Montague John Guest.

A handbook of English history based on the lectures of M.J. Guest: and ... online

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Richard, being away in Ireland, heard nothing of these
movements for a long time. When he got the news, contraiy
winds prevented him from crossing the sea, and by the time
he returned all was lost. His own men forsook him without
striking a blow. Richard disguised himself as a priest, and
wandered about with his few friends seeking help and find-
ing none. At last he went to Conway in Wales, where the
Earl of Northumberland was, and surrendered himself. It
seemed as if all his great pride melted out of him at once.
He saw very well that his day was past, and his cousin's day
was begun.

He was taken to London, where he rode through the
streets on a wretched horse, while Henry rode on one of

1399 Richard's own favorite chargers. He was then
Deposition taken to the Tower, and Parliament was summoned,
of Bichard. fy^Q ^^y before it met, the archbishop, who had
returned from banishment, and the Earl of Northumberland
made the unfortunate Richard sign a paper, saying that he
resigned the crown, and absolved the people from their alle-
giance. He also said that if he could have had leave to
appoint a successor, he should have chosen his cousin Henry,

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The next day this paper was read to the Parliament, and
also Richard's coronation oath, in which he had sworn to
nile justly, to keep the charters and respect the laws. After
this a long list of grievances was read, to show that he had
broken that oath, and oppressed the people, that he had laid
taxes illegally, that he had claimed to make and alter the
laws according to his own will, that he had taken away
the power of Parliament, that he had deceived and put to
death his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, that he had been
most unjust to his cousin Henry, and many other charges.
The result was easily foretold. Richard was deposed and
imprisoned. Henry was made king by both archbishops, by
the whole Parliament, and by the voice of the country.

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The Lollards. Persecution. Prince Harry. The Border Wars. Percy and
Douglas. Owen Glendower. Battle of Shrewsbury. The King of Scotland.

If the English monarchy had been elective, the choice of
Parliament and of the nation would have given Henry IV.
a very good title to be king. But, from of old, it
title^** could neither be said to be strictly elective nor
strictly hereditary. According to tne old custom,
when the country used to elect as its king a member of the
royal family^ Henry would have been in as good a position
as King Alfred himself, had Richard been dead. But with
the growth of the feudal system, people had come to think
less of election and more of the hereditary right of the king,
and Henry had not that right.

As long as Richard was alive no one could tell that his
friends and the people might not rise in his favor, and
restore him to his throne. It was certain that Richard
would not lie long in prison. Just as when the Duke of
Gloucester had been imprisoned by him and never appeared
again, but died no one knew how, so it was now witn him-
self. It was soon announced that he was dead, and of course
it was believed that he was privately murdered by the king's
order, or peimission ; though for a long time after reports
used to be spread abroad that he was alive, which kept
Henry in constant alarm.

Then, too, there was the young Mortimer, who according
to the laws of inheritance was the real heir, and who was as
yet a child. Henry had taken possession of him, and kept
him as a sort of honorable prisoner in the court, where he
received a good education, and was very well treated. Still
this was another danger, for any day Henry's enemies might
try to take him away, and make him king, as indeed they did
after a time.


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Thus it was by no means a bed of roses that Henry pre-
pared for himself when he aspired to be King of England,
and he strove to conciliate all parties in order to secure his
position. Above all, through his whole reign he took care
never to get into any disputes with the Parliament, to which
he owed his crown.

Almost tlie first act of his reign was a mark of kindness
and favor bestowed upon the aged poet Chaucer, whom he
had doubtless known well all his life, on account of his
father's friendship. Richard was deposed on the 30th of
September, and on the 3d of October the new king doubled
Chaucer's pension, but he only lived one year to enjoy it.*

