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and making the Earl of March king ; but the conspirators were
all speedily condemned and executed, and the king embarked
for France.

It is dreadful to observe how long a bad example will be
followed ; but it is encouraging to know that a good example is
never thrown away. The king's first act, on disembarking at
the mouth of the river Seine, three miles from Harfleur, was to
imitate his father, and to proclaim his solemn orders that the
lives and property of the peaceable inhabitants should be re-
spected on pain of death. It is agreed by French writers, to his
lasting renown, that even while his soldiers were suffering the
greatest distress for want of food, these commands were rigidly

With an army in all of thirty thousand men, he besieged the
town of Harfleur both by sea and land for five weeks ; at the
end of which time the town surrendered, and the inhabitants
were allowed to depart with only fivepence each, and a part of
their clothes. All the rest of their possessions was divided
amongst the English army. But that army suffered so much,
in spite of its successes, from disease and privation, that it was
already reduced one half. Still, the king was determined not
to retire until he had struck a greater blow. Therefore, against
the advice of all his counsellors, he moved on with his little
force towards Calais. When he came up to the river Somme
he was unable to cross, in consequence of the fort being forti-
fied ; and, as the English moved up the left bank of the river
looking for a crossing, the French, who had broken all the
bridges, moved up the right bank, watching them, and waiting
to attack them when they should try to pass it. At last the
English found a crossing, and got safely over. The French
held a council of war at Rouen, resolved to give the English
battle, and sent heralds to King Henry to know by which road
he was going. " By the road that will take me straight to
Calais ! " said the king, and sent them away with a present of
a hundred crowns.

The English moved on until they beheld the French, and



then the king gave orders to form in line of battle. The French
not coming on, the army broke up, after lemainingin battle-
array till night, and got good rest and refreshment at a neigh-
boring village. The French were now all lying in another vil-
lage, through which they knew the English must pass. They
were resolved that the English should begin the battle. The
English had no means of retreat, if their king had any such in-
tention : and so the two armies passed the night close to»

To understand these armies well, you must bear in mind that
the immense French army had, among its notable persons, al-
most the whole of that wicked nobility whose debauchery had
made France a desert ; and so besotted were they by pride, and
by contempt for the common people, that they had scarcely any
bowmen (if indeed they had any at all) in their whole enormous
number, which, compared with the English army, was at least
as six to one ; for these proud fools had said that the bow was
not a fit weapon for knightly hands, and that France must be
defended by gentlemen only. We shall see presently what
hand the gentlemen made of it.

Now, on the English side, among the little force, there was
a good proportion of men who were not gentlemen, by any
means, but who v/ere good stout archers for all that. Among
them, in the morning, — having slept little at night, while the
French were carousing and making sure of victory, — the king
rode, on a gray horse; wearing on his head a helmet of
shining steel, surmounted by a crown of gold, sparkling with
precious stones ; and bearing over his armor, embroidered to-
gether, the arms of England and the arms of France. The
archers looked at the shining helmet, and the crown of gold,
and the sparkling jewels, and admired them all ; but what they
admired most was the king's cheerful face, and his bright blue
eye, as he told them, that, for himself, he had made up his mind
to conquer there or to die there, and that England should never
have a ransom to pay for him. There was one brave knight,
who chanced to say that he wished some of the many gallant
gentlemen and good soldiers, who were then idle at home in
England, were there to increase their numbers. But the king
told him, that, for his part, he did not wish for one more man.
" The fewer we have," said he, " the greater will be the honoi
we shall win ! " His men, being now all in good heart, were
refreshed with bread and wine, and heard prayers, and waited
quietly for the French. The king waited for the French, be-
cause they were drawn up thirty deep (the little English force



was only three deep) on very difficult and heavy ground ; and
he knew that when they moved, there must be confusion among

As they did not move he sent off two parties, — one to lie
concealed in a wood on the left of the French, the other to set
fire to some houses behind the French after the battle should
be begun. This was scarcely done, when three of the proud
French gentlemen, who were to defend their country without
any help from the base peasants, came riding out, calling upon
the English to surrender. The king warned those gentlemen
himself to retire with all speed, if they cared for their lives,
and ordered the English banners to advance. Upon that, Sir
Thomas Erpingham, a great English general who commanded
the archers, threw his truncheon into the air joyfully ; and all
the Englishmen, kneeling down upon the ground, and biting it
as if they took possession of the country, rose up with a great
shout, and fell upon the French.

