I say) it is, that we live in the very time when it was created: we behold how it was governed: how it was covered with waters, and again repeopled: how kings and kingdoms have flourished and fallen, and for what virtue and piety God made prosperous; and for what vice and deformity he made wretched, both the one and the other. and it is not the least debt which we owe unto history, that it hath made us acquainted with our dead ancestors; and, out of the depth and darkness of the earth, delivered us their memory and fame. In a word, we may gather out of history a policy no less wise than eternal; by the comparison and application of other mens fore-passed miseries with our own like errors and ill deservings. But it is neither of examples the most lively instruction, nor the words of the wisest men, nor the terror of future torments, that hath yet so wrought in our blind and stupified minds, as to make us remember, that the infinite eye and wisdom of God doth pierce through all our pretences; as to make us remember, that the justice of God doth require none other accuser than our own consciences: which neither the false beauty of our apparent actions, nor all the formality, which (to pacify the opinions of men) we put on, can in any, or the least kind, cover from his knowledge. and so much did that heathen wisdom confess, no way as yet qualified by the knowledge of a true God. If any (saith Euripides) having in his life committed wickedness, thinks he can hide it from the everlasting gods, he thinks not well.
To repeat Gods judgments in particular, upon those of all degrees, which have played with his mercies would require a volume apart: for the sea of examples hath no bottom. The marks, set on private men, are with their bodies cast into the earth; and their fortunes, written only in the memories of those that lived with them: so as they who succeed, and have not seen the fall of others, do not fear their own faults. Gods judgments upon the greater and greatest have been left to posterity; first, by those happy hands which the Holy Ghost hath guided; and secondly, by their virtue, who have gathered the acts and ends of men mighty and remarkable in the world. Now to point far off, and to speak of the conversion of angels into devils; for ambition: or of the greatest and most glorious kings, who have gnawn the grass of the earth with beasts for pride and ingratitude towards God: or of that wise working of Pharaoh, when he slew the infants of Israel, ere they had recovered their cradles: or of the policy of Jezebel, in covering the murder of Naboth by a trial of the Elders, according to the Law, with many thousands of the like: what were it other, than to make an hopeless proof, that far-off examples would not be left to the same far-off respects, as heretofore? For who hath not observed, what labor, practice, peril, bloodshed, and cruelty, the kings and princes of the world have undergone, exercised, taken on them, and committed; to make themselves and their issues masters of the world? and yet hath Babylon, Persia, Syria, Macedon, Carthage, Rome, and the rest no fruit, no flower, grass, nor leaf, springing upon the face of the earth, of those seeds: no, their very roots and ruins do hardly remain. Omnia quae manu hominum facta sunt, vel manu hominum evertuntur, vel stando et durando deficiunt: All that the hand of man can make, is either overturned by the hand of man, or at length by standing and continuing consumed. The reasons of whose ruins, are diversely given by those that ground their opinions on second causes. All kingdoms and states have fallen (say the politicians) by outward and foreign force, or by inward negligence and dissension, or by a third cause arising from both. Others observe, that the greatest have sunk down under their own weight; of which Livy hath a touch: eo crevit, ut magnitudine laboret sua:5 Others, That the divine providence (which Cratippus objected to Pompey) hath set down the date and period of every estate, before their first foundation and erection. But hereof I will give myself a day over to resolve.
For seeing the first books of the following story, have undertaken the discourse of the first kings and kingdoms: and that it is impossible for the short life of a Preface, to travel after, and overtake far off antiquity, and to judge of it; I will, for the present, examine what profit hath been gathered by our own Kings, and their neighbour princes: who having beheld, both in divine and human letters, the success of infidelity, injustice, and cruelty; have (notwithstanding) planted after the same pattern.
True it is, that the judgments of all men are not agreeable; nor (which is more strange) the affection of any one man stirred up alike with examples of like nature: but every one is touched most, with that which most nearly seemeth to touch his own private, or otherwise best suiteth with his apprehension. But the judgments of God are forever unchangeable: neither is He wearied by the long process of time, and won to give His blessing in one age, to that which He hath cursed in another. Wherefor those that are wise, or whose wisdom if it be not great, yet is true and well grounded, will be able to discern the bitter fruits of irreligious policy, as well among those examples that are found in ages removed far from the present, as in those of latter times. and that it may no less appear by evident proof, than by asseveration, that ill doing hath always been attended with ill success; I will here, by way of preface, run over some examples, which the work ensuing hath not reached.
