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By Peter Conn (auth.)

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And if he may, then am I lawful king; For Richard, in the view of many lords, Resign’d the crown to Henry the Fourth, Whose heir my father was, and I am his. (I, i, 135–140) Exeter objects to Henry’s claim on two counts. First, he repeats Warwick’s claim that Richard gave up his crown to Henry IV only under coercion. Exeter’s more serious rebuttal is that an adopted son cannot come between an heir and his inheritance: . . he could not so resign his crown But that the next heir should succeed and reign.

And by Tiberius of Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ patrilateral nephew . . [He] became the adoptive grandfather of the younger Drusus and of Germanicus, and therefore the potential great-grandfather of their future children. 40 Commenting on the generally favorable estimates that historians have given to the emperors who reigned for much of the second century— Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius—Nicholas Purcell speculates that part of the reason was precisely that they were chosen rather than ascending to the purple through inheritance.

What was true for ordinary Englishmen was also true for the king, as this exchange in Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI suggests. Henry argues that his kingship rests rightly on two bases, that he is heir by blood to Henry IV and Henry V, and that Henry IV in turn was heir by adoption to Richard II: K. Henry. Tell me, may not a king adopt an heir? York. What then? K. Hen. And if he may, then am I lawful king; For Richard, in the view of many lords, Resign’d the crown to Henry the Fourth, Whose heir my father was, and I am his.

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