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afterwards died at Venice of a broken heart.

Faster and fiercer, after this, the king went on in his career.
The Duke of Lancaster, who was the father of the Duke of
Hereford, died soon after the departure of his son , and the
king, although he had solemnly granted to that son leave to
inherit his father's property, if it should come to him during
his banishment, immediately seized it all, like a robber. The
judges were so afraid of him that they disgraced themselves by
declaring this theft to be just and lawful. His avarice knew
no bounds. He outlawed seventeen counties at once, on a
frivolous pretence, merely to raise money by way of fines for
misconduct. In short, he did as many dishonest things as he
could ; and cared so little for the discontent of his subjects, —
though even the spaniel favorites began to whisper to him that
there was such a thing as discontent afloat, — that he took that
time, of all others, for leaving England, and making an expedi-
tion against the Irish.

He was scarcely gone, leaving the Duke of York regent in
his absence, when his cousin, Henry of Hereford, came over
from France to claim the rights of which he had been so mon-
strously deprived. He was immediately joined by the two


great earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland ; and his
uncle, the regent, finding the king's cause unpopular^ and the
disinclination of the army to act against Henry very strong,
withdrew the royal forces towards Bristol. Henry, at the head
o[ an army, came from Yorkshire (where he had landed) to
London, and followed him. They joined their forces — how they
brought that about is not distinctly understood — and proceeded
to Bristol Castle, whither three noblemen had taken tha young
queen. The castle surrendering, they presently put those three
noblemen to death. The regent then remained there, and Henry
went on to Chester.

All this time the boisterous weather had prevented the king
from receiving intelligence of what had occurred At length it
was conveyed to him in Ireland , and he sent over the Earl of
Salisbury, who, landing at Conway, rallied the Welshmen, and
waited for the king a whole fortnight ; at the end of that time
the Welshmen, who were perhaps not very warm for him in the
beginning, quite cooled down, and went home. When the king
did land on the coast at last, he cam.e with a pretty good power ;
but his men cared nothing for him, and quickly deserted. Sup-
posing the Welshmen to be still at Conway, he disguised him-
self as a priest, and made lor that place in company with his
two brothers and some few of their adherents. But there were
no Welshmen left, — only Salisbury and a hundred soldiers. In
this distress, the king's tw'o brothers, Exeter and Surrey, offered
to go to Henry to learn what his intentions were. Surrey, who
was true to Richard, was put into prison. Exeter, who was
false, took the royal badge, which was a hart, off his shield, and
assumed the rose, the badge of Henr)-. After this it was pretty
plain to the king what Henry's intentions were, without sending
any more messengers to ask

The fallen king, thus deserted, hemmed in on all sides and
pressed with hunger, rode here and rode there, and went to
this castle and went to that castle, endeavoring to obtain some
provisions, but could find none. He rode wretchedly back to
Conway, and there surrendered himself to the Earl of North-
umberland, who came from Henry, in reality to take him
prisoner, but in appearance to offer terms, and whose men were
hidden not far off. By this earl he was conducted to the
Castle of Flint, where his cousin Henry met him, and dropped
on his knee as if he were still respectful to his sovereign.

" Fair cousin of Lancaster," said the king, "you are very
welcome" (very welcome, no doubt; but he would have been
more so in chains, or without a head).


" My lord," replied Henry, " I am come a little before m^
time ; but, with your good pleasure, I will show you the reason.
Your people complain, with some bitterness, that you have
ruled them rigorously for two-and-twenty years. Now, if it
pleases God, I will help you to govern them better in future."

" Fair cousin," replied the abject king, " since it pleaseth
you, it pleaseth me mightily."

After this, the trumpet sounded, and the king was stuck on
d wretched horse, and carried prisoner to Chester, where he
was made to issue a proclamation calling a parliament. From
Chester he was taken on towards London. At Lichfield he
tried to escape by getting out of a window, and letting himself
down into a garden ; it was all in vain, however ; and he was
carried on and shut up in the Tower, where no one pitied him,
and where the whole people, whose patience he had quite tired
out, reproached him without mercy. Before he got there, it is
related that his very dog left him, and departed from his side
to lick the hand of Henry.

