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of Gaunt, having then a large army in the kingdom, the pretense of raising which was to recover his patrimony from the king, and to redress the grievances of the subject, made it impossible for any other title to be asserted with safety, and he became king. He was compelled, however, to declare that he claimed not as a conqueror, which he desired to do, but as a successor, descended from the blood royal. He claimed by two titles, the one of being the first of the blood in the entire male line, whereas the duke of Clarence left only one child, a daughter Philippa, from which female branch, by a marriage with Edmond Mortimer, earl of March, the house of York descended. The other title by which he claimed, was by reviving an exploded rumor, that Edmond, earl of Lancaster, to whom Henry's mother was heiress, was in reality the elder brother of Edward I, though his parents, on account of his personal deformity, had imposed him on the world for the younger. Therefore, Henry would be entitled to the crown, either as successor to Richard II, in case the male line was preferred over the female, or even prior to that unfortunate prince, if the crown could descend through a female, while an entire male line existed.
Edward IV. Henry V and Henry VI, son and grandson of Henry IV, successively reigned. In the latter's reign, the house of York asserted their dormant title, and after imbruing their kingdom in blood and confusion for seven years, at last established it in the person of Edward IV. At his accession to the throne, the distinction of a king de jure and a king de facto was first taken, in order to indemnify such as had submitted to the late establishment, and to provide for the peace of the kingdom, by confirming all honors conferred, and all acts done by those who were now called usurpers.
Richard III. Edward IV left two sons and a daughter, the elder of which sons, as Edward V, enjoyed the regal dignity for a very short time, and was then deposed by Richard, his unnatural uncle, who immediately usurped the crown, having charged his nephews with being bastards. He is believed to have murdered both these nephews, upon whose death the right of the crown devolved upon their sister Elizabeth.
Henry VII. The tyrannical reign of Richard III gave occasion to Henry, earl of Richmond, to assert his title to the .crown, a title the most unwarranted ever known, and which
nothing could have given success to, but the universal detestation of the usurper Richard. For besides that he claimed under a descent from John of Gaunt, whose title was now exploded, the claim was through John, earl of Somerset, a bastard son of John of Gaunt and Catharine Swinford. This son was legitimated, it is true, by act of parliament, but with an express reservation, excepta dignitate regali.
Usurped Power. Notwithstanding all this, after the battle of Bosworth Field, he assumed the regal dignity; the right of the crown then being in Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV. His possession was established by parliament, although that body carefully avoided any recognition of his right, which indeed was none at all, and the king would not have it by new law, whereby a right might seem to be conferred upon him; and therefore a middle way was chosen, under indifferent words: “That the inheritance of the crown should rest, remain and abide in king Henry VII and the heirs of his body,” but not determining either way, whether that possession was de jure or de facto merely. However, he soon married Elizabeth of York, the undoubted heiress of the Conqueror, and thereby gained by much his best title to the crown.
Henry VIII. Henry VIII, the issue of this marriage, succeeded to the crown by clear hereditary right, and transmitted it to his three children in successive order. In his reign, at several times the parliament busied itself in regulating the succession to the kingdom. It enacted, that the crown should be entailed to his majesty, and the heirs male of his body; and in default of such sons, then to Elizabeth, who was declared to be the king's eldest issue female, in exclusion of Mary, on account of her supposed illegitimacy by the divorce of her mother, queen Catharine.
Mary and Elizabeth. But upon the king's divorce from Anne Boleyn, the lady Elizabeth was also declared bastardized, and the crown settled on the king's children by the queen, Jane Seymour, and also his children by the king's future wives, and in default of such children, with this remarkable remainder, to such persons, as the king by letters patent, or last will and testament, should appoint; a vast power, but indisputably valid.
Subsequently Legitimated. But this power was never executed, for by subsequent statute, the king's daughters were legitimated, and the crown was limited to prince Edward, after that to Mary, and then to Elizabeth, and the heirs of their respective bodies, which succession took effect accordingly.
James I. On the death of Elizabeth without issue, the line of Henry VIII became extinct. Reference was then made to Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII, and Elizabeth of York, his queen. She wedded James IV, king of Scotland, and from them was descended James VI, of Scotland, who centred in himself all claims to the English throne, from the conquest downward, as he was the lineal heir of the Conqueror. He was also descended from the Saxon line, through a lineal ancestor, Margaret, the sister of Edgar Atheling, and grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside. James the First, of England, therefore, united in his person, every possible claim, by hereditary right, to the English throne, being the heir both of Egbert and of William I.
Divine Right of Kings Claimed. No wonder, therefore, that a prince of more learning than wisdom, who could deduce an hereditary title for more than eight hundred years, should easily be taught by flatterers of the time to believe that his right was divine.