Though he showed himself thus generous and grateful to
his father's old friend and his country's great glory, he had
no such kind feelings to the other famous man, whom John
of Gaunt had at one time protected, John Wyclif. The
worst thing in all his reign is that he most cruelly persecuted
Wyclif s disciples. Wyclif himself, as we saw, died a
peaceful death, but he had left many. followers, whom the
Church of Rome desired to suppress and punish. These fol-
lowers of Wyclif were called the Lollards. It is not
known what that word meant, but it was a term of JJ^/*^^'
contempt. This is part of a description of them,
said to be written not by one of their friends, but by a
Roman inquisitor, " The disciples of Wyclif are men of a
serious, modest deportment ; they avoid all ostentation in
dress, mix little with the busy world, and complain of the
wickedness of mankind. They maintain themselves entirely
hj their own labor, despising wealth, being fully content
with mere necessaries ; . . . they are chaste and temperate,
never seen in taverns nor amused by vain pleasures. You
find them always employed either learning or teaching.
They never swear, they speak little ; in public preaching
they lay the chief stress upon charity."

The high dignitaries of the church did all they could to
oppress these hannless men. Henry, perhaps in order to win
their favor in his difficult position, was very ready
to help them. One of the fii-st laws passed in his 5®"®®'*"
reiOT was one commanding that "heretics" should
be burned alive. Before Henry had been king two years the

♦ According to one account Chaucer's wife was sister of the wife
of John of Gaunt. — Ed.

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314 guest's ENGLISH HISTOBY.

first of these "heretics" as they called them, "martyrs" as
we call them, was burned in Smithfield. He was a liOndon
clergyman named William Sawtre, and the principal charge
brought against him was denying the doctrine of transub-
stantiation and the worship of the cross. He said that he
would not worship the cross on which Christ suffered, but
Christ who suffered on the cross.

Before he could be put to death it was necessary formally
to degrade him from his position as a clergyman. The secu-
lar courts were not allowed to punish a Churchman, and the
ecclesiastical courts could not punish with death. The priest
ihen had to be made into a layman before the sentence could
be executed. Step by step he was degraded from one office
after another which he had held m the Church. First the
priestly vestment and the sacramental cup were taken from
him, and he was no longer a priest but a deacon ; then the
New Testament and the deacon's stole were taken, and he
was only a sub-deacon ; one sacred thing after another, the
alb, the candlestick, the taper, the lectionary, were taken
away, till he stood only as a sacristan or sexton, wearing a
surplice, and holding the church key in his hand. These also
were removed, the marks of the " tonsure " or shaven crown
of his head were done away with, and he was left a mere lay-
man. The dishonored and discrowned victim was faithful
unto death. The archbishop handed him over to the secular
power, to the high constable and marshal of England, with
the hypocritical entreaty that they would receive him favor-
ably, for the Roman Church always delivered over its vic-
tims with a recommendation to mercy, and William Sawtre
was burned at the stake. Many noble and brave

1401. jjjgj^ suffered the like in after times ; but we ought
not to forget this first one, who died for conscience' sake.

Henry IV. had several sons, the eldest of whom is a very
famous character. He is often called " Harry Madcap," on
account of the gay, wild life he led when he was
g^J« young. It is not known whether he really was as
wild as he is reputed to have been, for it is mostly
in Shakespeare's plays that we find this description of him,
and many historians doubt if it is true. But as long as
people read Shakespeare nobodj^ will ever be able to think
of Frince Harry except as a witty, dissipated prince, with
some touches of better nature, which gave a sort of promise
of his future glory.

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There is one story about him which shows both sides of
his character, and which is told by Sir John Elyot, but as
he lived more than a hundred years later, it is by no means
certain that the story is true. It is, however, too interest-
ing and characteristic to be omitted. " The most renowned
pnnce, King Henry Y., during the life of his father, was noted
to be fierce, and of wanton courage ; it happened that one of
his servants whom he well favored was, for felony by him
committed, arraigned at the King's Bench. Whereof the
prince being advertised, and incensed by light persons about
him, in furious rage came hastily to the bar, where his ser-
vant stood as a prisoner, and commanded him to be ungyved
and set at liberty; whereat all men were abashed, saving
the chief justice, who humbly exhorted the prince that his
servant might be ordered according to the ancient laws of
this realm ; or if he would have him saved from the rigor of
the laws, that he should obtain, if he might, of the king his
father, his gracious pardon, whereby no law or justice should
be derogate. With which answer the prince, nothing ap-
peased, but rather more inflamed, endeavored himself to
take away his servant.