The day before the Parliament met, a deputation went to
this wretched king, and told him that he had promised the
Earl of Northumberland at Conway Castle to resign the crown.
He said he was quite ready to do it, and signed a paper in
which he renounced his authority, and absolved his people
from their allegiance to him. He had so little spirit left, that
he gave his royal ring to his triumphant cousin Henry with his
own hand, and said, that if he could have had leave to appoint
a successor, that same Henry was the man of all others whom
he would have named. Next day the Parliament assembled
m Westminster Hall, where Henry sat at the side of the throne,
which was empty, and covered with a cloth of gold. The paper
just signed by the king was read to the multitude amid shouts
of joy, which were echoed through all the streets; when some
of the noise had died away, the king was formally deposed.
Then Henry arose, and, making the sign of the cross on his
forehead and breast, challenged the realm of England as his
right ; the Archbishops of Canterbury and York seated him on
the throne.

The multitude shouted again, and the shouts re-echoed
throughout all the streets. No one remembered now that
Richard the Second had ever been the most beautiful, the
wisest, and the best of princes ; and he now matle living (to
my thinking) a far more sorry spectacle in the Tower of Lon-
don, than Wat Tyler had made, lying dead among the hoofs of
the royal horses in Smithheld.


The poll-tax died with Wat. The smiths to the king and
royal family could make no chains in which the king couM
hang the people's recollection of him ; so the poll-tax was nevei



During the last reign, the preaching of Wyckliffe against
the pride and cunning of the pope and all his men, had made
a great noise in England. Whether the new king wished to be
in favor with the priests, or whether he hoped, by pretending
to be very religious, to cheat Heaven itself into the belief that
he was not a usurper, I don't know. Both suppositions are
likely enough. It is certain that he began his reign by making
a strong show against the followers of Wyckliffe, who were
called Lollards, or heretics, — although his father, John of
Gaunt, had been of that way of thinking, as he himself had
been more than suspected of being. It is no less certain that
he first established in England the detestable and atrocious
custom, brought from abroad, of burning those people as a
punishment for their opinions. It was the importation into
England of one of the practices of what was called the Holy
Inquisition ; which was the most z/zzholy and the most infamous
tribunal that ever disgraced mankind, and made men more like
demons than followers of our Saviour.

No real right to the crown, as you know, was in this king.
Edward Mortimer, the young Earl of March, — who was only
eight or nine years old, and who was descended from the Duke
of Clarence, the elder brother of Henry's father, — was by suc-
cession the real heir to the throne. However, the king got his
son declared Prince of Wales ; and, obtaining possession of the
young Earl of March and his little brother, kept them in con-
finement (but not severely) in Windsor Castle. He then re-
quired the Parliament to decide what was to be done with the
deposed king, who was quiet enough, and who only said that
he hoped his cousin Henry would be " a good lord " to him.
The Parliament replied that they would recommend his being
kept in some secret place, where the people could not resort,


and where his friends could be admitted to see him. Henry
accordingly passed this sentence upon him ; and it now began
to be pretty clear to the nation that Richard the Second would
not live very long.

It was a noisy parliament, as it was an unprincipled one ;
and the lords quarrelled so violently among themselves as to
which of them had been loyal and which disloyal, and which
consistent and which inconsistent, that forty gauntlets are said
to have been thrown upon the floor at one time as challenges
to as many battles ; the truth being, that they were all false
and base together, and had been at one time with the old king,
and at another time with the new one, and seldom true for any
length of time to any one. They soon began to plot again. A
conspiracy was formed to invite the king to a tournament at Ox-
ford, and then to take him by surprise and kill him. This
murderous enterprise, which was agreed upon at secret meet-
ings in the house of the Abbot of Westminster, was betrayed by
the Earl of Rutland, one of the conspirators. The king, instead
of going to the tournament, or staying at Windsor (where the
conspirators suddenly went, on finding themselves discovered,
with the hope of seizing him), retired to London, proclaimed
them all traitors, and advanced upon them with a great force.
They retired into the west of England, proclaiming Richard
king ; but the people rose against them, and they were all slain.
Their treason hastened the death of the deposed monarch.
V/hether he was killed by hired assassins, or whether he was
starved to death, or whether he refused food on hearing of his
brothers being killed (who were in that plot), is very doubtful,
lie met his death somehow ; and his body was publicly shown
at St. Paul's Cathedral with only the lower part of the face un-
covered. I can scarcely doubt that he was killed by the king's

