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ruption, except that the sons of King Ethelwolf, succeeded to each other, without regard to the children of the elder branches, and also that King Edred, the uncle of Edwy, reigned about nine years, during the minority of Edwy, on account of the troubles of the times. But when of age, Edwy assumed the reins of Government.
At the death of Edmund Ironside, Canute, King of Denmark, obtained the kingdom by violence, and a new family possessed the throne : three of his heirs succeeded to the throne, and on the death of Hardicanute, the ancient Saxon line was restored in Edward the Confessor, who was the next of kin, then in England. On the decease of Edward, Harold II. usurped the Government, for Edgar Atheling, the grand son of Ironside, was the lawful heir. Harold being defeated at the Battle of Hastings, was dispossessed of the throne, by William the Conqueror. Robert the eldest son of the Conqueror, being Duke of Normandy by his father's will, was kept out of the possession of the Crown of England, by the acts and violence of his brothers, William II., and Henry I., who succeeded their father.
The real heiress to Henry, was his daughter, the Empress Matilda, but Stephen usurped the throne, having only the feeble title of being grandson to the Conqueror, by his inother's side.
Henry II., the undoubted heir of the Conqueror, after his mother Matilda, and also lineally descended from Edmund Ironside, the last of the Saxon hereditary Kings, succeeded Stephen.
Henry was succeeded by Richard I., who dying childless, the right vested in his nephew Arthur, the son of Geoffry, his next brother, but John, the surviving brother of the King, seized the Crown, to the exclusion of his nephew, the doctrine of representation, not being then clearly understood.
Henry III., who succeeded his father, King John, had an indisputable title, for Arthur and his sister Eleanor both died without issue, and the Crown descended from Henry, to Richard II., in a regular succession of five generations.
Richard II. resigned the Crown, which was taken possession of by Henry IV., who was the son of the celebrated John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III. His title, however, was not a just one; for, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III., left a daughter Philippa, from whom descended the house of York. But, King Henry having at that time a large army at his command, asserted his title with effect; and by the Statute of 7, Henry IV. ch. 2, it was enacted, that the inheritance of the Crown and Realms of England and France, and all other the King's dominions, shall be set and remain in the person of our Sovereign Lord the King, and in the heirs of his body issuing. By which Statute, it is obvious that the title of Henry appeared at that time very doubtful, and it is equally clear that the King and Parliament had the right of changing and limiting the occupation of the Crown.
But the “ beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water.” No one can tell, when a river breaks through its banks, and rushes from its accustomed channel, what devastation it will occasion. The usurpation of Henry gave rise to the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster, the Princes of which, like Sampson's foxes, spread by their jarring interests, desolation and misery through the land for several subsequent generations.
Henry was succeeded by his son, and grandson, Henry V., and Henry VI. In the reign of this weak Prince, the house of York asserted its dormant title; and, after intestine war and bloodshed for seven years, at length established it in the person of Edward IV.
In all acts wherein Edward had occasion to speak of the Henries of the house of Lancaster, he calls them, “ lately in deed, not of right, Kings of England; and hence arose the distinction of a king de jure, and a king de facto.
On the death of Edward, the Crown descended to his eldest son, Edward V., who with his brother the Duke of York, are generally believed to have been murdered in the Tower, by order of their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester; after
he had insinuated into the populace, a suspicion of the bastardy of the two young Princes, and of their sister Elizabeth, to whom the Crown by right belonged, on the death of her brothers. But the wretched, and unnatural uncle, usurped the Government, under the name of Richard III. He enjoyed, however, the fruits of his villainy a little more than two years, when his tyranny excited Henry, Earl of Richmond, to assert his title to the Crown. Richard being slain in the battle of Bosworth, Richmond took possession of the Crown, by the style of Henry VII., although nothing could be more preposterous than his claim, for he was descended from a natural son of John of Gaunt, whose own title had been exploded. Henry was, however, confirmed in the throne, by an Act of Parliament, in the first year of his reign. But the right of the Crown was undoubtedly in Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV. This Princess, the heiress of the house of York, Henry married in 1486, and thus settled the fierce and bloody contests between the two families. How mysterious are the ways of Heaven! Often does it over-rule the wickedness of man for the accomplishment of the greatest benefits to the world. Had it not been for the atrocity of Richard, his nephews, and their heirs, would have reigned, and probably, the horrors of a civil war, been much longer protracted. Or had he conducted the aifairs of Government, with justice and moderation, instead of wearying out the people with oppression and tyranny; so monstrous a title as that of the Earl of Richmond, would never have been asserted But having succeeded in his pretensions, as the heir of the house of Lancaster, Henry married Elizabeth, who after the murder of her brothers, became the undoubted heiress, not only of the house of York, but also of the Conqueror, the common roval stock.