"The judge, considering the perilous example and incon-
venience that might ensue, with a valiant spirit and courage
commanded the prince, upon his allegiance, to leave the
prisoner and depart his way. With which commandment
the prince, being set all in a fury, all chafed and in a temble
manner came up to the place of judgment, men thinking
that he would have slain the judge, or have done to him
some damage. But the judge, sitting still without moving,
declaring the majesty of the king's place of judgment, and
with an assured and bold countenance, said to the prince
these words following : ' Sir, remember yourself ; I keep
here the place of the king, your sovereign lord and father,
to whom ye owe double obedience ; wherefore eftsoone, in
his name, I charge you, desist of your wilfulness and unlaw-
ful enterprise, and from henceforth give good example to
those which hereafter shall be your own subjects. . . . And
now, for your contempt and disobedience, go you to the
prison of the King's Bench, whereunto I commit you, and
remain ye there prisoner until the pleasure of the king your
father be farther known.' With which words being abashed,
and also wondering at the marvellous gravity of the wor-
shipful justice, the noble prince, laying his weapon apart,

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816 guest's ENGLISH HISTOBY.

doing reverence, departed, and went to the King's Bench as
he was commanded.

"Whereat his servants, disdaining, came and showed to
the king all the whole affair ; whereat he, awhile studying,
after, as a man all ravished with gladness, holding his ejres
and hands np to heaven, abraided,* saying with a loud voice^
'O merciful God, how much am I, above all other men,
bound to your infinite goodness, specially for that j^e have
given me a judge who feareth not to minister justice, and
also a son who can suffer semblably, and obey justice.' "

Other storms arose to trouble Henry's reign. The first
began in Wales. It was more than a hundred years since
Edward I. had conquered that country; but the
S^wSes P^^pl® ^^^ "^* submitted willingly, nor ceased to
hate their conquerors. A Welsh gentleman, named
Owen Glendower, who was said to be descended from the
last Welsh king, Llewellyn, and who took offence at what
he considered ill treatment from Henry, rose in rebellion,
roused up the people, and made war on the English. He
had at first great success, and took prisoner Edward Morti-
mer, the uncle of the little heir to the English throne.
Henry marched against him ; but Wales, with its mountains
and marshes, was a very diflScult country for English soldiers
to fight in ; and this being the autumn season, there were so
jn^ny storms and so much snow that the king had to draw
back. The snow and the storms came in so well to help the
Welsh that Owen gained the character of a great magician,
who could govern the weather as it suited him.

To please the English nobles Henry had determined to
Troubles ^^^"T ^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^^^ French which Richard
on the had tried to put an end to; and the Scotch, as
borders, ^sual, were on the side of France. There was
seldom now any fighting with Scotland on a large scale, as
in the days of Wallace and Bruce ; it was principally a kind
of marauding war that was carried on along the borders.
There were two great families especially who were always
fighting : on the Scotch side the Douglases, and on the Eng-
lish the Percies, at whose head was the Earl of Northum-

Both parties thoroughly enjoyed this state of things.
One old writer tells how they would fight with the utmost

♦ Abraided, started suddenly.

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Valor till "sword and lance could endure no longer," and
then they would part from each other, saying, " Good day,
and thanks for the sport you have shown ; " or, as Froissart
said, "they so glorify in their deeds of arms, and are so
joyful, that, at their departing, courteously they will say,
* God thank you.' " It was one of these little battles that
was sung about in the splendid old ballad of " Chevy Chase,"
or the battle of Otterboume.

The Eai-1 of Northumberland, who had helped Henry IV.
to the throne, had a famous son, Henry Percy, who, because
of his impetuosity and fiery character, was called
Hotspur, and who is descnbed in Shakespeare as ™ ^®'"
" the Hotspur of the north ; he that kills me some
six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands,
and says to his wife. Fie upon this quiet life."

