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10.46. The description of king Henrie the second. Chap. 46.

The description of king Henrie the second. Chap. 46.

IT were not now amisse, but verie requi|sit that we should (for a perpetuall remem|brance of the king) describe and set foorth as well the nature and conditions of his in|ward man as of his outward; that men which shall be desirous hereafter to learne and read his most noble acts in chiualrie, may also as it were before their eies conceiue his verie nature and liuelie por|traiture: for he being so noble an ornament to this time and our historie; we might not well, neither dooth this historie permit vs to omit and passe him o|uer in silence. Wherein we are to craue pardon that we may plainelie declare and tell the truth: for in all histories the perfect and full truth is to be alwaies o|pened, and without it the same wanteth both autho|ritie and credit: for art must follow nature. And the painter therfore, whose profession and art is to make his portraiture as liuelie as may be, if he swarue from the same, then both he and his worke lacke and want their commendation. And albeit no man be borne without his fault, yet is he most to be borne withall who is least spotted: & him must we account and thinke to be wise, who knowledgeth the same: for whie, in all worldlie matters there is no certein|tie; and vnder heauen is no perfect felicitie, but euill things are mixt with good things, and vices ioined with vertues. And therefore, as things spoken in commendation either of a mans good disposition, o [...] of his worthie dooings, doo delight and like well the hearer: euen so let him not be offended, if things not to be well liked be also recited and written. And yet the philosophers are of the opinion, that we ought to reuerence so the higher powers in all maner of offi|ces and dueties, as that we should not prouoke nor mooue them with anie sharpe spéeches or disordered languages. For (as Terence saith) faire words and soothing speeches bréed fréendship, but plaine telling of truth makes enimies. Wherfore it is a dangerous thing to speake euill against him, though the occasi|on be neuer so iust, as who can foorthwith auenge the same. And it is a matter more dangerous, and he aduentureth himselfe verie far, which will contend in manie words against him, who in one or few words can wreake the same. It were suerlie a verie happie thing, and that which I confesse passeth my reach, if a man intreating of princes causes might tell the truth in euerie thing, and yet not offend them in anie thing. But to the purpose.

Henrie the second, king of England, was of a ve|rie good colour, but somewhat red: his head great and round, his eies were fierie, red, and grim, and his face verie high coloured; his voice or speech was shaking, quiuering, or trembling; his necke short, his breast brode and big, strong armed, his bodie was grosse, and his bellie somewhat big, which came vnto him ra|ther by nature than by anie grosse feeding or surfet|ting. For his diet was very temperat, and to saie the truth, thought to be more spare than comelie, or for the state of a prince: and yet to abate his grossenesse, and to remedie this fault of nature, he did as it were punish his bodie with continuall exercise, and did as it were kéepe a continuall warre with himselfe. For in the times of his warres, which were for the most part continuall to him, he had little or no rest at all; and in time of peace he would not grant vnto him|selfe anie peace at all, nor take anie rest: for then did he giue himselfe wholie vnto hunting, and to follow the same he would verie erlie euerie morning be on horssebacke, and then into the woods, sometimes into the forrests, and sometimes into the hilles and fields, and so would he spend the whole daie vntill night. In the euening when he came home, he would neuer or verie seldome sit either before or after supper: for though he were neuer so wearie, yet still would he be walking and going. And forsomuch as it is verie profitable for euerie man in his life time, that he doo not take too much of anie one thing; for the medicine it selfe which is appointed for a mans helpe & reme|die, is not absolutelie perfect and good to be alwaies vsed: euen so it befell and happened to this prince; for partlie by his excessiue trauels, and partlie by diuerse bruses in his bodie, his legs and féet were swollen and sore. And though he had no disease at all, yet age it selfe was a breaking sufficient vnto him. He was of a resonable stature, which happened to none of his sons; for his two eldest sons were somwhat higher, & his two yoonger sons were somewhat lower and lesse than was he. If he were in a good mood, and not an|grie, then would he be verie pleasant and eloquent: he was also (which was a thing verie rare in those daies) verie well learned: he was also verie affable, gentle, and courteous; and besides so pitifull, that when he had ouercome his enimie, yet would he be ouercome with pitie towards him.

EEBO page image 30 In warres he was most valiant, and in peace he was as prouident and circumspect. And in the wars mistrusting and doubting of the end and euent ther|of, he would (as Terence writeth) trie all the waies and meanes he could deuise rather than wage the battell. If he lost anie of his men in the fight, he would maruellouslie lament his death, and séeme to pitie him more being dead than he did regard or ac|count of him being aliue, more bewailing the dead than fauoring the liuing. In times of distresse no man more courteous, and when all things were safe no man more hard or cruell. Against the stubborne & vnrulie no man more sharpe, nor yet to the hum|ble no man more gentle; hard toward his owne men and houshold, but liberall to strangers, bountifull a|brode, but sparing at home: whom he once hated, he would neuer or verie hardlie loue; and whom he once loued, he would not lightlie be out with him, or for|sake him: he had great pleasure and delight in hawking and hunting. Would God he had béene as well bent and disposed vnto good deuotion!