Among our kings of the Norman race, we have no sooner passed over the violence of the Norman Conquest, than we encounter with a singular and most remarkable example of Gods justice, upon the children of Henry the First. For that King, when both by force, craft, and cruelty, he had dispossessed, overreached, and lastly made blind and destroyed his elder brother Robert Duke of Normandy, to make his own sons lords of this land: God cast them all, male and female, nephews and nieces (Maud excepted) into the bottom of the sea, with above a hundred and fifty others that attended them; whereof a great many were noble and of the King dearly beloved.
To pass over the rest, till we come to Edward the Second; it is certain, that after the murder of that King, the issue of blood then made, though it had some times of stay and stopping, did again break out, and that so often and in such abundance, as all our princes of the masculine race (very few excepted) died of the same disease. and although the young years of Edward the Third made his knowledge of that horrible fact no more than suspicious; yet in that he afterwards caused his own uncle, the Earl of Kent, to die, for no other offence than the desire of his brothers redemption, whom the Earl as then supposed to be living; the King making that to be treated in his uncle, which was indeed treason in himself, (had his uncles intelligence been true) this I say made it manifest, that he was not ignorant of what had past, nor greatly desirous to have had it otherwise, though he caused Mortimer to die for the same.
This cruelty the secret and unsearchable judgment of God revenged on the grandchild of Edward the Third: and so it fell out, even to the last of that line, that in the second or third descent they were all buried under the ruins of those buildings, of which the mortar had been tempered with innocent blood. For Richard the Second, who saw both his Treasurers, his Chancellor, and his Steward, with divers others of his counsellors, some of them slaughtered by the people, others in his absence executed by his enemies, yet he always took himself for over-wise to be taught by examples. The Earls of Huntingdon and Kent, Montagu and Spencer, who thought themselves as great politicians in those days as others have done in these: hoping to please the King, and to secure themselves, by the murder of Gloucester; died soon after, with many other their adherents, by the like violent hands; and far more shamefully than did that duke. and as for the King himself (who in regard of many deeds, unworthy of his greatness, cannot be excused, as the disavowing himself by breach of faith, charters, pardons, and patents): he was in the prime of his youth deposed, and murdered by his cousingerman and vassal, Henry of Lancaster, afterwards Henry the Fourth.
This King, whose title was weak, and his obtaining the Crown traitorous; who brake faith with the lords at his landing, protesting to intend only the recovery of his proper inheritance, brake faith with Richard himself; and brake faith with all the kingdom in Parliament, to whome he swore that the deposed King should live. After that he had enjoyed this realm some few years, and in that time had been set upon all sides by his subjects, and never free from conspiracies and rebellions: he saw (if souls immortal see and discern anythings after the bodies death) his grandchild Henry the Sixth, and his son the Prince, suddenly and without mercy, murdered; the possession of the Crown (for which he had caused so much blood to be poured out) transferred from his race, and by the issues of his enemies worn and enjoyed: enemies, whom by his own practice he supposed that he had left no less powerless, than the succession of the Kingdom questionless; by entailing the same upon his own issues by Parliament. and out of doubt, human reason could have judged no otherwise, but that these cautious provisions of the father, seconded by the valor and signal victories of his son Henry the Fifth, had buried the hopes of every competitor, under the despair of all reconquest and recovery. I say, that human reason might so have judged, were not this passage of Casaubon also true; Dies, hora, momentum, evertendis dominationibus sufficit, quae adamantinis credebantur radicibus esse fundatae: A day, an hour, a moment, is enough to overturn the things, that seemed to have been founded and rooted in adamant.
Now for Henry the Sixth, upon whom the great storm of his grandfathers grievous faults fell, as it formerly had done upon Richard the grandchild of Edward: although he was generally esteemed for a gentle and innocent prince, yet as he refused the daughter of Armagnac, of the House of Navarre, the greatest of the Princes of France, to whom he was affianced (by which match he might have defended his inheritance in France) and married the daughter of Anjou, (by which he lost all that he had in France) so in condescending to the unworthy death of his uncle of Gloucester, the main and strong pillar of the House of Lancaster; he drew on himself and this kingdom the greatest joint-loss and dishonor, that ever it sustained since the Norman Conquest. of whom it may truly be said which a counsellor of his own spake of Henry the Third of France, Quil estait une fort gentile Prince; mais son reigne est advenu en une fort mauvais temps: He was a very gentle Prince; but his reign happened in a very unfortunate season.