Every archer was furnished with a great stake tipped with
iron ; and his orders were, to thrust this stake into the ground,
to discharge his arrow, and then to fall back when the French
horsemen came on. As the haughty French gentlemen who
were to break the English archers, and utterly destroy them with
their knightly lances, came riding up, they were received with
such a blinding storm of arrows that they broke and turned.
Horses and men rolled over one another, and the confusion
was terrific. Those who rallied, and charged the archers, got
among the stakes on slippery and boggy ground, and were so
bewildered that the English archers — who wore no armor, and
even took off their leathern coats to be more active — cut them
to pieces, root and branch. Only three French horsemen got
within the stakes, and those were instantly despatched. All
this time the dense French army, being in armor, were sinking
knee-deep into the mire ; while the light English archers, half
naked, were as fresh and active as if they were fighting on a
marble floor.

But now the second division of the French, coming to the
relief of the first, closed up in a firm mass ; the English, headed
by the king, attacked them ; and the deadliest part of the bat-
tle began. The king's brother, the Duke of Clarence, was
struck down, and numbers of the French surrounded him ; but
King Henry, standing over the body, fought like a lion until
they were beaten off. Presently came up a band of eighteen
French knights, bearing the banner of a certain French lord,
who had sworn to kill or take the English king. One of thera


struck him such a blow with a battle-axe, that he reeled, and
fell upon his knees ; but his faithful men, immediately closing
round him, killed every one of those eighteen knights, and so
that French lord never kept his oath.

The French Duke of Alen^on, seeing this, made a desperate
charge, and cut his way close up to the royal standard of Eng-
land. He beat down the Duke of York, who was standmg
near it ; and when the king came to his rescue, struck off a
piece of the crown he wore. But he never struck another blow
in this world ; for, even as he was in the act of saying who he
was, and that he surrendered to the king, and even as the king
stretched out his hand to give him a safe and honorable accept-
ance of the offer, he fell dead, pierced by innumerable wounds.

The death of this nobleman decided the battle. The third
division of the French army, ■w'hich had never struck a blow yet,
and which was, in itself, more than double the whole English
power, broke and fied. At this time of the fight, the English,
who as yet had made no prisoners, began to take them in im-
mense numbers, and were still occupied in doing so, or in kill-
ing those who would not surrender, when a great noise arose
in the rear of the French, — their flying banners were seen to
stop, — and Kmg Henry, supposing a great re-enforcement to
have arrived, gave orders that all the prisoners should be put
to death. As soon, however, as it was found that the noise was
only occasioned by a body of plundering peasants, the terrible
massacre was stopped.

Then King Henry called to him the French herald, and
asked him to whom the victory belonged.

The herald replied, "To the King of England."

" We have not made this havoc and slaughter," said the
kmg. " It is the wrath of Heaven on the sins of France.
What IS the name of that castle yonder ? "

The herald answered him, " My lord, it is the Castle of

Said the king, " From henceforth this battle shall be known
to posterity by the name of the battle of Azmcourt."

Our English historians have made it Agmcourt ; but under
that name it will ever be famous in English annals.

The loss upon the French side was enormous. Three dukes
were killed, two more were taken prisoners j seven counts were
killed, three more were taken prisoners ; and ten thousand
knights and gentlemen were slain upon the field. The Eng-
lish loss amounted to sixteen hundred men, among whom were
the Duke of York and the Earl of Suffolk.