Henry VIII., the issue of this marriage, became, therefore, King, by a clear and indisputable hereditary right, and to him, his three children succeeded in regular order. Edward VI., following his father, was succeeded by his two sisters. Yet the Parliament exercised its constitutional right of regulating the succession, by passing various acts, respecting the legitimacy, or illegitimacy, of King Henry's two daughters, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth.
On the death of Queen Elizabeth, the line of Henry III. became extinct, and the Crown devolved of course on James VI. of Scotland, and first of England, who was the lineal descendant of Henry VII., whose eldest daughter by Elizabeth of York, married James IV. of Scotland. So that King James had an undoubted hereditary right to both the English and Scottish Crowns, and was the heir both of Egbert, and William the Conqueror. In James, therefore, centered all the claims of the houses of York and Lancaster, and what is more remarkable in him, also, the whole Saxon line was restored.
James firmly believed in the doctrine of the divine right of Kings, but the Parliament in recognizing his succession by Statute I., James I., ch. I., mentioned not a word about our right, immediately derived from God, but simply acknowledged his Majesty, as being lineally, justly, and lawfully, next and sole heir of the blood royal of this realm.
James was succeeded by his eldest son, the unfortunate King Charles I., whose Consitutional Judges, told that unhappy Monarch, that he was an elective Prince, and as such accountable to his people, in his own proper person, although nothing could be more absurd, and false, than such a doctrine, since Charles could produce an undeniable hereditary right, for more than 800 years, and was unquestionably the real heir of Egbert the first King of England. It was, indeed, very natural that men, who were about to strike off the head of the King, not by the just sentence of the law, but with the arm of violence, should deny the constitutional inviolability of his person. Nor is it surprizing that in the commission of such an act, as putting his Majestyto death, they should tell him he was an elective, and not an hereditary King. For they could not but foresee that the demise of the King would only make way for his son, if they admitted the ancient doctrine of hereditary succession to the Crown. That such a successor would call them to an account for the death of his father, they naturally kept in mind, when they talked about an elective Prince, to the exclusion of an hereditary monarch.
The violent death of King Charles made way for the usurpation of Cromwell, who assumed the title of Lord Protector.
After an interregnum of about eleven years, a solemn Parliamentary Convocation of the States, restored the Crown to the right heir, King Charles II., during whose reign, a Bill passed the Commons to exclude the King's brother, the Duke of York from the succession, on the ground of his being a Papist ; but it was rejected by the Lords, and the King also declared that he would never consent to it; so that on the death of Charles, the Duke succeeded by the name of James II. But from this attempt of the Commons to exclude James from the succession, it was clearly and universally acknowledged that the Crown was an inheritance, indefeasible, unless by Parliament, and also that the Parliament had the power of defeating the inheritance.
The infatuated King James, after various and notorious attempts to establish an arbitrary government, independently of the law, voluntarily vacated the throne by abdication. But our ancestors very prudently voted in both Houses of Parliament, that the conduct of King James amounted only to an endeavour to subvert the Constitution. The Scotch Convention, however, declared, “ that King James VII. being a professed Papist, had not taken the oath required by law, but bad by the advice of evil and wicked counsellors, invaded the fundamental Constitution of the kingdom, and altered it from a legal and limited monarchy to an arbitrary, despotic power, whereby he had forefaulted the Crown, and the throne was hecome vacant;" thus by simply declaring the throne vacant, it followed of course, that the two Houses of Parliament had the sole right and power of filling it up in such a manner as they should judge proper. This right they exercised by the following declaration, dated February 12, 1688, “ That William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, be, and be