It is true that Buckingham and Suffolk were the practicers and contrivers of the Dukes death: Buckingham and Suffolk, because the Duke gave instructions to their authority, which otherwise under the Queen had been absolute; the Queen in respect of her personal wound, spretaeque injuria formae,6 because Gloucester dissuaded her marriage. But the fruit was answerable to the seed; the success to the counsel. For after the cutting down of Gloucester, York grew up so fast, as he dared to dispute his right both by arguments and arms; in which quarrel, Suffolk and Buckingham, with the greatest number of their adherents, were dissolved. and although for his breach of oath by sacrament, it pleased God to strike down York: yet his son the Earl of March, following the plain path which his father had trodden out, despoiled Henry the father, and Edward the son, both of their lives and kingdom. and what was the end now of that politic lady the Queen, other than this, that she lived to behold the wretched ends of all her partakers: that she lived to look on, while her husband the King, and her only son the Prince, were hewn in sunder; while the Crown was set on his head that did it. She lived to see herself despoiled of her estate, and of her moveables: and lastly, her father, by rendering up to the Crown of France the Earldom of Provence and other places, for the payment of fifty thousand crowns for her ransom, to become a stark beggar. and this was the end of that subtility, which Siracides calleth fine but unrighteous: for other fruit hath it never yielded since the world was.
And now it came to Edward the Fourths turn (though after many difficulties) to triumph. For all the plants of Lancaster were rooted up, one only Earl of Richmond excepted: whom also he had once bought of the Duke of Brittany, but could not hold him. and yet was not this of Edward such a plantation, as could any way promise itself stability. For this Edward the King (to omit more than many of his other cruelties) beheld and allowed the slaughter which Gloucester, Dorset, Hastings, and others, made of Edward the Prince in his own presence; of which tragical actors, there was not one that escaped the judgment of God in the same kind. and he, which (besides the execution of his brother Clarence, for none other offence than he himself had formed in his own imagination) instructed Gloucester to kill Henry the Sixth, his predecessor; taught him also by the same art to kill his own sons and successors, Edward and Richard. For those kings which have sold the blood of others at a low rate; have but made the market for their own enemies, to buy of theirs at the same price.
To Edward the Fourth succeeded Richard the Third, the greatest master in mischief of all that fore-went him: who although, for the necessity of his tragedy, he had more parts to play, and more to perform in his own person, than all the rest; yet he so well fitted every affection that played with him, as if each of them had but acted his own interest. For he wrought so cunningly upon the affections of Hastings and Buckingham, enemies to the Queen and to all her kindred, as he easily allured them to condescend, that Rivers and Grey, the Kings maternal uncle and half brother, should (for the first) be severed from him: secondly, he wrought their consent to have them imprisoned: and lastly (for the avoiding of future inconvenience) to have their heads severed from their bodies. and having now brought those his chief instruments to exercise that common precept which the Devil hath written on every post, namely, to depress those whom they had grieved, and destroy those whom they had depressed; he urged that argument so far and so forcibly, as nothing but the death of the young King himself, and of his brother, could fashion the conclusion. For he caused it to be hammered into Buckinghams head, that, whensoever the King or his brother should have able years to exercise their power, they would take a most severe revenge of that cureless wrong, offered to their uncle and brother, Rivers and Grey.
But this was not his manner of reasoning with Hastings, whose fidelity to his masters sons was without suspect: and yet the Devil, who never dissuades by impossibility, taught him to try him. and so he did. But when he found by Catesby, who sounded him, that he was not fordable; he first resolved to kill him sitting in council: wherein having failed with his sword, he set the hangman upon him, with a weapon of more weight. and because nothing else could move his appetite, he caused his head to be stricken off, before he ate his dinner. A greater judgment of God than this upon Hastings, I have never observed in any story. For the selfsame day that the Earl Rivers, Grey, and others, were (without trial of law, of offence given) by Hastings advice executed at Pomfret: I say Hastings himself in the same day, and (as I take it) in the same hour, in the same lawless manner had his head stricken off in the tower of London. But Buckingham lived a while longer; and with an eloquent oration persuaded the Londoners to elect Richard for their king. and having received the Earldom of Hereford for reward, besides the high hope of marrying his daughter to the Kings only son; after many grievous vexations of mind, and unfortunate attempts, being in the end betrayed and delivered up by his trustiest servant; he had his head severed from his body at Salisbury, without the trouble of any of his Peers. and what success had Richard himself after all these mischiefs and murders, policies, and counterpolicies to Christian religion: and after such time as with a most merciless hand he had pressed out the breath of his nephews and natural lords; other than the prosperity of so short a life, as it took end, ere himself could well look over and discern it? The great outcry of innocent blood, obtained at Gods hands the effusion of his; who became a spectacle of shame and dishonor, both to his friends and enemies.