The French wife of the miserable Richard was now only
ten years old; and when her father, Charles of France, heard
rf her misfortunes and of her lonely condition in England, he
V. cnt mad, as he had several times done before during the last
live or six years. The French Dukes of Burgundy and Bourbon
look up the poor girl's cause, without caring much about it, but
en the chance of getting something out of England. The
people of Bordeaux, who had a sort of superstitious attachment
to the memory of Richard, because he was born there, swore
by the Lord that he had been the best man in all his kingdom,
— which was going rather far, — and promised to do great things
against the English. Nevertheless, when they came to consider


that they and the whole people of France were ruined by their
own nobles, and that the English rule was much the better of
the two, they cooled down again ; and the two dukes, although
they were very great men, could do nothing without them.
Then began negotiations between France and Efigland for the
sending home to Paris of the poor little queen, with all her
jewels, and her fortune of two hundred thousand francs in gold
The king was quite willing to restore the young lady, and even
the jewels ; but he said he really could not part with the money.
So at last she was safely deposited at Paris without her fortune ;
and then the Duke of Burgundy (who was cousin to the French
king) began to quarrel with the Duke of Orleans (who was
brother to the French king) about the whole matter ; and those
two dukes made France even more wretched than ever.

As the idea of conquering Scotland was still popular at home,
the king marched to the River Tyne, and demanded homage
of the king of that country. This being refused, he advanced
to Edinburgh, but did little there ; for his army being in want
of provisions, and the Scotch being very careful to hold him in
check without giving battle, he was obliged to retire. It is to
his immortal honor, that in this sally he burnt no villages and
slaughtered no people, but was particularly careful that his army
should be merciful and harmless. It was a great example in
those ruthless times.

A war among the Border people of England and Scotland
went on for twelve months ; and then the Earl of Northumber-
land, the nobleman who had helped Henry to the crown, began
to rebel against him, probably because nothing that Henry could
do for him would satisfy his extravagant expectations. There
was a certain Welsh gentleman, named Owen Glendower, who
had been a student in one of the inns of court, and had after-
wards been in the service of the late king, whose Welsh property
was taken from him by a powerful lord related to the present
king, who was his neighbor. Appealing for redress, and getting
none, he took up arms, was made an outlaw, and declared him-
self sovereign of Wales. He pretended to be a magician ; and
not only were the Welsh people stupid enough to believe him,
but even Henry believed him too ; for, making three expeditions
into Wales, and being three times driven back by the wildness
of the country, the bad weather, and the skill of Glendower, he
thought he was defeated by the Welshman's magic arts. How-
ever, he took Lord Grey and Sir Edmund Mortimer prisoners,
and allowed the relatives of Lord Grey to ransom him, but
would not extend such favor to Sir Edmund Mortimer. Now


Henry Percy, called Hotspur, son of the Earl of Northumber-
land, who was married to Mortimer's sister, is supposed to have
taken offence at this ; and therefore, in conjunction with his
father and some others, to have joined Owen Glendower, and
risen against Henry. It is by no means clear that this was the
real cause of the conspiracy ; but perhaps it was made the pre-
text. It was formed, and was very powerful ; including Scroop,
Archbishop of York, and the Earl of Douglas, a powerful and
brave Scottish nobleman. The king was prompt and active,
and the two armies met at Shrewsbury.

