Raised to the throne by a Parliamentary revolution and resting its claims on a Parliamentary title, the House of Lancaster was precluded by its very position from any resumption of the late struggle for independence on the part of the Crown which had culminated in the bold effort of Richard the Second. During no period of our early history were the powers of the two Houses so frankly recognized. The tone of Henry the Fourth till the very close of his reign is that of humble compliance with the prayers of the Parliament, and even his imperious successor shrank almost with timidity from any conflict with it. But the Crown had been bought by other pledges less noble than that of constitutional rule. The support of the nobles had been partly won by the hope of a renewal of the fatal war with France. The support of the Church had been purchased by the more terrible promise of persecution. The last pledge was speedily redeemed. In the first Convocation of his reign Henry declared himself the protector of the Church and ordered the prelates to take measures for the suppression of heresy and of the wandering preachers.
His declaration was but a prelude to the Statute of Heresy which was passed at the opening of 1401. By the provisions of this infamous Act the hindrances which had till now neutralized the efforts of the bishops were taken away. Not only were they permitted to arrest all preachers of heresy, all schoolmasters infected with heretical teaching, all owners and writers of heretical books, and to imprison them, even if they recanted, at the King's pleasure, but a refusal to abjure or a relapse after abjuration enabled them to hand over the heretic to the civil officers, and by these - so ran the first legal enactment of religious bloodshed which defiled our Statute-book - he-was to be burned on a high place before the people. The statute was hardly passed when William Sautre, a parish priest at Lynn, became its first victim. Nine years later a layman, John Badby, was committed to the flames in the presence of the Prince of Wales for a denial of transubstantiation. The groans of the sufferer were taken for a recantation, and the Prince ordered the fire to be plucked away; but the offer of life and of a pension failed to break the spirit of the Lollard, and he was hurled back to his doom.
[Authorities. - For Henry IV. the "Annales Henrici Quarti" and Walsing-ham, as before. For his successor, the "Acta Henrici Quinti" by Titus Livius, a chaplain in the royal army (English Historical Society); a life by Elmham, Prior of Lenton, simpler in style but identical in arrangement and facts with the former work; a biography by Robert Redman; a metrical Chronicle by Elmham (published in Rolls Series in " Memorials of Henry V."); and the meagre chronicles of Hardyng and Otterbourne. Monstrelet is the most important French authority for this period; for the Norman campaigns see M. Puiseux's "Siege de Rouen" (Caen, 1867). Lord Brougham has given a vigorous and, in a constitutional point of view, valuable sketch of this period in his " History of England under the House of Lancaster."]
The enmity of France, and the fierce resentment of the Reformers, added danger to the incessant revolts which threatened the throne of Henry. The mere maintenance of his power through the troubled years of his reign is the best proof of the King's ability. A conspiracy of Richard's kinsmen, the Earls of Huntingdon and Kent was suppressed, and was at once followed by Richard's death in prison. The Percies broke out in rebellion, and Hotspur, the son of the Earl of Northumberland, leagued himself with the Scots and with the insurgents of Wales. He was defeated and slain in an obstinate battle near Shrewsbury; but two years later his father rose in a fresh insurrection, and though the seizure and execution of his fellow-conspirator Scrope, the Archbishop of York, drove Northumberland over the border, he remained till his death in a later inroad a peril to the throne. Encouraged meanwhile by the weakness of England, Wales, so long tranquil, shook off the yoke of her conquerors, and the whole country rose at the call of Owen Glyndwr or Glendower, a descendant of its native princes.
Owen left the invaders, as of old, to contend with famine and the mountain storms; but they had no sooner retired than he sallied out from his inaccessible fastnesses to win victories which were followed by the adhesion of all North Wales and great part of the South to his cause, while a force of French auxiliaries was despatched by Charles of France to his aid. It was only the restoration of peace in England which enabled Henry to roll back the tide of Glyndwr's success. By slow and deliberate campaigns continued through four years the Prince of Wales wrested from him the South; his subjects in the North, discouraged by successive defeats, gradually fell away from his standard; and the repulse of a bold descent upon Shropshire drove Owen at last to take refuge among the mountains of Snowdon, where he seems to have maintained the contest, single-handed, till his death. ["With the close of the Welsh rising the Lancastrian throne felt itself secure from without, but the danger from the Lollards remained as great as ever within. The new statute and its terrible penalties were boldly defied.
The death of the Earl of Salisbury in the first of the revolts against Henry, though his gory head was welcomed into London by a procession of abbots and bishops who went out singing psalms of thanksgiving to meet it, only transferred the leadership of the party to one of the foremost warriors of the time. Sir John Old-castle, whose marriage raised him to the title of Lord Cobham, threw open his castle of Cowling to the Lollards as their head-quarters, sheltered their preachers, and set the prohibitions and sentences of the bishops at defiance. When Henry the Fourth died in 1413 worn out with the troubles of his reign, his successor was forced to deal with this formidable question. The bishops demanded that Cobham should be brought to justice, and though the King pleaded for delay in the case of one who was so close a friend, his open defiance at last forced him to act. A body of royal troops arrested Lord Cobham and carried him to the Tower. His escape was the signal for a vast revolt. A secret order summoned the Lollards to assemble in St. Giles's fields outside London. We gather, if not the real aims of the rising, at least the terror that it caused, from Henry's statement that its purpose was "to destroy himself, his brothers, and several of the spiritual and temporal lords;" but the vigilance of the young King prevented the junction of the Lollards of London with their friends in the country, and those who appeared at the place of meeting were dispersed by the royal forces.