This cruel King, Henry the Seventh cut off; and was therein (no doubt) the immediate instrument of Gods justice. A politic Prince he was if ever there were any, who by the engine of his wisdom, beat down and overturned as many strong oppositions both before and after he wore the Crown, as ever King of England did: I say by his wisdom, because as he ever left the reins of his affections in the hands of his profit, so he always weighed his undertakings by his abilities, leaving nothing more to hazard than so much as cannot be denied it in all human actions. He had well observed the proceedings of Louis the Eleventh, whom he followed in all that was royal or royal-like, but he was far more just, and begun not their processes whom he hated or feared by the execution, as Louis did.
He could never endure any mediation in rewarding his servants, and therein exceeding wise; for whatsoever himself gave, he himself received back the thanks and the love, knowing it well that the affections of men (purchased by nothing so readily as by benefits) were trains that better became great kings, than great subjects. On the contrary, in whatsoever he grieved his subjects, he wisely put it off on those, that he found fit ministers for such actions. Howsoever the taking off of Stanleys head, who set the Crown on his, and the death of the young Earl of Warwick, son to George, Duke of Clarence, shows, as the success also did, that he held somewhat of the errors of his ancestors; for his possession in the first line ended in his grandchildren, as that of Edward the Third and Henry the Fourth had done.
Now for King Henry the Eighth; if all the pictures and patterns of a merciless prince were lost in the world, they might all again be painted to the life, out of the story of this king. For how many servants did he advance in haste (but for what virtue no man could suspect) and with the change of his fancy ruined again; no man knowing for what offence? to how many others of more desert gave he abundant flowers from whence to gather honey, and in the end of harvest burnt them in the hive? How many wives did he cut off, and cast off, as his fancy and affection changed? How many princes of the blood (whereof some of them for age could hardly crawl towards the block) with a world of others of all degrees (of whom our common chronicles have kept the account) did he execute? Yea, in his very death-bed, and when he was at the point to have given his account to God for the abundance of blood already spilt, he imprisoned the Duke of Norfolk the father; and executed the Earl of Surrey the son; the one, whose deservings he knew not how to value, having never omitted anything that concerned his own honor, and the Kings service; the other never having committed anything worthy of his least displeasure: the one exceeding valiant and advised; the other no less valiant than learned, and of excellent hope. But besides the sorrows which he heaped upon the fatherless and widows at home: and besides the vain enterprises abroad, wherein it is thought that he consumed more treasure than all our victorious kings did in their several conquests; what causeless and cruel wars did he make upon his own nephew King James the First? What laws and wills did he devise to cut off, and cut down those branches, which sprang from the same root that himself did? and in the end (notwithstanding these his so many irreligious provisions) it pleased God to take away all his own, without increase; though, for themselves in their several kinds, all princes of eminent virtue. For these words of Samuel to Agag King of the Amalekites, have been verified upon many others: As thy sword hath made other women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among other women. and that blood which the same King Henry affirmed, that the cold air of Scotland had frozen up in the North, God hath diffused by the sunshine of his grace: from whence his Majesty now living, and long to live, is descended. of whom I may say it truly, That if all the malice of the world were infused into one eye: yet could it not discern in his life, even to this day, any one of these foul spots, by which the consciences of all the forenamed princes (in effect) have been defiled; nor any drop of that innocent blood on the sword of his justice, with which the most that fore-went him have stained both their hands and fame. and for this Crown of England; it may truly be avowed: that he hath received it even from the hand of God, and hath stayed the time of putting it on, howsoever he were provoked to hasten it: that he never took revenge of any man, that sought to put him beside it: that he refused the assistance of Her enemies, that wore it long, with as great glory as ever princess did: that his Majesty entered not by a breach, nor by blood; but by the ordinary gate, which his own right set open; and into which, by a general love and obedience, he was received. and howsoever his Majestys preceding title to this Kingdom was preferred by many princes (witness the Treaty at Cambray in the year 1559) yet he never pleased to dispute it, during the life of that renowned lady his predecessor; no, notwithstanding the injury of not being declared heir, in all the time of her long reign.