There were about fourteen thousand men in each. The old
Earl of Northumberland being sick, the rebel forces were led
by his son. The king wore plain armor to deceive the enemy ;
and four noblemen, with the same object, wore the royal arms.
The rebel charge was so furious, that every one of those gentle-
men was killed, the royal standard was beaten down, and the
young Prince of Wales was severely wounded in the face. But
he was one of the bravest and best soldiers that ever lived ;
and he fought so well, and the king's troops were so encouraged
by his bold example, that they rallied immediately, and cut the
enemy's forces all to pieces. Hotspur was killed by an arrow
in the brain ; and the rout was so complete, that the whole re-
bellion was struck down by this one blow. The Earl of North-
umberland surrendered himself soon after hearing of the death
of his son, and received a pardon for all his offences.

There were some lingerings of rebellion yet ; Owen Glen-
dower being retired to Wales, and a preposterous story being
spread among the ignorant people that King Richard was still
alive. How they could have believed such nonsense it is dif-
ficult to imagine ; but they certainly did suppose that the court
fool of the late king, who was something like him, was he him-
self ; so that it seemed as if, after giving so much trouble to
the country in his life, he was still to trouble it after his death.
This was not the worst. The young Earl of March and his
brother were stolen out of Windsor Castle. Being retaken,
and being found to have been spirited away by one Lady
Spencer, she accused her own brother, that Earl of Rutland
who was in the former conspiracy and was now Duke of York,
of being in the plot. For this he was ruined in fortune, though
not put to death ; and then another plot arose among the old
Earl of Northumberland, some other lords, and that same
Scroop, Archbishop of York, who was with the rebels before.
'J'hese conspirators caused a writing to be posted on the church-
doors, accusing the king of a variety of crimes ; but the king


being eager and vigilant to oppose them, they were all taken,
and the archbishop was executed. This was the first time that
a great churchman had been slain by the law in England ; but
the king was resolved that it should be done, and done it was.

The next most remarkable event of this time was the
seizure by Henry of the heir to the Scottish throne, — James, a
boy of nine years old. He had been put aboard ship by his
father, the Scottish King Robert, to save him from the designs
of his uncle, when, on his way to France, he was accidentally
taken by some English cruisers. He remained a prisoner in
England for nineteen years, and became in his prison a student
and a famous poet.

With the exception of occasional troubles with the Welsh
and with the French, the rest of King Henry's reign was quiet
enough. But the king was far from happy, and probably was
troubled in his conscience by knowing that he had usurped the
crown, and had occasioned the death of his miserable cousin.
The Prince of Wales, though brave and generous, is said to
have been wild and dissipated, and even to have drawn his
sword on Gascoigne, the Chief Justice of the King's Bench,
because he was firm in dealing impartially with one of his disso-
lute companions. Upon this the chief justice is said to have
ordered him immediately to prison ; the Prince of Wales is said
\o have submitted with a good grace ; and the king is said to
have exclaimed, " Happy is the monarch who has so just a
judge, and a son so willing to obey the laws." This is all very
doubtful , and so is another story (of which Shakespeare has
made beautiful use), that the prince once took the crown out of
his father's chamber as he was sleeping, and tried it on his own

The king's health sank more and more, and he became sub-
ject to violent eruptions on the face, and to bad epileptic fits,
Rnd his spirits sank every day. At last, as he was praying be-
fore the shrine of St Edward, at Westminster Abbey, he was
seized with a terrible fit, and was carried into the abbot's
chamber, where he presently died. It had been foretold that
he would die at Jerusalem, which certainly is not, and never
was, Westminster. But as the abbot's room had long been
called the Jerusalem Chamber, people said it was all the same
thing, and were quite satisfied with the prediction.

The king died on the 20th of March, 1413, in the forty-
seventh year of his age, and the fourteenth of his reign. He
was buried in Canterbury Cathedral. He had been twice
married, and had, by his first wife, a family of four sons and


two daughters. Considering his dupHcity before he came to
the throne, his unjust seizure of it, and, above all, his making
that monstrous law for the burning of what the priests called
heretics, he was a reasonably good king, as kings went.


england under henry the fifth

First Part.