Charles I. His son and successor, Charles I, in whom so many hereditary rights centred, was told by the judges who pronounced his sentence, that he was an elective prince, elected by the people, and therefore accountable to them in his own proper person for his conduct. The confusion that followed the fatal catastrophe of this unfortunate prince, will be a standing argument in favor of hereditary monarchy to all future ages. To recover the peace, which they had lost for twenty years, the parliament restored the rightful heir of the crown.
Altering the Succession. There have been several instances after this, where parliament has asserted or exercised the right of altering or limiting a succession, which they had done in the reigns of Henry IV, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth.
Bill of Exclusion under Charles II. The purport of this bill was to set aside the king's brother, and presumptive heir, James, the duke of York, from the succession, on the score of his opposition to the established church. It passed the house of commons, but was rejected in the upper house. This proved, that though the crown was hereditary, yet parliament had the power to defeat the inheritance, else such a bill would have been ineffectual. The lords did not dispute the power, but merely the propriety of an exclusion.
James II. The bill having failed, James II succeeded to the throne of his ancestors, and might have retained it, but for his own infatuated conduct, which produced the revolution of 1688. There never before had happened such a case in English history, as the abdication of the reigning monarch, and the consequent vacancy of the throne. It was not a defeasance of the right of succession, and a new limitation of the crown, by the king and both houses of parliament; it was the act of the nation alone, upon conviction that no king existed. Thus ended, by this sudden vacancy of the throne, the old line of succession, nearly nine hundred years after the reign of Egbert. It was shown, that the king had endeavored to subvert the constitution, by breaking the original contract, had violated the fundamental laws, and had withdrawn himself from the kingdom, and thus virtually abdicated the government; which abdication did not only affect the person of the king himself, but also all his heirs, and made the throne vacant. Whenever a question arises between the society at large and any magistrate vested with powers originally delegated by that society, it must be decided by the voice of the society itself.
Beneficial Effects Succeeding the Abdication. From thence a new era commenced, in which the bounds of prerogative and liberty have been better defined, the principles of government more thoroughly examined and understood, and the rights of the subject more explicitly guarded by legal provisions, than in any other period of English history. The convention avoided all wild extremes. They held, that the misconduct of king James amounted to an endeavor to subvert the constitution, and not to an actual subversion or total dissolution of the government. They prudently voted it to amount to no more than an abdication, and a consequent vacancy of the throne, whereby the government was allowed to subsist though James was no longer king.
William and Mary. The right of disposing of a vacancy of the throne naturally results to the lords and commons, the trustees and representatives of the nation. They declared, that William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, should be king and queen, to hold the crown during their lives, and the life of the survivor of them, the sole power to be exercised by William, during their joint lives, but in the names of both, and that after their decease, the crown shall be to the heirs of the princess. In default of such issue, then to the princess Anne, of Denmark, and the heirs of her body, and in default of such heirs, then to the heirs of the prince of Orange. Mary and Anne were the daughters of king James II. William was the grandson of Charles I, and nephew, as well as son-in-law, of James II.
Acquired by Purchase, not by Descent. These three princes, William, Mary and Anne, did not take the crown by hereditary right or descent, but by way of donation or purchase, by which is meant, any method of acquiring an estate, otherwise than by descent. Mary was only nominally queen, jointly with her husband, William, who alone had the regal power, and he was personally preferred to Anne, though his issue was postponed to hers. Hence they were successively in possession of the crown, by a title different from the usual course of descent.
Succession to the Throne. Towards the end of king William's reign, when all hope of issue surviving from any of these princes, died with the duke of Gloucester, the king and parliament deemed it their duty to limit and appoint the succession, in order to prevent another vacancy of the throne, which must have ensued at their deaths. A previous statute excluded all persons from the throne, who held communion with the church of Rome, and enacted, that the crown should descend to such protestants as would have inherited, had the other party been dead.
Sophia of Hanover. Sophia of Hanover appeared to be the party entitled to succeed them, in default of issue of any one of the three sovereigns. She was the electress and duchess dowager of Hanover, and the most accomplished princess of her age. Sophia was the daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, the daughter of James I of England, and was the nearest of the ancient blood royal, professing the protestant religion. On her and the heirs of her body, being protestants, was settled by statute the succession to the crown.
George I. The princess Sophia, dying before queen Anne, the inheritance descended to her son, who acquired the title of George I. The crown descended then to George II, his son, , and afterwards to his grandson, George III.'
From George III, it descended to his son, George IV, who, dying without issue, was succeeded by his brother, William IV. On his death, his niece, Victoria, daughter of his youngest brother, Edward, duke of Kent, became queen.