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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: November ::
The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0995  Thursday, 9 November 2006

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 08 Nov 2006 02:59:25 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0993 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.

[2] 	From: 	John Crowley <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 09 Nov 2006 10:37:51 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 5 Nov 2006 to 7 Nov 2006 (#2006-144)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 08 Nov 2006 02:59:25 -0500
Subject: 17.0993 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0993 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.

 >When pressed at the extreme moment of doubt, the Henry
 >that urges God to "think not upon the fault My father made
 >in compassing the crown!"(IV,1,2144) never reflects on his
 >own (identical) fault in waging aggressive war for the French
 >crown (although if one was a fault how can the other not be?).

The legal situation was something like this:

Waging aggressive war was not offensive in the 15th Century.  That is a 
20C construct.

Henry IV's fault was in deposing the rightful king (in a relatively 
bloodless coup), not in waging aggressive war.

The question, therefore, is the legitimacy of  Henry V's claim, not the 
means used to assert it.  Henry Bolingbroke's pretension to the English 
crown was illegitimate, at least at first, because he descended from a 
cadet line of Edward III while Richard II descended through Edward, the 
Black Prince, i.e., the most senior line.

Henry V descended from a more senior branch of the French monarchy than 
the then occupant of the French throne (Charles VI), albeit by a distaff 
descent.  Therefore, he had a superior claim to the French throne unless 
the Salic Law was an effective bar.   The Archbishop's argument was that 
it was not a bar, and, therefore, Henry had a better claim to the French 
crown than Charles VI.  If the Archbishop's argument was correct (about 
which I express no opinion), this is unassailably correct as a matter of 
logic.

But, saying that Henry had a better claim to be king of France than 
Charles does not say that he had the best claim.  Henry's cousin Edmund 
Mortimer had the same descent from Henry's French forebear and, since 
Mortimer had a more senior descent from Edward III, he had a better 
claim to the French crown than Henry.  But he never asserted that claim. 
  So the question resolves itself into this:  Does a pretender to a 
crown act unlawfully in prosecuting his claim that is legally superior 
to the claim of the incumbent merely because there is a better claimant 
who chooses not to pursue his right or is unable to do so?  My answer is 
no.  To take an analogy from modern property law:  If two persons have a 
better right to a piece of property than the current possessor, either 
may sue to recover it and prevail by showing that his claim is better 
than the possessor's, even if another potential claimant has a superior 
right.  The plaintiff does not have to prove that he is the sole 
claimant or that no one has a better claim (frequently an impossible 
burden since that is an open-ended negative).  Upon recovering the 
property he is then subject to suit by any better claimant, unless the 
other's claim is barred by some procedural infirmity such as expiration 
of the period of limitations.

So, assuming that the Archbishop's argument was correct, Edmund Mortimer 
was the legitimate king of France, but Henry had the right to wage war 
to recover that crown from the usurper Charles, even if he should then 
be required to hold it in trust for his cousin Mortimer.

By the same reasoning, wasn't Mortimer also the legitimate king of 
England?  Not necessarily.  The Lancastrian argument was that Richard II 
adopted Henry IV as his heir (cutting off the claims of descendants of 
Lionel, Duke of Clarence), so the crown then properly descended through 
the Lancastrian line.  This point is mooted very clearly in 3HenVI, 
I.i.131-40.  I express no opinion as to whether that is correct.  That 
was what the Wars of the Roses were all about.

Now, if the Archbishop was correct about the Salic Law and the 
Lancastrian claim of legitimacy by adoption was also correct, then 
Mortimer was the legitimate King of France -- no French monarch adopted 
Bolingbroke as his heir -- while Henry remained the legitimate King of 
England.

Interesting, no?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Crowley <
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 >
Date: 		Thursday, 09 Nov 2006 10:37:51 -0500
Subject: 	Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 5 Nov 2006 to 7 Nov 2006 (#2006-144)

 >think there is room for productions at both ends of the spectrum of
 >Henry's innocence;

I Olivier's film -- made in the middle of a war of resistance to 
warlords who fabricated reasons for making war -- had to get around this 
quickly, and did it by making the Archbishop a comic figure, and with 
comic business with the ancient documents.  We were expected not to pay 
much attention.  On the other hand a certain amount of his speech is 
directed at the audience, as though to convince them of the right. 
Henry himself is subdued in this scene, as I remember it -- nothing to 
pin on him.

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