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ousness and injustice of both his brothers; and by observing their failures, he had learned to avoid them in himself; being steady and uniform in his whole conduct, which were qualities they both seemed chiefly to want. This likewise made him so very tenacious as he was observed to be in his love and hatred. He was a strict observer of justice, which he seems never to have violated, but in that particular case, which political casuists are pleased to dispense with, where the dispute is about a crown. In that het
Considering him as a private man, he was perhaps the most accomplished person of his age; having a facetious wit, cultivated by learning, and advanced with a great share of natural eloquence, which was his peculiar talent: and it was no doubt the sense he had of this last perfection in himself, that
put him so often upon calling together the great councils of the nation, where natural oratory is of most figure as well as use.
* * *
THE REIGN OF STEPHEN.
The veneration which people are supposed naturally to pay to a right line, and a lawful title in their kings, must be upheld by a long uninterrupted succession, otherwise it quickly loses opinion, upon which the strength of it, although not the justice, is entirely founded : and where breaches have been already made in the lineal descent, there
+ Here the sentence breaks off short, and is left unfinished.
is little security in a good title (though confirmed by promises and oaths) where the lawful heir is absent, and a popular aspiring pretender near at hand. This, I think, may pass for a maxim, if any consequences drawn from history can pretend to be called so, having been verified successively three times in this kingdom, I mean by the two preceding kings, and by the prince whose reign we are now writing. Neither can this observation be justly controlled by any instances brought of future princes, who being absent at their
predecessor's death, have peaceably succeeded, the circumstances being very different in every case, either by the weakness or justice of pretenders, or else by the long establishment of lineal succession.
1135. Stephen earl of Boulogne, whose descent has been already shown in the foregoing reign, was the second of three brothers, whereof the eldest was Theobald earl of Blois, a sovereign prince, and Henry the youngest was bishop of Winchester, and the pope's legate in England. At the time of king Henry's death, his daughter the empress was with her husband the earl of Anjou, a grave and cautious prince, altogether unqualified for sudden enterprises : but earl Stephen, who had attended the king in his last expedition, made $0 great dispatch for England, * that the council had not time to meet and make any declaration about a successor. When the lords were assembled, the legate had already, by his credit and influence among them, brought over a great party to his brother's interests : and the earl himself, knowing
Stephen was at Boulogne when he received the news of Henry's death,
with what success the like methods were used by his two last predecessors, was very liberal of his promises to amend the laws, support the church, and redress grievances : for all which the bishop undertook to be guarantee. And thus was Stephen elected by those very persons who had so lately, and in so solemn a manner, more than once sworn fealty to another.
The motives whereby the nobility was swayed to proceed after this manner, were obvious enough. There had been a perpetual struggle between them and their former kings in the defence of their liberties; for the security whereof, they thought a king elected without other title, would be readier to enter into any obligations, and being held in constant dependance, would be less tempted to break them : therefore, as at his coronation, they obtained full security by his taking new and additional oaths in favour of their liberties, their oath of fealty to him was but conditional, to be of force no longer than he should be true to those stipulations.
But other reasons were contrived and given out to satisfy the people : they were told it was an indignity for so noble a nation to be governed by a woman; that the late king had promised to marry his daughter within the realm, and by consent of parliament, neither of which was observed ; and lastly, Hugh Bigod, steward to king Henry, took a voluntary oath, before the archbishop of Canterbury, that his master, in his last sickness, had, upon some displeasure, disinherited his daughter.
He received the crown with one great advan. tage that could best enable him to preserve it: this was the possession of his uncle's treasures, amounting to one hundred thousand pounds, and
reckoned as a prodigious sum in those days; by the help of which, without ever raising one tax upon the people, he defended an unjust title against the lawful heir during a perpetual contest of almost twenty years.
In order to defend himself against any sudden invasion, which he had cause enough to expect, he gave all men licence to build castles upon their lands; which proved a very mistaken piece of politics, although grounded upon some appearance of reason.
The king supposed that no invader would venture to advance into the heart of his country, without reducing every castle in his way; which must be a work of much time and difficulty, nor would be able to afford men to block them up, and secure his retreat : which way of arguing may be good enough to a prince of an undisputed title, and entirely in the hearts of his subjects: but, numerous castles are ill defenders of an usurpation, being the common retreat of malecontents, where they can fly with security, and discover their affections as they please; by which means the enemy, although beaten in the field, may still preserve his footing in the bowels of a country; may wait supplies from abroad, and prolong a war for many years : nor, while he is master of any castles, can he ever be at mercy by any sudden misfortune; but may be always in a condition of demanding terms for himself. These, and many other effects of so pernicious a counsel, the king found through the whole course of his reign ; which was entirely spent in sieges, revolts, surprises, and surrenders, with very few battles, but no decisive action : a period of much misery and confusion, which affords little that is memorable for events, or useful for the instruction of posterity.
1136. The first considerable enemy that
appeared against him was David king of Scots; who having taken the oath of fealty to Maude and her issue, being farther engaged by the ties of blood, and stirred up through the persuasions of several English nobles, began to take up arms in her cause; and invading the northern parts, took Carlisle and Newcastle; but upon the king's speedy approach with his forces, a peace was presently made, and the towns restored. However, the Scottish prince would by no means renounce his fidelity to the empress, by paying homage to Stephen; so that an expedient was found to have it performed by his eldest son: in consideration of which, the king gave, or rather restored to him, the earldom of Huntington.
Upon his return to London from this expedition, he happened to fall sick of a lethargy, and it was confidently given out that he was dead.This report was, with great industry and artifice, dispersed by his enemies; which quickly discovered the ill inclination of several lords; who, although they never believed the thing, yet made use of it for an occasion or pretext to fortify their castles, which they refused to surrender to the king himself; but Stephen was resolved, as he said, to convince them that he was alive and well; for, coming against them before he was expected, he recovered Exeter, Norwich, and other fortified places, although not without much difficulty.
It is obvious enough to wonder how a prince of so much valour, and other excellent endowments, elected by the church and state, after a compliance with all conditions they could impose on him, and in an age when so little regard was had to the lineal descent, lastly confirmed by the pope himself, should be soon deserted and oppo.