It was said that after the displeasure growne be|twéene the king and his sonnes, by the meanes and thorough the intising of the queene their moother, he neuer accounted to kéepe his word and promise, but without anie regard or care was a common breaker thereof. And true it is, that of a certeine na|turall disposition he was light and inconstant of his word: and if the matter were brought to a narrow streict or pinch, he would not sticke rather to couer his word, than to denie his déed. And for this cause he in all his dooings was verie prouident and circum|spect, and a verie vpright and a seuere minister of iu|stice, although he did therein greeue and make his friends to smart. His answers for the most part were peruerse and froward. Iustice which is God himselfe is fréelie and without rewards to be mini|stred. And albeit for profit and lucre all things are set to sale, and doo bring great gaines as well to the clergie as to the laitie: yet they are no better to a mans heires or executors, than were the riches of (2) Gehezi the seruant to Elizeus, whose gréedie ta|kings turned himselfe to vtter ruine and destruc|tion.

He was a great peacemaker, and a carefull kee|per thereof himselfe: a liberall almes giuer, and a speciall benefactor to the holie land, he loued humili|tie, abhorred pride, and much oppressed his nobilitie. The hungrie he refreshed, but the rich he regarded not. The humble he would exalt, but the mightie he disdained. He vsurped much vpon the holie church, and of a certeine kind of zeale, but not according to knowledge; he did intermingle and conioine the pro|phane with holie things; for why, he would be all in all himselfe. He was the child of the holie church, and by hir aduanced to the scepter of his kingdome, and yet he either dissembled or vtterlie forgat the same: for he was slacke alwaies in comming to the church vnto the diuine seruice, and at the time thereof he would be busied and occupied rather in councels and in conference about the affaires of his common|wealth, than in deuotion and praier. The liuelihoods belonging to anie spirituall promotion, he would in time of vacation confiscat to his owne treasurie, and assume that to himselfe which was due vnto Christ. When anie new troubles or wars did grow or come vpon him, then would he lash & powre all that euer he had in store or treasurie; and liberallie bestow that vpon a roister or a soldier, which ought to haue beene giuen vnto the priest. He had a verie prudent & fore|casting wit, and therby foreséeing what things might or were like to insue, he would accordinglie order & dispose either for the performance, or for the preuen|ting thereof: notwithstanding manie times the e|uent happened to the contrarie, and he disappointed of his expectation: and commonlie there happened no ill vnto him, but he would foretell therof to his friends and familiars.

He was a maruellous naturall father to his chil|dren, and loued them tenderlie in their childhood and yoong yeares: but they being growne to some age and ripenesse, he was as a father in law, and could scarselie brooke anie of them. And notwithstanding they were verie handsome, comelie, and noble gen|tlemen: yet whether it were that he would not haue them prosper too fast, or whether they had euill deser|ued of him, he hated them; & it was full much against his will, that they should be his successors, or heires to anie part of his inheritance. And such is the pro|speritie of man, that as it can not be perpetuall, no more can it be perfect and assured: for why, such was the secret malice of fortune against this king, that where he should haue receiued much comfort, there had he most sorrow: where quietnesse & safetie, there vnquietnesse and perill: where peace, there enimitie: where courtesie, there ingratitude: where rest, there trouble. And whether this happened by the meanes of the (3) marriages, or for the punishment of the fa|thers sinnes: certeine it is, there was no good agrée|ment, neither betweene the father & the sonnes, nor yet among the sonnes themselues.

But at length, when all his enimies and the distur|bers of the common peace were suppressed; and his brethren, his sonnes, and all others his aduersaries as well at home as abroad were reconciled: then all things happened and befell vnto him (though it were long first) after and according to his owne will and mind. And would to God he had likewise reconciled himselfe vnto God, and by amendement of his life had in the end also procured his fauour and mer|cie! Besides this, which I had almost forgotten, he was of such a (4) memorie, that if he had once séene and knowne a man, he would not forget him: neither yet whatsoeuer he had heard, would he be vnmind|full thereof. And hereof was it, that he had so readie a memorie of histories which he had read, as a know|ledge and a maner of an experience in all things. To conclude, if he had béene chosen of God, and béene ob|sequious and carefull to liue in his feare and after his laws, he had excelled all the princes of the world: for in the gifts of nature no one man was to be compared vnto him. Thus much brieflie, and yet not much besides the matter, I haue thought good to de|liuer, that hauing in few words made my entrie; o|ther writers maie haue the better occasion more at large to discourse and intreat of this so worthie an historie. And therefore leauing the same to others, let vs returne to our Ireland, from whense we di|gressed.

