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“Philip of France, in right and true behalf Of thy deceased brother Geffrey's son, Arthur Plantagenet, lays most lawful claim To this fair island and the territories; To Ireland, Poitiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Desiring thee to lay aside the sword Which sways usurpingly these several titles, And put the same into young Arthur's hand.” Now, I do not find, either in Holinshed, or in any other history, English or French, that Chatillon, or any other diplomatic agent, was sent by Philip Augustus to John; or that the crown of England was demanded by the French King on the part of Arthur. Philip apparently, and with reason, disclaimed an interest in the disposal of that crown; whereas, of the transmarine possessions of the Kings of England, as well as of Brittany, he claimed to be lord paramount. Commentators have already shewn that the introduction of the Archduke of Austria is a mistake borrowed from the old play. Leopold, the Duke of Austria, by whom Richard was thrown into prison, died in 1195 ; the Limoges, who in a subsequent scene is confounded with him, was the owner of the castle of Chaluz, before which Richard was slain.-* Act i. Sc. 1. t See Bosw. p. 221, 270. It appears from the Patent Rolls (Hardy, p. 43) that Limoges was taken at Mirabeau, and that he negotiated with John for a peace. .
John was beyond seas when his brother Richard died, and sent over to England Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Marshall, Earl of Striguill (afterwards Pembroke), who assembled at Northampton “the estates of the realm,” or, as it appears from ancient chroniclers,t the Earls and Barons only ; who then resolved to support the claim of John.
It is not clear whether the King of France immediately espoused the cause of Arthur, or whether he hesitated a little; but it is certain that his hesitation did not last, as hostilities soon commenced on the French side of the Channel; and within a month of Richard's death, a truce of fifty days was concluded between Philip and John, to terminate on the 15th of August, 1199. Meanwhile, John had come to England, and had been presented to the people at Westminster, after a speech from Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he is supposed to have said nothing of hereditary right, but to have recommended John for election, on the ground of his personal merits. This speech has occasioned an historical controversy, having been supposed to prove that our monarchy was elective ; Holinshed professes to take it from Matthew Paris; but he leaves out the preface, in which the monk
• Holinshed, p. 273. t Hoveden, in Script. post Bedam, p. 793, and M. Paris, p. 196.
gives a preference to the claimant by hereditary right. Carte supposes it to have been an invention of Matthew, especially as Hoveden, a contemporary, does not mention it.” On hearing it, we are told, “divers held their peace, and many with great zeal saluted King John,” who was forthwith crowned by Hubert. Neither the ceremony nor the speech is mentioned by Shakspeare. Philip had meanwhile knighted (now or after the renewal of the war, but it is no matter) young Arthur, at this time little more than twelve years old; and had taken his homage for the transmarine possessions of his deceased uncle, as well as for his own province of Brittany: and he began a war by invading the duchy of Normandy; while the Breton subjects of Arthur took Angers (the capital of Anjou), of which town we hear so much in Shakspeare. Thierry,+ who has written the History of England for a period following the Norman Conquest, with a special reference to the distinction of races, has cited from one of our old chroniclers; a circumstance concerning Arthur, which is unnoticed by our historians. The young prince was born after his father's death; Henry the Second, his * See Turner, i. 405. t “Hist. de la Conquête de l’Angleterre, par les Nor
mans,” iii. 93, and iv. 144.
grandfather, desired to give him his own name; but the Bretons on the south side of the Channel had a superstition, which perhaps still lingers among the mountains of Wales, or in the patriotic breast of my friend Charles Wynn, concerning the name of Arthur; and that name was given to the prince, with great solemnity, at his baptism. “And thus,” writes the chronicler, “the Bretons, who are said to have for a long time expected a fabulous Arthur, now cherished a true one with great expectations, according to an opinion predicted in grand and celebrated stories concerning Arthur.” I do not know precisely what the great deeds were, which the fabulous Arthur of old times was supposed to perform. It may be doubted whether they exceeded those which the real and true Arthur of our days has accomplished. Shakspeare is correct in placing Angers in the possession neither of John nor Philip, after the return of John from England;t and it is true that, just before the expiration of the truce, a personal conference took place between the kings near Butevant; which, I suppose, is that which the poet describes as occurring under the walls of Angers, when he again makes Philip, without any warrant in history, the champion of Arthur's claim to the Crown. The unlady-like scolding of Elinor, the mother of John, and Constance, the mother of Arthur, is a well-known feature in the play ; it is a creation of the poet, suggested probably by a short passage in Holinshed, quoted by Malone.*
* Daru says, “Arthur était un héros cher aux Bretons; il avait été le compagnon de leur roi Hoel-le-grand. Quoiqu'il fut mort depuis plus de six cents ans, on attendait toujours sa venue: Merlin l’avait prédite. La crédulité populaire attachait à ce nom des idées de gloire, et de délivrance. Il était évident que ce choix était un symptôme du mécontentement de la domination des Plantagenets.” — Hist. de Bretagne, i. 377.
f June, 1199.
“Surely Queen Elinor, the king's mother, was sore against her nephew Arthur, rather moved thereto by envy conceived against his mother, than upon any just occasion given on behalf of the child; for that she saw if he were king, how that his mother Constance would look to bear most rule within the realm of England, till her son should come of lawful age to govern of himself. So hard it is to bring women to agree in one mind, their natures commonly being so contrary, their words so variable, and their deeds so indiscreet; and therefore it was well said of one, alluding to their disposition and properties, nulla diu famina pondus habet.”t Of the character of Elinor we know something: Malone takes for granted, without sufficient authority, her infidelity to her first husband, Lewis the
* Bosw. xv. 227. t Prop. lib. 2.