Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 44. PERSON AND CHARACTER OF HENRY II

44. PERSON AND CHARACTER OF HENRY II

    As I have hitherto described the public acts of King Henry, so now I mean to touch something of his private conditions. He was of mean stature, eloquent and learned, manly and bold in chivalry, fearful of the mutability and chance of war, more lamenting the death of his soldiers dead than loving them alive; none more courteous and liberal for the obtaining of his purpose, in peace and tranquillity none more rough; stubborn against the stubborn, sometimes merciful to those whom he had vanquished; strict to his household servants, but liberal to strangers; publicly of public things liberal, sparing of his own; whom once he took a displeasure against, hardly or never would he receive again to favour: somewhat lavish of his tongue, a willing breaker of his promise, a lover of his ease, but an oppressor of his nobility, a severe revenger and furtherer of justice, variable of word, and crafty in his talk, an open adulterer, a nourisher of discord amongst his children; moreover, the papists bearing him (for Thomas Becket's quarrel, and such-like, as may be gathered) no good will, term him to be an adversary of the faith, the mall and beetle of the church.

    Also in the chronicle entitled Scala Mundi, I find of him, that he followed the steps, manners, and conditions of Henry the First, his grandfather, in every point. He preserved firm peace and executed strict justice through all his dominions. He loved marvellous well his forests; and again those that were transgressors, either to his crown or person, he most severely punished.

    Moreover, in a certain history entitled De Regibus Angliæ, I find that this king was sundry times admonished to reform and amend his life, and first by one that was an old man in the castle of Cardiff in Wales, at that time of the year called Dominica in albis, the eighth day after Easter; where also after that he had heard mass, and was going to take his horse, there stood a certain man by him, somewhat yellowish, (his hair being rounded, lean and ill favoured,) having on a white coat, and being barefoot, who looked upon the king, and spake on this wise: Good old king, (that done, thus he proceedeth,) the King saluteth you and his blessed mother; John Baptist and Peter straitly charge you, that upon the Sundays throughout all your dominions there be no buying and selling, or other servile business, (those only except which appertain to the preparation of meat and drink,) which thing if thou shalt observe, whatsoever thou takest in hand, thou shalt happily finish and bring to pass. Then spake the king in French unto the knight that held his horse by the bridle; Ask of this churl whether he dreamed this or not. And in the mean while that the knight should have interpreted the king's words and message, he spake before and said, Whether this be a dream or not, mark well what day this is; for unless that thou do these things and amend thy life, such news shalt thou hear within these twelve months, that will make thee lament and mourn till thy dying day. And when these words were spoken, the man vanished out of his sight; and within one year next after, Henry, Gaufrid, and Richard, his sons, forsook him their father, and took part with the French king. The king of Scots, the earl of Chester, and earl of Leicester, made an insurrection against the king. Many other premonitions were given also to the king, but all these did he little esteem. The second which did admonish him, was a certain Irishman, giving him certain secret signs. And thirdly, a certain knight of Findeseie, named Philip de Easterbie, sailing with him over into France, declared unto the king in Normandy seven articles which he should amend. Which thing if he would do, he should reign seven years most honourably, and should take the holy cross from his enemies; or else he, in the fourth year, should die in a great ignominy. The three first things were these, which he at his coronation sware to observe; that is, to defend the church, to maintain good laws, and to condemn no man to death without judgment. The fourth was, for the restoring of inheritance wrongfully taken; the fifth was, in doing justice without reward; the sixth was, of ministers' and officers' wages and stipends; the seventh was, of expelling the Jews, leaving them some money to depart withal. But the king not amending his life, there rose up against him three strong enemies; that is to say, his three Sons with the French king. But after that the king forsooth had gone on pilgrimage to the martyr's tomb barefoot, William, king of Scots, and the earls of Chester and Leicester, were taken at Alnwick.

    In the five and thirtieth year of his reign, being in the castle of Chiven in Normandy, he died: at whose death those that were present were so greedy of the spoil, that they left the body of the king naked, and not so much could be found as a cloth to cover it, till that a page coming in, and seeing the king so ignominiously to lie, threw his cloak upon his nether parts; wherein, saith the author, was verified the surname which from his youth he bare, being called Henry Court Mantil.

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