Just about this time the Percys and the Douglases had a
fiercer battle than usual, at a place called Homildon Hill,
where the Scotch were totally defeated, and Douglas and
some other Scotch nobles made prisoners. The custom in
those times was that if a man of rank and consequence were
made piisoner, he would pay a large sum of money to be set
free, and the Percys expected to receive a heavy ransom for
these Scotchmen. But the king interfered ; he took one of
their prisoners away from them, and demanded that the
ransom of the rest should be paid to him, and not to the

Hotspur, in the greatest fury and indignation, renounced
the king's cause, complained bitterly of his ingratitude for
the services he and his father had rendered to him, and de-
termined to join his enemies. The first of these with whom
be made friends was his own prisoner, the Scotch Douglas,
with whom he had always been fighting hitherto. Then he
thought of the Welshman, Owen Glendower, who had done
the verv same thing with his prisoner Mortimer. All these
now alhed themselves together against the king of England ;
though, if we are to believe Shakespeare, the impetuous,
rough, and plain-spoken Hotspur did not get on very well
with Owen Glendower, who was pompous, prosy, and pre-

Thus there was a formidable combination against Henry :
Wales and Scotland, with France backing them up, and,
worse still, rebels at home. The Percys were soon joined
by other English nobles who had been Kichard's old friends,

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and especially by Scrope, the Archbishop of York. The
king, liowever, was prompt and determined, and soon col-
lected a large army. Prince Henry, who, with all his frolics,
could be brave and in earnest when needful, helped his father.
The king had also another clever and courageous young son,
named John, who afterwards became verv distin-
BatUeof guished. With them he marched against the
ghjews- rebels. They met at Shrewsburv where a great
^^' battle was fought, in which the rebels were defeat-
ed, and Henry Hotspur killed.

The rebellion was crushed for a time, but before long it
broke out again. A lady contrived to steal the voung
Mortimer out of Windsor Castle, and to flee away with him,
but they were soon overtaken, and the prince brought back.
After a time the principal conspirators were taken prisoners
and put to death ; even the Archbishop of York was be-
headed. Though more than one archbishop had
• been murdered in England before now, this was the
first time that a great churchman had been executed by the
law, and it caused great indignation in the country. Rous
people began to make pilgrimages to his tomb, and it was
soon reported that miracles were worked there.

By degrees, in one way or another, all the great dan^rs
which had threatened Henry passed away. His principal
enenay in France, the Duke of Orleans, was murdered, and
the Duke of Burgundy, who succeeded to his power and
influence, was inclined to be friendly to England. So that
Owen Glendower and his Welshmen were left without the
help of France, and could do no more harm. The Earl of
Northumberland was defeated once more and killed. And
Scotland had to be quiet, for Henry contrived to set into
his power a most important pei*son, no other than uie king
of Scotland himself.

All Robert Bruce's descendants in the male line were ex-
tinct, and the family of one of his daughters had been
The king called to the throne. This daughter had married
of Scot- a great nobleman, the high steward of the king-
^^ dom. It was customary in those days to surname
men after their trade or business. Though this was most
generally done among the lower orders, it was also some-
times the case in higher ranks, and the lord steward's chil-
dren and grandchildren came to be called Stewart as their
family name. This was the beginning of the royal line of

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the Stewarts, some of whom were afterwards kings of Eng-

Scotland was in a very miserable condition. The kings
were not strong enough to rule, and there were constant
tumults, fights, and murders. The king's eldest son had
been murdered, and it was thought wise to send the next
son, who was now heir to the kingdom, to be educated in
France. But on his way thither some English vessels fell
in with his ship, took possession of the young Prince James,
and brought him to Henry. Though England and Scotland
were now at peace, Henry would not release him. He said,
in a sort of grim joke, that " if the prince was to learn
French he could leani it quite as well in his court as in
France, for that he himself knew French very well." The
Scotch prince very soon after became king, by right, through
the death of his father, but even then Henry would not set
him free.