War is a dreadful thing ; and it is appalling to know how
the English were obliged, next morning, to kill those prisoners,
mortally wounded, who yet writhed in agony upon the ground :
how the dead upon the French side were stripped by their own
countrymen and countrywomen, and afterwards buried in great
pits ; how the dead upon the English side were piled up in a
great barn, and how their bodies and the barn were all burned
together ! It is in such things, and in many more, much too
horrible to relate, that the real desolation and wickedness of
war consists. Nothing can make war otherwise than horrible.
But the dark side of it was little thought of and soon forgotten ;
and It cast no shade of trouble on the English people, except
on those who had lost friends or relations in the fight. They
welcomed their king home with shouts of rejoicing, and plunged
into the water to bear him ashore on their shoulders, and
flocked out in crowds to welcome him in every town through
which he passed, and hung rich carpets and tapestries out of
the wmdows, and strewed the streets with flowers, and made
the fountains run with wine, as the great field of iA 'jincourt had
run with blood.

Second Part,

That proud and wicked French nobility who -dragged their
country to destruction, and who were every day h.cA every year
regarded with deeper hatred and detestation in the hearts of
the French people, learned nothing, even from the defeat of
Agincourt. So far from uniting against the common enemy,
:hey became, among themselves, more violent, more blood}*, and
more false — if that were possible — than they had been before.
The Count of Armagnac persuaded the French king to plunder
of her treasures Queen Isabella of Eavaria, and to make her a
prisoner. She, who had hitherto been the bitter enemy of the
Duke of Burgundy, proposed to join him, in revenge. He car-
ried her off to Troyes, where she proclaimed herself Regent of
France, and made him her lieutenant. The Armagnac party
were at t!iat time possessed of Paris , but one of the gates of
the city being secretly opened on a certain night to a party of
the duke's men, they got into Paris, threw into the prisons all
the Armagnacs upon whom they could lay their hands, and, a
few nights afterwaids, with the aid of a furious mob of sixty
thousand people, broke the prisons open, and killed them all.
The former daupl'.in VvQs now dead, and the king's third son
bore the title. Him, in the height of this murderous scene, a


French knight hurried out of bed, wrapped in a sheet, and bore
away to Poictiers. So, when the revengeful Isabella and the
Duke of Burgundy entered Paris in triumph after the slaughter
of their enemies, the dauphin was proclaimed at Poictiers as
the real regent.

King Henry had not been idle since his victory of Agin-
court, but had repulsed a brave attempt of the French to recover
Harfleur, had gradually conquered a great part of Normandy,
and, at this crisis of affairs, took the important town of Rouen,
after a siege of half a year. This great loss so alarmed the French,
that the Duke of Burgundy proposed that a meeting to treat
of peace should be held between the French and the English
kings in a plain by the river Seine. On the appointed day,
King Henry appeared there, with his two brothers, Clarence
and Gloucester, and a thousand men. The unfortunate French
king, being more mad than usual that day, could not come ;
but the queen came, and with her ihe Princess Catherine, who
was a very lovely creature, and who made a real impression on
King Henry, now that he saw her for the first time. This was
the most important circumstance that arose out of the meeting.

As if it were impossible for a French nobleman of that time
to be true to his woid of honor in anything, Henry discovered
that the Duke of Burgundy was, at that very moment, in secret
treaty with the dauphin , and he therefore abandoned the

The Duke of Buigundy and the dauphin, each of whom,
with the best reason, distrusted the other as a noble ruffian sur-
rounded by a party of noble ruffians, were rather at a loss how
to proceed after this ; but at length they agreed to meet on a
bridge over the liver Yonne, where it was arranged that there
should be two strong gates put up, with an empty space between
them, and that the Duke of Burgundy should come into that
space by one gate, with ten men only, and that the dauphin
should come into that space by the other gate, also with ten
men, and no more.

So far the dauphin kept his word : but no farther. When
the Duke of Burgundy was on his knee before him in the act
of speaking, one of the dauphin's noble ruflnans cut the said
duke down with a small axe, and others speedily finished him.

