Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/499

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


CHAPTER XIV.
THE EARLY TUDORS.


That which gave the death-blow to feudalism in England was undoubtedly the Battle of Bosworth. The Normans, after their invasion and conquest, had drilled and disciplined the English people with so thorough a comprehension of the capabilities of the Saxon population, and so full an appreciation of their solid merits, that the sense of subjugation was soon effaced and a harmonious system established which time could not entirely destroy. The courtesy of the upper classes and the respectful subordination of the lower alike contributed to the strength of an English nationality, which, as it became more and more entirely insular, became more and more unique; so that even the decay and demoralisation which followed the loss of continental possessions in the fifteenth century, were accompanied by a compensation which was very real though but little appreciated at the time. With the loss of France, England was released from a burden which she was quite unable to bear; and when, a century later, she lost Calais also, she was all the more able to negotiate effectually with Scotland, and lay firm the foundations of a United Kingdom which a future age was to build up.

The expulsion of the English from both Normandy and Gascony in the days of Henry VI had led naturally to mutual recriminations among the nobility and gentry, who looked upon France as a playground to which they had an obvious right. These feelings mixed themselves with the great dynastic struggle of the Wars of the Roses; and the House of York owed not a little of its popularity to the fact that their party was not responsible for disaster abroad. But when Edward IV taxed his subjects severely for a new invasion of France, which was to revive the glories of the Black Prince and of Henry V, and when, instead of prosecuting his claims in the field, he listened to a seductive offer of an annual tribute from Louis XI and returned home from a bloodless campaign, it was already clear to discerning minds that the reconquest of France was a dream and an impossibility. Edward, indeed, though an excellent soldier when events compelled