He did not treat him ill, but gave him an excellent educa-
tion, as he had promised, and the young king grew up clever,
accomplished, and good. He was a poet of some merit.
After the death of Chaucer there was a dearth of poetry
until Spenser's time. While James was a prisoner in Eng-
land he fell in love with an English lady, a relation of the
king's, about whom he made some beautiful poetry. After a
time he was allowed to marry this lady. The marriage
proved a very happy one. He went back to Scotland at
last, when he had been in England for over eighteen years,
and was one of the best kings the Scotch ever had. So
good and just, indeed, was he that the turbulent nobles
would not submit to him; they rebelled^ and finally mur-
dered him, his faithful English wife defending him to the

Henry IV. did not live long to enjoy the peace which fol-
lowed. He fell into very bad health, and was liable to
terrible fits. He had all through his reign been wishing to
go to the Holy Land and fight a Crusade ; for though the
Crusades had long been at an end, the thought or the dream
of winning back the Lord's sepulchre had not yet died away.
It is probable that his conscience stung him sometimes for
the way in which he had treated his cousin Richard, and
that he thought to make amends in that way. There had
been a prophecy too that he should die in Jerusalem.

At last one day he was praying in Westminster Abbey

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820 guest's ekglish histoby.

before the shrine of Edward the Confessor, when he was
1413. seized with a fit. There was a chamber in the
Death of abbey, as there is still, called the Jerusalem Cham-
^^^' ber. It chanced that the sick king was earned into
this room. When he came to himself he asked where he
was, and on being told that he was in the " Jerusalem Cham-
ber," he exclaimed, '* Laud be to the Father of heaven ! for
now I know that I shall die in this chamber, according to
the prophecy made of me aforesaid, that I should die in
Jerusalem." And there indeed he died.

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Character of Henry V. Lord Cobham and the Lollards. The war with France.
Harfleur. Battle of Agincourt. Bouen. Treaty of Troyes. The king's
marriage. His death and burial.

Though the Prince of Wales, who now became king as
Henry V., had been dissipated and headstrong, there had
always been intimations of a high and noble nature,
and people were now willing to overlook his youth- ^J^ y
ful follies, and to accept him with good hopes as
their king. We shall see how completely he changed, as is
not uncommon in a man of strong character, when, as he
is passing from youth to manhood, a great crisis occurs in his
life. All the vigor he had formerly given to his gayeties and
follies he now turned to serious matters, so that England
never, perhaps, had a more firm, brave, and religious king.

In the first acts of his reign he showed a gener-
ous spirit towards those whom his father had re- f^^^f^^^^'
garded with dread and jealousy. The legal heir to
the throne, the young Mortimer, had always been a thorn in
the side of Henry IV., as Harry Hotspur very well knew.

**He said he would not ransom Mortimer;
Forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer;
But I will find him when he Mes asleep,
And in his ear 1 '11 holla * Mortimer; *
Nay, I '11 have a starling shall he taught to speak
Nothing but Mortimer, and give it him
To keep his anger still in motion."

Henry IV. had kept Mortimer in honorable but real cap-
tivity. He was now a grown young man, and one of the
new king's first acts was to set him at liberty, and show him
friendship. Perhaps his long imprisonment and good edu-
cation had made a philosopher of him, for, though released
from captivity, he never seems to have wished to be king,
but remained a faithful friend to Henry all his life. Never-


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322 guest's ENGLISH HISTORY.

tlieless, the descendants of the Mortimers came to the throne
at last.

Henry was also generous to his old enemies the Percys,
who had been so thoroughly defeated by himself and his
father. Harry Hotspur's son was restored to his title and
estates as Earl of Northumberland, and the Percys did not
forget tliis generosity.

Henry even took some steps towards releasing the king
of Scotland, whom his father had imprisoned, but they came
to nothing. The Scotch perhaps hardly wanted him back, as
they were in a most disorderly condition, and the young king,
if he were already in love with the beautiful English lady,
might not be very anxious to return. However that might
be, it appeal's that he and Henry were very good friends,
and we find him afterwards helping Henry in his wars, and
following him to his grave as chief mourner.

The young king also released many other prisoners and
published a general pardon. Having thus done all he could
m justice and generosity to the living, he proceeded to do
what was possible to honor the dead. He appears to have
retained some affection for Richard H., and felt great remorse
for his wretched death. Richard had been buried privately
in the countiy. His body was now brought to London and
honorably buried in Westminster Abbey, in a very stately
tomb which he had made for himself while he was still

Online LibraryMontague John GuestA handbook of English history based on the lectures of M.J. Guest: and ... → online text (page 30 of 58)