It was in vain for the dauphin to pretend that this base
murder was not done with his consent, it was too bad, even
for France, and caused a general horror. The duke's heir
hastened to make a treaty with King Henr}-, and the French
queen engaged that her husband should consent to it, whatever


it was. Henry made peace, on condition of receiving the Prin-
cess Catherine in marriage, and being made Regent of France
during the rest of the king's lifetnne, and succeedmg to the
French crown at his death. He was soon married to the beau-
tiful princess, and took her proudly home to England, where
she was crowned witli great honor and glor}'.

This peace was called the Perpetual Peace ; we shall soon
Bee how long it lasted. Jt gave great satisfaction to the French
people, although they were so poor and miserable, that, at the
time of the celebration of the royal marriage, numbers of them
were dying with starvation, on the dunghills in the streets of
Paris. There was some resistance on the part of the dauphin
m some few parts of P'rance, but King Henry beat it all down.

And now, with his great possessions in France secuied, and
his beautiful wife to cheer him, and a son born to give him
greater happiness, all appeared bright before him. But in the
fulness of his triumph and the height of his power, death cam.e
upon him, and his day was done. When he fell ill at Vin-
cennes, and found that he could not recover, he was very calm
and quiet, and spoke serenely to those who wept around his
bed. His wife and child, he said, he left to the loving care of
his brother, the Duke of Bedford, and his other faithful nobles.
He gave them his advice that England should establish a
friendship with the new Duke of Burgundy, and offer him the
regency of France ; that it should not set free the royal princes
who had been taken at Agincourt ; and that, whatever quarrel
might arise with France, England should never make peace
without holding Normandy. Then he laid down his head,
and asked the attendant priests to chant the penitential
psalms. Amid which solemn sounds, on the 31st of August,
1422, in only the thirty-fourth year of his age, and the tenth of
his reign. King Henry the Fifth passed away.

Slowly and mournfully they carried his embalmed body in a
procession of great state to Paris, and thence to Rouen, where
his queen was, from whom the sad intelligence of his death was
concealed until he had been dead some days. Thence, lying
on a bed of crimson and gold, with a golden crown upon the
head, and a golden ball and sceptre lying in the nerveless
hands, they carried it to Calais, with such a great retinue as
seemed to dye the road black. The King of Scotland acted
as chief mourner, all the royal household followed, the knights
wore black armor and black plumes of feathers ; crowds of
men bore torches, making the night as light as day; and the
widowed princess followed last of all. At Calais there was a


fleet of ships to bring the funeral host to Dover. And so, by
way of London Bridge, where the service for the dead was
chanted as it passed along, they brought the body to West'
minster Abbey, and there buried it with great respect.


england under henry the sixth.

Part the First.

It had been the wish of the late king, that while his infant
son, King Henry the Sixth, at this time only nine months old,
was under age, the Duke of Gloucester should be appointed
regent. The English Parliament, however, preferred to ap-
point a council of regency, with the Duke of Bedford at its
head ; to be represented, in his absence only, by the Duke of
Gloucester. The Parliament would seem to have been wise in
this ; for Gloucester soon showed himself to be ambitious and
troublesome, and in the gratification of his own personal
schemes, gave dangerous offence to the Duke of Burgundy,
which was with difficulty adjusted.

As that Duke declined the Regency of France, it was be-
stowed by the poor French king upon the Duke of Bedford.
But the French king dying within two months, the dauphin in-
stantly asserted his claim to the French throne, and was ac-
tually crowned under the title of Charles the Seventh. The
Duke of Bedford, to be a match for him, entered into a friendly
league with the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, and gave
them his two sisters in marriage. War with France was im-
mediately renewed, and the perpetual peace came to an un-
timely end.

In the first campaign, the English, aided by this alliance,
were speedily successful As Scotland, however, had sent the
French five thousand men, and might send more, or attack the
North of England while England was busy with France, it was
considered that it would be a good thing to offer the Scottish
King James, who had been so long imprisoned, his liberty, on
his paying forty thousand pounds for his board and lodging
during nineteen years, and engaging to forbid his subjects
from serving under the flag of France, \% is pleasant to know.


not only that the amiable captive at last regained his freedom
upon these terms, but that he married a noble English iady,
with whom he had been long in love, and became an excellent
king. I am afraid we have met with some kings in this his-
tory, and shall meet with some more, who would have been very
much the better, and would have left the world much happier,
if they had been imprisoned nineteen years too.