(1) The words are Oculis glaucis: which some doo English to be greie eies, like the colour of the skie, with specks in it: but some doo English it a bright red, as is the colour of a lions eie, which is common|lie a signe or an argument of a man which will be soone warmed & angrie: & so it is to be taken in this place: for the words, which follow, be: Ad iram tor|uis, which is to saie, grim looking eies disposed to an|ger: which eies were answerable to the complexion and disposition of this king.

(2) This historie is written in the fift chapter of the second booke of the kings, & in effect is this. When the prophet Elisha or Elizeus had healed Naaman the Syrian of his leprosie, he would haue rewarded the prophet, & haue giuen great and rich gifts: but he refused the same and would none thereof, wherefore Naaman departed awaie. But Gehezi the seruant of the prophet, being touched with a greedie and a co|uetous EEBO page image 31 mind, and angrie that his master had refu|sed such rich presents, secretlie he ran after the Sy|rian; and ouertaking him, did aske of him in his ma|sters name a talent of siluer, & certeine garments: which he receiued doubled, and returned therewith. But he was no sooner come home, but that his coue|tousnesse was rewarded, and he plagued with the le|prosie of Naaman, which cloue vnto him as white as the snow.

(3) The king maried Eleanor the daughter and heire to the erle of Poitiers (who before was maried to Lewes the eight and king of France, but diuor|sed from him for néerenesse of blood) and after that he had continued with hir sundrie yeares, and recei|ued by hir six sonnes and three daughters, he fell in loue with a yoong wench named Rosamund, and then waxed wearie of his wife. And she to be awrea|ked, did not onelie in continuance of time find the means to find out this Rosamund, who was kept se|cret in a house builded like a labyrinth of purpose for hir safe kéeping at Woodstocke, where when the quéen had found hir, Rosamund liued not long after: but also for a further reuenge, she by means of hir sonnes who were noble & valiant gentlemen, caused warres to be s [...]urred and raised against the king to his great vnquietnesse: and this is one of the mariages of which this author meaneth. The other was of his son named Henrie, whome he did not onelie make and crowne king in his life time, but also for a con [...]rma|tion of a peace to be had betwéene him and Lewes the eight then French king, he maried his said sonne to the ladie Margaret daughter to the said French king. By reason whereof his said sonne being once come to yéeres of age, and thinking it too long yer he could haue the sole gouernment, as also being by the quéene his mother intised, and taking hir part, he fled to the French king his father in law; and by his a [...]d, as also of sundrie other noble men both English and French, who ioined with him, made warres vp|on his said father: which bred vnto him no little trou|ble and vnquietnesse.

(4) There is not a more commendable & more ne|cessarie vertue in a king, than is the g [...] of a quicke and good memorie: for by it knowledge dooth increase and experience is perfected. And therefore saith Ci|cero, that memorie is the treasurie of all good things, and most necessarie to the life of man: wherein the more the gouernor excelleth, the more prouident is his gouernment. For why, as Plutar [...] writeth, the remembrance of things past are speciall presidents and examples of things to come. Diuers and sundrie men haue béene famous, and much commended for their excellencie in this vertue. Mithr [...]dates king of Pontus in Asia had vnder his dominion two and twentie nations, and he was of such singular memo|rie, that he did not onelie vnderstand their seuerall languages, but also spake them perfe [...]lie: and in iudgements would heare each man to speake in his owne language, and answer them in the same. Cy|rus king of Persia, the sonne of Cambises, so excel|led in memorie, that hauing an excéeding great mul|titude of men in his host, he would call euerie man by his proper name and surname. Cineas an ambas|sador from king Pyrrhus to the Romanes, was not in Rome aboue one whole date, before he could sa|lute euerie of the senators, and euerie noble man of Rome by his particular name. Likewise Iul [...]us Cesar and Adrianus the emperors of Rome were of such excellent memories, that euerie of them at one instant could both read and write, as also speake and heare. The like also is said of the famous and most excellentlie learned man Erasmus Roteroda|mus, who hauing alwaies or for the most part sundrie and diuers clearks writing at one time and instant, of sundrie matters, would walke vp and downe a|mong them, and indite to euerie one what he should write. And this thing is so necessarie in all princes, that in the old ages they were euer woont to haue a|bout them such men as were of a speciall memorie; to put them in mind of all such things as to them should be méet and requisite, and these were called Nomenclatores. Whether this king had any such at|tending vpon him or not, it is certeine that he him|selfe was of an excellent good memorie.

Thus far the first booke of the Conquest of Ireland.

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