The Prince of Wales began his reign like a generous and
honest man. He set the young Earl of March free ; he re-
stored their estates and their honors to the Percy family, who
had lost them by their rebellion against his father ; he ordered
the imbecile and unfortunate Richard to be honorably buried
among the kings of England ; and he dismissed all his wild
companions, with assurances that they should not want, if they
would resolve to be steady, faithful, and true.

It is much easier to burn men than to burn their opinions ;
and those of the Lollards were spreading every day. The
Lollards were represented by the priests — probably falsely for
the most part — to entertain treasonable designs against the
new king ; and Henry, suffering himself to be worked upon by
these representations, sacrificed his friend Sir John Oldcastle,
the Lord Cobham, to them, after trying in vain to convert him
by arguments. He was declared guilty, as the head of the
sect, and sentenced to the flames ; but he escaped from the
Tower before the day ot execution (postponed lor fifty days by
the king himself), and summoned the Lollards to meet him near
London on a certain day. So the priests told the king, at least.
I doubt whether there was any conspiracy beyond such as was
got up by their agents. On the day appointed, instead of five-
and-twenty thousand men, under the command of Sir John Old-
castle, in the meadows of St. Giles, the king found only eighty
nuen, and no Sir John at all. There was in another place an
addle-headed brewer, who had gold trappings to his horses, and
a pair of gilt spurs in his breast, expecting to be made a knight
next day by Sir John, and so to gain the right to wear them ;
but there was no Sir John, nor did anybody give information

Ibd . r^jiTTT -^ rj /STORY OF ENGLAND.

respecting him, though the king offered great rewards for such
Intelligence. Thirty of these unfortunate Lollards were hanged
and drawn immediately, and were then burnt, gallows and all ;
and the various prisons in and around London were crammed
full of others. Some of these unfortunate men made various
confessions of treasonable designs ; but such confessions were
easily got, under torture and the fear of fire, and are very little
to be trusted. To finish the sad story of Sir John Oldcastle at
once, I may mention that he escaped into Wales, and remained
there safely for four years. When discovered by Lord Powis,
it is very doubtful if he would have been taken alive, — so great
was the old soldier's bravery, — if a miserable old woman had
not come behind him, and broken his legs with a stool. He
Avas carried to London in a horse-litter, was fastened by an iron
chain to a gibbet, and so roasted to death.

To make the state of France as plain as I can in a few
words, I should tell you that the Duke of Orleans and the Duke
of Burgundy, commonly called "John without fear," had had a
grand reconciliation of their quarrel in the last reign, and had
appeared to be quite in a heavenly state of mind. Immediately
after which, on a Sunda}^, in the public streets of Paris, the
Duke of Orleans was murdered by a party of twenty men, set
on by the Duke of Burgundy, according to his own deliberate
confession. The widow of King Richard had been married in
France to the eldest son of the Duke of Orleans. The poor
mad king was quite powerless to help her ; and the Duke of
Burgundy became the real master of France. Isabella dying,
her husband (Duke of Orleans, since the death of his father)
married the daughter of the Count of Armagnac, who, being a
much abler man than his young sonin-law, headed his party ;
thence called after him Armagnacs. Thu5) France was now in
this terrible condition, that it had in it the party of the king's
£on, the Dauphin Louis ; the party of the Duke of Burgundy,
who was the father of the dauphin's ill-used wife ; and the party
of the Armagnacs, — all hating each other, all fighting together,
all composed of the most depraved nobles that the earth has
ever known, and all tearing unhappy France to pieces.

The late king had watched these dissensions from England,
sensible (like the French people) that no enemy of France could
injure her more than her own nobility. The present king now
advanced a claim to the French throne. His demand being, of
course, refused, he reduced his proposal to a certain large
amount of French territory, and to demanding the French
Princess Catherine in marriage, with a fortune of two millions


of golden crowns. He was offered less territory, and fewer
crowns, and no princess ; but he called his ambassadors home,
and prepared for war. Then he proposed to take the princess
with one million of crowns. The French court replied that he
should have the princess with two hundred thousand crowns
less ; he said this would not do (he had never seen the princess
in his life), and assembled his army at Southampton. There
was a short plot at home, just at that time, for deposing him,

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 17 of 38)