In the second campaign, the English gained a considerable
victory at Verneuil, in a battle which was chiefly remarkable,
otherwise, for their resorting to the odd expedient of tying
their baggage-horses together by the heads and tails, and jum-
bHng them up with the baggage, so as to convert them into a
sort of live fortification, — which was found useful to the troops,
but which I should think was not agreeable to the horses. For
three years afterwards very little was done, owing to both sides
being too poor for war, which is a ver}' expensive entertain-
ment ; but a council was then held in Paris, in which it was de-
cided to lay siege to the town of Orleans, which was a place of
great importance to the dauphin's cause. An EngUsh army of
ten thousand men was despatched on this service, under the
command of the Earl of Salisbury, a general of fame. He
being unfortunately killed early in the siege, the Earl of Suffolk
took his place , under whom (re-enforced by Sir John Falstaff,
who brought up four hundred wagons laden with salt herrings
and other provisions for the troops, and, beating off the French,
who tried to intercept him, came victorious out of a hot skir-
mish, which was afterwards called in jest the Battle of the Her-
rings) the town of Orleans was so completely hemmed in, that
the besieged proposed to yield it up to their countryman, the
Duke of Burgundy. The English general, however, replied
that his Englishmen had won it, so far, by their blood and
valor, and that his Englishmen must have it. There seemed to
be no hope for the town, or for the dauphin, who was so dis-
mayed that he even thought of flying to Scotland or to Spain,
when a peasant-girl rose up, and changed the whole state of

The story of this peasant-girl I have now to tell.

Part THE Second.


In a bemote village among some wild hills in the province
of Lorraine, there lived a countryman whose name was Jacques


d'Arc. He had a daughter, Joan of Arc, who was at this time
in her twentieth year. She had been a solitary girl from her
childhood ; she had often tended sheep and cattle for whole
days where no human figure was seen or human voice heard ;
and she had often knelt, for hours together, in the gloomy,
empty little village chapel, looking up at the altar and at the
dim lamp burning before it, until she fancied that she saw
shadowy figures standing there, and even that she heard them
speak to her. The people in that part of France were' very
ignorant and superstitious ; and they had many ghostly tales
to tell about what they had dreamed, and what they saw among
the lonely hills when the clouds and the mists were resting on
them. So they easily believed that Joan saw strange sights ;
and they whispered among themselves that angels and spirits
talked to her.

At last, Joan told her father that she had one day been sur-
prised by a great unearthly light, and had afterwards heard a
solemn voice, which said it was St. Michael's voice, telling her
that she was to go and help the dauphin. Soon after this
(she said), St. Catherine and St, Margaret had appeared to her
with sparkling crowns upon their heads, and had encouraged
her to be virtuous and resolute. These visions had returned
sometimes, but the voices very often ; and the voices always
said, "Joan, thou art appointed by Heaven to go and help the
dauphin ! '' She almost always heard them while the chapel-
bells were ringing.

There is no doubt, now, that Joan believed she saw and
(leard these things. It is very well known that such delusions
are a disease which is not by any means uncommon. It is
probable enough that there were figures of St. Michael and St.
Catherine and St. Margaret in the little chapel (where they
would be very likely to have shining crowns upon their heads),
and that they first gave Joan the idea of those three per-,
sonages. She had long been a moping, fanciful girl ; and,
though she was a very good girl, I daresay she was a little vain,
and wishful for notoriety.

Her father, something wiser than his neighbors, said, " I tell
thee, Joan, it is thy fancy. Thou hadst better have a kind
husband to take care of thee, girl, and work to employ thy
mind ! '' But Joan told him in reply, that she had taken a vow
never to have a husband, and that she must go, as Heaven
directed her, to help the dauphin.

It happened, unfortunately for her father's persuasions, and

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 18 of 38)