Neither ought we to forget, or neglect our thankfulness to God for the uniting of the northern parts of Britain to the south, to wit, of Scotland to England, which though they were severed but by small brooks and banks, yet by reason of the long continued war, and the cruelties exercised upon each other, in the affections of the nations, they were infinitely severed. This I say is not the least of Gods blessings which his Majesty hath brought with him unto this land: no, put all our petty grievances together, and heap them up to their height, they will appear but as a molehill compared with the mountain of this concord. and if all the historians since then have acknowledged the uniting of the Red Rose, and the White, for the greatest happiness (Christian Religion excepted), that ever this kingdom received from God, certainly the peace between the two lions of gold and gules, and the making them one, doth by many degrees exceed the former; for by it, besides the sparing of our British blood, heretofore and during the difference, so often and abundantly shed, the state of England is more assured, the kingdom more enabled to recover her ancient honor and rights, and by it made more invincible, than by all our former alliances, practices, policies, and conquests. It is true that hereof we do not yet find the effect. But had the Duke of Parma in the year 1588, joined the army which he commanded, with that of Spain, and landed it on the south coast; and had his Majesty at the same time declared himself against us in the North: it is easy to divine what had become of the liberty of England, certainly we would then without murmur have bought this union at far greater price than it hath since cost us. It is true, that there was never any common weal or kingdom in the world, wherein no man had cause to lament. Kings live in the world, and not above it. They are not infinite to examine every mans cause, or to relieve every mans wants. and yet in the latter (though to his own prejudice), his Majesty hath had more comparison of other mens necessities, than of his own coffers. of whom it may be said, as of Solomon,7 Dedit Deus Solomoni latitudinem cordis: Which if other men do not understand with Pineda, to be meant by liberality, but by latitude of knowledge; yet may it be better spoken of His Majesty, than of any king that ever England had; who as well in divine, as human understanding, hath exceeded all that fore-went him, by many degrees.
I could say much more of the Kings majesty, without flattery: did I not fear the imputation of presumption, and withal suspect, that it might befall these papers of mine (though the loss were little) as it did the pictures of Queen Elizabeth, made by unskilful and common painters, which by her own commandment were knocked in pieces and cast into the fire. For ill artists, in setting out the beauty of the external; and weak writers, in describing the virtues of the internal; do often leave to posterity, of well formed faces a deformed memory; and of the most perfect and princely minds, a most defective representation. It may suffice, and there needs no other discourse; if the honest reader but compare the cruel and turbulent passages of our former kings, and of other their neighbor-princes (of whom for that purpose I have inserted this brief discourse) with his Majestys temperate, revengeless and liberal disposition: I say, that if the honest reader weigh them justly, and with an even hand; and withal but bestow every deformed child on his true parent; he shall find, that there is no man that hath so just cause to complain, as the King himself hath. Now as we have told the success of the trumperies and cruelties of our own kings, and other great personages: so we find, that God is everywhere the same God. and as it pleased him to punish the usurpation, and unnatural cruelty of Henry the First, and of our third Edward, in their children for many generations: so dealt He with the sons of Louis Debonnaire, the son of Charles the Great, or Charlemagne. For after such time as Debonnaire of France, had torn out the eyes of Bernard his nephew, the son of Pepin the eldest son of Charlemagne, and heir of the Empire, and then caused him to die in prison, as did our Henry to Robert his eldest brother: there followed nothing but murders upon murders, poisoning, imprisonments, and civil war; till the whole race of that famous Emperor was extinguished. and though Debonnaire, after he had rid himself of his nephew by a violent death; and of his bastard brothers by a civil death (having inclosed them with sure guard, all the days of their lives, within a monastery) held himself secure from all opposition: yet God raised up against him (which he suspected not) his own sons, to vex him, to invade him, to take him prisoner, and to depose him; his own sons, with whom (to satisfy their ambition) he had shared his estate, and given them crowns to wear, and kingdoms to govern, during his own life. Yea his eldest son, Lothair (for he had four, three by his first wife, and one by his second; to wit, Lothair, Pepin, Louis, and Charles), made it the cause of his deposition, that he had used violence towards his brothers and kinsmen; and that he had suffered his nephew (whom he might have delivered) to be slain. Eo quod, saith the text,8 fratribus, et propinquis violentiam intulerit, et nepotem suum, quem ipse liberare poterat, interfici permiserit: Because he used violence to his brothers and kinsmen, and suffered his nephew to be slain whom he might have delivered.
Note 1. A sketch of the life of Raleigh will be found prefixed to his Discovery of Guiana in the volume of Voyages and Travels. His History of the World was written during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, which lasted from 1603 to 1616. The Preface is interesting not only as a fine piece of Elizabethan prose, but as exhibiting the attitude toward history, and the view of the relation of history to religion and philosophy, which characterized one who represented with exceptional vigor the typical Elizabethan man of action and who was also a man of thought and imagination. [back]
Note 2. An ill opinion, honorably acquired, is pleasing. [back]