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Cabinet Portrait Gallery of British Worthies Volume I   By:

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First Page:

THE

CABINET PORTRAIT GALLERY

OF

BRITISH WORTHIES.

VOLUME I.

LONDON: CHARLES KNIGHT & CO., LUDGATE STREET.

1845.

LONDON: WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET.

Transcriber's Note: Footnotes and Errata are placed at the end of this file.

CONTENTS.

Page

HENRY II. 5

ROGER BACON 38

EDWARD III. 58

WICLIFFE 94

CHAUCER 120

WILLIAM OF WYKEHAM 145

CABINET PORTRAIT GALLERY

OF

BRITISH WORTHIES.

HENRY II.

Among the histories of eminent kings, that of our Henry II. is one of the most remarkable both in its beginning and its end, both in the character of the man and in his fortunes; and, mostly tragic as the annals of human ambition are, there are few such histories that exemplify more impressively the instability and vanity of all earthly greatness.

Nature and fortune joined to make him great. The son of Matilda, daughter of the English king Henry I., he was through that descent, after the death of his grandfather, the undoubted male representative of William the Conqueror, the founder of the reigning English dynasty, and as such the legitimate heir, at least after his mother, both of the crown of England and of the dukedom of Normandy, the older acquisition of his heroic race. His grandmother, the wife of Henry I., was Matilda, daughter of Queen Margaret of Scotland, herself the daughter of Edward the Outlaw, in the veins of whose descendants now flowed the main stream of the blood of Egbert and Alfred and the old Saxon royal line. His father, whom his mother had married in 1127, two years after the death of her first husband, the Emperor Henry V., by whom she had no issue, was Geoffrey Earl of Anjou, surnamed Plantagenet, from his assuming as his ensign, and wearing on the crest of his helmet, a sprig of broom (in French plante genĂȘt ); whose father, Earl Fulk, had immediately before this marriage resigned to him all his French possessions and honours, upon being himself elected to the throne of Jerusalem, in which he was succeeded, on his death in 1143, by Baldwin III., his son by a second marriage. Henry was the eldest son of Geoffrey and the empress, and was born at Le Mans, the capital of his father's county of Maine, in March 1133, about two years and nine months before the death of his grandfather King Henry.

Yet it is remarkable that each of these several advantages of descent which were thus united in his person was accompanied by some defect or drawback, as if in order that there might remain as much for him to do for himself as had been done for him by the accident of his birth. His Saxon lineage gave him no claim to call himself the heir of the old race of English kings while there existed male descendants of his great grandmother, Queen Margaret of Scotland, whose son David the First was now seated on the throne of that country, and was undoubtedly the true representative of King Edmund Ironside and the Saxon royal line. Even between him and his legal right by inheritance to the English sceptre of the Conqueror there stood his mother, to whom and not to her son it was that Henry I. had made his barons swear fealty as his successor. Nor did he on the death of his father obtain more than a qualified right to the earldom of Anjou, Geoffrey having directed in his will that he should resign it to his next brother Geoffrey if he should ever come into the possession of the English crown, and having also made his bishops and barons take an oath that they would not suffer his body to be buried till Henry should have sworn to perform whatever the will might be found to enjoin; which, accordingly, though with much reluctance, he did. Geoffrey died on the 10th of September, 1151, in his forty first year, being younger than his wife the empress, who had long ceased to be an object of his affections, by seven or eight years... Continue reading book >>




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