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II. FAMILY AND EARLY LIFE OF SIMON DE MONTFORT
XI. THE LAST YEAR.
SIMON DE MONTFORT.
§ I. RISE OF PARLIAMENTARY GOVERNMENT.
1066—1215 General view.
The Norman kings of England, in their efforts to found an absolute monarchy, made good use of every opportunity to crush the power of their mightier vassals, while, as a balance to that power, they kept alive, if they did not actively encourage, the remnants of national feeling and popular government. This community of interest, however slightly developed under his predecessors, bore fruit under Henry I; in the struggle between him and his nobility the people stood by their king. Under his successor the pent up spirit of feudalism burst forth; it had its day and proved for ever its incapacity for government. exhaustion of the older baronage, and a natural reaction against the anarchy of the preceding reign, enabled Henry II to rebuild the edifice of monarchy on foundations deeper than those which had been laid
by his forerunners. A strongly centralised adminis
tration of justice and finance made the king practically 1066—1215
independent of his barons, while it revived the ancient General view. popular institutions, and brought every class into
contact with the throne. A new aristocracy arose, mainly dependent on the monarchy, but far more national than that which sprang from the Conquest. The union of king and people was stronger than before ; it bore the strain of oppressive taxation and religious struggle, of war without and rebellion within. But the strengthening of the monarchy was not the only result. When the sovereign supported himself by aid of the law, the thought was sure to occur that the chains he forged for others might be used to bind himself. The nobility he had done most to raise, the people he had educated into a belief in law, would be the first to cry out against a violation of that law by the authority which gave it. Henry was wise enough to avoid this danger: Richard's personal character and his long absence from home prevented an outburst; but John's folly, tyranny, and vice united all elements against him. The process of amalgamation, which had been going on for a century and a half, was now complete; more than a generation before it had been said that English and French-born were no longer to be distinguished. The universal pressure of a strong government, the tendency towards equality inherent in the rule of law, had helped to complete the union, the last obstacle to which was removed by the loss of Normandy; and under a sense of common wrong the new-born spirit of nationality sprang into consciousness of its power. There was no longer an alliance between the king, the
Church, and the people, against the feudal nobility; it was now for the first time an alliance of the Church, the barons, and the people against the king. The 1066-1215 newer nobility, in whom the political sense strongest; the remnants of the older baronage striving to recover their position; the smaller barons, the subtenants, and others, who eagerly grasped the occasion to make their complaints heard ; the towns, with London at their head, in the first freshness of municipal and mercantile importance ; and above and embracing all, the Church, with its broader notions of justice and its popular sympathies—these were the forces to the union of which John had to give way at Runnymede.
Such in a few words was the general course of Growth of national development, such the relations between Parliament. king and people, before 1215. Along with and dependent on the growth of the nation, grows the idea of a Parliament, or representative council. In a people composed of elements so different as those of which England consisted immediately after the Conquest there was no possible centre, no representative of national unity, but the monarch. As the different elements coalesced, a representative body became possible ; no sooner was the national unity complete than Parliament in its modern form began to appear. But between the baronial assemblies of the Norman The Nakings and the Parliaments of our own day there is Council very little similarity, though there is a distinct and under the
Norman unbroken connexion. Many attenipts have indeed kings. been made, chiefly by ardent supporters of Parliamentary rights, to trace back those rights to an antiquity equal to that of the monarchy ; but regularity of